On September 9, 1820, Martha McFarlane McGee Bell, heroine of the American Revolution, died at her home in Randolph County. The wife of a Deep River gristmill owner, Bell and her husband were ardent supporters of American independence, and their mill became a gathering place for local patriots during the war. There is also evidence that the Continental Army used the mill to store supplies.
Bell’s credit as heroine, though, stems from an incident following the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. British General Charles Cornwallis camped at the Bells’ Mill for two days, needing to grind corn for his troops and time to rest and treat the wounded. Bell treated the British hospitably and nursed the injured in return for Cornwallis’s promise that his troops would do her property no harm. The British left without incident.
When American General “Lighthorse” Harry Lee arrived at the mill shortly after the British departed, he encouraged Bell to visit Cornwallis at his next camp on a ruse related to property damage. Bell acted as a spy for the patriots, noting details as to Cornwallis’ troops and supplies.
A monument on the grounds of Guilford Courthouse National Military Park honors Bell.
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