Big Thumb McCranie was First Postmaster of Lowndes

On this date, one hundred and eighty-five years ago, March 27, 1827, the first post office in Lowndes County was established at the home of Daniel McCranie on the Coffee Road. The McCranie post office, situated on the only real “road” in the county, was perhaps a fifty mile round trip  from the point to the east where Levi J. Knight settled, at present day Ray City, GA.

Daniel ‘Big Thumb’ McCranie had come to this area of south Georgia in the winter of 1824 or 1825. This was before Lowndes County was created out of parts of Irwin County, and about the same time that William Anderson Knight brought his family from Wayne County. Daniel ‘Big Thumb’ McCranie, ‘of full Scottish blood and fiery temper,’ was known to still wear a kilt on certain occasions.

Did Daniel McCranie have Brachydactyly?
His nickname, ‘Big Thumb’ McCranie, might indicate that Daniel McCranie had brachydactyly type D, a genetic condition that affects 1 out of a 1000 people, commonly known as clubbed thumb or toe thumb. Brachdactyly captivated the attention of the entertainment media in 2009-10, when movie star and superbowl headliner Megan Fox was identified with this condition. The word brachydactyly comes from the Greek terms brachy and daktylos. “Literally, what it means is short finger,” says Dr. Steven Beldner, a hand surgeon at Beth Israel Medical Center.  “The nail of the thumb in this condition is often very short and wide.”  “It is usually hereditary,” Beldner explains. “Although it could also have been caused by frostbite, or it could have been an injury to the growth plate in childhood.” Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/brace-megan-fox-imperfection-actress-thumbs-article-1.196125#ixzz1qGndhWsv

McCranie, Daniel 1772-1854

Daniel ‘Big Thumb’ McCranie was born in North Carolina in 1772, a son of Catherine Shaw and Daniel McCranie, R.S.  His father had immigrated to North Carolina from Scotland and fought with the Cumberland County Militia during the American Revolution.

About 1793, young Daniel McCranie married  Sarah McMillan, daughter of Malcolm McMillan of Robeson County, N. C.

To Daniel and Sarah were born:

  1. Neil E. McCranie, born 1794, married Rebecca Monroe. Moved to Florida.
  2. Mary McCranie, born 1795, married John Lindsey, son of Thomas Lindsey.
  3. John McCranie, born 1797, married Christiana Morrison, daughter of John Morrison.
  4. Daniel McCranie, born 1800, married Winnie Lindsey, daughter of Thomas Lindsey.
  5. Malcolm McCranie, born 1802, married Elizabeth Parrish, daughter of Henry Parrish.
  6. Duncan McCranie, born 1805, married (unknown). Lived in Liberty Co.
  7. Nancy McCranie, born 1808, married Robert N. Parrish.
  8. Archibald McCranie, born 1810, married a cousin, Nancy McMillan.
  9. William McCranie born 1812, married Melvina Beasley, daughter of Elijah Beasley.
  10. Elizabeth McCranie, born 1815, married Sampson G. Williams

Daniel McCranie’s parents moved from Robeson County, North Carolina, to Bulloch County, GA about 1800 and shortly thereafter, Daniel and Sarah also brought their family to Georgia, moving to Montgomery county sometime before 1802.   He was a Justice of the Inferior Court of Montgomery County and was commissioned Jan. 17, 1822.

It was on December 23 of that year, 1822, that the Georgia General Assembly appropriated $1500.00 for construction of  a frontier road to run from a point on the Alapaha river to the Florida Line.  General John E. Coffee and Thomas Swain were appointed “to superintend the opening of the road,  to commence on the Alapaha at or near Cunningham’s Ford” and running to the Florida line near the “Oclockney”  river. The route, which became known as Coffee’s Road, was an important for supply line to the Florida Territory for military actions against Indians in the Creek Wars, but also quickly became a path for settlers moving into the south Georgia area.

In a previous post (see Pennywell Folsom fell at Brushy Creek), historian Montgomery M. Folsom’s  described General Coffee’s ‘road cutters’, his hunters Isham Jordan and Kenneth Swain, and the Wiregrass pioneers that honored them with song.  Isham Jordan, along with Burrell Henry Bailey and others had worked to survey and mark the first public roads in Irwin County.

About Coffee’s Road,

“This road was a great thoroughfare and many a hardy settler has packed his traps in a cart drawn by a tough pony, and driving his flocks and herds before him has traversed the lonely pine barrens in search of a more generous soil and greener pastures.”

About 1824,  Daniel and Sarah McCranie moved their family from Montgomery County and settled on Coffee’s Road in the lower section of Irwin County .  The place where they settled was Lot of Land No 416 in the 9th district of Irwin County. In 1825 this section of Irwin was cut off into the new county of Lowndes.  (In 1856, this property was cut into Berrien, and in 1918 into Cook County.)

The McCranie’s home served as the first post office in original Lowndes County. Known simply as  “Lowndes,”  the post office was established March 27,1827, with Daniel McCranie as the first postmaster. That arrangement lasted only a year, as the following year the Lowndes county seat was established in the new town of Franklinville, GA. The post office was moved to Franklinville and William Smith became the new postmaster (see Post Offices of the Old Berrien Pioneers).

In the Indian War in 1836,  Daniel McCranie provided forage for the local militia. It is said that five of McCranie’s sons fought in the Battle of Brushy Creek, serving in Captain Hamilton W. Sharpe’s Company, of the Georgia Militia. The Battle of Brushy Creek, was among the last military actions against Native Americans in this area.

Sarah McCranie died about 1842. Her grave is the earliest known burial in Wilkes Cemetery.  Following her death, Daniel McCranie  married Mrs. Kittie  Holmes Paige in 1844. She was the widow of James Paige of Jefferson County, GA.  Kitty Holmes was born Jan. 2, 1802, in Duplin County, N. C., and moved with her parents to Washington County, GA, in 1812.  In 1818 she married Silas Godwin and by him had one son, S. B. Godwin, who became a resident of Berrien County. After divorcing  Silas Godwin she had  married James Paige of Jefferson County, Ga., and lived with him twenty years until his death. By James Paige she had two children, one of whom, Allen Paige, became a resident of Lowndes County.

Kitty joined Pleasant Primitive Baptist Church, Lowndes (now (Berrien) County on October 17, 1850.  A month later Daniel joined, on November 16, 1850.

Daniel McCranie died in 1854 and was buried in the Wilkes Cemetery in present Cook County. After his death, Kittie left Pleasant Church for New Salem Church, Adel, Georgia.  Kittie McCranie died in 1889 and was buried beside Daniel at Wilkes Cemetery.

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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.