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Independent sons, daughters

By Harris Blackwood

POSTED: July 20, 2008 5:03 a.m.

The celebration of our Declaration of Independence has gotten lost in buying fireworks and selling mattresses. Of course, every holiday has become the setting for a mattress sale.

One day, some game show host will ask what we celebrate on Presidents Day and the answer will be sales of mattresses.

But 232 years ago this week, our guys, Lyman Hall, George Walton and Button Gwinnett signed their John Hancock, along with John Hancock, on that now famous “see you later” note to King George III.

Hall was born in Connecticut, graduated from Yale and started out as a preacher, then went into medicine.

He moved to South Carolina and like many smart people in the Palmetto state, came to live in Georgia. Hall was elected governor in 1783 and, while he held the state’s top office, helped establish the University of Georgia in 1785.

On Tuesday, I told my class at Brenau University about my favorite hero of the American Revolution, Nancy Hart.

Nancy, by all accounts, was not a pretty woman. She was 6 feet tall and had a head of red hair. The folks who wrote about her said it was a good thing that the Harts didn’t own a mirror.

The writers in the New Georgia Encyclopedia described her as rough-hewn and rawboned. Her face was scarred from smallpox and on top of all that she was cross-eyed. But that didn’t stop her.

She was said to be a skilled hunter and if you put a gun in her hand, she was an excellent shot.

She was married to Benjamin Hart, and according to the stories, Nancy wore the pants in this family.

One story has it that a Tory spy crept up to their log cabin. One of the children saw an eyeball peeking through a crack. Nancy was busy by the fireplace making soap. The child secretly told Nancy about the visitor and she took a ladle full of boiling soap water and slung it through the crack.

The Tory screamed and Nancy took him and hog-tied him until the local militia arrived.

The most famous Hart story involves a group of six Tories who came to the cabin demanding information about a Whig leader. She told them that no one had passed through her neck of the woods for days (which wasn’t exactly true; the Whig had just left in a hurry).

The Tories up and shot Nancy’s prize turkey and then forced her at gunpoint to cook it. They entered the cabin, stacked their guns in the corner and demanded something to drink. Nancy served them up some wine. When they got a little buzzed, Nancy started passing the guns out of the cabin to one her kids. The Tories saw what was going on and sprang to their feet. Nancy threatened to shoot the first man who made a move.

These guys didn’t know who they were messing with. One of them moved and she shot him dead as a doornail. Another one moved toward the guns. Bam. He was dead. The remaining four had enough sense to stop right there. When Benjamin got home he wanted to shoot the quartet.

 

But Nancy said no. She preferred to hang them, which she did. The six sets of remains were found in 1912 by some men building a railroad.

Nancy Hart is the namesake of Hart County, Hartwell and Lake Hartwell. If it weren’t for her and a few others, July Fourth would be just another day.

Harris Blackwood is the author of “When Old Mowers Die.” His e-mail address is harrisb@forsythnews.com.

 

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