Cemeteries often hold mysteries, and there’s a good one in the Whitaker Hill-Harrison Cemetery, the final resting place of a woman who is said to have been a veteran of the Revolutionary War, Sibbiah Earl Blair. Sibbiah [also referenced as Sabbiah in some sources] Earl was the daughter of John Earl, who came to Screven County, Georgia, from North Carolina in 1760. She married William Blair (c.1740-c.1780) of Queensborough [now Louisville] at Jerusalem Church at Ebenezer, Effingham County, on 26 October 1771. Blair migrated to the Georgia colony with his father, James Blair, from Northern Ireland, circa 1770, and served with the Liberty Boys of St. George’s Parish [now Burke, Jefferson, and part of Screven County] as a Revolutionary soldier. William and Sibbiah had five children, Jane, William, Henry, Mary, and Martha. William died before the end of the war, whether in service or of other causes is not evident. He is believed to be buried at Whitaker Hill-Harrison Cemetery, but there is no marker, and considering that he died at Queensborough, he may have been moved from that location at some point.
The Whitaker Hill-Harrison Cemetery is located on the historic Post Road at the Brantley-Glynn county line, in an area identified on maps today as Popwellville. This was located in Wayne County until 1920, when Brantley County was created. There are no Whitakers to be found in this cemetery, so I’m presuming Whitaker Hill was an early plantation or place name.
The Blairs’ daughter Jane is the connection to this cemetery and to this section of Georgia, as she married Robert Stafford (1765-1829), also a Revolutionary soldier. Stafford most likely came to this area through land granted him for Revolutionary service. Birth and death dates for Jane Blair Stafford have not been confirmed, but she died after 1838. Other than the marker related to Sibbiah Blair and the Stafford markers, all other known burials date to the 20th and 21st centuries. [Note: The marker for Robert Stafford seems to be missing from the cemetery; there’s a photograph of it on Findagrave, but I couldn’t locate it].
Another mystery remains for me. The grave markers for Sibbiah Earl Blair and Jane Blair Stafford were placed by the Brunswick Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in the early 20th century. For such a memorial, the DAR would have vetted the service records and genealogy. My presumption is that they concluded that Sibbiah Earl Blair assisted in the war effort in Screven County, after William’s death in 1780. Sibbiah must have moved to Wayne County to live with or near her daughter Jane.
Thanks to Cynthia Jennings for sharing some of the background information.
Native American history is an evolving field and new discoveries continue to alter and improve long-held narratives. While they may seem contradictory, I have linked various sources in this post, to show the changing scholarship. I encourage you to visit them for more information.
Tomochichi (c.1644-1739) was the mico, or chief, of the Yamacraw Indians at the time of the colonization of Georgia by James Oglethorpe in 1733. His cooperation with the British made the creation of modern Georgia possible. In 1735, he accompanied Oglethorpe to England to report on the progress of the colony and was received as an ally and representative of all native people of the colony.
Tomochichi was already an old man when Georgia was colonized and he died on 5 February 1739. His life was honored by a British military funeral and his grave was marked with a pyramid of stones collected nearby. The first memorial was removed in the 1880s and replaced by this large boulder of Georgia granite, placed near the original gravesite in Wright Square by the Georgia Society of Colonial Dames in 1899.
This saltbox cottage, built some time between 1760-1767 and raised in 1871, is believed to be the oldest surviving structure in the city of Savannah [Wild Heron Plantation, outside the city, is the oldest structure in Chatham County, dating to circa 1756]. The balcony was remodeled in 1907. I have not been able to locate any information about Christian Camphor, however.
Considered one of Georgia’s most iconic houses, the Berrien House was built circa 1791 for Major John Berrien (1759-1815), a hero of the Revolutionary War.
Major Berrien left college in New Jersey to enlist in the American Revolution. Quickly rising through the ranks, he was commissioned Captain of the first Georgia Continental Brigade in 1777, under the command of Lachlan McIntosh. Berrien followed General McIntosh to Washington’s Headquarters and served, at age 18, as Brigadier Major of North Carolina Troops at Valley Forge and Monmouth. Washington is believed to have made his headquarters in Berrien’s ancestral New Jersey home, Rockingham, and may have written his Farewell Orders to the Armies from that location. The Berriens were close personal friends of General Washington. After the war, Berrien returned to Savannah with his family and became very prominent in local affairs. He was Collector of Customs and an alderman and also served as state treasurer at Louisville (1796-1799).
Major Berrien’s son, John Macpherson Berrien (1781-1856), began the practice of law at Louisville in 1799. After service in the War of 1812, Berrien was elected to the Georgia senate and served as a United States senator from 1825-1829. From 1829-1831, he served as Andrew Jackson’s attorney general; from 1845-1852, he again served in the United States senate. Berrien County is named for him.
The home, which was in bad condition for many years, has been exquisitely restored by one of Berrien’s descendants, Andrew Berrien Jones, and is a wonderful example of preservation.
Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark
This important house is little-known outside Hancock County and its specific early history is apparently lost, but a new look into available genealogical records sheds light on the story. It is certainly among the oldest extant houses in the county and, through oral tradition, has long been known as the Pearson House. I am grateful to Bud Merritt for bringing it to my attention. Bud writes: We “discovered” it this week and were clueless at the time to its status. It is close to the road but barely visible and in my opinion could collapse at any time. The brick first floor has many separations and the second floor in the rear is completely unsupported. It unleashed several loud creaks while I was photographing it.
The house has appeared in print at least twice: 1}In The Early Architecture of Georgia (1957), Frederick Doveton Nichols, identifies it as “Undocumented cottage…east of Devereux”; 2}Nichols’s work was later incorporated in TheArchitecture of Georgia (1976), with photographs by Van Jones Martin. It may have also been photographed for the Historic American Buildings Survey in the 1930s by Frances Benjamin Johnston. Curiously, it is missing from the two best-known architectural surveys of Hancock County: 1}Architecture ofMiddle Georgia: The Oconee Area (1972), by John Linley; 2}The Houses of Hancock 1785-1865 (1996), by John Rozier.
Further documentation was made by Catherine Drewry Comer in her thesis, Preserving Early Southern Architecture: The Antebellum Houses of Hancock County, (University of Georgia, Master of Historic Preservation, 2016). Comer doesn’t associate the house with a builder, either, but gives the best description of its style: [It]…appears based on its construction to be remarkably early. Its two basement-level fireplaces are almost identical to those that could once be seen at Old Dominion before it was lost in the 1980s...This house is of a very early style that was common in the Mid-Atlantic states such as Virginia and North Carolina. [It] is of frame construction on the second story, which rests on top of a brick first story…[and] has one chimney on each gable end with two doors to enter the first floor on the front and one door on the rear. Comer refers to its architecture as “Tidewater”, a popular description of the style.
Of the interior living space, Sistie Hudson notes that she was able, 35 years ago, to look inside via a ladder [and] discovered that it had paneled wainscoting and curved stairs to the half story above and that it would have had staircases from outside to the second floor. She further confirms its local identification as the Pearson House and its presumed construction date as “the late 1700s”. Mark Phillips, a longtime student of architecture in the region, adds: I have always understood that this was the original Pearson home…the Pearson-Boyer house being later built by a son…
Making the connection between the presumed builder, Stephen Edward Pearson, Sr. (1774-1854), and the house requires a review of the available genealogical record, which has been graciously shared with Vanishing Georgia by Cynthia Jennings. Pearson was born to a wealthy family at Padget’s Creek, Newberry County, South Carolina. He married Mary Polly Fletcher (1775-1833) on 28 November 1798. It is believed they moved to Georgia and built this house soon thereafter, as one record notes he settled around 1795-1805 in the “watery fork of Buffalo (Creek)”. It is likely the new couple brought a number of enslaved individuals to Georgia; he owned over 80 human beings at the time of his death, including several of advanced age. They would have been involved in all aspects of the home’s construction, from milling the lumber to making the bricks. [The undeniable similarities between the Old Dominion fireplaces and those in this house are significant. If the work of the same mason, perhaps an enslaved man, they help validate the “1795-1805” time frame. Old Dominion was built in 1806].
Mary Fletcher Pearson bore Stephen no children, but research on Ancestry.com suggests he fathered a child with an enslaved woman named Cilla Chapman; the child, named Cilla Pearson, was born in 1805. Mary died in 1833 and Stephen married Catherine Garland in 1834. Their son, Stephen Edward Pearson, Jr., was born in 1836. He built a home nearby, circa 1854, now known as the Pearson-Boyer House.
Zach Hedgepeth writes: This house was in my grandfathers family for many years. A brick in the chimney had 1834 carved into it so I believe that is when it was built. The house used to sit closer to the road but when the road was paved in the 1990s they moved the road over. You can still make out the parts of the old dirt road. Over the years passers by have taken pieces of the house little by little leading to its current condition.[I believe it is likely that the dated brick commemorated the marriage of Stephen and Catherine and not the date of the house, as the conclusion of architectural historians is that the house is very early and 1834 wouldn’t be considered early in Hancock County].
This post represents the research of numerous people, to whom I’m indebted, but in no way purports to be definitive. I hope it is a catalyst for further research, and as always, welcome new facts that can be validated through primary sources. The house is unlikely to survive but I am glad to further document it as an important relic of Georgia history.
It’s no longer red, but to my understanding, this has always been known as “The Little Red House”. One section of the house is an early log cabin, purportedly dating to circa 1797. The addition was made later, probably before the Civil War, and may have been done to accommodate an office. Sistie Hudson notes that it will soon be home to a museum of local history.
Sparta Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
This familiar landmark in Danielsville was purportedly built by Revolutionary War veteran Henry Peter Strickland circa 1790, predating the creation of Madison County. Strickland and his wife Mary had eight children.
Additions to the house, prominently the front porch and posts, have led some to surmise the house to have been built later than its stated construction date of 1790, but local tradition suggests that it may in fact be of late-18th-century vintage. The Preservation Committee for the Madison County Heritage Foundation has shared these details, from an architectural survey: The interior of the building features 16-inch boards, no longer available, and the wood used upstairs has never been painted or stained. A set of ”dog leg” stairs leading to the upper floor has weakened with time. And although it is the only access to the top level, the stairs now remain unused for lack of repair.
Whatever its history, it is an important local landmark and will hopefully be preserved. I understand that the county has strongly advocated for the preservation of the house, but do not know details of its current status.
Brewton-Parker College maintains a nice collection of historic structures* illustrative of pioneer life in rural Georgia from the late 18th century to the late 19th century. These are publicly accessible and there is no cost to visit. The most important of these is the Cooper-Conner House, built with slave labor for Revolutionary War veteran Richard Cooper (1758-1836) in the Dead River community [about nine miles from its present location]. Thomas Benton Conner bought the house from George Cooper in 1838. It was moved to this site in an effort to preserve it. [Some sources date this to 1779].
*-Most online references locate this on David-Eliza Fountain Circle, which is the front campus, but the Historic Village is actually located on Lakeshore Drive.
Montgomery County Historic Village, Brewton-Parker College
Due to the growth of the Salzburger settlement at Ebenezer by the 1740s, a need arose for new churches to serve a dispersed population. Goshen Church was built about 1751, established about a mile from the present location as Goshen Lutheran Church. Oral tradition states that when a malaria outbreak threatened the health and lives of Goshen’s congregants, they sawed the church in half and moved it to this site, where they rebuilt it. Goshen remained part of the Ebenezer Parish until after the American Revolution. Goshen had always been served by Lutheran pastors who preached in German, and because of the language barrier, Pastor Bergman invited Bishop Asbury to send Methodist preachers to reach the congregation. Moravian missionaries used the church as a meetinghouse after the Lutherans moved on.
In 1820, Reverend James O. Andrew established the Methodist congregation at Goshen and the Lutherans transferred the property a few years later. The Reverend Lewis Myers began his pastorate circa 1823 and served the church for many years.
Goshen was a town long before Rincon existed and was the site of the first post office in Effingham County. Local lore maintains the George Washington once visited the church trading post.
The earliest identified burials in Goshen Cemetery date to around the time the Methodists assumed ownership of the church and it is the final resting place of many Effingham County pioneers. The following monuments and headstones are presented randomly and I photographed them as much for their aesthetic appeal as their historical importance.
A brick enclosure, perhaps built by enslaved men, surrounds the gravesites of many members of the Gugel family, who were prominent members of the church and community.
Tomb of Hannah Gugel Nowlan (January 1791-10 September 1833) The slab reads: To the memory of Mrs. Hannah Nowlen Who departed this life Sept 10th 1833 Aged 42 years and 9 months
Can marble tell the worth of Spirit felt Where dust here mingles with its kindred dead: Say there – the faithful friend in silence rests. The Mother whose fond heart was tenderness. The Child whose filial joy of filial love Now draw the parents hears to realms above, The sister loving constant, true, sincere The Christian meek to Zion precious one
Here rests in Hope
Mrs. Nowlan was the wife of George Galphin Nowlan, 1787-1816, Colonel in the War of 1812. Colonel Nowlan is buried in Memory Hill Cemetery, Milledgeville.
The tomb is signed by Savannah stonemasons Maxwell & Gow.
Margaret Waldhaur Gugel (8 April 1762-28 September 1844) and David Gugel(21 January 1764-24 April 1842) were the parents of Hannah Nowlan. David Gugel was a private and fifer in the Georgia Militia, enlisted in 1782. He served under General Anthony Wayne, helped build bridges and guard the Ebenezer magazine and the stores at Zubly’s Ferry.
Mary Ann Gugel Olcott (1797-24 January 1822) Mrs. Olcott was also a daughter of Margaret and David Gugel. She was married to Reverend James S. Olcott. The headstone indicates that two of her babies are buried here, as well.
Detail of headstone of Elizabeth Gugel Charlton (13 February 1793-11 July 1869) Mrs. Charlton was also a daughter of Margaret and David Gugel.
William Bandy (24 October 1799-24 May 1825) and Mary Bandy (16 October 1795-16 October 1825)
Tree of Life tympanum of Sarah Ann Black Zittrouer (14 December 1830-20 December 1899)
Tree of Life tympanum of William Josiah Zittrouer (10 September 1820-4 March 1895). Mr. Zittrouer was a Confederate veteran.