The Georgian McKenneys

Travis McKenney is born in Richmond, Virginia in 1734. His father, William had moved to Richmond by 1733 to marry Winifred Gathings. If there is another reason for the move from the McKenney ancestral farm on the Northern Neck of Virginia beyond love, it is not recorded. Quite possibly the family farm could have suffered financial problems since tobacco farmers were constantly in debt because of their consumption of luxury items from England and wide swings in the value of their tobacco crop.

Travis’ father dies in 1746 when Travis is 12. He marries Ann Gresham (assumed to be from the Maryland Greshams) in 1756. It is assumed that they were married in Richmond and as young newly weds it is quite probable that they joined many other Virginians who were moving to the new royal colony of Georgia where land was cheap and available. The original founder of Georgia was James Oglethorpe who envisioned stocking the colony with settlers from the British debtor prisons. He gave up on this venture in 1752 and it became a royal colony in 1754. The colony survived the travails of the French and Indian War by maintaining a peaceful relationship with the Creek and Cherokee Indian Nations. It is not clear if the newly weds arrived before or after the end of the colonial war with the French. We do know that their son, William  was born in Wilkes County Georgia in 1765. The land records indicate that they farmed along Lloyd’s Creek to the northeast of present day Augusta. It is not clear how much land they owned in the 1760’s. But by 1800, the family controlled in excess of 1000 acres. This is important because it is during this time that they began to acquire slaves.

During the Revolutionary War, despite a small population of less than 20,000, witnessed many significant battles. Savannah with its seaside location was easily captured and occupied by the British. The inland city of Augusta was taken by the British in 1780 and the royal governor’s brother was diligent in harassing area revolutionaries like the McKenneys. The British policy was to burn the homes of rebels. Many of the rural Georgians moved their families to remote areas to distance themselves from the British and their loyalist supporters. Travis and teenage son William joined Col. William Candler’s Refugee Regiment of militia. They were called that because their families were those who had relocated and become refugees. Needless to say, they were eager participants in the struggle.

The fighting in Georgia was dominated by struggles between loyalists and rebels after the destruction of the Continental Army in Georgia due to the incompetence of the political generals. General Cornwallis developed his southern strategy of controlling the southern colonies by assuming that the region was dominated by loyalists. His large army could easily trounce whatever rebel forces that could be cobbled together until the arrival of the skilled leadership of General Nathaniel Greene. Greene organized Georgians under leaders like Andrew Pickens into effective groups of militia. The “refugees regiment” was under the command of Pickens. They retook Augusta in 1781 and Savannah in 1782 forcing Cornwallis to abandon Georgia and to relocate his home base in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Battle of King’s Mountain (September, 1780) is widely acknowledged as a turning point in the Revolutionary War. Since Cornwallis believed that British Loyalists vastly outnumbered the Rebels, he gave much emphasis to creating Loyalist forces. Under the leadership of Major Patrick Ferguson, an 1100 man Loyalist force sought battle with Rebel militia in the hills near the borders of the Carolinas. Ferguson liked to refer to the backwoods Rebel militia as “mongrels” and boasted that he would freely burn rebel farms. The “regular” militia like the Refugee Regiment set out to meet Ferguson and his 1200 militia and his Highlanders. They were quickly joined by the “Overmountain Men” of the North Carolina backwoods. The American militia sported rifles with names like “Hot Lead” and “Sweet Lips” were not a force to taken lightly while fighting in their accustomed way behind trees and rocks. The battle was a disaster for the Loyalists and the proud Ferguson. The Loyalist force was decimated and saved from slaughter by Rebel commanders who restrained the troops from giving “Tarleton’s Quarter”. General Banestre Tarleton was the British leader who gained infamy for refusing Rebel surrender and allowed his troops to murder Rebel who had surrendered.

Militia at King's Mountain

Militia at King’s Mountain

Tourist Looking at Memorial

Tourist Looking at Memorial

Candler's Georgia "Refugee" militia on the King's Mountain Monument

Candler’s Georgia “Refugee” militia on the King’s Mountain Monument

Amongst the 900 patriots at King’s Mountain were Travis and William McKenney. Amazingly enough the Bryson’s were also there in strength including 3 or 4 men along with Elizabeth Countryman, the 60 year old, mother-in-law of James Holmes Bryson. The McKenneys and the Brysons could have been firing on the Loyalists from behind the same trees. It will take almost another couple of centuries for them to join their families.

Following the Battle of Kings Mountain, it appears that the McKenneys returned to Georgia and their families. The McKenneys receive War Bounty Grants north east of Augusta in 1784 totaling almost 800 acres. The family now controls enough holdings to create a plantation suitable for cotton. With the invention of the cotton gin in 1794, the production of cotton using slave labor became extremely profitable.

William, Travis’ son, marries Jane Gresham of the Virginia Greshams and they have a son George in 1792. Unfortunately William passes away in 1813 at the age of forty eight leaving his Widow Jane and son George the task of resolving his estate in Baldwin County. Jane receives a land grant in Monroe County following the Land Draw of 1819 as the widow of a Revolutionary War Veteran. She and her sons relocate there to the east of Atlanta. Son George marries Fannie Madre in 1813 while residing in Wilkes County. They too name their son George who is born in 1821.

Son George marries Anna Eliza Dill of Augusta in 1852 and they are residing in the there at the outbreak of the Civil War. George becomes an Quartermaster Sargent in Capt Milledge’s Co, Light Artillery at the age of 40. The unit fights in all major engagements including Chancellorsville and Gettysburg to their surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865. Not sure at the present the actual length of service by George in this unit. Needless to say that the world changed for George and Eliza after the surrender. They moved to Chattanooga by 1880 where George died in 1886.

Our direct ancestor Charles James McKinney is born in May,1863 while the family is living in Augusta. The date is possible since his military unit is formed the previous fall making Charles a war baby in every sense. He also moves with his parents to Chattanooga after the war.

The McKenneys were among the early white settlers in Georgia and fought to keep their homes and families during both Revolutionary War and “Second War of Independence” or Civil War. Branches of the McKenneys continued to live in Georgia but our family lived there for a century. This parallels the Virginia century of the earlier McKenneys. The story continues in Tennessee.

13 thoughts on “The Georgian McKenneys

  1. I’m A
    direct decendent of William Mckenney. My Mckinneys came from Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Texas
    In that order. I would like to know if you have done any research on this line of Mckinney’s.
    I enjoyed reading your blog.
    thank You
    Eli form Missouri

  2. Jane Gresham McKenney, wife of William McKenney and mother to Travis McKenney… Is my 4th great grandmother. I grew up on the McKenney Farm in Monroe county, Georgia… Which is the same original land grant that was given to Jane! And my grandparents house was built by Her son, Travis.
    I am interested in any information in regard to Jane Gresham McKenney, in particularly precise reason for relocating .
    I would be thankful for anything that could be shared with me.

    • Did you get the picture of Jane Gresham McKenney? I have no specific details on her motivation to move after the Ciil War. My assumption that relocation was common although the family farm obviously stayed in the family.

      • I have Nancy Jane Gresham’s picture. She the daughter in law of William and Jane McKenney. She married Their son, Travis McKenney. 🙂

    • Eli Thomas McKinney lll, Eli Thomas McKinney Jr., Eli Thomas McKinney Sr., Eli Harris McKinney Jr.,Eli Harris McKinney Sr., Eli McKinney, John McKinney, Travis McKinney.He Is My Gr Gr Gr Gr Gr Gr GrandFather Nice To Meet you Eli

  3. I’m a McKenney with possible connections in Georgia. I have census records that say my gg-grandfather, George Emmett McKenney, b. abt 1835, and his sister Dicy Ann McKenney, b. 1831, were born in Georgia. I also have a family story that says George and Dicy had a cousin, Jane Catherine McKenney, b. abt 1820 in Georgia. Jane married John A. Kitchens in 1842 in Talbot Co., GA and they moved to Noxubee MS. Jane later returned to Georgia where she died in 1865 in Glascock, Co. My McKenneys migrated to Kemper County, MS in about the 1850s. George was a sharecropper and served in the 23rd MS Infantry during the Civil War. I don’t know of any connections to the Travis McKenney family tree, but then, I don’t have a lot to go on for my McKenneys in Georgia. Its my brick wall. If anyone has any information on these names, please let me know.

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