Stephen Heard (1740-1815)
The American Revolution (1775-83) in Georgia was characterized by some
of the conflict's most brutal and violent acts. On the colony's
northeastern frontier, well beyond the boundaries of "civilization" in
Augusta, a partisan, guerrilla-styled civil war raged between Tories,
Whigs, and each group's Indian allies. One participant in this contest
was Stephen Heard, a planter, patriot, soldier, and Georgia governor
(1780-81). Heard County, created in west central Georgia in 1830, was
named in his honor.
Heard was born in Hanover County, Virginia, in November 1740 to
Bridgett Carroll and John Heard Jr. (Heard's paternal grandfather, John
Sr., had arrived in America from Ireland about 1720.) The family
prospered as tobacco farmers in Virginia, where Heard attained a good
elementary education. With the outbreak of the French and Indian War
(1754-63), however, Heard forfeited his schooling for a chance at
adventure. Consequently, he and several of his brothers joined George
Washington's Virginia regiment, an experience that had a direct bearing
on Heard's future. First, he became familiar with the nature of warfare
in a frontier setting, knowledge that would prove useful during the
Revolution. Second, his gallantry during battle brought him to the
attention of Washington, who promoted him to captain. This promotion
laid the foundations for a lifelong friendship between Heard and the
future American general and president.
Around 1759 Heard moved with his family to St. Paul's Parish (a large
portion of which would later be designated as Wilkes County). Because
of his service to England during the French and Indian War, Heard
obtained a land grant of 150 acres some fourteen miles from the mouth
of the Little River, an area that had not yet been secured from the
Creek and Cherokee Indians. To offer settlers protection from Indian
attacks, Heard and his brother Barnard constructed a fort. Completed in
1774, Heard's Fort served as a refuge for local inhabitants and later
became the focal point for the town of Washington, the seat of Wilkes
County. For a brief period during the American Revolution, the fort
served as the temporary capital of Georgia.
When the Revolution began, Heard immediately cast his lot with the
colonists. He thus joined a cadre of other local patriots who would
leave their mark on Georgia's history, including Nancy Hart, Elijah
Clarke, and John Dooly, who also resided in Wilkes County.
Unfortunately for the patriots, support for the American cause was not
unanimous in upper Georgia. From the onset, backcountry Tories severely
challenged Whig efforts to oust the British and secure their own
government. By 1778 Tory activity in Wilkes County had intensified,
especially after the quick fall of Georgia's two most important cities,
Savannah and Augusta, to the British. The British occupation of Georgia
emboldened Tories in the northeastern section of the colony to acts of
violence, one of which resulted in personal tragedy for Heard. In his
absence a group of Tories invaded his home and forced his wife (Jane
Germany) and their adopted daughter out of the house into the snow.
They subsequently died of exposure to the cold.
Despite the death of his wife and child, and at least one attempt by a
local Tory to kill him, Heard remained diligently engaged in the
colonists' cause. On February 14, 1779, Heard took part in the Battle
of Kettle Creek in Wilkes County. Whig forces, numbering around 350 men
and commanded by colonels John Dooly and Andrew Pickens and Lieutenant
Colonel Elijah Clarke, surprised and ambushed Colonel James Boyd's
regiment of almost 600 Tories. The result was a complete rout of
Loyalist forces; only 270 of them escaped the battlefield alive. Heard
was involved in the most violent portion of the fight at Kettle Creek,
where, according to one source, he distinguished himself by
"encouraging his men and leading them to points of danger and vantage."
The Battle of Kettle Creek resulted in a severe setback for the British
cause in northeast Georgia. Tories nevertheless continued to plunder
the countryside, terrorizing its inhabitants. During this period Heard
was captured by Tories and taken as a prisoner to British-held Augusta,
where authorities intended to hang him for treason. One local legend
maintains that Heard would have been executed had it not been for the
courage of his female slave Mammy Kate, who with her husband, Daddy
Jack, traveled on horseback to Augusta to free her master. Kate
convinced British sentries to let her visit Heard and give him food and
clean clothes. Once in the cell, she hid Heard in a large laundry
basket, which she covered with dirty linens, hoisted onto her head, and
carried out of the prison.
Heard soon was elected by Wilkes County to Georgia's House of Assembly.
In February 1780 Georgia's governor, Richard Howley, was sent by the
executive council to represent the state in the Continental Congress.
The council then designated George Wells as chief executive, but
several days later he was killed in a duel with Major James Jackson.
The council then designated Heard as governor on May 24, 1780. Heard's
term continued for just over a year, ending on August 18, 1781. During
his term, the British, who had overrun most of the state, were in
control of its principal cities, and the backcountry was in a state of
anarchy. Heard's Fort functioned temporarily as Georgia's capitol, but
raids by Tories and Indians forced Heard and the council to move about
continually to avoid capture by the British. As Georgia historian
Kenneth Coleman has aptly noted, "Truly, state government was in
default and it was every man for himself in Whig Georgia." Heard
eventually fled to the Carolinas, and the governor's seat was filled by
Myrick Davis in August 1780.
After the Revolution Heard received approximately 6,850 acres in land
grants. On one tract of this land, about thirty miles north of
Washington, he built the stately home he called Heardmont. In 1790 the
land on which the house was built was included in the large parcel
ceded from Wilkes County to form Elbert County.
During the early years of the United States, Heard continued to be
politically active. He was a justice of Elbert County's court for many
years and was also the foreman of its first grand jury. He was one of
the delegates representing Elbert County in the Georgia constitutional
convention of 1795, and he served on the committee that laid out the
county seat of Elberton in 1803. He also remarried; his second wife was
Elizabeth Darden, from Virginia. The couple had five daughters and four
sons. In educating his daughters, Heard became one of the first and
leading patrons of the Moravian School (now Salem College), an
educational institution for women in Salem, North Carolina.
On November 15, 1815, Heard died at Heardmont. He was buried in the
family cemetery near the home. The monument above his grave bears the
following inscription: "Sacred to the Memory of Col Stephen Heard. He
was a soldier of the American Revolution, and fought with the Great
Washington for the liberties of his country." Mammy Kate and Daddy Jack
are buried in the same cemetery.
* A note from the contributor: These papers were in my great
grandmother’s genealogy box; the pages were longer than the average
size. The pages, as I received them, were photocopies of her “original”
pages. However the typing on the left side is faded and at times, hard
to read. There are no “notary stamps” or “notary signatures” and the
Notary’s name, etc, is all typed. There are no hand-signed signatures
on any of the pages at all. The pages that I have are labeled 30-50.
For any word that I just can’t read, I will put a “*”. Or I will make a
comment (in parenthesis) followed by the *…. Hope these are of use to
someone!! Good luck on your research! Nikki
HEARD HISTORY (Newspaper clipping)
Having known the true history of Governor Stephen Heard since I *(was)
able to comprehend who my antecedents were, there seemed nothing
remarkable in the facts that he was the “leader” and “pioneer” of
Wilkes and Elbert counties and that his remains rested in Heardmont
My father, who was mortally wounded in the “seven days fights”
*(around) Richmond, while leading his regiment to a charge, was laid to
rest at *(Herdmont), in 1862. My mother, broken by the hardships that
came after the *(protecting) care of her gallant husband was gone,
died, and is buried by his side. These graves that hold the remains of
the two that were dearest on earth to me, are very near the tombs of
Governor Heard and his wife.
One learns history well, when called to take part and experiences
*(and) sorrows help to engrave it on heart and mind. So though the
price is *(typing too faded to read), there is some recompense in
knowing that we can bear witness to noble deeds.
In Hist. Col. Vol II, 258, is an article signed “G. G. Smith”.
*** (Two or three words too light to read)…in industrious searcher of
court records and did me an *(especial) favor, for which I thank him by
sending information of Stephen Heard *(who) died in 1815, and left a
will, in Morgan County. He said: “The *(too light to read) Stephen
Heard, recorded in Morgan, may be the will of Governor Stephen”.
*? Mr. Smith. It is not the will of Governor Stephen Heard. The Stephen
Heard who died in Morgan County and whose will is recorded there, was
first cousin of the governor, a son of his uncle Stephen, or a son of
his *(too light to read) Charles. If it was Stephen, the son of Stephen
Heard and Mary Falkner, *(too light to read) was several years younger
than Governor Heard. If the son of Charles *(Heard?) he may have been
about the same age.
Capt. Thomas Heard and a Mr. Stephen Heard were in the Georgia
*(too light to read) 1795 Capt. Thomas Heard was a son of Stephen Heard
and Mary Falkner. I do not know whether the Stephen Heard, who was with
him in the Legislature of 1795 was his brother or cousin. They were
both first cousins to Governor Stephen Heard.
I request that Mr. Smith and others interested in Heard history follow
me very closely, for it is easy to get lost in the “mazes” of this
family. If Mr. Smith will read the letter of Dr. Falkner Heard, which
is in Vol. II, he will learn that there were “many Heards” in Wilkes
county at the beginning of Independence.
In “The Story of Georgia” by Geo. G. Smith, D. D. I find this clause:
“A convention has been called by the legislature of 1794 to revise the
constition, and it met in the spring of 1795. It was composed of the
following members: (run the eye down the page to ‘Elbert’):
“Elbert, L. Higginbottom, S. Heard, W. Barnett.”
That would have been written by either Higginbottom or Barnett with the
name “S. Heard” placed first. It was the name of their loved and
trusted leader, Stephen Heard, who had served his country in peace and
war, faithfully and well. He it was who was the first foreman of a
grand jury in Wilkes county, and his name is at the head of the first
grand jury list *(in) Elbert County, when court was held at the old
Carter place in 1791.
If Mr. Smith will look carefully in Vol. II, he will find a list of the
names of the children of Governor Heard. If he wishes better proof, he
can see the old family Bible, from which I copied the names. It is now
in the possession of Hon. Robert Middleton Heard, mayor of Elberton.
“Mrs.” *(to light and to read) is “right” about the relationship of the
three or four “Stephens” Heard *(too light to read) have “confused” the
“historians”. I know of the errors of Mr. White in * *(one or two small
words, too light to read) the history of Governor Stephen Heard long
ago and believe it was *(not?) his fault, but that the blame must rest
with his “careless informers”.
The people of the South were too “self-satisfied” before the war. There
was *(an) Arcadian sweetness in the Savannah valley life that lulled
and *(charmed?). Accomplished men and women cared little for the small
matter of a mistake in history” by some struggling historian, when they
were known *(can’t read) the state and Georgia “kept records”.
*(If?) I am not misinformed of the “lines” of my Heard kinsmen, George
Heard from whom Rev. Peter Heard was descended, was a son of Stephen
Heard and Mary Falkner. This Stephen Heard lived and died in Virginia.
Was not *(can’t read) Peter Heard related to the Coffee family?
By some strange fatality, I seem to have been called to the work *cting
(can’t read) the history of the southern branches of the Heard family.
In 1891 *(can’t read) Henry Clay Fairman wrote to me for sketches of
Elbert County families, naming the “Heards” and “Allens” as “people of
consequence” who might have “interesting histories”. I recognized the
fact that I was not prepared to do the work, but I replied and told him
“I would do the best I could.”
I corresponded with several persons whom I thought “should know” more
about the matter than myself”, without gaining additional information.
The sad realization dawned upon me then that I, perhaps, knew far too
little. But I managed to write the articles for Colonel Fairman, which
appeared in The Sunny South. Those sketches could have been changed and
bettered later, for I became unwilling to take statement “for granted”
without “proof”, and learned to search records.
About one year ago, feeling safe in “accumulated knowledge” gained of
several branches of my family, I was surprised to learn that another
family of Heards claimed our “Stephen” and had put him down something
“Governor Stephen Heard, son of John Heard, who was the son of Stephen
Heard and Mary Falkner.” Also one day when conversing with a friend who
was earnestly seeking her “ancestors”, I received the challenge: “How
can you be the great-granddaughter of Governor Stephen Heard?”. I
replied: When Governor Heard married my great-grandmother he was 44 and
she was 19 years old.
Mrs. Peel, dear regent of our Habersham Chapter, I trust you will bear
with me. The time is past when southern women can keep silent and
expect their brave dead to be honored. We must search the records and
tell the true story. If my answer for the identity of Governor Stephen
Heard is not sufficient in this article, it will be useless for me to
attempt to enlighten the readers of these columns again. And I take the
occasion here to say, If I can receive cooperation, from members of
different branches of the family it is my desire to make a genealogical
history of the Heard family.
Governor Stephen Heard, “pioneer”, “soldier” and “statesman”, a worthy
man, did his duty as hundreds of his noble kinsman did before and after
him. The name is a good one, and we will not let it pass into oblivion
for lack of pen to inscribe it.
John Heard, born in Ireland (the brother of Stephen Heard, who married
Mary Falkner), moved from Virginia to North Carolina and carried his
family sometime before the year 1764. He and his son, Stephen, fought
in the colonial wars and were distinguished for services rendered.
When the excitement of the “beauty” and ‘fertility” of the “broad River
country was at its height, John Heard removed from North Carolina to
Georgia with his family and settled in that section which was
afterwards known as “Wilkes county”. “Headrights” were granted to John
Heard and his two sons, Stephen and Barnard, sometime between the years
1764 and 1769, and they immediately built “Fort Heard”. Stephen Heard
became “captain” of the fort and guardian of the people, protecting and
sheltering helpless women and children and leading the men to drive off
the marauding Indians. This is colonial history.
In light of these facts it is easy to see why Stephen Heard who the
idol of the people of this section when the Revolutionary war came upon
them. They suffered in the conflict, too. The waters of the Savannah
were red with blood when the British and Americans fought in “Cherokee
Ford” at “Kettle Creek” Stephen Heard commanded a regiment. Whether he
had a “commission” of colonel or lieutenant colonel I do not know; but
afterwards he was known as “Colonel Stephen Heard”, and the title is
engraved on his tomb. His beautiful Sword, the guard a spread eagle,
the hilt finely chased in gold and inlaid with mother of pearl, hangs
in the home of Eugene Barnard Heard, his Grandson at “Rosehill”, Elbert
county. The blade of good steel is untarnished and as free from stain
as the spotless character of the man who drew it in defense of his
On “Oakland” plantation, once a part of the Wilkes, now in Elbert, a
battle was fought in the “branch bottom” below the old Allen quarter.
Colonel Stephen Heard’s horse was shot there by “Ballanger”, a Tory,
and fell, crushing the colonel’s leg. That hurt and the loss of a
tooth, shot out when he was *(printing is too light to tell, two or
three words, last one looks like it could be wound?) were the only
injuries he sustained in the war.
*(Too light to read) time of these engagements in which he took part he
had been imprisoned at the fort *(in or at) Augusta, but he had escaped
with the assistance of *(too light to read)
Bernard Heard kept the court records of Wilkes for many years, and it
was through the faithfulness of this “pioneer” family of Heards that
the early records of Wilkes were preserved. The records themselves bear
testimony *(in the?) firm, strong handwriting and signature that can
still be seen there.
Bernard Heard, registrar of Wilkes County, was known as “Major Bernard
Heard” in Revolution. He was carried “in irons” to Augusta and
imprisoned in “*(Fort?) Cornwallis”, but escaped in time to participate
in the siege of Aug*(Augusta?).
In*(too light to read) Heard history reached a climax: John Heard, the
father of Stephen and Bernard, was imprisoned and starving in Fort
Cornwallis. Major Barnard Heard found his father there, after the fort
was reduced, and carried him home to Wilkes County. Colonel Stephen
Heard one of the three governors of *(that?) year (the only one in the
state) held the administration together at Fort Heard, and employed
himself in watching the situation, sending dispatches to General
Washington, and taking care of the records.
The Heards were Whigs. Scores of them fought in the Revolutionary war.
Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia had
their names on record---- commissioned officers, non-commissioned
officers and private soldiers. Men in their prime and beardless boys.
Charles Heard and his sons fought in South Carolina and Georgia. The
sons of Stephen Heard and Mary Falkner were enlisted in Virginia, but
came to Georgia in 1784 and had grants of land in this state. It is
useless for me to undertake to relate their deeds of valor in a short
sketch like this. It is not that my family had the most history, but it
has been collected and preserved. I have historical material of some
others of the name who were illustrious examples of fidelity in
England, Ireland and America, gracing the high offices of state, army
and navy, with which they have been so often entrusted.
Some of the Heard family lines are broken and hard to get. This is
perhaps, owing to the fact that they have given themselves freely in
sacrifice to home and country. In the great war between the states the
southern Heards suffered many losses, and some still bear the scars of
*ounds (wounds) received.
It is the character of the men to be brave; and the women are true.
Emergencies bring them to the front, and their escutcheon remains
In another article I wish to give the names of all the descendants of
Governor Heard that I have been able to collect. Some are still in
*lbert(cut off on page gray page border) county, some in Atlanta,
Augusta, Athens, Columbus and other places in Georgia; others in
Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.
Mrs. A. C. M. Wall
I, this July 25, 1931, hereby certify that the above and foregoing
pages are a true and correct copy of an article printed in the
Constitution, a newspaper printed in Atlanta, Georgia, Sunday June 22,
Peter A. Brannon
Notary Public, Montgomery County Alabama
My commission expires Nov 24, 1934 Mary Heard of Washington, Georgia
Mary Heard was the mother of Melvina McAulay of Coddle Creek, and the
wife of Robert Grier who died in the Alabama Territory. She was
originally from Washington, Georgia.
The origins of the Heard family are lost in the mists of 17th century
Virginia. A.E. Wynn in his book, Southern Lineages A Record of Thirteen
Families, discusses the possible origins of the family at some length.
But the Heard's rose to prominence in Georgia as one of the founding
Virginia families of the aristocrats' ante-bellum town of Washington,
Ga. The Story of Washington Wilkes, page 13, (Univ. of Ga. Press 1941)
“On the last day of December, 1783, a band of Westmoreland County
Virginians reached the primeval forest that stood on the present site
of Washington and on New Year’s Day began the arduous work of
conquering the wilderness. As a precaution against Indian forays, great
trees were felled for a stockaded fortification which was called Fort
Heard in honor of one of the Virginia families. The Heard's, reputedly
descendents of William the Conqueror, had settled in Virginia in 1720
as neighbors of George Washington’s family from whom they had obtained
Arabian horses. John Heard, Jr. with his wife and sons, Barnard, Jesse,
and Stephen, were included in the group that migrated to Georgia. Jesse
remained at Fort Heard, which stood just north of what is now the
public square. Stephen, who had done military service under George
Washington, soon left and settled on Fishing Creek, eight miles away,
where he built another stockade, this one called Heard’s Fort.”
How much of the above is true is not sure. Certainly the part about
William the Conqueror is nonsense, but the Heard's made a good enough
impression as aristocrats to get a good press. Jesse Heard, the lineal
ancestor from Virginia, was in this group of settlers. He had served as
Commissioner of the Peace in Virginia before independence, and was a
Commissioner of Provisions for the Revolutionary army in Virginia after
independence was declared, buying “1600 pounds of beef, corn, etc.” for
the army. At this same time Stephen Heard bought from Elijah King, Lt.
in Col. Washington’s dragoons, a horse three fourths blooded and worth
The Heard's were active patriots in Virginia. The History of
Pittsylvania County; Virginia by M.C. Clement records that Lt. Jesse
Heard of the Pittsylvania Minute Men took part in the battle of Gwynn’s
Island, July 9, 1776 under the command of General Andrew Lewis, and was
made a captain after the company was ordered to the frontier. Jesse
Heard also took part as a private in the Georgia militia after he moved
to Georgia during the war years. Jesse Heard moved constantly between
Virginia and Georgia in the later part of his life, owning and
speculating with considerable tracts of land in each state.
Benjamin Wilkinson was one of the party from Virginia who pioneered
Washington, Georgia, with the Heard's. Jesse Heard married his
daughter, Judith; and the couple had a daughter, Mary, as well as
Stephen, Jesse, Lucy and Sally.
Mary, a headstrong young lady, was born in Georgia some time after
1782. She fell violently in love with, tall Bob Grier of a Scots-Irish
family. The Heard's, tiny people who saw themselves as Virginia
aristocrats, looked upon these tall admirers of Andrew Jackson with
ultimate disdain. They expected tall Bob Grier, who read the classics
and played the violin, to spit on the floor because of his frontier
Captain Heard opposed the match, but Mary would have Bob Grier. The
Captain said he wanted a moneyed, better match for her. Mary, who was
nothing if not an extremist, said Robert or no one. Captain Heard said,
“no one, then.” This quite excited Mary. She told the Heard's plain
that she would marry Robert and come back to show the Heard's what
wealth really was, since Robert was not rich enough for them.
Captain Heard said for her to go to her room. She did, and when she had
decided to elope with Bob Grier, she came out, smiling.
“The way in which they eloped was this. Mary went out to go to prayer
meeting, a sure sign of trouble, for resolute Mary was not big on
prayer, action being more her temperament, while the Heard's were
parents who saw what they wanted to see.
Bob met her at a fork in the road. He had two horses. Robert would not
be married at the nearby house of a Baptist minister, but held out for
a Presbyterian one some hours away. Mary, a Presbyterian herself,
considered this excessive piety for a cold day in February. It was Feb.
She spurred her horse and galloped away. Tall Bob chased after her. He
chased her through several fields, yelling delightedly and spurring
deep, until he caught her after a happy chase. He pulled her down off
her high horse and squeezed and kissed her until they were warm.
Afterwards they galloped merrily together to the Presbyterian Meeting
House where they were married.
They settled in Wilkes County, Georgia, near the Grier's. If the
Heard's had not approved of Robert, it was now the Grier's’ turn to
wonder what he saw in her. Mary was a handful for a wife. She was
bossy. She was hot tempered. She wanted money to impress the Heard's.
They said Robert was a saint for living with her. He probably was. On
one occasion when he was playing the violin and not listening to her
prattle, she took his violin and threw it in the fire. What he said
does not come down to us, but they seemed to have a deep natural
inclination for each other. They had eleven children.
When the Grier family moved to Alabama Territory, and the men died,
Mary took over the property, ran it better than they had. When Indians
with devilment in mind called on the new widow, she opened the door
boldly, invited them in to dinner, and put so much salt in the food
they left hastily and never came back. When she heard a prowler outside
in the dark, she sneaked up behind him with a knife, grabbed him by the
throat and threatened to slit it. The prowler was a black man come to
call on one of her maids. She told him to call in the open, not sneak
in from a neighboring farm.
In 1827 she developed a tooth ache. Characteristically, she pulled her
tooth herself with a pair of pliers. She developed aerosyphillis from
this and died with a fantastically swollen face on the night of August
2, 1827. She left eight orphans to be taken in by their Presbyterian
minister uncle, Reverend Isaac Grier who came at once. It was a sorry
end for Mary Heard who had vowed to return to Washington to show the
Heard's what wealth really was. She fought a good fight, having much
spirit but bad values.
If it was a sorry ending, it was perhaps a truly Heard story, for the
Heard's seemed to turn to ‘strong people, strong minds and strong
tempers. Tradition says the founder of the family, John Heard, left
Ireland because, in a fit of irritation he stabbed a pitchfork in a
Church of Ireland minister who asked him for a tithe. It was said that
he had never been fond of the Church of Ireland (Episcopal).
Mary Heard’s first cousin, Stephen Heard, was governor of Georgia for a
period during the American Revolution. This is how Stephen Heard
escaped from a British prison in a clothes basket, and Nancy Heard was
evicted from her house and froze to death in the snow.
“Your grandmother was’ from Georgia where her cousin, Stephen Heard,
was a governor in the struggle for Independence. Those were bad days.
The British had the upper hand in Georgia.
It was hard to be a Presbyterian, then, for the English shut the
meeting houses and arrested the ministers. The ministers would gallop
the back trails, smuggle themselves through Tory territory, preach the
freedom of the Christian man, and ride off to the next assembly. Often
the preacher left by the back door as the redcoats drew up in front of
the Church yard during preaching. A boy with a saddle horse stayed in
the church yard during preaching, so if the minister had to run, with
bullets flying, from the British. They preached like angels in those
days. You heard straight preaching then.
Being governor of Georgia then was like being a preacher. You took the
back roads, sneaked into the assemblies and took off with bullets
flying. Stephen Heard was governor in those bad times. He hid in the
woods and traveled constantly, two shakes ahead of the redcoats, with
the government of Georgia in his coat pocket.
He was caught only once, and then the British condemned him to die. He
was in jail waiting to dance on a rope when Aunt Kate, a tall black
woman, took things in her own hands. She liked the little Massa. For
the Heard's were all tiny folk, fiery and quick, and she decided to
smuggle him out.
She showed up at the jail with a tall basket of clean linen, carrying
it on her head like they do in Africa. She told the guards it was clean
clothes for the hanging. They let her through. Inside the jail, she put
tiny Stephen Heard in the basket, covered him with dirty clothes, and
carried him out on her turbaned head, pretty as you please.
In gratitude Stephen Heard tried to free her. “But I ain’t freed you,
little massa.” she said, smiling down at Stephen. She preferred to stay
with the family, looked after them all like a big nurse with little
children, and is buried in the family plot.
But the redcoats were determined to get even with the Heard's. They
found out Stephen Heard had left his wife on the farm, and went out
there in the dead of winter when snow was on the ground. They
confiscated his people to resell, set the house and cabins on fire, and
left Nancy Heard alone with a baby in her arms. They rode away as the
snow began to fall.
Nancy set off gallantly with the baby in her arms, another child in
tow. The neighbors found her body beneath the snow some hours later.
They tried to revive her before the fire, but Nancy and her two
children died of exposure soon after.
Stephen Heard did not marry again for sometime, and when he did, it was
a grand niece of General George Washington.”
The site of Captain Jesse Heard’s house in Washington, Georgia, Fort
Heard had a new brick house erected on it in 1824 by General B.W.
Heard. It was in this old Heard house, where the Washington Courthouse
now stands, the last cabinet meeting of the Confederacy was held.*
An interesting clipping from the Atlanta Journal in the
L.L. Knight, Georgia’s Landmarks- Memorials and Legends. Volume 17,
1913 (includes pictures of Old Heard House)
I. Wilkes County
Even before the colonization of Savannah, Georgia, pack traders and
trappers were in this area and intrepid families were slowly moving in.
However, from the moment the broadside issued by Governor Wright in
June 1773 went out into the Carolinas, Virginia, and Pennsylvania
offering the rich, deep-loamed, well-watered hills of these ceded lands
of northeast Georgia. For headright settlement, sturdy pioneers of
English, Scotch-Irish, and German descent brought their families to
claim this favored earth. In 1774, the first forts were established
near the confluence of the Broad and Savannah Rivers just north of the
present town of Washington, Georgia and became known as Fort Heard.
This stockade, named for one of the Virginia families, was constructed
for protection against possible Indian attacks, and later served as
defense against British assaults during the Revolutionary War. Soon
after its completion, another stockade, called Heard’s Fort for its
builder, Stephen Heard, was constructed eight miles away on Fishing
Creek. (Heard’s Fort served as a temporary seat of government in 1780
during the British occupation.) One year after the Declaration of
Independence, the Executive Council re-designated these ceded lands as
Wilkes County (1777), making it the first county of the State of
II. Washington, Georgia
On January 23, 1780, the Legislature appointed five men to lay out a
hundred acres in Wilkes County into a common and town, “which shall be
called Washington.” Stephen Heard and Micajah Williams, two of five men
appointed by the Legisature, served as commissioners to see that lots
were sold, a free school was built, and surplus money was used for the
construction of a church.
In 1786, Micajah Williamson opened a tavern, located on the present
site of the Wilkes County Courthouse. Here, Politicians met and one of
the tavern rooms temporarily served as a courtroom. In 1790, the town
also served as a stop for stagecoach lines from Augusta.
In 1804, a stage line was incorporated to operate stages between
Augusta and Washington. New Business enterprises took place in the
expanding town, and rapidly replaced the few remaining residences
around the public square.
The railroad began to develop in Georgia in the late 1830s. However, it
was not until 1847 that Samuel Barnett and other members of the
Washington Railroad and Banking Company were able to induce the Georgia
Railroad to build a branch from the main line to Washington. The spur
was completed in 1853.
On the night of January 19, 1861, messengers brought the news of
Georgia’s secession, and a new Confederate emblem, a blue flag with a
single five-pointed star, was raised in front of the courthouse.
Four-years later, on May 5, 1865, remnants of the Confederate cabinet
from Richmond met in Washington and President Jefferson Davis met with
his Confederate Cabinet for the last time.
Contributed by Stephen Heard, of Avon, IL