House in the Horseshoe Self-Guided Tour

Alston House

Philip Alston & the Deep River Area

Philip Alston (originally from Halifax, North Carolina), his wife Temperance, their children, and twenty enslaved individuals arrived in this area around 1772 after acquiring four thousand acres of land on the Deep River. Alston decided to build his house within a horseshoe bend of the river, thus the name House in the Horseshoe.

The Attack

Tory Colonel David Fanning attacked Whig Colonel Alston at dawn July 29, 1781. The fight lasted almost four hours before Mrs. Alston surrendered the house. Alston and his militia were all paroled.

"We fired upon the house, as I was determined to make examples of them..." - David Fanning

front door of the Alston house with visible bullet holes
Alston's front door still scarred with bullet holes from the 1781 attack.
parlor of the Alston House
Governor Williams made many improvements to the home.

Inside the Alston House


The furnishings in this room, as well as almost all other pieces in the house, are period furnishings that would have been typical of Alston's social class.

One account of the skirmish states that Mrs. Alston took cover "in or under her bed" while comforting her six-month-old daughter. She also had a bench or table put in the fireplace so that some of her youngest children could stand on it and be protected from the bullets by the stone chimney.  Even in the bedroom, thre are three musket ball holes evident over the bed.


Whereas most of the other rooms in the house are furnished to depict the period when Philip Alston lived here, the parlor is more representatives of the early nineteenth century when Governor Williams occupied the house.

The House in the Horseshoe, or "Retreat" as it was known then, served more as a home away from home during Williams' first three terms as governor. Williams became one of North Carolina's first progressive farmers, always searching for new methods of planting and growing his crops.


  • The museum is located in a c.1803 cotton barn. Governor Benjamin Williams used the land surrounding the house to become one of the first large cotton farmers in North Carolina.
  • The store house is a reconstructed building that sits atop an 1803 root cellar from Governor Williams' time period. The building would have been used to store provisions.
  • The corn crib dates to the eighteenth century and was used to store corn for later use.
sunset over the grounds of House in the Horseshoe
Sunset near the outbuildings.