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Samuel Whatley

Submitted by: Jerry McGinty

Samuel Whatley was an early Wilkes Co. pioneer, receiving a 300 acre head right grant  in 1783. This grant was in Wilkes Co. at the time, and became part of Taliaferro Co., in 1825. The southern portion of this land includes part of Mercer’s Creek. His next door neighbor was Silas Mercer. See his land plats on this Wilkes Co. website, courtesy of Phil McGinty.
An excellent account of Whatley appears in Georgia Baptists: Historical and Biographical by J. H. Campbell. Macon, Georgia: J. W. Burke & Company, 1874, p. 282. It is reproduced here.
“About the year 1776, William Whatley, the father of the subject of these brief memoirs, removed from North Carolina, and settled in Wilkes county, Georgia, having a wife and four children, of whom Samuel was the oldest. Soon after their arrival in this State, his father and his uncle, Wilson Whatley, were killed by Indians at the Cherokee Corner, whilst engaged in surveying land. The care of his widowed mother and her orphan children devolved upon Samuel, who, at the tender age of fourteen, had to act the fourfold part of father, brother, son and soldier. He was well grown for one of his years, and the death of his father and uncle roused a spirit within him, which prompted him at once to volunteer in his country's service, against the combined forces of the British and Indians. He accordingly served successfully under Clark, Dooly, Williamson and other revolutionary patriots. Did it comport with the design of this work, we might entertain the reader with many thrilling incidents of his history as a youthful soldier. We must confine ourselves, however, to only one or two. On one occasion, while connected with a company of mounted infantry, he was required to march in silence about twenty-five miles, during a freezing winter night. Being thinly clad, he was quite overcome by the cold, and at the end of the trip, was taken from his horse in a speechless state. It was with much difficulty, and after he had suffered unspeakable anguish, that he was restored to consciousness. He was in that battle at the siege of Augusta, when the Whigs were defeated, and with others made his escape by swimming the Savannah river, opposite the city. He was barely able to reach to bank, and must have perished, but that he was pulled out by his fellow-soldiers. Almost destitute of clothing, he became separated from his companions, and spent the night in a tree-top alone. Next morning, he fell in with a herd of swine, which he followed to the main road. To his great joy, his own captain soon came along, took him up on his horse, and carried him safely to camp. Some few months afterwards, he was wounded and taken prisoner in the battle of Long-Cane, South Carolina, while under the command of Colonel Williamson. His left arm was broken by a musket ball. In this situation, he was taken by the Tories, who made one or two attempts to hang him; but failing, for want of a suitable rope, they delivered him to the British at Ninety-Six. His wound was not dressed until the third day after it was inflicted. From the effects of this wound, he never entirely recovered, and was a pensioner of the government on account of it. He amused the British officers by singing "Liberty songs" for them, which he was very fond of doing, and of which he knew a great many. The night before he was taken by the Tories, he lay out in the woods, and while suffering excruciating pain from his broken arm, he was attacked by three wolves, from which he narrowly escaped with his life. Driven by hunger, the next morning, to the residence of a widow, he was discovered and taken by the Tories, as above stated. How long his imprisonment continued is not known. But soon after his release, he returned to his mother in Wilkes county, where he went to school a few months. During the remainder of the war, he was frequently engaged in short excursions against the enemy; but was no more connected with the regular army. He finally married Miss Catharine Anglin, and settled in Wilkes county, on a tract of land, which he took up on head rights, and where he raised a large family, having cultivated it upwards of forty years. His wife is no more, and though she never made a public profession of religion, is believed by her friends to have been a lover of Jesus Christ. Soon after his marriage and settlement, many of his relatives from North Carolina and Virginia removed and located in his immediate neighborhood, and as they were all agreed in politics and kind in their feelings towards each other, Mr. Whatley considered himself a happy man. This happiness, however, was of short duration, for Silas Mercer, that faithful servant of the Lord, was his nearest neighbor, and did not cease to warn him of his guilt and danger as a sinner against God. These warnings were not in vain, for his eyes being opened to a discovery of his lost condition, he betook himself to repentance and prayer, day and night. His convictions and troubles continued many days. When, at length, the Lord was pleased to meet with him in mercy in a forest, where he was accustomed to retire for prayer, his joy was such as to prompt him to arise and repair to his wife, to whom he communicated the glad tidings. Next, he went to Silas Mercer, and informed him "what great things the Lord had done for his soul." Within a few months after his conversion, he was baptized by the said Mercer, and joined Phillips' Mill church, of which he continued an exemplary member the remainder of his life, a period of about forty years. He soon became an active and prominent member of the church. But how long he enjoyed this relation, before he commenced his public ministration of the Word is not known. Owing to his limited circumstances, his labors were mostly confined to the regions contiguous to him. Though given to many eccentricities, he was a man of good natural parts, and of a noble and generous nature. His person was tall and commanding, being six feet and nearly four inches in height, and weighing upwards of two hundred pounds. Upon the decease of Silas Mercer, the friendship of Mr. Whatley was transferred to Jesse Mercer, his son. This distinguished man ever entertained much respect and sincere regard for Mr. Whatley. In like manner, was he held in high esteem even by men who did not fear God. At the house of an unbeliever, he was invited and accustomed to hold religious meetings. Another wicked man declared his intention to make him a present of a negro, "Because," as he said, "Mr. Whatley was the best man in Wilkes county." Having died without fulfilling his design, his widow subsequently made him a deed to a likely negro boy. His decease took place in October, 1820, in the sixty-fifth year of his age, in the early part of the session of the Georgia Association, of which he had been so long a member. A funeral discourse was preached before that body by his intimate friend and brother, Jesse Mercer. The same individual continued to preach similar discourse, in memory of Mr. Whatley, for several weeks in the churches most acquainted with his character, and which had mainly enjoyed the advantages of his labors as an evangelist. After having been once almost drowned, twice frozen, twice shot, and one hung, he survived to enjoy the blessings of liberty to a good old age, and then to die in peace and hope upon his own bed, at home, and in the midst of kindred and friends.”
In this write up, Campbell shows Whatley’s death date as October, 1820, but other records show 1826. It is said that in an application for Revolutionary War Pension, it states that SAMUEL WHATLEY was born 2 March 1762 in Bute County, North Carolina and died 3 October 1826 in Wilkes County, Georgia. I have not seen this application.
On March 13, 2008, a group including my brother, Phil, cousin Tom Wood and his son, and Terri Saturday, found the unnamed graveyard where Whatley was buried. This is on private property off Silas Mercer Rd. It appears to be on either his original grant or Silas Mercer’s land. The graveyard contains at least twenty graves, but only Whatley has an inscribed stone. The writing is badly weathered, but this part can be read: “Sacred To The Memory Of The Rev. Samuel Whatley.” There is also a foot stone with the initials, “S W” inscribed on it.
There is also an inscribed Whatley granite stone at the Kettle Creek historical site, placed there by the DAR.
Submitted by Gerald K. “Jerry” McGinty
March, 2008

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