I recently discovered documentation about my 6x Great Uncle, James Blair. I have been trying to spend more time digging into the lives of my Great Aunts and Uncles instead of just concentrating on my direct line ancestors. To say I am excited about what I have found about James would be an understatement! The following is just a small amount of what I have found.
James Blair was born on March 6, 1761, in Augusta County, Virginia. He was the third child born to Colbert and Sarah (Morgan) Blair. They lived in the section of the county called the Shenandoah Valley, so James grew up in the vast open lands, hunting game, riding horses, and enjoying the outdoors. By 1772, the British and the Colonial settlers were on the verge of having a war with each other. It is said that the British agents inflamed the mountain Indians by giving them whiskey and guns and encouraging them to drive the settlers out of the beautiful valley. So, for the safety of their family, Colbert and Sarah moved southeastward into Guilford County, North Carolina. After a few years, they moved again into the Cedar Valley of Caldwell County, North Carolina.
In 1778, at the age of 17, James felt the call to join in the fight against the British. He served until the end of the Revolutionary War, first as an orderly then as a sergeant, ensign, and an Indian spy with the North Carolina troops. Every time his service ended, he reenlisted and as a result, he served under about 16 different commanders. He eventually reached the rank of Colonel by the end of the war.
When he was 19 years old, he joined Colonel McDowell’s regiment and he became one of the express riders because of his riding skills. In early October 1780, word reached Fort Defiance in North Carolina that General Ferguson and his troops were positioning themselves on King’s Mountain preparing to take on the much smaller unit of Patriots. Colonel McDowell called upon James to make the long journey of riding for over 24 hours to warn the Colonists and the other fighting units in the area of Ferguson’s plan. This dangerous ride began in Quaker Meadows near Marion, North Carolina, and it was a long-distance of frontier backroads with many streams, creeks, and rivers to cross. There were enemy sharpshooters along the route and James was wounded by the British during a volley of rifle fire. He was shot in the shoulder, but he continued his ride. He was successful in bringing Colonel Benjamin Cleveland along with the 350 men of Wilkes and Surrey County North Carolina in to strengthen the Colonial forces. His ride was instrumental in stopping the thrust into the Carolinas by the British redcoats. James along with Cleveland’s men joined with the tough Overmountain men on horseback, who wore coonskin caps and every man carried a small-bore rifle, a tomahawk, and a scalping knife. The Patriots charged the hillside multiple times, demonstrating lethal marksmanship against the surrounded British troops. Unwilling to surrender to a “band of bandits,” Ferguson led a suicidal charge down the mountain and was cut down in a hail of bullets. All the southern Colonists looked upon young James as a true hero, much like the famous rider from Boston, Paul Revere.
James was referred to as the “Paul Revere of the South” and Thomas Trotwood Moore wrote this poem titled “The Ride of the Rebel”:
“The race of the rebel, wilderness run
The race for a nation just begun
You will find it not on the gilded page
But on King’s Mountain’s starlit stage
Over the Border, the British came,
Their jackets red as the sun,
City and hamlet had felt of the fall,
From the flash of the Red Coat’s gun.
Over the border, Ferguson rode,
He never rode back again,
For Jimmy Blair his horse bestrode,
And galloped with might and main.
To Cleveland and to Campbell’s tent,
O’er hill and o’er valley he sped,
And roused the patriots as he went,
As Gabriel would rouse the dead.
Go! For your country’s life, he said,
And away like a ghost, he was gone,
Riding from morn to midnight on to morn.
Oh, never was a race like that,
Since gallant steed was born!”
After the War, he married Elizabeth Powell and they had 7 children. He then served as a Captain during the Cherokee Indian War. He eventually moved to Habersham Co, Ga. and he became a land surveyor. He surveyed “The Blair Line”, which was the historic line between the State of Georgia and the Cherokee Indian Nation in the early 1800s. It ran from the forks of the Soque and Chattahoochee Rivers in a direct northerly line to the Tallulah River. It was the boundary line established in 1817 for the purchase of all lands east of the Chattahoochee by the State of Georgia from the Cherokee Nation in accords with the Treaty of 1818. James was appointed as an Indian Agent and he brokered the deals between the Governor of Georgia and the Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation.
He was the first representative from the County, and he went on to be a senator from Habersham from 1819 until his death on March 31, 1839. Altogether, he served over 20 years in the state legislature. He died just 5 days after his wife Elizabeth. They are buried in a long-abandoned cemetery in the woods. Her headstone is still readable however his was not. Some of his descendants had a stone made and they laid it in the ground next to his wife.
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.