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 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 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.

Related Posts

Lowndes County Seat Almost Sunk in 1827

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

Grand Jurors of 1845, Lowndes County, GA

Pennywell Folsom Fell at Brushy Creek

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A Plank Road for Troupville

In 1852, when all of Berrien County and the site of Ray City, GA, and other surrounding counties were still a part of old Lowndes County, the seat of county government was at Troupville, GA.

Troupville

The people of Troupville aspired to a transportation connection that would link them to the national economy.  Troupville already had a stage road, and a mail route, but the area’s main thoroughfare, the Coffee Road, lay 12 miles to the northwest. Troupville, nestled in the fork of the Withlacoochee River and the Little River, dreamed of a river way connection to float goods down to the Gulf of Mexico.  The folks of this section worked to get a railroad line through the town, but when it did come in 1857 the railroad would miss the mark by four miles.

Before that, in 1852, Troupville awaited the construction of a Plank Road which had been authorized by the State legislature.

Plank Road construction

Plank Road construction

The Act to incorporate the Satilla Plank Road Company, approved January 22, 1850, was a part of the  decade-long Plank Road Boom which began in 1844.

An Act to Incorporate the Satilla Plank Road Company

An Act to Incorporate the Satilla Plank Road Company

The Satilla Plank Road was to run from the Satilla River, through the Okefenokee Swap to Troupville, then on to Thomasville and on to the steamboat docks on the Flint River at Bainbridge, GA.  At Thomasville, it could connect with the Florida and Georgia Plank Road, already under construction, which ran to Monticello, FL then on to Newport, FL  on the St. Marks River.

 

Savannah Daily Morning News
January 20, 1852

A Plank Road through the Okefenokee Swamp

The Committee on Internal Improvements in the House, have reported in favor for a plank road through the Okefenokee Swamp to some point on the Flint River. According to the representations of the report, the enterprise is one of vast importance to Southern and South-western Georgia. The Bill reported proposes to grant the company one half of the unsurveyed portion of the swamp on condition that they build a good and sufficient road through the same. The following are the advantages as enumerated in the report:

         Looking upon the map of Georgia, we see the St. Ilia [Satilla], a bold river stretching from the sea coast inland, in a western direction, and navigable for steamers for forty-five miles. Measuring from thence, we pass in almost a direct line through the Okefenokee swamp, through Clinch county to Troupville, in Lowndes county, from thens to Thomasville, in Thomas county, to Bainbridge on the Flint river. The distance from the St. Illa to Bainbridge is one hundred and sixty miles.
          Diverging to the left from Troupville, we reach Monticello, thence to Tallahassee in Florida. The distance from the St. Illa to Tallahassee is one hundred and forty miles. From Monticello to Newport, (the sea port of the Gulf,) the distance is twenty-seven miles, between which places we are informed, a plank road is now being constructed, and some eighteen or twenty miles of which are already completed.
          From the St. Illa to Monticello, the distance is one hundred and thirteen miles, over which, if a plank road were constructed, would give a plank road connection between the shipping port on the Gulf, with a shipping point on the Atlantic side, the entire distance being one hundred and forty miles.
          We are informed the usual rate of freight on plank roads is one cent per bale of cotton, for each mile.
         The freight, then, from Bainbridge to the St. Illa, would be one dollar and sixty cents per bale, and from Tallahassee to the St. Illa, would be one dollar and forty cents per bale, the respective distance being, as before stated, one hundred and sixty miles, and one hundred and forty miles from Bainbridge and Tallahassee to the St. Illa river.
          From the St. Illa, the run can be made to Savannah by steamboats in ten hours, and a fair average rate of freight on cotton, would be forty cents per bale.
          Thus it will be seen that cotton can be transported through this route from Bainbridge to Savannah, from two dollars to two dollars twenty-five cents per bale, and from Tallahassee (in Florida) to Savannah, at one dollar and eighty cents to two dollars per bale.
          The Okefenokee Swamp, stretching as it does from North to South, forty-five to sixty miles, from Georgia into Florida, intercepts and cuts off the trade from a large and fertile portion of our State, and forces its products for shipment, through the Gulf ports in Florida, where the charges attendant on shipment are peculiarly extravagant.
          There is not a planter in Southern or South Western part of our State, but can bear testimony of the heavy charges, high rates of freight and insurance, and vexatious delays attendant on shipments of their produce from the Gulf ports.
          We have before us evidence from a planter of Thomas county, a member of this House, stating that the cost of sending his cotton to Thomasville, through the Gulf ports, to New York, and selling the same there, averages eight dollars per bale.
          It is apparent, then, to your committee, that by opening a plank road communication through the proposed rout, would cause a saving to the planters of the Southern portion of this State of from four to five dollars per bale, and the result would be that the produce of this State, being shipped through the ports of Florida, would in turn draw the products of Florida to Savannah, our own shipping port.

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Plank Road Boom

The Plank Road Boom was an economic boom that happened in the United States. Largely in the Eastern United States and New York, the boom lasted from 1844 to the mid 1850s. In about 10 years, over 3,500 miles of plank road were built in New York alone- enough road to go from Manhattan to California, and more than 10,000 miles of plank road were built countrywide.

The Plank Road Boom swept across Georgia, as it did the rest of the nation. At least 16 Plank Road Companies were incorporated in Georgia. By 1847, plank streets were being constructed in Savannah, connecting warehouses and wharves with the railroad. Over the next several years plank roads were planned all over Georgia. In 1849, North Carolina undertook the construction of a plank road connecting Fayetteville, NC to Savannah, GA. In Georgia, a plank road was proposed to run from Griffin to West Point. Another plank road was proposed from Barnesville, GA to the Montgomery Road at Macon.  A plank road was proposed from Washington to Elberton. In 1850, a bill was introduced “to incorporate the Dahlonega and Marietta Turnpike and Plank Road Company; and also to incorporate the Cumming and Atlanta Turnpike and Plank Road Company.” Also, “to incorporate the Cobb county and Alabama Turnpike or Plank Road Company; also, authorizing the construction of a Plank Road from Washington, in Wilkes county, to some point on the Georgia Rail Road.” A plank road was proposed from Albany to Oglethorpe. Among others planned were the Macon, Perry and Albany Plank Road, the Ogeechee Plank Road, the Columbus and Greenville Plank Road, the Atlanta and Sweetwater Plank Road, the Henderson and Marthasville Plank Road, and the Columbus and Lannahassee Plank Road.

          Proponents of plank roads stated that plank roads would make it much easier to carry goods and travel in general. They were stated to be 1/3 the cost of gravel roads. Plank roads were said to give a return on investment of 20% They also claimed that the roads will last for at least eight years, and if they don’t, that will be because of more people travelling on the road, which would thus result in more tolls collected. Much of the plank road building occurred in places where lumber was comparatively affordable due to thriving timber industries, as wood was usually over sixty percent of a plank road’s cost.
           National newspapers helped spread the plank road craze. In 1847, Hunts Merchants Magazine published an article titled “Plank Roads-New Improvement.” In 1849, Niles’ Weekly Register said plank roads were “growing into universal favor.” in the 1850s, the New York Tribune praised their ease of construction and said that the roads added a great amount to the transportation abilities of the New York. In March 1850, Scientific American said they viewed plank roads as a means of “completely reforming the interior or rural transit trade of our country.”  In 1852, Hunts Merchants Magazine published an article titled “The First Plank Road Movement,” it extolled plank roads.

In the list of great improvements which have given to this age the character which it will bear in history above all others-the age of happiness to the people-the plank road will have a prominent place, and it deserves it…the plank road is of the class of canals and railways. They are the three great inscriptions graven on the earth by the hand of modern science…

— Hunts Merchants’ Magazine

They also published an editorial saying “every section of the country should be lined with these roads.” Other written items include “Observations on Plank Roads” by George Geddes, “History, Structure and Statistics of Plank Roads in the United States and Canada,” by William Kingsford, and “A Manual of the Principles and Practice of Road-Making” by William M. Gillespie.

 It does not appear that the Satilla Plank Road was ever constructed.

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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