Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Heroine in the Struggle for Liberty and Life

Eleanora Harriet Dougan was my third great grandmother. She and her husband Beverly Williamson were among the earliest settlers in the area of Providence Methodist Church on the Haywood and Madison County border.

“Ellen,” which she was listed as in the 1860 census, came from a family with a really interesting history of American patriots.

One in particular was Ellen’s grandmother, my fifth great grandmother, Mary Kerr Dougan.

While I have not yet found much about her, she is referenced in a history book about the area.

"Mary Dougan, Elizabeth Balfour, Jane Millikan, Ruth Farlow, Nancy Clark, Mattie Bell and others should be held in lasting veneration as the heroines of Randolph County in the struggle for liberty and life. It was these noble women and their compeers who molded opinion and shaped the thought and sentiment that directed the march of progress.

Where the voice of authority failed to direct, where the hand of power could not control, and where armed resistance dared not venture, woman's reason and affection persuaded and prevailed.

She mitigated the passions and tumults of political strife, taught the law of mercy and kindness and her prayers and sacrifices and sufferings and patience contributed largely to the establishment of that liberty and prosperity which we enjoy today."

They foresaw through the shadowy dawn the grand possibility of our future prosperity, and for them is reserved the laurels of peaceful triumph and the tribute of a tear that embalms the memory of the good and great "Who plan and shape the progress of the age are oft denied a place on history's page."
Reminiscences of Randolph County" by J. A. Blair, 1890
Mary was born in 1726 in Lancaster, PA and married Thomas Hill Dougan in 1745. In July 1763, the family moved to Randolph County, NC where they settled the area.

In 1782, Mary and Thomas’ nephew, Colonel John Collier who was the son of Thomas Dougan’s sister, Susannah Dougan Collier, wrote a letter to his parents which included a brief reference to Mary’s house and barn being burned by the Tories.

"The Tories embodied, the 9th and 10th of March last about thirty in number: marched forty or fifty miles through our country: came to my house about dark. I had sentries posted about forty yards from my house. The sentry hailed them. They answered, "Friends to the United States of America" and fired on the sentry: and the sentry fired on them. I immediately found by the Tories's fire that we were too weak to stand our ground.

We made our escape to the woods and with great difficulty, I saved myself from their merciless hands. They kept constant firing on my house for two or three minutes, filling my doors with bullet holes. My wife (Margaret) called out to cease their firing and she would open the door and let them in, for there was no person there but women and children.

They rushed into the house, set fire to it, and burned it to ashes with article that was in it but some few articles that my oldest daughter (Martha) threw out at the door.

This was the fourth time that the Tories had robbed and plundered me and my small family: but we have great reason to be thankful and bless God that our lives are preserved from a cruel and most merciless enemy.

They left my house and killed one of my captains (John Bryan) one mile from my house, they went to Aunt Mary Doughan's: burned the house and barn.

They killed the Lieut. Col. (Andrew Balfour) of our county the same day they burned my house, But I am not able to tell. Every day they are murdering, burning and plundering the good citizens of the state. I believe that nine-tenths of our county are enemies to the United States of America."

Another two nephews, James and Robert who were sons of Thomas’ brother Robert, were killed by the Tories in 1781.

Three of Mary and Thomas’ own sons, Thomas, James and John all fought in the Revolution. Thomas became a Colonel and eventually a State Senator. James became a major and interestingly, his son James Jr. married Clorinda Crockett, the widow of Davy Crockett’s son, William Crockett.

Mary and Thomas’ son John was part of many battles during the war including chasing the Tories who burned down his mother’s house.

“The next active service that I now recollect that we engaged in I think occurred in March 1782 (the spring after Lord Cornwallis surrendered). Colonel Fanning and his company consisting of 40 or 50 Tories came into our County and ravaged the Country and killed Lieutenant Colonel Belfour and Captain John Bryan in their own houses and burned my mother's house and barn (she being a widow) (this is a reference to Mary Kerr Dougan), Colonel Collier and Esq. Milligan's houses. We pursued them and overtook them and put them to flight but the day being wet our guns misfired so that we only wounded two men.” 
Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statement from John Dougan 
It appears Mary Kerr Dougan lived until the age of 98 and died in Randolph County, NC.

Janie Williamson, Will Williams and Bo Williams

Mary and Thomas’ son, Reverend Robert Linn Dougan, was the father of Ellen Dougan Williamson and they were the parents of Janie E. Williamson who married Will Williams. They were the parents of my paternal grandfather, Bo Williams.

Hopefully, I can spend some time researching and find out more about this very interesting ancestor who was obviously a strong woman and a leader in her community.

To read more about her and her family, check out the Dougan page of my Web site.

1 comment:

  1. I'm still researching the Williams surname -- it would be nice to find some information. Frustrating when you hit a wall. Also happened with my last name and the surname Moran.