Camp Townsend

In the fall of 1836,  following a number of skirmishes between militia companies and bands of Creek Indians who were resisting relocation to western territories there was a call for support of federal troops to provide protection for settlers in Lowndes County.  Companies of local militia under the command Levi J. Knight, Enoch Hall, Henry Blair, Henry S. Strickland, Samuel Swilley, Hamilton Sharpe, and others had fought engagements at William Parker’s place, Brushy Creek, Warrior Creek, Cow Creek, Troublesome Ford and other locales.

In response two companies of federal troops, about 200 men, under the command of Major Greenleaf Dearborn were assigned to Lowndes county.  Detailed to provide medical services for Dearborn’s command was Army surgeon Dr. Jacob Rhett Motte. The Federal troops first took up position at Franklinville, GA, then county seat of Lowndes County.  But after a few weeks relocated to a camp near the plantation of Thomas O. Townsend.  Townsend later owned property and practiced law at Troupville, GA.

Camp Townsend was situated about ten miles south of Franklinville, GA.

Dr. Motte, Army surgeon, described the new bivouac at Camp Townsend:

The situation at Camp Townsend was not celebrated for many beauties and ecellencies to make it an object of peculiar attraction. It was in one of the most extensive and most barren of all the pine-barrens in Georgia, where nothing is to [be] seen but pine-trees and saw-palmetto. To the North it was sheltered by lofty pine-trees; to the East it looked upon an extensive forest of over-grown pine-trees, most charmingly variegated by pine-trees of a smaller growth. A fine grove of majestic and venerable pine-trees protected the camp from the sun (whose heat was now acceptable) towards the South; and to the West, the eye was carried along over a glittering and smiling quagmire, abounding in toads, and tadpoles, and the view [was] terminated by the towering and thickly growing trunks of pine-trees, whose numbers were doubly increased by reflection in the puddles which beautifully diversified the aforesaid quagmire. A tender air of repose pervaded the whole scene.  The croaking of the thousand varieties of toads and tadpoles with which the quagmire abounded formed a concert of simple melody; the lowing of the cattle, which rove in native freedom through these woods, the grunting of the hogs who enjoy the same rural felicity; and the strokes of our men’s axes, partook of the softness of the scene, and fell tunefully upon the ear.   Amidst such Elysian happiness my mind could not fail being disposed to gentle pleasures and tranquil enjoyments.  The other senses also had their full share of delight; for I reveled in the good things of the land, which abounded with all manner of fish and flesh, and such like delightsome and wholesome excellencies.  I slept on Buffaloe skin – sat on Bear skin – and fed on venison and wild-turkies, with an occasional sprinkling of squirrel.

With the onset of cooler weather, troops were assigned as woodsmen to keep the camp supplied with firewood.

“The constant felling of pine-trees for fuel was a source of much annoyance to me. From morning to night the strokes of the axe were constantly heard at my ears…It took six pine-trees of the largest size to make one campfire every night. It was made this way; the largest trees in the neighborhood were selected, generally from two to three feet in diamitor; these were cut into lengths of twelve feet, and then rolled up to the front of the tent, distant from it about ten or twelve fee; two smaller pieces are laid upon the ground perpendicular to these, and parallel to one another to serve as andirons, lying towards the tents; upon these other large logs are piled to a height of five or six feet. We each of us had a brobdignag comforter of this description in front of our tents, and as soon as the sun set they commenced blazing with the fierceness of so many volcanies.

As our camp consisted of twenty tents, each of which had a fire in front, the scene presented at night was awfully grand and magnificently comfortable.  We burn’d such a large quantity of wood, that we cleared and used as fuel an acre per week of pine woods…

We had been encamped near Townsend’s clearing about three weeks, when our neighbours began to be too troublesome for a longer proximity. They displayed too great an affection towards our men by supplying them with – a soldier’s greatest luxury – whiskey, – thereby injuring their morals and keeping them constantly in the guard-tent. The Major commanding [Major Greenleaf Dearborn] saw the evil, and concluded to get out of its way. He therefore issued his orders on Monday night the 13th November, that we should all be ready to march the following morning by sun-rise.

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Dr. Motte Arrives at Franklinville, GA, 1836

In the midst of the Second Seminole War young Dr. Motte, a Harvard educated Army surgeon, found himself detailed for duty at Franklinville, GA to provide medical care for soldiers under the command of Major Greenleaf Dearborn.  The arrival of federal troops in Lowndes County in late September of 1836 followed  a series of engagements between local miltia and Native Americans who were fleeing to Florida to avoid forced removal to western lands.  Levi J. Knight, pioneer settler of Ray City, GA, had led a company of men in a skirmish at William Parker’s place on July 12, 1836, and from July through August, engagements were fought at Brushy Creek, Little River, Grand Bay, Troublesome Ford, Warrior Creek and Cow Creek.

Dr. Motte recorded his experiences in Lowndes County in a journal he kept of his military service. This part of his story picks up in the first days of Autum, 1836…

In consequence of the great alarm excited in the southern counties of Georgia by murders and depredations committed by the Creek Indians who were endeavoring to escape into Florida from Alabama, Governor Schley had petitioned Gen. Jesup to station some troops in Ware or Lowndes County, that being the least populous and most defenceless portion of the country through which the Indians were passing.  It was also liable to invasions from the Seminoles, as it bordered upon Florida.  In compliance with this request, Major [Greenleaf] Dearborn with two companies of Infantry was ordered to proceed immediately to the above counties in Georgia, and there establish himself.  These counties being so far south and in a low swampy part of the country had the worst possible reputation for health, and going there at this season of the year was almost considered certain death to a white man and stranger unacclimated.  It was necessary then to send some surgeon with the troops, that it may not be said they died without proper medical attendance; and also that they might have a chance of a surgeon in the other world to physic them. Dr. Lawson, the Medical Director, was therefore instructed by Gen. Jesup to select some on of the surgeons for this duty; and the Doctor with his usual friendly discrimination, whenever there was any particularly disagreeable duty to be done, picked upon me. [Dr. Thomas Lawson, Medical Director at Fort Mitchell, was appointed Surgeon General of the United States on November 30, 1836.] So away I was ordered, to die of fever as I thought amidst the swamps of Lowndes County.  Major Dearborn to whom I was ordered to report myself was at Irwinton [Eufala, AL], sixty miles below Fort Mitchell, on the Alabama side of the Chatahooche. It was therefore necessary for me to proceed there forthwith alone….

I found Major Dearborn encamped two miles from Irwinton, and after reporting myself to him rode over to visit Major Lomax, who was also stationed in the neighbourhood with his battalion of Artillery.

On the 29th Sept we took up the line of march for Lowndes County, Georgia, and after crossing the Chattahooche advanced fifteen miles the first day over the most wretched roads that ever disfigured the face of the earth.  We proceeded by easy marches, generally resting in the middle of the day when we took our food, which was prepared before we started in the early morn and again when we encamped for the the night. The second night I slept in a church by the roadside…The third night we slept in the midst of a pine barren. The fourth near the banks of the Kinchafoonee River upon the site of an old Indian town [Chehaw village, where Georgia militia massacred Creek Indians in 1818]

Dr. Jacob Motte's 1836 route to Franklinville, GA

Dr. Jacob Motte’s 1836 route to Franklinville, GA

The fifth night, the surgeon was coming down with fever. Of the sixth day, he wrote that the column had passed through Pindartown, in present day Worth County, GA.  According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Pindartown was of considerable importance in the early days. When the Creek lands changed hands in 1821, the village was bought from the Indians. Pindartown served as the only post office between the Ocmulgee and Flint rivers in the early days. The town was located at the head of navigation on the Flint River, and the stagecoach road between Milledgeville and Tallahassee, Florida, went through Pindartown.

Continuing his narrative of the travel on October 4, 1836, Motte wrote of his worsening condition.

We crossed the Flint river, and had got beyond Pinderton in Baker county, when the exertion proved too great for me, for fever with its dreadful hold had seized on my very life-springs; and finding myself unable to keep my saddle, I was forced to dismount and lie down upon the road until one of the baggage wagons came up, when I was helped into it. The torture I endured for four days during which I was conveyed in this vehicle of torment cannot be expressed in language.  My anxiety, however, to continue with the troops, enabled me to support the greatest agony for some time. 

Motte’s description of the rude and uncomfortable travel by wagon over the stage roads matches the perceptions of  Charles Joseph La Trobe, an English traveler and writer, who in 1833 rode from Tallahassee, FL to Milledgeville, GA  via the weekly stagecoach. La Trobe observed “The roads through the south of Georgia are in the roughest state.

The rough roads in the heat of an Indian summer in south Georgia were too much for the feverish Dr. Motte.

The thin covering to the wagon afforded my burning brain no protection against the heat of a vertical sun in this latitude, and the constant jolting over the rugged roads and roots of trees was fast driving me into a dreadful tempest of delirium. Human nature could endure such suffering no longer, and with reluctance I was compelled to be left in a log-house which stood beside the road in Thomas county, ten miles from Florida. The occupant, whose name was Adams, seemed a kind hearted man, and he promised to bestow [upon me] all the care in his power. Fortunately I retained my reasoning faculties, and I was enabled to prescribe for myself the proper medicines…

… By aid of a good constitution I was at last enabled to master the disease, and after ten days confinement to bed, again stood upon my legs. …On the 21st Oct I had regained sufficient strength to ride my horse; so on that day I bid farewell to my kind and hospitable host…and following upon the trail of the troops, proceeded to rejoin them.

The route of the troops from Thomasville toward Franklinville would have undoubtedly been along the Coffee Road.     Coffee Road, the military road constructed by John Coffee and Thomas Swain in 1823 became the first route opening up the south central Georgia region to pioneer settlers.  In this section the road passed through Thomas county, Lowndes county, and present day Berrien county, continuing on to its terminus at Jacksonville, GA on the Ocmulgee River. From Thomasville heading east via the Coffee Road, Dearborn’s company could reach Sharpe’s Store which was just fifteen miles west of Franklinville, GA

Now traveling alone and by horseback, Motte’s perception of  conditions along the rough-cut roads are in marked contrast to his torturous wagon ride.

Autumn with its refreshing sunshine had now superceded the heat of summer, and its hollow winds, with mournful sound announcing the approach of dreary winter, were driving the leaves about in eddying course; their rustling alone broke the stillness of the scene as I journeyed slowly through the wide forests, which were now throwing off their garb of sturdy vigour and assuming the ostentatious and gaudy livery of the season. The beauty of woodland scenery is always heightened just before the chilly winter throws its icy influence over their bloom. and envelopes them in a robe of dusky brown.  Then it is that the gorgeous and fantastic blending of green, yellow, crimson, purple and scarlet, which tinge the distant prospect, defies the art of the painter, who endeavours in vain to imitate successfully the varied hues of nature.

On the evening of the 22nd Oct I arrived at Franklinville, which is the only town in the whole of Lowndes county, and contains only three log-houses one of which is a court-house, and another the Post-office; the third is a store. This great place is situated on the upper Withlacooché, and here I found the troops encamped. They were preparing to move farther south, and nearer to Florida; and the day after I joined, the tents were struck, the Withlachooché crossed, and after marching ten miles in a southerly direction, a new place of encampment was selected near the plantation of a Mr. Townsend.

[Thomas O. Townsend was one of the first settlers of Lowndes County, and later owned several lots in the town of Troupville.]

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Dr. Jacob Rhett Motte: Army Surgeon

In the fall of 1836 at the onset of the Second Seminole War, Dr. Jacob Rhett Motte became perhaps the first surgeon in Lowndes County, GA, which then encompassed a vast area including all of present day Lowndes, Berrien, Brooks, Cook, Lanier and Echols counties. Motte was the first of the medical men anywhere in the vicinity of the pioneer homesteaders at the settlement now known as Ray City, GA. Dr. Motte, a U.S. Army surgeon detailed to serve under the command of Major Greenleaf Dearborn, had come to Franklinville, GA which was the first government seat and post office of Lowndes County.

The early pioneers of the area cheered the deployment of federal troops, and the arrival of a doctor was especially welcome.  But to Dr. Motte, the assignment for duty in Lowndes was most unwelcome, in his words the county “being so far south and in a low swampy part of the country had the worst possible reputation for health, and going there at this season of the year was almost considered certain death to a white man and stranger unacclimated.”

The Milledgeville Federal Union reported the arrival of United States troops in Lowndes County.

September 27, 1836 Milledgeville Federal Union reports Major Greenleaf Dearborn and 200 federal troops have taken up position in Lowndes County, GA.

September 27, 1836 Milledgeville Federal Union reports Major Greenleaf Dearborn and 200 federal troops have taken up position in Lowndes County, GA.

 Milledgeville Federal Union
September 27, 1836

United States Troops in Lowndes.

It is stated that Gen. Jesup has ordered Maj. Dearborn with about two hundred United States regulars, into Lowndes county, for the protection of that and the surrounding country against the depredations of Indians. It is anticipated that when operations shall be renewed in Florida, parties of Creek Indians, perhaps accompanied by the Seminole allies, will return through our southwestern counties to their ancient homes; and this force is designed, we learn, as a preparation for such a state of things. – Gen. Jesup has been at Tallahassee, and it was there understood, that he would be invited by Gov. Call to take command of the Florida forces.

As Native American inhabitants of Georgia, Alabama and Florida forcibly resisted removal to western lands, the summer of 1836 had erupted into a string of violent encounters. On or about July 12, 1836 Levi J. Knight led a company of men in a skirmish at William Parker’s place. In subsequent days, engagements were fought at Brushy Creek, Little River, Grand Bay, Troublesome Ford, Warrior Creek and Cow Creek.

About Dr. Motte…

Young Jacob Rhett Motte,  descendant of two distinguished and colorful South Carolinian families, graduated with an A .B. degree from Harvard University in 1832. Disappointed at his failure to receive an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, he returned to his home in Charleston. There he entered the Medical College of South Carolina and served his apprenticeship under the direction of a Doctor J. E. Holbrook. Upon the completion of his medical studies he became a citizen M. D. at the United States Government Arsenal in Augusta, Georgia. A yearning for a military career finally led the young physician to Baltimore where in March, 1836, he was examined by the Army Medical Board. His application for a commission as Assistant Surgeon was approved on March 21, and around the first of June he was ordered to active duty with the Army in the Creek Nation. For seven months he participated in the so-called Second Creek War in Georgia and Alabama-an action which was nothing more than the employment of about 10,000 regular and volunteer troops in a giant round-up of the demoralized and dispossessed Creek Indians. Early in 1837 he was transferred to the Army in Florida and for the next fourteen months took part in the campaigns against the Seminole Indians.

During his period of service with the Army in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, Motte faithfully kept a journal in which he recorded, in a fascinating style, his travels, experiences, activities, observations and impressions.

-James F. Sunderman

According to The Army Medical Department, 1818-1865,

President Jackson decided that it was necessary to move Army units into Georgia, Alabama, and Florida to force the removal of the Seminoles and Creeks, a step that had the added effect of intimidating the most reluctant members of the other three tribes. Although the Creeks put up less resistance to removal than the Seminoles, the possibility of wholesale active resistance caused the Army to order sixteen companies of regular troops from artillery and infantry regiments, more than 1,000 men, south by mid-1836 to assist over 9,000 state troops in rounding up the reluctant members of this tribe in preparation for their removal. In the course of the following six months, over 14,000 Creeks left the area under Army escort.

The Medical Department provided medical supplies for some of those going west, including the Cherokees, Choctaws, and Chickasaws, for which it was reimbursed from a special fund by the “Indian department,” and medical officers also vaccinated large groups from the various tribes for smallpox. At least one Army surgeon, Eugene Abadie, was sent with the Creeks and specifically designated “Surgeon to Emigrating Indians” although, except for surgeons assigned to Army escorts, physicians accompanying groups of migrating Indians were apparently usually civilians. Abadie reported that many Indians fell sick during their march, fevers, dysentery, and diarrhea being the most common ills, and that many died, especially the very old and the very young. Abadie appears to have left the Creeks shortly after their arrival in the West, for he was at Fort Brooke, Florida, in August 1837.

Some of those whose duty it was to assist in the removal of the members of these tribes were well aware of the tragedy involved. Although he was not assigned to accompany the Creeks as they moved west, Assistant Surgeon Jacob Rhett Motte, who was then attached to one of the artillery units in the territory of the Creeks, studied their language and learned to respect them as a people. He watched at least 500 Creeks being brought in chains to Fort Mitchell, Alabama, and deplored the melancholy spectacle as these proud monarchs of the soil were marched off from their native land to a distant country, which to their anticipations presented all the horrors of the infernal regions. There were several who committed suicide rather than endure the sorrow of leaving the spot where rested the bones of their ancestors. The failure of his attempt to escape the round-up drove one warrior to self destruction; the fact that the only weapon at his disposal was an extremely dull knife did not deter him. With it he made several ineffectual efforts to cut his throat, but it not proving sharp enough, he with both hands forced it into his chest over the breast bone, and his successive violent thrusts succeeded in dividing the main artery, when he bled to death.

The troops based at Fort Mitchell during the Creek removal suffered primarily from dysentery and diarrhea, which Motte blamed on “the rotten limestone water of the country.” The sick were sheltered in two small buildings, each with a ten-foot wide piazza shading it from the summer’s sun. Both structures were in poor condition, with split floor boards and rooms without ceilings. Neither had been intended to serve as a hospital, but the building constructed for this purpose was on private land and had been taken over as a home, apparently by the family owning the land. The diseases endured by the men who came to the facility were, for the most part, fevers, probably malarial, and, in hot weather, diarrhea and dysentery. An epidemic of measles broke out in the fall of 1836, and the surgeon was occasionally called upon to treat the victims of delirium tremens or even of poison ivy. By the summer of 1836 the facility was serving as a general hospital, taking in both Regular Army patients from the garrison and men from the Alabama volunteers, recently back from Florida and the war against the Seminoles.

Character of the Second Seminole War

A brief show of strength served to eliminate Creek resistance, but an increasing number of attacks on white families and ambushes of small Army units emphasized the determination of the Seminoles never to leave their homes. In the last weeks of 1835, the conflict erupted into open warfare. In the guerrilla struggle that followed, Army regulars and members of various state units sent to subdue the Seminoles fought in an unfamiliar and dangerous land, “healthy in winter but sickly in summer; . . . a most hideous region,” where insects and bacteria alike throve and multiplied.”

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Lowndes County Seat Almost Sunk in 1827

After the territory of south Georgia was opened with cutting of the Coffee Road, the Georgia Legislature acted on December 23, 1825 to  create Lowndes County.  It was around this time that the Knights first came to Lowndes county and settled in that portion which was later cut into Berrien County.    It has been said the first Courts and first elections in Lowndes County were held at the house of Sion Hall,  who built an Inn on the Coffee Road, and that in 1828 William Smith’s place on the Withlacoochee River was chosen as the county seat. A courthouse was constructed on this site and a town, named Franklinville, was platted.

But an article from the Savannah Georgian dated July 12, 1827 suggests a courthouse was constructed in Lowndes prior to 1828. Did this article refer to Hall’s Inn, situated on land lot No. 271, 12th District, about 1 1/2 miles north of present day Morven, GA?  Or was a courthouse constructed at William Smith’s place prior to the incorporation of Franklinville?

Either way, the article documents that sinkholes were a part of pioneer Georgia.

July 12, 1827 A sinkhole was reported at Franklinville, GA

July 12, 1827 A sinkhole was reported at Franklinville, GA?

Savannah Georgian
July 12, 1827

Natural Curiosities. – Travellers in the low country have related to us the following facts:
     A spot of earth, about an acre in extent, near the court house in Lowndes County, suddenly gave way not long since, and sunk to the depth of a hundred feet!  The place is now covered with water, the trees standing as they grew – the tallest pines being 20 or 30 feet below the level of the surrounding country.  Small ponds like this are frequently met with in the lower part of the state, and are called Lime Sinks – produced probably by the action of subterraneous streams.
     In Thomas county, the waters of two creeks, at their junction, formerly made a lake of considerable size, and then ran off in a large rivulet.  But about a year and a half ago, the water of the lake found a subterranean outlet – the bed of the rivulet, as well as the whole lake, has become entirely dry and covered with luxuriant grass, &c. The lake disappeared so suddenly, that tons of fishes, terrapins, and alligators totally unapprised of its intentions, were left behind.
     Travellers speak of the large Ponds or Lakes in Florida, as objects of curiosity. In Armonia Pond are several large Islands, said to be floating!  A circumstance is mentioned of an individual having purchased a small Island, in this pond, which, when he went the second time to see, could not be found! He afterwards heard of it in another part of the lake several miles from where he left it.
     Jackson Pond, in Florida, is said to be increasing in extent – the earth on the margin having settled; or, from its outlet becoming obstructed, the quantity of water having accumulated.  Fields and orchards cultivated but lately by the Indians, are now entirely under water – the tops of the peach trees being nearly covered.
     We have given the above particulars as they are stated to us; and from the respectability of their sources we have no doubt of their being substantially correct. An inquiry into the causes of these operations of Nature, will be an interesting employment for the admirerer of nature’s Works.

Macon Telegraph.

Isham Watson, Revolutionary Soldier

Isham Watson, Revolutionary Soldier (1759-1842)

Isham Watson,  a veteran of the Revolutionary War,  and his wife Rhoda Ann Oswald came to Lowndes County, GA about 1831. At least one of their children, son Frederick Watson, came with them to Georgia.  Lowndes county then encompassed  present day Lowndes, as well as Berrien County, Tift, Cook, Brooks, Atkins, Lanier, and  Echols counties. The county seat was at Franklinville, on the Withlacoochee River (although the river was then labeled on maps as the Ockolacoochee). Isham Watson’s place was on Lot 100, 12th Land District, about 10 miles west of Franklinville, and about two miles east of the Little River (labeled on the original land plats as the Withlacoochee).

Isham Watson was born about 1759 in Dobbs County (now Wayne County),  in the British Crown Colony of North Carolina. He  was one of ten children born to Samuel Watson (1731-1784) and Christine Watson (1740-1810).  He grew to young adulthood during the time of escalating tension between England and the American Colonies.

“In the early 1770’s, North Carolina sentiment on the subject of independence was fairly evenly divided. Back country settlers in 1771 openly defied royal authority, but they were successfully quelled by Governor William Tryon at the Battle of Alamance. By 1775, North Carolinians had generally split into two factions: patriots, who were willing to fight England for independence; and loyalists, who were either strongly in favor of British rule or those who did not feel that war was a way to redress grievances.”

Following on news of the fighting  at Lexington and Concord in April, 1775, the patriots of North Carolina  began organizing Continental Army and militia units. Isham Watson was among those who were willing to fight for independence.  By the age of 16, he joined Captain John Sheppard’s Company of the Dobbs County Regiment of Militia.  The Dobbs County Regiment, led by Col. Abraham Sheppard, Maj. Martin Caswell, and Maj. William McKinnie, would play a pivotal role in the opening of hostilities in the Revolutionary War.

When Governor Josiah Martin learned of patriot military preparations he fled the palace at New Bern and by July was on board a British warship off the North Carolina shore.

With Governor Martin out of the colony the patriots established a provisional government and began mobilizing their forces.

From his exile, Governor Martin organized a plan to recapture the colony. He hoped to raise a loyalist army of 10,000, many of which would be back-country Highland Scots. The army would then march to the coast and join a British expeditionary force led by Lord Cornwallis, Sir Henry Clinton and Sir Peter Parker. Together they would be able to re-establish royal authority in the Carolinas.

By February 15, 1776 Governor Martin’s Tory army assembled at Cross Creek (now Fayetteville), NC, mustering about 1,600 loyalists, including some 500 Scots armed with broadswords.   Under the command of Brigadier General Donald McDonald and lieutenant Colonel Donald McLeod, the Tory force began the march down the Cape Fear River to link up the the British regular forces on the coast at Wilmington where Cornwallis and Clinton had six regiments of British regulars  and a fleet of seventy-two ships to control the coast. The goal was to divide the northern and southern colonies.

But through a series of troop maneuvers and posturing, the patriots  managed to intercept the Tory army at Moores Creek Bridge.

On February 20, MacDonald began his march toward the coast; however, he found his way barred by Moore at Rockfish Creek. Instead of bringing on a fight the loyalists turned eastward and crossed the Cape Fear River. With Moore outmaneuvered, another patriot leader, Colonel Richard Caswell with 800 men [private Isham Watson and the Dobbs County Militia among them] rushed to take possession of the bridge on Widow Moores’ Creek, a crossing the loyalists must make in order to reach Wilmington. Moore sent 200 men with Colonel Alexander Lillington to reinforce Caswell and with his own force followed the enemy in hope of attacking his rear.

Lillington arrived at Moores Creek Bridge on the 25th and erected an earthwork on a slight rise overlooking the bridge and its approaches. The creek at this point is a dark, sluggish stream about 50 feet wide and 5 feet deep. A simple wooden bridge provided passage across the creek, but much of the terrain adjacent to the crossing was swampy.

With Caswell’s arrival on the 25th the patriot strength climbed to 1,000 men. Instead of joining Lillington, Caswell crossed the creek to the western bank and prepared a position there.

When the loyalists neared the creek and learned of the presence of the patriots, they had to decide whether to march in another direction or to fight. After a lengthy debate, the younger leaders prevailed and the decision was to fight. MacDonald was ill, so McLeod commanded the attack. Captain John Campbell with 75 picked broadswordsmen was to lead the charge into Caswell’s camp. However, a reconnaissance warned Caswell of his vulnerable position so he withdrew across the creek to the position of Lillington’s earthwork.

Caswell’s troops left their campfires burning as they quietly shifted across the bridge. Thus, on the evening of February 26th, 1776,  Private Watson found himself along with the other patriots “entrenched on a sandy elevation, about one hundred yards [east] from the bridge. The flooring of the bridge was taken up, the pine pole girders thoroughly greased with tallow, over which quantities of soft soap were poured to make crossing the more difficult, and then the patriots resolutely awaited the coming of the Tories.”

An hour before dawn on February 27, the loyalists struck Caswell’s deserted camp and found only low-burning campfires. McLeod quickly regrouped his men and when musket fire was heard near the bridge, they charged with the rallying cry, “King George and Broad Swords.” Though it was not daylight, they rushed the partly-demolished bridge with claymores drawn and bagpipes skirling.  As the advance party struggled across the bridge, they were met with a hail of musketry and artillery fire.

North Carolina Patriots , Private Isham Watson among them, defeated loyalist militia at Moores Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776. Isham Watson later moved to Lowndes County, GA.

North Carolina Patriots , Private Isham Watson among them, defeated loyalist militia at Moores Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776. Isham Watson later moved to Lowndes County, GA.

“From their well-defended position, hundreds of patriots trained their guns on the loyalist Scots who charged from the shadows in the light of dawn.  But bravery and broadswords were no match for muskets and cannon.  Within seconds, the front ranks of the loyalists were decimated. Some lay dead below the earthworks, while others drowned in Moore’s Creek.”

The patriots counter-attacked with vigor, producing a loyalist rout. The battle lasted only three minutes, with the patriots losing but one man.

A firsthand account of the battle was written by Colonel Richard Caswell in a letter published in 1776 in  John Almon’s work The Remembrancer.


Extract of a letter from Col. Richard Caswell, late a delegate for the province of North Carolina in the Continental Congress, and now commander of a body of troops in that Province, to the Hon. Cornelius Harnett, Esq: president of the Provincial council of North Carolina, dated from his camp at Long Creek, Feb. 29, 1776

“I have the pleasure to acquaint you that we had and engagement with the Tories at Widow Moore’s Creek bridge on the 27th current.  Our army was about one thousand strong, consisting of the Newbern battalion of minute-men, the militia from Craven, Johnston, Dobbs, and Wake, and a detachment of the Wilmington battalion of minute-men which we found encamped at Moore’s Creek bridge the night before the battle, under command of Colonel Lillington.  The Tories, by common report, were three thousand; but General Mcdonald, who we have a prisoner, says there were about fifteen or sixteen hundred. He was unwell that day, and not in battle. Captain McLeod, who seemed to be the principal commander, with Captain John Campbell, are among the slain. The number killed and mortally wounded, from the best accounts I was able to collect, was about thirty; most of them were shot on passing the bridge.  Several had fallen into the water, some of whom, I am pretty certain, had not risen yesterday evening when I left the camp.  Such prisoners as we have made say there were at least fifty of their men missing.

The Tories were totally put to the rout, and will certainly disperse. Colonel Moore arrived at our camp a few hours after the engagement was over. His troops came up that evening, and are now encamped on the ground where the battle was fought. And Colonel Martin is at or near Cross-Creek, with a large body of men. Those, I presume, will be sufficient effectually to put a stop to any attempt to embody again. I therefore, with Colonel Moore’ s consent, am returning to Newbern, with the troops under my command, where I hope to receive your orders to dismiss them. There I Intend carrying the General. If the Council should rise before my arrival, be pleased to give order in what manner he shall be disposed of. Our officers and men behaved with the spirit and intrepidity becoming freemen, contending for their dearest privileges.


To the Hon˙ Cornelius Harnett, President of the Provincial Congress of North-Carolina.

After the battle, the Patriots captured hundreds of loyalists, large quantities of weapons, supplies, and more than £15,000 ($13,850,000 in today’s money).  The Patriot victory at Moores  Creek Bridge played a significant role in ending the British ambitions in North Carolina.

Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, References:

Almon, J. 1776. The Remembrancer, or Impartial repository of public events
Lewis, J. D. 2012. The Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge
Moore, F. 1876. Record of the Year, a Reference Scrap Book: Being the Monthly Record of Important Events Worth Preserving, Together with a Selection of the Choicest Current Miscellany, Volume 1, pg 207
National Park Service. 1969. Moores Creek National Military Park Master Plan: History
North Carolina. 1907. The Battle of Moores Creek Bridge in Literary and Historical Activities in North Carolina, 1900-1905.Pg 215

Dobbs County militia participated in a number of subsequent battles in the Revolutionary War, but Isham Watson’s is not known to have been present.  He continued to reside in Wayne County, NC.

On February 12, 1781 Isham Watson was among the citizens of Wayne County, NC signing a petition to the North Carolina General Assembly requesting the appointment of new county commissioners to select a sight for the county courthouse, the former commissioners have failed to select a central location.  It is interesting that so trivial an event of local governance would take up the time and attention of the citizens of Wayne County or the NC General Assembly in light of the fact that Lord Cornwallis was then occupying North Carolina, forcing Nathanael Green’s Continental Army troops to retreat into Virginia.

The British fortunes were quickly reversed. Despite a British victory at Guilford Court House, Cornwallis was unable to control the colony. Just months later, George Washington’s victory at Yorktown would end the major conflicts in America.

Isham Watson remained in Wayne County, NC after the war. The census of 1790 show he was a slaveholder there with 9 slaves.

About 1831, Isham Watson and his wife came to Lowndes County, GA originally settling in Folsom’s District.  Among other Revolutionary soldiers homesteading in Lowndes County were John Davis, Henry Hayman, Gideon Elvington, and William Peters.

In the 1832 Cherokee Land Lottery, Revolutionary Soldiers were given extra draws, and Isham Watson, of Lowndes County, GA was a fortunate drawer. He drew a lot in Cherokee County, GA, but it appears that he never occupied the property, and quickly sold it.

The 1834 property tax digests of Lowndes County, GA show that Isham Watson owned 490 acres of pine lands in Section 1, District 12, Lot 100,  Captain Caswell’s District.

The last record of Isham Watson appears in the 1840 Census of Lowndes County, GA.  He died in the 1840s; the location of his grave is not known.

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Old Land Mark Gone ~ Death Of “Uncle Billy” Smith

William Smith (1797-1882), pioneer settler of Lowndes County, GA, homesteaded on land lot No. 50, 11th District along the Withlacoochee River in the 1820s.  Smith would serve as clerk of the court, postmaster, and Ordinary of Lowndes County.

This section was then truly a wild southern frontier of the young American nation, replete with wild animals, panthers, bears, wolves, and snakes; Indians who resented the forceful and often illegal intrusion of settlers on to their native lands; and many febrile diseases, typhoid, malariascarlet fever, and other little understood diseases among them. Through this wilderness in 1823, General Coffee cut a military thoroughfare into north Florida. The Coffee Road opened up the territory and led to the creation of  Lowndes County by an act of the legislature on December 23, 1825.  It was around this time that the Knights first came to Lowndes county and settled in that portion which was later cut into Berrien County.    

The first Courts and first elections in Lowndes County were held at the house of Sion Hall,  who built an Inn on the Coffee Road.  But soon the commissioners of Lowndes County appointed to determine the location of the county courthouse chose William Smith’s place on the Withlacoochee as the site of the county seat, and named the place Franklinville, GA.

Lowndes at that time included all of present day Berrien County, and Lanier, Cook, Tift, Brooks, and Echols, besides. For a time the post office for this vast frontier county was at the home of Big Thumb Daniel McCranie. However, On July 7, 1828, the Post Office Department established a post office at Franklinville and appointed Mr. Smith as postmaster.

    The erstwhile town of Franklinville did not exist long –  only about four years.  At its best, it could only boast one store and three or four families and the court house.

    The court house was built there in 1828-29, and was a small crude affair, costing only $215.00.  The first term of court in it was held in the fall of 1829.

    William Smith was the first one to settle there, and was living there when the site was chosen.  The only other families to ever live there, so far as can be determined were John Mathis, James Mathis and Sheriff Martin Shaw.  After a short residence there the three last named moved to that part of Lowndes cut off into Berrien in 1856.

William Smith, “Uncle Billy” as he was known, was a member of the State Rights Association of Lowndes County, GA,  along with Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharp, Aaron Knight, Jonathan Knight, John Knight and William Cone Knight,  Noah H. Griffin, Martin Shaw, Malachi Monk, Captain David Bell and many others.  The Association gathered  at the county courthouse at Franklinville in 1835 to toast State Rights.

Just a few years after its founding, Franklinville was found to be unsatisfactory as the seat of Lowndes county.

… an act was passed by the Georgia legislature, appointing a commission to select an appropriate place for a county site. Franklinville had been its capital, but was not near enough to the center. As the legend goes, Big Billy Knight and Big Billy Folsom were appointed. So it came about that where the wine-red waters or the Ockolocoochee and the black current of the Withlacoochee meet at the end of a long sandbar and go tumbling and writhing, eddying and curving down the long reach of moss-grown trees, like two huge serpents struggling for the mastery, the plat of a town was drawn, and it was called after Georgia’s great chevelier governor, “Troupville,”

William Smith moved to Troupville where he continued to serve as Postmaster.  There, he also operated “Tranquil Hall,” one of the three hotels in the town.  Tranquil Hall was widely famed for its hospitality, and when court was in session at Troupville, the judge and lawyers usually stayed at the tavern.  Tranquil Hall was situated on the public square, along with the court-house and jail, the stables belonging to the stage line and a convenient “grocery.”  The other inns were the Jackson Hotel , situated on the town square and run by Morgan G. Swain and his wife, and a hotel operated by Jonathan Knight for eight or ten years until he moved away to Appling County about 1849.

Troupville itself would suffer the same fate as Franklinville. When the Atlantic & Gulf railroad (later the Savannah, Florida & Western Railway) came to Lowndes County, it bypassed Troupville, following a route four miles to the south through the site now known as Valdosta, GA:

The railroad was in process of building when residents of Troupville began to move. William Smith, one of the pioneers, and known as “Uncle Billy” Smith, the day the deed was signed by Mr.Wisenbaker giving the railroad six acres of land on which to build the first station, tore off the wing of his hotel at Troupville and moved it to Valdosta, where he operated his hotel several years. The first house moved to the new town was owned by Judge Peeples and it was rolled from Troupville to Valdosta, being placed on pillars on the lot on Troup street where it now stands. Several other houses were also moved bodily and some few of them are yet standing. In a few weeks time Troupville as a town was no more.

— — ◊ — —

Advertisement for Tranquil Hall, upon its relocation from Troupville, GA to Valdosta, GA, 1870.

Advertisement for Tranquil Hall, upon its relocation from Troupville, GA to Valdosta, GA, 1870.

Albany News
January 7, 1870

The Proprietors of Tranquil Hall, formerly of Troupville, have opened a house at Valdosta, Ga., for the accommodation of the Traveling Public, where they will find the fare equal to that of any House on the line of the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad, and charges as reasonable.


— — ◊ — —

Uncle Billy and his wife Margaret continued to operate Tranquil Hall at Valdosta, GA.  Eventually, in their declining years they sold out to Darius M. Jackson.

William “Uncle Billy” Smith died February 1, 1882.  His obituary was reported in the Valdosta Times:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, February 4, 1882

Old Land Mark Gone.

Death Of “Uncle Billy” Smith.

Mr. Wm. Smith, an old gentleman, whose history is intimately connected with that of Lowndes County, died last Wednesday morning at his residence in Valdosta in the eighty-fourth year of his age, leaving his aged wife (who we believe is about the same age) to tarry a while longer with us. The funeral services were held at his late residence Wednesday afternoon and his remains were buried in our cemetery Thursday morning at 10 o’clock. Mr. Smith was born in 1797, in North Carolina, and emigrated to Irwin, now Lowndes County, and settled the place now known as “Old Franklinville.”

       The Indians, bears and panthers were numerous in these pine forests then and Mr. Smith’s early life was one of some adventures. (Here we will remark that Mr. Smith promised us to write up a history of those early days for publication, but from a feebleness which had been growing on him for six months we suppose he was not able to do the work.)

       When Lowndes was made a county the county site was located at Franklinville, (Mr. Smith’s home,) and he was elected Clerk of the Court. An interesting account of the first court held was published in these columns about a year ago from his pen.

       Later, the county site was moved to Troupville and there Mr. Smith kept a hotel. “Tranquil Hall,” as it was known, was noted for its hospitable landlord and lady and for its splendid table. Travelers carried the good name of this country inn far and wide.

“Tranquil Hall,” with Troupville, was moved and helped to make Valdosta, when the Gulf Road came through here; but the hotel declined with the old people and about ten years ago they gave up the business, and sold the building. It is now occupied by Mr. D. M. Jackson.

Mr. Smith has more than once been Ordinary of the County, having held that office as late as twelve or fourteen years ago. He has held other positions of honor and trust, and in his prime of manhood was a leading and influential man. He had two sons, William and Henry, who died after the war, leaving families. All of Wm. Smith Jr.’s family have died, we believe, but Mr. Henry Smith’s widow, four children and one or two grandchildren are living. So Mrs. Wm. Smith, the widow of the deceased, survives all but four grandchildren and the great grandchildren. We hope the good old lady will find her remaining days as comfortable and as happy as they can be to one left alone at such an age. We would like, at some other time, to give Earthier reminiscences of the old gentleman’s life, if we can get hold of the data.

 † † †

To this obituary, Hamilton W. Sharpe added the following testament (By 1880, Hamilton Sharpe had removed to Quitman, GA where he operated a hotel known as Sharpe House.) :

The Valdosta Times
 Saturday, April 22, 1882

Mr. Wm. Smith. Christian Advocate. William Smith died in Valdosta recently in the eighty-fifth year of his age.

I have known him for over half a century. He was elected Clerk of the Superior Court of Lowndes County in the year 1827, which office he held consecutively for a number of terms, and filled other offices of trust and honor in that county. He was the proprietor of “Tranquile Hall,” located in Troupville, the then county site of Lowndes, and the house was long and favorably known as one of the best hotels in the state. The result of the late war between the States was very hard on him, as his all consisted of slave property. His life was long and varied, a true friend in every respect. He became a member of the M. E. Church South many years ago, but was not very demonstrative in his religious duties until late in life. He was a constant attendant on Church, and always enjoyed the services of God’s house. His departure was very sudden, but we have no fears as to his being well prepared for the change, which was a happy one to him. His children, one by one, all preceded him to the grave, but his wife, like himself very old, still lingers on these mundane shores.

Peace be to his memory.

H.W. Sharpe.

† † †

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Postmaster Hamilton W. Sharpe Takes Offense

Hamilton W. Sharpe

Hamilton W. Sharpe was a pioneer settler of Lowndes County and a contemporary of Levi J. Knight, who settled at the site of Ray City.  The two fought together in July, 1836 actions against Indians which occurred in this immediate area including the Battle of Brushy Creek and actions on Warrior Creek  in what was then Lowndes County (now Berrien and Cook counties,) Georgia.

Sharpe first came to Lowndes via the Coffee Road:

As has been discussed, one of the first roads of any kind to be constructed through south Georgia  was the Coffee Road, built by General John Coffee in 1823.  It was a “road” only in the sense that it was a path cleared through the forest with tree stumps cut low enough for wagon axles to clear them.   

One of General Coffee’s overseers in the laying out of the road was Enoch Hall, a son of Sion Hall and Mrs. Bridget “Beady” Hall.  The Halls were among the very first settlers in the area that became Lowndes county, by an act of the Georgia Legislature, December 23, 1825. Sion Hall established a tavern on the Coffee Road, about two miles north of present day town of Morven,GA and his brother, John Hall, operated a liquor bar there.

In 1826, Hamilton W. Sharpe, then a young man hardly in his twenties, came down from Tatnall County over the Coffee Road, and decided to locate near the home and traveler’s inn of Sion Hall.  It was at Hall’s Inn that the first court in Lowndes County was held a few months afterwards.  Sharpe along with others expected that the permanent county-seat would be established there.  So young Sharpe built a small store building out of logs near the Sharpe home.    Thus, Hall’s Inn and Sharpe’s Store  were situated approximately 25 miles southwest of present day  Ray City, GAthe site first settled by the Knight family in the winter of 1826.

In 1828, Hamilton W. Sharpe obtained the establishment of a U. S. Post Office at his store, for which he was appointed Postmaster.  The Sharpe’s Store Post Office served Wiregrass Pioneers for almost 25 years.

<strong>Post marked Sharpe's Store, Geo., September 29, 1849.</strong><br />The Sharpe's Store Post Office in Lowndes County (now Brooks County) opened from 1828 to 1853 (In 1836 it was briefly known as Magnum Post Office). This letter written by Douglas Graham, was addressed to his cousin, Jno A Brooks Esq, PM in Rockford, Alabama. It was originally rated Free but rerated to 10 cents due. The contents of the letter mention that Graham is interested in information about his ancestors and says he will write a long letter containing what he knows. Graham comments on the

Post marked Sharpe’s Store, Geo., September 29, 1849.
The Sharpe’s Store Post Office in Lowndes County (now Brooks County) opened from 1828 to 1853 (In 1836 it was briefly known as Magnum Post Office). This letter written by Douglas Graham, was addressed to his cousin, Jno A Brooks Esq, PM in Rockford, Alabama. It was originally rated Free but rerated to 10 cents due. The contents of the letter mention that Graham is interested in information about his ancestors and says he will write a long letter containing what he knows. Graham comments on the “Whig Rascals” in Alabama, and on the politics of Georgia. Of the men running for Governor he wrote: “Judge [Edward] Hill probably drinks no more liquor than Towns though he has been called a horrid drunkard.” (George W. Towns won by aggressively endorsing “southern rights” and playing to fears about Congressional interference with slavery.)

In December of 1846, Hamilton Sharpe responded to a letter to the editor published in the Savannah Daily Republican, written by a subscriber from Okapilco, Lowndes County, GA. Okapilco was on the mail route from Franklinville via Sharpe’s Store to Bainbridge, GA. Without naming names, this subscriber appeared to be complaining about the way Postmaster Sharpe charged postage due on the mail, the selection of mail routes, the infrequency and irregularity of the mail service, even the quality of the conveyance by which the mail was delivered. To these criticisms Hamilton Sharpe took great offense, and his written, point-by-point response was in turn published in the Republican, transcript below.

Sharpe's Store, December 28, 1846

Sharpe’s Store, December 28, 1846

Sharpe’s Store, Dec. 28, 1846.

Messrs. Editors. – My attention has been called by a friend, to a letter in the Republican of the 9th inst., from a correspondent of yours, writing from “Okapilco, Lowndes Co., Ga.,” over the signature of a “Subscriber.”

I notice the letter, first; because therein is an evident intention to censure some Post Master in this vicinity and secondly, because the writer has made statements which are not facts.  The writer says, “we are now, (a recent thing,) charged ten cents on single letters from your city, and though these letters are originally stamped five vents, by the Post-Master at Savannah, &c., yet on their arrival in this county, an additional five cents is placed over the original by some little powers that be, &c.” Now if your “Subscriber” intends this as a charge against this office, I flatly deny the fact, and will appeal to the way-bills from Savannah, and the Post-Master at that place to sustain me.  If a letter is received from Savannah at this office, charged with five cents only, I feel myself bound, in the discharge of my official duty, to mark the letter “under charged,” and add an additional five cents, which I may have done, but as to “placing an additional five cents over the original,” it is not allowed by this “little power that be.”

Again, he says “there are two routes from Savannah, one via Darien not over two hundred miles.” He must be very ignorant of the rout over which the mail travels “via Darien,” or he would not risk his love of truth in such a glaring assertion.  It had not even been a doubt in my mind whether it is not more than three hundred miles from this to Savannah even by the route via Darien; but as I had no means of ascertaining the precise distance, I was disposed, if I erred at all, to err on the side of the public, and consequently charged five cents on all letters not exceeding half an ounce in weight, until by general consent (“Subscriber” exempted, I suppose,) the mail was changed on the other route, which every body knows to be four hundred miles and upwards.

In 1845, I corresponded with Mr. Schley, the Post-Master, in Savannah, on this subject – a gentleman whom I have ever considered as worthy of the confidence of the public – and I am persuaded that he has said in good faith in discharge of his duty, and will not deny but what his way-bills, are invariably, since the change was made in the rout, charged ten cents on all letters from his office to this.

This gentleman, the “Subscriber” from “Okapilco,” whoever he is, seems to be very censorious. He wants the mail oftener, &c., and who does not? But how are we to get it, by writing to you a letter of censure and compalints, embellished with a few of his little “cat’s paw” flourishes of wit, implicating the conduct of Post-Masters, in the discharge of their official duty?  If this is the way we are to get a change in our mail arrangements, it will present a new aspect to matters and things in the Post Office Department, and besides he will not get many to follow in his walks.  But let him go to work at the right place, instead of censuring the “little powers that be” – let him supplicate the law-making power, and his course will be considered by all to be more open and generous at least, and no doubt he will gain the co-operation and influence of the community at large.

Why arraign the Post-Master General in this matter – we have as many mails now as we had under former Administrations, and get them as regular, and there is as few complaints, and as few causes of complaints.  Perhaps “Subscriber” wants a mail route established for his own especial benefit, twice or thrice a week, and then he would be “blest by the light spreading influence emanating from Cave Johnson’s Express,” sure enough.

What does “Subscriber” means by the “news carrying quadruped” – is it the contractor, the old sulky, the old gray horse that draws the sulky, or little Barney who rides and drives?  I am sure little Barney is a faithful little soul to his business, and as often as the old gray has failed, he has as often obtained a substitute – and where is the cause for this notorious letter from “Subscriber.”

I am at a loss, Messrs. Editors, to know which looks the worst to a man “up a tree,” “little men in big places,” or big men in little places. If “Subscriber” is acquainted with “Euclyd,” perhaps he may solve the question himself. Does “Subscriber” know what the new Post Office law is, with regard to this matter? If he does not, he had better inform himself on the subject. It is found on the first page of the new “Post Office Laws and Regulations,” beginning with the first clause, and if he cannot understand its mystifications, let him employ a lawyer.

I will now take leave of your “Subscriber from Okapilco, Lowndes Co., Ga.,” who, it seems, would seek some notoriety at other men’s expense, but who is very careful to conceal his real name.


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Magnum Post Office Briefly Served Pioneers of Old Berrien

Lowndes County, GA,  1839

After south Georgia was first opened to settlers in the 1820s, the federal government established post offices to serve the pioneers.  But for many years, the  Post Offices of the Old Berrien Pioneers were few and far between.

As of 1836 there were only two post offices in all of Lowndes County, GA, an area which then encompassed present day Lowndes, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties. These post offices are shown on the 1839 Map of Georgia & Alabama exhibiting the post offices, post roads, canals, rail roads & c.; by David H. Burr (Late topographer to the Post Office), Geographer to the House of Representatives of the U.S.

In 1836 area settlers traveled to post mail either at the county court house at Franklinville, GA, or at a post office on the Coffee Road which existed only briefly in Lowndes County. Contemporary accounts give the name of this post office as Mangum, although the 1839 Burr postal map, the official U. S. Postal Service Record of Appointment of Postmasters, and List of the Post-Offices in the United States give the name as Magnum.

1839 map of Lowndes County, GA showing post offices and stagecoach routes.

1839 map of Lowndes County, GA showing post offices and stagecoach routes. (Detail of 1839 Map of Georgia & Alabama exhibiting the post offices, post roads, canals, rail roads & c.; by David H. Burr (Late topographer to the Post Office), Geographer to the House of Representatives of the U.S.).

Actually, the Burr map was out of date by the time it was published in London in 1839.

In 1836, the Franklinville post office was located near  the Withlacoochee River about 10 miles southwest of the homestead of Levi J. Knight at Beaverdam Creek (now the site of Ray City, GA).  But in 1837 this post office was transferred another 12 miles farther southeast to Troupville, GA when the county seat was relocated to the confluence of the Withlacoochee and Little rivers.

The Magnum post office, as shown on the 1839 Burr map, was situated  another 15 miles to the west of Franklinville, GA.  Prior t0 1836 it was been known as the Sharpe’s Store post office, where Hamilton Sharpe served as postmaster and operated his country store on the Coffee Road. Sharpe, who had become busily engaged with politics and with the Indian Wars, stepped down as post master in 1836. The Sharpe’s Store post office was renamed Magnum post office, and John Hall, Sr. took over as postmaster effective April 1, 1836.

Milledgeville Federal Union, Apr. 28, 1836.

Milledgeville Federal Union, Apr. 28, 1836.

The Milledgeville Federal Union
April 28, 1836

THE POST-OFFICE, at “Sharpe’s Store” Lowndes county, Georgia, has changed its name to that of Mangum and John Hall Esq. has been appointed postmaster.

Postmaster John Hall, Sr. was a brother of Sion Hall.  Sion Hall, one of the very earliest settlers of Lowndes (now Brooks) county, had established a tavern on the Coffee Road about 1823.   Sharpe’s Store had opened about four years later near Hall’s Inn, which served as the first site of Superior Court meetings in Lowndes County.

The Magnum, or Mangum, Post Office was short-lived, though. Postal records show that on January 28, 1837 the name reverted to Sharpe’s Store Post Office, and Hamilton Sharpe resumed as post master. Sharpe served as postmaster until 1848, and the Sharpe’s Store Post Office continued under other postmasters until closing in 1853.

1836-37 Postmasters at Magnum  and Sharpe's Store Post Offices, from official Records of Appointment of U. S. Postmasters.

1836-37 Postmasters at Magnum and Sharpe’s Store Post Offices, from official Records of Appointment of U. S. Postmasters.

After the post office moved from Franklinville to Troupville in 1837, the Knight’s and other early settlers of the Ray City area had a round trip of about 44 miles to get their mail.  The round trip to  the post office at Sharpe’s Store was about 50 miles, although it was may have been on the better travel route via the Coffee Road. But for the Knights, the bustling town of Troupville, with its social happeningstravelers and ramblers, commerce and trade, religion and  politics, court proceedings, legal affairsamusements, hotels and inns, was undoubtedly the preferred destination. On the other hand, Hamilton W. Sharpe, like Levi J. Knight, was a political and military leader of Lowndes County, and the two are known to have had frequent associations.

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Fourth of July, 1834 and the State Rights Association

In 1834, William A. Knight, Levi J. Knight, Hamilton W. Sharpe, John Blackshear, John McLean, John E. Tucker, William Smith led the effort to form a State Rights Association at Franklinville, GA,  then seat of Lowndes County.  Lowndes, at that time included all of present day Berrien County, and the community  settled by Wiregrass pioneer Levi J. Knight  which would become known as Ray City, GA.  The following year, the  citizens of Lowndes again met  to toast States Rights at Franklinville on Independence Day(1835)  In 1836, they would designate their new county seat as Troupville, in honor of “the great apostle of state rights,” George M. Troup.

George M. Troup

George M. Troup

The State Rights Party of Georgia had been launched in 1833 by prominent leaders of the Troup party, including John M. Berrien, George R. Gilmer, William H. Crawford, William C. Dawson, and Augustin S. Clayton. The  State Rights activists were committed to the notion that individual states could exercise nullification of federal laws which they found objectionable, although this doctrine  was condemned by the Legislature of Georgia and other state governments.  Furthermore, according to the State Rights supporters, individual states where bound by the Constitution only to the extent that they found agreeable;  states could secede from the Union  at will.  These ideas emerged in response the Alien and Sedition Acts – a sort of 17th century version of the Homeland Security Act – which the Federalists enacted as war with France loomed on the horizon.

According to the Library of Congress:

Signed into law by President John Adams in 1798, the Alien and Sedition Acts consisted of four laws passed by the Federalist-controlled Congress as America prepared for war with France. These acts increased the residency requirement for American citizenship from five to fourteen years, authorized the president to imprison or deport aliens considered “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States” and restricted speech critical of the government. These laws were designed to silence and weaken the Democratic-Republican Party. Negative reaction to the Alien and Sedition Acts helped contribute to the Democratic-Republican victory in the 1800 elections. Congress repealed the Naturalization Act in 1802, while the other acts were allowed to expire.”

The infringements of the  Alien and Sedition Acts had prompted   Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to secretly author the Kentucky (1798) and Virginia (1799)  Resolutions which first proposed the argument that state legislatures had the right to nullify Federal statutes.   In these resolutions lay the seeds of disunion which culminated in the Civil War.

The 1834 convening of the State Rights activists in Lowndes County was full of rhetoric over the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, South Carolina’s attempts at nullification, Andrew Jackson’s Nullification Proclamation which disputed a states’ right to nullify federal law, and the subsequent Force Act, which authorized the use of military force against any state that resisted federal law.


Georgia Journal
September 3, 1834 — page 3

According to previous arrangement, the citizens of Lowndes county friendly to State Rights met in Franklinville on the 4th of July, for the purpose of forming a State Rights Association – when, on motion, Wm Smith was called to the Chair, and John McLean appointed Secretary.  The object of the meeting was then explained by Hamilton W. Sharpe, Esq.  A committee of five persons, to wit: H. W. Sharpe, John Blackshear, John McLean, John E. Tucker, and Levi J. Knight, was appointed to draft a preamble expressive of the political sentiments of the meeting, and a constitution for the government of the association.

The meeting then adjourned until Friday the 1st day of August.

WM SMITH, Chairman

John McLean, Secr’y


Friday August 1.

THE STATE RIGHTS PARTY OF LOWNDES COUNTY, met pursuant to adjournment, on the first day of August, when Wm A. Knight was appointed President, Matthew Albritton and John J. Underwood Vice President, and William Smith recording Secretary and Treasurer. A committee of three persons was appointed to wait on the President, notify him of his appointment, and conduct him to the chair, after which he addressed the meeting at considerable length.

The preamble and Constitution being called for, H. W. Sharpe, from the Committee, reported the following, which was unanimously adopted.


Your Committee, to whom was confided the trust of preparing a Preamble and Constitution to be submitted to this meeting, for the formation of a State Rights association in the county of Lowndes, beg leave to submit the following:

This meeting, which is called in conformity to the request of the State Rights meeting which was formed in Milledgeville on the 13th Nov. last, is deemed by your committee to be of the utmost importance, in producing unanimity of action in suppor of these great conservative principles of State Rights hitherto of such great importance in prostrating the approaching spirit of consolidation.  The triumph of those principles so much to be desired, calls loudly for the formation of local and county associations, as the best means of disseminating those great political truths maintained by the illustrious Jefferson, affirmed by the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, and sanctioned by the purest patriots of our country.  The state of political parties in Georgia, and throughout the Union, calls loudly for this concert of action to preserve all that is dear to freemen.

There seems to be a spirit abroad in the land, which is likely to fatal to constitutional liberty, and subversive of the Republican doctrines of ’98 and ’99; and in their place is sought to be established antagonist doctrines, calculated to change our political institutions, & destroy our civil rights.  If these doctrines should prevail, then farewell to freedom and State Sovereignty.  Then will the altar of our political faith be destroyed, and its glories extinguished.

Our opponents, to wit, the self-styled Union party of Georgia, would dissemblingly profess to accord with the views of the illustrious Jefferson, and hypocritically pretend to adopt, as the rule of their faith, the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of ’98 and ’99.  They must have forgotten that those far-famed resolutions declare: “That there being no common judge, each party has a right to judge for itself, as well as of infractions as the mode and measure of redress.”  Now this is the doctrine which we profess to believe; this then would have been the State Rights doctrine of the Union party, if they had gone no farther; but in a subsequent Resolution, they declare that in case Congress should pass an unconstitutional law, no State has a right to judge any thing about it.  How this last sentiment can be made to agree with the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, we leave our opponents to determine.

It is plainly deducible from the whole tenor of their proceedings, that the ultra-Federal doctrines of the Proclamation of the fatal 10th Dec. 1832, are approved and cherished. The tyrannical and despotic provisions of the Force Bill are sanctioned, its authors and supporters applauded, and the sovereignty of their own State denied.  Then if these doctrines should eventually prove successful, it must result in the final overthrow of constitutional liberty, and the establishment of a consolidated despotism on the ruins of State Sovereignty.

While our opponents are thus actively and zealously engaged in disseminating and circulating these dangerous doctrines, they spare no pains in casting odium and reproach on those of us who are friends to State Rights and State Sovereignty.  The terms “rebel, ”disunionist, ”traitor’ and other opprobrious epithets, are frequently applied to those who would exert their influence to arrest the Federal Government in its march towards absolute power and despotism.  We, as a portion of the State Rights party of Georgia, would cast back these epithets, and say, let posterity judge who are the friends of the Union and liberty, when the transactions of the present day shall become matters of history.

We will now give our opinion of some of the leading political subjects, which seem to be the divisional line between the two parties now in Georgia.

We believe the doctrines of the Proclamation of the 10th Dec. 1832 to be radically wrong, and will have a tendency to destroy the original principles of our government, for it re-asserts the doctrines of the Federalist of former days; “That the States of this Confederacy never had a separate existence; that a State has no right to decide upon the constitutionality of any act of Congress, nor to arrest its progress in its own limits.

It denies the right of secession, even under the most oppressive laws, maintaining that the states have not retained their entire sovereignty, and that the allegiance of our citizens is due to the United States in the first instance, and threatening the employment of the sword and bayonet to coerce a State into submission.

The passage of the Act called the Force Bill to be a high-handed measure, unauthorized by the Constitution. The President, overlooking his former principles, demands of a submissive Congress, their sanction of these extraordinary powers and doctrines, and the means of carrying them into effect.

On no former occasion has the hand of power been exerted over the Constitution of a free country with more daring assumption.

In has, under the pretence of collecting the Revenue, at one fell swoop abolished the State governments, conferred upon the President unlimited powers, and placed at his disposal the Army, Navy, and Militia of the United States, not only to be used at his own caprice, but also authorizes him to confer this power on a deputy Marshall, or whoever he may think proper.  It also give him the power to make a Custom house on a ship of war, and place it at the entrance of any harbor he amy think proper, there to exact at the mouth of a cannon, in the name of duites, the honest earnings of the laboring man, and bestow the money as a bounty upon the lordly manufacturer. The provisions of this act are a disgrace to our Statute Book, and a monumnet of the servile spirit of the 22d Congress, and should be torn from our public archives and consigned to the flames that consumed the records of the Yazoo speculation.

Your Committee, however, can but hope, that there is yet a redeeming spirit among the people of this Government, to check the rapid strides of absolute power which is threatening our institutions with a change from a Republic to a Despotism.

In order that the doctrine of State Rights and State Remedies may be promoted, we, its friends and advocates of the county of Lowndes, think it the utmost importance to organize an Association to act in concert with the Central Committee and all Associations of a similar kind.

Therefore, be it resolved, That it is expedient to form a State Rights Association based upon the doctrines of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of ’98 and ’99, as put foth and contended for by Mr. Jefferson adn other republicans of that day.

In compliance with the duty imposed on your Committee, they would respectfully submit the following


Art. 1. This Association shall be known as the State Rights Association of the county of Lowndes, and have for its object the dissemination of sound political doctrine, based upon the Republican doctrine of ’98 and ’99, as put forthe by Mr. Jefferson and other patriots.

Art. 2. The offices of this Association shall be a President, two Vice Presidents, and a Secretary, who shall also act as Treasurer.

Art. 3. The President shall perform the duties which appertain to such an office in all Associations of a similar kind, and shall call meetings of the Association and appoint Committees; and in his absence, one of the Vice Presidents shall preside.

Art. 4. The Secretary shall keep a correct account of the proceedings of the Association.

Art. 5. Any person may become a member of this Association by signing the Constitution.

Art. 6. This Constitution may be altered or amended by two thirds of the Association, at any annual meeting.

Art. 7. The officers of this Association shall be elected on the 4th of July in each and every year, unless it fall on the sabbath, the the Saturday preceding.

On motion of H. W. Sharpe, Esq. it was

Resolved, That the State Rights papers in Milledgeville be respectfully requested to publish the preceedings of this meeting.

Resolved, That the Editors of the Southern Recorder be directed to print one hundred copies of the Preamble and Constitution adopted by this Association for distributing among the people of this county, and forward their account for payment to the Recording Secretary.

The Association adjourned to meet at Franklinville, on Friday before the first Monday in October next.



From Georgia Journal, Sep. 3, 1834 — page 3

1834 William A. Knight elected president of Lowndes County State Rights Association at Franklinville, GA. Members include Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, William Smith, Matthew Albritton, John J. Underwood, John McLean, John E. Tucker, John Blackshear

Georgia Journal, Sep. 3, 1834 — page 3

1834 William A. Knight elected president of Lowndes County State Rights Association at Franklinville, GA. Members include Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, William Smith, Matthew Albritton, John J. Underwood, John McLean, John E. Tucker, John Blackshear

1834 William A. Knight elected president of Lowndes County State Rights Association at Franklinville, GA. Members include Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, William Smith, Matthew Albritton, John J. Underwood, John McLean, John E. Tucker, John Blackshear

1834 William A. Knight elected president of Lowndes County State Rights Association at Franklinville, GA. Members include Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, William Smith, Matthew Albritton, John J. Underwood, John McLean, John E. Tucker, John Blackshear

1834 William A. Knight elected president of Lowndes County State Rights Association at Franklinville, GA. Members include Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, William Smith, Matthew Albritton, John J. Underwood, John McLean, John E. Tucker, John Blackshear


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Pioneers of Old Lowndes Toasted State Rights and American Independence

Fourth of July 1835 Jubilee and many of the old familiar pioneers of Lowndes and Berrien, members of the State Rights Association of Lowndes County, GA,  had gathered  at the county courthouse at Franklinville, GA.  State Senator Levi J. Knight, of Beaverdam Creek at present day Ray City, Berrien County, GA, gave a great oration, as did the Reverend Jonathan Gaulden.  Big Billy Smith was there, as was Hamilton Sharp, Aaron Knight, Jonathan Knight, John Knight and William Cone Knight,  Noah H. Griffin, Martin Shaw, Malachi Monk, Captain David Bell and many others.

After the speechmaking came the celebratory meal, followed by a round of regular toasts to Washington, Jefferson, LaFayette, and to former Georgia Governor, George Michael Troup, as well as some to denounce the excesses of President Andrew Jackson.  The event and toasts were reported in The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, a continuation of the report on Fourth of July, At Franklinville, Lowndes County:

The Southern Recorder
August 4, 1835

The company the proceeded to partake of a sumptuous dinner prepared by William Smith, Esq.; and when the cloth was removed, the following regular and volunteer toasts were received with the usual good humor and applause. All seemed to go off well, and the jubilee of the day was celebrated with a dignity becoming a free people.


  1. The principles that gave birth to the anniversary: unsullied may they remain, for they are the breathings of the spirit of liberty.
  2. The Union: such as our fathers gave us, not as their degenerate sons have abused and perverted it.
  3. The patriotism of Washington: how unlike that of our present military chieftain and the hero serving politicians of the day!
  4. The signers of the declaration of American Independence: may their memory and fame be immortal.
  5. George M. Troup: morally honest, politically honest, and politically right – the brightest luminary that adorns our political hemisphere: Georgia’s boast, and a nation’s pride. We admire the man and revere the patriot.
  6. Thomas Jefferson: the illustrious writer of the declaration of American Independence: may his memory never hereafter be painted by the praises of those who cloak the odium of their principles under a pretended love of the Union.
  7. The State of Georgia in 1825: she then stood proudly prominent among her compeers, battling for her rights. Alas! where is she now?
  8. The right of resistance ever belongs to the oppressed; may its votaries never want, nor be wanting.
  9. Our next President: better to have Hugh L. White with but one scare on his political visage, than to have a Baltimore manufactured President, crammed upon us, stinking with his political usurpation.
  10. Nullification: used by patriots to protect the right of sovereign state – by office seekers and office holders, to frighten people from the true principles of democracy.
  11. Religion liberty and science: may they remain forever as the constellations in the heavens, and visit in succession all the kingdoms, and people of the earth.
  12. General Lafayette: the friend and associate of Washington: may his memory ever live in the hearts of a grateful, brave, free and independent people.
  13. Georgia’s fair sex:
    “Till Hymen brought his love delighted hour,
    There dwelt no joy in Eden’s rosy bower;
    The world was sad – the garden was wild,
    And man the Hermit sighed, till woman smiled.”


    By John Blackshear. The Honorable Charles Dougherty, the present nominee for the Executive of the State; his independent, manly course when the judicial mandate of the Supreme Court was present to him in the case of the missionaries, give ample evidence of his qualifications for the highest office within the gift of the people of his native State.
    Levi J. Knight. State Rights and State Remedies: our political system and policy in 1799; may it never be changed while North America has one proud son to defend it.
    H. W. Sharpe. The principle that brought about a repeal of the alien and sedition laws of 1798 be my principle, even if that principle be nullification.
Thomas D. Townsend. The preservation of a free government requires, not merely that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially, that neither of them be suffered to overleap that great barrier, the constitution, which defends the rights of the people. The rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment exceed the commissions from which they derive their authority, and are tyrants. The people who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by authority derived from them, and are slaves.
William C. Knight. The patriotic State of South Carolina, with her patriotic rulers, McDuffie, Hamilton, Calhoun, Hayne and others.
John Knight. May it be the steady aim of all our public functionaries in future, to keep our government in that purity in which it stood in 1799.
Sent in by Mrs. Jane Sharpe. The patriotic ladies of the day; may they remember to emulate their Spartan mothers.
Mrs. Mary N. Smith. May the daughters of happy America never want a Washington to defend them.
Mrs. Sarah Underwood. All Fortune’s children except the oldest, Miss Fortune.
William G. Hall. May the tree of liberty long wave its golden branches over the free and happy people of America.
Noah H. Griffin. Nullification: the true conservative of our rights – without it there is no other barrier against usurpation.
Aaron Knight. May the executive of our nation in future cease to contend for enlarged power; but preside with that moderation and meekness that marked the administration of Washington and Jefferson.
Frederick Varn. Success to ex-Governor Hamilton of South Carolina, the originator of Nullification.
Thomas P. Jordan. (a visitor) A speedy and disgraceful death to modern Unionism and man-worship.
D. G. Hutchison. Samuel Chase, the independent statesman; after enumerating many a glaring instance of ministerial violation of American rights, with a voice of thunder that made the hollow dome resound, he swore a might oath that he owed no allegiance to the King of England. ‘Twas then the Demosthenes of Maryland first taught the startled hails of Congress Hall to re-echo the name of independence. May the youths of America imitate his example.
James Smith.  Our next Governor: may he be emulous even to ape Troup.
John Dees.  The Honorable A. S. Clayton: the fearless asserter of State Rights and true principles.
Owen Smith.  The doctrine of State Rights:  while it protects us from the unhallowed ravages of tyranny, may it remain an unshaken bulwark against the destructive fury of faction.

John M. Cranie jr  The Honorable Charles Dougherty: may he be our next Governor.
James M. Bates.  The sovereignty of the States:  purchased by the blood of the whigs of the Revolution: may the whigs of the day remember it, and remembering feel it.
David Mathis.  Our republican institutions: may they continue to diffuse light and liberty to the happy subjects of America.
Jonathan Knight.  May the State Rights party succeed in restoring the fallen character of Georgia to the elevation in which it stood in 1825.
Martin Shaw, jr.  May American virtue shine when every other light is out:  may freedom of election be preserved, the trial by jury maintained, and the liberty of the press be secured to the latest posterity.
C. S. Gauldin.  The Constitution formed by the wisest hands, increased in its vigor, until federalism gave it a wound in a vital part.  Jefferson applying the balm, republicanism, cured the wound.  Federalism has again entered its vitals; may another Jefferson rise to apply again the restorative State Rights, and restore it to its pristine vigor.
Capt. Bell.  Nullification: used by State Rights men to protect the rights of the States; by office seekers and office holders to frighten fiats into subjects liege and true to the conqueror of Napoleon’s conquerors, but the violator of that constitution he had sworn to defend.
William Smith.  The fair sex: The only endurable aristocracy, who elect without votes, govern without laws, decide without appeal, and are never in the wrong.
James D. Smith.  The three greatest and best Generals – general peace, general plenty and general satisfaction.
Wm. G. Smith.  When wine enlivens the heart, may friendship surround the table.
Joel Gornto.  His Excellency Wilson Lumpkin: Georgia’s constant friend, the pure and immaculate statesman; his public acts, though, much abused by political demagogues, will ever be supported bu the yeomanry of Georgia.
M. Monk.  State Rights without nullification, Union without consolidation.

1835 Independence Day toasts at Franklinville, GA. The Southern Recorder, August 4, 1835.

1835 Independence Day toasts at Franklinville, GA. The Southern Recorder, August 4, 1835.

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