William Baxter was born 1759
in Ireland. Sources differ as to his exact birthplace. They give either
Banbridge in County Down, or Brean's Bridge in County Clare. He was the son of
David Baxter and Esther McDowell Baxter, who were said to be of Scottish
descent. William Baxter, along with one of his brothers, left Ireland for
America, earning passage on a trading vessel. They landed at Charleston, South
Carolina, sometime around 1783 to 1786 (again, sources differ). From Charleston,
he moved north into Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, where in 1788 he married
Sarah Berryhill, a daughter of William Berryhill.
In 1789, William and Sarah Baxter moved to Rutherford County, North Carolina,
and settled at High Shoals, about 4-1/2 miles southeast of Forest City on the
banks of the Second Broad River. He became a prosperous farmer and acquired
thousands of acres of land in the southern part of Rutherford County, including
the area where the towns of Caroleen and Henrietta now stand.
William Baxter was a hardy man, and according to family tradition, he never had
a cold in his life. It is also said that at his death at age 92, he possessed a
full set of perfect teeth, although he never used a toothbrush.
Twelve children were born to William and Sarah Baxter, but we have only been
able to establish the identity of the nine who were mentioned in his will. A few
months after his first wife's death in 1812, William married Catherine Lee,
daughter of James Lee. To this union were born eight children.
William Baxter was listed in the 1820 census of Rutherford County, North
Carolina. He was listed in the 1850 census of Rutherford County as an 87 year
old farmer born in Ireland. His son Taylor, age 18 and born in North Carolina,
was the only other member of the household.
William Baxter died on October 12, 1852, and he was buried in the family plot on
the plantation. His will was filed for probate in the Rutherford County Court in
February, 1853, and listed 17 children. The will also made a bequest to his
nephew, John Baxter.
According to newspaper articles from the early 1900's and one from 1963, the
Baxter family cemetery is located about 200 yards from the original site of the
Baxter homestead on the banks of Second Broad River one mile north of Caroleen.
The cemetery contains the graves of William Baxter and about 30 members of the
family. The tombstones are dated between 1812 and 1952.