THE BASSETTS FROM BARNWELL, Copyright ©2002 J. Marie Bassett, all rights reserved.
According to his 1892 Indian Wars pension application, William Bassett was "borned in Barnel District, South Carolina." He "can not state exact date of birth but was borned in the year 1816, as near as I can remember." Who his parents were is not known, but circumstantial evidence indicates that he had a brother (or perhaps a cousin) called Jeremiah. In the 1900 census, WILLIAM gives his own and his mother's place of birth as South Carolina, but his father's as unknown.
Barnwell District was settled in the early 1700s by pioneers wishing to adventure into the backcountry of South Carolina. In the 1740s, settlers from the Palatinate region of the German Rhineland had moved into the Orangeburg area from which the Barnwell district was formed. This is interesting as one of WILLIAM BASSETT'S granddaughters said that she had heard that the family was German in origin. Of course, this could come from WILLIAM'S wife, LUCINDA SMITH'S side of family which also came from South Carolina, although where is not known. The Bassett family names seem very British, but other studies of settlers from the Palatinate indicate that family names were anglicized almost immediately upon settling in America.
There were several Bassetts living in the Barnwell District of South Carolina in the late 18th and early 19th centuries who are said to have come from further north. On the Internet, Sue Bassett Folawn posted the following story which appeared in "The History of Peach Tree County, Georgia, Governor Treutlen Chapter, DAR" -
"Before the Revolution, there were three Bassett brothers who came to America from England. Two settled in northern states, but Francis went to Virginia and later settled in North Carolina. He was a professor of languages, having a speaking knowledge of seven. His son, William, married Mary Phillips, a descendent of Flora Stewart, who was born on the voyage to America when her parents fled England after the execution of Charles I. William and Mary (Phillips) Bassett had three sons, Stephen, Thomas, and Francis. They moved to South Carolina. Later Mary returned to North Carolina with the sons and made her home with her sister, Mrs. Katie (Phillips) Gibson. Katie and her husband, who was a breeder of blooded horses and owned extensive lands along the Cape Fear River, were childless and willed their property to Mary Bassett's oldest son, Stephen. In the meantime, William Bassett bought an island off the coast of South Carolina and settled there. When he died, his son, Stephen, went to settle the estate. While in South Carolina, he met and later married Jane Morris, who because of her jealousy of Stephen's old North Carolina sweetheart, never consented to his returning to claim the Gibson estate."
Past experience has shown that information found in DAR books is often inaccurate, a great deal of it being family lore which tends to become distorted and embroidered as time goes on. However, there is often a kernel of truth to be found in these stories, and careful research can lead to the truth.
Sue Bassett Folawn indicates, in her Internet piece entitled "The Bassetts of Barnwell" that the Bassett who appears most often in existing Barnwell County records, Francis Bassett, is thought to have come from England before the Revolutionary War. It is perhaps worthy of note that the highest incidence of Bassetts by the name of Francis was in Cornwall and Devon. There was a family of Bassetts (many by the name of Francis and William) at Tehidy (now a park open to the public) on the Irish Sea coast of Cornwall close to Redruth. They had made their fortune from tin mines in the area. Sue goes on, "In Nov. 1772, we find Francis Bassett witnessing a deed in Mecklenburg County, NC. (Mecklenburg County NC Deeds and Abstracts, Book 6, page 320-321"). In 1786 Francis purchased 378 acres in Orangeburg District. "He is listed many times in Brett Holcomb's book, Winton County, Minutes of County Court and Will Book." Francis appears to have been "an active and respected member of his community" as he served as Deputy Clerk of Court, grand juror, and witness. Winton County later became Barnwell County, then Allendale.
The South Carolina "upcountry" where Francis Bassett made his home is aptly described in the "Memoirs of Tarleton Brown," posted on the Internet. The young Brown, who, in the last years of the 18th century, was the sheriff of Barnwell County, moved with his father to the area before the Revolutionary War, apparently lured like many others from Virginia and North Carolina by "flattering inducements held forth to settlers in the rich region of South Carolina contiguous to the Savannah River." Brown "found the country in the vicinity very thinly inhabited. Our own shelter for several weeks to protect us from the weather was a bark tent, which served for our use until we could erect rude dwelling of logs." Although the soil was rich, the early settlers had to contend with an abundance of wild animals, such as wolves, bears, bobcats, pumas, and alligators, that "were so bold, daring, and ravenous, that they would come into our own yards, and before our doors take our sheep and poultry." It was unsafe to venture out unarmed at night, and it was only by persistent use of traps with poisoned baits that the settlers got the upper hand. However, such abundance of wild life in the woods meant there was no shortage of food, especially deer and turkey.
Raising cattle was the main source of income. They thrived in the forests near creeks and ponds. "It was customary then to have large pens or enclosures for cattle under the particular charge or direction of some person or persons . One of those kept a pen at King creek that had been marked that spring seven hundred calves." The Browns marketed "beef, pork, staves and shingles. There was but little corn planted in that section then; and, indeed, there was scarcely any inducement to plant more than sufficed our own consumption, there being few mills in the country, and consequently very little demand for the article." Roads were "no better than common bridle paths." Carts were "common wooden slides." The forests were full of wild horses which prompted many settlers to become horse traders. Barnwell is still known as horse country.
It was at least a decade after the Revolutionary War before cotton was introduced into the area. It was not the famous high-quality long-staple Sea Island cotton of the coastal region, but a short-fiber variety better suited to the South Carolina upcountry.
During the war, the area was a hotbed of activity, with the infamous "Swamp Fox," Francis Marion, using the marshy woodlands he knew so well to play cat and mouse with the British troops and their Tory sympathizers who actually killed Tarleton Brown's father and other members of his family. Francis Bassett, like Tarleton Brown, was a member of the South Carolina Militia during the war, and his agricultural ventures probably followed the same pattern as that mentioned by Tarleton Brown. Indeed, Francis was cited on several occasions in the local court for straying horses.
Francis's neighbors included the Gillett family whose plantation was Richmond Hill near Baldock. Elijah Gillett's wife appears to be Elizabeth Scarborough, sister of William Scarborough who founded a shipping empire in Savannah. One of the witnesses to Elijah's will of 1818 was John Bassett. This may be the John who was involved in 1800 in a land transaction with three other Bassetts, William, Thomas, and Eli, which makes one surmise that they were brothers. In 1804, Thomas and Eli sold land to Elizabeth Gillett on Boggy Gut. The following year, Thomas Bassett was found to owe William Scarborough $81.
Sue Bassett Folawn states, "based on family tradition" and on interpretation of existing records, that Francis Bassett was the father of John, Thomas, William, and Eli Bassett. William and Eli were brothers, as indicated in William Bassett's will of 1810, and all four together sold land about 1800, perhaps after their father's death as Francis is not mentioned in records after 1790.
1. John is found in the 1790 census where his household consisted of two white males and one white female. He owned no slaves.
2. Thomas, according to Sue Folawn, had a wife named Luranna.
3. William is said to have married three times - supposedly to Mary Phillips, Cumberland County, North Carolina, who was the mother of his sons, Stephen (bought land from Elijah Gillett on Boggy Creek, married Jane Morris, and later moved to Houston County, Georgia); Thomas (remained in Barnwell County); and Francis (moved to Barbour County, Alabama). Sue states that Mary and William Bassett were divorced about 1800.
William's second wife is said to be Elizabeth Erwin who, Sue says, is mentioned with husband William in letters written in 1803 from Sapelo Island, Georgia. Ruth Norton states in an e-mail that William was in the Georgia Militia when he married Elizabeth and that the marriage appears to have been short-lived - " from letters we found she was with child and planning to come back to Barnwell for the birth then she disappeared and he shows up in Barnwell with a new wife and child."
Sue implies that William may have owned Sapelo Island, but there is no record of this. It was owned by a syndicate of French émigrés, and then the entire island was purchased soon after 1800 by Thomas Spalding, one of whose sons was married to Mary Dorothy Bass who was born 1823. However, it is known that in its early days, cattle-raising was the main business on Sapelo Island. So it is possible that cattle could have been brought down from the Barnwell area to be fattened on the island, and that William might have been a cattle dealer - he did bequeath a few beasts when he died. Or he could have been manager or foreman of the Spalding agricultural interests. Or he may have just been on the island as a member of the militia.
Elizabeth must have died (or divorced William!) by the time of his death in 1810, as William was then married to Michal Moye. Michal Moye's siblings were Matthew and Martha who was married to John Brabham. Executors of William's will were Mathew Moye and Eli Bassett. William left to his "well beloved wife Michal Bassett one Negro fellow Jim and one feather bed and furniture belonging to this bed, 1 cow and calf, one 2-year-old steer, the place where I now reside, 150 acres, part of that tract containing 400 acres granted to Robert Jordan." To Stephen Bassett, William leaves one Negro fellow Will, one Negro girl Coter - and to Francis Bassett, he leaves one Negro wench Frank and one Negro girl Hannah. To Thomas Bassett, junior, he left one Negro wench Harriet and one Negro child Fanny. He left his nephew, William Bassett, identified as the first son of his brother Eli, a cow and a calf. Another nephew - William Moye, son of his brother-in-law, Matthew - was also left a cow and a calf. And if $90 remained, this was to go to his brother Eli. If a larger sum, the reminder was to be equally divided between Michal, Stephen, Francis, and Thomas, Jr.
William's widow, Michal, died about two years later. Michal's estate was to be divided between the "only two heirs," her brother Matthew Moye and brother-in-law, John Brabham, "in right of his wife Martha Moye Brabham." But, payment was to be made to John Brabham for "board and clothing" for Gifford Bassett, "a child of the deceased," who has not been identified. Dr. Frank Oliver Clark in his wonderful Internet pages on Allendale County suggests two possibilities - either Michal Moye had an illegitimate child by a Bassett other than her husband (bastards were given their fathers' surnames in these days) or she was pregnant when husband William Bassett died. It is odd that Gifford was not considered one of Michal's heirs. Perhaps he was the child of Michal's deceased husband, William Bassett and his second wife, Elizabeth, whose imminent birth apparently was mentioned in a letter in 1803.
That Stephen, Francis, and Thomas, Jr, were William's sons seems likely, and in that birth order, as this is the norm where wills are concerned. The term "junior" did not mean Thomas's father was another Thomas, just that there were two of that name distinguished by age. Who their mother was is not indicated, but it appears it was not Michal. It also seems possible that William was not married to all three women mentioned above - two separate Williams may be confused here. There was a William Bassett who, according to Ralph A. Rodriguez on the Internet, left South Carolina (the implication is for McIntosh County, Georgia) as a debtor to Nancy Johnson who looked after his children when his wife died. He was ordered to pay her $64 plus costs in 1804.
4. Eli Bassett was married to Rhoda (possibly Kersh). He paid tax in Barnwell District in 1810 when he is listed as having two males and one female under 10, one male and one female 10-16, one male and two females 16-26, one male 26-45, and one female over 45, plus six slaves. Eli and John Bassett had participated in the Georgia Land Lottery in 1805, but are listed as drawing blanks in McIntosh County. Sue Folawn states that Eli was the "fortunate drawer" of land in Monroe County, Georgia in 1821 when he was living in Appling County, Georgia, according to the 1820 census.
There is no way of telling which of the above might be the parent or grandparent (if at all) of William and Jeremiah Bassett. But, in the 1820 Barnwell census, there is John M. Bassett listed with two free white males under 10, one free white male 16-26, one free white female 10-16, and one free white female 16-26. The age pattern for John M. Bassett's family in 1820 does fit with the ages of WILLIAM and Jeremiah Bassett mentioned in the first paragraph. Jeremiah named one of his sons John, but none of William's descendents went by that name. Two names that both men used for their children are William and Nancy.
At some point before 1837, WILLIAM and Jeremiah moved from South Carolina to Cass County, Georgia, in what was the Cherokee Nation - that is until the Indians were forced in 1838, by law, on the infamous Trail of Tears to west of the Mississippi River. By 1830 there was a fair number of white settlers on what was then the new frontier, and two years later, Cass County, now Bartow County, was founded. Nothwest Georgia was a magnet for settlers because of the lure of gold found in the hills. The fertile flood plains of the Etowah and Ootcalooga rivers also appealed to cotton planters who had exhausted their land in South Carolina. "The History of Georgia and the Georgia People" describes Cass County as follows:
"There is no part of Georgia in which a finer body of land is found than is included in this county. It had been a favorite section with the Indians, and the lands on the Etowah, Pine Log and other sundry creeks were famous for their fertility and had been cultivated by them. In addition to these agricultural resources there are large quantities of iron ore and manganese.
When Cass was first opened it was somewhat remote from the older counties and difficult to reach; but it was rapidly peopled by the best class of settlers. Many of them came from the older counties, and some very substantial people came to it from South Carolina. It was so rapidly settled that in ten years after it was settled it had nearly 13,000 people, of whom over 2000 were slaves.
The county site was called Cassville, and few villages anywhere had at their first settlement a finer class of people than this little hamlet."
It is not known whether the Bassetts came to Georgia as children with their parents or as grown men. It would appear likely that someone in the family had been successful in a land lottery. It is known that in the 1832 Gold Lottery, Richard Bassett, born in South Carolina in 1810, then of Elsworth Military District, Bibb County, Georgia, drew Lot No. 761 in District 17 of Section 3 which was in Cass County. In order to take part in that lottery, Richard had to have lived in Georgia for three years prior to January 1, 1832, and be over 18 years of age. He is recorded in Bibb County as a witness to a murder outside the Rutland Courthouse in 1849. Richard is a name that occurs in WILLIAM BASSETT'S family, so it is possible they could be related.
In 1838 WILLIAM was farming near Cassville, probably to the northwest of the town, closer to Halls which is equidistant from Cassville and Adairsville, whose entire village is now on the Georgia Register of Historic Places. On 5th October of that year, WILLIAM enlisted in the Georgia Mounted Volunteers to fight in the Seminole Indian War of 1837-1838. He was a private in Captain Swaggerty's company in Colonel Ira F. Foster's regiment. After six months, he was honorably discharged at Kellog Store in neighboring Cobb County, Georgia on May 11, 1838. William describes his appearance at the time as "hight when enlisted about 5 ft. 7 in, complexion fair, dark hair and brown eyes."
Jeremiah Bassett, usually referred to as Jerry, also served in Captain Swaggerty's company, but was a corporal. It seems a little odd that Jeremiah was a corporal when he appears to be younger than William. However, in the censuses, the two Bassetts are rather cavalier with their ages! And William in his old age is not even sure of the year of his birth. It appears that Jeremiah did not apply for a pension, so he and his wife were probably dead before the Pension Act of July 27,1892 was passed. Richard Bassett mentioned above also served with the Georgia Mounted Volunteers
The Georgia Mounted Volunteers Company was raised in Gwinnett County, not far to the southeast of Cass County, by Henry White Inzer and others, for service in the Second Indian War. It was attached to the Third Regiment under the command of Colonel Ira Foster. They mustered at Camp Call, Hall County, which marched on the north with Gwinnett County and was two counties due east of Cass. The company proceeded southeast via Milledgeville to Florida. The Altamaha River was navigable by steamboat as far as Milledgeville in these days, so they may either have sailed to halfway down the east coast of Florida and cut across to Tampa where they were housed at the "Old Fort and Camping Ground;" sailed all the way round to Tampa; or just ridden south from Milledgeville. It is said that more Georgians volunteered to fight the Indians in Florida rather than those closer to home because Florida paid more.
The year after his discharge from the army, WILLIAM married LUCINDA SMITH, also a South Carolinian, in Cass County. The licence to marry was issued on March 20, 1839, according to page 25 of the Bartow (formerly Cass) County Marriage Book. WILLIAM, however, gives the date of the marriage as 15 May in his pension application. Jeremiah's marriage to Rachel Goodwin from Georgia was recorded a few months later on August 15. Families of both Smiths and Goodwins are found in Orangeburg, South Carolina in the early days of settlement.
Both WILLIAM and Jeremiah were still in Georgia, Cass County - 952 District, at the time of the 1840 census. It appears that Jeremiah was the first to leave Georgia. He and his family are listed in the 1850 census in Bennetts Bayou township in Fulton County, Arkansas, but his first two children were born in Alabama (circa 1841 and 1842) and the third in Missouri in 1847. First birth in Arkansas was circa 1851.
WILLIAM BASSETT sold his land in Cass County - Lot 4, District 3, Section N/A, on 17 Oct 1850 to Joseph Scarborough, trustee to children of late Julia Hennetta (Henrietta) Barnsley, according to the Old Cass County Deed Book I, 1849-1850. Julia Barnsley was the daughter of William Scarborough, a Savannah merchant and financier, who owned Belfast Plantation in South Carolina's Barnwell District - see above.
Scarborough was responsible for the building of the Savannah, the first ship partially fueled by steam to cross the Atlantic, an endeavor that ate up his fortune. The Scarborough House in Savannah where Julia grew up is now a maritime museum. Julia married Godfrey Barnsley, an English immigrant from Derbyshire, who, by the time he was 25, was a successful cotton factor in Savannah.
Barnsley, visiting Cass County, Georgia, shortly after removal of the Cherokees, was greatly taken by the natural beauty and salubrious climate of the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He decided to move his family from the sweltering heat of the mosquito-ridden Atlantic coast. His initial purchase of a few thousand acres would eventually become 10,000 acres, surrounding his beautiful mansion of Woodlands and its gardens designed in the style of Andrew Jackson Downing, designer of the White House gardens. It was said that the site chosen for Woodlands, an acorn-shaped hill, bore an Indian curse. And indeed, a litany of tragedies has dogged Woodlands and and its owners, beginning with the death of an infant child, followed shortly thereafter in 1845 by Julia's death from tuberculosis. In 1988 Prince Hubertus Fugger, of the German banking house, bought the estate with its tornado-ravished, kudzu-shrouded ruins, and transformed it into a historic showplace and luxury golf resort, albeit said to be one of the most haunted spots in the South!
Why did Joseph Scarborough, presumably Julia Barnsley's brother, buy WILLIAM BASETT'S land? Was it within the perimeter of the eventual Woodlands estate? Did William know Joseph Scarborough? Joseph was about the same age as WILLIAM BASSETT, and it is possible that they did know each other, as the Bassetts and Scarboroughs were close neighbors and had dealings in Barnwell District earlier in the century. Joseph's family divided their time between the Scarborough House in Savannah, and the Belfast Plantation, Lower Three Rivers, Barnwell District. Or is this pure coincidence?
Shortly before the transaction, the 1850 census was taken. WILLIAM and LUCINDA BASSETT are listed as having four children, Nancy who was six, Richard four, Martha two, and baby William who apparently died young as he is not listed in the 1860 census. One wonders if they lost an earlier child as Nancy's birth comes four years after WILLIAM and LUCINDA'S marriage. WILLIAM and LUCINDA are listed in the census as illiterate, and WILLIAM makes his mark on deeds - he states in his pension application that he cannot sign his name. This is not at all unusual among farming families on the frontier in these days because of the lack of proper schools. Most parents were too busy eking out a living to teach their offspring what really was not necessary in their situation. The children themselves were the work force of the homestead, working from dawn to dusk. Even children as young as three had chores to perform, in order for the family to survive on the frontier.
WILLIAM states in his pension application that he moved to Arkansas in 1850. According to the 1860 census, daughter Amanda was born there in 1854. Little William who would have been 10 years old in 1860, is not there, and neither is Nancy who would have been 16. William presumably died, but Nancy could have left home to marry or to work. Jerry Sebron (Seaborn) had been born in 1858. At the time of the census, LUCINDA was pregnant with what appears to have been her last child, Enoch Thomas (also written as Thomas Enoch) who gives his birthdate on his death certificate as August 8, 1860.
Copyright ©2002 J. Marie Bassett, all rights reserved. These documents may be freely used for private purposes, and included in your own genealogy. However, this document is copyrighted and may not be sold, nor given to anyone who may attempt to derive profit from same.
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