Berrien Skirmishes, the Battle of Brushy Creek, and the Indian Maiden

Previous posts have described the Indian skirmishes at William “Short-Arm Bill” Parker’s place on Alapaha River in Berrien County (Martha Guthrie: Babe of the Indian Wars, Short-arm Bill Parker).

Nineteen years after the event, in 1855 the historian Reverend George White, briefly reported it this way:

 On the 13th of July, 1836, on the Allapaha River, near the plantation of Mr. Wm. H. Mitchell, a battle was fought between the whites and Indians. Captain Levi J. Knight commanded the whites, numbering about seventy-five men. The Indians were defeated, and all killed except five. Twenty-three guns and nineteen packs fell into the hands of the whites.

The following account of the incident is quoted from Georgia’s Landmarks, Memorials and Legends, published in 1914 by the Georgia state historian, Lucian Lamar Knight. (For Levi J. Knight’s own account, see Levi J. Knight Reports Indian Fight of July 13, 1836).

 Captain Levi J. Knight was a celebrated Indian fighter. The following story, in which he figures with some prominence, was found in an old scrap-book kept by the late Judge Richard H. Clarke. It was told by Bryan J. Roberts, a wealthy pioneer citizen of Lowndes, who several years before his death divided a large estate between his children. It runs as follows: “In 1836 the rumors of depredations committed by the Indians in other portions of the State caused widespread alarm in this section, and the citizens organized companies for protection. Captain Levi J. Knight commanded the company to which Mr. Roberts belonged. This company was on duty for 105 days, and was engaged in two bloody fights with the red-skins. Some time in the fall of the year mentioned, a squad of Indians raided Mr. William Parker’s home, not far from Milltown, in what is now Berrien. They carried his feather beds out in the yard, cut them open, emptied the feathers and appropriated the ticks. They also robbed him of provisions, clothing, and money in the sum of $308. “

Captain Knight was soon on the trail of the squad and overtook them near the Alapaha River, not far from Gaskin’s 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 an utter rout 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 throw into the river. He also tried to throw into the stream a shot-bag, but it was caught by the limb of a tree and suspended over the water. Strange to say, it contained Mr. Parker’s money, every cent of which was recovered. The fine gun was fished out of the river and was afterwards sold for $40, a tremendous price for a gun in those days.

Having driven the Indians from the dense swamp beyond the river, Captain Knight marched his company as rapidly as possible in the direction of Brushy Creek, in the southwest part of the county [i. e., Lowndes]. In the distance they heard a volley of small arms. On arrival, they found that a battle had already been fought, and the volley was only the last tribute of respect over the grave of a comrade-in-arms, Pennywell Folsom. Mr. Robert Parrish, who became quite prominent and lived near Adel, had his arm broken in this fight. Edwin Henderson was mortally wounded and died near the battlefield, and there were two others killed. The Indians lost 22, besides a number wounded. The battle was fought in a swamp where Indian cunning was pitted against Anglo-Saxon courage, and in five minutes after the engagement opened there was not a live red-skin to be seen. From this place Captain Knight marched his company into what is now Clinch. He overtook the Indians at Cow Creek, where a sharp engagement occurred. Three were killed and five made prisoners. Mr. Brazelius- Staten was dangerously wounded, but finally recovered. This ended the Indian fighting in which Captain Knight’s company was engaged. More than three quarters of a century has since passed, and the actors in the bloody drama are now at rest.

The encounter at Brushy Creek occurred at a “fort” that had been built by the McCranies and their neighbors to defend against the escalating Indian attacks, especially after the destruction and massacre that had occurred at the small Georgia village of Roanoke on the night of May 15, 1836.  A 1930 history of Cook County, GA gave the following account of the  Battle of Brushy Creek:

Fearing for their lives and in obedience to Governor William Schley’s orders, the people, of what is now Cook County, gathered themselves into three different groups and built three forts. The Wellses and Rountrees and their neighbors built a fort at the Rachel Morrison place which is now the John Rountree old field. This was Morrison Fort and the company of soldiers formed there was known as Pike’s Company. The Futches and Parrishes and others built their fort at the Futch place on the Withlacoochee River where the ferry was located. The McCranies and their neighbors built their fort on Brushy Creek where the George Moore farm is now located. Their company of soldiers was known as the Hamilton Sharp Company.

BATTLE OF BRUSHY CREEK

Scarcely had the people of the present county gotten into forts and formed companies for fighting when the hostile Creeks and Cherokee Indians, coming from the North to join the neighboring Seminoles in Florida, began murdering families along the way.

The soldiers of the Hamilton Sharp Company at the McCranie Fort looked out one morning about the 10th of June 1836 and found the woods just across the Musket Branch from their camp, literally full of Indians. They saw they were so completely out-numbered that they sent Mr. Ashley Lindsey through the country to the Morrison Fort to get aid from Pike’s Company.

While he was gone for help, Hamilton Sharp, Captain of the McCranie Fort, sent out Robert N. Parrish, Richard Golden, Penuel Folsom and William McCranie as scouts to guard the Indians until help could come. The Indians out-witted the scouts and decoyed them away from their camp and attacked them.

They wounded Robert N. Parrish and Penuel Folsom. Folsom was mortally wounded and just as the Indians got to him to scalp him, Pike’s Company came up in the rear, began firing and the Indians fled across Brushy Creek.

The companies were all soon united and together they pursued the Indians, killing men, women and children. Numbers of Indians were killed that day. Pike’s Company lost three brave soldiers, James Therrell, Edwin Shanks and Edwin Henderson.

Penuel Folsom, the first soldier killed in the Battle of Brushy Creek, was buried in what is now known as the Rountree Cemetery, his being the first grave in it. After this terrible battle with the Indians, it was found that an Indian maiden had been captured and held at the fort on Brushy Creek. That night she asked permission to yell and this permission was granted. Her mother soon came out of the darkness to the child and she was released to go with her mother.

To the astonishment of all the whites, when morning came, every Indian corpse that could be found had his or her hands folded and each lifeless body had been straightened, but not buried. Their bodies were never buried. The companies drove the Indians south of Milltown, now Lakeland, Ga. There, they killed one of their biggest warriors.

The historical marker for the Battle of Brushy Creek,  near Adel, Cook County, GA reads:

BATTLE OF BRUSHY CREEK STATE HISTORICAL MARKER
Located at Rest Area #5 on northbound I-75 approximately 8 miles N of Adel
31.24343, -83.46538
(Text)
BATTLE OF BRUSHY CREEKNear here, in July, 1836, a battalion of Georgia militia under command of Major Michael Young, defeated a band of Indians in the Battle of Brushy Creek. In pursuit of the Indians, who had been raiding the frontier as they fled into Florida, the soldiers came upon them in the fork of Big Warrior Creek and Little River and drove them into the swamp. A general engagement followed, fought over a distance of 3 miles, through cypress ponds and dense canebreaks. The result was victory for the militia, with 2 men killed, 9 wounded. Of the enemy, 23 were killed, many wounded and 18 prisoners taken.

In his 1916 account of the engagement, historian Folks Huxford continued this narrative with details of the concluding encounter at Cow Creek.

“From this place [Brushy Creek] Captain Knight marched his company across the Allapaha River into what is now Clinch County. The Indians after the last engagement had crossed the river and took a course southeastward to Cow Creek, about three miles below where Stockton now is. The whites traced them and found them near the creek. They surprised the savages at breakfast and the Indians, abandoning what little effects they had except guns, hurriedly crossed the “Boggy Slue”and then went over the creek. The slue which had been so easy for the Indians to cross, delayed the whites, but finally crossing it they caught up with the Indians on the other side of the creek, where a short engagement occurred. Bill Daugharty had his horse shot from under him in this engagement by a very large Indian, and just as the Indian was about to fire at him, Mr. Daugharty shot the Indian. The Indian’s body was not found until after the engagement was over, when it was found in some bushes. In this short engagement three Indians were killed and five made prisoners. No whites were killed, but Mr. Barzilla Staten was dangerously wounded from which he afterwards recovered.”

William McCranie fought in the Battle of Brushy Creek and at Cow Creek. His personal account was related in the Berrien County Pioneer in 1888.

He was engaged in two pitched battles with the Indians – at Brushy Creek, which was fought in sight of his father’s house, and on Cow Creek, in Clinch county. In both battles, his friend, Jack Lindsey, was close by his side and also in pursuit of the Indians that followed them. ‘Uncle Billy,’ as he is now familiarly called, has always been exceedingly reticent relative to the details of these battles, even to his wife and children. However, one incident of the pursuit of the Indians after the Battle of Cow Creek he sometimes tells with seemingly a pleasing smile. The Indians had been completely routed and the white men were in close pursuit. He and Jack Lindsey had crossed the creek and was emerging from the swamp when an Indian buck jumped from behind a covering of brush. They discovered each other simultaneously and three rifles flew to the shoulder in an instant, but he and Jack was too quick for their antagonist. They fired together, and the Indian with a yell fell dead – a ball in his heart. They fired together, aiming at the heart, and they never could say which killed the Indian. When they went forward to examine the dead Indian, a ‘gal’ jumped up from behind a clump of bushes, and ran to the edge of a cypress swamp where, for some unknown reason, she stopped. By this time some other white men came up, attracted by the rifle shots, and expressed surprise at the sudden disappearance of the Indians and their being unable to find one. “Come along,” said uncle Billy, “and I will show a ‘gal’.” They went to where she was but she would keep some distance between them. The men tried to coax her to come to them but she would not – said she was afraid they would kill her. Finally, Uncle Billy told her to come to him. She refused, but told him to come to her. As he started toward her, she started toward him, and they clasped each other in fond embrace, she gave him such a hug that he has never forgotten it. Whatever became of her Uncle Billy has never told.

1849 Adventures With A Panther in Berrien County, GA

Here is a tale that has become part of the mythology of Berrien County, GA. It occurred in a swamp along the Alapaha River in 1849, before  Berrien County was created from parts of Lowndes County.  Although the principals involved where not residents of the Ray City area themselves, their relatives and descendants were. The story illustrates that the early pioneers of Berrien County and Ray City, GA were on the frontier of America. They settled wild lands to create their farms and the towns we know today.

This tale, Adventures With a Panther, was told  by the Reverend George White in Historical collections of Georgia: containing the most interesting facts, traditions, biographical sketches, anecdotes, etc. relating to its history and antiquities, from its first settlement to the present time ; compiled from original records and official documents ; illustrated by nearly one hundred engravings of public buildings, relics of antiquity, historic localities, natural scenery, portraits of distinguished men, etc., etc.,  published in 1855.

    ADVENTURE WITH A PANTHER. — In 1849, a step-son of Thomas B. Stewart and his younger brother were hunting hogs near a swamp, one mile from the Allapaha River, and ten miles above Knight’s Bridge. Their dog had left them and gone into the swamp ; but soon returned at full speed, closely pursued by a huge panther.

    Escape was impossible. The panther seized the elder brother, and mangled him most fearfully. Leaving him for dead, it then pursued the younger brother and the dog. It soon, however, returned. The boy finding escape impossible, pretended to be dead. After smelling around him, the animal proceeded to cover him partially with leaves and grass, and again renewed its pursuit of the other party.

    The wounded boy had by this time so far recovered from his wounds and fright as to be able to make good his escape, which he did as rapidly as possible. In the mean time, the younger boy had given the alarm and aroused the neighbourhood. William G. Aikin, John H. Guthrie, Alfred Herrin and Jesse Vickery, immediately went in pursuit.

    Upon arriving at the spot, they found the pile of leaves and grass, and broken bushes, but the boy and panther were both gone. Having an excellent dog, they soon trailed the panther into the swamp, and in a few hundred yards brought him to bay. The hunters entered the swamp, and proceeded cautiously until they approached within about thirty yards of the huge monster. Here they stopped to consult as to the manner of attack. Not so the panther. He was in their midst at almost a single bound.

    Seizing Guthrie, he dashed him violently to the earth, horribly gashing his head and face. Vickery discharged his piece, loaded with buckshot, into the panther’s breast, at a distance of six feet. Herrin’s gun missed fire, when he drew his knife, in real Western style, and cut the panther’s throat. The dog was killed in the fight by the cougar, but Guthrie and the boy escaped with their lives, and still survive to tell the tale.

In this account the victim of the panther attack, “The Boy,” is never fully identified, just that he was the stepson of Thomas B. Stewart.  Other accounts of the attack identify the victim as Jim Hightower (aka James Stewart), step-son of  Thomas B. Stewart.  There are records of Thomas B. Stewart and family in Lowndes County in the census of 1840 (prior to the creation of Berrien County), but  the members of his household are not identified by name.    Thomas B. Stewart appears in the census of 1850 in that portion of Clinch County that was cut from Lowndes County. His nearest neighbors are Alfred Herrin, William Green Akin, John H. Guthrie, and Jesse Vickery but the census gives no indication as to which of Thomas B. Stewart’s son’s might be step children.

1850 United States Federal Census enumeration of Thomas B Stewart:
Name: Thomas B Stewart
Age: 52
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1798
Birth Place: Virginia
Gender: Male
Home in 1850:  Clinch County, Georgia (Formerly Lowndes County)
Household Members: Name Age
Thomas B Stewart 52
Elizabeth Stewart 42
James Stewart 18
Nathaniel Stewart 15
Elizabeth Stewart 13
Joshua Stewart 11
Thomas Stewart 9
George Stewart 4

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Rice Production in Wiregrass Georgia

19th-century image of four Georgia rice field workers.

19th-century image of four Georgia rice field workers.

Rice production efforts by settlers  and rice plantations in coastal Georgia are well known, but rice was also grown by pioneer settlers of Lowndes, Berrien and other Wiregrass counties.

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia:

“Rice, Georgia’s first staple crop, was the most important commercial agricultural commodity in the Low country from the middle of the eighteenth century until the early twentieth century. Rice arrived in America with European and African migrants as part of the so-called Columbian Exchange of plants, animals, and germs. Over time, profits from the production and sale of the cereal formed the basis of many great fortunes in coastal Georgia.”

The cultivation of rice on coastal plantations played a significant role in the introduction of slavery in Georgia, which was forbidden by the state’s original charter.

At least by the mid 1800’s settlers further inland,  in the Old Lowndes County region were growing small amounts of rice locally, along with other farming and agriculture efforts.   The total rice production in Lowndes County for the year ending June 1, 1850 was 66,300 pounds.  With the total state production reaching about 39 million pounds of rice that year, Lowndes county was hardly among the chief producers. Still, the rice crop was important to the local farmers  who had settled in the Rays Mill, Georgia (now Ray City) area.  The Reverend George White in 1855 listed rice, cotton and corn as Lowndes county’s major agricultural crops. The following year, 1856, Berrien County was cut out of Lowndes. One early Berrien county rice grower was Aden Boyd. The Berrien County agricultural and manufacturing records  for 1860 show his farm produced 80 pounds of rice, along with 50 bushels of corn, 10 bushels of oats and 5 bushels of peas and beans.

In 1870, rice production in Berrien County was 125,000 pounds. Henry T. Peeples, brother of Richard A. Peeples,  produced 38,000 pounds of rice on his farm alone. John W. Hagan’s  farm was the second largest producer at 2,320 pounds.  By 1879, Berrien County farmer Wiley Chambless  “gathered 21 bushels of clean, ruff rice from half an acre” and “plan[ned] to plant 50 or 75 acres in rice” for 1880.

Equipment for producing rice was manufactured right here in Georgia. In the 1850’s Nesbet & Levy’s Ocmulgee Foundry and Machine shop in Macon, GA. was manufacturing rice thrashers, among many other agricultural and industrial machines.

In Milltown (now Lakeland, GA.) there was a rice cleaning machine at the Lastinger Mill. Later on, Berrien county residents could take their rice to the Avera mill, built in 1880 near Nashville.   In fact, by 1880 the Columbus Daily Enquirer-Sun reported that, “The farmers of Berrien county say that rice pays them better than  cotton.”

1910 – A FEW INDUSTRIAL FACTS ABOUT GEORGIA

Rice – Rice is an important product which can be easily produced in Georgia of very superior quality. The average yield is about 12 barrels per acre and in favorable seasons a second crop of 8 to 10 barrels may be obtained. This product sells for about $3.50 a barrel.