Isbin Giddens (1788-1853), Pioneer Settler of Old Berrien

Isbin Giddens (1788-1853)

Grave of Isbin Giddens, Burnt Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of Isbin Giddens, Burnt Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

In the winter of 1824-25 Isbin (or Isben) Giddens brought his wife, Keziah Knight Giddens, and their two young children,  William and Moses Giddens from Wayne County, GA to settle in what was then Irwin County, near the present day Ray City, GA. They came along with Keziah’s brother William Cone Knight, her parents, and their minor children John, Sarah, Elizabeth, Aaron, and Jonathan Knight. Also making the move to Lowndes was Keziah’s uncle Samuel Knight, his wife Fannie, and their children Fatima, Moses, Aaron, Jesse, Thomas, and Joel.

Isbin Giddens was born in Blounts Creek, Beaufort County, North Carolina on November 4, 1788 just a few months after the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America. He was the son of Moses Giddens and Catherine Jones.

Some time before 1816, “when he was about grown,” Isbin  Giddens moved from North Carolina to Wayne County, Georgia .  He served as lieutenant of the 334th District Militia, Wayne County, from 1816 to 1820. It was probably during that time period that he became acquainted with the family of William A. Knight and Sarah Cone Knight. William A. Knight was then serving as a Justice of Peace in the 334th District. William’s son, Jonathan Knight, was a captain in the Wayne County militia; another son, Levi J. Knight, served as a private.

Giddens became good friends with the Knights, and on Wednesday, April 7, 1819 just before Easter, Isbin married William A. Knight’s 17-year-old daughter, Keziah Knight (born November 25, 1801).

Isbin Giddens served as a grand juror the October, 1822  term of the Superior Court of Wayne County, and at other times also served on both petit and grand juries in the county.

About 1823 Isbin and Keziah Giddens were baptised into Kettle Creek Church.  Jonathan and Elizabeth Knight were organizing members of Kettle Creek Baptist Church in Ware County which it seems, was near where they lived; they were members of Hebron Church (present day Brantley County, GA) before being dismissed by letter on November 8, 1823, to constitute Kettle Creek. Fannie Knight, wife of Samuel Knight, was a member of Kettle Creek Baptist Church, as were Keziah’s parents, William and Sarah Knight.

Over the winter of 1824-25 Isbin and Keziah departed Wayne county along with her parents and brothers to settle in parts of present day Lanier County.  Isben Giddens made his farm along what is now the Ray City-Lakeland public road. The following year, his brother-in-law, Levi J. Knight, joined the family and became the first to settle on land along  Beaverdam creek at the present day location of Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

On February 10, 1827 Isbin and Keziah moved their letters from Kettle Creek Church to Union Primitive Baptist Church.  Keziah’s father had been instrumental in the organization of Union Church, it being the first Baptist Church in this section. The church organization took place October 1, 1825, at Carter’s Meeting house,  located on the west bank of the Alapaha River.  Mr. Knight was the first clerk of the new church and later became its pastor.

For the 1827 Georgia Land Lottery, Isbin Giddens registered in the 10th District of Lowndes County.  On the 33rd Day’s Drawing – April 13, 1827, he was the fortunate drawer of Lot 248 in the 13th District of of the newly formed Lee County.

In the Census of 1830, Isbin Giddens is enumerated along with early Berrien County settlers like Joshua Lee, William A. Knight and John Knight. He served on the Lowndes Grand Jury of 1833 which was convened at Franklinville, GA, then the county seat of Lowndes County.

In the Indian Wars of 1836-1838, Isbin Giddens and his sons, William and  Moses served under the command of  now  Captain Levi J. Knight,  in the Lowndes County Militia.  The Giddens were among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.

Spouse & Children

Keziah Knight 1801 – 1861

  1. William Moses Giddens 1820 – 1899
  2. Moses H Giddens 1821 – 1906
  3. Matilda Giddens 1826 – 1887
  4. Sarah Giddens 1828 – 1918
  5. Aaron L. Giddens 1831 – 1862, married Mary Smith
  6. Keziah Ann Giddens 1836 – 1904
  7. Mary M Giddens 1838 – 1901
  8. Isbin T. Giddens 1840 – July 17, 1862
  9. Matthew O Giddens 1844 – 1865
Isben Giddens died on his farm October 21, 1853. He was buried at  Union Church Cemetery, in present day Lanier County, GA. He died with a legally valid will, and his three sons WilliamMoses, and Aaron served as executors of his estate.

In 1855 Kizziah Knight Giddens married the widower Allen Jones.  She died in 1861 and was buried at Union Church, Lanier County GA.

Grave of Keziah Knight Giddens Jones, Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GAGrave of Keziah Knight Giddens Jones, Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA

Grave of Keziah Knight Giddens Jones, Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA

Isben Giddens’ sons, Isbin T. Giddens and Matthew O. Giddens, served in the Civil War.  On August 1, 1861 they joined the Berrien Minute Men, Company G, 29th Georgia Infantry at Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.  Neither would survive the war.  Mathew O. Giddens was taken prisoner on December 16, 1864 near Nashville, TN. He was imprisoned at Camp Chase, Ohio where three months later, on Feb 8, 1865, he died of pneumonia. His brother, Isbin T. Giddens, died of brain fever at Guyton Hospital in Georgia.

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Knights Come to Lowndes County, GA

In the winter of 1824-25 a group of Revolutionary War “Baby Boomers” came west from Wayne County, Georgia to settle in what was then Irwin County, near the area that would one day become known as Ray City, Georgia.  They were  politically connected and probably had full knowledge that the huge area of Irwin county, occupying the central third of the southern Georgia, was about to be divided into smaller counties.

Among the leaders of this small band of settlers were William Anderson Knight and wife Sarah Cone Knight, his brother Samuel Knight, and his son-in-law Isben Giddens. They brought with them their families, children, livestock, and their possessions to make a new home in the new county of Lowndes, which was created from parts of Irwin County in 1826. These pioneers were experienced at opening up a new county. They were frontiersmen with militia experience, and also experienced at carving farms and plantations from the wilderness of the Wiregrass. In a sense, they were the first ‘Americans’, born between the time of the Declaration of Independence and the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. They were raised in a time of war; their fathers served as Revolutionary Soldiers. Like the baby boomers of later wars, they grew up in a sort of post-war boom period, where Americans were celebrating their new-found independence and freedom.

The Knights were true Wiregrass pioneers. They came to this section from Wayne County, where William A. Knight had been among the very first settlers, arriving there about 1803. The Knight’s Wayne County place was situated near the Old Post Road, one of the earliest roads in Georgia. On the land adjacent to Knight’s, another Wiregrass pioneer, William Clements, had settled his family.  The Knights and the Clements became steadfast friends with many family and business dealings; William Knight and William Clements served together on the Wayne county Grand Jury of 1813 and worked together in other civic capacities.

Old Post Road Historic Marker, Glynn County, GA

Old Post Road Historic Marker, Glynn County, GA

The Old Post Road…was originally an Indian trail extending from St. Augustine, Florida, northward through south Georgia into the rolling country known as the Sand Hill section. Mitchell’s map of 1756, now in the Library of Congress in Washington, shows this trail. During the Revolutionary War the American forces marched along it on their way to attack a British contingent at Fort Tonyn, which was somewhere south of [U.S. Hwy 84]. Historians have not been able to determine the exact site. The road continued to be used as a stagecoach route and post road between Savannah and Florida until the War between the States.

When Wayne County had been created in 1803, William A. Knight was one of five commissioners empowered by the Georgia Legislature to determine the site of the county seat in the new county, and “when it was done it was located on lands owned by Mr. Knight and by William Clements.” The Wayne county seat became known as Tuckersville, after resident John Tucker who served as the first postmaster there. (Waynesville was not officially designated as the county seat until 1829.) William A. Knight served as a post master after John Tucker, and William Clements served as a Wayne County road commissioner. Tuckersville  was located  somewhere north of Waynesville on the Post Road near the Buffalo Swamp, once the home and feeding grounds of herds of Georgia buffalo. The town disappeared from maps after 1850 and its exact location remains a mystery. wayne-historic-marker In its first twenty years, Wayne County was slow in developing.  William A. Knight served as the tax collector for 1806 and 1807, but no monies were returned to the state Comptroller General’s office for those years. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia “The area contained hundreds of acres of pine barrens and wiregrass country. Much of the land was undesirable for settlement… Many of the early white settlers were families who, having lost their bids to win richer land in Baldwin or Wilkinson counties in the 1805 land lottery, settled for the isolation and less desirable land offered by Wayne County.”   Perhaps the lack of economic development in Wayne County finally discouraged the Knights. For whatever reason, it appears they decided there were better opportunities in opening up a new county than remaining behind in Wayne County.

As a member of the state Legislature, William A. Knight undoubtedly knew of the impending division of the vast Irwin County into smaller counties. The military road constructed by John Coffee and Thomas Swain in 1823 had opened up the south central Georgia territory to pioneer settlers (see Daniel McCranie). Coffee’s road, as it was soon known, passed from Jacksonville, GA through the site of present day Nashville, GA and on southward to the Florida line.

Coffee Road Historic Marker, Nashville GA

Coffee Road Historic Marker, Nashville GA

When the Knights left their farms and came to south central Georgia to build their “log cabin in the wilds of the Wiregrass”, this area of Georgia was all part of the huge Irwin county. Lowndes was created from 2080 square miles carved out of Irwin, which had been plotted into Land Districts. Located on the center of Georgia’s southern border with Florida, Lowndes was still a quite large county. It would later be further divided into six present day counties; Lowndes, Brooks, Cook, Tift, Clinch, Lanier, and Berrien counties.

William Anderson Knight chose a home site on the northwest edge of Grand Bay in what was soon to be Lowndes County. This area, in the 10th land district of Irwin County, had good water and better soil than the typical pine barrens of Wayne County. It was situated between the Alapaha River to the east and the Withlacoochee and its tributaries to the west.

Children of William A. Knight and Sarah Cone:

  1. Thomas Knight, born February 6, 1799
  2. Kezia Knight, born November 20, 1801
  3. Levi J. Knight, born September 1, 1803
  4. William Cone “Big Billie” Knight, born October 8, 1805, married Rachel Carter, daughter of Jessie Carter.
  5. John Knight, born July 7, 1807
  6. Sarah Knight, born October 10, 1809
  7. Elizabeth Knight, born September 23, 1811
  8. Aaron Knight, born July 17, 1813
  9. Jonathan Knight, born January 16, 1817

William A. Knight’s place was near the route, such as it was, from Waynesville to Thomasville, GA. About nine miles to the west was Coffee’s Road; equidistant to the east was the site of Union Church, the Primitive Baptist church organized in 1825 by Reverend Fleming Bates and Reverend Matthew Albritton with the Knights, Pattens, Lees and Sirmans as founding members.

Historic Marker - Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Historic Marker – Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Knight and Union Church played a significant role in the rapid growth of Primitive Baptist churches throughout the Wiregrass region.  Union Church was at the head of the local organization of these churches into a Primitive Baptist Association, then known as the Ochlocknee Association. In 1833, Knight was appointed to travel these new churches to instruct them on their duties and responsibilities to the Association.  On July 13, 1833, William A. Knight along with Fleming Bates and John Tucker formed the presbytery to constitute Providence Church in “East Florida, Columbia County on Olustee,” according to the original minutes of that church.

By 1835,& when Union Church and other churches of south Georgia and north Florida sought to divide from the Ochlocknee Primitive Baptist Association, Knight served on the presbytery in the organization of the new Suwannee Primitive Baptist Association.

The Knight’s were influential in the development of Lowndes county from the very beginning, from the  convening of the first superior court to the representation in state politics. William A. Knight became the first state senator elected from Lowndes county to serve in the Georgia Assembly, and his son Jonathan Knight became the first state representative.

Following his parents , Levi J. Knight  brought his new bride, Ann Clements Herrin Knight, to homestead in Lowndes County in 1827. Anne was the daughter of the Knights’ Wayne County neighbors,  William and Elizabeth Clements.  L. J. Knight chose a spot not far from Grand Bay, on Beaverdam Creek,   where he established his  home site.  Perhaps even then he saw that the headwaters of Beaverdam Creek could some day be impounded to provide water power for a settlement.  Levi J. Knight’s homestead became the nucleus of a community, first known simply as Knight, GA that later grew into present day Ray City, GA.

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