Etheldred Dryden Newbern ~ Pioneer Settler

Etheldred Dryden Newbern was a pioneer settler of Berrien County and a noted participant in the last Indian encounters in Berrien County (see Martha Guthrie: Babe of the Indian Wars).

Monument for Etheldred Dryden Newbern, buried at Wayfare Church Cemetery near Statenville, GA. Newbern was one of the pioneer settlers of Berrien County.

Monument for Etheldred Dryden Newbern, buried at Wayfare Church Cemetery near Statenville, GA. Newbern was one of the pioneer settlers of Berrien County.

The Newbern’s homestead was located on the east bank of Five Mile Creek, perhaps about eight miles northeast of Ray City. This was probably somewhere in the present day vicinity of the Highway 168 bridge over Five Mile Creek.

The Newberns were the nearest neighbors of Short-arm Billy Parker. The Parker place was located a few miles further to the east, at a spring on the Alapaha River. When marauding Indians  came by the Parker place in 1836, Mrs. Parker and her daughters fled to the Newberns:

…the women ran through the field , a back way, a distance of five miles to the home of Dread Newborn.

Arriving there she related what she had seen, as fast as her fright and exhaustion would allow, for she had run every step of the way, and she was almost overcome with heat and fatigue. On learning this Mr. Newbern realized that the cause of their own experiences of the night before when the horses had become greatly frightened, snorting and breaking out of the horse lot and coming back the next morning. It was supposed that they had become frightened at the sight of the Indians who were prowling around the neighborhood to steal.

A company of men soon collected together, under the command of George Peterson, Dread Newborn, William Parker, and others. The Indians were overtaken at the Allapaha river and three were killed, others made their escape but were overtaken at the St. Illa river [Satilla], at what is now known as Indian Lake, about two miles northeast of the town of Axson, Ga. They were all shot and killed, except one squaw; it was reported that she was captured and shot. Dread Newborn, the son of Dread Newborn, who followed the Indians, informs me that the Indian woman was kept in prison for a while and then by direction of the government was returned to her own people.

Etheldred Dryden Newbern, called Dryden or Dred by some, was born 1794 in South Carolina. He was the eldest son of Thomas Newbern.  Folks Huxford said the name of Dryden’s mother was not known, but some Internet genealogies indicate she was Nancy Christian.   Dryden’s grandfather, also called Thomas Newbern, was a revolutionary soldier.

About 1798 Dryden’s father, Thomas Newbern, brought the family from South Carolina to Georgia,  Thomas Newbern served as a lieutenant and captain in the Bulloch County militia.

Dryden’s mother died about 1803 when he was a boy, probably nine or ten years of age.  His father, a widower with seven young children, quickly remarried and Dryden was raised into manhood by his stepmother,  Kizzie Collins.  Some time prior to 1815, Thomas Newbern moved the family to Tatnall County, where he was elected Justice of the Peace.

It is said that Dryden Newbern served in the War of 1812, although no documentation is known to exist other than the testimony of his son, Dred Newbern. Dryden would have been 18 years old at the time the war broke out, and considering the military legacy of his father and grandfather,  his  service in the Georgia Militia seems reasonable.  In 1814, the British forces occupied St. Marys, GA, which would have disrupted the economy of the entire region. The British occupation certainly interrupted trade on the Alachua Trail which ran from the Altamaha River through Centerville, GA, then across the St. Marys River and into  East Florida. The resistance of the Georgia Militia against the British and St. Marys and other coastal Georgia incursions is described  in the New Georgia Encyclopedia  article on the War of 1812.

About 1823, Thomas Newbern relocated the family again, this time moving to  Appling County and homesteading on a site about five miles northwest of present day Blackshear, GA. Dryden Newbern, now a man of 29, apparently came along with his father to Appling county for there, in 1823, Dryden married.  His bride was Elizabeth  “Betsy” Sirmans, a daughter of Artie Hardeman and Josiah Sirmans, Sr.  Of her father, Huxford wrote, “According to the best available information, the first permanent white settlers in what is now Clinch County were Josiah Sirmans, Sr., and his family.”

About Dryden’s father, Huxford’s History of Clinch County relates the following:

 OF the Clinch County Newberns, Thomas Newbern was the progenitor. This old pioneer came to this section from South Carolina and settled in what is now Ware County, about 1820. He was married twice. By his first marriage he had three children, viz. : John, William C, and Dryden Newbern. By his second marriage he had five children, viz. : George W. Newbern ; Cassie, who first married Martin Nettles and later Chas. A. Griffis; Lucretia, who married Jack Lee ; also a daughter who married James Sweat, and one who married John Sweat. Thomas Newbern was a prominent citizen of his time. He was elected surveyor of Ware County and commissioned February nth, 1828.  Two years later he was elected a justice of the Inferior Court of Ware County, to which he was commissioned April 28th, 1830. He was also commissioned justice of the peace of the 451 district of Ware County, April 3d, 1833. He is the fore-father of many of Clinch’s prominent citizens.

After their marriage in 1823, it appear that Betsy and Dryden Newbern for a time made their home in Appling County, near the homestead of Dryden’s parents. In 1825, their farms were cut into Ware County into the 584th  Georgia Militia District. From 1825 to 1827 Dryden Newbern served as the First Lieutenant of the militia in the 584th district.

About 1828, Betsy and Dryden moved their young family to Lowndes County (now Berrien) to a site on Five Mile Creek.  They established a homestead about  seven or eight miles northeast of the home of Levi J. Knight,  who had settled a few years earlier on Beaver Dam Creek at the site of present day Ray City, GA. In Lowndes County, Dryden was elected First Lieutenant of the militia in the 664th district. Levi J. Knight was the Justice of the Peace in this district.

At that time the land was still unsettled ,  and the Native Americans who had occupied the territory for so long in advance of white settlers were  being driven out of their ancestral lands.  As Wiregrass historian Montgomery Folsom said, ” The Indians were goaded into madness.”  When open conflict with the Indians emerged in 1836,  Dryden Newbern was one of the first responders in the area.  Sending out the alarm when the Parker place on the Alapaha River was raided, he was among the leaders in the skirmish that routed the Indians (see Short-Arm Bill Parker and the Last Indian Fight In Berrien County). In the Indian Wars,  Ethedred Dryden Newbern served as a  private in Captain Levi J. Knights Independent Militia Company.

Huxford says the land on Five Mile Creek where  Betsy and Dryden Newbern established their Berrien County homestead later became the property of John Fender.  The Newberns then  acquired land a few miles to the east and moved there, making a home on the west side of the Alapaha River.   About 1865 they sold this property, which later came into the hands of George N. Sutton, and moved east to Clinch County. They purchased Lot 256 in the 10th Land District and made their home there for  several years.  When their youngest daughter, Sarah “Sallie” Newbern, and  and her husband, William Franklin Kirkland, moved to Echols County, the elderly Newberns moved with them.  In Echols county, the Newberns purchased land and a herd of cattle; the late 1860s and early 1870s were a time of expansion in Georgia livestock production.

In 1874 Etheldred Dryden Newbern suffered a “rupture” and died.  He was buried in an unmarked grave at Wayfare Church, Echols county, GA.  A monument has been placed in the cemetery in his memory.

Children of Etheldred Dryden Newbern and Elizabeth “Betsy” Sirmans:

  1. Benjamin Newbern (1824-1895) married Nancy Griffin, daughter of Noah H. Griffin. In the Civil War enlisted in 9th FL Regiment. Burial at Wayfare Church Cemetery.
  2. Rachel Newbern (1826-) married Ashley Winn and moved to Florida. Burial at New River Cemetery, Bradford County, GA
  3. Thomas “Tom” Newbern (1828-1877) married Elizabeth Moore, daughter of John Moore. In the Civil War enlisted in Company G, 29th GA Regiment as a private in 1861.
  4. Caroline Newbern (1829-1891) married Edward Morris. Burial  at Arna Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Atkinson County, GA.
  5. Joseph Newbern (1834 – ) married Emily Gaskins, daughter of John Gaskins.
  6. Martha Newbern (1836-1925) married Samuel Guthrie. Burial at Guthrie Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.
  7. John Ashley Newbern (1839-1864) married Mrs. Sarah Ann Sirmans Gaskins, widow of John Elam Gaskins. In the Civil War joined Company H, 29th GA Regiment. Killed in action near Atlanta, GA in 1864. Burial at Arna Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Atkinson County, GA..
  8. Etheldred Dred Newbern (1844-1933) married Wealthy Corbitt, daughter of Elisha Corbitt. In the Civil War enlisted in Company I, 50th GA Regiment.  Burial at Arna Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Atkinson County, GA..
  9. Berrien A. Newbern (1845-1863) never married. In the Civil War enlisted in Company H, 29th GA Regiment. Died of wounds received in battle in Benton, MS on 26 June 1863. Burial at Arna Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Atkinson County, GA.
  10. Sarah “Sallie” Newbern (1848-1921), born November 7, 1849; married William Franklin Kirkland. Died July 13, 1921. Burial at North Cemetery, Dupont, Clinch County, GA.

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Short-Arm Bill Parker and the Last Indian Fight In Berrien County

In 1836, a band of Indians raided the homestead of William Parker, pioneer settler of Berrien County.  Since the spring of that year, pioneers all across Wiregrass Georgia had been facing increasing hostilities from the Native Americans who were being forced out of their ancestral lands.

A previous post recounted a story by Martha Guthrie, and the role of her family in the last Indian encounters in Berrien County (see Martha Guthrie: Babe of the Indian Wars).  Her parents, Dred Newbern and Bettsy Sirmons, were the nearest neighbors of William Parker. The Newbern’s homestead was located on the east bank of Five Mile Creek, perhaps about eight miles northeast of Ray City. This was probably somewhere in the present day vicinity of the Highway 168 bridge over Five Mile Creek. The Parker place was located a few miles further to the east, at the Alapaha River.

Coffee County historian Warren Preston Ward gave the following 1922 account of the raid on the Parker place, which was a prelude to the Battle of Brushy Creek.   According to Ward, the timing of the event was in the winter of 1836, but the letters of Levi J. Knight state the engagement occurred on July 12, 1836:

Short-Arm Bill Parker and the Last Indian Fight In Berrien County

The Atlanta Constitution
Warren Preston Ward
December 6, 1922 pg F15

About the year 1836 William Parker, (Short-Arm Bill) as he was called, and the father of C.G.W. Parker, and later a well-known doctor, was living in Berrien county on the old Patterson place. 

One winter day when Mr. Parker was away from home, several Indians appeared at the foot of the hill, at a spring, where the family got water. It is said that the Indians began to beat on logs, thereby attracting the attention of the people.  It appears that the Indians meant to rob and not to murder, but as there were no men at home the women ran through the field , a back way, a distance of five miles to the home of Dread Newborn. The Indians robbed the house, broke open a trunk and got $300 in cash, cut the feather beds open, emptied the feathers out and took the ticks with them.  A company of men soon collected together, under the command of George Peterson, Dread Newborn, William Parker, and others.  The Indians were overtaken at the Allapaha river and three were killed, others made their escape but were overtaken at the St. Illa river, at what is now known as Indian Lake, about two miles northeast of the town of Axson, Ga.  They were all shot and killed, except one squaw; it was reported that she was captured and shot.  Dread Newborn, the son of Dread Newborn, who followed the Indians, informs me that the Indian woman was kept in prison for a while and then by direction of the government was returned to her own people. About this time a whole family by the  name of Wilds was killed by the Indians, near Waresboro, Ga.  One little boy, Reuben Wilds, made his escape.  Of course there are a great many Indian stories, but the narratives I have given you are facts testified to by living witnesses and most worthy tradition, for the first time they are put into history of the Wiregrass country.

1927 Atlanta Journal account of the massacre of the Wildes family, 1832.

1927 Atlanta Journal account of the massacre of the Wildes family, July 22, 1838.

The Wildes Family Massacre

I will tell you one more incident, because it puts the ingenuity of white men to test against the cunningness of the Indians.  It is only through tradition that I have been able to get this story, which  runs thus: Way back in the early days people living in south Georgia had no markets near and so the people would gather their little plunder together, go in carts to Centerville on the St. Maria river, in Camden county, Ga.  The Indians robbed and killed a good many of these people going to market, at a point near the Okefenokee swamp.  A company [under Captain Elias Waldron] of brave pioneers decided to put a stop to this nefarious business, and, if possible, make it safe for people to go to market.  And so with guns and such other necessaries as they would need, they went to the point near the Okefenokee swamp and pitched their camp, they cut small logs into pieces five or six feet long, about the length of a man. They laid the logs around the camp fire and covered them over with quilts and blankets. On the ends of the logs they placed hats and fixed it up in such a manner as to make it look very much like a bunch of travelers lying around the camp fire.  The men, with their guns, went a short distance from the camp fire and concealed themselves in the woods.  Away in the midnight hour, as the fire burned low, the pioneers saw the heads of Indians beginning to peep out from behind trees and stumps and from over logs. In a minute there was a volley of shots fired and the Indians sprang to their feet and with the war-whoop charged upon the campfire. As they pulled off the hats at the end of the logs, instead of finding the heads of white men they saw the joke.  For a moment they stood still in bewilderment; at that moment every Indian was shot dead, not one of them made his escape.  Every hat had a bullet hole in it. That was the last of the robberies committed at Centerville by the Indians…
By the year 1841 there was not an Indian in Georgia, who had a right to be here.  The people of Georgia, and especially south Georgia, were happy indeed to be rid of the Indians and to have the Wiregrass land without fear of molestation.  Some one wrote a song, about this time, which reads as follows:

“No more shall the sound of the war whoop be heard
The ambush and slaughter no longer be feared,
The tommy hawk buried shall rest in the ground.
And peace and good will to the nation round.”

More about the Wildes Family

Martha Guthrie: Babe of the Indian Wars

Before her death Martha Guthrie, born amid the conflict of the Indian Wars of 1836-38 related the role of her family in that conflict. The Newbern homestead was located on the east bank of Five Mile Creek, perhaps about eight miles northeast of Ray City, GA.  This was probably somewhere in the present day vicinity of the Highway 168 bridge over Five Mile Creek.

Martha Newbern Guthrie was born April 10, 1836,  the daughter of Dred Newbern and Bettsy Sirmons. In the spring of that year, pioneers all across Wiregrass Georgia were facing increasing hostilities from the Native Americans who were being forced out of their ancestral lands.

The skirmish at William Parker’s place, on the Alapaha River about five miles east from the Newbern homestead, was a prelude to the Battle of Brushy Creek.

Here is Martha’s story, published many years ago, of the last Indian Fight in Berrien County:

    On the west side of the Alapaha River, six miles south of Bannockburn, on lot of land No. 201 in the 10th district of Berrien County, is a historic spring that is really entitled to be called Indian Spring, were it not that another spot in Georgia bears that name.
    On this lot of land in 1836 lived William Parker, who came to this section in search of a new home in new territory.  Four miles North and on lot No. 63 lived John Gaskins and his wife and four boys. Nearby lived William Peters and family.
    Four miles to the Southwest and on the East bank of Five Mile Creek lived Dred Newbern and his family (This [was later] known as the John Fender Place).
    William Gaskins lived further to the north where Bannockburn now is, while Harmon Gaskins lived west of the Parker Home five miles and on lot No. 172.  All this was then in Lowndes County.

Leaves for a Day

    One day in July 1836, William Parker had to be away from home, leaving his wife, small child and daughter, just entering her ‘teens, at home alone.  Mrs. Parker and her daughter did their washing down at the river bank at the spring mentioned above, and when the noon hour came they went back to the house some 300 yards distant to prepare and eat the noon-day meal. While so engaged they heard a noise down at the spring and on investigating were horrified to discover a band of Indians, dressed Indian fashion with headfeathers, assembled at the spring getting water.
    Hurriedly and cautiously Mrs. Parker sped back to the house and gathering up her baby, with her daughter, left quickly and set out to the west toward the home of Dryden Newbern.
    Arriving there she related what she had seen, as fast as her fright and exhaustion  would allow, for she had run every step of the way, and she was almost overcome with heat and fatigue.
    On learning this Mr. Newbern realized that the cause of their own experiences of the night before when the horses had become greatly frightened, snorting and breaking out of the horse lot and coming back the next morning.  It was supposed that they had become frightened at the sight of the Indians who were prowling around the neighborhood to steal.

Word Sent Out

  Quickly as possible, word was sent out by Mr. Newbern to his scattered neighbors.  The  women and children were gathered up and carried, some to Milltown  where they were placed in a strongly built gin house on the farm of Joshua Lee, while others were taken north to the home of John Marsh near where the S. B. Dorminey home is. A guard was left at each place for their protection and every able-bodied man that would be mustered returned to the Parker home and organized for action.
It was found that during the night the Indians had entered the homes of William Parker, Willis Peters and John Gaskins,  and finding no one at home proceeded to take out the feather beds, opened the ticks, emptied the feathers and appropriated the ticks.
They took other valuables including a shotbag from the Parker home containing his money,  a handsomely flowered pitcher from the Gaskins home, and other valuable articles which they thought they could carry.  They also obtained a small amount of sliver coins tied up in a rag from the Peters home.

Indians escape from first net

    Skirting the river on the West side and opposite the Parker home, is a hammocky swamp interspersed with spots of high ground and almost inaccessible to white men; and when the little band of white men arrived at the scene just after sunrise they could see the smoke of the Indian camp-fires rising in the center of the swamp.
William Peters was placed in command of the little band, because Capt. Levi J. Knight (in command of the militia at the time) had not arrived.  Orders were given to the men to entirely surround the Indian camp before firing a shot, if possible.
In the eagerness of the moment, however,  precautions were not observed and before the circle could be completed the Indians discovered the approach and opened fire; the whites returned the fire, and were horrified to see their leader, William Peters,  fall wounded through the front part of the abdomen by a bullet from a redskin gun.

Overtake Indians

    This so horrified and frustrated the whites until every Indian made his escape. As soon as the wounded man could be properly cared for and the whites being joined by others including Capt. Knight, gave pursuit and overtook the Indians while the last of the band was crossing the river, up near where the Withlacoochee bridge now stands, on the Nashville-Willacoochee road.
The whites pressed the Indians so hard and were so close in behind them until a portion of the plunder was thrown into the sloughs by the Indians, in order to allow swifter flight.
Among the articles thrown away were Mr. Parker’s shotbag containing his money, which was caught on a swinging limb and was suspended just under the water when found; the flowered pitcher taken from the Gaskin’s kitchen, and a shotgun (which was later sold for forty dollars),  also the small package of money taken from the Peters home, was found tied to a small bush under the water.  The river slough in which the pitcher was found has ever since been known as “Pitcher Slough.”
    The further progress of this band of Indians and their pursuers as they pushed their way through what is now Clinch county and the engagements near “Boggy Slough” and in which William Daughtry had a horse shot from under him and Barzilla Staten was dangerously wounded, is told by Folks Huxford in  his “History of Clinch County,” published in 1916.
The man who first discovered Mr. Parker’s shot bag containing his money was William Green Aikins.

Note–The forgoing episode was related to me by Mrs. Martha Guthrie, widow of Samuel Guthrie, and a daughter of Dred (or Dryden) Newbern and his wife, Elizabeth. Mrs. Guthrie was blind, but otherwise in full possession of all her faculties, and talked entertainingly of so many things that happened years ago.

The children of Martha Newbern and Samuel F. Guthrie:

  1. Lewis Guthrie  abt 1853 –
  2. Josephene Guthrie 1856 –
  3. Archibald Guthrie 1859 –
  4. Samuel Guthrie 1860 –
  5. Arren Horn Guthrie 1864 – 1932
  6. Dicey Guthrie 1866 – 1953
  7. James Berrien Guthrie 1868 – 1949
  8. Martha Guthrie 1870 –
  9. Linton Guthrie 1872 –
  10. Betty Guthrie 1874 –
  11. John Guthrie 1876 –
  12. Dread Guthrie 1879-