Thursday, May 5, 2011



The year is roughly 1780; we follow now, yet another Richard.  This lad is the ‘Headstrong’ Mercer Brown’s son, the child born to Sarah Piggott and her husband when both were disallowed from Friends Meetings in Virginia.

Richard has taken a bride, Mary Embree.  Like her husband Mary too is a Quaker and both young people adhere to the Friends charter choosing to abstain from tobacco, alcohol and dancing. They number several intermingled families in their family tree.  Each can claim kinship to the Kirks, the Norton’s, the Maddock’s, the Janney’s and the Stubbs family to name just a few. (There are heaps more.)

The Friends Society at this stage still live in closely settled communities and movement transfer from one Meeting area to another must be sought at their particular Monthly Meeting.

But in the face of growing conflict the engrained pacifist beliefs of our Quakers are taking a battering.


Looking north across the Appalachians

In the ensuing years since our Browns first arrived with William Penn in the 1600’s the colonies have endured a series of wars;  Starting with the English battle against the French and their allied Indian tribes, continuing on with the war for Independence. In between all this were the constant skirmishes with outlaws and with Native American Indians seeking to retain their homelands.

Amidst the growing anger at unreasonable taxation and in the wake of the tragic Regulator battle at Alamance, Quakers begin to move south into the back country of South Carolina.  Several families arrive at the Bush River community near present day Newberry, but some are offered inducements by the Governor of Georgia and they move once again, this time a short 40 miles to a Quaker settlement called Wrightsborough in present day McDuffie County.

Records from the Bush River Monthly Meetings show a number of marriages between the various families, Stubbs, Embrees, Pemberton, Kirk, Brown and Beeson, and one family entry I particularly notice refers to Irish immigrants Richard and Susannah Thompson and the birth in 1795 of a daughter Nancy.

You will meet young Nancy again in coming chapters when she will become my g-g-great-Grandmother.



Mercer and Sarah loaded their belongings onto wagons and joined fellow Quaker families from their community on the short journey south to Wrightsborough in Georgia.

But their stay in Georgia would not be a lengthy one.

Governor James Wright granted Quakers from Pennsylvania and north Carolina 12,000 acres of land along the present northern boundaries of McDuffie County. In 1790 Mercer Brown, the Mercer I have named ‘the headstrong’ has purchased a grist mill from Joseph Maddock.  As reader, Phil McGinty, enlightened me, Joseph Maddock has obviously been an industrious and energetic man.

As Phil discovered on a recent visit to the area, Maddock had constructed two mills, one on Maddock’s Creek and another on Sweetwater Creek.  At some time our Mercer had occupied both mills.

It’s always best to research on the spot, sometimes internet records skim over the vital details.  Phil’s newly resourced information gives a better picture of the closely knit Wrightsborough community.  In particular the following land grants of 1797, just five years before Mercer the Headstrong’s death....

Dec. 15th 1796.  r/Jan. 25th 1797.  WILLIAM SMITH to CAMM (CAMERON) THOMAS, millwright and Quaker, for 375 pounds, a 237 acres tract on Maddock Creek, part of tract originally granted to JOSEPH MADDOCK and ISAAC VERNON called the "Old Mill Tract", part of a tract of 1604 a. known as the Horse Pens, granted by Sir JAMES WRIGHT and purchased by JAMES HABERSHAM at a Marshal's sale in Savannah, held in 1775.  (Maddock went bankrupt)  Sold by HABERSHAM to JACOB BULL, SR., by BULL to WILLIAM SMITH, bounded by AMOS EMBREE, MERCER BROWN and WM. SCOTT.

I was always under the impression that Mercer died on the later trek through the wilderness to Ohio but his death had perhaps been registered with the Georgia Quakers Meeting House, but Phil has corrected me with the following Will Abstract he sourced from Georgia:

Subject: Mercer Brown of Columbia County, GA
Will Abstracts

BROWN, Mercer (Quaker) s/Oct 10 1802. p/Dec 4 1802. "Beloved wife Sarah" to have property and emoluments from grist and saw mill on Maddock Creek and plantation. Son Richard, "Piney Woods" at head of Germany Creek and mill on Sweetwater Creek. Son Mercer, daughters, Mary, Sarah, Margaret and Phebe. Grandson, Benjamin Lancaster, son of deceased daughter, Anne. Exrs. Sons Richard and Mercer. Witness: Richard Patton, Peter Dill, Mark Davis.

Phil's hand drawn map showing the close proximity of Quaker families..

Not surprisingly Governor Wright's plan didn’t work out  and in the ensuing Indian raids the Quakers paid the price.  This then was one reason our Brown’s eventually decided to push further on to greener and hopefully safer fields. 
The other reason was the growing dependence by planters on slave labour. Mary Embree’s family was at the forefront of the long battle to abolish slavery. Both Elihu and Thomas Embree would in later years continue the fight publishing anti-slavery messages in their Ohio and Tennessee newspapers The Emancipator and Manumission Intelligencer.

Unlike his forebears though, this Mercer 3rd, Richard the Entrepreneur’s son, died at a comparatively young age, he was only 58 when he passed away in 1802.  His widow, Sarah would survive him by 28 years, passing away in 1830 in Ohio, just before the family began the final trek into Indiana territory.



Meanwhile In Wrightsborough a travelling Minister, Joseph Cloud from north Carolina begins extolling the land opening up in the new north-west Territory.  Cloud was an experienced Frontiersman, familiar with the prairie land beyond the Appalachian mountains. 

He tells them of the cheap lots on offer beyond the Ohio River, of a land where slavery is not practiced, where militia is not being recruited.  A land where they can practice their beliefs in peace.

But in order to settle these new lands north of the Ohio River I wonder if he told these Quakers they had first to travel through the homelands of the great Cherokee and Shawnee Nations.



Whole Indian Nations have melted away like snowballs in the sun before the white man’s advance. They leave scarcely a name of our people except those wrongly recorded by their destroyers. Where are the Delaware’s? They have been reduced to a mere shadow of their former greatness. We had hoped that the white men would not be willing to travel beyond the mountains. Now that hope is gone. They have passed the mountains, and have settled upon Tsalagi (Cherokee) land.

With the steady passage  through their hunting grounds by ever more settlers the Native Americans fate was sealed.  Their story and ultimate humiliation will be told in coming chapters.



I had trouble finding the actual year our Brown’s set off from Georgia.  It could have been as early as 1780, or as late as 1799. Not even the birth dates of Richard and Mary’s children can provide a clue.

All ten of their children were listed born in Preble County, Ohio. But the difference between birth place and registered birth place leaves a huge question mark.

When our Quaker families set off from Georgia on their great overland adventure they carried with them certificates of transfer from their Wrightsborough Meeting.  For some it would be a considerable time before they joined or established a permanent Monthly Meeting at their journey’s end. 

 So even if children were born along the way, that birth would not be officially entered into Quaker records until they were introduced and accepted into Friends Meetings.

While I believe the later children were born in Ohio I feel the earlier ones, arriving between 1789 and 1798 were born  either during the trek to the new North West Territory, or in the period they sought a plot of land to call their own.

We catch a glimpse of their early days in Ohio with this brief mention in an early unknown pioneers diary.

John Brown was born about 1795 in Georgia, from which State he emigrated to Ohio and settled in Gratis township in 1804.  His father, Richard, entered a three-quarter section, one hundred and twenty-seven acres of which is now in the possession of his grandson Joseph Brown.  He paid a dollar and fifty cents per acre for the land.  

John Brown’s wife was Mary daughter of Jonas Randall. When they moved into their log home the day after their marriage carrying their effects upon a horse.  At the time they moved in there was no floor to their dwelling.  The house was finished after they moved in.

 Joseph Brown was married three times, to Elizabeth Stanley (who apparently died after the birth of her second child), to Mary Hasley who died of small pox.  His third wife was Maria Stubbs.

I was thrilled to come across this entry that not only gave me a home base for Richard and Mary, but also provided the homely little bits that bring a story to life.

On the same trawl through the internet I then came across another gem...
John Lancaster(not a Quaker) married 1st Ann Brown of Columbia Co. Georgia...had a child Benjamin Lancaster (b.abt.1794/1795 Columba., Georgia...he was raised with his mother’s family the Browns, and moved with them into Preble County, Ohio where he married Ruth Timmons, then later into Indiana.

This didn’t necessarily prove this Ann Brown mother of Benjamin was related to our Quaker Browns, until in the very next paragraph there was all the proof I needed.

The same researcher had listed a Will for Mercer Brown dated December 4th 1802...

1802*Columbia Co., GA, Will Book A, (1790-1804)
October 10th 1802 Will Dated and Probated on December 4th 1802 Will of Mercer Brown, deceased. Leg: Wife: Sarah. Children; Richard Brown, Mercer Brown, Mary Brown, Margaret Brown, Phoebe Brown. Son of deceased daughter Ann, Benjamin Lancaster, Executors: Sons, Richard Brown, and Mercer Brown. Witnesses: Richard Patten, Peter Dill, Mark Davis

In this way I could visualise these early Quaker years: the extended family bonds.  Cousins and fellow travellers growing together, working the fields, forming relationships, lifelong friendships.

The desire to keep in touch with kin was strong, even when the trails they took into the wilderness forked off in different directions, to far away destinations...



The tyranny of distance for mothers and daughters especially must have been heart breaking.  The constant worry when a daughter married and moved away to distant counties or territories:  Had her family settled in a safe community, had children been born, was her daughter still alive?

 Letters were written, but there was no guarantee they would be delivered promptly, if at all. The following extracts were lovingly preserved and posted on the net by Beeson Family historians. The Beeson’s and the Brown’s shared a long history dating back to and before settlement of  William Penn's Nottingham Lots.


Dear son and daughter.

We embrace this opportunity of wrighting to you that we are all in a reasonable state of helth at present thanks to God for his mercies bistoed on us hoping these few lines may find you & your family in the same state of helth. We have nothing particular to wright to you at this time but we are in a febely way of harvesting of corn this year in our cuntry aplenty and for wheat good what there was but it was thin & short.

I must inform you that Benjamin Beeson have come out of hillsborough jail after lying in about three months, then came out with being branded in the hand and paying upwards of two hundred dollars cost and another miss hap happened that our constable in our county gained favour of a young lady so much as get her with child and before the child delivered lover parsuaded her with him & is soposed that he drowned her and at least is committed to hillsborough likely you new them both, Jonathan Lewis is the man & Naomi Wise and I must inform you that you will have need of all the corn that is in that state for Randolph is coming in general.

And another letter from another branch of the family May 1758...

From another branch of the Beeson Grubb family comes this letter written in May of 1758 to a ‘Loving Sister’. _____________________________________
"Roan County, North Carolina."
"Loving Sister:--This is to let thee know that we have received three letters from ye and three presents therein I sent to the no letters; I had not freedom last winter was a year, I had a long time of sickness which brought me very loe in body, and mind and now I am troubled with short breath so that I think I am going home softly. I thought it would trouble thee more to let thee know my condition, then send no letters.

"I goes to meeting sometimes; we have a meting every other fifth day at our house, my husband gose weakly; the Lord who lifted ou candles hath not put them out. Our children remember their loves to you all. I have sent two presents to the as a toacon of love and youenity. We donte know that thear heath bene any mischif done in this government as yet by the Indians, but dont know how soon thear may be for some is doubtful thear may be before the truble come time be over. I desire the to remember our kind loves to all oure  neare relation and friends. We understand that oure brother John Grubb is decesed, but we have no certunty of it. I desire thee to let me know what is become of Peter Grubb's widow. Remember my love to brother Henry Grubb in particular. So we ad no more at present but remembering our kind loves to thee and thy family the 28th of the fifth month, 1758.
Richard Beeson,
Charity Beeson." (nee Grubb)

Years before in the early Virginia days of colonisation, Quaker families had settled amicably next to Indian settlements, learning many of their ways, especially the use of herbs and plants. Indian tribesmen and women grew to trust and respect the Quaker people.

 But as was inevitable on both sides, Indian and European,  marauding renegade groups set out to wreak havoc. 

As a result the Native Americans were punished and herded into ever smaller areas, peace and land treaties were signed and broken, militia was brought in to man hastily erected forts and outposts.  States of siege and retaliation ensued.  Losses on both sides were tragic;  in the end more so for the Indian nations.

But often, in the short term it would be the Quakers, the peace loving families in the middle, that were the ones to suffer.

Through all this uncertainty and fear Richard and his father Mercer shepherded their wives, children and grandchildren safely through the back country of the Appalachian Mountains and across the mighty Ohio River to a new life in Ohio’s Preble County.

The next Quaker you meet will be yet another Mercer, Richard Brown and Mary Embree’s son who will marry the Irish colleen, Nancy Thompson.  Their lives will encompass a traumatic and sad period for their Cherokee and Shawnee neighbours, once the proud owners of the very land our Quakers now call home.



Robyn Mortimer ©2011