The ‘I dos’ that shaped the region
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – A return to romance, colonial Mecklenburg County style, took place Saturday, June 4, as Historic Rural Hill re-enacted the June 2, 1761, wedding of Rural Hill founder John Davidson and Violet Wilson.
Dressed in 18th-century garb, 23-year-old Duke Energy lineman Harry Phillips portrayed John Davidson, 14-year-old Bradley Middle School student Savannah Barnette played Violet Wilson and veteran historical interpreter Jim Williams served as Presbyterian minister Alexander Craighead.
The original Violet Wilson was the daughter of a Mecklenburg County plantation owner. Davidson was a blacksmith who went on to sign the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and fight in the American Revolution, where he rose to the rank of colonel.
The couple would go on to have 10 children and become one of the most influential families in the area.
Acting out the 1761 event, Phillips and Barnette exchanged vows that Williams read from a copy of a 1722 Form of Marriage taken from The Book of Common Order.
Barnette, who is actually the fifth-great granddaughter of Violet Wilson, was excited about portraying her ancestor and looked radiant in her period-authentic wedding dress.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said. “It’s cool.”
Phillips also was a newcomer to colonial clothing and wore knee-length pants, a frock coat, tri-corner hat and a cravat.
“It’s been fun learning some history I didn’t know about,” Phillips said. “I was born and raised in northern Mecklenburg County and think I might be related to the Davidson family as well.”
Miriam Smith, a member of the Mecklenburg County Daughters of the American Revolution, recruited Barnette and Phillips for the skit. She hoped the wedding re-enactment might interest newcomers to Huntersville in the area’s heritage.
“I want people to get out of their subdivisions and learn about where they live,” Smith said.
Williams, a 30-year veteran of historic recreation, took to the role of Rev. Alexander Craighead as a mission to the get people to pay attention to the stories of their ancestors.
Historic Rural Hill volunteer Tina Brown did the research into the style the Davidson-Wilson wedding.
Several dozen spectators seemed to thoroughly enjoy their trip back to the late 1700s.
After the ceremony, the spectators mingled with re-enactors dressed as 18th-century militiamen who spiced up the atmosphere with musket fire. One of the militia members, John Soule, is also a veteran volunteer for Historic Rural Hill.
Other historical interpreters complemented the wedding festivities by demonstrating blacksmithing, offering hay wagon rides, and spreading out homemade foods for everyone to sample.
In between exhibits, visitors trekked across Neck Road to the Davidson family cemetery, also known as the Rural Hill Burying Ground. Violet Wilson Davidson was the first person to be laid to rest there in1818. Major John Davidson died in 1832 and is buried nearby. Over 60 Davidson family members spanning three centuries are also buried there.