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Hart family suffered horrible tragedy in 1830s, impact history

There is more than one Hart family lineage associated with Covington County. The one to be featured in today’s column is that of Moses Hart, Sr., a native of North Carolina. Moses was born circa 1760 and died before 1840 since he was not listed in the 1840 census. He left North Carolina circa 1793 and made his way eventually to Covington County during the mid-1820s. He settled first in the center of the county and near the Montezuma Village. He also resided in the vicinity of what would become the new Town of Andalusia when it was established in 1844. During the 1830s, Moses moved his family to a site east of Andalusia that fell along the Pea River in the southwestern part of Dale County. His place later became a part of Coffee County when it was created. His older sons Fred Robert and Josiah also made their homes in that area.

This move to Dale County proved to be a terribly fateful one for Moses’s two sons, Josiah and Fred Robert “Bob”, and their families. It is also significant that this tragedy is credited with helping launch the last major Indian war in North Florida—the Indian War of 1837. These Hart families were residing in the lower section of Coffee County in the Fairview and Leverett communities. At the same time there were members of the Creek Indian Nation living along the Pea River during the war and even before it occurred.

The Indians made sneak attacks and studied the regular habits of the two Hart families such as when they would go out to milk their cows. Josiah and members of his family would milk their cows at night. Leaning this, the Indians lay in wait and attacked them during one of these occasions. The Harts were surprised and somewhat defenseless, so the Indians murdered all seven members of the family and left an eighth, a two-year old girl, supposedly dead as well. This little girl, Melinda or Mary Melissa, was found lying in a bloody heap in the cow pen, but still breathing. Her aunt was able to nurse her back to good health. Neighbors and relatives gathered and buried the seven bodies in a large common grave in the Weeks Assembly of God Church Cemetery in lower Coffee County.

A short time afterwards, the Indians attempted to do the same to the Robert “Bob” Hart family. They knew this family milked their cows in the early morning. Fortunately, as the Harts were going out to the barn, the dogs began barking enough that sent them back into the house just in time. Sadly, the youngest girl, Chancey, fell behind and was shut out of the house. As she ran around the house and neared the front door, her father held the door open enough for her to escape inside. One of the Indians was so close to scalping her that she was left with an injury to her head.

The surviving Robert Hart and his two sons, Moses and Josiah L., helped seek revenge for his brother and family’s deaths by joining Wellborn’s Alabama Mounted Volunteers, Pouncey’s Company, during the Indian War of 1837. Robert served as a sergeant, and his sons were privates.

An appropriate and much needed action was taken by the Pea River Historical Society in 1983 when it placed a marker at the graves of the Josiah Hart family. The monument, which was placed on a pedestal above the communal grave of the seven family members, was dedicated to memorialize this courageous family.

The surviving families remained in the Pea River area of Dale and Coffee Counties, which was a site that fell within the new Geneva County when it was formed. In January 1838, Moses applied for patents on two tracts of land with each containing 40 acres. He was able to purchase these for $1.25 per acre. One lay on along Pea River, and the other joined it at a corner.

In 1850, Susannah Hart, second wife and widow of Moses Hart, Sr., was residing in the household of Emanuel and Jane Johnson. Living next door to them was Henry Hart who had a son named Moses. Henry’s brother, Carr Hart, was located only two households away. Three Hart brothers, Henry, Carr and Jordan, all married sisters, daughters of John Maxey.

The John Maxey and Carr Hart families had settled in the Loango area in 1820, which was quite early for this area. Carr’s brothers, Henry and Jordan, settled just north of the others during the 1830s. Sometime later, Robert’s son, Josiah Hart, located just one mile west of Henry Hart on Pigeon Creek in the corner of Conecuh County on land for which he paid $1.25 per acres. In 1850, Robert was living in Josiah’s household.

The earliest ancestor, Moses Hart, Sr., born circa 1760, was first married to Chasey with whom he had at least two sons: Fred Robert “Bob,” b. ca 1787, d. 1866; and Josiah. Moses and his second wife, Susannah, had at least three sons: Carr, m. ? Maxey; Henry, m. ? Maxey; and Jordan, m. ? Maxey.

The oldest son, Fred Robert “Bob” Hart, was probably born in Pitt County, North Carolina, and he died in 1866 in Walton County, Florida. He was first named head of a household in the 1820 census when he was residing next door to his younger brother, Josiah Hart. This was in the Prince William’s Parish, Beaufort County, South Carolina. At that date, he had two sons and two daughters, all under the age of 10 years.

Robert and his wife had at least four children: Harriet, b. 1813, m. Daniel Powell; Josiah L., b. ca 1815, d. after 1889, m. ca 1838 Mary Ann Barlow; Moses, b. ca 1815, d. before 1900, m. Martha ?; and Chasey Caroline, b. ca 1816, m. Elisha Wilkerson (1815-1863). All of the children were born in South Carolina with the exception of the youngest, Chasey Caroline.

It appears that Robert’s wife may have died during the 1820s since she is not listed on future census records. Also, from 1840 forward, Robert was listed as living with his oldest son, Josiah L. until he later moved to live with his youngest daughter, Chasey, and her family.

By 1855, Robert had settled on and purchased a tract of land near Chapel Hill in the southeast corner of Covington County. This was located about 10 miles west of his father’s property in the Pea River area. Two of his children, Moses and Chasey, and later his grandson, Robert Jr., settled near him on their own properties.

By 1860, Robert was living with his daughter, Chasey, and her husband, Elisha Wilkerson, and their seven children. He was listed as a laborer. He died in 1866 and was buried in the Wilkerson Old Field Cemetery near Caney Creek in Walton County. This was just inside the Florida state line and near Chapel Hill and Natural Bridge communities.

Much research has been conducted on this Hart family line, so further lineage and history will be presented in a future column. Appreciation is expressed to Barbara (Carpenter) Martin for her extensive research and for sharing it for this writing. She has published this work in a book, My Hart Story, Featuring the Descendants of Moses Hart and His Sons, Robert and Josiah.

Anyone who might find incorrect information in the above or who has additional information on this family is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or E-mail: cthomasson@centurytel.net.

FAMILY REUNION: The Kervin family will have a family reunion at the Welcome Church and Kervin Cemetery, which is located in the Pigeon Creek community, at 1 p.m. on Sun., Oct. 11. There will be a covered dish dinner at the church with family fellowship and historical activities to follow. All Kervin descendants are urged to attend.