Bryan J. Robert’s Account of the Last Indian Fight in Berrien County

Bryan J. Roberts, and his brothers Nathan and John, were among Levi J. Knight’s company of men who fought in the Indian Wars of 1836.  Many published accounts of the pioneer skirmishes with Native Americans at  William Parker’s place on the Alapaha River and at Brushy Creek have been related on the Ray City History Blog.

Here is the story the way it was told by B. J. Roberts 50 years after the event:

The Valdosta Times
May 14, 1887

INDIAN FIGHTERS

A Brief Account of the Fighting In This Section In 1836.

Mr. Bryan J. Roberts, father of Mr. W. K. Roberts of this place, is one of the pioneers of Lowndes, and has seen service as an Indian fighter in this and Clinch counties.  He is now in his 78th year and is spending the evening of his life very happily among his devoted children, having a few years ago divided a fine property among them, reserving for himself a sufficiency for his simple needs.  His children are all prospering and he is happy in seeing them happy.

In 1836 the rumors of depredations and murders by Indians in other portions of the State caused widespread alarm in this section, and the citizens organized companies for the protection of their families and property.  Capt. Levi J. Knight commanded the company to which Mr. Roberts belonged.

This company was on duty one hundred and five days, and during that time engaged in two bloody fights with the red skins.

In August, 1835, a squad of Indians raided Mr. William Parker’s home, not far from Milltown.  They carried his feather beds out into the yard; cut them open, emptied the feathers, cut and carried the ticks with them.  They also robbed him of provisions, clothing, and $208.25 in money.

Capt. Knight’s company was soon on the trail of this squad and in a short time overtook them near the Alapaha river, not far from the Gaskins mill pond.  The sun was just rising when the gallant company opened fire on the savages. A lively fight ensued, but it soon terminated in the complete routing of the Indians, who threw their guns and plunder into the river and jumped in after them.  A few were killed and a number wounded.  One Indian was armed with a fine shot gun.  This he threw into the river and tried to throw a shot bag, but it was caught by the limb of a tree and was suspended over the water.  This bag contained Mr. Parker’s money, every cent of which he recovered as well as all the other property taken from his house. The fine gun was fished out of the river and, afterwards sold for $40, a tremendous price for a gun in those days.  In the fight Mr. Peters was shot with this same gun.  One buck-shot struck him just above the waist-band of his pants, passed through and lodged under the skin near the backbone. He was also struck by two shot in the left side, which made only slight wounds.  The Indian was not more than thirty yards distant when he shot him.  Mr. Peters recovered from his wounds in less than twelve months.

Having driven the Indians into the dense swamp beyond the river, Capt. Knight marched his company as rapidly as possible in the direction of Brushy creek, in the Southwestern portion of the county.  When they arrived near that place, they heard a volley of small arms, and on arrival found that the battle had been fought and that the volley they heard was the last tribute of respect over the grave of their brave comrade-in-arms, Pennywell Folsom.  Edwin Shanks and a man named Ferrell were also shot dead in the fight.  Edwin Henderson was mortally wounded and died near the battlefield.  Mr. Robert Parrish, Sr., who lives near Adel, had his arm broken by a bullet in this fight. The Indians lost 27 killed and a number wounded.  We have no account of any prisoners being taken.  The battle of Brushy Creek was fought in a low, marshy swamp where Indian cunning was pitted against the invincible courage of the Anglo-Saxon, and in five minutes after the fight opened there was not a live red skin to be seen.

From this place Capt. Knight marched his company to what is now Clinch county.  He overtook the Indians at Cow Creek, where a sharp engagement took place, resulting in the killing of three and the taking of five prisoners. Mr. Brazelius Staten was dangerously wounded in this fight but finally recovered.

This ended the Indian fighting in which Capt. Knight’s company were engaged. Half a century has passed since then.  Nearly all the actors in that brief but bloody drama are at rest beyond the stars. A few of them are still among us, the valiant pioneers of this country, who bared their breasts to the bullets of the savages in order that their descendants might possess this fair land in peace.

The following is a list, as near as can now be ascertained, of the living and dead of Capt. Knight’s company.  The company numbered 120 men, many of whom came from neighboring counties, whose names cannot now be recalled.

LIVING–Bryan J. Roberts, Moses Giddens, John Studstill, Jonathan Studstill, Aaron Knight, Guilford Register, Echols county.) David Clements, William Giddens, John and Nathan Roberts, Fla.) (Zeke Parrish, Lowndes county,) John McMillain, John McDermid and Robert Parrish.

DEAD–George Henedge, Jeremiah Shaw, Daniel Sloan, John Lee, Moses Lee, James Patten, William J. Roberts, Isben Giddens, Jacob Giddens, Elbert Peterson, John Knight, Thomas Giddens, Harmon Gaskins, John Gaskins, William Gaskins, Sam Lee, Frederick Giddens, James Parrish, Martin Shaw, Archie McCranie, Daniel McCranie, Malcom McCranie, Alexander Patterson, James Edmondson, David Mathis, Thomas Mathis, Levi Shaw, William Peters, Jonathan Knight, Levi J. Knight and Brazelias Staten.

The Indians who passed through here belonged to the Creek Nation and were on their way from Roanoke to Florida to join the Seminoles.  They were first discovered in this county by Samuel Mattox, at Poplar Head, near where Mr. Tom Futch now lives.  Mattox was afterward hanged for murdering the fifteen-year-old son of Mr. Moses Slaughter.  Most of these Indians reached the Okeefenokee Swamp where they were joined by a large band of Seminoles.  From then until 1839 these savages did much damage to the white settlers in the vicinity of the Swamp, but in that year they were driven out and took refuge in the Everglades, where they were, with the exception of a small number, finally captured and sent to Arkansas.
Since the above was put in type another of the gallant old Indian fighters, Mr. Aaron Knight, has joined his comrades beyond the stars.

A 1915 reprint of this article also  noted “The Malcolm McCranie referred to was the father of Mr. Geo. F. McCranie, cashier of the Bank of Willacoochee and Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners of Coffee.”

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Hardeman Giddens and the Big Fishing Frolic

Another note about Hardeman Giddens, Civil War veteran and extraordinary citizen of Berrien County.  Giddens, a son of Jacob Giddens and Sarah Ann “Annie” Sirmans, had a farm near Rays Mill.  He was born in March of 1844 in Lowndes (nka Berrien) County, Georgia, and lived to see the town incorporated as the city of Ray City, GA.

In the winter of 1891 the talk of the town was all about Giddens’ great fishing expedition:

Atlanta Constitution
December 17, 1891

A Big Fishing Frolic

TIFTON, Ga., December 16. -(Special.)- There was a big fishing frolic in Berrien county a few days ago, and thousands of the finest bream and trout were caught and carried away by all who attended. Mr. Hard Giddens and others were compelled to send home after an extra team to carry away the fish, the amount caught by them being estimated at not less than 800 pounds.  Many others loaded their carts and filled their buggies in like manner.  Those who were in a position to know say that there was not less than 3,000 pounds of fish caught there on that day, and as many more perhaps left in the water.

A Big Fishing Frolic. Dec 17, 1891.

A Big Fishing Frolic. Dec 17, 1891.

 

Georgia Gossip about Hardeman Giddens

Hardeman Giddens (1843- 1910) led an active life that often caught the attention of citizens in Berrien County and beyond. In March of 1884, the Georgia Gossip was about the horse racing at Alapaha, GA, and whether Hardeman’s black stallion was as fast as he believed.  The Challengers were W.N. Fiveash, Dr. Fogle, and Mr. Henley.  William Newton Fiveash, a young man of Magnolia, GA and later of Ocilla, GA entered his bay pony.  Dr. James A. Fogle, a surgeon trained during the Civil War, put his sorrel horse into the race. (Fogle was the original proprietor of the Alapaha hotel later known as the Schockley Hotel)  The winner for the evening was Mr. Henley’s sorrel mare.

The Atlanta Constitution 25 Mar 1884, pg 2 Alapaha is now engaged in the pleasures of the turf. In a recent race — half mile heat – between Mr. W. N. Fiveash’s bay pony and Mr. Hart Gidden’s black horse, the bay came under the string two lengths ahead. The next race was between Dr. Fogles’s sorrel horse and Mr. Henley’s sorrel mare. The horse was beaten by a neck. Then, Mr. Giddens still believing in his black, a race was arranged between the black and Dr. Fogle’s sorrel. The sorrel was again the winner. The last race of the evening was between Fogle’s sorrel horse and Henley’s sorrel mare. Henley’s mare came under the string ahead, but it was claimed that if a good start had been obtained the horse would have won. The races were quite exciting and proved that Alapaha contains some good horseflesh.

Hardeman Giddens, born MAR 1844 in Lowndes (nka Berrien) County, Georgia , was a son of Jacob Giddens and Sarah Ann “Annie” Sirmans.  The 1860 Census shows he was a resident of Berrien County at the time, Berrien having been cut out of Lowndes in 1856. During the Civil War, Hardeman Giddens joined the 29th Georgia Regiment, Company D,  the Berrien Minutemen, enlisting for  12 months. He mustered in at Sapelo Island, GA on 4 November 1861 as a private in Captain John C. Lamb’s Company D (later Company K) .  Records show in 1862 he was on duty at Camp Young, near Savannah, GA.   In October he was  on extra duty there as a mail carrier. He was documented on payroll record rolls for  April 1862, December 1862, and January – March 1863 at a rate of 25 cents.  In September 1863, Hardeman Giddens was at the Battle of Chickamauga. His war experience and amazing good fortune in battle were the subject of a previous post:  Civil War Bullet Dodger Hardeman Giddens Finally Catches One in 1887

Georgia 29th Infantry, monument at Chicamauga battle field.

Georgia 29th Infantry, monument at Chickamauga battle field.

After the war, Hardeman Giddens returned to Berrien County, GA.  On the day before Valentines Day, February 13,  1870 he married Martha J. Gaskins.  She was a daughter of Harmon Gaskins & Malissa Rowland Rouse,  born on February 16,  1838 in Lowdnes Co, GA.   Martha had been widowed twice.  Her first husband was Thomas N. Connell, who died in the Civil War; her second was William Parrish. After marriage, the Giddens made their home in the 1148th Georgia Militia District, where Hardeman was farming land valued at $225 dollars. His father Jacob Giddens, age 68, lived in Hardy’s household and assisted with farm labor. In the census of 1880, Hardeman Giddens was enumerated in Georgia Militia District 1148 with his wife Martha, and sons James and Lyman. In 1900, Hardeman Giddens and  Martha, now his wife of 30 years, were living on the family farm near Ray City, GA. The Giddens owned the farm free and clear, and their two sons, Lyman and William, lived with them and helped their father work the farm.  It seems Martha Giddens must have had a hard life. She birthed 9 children, only four of whom were living in 1900. Martha J. Gaskins died in Berrien Co, GA on 26 February 1910 at age 72. The 1910 Census shows in that year Hardeman Giddens was living with his eldest son, Lyman F. Giddens, who was a prominent citizen, barber, and (later) mayor of Ray City, GA.    Hardeman Giddens died later that year on October 2, 1910 and was buried in the Harmon Gaskins Family Cemetery, Berrien County, Georgia. Related Posts: