Biography of James M. Feagin

Major James M. Feagin, one of the oldest residents of Midway, Bullock county, Ala., is the gentleman whose name heads this sketch, and his pioneer history, connected with that of his father, will be found to be a very interesting one. He was born in Jones county, Ga., in 1814, a son of Samuel and Nancy (Wadsworth) Feagin. Samuel Feagin, the father, was born in 1782, at Feaginsville (now Carthage), a village of North Carolina, named in honor of his own family. Mrs. Feagin was a native of Warren county, Ga., and was born in 1790. While yet a young man, Samuel Feagin removed from his native state to Georgia, where, in 1813, he married his first wife, who died in 1827. Mr. Feagin had no opportunities in his early days for acquiring an education, but he was intellectually endowed, and had an ambition which tended to literature, and this he gratified to its fullness by self-education, storing his mind with facts gleaned from the best books of his day, and with ideas and pictures or imagery drawn from the Lest poets and writers of tales of fiction founded on stern reality and historical events. He became a school teacher eventually, and also a useful and influential citizen, and, during the war of 1812, was sheriff of Jones county, which office he also filled for a number of years afterward. He also served as county commissioner and as justice of the peace a number of years, and proved himself to be worthy of all the trust reposed in him. His daily vocation was that of a planter, which he followed in Georgia and Alabama, to which latter state he removed in 1836, and settled in the woods of Bullock county, in what is now Midway township. But his residence here was not altogether a peaceful one, for the Indians were troublesome, and he was compelled to leave his first year’s crop for a while and flee to Louisville, in Barbour county, for safety from the attacks of the Indians. Returning, however, he succeeded in clearing up a handsome farm, and also influenced the establishment of a post-office at Midway, of which he was appointed postmaster, and which position he filled, carrying on the office in his own store until his death, in 1818, when his son, Major James M., took charge and filled it until just prior to the late civil war.

Samuel Feagin was a son of Richardson Feagin, who was also born in North Carolina, of Irish parentage. He was somewhat nearsighted and, notwithstanding his desire to enter the army of the Revolution, was therefore precluded from going to the field; but the parents were full of sympathy with the colonies and of antagonism to the tyrannical government which had so long persecuted their native island, and freely contributed several of their children to the ranks of the patriot army. The maternal grandfather of the major, James Wadsworth, was probably a Virginian by birth, of English descent, but passed the last years of his life in Jones county, Ga., and was a wealthy planter, too young to enter the Revolution. Major James M. Feagin, the eldest in a family of eight children, was reared on a farm under the watchful eye of a kind mother, was educated at the common school until her death, in 1827, when, not being educationally inclined, he permitted his studies to relax.

In 1836 he came to Alabama with his family, and soon had an opportunity to display his inherent bravery. He had been a resident of an old-settled country, and was not acquainted with the wily habits of the wild sons of the forest, and had much to learn in relation to the Indians in order to be able to compete with them in the then impending struggle with them. This trouble, it has been alleged, was originated through a belief, on the part of the Indians, that they had been swindled out of their lands by the United States government, or by its agents. But the major claims that it began at the house of a neighbor of his parents, through too great an imbibition on the part of the copper-skinned natives of firewater. This neighbor kept a store a short distance north of the residence of the Feagin family, and there, one day, about fifteen Indians gathered together, drank and became insolent, and one of their number was stabbed by a white. This act, of course, roused the ire of the natives, but they sneaked away without giving any outward show of their anger. A day or two later, however, the Indians vented their wrathful impulses by killing a Mr. John Carter, a justice of the peace, who refused to issue them a warrant for the arrest of the white man who stabbed the Indian, as they could not comply with the law by giving the justice bond, and security for the same. Therefore the refusal. Roanoke, a small town in Georgia, on the east bank of the Chattahoochee river, about five or six miles above Irwinton (alias Eufaula), was ransacked and burned to ashes, and the settlers in the vicinity of these depredations in different squads and neighborhoods, for about forty miles along the old Federal road, with their families, and most of ahem gathered at and in the vicinity of Uchee post-office to take refuge at Columbus, Ga. Mr. McKisick and his wife, being travelers on their way to Georgia, had stayed all night with them and started in advance of the settlers, being in a light carriage, had got about a quarter or half a mile ahead and about half a dozen Indians fired on them from behind a clay-root, killing both, and the next wagon in advance turned back and the road became blockaded, and they cut their horses loose from wagons and carriages, packed their wives and children that could not walk, on the horses and mules and the balance footed through the woods, trails and byways across the Uchee creek about ten miles to the upper road and then to Columbus, leaving behind the Indians in possession of their cattle, hogs and wagons, taking bedding and valuables, and from the amount of damage done it must have been a general attack made on them by eight or nine hundred Indians. Just after this outrage, the Columbus stage was attacked and robbed, and its passengers either killed or maltreated. On these facts becoming known the whites began to prepare for self-protection and defense, as well as for aggression. Major Feagin took an active part in their preparations at once, raised a company of twelve men, and repaired to a point just west of Columbus, where it was understood that the Indians had congregated intent on mischief. He returned, however, without fully satiating his desire for Indian gore, as the red men dispersed without showing fight, yet evidently manifesting a disposition to create additional trouble. On the return of the major to his father’s house, a meeting of citizens was called, a messenger was dispatched to the governor for aid, and many families fled to Clayton and Irwinton, now Eufaula, for safety, where they built forts for their shelter and protection. The next thing in order at Midway was the organization of a new company, of which Mr. Feagin was made sergeant, and for a time the company was stationed at the elder Feagin’s house. Hostilities now began in earnest and our sergeant was soon made lieutenant, scout and pilot for various companies of United States troops and volunteers, during the summer and fall of 1836, sent to the relief of the pioneers and later attained the position of lieutenant of the Cowikee spies, in the spring of 1837, belonging to Col. Willbor’s regiment raised from the surrounding territory for the general defense, and with this force he served throughout the entire two years’ subsequent Indian hostilities, undergoing many hardships and bravely withstanding numerous onsets of the Native foe, and at other times taking part in reconnoiters and planning schemes for its overthrow, if not extinguished. He took part in the severe rencontre at Three Notch, in 1837, where several white men were killed, and at the conflict of Pea river he lay in water immersed to the shoulders. in the chilly weather of March, from eleven o’clock in the morning until sunset, under incessant fire of musketry from the redskins, but he passed through this terrible ordeal, and, indeed, the more terrible ordeal of a two years’ strife, without a wound. The title of major was conferred on Mr. Feagin in 1838 by his election to command the Second battalion of the Forty-seventh regiment of Alabama militia. He commanded about sixty-five mounted volunteers at Camp Watson, on the Three Notch road, belonging to the Cowikee spies commanded by Capt. L. Q. Keener about three months before the termination of the war to protect the citizens from the scattering Indians on their way to Florida, as some of them would not emigrate to the west, but preferred the ever-glades of Florida, with the chief Billy Bow Legs, who fought the United States troops for about fifteen years.

Peace being again restored and the Indian fully subjugated, the major resumed his farming and succeeded in hewing out a fine homestead from the wilderness, and having succeeded in this herculean task, concluded in 1840 to take to himself a life partner. He sought and won the heart and hand of Miss Almira C., daughter of Noah B. Cole, who was born in South Carolina but removed to Covington county, Ala., and later died in Caddo parish, La. Mrs. Feagin was born in Covington county, Ala., and was educated in accordance with her rank and station in life. She became the mother of twelve children, as follows Samuel J., who was a sergeant in the Fifteenth Alabama infantry and was killed at Cold Harbor: Capt. Noah B., who, at the age of seventeen years, left his studies at Nashville, Tenn., university, joined the Fifteenth Alabama infantry as a private and served in the Virginia campaign under Stonewall Jackson until the close of the war, when he was mustered out with the rank of captain (completed his studies at Washington and Lee-university), and is now a prominent lawyer of Birmingham, Ala.; Martha, the third child, is the wife of Calvin W. Fenn, of Clayton, Ala.; Wealthy M., is the wife of Dr. W. U. Morton, of East Lake; Mary, died in infancy; Missouri Amazon, is the wife of F. H. Tompkins; Almira C., is married to A. G. Jordan; the eighth child is James, Jr.; the ninth was Beauregard, died an infant; tenth, Lavinia I., wife of Rev. Jas. M. Kelly, of Jeffersonville, Ga.; eleventh, Nancy Dixie, wife of Gus A. Orum, of Union Springs, Ala., and the twelfth, George W. Feagin, civil engineer, now at Schenectady, N. Y., completing his education in practical electricity.


Memorial record of Alabama : a concise account of the state’s political, military, professional and industrial progress, together with the personal memoirs of many of its people.. Madison, Wis.: Brant & Fuller, 1893.

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