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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More About Troupville, GA and the Withlacoochee River

Montgomery M. Folsom

Montgomery M. Folsom, from his 1889 book, Scraps of Song and Southern Scenes.

Found this 1889 account of the history of  Troupville, GA by erstwhile Wiregrass historian, poet, and humorous writer Montgomery M. Folsom.  Folsom starts his tale at the headwaters of the Okolocoochee and Withlacoochee rivers. He traces them down to their connection with the Withlacoochee, at which point Troupville was founded. As the government seat, Troupville was the center of legal and civic activity for Lowndes County (see An Antebellum Trial at Troupville). Troupville was also an important center of commerce and social life for the pioneer settlers of Lowndes County, like Levi J. Knight, who established the first community near the site of present day Ray City, GA.  The Knights settled on another branch of the Withlacoochee;  Beaverdam creek, at Ray City, flows into Cat Creek on down to the Withlacoochee.  For a while the Troupville elders thought the Withlacoochee would provide a navigable waterway to the Gulf of Mexico. Even the Georgia Legislature in 1833 entertained “A bill to be entitled, an act to lay out, open, define and make navigable the Withlocoochey river, from Joyce’s ferry, on said river, to the Florida Line”, Joyce’s ferry being the Withlacoochee river crossing of the Coffee Road. But it was not to be.

Atlanta Constitution, January 29, 1889, Pg 12.

THE WITHLACOOCHEE RIVER.
VALDOSTA, Ga., January 19. -[Special.]- Away up near the northern limit of the great wiregrass section there is a big cypress swamp. They call them bays there. From this bay emerges a little stream of claret colored water. This is near Peckville, and close to the corner of Worth, Irwin, and Dooly counties. This is the head of the Ockolocoochee, Little river.
    Farther eastward, some ten or fifteen miles, there is another bay from which emerges a restless current that goes rushing away toward the south, fretting among the pine boles, resting among the silent solitudes of the mysterious swamps, the Alapaha.
    About midway between these streams, some twenty miles below their heads, the Withlacoochee steals stealthily out of the depths of a brambly brake and glides noiselessly away, like some black serpent of the swamps winding in and out among the barrens.
    The Ockolocoochee curves and twines among the pine-clad ridges, receiving the tribute of some lesser stream at every turn. Ty Ty, Warrior, Big Indian on the West, No-Man’s-Friend, Frank’s creek from the east, till it reaches Troupville. It is, properly, the river, despite the fact that its name is lost after its confluence with the Withlacoochee. It is like the wedding of a great big strapping wiregrass girl with a short, stout, presumptive little man.
    The Ockolochoochee is the stream for fishing. Along the snowy margin of its glistening sand-bars the red-belly, the perfection of perch; and in its placid eddies, beneath the shadow of the tupeloes, the red-horse sucker, chief of all the carp tribe; abound in strength and numbers sufficient to gratify the most inveterate of anglers.
    New river gives the Withlacoochee a good start, and it swerves away to receive the tribute of half a dozen streams on its tortuous course. From its fountain head it is dark and forbidding, and the secrets of its black waters are preserved most faithfully.
    Away back in the olden days when Lowndes county was as big as Poland, an act was passed by the Georgia legislature, appointing a commission to select an appropriate place for a county site. Franklinville had been its capital, but was not near enough to the center. As the legend goes, Big Billy Knight and Big Billy Folsom were appointed.
    These two worthies, one from the pimple hills of the Ockolocoochee, and the other from the saw palmetto flats of the Withlacoochee; decided that the most appropriate point was right in the fork of the two rivers. They had an idea that the river would be navigable that high up, even above the point where the Alapaha disappears and runs underground a mile before uniting with the Withlacoochee.
    So it came about that where the wine-red waters or the Ockolocoochee and the black current of the Withlacoochee meet at the end of a long sandbar and go tumbling and writhing, eddying and curving down the long reach of moss-grown trees, like two huge serpents struggling for the mastery, the plat of a town was drawn, and it was called after Georgia’s great chevelier governor, “Troupville,” with a strong accent on the “ville.” They had not learned to say “Troupvul” then, and it was such a high sounding title that they lingered lovingly on the pronunciation.
    The town grew apace. It enjoyed what the modern’s call a boom. Land lots sold rapidly, and settlers came rushing in, mainly the Smiths. Lowndes county has ever been prolific in the smith line. Owen Smith, Old Billy Smith, Young Billy Smith, all sorts of Smiths, even down to our Hamp, who so ably represents that historic name in the present pushing metropolis Valdosta.
One of the Smith’s built a tavern, and another Smith set up in business, and young Dr. Briggs, who came from the north, broken in business, but full of energy and ability, and laid the foundation of that prosperity that has long distinguished the Briggs and the Converse families.
    Troupville only suffered one inconvenience. To get to town three-fourths of the population had either to cross the river of the east or the river of the west and half the time, during the winter and spring, these rivers were raging with freshets, the bridges were afloat and were frequently swept away.
   One thing more hindered her prosperity. At the only season when the main river was navigable, the Old Nick, himself, couldn’t navigate it. So it transpired that the only freighted barge that ever tempted its tempestuous tide was a flat boat that went down the river to the Suwanee, thence down that river to Cedar Keys.
    It never returned.
    The boatmen sold the vessel and cargo and walked home.
    Life was too short to navigate that crooked stream, with its sunken logs and treacherous sands, and the hope of water transportation was abandoned.
    Among those who settled in Troupville and left behind many momentous memories, was Morgan Goodgame Swain, a burly blacksmith from Emanuel, who was ever ready for a fight, frolic or a footrace. He stood six feet three and weighed over two hundred without  pound of surplus flesh. As handsome as a Greek god he was gifted with herculean strength and a heart that was generous and true. He erected his forge on the bank of the Ockolockochee, and his wife took possession of the tavern. Becky, she was lord above, and Morz was lord below.
    The town of Valdosta was laid off when the old Atlantic and Gulf Railroad was built, about the opening of the war. Brooks and Echols had been cut off from Lowndes, and the county site was moved four miles southeast of Troupville to Valdosta. A great many of the buildings were moved bodily. And now there is not one brick upon another to tell the story of Troupville. A pile of white rocks marks the spot of Swain’s old forge, and some weather beaten mulberry trees still bud and blossom around the old square where stood the tavern. Aside from these there is nothing left to keep alive the cherished hopes that once animated the soul of Troupville.
   The Withlacoochee still glides along to meet the Ockolocoochee, and the land that lies between them, once town property, is now a barren waste, overgrown with somber pines, solitary tufts of bear grass whose white crests wave to and fro in ghostly suggestiveness in the twilight of summer evenings when the whip-poor-wills chant their weird melodies among the lonely thickets.
    Around the once populous portion of the town lies a waste of sedgy fields that are barren and unproductive. The half-wild goats browse among the fennels and briars. “Ichabod” is written in lichen crusted letters, and desolation reigns supreme.
                 MONTGOMERY M. FOLSOM.

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