Sunday, May 18, 2014

Hanging Rock - Tory's Den


At Hanging Rock State Park

Sometimes history and legend merge to make a very good story.  The story of a patriot colonel who built a splendid rock house in the wilds of rural Stokes County, North Carolina is a story which really should be a movie.

Stokes County during Colonial Days was a part of Rowan County.... Surry County, from which was created in 1770 about the time young Jack Martin began building his Rock House. The area where Jack Martin built his house is remote today, I can't imagine what a magnificent structure this house was in its time.

 It was four stories tall. The walls are three feet thick....the hearth large enough to roast an oxen....gun portals in the wall.  It was not only a home but a fort. Built on a knoll and adorned with white stucco, it could be seen for mile. This house was a palace in the wilderness.
From the knoll upon which the house is built, there is a stunning view of nearby Cooks Wall Mountain, Moore's Knob and Hanging Rock.

There were no major battles of the Revolutionary War in Stokes County.  Aside from the battle of Guilford Courthouse, there was no major battle in the entire state.  That does not mean there were not conflicts.  
 Since the time of the Regulator Movement (1765-1771) in North Carolina, there had been tension between colonists loyal to the Crown and those desiring independence. 

 It was in this setting that frontier disputes continued unabated during the Revolutionary War.  Jack Martin was a Patriot militiaman who fought many skirmishes throughout the region, first against Cherokees and later against Tory Militia and British Regulars.  He was once shot in the head and left for dead, but recovered to help Ben Cleveland chase Col. Ferguson off Kings Mountain. Think of Mel Gibson in the movie Patriot....this is the kind of man Jack Martin was.  With this background, you can imagine his anguish when he learned that his Rock House had been raided by Tories and his daughter kidnapped....this is the legend of Tory's Den.

Tory's Den is located on Chestnut Mountain, a small ridge on the foothills which surround Cook's Wall Mountain in Hanging Rock State Park.  There are two ways to visit Tory's Den.  The hard way is to take the 4 mile trail from the Hanging Rock Lake across Huckleberry Ridge between Cooks Wall Mountain and Moore's Knob.  We took this route on a hot summer day a few years back but turned around before we made it to the Den.  On this trip we took the easy can reach the parking lot off Charlie Young Road near the rock climbing access in Hanging Rock State the map

The trail is only a quarter mile in length.  It is well maintained and was adorned with rhododendron exploding in color.

The trail provides two the left is Tory the right is Tory's Den....

The Falls are not always this active but recent rains made for a picturesque view of a mountain waterfall. 

If you are up to some rock scrambling you can find a trail beneath the cliff and follow the falls as they move down Chestnut Mountain below the Den.

The Den is a very impressive cave, a real natural wonder as it is hewn out of the side of the mountain so well it looks like it was constructed by man.  However, despite its large opening, it is not very deep and would not be a place to support a large contingent of Tories. 

Lt.Col. Joseph Winston
Which is why the legend is not supported by the facts.  It would seem that a group of five Tory ruffians led by a man named, Captain Stanley, ransacked the home of a man named "Blackburn" and stole all his possessions including his pants.  Appearing before Col Joseph Winston in Germanton, he pleaded for help and received a pair of pants. Rounding up contingent of militia, which included Jack Martin, Col. Winston found the Tory ruffians hiding out in the cave on Chestnut Mountain.  Killing four, Col. Winston tasked Jack Martin to capture a man named Horton who escaped the initial encounter. Martin  mortally wounded Horton in an exchange of gunfire not far from the Den. There are several accounts of the Chestnut Mountain skirmish but none speak of Jack Martin's daughter....but it sure makes a better story!

If you are up for a long hike, take the Tory's Den Trail from the Hanging Rock Lake....but don't get mad when you arrive at the parking lot on Charlie Young Road and realize you could have driven to the is a very short hike with some elevation change but effort to view is a solid 7...trail is a 9....access is a 9....view is an 8 if the falls are flowing...but you got to visit Tory's Den.....even our dog "Missy" enjoyed the trip.

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