Davidson, General William Lee

Portrait of William Lee Davidson II

Portrait of William Lee Davidson II

Davidson College was named in honor of General William
Lee Davidson, a local Revolutionary War hero who died at the battle of
Cowan’s Ford in 1781. His son, William Lee Davidson II, provided the
initial acreage for the college.

Timeline for William Lee Davidson

1740 – George Davidson, William Lee’s father, moves his family from northern Ireland to Lancaster, Pennsylvania

1746 – Birth of William Lee Davidson.

1748 – The Davidson family moves to North Carolina and settles in Rowan (now Iredell) County, N.C.

1759 – William’s father dies, leaving him fatherless at age 13. William attends the Sugaw Creek Academy, a school operated in connection with Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church.

1767 – William and his cousin George escort the colonial governor, William Tryon, into Cherokee territory on a boundary-setting mission.. On December 10th of that same year, William and Mary Brevard, announce their engagement. The couple eventually will have seven children together.

1770 – William’s public career begins with his appointment as constable.

1772 – After taking the oath of allegiance to King George III as required by law, William is commissioned Captain the Rowan County militia.

1774 – Under the burden of heavy taxes and ruthless public officials who represented the king, the citizens of North Carolina hold their first Provincial Congress in New Bern. On September 23rd, the citizens of Rowan County appoint William as one of the 25 men to see that the goals and actions of the Provincial Congress are fulfilled.

1775 – In May, the Mecklenburg Committee Safety is organized as a government independent of the King. William’s brother-in-law and other family members are among the founders.

1776 – At the age of 30 years, William is commissioned a major in the Continental Army.

1780 – On July 21st, William is shot in the stomach as he and his two hundred men try to stop a British detachment. By August 31st, he has completely recovered and is appointed brigadier general in the Continental Army.

1781 – On February 1st, William is killed in action during the battle at Cowan’s Ford on the Catawba River in North Carolina. His forces were attempting to stop a British army commanded by Cornwallis from crossing the river.

Family of General William Lee Davidson


William Lee Davidson married Mary Brevard on December 19, 1767. After his death, Mary Brevard Davidson married Robert Harris of Cabarrus County, North Carolina. Robert Harris died March 22, 1803 at 66 years old and is buried in Hunter’s Graveyard, Cabarrus County with his first wife Mary Wilson Harris, who died November 10, 1794. After the death of Robert Harris, Mary Brevard (Davidson) Harris moved west to be with her daughters, made her will in Logan County, Kentucky, on December 26, 1823, and died on March 1, 1824.


Of General William Lee Davidson and Mary Brevard (listed in order given in will of William Lee Davidson).

1. George (Lee),
March 30, 1770 – April 20, 1843
Lived in Iredell County, N.C. and moved to Lowndes County, Alabama, about 1835

Married: Catherine Mushat (1768-1847) April 3, 1793
Children: (who lived to maturity)

  1. Mary Lee, April 3, 1796 – April 22, 1869. m. Rev. John Mushat
  2. Theresa, Sept. 17, 1798 – April 26, 1822. m. Theophilus Falls
  3. Jane L., Sept. 19, 1800 – April 3, 1822. m. Absolum Simonton
  4. William Lee, Jan. 1805 – Aug. 31, 1861. m. Margaret Camilla Byars
  5. George Lee, May 20, 1812 – February 8, 1884. m. Margaret Jane Simonton

2. John Alexander,
Died c. 1826
Moved to and died in Port Gibson, Jefferson County, Mississippi

Married: Elizabeth Green (1783- )

  1. Thomas Green, August 3, 1805 – Sept. 11, 1883. m. Frances Eliza George (1818-1861) and
    (2) Mrs. Josephine H. Kille Elmore
  2. Martha Leminda, m. Owen Dorsey
  3. John Hinds, July 21, 1814 – June 8, 1899. m. Martha A. Higgenbotham and
    (2) Mrs. Louisa Sandall Tousley
  4. Filmer William – died young
  5. Mary Eliza – died young

3. Ephraim Brevard,
January 22, 1779 – November 26, 1821
Moved to Tennessee, Kentucky, and died in New Madrid, Missouri.

Married: 1st – Charlotte Caroline Cook (1782-1809) January 11, 1801
Children: 1st marriage

  1. William Lee, May 13, 1802 –
  2. Christopher Columbus, July 6, 1804 –
  3. John Colwell, Jan. 25, 1807-
  4. Amanda Malvina, July 13, 1809 –

Married: 2nd – Mary Baker Ewing (1787-1859)
Children: 2nd marriage

  1. Margaret Brevard
  2. Young Decatur Ewing, May 14, 1814-
  3. Mary Jane, April 26, 1816-
  4. George Madison, April 11, 1818-
  5. Ephraim Perry, January 24, 1820 – January 17, 1847
  6. James Washington, March 9, 1822 – September 2, 1867

4. Jean,
Died August 3, 1825
Moved to Tennessee (Davidson County), Kentucky (Logan and Todd Counties), and Mississippi (Jefferson County)

Married: Henry Green (1767- ) July 4, 1791 in Nashville, Tennessee

5. Pamela,
March 16, 1772 – April 23, 1851
Moved to Tennessee (Davidson County), Kentucky (Logan and Todd Counties)

Married: George McLean (1767-1849) July 20, 1798 in Nashville, Tennessee

6. Margaret,
January 23, 1774 – December 12, 1868
Moved to Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri (Cooper and Lexington Counties)

Married: Rev. Finis Ewing (1773-1841) January 15, 1793 (marriage bond was January 12) in Nashville, Tennessee

7. William Lee,
January 2, 1781 – November 13, 1862
Lived in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina and moved to moved to Marengo County, Alabama, c. 1848

Married: 1st- Elizabeth Lee Davidson (1782-1845) October 30, 1805
No children

Married: 2nd- Mrs. Sarah D. Houston (1792-1871) July 14, 1850
No children

The information above was obtained from the personal research records of Dr. Chalmers Gaston Davidson ’28, author of Piedmont Partisan: the Life and Times of William Lee Davidson(Davidson, NC: Davidson College, 1968). These records are housed in the Davidson College Archives.

General William Lee Davidson – Further Reading

Alexander, John Brevard. Biographical Sketches of the Early Settlers of the Hopewell Section. Charlotte, N.C.: Observer Printing and Publishing, 1897.

American Genealogical Research Institute. Davidson Family History. Washington, D.C.: Heritage, 1978.

Davidson, Chalmers G. Major John Davidson of “Rural Hill,” Mecklenburg County, N.C., Pioneer, Industrialist, Planter. Charlotte, N.C.: Lassiter, 1943.

Davidson, Chalmers G. Piedmont Partisan: The Life and Times of William Lee Davidson. Davidson, N.C.: Davidson College, 1968.

Davidson, Martha Phyllis. The Davidson Family. West Point, GA: M.P. Davidson, 1959.

Davidson, Thomas Whitfield. Our Scotch Kith and Kin. Austin, TX: Von Boechmann-Jones, 1958.

Davis, Louise. “Adored General Davidson a Hero for Two States.” The Tennessean 14 Sept. 1980: F1.

Davis, Louise. “Hero’s Death Added to General Davidson’s Fame.” The Tennessean 21 Sept. 1980: F1.

Lester, Malcom. “Davidson, William Lee.” American National Biography Online June 2000 Update. NOTE: Access to this article is limited to users affliated with institutions with online subscriptions to ANB.

Sondley, Forster Alexander. My Ancestry. Ashville, N.C.: privately published, 1930.

Womack, Miles Kenan. Gadsden: A Florida County in Word and Picture. Quiny, FL: Gadsden County Bicentennial Committee, 1976.

Author: Molly Gillispie
Date: 2001

Cite as: Gillispie, Molly. “General William Lee Davidson ” Davidson Encyclopedia 2001


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