American Story: Great Trek South



In commercial  terms, Edward Boykin Sr (1000 acres VA) and Edward Boykin Jr (1000 acres VA, 1000 acres NC) were seriously successful settlers. The next two generations, Solomon Boykin Sr and Solomon Boykin Jr, were not as wealthy, but they were certainly mobile. They saw their fortunes over the next big river or line of hills, on the next frontier.

They were part of a great move south by white farmers and black slaves, leaving the settled lands of Virginia, the 'Old Dominion', for new country in Georgia and the Mississippi Territories, the 'Old Southwest'. In their case, the journey was made in two stages.

Their story begins with Solomon Boykin (1708-1771) marrying Ester Kinchin (1770-1790) in Northampton County, North Carolina. It continues with their son Solomon Boykin (1743-1821) marrying Judith .... (....-1794) in Burke County, Georgia. In 1796 Solomon married again to Delilah McCann, but the male line being followed here is through his first marriage to Judith X.

The primary motive for migration was land. In 1764 Solomon Sr sold 410 acres in North Carolina for 15 pounds and 16 shillings Virginian currency. He then took his family south to St George's Parish on the Savannah River, where he petitioned the provincial governor for a grant in what was to become Burke County, Georgia.

In March 1765 he declared that "he had been about eight months in the Province of Georgia from Virginia. Had no land granted him in Georgia and was desirous to obtain land for cultivation, having a wife and eight children, prays for 200 acres on the South side of Briar Creek." In 1776 he petitioned for a further 300 acres. The Governor duly granted him a total of 500 acres in St George's Parish.

It is interesting that Solomon's brother Edward also received land on Briar Creek. Edward declared that he already had "two hundred Acres of Land granted him and was desirous to obtain an additional Tract having a Wife a Child and four Negroes Therefore praying for two hundred Acres on the north side of Briar Creek." The Governor approved Edward's additional grant, giving him a total of 400 acres in the parish.

By the end of the century, however, the next generation had again become restless. Solomon Sr's son, Solomon Boykin Jr, had served as Private, Continental Line Burke County Georgia, during the War Of Independence. He had seven children from his first marriage and was on his way to having another four from his second. He needed more land and opportunity lay further on.

Georgia, like most of the eastern seaboard colonies, claimed vast uncharted territories to its west. After Independence these theoretical rights to unsettled areas of the interior were gradually, reluctantly, ceded to the United States Government. The Federal intention was to release this land in an orderly, regulated way, by granting legally surveyed title to new settlers.

The Mississippi Territory was ceded by Georgia in 1798, but not separated into the States of Mississippi and Alabama until 1817. The proposal was for land to be surveyed into standard areas called Townships, each containing 36 X 640 acre blocks, with settlers paying a nominated purchase price of one dollar per acre. In practice, the process was rather more rushed.

On 4 January 1803, a letter of recommendation for Solomon Jr and family's Passport to the Mississippi Territory was signed.
On 26 March 1804, Solomon Jr received a Grant of Headrights for 502 Acres on Bassett's Creek transferred from Elizabeth Reed.
On 7 February 1807, Solomon Jr signed a Petition to the President and Congress by the Inhabitants of Washington Co., Mississippi Territory, requesting "that a right of preemption may be allowed the settlers on publick lands".

The argument of the petitioners was "that a large number of emigrants have come in expecting the sales would have been open so they could have purchased lands to settle on". Because the Territory had not yet been fully surveyed, "in a very few months the majority of our population, will be emigrants settled on the publick lands lately Ceded by the Choctaw Indians to the U. States, who have had no other alternative but to settle on these lands or abandon their Country".

 They had come, they had settled, and they were not going to move on according to the later dictates of a surveyor's map. Where their wagons had stopped was home. The United States Government should recognise this fact, for "to be denied which previledge would be a hardship, bordering on cruelty". And for good measure, they reminded Washington of the Revolutionary War. They were citizens of a "Country for whoes laws and gov't they are ready to risque their lives & fortunes".


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