Colonel Benjamin Cleaveland, one of the distinguished heroes of King’s Mountain, and in honor of whom Cleaveland county is named, lived and died in Wilkes county at a good old age.
In 1775 he first entered the service as Ensign in the second regiment of troops, and acted a brave and conspicuous part in the battle’s of King’s Mountain and Guilford court house. A serious impediment in his speech prevented him from entering public life. He is frequently spoken of in the mountain country as the “hero of a hundred fights with the Tories.” He was for many years the Surveyor of Wilkes county and resided at the “Little Hickerson place.”
Among other singular incidents in his remarkable career, as preserved by General William Lenoir, and recorded in Wheeler’s “Historical Sketches,” we give place to the following:
“Riddle Knob, in Watauga county, derives its name from a circumstance of the capture of Colonel Benjamin Cleaveland, during the Revolution, by a party of Tories headed by men of this name, and adds the charm of heroic association to the loveliness of it unrivaled scenery. Cleaveland had been a terror to the Tories. Two notorious characters of their band, (Jones and Coil) had been apprehended by him and hung. Cleaveland had gone alone, on some private business, to New river, and was taken prisoners by the Tories, at the ‘Old Fields, on that stream. They demanded that he should furnish passes for them.
“Being an indifferent penman he was some time in preparing these papers, and he was in no hurry as he believed that they would kill him when they had obtained them. While thus engaged Captain Robert Cleaveland, his brother, with a party followed him, knowing the dangerous proximity of the Tories. They came up with the Tories and fired on them. Colonel Cleaveland slid off the log to prevent being shot, while the Tories fled, and he thus escaped certain destruction.
“Some time after this circumstance the same Riddle and his son, and another were taken and brought before Cleaveland, and he hung all three of them near the Mulberry meeting-house, now Wilkesboro. The depredations of the Tories were so frequent, and their conduct so savage, that summary punishment was demanded by the exigencies of the times. This Cleaveland inflicted without ceremony.”