Riders of the Troupville Circuit: Tillman Dixon Peurifoy

In 1840,  Reverend Tillman Dixon Peurifoy was a circuit-riding Methodist preacher on the Troupville Circuit in Lowndes County, GA, which then also encompassed Berrien, Cook, Tift, Lanier and Echols counties.  Two years earlier, on April 1, 1838,  Peurifoy’s family and slaves had been massacred by Indians in Florida, about 20 miles from Tallahassee, FL.

Troupville was then the seat of government of Lowndes County.  Methodist pioneers in Lowndes county had been served from the creation of the county first by riders on the Tallahassee District, then the Lowndes Mission and later, when there were sufficiently strong churches to support at minister, the Troupville Circuit. Among these early Methodist ministers were Josiah Evans, John Slade, George W. Davis, and  Robert H. Howren.

The earliest Methodist church in Ray City was organized in 1910, but a Methodist church had been established at Troupville about 1832. Other Methodist churches that would have been on the Troupville Circuit ridden by Reverend Peurifoy included  Oak Grove Church, Concord Church, Bethlehem Church,  and Salem Church.  Pre-dating any of these churches was the annual Methodist revival held at the old Lowndes Camp Ground, later called the Mount Zion Camp Ground.

Tillman Dixon Peurifoy. Image source: Robert C. Peurifoy

Tillman Dixon Peurifoy. Image source: Robert C. Peurifoy

Tilman Dixon Peurifoy was born January 21, 1809 in Putnam County, GA.  At nineteen years of age he was admitted to the Georgia Conference [Methodists], having been converted at the age of fifteen.  He was married when a young man to Miss Louisa Ann Bird, daughter of Captain Daniel Bird, of Edgefield, SC.  After a few years he moved to Florida and settled in Jefferson County in 1833.  The war with the Seminoles was then going on, but from the place of his settlement the nearest Indians were a hundred miles distant, and no apprehensions of danger were felt by him or by any one in that section. Mr. Peurifoy was frequently absent for a long time attending to his preaching appointments.

It was during one of these absences, and he was sixty miles distant attending Quarterly Conference, when the attack, so disastrous and terrible, was made upon his home.

Newspaper accounts document that the attack on the Peurifoy home occurred April 1, 1838.  The attack was part of the continuing violence between Native Americans and encroaching pioneer settlers. In Florida, hostilities were greatly escalated in December 1835 by the Dade Massacre, where Seminole Indians resisting forced removal to the West wiped out a force of 110 regular army troops under the command of Major Francis Langhorn Dade.  When violence spread across the Wiregrass  in 1836 local militia units fought engagements in Lowndes county, 200 federal troops were detailed to Camp Townsend near Franklinville, GA, and conflicts continued into the 1840s.

In terrible grief, Reverend Peurifoy wrote to his Bishop, William Capers, reporting the death of his children and slaves, and the grievous wounds inflicted on his wife. Peurifoy’s tragic letter was published in the Southern Christian Advocate, and the story was picked up by the Raleigh Weekly Standard and other newspapers all across the 24 states.

Reverend Tillman D. Peurifoy writes of the massacre of his family, April 1, 1838

Reverend Tillman D. Peurifoy writes of the massacre of his family, April 1, 1838

Raleigh Weekly Standard
June 13, 1838

Murder of a Missionary Family

The Southern Christian Advocate publishes the following letter, giving a moving description of a massacre by the Florida Indians. The writer is Superintendant to the Alachua Mission on the Tallahassee District:

        “Dear Brother Capers, I am ruined! While engaged in my labors in the Alachua mission I received a letter bearing awful tidings. It informed me that the Indians had murdered my family! I set out for home, hoping that it might not prove as bad as the letter stated; but O my God, it is, if not even worse! My precious children Lorick Pierce and Elizabeth, were killed and burned up in the house. My dear wife was shot, stabbed and stamped, seemingly to death, in the yard. But after the wretches went to pack up their plunder, she revived and crawled off from the scene of death to suffer a thousand deaths during the dreadful night which she spent alone by the side of a pond bleeding at four bullet holes and more than half a dozen stabs – three deep gashes to the bone on her head and three stabs through the ribs, besides a number of similar cuts and bruises. She is yet living – and O help me to pray that she may still live. My negroes lay dead all about the yard and woods, and my every thing else burned to ashes. Pray for me.
        My family was on a short visit to my father-in-law, for the purpose of having some supplies sent up from our plantation to our temporary residence in the mission, and during this brief period the awful catastrophe took place.

T. D. PEURIFOY”

By mid April, newspapers all over the country were reporting on the Peurifoy Massacre and Indian attacks in Florida. On April 19, 1838, the story was published in the Edgefield Advertiser.  Edgefield, SC was the birthplace of Mrs. Peurifoy.

Edgefield Advertiser reports details of the Peurifoy Masacre.

Edgefield Advertiser reports details of the Peurifoy Masacre.

Edgefield Advertiser
April 19, 1838

MORE INDIAN MURDERS.

     A gentleman, just arrived from Tallahassee, says the Darien Telegraph, of the 6th inst. informs us that on the night of the 1st inst. a family of the name of Purifoy, were murdered within 20 miles of Tallahassee.  The Indians burned the dwelling and two white children in it; two negro women were also killed; and Mrs. Purifoy received two shots through her body and was stabbed by the Indians. She crawled, however, into a thicket, where she concealed herself. Dr. Taylor, of Monticello, stated to our informant, that she could not possibly survive.
     The Jacksonville Courier of the 5th inst. says: -By a letter to our excellent Mayor, Col. Dell, from his brother in Alachua county, dated April 1, from the bearer of the letter, Mr. Brooks, our worst apprehensions of farther – indeed, of continued Indian murders, are confirmed.  “They killed two Irishmen on the place that Brush cleared on the Micanopy pond.” Signs near Camp Fanning are spoken of.  “God only knows what we are to do; but still hope Jesup will be able to relieve us.”  Hope deferred; and still farther to be deferred as may be seen by the General’s own showing.
     Mr. Brooks gives the further information that two volunteers were fired upon at Suwannee, Old Town – and severely wounded; that Indians have been seen at the Echetokamy Springs [Ichetucknee Springs], and signs about Fort White, and near Newnansville.

Further Particulars. – On Saturday evening last, about dark, a party of Indians, supposed to number 30 or 40, attacked the dwelling of Mr. Purifoy, residing in the vicinity of the previous depredations, murdered to children and three negroes, plundered and set fire to the buildings, and made their escape – the children were burned in the dwelling. Mrs. Purifoy, although severely wounded, miraculously made her escape from the savages.  When the attack was made there were none but females about the premises, a fact supposed to have been known to the Indians.  Mrs. P. was lying in bed with her two children, heard a noise in her room and on looking up found it filled with Indians, who commenced discharging their rifles, several of them aimed at herself and children.  The children it is supposed were killed at once. Mrs. P. received a ball in her shoulder, which passed out at her breast. The savages next commenced hacking and stabbing her with their knives, and inflicted a number of severe wounds on her head and several parts of her body.  Their attention was a moment directed from her to a noise made by the servants in an adjoining rom, when Mrs. P. taking advantage of this circumstance escaped to the yard, where she was again shot down, but succeeded in gaining the woods, intending to reach her father’s residence, Capt. Daniel Bird, about two miles distant.  Faint from the loss of blood and the severity of wounds, she was unable to proceed more than half a mile, where she was found next morning.   Mrs. P. received, we understand, ten distinct wounds, several very sever, but her physician entertains strong hopes of her recovery. – To heighten the catastrophe, Mr. Purifoy, whose children and slaves were slain, was absent from home, fulfilling his ministerial duties.
     As soon as the attack was discovered, the troops at Camp Carter, under Capt. Shehee, were sent for, but the Indians had dispersed in three parties and fled. Maj. Taylor with Capt. Newsam’s company joined Capt. S. on Monday morning, and have followed the several trails, but with what success we have not understood.
   The house attacked is several miles within the frontier settlements – the houses of most of which are picketed in. We trust the occurrence will awaken the United States authorities to do something more for the protection of our frontier. – Tallahassee Floridian

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A longer narrative of the event appeared some 5o years later in a text titled History of Edgefield County: From the Earliest Settlements to 1897 : Biographical and Anecdotical, with Sketches of the Seminole War, Nullification, Secession, Reconstruction, Churches and Literature, with Rolls of All the Companies from Edgefield in the War of Secession, War with Mexico and with the Seminole Indians.

Mrs. Peurifoy was lying quietly and happily upon her bed reading that comforting book, “Heavenly Recognition,” when the door was suddenly opened almost without noise, and a tall Indian, in feathers and war paint, quietly entered the room. The house, which was a double log cabin, with a wide passage between, had been surrounded quietly by a party of fifty or sixty Indians. A negro girl about twelve years of age, who was in the room with Mrs. Peurifoy, quickly understood the situation and tried to make her escape. She immediately darted out of the room between the Indian’s legs as he stood for a moment in the door. She made her escape, but was fearfully wounded in the effort. She was still living near Augusta at the close of the year 1890, and may be living even now, 1891.

Before Mrs. Peurifoy swooned away she remembered seeing the savage kill her daughter, Elisabeth. The fate of her little boy she did not know. When she revived and came to herself she found the room full of Indians, and they were hurriedly eating the ham and potatoes and what other food they were able to find. Hoping that she would not be observed she made a great effort to escape. She was able to get out of the house and had reached the ground when she was shot and the bullet pierced her shoulder blade. Almost at the same time another bullet struck her thigh and she fell forward on her face. The savages then surrounded her, stabbed her in the back and cut her person fearfully. They cut her throat, but a shawl or handkerchief about her neck and shoulders saved her from death. They then beat her over the head with a lightwood knot, but unconsciously she raised her right arm to protect her head, and that was terribly bruised and broken. They did not scalp her. She became unconscious, and they left her for dead. When she came to herself again the savages were plundering the house and setting it on fire. She then crawled towards the kitchen, hoping that her cook, who had nursed her when she was a baby, might be able to help her. The cook herself was dying from wounds she had received, and could only spread her handkerchief on the ground for her mistress to lie on, when she quietly passed away.

After this, suffering from intolerable thirst, Mrs. Peurifoy dragged herself to a swamp or pond three quarters of a mile distant, where she was able to get some water to assuage her thirst. Here she lay that night, and until sunset next day, when she was found by the searching parties. Her father, who lived only a few miles distant, was with the searchers; and he, it seems, had a presentiment that she was still living, and would be found alive. The charred remains of the two children, Elisabeth and Lovick Pierce, were found in the ruins of the building. Mr. Peurifoy, on his return from Conference, was within twenty miles of home before he received any intimation of the terrible disaster. Upon sheets Mrs. Peurifoy was carried to her father’s, near Monticello, Florida. For many weeks she breathed through several of her wounds, and for months she could only be moved and turned upon sheets. After these terrible events they removed to Georgia, and in 1849, came to Edgefield County and settled near Butler Church, where Mr. Peurifoy died June 3rd, 1872, and Mrs. Peurifoy, July 5th, 1878.

Three negroes, besides the cook already mentioned were killed in a house which was used for a church. One woman, who fought them to the last, was killed by having her head beaten to pieces with a lightwood knot. Her baby was saved by the door being thrown down in the scuffle and falling over the cradle in which the baby lay. This child was alive in 1890.

Mr. and Mrs. Peurifoy left several children; Eliza, who married Mr. [Frank] Yarbrough, and Hon. D. B. Peurifoy, named after his grandfather, Captain David Bird. D. B. Peurifoy, familiarly called “Dan,” by his friends, has been a member of the Legislature, but declined to be a candidate in 1890.

Thomas Bird, whom I knew at school, and who, I thought was a young man of very lovely character, was, if I mistake not, a son of Captain David Bird, and brother to Mrs. T. D. Peurifoy.

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Norman Campbell Collected Taxes, Fought Indians

Norman Campbell, Wiregrass Pioneer, participated in the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek, near present day Adel, GA.

Norman Campbell, Wiregrass Pioneer, participated in the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek, near present day Adel, GA.

Norman Campbell was a Wiregrass Pioneer who came to south Georgia with his family in 1829.  His parents,  Alexander Campbell and Flora Morrison Campbell, had come to America from the Isle of Skye, Scotland in 1788, the same year the U. S. Constitution went into effect.

Norman Campbell was an early tax collector of Lowndes County, back when it included the present day counties of Berrien, Clinch, Lanier, Echols, Cook, and Brooks.  Three times a year he made a circuit around the county, an eleven days ride, to collect the taxes.

At age 26, Campbell was among the troops who fought in the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek, described as one of the last real Indian fight in the immediate vicinity. Some 65 years later,  the Atlanta Constitution recounted Campbell’s role in the episode:

He also participated in the Indian fight here in July, 1836, when the Creek Indians passed through here in their attempt to reach the Seminoles in Florida. He tells of his encounter with were an Indian in that fight. It was a running skirmish through the woods and he became detached from his party. Suddenly his horse shied and he discovered an Indian behind a tree. The Indian attempted to shoot him, but the gun only snapped. Dismounting, he approached the Indian, slowly raising his gun to his shoulder. He said if the Indian had begged for his life he intended to spare him, but the man stood quite still, clinched [sic] his teeth and looked him in the eyes with no sign of surrender, so he shot him.

Norman Campbell came to the area about 1829 and first made his home in the area of Troupville, GA.  He owned all of land lots #221 and #240,  each consisting of 490 acres. That land was sold at auction to satisfy a debt in 1848:

Albany Patriot
July 15, 1848 pg 4

Lowndes Sheriff’s Sale.

On the first Tuesday in August next. Will be sold before the Court House door in the town of Troupville, Lowndes county, between the usual hours of sale, the following property to wit:
Also, 980 acres of land drawn by lots Nos. two hundred and twenty-one, (221,) two hundred and forty, (240,) all in the twelfth district, of originally Irwin now Lowndes county, levied on as the property of Norman Campbell to satisfy a fi fa from Lowndes Inferior Court, the Central Bank of Georgia vs Mary Graham maker, Dugald B. Graham, Norman Campbell and Moses Smith, adm’r., on the estatd [sic] of Ebenezer J. Perkins, Endorser.

A brief 1896 account of the  early pioneers of Morven, GA  remarked upon Norman Campbell’s early days in the county:

The Atlanta Constitution
May 25, 1896 Pg 3

GEORGIA  PIONEERS: Morven Has a Number of Them in Her Borders

Morven, Ga., May 24. –(Special.)– There are some very old people in this district, among them being Mr. Norman Campbell, who came to this county in 1829. He was then a young man. Mr. Campbell is a full-blooded Scotchman. In 1846 he ran a wagon from Morven, then Sharp’s store to Magnolia, what was then a seaport town near the mouth of St. Marks river on the coast below Tallahassee, Fla.  He hauled cotton down there and brought salt back.  Cotton brought 3 to 4 cents per pound and salt brought in this county from $3 to $7 a sack, yet the people made some money and were contented.  In this section are several other old men. Mr. George Mitchell is about eighty-six and so is John Delk.  Mr. Mitchell came from Robeson county, North Carolina, and Mr. Delk from Liberty county, Georgia.  Messrs. Campbell, Mitchell and Delk are the three oldest men in that section – all over eighty-five years old. Not very far behind these in age are Phillip Hiers, Rev. John Hendry and Richard Scruggs.  Mr. George Mitchell gave Morven its name.

The 1902 article from the Atlanta Constitution gave a more complete account of Campbell’s life:

The Atlanta Constitution
October 13, 1902  Pg 3

PATRIARCH OF BROOKS MARRIED AT 63, NOW 92

Quitman, Ga., October 12. –(Special Correspondence.)– There are perhaps few more interesting characters in Brooks county than Norman Campbell.  As the name indicates, he is of Scotch descent.  His father and mother came to North America from the Isle of Skye in 1788, when they were children.  He remembers that his grandmother  could not speak a word of English and his parents invariably spoke Scotch with each other and their children spoke Scotch, Mr. Campbell not learning English until he was 8 years old.  The Campbells came here in pioneer days from Telfair county.  Mr. Campbell, who was born in 1910, is now 92 years old and has spent most of his life here and knows much of the early history of the country, and has played a part in all of it. He has now come down to a serene old age, as his picture shows.
    These latter years he spends all of his time, winter and summer, when the weather is dry, under a giant chinaberry tree in front of his house.
    It was here your correspondent found him one sunny afternoon recently in the very attitude of the picture.  Mr. Campbell has lived in this house seventy-two years.
    He was the only son of the family and he had seven sisters.  He did not marry, and after his parents’ death took care of his sisters until they married and left him.  Two of them died and he took their children and reared them.  In time these nieces and nephews also grew up and left him, and at the age of 63 he found himself quite alone, so he decided to marry.
    After three visits to Miss Wilkes, a young woman of 30 years, who lived in Berrien county, he asked her to marry him, and she did.  When they got home they found a long table erected in front of the house with a wedding dinner on it, and everybody in the neighborhood present to welcome them.  The couple had three children, and now there are three little grandchildren, all of them remarkably beautiful babies.
    Naturally Mr. Campbell has a store of reminiscences.  He was the first tax collector of the county when it included all of the present Brooks, Berrien , Lowndes, Clinch and Echols counties.  This was in 1836, and the taxes amounted to $332.  He also participated in the Indian fight here in July, 1836, when the Creek Indians passed through here in their attempt to join the Seminoles in Florida.  He tells of an encounter with an Indian in that fight. It was a running skirmish through the woods and he became detached from his party. Suddenly his horse shied and he discovered an Indian behind a tree. The Indian attempted to shoot him, but the gun only snapped. Dismounting, he approached the Indian, slowly raising his gun to his shoulder. He said if the Indian had begged for his life he intended to spare him, but the man stood quite still, clinched his teeth and looked him in the eyes with no sign of surrender, so he shot him.  At that time this country, now so populous and cultivated, was virgin forests ans was overrun with bears and deer, ans well as Indians.  In his hardy, outdoor life, Mr. Campbell contracted rheumatism when a very young man, and could not stand erect for several years.  He heard of a doctor who gave steam baths for rheumatism, but being unable to go to him, he treated himself.  He dug a pit and burned oak and hickory wood to coals –  as for a barbecue.  Over the pit he laid stout green poles and covered them with every herb he had ever heard of as possessing curative properties.  Stripped of clothing, he wrapped himself in a heavy blanket and laid down on this, which, of course, induced heavy perspiration.  After six or seven treatments he was practically cured, and has never been so badly afflicted with it since.
  Long before the war Mount Zion campground, near the Campbell home, was known throughout south Georgia as a rallying place for the religious, and it was in 1827 that the Campbells assisted in organizing the first camp meeting held there.  The old patriarch recalled the past very vividly as he talked.  He is still in good health and attributes it to his continued outdoor life, even when activity is forbidden him.  The thing most impressive about him is his entire serenity, the natural outcome of a well-spent and well-rounded life.

Norman Campbell died on Monday, April 9, 1906. He was buried at the Zion Camp Ground, near Morven, GA.  His obituary ran in the Tuesday April 10 edition of the Valdosta Times, repeated in the Saturday edition:

The Valdosta Times
April 14, 1906 Pg 3

A PIONEER CITIZEN DEAD.

Uncle Norman Campbell Died Yesterday Near Morven.

(From Tuesday’s Daily.)
     News has been received here of the death of Mr. Norman Campbell at his home near Morven yesterday after an illness of several weeks. Mr. Campbell was the oldest man in the county, being 96 years old and was prominent in the history of the county from the days of the earliest settlers. He was of Scotch descent and was a man of wonderfully fine character.  No man ever lived in the county who was more generally beloved and esteemed and in his late years he has been surrounded by the tender care and veneration of friends and family. He retained his strength and faculties to a remarkable degree almost to the end of his long life.
     Mr. Campbell is survived by three children, Mrs. Robert Ousley, Alex Campbell and Norman Campbell Jr, all of Morven.
The funeral and internment will take place today at three o’clock at the old Camp ground cemetery near Morven. Mr. Campbell was a devoted member of the Methodist church and a prominent Mason. – Quitman Free Press.