by Bruce Whitaker
The Gudger family of WNC came from Scotland. The original family name of the Gudgers was MacGregor. The story has it that an enemy clan dared to trespass on the land of the MacGregors and stole some of their cattle during the raid. The MacGregors sounded the tocsin of war. The clan’s crushing blow to their enemies went beyond what was allowed by Scottish law, and the British government became involved in the matter. The MacGregors began to scatter to other countries. Three brothers took a ship to America, landing in Lewes, Delaware. One of them, William, took the last name Gudger.
Owen Gudger, a postmaster in Asheville in the early 1900s, said he heard the story while hunting with his grandfather when he was a little boy. He said that William Gudger was born in Scotland March 1, 1752, and had fled Scotland under duress of a royal warrant for his arrest.
He was a carpenter and ended up in Georgetown, Maryland, where he got a job working for John Young and his wife Mary Stuart Young. Mary was supposedly descended from royalty. John and Mary owned a large estate in Georgetown and another large estate on the Rappahannock River in Virginia, where they would spend time in the summer.
William fell in love with John Young’s daughter, Martha “Patsy” Young, who was born in Maryland on September 5, 1750. They got married around 1776 but Martha’s parents did not approve of the union. William and Martha moved near the Young’s Virginia county estate.
One day, a woman ran into a young Native American woman she had helped raise. The girl was crying and told the woman that the natives were planning to attack the settlement, kill all the white people, loot the place, and then destroy it. Runners were sent out to warn settlers to come to the fort at the Young’s compound for protection and to help plan for the assault.
William suggested they try to fool the natives by making it appear they were having some kind of party or social event. The children and young people would pretend to be having a dance with loud music. The men would be standing by with their guns loaded and the older women with them to reload. William had his wife sit in an open doorway with her spinning wheel and pretend to be using it with the light of a burning torch, and he would sit near her mending a pair of shoes.
They let the natives climb the stockade walls, and then the settlers opened fire on them. The natives were taken by complete surprise and a large number were killed and wounded. According to the Gudgers, William was credited with saving the day.
John and Mary Young accepted William as their son-in-law after the battle. Martha Young Gudger’s spinning wheel was kept in the family for many years. It was still in Buncombe County as late as 1954 in the home of a grandchild of Samuel Bell Gudger (1808–1888). William Gudger was given a citation signed by the prominent men of the community. When he was a child, Judge James Cassius Love Gudger of Waynesville saw the citation and asked his grandmother to read it to him many times.
Local historian Bruce Whitaker documents genealogy in the Fairview area. He can be reached at 628-1089 or [email protected].