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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (B)
Brown Family In America


Scots/Irish, originally from Scotland

The family of James and Jane Gillespie Brown was attacked by Indians on the Tennessee River near Nickajack Cave. The father's head was cut from his body and dumped into the river. Two of the Brown sons, as well as other members of the party, were killed.

The surviving members of the Brown family were taken into captivity, with two of the girls being prisoners for one year. One son was held for five years, and Joseph Brown, another son, was held as a slave for 17 months. Jane Brown and one of her daughters were forced to march barefoot over 200 miles by their captors.

His mother Jane Gillespie Brown also came to Maury county and died there in 1831. Her tombstone in Greenwood Cemetery at Columbia has this inscription: " O Reader these people lost their lives and liberty in obtaining this good land that you enjoy."

Indian wars in Middle Tennessee came to an end when the Indian villiage of Nickajack was destroyed in 1784 by James Robertson. Robertson's group was piloted by Joseph Brown, who remembered the route from the days of his captivity. Joseph Brown became a Col.
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The Revolution had come to Guilford Court House in March 1781. Brown, a soldier in the Continental line, was engaged in the battle under Colonels Lee and Washington which resulted in a tactical victory for the Americans. Thus, when North Carolina in 1785 offered payment of Revolutionary soldiers’ claims in western lands, James Brown took advantage of the opportunity and located his military warrant on the Cumberland and Duck Rivers.

Shortly thereafter he took two of his older sons, explored the Cumberland valley, and entered large claims for additional lands. Choosing a tract for settlement about five miles below Nashville, he returned for his family in North Carolina, leaving the two sons to build a cabin and clear the land for cultivation.

During the winter of 1786-1787, he built a large boat on the Holston to transport his family down the Tennessee and up the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers to Nashville. The boat was well constructed of oak, two inches thick, and upon its stern Brown mounted a small cannon. He took on board a cargo of useful goods and embarked from the Long Island of the Holston on May 4, 1787, with a party of himself, his wife, two sons who were grown; Joseph, aged fifteen; a younger son, George; and three daughters, Jane, ten, Elizabeth, seven, and Polly, four. There were, in addition to Brown’s family, five young men and several of the family’s Negro slaves aboard.

About daybreak of May 9, as they passed a Cherokee village on the lower Tennessee, a canoe approached their boat. It was filled with Indians who hailed the settlers and appeared so friendly that they were permitted to come on board. Their headman Cutleotoy, professed friendship and was kindly treated. Shortly thereafter the Indians returned to their town and immediately sent runners to Nickajack and Running Water villages down river, to raise a group of warriors to intercept the boat.

A party of forty Indians led by the half-breed John Vann, who spoke English, met Brown’s boat before it reached Nickajack. Vann also pleaded friendship citing the Treaty of Hopewell and was successful in boarding under the pretense of wanting to trade. Once Vann had accomplished his first stratagem, seven or eight other canoes appeared. Despite Brown’s protests, more Cherokees came on board and began scuttling the boat. In the ensuing melee, the Indians gained control and Colonel Brown was killed by a Cherokee warrior.

Once the Indians had grounded the boat at Nickajack, they began to expropriate prisoners. A group of Creeks who had happened to be along, took Mrs. Brown, her youngest son, George, and her three daughters and hastened to their towns on the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers. Kiachatalee, of Nickajack, obtained Joseph Brown and turned him over to Tom Tunbridge, deserter from the British army, who had established a trading post among the Cherokees and had married Kiachatalee’s mother. As the Indian trader hurried Joseph off to his home, the boy heard rifle shots coming from the direction of the river. He soon learned that his two older brothers and the five other men had been ambushed and killed by the Cherokees.

In the meantime, the Indians of Nickajack had come to believe that they had been cheated of some of their captives by the Creeks. Warriors were dispatched to catch up with the Creek party. When they were intercepted, two of the Brown daughters were returned to Nickajack.

After Joseph Brown arrived at Tunbridge’s house, an old Indian woman came in and angrily scolded the trader for having brought the boy away from Nickajack, and thereby preventing his being killed along with others. She warned that Brown would later pilot an army there to kill them all. Shortly after she had gone, Cutleotoy with a group of braves approached Tunbridge and asked that the boy be released to them so that they might kill him. The Englishmen resisted the Indians’ demand, saying that Joseph Brown was Kiachatalee’s prisoner and that his step-son would be sure to revenge the boy’s death. Finally, after Cutleotoy threatened Tunbridge with a drawn knife, the boy was turned over to them.  In September, 1794, a large volunteer army assembled at Knoxville for what was designed, and indeed proved to be, the last great Indian expedition within the borders of what in now the State of Tennessee. Colonel Whitley, of Kentucky, who had gallantly brought a company of men from his own State to the assistance of his distressed neighbors, was chosen commander-in-chief. The guide of the expedition was Joseph Brown, who was about to fulfill the prophecy of the old squaw, that he would live to lead an army against Nickajack. So successfully and so secretly did he perform his task, that the entire town of Nickajack fell into the hands of the whites with scarcely the loss of a man. Fifty-five warriors were killed in the place. Some hastily jumped into their canoes and sought to escape. Others swam the river. But nearly all were killed.

A mile above Nickajack stood the larger village of Running Water. Thither fled such of the Indians as succeeded in escaping, where they posted themselves behind rocks on the sides of a mountain, to await the attack. This was made with great skill. The men pushed their way, undiscovered, toward the village, through a field of standing corn. At the river bank were six canoes. Twenty-five warriors were standing by, as if about to embark. A volley from the column in the cornfield laid every boasting brave in the lowly dust.

Another line of men approached the Indian position from another direction. On their way the men passed two cabins, which a detachment was at once detailed to attack. A squaw stood outside of the door to watch. When the whites were discovered, the brave warriors within the cabin gallantly shut and barred the door, leaving the poor squaw outside. She attempted to escape by flight, but after a hard chase was captured. She was carried up to the town, and placed with other prisoners in canoes. As the boat in which she was carried was being taken down the river, the squaw loosened her clothes, sprang head foremost into the river, disengaging herself artfully from the encumbrance, leaving the garments floating upon the water. She swan with the grace and swiftness of a fish. A cry went up of "shoot her, shoot her." But the men who were near, admiring her address and agility, were gallant enough to suffer her escape.

Another detachment, in command of Joseph Brown, was placed at the mouth of a creek, to cut off the escape of any who should be missed by the two main columns. Colonel Whitley mounted a small swivel-gun on his own riding horse, so that he could wheel and fire in any direction. Brown was recognized by the captives, and whenever they caught sight of him they gnashed their teeth and lifted up their voices in howls of rage.

This battle was fought on the 13th of September, 1794. It broke the spirit of the hostile savages, and virtually ended the Indian troubles of Tennessee.  This family of Brown was related to the Civil War Govenor Of Georgia, Joseph Emerson Brown.

Thanks to Richard Brown for the above.


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