Search billions of records on Ancestry.com
   

...an excerpt from HOPEWELL CEMETERY and the old town of WARRENTON by Gordon A. Cotton

A history of the first county seat of Warren County, Mississippi and Hopewell Methodist Church, which was the first church established in the county.

Soldier Of American Revolution, Wife, Died During Visit In 1827

Benjamin and Rebecca Pettit were old - he was 77 and she was 69 - when they visited their youngest son, William McDowell Pettit, and their only daughter, Elizabeth Pettit Donohue, who lived at Warrenton.

The year was 1827, and it was the last journey for the Pettits; both died that summer, a month apart, and were buried at Hopewell. In the fall, on Nov. 27, their daughter Elizabeth also died and she, too, was interred at Hopewell.

The Pettits were American pioneers, having been among the very first settlers of Kentucky, and he served as an officer in the army during the American Revolution. Benjamin Pettit was born in Essex County, Virginia, in 1750 and his wife in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1758. Her maiden name was Larrimore, and both she and her husband were of French Huguenot stock. The Pettits had ten children, all born in Virginia: Jacque, Benjamin Jr., Elizabeth, George, James, Walker, John Larrimore, Lee, Robert, and William McDowell Pettit.

The Pettits moved into the western Virginia territory called Kentucky along with others who had visions of empire in the land beyond the mountains. Among the first to carve out settlements in the wilderness were James Harrod and Richard Henderson. Harrod arrived in 1774 with a company of young men and established Harrodsburg and Boiling Springs. Indian attacks, however, resulted in many fleeing in such a panic that they did not take time to bury their dead.

Richard Henderson was a North Carolinian who employed Daniel Boone to lead settlers to a place that was given the name Boonesborough. Henderson negotiated a treaty with the Cherokees to buy their lands, and he established the Transylvania Company. In a ledger kept at the trading post in Boonesborough were listed the names of those who had accounts there and the dates they arrived. Benjamin Pettit's account was opened on Aug. 8, 1775, exactly a month before Daniel Boone's.

Late in February 1776 Benjamin Logan began a trip from Virginia to Kentucky, and in addition to his family he had with him his slave Molly and her three sons, Matt, Dave, and Isaac. At some point the Pettits, already in Kentucky, joined Logan, who settled near a spring at St. Asaph's. The Pettits located about ten miles away near the headwaters of Hanging Fork on Dick's River in what is now Lincoln County, Kentucky.

Both Logan and Pettit were eager to get their crops planted to clear more land and they took turns helping each other. Logan, with the Negro boys Dave and Matt, would spend a week at Pettit's, and Pettit in turn would bring his two older boys and work at Logan's. Every other week, one of the families was without protection. Most of the 200 miles of wilderness between them and the closest Virginia outposts were occupied by Indians, and Logan tried to persuade settlers to stay at St. Asaph's, but most continued to Harrodsburg.

Pettit, who had lived among and traded with the Indians and who spoke Cherokee, was more than uneasy about the presence of Indians in the nearby woods, and he and Logan decided to take their families to Harrodsburg. Their possessions were packed and the move was accomplished one night. During the winter of 1776, they occupied cabins along the south wail of the fort at Harrodsburg, along with the Whitley, Clark and Menifee families. In the spring they returned to St. Asaph's.

Logan's Fort, built on a slight elevation about 50 yards west of a small spring at St. Asaph's wasn't as large as the ones at Boonesborough or Harrodsburg, but it was adequate for the number of people it was to shelter. It was 150 feet long and 90 feet wide; at three corners were blockhouses and at the fourth was a conventional cabin. Seven cabins comprised the fort - three on one side and four on the other. It was located about 18 miles from Harrodsburg and about 35 from Boonesborough.

By the winter of 1777, the Logans, Pettits, Whitleys, Menifee, Clarks and Masons moved into the new fort at St. Asaph's. Soon the Coburn family arrived, and there were six single men who lived in the blockhouses.

The British had been enticing the Indians to attack the frontier settlements in Kentucky where there were 40 families to be fed and protected, along with some orphans and widows. About 140 men, who ranged in ages from 18 to 50, comprised the total fighting strength of the three settlements. At Logan's Fort, there were only 15 men who could bear arms, but there were several women who could use guns and the others helped by molding bullets.

One asset the settlers had at Logan's Fort was Benjamin Pettit, who knew folk and Indian methods of treating wounds and healing the sick; his knowledge would be invaluable in case of casualties.

In May 1777 Indians began firing occasional shots near the fort, and the settlers returned the fire. One Indian was seen firing from a tree about 200 yards away; by lying on the ground and resting his gun on a protruding root he was able to be effective even at that distance. John Martin managed to lodge a ball in the root, and the Indian retreated to safer territory.

On the morning of May 30, no Indians could be seen and it was assumed they had withdrawn. The occupants of the fort needed milk, and as there were some cows not far away, Ann Logan, Esther Whitley, and the Negro woman Molly went out to milk, guarded by James Craig, William Hudson, John Kennedy and Burr Harrison. The well-concealed Indians had been waiting for just such an opportunity, and the women and their guards had hardly reached their destination when several shots were fired. Harrison and Hudson fell; Kennedy, though wounded, was able to flee to the fort with Craig and the women. Firing was continued but a short time by both sides, but livestock were the only additional casualties.

Hudson, who had fallen farthest from the fort, was scalped by the Indians, but Harrison, who was closer to the fort, was not mutilated. It was assumed that he was dead, but later in the day someone noticed that he moved just a little. No doubt he was weak from the loss of blood, and those in the fort didn't know if he was conscious or not. Someone called out for him to move his foot; he did so, and Logan immediately began making rescue plans. It was too great a risk in daylight, and at night Harrison would certainly be killed, so Logan decided to make the rescue attempt at twilight.

Slipping out at dusk, Logan crawled toward Harrison, rolling a large feather bed (some accounts say a bag of wool) before him as a shield. He had abandoned it, lifted Harrison to his shoulders, and started for the fort before the Indians realized what was happening. They fired one shot, the bullet striking the wall near the gate, but before another could be made the two were inside the stockade. The Indians stayed around another day or two, until June 1, 1777, and killed most of the livestock before they left.

Later, the Indians besieged Boonesborough and then returned to Logan's Fort; they kept up a surveillance of the fort for three weeks, taunting the occupants with calls; Benjamin Pettit cursed them in Cherokee. They never made an attack and then disappeared. Ben Logan decided to scout the area and rode off on a borrowed horse, carrying an ax and rifle. About three miles away six Indians shot at him, knocking his rifle to the ground. They grabbed the gun and turned it on Logan. His horse, however, was a good one, and he made it safely back to the fort.

Benjamin Pettit applied his medical skills to the injured Logan and was credited with saving the injured man's life, and though he was bothered for ten years with bits of bone coming out of his arm, he fully recovered. In 1780, in gratitude, he presented Pettit with a thousand acres of good land.

Among the new settlers in Kentucky in late 1779 were the Montgomerys and Russells, kin of Ann Logan. They built a settlement of four cabins on the headwaters of Greene River, about 12 miles from Logan's Fort and only a little over two from Pettit's Station.

They spent the winter at Logan's Fort but in early spring had moved into their cabins. They had been there but a short time when Indians discovered their presence and attacked one morning just as William Montgomery Sr. and a slave stepped outside their cabin. The two were instantly killed, the slave falling so that his head was in the doorway, Jane Montgomery, then a young woman, pushed the dead man's head out of the way and managed to close the door, at the same time calling for her brother's gun. Her sister Elizabeth managed to climb out of the cabin at the chimney, which was only head high, and ran in the direction of the Pettits' to spread the alarm.

At another cabin, William Montgomery Jr. heard the commotion, barred the door with a heavy water trough, and then began firing through crevices, killing one Indian and seriously wounding another. At another cabin, John Montgomery was getting out of bed when Indians killed him and took his wife and slave girl prisoners. At the Russell cabin, Joseph Russell escaped, but his wife and children were captured.

When Elizabeth Montgomery reached the Pettits', news of the attack was sent to Logan's Fort. Ben Logan sounded the alarm, and almost immediately about a dozen men headed for Montgomery's Station. The Indians had fled, taking their prisoners and also their wounded. An Indian who had chased Elizabeth toward the Pettits', only to be outrun by her, returned to the cabins where William Montgomery killed him. Fortunately for the family, the elder William Montgomery's wife and one daughter had been at Logan's, and two sons had been absent.

Encumbered with transporting their wounded, the flight of the Indians was slower then ordinary. In addition, Mrs. Russell tore bits of white cloth and dropped them to mark the trail, so it wasn't too long before Logan and his son were in pursuit. For some reason, the Indians had scalped and tomahawked the slave girl, but when Logan's men found her, she was alive, so two of them took her back to Pettit's Station.

Within 15 miles of the attack on Montgomery's Station, the Indians were overtaken. Flora Russell, an eight-year-old niece of Ann Logan, saw the rescuers coming and excitedly cried, "There's Uncle Ben!" She was immediately killed by the Indians who had her in tow. The Indians then abandoned their injured and their prisoners and fled. Flora Russell was buried by the roadside where she died, and the survivors were taken to Pettit's Station.

Despite being so remote from the established cities in Virginia, Kentuckians were not totally ignored during the American Revolution. Each able-bodied man was expected to have on hand a rifle or musket, a pound of lead, and a half-pound of powder. As the Revolution began, Kentuckians sent two delegates, George Rogers Clark and John Gabriel Jones, to the General Assembly at Williamsburg.

Though they arrived after the group had adjourned, they did persuade Gov. Patrick Henry to provide 500 pounds of powder for the defense of the west. When the General Assembly convened again, they organized the western region into Kentucky County and appointed Clark a major in the militia.

Clark's vision and brilliant leadership are credited with not only saving Kentucky but also in securing a claim for the new American nation in the Illinois country. Serving as a lieutenant in Clark's Illinois Regiment was Benjamin Pettit; the unit - Barnet's Company -.was ordered into actual service on Nov. 3, 1782. Pettit was later promoted to captain.

Ben Logan had quite a job: In 1779 he was appointed sheriff of Kentucky County, and the county comprised the entire present-day bluegrass state. Benjamin Pettit was clerk of the court at Logan's Fort, and he helped organize the first county court, of which he was clerk, at Harrodsburg.

Land records of early Kentucky show Benjamin Pettit owning about a thousand acres in one place, lending some credence to the legend of Logan giving him that amount for saving his life. Logan and Pettit remained very close friends and continued to live near one another for many years. Kentucky was growing rapidly after the Revolution, its influx of settlers being the well-educated sons of wealthy Virginians. Old Indian fighters and frontiersmen were soon forgotten. When Logan ran for governor in 1796, he won, but the rules were changed in the middle of the game, ultimately denying him the victory. He ran again in 1800 and was defeated.

It was around the turn of the century, perhaps a little before, that the Pettits left Kentucky for new lands across the Mississippi River. Benjamin Pettit was given a grant of about 300 arpens (666 acres) in Madison County, Missouri, by the Spanish government. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the Americans honored the grant. One of Pettit's sons, Jacque, remained in Virginia, but the other children accompanied their parents to Missouri, and several of them married there. Elizabeth wed John Donohue from Pennsylvania on Nov. 13. 1802; Lee Pettit married Ester Burns of North Carolina on Aug. 18, 1806, in Sainte Genevieve; Robert married Melinda Logan; John L. Pettit married Mary Temple Berry and then Sarah Summers Williams, and James Pettit married Sally Donohue.

John Larrimore Pettit, who studied medicine under a famous relative, Dr. Ephraim McDowell, remained in Missouri where he practiced medicine for many years. During the War of 1812, he served in New Orleans under Gen. Andy Jackson. He and his brothers Lee and James served in the first session of court in Madison County, Missouri, in 1819. In later years Walker Pettit lived in Versailles. Kentucky. Lee Pettit lived in Arkadelphia, Arkansas and Robert Pettit settled in Texas.

In April 1822, Benjamin Pettit deeded 15 slaves to his youngest son, William McDowell Pettit, for one dollar and affection; a month earlier he gave 102 acres to his son Lee Pettit in the same manner. Later, Benjamin and Rebecca Pettit moved again, settling in Chicot County, Arkansas Territory. Their daughter Elizabeth and her husband moved to Warrenton, Mississippi, as did their son William McDowell Pettit.

In Warren County, the younger Pettit's name appears on a petition in the early 1820s, and a few years later when a notice was printed in the paper stating the intention of several to rebuild Hopewell Methodist Church at Warrenton, William McDowell Pettit was one of the men in charge of the project.

Pettit was a young, single man while living in Warren County, having been born at Danville, Kentucky on Jan. 22, 1799. He was said to have been his mother's favorite child, and as she was never fond of her daughters-in-law, she left all her worldly goods - money, land, and slaves - to her single son. an action which caused a decided coolness among the Pettit heirs.

Following the deaths of his parents and his sister in 1827, William McDowell Pettit soon left Warren County and settled on the family plantation near Lake Village, Arkansas. He married three times, had five children, and died on Nov. 3, 1853.

Last year, while restoring Old Hopewell Cemetery, two graves were discovered next to the burial place of Elizabeth Pettit Donohue; though her grave is marked with a marble slab, the other two were designated only with borders of crude, homemade brick. Probably they are the last resting places of Benjamin and Rebecca Larrimore Pettit, abandoned, lost and almost forgotten, but now, 170 years later, restored. Marble stones have recently been placed at the graves, one for Capt. Benjamin Pettit, hero of Kentucky and officer in the American Revolution, and the other for his wife, Rebecca..

Editor's notes - As early as 1800, Hopewell was the center of attraction to all the early Methodists of what is now Warren County. Hopewell lasted only about two decades and was supplanted by Bethel congregation, later known as Redbone, which was built a few miles east of Warrenton in 1814. The Hopewell church was never rebuilt though the cemetery remained in use as a public burial ground.

The tombstone for Joseph Prentiss at Hopewell states that he "Died in Mississippi City by the falling of a house September 15, 1855." He had gone to the Gulf Coast and was staying in a building next to the Teagarden Hotel that was known as the "Blue Ruin." It was hurricane season.

A minister who was staying in the same building told a New Orleans newspaper that the wind and rain started about 2 o'clock on Saturday afternoon and grew much worse. It was 3 o'clock in the morning on Sunday, Sept. 15, before the minister was able to get a little sleep, only to be awakened at a quarter past six by the crashing of a door. The minister arose, grabbed his belongings, and hurried down the stairs and to the outside where the wind was so fierce he could hardly stand.

"I had just escaped from the door and passed clear of the building when it fell with an awful crash, being completely leveled to the earth," he said. Nine people were still in the building, and two of them "were both instantly killed, their bodies being literally mangled by the falling timbers. He identified one of the dead as Mr. Prentice of North Louisiana." Presumably Joseph Prentiss still lived in Warren County, though he may have moved across the river. He was born at Warrenton on June 6, 1829, and the1850 census showed him working as a clerk in a Vicksburg store. His last name was sometimes spelled "Prentice."

The relationship between Prentiss and the Pettits and Donohues is uncertain, but he is buried in their lot; he may have been the great-grandson of the Pettits and the grandson of Elizabeth Donohue, or the relationship may have been through another line.

**Editor's note - Joseph Prentice was the son of Horace and Minerva (Donahue) Prentice. Horace was the brother of Maria Elizabeth Prentice who married William McDowell Pettit June 25, 1837 in St. Genevieve, MO. Maria Elizabeth and Horace were the children of Joseph Prentice of Grafton, MA - descendant of Henry Prentice, The Planter of Cambridge - Massachusetts Bay Colony - Settler from the Pilgrim migration sailing from England to MA in the 1600s.

There were several marriages between the Pettit, Donohue, and Prentice families, the first being the wedding of Elizabeth Pettit and John Donohue on Nov. 13, 1802, in Sainte Genevieve, Missouri, which at that time was Spanish territory. Records state that both were "of the Presbyterian religion" and that he was a native of Pennsylvania and she of Kentucky His parents were Joseph and Nancy Vaughlen Donohue and hers were Benjamin and Rebecca Larrimore Pettit.

The Donohues had five children: John married a French girl and lived on Bayou La Fourche in South Louisiana; Minerva married Horace Prentice in Warren County on Jan. 8, 1828 (they are probably the parents of Joseph); Louisa married William Henderson of Warrenton on Dec. 13, 1827 (he was one of the Adams County Hendersons who had moved upriver, not one of the Tennessee Hendersons who settled at Warrenton in later years); Rebecca died in a girls' school in Bardstown, Kentucky, and Milton drowned while swimming in the Mississippi River.

A second Pettit-Donohue marriage was that of James Pettit and Sally Donohue; James was Elizabeth's brother, but Sally's relationship to John Donohue is uncertain.


To the right: Gordon Cotton standing outside the Old Courthouse in Vicksburg, Mississippi on April 14, 2001

Another wedding was that of William McDowell Pettit, Elizabeth's youngest brother, to Marie Elizabeth Prentice; she was his second wife, whom he married in the spring of 1837. By her he had two children, Charles and Rebecca; Maria died in 1840. What relationship she might have been to Horace Prentice** is unknown.

John Donohue was named administrator of his wife's estate on June 21, 1828; Horace Prentice was bondsman for $100. A year later, the court made note that Donohue had not made an inventory. He moved away from Warren County before the 1830 census was taken.

In 1840, none of the descendants of Benjamin and Rebecca Larrimore Pettit appear in Warren County census records, and except for a few inquiries by genealogists, the family had been forgotten until the restoration of Old Hopewell Cemetery.

The extensive files of the Filson Club in Kentucky provided most of the background on the Pettits especially his pioneer years in the area and his service in the American Revolution. The Kentucky research was done by Phyllis Haynes Woods, formerly of Vicksburg, who lives in LaGrange, Ky. Family information was also provided by a descendant, Mary A. Toney of Missouri, and by a typed history of the family, which was compiled in 1941 by Adelaide Pettit Gay and Lee Ella Pettit Mortimer of Missouri. Additional data came from Madison County, Mo., records, Vol. B, p. 110; Missouri Land Claims published in 1976 by Polyanthos Press of New Orleans; Sainte Genevieve Marriages, Baptisms, and Burials, 1759-1839, written in 1918 by Ida M. Schaff, Warren County Marriage Records, Warren County Probate File #305, and the New Orleans Daily Picayune, Sept. 16, 1855.

Back to Detailed Outline