Crossing the Line
Isaac Brown, Jr. lived in fear of Indians for most of his life. He had reason to be afraid. A group of unfriendly Indians killed his father. They tried to kill his mother. They even tried to kill Isaac, too. So, when Isaac got a chance to save another woman from the hands of barbaric captors, Isaac remembered the blood curdling terror in his mother's eyes, the day they crossed the line.
After the Treaty of Augusta was signed in 1783, the State of Georgia began to carve her pristine lands into new counties. The largest of these was Washington County, named in honor of the nation's greatest hero, General George Washington. Almost from the beginning, Indian leaders began to have second thoughts about the treaty. Alexander McGillivray, the half-Scottish chief of the Creeks, repudiated the treaty and opted instead to negotiate with Spain over the title to the lands along the Oconee River.
The treaty defined the line between the land of the Creeks and the land of the State of Georgia as the Oconee River with the east side belonging to Georgia and the west side to the Indian tribes. Despite the treaty, isolated groups of the Creeks ventured over the line into homesteads granted to former soldiers of the American Revolution. Some of these forays often resulted in violent attacks on the settlers or their unwelcome visitors.
Despite the fact that Chief McGillivray, upon the enticement of President Washington, reversed his position and signed the treaty of New York in 1790, violent encounters along the Oconee resumed and did not reach a climax until 1796. In order to prevent attacks upon her citizens, Georgia established a series of forts along the lower Oconee River. The main fort was established at Fort Fidius, southeast of present day Milledgeville. Next was a fortress at Long Bluff, west of present day Oconee, Georgia at the point where the Central of Georgia Railroad now crosses the Oconee. Some twenty miles to the south, Fort Telfair was established at Carr's Bluff, opposite today's Dublin Country Club. The last in a series of forts was built in 1793 on Berryhill's Bluff, west of current day Lothair in Treutlen County. These forts, placed at all too distant intervals, proved woefully ineffective in preventing the Creeks from crossing the line to the eastern banks of the Oconee.
Isaac Brown, Sr. decided that he would venture across the dividing line and build a home for his family on the west side of the river on lands still held by the Creeks. The home, located some two miles from Long Bluff, was a modest affair with no additional fortifications beyond the usual thick walls and iron locks. Brown hoped to capitalize on the virgin grasslands to raise cattle.
Brown, known as a man without fear, always maintained a stock of loaded guns just in case his family was attacked. As a means of maintaining an early warning system, Brown kept a pack of fine hunting dogs around to alert him of anyone approaching his home.
Although many thought the highly celebrated retaliation against Creeks led by Benjamin Harrison at Carr's Bluff some six months earlier would have prevented the Creeks from crossing the Oconee, river valley dwellers still lived in constant fear of the Creeks, who usually respected the treaty and remained on their side of the river.
On an early morning in May 1797, all of that changed. And, so did the life of Isaac Brown and his family forever. This time it was a white family who crossed the line. The senior Brown heard his dogs barking. When he opened his door to see what the matter was, he was immediately shot dead by an Indian hiding just outside the door.
The attackers, said a report in The Eastern Herald to number ten, began to yell and hoop. Mrs. Brown managed to drag her husband's corpse into the house. She then gathered all of the rifles she could and fired at anything that moved. Initially she succeeded, fending off the assault. But soon, the attackers returned.
All of sudden, Mrs. Brown noticed that her board shelter adjoining the home was on fire. Quickly and as calmly as she could, Mrs. Brown climbed the wall on the inside and extinguished the fire with a big bowl of milk. While she was pouring the milk onto the flames, her exposed arm was shot and broken by a rifle bullet.
The determined lady persevered. And, with the help of a young boy, a son of one James Harrison, she managed once again to ward off the attackers. Mrs. Brown, the Harrison boy and Isaac, Jr. were able to escape back across the river to safety in Washington County. A company of men were dispatched to the scene to investigate Mrs. Brown's claims. There they found Brown's body in the house. Not too far from the house were the bodies of two dead Creek braves, who had unsuccessfully attempted to treat their wounds.
Two decades later, Isaac Brown, Jr. was living with his mother in Twiggs County. Thomas Woodward, who had been appointed by General Andrew Jackson to collect as many Indians as he could and join him at Fort Scott, called upon Isaac to go with him to Florida to end the troubles in the newly acquired territory.
Before they left, Mrs. Brown pleaded to her son, "Isaac, my son, the Indians killed your father and may kill you, but I had rather hear of your being killed than to hear that my son was a coward," as she remembered the day she and a young boy beat back ten Indians by themselves in what Woodward described as "no sham fight."
Isaac had no horse, so both men set out on foot and made their way to Fort Early, where they obtained mounts. The men joined the army of Gen. William McIntosh, another half-Scottish Chief of the Creeks and a first cousin of U.S. Senator George M. Troup of Laurens County, to seek out and destroy Seminole strongholds.
Dressed like Indians, Brown and Woodward came upon a band of Seminoles, which included Billy Powell, the future and powerful Osceola, Chief of the Seminoles. There they found and rescued Mrs. Stuart, who had been captured a year or so before in an attack on Fort Scott. Brown remembered how his own mother had nearly been killed by Indians. Mrs. Stuart was much more fortunate, having been treated kindly by Yellow Hair, an old Indian in the camp. He rejoiced in that he was able to save yet another woman from harm.
Some thirty five years after the Treaty of Augusta established the Oconee River as the border between the Creeks and the whites, the people along the eastern Oconee River would finally rest with no fear of being attacked by those who would cross the line.