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Brevard, Alexander

by Max Williams, 1979

April 1755–1 Nov. 1829

Alexander Brevard, Revolutionary War officer, planter, and iron entrepreneur, was a native of Iredell County but spent most of his adult life in Lincoln County. The first Brevard ancestor in America was a Huguenot refugee who fled France when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685. After a brief sojourn in Ireland, this young man settled in Maryland and fathered a large family, including a son, John Brevard. John Brevard remained in Maryland long enough to learn the blacksmith trade and to marry Jane McWhorter. Sometime in the decade after 1740 he established a home in Iredell County, near the head of Rocky Creek.

When the American Revolution began, the John Brevards had eight sons, including Alexander and Joseph, and four daughters. All the Brevards were Whigs. When the British under Cornwallis crossed the Catawba River, they passed near the Brevard home; according to family tradition, a British contingent, finding only Mrs. Jane Brevard at home, burned the house and all the surrounding outbuildings to the ground. The explanation offered was that the family had eight sons in the rebel army; clearly, the family took the country's cause seriously.

By 1775, Brevard had acquired the rudiments of education and was prepared to devote his energies to service against the king. Early in the war he participated in the Snow Camp expedition against South Carolina Tories. He returned home in March 1776 but was soon called to go to Cross Creek to quell a rising among Scottish Tories. Subsequently, he joined the Continental Line as ensign in the Fourth North Carolina Regiment; in December 1776 he was promoted to first lieutenant. He fought in several battles in the North, most notably at Brandywine and Germantown in the abortive defense of Philadelphia. He went into winter quarters at Valley Forge, but with his health so endangered by the rigors of campaigning that he was ordered home by General Washington himself. In 1779, Brevard became a captain in the North Carolina Militia; he joined the southern army of Horatio Gates in the campaign of 1780. He acted as quartermaster at the Camden fiasco, where, anticipating defeat, he tried unsuccessfully to save the wagons and supplies in his charge. After a change in commanders in which Nathanael Greene replaced Gates, events in the Carolinas moved rapidly to a conclusion. Brevard served throughout the campaign, undergoing the fiercest fighting at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, S.C., where he commanded a beleaguered company that sustained heavy losses. He resigned his commission on 1 Jan. 1783.

After the war, Brevard married Rebecca Davidson (1762–1824), the daughter of Major John Davidson (1735–1832) of Mecklenburg County, a practical blacksmith, opponent of British authority, planter, and ironmonger. In about 1792, Davidson, Brevard, and Joseph Graham (1759–1836), another Revolutionary War hero and son-in-law of Davidson entered partnership with Peter Forney, a pioneer in the Lincoln County iron industry; they purchased a share in the "big ore bank," a few miles east of Lincolnton, and made plans to erect facilities to manufacture iron products. Brevard moved his family to Lincoln County and settled on Leeper's Creek, where he built Mt. Tirza Forge; on adjoining land, Graham built Vesuvius Furnace. In 1795, Forney sold his interest in the partnership, and the others continued to operate under the name Joseph Graham and Company, with Davidson leaving actual management to his sons-in-law. The business proved highly lucrative, and additional land was acquired. By 1804, when Davidson sold his interest to Brevard and Graham, the company assets included over five thousand acres; nine slaves; improvements, equipment, and stock valued conservatively at $5,000; and cash and notes receivable in the amount of $8,876. Brevard and Graham continued the partnership as Brevard and Company until 1814, when the business relationship was dissolved. Subsequently, Brevard built Rehoboth Furnace near Mt. Tirza Forge. He manufactured and sold iron until his death in 1829; and the business remained in the family, despite declining profits, until 1870.

Like neighboring ironmongers, Brevard also engaged in various agricultural pursuits, which proved to be complementary. He accumulated a great estate and owned many slaves. His success was due in part to imaginative marketing practices. Seeking ever broader markets, he began to send iron products by wagon down the Catawba River Valley into South Carolina to Camden and below, especially when dry weather prevented boats from ascending the water highways from Charleston. His brother Joseph (1766–1821), a prominent Camden lawyer and judge, acted as agent in the ensuing transactions, advising his brother of market conditions and storing and selling iron as necessary. This outlet was invaluable.

Brevard never sought political office but was content to conduct his business, enjoy his family, and play the role of good citizen. Despite a retiring disposition, his manner was frank and candid. Industrious and honest, he was a devout Presbyterian. His marriage with Rebecca Davidson produced ten children; seven—Ephraim, Franklin, Harriett, Robert, Joseph, Theodore, and Mary—survived their father. Brevard was interred at Machpelah, a small Presbyterian church near his home, which was the burying ground of the Brevards and Grahams.


Alexander Brevard Papers (North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh).

Brevard-McDowell Papers (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), for "Autobiography" of 22 Jan. 1827.

Lester J. Cappon, "Iron-Making—A Forgotten Industry of North Carolina," North Carolina Historical Review 9 (1932).

W. L. Sherrill, Annals of Lincoln County (1937).

John H. Wheeler, Historical Sketches of North Carolina (1851).

Additional Resources:

"Alexander Brevard (1755-1829)." The Charlotte Mecklenburg Story. Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Brevard and McDowell family papers, 1754-1953 (collection no. 00086). The Southern Historical Collection. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (accessed December 5, 2013).

"Machpelah Cemetery." N.C. Highway Historical Marker O-58, N.C. Office of Archives & History. (accessed December 5, 2013).

McDowell, Franklin Brevard. "Reminiscences of Days That Are Gone." The Louisiana Historical Quarterly 2, no. 3 (July 1919). 321-327. (accessed December 5, 2013).

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This is such rich, valuable information. Well composed and presented. Many thanks.
If I am allowed to ask a question in this format: Did the Brevards maintain the use of the French language and customs? What part of France were they from>

To whom it may concern,
Thank you for the valuable.
I am a Descendant of the Brevard Slaves in North Carolina. I am the Founder and CEO of Neighbor 2 Neighbor Foundation, Inc.
501 (c)(3) Charitable Organization.
I am a Descendant of The Brevards of Crowders Mountain who originally was from Forked River.
On Facebook Social Media, their are over 300 Brevards. N2NF is engaged in a Project to Reunite Families tbat were separated during Slavery.
Any additional information about the Brevard's Slaves will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you in advance for your prompt response.

All For His Glory!
Overseer Johnsie Rebecca Brevard Cleveland

Dear Ms Brevard,

Greetings, I too am a descendant of slaves from the Brevard Plantation and I was wondering if you had come across the names George or Louisiana (Lousie?) Foster in your research. I still live about 5 miles from the old plantation site and am trying to fill in some gaps in my geneology. Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Johnsie,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and especially for sharing your family history and your work with this history.

I am refering your question to Reference Services at the NC Government & Heritage Library.  A reference librarian will contact you shortly to help suggest collections and resources that may be useful for you with trying to trace your ancestors.

You may also be interested in a few of the resources included with the NCpedia entry: 

•    The State Archives of North Carolina has a manuscript collection for Alexander Brevard.  Here is a link to the website for the State Archives:

•    The University of North Carolina also has a manuscript collection for the Brevard and McDowell families. Here is a link to the collection finding aid:  You may want to contact the library or visit them to see if there is anything in the collection that may be of help.

I see that the family cemetery was located at the Machpelah Presbyterian Church which is in Iron Station in Lincoln County, near Charlotte.  It may be worth contacting the local historical society in Lincoln County – the Lincoln County Historical Association – to see if they have any additional information about graves in the cemetery.  Here is a link to their website:  I am also including a link to the genealogy and local history page at the Lincoln County Public Library:  They may have information in their collection, and they would be worth contacting.  Finally, the special collections room at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library may also be of help --, especially given the close proximity to Charlotte.

Best of luck with your research and best wishes,
Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library

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