Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Revolutionary War Soldier--part 2
In October, 2000, the Blue Ridge
Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, held a ceremony at the Pleasant Grove Cemetery
in memory of John Nicholson, Sr., Revolutionary patriot.
Last week’s column recounted his four terms
of Revolutionary service, each of three
months, making a total time of one year as a soldier.
Patriot John Nicholson had an
life after his Revolutionary War experiences.
An article by historian Robert
S. Davis, a
descendant of Patriot Nicholson, recounts incidents involving John
Sr. that took place in a disputed area sometimes known as Old Walton County.
He, along with some other settlers, took out a land grant and
the area of the French
Broad River Valley
in Cherokee Indian Territory sometime before 1786.
The land grant was possibly a reward for
service in the Revolution.
The frontiersmen believed these
western lands belonging to South
However, that state had the grants annulled and withdrew claims
“western” settlements. The grantees
petitioned Congress for annexation to South Carolina.
their appeals failed, the settlers formed their own government in 1793. The area– much like the State of Franklin in Tennessee that
Sevier had settled–became known as “The Orphan Strip” because it was
claimed by South or North
In 1798, the Federal Government
Orphan Strip officially from the Cherokees, and, believing it to be
boundary of the 35th parallel separating North Carolina from
Georgia, ceded it to Georgia in 1802.
Settlers in The Orphan Strip had
minutes of their official meetings.
These were signed and submitted to Governor John Milledge of Georgia,
together with a petition that their settlement be recognized. The Georgia Legislature acted on the
Governor’s recommendation, and on December 10, 1803, the “Orphan Strip”
named for George Walton who was then the last one living of Georgia’s
signers of the Declaration of Independence, had been a Congressman, and
former Georgia Governor.
This “old’ Walton County is not
confused with the present-day Walton County, with Monroe as its
founded from a portion of Jackson County on December 15, 1818. The “Old Walton” was right along the North Carolina
and extended over to the South
Elected to represent Walton County
in the Georgia Legislature were two citizens, John Nicholson, Sr. and
Akins. The county was described as
mountainous and “inhabited by an orderly and industrious people”
about 800. In the state census soon
County was formed,
the John Nicholson
family was listed with eleven whites in the household.
We may not have read about “The
in the history books, but it was fought because of the confusion over
the Orphan Strip--North
or Georgia. The two states could not
agree with reports of the surveying team.
County claimed the
land. The “bandittery” of the area had
and were committing “depredations on the honest civil citizens of the
county.” The citizens retaliated,
several skirmishes ensued.
John Nicholson himself was taken
and put in jail in the Morgan
District. When he came to trial, charges against him
were that he refused to accept North Carolina’s claim to the
In 1807, both the North Carolina
and the Georgia Legislatures
agreed to a new survey. That team found
County was well
above the 35th
parallel. But Georgia
want to relinquish claim so easily and so in 1811 hired a
surveyor, Andrew Ellicott, to run the disputed line.
He found that the line extended even farther
south than the 1807 team had determined.
John Nicholson, who had served in the Georgia Legislature from Old Walton County
in 1806, 1808 and
1809 had to give up his political representation by virtue of finding
again a citizen of Buncombe
County, NC. The “Orphan Strip” became a part of both
Buncombe and Transylvania
Counties in North Carolina.
In 1820, John Nicholson was
enumerated in Buncombe
County with his
wife (both he and she
above 45 years of age), and one son and one daughter, each between 10
His next move evidently was to Habersham County, Georgia, where, in 1833, he
468 acres of his Buncombe County, NC land for $600 to Benjamin Wilson. A witness to the deed was John Erwin who
married Nicholson’s daughter Sarah in 1823.
By 1830, John Nicholson, Sr. was in Hall County, Georgia
with his son, John, Jr. (1802-1884). It
was while in Hall
County he applied
received a Revolutionary War pension of $40 per year.
As an old man, he moved to Union County, Georgia, although, as we
last week’s account, he already owned land and paid taxes in Union
in 1850. On March 26, 1855, records show
applied for bounty lands in Union County
Revolutionary War veterans. He was then
living in the home of his son, Alfred Nicholson (1799-1874, who had
Mary “Polly” Chastain), in the Harmony Grove community, Arkaquah
District. From there he went to live with
Vica Nicholson Akins, near Pleasant Grove, where he died December 10, 1858.
A landed gentleman, a patriot, a
legislator, a farmer, a mover-and-shaker of his time, this 96-year old
lived through almost a century of upheaval and change in America.
So far as is known , his
children were: (1)
James Nicholson; (2) Mary “Polly” Nicholson (1791-1868) who married
Chastain; (3) Walter Nicholson (1795-1859) who married Dorcas Hogsed;
Elizabeth “Betty” Nicholson who married Benjamin Burke; (5) William
Nicholson (1797-1864) who married Jane Duckworth and Jane Blocker; (6)
Nicholson (1799-1874) who married Mary “Polly” Chastain; (7) Daughter
married Porter Owenby and moved to Union County; (8) Luvicia Nicholson
(1802-?), who married Lewis Akins; (9) John Nicholson, Jr. (1802-1884),
married Elizabeth Allred; and (10) Sarah Nicholson (1803-1882), who
Genealogists who puzzle over how
Nicholson’s children were listed on census records as having been born
Georgia and others in South
or North Carolina
can now know that it hinged on that Old Walton
dispute as to which state owned the “Orphan Strip.”
Jones; published Mar. 4, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville,
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian.
She may be reached at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org;
phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708
Updated August 25,
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