|Sheriff Robert Hamilton|
|Rhoda Ardella Neill Hamilton, Robert's wife and helper in his clandestine war work.|
|Joel Mackey Hamilton, son of Rhoda and Robert; he was named after family friend, Joel Elliot Mackey, who gave the family the gift of a calf upon the birth of this son.|
Robert Hamilton lived in Transylvania County, North Carolina, engaging in dangerous work for the four years of the Civil War. A Unionist at heart, he had viewed the coming Civil War with dismay. Transylvania County was formed around the same time the war started, and Robert was elected its first sheriff. Throughout the war, Robert operated a kind of Underground Railroad to help escaped slaves, Confederate deserters, and Union soldiers who had escaped Confederate captivity make their way through the steep mountains of western North Carolina to the Union lines in East Tennessee. His home was a large mountain cabin. He also owned a smaller cabin, used as a way station, called “Pennsylvania House” because it was used by officers of the 101st Pennsylvania who had escaped from a Confederate prison and were groping their way through treacherous Confederate-held territory into East Tennessee (Knoxville area).
As the 101st Pennsylvania’s officers slowly made their way through the dark mountains, they were directed to Sheriff Robert Hamilton’s house where they were taken in, fed and sent on their way with guides through the mountains. Robert said that in daytime, he had to pretend to be a Confederate sympathizer, even going on patrols to search for enemies of the Confederate government. In one case, he and the home guard went to a house looking for a deserter. He found the man hiding under a bed and went outside and told the others that he found no one in the house. Robert has been quoted as saying, “I never met a Yankee I didn’t like.” His clandestine work put Robert and his family in extreme danger. In Western North Carolina, men were killed and their homes burned for the activities Robert Hamilton engaged in regularly. His wife, Ardella Neill Hamilton and children were with him in this subterfuge and miraculously, Robert survived four years of this double life.
Although Robert Hamilton operated a clandestine pro-Union operation in Transylvania County, NC during the Civil War, he was also sheriff of the county, and as such, was considered pro-Confederate. After the war, many who had served the Confederacy in any capacity were forbidden to vote, hold office, etc. The action described below relieved Robert and several other citizens of "disabilities" imposed due to their assumed pro-Confederate sympathies.
Journal of the Constitutional Convention of the State of North-Carolina, at Its Session 1868:
North Carolina. Constitutional Convention (1868)
North Carolina. Constitutional Convention (1868) REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON RELIEF FROM
POLITICAL DISABILITY. We, the undersigned Committee on Relief from Political Disability, having investigated the claims of those presented for our consideration:From Transylvania County: Jeremiah Osborne, Wm. R. Galloway J. C. Duckworth, Perry Orr, J. W. Clayton, Samuel Reed, Isaac A. Harris, Robert Hamilton, R. P. Kilpatrick, G. C. Neil most respectfully submit the following report: WHEREAS, The persons named are disqualified to hold office, by the fourteenth Article of the Constitution of the United States, known as the Howard amendment; and whereas, they have evidenced that they are in hearty accord with the Reconstruction measures of Congress: Therefore, Resolved, That we petition the Congress of the United States to remove their disabilities in accordance with the provisions of the aforementioned Article of the Constitution.
J. W. HOOD, Chairman, A. W. TOURGEE, T. J. FORKNER, C. C. JONES, GEORGE W. GAHAGAN. JAMES HAY, WM. NICHOLSON,
R. W. KING
R. W. KINGJournal of the Constitutional Convention of the State of North-Carolina, at Its Session 1868 North Carolina. Constitutional Convention (1868) 488,  p.RALEIGH: JOSEPH W. HOLDEN, CONVENTION PRINTER 1868.
(The Clayton, Osborne, Hamilton, Neil, and Orr families are all in our family tree.)
(Joel Mackey Hamilton, one of Robert and Rhoda Ardella's sons, was the father of Rhoda Rachel Hamilton, who married William Porter Mackey, the son of Joel Elliott Mackey. Thus, Rose Mackey McLaughlin's grandfathers were Joel Elliot Mackey and Joel Mackey Hamilton. Her great-grandfather was Sheriff Robert Hamilton. Although the families were friends, records show that Joel Elliot Mackey served in the Confederate cavalry. Unfortunately, none of these great stories about Mother's great-grandfather Hamilton came down to us. I had to find out about it online.)