"WHEN MONROE SAT HEAD IN THE STATE GUARD. Company D Took the Honors in Those Days-Many Interesting Incidents Recalled by the Company's Old Commander - Some Famous Contests. Capt. W. C. Heath waxed reminiscent of the old Monroe Light Infantry Company Wednesday afternoon to The Journal man when the Mexican situation, and the probability of the North Carolina State Guard witnessing actual service, was mentioned. As is generally known, Capt. Heath was the head of the Monroe Company, and as he related many of the little incidents of the Company that he had experienced during his service of nearly ten years, his eyes lit up and his lips trembled as he recalled the names of some of the company that are now dead, or have removed to other states. For over an hour he talked to an interested little group, and all listened intently to what he had to say. With nothing but an old photo, taken nearly twenty years ago, to guide him, Captain Heath gave the name of about all of his old company. Many of the most representative men of Union county at that time were members of the Company. Among them included two nationwide celebrities-T. W. Bickett, nominee for Governor, and David Franklin Houston, Secretary of Agriculture. The first Monroe Company of the State militia was organized in 1882 by the late J. E. W. Austin, who was elected Captain, with J. H. Winchester as First Lieutenant and Mose Lichtenstein as Second Lieutenant. It was also known as the Monroe Light Infantry, which was the same name under which many of the Union boys battled throughout the Civil War. Capt. Austin was later succeeded by J. T. Strayhorn, then an attorney here, who died four years ago in Roxboro. After the time of Capt. Strayhorn the company was out of commission for several years until 1888 when it was reorganized by Capt. Heath. It retained its commission, and it was recognized to be the best in the State until 1897, when owing to ill-health and increased business cares of its Captain, W. C. Heath, the company was mustered out of service. The armory, where the boys drilled, was first over the room now occupied by the Rex Theatre. It was later removed to the second floor of Mr. F. B. Ashcraft's store, and was then subsequently removed to the building now owned by the Monroe Enquirer. The armory was always fitted up to perfection, and each man had his own locker. When the company was finally mustered out of service, every piece of arms and accoutrement were sent back to the arsenal at Washington with the exception of one rifle, which had been perhaps lost at one of the encampments. The company was never called out on duty, but on one occasion, the Charlotte riot in 1892, they were under arms from ten o'clock one morning until 2 a.m., waiting to entrain at the order of the Governor. A special train was waiting at the depot to carry them to the scene of the trouble on a minute's notice. The Governor was in constant communication with Captain Heath, and every few minutes he would receive an order to entrain, only to receieve a countermanding order to 'hold up.' It can also be said to the credit of the Monroe company that not a single man failed to respond to the call. The riot was finally quelled and the members of the Monroe company went to their homes. The Monroe company was designated as Co. D, Fourth Regiment, North Carolina Guard, which was also comprised of the following companies; Hornet's Nest Riflemen, Charlotte; Cabarrus Black Boys, Concord; Dallas Light Infantry; Asheville Guards; Statesville Blues, and the Waynesville Guards. The roster of the company so far as known, was: W. C. Heath, Captain; W. B. Houston, First Lieutenant; J. H. Stevens, Second Lieutenant; Charlie Lockhart, First Seargeant; W. C. Crowell, Second Seargeant; T. P. Dillon, Corporal; U. R. Robinson, Corporal; George E. Flow, Corporal; H. J. Hinson; Corporal; M. E. McCauley, Hospital Steward; J. G. Covington, Comissionary Seargeant, John R. Simpson, Caterer; Stafford Wolfe, Color Bearer; John W. Rudge, Drummer. Privates. The following were the privates. The address is set after each name. Where there is no address, it should be understood to be Monroe. Dunk Therrell, who is now working with the English Drug Co.; Will Graham, now of New York City; Earnest Wolfe, who is now a minister somewhere in Missouri; J. F. Stewart, Seaboard flagman between Monroe and Abbeville; D. B. Wolfe, of Texas; 'Sandy' Morrison, who is now in business at Wadesboro; Henry Winchester, Texas; F. H. Krauss, Krausswood; Charlie Wall, Texas; Charlie F. Helms, Monroe R. F. D. 3; Frank Armfield; Jack Stewart, Monroe R. F. D. 4; Hugh Broom, deceased, formerly of Waxhaw; H. M. Houston, Helena, Ark.; W. F. Stevens, Charlotte; Alexander Simpson, Charlotte; S. B. Hart, T. W. Bickett, Democratic nomineee for Governor; David Franklin Houston, Secretary of Agriculture; W. H. Norwood, Supt. Monroe Telephone Exchange; John H. Boyte; Dr. E. C. Boyte, now Surgeon, Fourth Regiment, N. C. State Guards; H. R. Laney, Seaboard conductor; Mark Austin and Clarence Laney, Company markers; J. F. McIver, Texas; Frank Thomas, deceased; T. L. A. Helms, Unionville; Duncan McKenzie, who died in Scotland while there for his health. He was a former pardner of Mr. T. P. Dillon; Ben Hasty, Charlotte; C. F. Lowe, Winston-Salem; L. A. Helms, Texas, brother of Charlie Helms; Frank Flow; Will Hart, brother of S. B. Hart, in business at Wadesboro; Will Houston, deceased; E. H. Austin, Charlotte, formerly with Belk Bros, here; Morrison Norwood, Charlotte, brother of W. H. Norwood; T. R. Threatt, Charlotte; Walter and Jesse Lockhart, Monroe. Messrs. John R. Simpson and U. R. Robertson were the only ex-Confederate soldiers in the company. Three colored men went along with the company as cooks. They were: Haley Seahorn, 'Bob' Blair, a former slave of Dr. Ike Blair, and Bob Means, who now lives here. They were all three first class cooks, and ith the assistance of Mr. John R. Simpson, who was the caterer, garnered meals for the Monroe boys that were the envy of the entire State companies. Capt. Heath says Mr. Simpson had the reputation of being the best 'forager' in the State. As has already been mentioned, Co. D. had the reputation of being the best in the guard. During the encampment at Wrightsville Beach about 1894 or 1895, at which Governor Holt, and the Virginia State Guard was present, the Monroe company was selected by the United States Army men as the best of both the North Carolina and Virginia companies, and was accorded the honor to do special exhibition drills before the Governor and his staff. Capt. Heath says the remarkable efficiency of Co. D. was entirely due to the loyalty of the men, and their readiness to obey the requests of their officers. Capt. Heath also related several interesting incidents concerning the company at annual encampments. Mr. George W. Flow, when he was a member of the company, possessed a remarkable physique, and the company used him as a pugilist. He would be marched around the beach by the men, who would endeavor to secure some one to box with him. But Mr. Flow's athletic appearance would scare them off, and he never had an opportunity to demonstrate his physical power. On another occasion, when they were in brigade formation, an order for a maneuver that was strange to the commander of the 4th was given. He was nonplussed; so he walked back to Capt. Heath, who was a master of the military art, to get him to interpret the command. This Capt. Heath did, and when the Commanding Colonel started away on his horse, the late Hugh Broom ejaculated: 'That's right, Colonel; when you want information, come to headquarters." Now that was a serious case of insubordination, and Capt. Heath worried about the outcome of the affair. But that night the Commanding officer came over to Co. D's quarters and requested Capt. Heath to bring Mr. Broom forward. This was done, and much to the surprise of the whole company, the officer merely grasped the hand of the offender and congratulated him on being a good soldier. At another time during the encampment, Mr. Dick Wolfe made the assertion that he could eat more 'roastin' ears than any other man in the brigade. The Monroe boys knew his prowness along the eating line, and therefore did not doubt his statement. But a doubting Thomas belonging to the Waynesville champion eater stopped short at eleven, but Mr. Wolfe made it eighteen, saying that 'he might as well get enough for one time as he had already started.' One year the whole State Guard assembled at Charlotte to compete for certain prizes offered for best showing by any company. Capt. Heath was confident that his company would take the honors. When they reached the field they performed the various drills to perfection and stood to take the prize. But just before the target contest came off, a Wilmington man drew Mr. T. R. Threatt, a member of the Monroe company, took off to one side and said: 'Look here, if you want to show up well in the shooting contest, get some saop and water and soak your gloves thoroughly.' Unsuspectingly, Mr. Threatt took the hint. When the time came for the Monroe boys to take their time at the firing test, Capt. Heath was more confident than ever that his company would take off the honors, as he had noticed that the majority of the other companies did not fire simultaneously, as the sound of the company's guns would float like a wave for a few seconds, and not one loud sharp report as the Monroe men had been trained to do. So Capt. Heath's company got in position, and the orders were given. 'Ready!' 'Aim' And then-'Crack!' off went Mr. Threatt's rifle. The soap and water had done its work. When Mr. Threatt went to pull back the trigger it slipped from his soapy fingers and fired the cartridge. Thus he ruined the chances of the Monroe boys. Capt. Heath also recalled an interesting incident concerning Marion Butler, the famous Populist leader and later Republican. Mr. McIver, who was a member of the Monroe Company, graduated with Marion Butler in the same class at the University. Butler was too a soldier, being a member of the Sampson Guards. When in encampment, McIver and Butler would get together and talk over old times. One day Capt. Heath overheard the following conversation: 'McIver, how are you making it at Monroe' 'Rather poor. It just seems like I can't get into the swim.' 'Well you do like me,' concluded Butler, 'I am working the Farmer's Alliance in Sampson county and I intend riding into some fat office on their greasy backs.' Many other interesting incidents are related by Capt. Heath and The Journal will endeavor to secure more details later on. N. B.-Just before going to press Capt. Heath supplied the following names of members of his company he could not remember at the time this article was written: E. C. Winchester, Randolph Redfearn and Walter P. Andrews."
(7 Jul 1916 The Monroe Journal p. 3)
Last updated on 20 Nov 2009