(Jeremiah Austill ((1793- 1881) was one of the participants of the famous Canoe Fight that took place in Alabama in 1813. We hear his actual words in this autobiography from him. The autobiography was published in The Alabama Historical Quarterly in 1944 and the first part of the article transcribed here tells about the Battle of Burnt Corn and why the town was named Burnt Corn.)
JEREMIAH AUSTILL AUTOBIOGRAPHY
My father, Evan Austill, was married to Sarah Files, in Pendleton District, S. C, in 1793, and I was born the 10th of August, 1794, and the Cherokees being at war with the United States until the year 1798, when a treaty was held at the Ocony Stations, whereupon Silas Dinsmore was appointed Chief Agent, and my father as an assistant and mechanic, to teach the Indians civilization; whereupon the Agency was established near the center of the Nation, upon the Otenally River, the main branch of the Alabama River, to which place they moved in the same year, and in 1804, I was sent to Col. Rhode Easley’s to school, at the high school of the Appelachy, Ga.
Silas Dinsmore (1766-1847)
But as the Colonel was rarely at home, his servants treated me very badly, as well as a half-breed of my age. My father came and carried us both back to the Nation; when at the age of eleven years old, he carried me to Pendelton, S. C., near the same place, in charge of George Reed, a very strict Presbyterian, where I remained one year, and returned to the Agency.
At the age of twelve years, my father employed an Englishman to teach me and three of my sisters one year, which finished my schooling. I then went to my Uncle’s, David Files, in Jackson County, Georgia, and remained in his store for several months, returning home went to work on his farm until 1809.
My father determined to move to Alexandria, La. We started about the first of December, by way of the Mussel Shoals, thence down the (Tennessee to the Natchez Trace, down which we proceeded within twenty miles of the cotton gin on the Bigbee, where we were water bound from excessive rains. For several days we could not move either way, until we nearly starved out, we then returned to Colbert, on the Tennessee, to procure provision.
The winter remained so wet, and the water so high, we were compelled to remain until April of 1810. In the meantime, Jim Vann, a celebrated Chief, or leading man of the Nation, was murdered, who had been opposed to the sale and removal of the Cherokees across the Mississippi.
James Vann, Indian Chief
My father concluded the sale would then be made, hence we returned to the Nation where we had lived, and made crop of corn and other provisions. But as there was no prospect of an early sale of the County, and in the interval, James McGaffin, just from. St. Stephens, Ala., stopped a week with us, and such was his praise of Clarke County, my father was induced to pack up and move to new Clarke, which had been but recently bought from the Choctaws. It was indeed all one could desire, the production of the virgin soil was all one could ask, the range unsurpassed, and game in abundance.
An incident occurred on our way down through the Creek nation to Montgomery, just what is now Wetumpka, we were stopped by a large body of warriors, alleging that it was against their law for any one to move through their Nation. A council was held to determine whether we should be murdered, or all our stock, horses and effects taken from us. During the council, an Indian countryman came from Tuckabatche, and informed them that my father had obtained leave from Double Head to come that way from the Cherokee Nation, whereupon we were allowed to pass on, and Quarles remained with us until we reached Dales Ferry. Lest we might be disturbed on the way—for the Indians were very hostile at that time —.
We started with sixty head of fine cows and calves, and on reaching the long leaf pine, the cows were taken with the murrin, and all died except one cow and twenty-one calves, and we settled on the dividing ridge between the river five miles below what is now Suggsville, and in the spring of 1813, we rented land enough to make a supply of corn and other crops.
In June, it became evident that the Creek Indians were preparing for war, whereupon the settlers in the neighborhood assembled and built a stockade or fort, six hundred yards South of Father’s house, into which about seven hundred souls moved in, and we had very little space left. Soon after, we learned some two hundred and fifty Indians were on their way down to Pensacola for ammunition, taking Jim Cornal’s wife, a white woman, prisoner, burning up his possessions and corncrib, giving the place the name of Burnt Corn.
Whereupon, the citizens of Clarke and Washington Counties raised a force of about two hundred or more mounted men, under the command of Col. James Castin and Major Woods, with Capt Samuel Dale, McFarlin, Murrell, who crossed the Alabama, and marched on to. Burnt Corn, there taking the road to Pensacola, after proceeding some ten miles down into the fork of Burnt Corn Creek, where they met some one hundred and fifty or two hundred pack horses with all the Indians in the rear ascending the ridge.
A charge was ordered, but on entering among the pack horses, found the Indians retreating back on either side into the cane, and instead of pursuing them, most of the men dismounted, each to secure a pack horse. The Commander discovered the Indians ascending each stream in the cane to surround them, the Colonel ordered his men to fall back, when the Indians discovered the confusion, they raised the war whoop and charged on the Commander, producing a panic, and fled. The Colonel could not check the men, leaving several men on foot who were pursued and killed. Thus ended the Burnt Corn battle.
- The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 06, No. 01, Spring Issue 1944. The autobiography of one of Alabama’s most distinguished pioneer citizens. (This valuable paper was presented to the Alabama State Department of Archives and History in 1912 by R. T. Irvin, of Mobile. It had probably come into Mr. Irvin’s hands through Judge Henriosco Austill, son of Jere Austin. It was through Judge Austill that a very beautiful oil portrait of his father was presented to the Department and hangs on the walls of the World War Memorial Building in Montgomery. Judge Austill came to Clarke County with his father in 1813 and took part in succeeding years in the perilous border warfare of that day. He was only nineteen years of age when he participated in the famous Canoe Fight with Sam Dale and others. In his mature years he became an extensive planter, raising huge cotton crops. Descendants reside in South Alabama, Virginia and other sections of the country. He died in 1881.)
Check out books and novels by Donna R. Causey
FreeHearts: A Novel Of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) (Volume 3) – Col. John Washington (ancestor of President George Washington), Randall Revell, Tom Cottingham, Edmund Beauchamp ward off Indian attacks and conquer the wilds of Maryland’s Eastern shore in 17th century colonial America in this historical novel, inspired by true events.