John Hood: The tale of NC’s crooked-necked John

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The early history of North Carolina is full of fascinating characters. John Kincaid was one of them.

A Scotch-Irish immigrant to North Carolina in the late 1700s, Kincaid produced not only a mind-boggling number of descendants in Lincoln, Gaston, Caldwell, Burke, and neighboring counties — beginning with his 18 children by two different wives — but also a colorful and often-repeated tale of Patriot resistance during the Revolutionary War.

Born around 1710 to Scottish residents of Northern Ireland, Kincaid spent the first three decades of his life there before immigrating to Pennsylvania with his wife and six children around 1745. After giving birth to three more children, Kincaid’s wife Julie passed away. He soon took another wife, Nancy Nixon, and proceeded to have nine more children.

Kincaid appears to have been a shoemaker by trade who also farmed. By the late 1750s, he’d grown dissatisfied with life in Pennsylvania. Among other things, John is recorded to have “complained of the amount of his tax.” (Who doesn’t?)

So, their growing family moved southward. Kincaid purchased 850 acres of land on Catawba Creek, in what would soon become Lincoln County, North Carolina. Some of his children were adults by then, and either set up homes on their father’s property or acquired neighboring parcels.

It didn’t take long for the neighbors to learn two things about John Kincaid. First, he was a fierce critic of British policy towards the American colonies — a “strong old-line Whig,” one said. And second, Kincaid was a stubborn man.

When the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, several of his sons went off to fight. John Jr. served under General Thomas Sumter in South Carolina and fought at Kings Mountain. James participated in a 1778 campaign against the British-allied Cherokees and later served during the British siege of Charleston. Robert joined a militia unit combating British-allied Tories in western North Carolina.

As for John Kincaid Sr., he was 65 in 1775, and thus too old to go off to war. Instead, the war came to him.

Likely because of his well-known antipathy to the British, Kincaid was the target of repeated harassment by local Tories. As a large landowner, he was also suspected of possessing significant wealth. One day late in the war, a band of Tories showed up at his door with a demand: give us your money or else. John Kincaid chose the “or else.” So, the Tories tied a noose around Kincaid’s neck and strung him up in his own barn.

As Kincaid was kicking and clawing at the rope, the Tories heard the sound of approaching horses and took off. His wife Nancy and two of their daughters then rushed into the barn and cut the rope just in time to save his life.

But it was just the first attack. Upon hearing the news that John Kincaid still lived, the Tories returned to his house and again demanded his money. Kincaid again refused. They hanged him a second time. And again, the sound of horses chased them off, allowing Nancy to cut her husband down.

Incredibly, Kincaid had survived his second hanging. But the rope cut grooves into his skin and injured his neck. That’s how he got his nickname: “Crooked Neck John” Kincaid. Even more incredibly, he lived for another three decades. In 1792, he moved again, this time to a 1,400-acre farm with a grain mill in a Burke County community named for one of his new neighbors: Hoodsville.

Yep, old Crooked Neck John was my ancestor — three different ways, in fact. His daughter Ibby Kincaid married my great-great-great-grandfather John Hood. And two of John Kincaid’s descendants married each other to produce my great-great-grandmother Betty Kincaid. (In the backcountry, you made do.)

John Kincaid passed away in 1811 at the age of 101. He had lived long enough to see his beloved American Revolution give birth to a new republic of liberty.

And those Tories never got their damned hands on his money.

John Hood is a John Locke Foundation board member and author of the novel Mountain Folk, a historical fantasy set during the American Revolution (