Historical Burgin Landmark

This paper was written by Anne Swann, curator at The Carson House
- Photos by Donald Burgin

The renovated 1842 Jesse and Martha Burgin house as it looks today

Burgin-Dula House: (SR1128) Old Fort, McDowell County, N.C.

Pioneer Benjamin Burgin (1741-1823) was the owner of this tract of land, a portion of a much more extended parcel granted to him in 1799. Benjamin Burgin settled in North Carolina ca. 1772 and married Leah Mann, who had been bound to George Davidson as an orphan. The Burgins would continue to have close ties to such early McDowell County families as the Davidsons, Carsons and Alexanders.

Benjamin and Leah Burgin's daughter, Martha Burgin (1791-1872) was reportedly the first white child born in Davidson's Fort. She married her first cousin, Jesse Burgin (1787-1864) a son of Benjamin's brother Jesse Burgin, Sr.   Jesse, Jr. was orphaned in 1805 and along with his brother James, ran away to live with their uncle Benjamin.

Jesse Burgin, Jr. is described by historians as a quiet, hard-working man, active in church, civic and political affairs. He was one of the first justices of McDowell County and worked to promote public education.

Jesse and Martha acquired a portion of the Benjamin Burgin lands through inheritance. They continued to increase their land holdings and amassed a large plantation encompassing much of the area between Cherry Springs area and Crooked Creek Bridge (per current owners). Their two-story frame house, built in 1842, was constructed with the use of slave labor.

In 1874, the plantation was purchased at estate sale by Aurelius J. Dula, grandson of Thomas Dula and a son of Alfred Dula and Elizabeth Corpening (daughter of Abraham and Leticia Estes Corpening of Burke County). Alfred Dula was a plantation owner in present day Caldwell County.

Aurelius James Dula (b. 1843 in Caldwell County) was educated at Valley Academy. At the outbreak of the Civil War, at age seventeen, he volunteered in Company A, 22nd North Carolina Regiment. He was wounded both at the Battle of Cold Harbor and at Gettysburg. He was taken prisoner at Point Lookout, but made use of his spare time by the study of Latin and other advanced subjects. After the war, he returned home and taught school for several years.

He married Mary McKee of Macon County and moved to McDowell County in 1874. He continued to farm the Jesse Burgin lands and served on the Board of County Commissioners. He was elected State Senator from the 31st District to the General Assembly in 1895 and was Chairman of the Committee on Banking and Currency. For six years he served on the Board of Directors of the State School for the Deaf at Morganton, North Carolina.

The name Dulah has often been pronounced as "Dooley". Given that understanding, it is not difficult to make the connection between "AJ" and his third cousin, Tom "Dooley" who was made famous in the folk song. (Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley)

The original Burgin-Dula house

The Burgin-Dula house was purchased approx. 30 years ago by the current owners, who have completely renovated the structure. A photo taken prior to the renovation reveals that the Federal style farmhouse had two interior field stone chimneys and was supported by a field stone foundation.

A detached kitchen was present at the rear of the house. Hand hewn timbers were weather boarded with beaded tongue-in-groove siding. The wide front door opened into a central hall, which has been altered. The exterior has been covered with wood siding and shutters added, along with an attached front portico. An addition has been constructed to the rear of the house and the kitchen attached and enclosed.

The house in its current state of alteration is well maintained by the current owners. Further study is warranted however, to determine possible landmark eligibility.


  • Doris & Max Manick
  • Dula Family History
  • Burgin Family History
  • Carson House Library


    (My sincere appreciation to Ms. Swann for this excellent contribution)

    NOTE: According to the Dula-McKee Family Bible, Aurelius J. Dula first married Mary Sherrill Mckee on July 1, 1868. Mary died on March 1. 1889. Aurelius then married Lillian Howard Fosom ? on April 27 1892 at Salisbury NC. He died July 20, 1913 age 70. These handwritten notes are inscribed in the Dula-Mckee Bible in the Archives and Records Section, NC Dept of Cultural Resources, Raleigh NC.