Surnames: Gen. Jackson, Jernigan, Thompson, Brewton, Cook, Cotton, Shaw, Bibb
Atmore Advance and Brewton Standard Historical Edition Newspaper
Sept. 30, 1976
Many Legends have grown up about Fort Crawford, located in present-day East Brewton. According to these, it was built by General Andrew Jackson, used in the Creek War and named for a Lieutenant Crawford of the Seventh GA. Regiment. Supposedly Jackson spent a lot of time at this Fort.
Actually, Fort Crawford was once one of the points earliest settled in Conecuh Co. from which Escambia formed.
Benjamin Jernigan seems to have been the first to pitch his tent in this region and he settled within two and a half miles of where Ft. Crawford subsequently stood, according to the History of Conecuh County published in 1881. At the time, in 1816 or 1817, not more than two or three settlements had been made in the County. Soon after Jernigan came to the region he was joined by James Thompson, Benjamin Brewton, R. J. Cook and Lofton and Loody Cotten.
At this time, the fort was occupied by the Seventh Georgia Regiment. General Jackson was in the habit of visiting the home of General Jernigan who had moved here from Burnt Corn Springs for the purpose of herding Cattle for Jackson's Army.
The erection of the Fort was commenced in 1817 but prior to this time only temporary earthworks had been thrown up. In the winter of 1817, tracts of swamp land were cleared of trees and rank cane, which were burned in the following spring and the soil planted in Corn.
Soon after the formation of the settlement, Rev. Radford Cotton, a Methodist clergyman, settled in its midst. He was afterwards joined by Reverend Shaw, also a Methodist Minister. In 1818 a church edifice was built on the west side of the river, about four miles from the Fort, at a point called "The Bluff", also later known as Cotton Bluff.
The inhabitants living in the neighborhood of Fort Crawford were devoted to cattle and hogs. In 1818, Mr. Walls, brother to the Minister, erected a small grist mill near "the bluff" and a few years later, Thomas Mendenhall built a saw mill above Ft. Crawford. Very little of the lumber sawn here was sold to the citizens and Mr. Mendenhall, aided by the man whose name was Rolly Roebuck, transported his lumber on rafts to Pensacola.
The readiness with which man adapts himself to surrounding circumstances is strikingly illustrated by the unique plan adopted here by the residents for conveying the products of their diminutive farms to favorable market. In order to ship these to Pensacola, a huge Cypress was scooped out, somewhat in the shape of a mammoth batteau and of the sufficient capacity to hold 300 pumpkins. With a cargo like this, the heroic farmers would speed away down the river and when Pensacola was reached, would sell their golden fruit, realizing for each pumpkin 25 to 50 cents.
Game abounded here, as elsewhere in the area. But strangely enough the community was destitute of dogs. To obviate this disadvantage, the officers of the Fort, having become very intimate with Willie Jernigan, then a boy of 16, engaged him to "Play Dog" for them in routing the deer from their hiding places at the head of the streams. With many a yelp and bark he would plunge into the thick covers and the frightened deer would scamper out in all directions, only to be greeted by leaden bullets of the officers from their stands.
While Gen. Jackson was waging his campaign against the Seminoles in Fl., one actual military campaign was launched against Pensacola by men from Fort Crawford. Governor Bibb arranged the expedition which culminated in the attack following Indian atrocities in the Federal road about sixty-five miles from the settlement of Claiborne. Fearing that "when the Seminoles are pressed by General Jackson-- They will retreat to the frontiers, and take revenge on our defenseless inhabitants," he probably thought that a show of force in the West would discourage such a contingency.
On April 28, 1818 Major White Youngs, in charge of the fort, attacked hostile Indians on Pensacola Bay, within one mile of the town- killed nine, wounded twelve or thirteen, and took eight prisoners with the lose of only one man. The Indians sued for peace and agreed to a meeting at Durants Bluff from whence they were to be sent to Ft. Crawford. Less than a month later, " as a mere incident of his homeward march, Jackson turned aside and captured Pensacola because he was told that some Indians had taken refuge there. The General's own account of his motives are less than cavalier. Jackson states, " If St. Marks was necessary to the defense of the frontier of Georgia, Pensacola was much more so for the peace and security of Alabama, for it commanded the navigation of the Escambia, up which had, necessarily to pass, all the supplies for our forts erected on its streams."
House made of timbers from old Fort Crawford
A description of the Fort, written at the time, said that it consisted of square log work with two block house and diagonal angles. " The buildings were erected with square logs of about 8-10 inches square and the barracks for the officers and men from three squares of the fort, the doctor's shop, guard house and artificers shops form the fourth. The logs are laid so close as to them, which makes a fort a complete defense against small arms.
Undoubtedly, Fort Crawford was regarded as an important link in the forts of the country at that time. Obviously, Gen. Jackson viewed it as extremely important as he said " Our provision must pass to Ft. Crawford by water without interruption." That importance, however, vastly diminished when the United States effected the purchase of what is now the state of Florida from Spain. The treaty of purchase was ratified by Ferdinand VI on October 24, 1821, thus ending the need to defend what was then one of the borders of the country. - end
By Lisa Graham