As far as is known, all the Armfields in America have sprung from the same source, i.e., from English Quakers in the north of England, where the family is still numerous. And although the majority of them have drifted away from the old church, yet they still exhibit many Quaker traits, such as honesty, thrift and simplicity. It is believed that they are of Anglo-Saxon stock, judging from the name and from the florid complexion and light hair of the older members of the family in this country.
The original John Armfield, from whom we descend, was born in the north of England in 1695. He was a strict Quaker and a school-teacher by profession. He and his young wife came with a colony of Quaker emigrants to Pennsylvania in 1718. Afterward he moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he bought a farm and taught school. He had five sons and three daughters. About 1760 John and his oldest son, William, together with a company of twenty men and thirty horses, came to North Carolina on an exploring expedition. For the greater part of the way they traveled through dense forests of unpopulated country and located in Rowan County, now the northern part of Guilford. This proved to be a favored section, as there were no Indian settlements in this particular locality.
This band of adventurers avoided the Indians as much as possible, though the savages did not seem to be very hostile at that time, for they often ran off and slipped away from the white men. These emigrants had no sources of living except game, which was found in large quantities, and consisted of bear, deer, buffalo, wild turkeys and squirrels. Their horses fared sumptuously on the grass and pea-vines which covered every spot not covered with leaves. There was no undergrowth at that time, but the whole country was a vast forest of large timber.
Their horses were herded in a pen, with one or more men to guard them. This pen was built on a creek which therefore became known as Horse-Pen Creek. The Indians once endeavored to stampede their horses, but failed. However, the emigrants became alarmed and moved their camp and settled on Deep River, at a point near the present Coltrane's Mill. Game was not quite so abundant there, but the river furnished quantities of fine fish.
Having remained in North Carolina about three years, they packed up, loading some of the extra horses with furs, dressed hides and a few relics, and returned to Pennsylvania.
In 1765 John Armfield and wife, with their sons, viz., William, John, Robert, Isaac and Thomas and daughter Ann Thornburgh and a number of their neighbors, sold their furniture and set out for North Carolina. Two daughters were married, and remained in Pennsylvania. There were about one hundred men, besides women and children, all traveling horseback. John Armfield acted as leader, as he was acquainted with the route. It took nearly two months to make the journey. Several families came from Nantucket, via Pennsylvania, and John Armfield and others joined them and all came on to North Carolina together. The party reached its destination the last of May, 1765.
Upon their arrival in North Carolina, John Armfield and family settled on South Buffalo, about one-quarter of a mile southwest of Pomona or Salem Junction. The first log-house stood a short distance north of the present railroad track, a little over three miles from Greensboro.
John Armfield died in 1792, in his ninety-seventh year. and was buried in the New Garden graveyard.
William Armfield and Mary Hamilton
William, the oldest son of John Armfield, was born in Pennsylvania, and married Mary Hamilton there. They had seven sons: William (Little Billy), Robert, Nathan, Solomon, Jonathan, David and John; also three daughters: Ann Fields, Mary Brown and Macy. William moved to the Worth Settlement, in southern Guilford, now Centre, about 1770, and together with his brother-in-law, Hamilton, opened a blacksmith and wagon shop. At the beginning of the Revolution, his father, John, being very old, persuaded William to sell out and return to the old homestead. This he did, and managed the farm very successfully,and took care of his father until his death in 1792, in his ninety-seventh year.
William was a strict Quaker and took no active part in the War until shortly before the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. The Tories made a raid in advance of the armies. They went to his house and took six horses, twenty or thirty head of cattle, all his corn, bacon and such articles of clothing, bedding, etc., as they wanted. William implored the Tories to leave him one favorite black horse, as he had a large family, but they mocked him and went away, leaving him only one poor, sickly calf.
At this point William Armfield lost his Quakerism for a time. He shouldered his musket and, pretending that he was going to hunt, he set out to join the Continental Army. The morning of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, he went to headquarters at New Garden Meeting House and said to General Greene: "General, I have come to help thee out today." The General smiled at his broad-brimmed hat and Quaker coat, but at William's urgent request, he gave him a place in Joe Lovett's company, where he fought all day. Joe Lovett was a private soldier and a great friend of William Armfield. When the latter reached home that night, weary and worn out, his wife asked; "William, where is thy game." He replied; "The game I killed was not worth bringing home."
William Armfield married a second time to Mrs. Lydia Fields, a widow of a soldier who was killed in the Battle of King's Mountain. She had ten Fields children and William and Lydia had two more after their marriage; one died early; the other was Joseph B. William died in 1812 and was buried in the New Garden graveyard.
©2002 by Joan Case