Jemison family


     When I was a little boy in Sweden my mother  Olga Mims Dawson Jonsson told me the story of little Mary Jemison.  This story I heard many times, and it took me  some fifty years to finally see the places where  Mary was captured and her final resting place.  Going west from Gettysburg on the Chambersburg trail about three miles, there is a road going north that will take you to the little St. Ignatius church.  Outside the church is a statue of Mary Jemison,  this statue was ordered by father Will Whalen with the help of my grandmother. The statue was erected over the stones taken from the old Jemison home.



This tablet  tells about the place where Mary Jemison was captured. It is erected on the Chambersburg trail.


     Mary Jemison was born on the ship William and Mary on the way from Ireland to America.  Marys father Thomas Jemison married to Jane Irwine,  they finally settled on a farm outside Gettysburg on March creek.  There the family grew prosperous, but after about thirteen years the Indians and the French were on the warpath and finally captured the Jemison family and carried the whole family away into the swamps.  The place of Marys capture is called Buchanan Valley and the place is really beautiful,  One can stay by the old mission and look down the valley and see the place where Mary was abducted.  It is really a beautiful place.



St Ignatius church,

Buchanan valley, Pennsylvania



Little church located just a mile and a half from the place where Mary Jemison was captured.  Father Will Whalen was the pastor of this church, and he corresponded with my grandmother Anita Ball Dawson



Statue of Mary Jemison outside the mission  of St Ignatius a mile and a half from the place she was captured. She looks down toward the family home in the beautiful  Buchanan Valley.



Father Will Whalen sitting by the statue of Mary Jemison. 

Father Whalen worked hard getting the money together to purchase this statue.  He corresponded with my grandmother and somehow he got enough money together to have the statue made.  When I went to the little church a few years ago I left with the present Father all the copies of the letters and pictures by  Father Whalen for their safekeeping.  Father Whalen wanted to have a movie made about little Mary Jemison, but to no avail. 

Mary Jemison


“The White Woman of the Genesee


In the western part of the state of New York, on the shores of the Genesee river, there stands the bronze statue of a young white woman wearing the moccasins and leggings of an Indian, and carrying a baby strapped upon her back.  On the base of the monument statue itself is the name, “De-ge-wa-nus” But on the marble pedestal is carved;

To the Memory Of


Mary Jemison


Whose home during  more than seventy years of a life of strange vicissitude was among the  Senecas upon the banks of this river; and whose history, inseparably connected with that of this valley, has caused  her to be known as


The White Woman Of The Genesee.


     This is the true story of  Mary Jemison.


These facts were related to Dr. James Everett Seaver by a white woman found living among the Seneca  Indians of north western New York.  Dr.  Seaver, an eminent student of his day, gathered the data together and published it in 1824, as “the life of Mary Jemison.”  Ninety four years later the work was republished by the American scenic and Historic Preservation Society of New York.

At the time of the narration of this story to Dr. Seaver, Mary Jemison was about eighty years old, but was still hale and vigorous.

She is described by the author as being of unusually fair skin for one who has spent so many years exposed to the weather, with eyes of light blue, hair gray, but showing it had been light chestnut, and with exceedingly small, slender hands and feet.  Her features he said were regular, and of great beauty.

Mary begins her narrative by telling of her parents,  Thomas Jemison and Jane Erwin , who were prosperous Scotch-Irish planters, living, as the record show at Carrichmacross.  Owing to religious intolerance, they decided to migrate to the new world, and accordingly removed to Belfast, where in due time, they took a ship to America,  sailing on the William and  Mary in 1743. During this voyage Mary was born.

Shortly after arriving in America, the family settled on Marsh

Creek, in the eastern part of the state of Pennsylvania, where they lived in comparative quiet for almost fifteen years. 

They became according to the standards of the time, fairly wealthy.  The family, at this time, consisted of two sons and a daughter, John, Thomas, and Betsy, born in Europe, two sons born in America, Mathew and Robert and Mary, with father and mother.

Much uneasiness was felt because of unrest among the Indians, but Mr. Jemison had decided that it would be safe for them to remain on their farm for another year.

And then one morning when the happy little family was about their accustomed tasks, the father shaving an axe-helve, the two oldest boys working at the barn a little distance from the house,  the mother getting breakfast,  shots were heard outside, and upon rushing to the door, the mother found Robert Buck, a man who had been staying with the Jemisons, dead beside his horse.  The Indians were upon them.  With the exception of the two boys who were at the barn, the entire family was captured.

There followed eight days of forced marching through swamps, the trip being extended at last in canoes..

And then, one night beside the camp fire, the Indians took the shoes from Mary’s feet, and substituted moccasins in their place..  This meant one thing, the savages intended to save the child, and to and doom her family to death.  Calling the girl to her, the mother besought her to remember the names of her family, never to forget her English tongue, and, above all, to keep the faith of her fathers.  She enjoined Mary to be courageous, and, as the Indians led the girl away by the hand, begged her not to cry.  Those were the last words which  Mary Jemison was ever to hear from her mother, for that night the family were put to death.

The narrative from then on relates how she was adopted by two Indian women, who accepted her in place of a brother killed in the battle with the whites.  She tells of a time when her rescue was almost accomplished. It seems, that her Indian associates made a journey to Fort Pitts for the purpose of making a treaty with the British commander of it, Mary was taken with them.  When she was seen among the Indians, the white men began to question her.  Observing this, her Indian sisters became alarmed, and hurried her away in their canoe.

In a single short paragraph she tells that  her sisters commanded her to become the wife of  one of the Delaware Indians who had come to live among the Senecas.  Not daring to disobey, though filled  with horror at the idea of being married to an Indian, she had become the wife of “Sheninjee”.  She adds, however, that through his nobility and tenderness Sheninjee finally won her love.  Her first child, born, “at the time the first kernels appeared on the cob,” lived only one day.  Mary’s only comment on that whole little tragedy was, “Notwithstanding the shortness of the time that I possessed it, it was a great grief to me to lose it.” Her next child, a son,  born the  fourth winter of her captivity, was named by her, Thomas Jemison, for her father.

In speaking of homelife among the Indians and of the tasks which had been her portion, she says they were no harder than those of white women.  Sheninjee died early, leaving her with one son, and dependent entirely on own efforts.

As an ironic faith would have it, the way was then opened for her to return to her own race.  The King of England offered a bounty on all white prisoners who should be delivered to the nearest military post.  It came to late.  The old king of the tribe to which Mary belonged even commanded that she be returned.  But the thought of the contempt in which her son would be held as a half-breed turned to fear her desire to return, and lent wings to her feet.  She fled  into the wilderness with her child, and remained until the hunt had died down.

When her son Thomas was three or four years old, she was married to one of the cruelest and most blood-thirsty chiefs ever known,  Hiakatoo.  But like her first husband, he seems to have been uniformly gentle with her.  By this second husband she had four daughters and two sons, all of whom were named for her relatives, and to all of whom she gave her family names.

This narrative of Mary’s is full of interesting incidents of two wars. She says that  an “uncle” of hers,  John Jemison,  was killed  at Fort Meadows, under Colonel Washington.  In her account ot the Revolution, she tells how Colonel Butler and Brandt made her house their home whenever they were in the neighborhood.  “Many a time”, she says, “ I have pounded samp for them all night and furnished them with necessary food and clean clothing for the journey.”

Soon after the close of the Revolution,  Mary was given another opportunity to return to her people.  Her Indian brother, Kau-ji-ses-tau-geau,  offered her liberty, and  her oldest son,

Thomas, wanted to go with her.  But the chief of the tribe saw possibilities of a great warrior in Thomas, and refused to let him go.  Partly because she was unwilling to give up her son, and partly because she knew her younger children would not be well received among the whites, Mary once more put aside an opportunity to return to her own race.  Upon telling her Indian brother of her decition, he showed himself well pleased, and told her he would see that she had a grant of her own choosing to live on.  Soon after he died, but in due time the promised grant of land was turned over to her.

Her narrative after this includes three deep tragedies, the killing of John and his two younger brothers, and his own murder in a drunken brawl.

Mary Jemison continued to live on the tract of land which had been given to here until the summer of 1831, when she sold her property, and removed with migrating Indians friends to the Buffalo Flats.  Here she resided to the end of her days.

Mrs. Asher Wright, a missionary among the Indians, gives an account of Mary Jemison’s last days.  Many attempts had been made to convert  her to Christianity, but she  held firmly to  the religion of the people who had become her people.  Toward the last, she sent for Mrs. Wright  to come to her.   She seemed deeply stirred, and told the missionary that a few nights before, as she lay unable to sleep, her mind traveled back over the years of her childhood.  She recalled the earnest plea of her mother that she keep the faith of her Fathers, and that she never neglect to repeat at night the prayer which had been taught her.  “But I spent so much time taking care of my family,” sighed the dying woman, “that I finally left it off at last forgot it all.  And now, I do not know how to pray.”

The missionary repeated the Lord’s prayer , and Mary listened attentively until the last word was spoken, when she burst into tears.

But what matters is how she approached Him,  as all Father, God,  Nau-wan-o-u,  as long as “her house was the stranger’s home;  from her table the hungry were refreshed; she made the naked as comfortable as her means would admit of; and in all her actions, discovered so much natural goodness of heart, her admirers increased in proportion to the extension of her acquaintance, and she became celebrated as the friend of the distressed.  She was the protectress of the homeless fugitive, and made welcome the wary wanderer.  Many still live to commemorate her benevolence toward them, when prisoners during the war, and to ascribe their deliverance to the  mediation of “The White Woman”.


     MaryJemison died at the Buffalo Creek reservation and was  buried  on the reservation on September  19, 1833.  When her grave was threatened  she was returned to  her beautiful valley by William Letchworth in 1874.  In 1910 he had a statue of Mary erected over the grave.




Statue of Mary as seen today at Letchworth state Park.



Gardeau, home of Mary Jemison in her later life.





     This is the real story of the Jemison family that we are direct descendents from.  To include all the Jemisons would be an arduous task,  therefore I have only included the once in the family that are of interest to us.  As you have read before,  Mary Jemison is only our relative,  we are descendants from Robert Jemison,  Mary’s uncle. 





There children were;


Sarah     Married  a Mr.  Prather  one daughter  unknown.


John      Born 1747   Died  1835  Settled in  Bourbon county Ohio.  Son Benjamin father of Green B Jemison who died at the Alamo texas.


David       Born 1754


Samuel     Born 1751   Settled in Kentucky.  Family migrated to texas.


William    Born 1745   Settled near Scioto Ohio,


Thomas    Born 1758    Died unmarried.


Arthur      Born 1756    Settled in North Carolina.


ROBERT    Born 1749    Died 1799   Settled  in Lincoln Co  Georgia. (  Our ancestor. )






There were nine  children;


Sarah    Born Jan 17 1776   Married Thomas Ware,  settled in Green Co.  Georgia.


WILLIAM   Born July 1  1778   Died June 2  1829  Married Sarah Mims,  Tuscaloosa Alabama.   ( Our ancestor )


Joseph        Born June 10  1781   Moved to    Mississippi.


Samuel       Born Aug 13   1783  Moved to Perry Co. Alabama.


Elizabeth    Born June 6  1786  Moved to France.  Died in Taladega Alabama.


Robert    Born  Oct. 25  1788   Died Nov. 10  1870   Married Margaret Mims Taladega, Alabama


Artemesia     Born April 29 1729    Died  1861  Married Moses Wheat,  Chambers,  Georgia.


Henry        Born  March 6  1794   Died 1822.  Married Miss Ford of Milledgeville, Georgia.


Thomas    Born Nov 6 1797   Died 1798   Died in infancy.







There were nine children in first marriage;


Robert   Born 1802   Died 1871   Conf.  Senator .  Married Priscilla Taylor.


Elizabeth    Born 1806


Mims    Born Jan 2 1811   Died April 24  1836  Killed in Seminole Wars.


John-Steel    Born Nov 10  1812    Died  1843


Margaret    Born Nov23  1808  Died  Oct 1845


HARRIET    Born Nov 10  1815   Died  May 21 1889  {Our ancestor}  Married Dr. Doric Ball   ( see Ball line)


Mary MARISE      Born Sept. 11  1817


Thomas        Born Jan 14  1823    Died  Oct 27  1847


Joseph       Born  Dec. 10  1825    Died  Aug  20  1888


Second Marriage  to Rebecca Caldwell  Wimberly.  May 1828




Caroline Helen    Born March 10  1829  Died April  24  1925.   Married captain William plane,  killed at battle of Sharpsburg.  Helen Plane was the originator of the Stone Mountain Memorial outside Atlanta Georgia.  At the time she was the leader of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.





     The Jemison family came from the county of Monaghan, province of Ulster in Northern Ireland.  They sailed from Belfast Ireland and landed in Pennsylvania.  There were three brothers that sailed for America.  Robert,  Thomas,  and John.  John died in the revolutionary was serving with General George  Washington, he was not married.  We are descendent from Robert.

     Our Robert Jemison married  Sarah in Ireland, and settled prior to the revolution in or near Pennsylvania.   After the revolution, they moved through

Virginia, and finally settled in Mecklenburgh Co. North Carolina, and where they died and are buried.  They had one daughter and  seven sons. 

The daughter married a Prather , and we don’t have his first name.  The brothers names were;  John, William, Thomas, Arthur, Robert, David, and Samuel. 

     Robert is our ancestor, settled in Lincoln County, Georgia.  While living in Virginia he met and married Margaret Kirkham, of Rockbridge, Co. Virginia then a part of Augusta Co. Virginia.  She was the daughter of Henry Kirkham and Mary Hall.  They are both buried on the family plantation at the junction of Savannah  and Little turtle river, twenty five miles from Augusta Georgia.

     Robert Jemison served in the revolutionary war as a soldier.(see Owens Dictionary of Alabama Biographies page 902 Vol. 111.)

     Robert and Margaret had nine children, namely;  Sarah, William, Joseph, Samuel, Elizabeth, Robert, Artemesia, Henry, and Thomas.

     After the death of Robert, his wife Margaret Kirkham,  remained on the place, with William Hunter as her business manager, and to whom she was later married to. At her death, in 1831, at the age of seventysix, she bequeathed her entire property, consisting of land  negroes  and the home.  The plantation has been known nearly a century as the “Hunter Place”.  When the place finally passed out of the family, great care was taken to protect the graves.

     Robert and Margaret’s second child “William”, is our ancestor, and we know more about him because he was quite active, and a large landowner. William married his cousin Sarah Mims, of South Carolina, and they moved to Eatonton Georgia, where several of his first children were born.  A note about  Eatonton, that is the place where Joel Chandler Harris wrote the Uncle Remus stories, brear rabbit etc.  When you come into town there is a sign,” You are now entering Eatonton, the home of Uncle Remus”

     William soon amassed a large fortune in land both in Georgia and Alabama.  He moved from Eatonton to Twiggs, Co.  Georgia, and is said that he owned one half of the entire County.  There he built a home for his family and also for his parents. 

A few years later he moved to Perry Co. Alabama.  His parents did not want to move, so he gave them the property, and as I wrote earlier, they both lived out their lives there and are both buried on the place.

     William built a large home half way between Marion and Greensboro.  In 1819 William moved to a permanent home in Tuscaloosa County, Just across the  Warrior river from the then capitol of Tuscaloosa, and he gave  the  Perry Co. property to Jabez Curry family,  this is of course way back when this information was obtained, from a letter written around 1880.  Jabez Curry and Mirabean Lamar, the first president of Texas, married sisters, both of whom are buried in  the family cemetery on the Curry place.  Several of the Jemison’s are also buried there.


  This is a proclamation by William Jemison to his slaves as follows;


January 1 1827  


     I have this day placed you under Richard Coal as your overseer for the present year, 1827.


     Now, provided you will strictly obey him, be honest, careful, industrious,  you shall have two-thirds of the corn and cotton made on the plantation and as much of the wheat as will reward you for sowing it.  I also furnish you with provisions for this year.  When your crop is gathered, one third is to be set aside for me.  You are then to pay your overseer his part and pay me what I furnish,  clothe yourselves Pay your own taxes and doctors fees with all the expenses of the farm.  You are to bee no expense to me, but render to me one third of the produce and what I loaned you.  You have the use of the stock and plantation tools.  You are to return them as good as they are and the plantation is to be kept in good repair, and what clear money you make shall be divided equally amongst you in a fair proportion agreeable to the services rendered by each hand.  There will be an account of all lost time kept, and those that earn most shall have the most.  What comes of the lazy shall be added to the industrious and all employed in spinning, weaving or making will be rewarded in a fair proportion for their labor.  You are to clear all you can in all respected to carry on a hereto fore.  It is enjoyed on you  all that you keep yourselves clean and appear as decent as possible.  If any of you should be guilty of stealing, for the first offence you forfeit half your wages, and for the second offence, the balance half  to go to the informer and the other half to be divided  with the honest, and you are to suffer the last  both times and as many times as you are guilty.  There is to be  no gading aboad without a pass, nor no entertaining bad company.



     The beautiful home of William’s in Tuscaloosa County, was planned by himself and built entirely by his six negro carpenters, under his supervision.  This house was completed in 1819,  the place was called “the Crab Orchard” , from the crab apple orchard that William planted near the house.  William owned the right a way over the Warrior River, and he built a covered bridge over the river at Tuscaloosa.  When his son Robert Jemison came in possession of the home, he renamed it “Cherokee place”, in  honor of his child, Cherokee Jemison.

     William’s wife Sarah Mims died in 1826, and William remarried Rebecca c. Wimberly at Twiggs Co. Georgia,  but died soon after, and he and his first wife are buried  on the plantation, Cherokee Place.

     William and Sarah had ten children;  Robert, Elizabeth, Mims, Margaret, Harriet, Mary, John, Thomas, Joseph, William Henry.

William had one child with his second wife,  Carolyn Helen.  Carolyn, or as she was called Helen, married a gentleman named Plane.   Helen was very active in the United  Daughters Of The Confederacy, and she was the originator of the Stone Mountain Memorial.  The beautiful carving on the mountain depicts Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis on horseback is a sight to be seen, it was her idea, and she spent many a day working on the promotion of the project.  The carving was finally turned over to the state of Georgia, and finished just a few  years ago.  I was there the day they first put lights on the carving, and it was really a beautiful sight.



     Harriet Jemison our ancestor was my Great Grandmother.  Harriet married Dr. Doric Ball of Washington Georgia.  See the Ball Line. 

Harriet was a brilliant woman and numbered amongst her friends many distinguished women. She was educated at the Moravian College in Salem, North Carolina.  She married Dr. Doric Ball from Washington Georgia, she but fifteen years old when they were married.  They moved to New Orleans where Dr. Ball built an enviable reputation in his profession.  In the early part of her life Harriet gave considerable attention to literature, and she was a regular contributor to the Harper Magazine. She later became the head of the city archives in New Orleans.  She took over these duties when the archives were in a real mess.   This as the year 1871, and Harriet was entrusted with all the old documents dating back as far as 1773.  There were documents in Spanish, German, French and English, and she saved many old maps and documents.  She organizes all the maps and documents and had them translated into English and filed in proper order.  She was the state librarian for Louisiana for many years, and she was honored for her work many times.  In her later years she visited her daughter  Mrs. Anita (Ball) Dawson in Kingston New Mexico.  Harriet died in 1889.

Harriet’s brother Robert Jemison,  Confederate Senator,  He owned many plantations and was active in stage lines all over the south.  One can read more about Robert Jemison through “Public Men Of Alabama” also the internet will have much to say about him.  I include a picture of his house and one of the Senator himself.









Software: Microsoft Office






Robert Jemison “Confederate Senator”  brother of Harriet Jemison and his house



Software: Microsoft Office


Harriett Jemison Ball, My Great Grandmother