NANCY MORGAN HART
About 1771, Benjamin and Nancy Hart
moved to the Broad River settlement of colonial Georgia. Benjamin Hart obained
a 400 acre grant of good flatwoods land about twenty-five miles southeast from
Hartwell in Colonial days. This part of Georgia in which the Harts lived was
still the frontier. Benjamin frequently had to gather up stock and disappear
into the canebrakes where the cattle thieves and Tories dared not follow. They
lived in a log cabin by the banks of a creek which the Indians named
"Wahatchee" (War Woman) in reverence of this feared and respected
They worked hard to make a living
farming. People came from miles around to sample the apples from their huge
orchard, and the Harts shared their bounty willingly. The apple orchard remains
to mark the spot of their home.
Tall Georgia pine trees were used to
build the one room log house. The cabin was constructed with short doors and
wooden shutters over small windows. Holes were left in the mud chinking for
shooting Indians and unwelcomed visitors. A large stone fireplace at one end of
the room provided fire to cook the food and warmth for the winter. Water was
carried from a spring less than half-mile from the cabin. The spring still
produces a steady stream of clear water, feeding into beautiful Wahatchee
Nancy is remembered as being a
remarkable woman with a strong physique and decisive character. She was a
freckled face, red head with the scars of small pox evident on her face. She
was about six feet tall and an expert sharpshooter and hunter. She could handle
a rifle as well as any man. She made certain her family and her neighbors never
lacked for food. Much of their food was wild game. She had many huge antlers
hanging in her cabin to uphold her skill in gunnery. Legend has it that one
side of cabin was covered with antlers of deer she had killed. She was an
energetic housewife and an excellent cook. Her knowledge of frontier medicine
made her a sought after midwife and doctor for the settlement. Her garden was a
pharmacy of herbs which she cultivated to cure all sorts of common ailments.
Some historians report that she even smoked a pipe.
There are many versions
of this same story about Nancy Hart. It is left up to
the individual to draw their own conclusions. Some of the stories about her are
fact and some are myths. Nonetheless, Nancy Hart was an important person in the
Revolutionary War and needs to be remembered.
During the Revolution War six Tories
forced their way into the Hart home and demanded that Nancy cook a meal for
them. She started cooking an old turkey, meanwhile sending her daughter to the
spring to blow a conch shell for help. Detected slipping the third Tory rifle
through a crack in the wall, Nancy killed one of the Tories and wounded
another. Hart and several neighbors, coming to her rescue, wanted to shoot the
five surviving Tories but Nancy insisted that they be hanged, and they were.
When grading crews went out that fateful day in 1912 to work on the Elberton
and Eastern Railroad, they could not know the effect they were about to have on
Georgia History. These men were about to prove that a Georgian by the name of Nancy
"War woman" Hart actually existed. Near a piece of property she once
owned they uncovered the grave of six men from the late 1700's, probably
British, and changed the way America viewed a woman whose exploits had grown to
The first story about Nancy Hart appeared in the Milledgeville Southern
Recorder in 1825.
"One day six Tories paid Nancy a call and demanded a meal. She soon spread
before them smoking venison, hoe-cakes, and fresh honeycomb. Having stacked
their arms, they seated themselves, and started to eat, when Nancy quick as a
flash 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! She sent one of her sons to inform the Whigs of her prisoners.
Whether uncertain because of her cross-eyes which one she was aiming at, or
transfixed by her ferocity, they remained quiet. The Whigs soon arrived and
dealt with the Tories according to the rules of the times."
Over the years many historians began to debunk the stories of Nancy Hart.
Finding the grave so close to Hart property gave the story such credence that
today it is accepted as historical fact. On the northeast border with South
Carolina, Hart County is the only county in Georgia named for a woman.
Tradition has it that Nancy Hart served
as a spy for Gen. Elijah Clarke, sometimes disguised as a man. One incident is
recorded that the Georgia Whigs sent Nancy dressed like a man into a British
camp, pretending to be crazy, and was able to come away with vital information
on the British troop movements.
Another time the Georgia Whigs badly needed information about what was going on
the Carolina side of the Savannah River. As there were no volunteers for the
mission, Nancy tied a few logs together with grapevines, crossed the river and
obtained the needed information.
One evening as she sat at her home in her log cabin with her children around
her, and a pot of soap boiling over the fire, her keen eye discovered someone
peeping through a crevice. With the quickness of lightening she dashed a ladle
full of the boiling soap in the face and eyes of the lurking Tory. Blinded and
scalded, he roared aloud with the pain and terror. Nancy cooly walked out, and
all the while amusing herself with jibes and taunts upon him, bound him as her
On one occasion, she met a Tory on the road, and entering into a conversation
with him, so as to divert his attention, she seized his gun, and declaring that
unless he immediately took up the line of march for the fort she would shoot
him. He was so intimidated that he actually walked before the brave woman who
delivered him to the commander of the American fort.
At one time, she was left in the fort with several women, when it was ambushed
by a party of Tories and Indians. Mrs. Hart immediately assumed the functions
of commander. There was one cannon in the fort, and that with all her efforts,
she was unable to place so that its fire could reach the enemy. The other women
were all strucky powerless with terror. Looking around, Nancy spied a young man
hid under a cowhide. She instantly drew him forth and threatened him with
instant death, at the same time preparing to execute the threat, if he did not
forthwith come to her assistance. The poor coward, filled with new alarm, for
he well knew with whom he had to deal, assisted her, and she soon fired a
charge upon the enemy that caused a hasty retreat.
Nancy Hart was conscious of her power and was a stranger to feat, so she always
went to the mill, several miles off, entirely alone. One day, while on her
rounds, she was met by a band of Tories with the British colors striped on
their clothing and hats. They knew her and asked for her "pass". She
shook her fist at them and replied, "this is my pass, touch me if you
dare!" Being amused at her answer and wishing to have some fun, they
dismounted the old lady and threw her corn to the ground, laughing at her
trouble. But this did not disconcert her in the least, and with her brave,
muscular strength she coolly lifted the two and a half bushels of corn and
proceeded to the mill. She often boastingly said she could do what few men
could and that was to stand in a half bushel measure and shoulder two and a
half bushels of corn.
Once the Kings men were pursuing a rebel. Nancy saw the horseman coming towards
her cabin and recognized him as being a Whig. She motioned him to go through
her cabin, in the front door and out the back door of her one room cabin, and
to the swamp to hide. She went back in the cabin, closed the doors. When the
Tories arrived and asked if she had seen a rider pass. She told them she had
seen somebody on a horse turn off the path into the woods two or three hundred
yards back up the trail. The Tories turned about and went in the direction Nancy
had told them. She had fooled them and sent them in the opposite direction. If
the Tories had looked at the ground they would have seen the horse tracks go up
to the door very plainly and out the other door and down the path to the swamp.
In reading many stories about Nancy Hart, her dislike of the Tories, and the
continuous attempts on both sides to get the better of the other, the climax of
her life must have been the capture of the Tories who had savagely murdered
Colonel John Dooley, a fellow Patriot. Nancy Hart is said to have sung,
"Yankee Doodle" as she watched them die, fulfilling her vow to avenge
After the Revolution, the Harts moved
to Brunswick, where Benjamin died. Nancy Hart then moved to Clarke County.
Years later after Benjamin's death, Nancy joined her son John Hart and other
families on a wagon train to Kentucky. Her journey ended in Henderson County,
then known as the "wilds of the west."
Her last years were spent in the home of the son, John Hart. History has it
that she killed three Indians after moving to Henderson County. She told her
stories to all her grandchildren and they have been passed down to today.
Nancy Morgan Hart died in 1830 in Henderson County, Kentucky and is buried in
the Book-Hart Cemetery. This cemetery is on the very farm in which she lived
with John. It is located on the Anthoston-Frog Island Road. It has been told by
family members that a total eclipse of the sun occurred during Nancy's funeral.
PHOTOS TAKEN AT BOOK-HART CEMETERY
NANCY MORGAN HART