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The Mystery of Peter Stuart Ney: What Richard Torrance learned both inside and outside the classroom

Michel Ney

Explore a local ‘history mystery’ at the August HEARTS happening at Huntersville’s historic Cedar Grove and Hugh Torance House and Store. The true identity of Peter Stuart Ney has been hotly debated in our region for more than 150 years. Was he merely a mild-mannered Scottish schoolmaster? Or was he, in fact, the world-famous Napoleonic Field Marshal Michel Ney, hiding in exile? Ney 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. Join us as local historian Dr. Gary Freeze explores this baffling mystery and why it mattered to the Torrance family.

Dr. Gary Freeze

A retired professor of history at Catawba College in Salisbury, Dr. 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 our special guests will take us on a musical journey back to the time of Peter Stewart Ney. HEARTS is delighted to present an all-star lineup of local classical musicians performing 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.

Amanda Gentile on violin

Members of this talented group performed with Andrea Bocelli on his recent visit to Charlotte, as well as with the Charlotte Symphony, Union Symphony, Rock Hill Symphony, and the Greenville Symphony. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear period chamber music in a historic setting with acoustics as beautiful as the architecture.

Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges

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 a composer, conductor, and virtuoso violinist in Paris in the late 18th century.

The Cedar Grove parlor opens at 2:00, with music beginning at 2:15, followed by Dr. Freeze's talk on Ney. Next door, the historic Hugh Torance House and Store will be open from 1:00-6:00 selling snacks, beer, wine, sundries, and more. Plan to come early and/or stay late and enjoy the historic grounds and take a tour of the oldest standing store in NC. The historic store is one of Mecklenburg County’s few surviving 18th-century structures and is adjacent to Cedar Grove, the 1831 Greek Revival home of James Torrance, son of Hugh and Isabella Torance. Cedar Grove opens its doors for HEARTS events presenting music, drama, and visual arts connecting local history, nature, stories, and the community together.

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

This event is made possible by dedicated volunteers, HEARTS Circle members, Lake Norman Realty, and community donations. All proceeds benefit HTHS’s efforts to further the HEARTS mission of historic preservation, ecological conservation, and forging community connections in our region. In September, Cedar Grove will be fully open to HEARTS Circle members for the first members-only gala. Membership information and more details can be found at The historic Hugh Torance House and Store is located at 8231 Gilead Road, Huntersville, NC 28078.

​The Store and HEARTS events are operated by the Hugh Torance House and Store (HTHS), a private 501c3 nonprofit. Group tours and volunteer opportunities for stewardship, preservation, and conservation are available. For more information, visit, email, or call (704) 920-9931.

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