Week 16 – 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: William Madison Bryan

Week 16: April 19, 2014

William Madison Bryan

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William Madison and Fannie (Fortner) Bryan

William Madison Bryan was born January 12, 1849 in Dahlonega, Lumpkin Co., Ga. to parents Berrian Clark Bryan and Berilla Free. He lived in the Cane Creek District of Lumpkin County near Cane Creek in a log cabin; he was one of thirteen children.

Fanny Bryan

Fanny Bryan

Hickory Flats Cem

Hickory Flatts Cemetary

William married Fannie Fortner (1845-1893) on Feb. 10, 1867 and they had six children, with only one being a son. Their first children, Mary Elizabeth and Barilla M. were twins born in 1870. The 1870 census must have been taken late in year as they were both listed as two months old. It was told through the family that the twins died but from later census records I found Barilla living in their family household in 1880. Her death is listed in the Chestatee Baptist association book as dying young at 17 years, 7 months. From another researcher I found her listed as being married and dying in 1894. She is buried with her mother Fannie at Hickory Flats Cemetery in Fannin County, Ga. The cemetery is located on the top of Hawk Mountain, near Springer Mountain, which is next to the beginning of the Appalachian Trail.

I have been to this cemetery and seen both graves of Barilla and Fannie Bryan; it is a small cemetery located on the top of a mountain. I often wondered why they are the only two Bryan’s buried there and am told that often in the mountains, if weather did not permit, you were buried at whatever cemetery closest to you. Travel up in the mountains. on the back dirt roads. were treacherous during the winter months.

The Hickory Flats community was secluded far back in the mountains and part of New Bethel Church. The cemetery there appears to be in the center point of where Lumpkin and Fannin county meet and is situated on wildlife management property. It is accessed by a rough dirt graveled road, but still owned today by the New Bethel Church. I don’t know exactly when, but the New Bethel Church relocated to Etowah, Tennessee, at some point. There are many Bryan gravestones there in Tenn. and it seems that many of the Bryan families followed the church there.

The road I was taken on to reach the Hickory Flats cemetery, circled round and round, all the way to the top. It was not wide enough to qualify as a road, but more of a path on the side of the mountain. If you were to open the drivers door, you hit the mountain – if you opened the passenger’s door you’d fall off the mountain! There was running water down below on my side; I’m told this road is called Winding Stair Gap road. There is another dirt road up top that runs way back in the mountains, and by traveling it you will find that each cemetery – Hickory Flats, Nimblewill and Cane Creek – are actually only a few miles apart of each other; that road is just about wide enough for a small car to fit and full of ruts and roots. If you took the main roads to each cemetery you would have to drive quite a distance to reach each one. This back dirt road is probably the same one my ancestors took to travel on. So it seems, that if you died in the winter, your choice of certain cemeteries weren’t an option; travel in the mountains with the snow was hard – imagine trying to get through with a horse and wagon carrying a casket and all the people who wanted to attend. Those back dirt roads were probably also used for a lot of moon-shining too! My many thanks to cousin Charles Bryan of Union Point, Georgia for being my guide and driver on that day!

When Fannie died, Sara Catherine, being the oldest daughter, took on the responsibility of taking care of the family as she was not married. It was said that her brother, William Clark went to live with her later on in 1893, the year their father remarried. She was not married at that time but may have been living out of the household.

William Madison married Prairie Flowers Hawk in 1893. I’ve found many spellings of her name, but on her gravestone it is Paria Bryant. It is said by the family that Prairie was an American Indian, possibly Cherokee. His children by her were of more darker skin, black hair and brown eyes. The “T” added to Bryan on her gravestone is also listed  on William Madison’s gravestone at Cane Creek Cemetery. It seems their name changed to Bryant after moving to Jackson County around 1900. The 1900 Talmo, Jackson Co., Ga. census listed him as a cotton farmer.

William Madison moved back to Cane Creek to live with his father, Berrian Clark Bryan when he became ill. It’s told that William was not in good health and wanted to live his last days where he was born. About ten days before he died, he returned to the cabin of his father, Berrian Clark Bryan, who was now age 96. William fulfilled his wish of living out the rest of his life with his father in his mountain home; he died on Oct. 8, 1921 with his father, family and friends at his side. He was buried next to his mother Burilla at Cane Creek Cemetery in Dahlonga, Lumpkin Co., Ga. His second wife, Prairie, was still living and remained in their home in Jackson Co. where her children were. Travel at that time of the year was not possible for her, as her health was not good either.

From the children of Prairie and William, I’m told that many of the grandchildren helped to look after Prairie when she later became bedridden. They took her water and food daily and watched after her while their mother, Susie Bryant, worked. They remember that Prairie died the day after Christmas and that the weather and roads were so bad that the only family who could attend the funeral were Prarie’s son, Lonnie Bryant. The rest of the children didn’t arrive until after the funeral – and then Prairie was already buried. As everything was frozen and such bad weather, the family could not take her to Cane Creek Baptist Church in Dahlonega to be buried next to her husband; they decided to bury her close to home at Mountain Baptist Church cemetery in Jackson, Co., Ga. There were no physician in attendance when Prairie died. Her coffin was bought at T.W. Murphy & Son’s, the local general store; she was buried the day after she died.

When I came into contact with this Bryan family from his marriage to Prairie they knew that their grandfather’s home-place at Cane Creek was near the church. Their son William Owen Bryant told them. “If I could find the spring below the church I’d know the right direction to go in finding the cabin site of my grandfather, Berrian Clark Bryan. Back when we went to Cane Creek with my grandfather, the church wasn’t painted white, there was no front porch, no electricity – there were oil lamps hanging on the walls. Behind the church were wooden chicken pens for people to put chickens in for the preacher. Most of the graves in Cane Creek, at that time, were marked only with a field stone; my father, William Madison Bryant, didn’t have a marker either at that time. The road to the church was barely passable and we could only go in the summer when the road was dry. I really enjoyed those trips, we would take a picnic lunch. Later on we wanted to put a marker on his grave, but we didn’t remember the exact location. After talking to some of the older church members, who had information on the cemetery, we placed a stone there with the Bryant name; that was the only way they knew their name spelled through the years. We also put a stone marker for Prairie at Mountain Creek Church.”

After making contact with the family of William Madison Bryan’s second family they learned that the original spelling of their name was Bryan – no “T”. William’s son Owen had told them their grandpa’s home place was near Cane Creek Church, but they always assumed that the name was Bryant. You will find that in every family, names changed or were misspelled; sometimes for a reason, but often for no reason.

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One Response to Week 16 – 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: William Madison Bryan

  1. Pingback: 52 Ancestors Challenge: Week 17 Recap | No Story Too Small

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