Levi J. Knight Reports Indian Fight of July 13, 1836

The Ray City history Blog has previously reported various versions of the last Indian fights in Berrien (then Lowndes) County,  the 1836 skirmish near Short-arm Bill Parker‘s place and the Battle of Brushy Creek, all published some 19 to 90 years after the fact.

Below is Levi J, Knight’s own account of the skirmish near William Parker’s place, written immediately after the encounter.

This letter, dated July 13, 1836, is from Levi J. Knight to William Schley, Governor of Georgia (1835-1837) is perhaps the only primary source documentation of the fight, written by one of the principal participants at the time of the event.

Knight writes from Lowndes County, Georgia to inform the governor of the defeat of a band of Indians 20-25 in number following their raid on the homestead of William Parker. Over a three day period from July 10 to July 12, 1836 Levi J. Knight and a party of about 75 men, pioneers of old Lowndes County,  pursued and engaged the Indians near the Alapaha River.  Knight reports that the engagement occurred  on the banks of the Alapaha River about 10 miles above Gaskin’s Ferry.  According to Knight, only six Indians escaped, the rest being killed in the skirmish.  Knight’s group suffered one casualty; William Peters receiving two wounds in the encounter. This skirmish was a prelude to the Battle of Brushy Creek, which occurred some days later in the western part of the county.

Knight’s account of the skirmish made the national press, the content of his letter being published in newspapers all over the country. (Plain text transcript provided below image.)

July 13, 1836 letter from Levi J. Knight to William Schley, Governor of Georgia.

July 13, 1836 letter from Levi J. Knight to William Schley, Governor of Georgia.

The Constantine Republican
Constantine, MI
September 21, 1836, Front Page

From the Standard of Union, August 22.

Lowndes Co., Ga. July 13, 1836.

To his Excellency William Schley:

    Dear Sir: – I hasten to inform you of a defeat met by the hostile Creek Indians, in trying to pass through our country.  On the 10th of this instant a party of Indians, about 15, were discovered near Aaron Mattoxe’s, in the 10th district of this county, by two of his sons, and were travelling an east course, and on the same day about 8 miles from where they were then by Mattox, and in the direction they were travelling, three were seen by Mrs. Boyett and daughter; on the next day, Monday, a number of us, say 40, repaired to where they were discovered by Mattoxe’s sons, and took their trail; they travelled very near east to the Allappaha swamp, almost twelve miles, and passing them were discovered by Mrs. Boyett, about one mile south.
    Night setting in we were compelled to make up camp on the swamp of the Allappaha, and about dark, and in a few minutes after we had encamped, two runners came to us, stating that the Indians at two hours before sunset, were at Wm. Parker’s four miles above, plundering his house.  In the morning of Tuesday, we divided our force, which had increased in the day to near eighty men, and sent all but 35 men over the river to rendezvous where they were expected to cross; we then repaired to Wm. Parker’s, found that they had robbed his house of every thing of value in it; had many other things about 25 lbs. of powder, 30 bars of lead, and 140 weight of shot, also $308 in money.  We took their trail through a most desperate swamp – through lakes and creeks, several of them up to our arm pits, and bushes and briers almost impenetrable by any human being other than a savage, for two miles, when we came to their camp, on a large lake near the river bank, here the trail bore up the river, a north course to Gaskin’s ferry, eight miles of Parker’s; here we despatched a runner to our force, which had crossed the river, to recross, and come up to us, as the trail continued up the river, and now a little north west; our men pressed forward with a zeal and fierceness that would surmount any difficulty; by night we were so near them, that we knew where the camp was – about ten miles above Gaskin’s ferry – an open bluff opposite Mr. Mitchell’s, was examined by a party of our men after sunset, and found the Indians had not passed, and continuing up within two miles.  Night now setting in our reinforcement coming up we encamped at Mr. Mitchell’s; in the morning at day break our party again divided, thirty-eight men were posted on the bluff, their left resting on the river bank, and their right extending about two hundred yards right out from the river, who were silently to await the approach of the enemy; Jesse Carter was chosen to command on the left, William A. Knight in the centre, and William Peters on the right;  thirty-three repaired down to where we could again find the trail, and bearing up until we came in sight of our men that were posted at the bluff where we saw them charging down towards us, and bearing into a point of bushes, in a small bend of the river, a tremendous fire ensuing, our trailers dashed off at the top of their speed, and Mr. Peter’s company who were in the lead, dashed up among the enemy, who had selected their position in a clump of pines and bushes, at the river bank, fired at our men who were coming up with great bravery;  Mr Peters was badly wounded in the right breast, and the left side of the abdomen; he fell, but cried out to his men to charge on the whole force, now bearing in from above and below, and but few had discharged their guns, reserving their fire to see an object to shoot at, and charging at the top of their speed, the Indians dropped every thing, throwing their guns into the river, and plunged in for life; our men ran to the bank and shot them while swimming; only six made their escape to the other bank, and from their trail two or three of them were wounded;  there were about from 20 to 25, one squaw, was shot in the back with four buck shot, as we ascertained by the dress which she dropped at the edge of the water, and was perforated with holes; she was heard to make a noise until she arrived to the middle of the stream, when all was silent, as the warriors never yelled after they dropped their guns, 15 of their packs were found, and ten of ther guns was got out of the river by our best swimmers, two of the Indians that were nearest the bank were got out, and left a prey to the buzzards and wild beasts on the bank.  Parker’s property was nearly all obtained, and his money was found in one of the shot-bags found in the river in his own pocket book, his name being written in several places.  On of the number of these marauders was from every appearance a white man, from his dress and complexion : it was in the shot-bag carried by him, that the money was found ; he was never seen to climb up the opposite bank, so he has paid for his treachery : the six that got across the river reached the bank naked, except their flaps ; we trust this rebuke will be a caution to the next party that may try to pass through our country.
     I have the honor to be your excellency’s most obedient and humble servant,

LEVI J. KNIGHT.

N. B.  We had but two commissioned officers among us, and they both captains, who only filled the place of privates as the company claimed the right of choosing their own leaders.  I forgot to state that myself was chosen to lead  on the trailers, Ivy Simmons to second, and Wm. C. Knight third or in the rear.
L. J. K.

P. S. – Their guns and ammunition and property of every kind was sold on the spot, and the proceeds given to Wm. Peters, as he was the only sufferer – their property amounted to $170.  They had some valuable guns.

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Samuel Register and the East Florida Militia

According to Folks Huxford, Samuel Register came from Appling County to Lowndes County, GA about 1826 and settled in the 10th Land District near Possum Branch, not too far from the homestead of Levi J. Knight and the future site of Ray City, GA. Samuel Register’s place later became the farm of Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw.

Samuel Register was born in Sampson County, North Carolina on December 1, 1786, almost three years before that state would ratify the U.S. Constitution. He was a son of Dorcas and John Register.

Some time before 1804 Samuel Register came with his family to Bulloch County, GA where he apparently made his home for some 20 years, although there is no records to show that he ever owned land there. In  April of 1806 he married Elizabeth Skinner, a native of South Carolina.

When the U.S. went to war with Britain from 1812-1815 in response to British actions against American expansion and trade, it appears that  Samuel Register, like other Wiregrass pioneers (see Dryden Newbern)  joined the  Georgia Militia.   In the War of 1812 the Georgia Militia was occupied with three main theaters of operation: the Creek War of 1813-14, the British blockade, and the British occupation of St. Marys and Cumberland Island in 1814-15.  British  control of St. Marys, GA would have disturbed the economy of the entire Wiregrass region, interrupting trade on the Alachua Trail which ran from the Altamaha River through Centerville, GA, then across the St. Marys River and into  East Florida. The resistance of the Georgia Militia against the British incursions is described  in the New Georgia Encyclopedia  article on the War of 1812.

After the War of 1812, Samuel and Elizabeth remained in Bulloch county. GA until about 1824 when they moved to Appling County, and then on to Lowndes county in 1826.  In 1827,  Samuel Register  received a draw in the land lotteries for his service as a soldier in the War of 1812.

The land lotteries, legitimized by questionable and coercive treaties, continued the encroachment by settlers on the ancestral lands of Native Americans in Georgia, inevitably leading to conflict.  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 conflict between the Wiregrass pioneers and the resistant Indians erupted in 1836, local militia fought engagements in Berrien county.

In the summer of 1836, a company of militia under Capt. Levi J. Knight of near Ray City was sent to protect the settlers from marauding Indians on their way to join the Seminoles in Florida.  When a party of Indians plundered the plantation of William Parker, near Milltown, the militia pursued them N. E. across the county overtaking them near Gaskins Pond not far from the Alapaha River.  Several were killed and some injured as the Indians fled across the river.  A few days later the militia encountered more Indians at Brushy Creek and ran them off.  That was the last real battle with the Indians in this section.

Across the state line in Florida,  actions against Indians were being fought by militia on a regular basis. The Battle of San Felasco Hammock was fought  September 18, 1836, when a force of 25 US Army Regulars and 100 horse-mounted militia from Fort Gilleland, with 25 armed residents of Newnansville, FL engaged and routed about 300 Indians led by Seminole Chief John Jumper. Fort Gilleland, a picketed fortification located south of the Santa Fe River at Newnansville in present day Alachua County, FL, was one of a string of forts stretching from Jacksonville, FL to Clay’s Landing, at the mouth of the Suwanee River.  Newnansville,  the largest inland town in East Florida, was strategically located at the junction of the Jacksonville road and the Bellamy Road which ran from St. Augustine west to Tallahassee and Pensacola. Newnansville was about about 80 miles southeast of Troupville,  in Lowndes County, GA.

In the spring of 1837 militia troops from Lowndes county were sent across the state line to join the forces at Fort Gilleland:

Jacksonville Courier
Jacksonville, May 11, 1837

—Extract of a letter from Col. Mills, to the Editor, dated Fort Gilliland, May 8.

“Major Staniford, with two companies of the 2d Infantry, arrived here yesterday in obedience to orders from Maj. Gen. Jesup, from Lowndes county, Georgia, and are here encamped, awaiting orders.” 

The following summer, in 1837, Samuel Register and other Lowndes county men went south to join the East Florida Volunteer militia to fight against the Indians on the Florida frontier. According to the records of the Florida Department of Military Affairs, Register traveled first to Fort Palmetto, on the Suwanee River at Fanning Springs, FL.

Samuel Register and his sons, David and John,   served with “Captain John J. Johnson’s Company of the 2nd Regiment, East Florida Mounted Volunteers, commanded by Colonel William J. Mills, ordered into the service of the United States by Major General Thomas J. Jessup under the Act of Congress approved May 23d 1836, for six months from the 16th day of June 1837 to the 18th day of December 1837.  Company enrolled at Fort Palmetto, Florida, and marched sixty miles to place of rendezvous at Fort Gilliland, Fla. Company mustered in by Lieutenant W. Wall, 3d Artillery.”

His son-in-law, John Tomlinson, and two other Registers in this same service and company: Samuel Register Jr and John Register, Jr..  Seaborn Lastinger, of Lowndes County, served as a private; he would be shot for desertion during the Civil War. James B. Johnson and Young Johnson , grand uncles of JHP Johnson of Ray City, served in the Florida Drafted Mounted Militia.

Muster Roll of East Florida Volunteers

Muster Roll of East Florida Volunteers

http://archive.org/stream/floridamilitiamu05morr#page/n71/mode/1up

Muster Roll of Captain John J. Johnson's Mounted Company of the 2d Regiment of East Florida Volunteers, 2d Brigade of Florida Militia, Commanded by Colonel William J. Mills.

Muster Roll of Captain John J. Johnson’s Mounted Company of the 2d Regiment of East Florida Volunteers, 2d Brigade of Florida Militia, Commanded by Colonel William J. Mills.

http://archive.org/stream/floridamilitiamu05morr#page/n72/mode/1up

Muster Roll of Captain John J. Johnson's Mounted Company of the 2d Regiment of East Florida Volunteers, 2d Brigade of Florida Militia, Commanded by Colonel William J. Mills.

Muster Roll of Captain John J. Johnson’s Mounted Company of the 2d Regiment of East Florida Volunteers, 2d Brigade of Florida Militia, Commanded by Colonel William J. Mills.

Samuel Register was honorably discharged at Newnansville in December, 1837. He subsequently “served another enlistment in the Indian War under the same Capt Johnson (April 1, 1838-July 31, 1838). He also served a third term under this same Capt Johnson in the Georgia mounted Militia (Aug 25, 1840-Oct 18, 1840). On his Bounty Land application dated Nov 23, 1850, he was granted 160 acres of land for this service. His son-in-law John Tomlinson (husband of Zilpha) who served in the same military unit was granted 80 acres of land for his services”

Between 1840 and 1842, Samuel Register sold out his home-place in the 10th District, and moved from Possum Branch to the 11th Land District where he acquired Land Lot 500.   This lot was in that part of Lowndes county that was cut into the new county of Clinch in 1850, and in 1920 was cut out of Clinch into Lanier County.

In 1856, it was a great boon to Register when the Atlantic & Gulf railroad was charted  to run   from a connection with the Savannah, Albany & Gulf railroad at Screven, by way of his land to Thomasville. But when the surveyors for the new railroad  selected a route through Valdosta bypassing Troupville, that old town was doomed.   Register had a portion of Lot 500 platted into town lots and founded the town of “Registerville.” Although when the railroad people came through, they changed the name to “Stockton”, in honor of one of their contractors, a Mr. Stockton, who had charge of the road construction.

Children of Samuel Register and Elizabeth Skinner:

  1. Zilpha Register, born Feb. 4, 1807, married her first cousin John Tomlinson.
  2. Eady (Edith) Register, born Mar. 1, 1809, married Thomas Mathis Nov. 1, 1826 in Lowndes County.
  3. Guilford Register, born Jan. 7, 1811, married Priscilla Ann DeVane.
  4. David Register, born Apr. 10, 1813, married Matilda McDaniel of Bulloch County.
  5. William Register, born Sept. 24, 1814, married Luraney Harnage from Liberty County.
  6. John Register,  born June 10, 1819, married 1st Elizabeth Cowart, 2nd.Mary Ann Fiveash.
  7. Rebecca Register, born Apr. 5, 1821, married Reverend Hillery Cowart of Echols County.
  8. Phoebe Register, born Aug. 15, 1823, married Zachariah Lee of Clinch County.
  9. Jincy Register, born June 15, 1824, married Moses C. Lee of Berrien County.
  10. Ivy Register, born Apr. 22, 1825, married 1st Leta Lee, married 2nd Lavinia Arnold
  11. Samuel E. Register, born Sept. 16, 1826, married 1st Seneth Lee, married 2nd Mary Hutto, married 3rd Josephine Guthrie, lived in Berrien County.
  12. Elizabeth Register, born Aug. 21, 1828, married William Patten of present Lanier County.
  13. Reubin Register, born Nov. 25, 1830, married Harriet Brown, lived in present Berrien co.
  14. Martha Register, born Dec. 18, 1831, married Hillery P. Mathis of present Lanier co.

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Portrait of Hardeman Giddens and Martha Gaskins

Several previous posts have related events in the life of Hardeman Giddens (Hardeman Giddens and the Big Fishing Frolic,   Georgia Gossip about Hardeman Giddens, Civil War Bullet Dodger Hardeman Giddens Finally Catches One in 1887) Here is a portrait of Hardeman Giddens and Martha Jane Gaskins.

Portrait of Martha Jane Gaskins and Hardeman Giddens.

Portrait of Martha Jane Gaskins and Hardeman Giddens.

Hardeman Giddens was born in 1844 in that part of Lowndes County which was later cut in Berrien County, GA. He was a son of Jacob Giddens and Sarah Ann “Annie” Sirmans. Giddens served with the Berrien Minutemen during the Civil War. After the war Hardeman Giddens married the twice-widowed Martha J. Gaskins. She was a daughter of Harmon Gaskins and Malissa Rowland Rouse, born February 16,  1838 in Lowdnes Co, GA.  Martha, married first to Thomas Connell who was killed in the civil war; second to William Parker who died three months later; third husband, Hardeman Giddens, was a first cousin on her mother’s side.

In the 1900s the Giddens lived and farmed near Ray City, GA

Children of Martha Jane Gaskins and Hardeman Giddens:

  1. James Monroe Giddens, (1871-1951)
  2. Infant Son Giddens, (1874)
  3. Lyman Franklin Giddens, (1877-1963)
  4. Infant Son Giddens (1878)
  5. William Silas Giddens (1881-1943)

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Bryan J. Robert’s Account of the Last Indian Fight in Berrien County

Bryan J. Roberts, and his brothers Nathan and John, were among Levi J. Knight’s company of men who fought in the Indian Wars of 1836.  Many published accounts of the pioneer skirmishes with Native Americans at  William Parker’s place on the Alapaha River and at Brushy Creek have been related on the Ray City History Blog.

Here is the story the way it was told by B. J. Roberts 50 years after the event:

The Valdosta Times
May 14, 1887

INDIAN FIGHTERS

A Brief Account of the Fighting In This Section In 1836.

Mr. Bryan J. Roberts, father of Mr. W. K. Roberts of this place, is one of the pioneers of Lowndes, and has seen service as an Indian fighter in this and Clinch counties.  He is now in his 78th year and is spending the evening of his life very happily among his devoted children, having a few years ago divided a fine property among them, reserving for himself a sufficiency for his simple needs.  His children are all prospering and he is happy in seeing them happy.

In 1836 the rumors of depredations and murders by Indians in other portions of the State caused widespread alarm in this section, and the citizens organized companies for the protection of their families and property.  Capt. Levi J. Knight commanded the company to which Mr. Roberts belonged.

This company was on duty one hundred and five days, and during that time engaged in two bloody fights with the red skins.

In August, 1835, a squad of Indians raided Mr. William Parker’s home, not far from Milltown.  They carried his feather beds out into the yard; cut them open, emptied the feathers, cut and carried the ticks with them.  They also robbed him of provisions, clothing, and $208.25 in money.

Capt. Knight’s company was soon on the trail of this squad and in a short time overtook them near the Alapaha river, not far from the Gaskins 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 the complete routing 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 threw into the river and tried to throw a shot bag, but it was caught by the limb of a tree and was suspended over the water.  This bag contained Mr. Parker’s money, every cent of which he recovered as well as all the other property taken from his house. The fine gun was fished out of the river and, afterwards sold for $40, a tremendous price for a gun in those days.  In the fight Mr. Peters was shot with this same gun.  One buck-shot struck him just above the waist-band of his pants, passed through and lodged under the skin near the backbone. He was also struck by two shot in the left side, which made only slight wounds.  The Indian was not more than thirty yards distant when he shot him.  Mr. Peters recovered from his wounds in less than twelve months.

Having driven the Indians into the dense swamp beyond the river, Capt. Knight marched his company as rapidly as possible in the direction of Brushy creek, in the Southwestern portion of the county.  When they arrived near that place, they heard a volley of small arms, and on arrival found that the battle had been fought and that the volley they heard was the last tribute of respect over the grave of their brave comrade-in-arms, Pennywell Folsom.  Edwin Shanks and a man named Ferrell were also shot dead in the fight.  Edwin Henderson was mortally wounded and died near the battlefield.  Mr. Robert Parrish, Sr., who lives near Adel, had his arm broken by a bullet in this fight. The Indians lost 27 killed and a number wounded.  We have no account of any prisoners being taken.  The battle of Brushy Creek was fought in a low, marshy swamp where Indian cunning was pitted against the invincible courage of the Anglo-Saxon, and in five minutes after the fight opened there was not a live red skin to be seen.

From this place Capt. Knight marched his company to what is now Clinch county.  He overtook the Indians at Cow Creek, where a sharp engagement took place, resulting in the killing of three and the taking of five prisoners. Mr. Brazelius Staten was dangerously wounded in this fight but finally recovered.

This ended the Indian fighting in which Capt. Knight’s company were engaged. Half a century has passed since then.  Nearly all the actors in that brief but bloody drama are at rest beyond the stars. A few of them are still among us, the valiant pioneers of this country, who bared their breasts to the bullets of the savages in order that their descendants might possess this fair land in peace.

The following is a list, as near as can now be ascertained, of the living and dead of Capt. Knight’s company.  The company numbered 120 men, many of whom came from neighboring counties, whose names cannot now be recalled.

LIVING–Bryan J. Roberts, Moses Giddens, John Studstill, Jonathan Studstill, Aaron Knight, Guilford Register, Echols county.) David Clements, William Giddens, John and Nathan Roberts, Fla.) (Zeke Parrish, Lowndes county,) John McMillain, John McDermid and Robert Parrish.

DEAD–George Henedge, Jeremiah Shaw, Daniel Sloan, John Lee, Moses Lee, James Patten, William J. Roberts, Isben Giddens, Jacob Giddens, Elbert Peterson, John Knight, Thomas Giddens, Harmon Gaskins, John Gaskins, William Gaskins, Sam Lee, Frederick Giddens, James Parrish, Martin Shaw, Archie McCranie, Daniel McCranie, Malcom McCranie, Alexander Patterson, James Edmondson, David Mathis, Thomas Mathis, Levi Shaw, William Peters, Jonathan Knight, Levi J. Knight and Brazelias Staten.

The Indians who passed through here belonged to the Creek Nation and were on their way from Roanoke to Florida to join the Seminoles.  They were first discovered in this county by Samuel Mattox, at Poplar Head, near where Mr. Tom Futch now lives.  Mattox was afterward hanged for murdering the fifteen-year-old son of Mr. Moses Slaughter.  Most of these Indians reached the Okeefenokee Swamp where they were joined by a large band of Seminoles.  From then until 1839 these savages did much damage to the white settlers in the vicinity of the Swamp, but in that year they were driven out and took refuge in the Everglades, where they were, with the exception of a small number, finally captured and sent to Arkansas.
Since the above was put in type another of the gallant old Indian fighters, Mr. Aaron Knight, has joined his comrades beyond the stars.

A 1915 reprint of this article also  noted “The Malcolm McCranie referred to was the father of Mr. Geo. F. McCranie, cashier of the Bank of Willacoochee and Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners of Coffee.”

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Etheldred Dryden Newbern ~ Pioneer Settler

Etheldred Dryden Newbern was a pioneer settler of Berrien County and a noted participant in the last Indian encounters in Berrien County (see Martha Guthrie: Babe of the Indian Wars).

Monument for Etheldred Dryden Newbern, buried at Wayfare Church Cemetery near Statenville, GA. Newbern was one of the pioneer settlers of Berrien County.

Monument for Etheldred Dryden Newbern, buried at Wayfare Church Cemetery near Statenville, GA. Newbern was one of the pioneer settlers of Berrien County.

The Newbern’s homestead was located on the east bank of Five Mile Creek, perhaps about eight miles northeast of Ray City. This was probably somewhere in the present day vicinity of the Highway 168 bridge over Five Mile Creek.

The Newberns were the nearest neighbors of Short-arm Billy Parker. The Parker place was located a few miles further to the east, at a spring on the Alapaha River. When marauding Indians  came by the Parker place in 1836, Mrs. Parker and her daughters fled to the Newberns:

…the women ran through the field , a back way, a distance of five miles to the home of Dread Newborn.

Arriving there she related what she had seen, as fast as her fright and exhaustion would allow, for she had run every step of the way, and she was almost overcome with heat and fatigue. On learning this Mr. Newbern realized that the cause of their own experiences of the night before when the horses had become greatly frightened, snorting and breaking out of the horse lot and coming back the next morning. It was supposed that they had become frightened at the sight of the Indians who were prowling around the neighborhood to steal.

A company of men soon collected together, under the command of George Peterson, Dread Newborn, William Parker, and others. The Indians were overtaken at the Allapaha river and three were killed, others made their escape but were overtaken at the St. Illa river [Satilla], at what is now known as Indian Lake, about two miles northeast of the town of Axson, Ga. They were all shot and killed, except one squaw; it was reported that she was captured and shot. Dread Newborn, the son of Dread Newborn, who followed the Indians, informs me that the Indian woman was kept in prison for a while and then by direction of the government was returned to her own people.

Etheldred Dryden Newbern, called Dryden or Dred by some, was born 1794 in South Carolina. He was the eldest son of Thomas Newbern.  Folks Huxford said the name of Dryden’s mother was not known, but some Internet genealogies indicate she was Nancy Christian.   Dryden’s grandfather, also called Thomas Newbern, was a revolutionary soldier.

About 1798 Dryden’s father, Thomas Newbern, brought the family from South Carolina to Georgia,  Thomas Newbern served as a lieutenant and captain in the Bulloch County militia.

Dryden’s mother died about 1803 when he was a boy, probably nine or ten years of age.  His father, a widower with seven young children, quickly remarried and Dryden was raised into manhood by his stepmother,  Kizzie Collins.  Some time prior to 1815, Thomas Newbern moved the family to Tatnall County, where he was elected Justice of the Peace.

It is said that Dryden Newbern served in the War of 1812, although no documentation is known to exist other than the testimony of his son, Dred Newbern. Dryden would have been 18 years old at the time the war broke out, and considering the military legacy of his father and grandfather,  his  service in the Georgia Militia seems reasonable.  In 1814, the British forces occupied St. Marys, GA, which would have disrupted the economy of the entire region. The British occupation certainly interrupted trade on the Alachua Trail which ran from the Altamaha River through Centerville, GA, then across the St. Marys River and into  East Florida. The resistance of the Georgia Militia against the British and St. Marys and other coastal Georgia incursions is described  in the New Georgia Encyclopedia  article on the War of 1812.

About 1823, Thomas Newbern relocated the family again, this time moving to  Appling County and homesteading on a site about five miles northwest of present day Blackshear, GA. Dryden Newbern, now a man of 29, apparently came along with his father to Appling county for there, in 1823, Dryden married.  His bride was Elizabeth  “Betsy” Sirmans, a daughter of Artie Hardeman and Josiah Sirmans, Sr.  Of her father, Huxford wrote, “According to the best available information, the first permanent white settlers in what is now Clinch County were Josiah Sirmans, Sr., and his family.”

About Dryden’s father, Huxford’s History of Clinch County relates the following:

 OF the Clinch County Newberns, Thomas Newbern was the progenitor. This old pioneer came to this section from South Carolina and settled in what is now Ware County, about 1820. He was married twice. By his first marriage he had three children, viz. : John, William C, and Dryden Newbern. By his second marriage he had five children, viz. : George W. Newbern ; Cassie, who first married Martin Nettles and later Chas. A. Griffis; Lucretia, who married Jack Lee ; also a daughter who married James Sweat, and one who married John Sweat. Thomas Newbern was a prominent citizen of his time. He was elected surveyor of Ware County and commissioned February nth, 1828.  Two years later he was elected a justice of the Inferior Court of Ware County, to which he was commissioned April 28th, 1830. He was also commissioned justice of the peace of the 451 district of Ware County, April 3d, 1833. He is the fore-father of many of Clinch’s prominent citizens.

After their marriage in 1823, it appear that Betsy and Dryden Newbern for a time made their home in Appling County, near the homestead of Dryden’s parents. In 1825, their farms were cut into Ware County into the 584th  Georgia Militia District. From 1825 to 1827 Dryden Newbern served as the First Lieutenant of the militia in the 584th district.

About 1828, Betsy and Dryden moved their young family to Lowndes County (now Berrien) to a site on Five Mile Creek.  They established a homestead about  seven or eight miles northeast of the home of Levi J. Knight,  who had settled a few years earlier on Beaver Dam Creek at the site of present day Ray City, GA. In Lowndes County, Dryden was elected First Lieutenant of the militia in the 664th district. Levi J. Knight was the Justice of the Peace in this district.

At that time the land was still unsettled ,  and the Native Americans who had occupied the territory for so long in advance of white settlers were  being driven out of their ancestral lands.  As Wiregrass historian Montgomery Folsom said, ” The Indians were goaded into madness.”  When open conflict with the Indians emerged in 1836,  Dryden Newbern was one of the first responders in the area.  Sending out the alarm when the Parker place on the Alapaha River was raided, he was among the leaders in the skirmish that routed the Indians (see Short-Arm Bill Parker and the Last Indian Fight In Berrien County). In the Indian Wars,  Ethedred Dryden Newbern served as a  private in Captain Levi J. Knights Independent Militia Company.

Huxford says the land on Five Mile Creek where  Betsy and Dryden Newbern established their Berrien County homestead later became the property of John Fender.  The Newberns then  acquired land a few miles to the east and moved there, making a home on the west side of the Alapaha River.   About 1865 they sold this property, which later came into the hands of George N. Sutton, and moved east to Clinch County. They purchased Lot 256 in the 10th Land District and made their home there for  several years.  When their youngest daughter, Sarah “Sallie” Newbern, and  and her husband, William Franklin Kirkland, moved to Echols County, the elderly Newberns moved with them.  In Echols county, the Newberns purchased land and a herd of cattle; the late 1860s and early 1870s were a time of expansion in Georgia livestock production.

In 1874 Etheldred Dryden Newbern suffered a “rupture” and died.  He was buried in an unmarked grave at Wayfare Church, Echols county, GA.  A monument has been placed in the cemetery in his memory.

Children of Etheldred Dryden Newbern and Elizabeth “Betsy” Sirmans:

  1. Benjamin Newbern (1824-1895) married Nancy Griffin, daughter of Noah H. Griffin. In the Civil War enlisted in 9th FL Regiment. Burial at Wayfare Church Cemetery.
  2. Rachel Newbern (1826-) married Ashley Winn and moved to Florida. Burial at New River Cemetery, Bradford County, GA
  3. Thomas “Tom” Newbern (1828-1877) married Elizabeth Moore, daughter of John Moore. In the Civil War enlisted in Company G, 29th GA Regiment as a private in 1861.
  4. Caroline Newbern (1829-1891) married Edward Morris. Burial  at Arna Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Atkinson County, GA.
  5. Joseph Newbern (1834 – ) married Emily Gaskins, daughter of John Gaskins.
  6. Martha Newbern (1836-1925) married Samuel Guthrie. Burial at Guthrie Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.
  7. John Ashley Newbern (1839-1864) married Mrs. Sarah Ann Sirmans Gaskins, widow of John Elam Gaskins. In the Civil War joined Company H, 29th GA Regiment. Killed in action near Atlanta, GA in 1864. Burial at Arna Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Atkinson County, GA..
  8. Etheldred Dred Newbern (1844-1933) married Wealthy Corbitt, daughter of Elisha Corbitt. In the Civil War enlisted in Company I, 50th GA Regiment.  Burial at Arna Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Atkinson County, GA..
  9. Berrien A. Newbern (1845-1863) never married. In the Civil War enlisted in Company H, 29th GA Regiment. Died of wounds received in battle in Benton, MS on 26 June 1863. Burial at Arna Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Atkinson County, GA.
  10. Sarah “Sallie” Newbern (1848-1921), born November 7, 1849; married William Franklin Kirkland. Died July 13, 1921. Burial at North Cemetery, Dupont, Clinch County, GA.

Related articles

Pennywell Folsom Fell at Brushy Creek

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. – Lucian Lamar Knight

Grave marker of Pennywell Folsom, Roundtree cemetery (aka Evergreen Cemetery), Cook County, GA

Grave marker of Pennywell Folsom, Rountree Cemetery (aka Evergreen Cemetery), Cook County, GA

Pennywell Folsom fell in the first volley fired in the Battle of Brushy Creek, fought in July, 1836. After the fighting was over, Captain Hamilton Sharpe carried Folsom from the battlefield on horseback, but the mortally wounded soldier could not long survive. Folsom was carried back to the fort at the Rachel Morrison place (now the property of the Rountree family) near the Little River, where he was buried in a lone grave. Sharpe’s Company fired a volley of gunfire over the grave in salute to their fallen comrade. As that final tribute sounded through the forest, Captain Levi J. Knight and his company of men arrived on the scene. (Levi J. Knight was the original settler on the site of present day Ray City, GA.) Knight’s company had marched 30 miles from the Alapaha River where they had skirmished with Indians at the homeplace of William Parker (see Short-Arm Bill Parker and the Last Indian Fight In Berrien County, and Levi J. Knight Reports Indian Fight of July 13, 1836.)

Fifty years after the event, Montgomery M. Folsom reflected on the death of his kinsman:

The Atlanta Constitution
June 24, 1885 Pg 2

Down the River

The Folsom bridge, a noted crossing place, spans the [Little] river here. In the olden time a party of road cutters under the command of General Coffee passed through south Georgia from east to west. At this point they crossed the river. If you were to ask the old settlers they would show you the blazes on the pine trees that were made long ago. 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. The hunters of Coffee’s party were Isham Jordan and Kenneth Swain. The song that was made by the hardy pioneers has been given to posterity as follows:

“Yonder comes ole Isham Jordan,
That ole ‘onest huntin’ man.
Glorious tidin’s he doth bring,
Swain has kilt another turkey hent.

We’ll allow the New Convention;
We’ll all allow the rights of men;
We’ll allay the Injun nation;
The volunteers and the drafted men.”

About a mile and a half from the bridge, eastward, the ancestor of the Folsom’s settled. It had been a populous Indian town, and there are in existence to day, a tomahawk, a sofka pestle, a small cannon ball, and innumerable arrow-heads and skinning knifes of flint that were found there. The old gentleman had erected a strong block house, and when there was an alarm of Indians, the women and children were carried there, and the old men and boys left to defend them while the ablebodied once sallied forth to meet the foe. From this fort they marched forth to the bloody encounter at Brushy creek. The Indians had been goaded to madness. They were concealed in the dark swamp, and awaited in silence the approach of the whites. Penuel Folsom had made his will before leaving home, and when the soldiers were all drawn up at a safe distance from the enemy, and the scouts were cautiously advancing, he and Orville Shanks dashed forward with a yell and received the fire of a dozen unerring rifles. Shanks fell dead, and Folsom desperately wounded, was carried from the field, after the battle was over, behind Captain Sharpe who rode a powerful horse. When they halted he was laid down on the green grass and breathed his last. Some years ago I visited his grave in a lonely spot in the heart of one of the gloomiest forests of Berrien county. – Montgomery M. Folsom

There is a more detailed account of the Battle of Brushy Creek given at the Early History of Lowndes County and Valdosta , Georgia website:

Levi J. Knight described the fight to the governor, who later commended Knight and his comrades for their bravery. Knight wrote that both Enoch Hall and Hamilton Sharpe were in charge of companies of militia. In the course of tracking the Indians through Lowndes, fifteen men commanded by Captain Sharpe formed a battalion with thirty-one men from Thomas County after they discovered Indians in the fork of the Little River and Big Warrior Creek. Following the trail for three miles down the east side of the river, Sharpe and his soldiers encountered about sixty warriors and their families. In the ensuing fight, Captain Sharpe lost one man, Mr. P. Folsom, and one wounded, when he was forced to retreat. Reinforced by the remainder of the battalion, the Lowndes men pursued the Indians for another three miles and found them on a pine ridge, their rear protected by a cypress pond, and in their front a wide, open, boggy meadow. A general engagement commended about 9 o’clock a. m. and after a severe fight for two hours, the Indians were completely routed, with a loss of twenty-two Indians and two Negroes killed, that were seen, and many wounded. Of the militia, Bartow Ferrell of Thomas County and Edwin D. Shanks of Lowndes County were killed and nine wounded.

Norman Campbell, John McDermott, Robert N. Parrish, Pennywell Folsom, Ashley Lawson, Edwin D. Shanks, West Roundtree and others were among those going to the battle from around Troupville.

Knight’s Company and other militia units would continue to pursue the Indians across Berrien county. A few weeks later, the militia caught up with an Indian band in southeast Berrien county at a place called Cow Creek.

THE ROUNTREE CEMETERY

Pennywell Folsom no longer lies alone in deep Georgia woods. Around his grave, the Rountrees placed their own dead, until this burying ground became known as the Rountree Cemetery. This cemetery is located in present day Cook county , on Evergreen Church Road (CR 99), near the intersection with Rountree Bridge Road (CR 251) (see map). Around 1945, the present Evergreen Church was constructed adjacent to Rountree Cemetery, the original church building located on Rountree Bridge Road having been destroyed by fire.

Notes on Pennywell Folsom:
Pennywell Folsom was born in 1810 in Hawkinsville, GA. He was a son of Edith Pennywell and George Folsom. His father served during the War of 1812 in the Georgia Militia under Captain Allen Tooke builing forts on the frontier of Pulaski County to defend against Indian attacks.

When Pennywell was about 10 years old, around 1819, his father died. Pennywell became a ward of his uncle William Folsom and moved to Lowndes County (then Irwin County.)

According to Internet histories, Pennywell Folsom married Mary Ann McLeod about 1827. Their children were:

  1. Anna Jane Folsom 1828 – 1830
  2. Chloe Ann Folsom 1830 – 1906
  3. Bryant P. Folsom 1832 – 1864
  4. Anna America Folsom 1833 – 1912
  5. Edieth Folsom 1833 – 1907
  6. Emily Folsom 1835 – 1908

Captain Hamilton Sharpe, who led the Lowndes militia at the Battle of Brushy Creek, served as the administrator of Pennywell Folsom’s estate:

Captain Hamilton Sharpe administered the estate of Pennywell Folsom, killed under Sharpe's command at the Battle of Brushy Creek, July 1836.

Captain Hamilton Sharpe administered the estate of Pennywell Folsom, killed under Sharpe’s command at the Battle of Brushy Creek, July 1836.

Southern Recorder
August 23, 1836

Georgia, Lowndes County

Whereas Hamilton W. Sharpe applies to me for letters of administration, on the estate of Pennywell Folsom 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 prescribed by law, to shew cause (if any they have,) why said letters of administration should not be granted.
Given under my hand, at office, this 1st day of August, 1836.

WILLIAM SMITH, Cl’k c.c.
August 16 31 5t

Historical Marker ~ Last Indian Fight in Berrien County

Previous posts have recounted the 1836 engagements with Native Americans in Berrien County, GA ( Martha Guthrie: Babe of the Indian Wars, Short-Arm Bill Parker and the Last Indian Fight, Berrien Skirmishes, the Battle of Brushy Creek, and the Indian Maiden)  The action is also briefly summarized on a historical marker on the courthouse lawn in Nashville, GA.

A historical marker on the lawn of the Berrien County, GA courthouse notes the last local conflict with Native Americans in 1836.

A historical marker on the lawn of the Berrien County, GA courthouse notes the last local conflict with Native Americans in 1836.

INDIAN FIGHTS

In the summer of 1836, a company of militia under Capt. Levi J. Knight of near Ray City was sent to protect the settlers from marauding Indians on their way to join the Seminoles in Florida.  When a party of Indians plundered the plantation of William Parker, near Milltown, the militia pursued them N. E. across the county overtaking them near Gaskins Pond not far from the Alapaha River.  Several were killed and some injured as the Indians fled across the river.  A few days later the militia encountered more Indians at Brushy Creek and ran them off.  That was the last real battle with the Indians in this section.

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.

Short-Arm Bill Parker and the Last Indian Fight In Berrien County

In 1836, a band of Indians raided the homestead of William Parker, pioneer settler of Berrien County.  Since the spring of that year, pioneers all across Wiregrass Georgia had been facing increasing hostilities from the Native Americans who were being forced out of their ancestral lands.

A previous post recounted a story by Martha Guthrie, and the role of her family in the last Indian encounters in Berrien County (see Martha Guthrie: Babe of the Indian Wars).  Her parents, Dred Newbern and Bettsy Sirmons, were the nearest neighbors of William Parker. The Newbern’s homestead was located on the east bank of Five Mile Creek, perhaps about eight miles northeast of Ray City. This was probably somewhere in the present day vicinity of the Highway 168 bridge over Five Mile Creek. The Parker place was located a few miles further to the east, at the Alapaha River.

Coffee County historian Warren Preston Ward gave the following 1922 account of the raid on the Parker place, which was a prelude to the Battle of Brushy Creek.   According to Ward, the timing of the event was in the winter of 1836, but the letters of Levi J. Knight state the engagement occurred on July 12, 1836:

Short-Arm Bill Parker and the Last Indian Fight In Berrien County

The Atlanta Constitution
Warren Preston Ward
December 6, 1922 pg F15

About the year 1836 William Parker, (Short-Arm Bill) as he was called, and the father of C.G.W. Parker, and later a well-known doctor, was living in Berrien county on the old Patterson place. 

One winter day when Mr. Parker was away from home, several Indians appeared at the foot of the hill, at a spring, where the family got water. It is said that the Indians began to beat on logs, thereby attracting the attention of the people.  It appears that the Indians meant to rob and not to murder, but as there were no men at home the women ran through the field , a back way, a distance of five miles to the home of Dread Newborn. The Indians robbed the house, broke open a trunk and got $300 in cash, cut the feather beds open, emptied the feathers out and took the ticks with them.  A company of men soon collected together, under the command of George Peterson, Dread Newborn, William Parker, and others.  The Indians were overtaken at the Allapaha river and three were killed, others made their escape but were overtaken at the St. Illa river, at what is now known as Indian Lake, about two miles northeast of the town of Axson, Ga.  They were all shot and killed, except one squaw; it was reported that she was captured and shot.  Dread Newborn, the son of Dread Newborn, who followed the Indians, informs me that the Indian woman was kept in prison for a while and then by direction of the government was returned to her own people. About this time a whole family by the  name of Wilds was killed by the Indians, near Waresboro, Ga.  One little boy, Reuben Wilds, made his escape.  Of course there are a great many Indian stories, but the narratives I have given you are facts testified to by living witnesses and most worthy tradition, for the first time they are put into history of the Wiregrass country.

1927 Atlanta Journal account of the massacre of the Wildes family, 1832.

1927 Atlanta Journal account of the massacre of the Wildes family, July 22, 1838.

The Wildes Family Massacre

I will tell you one more incident, because it puts the ingenuity of white men to test against the cunningness of the Indians.  It is only through tradition that I have been able to get this story, which  runs thus: Way back in the early days people living in south Georgia had no markets near and so the people would gather their little plunder together, go in carts to Centerville on the St. Maria river, in Camden county, Ga.  The Indians robbed and killed a good many of these people going to market, at a point near the Okefenokee swamp.  A company [under Captain Elias Waldron] of brave pioneers decided to put a stop to this nefarious business, and, if possible, make it safe for people to go to market.  And so with guns and such other necessaries as they would need, they went to the point near the Okefenokee swamp and pitched their camp, they cut small logs into pieces five or six feet long, about the length of a man. They laid the logs around the camp fire and covered them over with quilts and blankets. On the ends of the logs they placed hats and fixed it up in such a manner as to make it look very much like a bunch of travelers lying around the camp fire.  The men, with their guns, went a short distance from the camp fire and concealed themselves in the woods.  Away in the midnight hour, as the fire burned low, the pioneers saw the heads of Indians beginning to peep out from behind trees and stumps and from over logs. In a minute there was a volley of shots fired and the Indians sprang to their feet and with the war-whoop charged upon the campfire. As they pulled off the hats at the end of the logs, instead of finding the heads of white men they saw the joke.  For a moment they stood still in bewilderment; at that moment every Indian was shot dead, not one of them made his escape.  Every hat had a bullet hole in it. That was the last of the robberies committed at Centerville by the Indians…
By the year 1841 there was not an Indian in Georgia, who had a right to be here.  The people of Georgia, and especially south Georgia, were happy indeed to be rid of the Indians and to have the Wiregrass land without fear of molestation.  Some one wrote a song, about this time, which reads as follows:

“No more shall the sound of the war whoop be heard
The ambush and slaughter no longer be feared,
The tommy hawk buried shall rest in the ground.
And peace and good will to the nation round.”

More about the Wildes Family

Martha Guthrie: Babe of the Indian Wars

Before her death Martha Guthrie, born amid the conflict of the Indian Wars of 1836-38 related the role of her family in that conflict. The Newbern homestead was located on the east bank of Five Mile Creek, perhaps about eight miles northeast of Ray City, GA.  This was probably somewhere in the present day vicinity of the Highway 168 bridge over Five Mile Creek.

Martha Newbern Guthrie was born April 10, 1836,  the daughter of Dred Newbern and Bettsy Sirmons. In the spring of that year, pioneers all across Wiregrass Georgia were facing increasing hostilities from the Native Americans who were being forced out of their ancestral lands.

The skirmish at William Parker’s place, on the Alapaha River about five miles east from the Newbern homestead, was a prelude to the Battle of Brushy Creek.

Here is Martha’s story, published many years ago, of the last Indian Fight in Berrien County:

    On the west side of the Alapaha River, six miles south of Bannockburn, on lot of land No. 201 in the 10th district of Berrien County, is a historic spring that is really entitled to be called Indian Spring, were it not that another spot in Georgia bears that name.
    On this lot of land in 1836 lived William Parker, who came to this section in search of a new home in new territory.  Four miles North and on lot No. 63 lived John Gaskins and his wife and four boys. Nearby lived William Peters and family.
    Four miles to the Southwest and on the East bank of Five Mile Creek lived Dred Newbern and his family (This [was later] known as the John Fender Place).
    William Gaskins lived further to the north where Bannockburn now is, while Harmon Gaskins lived west of the Parker Home five miles and on lot No. 172.  All this was then in Lowndes County.

Leaves for a Day

    One day in July 1836, William Parker had to be away from home, leaving his wife, small child and daughter, just entering her ‘teens, at home alone.  Mrs. Parker and her daughter did their washing down at the river bank at the spring mentioned above, and when the noon hour came they went back to the house some 300 yards distant to prepare and eat the noon-day meal. While so engaged they heard a noise down at the spring and on investigating were horrified to discover a band of Indians, dressed Indian fashion with headfeathers, assembled at the spring getting water.
    Hurriedly and cautiously Mrs. Parker sped back to the house and gathering up her baby, with her daughter, left quickly and set out to the west toward the home of Dryden Newbern.
    Arriving there she related what she had seen, as fast as her fright and exhaustion  would allow, for she had run every step of the way, and she was almost overcome with heat and fatigue.
    On learning this Mr. Newbern realized that the cause of their own experiences of the night before when the horses had become greatly frightened, snorting and breaking out of the horse lot and coming back the next morning.  It was supposed that they had become frightened at the sight of the Indians who were prowling around the neighborhood to steal.

Word Sent Out

  Quickly as possible, word was sent out by Mr. Newbern to his scattered neighbors.  The  women and children were gathered up and carried, some to Milltown  where they were placed in a strongly built gin house on the farm of Joshua Lee, while others were taken north to the home of John Marsh near where the S. B. Dorminey home is. A guard was left at each place for their protection and every able-bodied man that would be mustered returned to the Parker home and organized for action.
It was found that during the night the Indians had entered the homes of William Parker, Willis Peters and John Gaskins,  and finding no one at home proceeded to take out the feather beds, opened the ticks, emptied the feathers and appropriated the ticks.
They took other valuables including a shotbag from the Parker home containing his money,  a handsomely flowered pitcher from the Gaskins home, and other valuable articles which they thought they could carry.  They also obtained a small amount of sliver coins tied up in a rag from the Peters home.

Indians escape from first net

    Skirting the river on the West side and opposite the Parker home, is a hammocky swamp interspersed with spots of high ground and almost inaccessible to white men; and when the little band of white men arrived at the scene just after sunrise they could see the smoke of the Indian camp-fires rising in the center of the swamp.
William Peters was placed in command of the little band, because Capt. Levi J. Knight (in command of the militia at the time) had not arrived.  Orders were given to the men to entirely surround the Indian camp before firing a shot, if possible.
In the eagerness of the moment, however,  precautions were not observed and before the circle could be completed the Indians discovered the approach and opened fire; the whites returned the fire, and were horrified to see their leader, William Peters,  fall wounded through the front part of the abdomen by a bullet from a redskin gun.

Overtake Indians

    This so horrified and frustrated the whites until every Indian made his escape. As soon as the wounded man could be properly cared for and the whites being joined by others including Capt. Knight, gave pursuit and overtook the Indians while the last of the band was crossing the river, up near where the Withlacoochee bridge now stands, on the Nashville-Willacoochee road.
The whites pressed the Indians so hard and were so close in behind them until a portion of the plunder was thrown into the sloughs by the Indians, in order to allow swifter flight.
Among the articles thrown away were Mr. Parker’s shotbag containing his money, which was caught on a swinging limb and was suspended just under the water when found; the flowered pitcher taken from the Gaskin’s kitchen, and a shotgun (which was later sold for forty dollars),  also the small package of money taken from the Peters home, was found tied to a small bush under the water.  The river slough in which the pitcher was found has ever since been known as “Pitcher Slough.”
    The further progress of this band of Indians and their pursuers as they pushed their way through what is now Clinch county and the engagements near “Boggy Slough” and in which William Daughtry had a horse shot from under him and Barzilla Staten was dangerously wounded, is told by Folks Huxford in  his “History of Clinch County,” published in 1916.
The man who first discovered Mr. Parker’s shot bag containing his money was William Green Aikins.

Note–The forgoing episode was related to me by Mrs. Martha Guthrie, widow of Samuel Guthrie, and a daughter of Dred (or Dryden) Newbern and his wife, Elizabeth. Mrs. Guthrie was blind, but otherwise in full possession of all her faculties, and talked entertainingly of so many things that happened years ago.

The children of Martha Newbern and Samuel F. Guthrie:

  1. Lewis Guthrie  abt 1853 –
  2. Josephene Guthrie 1856 –
  3. Archibald Guthrie 1859 –
  4. Samuel Guthrie 1860 –
  5. Arren Horn Guthrie 1864 – 1932
  6. Dicey Guthrie 1866 – 1953
  7. James Berrien Guthrie 1868 – 1949
  8. Martha Guthrie 1870 –
  9. Linton Guthrie 1872 –
  10. Betty Guthrie 1874 –
  11. John Guthrie 1876 –
  12. Dread Guthrie 1879-