Kings Mountain's national status was hard-fought battle
by Louise Pettus

October 10, 2000 is the 220th anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Kings Mountain National Military Park came into existence in 1931. Getting the Revolutionary War site to that status was not easy. In 1903 a Monument Bill had passed the U.S. Congress. There was no federal money in those days for parks, only monuments. It had been a fixed policy of Congress that the only parks federally sponsored were Civil War battlefields.

The U.S. congressman for this area in 1903 was David E. Finley. It was Finley's hope that Kings Mountain battlefield would become a park some day. Meantime, with the assistance of Joe Cannon, an N.C. native and the most powerful speaker of the House in U.S. history, Finley secured $100,000 for a monument, which was completed and dedicated in 1909.

In 1926 Congress passed the Act Providing for Battlefield Commemoration. W.F. Stephenson was then congressman for this district and was as enthusiastic as Finley had been for getting Kings Mountain recognition and federal funding.

Stephenson saw to it that a military historian, Col. H.L. Landers, was hired by Congress to write a battlefield history and to rate the battlefields according to a system that Congress had mandated. There were to be three classes of battlefields and only Class 1 sites would be funded as parks. Colonel Landers saw to it that the Kings Mountain battlefield and potential park were surveyed.

The War Department decided Kings Mountain was a Class 2 candidate in spite of Landers' judgment that it was a Class 1 candidate for funds.

Meantime, by 1931 the Kings Mountain Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution had raised the funds to purchase the battleground site. The fringe land was optioned to the Kings Mountain Battlefield Commission composed of Jacob Hambright of Cherokee County, A.M. Grist, editor/owner of The Yorkville Enquirer and G.G. Page of Cleveland County, N.C., all appointed by Congress.

The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain occurred in October1930. The DAR managed to get President Herbert Hoover as the sesquicentennial speaker. Hoover stated that "History has done scant justice " to the claims of many historians that the Battle of Kings Mountain was a great turning point - that Lord Cornwallis was in control of the South up to that point and won not one battle afterward. (Before Kings Mountain the British hoped to negotiate a separate peace with the Northern colonies, giving them their freedom with Britain keeping the Southern colonies.)

Hoover's speech, with its endorsement of the idea that there be a park to commemorate the importance of the battle, is thought to have been crucial in persuading some key Republican senators to vote for the bill. N.C. Sen. Cameron Morrison sponsored the bill in the Senate. S.C. Sen. Cole L. Blease, a master at slipping his favorite bills through the last minute budget negotiations, got the necessary funding with very few negative votes.

The Observer gave all the credit for the passage of the bill to Morrison and various N.C. congressmen. This infuriated the editor of the Yorkville Enquirer, who wrote: "Kings Mountain National Military Park is the baby of Congressman D.E. Finley, nurtured by Congressman W. F. Stephenson, and reared to maturity by Sen. Cole L. Blease. All its life was cared for by the maternal love of and hands of Kings Mountain Chapter of D.A.R., of Yorkville, for whom it would have died of inattention years ago."

The women of the DAR donated the battlefield land that they had worked for by selling cakes, sponsoring bazaars and saving their dimes.

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