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The Steele Creek Historical and Genealogical Society
Of the Old Steele Creek Township
Mecklenburg County, North Carolina

Families of Steele Creek:


Captain Erwin Obituary  |  More About Captain Erwin  |  Obituary of F. Lee Erwin  |  The Erwin Family  |


(The following obituary was part of a collection of death notices from Charlotte newspapers collected by Ola Sing of Steele Creek. This obituary covered almost one half of a newspaper page and it has been condensed for use here. This was one of the great confederate funerals in Charlotte. The date of May 19, 1901 appears written on the top of the obituary.)


While seated at His Desk in the Court House Tuesday Afternoon--- APPOPLEXY THE CAUSE - He was honored as a Soldier, Citizen and Gentleman - The News of His Death Spread Rapidly Over the City-A Good Citizen Has Been Taken Away.

Capt. John R. Erwin died suddenly of appoplexy Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 in his office in the court house. Capt. Erwin was sitting in his chair in front of his desk taking an affidavit. Messrs. W. O. Cochrane, W. N. Peoples, J. A. Dunn, L. M. McAllister and others were in the room. Capt. Erwin bent forward as if to sneeze and gave a sneeze which ended in a cough. Dr. Dunn laughingly said to him: "Oh, cough it up". Capt. Erwin continued to lean forward and Mr. Peoples turned to look at him and thought by his remaining in one position so long that something was wrong. He went to him and raised him up. His head fell back on the chair and Mr. People called to the others in the room, "Come quick he is dead."

The gentlemen in the room rushed to him and saw that he was dying or dead they could not tell which. Capt. Erwin was placed on a large table, and Dr. Wilder, who lives next door, hastily sent for. He was quickly on the scene and resorted to every method to restore life, but in vain. "He died," Dr. Wilder said, "in a few seconds. Death was due to appoplexy."

Chief of Police Orr took charge and kept the crowd back. Mr. Will Erwin, son of Capt. Erwin, was the first member of the family to reach the death chamber. The body at this writing remains in the court house surrounded by sorrowing, grief stricken relatives, and friends. The shock was so great that it staggered people. Capt. Erwin was in perfect health up to the moment that the stroke came.


Capt. Erwin's father, Mr. Wm. Erwin and his cousin, Mr. Arthur Erwin died as suddenly as Capt. Erwin. Mr. Wm. Erwin threw a bundle of fodder up in the barn lot and fell back dead.

John Randolph Erwin was born in Steele Creek township, this county. His family were among the most prominent families of the county. When the south called for its men to go forth to battle for her rights, one of the first to answer to the call was John R. Erwin. He went with the Ranlesburg Rifles. After serving in that company for some months he came home and raised a company of cavalry, of which he was captain. His company belonged to the 5th N.C. Cavalry. Said a prominent citizen this afternoon, "No better soldier ever lived than Capt. Erwin. He was as brave as a lion."

Capt. Erwin was twice married. His first wife was Miss Jeanie Grier of Steele Creek; his last wife was Miss Sallie Grier, a first cousin of his first wife. He leaves two children, Messrs Will and Robert Erwin by his first marriage; and three, Miss Louise (now of Due West) Randolph and Edward Erwin by his second marriage.


The body of Capt. Erwin was laid to rest this morning in Steele Creek grave yard. The members of the Mecklenburg Camp Confederate Veterans assembled at the house in uniform with mourning badges, and as each looked his last on the face of the dead comrade and adjutant, a tear unbidden fell. (The article continues with the description of the flowers in form of confederate flag, confederate swords, etc.) The Rev. C. E. Todd conducted the service and paid the following exquisite tribute- and a true one - to deceased.

"Capt. John Erwin was my friend, I loved him in life. I love him in death…To him the confederate uniform never was and never will be a mark of dishonor". "Bury me in my Confederate Uniform with my badge and Cross of Honor" was his request which was and is being granted, shows that he loved even unto death that Cause which some are pleased falsely to call 'The Lost Cause.' It was not lost, but noble won…Gallant soldier, patriotic citizen, devoted husband, loving father, kind benefactor, true friend, farewell' The service at the grave was impressive. The Veterans made a circle around the grave and stood with bowed heads. They themselves filled the grave and placed the flowers. The funeral was one of the most impressive every known in the county."


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(The following is from THE BRIGADIER GENERAL RUFUS BARRINGER CHAPTER, WESTERN REBELS, VOL:1, No. 3, used with permission of L. D. Bass.)

In the winter of 1862 the Fifth Cavalry Regiment was formed at Garysburg, N.C. and sent to Virginia in 1863. It was there that the famous North Carolina Brigade was formed, made up of the First, Second, Third and Fifth Cavalry. It was led by the gallant Gordan until he was killed in 1864 near Richmond. Gen. Rufus Barringer (Our chapter's namesake) assumed command. Captain John Randolph Erwin, who was from the Steele Creek area of Mecklenburg County, was in charge of a troop of the Fifth North Carolina Cavalry. The commanding officer was Col. McNeil and Lt. Col. Shaw. Both were killed at the Battle of Chamberlain Run. Maj. Galloway being absent due to illness, the command fell to Captain Erwin for the remainder of the war. At war's end he did not surrender his regiment, but instead marched it back to Charlotte. He received an order to disband his company from Gen. John C. Breckenridge, Secretary of War. Captain Erwin would later be elected City Marshall or Chief of Police from 1873 to 1875. So, if you are a reconstructed Southerner, who has never given up the cause of freedom and states rights, hold your head high. The fifth NC Cavalry came home and disbanded, BUT NEVER SURRENDERED.

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Died January 6, 1899
(Obituary from Ola Sing’s Scrapbook. Name of newspaper not
included but would probably have been the Charlotte Observer)


Mr. F. Lee Erwin died Tuesday at his home in Steel Creek, aged 66 years.

Deceased had been a great sufferer with cancer of the stomach. He bore his suffering with the fortitude which characterized him as a soldier of the cross and of the Confederacy. Now he has passed "over the river" and rests with the many comrades who have gone before, "under the shade of the trees."

When the civil war commenced Mr. Erwin was a merchant at Ranalsburg, this county. He closed his store and volunteered in the Ranalesburg Rifles, Company B., Thirteenth Regiment. Soon after going to Virginia he was detailed for the signal service, in which branch he served to the close of the war. In December, 1866, he married Miss Maggie E., daughter of Capt. Isaac Alexander, and sister of the late Sheriff, M. E. Alexander, who, with eight children, survives him. The oldest daughter married Dr. T. R. Caruthers, of Yorkville, S.C.; the second, Rev. John Dixon, pastor of Sharon Presbyerian Church. The other children are all at home. They were all at his bed-side when the end came, except Mrs. Caruthers.

Deceased was a man who loved his home and his family and for the past ten years seldom left them. He was a great reader and always kept posted on the current events of the day. The only public position he ever held was that of county commissioner, in which capacity he served for several years. He liked the quiet of home life. Deceased was a brother of Capt. John R. Erwin of this city. The funeral was held at Pleasant Hill church Wednesday afternoon at 4 o’clock."

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The Irwin (Erwin) Family
Paraphrased by Woody Carothers from the work of Ludelle Cathey Dickey - 1986
Filed Marshall County Memorial Library #33074
Lewisburg, Tennessee

The Origin of the Irwin Name

Irvin was an illustrious surname both in Scotland and in England, having evolved from a description given to a man who had a residence at one of the several villages called Irvine, Irwine, Irving, Irvin or Irwin. The actual meaning of the name is "green river". The largest clan of the name settled around the parish of Irvine in Dumfrieshire. The parish of Irvine in Ayrshire also produced descendants of the Irvin name. Other spelling variants of this surname included Erwyn, Ervin, Urwin and Urwen, a well-known form in Northumberland. During the 12th Century the spelling of Yrewen existed. Rarely is a surname found with three or more initial letters.

Very old English tax rolls listed Robert de Hirewyn in 1226, Simon de Irwyn in 1296, and Adam Irvine in 1455. Cristofer Urwen was a citizen of Northumberland in 1547. Mervyn D’arcy Irvine of Castle Irvin lived in County Fermanagh in Ireland. His name was often entered into documents as Irvin and Irwin. William of Necarne Castle was a member of a Noted Irvine branch. One of the armor bearers of Robert Bruce of Scotland was a bearer of the Irvin name.

Several Irvine families of nobility are listed as having been granted authorized coats of arms in England. In most cases, the holly leaf has been displayed in one form or another. The Irvin coat of arms shown is a simple version of three green holly leaves on a silver shield.

The Irwin Family Migration to America

The Irwin family was in Cecil County, Maryland about 1722. From there, they migrated to Chester County, Pennsylvania. George Irwin lived in Nantmeal or London Britain Township before 1847, while Christopher Irwin obtained a warrant as early as 1733 in Middle Octararo settlement. (Donegal Presbytery, 1A, 9)

William Irwin was residing in West Nottingham township, Chester County in 1740, but departed in 1747. (Carolina Cradle, by Ramsey, p97)

Colonel Robert Irwin

Colonel Robert Irwin was the son of William Irwin. Robert of born August 20, 1738, in Chester, Pennsylvania, and died December 23, 1800, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, and is buried at Steele Creek Presbyterian Church in Mecklenburg County. He married first, Mary Alexander, who was born in 1754, in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and died March 24, 1796. He married second, Mary Barry on March 29, 1798.

They lived in the neighborhood of Steele Creek Church in Mecklenburg County, N. C., where he was an Elder for many years. Mrs. Dickey recorded the following from his tombstone on August 2, 1970. It reads:

Sacred to the memory of

General Robert Irwin

Who departed this life 23rd December 1800

Aged 62 years

Also to the memory of

Mary Irwin his wife

Who departed this life 24th March 1796

Aged 42 years

A great Noble General

Good and Brave

He did dully claim

His deed that spake beyond the grave.


He served in the Revolution as Colonel of the Mecklenburg Regiment. Much is found in the early histories of the day. A General Robert Irwin Chapter of the DAR is located in Charlotte, North Carolina. From sketches of Western North Carolina, by C. L. Hunter, p 50-51; "Col. Robert Irwin was a distinguished officer and performed important military services during the Revolutionary War. In 1776, he and William Alexander each commanded a regiment under the command of General Griffeth Rutherford in the expedition from Mecklenburg, Rowan, Lincoln, and other counties to subdue the Cherokee Indians who were committing murders and numerous depredations upon the frontier settlements.

In the Battle of Rocky Mount, General Sumpter accompanied by Colonels. Neal, Irwin, Hall, and Lacy made a vigorous attack. In the engagement of Hanging Rock, the center consisted of Col. Irwin’s Mecklenburg Militia that made the first attack. In 1781, Col. Irwin commanded a regiment under General Rutherford in the Wilmington campaign. He was a delegate to the Provincial Congress at Halifax on the 4th of April 1776, and John Phifer, John McKnitt Alexander as colleagues. He was again a delegate to the Provincial Constitution. His last civil services were as Senator from Mecklenburg County in 1797-1800. For many years he was a worthy and influential Elder of the Presbyterian Church at Steele Creek. He died the 23rd of December 1800, at 62 years"

Chalmers Gaston Davidson, published by Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina, pages 67-71 takes the following from the Life and Times of General William Lee Davidson,

"Under the leadership of Francis Locke of Thratirs Congregation the Colonel of Rowan Troops, and of Robert Irwin of Steele Creek, Colonel of Mecklenburg, the Salisbury Militia on August 31, 1780, petitioned the General Assembly for an officer whom they could trust -- in 1780 the Assembly consisted of Davidson’s friends Hugh Brevard, Ephrain McLean, Joseph McDowell of Burke, Robert Irwin, and David Wilson of Mecklenburg and Matthew Locke of Rowan --" "Early in September, Colonel Robert Irwin pitched camp with the Mecklenburgers on McAlpine Creek -"

Children of Colonel Robert Irwin and Mary Alexander

i. Margaret married Hugh McDowell

ii. Eleanor (Nelly), was born October 1771 in Mecklenburg County, N. C., and married James Moore of Lincoln County, Tennessee. (d. Feb. 15, 1864)

iii. James married Elizabeth Rogers

iv. William married Lydia Birdsong and 2nd Elizabeth Orr

v. Sarah married John Fincher

vi. Dorcas married Andrew Herron

vii. Mary married Robert Dinkins

viii. Robert married Elizabeth Ray and 2nd Martha Alexander

ix. Amy

x. Martha married Hugh Carothers in 1786

There is an Erwin Family Cemetery near Farmington, Marshall County, Tennessee

(From DAR Roster of Revolutionary Patriots)

The Alexander Family

Mary Alexander was born in 1754, in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and was the daughter of Moses Alexander. She died March 24, 1796 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Mary Alexander married Colonel Robert Irwin is buried beside him in Steele Creek Presbyterian Church Cemetery.

The Alexander forefathers had also settled in Cecil County, Maryland upon arriving in the new world; then moved to Chester County, Pennsylvania, for a short time. They then moved to the Irish settlement in North Carolina. They were some of the twenty earliest families to settle there between the Yadkin and Catawba Rivers.

Moses Alexander was a blacksmith by trade in Salisbury. He was the first sheriff of Mecklenburg County (created 1762) and held the office of Colonel in the Mecklenburg County Militia. During the Cherokee campaign he served as a waggoner in 1760. During the Revolution, he remained loyal to the King. His children were:

i. Nathaniel became governor of North Carolina in 1805.

ii. Thomas (1753 - 1844) married Jane Morrison and served as a Major under Captain William Polk and General Pickens; his daughter married Robert Wilson.



v. William lived in Cabarrus County; his son James taught school.

vi. Sarah married Archibald Henderson (b. August 7, 1768) and is buried in the Lutheran Graveyard in Salisbury.

vii. Mary Alexander married Robert Irwin.

Joseph Alexander and wife Abigail McKnitt of Cecil County, Maryland, and their son James Alexander (1690-1779) and Margaret McKnitt (1693-1736/45), along with Moses and Nathaniel Alexander are early members of the family who came to North Carolina. The family became a large and prominent one in North Carolina history.

Nathaniel was a Colonel in the military service and served in campaigns against the Cherokees.

"Before 1752, Nathaniel and Moses Alexander had settled in Anson County (later Mecklenburg) where Nathaniel purchased lot #19 in the west square of the town of Salisbury, while Moses, a blacksmith, obtained #11 in the same section. (Rowan Deed Book 5, page 534) Both men played prominent roles in the colonial and early national history of North Carolina. Nathaniel lived on Rocky River in northern Cabarrus County, operated a mill at the spot where the traveling road from Salisbury to the Catawba Nation crossed the river ---" (Carolina Cradle by Ramsey, page 51-60)

Elizabeth Alexander was the ninth child of James and Margaret McKnitt, who was a son of Joseph Alexander and Abigail McKnitt of Cecil County, Maryland. Elizabeth Alexander was born November 17, 1740 and died August 1, 1822. She married William Sample (b.1736 - d. September 1791. Their daughter was Esther Sample (b. November 1765) who married John Carothers (b. circa. 1755-d.1838). Esther was the second wife of John Carothers. Their grandson was named James Sample Carothers (d.1854).

John McKnitt Alexander (b. June 6, 1733, d. July 10, 1817) who was born in Pennsylvania, and died in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, married September 1762, in the Catawba region, a Jane Bain (1740-1782; served as Secretary of the convention writing the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, Charlotte, North Carolina, May 19, 1775; and was a soldier of the Revolution. (Ramsey Annals of Tennessee, p. 128-131.) His children were:

i. William Bane -b. April 20, 1765

ii. Margaret - b. April 3, 1766 - d. 1805; married Frank A. Ramsey (1764-1820)

iii. Mary - b. July 6, 1768

iv. Abigail - b. November 25, 1770; married rev. S. C. Caldwell

v. Joseph - b. April 28, 1773

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