A Biography of Basil O'Neal

The article below was found in the Culpeper Library on August 1st, 2002 by members of the TOGA - X- 2002 Expedition,
and is reprinted here for your perusal.


WAGON TRAIN TO GEORGIA

Annie Pearce-Barnes Johnson
(Mrs. Eugene Thomas Johnson)
3308 Peachtree Road,
N. E; Atlanta 5, Georgia
1961

Historian, Georgia Society Daughters of the American Colonists
Lineage verified by Membership in: Daughters of the American Revolution, Atlanta Chapter,
through descent from Basil O'Neal, National Number 290816,
Daughters of the American Colonists, James Edward Oglethorpe Chapter,
through descent from John Briscoe and Daniel Walker, National Number 11260.
Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin in Virginia,
through descent from Peter Lamar, National Number 1287.
Descent from John Henry O'Neale (O'Neill) 1814-1902 Washington, D. C.
As our O'Neills built our nation's capital, some of our cousins took the "Wagon Train to Georgia!"

Helen Elizabeth Summers Holweck…..1929-
Helen Elizabeth O'Neill Summers……..1905-
Jaroes Edward 0'Neill……………………1871-1953
James J. Murray O'Neill…………………1846-1925
John Henry O'Neale …………………….1814-1902

All of the above were born and raised in Washington, D. C.

List your descent of the 0'Neill Family!

Mrs. Ralph Holweck
9731 OakHill Road
Woodsboro, Md. 21798
Phone 301-845-4192

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 BRISCOE - O'NEAL

My favorite story is about Milly (Mary Ellen) Briscoe, who was born in Virginia about 1765, and. her husband Basil O'Neal, born in Prince George's County, Maryland in 1758. Soon after they were married in Henry County Virginia in 1780 they made the long journey to Georgia with a wagon train.

Basil O'Neal fought against the Indians and Great Britain before, during, and after the Revolution in Virginia and in Georgia. We knew about their lives from a book "A Son of the Revolution" written 'by the son of Basil O'Neal.

Basil O'Neal's sons dropped the 0 from their Irish names, when in a wave of patriotism, after the Revolution, many families changed the Irish, the Scottish, the French and the German spelling of their names to what seemed to them all-American names. So our cousins, some of whom still live in the old O'Neal home, are now called Neal.

In 1955 the Georgia Historical Commission placed a bronze marker on Highway 150 Columbia County, Georgia, about twenty five miles from Augusta pointing to the site of "Happy Valley", the Neal home, part of which is the log cabin built by Basil O'Neal soon after 1780. In 1931 the Atlanta Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution placed a Revolutionary marker on the grave of Basil 0'Neal in the cemetery not far from the house.
Why did they come from Henry County, Virginia, with the other families from Maryland and Virginia who settled along the Little River in Georgia in the area now known as Wilkes, Lincoln, Columbia and McDuffie Counties?

Their ancestors the Lamars, 0'Neals, Briscoes, Swanns, Williamsons and Tarletons had come to Maryland more than a hundred years before the Revolution and settled along the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay in the old parishes or counties: St. Mary's, St. Charles, Calvert, Prince George's. As the families grew the older sons inherited the lands and the younger sons started, west in search of new lands. In 1784 many families including the Briscoes vent to what became Frederick County, Maryland. Their younger sons crossed the Potomac River into Virginia probably at Shepherds Ferry at Shepherds Town. Here was the crossing for the Great Road. It was one of the wilderness trails that led from Philadelphia through the Shenandoah Valley to the Yadkin River in North Carolina. From here a narrow trading path led through South Carolina to the Savannah River, crossing there at the Broad River into what Is now Georgia.

Some of the O'Neal's had gone in their boats to Philadelphia from Mary-land.  There they could buy the Conestoga wagons made in Lancaster County, which they needed for the wagon train. They came down the Great Road to new lands in Southern Virginia.

When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, Basil O'Neal and his parents were living in Henry County, Virginia. His mothers name was Mary and. his father was Peter Lamar O'Neal, grandson of the Huguenot Peter Lemare. We have a copy of the will of Peter Lamar of Calvert County, Maryland written in 1693. He left property to his daughter Ann, wife of Jo O'Neal, and to his grandson Peter Lamar O'Neal.

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In Henry County Virginia on September 20 1777 Basil O'Neal, Dr. Truman Briscoe, Milly's father and Dr. John Briscoe, Mlly's grandfather all signed the oath of allegiance to fight on the side of the thirteen colonies for freedom against Great Britain

When the colonists had settled earlier along the Great Road in Virginia, the' Shawnees, Senecas, Delawares, Cherokees, Tuscaroras and Catawbas were using the Wilderness road for their trading path and hunting grounds, so there were frequent Indian raids on the settlers. George Washington at that time lived in the Valley, and he .was the leader of Virginia troops who fought with the British in the French and Indian War. Although a treaty of peace was signed in 1763 there was constant warfare with the Indians along the Virginia frontier. The settlers became such excellent woodsmen that the Indians called then "Long Knives". Chief Cornstalk of the Shawnees was constantly leading his men in raids, stealings, burnings, murders and massacres.

Now in Georgia, the Indians were more friendly. The Creeks and Cherokees signed a treaty in 1773 with .Sir James Wright, the Governor. For $2000.00 they sold to Georgia a. tract of their land, including what is now Elbert, Wilkes, Hart, Oglethorpe, Lincoln, and part of Green, Taliaferro and Madison Counties. Governor Wright established a fort at the junction of the Savannah and Broad Rivers where the Indians trading path leading from the Great Road in Virginia crossed into Georgia. Here at the Land Court settlers could pay five dollars entrance money for one hundred acres, and buy land for not more then five shillings an acre.  Governor Wright had bulletins printed telling of this rich land on easy terms for he wanted good settlers for the Colony. (We saw a copy of the bulletin tacked to the wall at Chowning's Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia.) These bulletins were sent to the Court Houses in the other colonies and were even tacked to the trees along the wilderness roads.

Immediately many settlers in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina began to make ready the wagon to Georgia.

Milly Briscoe and her husband Basil O'Neal' were young and in love. They both rode on pack horses all the way to Georgia. The old women and children and the sick rode in the Conestoga Wagons as far as the Yadkin River in North Caroilina. There they had to sell the big wagons and use small covered carts along the narrow trail to Georgia. In the carts were bedsteads and feather beds and quilts, each family had a trunk where they had their family Bibles with their clothing. In their Bibles they wrote of the births of new babies, of marriages and deaths and sometimes made records of when they left one colony to travel to another. They had pewter dippers and plates and spoons, bread trays and three-legged stools. Many of the Virginia settlers 'brought mahogany dressers and chairs, and even good china to eat from.

To cultivate their land each family brought plow points, hoes, mattox, an axe, a broad axe, an anvil, a chisel and auger, etc.

The women brought spinning wheels, cards, and looms to use in

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cloth. They had to prepare for the trip strings of red pepper, pods of dried (?) bags of peas, beans, wheat and corn for planting, and dried apples and. peaches, sacks of flour which had been ground in the Mills in Virginia. The men had salted and dried deer and bear meat, and they shot wild turkeys, and rabbits and squirrels to eat along the way. They were always happy to find a hollow tree where the bees had deposited honey.

Each family had about fifty head of cattle, several horses, hogs, sheep for wool and a flock of geese for feather beds. They brought corn to feed the stock along the way, and flax for linen for little cotton was grown in upper Georgia then. They brought tobacco seed, for that was the main crop at first.
Basil and Milly brought from Virginia various kinds of seedling fruit trees. There were eight varieties of peaches and several kinds of apples including Sweetening and Hoss apples to start their orchard. For over one hundred and fifty years their descendants had a nursery at Happy Valley where they raised apples and peaches from that original stock. Milly had to keep the little trees watered and wrapped against the cold weather on the long journey.

The O'Neals were glad to find hickory trees growing on the new land in Georgia for that indicated good soil. Each of the settlers staked out a home site on a creek with sufficient fall to turn water wheels for gristmills to grind wheat and corn. Each farm had its own distillery and tannery. With the other Maryland and Virginia settlers they choose land near the Little River with a bold spring of good tasting water and a good creek. Basil cleared the land and built a log cabin. Some of the Virginians brought slaves with them but Basil was young and strong and cleared his own land, later he bought slaves to work his crops of cotton and corn and tobacco.

Two of his guns he brought from Virginia were still in the old home in 1914. The musket he used in the Revolution was six feet long, the stock extending the whole length of the barrel, and the load for it was one ball and three buck shot. He called his musket "Buckaneer" because he killed so many deer with it. His old rifle was originally six feet long. It had a broken place on the little end of the stock, caused by a lick on an Indian's head. He was guarding Indians while a treaty was being made and the Indians tried to escape.  The break was repaired with a piece of copper wire. Basil could kill a hawk with it while flying a hundred and fifty yards distant. He helped to forge the barrel of the rifle at a blacksmith shop in Maryland before he came to Virginia. Later on his son Basil Llewellin Neal, when he entered, the Confederate army took with him into service, Basil O'Neal's Revolutionary rifle. He had sixteen inches cut off the barrel and to shorten the stock, and changed the flintlock to a percussion lock.

Basil's guns were constantly at his side. He carried one of them when he plowed his land to plant corn and. tobacco, and his fruit trees, for Indian raids became frequent in Georgia in 1780 and almost all of Georgia had fallen to the British except a part of Wilkes County across Little River from the O'Neal land. The Capitol of Georgia had been moved from Augusta to Heard's Fort in Wilkes County. Col. Elijah Clarke sent messengers around to call the settlers to meet at Dennis's Mill on Little River. These home loving farmers surprised and defeated the British at Kettle Creek in Wilkes.

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County. This was a turning point in the Revolution in Georgia. In spite of Indian raids and constant devastation by the Tories the British were finally driven out Georgia and the good news reached the frontier of Cornwallis' surrender to George Washington at Yorktown.
The settlers began to repair the damages the war had brought to them, and replanted their wasted farms.
There was great rejoicing in the home of Basil and Milly Briscoe when their neighbor William Few returned from New York in 1788 with the news that he had signed the Constitution of the United States of America for Georgia, the fourth state to come into the Union.

The O'Neal family was safe in "Happy Valley."

References:

Personal Incidents in O'Neal family from "'A Son of the Revolution" by Basil Llewellen Neal,
published in Washington, Georgia, 1914, by the Washington Reporter Print.

General information and history: First Lessons in Georgia History, Larton Evans,
published by the American Book Company, 1908.

Hero of Hornet's Nest a Biography of General Elijah Clark, Louise Frederick Hayes,
published by Stratford House, New York, New York, 1946.

The Valley of Virginia in the American Revolution, Freeman Hart,
published by U. of N. C. Press, 1942.

Historical Markers in Georgia - Georgia Historical Commission.
Marker No. 036-2 on highway 150, Columbus County, Georgia.

Site of Home and Burial Place of Basil Neal, Revolutionary War Soldier.
History of Georgia and the Georgia People by Rev. George Smith, 1906.
Annals of Newbury County, South Carolina by Judge Belton O'Neal, first published, 1840.
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A Son of the Revolution - Letter from G. M. Salsgaber, Commissioner of U. S. Pension Bureau - "in the papers on file in the Bureau it is stated that Basil Neal or O'Neal took the oath of allegiance September 20, 1777, in Henry County, Virginia, and that he served against the Indians and Great Britain before, during and after the revolution; under David Chadwell in 1778; and under Major John Graves in 1786; and that he served two 3 months' terms in Virginia and one in Georgia."

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Nature has taken over Revolutionary War Gravesite

By Douglas Wood, Staff Writer

Web-posted June 21, 1996 at 4 p.m.

The grave of Basil Neal - or O’Neal - is commemorated by a state historical marker on Highway 150 about a mile outside Winfield. Born in 1758 in Maryland, Basil Neal rose to the rank of ensign in the Revolutionary Army. He moved from Virginia to Columbia County in 1780 to a plantation he named Happy Valley.
The original house burned in 1973, but more than 300 acres of Happy Valley remain in Neal family hands. The house’s front and back steps are preserved, along with rock markers of the home’s four corners.
"It’s rather awesome in a way that I know so much about what happened," said John H. Neal, the 63-year-old great-grandson of Basil Neal, as he surveyed Happy Valley’s remnants. He has read the accounts in Basil Llewellyn Neal’s autobiography.
Mr. Neal lives in Thomson but owns 105 acres of Happy Valley. Other family members own other acreage. He lived in the original house for five years as a child. Basil Neal’s headstone in the stonewalled cemetery simply reads:
"Basil Neal, Georgia Troops, Revolutionary War." His two wives are buried there, along with a daughter and son Basil Llewellyn Neal, a Civil War veteran. "To me," Mr. Neal said, "this is sacred ground right in here."
Source: The Augusta Chronicle.com home page.


Basil Neal, Dr John Briscoe, John B Neal, and Elias Welborne

February 7, 1883

BASIL NEAL was a native-born Marylander, but resided in Henry county, Va., after he was grown. He came to Georgia and located in Columbia County and was one of the early settlers. He bought a farm of some 380 acres and built a comfortable house near to what is now known as Sharon meeting house, on the Washington road. Here he lived for many years and was one of those stalwart, enterprising men who came into the dense forests of the new country, determined to gather from its fertile soil the wherewith to feed and clothe his family. He married early in life a daughter of Dr John Briscoe, who lived below Appling. By her he raised one son, John B. Neal, and four daughters. He married the second time in old age and raised two sons and three daughters.
The farm which he settled has been under cultivation from that day to this, and still yields a compensating reward for fair labor. It was "New Columbia" then, when those hardy pioneers felled the forests and made the virgin soil tributary to the axe, the plow, the hoe. This was in the Long Ago—the "auldlang syne" of the county—and, although three-fourths of a century has been added to the bygone years, "Old Columbia" to-day with her gullied red spots and silver grey hills dapplings the earth, and with most of her early settlers returned to their original dust, will respond generously to practical and scientific cultivation. Like those good old songs, "Old Hundred", Auld Land Syne" and "Home Sweet Home" sweet though they were to our ancestors, are full of music and pathos and have a charm and sweetness for our ears which the many new and popular songs of the present have failed to obliterate, or make stale. They are as fresh to us to-day as they were in the Long Ago.
‘Tis good ol Columbia to-day-the "Home Sweet Home" to most, if not all of her citizens. We love her old red hills, her sandy plains, her honest yielding soil; her memories, her legends, her history, her Long Ago. And those of her citizens yet active cling with strong attachments to their native or adopted homes.
But there is a short period in her history over which I would gladly draw the veil of oblivion. I allude of course to the brief reign of Radicalism when under protest and duress, her citizens were forced to yield to a horde of base and ignorant conspirators. But it can be said that only two or three of her white citizens aided in this disloyal crusade; and it can be fursaid to the credit of the county, that she did not permit this political fraud to stain her bright escutcheon but for a short time when rising in her might see soon calmed the storm of Radicalism and put her own intelligent and honest citizens in power. Columbia, I believe was the very first county in the State to throw off the yoke of Radical oppression.
The old Basil Neal farm joins on its western border the lands of old Elias Welborne, another of Columbia’s honored citizens. Most of this farm is visible from the public road, leading from Augusta to Washington. I propose to take this Welborne tract as a test of endurance of Columbia county lands. It has been in cultivation for nearly one hundred years, and I can truthfully say and have often heard the remark corroborated by others, that this old place seems to have taken on a new lease of life and put on a robe of immortality so to speak and a garniture of yearly productiveness which pays well its present cultivator.
Source: History: Columbia County.
Basil Neal, Dr John Briscoe, John B Neal, and Elias Welborne, Reminisces of Dr. H. R. Casey
The articles were written in 1883 by Dr H. R. Casey for the Columbia Sentinel.


Georgia: Columbia County: Basil Neal Historical Marker
Basil Neal Soldier of '76 GHM 036-2 Ga 150 1 mile east of Winfield.
Transcription:

Basil Neal - Soldier of ‘76
>---1/2 mi--->

"Happy Valley" homesite and burial place of Basil Neal, Revolutionary soldier lies one-half mile off the highway in the direction the arrow points. Basil Neal, or O’Neal, was born in Maryland in 1758. When he was 17 years old the family moved to Virginia. There he grew into manhood and married a Miss Ellen Briscoe, daughter of an eminent Virginia physician, grandaughter of Colonel Stuart of New York, and great grandaugher of Lord Bromfield of England. Basil Neal fought heroically against the Indians and British before, during and after the Revolutionary War. In 1780 he came to Georgia and settled in Columbia County on this plantation where he built his home and called it "Happy Valley". After the death of his first wife, who borne him six children, Basil Neal married Miss Sarah Hull Greene, daugher of Captain McKeen Green, who also had served in the Revolutionary War under the command of General Nathanael Green, to who he was related. Six children also were born of the second marriage, including Basil Llewellyn Neal, who served in the Confederate Army as a flag bearer, was captured and imprisoned at Pt. Lookout, Md. He is buried near his father.