Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Nancy Ann (Morgan) Hart (1747-1840): A "Cross-Grained" Woman

Thomas Rice, my seven times great grandfather, was "an early adventurer into Virginia," likely arriving in 1679. His daughter, Susannah Rice, married Thomas Hart in 1719. They had at least two children:  Keziah Ann Hart, who married William Gooch, and is an ancestor of Jeanne Bryan Insalaco, author of Everyone has a Story; and Benjamin Hart, who married Nancy Ann Morgan.

Benjamin was born in 1732 in Hanover County, Virginia, and migrated south was a young man. He married Nancy Ann Morgan in 1760 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She was the daughter of Thomas Morgan and Rebecca Alexander.

Nancy Ann (Morgan) Hart; courtesy of Ancestry
member robertfhalejr

Benjamin Hart moved his family to Georgia between 1763 and 1776. They lived near a creek in what is now Elbert County. It acquired the name War Woman's Creek during the Revolutionary War because of the heroic deeds of Nancy Hart, who was known among the Native Americans of that area as War Woman.[1]

The book, Historical Collections of Georgia, by Rev. George White and published in 1855,  included a sketch of Nancy and described several of her exploits. I'd like to share one, which was first published in the Yorkville Pioneer:

"Nancy Hart and her husband settled before the Revolutionary War a few miles above a ford in the Broad River, in Elbert County, Georgia. An apple orchard still remains on this spot.

In altitude Mrs. Hart was a Patagonian, and remarkably well-limbed and muscular. In a word she was 'lofty and sour.' Marked by nature with prominent features, circumstances and accident added, perhaps, not a little to peculiarities. She was horribly cross-eyed, as well as cross-grained; but, nevertheless, she was sharp-shooter. Nothing was more common than to see her in full pursuit of a bounding stag. The huge antlers that hung around cabin, or upheld her trusty gun, gave proof of her skill in gunnery; and the white comb, drained of its honey and hung up for ornament, testified to her powers in bee-finding.

Many can testify to her magical art in the mazes of cookery -- being able to get up a pumpkin in as many forms as there are days in the week. She was extensively known and employed for her profound knowledge in the management of all ailments.

But she was most remarkable for her military feats. She professed high-toned ideas of liberty. Not even the marriage knot could restrain her on that subject. Like the 'wife of Bath,' she received over her tongue-scourged husband

The reins of absolute command,
With all the government of house and land,
And empire o'er his tongue, and o'er his hand.

The clouds of war gathered, and burst with a dreadful explosion in this State. Nancy's spirit rose with the tempest. She declared and proved herself a friend to her country, ready 'to do or die.'

All accused of Whiggism had to hide or swing. The lily-livered Mr. Hart was not the last to seek safety in the cane-brake with his neighbors. They kept up a prowling, skulking kind of life, occasionally sallying forth in a sort of predatory style. The Tories at length however, gave Mrs. Hart a call, and in true soldier manner ordered a repast. Nancy soon had the necessary materials for a good feast spread before them. The smoking venison, the hasty[sic] hoe-cake, and the fresh honeycomb, were sufficient to have provoked the appetite of a gorged epicure! They simultaneously stacked their arms and seated themselves, when, quick as thought, the dauntless Nancy seized one of the guns, cocked it, and with a blazing oath declared she would blow out the brains of the first mortal that offered to rise, or taste a mouthful! They all knew her character too well to imagine that she would say one thing and do another.

An engraving from Historical Collections of Georgia by Rev. George White

'Go,' said she to one of her sons, 'and tell the Whigs that I have taken six base Tories.' They sat still, each expecting to be offered up, with doggedly mean countenances, bearing the marks of disappointed revenge, shame, and unappeased hunger.

Whether the incongruity between Nancy's eyes caused each to imagine himself her immediate object, or whether her commanding attitude, stern and ferocious fixture of countenance, overawed them; or the powerful idea of their non-soldierlike conduct unnerved them; or the certainty of death, it is not easy to determine. They were soon relived, and dealt with according to the rules of the times.

This heroine lived to see her country free. She, however, found game and bees decreasing, and the country becoming old so fast, that she sold out her possessions, in spite of remonstrances of her husband, and was 'among the first' of the pioneers who paved the way to the wilds of the West."

To be continued...

[1] From a page from an unknown book shared by Ancestry member bfdowden7292. It should also be noted that Benjamin Hart is an approved Patriot and a plaque marks his grave, placed their by the local Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) chapter.

The Rice Family: Lost at Sea

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