This is the story of a true pioneer of Liberty County in the late 1700s and early 1800s. However, the full story begins much earlier in another time and even in another country.
Off the southern coast of Scotland lies the Isle of Arran. In the early 18th century, around the 1750s, the island was made up almost entirely of families by the name of Hendry. This family name had been granted to an early ancestor around the 13th or 14th century. Our story concerns a Hendry by the name of Robert, born in 1752 on the island. He was the son of John Hendry, who was born on the island in 1720.
British Prince Charles was defeated at Culloden Moor in 1746. Following this defeat, the British crown began a persecution and murder campaign targeting any Scot who had helped Charles in his fight to seize the throne of Scotland, which was his by right. One of the British king’s advisers was a Scot by birth and, unknown to the King, secretly sympathized with his people.
So, in an effort to help his countrymen, the adviser told the king that no greater punishment could befall these “traitors” than to banish them to America. The king agreed and thousands of Scots were shipped off to “the colonies,” including Robert Hendry and two of his brothers. They came to New Hanover County, N.C., in 1770.
Historians have long thought it strange that many Scottish immigrants refused to fight with the American colonies during the Revolutionary War, since they suffered so much at the hand of the British crown. The truth is simple: Many Scots were forced to take an oath of allegiance to the British crown before sailing to America. A Scotsman held his oath in such high regard that once he had given it, he would never break it.
Thankfully, our Robert seems to have escaped taking the oath. He joined the Colonial army, served under Light-Horse “Harry” Lee and was present at Corwallis’ surrender at Yorktown.
Robert Hendry met Ann Lee, of New Hanover County (now Pender County), N.C., and they were married in 1778. They lived in New Hanover County until 1796, when they moved to Georgia. They lived in Burke County until 1801, when they moved to Liberty County. Robert bought land four miles northwest of Taylors Creek and their children grew up there.
Robert was a Scotch Presbyterian and joined the Midway Congregational Church. He was made a selectman of that church. Imagine traveling by horse and buggy from Taylors Creek to Midway to attend services.
Ann Hendry was a devout Methodist and became a charter member of the Taylors Creek Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in 1807.
Robert was commissioned as a justice of the peace of the 17th district of Liberty County on July 9, 1802, and served until 1811. He was again commissioned on Sept. 15, 1819, and served until 1824. In 1827, he became Liberty County’s tax collector and served until his death on Aug. 31, 1830, at Taylor’s Creek.
His wife Ann died May 31, 1834. They were buried in the Hendry Cemetery about four miles northwest of Taylors Creek.
Now our story takes an unusual twist. I have written about this before in “Cradled by the Limbs of An Oak,” and several people in Hinesville did not believe that it could have happened. However, I stand by it.
Here’s what happened: In 1941, when the United States Army took over the land encompassing Taylors Creek and made it part of a large military installation, the tombstones were removed from the graves of old family cemeteries in the area. The grave markers were relocated to the Taylors Creek Methodist Church. When the workers went to move Robert Hendry’s grave marker, they discovered the stone had been picked up by the limbs of a growing oak tree, which, over the ensuing 114 years, had lifted the stone about 15 feet above the ground!
Whenever I attend Taylors Creek Reunion Day, I am always drawn to the cemetery, which has been preserved there at the site of the Methodist church. I can’t help but examine the first markers on the left — those of Robert and Ann Hendry, my great-great-great grandparents!
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles on pioneers of Liberty County.