Week 29: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: James and Elizabeth (Cain) Bryan


James Bryan – Daughter – Parthena – Wife Elizabeth (Cain) Bryan

Week 29 – July 19, 2014                          

 James and Elizabeth (Cain) Bryan

James, son of John and Nancy (maiden name unknown at this time) Bryan, was born December 24, 1791 in Sumter, Georgia from his obituary; 1880 census says South Carolina. It’s highly unlikely that James was born in Sumter since that part of Georgia was still a part of the Creek Indian Nation at the time of his birth in 1791.” His obituary in the Dahlonega Signal on March 20, 1885 stated that he was born in Sumter County and appears to be where this piece of information originated; we all know how information in obituaries vary and many times wrong. This would also place him far from the Franklin County/Habersham County, Georgia area where his presumed father, John Bryan, and presumed brother, Tarrance Bryan, were living.

In the records and manuscripts of Traveler’s Rest, in the GA. Archives, a manuscript from the Traveler’s Rest/Jarrett Manor Collection (1747-1777) lists the names of John, James and Tarrent (Tarrance) Bryan (Bryant). They were listed in the store records and tanyard records. This seems to show that they lived close enough to Traveler’s Rest, in what is now Stephen’s Co., to be customers. (These records have not been published, are yellowed by time and quite fragile. They must be requested in the main library.) In the 1818-1820 store ledger on pg. 64, there is a charge made by Elizabeth Bryan on May 29, 1818 for $1.00. On pg. 96, on March 28, 1819, James Bryant paid “$1.00 to settle account of his sister Betsy.” (James did have a sister Elizabeth) Names also found there were Thomas Cain, Nancy Cain, John Cain, Issac Cain and Ransom Cain. (Note: As James Bryan married a Cain, and his sister Elizabeth married Ransom Cain, these names may very well fit into their families (The dates of 1747-1777 were of years when only my John Bryan would have been living – could he have had brothers of James and Tarrance also or wrong dates given in the listing: Don’t you just hate second guessing everything?

Traveler’s Rest, located in Toccoa, Ga, was a stagecoach inn in what was once Habersham Co., but is now in Stephens County on the banks of the Tugaloo River. It was in operation during and around 1826 on the Unicoi Turnpike, which ran from Tugaloo crossroads to Sweetwater, Tenn., just above Athens. Much travel was between North East Ga. and South East Tenn. along the Unicoi Turnpike.

Sumter County was created in 1831 from Lee County, just four years after the Creek Indians vacated the region when the state acquired the territory from them in the 1825 Treaty of Indian Springs. Both counties mentioned are in the extreme southwestern portion of the state of Georgia and at the opposite corner of the state from Franklin County. James Bryan had an interest in property in Sumter County as legatee of John Bryan’s land draw in that county, but I have not found any evidence that John or James ever lived in that part of Georgia. We do not know at what period of time he came to Franklin County with his parents, but he is placed there in 1813 by his pension war records on his enlistment and his marriage in 1818. James died March 12,1885 in Hall County, Georgia. while living with his youngest daughter Parthena Bryan Bruce Ray. Nothing was ever written as to where he was buried or have I found his grave site.

James Bryan War of 1812 doc

James Bryan Enlistment Record for War of 1812

James enlisted as a volunteer in the War of 1812 with Great Britain and the Creek Indians in 1813. He served as a sergeant in the company commanded by Captain Benjamin Cleveland, Jr., in the 1st regiment of the Georgia Militia, which was commanded by Colonel Samuel Groves. He volunteered and was mustered into service at Carnesville, Franklin County, Georgia on August 24, 1813 and originally signed up for a term of 6 months.

He was listed as present for the Muster Roll Call for the period ending September 30, 1813, but is marked absent with leave on the Muster Roll Call of March 3, 1814 –  sickness given as the reason. The Company Pay Roll for August 1813 to March 1814 indicates that his service terminated on March 3, 1814 and that he served a total of 6 months and 11 days. His pay was $11.00 per month and he received a total of $74.08 for his war service. James Bryan was honorable discharged at Fort Hawkins, Milledgeville, Georgia on March 3, 1814.

James marred Elizabeth (Betsie) Cain on October 1, 1818 in Franklin County, Georgia. Their marriage record was recorded in his pension records; I never found it listed in the Franklin County marriage records.

They lived in Habersham County Georgia, having seven children before moving to Lumpkin County by 1831 – after the removal of the Cherokee Indians. In 1832 Lumpkin County was formed and James Bryan, soldier of late was listed in the Gold Lottery for District Jones. Lumpkin was created in 1832 from Cherokee, Hall and Habersham Counties. The largest portion of Lumpkin County, lying west of the Chestatee River, had formerly been part of the Cherokee Nation; county lines were changing once again. James and Elizabeth settled in the northern part of Lumpkin County long before the courthouse was built or any plank houses, nothing but pine-pole cabins.

James and Betsie had eleven children: Phillip Oray Devalson Bryan b. 1817; Fatima F. Bryan b. 1819; Lucinda Bryan b. 1821; Berrian Clark Bryan b. 1823; William Bryan b. 1824; Rausey Melinda Bryan b. 1825; Nancy Caroline Bryan b. 1828, Thomas Kinsey Bryan b. 1831, John Wesley Bryan b. 1834; Gabriel Milligan Bryan b. 1836; Parthena Ann Elizabeth Bryan b. 1840. Nancy Caroline was the last of their children to be born in Habersham County – by the time Thomas Kinsey was born in 1831, James and Betsie were in Lumpkin County.


The gated walkway which leads to the cabin site of Berrian Clark Bryan – for another story.

James was a pioneer settler in Lumpkin County. He is listed in “Whites Among the Cherokees – Ga. 1828-1838” with seven in family. The early pioneers like James built their farms along the creek banks when possible. We know his son, Berrian Clark Bryan, built his cabin in a hollow across from Cane Creek, we might assume that James Bryan lived nearby in the same area. (I learned where B.C. Bryan lived when I did a walk in years ago and found the area where he built his cabin)

A typical cabin consisted of a log room with a dirt floor and a mud-and-stick chimney. The early settlers usually owned a cow, some sheep and an ox. Hunting in the virgin wilderness of Lumpkin County was plentiful with deer, bear, rabbits, wild birds and the streams were full of fish. The land was rich with timber, which supplied them to build their cabins. They were self-sufficient, out of necessity. The men hunted and supplied the food while the women wove cloth, tended to the gardens and cooked over open fires.

Andrew Jackson was President of the United States (1829–1837) around the time James settled in Lumpkin County. He sent Gen. Winfield Scott to organize the removal of the Cherokees from North Georgia; this is what left the valley open to settlers who were beginning to drift into Georgia from North Carolina. Indians were still occasionally seen in the area as some had hidden in the rugged Appalachian woods in the late 1830’s to avoid removal to lands in the West during the Trail of Tears.

James and Elizabeth were listed in the Census of Lumpkin County from the years 1840-1880. James farmed, while Elizabeth raised their eleven children. Besides farming James held the responsible trust, non-continuously, as one of the Justices of the Inferior Court of Lumpkin County; he was appointed by the Governor of the State of Georgia.


Lumpkin County Courthouse

From the “History of Lumpkin County” I found James Bryan listed as one of the Judges of the Inferior Court and commissioned from the Governor of the State. This court was created at the organization of the county, Dec. 3, 1832 and continued until 1868. Five judges sat as a bench; the court was always presided over by five judges. James served from 1834-1837 as one of the judges. During that time James witnessed the first person to be executed in Lumpkin County. His name is mentioned several times as a Justice in The History of Lumpkin County. (There’s times I feel they never left the area they were living in – but instead, still living in a newly created county – only by the creation of a new county – within the part of the county they were presently living in. I know that was a mouthful of a statement:)

The first deed I found for James was from a John Mayes of Franklin, County, Ga. on January 1, 1818 to James Bryan of same county. It was in consideration of $375 dollars, conveying 250 acres in Franklin Co., on Wards Creek, adjoining Samuel Ward, granted to John Mayes. Witnesses listed were a John Bryan and Tarrant Bryant. (I believe his father and brother were the witnesses)

james mention john his father

Relinquishment Deed where James Bryan mentions “my father John Bryan.”

I have a few theories on the Bryan/Mayes families as I’ve found several deeds with them all mentioned. 1826 is the first year I found land deeds in Habersham County for James. John Mayes could be James Bryan’s grandfather if Nancy Mayes is the mother of my James. John Mayes could also possibly be the father-in-law of James Bryan’s brother, John Bryan, Jr., who we also find on many deeds – and then there is a Joel Mayes Bryan. Is Nancy Mayes Bryan his mother? These deeds are mainly all in Habersham Co., Ga. It might be that John Bryan, Sr. stayed in Franklin Co, and his son, John Jr. moved on to Habersham Co., with his wife who also was named Nancy, and she strongly seems to be the Nancy Mayes, daughter of John Mayes. Maybe the Joel Mayes Bryan is their son? At this time, I have found my John Bryan with a wife of Nancy mentioned in his will, but I have not proved a maiden name for her. (It should have been mandatory to always include maiden names on documents – I pushed my daughter to keep her maiden name as a middle name when she married to preserve her identity)

On January 7, 1830 I found a document of Relinquishment to an Estate – James Bryan sells and transfers to Joel Mayes Bryan all the rights, titles, interest and claim which I as one of the heirs of my father, John Bryan, deceased… Signed: James Bryan (seal)… (Note: This deed is the first document where I found James Bryan recording the name of his father.) Also found were other relinquishment papers from Tarrance/Tarrant Bryan of Franklin Co., and Ransom Cain of Habersham County (I believe him to be the husband of Eliz (x) Cain as she signed the document with her mark) Their paper was witnessed by a Joel M. Bryan, Rebecca (x) Bryan and James Bryan. On Tarrance’s paperwork it was also written “my father John Bryan.” And who is this Rebecca Bryan – sister or aunt?

By those Relinquishment papers I believe John Bryan to be James’ father. I also believe through other records found that Tarrance, John Bryan Jr., Elizabeth Bryan Cain, Illar “Illac” Bryan, Thomas Bryan, Joel Mayes Bryan, and possibly Rebecca Bryan to be the eight siblings. On all the Relinquishment deeds of this land, it transfers all the rights of eight legates interest in this estate to a Joel M. Bryan. This leaves many questions to ponder regarding the relinquishment deed. Is Joel the youngest, another brother of James – is Joel’s middle name Mayes – could this Joel be a son of John Bryan Jr. if he married the Nancy Mayes? These are all puzzles that has plagued me over the years in my Bryan/Mayes search for who married who in this Bryan family. For the most part now I believe that John Bryan Jr. married the mysterious Nancy Mayes – and the Joel M. Bryan is most likely their son. There are records showing a Joel Mayes Bryan in Oklahoma and his mother Nancy Bryan, who lives next door to him. I will explain that more in detail in another story on the Two Nancy’s.

James went to live with his daughter, Parthena Ray, in Hall County after the death of his wife Elizabeth in 1882. He was not in good health at that time, but up until his wife died they had remained alone in their cabin. James lived with his youngest daughter Parthena until his death on March 12, 1885. No grave site has been located for James or Elizabeth Bryan. They could possibly be buried at Cane Creek Church as there are many field stones marking graves there – just stones, no names.

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

My blog is at: https://everyonehasafamilystorytotell.wordpress.com/
This entry was posted in 52 Ancestor Stories. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Week 29: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: James and Elizabeth (Cain) Bryan

  1. Thank you so much for your hard work!! Truly a treasure.

  2. Pingback: Week 47: November 22, 2014 – 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: James Bryan – War of 1812 | 52 Week Ancestor Challenge

  3. Pingback: 2014: My Year in Review | 52 Week Ancestor Challenge

  4. mike h says:

    Dear Ms. Insalaco,

    Thank you so very much for your blog which has opened up the world of many of my ancestors, to me, for the first time. Indeed, your blog has somewhat inspired me to attempt a little, family-tree sleuthing, myself. In that regard, I would like to pose, if you would be so kind as to allow it, a question or two, to you. At the same time, I’m not sure whether proper, genealogical etiquette allows me to inquire about your research beyond the presentations provided in your blog–so if I’m “off base”, please forgive me, and please do correct my unintentional boldness:

    -For what it’s worth, your estimate is very persuasive to me that a newspaper’s claim was mistaken, when it identified James Bryan’s birth place as Sumter Co. Georgia. In contrast, It is intriguing that the 1880 census shows James’ birthplace to be in South Carolina. Likewise, in your post on the “Two Nancys”, I see that James’ mother, Nancy, was also shown to be born in South Carolina in an 1840 census. Given the above, could it be possible, with your knowledge of the matter, that James’ birthplace was actually in what would become Sumter Co., South Carolina, rather than Sumter Co., Georgia?

    -Likewise, do you have any idea why James would name his first daughter “Fatima”–a girl’s name, ubiquitous in the Muslim world, but with one exception (other than James’ sister, that is) unknown, as best I can find, in the British colonies of the late 18th/early 19th century. The one exception being the name of the wife of a petitioner to the H. R. of South Carolina in the matter of the “Moors Sundry Act of 1790” (please see wiki entry). And “just sayin'”, at this point, but if “Fatima” is a cherished family name, inherited by James’ elder sister, and James was born in Sumter Co, S. C., then, there is the tantalizing “co-incidence”, that a very prominent family (Benenhaley), of middle eastern origin, was situated in that same county, in the era (please see wiki “Turks of South Carolina”). So now let me, finally, conclude with a foolhardy flight of fancy, very likely to earn a return blast of irritated, mocking dismissal–might the maddening obscurity of James’ mother be due to a deliberate suppression by Nancy (might that even be an assumed name?) of her family history, so as to avoid a social “stigma” that might have been attached to it?

    Again, thank you sincerely, Ms. Insalaco, for your blog, and any thoughts you might have in response to my well-intentioned, albeit pestering-newbie, overly-enthusiastic, genealogist-wannabe inquiries and suggestions regarding our shared ancestry.

    • Hello Mike, I have wondered abt Fatima’s name but have not looked into what you mentioned although I have heard of it. I will search out more on it. Could her name have been from the Bible? They named their children even names of states like Missouri and Georgia. I’ll relook at his birthplace and check the war of 18 papers I have to see what he gave them. There’s so many ways things have to be looked at as everyone who gives info on census gives what they think to be true. Thanks for reading.

  5. Donald Ransom Coleman says:

    Fantastic work. Ransom Cain and Elizabeth Bryan are my 4th Great Grandparents.

  6. Could our John Bryan’s be the same? That is the way it has come together on Geni. https://www.geni.com/people/John-Bryan/6000000006598361663 . It has John marrying Nancy, with James as their son. Later, John marries Elizabeth Hinkle, where my line comes from through Charles Hinkle Bryan. Perhaps DNA might come into play to help solve this mystery.

  7. Dana Calicott says:

    I just found your blog and am interested in the Bryan history. I am a descendant of Joel Mayes Bryan thru his daughter Jane “Jennie” Elizabeth Bryan Williams and only have a little info on that line. One thing I would like to find is the name of Jennie’s mother, whom Jennie reportedly did not know. It was not Joel’s later wife Rebecca. Also would like to find out about Jennie’s half-siblings. To clarify your information: Joel Mayes Bryan’s father was John Bryan? Was James Joel’s brother or cousin or nephew? I’d like to get the parents and siblings straight on that branch as well. Any additional info or direction would be appreciated. Thanks.

    • Are you on Ancestry? Joel Mayes Bryan’s father was John Bryan jr married to Nancy Mayes. My James Bryan was your John Jrs brother.

      • I just found this on Ancestry, so it seems others have same speculation. When asked if she was applying for citizenship in Cherokee Nation by blood she responded, “No sir.” What are you? Her response was, “White, I reckon. They doubted me and put me on the white roll.”

        In the 1900 census, she said she was Cherokee by blood. I think she may not have been able to convince the authorities of her Indian blood and decided to apply as an intermarried white through her Cherokee husband, David Williams.

        She states on the application that her father, J M Bryan is a “white man, I reckon” and that she does not know who her mother is. I think it strange that she knows her father but not her mother. Perhaps since she knows her father she had a connection with her grandmother, Nancy Mayes Bryan.

        Joel Mayes Bryan had married Rebecca Wright and had eight children listed in J R Hicks but Jennie is not listed. Did she have another mother? Cherokee mother?

        Her grandmother, Nancy Mayes was sister of Samuel Mayes. Joel Mayes Bryan (a prominent lawyer in Cherokee nation) had married Rebecca Wright and had eight children listed in J R Hicks Cherokee Lineages but Jennie is not listed. Did she have another mother? Cherokee mother?

        Her grandmother, Nancy Mayes was sister of Samuel Mayes. Samuel Mayes and his brother, Joel Bryan Mayes, were both Cherokee chiefs! It is also stated in Chr of OK Vol 15, No 1 Mar 1937 that Joel Bryan Mayes was named for his cousin, Joel Mayes Bryan see: The Indian Territory and Its Chiefs, Legislators, and Leading Men p 103.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s