Account of incidents in Dillon County, South Carolina resembling those of the Lowry Band in Robeson County.

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 "Account of incidents in Dillon County, South Carolina resembling those of the Lowry Band in Robeson County." In: Kinfolks: A genealogical and biographical record. By William Curry Harllee. New Orleans: Searcy & Pfaff, 1937. Volume 3, pages 2434-2435.


Harllee's book provides an excerpt, labelled "Warfare with deserters," from Philip Yancey Bethea's Historical Genealogy of the Bethea Family. I have not seen an original copy of Bethea's work; but the Web page cited above reads almost identically to the excerpt in Harllee's book, except that Harllee adds the alphanumeric codes, in the genealogical classification system of his book, for the Bethea kin mentioned in the excerpt. To avoid typographical errors, I have copied and pasted below, from the Web page, the "Deserters" excerpt provided in Harllee's book. I have set it off in paragraphs, as in Harllee's book. In addition, I have placed in brackets phrases that are different on the Web page, as well as a key section provided on the Web page that does not appear in Harllee's book. All of the text below appears on the Web page under the heading "John J. Bethea."

"During the War between the States, a great many men living on or near Maple Swamp in what is now Dillon County, refused to enlist for military service. These, together with a number of deserters from the regular army, banded together and lived in the Swamps and other out-of-the-way places in lower Marlborough. At night, and some time during the day, they would make raids on the homes of the well-to-do citizens and would carry off provisions of various kinds, stock and raise the devil in general. They became a terror to everyone, especially to the women and children.

Their acts became so outrageous that the old men and boys mustered into companies to run them down. Several skirmishes took place and several good citizens were killed or wounded. One fight was in Donaho Bay, where it was thought the deserters were surrounded. Through the bad management on the part of our leaders, the deserters being apprised of the attack were prepared when our men closed in on them. Thomas Manning was killed and several were wounded, among whom was Rev. Joel Allen and Jesse Bethea of the Reedy Creek Section. Our men became panic stricken and hurried out of the bay.

Soon after this fight, the deserters killed the Rev. Charles Fladger at this home in the night time. He stepped out on his piazza and was instantly killed.

A short time after Dr. Fladger was killed, the deserters waylaid Dr. Alfred W. Bethea, a short distance from his home.

When the deserters [began to pillage and kill,] Dr. John J. Bethea joined the crown of good citizens to hunt them down. They kept up the hunt and captured a good many. They killed [quite] a number and hung [some.]

[ Another time the deserters met old man Maleolin Clark on the public road near Buck Swamp Bridge and killed him. The main leaders of the deserters were Arthur Jackson, Chief; John Jackson, his brother; Arch Surles, Levi Surles and Hugh P. Price. Some of these men became prominent citizens after the war and accumulated property. Many people in Dillon County on account of their money tried to make them respectable by their attentions, but very few of the self- respecting citizens recognized them. These men ought to be handed down in the annals of our country as unworthy of recognition by good citizens. They are spurned generally by the Bethea family, and deservedly so.]

This local "Deserter War" was going on after peace was declared, and when the soldiers began to arrive home after the surrender, many of the soldiers voluntarily assisted the good citizens to exterminate the band. Some fled the State and went West; others appealed to the garrisons which began to arrive in the different towns. They represented to the officers of the garrisons that certain parties were going to hang, or shoot them, because they were Union men and opposed to the War. The names of the good citizens, who had been the most active against them, were handed to the officers of the garrisons and they proceeded to make arrests. Dr. John J. Bethea, Knox Clark, Phil Meekins and a number of others kept out of the way to avoid arrest. Dr. John J. Bethea, finally decided that it would be more satisfactory and safer to leave, so he and his family moved to Mississippi. Arthur Jackson, became afraid to continue in this country, notwithstanding Peace was made and the garrisons were here, so he went West. After several years Dr. John J. Bethea returned to South Carolina. He died several years ago at Mullins, South Carolina, where he had located."

Note: I am grateful to Josephine Humphreys for alerting me to Harllee's Kinfolks.


When I discovered this account in Kinfolks, I immediately had two hypotheses about the incidents it describes:

(1). Although Bethea does not state that the men who lived in Maple Swamp, refused to enlist for military service, banded together with army deserters, and began committing raids and killings like those of Lowry Band were Indian, it is entirely possible that they were. Various sources document that there were Indians in the Dillon/Marlboro area of South Carolina, that they were once known as Croatans, and that they have kinship links to Robeson County Indians.

For example, Brewton Berry, in his article, "The mestizos of South Carolina," American Journal of Sociology, 51.1 (July 1945) pages 34-41, notes, ". . . in Marlboro, Dillon, Marion, and Horry they are 'Croatans' ..." (p. 34). In his discussion of the origins of the names of the South Carolina mestizos, he states, "Most romantic and widespread is the legend that they are descended from Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony and the Croatan Indians who befriended them. . . . " (p. 35).

Additional evidence of the kinship link between Indians in the Dillon/Marlboro area of South Carolina and Robeson County Indians is that the source documents used to certify individuals for membership in the Lumbee Tribe included (in 1987, when the Lumbee Petition was written) the "1900 and/or 1910 U.S. Special Indian Census Marlboro County, South Carolina" [Lumbee Petition, 1987, p. 233; cited in: Dial, Heather Kimberly. Struggling for voice in a Black and White world: Lumbee Indians’ segregated educational experience in North Carolina. Dissertation (Curriculum and Instruction). North Carolina State U, 2005. Pp. 28-29.]

I was intrigued by this statement in the excerpt from Bethea's genealogy: "The main leaders of the deserters were Arthur Jackson, Chief; John Jackson, his brother; . . . " Genealogist Morris Britt, in the draft appendix to his forthcoming book that lists 523 documented Lumbee surnames, includes the surname Jackson and traces it to the Dillon, South Carolina, area. The following excerpt comes from Part 6 of his appendix, page 56: "JACKSON. The 'Croatan' name appeared in the 1790 census of Cheraw District, South Carolina and later in Marlboro, Dillon, Marion, and Horry counties (White, 1975, DeMarce, 1993, p. 31)."

My first hypothesis, therefore, is that the band described in this excerpt contains, and is led by, Indians who were oppressed and denied rights in the same ways as were the Lowry Band and the Indians of Robeson County at that time. The Indians in this South Carolina band may or may not have heard of, or known, the Lowry Band and been moved to emulate their methods.

(2). My second hypothesis is that the South Carolina band contained (perhaps only occasionally) members of the Lowry Band. Perusal of a South Carolina atlas shows that the Maple Swamp area of South Carolina is not far from Robeson County; and this environment would be similar to the swamps of Robeson County. I have not done exhaustive searching to see if sources on the Lowry Band era mention activity in this area of South Carolina; but a quick scan of To Die Game and The Life and Times of Henry Berry Lowry did not reveal any direct mentions.

To Die Game does, however, discuss an incident in January, 1871 that in a very indirect way might tie the Lowry Band to this area of South Carolina. Bounty-hunters stopped a buggy on the Old Stage Road, twelve miles south of Fayetteville and headed toward Lumberton. Two men were in the buggy; they said they were Sinclair Locklear and his brother John and were on their way to Marion, South Carolina, to do farm work for J. L. Smith. The bounty hunters noticed that the men were armed, ordered them to halt, and then engaged in a fight with them, taking Sinclair prisoner; the other man escaped. The Fayetteville Eagle reported that it was believed that the man who escaped was Henry Berry Lowry (Evans,To Die Game, pp. 156-157).

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