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Rosanna Waters Farrow

Biography Contributed By Cynthia Crossley Dykes

Rosanna Waters Farrow was my sixth great grandmother and the only daughter of Philemon Waters, Senior. She was twin-born with her brother Philemon Waters, 2nd in Prince William County Virginia 1 June 1734. She was married to John Thomas Farrow in 1751 at Prince William Co. Va., and died after 1790 in Spartanburg, Old Ninety Sixth District, South Carolina. She distinguished herself during the American Revolution when she ransomed three of her sons from execution by the British with six of their own soldiers. The following is an essay of that event written by Miss Ruth Petty, Converse College, Class of 1897. Since the time the essay was written, research has substantiated that Rosanna's ancestors were NOT on the Mayflower but her burial place was found. She lies with other members of her family in a peaceful South Carolina pasture, surrounded by a low stone wall and far from busy I-85 which crosses the Enoree River on whose banks she raised her family, lived out her days, died and was buried. Her descendants have fought in every war in which this country has been engaged. Knowing this has given me a new respect for all those who have served this country and has somehow made the soil on which I walk more precious.

Rosanna Farrow - A Spartanburg County Revolutionary Heroine
An Essay by Miss Ruth Petty, Converse College, Class of 1897

Upon a day, as the old ballards have it, one of the best days, more than a century and a half ago, a bright-eyed babe opened its eyes to the world and was christened Rosanna Waters. Tradition says that her ancestors came over from the old country, perhaps in the Mayflower, in search of this young and wild America, around which clung so many tales of the riches of Copango and Cathay. This family settled in Winchester, Virginia, and lived and prospered in one of those old colonial houses, with its spacious halls and mysterious corners, its surrounding garden, and summer-house hidden in a mass of dewey, fragrant roses. Here Rosanna grew up beautiful and much admired, "a lady of ye olden time." Many a pleasure was hers and many a Royal George, "bewigged and beruffled," paid court to this colonial belle, but before long she plighted her faith to one John Farrow, whose name she so distinguished in the contests for her country's liberty.

In the year 1764 or 1765 John Farrow with his wife and several small children removed and settled in the Ninety-Sixth District, of which what is now Spartanburg was then a part, about five miles above Musgrove's Mill. The emigrants dwelt in a cottage near the banks of the Enoree, in a small nook of native forests and several fields of cultivated ground. But trouble soon entered this humble happy home, for business called Mr. Farrow to Virginia in 1776, and while returning he died of smallpox in North Carolina. The widowed mother, realizing this irreparable loss, bent every energy to raise her children in rectitude and honor. But she had much to battle with, for those were fearful times and the Southern colonies, guided by a public spirit, a devotion to the rights and liberties of all citizens, sprang boldly to arms and set their faces against all encroachment. Bravely these old mothers, gave up wealth and ease and security and launched undaunted on the sea of revolution, resolved to accept nothing short of independence. It was a bold and daring move for those few straggling colonists to contend for their rights and liberties against Great Britain, which reigned supreme over land and sea, the most formidable nation of the world, destined a generation later to tear the eagles off the great Napoleon himself.

But at this time, as at all others, there were heroes and heroines in South Carolina with strong arms and bold hearts, who would endure anything rather than submission to their conquerers. It was the misfortune of South Carolina during the Revolution to have a division of families. Kindred were arrayed against kindred, brother against brother and some against their sires, until it seemed that no man dared trust another. Treacherous and cruel are the tales told of secret invasions and of men murdered in their slumbers perhaps by some neighbor of fellow lodger. Such was the condition of the time when my story begins.

Rosanna Farrow, a warm patriot herself, was proud of the fact that she had five sons old enough to fight for liberty. The eldest, not yet twenty-one years of age, was put in command of a cavalry company and led the youngest, a mere lad. Thus the mother, whose life had been passed in scenes of peace and prosperity, with no greater anxiety than to follow the fortunes of her young husband, was left with her daughters alone and unprotected and surrounded with Tory neighbors. They were brought into many cruel straits in order that the family might have food. Often they were obliged to hide it in hollow trees and among the rocky coves of the Enoree, and were even forced sometimes to shelter themselves among the woods and swamps when their own home seemed in danger. They slept with pistols or weapons of some kind under their pillows, for they never knew at what secret watch of the night they might be summoned to their doors by the enemy.

All during the summer of 1780 Mrs. Farrow's sons were in active service. The four elder belonged to a company commanded by Ford and engaged in the scouting and skirmishing affairs with which the country abounded. Fierce encounters were constantly occuring, as Lord Rawdon and his officers were following up Gates' defeat by an effort to stamp out disloyalty to the king in upper Carolina. Little mercy was shown by the officers, and prisoners were shot without much parleying, like a pack of knaves.

It was one night in this memorable summer after Mrs. Farrow and her household had retired that they were startled by a loud "Hallo" at the gate. Mrs. Farrow threw open a window and with a tremulous voice cried out, "Who's there, so late at night?" but before an answer was given she had thrown something around her and stood at the door, pistol in hand. "A friend, my lady, with a message." "For Heaven's sake, speak," she cried. "Three of your sons have been captured in an encouter with the enemy and are confined in the jail at Ninety-Six, The British post. It's an unlucky thing, but Colonel Cruger is very anxious to secure the return of some of his redcoats that Colonel Williams captured at Musgrove's Mill and he sends word that he will give one rebel for two Bristish soldiers if the trade is made in a hurry. It is said he wants to retreat from Ninety-Six and he will shoot or hang our boys when he does. I must go and tell all our people," and off he galloped.

The woman stood stunned, and looking out into the darkness watched the rider spurring on his animal and then heard him plunge into the strream, reach the opposite bank and break through the bushes far out of hearing. What could this widowed mother do to save her children? Danger, with its still pale face, stared at her, but she did not see it. Like her brother, that veteran soldier of liberty, Colonel Philemon Waters, endowed with an unconquerable courage and perseverance, Rosanna Farrow proved herself a heroine, quick to think and as ready to act. Beneath that warm patriotic mother heart beat an impulse that inspired her to the most adventurous heroism and there flowed a current of strong passion ready to brave men and the elements. Hastening into the house she aroused her daughters and as she made hasty preparations she gave the poor defenseless girls directions to keep doors and windows closed, to remain indoors and to admit no one but friends until she returned. Snatching a rifle and bidding the half-startled girls to pray kind Heaven to shield them and those they loved, she went to the stable, caught and saddled an unbroken black colt, the only horse left on the place and one that had never been ridden before. Springing to the saddle as lightly as though she were a boy and binding herself to it with a girth, she galloped out into the darkness, calling cheerfully to her daughters, "It is not the most comfortable way of riding."

Cornwallis had a large force of Tory militia at his disposal and Colonel Williams thought it best to secure his forces against the attack of the Royalists; so he formed a camp in a sequestered valley near the Fair Forest stream. Towards this Fair Forest camp, in the present region of Spartanburg, lay Mrs. Farrow's course. This region was inhabited by only a few hunters and some scattered families of Indians. Her path was a lonely wilderness, broken only by hills and streams. On she rode, excited almost to frenzy, occasionally encountering some wondering wayfarer who was undecided as to whether she was a woman or some passing phantom.

But the "Farrow boys" were too well known and too valuable soldiers for the mother's mission to fail. Arriving at Colonel Williams' camp and making her request he readily granted her six British soldiers and a guard. Losing not any hour nor stopping for rest, but with increasing courage at the difficulties that beset her, she rode on and on, miles and miles through barren wilderness and gloomy forest, with an almost inspired madness. Before daybreak of the second night of her wild ride she caught sight of the English standard waving above the scarlet uniforms of the British and with her apron as a flag of truce she dashed up to the camp to Colonel Cruger and informed him of the purpose of her mission. Colonel Cruger grimly replied, "Well, you are just in time, for I had given orders for those rebellious youngsters of yours to be hanged at sunrise, but I guess you can take the rebels." "My sons!" she cried, then turning with eyes flashing with indignation toward Cruger, she retorted, "I have given you two for one, Colonel Cruger, but understand that I consider it the best trade I ever made, for rest assured hereafter the 'Farrow boys' will whip you four to one." As she dashed off triumphantly followed by her sons, a soldier half jestingly but truthfully remarked, "That's a pretty good speech for so dainty a lady, but she is as warm for the cause as the men."

Her sons were worthy of such a mother, for in times of peace as well as in war they proved themselves the same brave boys that she had called them. Samuel lived to represent Pinckney District in Congress, and a portait of him now hangs in Washington showing the sabre scar on his face made at the battle of Musgrove's Mill. In the children whom she readied to usefulness Rosanna Farrow found her recompense. So long as she lived she was admired and loved, and it is said that even years after, the eyes of the British soldiers flashed with pleasure when they talked of this South Carolina daughter. Samuel Farrow lies buried in the family burying ground near Enoree Station, in Spartanburg County. Where the noble mother lies is not known, but history will always cherish the memory of one whose warm heart and love of country prompted her to so daring a deed of heroism during "those times which tried men's souls."

One of her descendants is a member of Cowpens Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, three are students at Converse College, and this town and county have a number of valuable citizens who are proud to own their descent from this heroine of 1776.

In relating the above incident I have feebly attempted to add a bit of South Carolina Revolutionary history, for no very full account of Mrs. Farrow is recorded in most of the books on Revolutionary women. The authenticity of the incident can be substantiated by history and relatives, also by old persons living in the neghborhood.


  • Descendants and Related Families of David Samuel Ware and Amanda Roelee Chesteen Ware by Sarah Hattie Hazel Delgado., p. 303-306. Copyright 1985, Channel Islands Beach, California 93030. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number; 85-71327. Printed by The Anundsen Publishing Co., 108 Washington Street, Decorah, Iowa 52101.

  • A Genealogical History of the Waters and Kindred Families in Two Parts-Part First Compiled by Philemon Berry Waters; Part Second Compiled by Herbert M. Milam-Complete in One Volume-Atlanta, Georgia - Foote & Davies Company - 1903 Chapter IX, p. 79-84. Library call No. South Carolina 929.2-W31.w, c.2.

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