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Benjamin & Nancy Ann Hart

NANCY MORGAN HART


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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 person.


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.


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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 Creek.


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 mythical proportions.

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.


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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 prisoner.

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 their deed.


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

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NANCY MORGAN HART 

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  JOHN HART

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