Reuben Marsh, Coffee Road Ferryman

Reuben Marsh was a pioneer settler of that area of old Irwin County which later became Berrien County, GA. This section of south Georgia was opened up for settlement with the cutting of the Coffee Road in 1823.  Marsh was a ferry  operator on the Coffee Road for nearly 20 years.

Independent ferry operators were authorized by the Georgia Legislature to provide river crossings on the Coffee Road.

Independent ferry operators were authorized by the Georgia Legislature to provide river crossings on the Coffee Road.

Reuben Marsh was born about 1793 in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. According to  Roots & Branches Genealogical Society of West Volusia County, Florida, he came with his family to Georgia in about 1800, settling in Telfair County.  His father died there in 1805 at age 31.

In 1812, at age 19 Reuben Marsh married fifteen-year-old Nancy Marshall,  daughter of Matthew Marshall and Margaret King. The young couple first made their home in Telfair County, GA. In 1820, Reuben Marsh was enumerated there as a head of household along with his wife, five children, and one slave.  A white female over age 45 enumerated in his household may have been his widowed mother. It is said his mother died that year.

Reuben Marsh, of Telfair County, was among the fortunate drawers in the Third or 1820 Land Lottery of Georgia announced in the December 19, 1820 edition of the Milledgeville Southern Recorder.  This lottery was to dispose of an immense area of land now covering the southern third of the entire state of Georgia, which had been demanded from the Creek Indians by President Jackson after the Creek War (1814).    A second section of land in northeast Georgia was included. This other, smaller section defined the eastern end of the Cherokee Nation for 12 years. The lottery winners drew lots in Appling, Early, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Rabun, Walton or Irwin county.

According to Huxford’s Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Vol. 2, Reuben Marsh moved to Irwin County, GA about 1828 and settled in the 5th district on land Lot 381.  This lot which straddles Willacoochee Creek is where he established a farm and a ferry to serve travelers on the Coffee Road. The Coffee Road had been blazed through the Wiregrass wilderness in 1823 by General John Coffee, and first opened the area of Lowndes County and present day Berrien County to pioneer settlers.  

Enhanced detail of Irwin County survey plat District 5 showing location of land lot 381 on Willacoochee Creek. Reuben Marsh established a ferry over the Willacoochee in 1828.

Enhanced detail of Irwin County survey plat District 5 showing location of land lot 381 on Willacoochee Creek. Reuben Marsh established a ferry over the Willacoochee in 1828 to serve travelers on the Coffee Road.

Marsh, an early settler of Irwin County,  was appointed by an act of the Georgia legislature as one of five Commissioners to establish a site for the county government.   The legislation, signed by Governor Gilmer on December 23, 1830, assigned the location of Irwin’s county seat to Land Lot 255 in the Fourth District, directing that it be named Irwinsville.  This location would have placed the Courthouse near the Ocmulgee River about 40 miles north of Reuben Marsh’s residence. Section Three of the act named Robert H. Dixon, Jacob Young, William Bradford, Daniel Luke, and Reuben Marsh as Commissioners for the town with authority to lay out and sell town lots and to contract for building a courthouse and jail.  The Marshes and Bradfords must have been good neighbors, as their sons and daughters intermarried.

 

On December 23, 1830 Governor George Gilmer signed an Act appointing Reuben Marsh as one of five commissioners to establish the town of Irwinsville as county seat of Irwin County. However, a year later no action had been taken and a new Commission was named.

On December 23, 1830 Governor George Gilmer signed an Act appointing Reuben Marsh as one of five commissioners to establish the town of Irwinsville as county seat of Irwin County. However, a year later no action had been taken and a new Commission was named.

 

This 1830 Act followed more than a decade of indecision and failure of prior commissioners to establish a location for the Irwin courthouse. However, for whatever reason, another year went by without action by the appointed commissioners. On December 22, 1831 Governor Wilson Lumpkin signed yet another act designating “the public site in the county of Irwin…permanently fixed and located on lot number thirty nine, in the third district of said county,” and appointed a new set of Commissioners for the town. The new location on Lot 39, 3rd District shifted the site of the Courthouse about 20 miles to the southeast, just east of the headwaters of the Alapaha River but still no closer to Marsh’s residence.

That year, Reuben Marsh was also serving as a road commissioner for an Irwin County road following along the Ocmulgee River.

At the July term, 1831, an order was passed appointing Ruebin Marsh, John Fussell and Ludd Mobley, road commissioners on road from line of Telfair County up to Big House  Creek at Isaac Stevens’, that Jehu McCall, George R. Reid and Daniel Luke be appointed commissioners from Big House Creek to Pulaski line at Norman McDuffie’s.

This river road started from “the line of Telfair County.”  At that time the boundary of Telfair County extended south of the Ocmulgee River on a line running from Jacksonville, GA due south to the Satilla River.  The Coffee Road followed the Telfair county line  for ten miles south from the Ocmulgee River before the road veered to the southwest to skirt around the headwaters of the Satilla.  The road ran on the south side of the river from the Coffee Road fifteen miles west to Big House Creek, or House Creek,  then on another 24 miles to the Pulaski County Line.

It appears that sometime between 1832 and 1835, Reuben Marsh acquired land Lot 424, 5th District on the Alapaha River, about five miles south of Lot 381 on the Willacoochee. Nashville, GA,  future county seat of Berrien County, GA was about 12 miles south on Coffee Road, situated on Lot 189 in the 10th District of Old Irwin County.

Irwin County tax records show that prior to 1832, Lot 424 was owned by Cornelius Tyson, who would operate a later ferry on the Alapaha River.   By 1835, records of the Irwin County Inferior court indicate Marsh had established a ferry across the Alapaha. In that year a road was constructed from the Irwin courthouse on Lot 39 to Marsh’s Ferry.

At the January Term, 1835 of the Inferior Court [of Irwin County]…Shaderick Griffin, Ruebin Gay and Richard Tucker [were appointed] to lay out and mark road from Irwin courthouse to Alapaha River at Marsh’s ferry.

 

Enhanced Detail of Irwin County District 5 survey plat showing relative location of Lot 381 on Willacoochee Creek and Lot 422 on the Alapaha River.

Enhanced detail of Irwin County District 5 survey plat showing relative location of Lot 381 on Willacoochee Creek and Lot 424 on the Alapaha River, GA.

Unfortunately, Irwin County tax records for the later 1830s aren’t available, but from 1836 onward there are multiple mentions of “Marsh’s Ferry on Alapaha” in the records of the Irwin County Inferior Court.

At January term, 1836 [Irwin County Inferior Court], Daniel Luke, Hezekiah Walker and Mathew Merritt, appointed commissioners on road leading from courthouse to Widow Mobley’s and intersect there with Coffee Road, also Frederick Merritt, Andrew McCelland and Micajah Paulk, appointed commissioners on Coffee road leading from Thomas L. Swain’s ferry to Ruebin Marsh’s ferry on Alapaha.

In 1836 Swain’s Ferry was the Coffee Road crossing over the Ocmulgee River near Jacksonville, GA. Thomas L. Swain had been one of the builders of the 1822 Coffee Road. Swain had a plantation on the north side of the Ocmulgee situated between Jacksonville, GA and Fort Clark, two miles west of the town.   John Clark, later Governor Clark, also had a plantation and house adjacent to the fort.

Thus, Micajah Paulk, Frederick Merritt and Andrew McClelland were responsible for oversight of the approximately 40 mile stretch of the Coffee Road which ran from the Ocmulgee River to Marsh’s Ferry on the Alapaha River. Micajah Paulk’s home was situated on this section of the Coffee road, 10 miles north of Marsh’s Ferry on the Alapaha.

At January adjourned term, 1836, commissioners were authorized to turn the road leading from [Irwin County] courthouse to Ruebin Marsh’s ferry on Alapaha to near John Benefield’s on to Elisha Grantham’s ferry and strike Coffee Road nearest and best way.

Furthermore, later Berrien County tax records show all 490 acres of Lot 424 was in the estate of Reuben Marsh. (This section of Irwin County was cut into Berrien County when Berrien was created in 1856.) The 1872 Berrien County tax record lists Little Berry Marsh, son of Reuben Marsh, as the executor on his father’s estate representing Lot 424.

The year 1836 began yet another period of armed conflict between encroaching pioneer settlers and the Native American occupants of Wiregrass Georgia.  Along the Alapaha River south of Marsh’s Ferry,  Levi J. Knight led a company of white settlers against a band of Native Americans in a skirmish at William Parker’s place.  Historian James Bagley Clements cites another battle in Irwin County, fought at Wavering Pond, also known as the Battle of Gay’s Hammock:

As an illustration, in what is now Wilcox County, but originally Irwin, lived a man by the name of James Brown. He caught an Indian stealing a hog and shot him. The Indians did not molest Brown but went from there about five miles west of Ashburn, now Turner County, at least thirty miles away where lived a family by the name of Willis. The husband was away from home at the time and they killed his wife, mutilating the body severely and took a small baby by the feet and smashed its brains out on a stump. The settlers came together and gave chase, following them south out of the country. From that time until his death Mr. Brown went by the name of (Indian Jim Brown). The lady’s name who was killed was Peggy Willis. The company following these Indians came up with them south of Ashburn on what is known as Hat Creek at a point not far from where the road crosses said creek leading from Irwinville to Inaha. In the company following the Indians was a man named Hobby who was riding a spirited young horse. The Indians were concealed in the swamps of this creek and a battle was fought. Mr. Hobby’s horse became frightened and threw him in the creek where he lost his hat. The horse followed after the horses of the whites and when he appeared among them the whites thought Hobby had been killed but later on he appeared on foot bare-headed and upon relating his experience the creek was then named Hat Creek, by which name it is known to the present time. The settlers followed the Indians from this point on, finally coming up with them at a point on the Albany road at a place now in Worth County, formerly Irwin, at a pond called the  Wavering Pond, where a battle was fought and a majority of the Indians were killed or captured.

An account published in History of Worth County, Georgia adds,

They came upon the Indians at Wavering Pond…while they were cooking breakfast. The Indians were surprised and fled in such haste that a baby was left swinging to a limb. This little baby girl was raised in this county as a slave girl and married a negro. The Indians fled to a hammock, and here a great battle was fought. Two Indian Squaws were captured. A white man by the name of Luke Jenkins, a brother-in-law of John Ford, was left to guard them as prisoners while the company pursued the rest of the Indians. As the sun began to sink in the west, Jenkins, fearing other Indians might come upon him, killed his prisoners and fled.

In the Indian Wars of 1836, Marsh’s Ferry provided crossing over the Alapaha River for Georgia Militia troops moving on the Coffee Road. After the cessation of hostilities in 1840, Reuben Marsh sought payment from the Georgia legislature for services rendered, which in turn sought reimbursement from the federal government. The Georgia Senate took up this billing in session in December, 1840.  The resolution erroneously reports that Reuben Marsh’s ferry was across the Altamaha river, rather than the Alapaha river.

 

1840 Resolution of the Georgia Senate to compensate Reuben Marsh for service to ferry soldiers across the Alapaha river in the Indian Wars. The resolution erroneously refers to the Altamaha river.

1840 Resolution of the Georgia Senate to compensate Reuben Marsh for service to ferry soldiers across the Alapaha river in the Indian Wars. The resolution erroneously refers to the Altamaha river.

Journal of the Senate of the State of Georgia, 1840

MONDAY MORNING, DECEMBER 21, 1840.

Mr. Gordon, Chairman of the Select Committee, which was appointed, laid the following report on the table; which was taken up, read, and agreed to, viz:
– – The United States, – Dr.
To Reuben Marsh, of Irwin county,
1836.        to ferriage of soldiers across the Altamaha River,  $4.18
May 3,      to ferriage of forage for horses,                              24.12
April 11,          do                do                                                 2.–
                                                                                            $30.30

The Select Committee, to whom was referred the claim of Reuben Marsh, of Irwin county, for ferriage of soldiers across the Altamaha River, and for forage supplied to the mounted men, report, that they have examined the account, and find it just, and one that should be paid by the State, and made a charge against the United States, and recommend the following resolution: -Resolved, That the sum of thirty dollars thirty cents, be paid to Reuben Marsh, of Irwin county, for ferriage of soldiers across the Altamaha River, in 1836, and for forage supplied, and that the sum be charged to the United States; and that his Excellency, the Governor, serve his warrant on the Treasury for the same, to be paid out of the Military Fund.

According to Roots & Branches Genealogical Society, oral tradition has it that Reuben Marsh also went into active service with the Georgia Militia during the Indian Wars:

Reuben and Nancy raised 14 children, 13 of whom were born before Reuben joined the Georgia Militia fighting the Indians in the Second Seminole War. He was among a party of soldiers who set up a camp near what is now Astor [ Astor, Volusia County, Florida, is situated on the St. John’s River below Lake George, about 200 miles south of Reuben Marsh’s place on the Alapaha River ]. The story was passed down that Reuben was much impressed with the terrain, the abundant game and mild climate. Family tradition has it that he said that if he lived through the war he was going to come back and settle in Florida. He didn’t make it back. After the war he returned to farming in Irwin County, Georgia. –Roots & Branches Genealogical Society of West Volusia County, Florida.

By 1837, a road from Milledgeville, GA intersected the Coffee Road at Marsh’s Ferry, providing a route from the capitol city of Georgia to Tallahassee, the capitol of Florida.  The 1837 Gazetteer of the State of Georgia reports a stage ran between the two cities once a week. The fare was $25.00. The stage left Milledgeville on Wednesdays and arrived in Tallahassee after five days of travel. The road was destitute of water for many miles.

Milledgeville to Hartford ————- 61     61
                         Jacksonville, ——— 44   105
                         Ferry on Alapahaw – 33   138
      Here you enter Coffee’s Road
                         Thomasville, ——– 68   206
                         Tallahassee, ——– 40    246

James Bagley Clements’ History of Irwin County indicates the Inferior Court of Irwin County continued to authorize Marsh’s Ferry and set rates in 1842:

At the January term, 1842, an order was passed by the Inferior Court establishing a ferry across the Alapaha River at a place known as Marshes Ferry. The rates were fixed as follows: man and horses, twelve and one-half cents; man, horse and cart, twenty-five cents; two-horse wagon, fifty cents; jersey wagons, thirty-seven and one-half cents; mules and horses, 3 cents per head; cattle, 3 cents per head, sheep and hogs, one and one-have cents per head; foot persons, free. Rates to be advertised at ferry.

At same term of court a ferry was established across the Willacoochee where Coffee road crosses said creek and the above rates shall govern said ferry. – History of Irwin County

Reuben Marsh died in Berrien County at age 56 in 1849, leaving Nancy with six minor children. The Berrien County Georgia census records enumerated Nancy Marsh as head of household in 1850. The households of her sons, James Marsh and Henry Marsh were next door.

1850 census Nancy Marshall Marsh, Irwin County,GA

1850 census Nancy Marshall Marsh, Irwin County,GA

Name: Nancy Marsh
Age: 53
Birth Year: abt 1797
Birthplace: Georgia
Home in 1850: Division 44, Irwin, Georgia, USA
Gender: Female
Family Number: 7
Household Members:
Name              Age
Nancy Marsh     53
Little B Marsh    21
Martha Marsh   17
Susanah Marsh 15
Rheubin Marsh 14
Geo W Marsh   12
Marian Marsh   10
Moses Marsh     8

 

Children of Reuben Marsh and Nancy Mary Marshall:

  1. Sarah Marsh, born April 22, 1813, Montgomery, GA; married 10 November 1832 to Jacob A. Bradford  in Telfair Co GA; Committed February 1860, to state sanitorium for long periods of poor health; died,1875; buried Connell Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.
  2. James J. Marsh, blacksmith; born 1815, Telfair County, GA; died of fever June 16, 1879, Sumter County, FL; buried Adamsville Cemetery, Adamsville, FL.
  3. Dr. Henry Marsh, born April 28, 1818, Telfair Co., GA; married Rhoda Bradford; died December 10, 1883, Sumter County, FL; buried Sumterville Cemetery, Sumterville, FL.
  4. Eady Marsh, born 1820, Telfair County, GA; married William Griffin; died date unknown.
  5. Nancy Marsh, born April 22, 1823, Telfair County, GA; married John Ellis Connell,  November 21, 1841 in Irwin County, GA; died April 22, 1866; buried Crossroads Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Adel, GA.
  6. Abigail Marsh, born 1826, Telfair County, GA; married Daniel H. Clanton, August 29, 1847, Irwin County, GA; died date unknown.
  7. John Jasper Marsh, born July 09, 1828, Telfair or Irwin County, GA; married Rebecca Hall November 15, 1846 in Irwin County, GA; died October 8, 1897; buried Fort McCoy Cemetery, Fort McCoy, FL.
  8. Littleberry Marsh, born 1829, Irwin County, GA; died date unknown.
  9. Martha Virginia Marsh, born April 11, 1833, Irwin County, GA; married Sion Hall Pike; died February 20, 1918, Marion County, FL; buried Umatilla Cemetery, Umatilla, FL.
  10. Reuben Marsh, Jr., born April 1, 1834, Irwin County, GA; married Mary Jane Clanton, 1859; died January 26, 1908; buried Bethel Cemetery, Deland, FL.
  11. Susannah Marsh, born April 11, 1835, Irwin County, GA; died date unknown.
  12. George Washington Marsh, born about 1838; died date unknown
  13. Mary Ann Marsh, born 1840; married Nathaniel A.J. Gordon; died date unknown; buried Millwood Cemetery, Reddick, FL.
  14. Moses M. Marsh, born 1842, Irwin County, GA; married Cora O. Bracy, May 25, 1875, Volusia County, FL; died April 29, 1893; buried Beresford Cemetery, DeLandVolusia CountyFlorida

The newsletter of the Roots & Branches Genealogical Society of West Volusia County, Florida gives a detailed sketch of the family.

In 1851 Nancy and the children came to Florida, except for Mary who had married Jacob Bradford and remained in Georgia. The family settled near Ocala in Marion county. Eventually the family scattered… 

Abigail Marsh married and returned to Georgia. Nancy went to Alabama.  James, and Henry moved to Sumter County, FL and Eady (Edith) married and went on to Hillsboro County, FL. John Marsh married Rebecca Hall; they, with his mother Nancy remained in Marion County, FL. Nancy (Marshall) Marsh died in Marion County and is buried in the Ocala City Cemetery.

When the Civil War started all seven of the Marsh boys joined the Confederate army. The brothers joined three Regiments according to their ages.

    • James Marsh, 1st Regiment, Florida Infantry Reserves;
    • Henry Marsh, 1st Regiment, Florida Infantry Reserves;
    • John J. Marsh, Company F, 9th Regiment, Florida Infantry; fought in the Battle of Olustee, Ocean Pond, FL, February 20, 1864.
    • Little B. (aka Littleberry or L.B.) Marsh, 9th Regiment, Florida Infantry;
    • George W. Marsh, 9th Regiment, Florida Infantry;
    • Moses Marsh,  2nd Regiment, Florida Cavalry
    • Reuben Marsh, Jr, 2nd Regiment, Florida Cavalry

Reuben, Jr. with his 18-year-old bride Mary Jane Clanton came to Volusia County where Reuben purchased a Settlers Claim from Bryant Osteen. He built a cabin and a store at Cabbage Bluff on the St. Johns River. Cabbage Bluff was where boats on the river stopped when they could not get into Lake Beresford.

Related Posts:

Marsh’s Ferry, the Lopahaw Bridge and Tyson Ferry

Coffee Road Led to Creation of Lowndes County

Coffee’s Road Passed Seven Miles West of Ray City

 

James Rountree (1787-1834), Pioneer Settler of Old Lowndes

James Rountree (1787-1834)

James Rountree, it is said, was the first pioneer settler to build a house in Old Lowndes County, GA.

James Rountree was a son of William F. and Rachel Rountree, born about 1787 in Burke County, GA. His parents were planters of North Carolina, but had come to Burke County some time before James was born.

The research of Robert Jeffries found that James Rountree moved from Burke County about 1808.  He settled in the newly created Telfair County.  Telfair and Laurens counties were created from Wilkinson County by an act of the General Assembly approved December 10, 1807 (Ga. Laws 1807, p. 37).

This map shows Laurens County (upper) and Telfair County (lower) outlined in red to show the original boundaries specified in the Dec. 10, 1807 act creating both counties. http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/histcountymaps/telfair1807map.htm

This map shows Laurens County (upper) and Telfair County (lower) outlined in red to show the original boundaries specified in the Dec. 10, 1807 act creating both counties. http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/histcountymaps/telfair1807map.htm

“County Records show that James Rountree, of Burke County, on June 27, 1808, bought Land Lot #319 in the 14th District … from John Hand of Columbia County for $100 as shown in Deed Book A on page 93, and on the same date he bought Land Lot #318 in the same district and county from Elijah Roberson for $500 as shown in Deed Book A on page 94.

Later that year, on December 13, 1808 this section was cut into Pulaski County by an act of the General Assembly (Ga. Laws 1808, p. 52). (Today, the 14th Land District of old Wilkinson County is now wholly in Dodge County, GA.)

“The Pulaski County tax-digest for 1811, shows James Rountree lived on Land Lot #150 of the 14th District of Pulaski, now Dodge County. He was also listed for taxation on Land Lot # 319 in the 14th District of Telfair County, and he owned the following property: 300 acres of land in Montgomery County, which had been granted to him, 342 acres of land in Burke County, which had been granted to him, 300 acres of land in Burke County, which he had bought, and Land Lot #245 in the 5th District of Baldwin County. He also paid taxes on four slaves.”

It appears that James Rountree married about 1810 or 1811, although  the record of this marriage and the name of his wife is not known at this time.  There are no extant records of the 1810 census in Georgia, and no records of this marriage have been reported from Burke, Wilkinson, Telfair, Laurens, or Pulaski counties.

What is known from the census of 1820, the 4th U.S. Census in Pulaski County, GA, is that the household of James Rountree there were four white children, three girls and one boy, all under age 10, and ten African-American slaves.  There were no free white adult females in his household. One would surmise that James Rountree was a widower, and that his first wife died sometime before 1820, leaving him to raise their four children.

1820 Census enumeration of the household of James Rountree, Pulaski County, GA seemed to indicate he was a widower living with his children and slaves.

1820 Census enumeration of the household of James Rountree, Pulaski County, GA seemed to indicate he was a widower living with his children and slaves.
 https://archive.org/stream/populationsc18200009unit#page/n100/mode/1up
http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/pulaski/census/1820/pg72a.txt

By matching family histories to the 1820 census, the children of James Rountree by his first wife were:

  1. John Rountree- died young
  2. Harriet Rountree (1812-1875); born January 15, 1812; married James McMullen, Jr., October 7, 1830; died November 10, 1873; buried James McMullen Cemetery, Brooks County, GA.
  3. Nancy Rountree (1814-1901); born October 25, 1813; married Clayton Bradshaw; died January 27, 1906, Brooks County, GA; buried John McMullen Cemetery  GroovervilleBrooks CountyGA
  4. Weston W. Rountree (1815-1895); born July 5, 1815; married Edith Elizabeth Folsom, daughter of William Folsom; died February 12, 1895, Lowndes County, GA; buried 
    Salem United Methodist Church Cemetery, Hahira, Lowndes County, GA
  5. Henrietta Rountree (1817-1901); born May, 1817; married Barry Wells, 1833 in Lowndes County, GA; died  ; buried  Berry Wells Family Cemetery, ShilohLowndes County, GA.

James Rountree first came to the southern region of Irwin County, GA in 1815.  According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Vol 2:

“Accompanied by three other enterprising and adventurous young men, James Rountree, Drew Vickers and Alfred Belote, [Lawrence Folsom] came to that part of Irwin county now included within the boundaries of Lowndes county, blazing his way through the wilderness on horseback.  

Rountree’s companions were Alfred Belote, Drew Vickers, and Lawrence Folsom.

The blue-eyed, fair-haired, 5’6″ Belote was 22 years old (born 1793). During the War of 1812, Belote was in the reserves with the 10th US Infantry but, according to the National Archives Register of Enlistments in the US Army, he was “discharged April 24, 1815, at Raleigh, NC, term expired,without joining regiment or corps.”  His father, Noah Belote, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.  Drew Vickers, 40 years old, was a veteran of the Georgia Militia having served in 1793 in Captain Parrott’s Company of Washington County militiaLawrence Armstrong Folsom (1772-1842), at 43 years old was the senior of the group. His father was a Lieutenant in the Georgia Line during the Revolutionary War.  Folsom was also a veteran, having been commissioned an ensign in the Burke County militia on January 23, 1799. Folsom was married to Rachel Vickers; according to Folks Huxford she was a sister of Drew Vickers, but this is not confirmed by other researchers.

After exploring a considerable portion of South Georgia the quartet invested in government land…The four men went back to their homes in Pulaski and Burke counties, Rountree returning to his motherless children.  James Rountree appears in the 1818 Tax Digest of Pulaski County, paying taxes on 405 acres of pinelands and eight slaves.

The census of 1820 enumerates James Rountree in Pulaski County, GA with his children and slaves. Among his neighbors were William Hendley, his wife Millie Hendley, and four daughters; Nancy, Martha, Jane, and Sophia.  Also next door was the Hendley’s son, Horton Hendley and his family. William Hendley was a Scotsman and a veteran of the Revolutionary War, having served in the Virginia Continental Line.

After some time,  the four companions (Rountree, Vickers, Belote, and Folsom) made plans for relocating to the southern frontier they had explored in 1815,

Mr. Folsom buying a tract about a mile from Little River; Messrs. Rountree and Vickers located near by; and Mr. Belote purchased land that included the present site of the village of Mineola.

Again, Robert Jeffries reports,

“Irwin County deed records show that James Rountree of Pulaski County on March 6, 1821, bought Land Lot#497 of the 9th district of then Irwin, but later Lowndes County, from Kinchen P. Tyson of Jones County for $220 as recorded in Deed Book A on page 27. Also on October 16, 1821 he bought Land Lot #516 in the same district and county from Joseph Barr of Franklin County for $200 as shown in Deed Book A on page 25.”

The History of Lowndes County, GA reports that in 1821, the four settlers returned to that section of Irwin soon to be cut into Lowndes County. Sections in the north of old Irwin County had been settled and several counties had been laid out.  The families of James Rountree, Drew Vickers, Alfred Belote, and Lawrence Folsom and their African-American slaves were the first pioneer families to settle in the original county of Lowndes after moving there in the winter of 1821-1822.

“These gentlemen returned [to south Irwin County, soon to be Lowndes]… with their wives and children, continues A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Vol 2, making the overland trip in carts drawn either by horses or mules, following Indian trails a part of the way, at other times making their own path through the trackless woods. Whenever they came to a stream too deep to ford, they swam their stock across, and built rafts on which to take their carts and household goods across.”

These pioneer families were pathfinders, bushwhacking their way through Wiregrass Georgia. But soon the Georgia General Assembly appropriated funds for construction of  a frontier road. It was on December 23, 1822, that General John E. Coffee and Thomas Swain were appointed to superintend the construction. Enoch Hall was employed as one of the overseers for the construction.  Coffee, Swain, and then Governor John Clark were all neighbors and residents of Telfair County, which undoubtedly influenced the selection of the route. This road, soon known as Coffee’s Road, led to the creation of Lowndes County  It ran from Jacksonville on the Ogeechee [Ocmulgee] River in Telfair County, southwesterly through the then county of Irwin (but now Coffee, Irwin, Berrien) through the then county of Lowndes (but now Berrien, Cook  and Brooks) into Thomas County and via Thomasville southwardly to the Florida line.   Coffee’s Road passed about seven miles west of Ray City, GA. 

The Coffee Road provided a convenient route between the frontier homesteaders and their family connections in Telfair, Laurens, and Pulaski counties. It appears that about this time, James Rountree left his frontier home to make a return trip to Pulaski County seeking a wife and mother for his young children.   Pulaski county marriage records show James Rountree was married on March 6, 1823 in Pulaski County to Nancy Hendley.  She was the girl next door to Rountree’s Pulaski county property. She was born April 22, 1793 a daughter of William Hendley, Revolutionary Soldier.

1823 marriage certificate of James Rountree and Nancy Hendley, Pulaski County, GA

1823 marriage certificate of James Rountree and Nancy Hendley, Pulaski County, GA

Georgia
Pulaski County

To any ordained minister of the Gospel, Judge, Justice of the Inferior Court, or Justice of the Peace, to celebrate _________
You are hereby authorized and empowered to join in the holy state of matrimony according to the rites and ceremonies of your church James Rountree and Nancy Hendly and in so doing this shall be your sufficient warrant.
Given under my hand this 5th March 1823
Wesley Yarbrough D.C.C.O

The marriage of the with named James Rountree and Nancy Hendly was solomnized on the 6th March 1823 – W B McGehee J.P.

Entered by Wesley Yarbrough Clk Co

James Rountree took his bride back to his south Georgia place. That year, 1823 James’ brother, Francis Rountree,  also came south to homestead.  The home of Francis Rountree near the Withlacoochee River shortly became the center of governmental affairs for the county:  “On November 30, 1826, the county site of Lowndes County was changed from the house of Sion Hall to the house of Francis Rountree,” according to the Digest of Georgia.

The children of James Rountree and Nancy Hendley were:

  1. James Lester Rountree (1823-1905) 
  2. Annie B. Rountree (1826-1910); born January 1826, she was one of the first children to be born in Lowndes County, GA; married James Folsom, son of Lawrence Folsom;
  3. Georgia Ann Rountree (1834-1922); married J. W. Anderson; moved to Madison Florida

Of course, with the opening of Coffee Road and the creation of Lowndes County, many more settlers moved into south Georgia. Among the new arrivals were Jesse W. Hunter, Enoch Hall, Sion Hall, Hamilton Sharpe, David Mathis, Daniel McCranie and the families of William Anderson Knight and his son Levi J. Knight, who was the first to settle at the present day site of Ray City, GA.

James Rountree appears in the 1830 Tax Digest of Lowndes County and he paid taxes on Land Lots #451, 497, and 516 in the 9th District. The Rountree home and plantation was on Land Lots 497 and 516.  In 1833, he served on the Grand Jury of Lowndes County.

Of the Rountree, Vickers, Folsom, and Belote families, A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Vol 2, says:

They were pioneers in very truth, being the first permanent white settlers of Lowndes county, more especially of its northern portion. There were no mills in that section of the country for several years thereafter, all the grain being ground in mills operated by hand. They kept sheep and raised cotton, and the women used to card, spin and weave the homespun material from which she fashioned all the garments worn by the family. The wild game found in the forests furnished the early settlers with a large part of their subsistence, while acorns, beech nuts and walnuts were so plentiful that the only need of feeding hogs was to keep them from growing wild, an occasional meal serving for that purpose. Very little ready money was then in circulation in the south, and in the newer settlements few store goods were used, salt, sugar and coffee being the principal articles brought in.

Pioneer settlers like James Rountree or Harmon Gaskins did most of their trading at Tallahassee in the Territory of Florida, at St. Marks or Newport on the Florida Gulf Coast, or traveled to the east to trade at Centerville, GA on the St. Marys River. Historian Folks Huxford wrote, “An occasional trip would be made to Savannah but most of the trips were made to the other points named; these trips were usually about once a year, and would last a week or ten days.” Huxford describes how the men traveled in horse-drawn carts, “In such event of a trip, … a journey made in company with two or three neighbors situated like himself.  They drove their carts sitting astride their horses, and took rest-spells by occasionally walking by the side of the horse.  Such trips had to be made to St. Marks, Fla., or to old Center Village in what is now Charlton county.  

It was on the return from an excursion to the Florida coast that James Rountree met his  death. Robert Jeffries reported:

James Rountree was murdered and robbed… near Tallahassee, Florida…  while enroute to the “salt works” on the Gulf of Mexico for salt. Early residents of Lowndes and adjoining counties made regular periodic trips to the Gulf for salt. From his obituary, in the “Southern Recorder” at Milledgeville in the April 16, 1834 edition, it is learned that Mr. Rountree was murdered on March 26, 1834, at night, in his camp on the road from Tallahassee to Thomasville, enroute home. He was supposedly killed by three Negroes, one of whom had been apprehended at this time. The deceased was possessed of a kind and gentlemanly deportment – an innocent and good man – a valuable pattern of frugality and industry. 

The story of the 1834 murder fueled southern plantation owners’ fears of slave violence. After the murder of James Roundtree , a group of citizens formed a vigilante committee calling themselves “The Regulators.” The group was organized at the gravesite of Mr. Roundtree and William Lester was elected as the leader. William Lester was a relative of Susan Bradford Eppes (1848-1942), who was born at Pine Hill Plantation, Leon County, FL and grew up hearing the tales of the murder of James Rountree.  The book Creating an Old South describes her later writings about how the “brave ‘Regulators’ led by her relative William Lester caught an interracial gang guarding the booty from a robbery. Then ‘twenty pairs of willing hands did quick work – tree limbs were stout and strong – and five white men and one negro were left hanging high as Haman.”

Rewards were offered for the capture of the two other alleged murderers.  The Governor of the Territory of Florida, William Pope Duval, in the final days of his administration offered a reward of $200 which was matched by the citizens of Tallahassee.

April 18, 1834, reward offered for the murder of James Rountree

April 18, 1834, reward offered for the murder of James Rountree

Georgia Constitutionalist
April 18, 1834

A reward of $200 is offered by the Governor of Florida, and $200 additional by the citizens of Tallahassee, for the apprehension of two runaways charged with the murder of James Roundtree.

The Tallahassee Floridian reported in the July 22, 1837 edition that the murder of Mr. Rountree near the Georgia line had been committed by two runaway slaves named Joe and Crittenden. “The editor of the Floridian claimed that ‘The object of the perpetrators is supposed to have been money, of which the deceased was known to have a small sum,’”   according to a study of  Slave Unrest in Florida published in the Florida Historical Quarterly.

James McMullen served as administrator for the estate of James Rountree, Lowndes County, GA, 1834

James McMullen served as administrator for the estate of James Rountree, Lowndes County, GA, 1834

Milledgeville Federal Union
July 23, 1834

Georgia, Lowndes County

Whereas, James McMullin applies for letters of administration on the estate of James Rountree, late of said county, deceased,

These are, therefore, to cite and admonish all and singular the kindred and creditors of said deceased to be and appear at my office, within the time proscribed by law, to show cause, if any exist, why said letters should not be granted.

Given under my hand at office, this 8th July, 1834.
William Smith, c.c.c.

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