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Cornelius News

History mystery: Schoolmaster or Napoleonic field marshal, and what’s the connection here?

Cedar Grove mansion

Aug. 9. Explore a local history mystery at the Aug. 20 HEARTS happening at the Cedar Grove mansion and Hugh Torance House and Store on Gilead Road.

Michel Ney

The true identity of Peter Stuart Ney has been hotly debated for more than 150 years. Was he just a mild-mannered Scottish schoolmaster? Or was he the world-famous Napoleonic Field Marshal Michel Ney, hiding in exile?

The debate made headlines recently when a French documentary crew came to Rowan County to exhume his body in search of DNA evidence that could solve the mystery once and for all.

Local connection

Historian Gary Freeze will explore the mystery and why it mattered to the Torrance family.

Gary Freeze

A retired professor of history at Catawba College in Salisbury, Freeze specializes in the history of the North Carolina Piedmont. He is the author of state history for the middle school level and a half dozen scholarly articles on regional history.

Among academics, he has been one of the leading proponents of the theory that Ney, the school teacher, and Ney, the Napoleonic marshall, were one and the same man.


Local music is a tradition at every HEARTS happening and this month the musical journey is back to the time of Ney. Local classical musicians will perform chamber music popular in Europe in the late classical and early romantic periods. The ensemble features David Strassberg and Amanda Gentile on violin, Kirsten Allen on viola, and Liz Burns on cello.

Among the composers featured in the program will be Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Widely considered the first classical composer of African ancestry, Saint-Georges was also a conductor and virtuoso violinist.

Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges


The Cedar Grove parlor opens at 2 pm on Aug. 20, with music beginning at 2:15 pm, followed by Freeze’s talk on Ney.

This is a free community event; RSVPs requested on the Events page. Guests registering online become eligible for door prizes announced at the event throughout the day.

The historic Hugh Torance House and Store is located at 8231 Gilead Road, Huntersville. 28078.

The store will be open from 1 pm to 6 pm selling snacks, beer, wine and more.