Cashiers Colonel

Frequently I am asked what kind of a Colonel was Colonel John Alexander Zachary, one of the earliest settlers of Cashiers Valley?  What war did he serve in or was that just an honorary title he gave himself?  Maybe it was something like Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame?

Many decades ago when I seriously took up researching my Zachary lineage family tree, I examined the old papers handed out at family reunions that without proof claimed that said Col. John A. Zachary (1779-1872) served in the War of 1812 and for his war service he had been granted a large amount of land in our much loved Western North Carolina mountains.  I believed this as I had been hearing it all my life at the annual Zachary Family Reunion – all of us there believed it and no one doubted it.  But when I looked for genealogical proof of his war service and how he acquired his land that soon was named “Cashiers Valley,” I learned the true story was quite different.  Not better, not worse, just the simple truth.

With the help of researchers at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., I was assured that no records existed that indicated Col. John A. Zachary served in the War of 1812 on the federal level.  Researchers at the North Carolina Department of Archives and History next verified he had never participated in the War of 1812 at the state level.  Next I turned to various records in Surry County, North Carolina, where Col. John had lived from circa 1780s until the early 1830s when he moved his family south to what was then Macon County, North Carolina.  He applied to the State of North Carolina for multiple land grants which he paid for at a pittance per acre.  This land was not “given” to him for any war service.  He bought and paid for his land.

So, where did the “Colonel” title come from?  He became a leader in the Surry County, North Carolina Militia.  All men between the ages of 18 years and 45 years were enrolled in a militia company in the county in which they lived.  Records indicate that by 1816, John Zachary, was a Captain in one of the Surry County militia divisions with his duties included taking the census and collecting yearly taxes.  Found in the personal papers of Col. John at his death was the original 1816 certificate from Raleigh that proclaimed his appointment as Militia Captain. By the time he moved from Surry County to the future Cashiers Valley, he had been promoted to Colonel of the Militia.

As noted on page 259 of “North Carolina Research – Genealogy and Local History, Militia Records” – “Those men who did serve often carried their militia titles, such as colonel, major, and captain, through life.”