Where is the Grave? A marker had been placed by the grave of Mrs. Brantley (wrongly identified as her husband) and was seen at the park as late as the 1980s. The grave marker has since disappeared and the location of the grave is unknown. Anyone with information is urged to call Park Manager Daniel Schay at 706-557-3001.
Special to the Citizen
This report, about Lewis Brantley, who was massacred by the Creek Native Americans in Morgan County in 1813, was submitted to the Citizen by Don Schultz, of Athens, who did extensive research on the subject. This November marks the 200th anniversary of the event.
Two hundred years ago, a tragedy occurred in Morgan County, Ga. On Nov. 6, 1813, a band of Creek Native Americans entered Georgia near the High Shoals of Appalachia and attacked the settlers on several farms within what is today Hard Labor Creek State Park, in Morgan County.
Reports varied as to the extent of this massacre, but stated that up to nine people were killed. The only people identified in reports and suffering in the attack were Lewis Brantley, who was injured, Mrs. Brantley and their son, who were killed, another adult man and woman killed, and a negro slave girl, also killed. The first report of the attack was carried by Lewis Brantley to a neighbor.
Reports of people who investigated the crime described the carnage. A report was detailed in the Augusta newspaper. Reports of the atrocity were sent to Georgia Governor Peter Early, who alerted the local militia, and had guns and ammunition sent to the Morgan County area. Many men from the community, who were members of the local militia, gathered their weapons and tried to track the Native Americans, but to no avail.
Lewis Brantley came to Georgia from Virginia, via Chatham County, North Carolina. Lewis got his land in 1807 as part of Native American land cessions made in 1802 and 1804. The land was ceded by the Native Americans for debts, usually owed to whites, especially Native American traders. The land was laid out in the counties. The land was surveyed in 202- and 490-acre plots, depending on value. This land was distributed by lottery to Revolutionary War and War of 1812 veterans, as well as others. Settlers quickly moved into the land, often farming very close to Native American land, of which the Ocmulgee River was the boundary.
The Federal Government, following the Revolutionary War with Great Britain, was not strong enough to deal with the states’ Native American problem. The U.S. military was still fighting against the British and Native Americans in the colonial Northwest Territory. This was principally in the Ohio River Valley. The British had set aside this land as Native American territory, by treaty. But it was transferred to the United States in 1783 and settlers rapidly moved into it.
The United States declared war on Great Britain in 1812, because they were inciting the Native Americans, suppressing U.S. trade and impressing U.S. sailors into their navy.
Tecumseh, a Shawnee Native American chief, and his tribe fought against the Americans on the side of the British. He envisioned an Native American confederacy of many united tribes all the way from Canada to the Southeast, fighting against American expansion. Tecumseh was a gifted speaker and recruited many tribes to join him, including the Upper Creeks. Unfortunately for the Native Americans, Tecumseh was killed in 1813 before a strong confederacy was realized.
Georgia was settled as the southernmost English colony in 1732 by James Oglethorpe. Georgia settlers had always desired more Native American land and with statehood demanded that the federal government remove the Native Americans. The best the weak federal government could do was to send agents such as Benjamin Hawkins in 1796 to deal and trade with the Native Americans fairly. He tried to teach the Native Americans better farming methods such as the use of iron plows, and raising better crops and animals.
As land cessions became available, white settlers flooded in, often squatting on Native American lands, which was a continuing point of contention in white-Native American relations, probably the main cause of Native American unrest. Because the federal government did little about it, the Native Americans took matters into their own hands by raiding and harassing the intrusive settlers. The result of these problems was the killing of both whites and Native Americans.
The two principal Native American tribes in Georgia during the Colonial period were the Cherokee and Creek. The Cherokee were the largest single tribe in the Southeast. The Creek, while more numerous, were a confederation of tribes, including the Muscogee and Coosa tribes. The Cherokee occupied the upper Piedmont and mountain areas. The Creek lived south of Atlanta. Those living along the Flint and lower Chattahoochee rivers were termed “Lower Creek.” Those living in Alabama around the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Alabama rivers were called “Upper Creek.” The Lower Creek had close historic and geographic contact to Spanish, French and English settlers from the Florida panhandle to New Orleans, trading with them and often intermarrying. They practiced some farming, planting corn, raising cattle and hogs. The Upper Creek kept more to themselves, and were more warlike. Some were called “Red Sticks” from the color of their war clubs. The Upper Creeks allied themselves with Great Britain during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.
All Native Americans desired items which the white settlers used. These included guns and ammunition, knives, axes, cotton cloth, metal tools, glass beads and many other items. The first traded deerskins for these items. However their increased hunting and hunting by whites, who also hunted on Native American lands, decreased the deer population. By the 19th century, the deerskin trade was in decline. The hunting for deer was conducted in the fall and winter by groups of Native Americans and whites who camped separately in the woods. Both groups often attacked each other during this time. Whites were often pursuing Native Americans who had stolen cattle or hogs. The hunting season was an extremely dangerous time and may have been the cause of the Morgan County massacre.
The Upper Creek Native American male population was greatly reduced during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. After each defeat, the Creek were forced to cede some of their land as war reparations. General Andrew Jackson defeated the Creek Native Americans in the 1814 battle of Horseshoe Bend in Alabama and the British-Creek defeat at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. It was only a short time after this that much Georgia Native American lands were ceded to the United States. The Cherokee Native Americans tried to follow an opposing action to placate the whites. They adopted white customs, including clothing, housing, farming methods, developing a constitution, forming an alphabet and the fact that the Cherokee had fought alongside Jackson at New Orleans, the Creek and Cherokee Native Americans later were forced out of the state. In 1839, they were marched under guard to Oklahoma in what was termed “The Trail of Tears.”
Lewis Brantley sold his land in Morgan County in 1832 and moved to DeKalb County near Atlanta, where he remarried, raised children and died there in 1836. Lewis purchased and sold various parcels of land in Morgan County when he lived there. He was a Justice of the Peace between 1799 and 1817 and served in the state militia.
Lewis’ land was continually farmed, and served as part of the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp during the 1930’s Depression. The federal camp was later transferred to the State of Georgia, which developed it into Hard Labor Creek State Park. A marker had been placed by the grave of Mrs. Brantley (wrongly identified as her husband), and had been seen there as late as the 1980s. For some reason, the grave marker has disappeared and its location is unknown. At one time, it was the second most popular site in the park. The Hard Labor Creek park manager would like to hear from anyone who has a good idea where the grave is located. Contact the park at 706-557-3001.
Lewis Brantley’s Land and Hard Labor Creek State Park
Brantley came to Georgia by way of Virginia and North Carolina and got his land in 1807 as part of Native American land cessions in 1802 and 1804
Brantley sold his land to Morgan County in 1832 and proceeded to move to DeKalb County, however he purchased and sold pieces of land in Morgan County while he lived there
Brantley’s land was continually farmed
It served as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps campsite during the 1930’s Depression
The federal camp was later transferred to the State of Georgia