Death Notice and Obituary of Colonel Joseph Brown of Maury Co. and
Giles Co., TN
Nashville Republican Banner,
Feb. 6, 1868:
We heard it reported yesterday that the veteran pioneer and Indian
fighter Col. Joseph Brown of Giles County died during the morning at
the advanced age of 96 years.
Pulaski Citizen, Pulaski, Tennessee, Feb. 8, 1868:
Died in this county Feb. 4,
1868, Col. Joseph Brown aged 95 years, 6 months and 2 days. Col.
Brown immigrated with his father's family Col. James Brown a
Revolutionary officer in the North Carolina line to Tennessee in
1788. His father and brothers were massacred by the Indians in that
year. Together with his mother and several sisters and he [,they
were] captured and held in captivity for a long time. He died on the
58th anniversary of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, of which he
was one of the founders, and was a professed Christian for 80 years.
He held the first prayer meeting that was ever held in Maury County,
to which he invited in person, every white inhabitant of the county.
It is impossible to portray in a brief notice the many noble traits
that adorned the character of the deceased, or to give anything like
a synopsis of the many daring adventures in the service of his
A xerox copy of the original letter furnished by Mrs. Evelyn
McAnally, Columbus, TN. The original letter is in the Joseph Emerson
Brown Papers, The University Library, Univ. of Georgia, Special
Collections, Athens, GA.
The letter was
addressed to Joseph E. Brown, Milledgeville, GA. Giles County,
Tennessee, April 26th 1859.
I received yous of the 16th
instant and was much gratefyed to hear of your health and the
welfare of your family. I am still in the Enjoyment of good health
at preasent but met with a serious deficulty on the 12th of August
last. being ould and stiff in going out of the door my shew hung on
the Upper step and I pitced forward on a stone pavemant and my right
hench bone struck the kirbing of the pavement and dislocated the
they and mashed me so that I was confined to the house for ten
weaks. but have Recovered so that I can Creap a bout with onley a
staff, and if not deceived I fell thankful to my Grate Creator for
his maney merceys to so unprofitabel a servant as I have been.
My Daughter whome I live with
and my children in Texas and Mississippie are all in their Common
health as Enquires.
My Fathers name was James
Brown and he was the third son of William Brown and as you wish to
know aboute your ancestrey I can give it f (for) a hunrd and fifty
Your Great Great Grand Mother
which was my Grand Mother, her maiden name was Margaret Fleming
commonly called Peggy she married William Brown and lived in the
north of Ireland and so near Londarey that she could hear the Bels a
toling in the Cittey from the (their) own house.
Father: James BROWN b: BET. JAN 1719/20 - 1733 in
Mother: Jane GILLESPIE b: 22 JUN 1740 in PA
They settled in the
Cumberland. Joseph became a ordained Methodist? Minister after
serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Mother Jane
THE JOSEPH BROWN STORY:
PIONEER AND INDIAN IN TENNESSEE HISTORY
By C. Somers Miller
The central theme of Tennessee
history before 1794 was the struggle of the pioneer to wrest his own
survival from a hostile wilderness. Historians have not failed to
note that this struggle very often took the form of a series of
bloody incidents on the frontier between pioneer and Indian.
One of the most often recorded
episodes of the frontier was that of Joseph Brown, immigrant to the
old Southwest in 1788. Captured by the Cherokees, he was later
released but returned to pilot an expedition to destroy the Indians'
Five Lower Towns where he had been held prisoner. He finally settled
in Maury County, Tennessee, where he lived until his death in 1868.
His longevity and eagerness to tell of his experiences rewarded
nineteenth century historians who sought from him a description of
life on the Southern frontier. His story became one of the most
often repeated episodes in Tennessee history of this period.
In attempting to tell the
Joseph Brown "story," historians have described the character of the
pioneer and the Indian. This paper will examine several accounts of
the Joseph Brown "story" written in the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries. It is my thesis that the frontier character has not
remained a static concept but has, through the years, been
interpreted in at least three different ways, and further that the
narratives reflect the constant esteem of the Southern historian for
his region's past.
The Cherokees and the American
settlers in the transmontane area of North Carolina were the cause
of much concern during the Revolutionary War. American revolutionary
leaders worried that Indian presence in this area might hamper trade
with New Orleans and block communication with American posts on the
Mississippi and Ohio. The frontier settlements of Watauga,
Nolichucky, and on the Holston were considered by the British to be
in violation of the Proclamation Line of 1763, which forbade
colonists to settle west of the Appalachians, and represented a
threat to British authority in the area.
In the competition between the
Americans and the British for the Cherokees' favor, the British were
successful. Hoping to cause the withdrawal of frontier support from
the southern American armies, Lord Cornwallis formulated plans in
1780 for an Indian attack on the settlements. The Cherokees and
Chickamaugas began a number of raids on white settlements which were
countered by expeditions upon the Indians led by John Sevier. The
result was constant strife in that part of the west.
The Treaty of Hopewell,
written in November, 1785, was an attempt to make peace with the
Cherokee and other Indian tribes which had sided with the British.
Although the negotiations defined a boundary between lands of the
Indians and the settlers, efforts at such adjustment came too late:
settlers and land-hungry speculators, following successful treaty
writers, had already spilled over into Indian regions. A boundary
line which divided two peoples became an area of "claims and
counter-claims, of raids and counter-raids, of land occupied in some
places by white and red men alike. It was a frontier of depth and
Sevier's expeditions against
the Cherokees, though highly praised by some historians, made
pioneer life more troublesome. A large band of belligerent Cherokees
had been forced southward down the Tennessee River where they joined
a smaller group of Chickamaugas. Living in a number of villages
clustered around the Tennessee, known as the Five Lower Towns, and
located not far from present-day Chattanooga, they were soon
strengthened in their mountain bastion by the addition of groups
from the Creek and Shawnee tribes. This location made matters worse
for the settlers because the Five Towns were the center of Indian
water communications and near the Great Indian Warpath which
connected them with allies to the south in Georgia and with those as
far north as Detroit. Even worse, other trails leading northward
enabled the Cherokees to strike at newly settled areas along the
Cumberland River. The Indians, strengthened in numbers, had found a
strategic location to launch attacks against any intruding whites.
North Carolina was faced with
a moral and legal obligation to reward soldiers of the Continental
line and militia who had served during the Revolution. As the state
treasury was empty, the solution to this problem seemed to lie in
the abundance of western lands across the mountains, which could be
granted,, with little expense to the state, to North Carolina's
Living in the rolling piedmont
section of that state was Colonel James Brown who had immigrated to
the colonies from Ireland and purchased a small land holding at the
head of the Yadkin River. He had been married to Jane Gillespie
Brown for several years when, with a growing family, he relocated in
Guilford County. After a short time, he was chosen a magistrate of
that county, served as High Sheriff and as a ruling elder of the
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
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
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
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
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
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
Brown was taken to a place a
short distance away where it appeared that he was to be killed.
Being a religious young man and as death was certain, he asked for
some time to pray. Joseph knelt and prayed the prayer of St.
Stephen, trying to give his soul to God. He remembered the
experience of St. Stephen: how the saint when he was stoned, saw the
heavens open, revealing Christ at the right hand of God. At this
point, Brown's eyes opened involuntarily and he saw smiles upon the
Indians' faces. Later Joseph learned that Cutleotoy had decided
against killing him because the Indian highly valued the Negro slave
he had obtained from the division of the Brown property, and feared
that Kiachatalee might kill the slave in revenge for Joseph Brown's
The boy's life had been spared
and soon he was taken into an Indian family and began to adopt their
ways of life. Joseph wore the breech cloth and the short shirt, and
his head was shaved, leaving a scalp lock. He even developed a
relationship of respect and affection with his captors, Kiachatalee
and the Tunbridges. He lived with the Cherokees for almost a year
during which time he became acquainted with the territory around
Nickajack and the other Five Lower Towns.
Warfare between the Indians
and settlers continued on the frontier. An expedition under Colonel
Joseph Martin came near Nickajack but was repulsed by the Indians.
During the winter of 1788-1789, General Sevier followed a large body
of Cherokees to a town on the Coosa River where he took about
forty-five prisoners and returned with them to the white
settlements. Sevier proposed a prisoner exchange with the Indians
and it was in this way that Joseph and his two sisters were released
from captivity in April, 1789.
Brown and his sisters made
their way back across the mountain to an uncle's home in the
Pendleton District of South Carolina. There they waited for some
news of the condition of Mrs. Brown, their sister Elizabeth and
brother George. About six months after Sevier's exchange, Mrs. Brown
and Elizabeth were taken to Rock Landing, Georgia, and restored to
their family through the efforts of the Creek chief, Colonel
Alexander McGillivray. George Brown was to remain with the Creeks
until October, 1793..
The reunited family remained
in South Carolina for almost a year. In the fall of 1790, gathering
together their belongings, they again headed for the Cumberland
settlements. This time they chose the overland route to their
property south of Nashville. Upon arrival, they began farming in
spite of constant threats of Indian massacre. Joseph Brown, now
considered a grown man, was often employed as a post rider between
the Cumberland settlements and Knoxville. In this capacity he was
often exposed to Indian attack and several times narrowly escaped
death or capture. He began to regard himself as an Indian fighter
and participated in an expedition against the Cherokee.
In 1794 Brown volunteered to
serve under Major James Ore in a campaign that was to destroy the
Cherokee base at Nickajack. He piloted the volunteers across the
mountains and while the rest of the men circled the village, Brown,
being familiar with area, led twenty men to another position to
insure that no Indian would escape after the battle began. The
frontiersmen completely surprised the Indians and killed or captured
about one hundred Cherokees. Brown later reported that he had been
in the midst of the fighting, had nearly scalped one Indian and had
taken a squaw prisoner. He believed that he had fulfilled the
earlier prophecy of the old Cherokee woman: he had piloted an army
there to destroy them. The victory over the Cherokees in 1794 ended
the Indian menace from the Five Lower Towns.
Joseph Brown returned to his
new wife and his home on the Cumberland where his first son was born
in 1795. The same year he was engaged as a spy and guard at Fort
Blount. Brown had a personal interest in seeing that the Indian
threat was diminished on the Tennessee frontier; he still possessed
title to a large acreage along the Duck River which had been granted
In 1805 he decided that
conditions were safe enough to move his family across the Duck into
what is today Maury County where he came to play an active role in
the county's history. Brown and his brother-in-law, Benjamin Thomas,
became the first white inhabitants of that area. Brown constructed a
house in which the first county court was held in 1807, and was one
of the commissioners to establish the town of Columbia. In this town
he began to acquire property and by May, 1811, owned more than
fifteen hundred acres. That Brown had become a man of some standing
in Maury County is indicated by the inscription of "Esquire" beside
his name in county records.
During the Creek War of
1813-1814, he was elected a colonel and served under General Andrew
Jackson for four months, participating in the battles of
Tallahatchee and Talledega. In the latter engagement he and his
command were thrown into battle against five hundred Indians.
Seventy Indians were killed and the Tennessee troops emerged
victorious. From his engagements at these battles, a curious story
has found its way into some histories of this man. It was written
that at the battle of Talledega, Brown learned from an Indian that
Cutleotoy was still alive and had possession of several Negroes who
were descendants of the slave taken from the Brown family in 1788.
Investigation indicates that as early as October, 1811, Brown was
aware that the slaves were within three days' traveling distance of
his home in Maury County.
Colonel Brown forcibly
recovered some of these slaves from Cutleotoy at Fort Hampton in
January, 1814, and in so doing he violated a treaty made between the
United States government and the Cherokees. The Treaty of Tellico of
1798 had bound the United States to protect the Cherokees against
any claims arising from Indian thefts or plunderings which occurred
before the date of the treaty Legally, Brown was barred from
recovering any of the Negroes and he could have been subjected to
damages resulting from this act.
After the Creek Wars Brown
returned to Maury County, never again to participate in Indian
expeditions. Interviewed in 1852, he stated that he had since 1815
led a peaceful life. Perhaps this was a correct description from
someone who had undergone Indian captivity and had been involved in
numerous campaigns. Records indicate that the rest of his life may
have been peaceful but that the tranquillity was definitely
interrupted from time to time. Between 1817 and 1821 he was sued
several times in cases before the Maury County Circuit Court.
Shortly after he appeared as a defendant in court, he volunteered
his services to go to Washington to collect claims for property lost
in the Seminole War.
Some of the peacefulness to
which he referred may have been derived from his acceptance of
ministerial duties for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in
Columbia. Yet it would be difficult to describe the religion he
practiced as entirely tranquil. Someone who viewed Brown's religious
experiences in the 1820's described them for a later audience:
About 1822, when a small boy,
I attended a camp-meeting at McClain's. Only a few tents were then
built; some camped in covered wagons...Among the tents built, was
the one so long occupied by Co. Brown, and there I first saw him
under religious excitement, and first heard that involuntary "Oh!'
accompanied by the spasmodic jerk, forward and downward, and as he
arose erect, "My Redeemer!" was uttered in a low voice. Those who
once heard him, can recollect the effects and intonations of his
As Brown grew older, his
religious zeal increased, an enthusiasm probably accentuated by the
growing prevalence of fundamentalism in rural Tennessee. In any
case, his letters and interviews reveal a man who came more and more
under religious influences. That this tendency was also reflected by
his biographers will be shown later.
There developed during the
1850's a growing interest in Tennessee history, perhaps attributable
to the reorganization of the Tennessee Historical Society in
Nashville in 1849, which was incorporated the following year by the
state legislature. Although this organization received little
popular support and its meetings were few, a handful of men, mostly
Nashville residents, attempted to stimulate interest in the state's
history and desired to preserve papers and artifacts which might be
revealing of the state's past.
One of the first members of
the society was William Wales, of Nashville, who in 1852 began
publishing the South-Western Monthly, a literary magazine. Wales had
been inspired by the organizations' founding and in an extended
editorial he urged his reader's to take an interest in Tennessee
history and chided them for their wavering support of the historical
society's work. Tennessee had a "glorious train of events for
contemplation;;" in its history were stories of fabulous romance. To
preserve these "mementos of the past, " the public should cooperate
with the society. Other states had given generous support to their
organizations and libraries; Wales regretted that Tennessee had done
very little to record her greatness.
The same editorial entreated
its readers to learn from the "patriarchal few who might acquaint"
them with a time when the state was an unbroken wilderness.
Apparently, Wales had followed his own advice and traveled to Maury
County to write a sketch of the aging Joseph Brown. It is probable
that he was accompanied on this interview by Feliz K. Zollicoffer
who in 1850 had taken charge of the Nashville Banner. Zollicoffer
would have been well acquainted with Brown, for he was a Maury
County native and had been publisher and editor of the Columbia
Observer before moving to Nashville. In his ANNALS OF TENNESSEE,
published in 1853, James G. M. Ramsey printed Brown's narrative
which was supplied by Zollicoffer. A comparison of Ramsey's account
and that published in the South-Western Monthly reveal so many
similarities that it is evident Zollicoffer and Wales must have
The narrative in Wales'
quarterly portrayed the story of the brave pioneer who unflinchingly
endured dangers to migrate to a new territory. It mattered not at
all that the Indian had an older right to the land; rather, it was
the duty of the pioneer to open this land for settlement. The savage
was a definite obstacle that must be overcome. If this obstacle
threatened the white settler, he must be punished or killed.
Brave and conscious of his
duty, Joseph Brown personified the pioneer. He had come to Tennessee
as a youth, and experienced numerous hardships in Indian captivity.
After his release from the Indians, he returned to Tennessee to
insure the safety of its frontier society against the defiant
savage. He was a man to whom the United States owed gratitude for
its first step in civilization. Brown, the gallant pioneer, became a
hero in Tennessee history. Wales accomplished what he had set out to
do; he had recorded the exploits of Joseph Brown so that they would
not "moulder in oblivion.." Now well over one hundred years old, the
narrative in the South-Western Monthly remains one of the most
detailed accounts of the Indian exploits of Joseph Brown.
The same year that Wales began
publication of his literary magazine, Mrs. Elizabeth Ellet wrote
PIONEER WOMEN OF THE WEST. Directed to a national audience and
published in New York, her book contained numerous sketches of
frontier women, one of these being Mrs. James Brown.
Mrs. Ellet, born in the
western part of New York in 1818, was the daughter of a pioneer of
the section, William Nixion Lummis. At the age of fifteen she
married Dr. William H. Ellet, a professor of chemistry at Columbia
College, New York City. The same year as their marriage, Dr. Ellet
accepted a position at South Carolina College where they remained
until 1849, when they returned to New York. Mrs. Ellet developed an
interest in history and published hundreds of essays, shot stories,
and sketches during her life time. Her PIONEER WOMEN is not well
documented but she acknowledged assistance from Milton A. Haynes of
Nashville and her use of valuable manuscripts belonging to a
historical society of Tennessee.
Mrs. James Brown's story
differed in at least one respect from the narrative published by
Wales' Ellet and included the story of Brown's recovery of the Negro
slaves. After the Battles of Talledega, the Indian fighter learned
that Cutleotoy was still living and had with him the descendants of
the slaves taken from the Brown family in 1788. Joseph Brown
proceeded to the Indian village and obtained his rightful property.
Describing the episode, Ellet portrayed Cutleotoy as a criminal
deserving death and Brown as the ideal Christian who was able to
repress his feelings of revenge for his father's death. The Cherokee
was presented as a criminal race "whose blood thirsty natures panted
for the blood of the white man," a lawless people who deserved death
in the Nickajack campaign.
that by telling the story of Mrs. Brown, the condition, progress,
and character of a people would be better illustrated. The tale had
all the characteristics of a romance but it was a "plain sad story
of trials and sufferings" incident to the period and border life.
The sadness and suffering of those hardy and wise pioneers was
inspiring because, despite adversities, they had been able to
construct a state in the midst of Indian warfare. The recurrent
theme in Ellet's history was the perseverance of the pioneer. The
world of the frontier woman was one of "vexation and sorrow," but
she endured the hardships of frontier life and experienced the loss
of husband and sons killed by Indians.
Richard Brown for the above.