A rare and remarkable 18th-century manuscript map and text promoting a vast tract of frontier land in Franklin County, northeast Georgia (now virtually the entire area of present-day Banks County.)
Per the Headright and Bounty Land Records of Georgia, Daniel Beall received these lands in 1793-1794, in hundreds of individual grants of 1000 acres each (more on which below). Best as I can tell, Bealls engaged Savannah merchant Patrick Crookshanks as an agent to sell his land. Crookshanks in turn engaged Savannah surveyor Claud Thomson to produce the promotional map offered here (It’s worth noting that it’s exceedingly unlikely Thomson actually surveyed the parcel at this time: the last cluster of Beall’s grants is dated August 1794, as is this map, leaving Thomson no time to survey such a large area. Rather, it seems likely he worked from an existing map of the area.)
Broadly speaking, the huge parcel straddles both sides of Rock and Deep Creek and also encompasses the headwaters of the Broad river, in all perhaps 145,000 acres. In classic metes-and-bound fashion, the length and bearing of each segment of boundary is given, along with notes about trees employed as landmarks along each segment (I assume that each of said trees would have been blazed to enable future visitors to follow the boundaries.) Watercourses within the parcel are delineated, but there is no other interior detail.
Thomson has divided the parcel into 148 lots, most 100 chains by 100 chains (1000 acres), but with a few irregular lots along the southern boundary. What is striking, though, is that no landmarks are given to help would-be purchasers locate their particular lot… how, for instance, one might have located the boundary between lots 93 and 94 is a mystery.
On the reverse side of the sheet a lengthy and eloquent promotional description, in a fine copperplate hand, extols the land’s fertility, widespread access to water (including “numerous situations for mill seats”), and abundance of game, timber and pasturage. The state had secured title from the Cherokees and Creeks through the 1783 Treaties of Augusta, but the text offers reassurance for prospective buyers with lingering security concerns: “Within less than a quarter of a Mile below the Shoal on Hudson there has been lately a military Station fixt, of Horse & Foot, to which there are Waggon Roads from different Places on the Settlements, which are not more than six co seven Miles off.”
The headright system and Beall’s fraudulent land claims
Beall received his grant under the headright system established by Georgia in 1777, which provided that “Every free white person, or head of a family, shall be entitled granted him, two hundred acres of land, and for every other white person said family, fifty acres of land, and fifty acres for every negro, the property of such white person or family.” Under this system,
“A person obtained a warrant for a specified number of acres in a county and presented it to a county surveyor who laid out and measured a tract of the applicant’s choice on any unclaimed land. The county surveyor prepared a plat that was recorded in the county courthouse, and a copy of the plat was file with the state surveyor general. The plat was copied into a record book, and notation of it was made in still another volume.” (Hilliard, p. 417)
The law specified that grants could be no more than 1000 acres, but the system was apparently wide open to fraud. Little prevented speculators from filing multiple headright claims of 1000 acres each, their success ensured by the judicious greasing of official palms. The most famous of the Georgia land frauds is the Yazoo Land Fraud in what became Alabama and Mississippi, but “similar frauds were perpetrated in more than twenty counties in eastern Georgia.” (Hilliard, p. 423) Indeed, some 5,000,000 acres were granted in Franklin County alone, more than ten times the available land.
Per Hilliard, Daniel Beall alone received at least 212,000 of these, while other sources have him receiving 246,000 or 248,000 acres in the county.
Beall, Crookshanks and Thomson
Daniel Beall was born in 1752 in Frederick, Maryland to parents of modest means (Both he and his brother inherited one slave each on their father’s death.) He enlisted in the Virginia militia in 1776 and apparently took a loyalty oath in 1778. He had married Martha Whiting in 1773, with whom he had nine children before her death in or around 1803, then married Hannah (Roberts) Wright in 1805. I have not ascertained his profession or socioeconomic status, but he must have been a man of means to commit fraud of the order required to obtain so much land under the headright system. Per WikiTree he died in Franklin County, Georgia in or around 1811, while the DAR has him dying in Yazoo County, Mississippi after 1830.
It is clear he was a land speculator in Georgia, but I find no record of his lands being advertised for sale in the contemporary press. Indeed, the extant record of his speculative activity relates to his problems with debt in relation to these holdings.
“RECEIVED, the 17th of January, 1797, from Messrs. Morris and Nicholson, by the hands of Samuel Jack, Esq. the sum of five pounds five shillings and ten pence, it being the balance in full for the taxes for the year 1794 on one hundred thousand acres of land in Franklin county, in the name of Daniel Beall it being part of two hundred and forty-eight thousand acres of land in the name of land in the name of said Beall. <signed:> Jas. R. Whitney, T<ax>. C<ollector>. F<ranklin>. C<ounty>.” (Augusta [Georgia] Chronicle and Gazette of the State, Jan. 28, 1797, p. 1).
Aubsequent announcement record that Beall “Owned 100,000 acres of land on the Broad River, granted to him, seized by the Tax Collector Philemon Martin for unpaid tax of $80.35, and to be auctioned July 26, 1797.” (Southern Sentinel, Feb. 23, 1797, p. 3) Then in 1800:
“SHERIFF’s SALES. At Franklin court house, on the first Tuesday in May next, … WILL BE SOLD … Four lots in the town of Carnesville, including the lot and buildings whereon Daniel Beall, Esq. now lives; taken as the property of said Beall to satisfy two executions …” (Augusta chronicle and gazette of the state. (Augusta [Ga.]), March 29, 1800, page 4).
Finally, there is an announcement for a Sheriff’s sale to be held on the first Tuesday in January 1816, included the sale of “147,773 acres of Land, in Franklin county, granted to Daniel Beall, adjoining Blanton and others, at the time of survey.” (Augusta Herald, vol. XVII, issue 23 (Nov. 30, 1814), page 2). The size of the parcel and its adjacency to Blanton’s land suggest that this is the very parcel shown on the map offered here. Interestingly, the sheriff was one William Beall, although the name was not uncommon at the time.
I have found only scraps about Patrick Crookshanks. A notice of his death on October 16, 1807 describes him as “of Scotland and former Savannah merchant.” I find mention of him at Savannah at least as early as 1780 (Georgia Gazette, Sept. 7, 1780, p. 4) and 1783. He too participated in the land rush: Like Beall, he benefited greatly from Governor Telfair’s generosity, receiving 237,000 acres in Washington County.
The record for surveyor Claud Thomson is only slightly fuller. In 1786 he advertised his services as a surveyor in the Georgia Gazette,
“The Subscriber returns his grateful Acknowledgements to those Gentlemen who have favoured him with their Commands, and Informs them, and the Public in general, that he continues the Business of LAND SURVEYING. And as he has been regularly bred to that Business, and followed it both in Europe and America, he is confident of giving every Satisfaction. CLAUD THOMSON, D.S.
“Lands or Plantations surveyed with the greatest Accuracy and Distinction, upon large or reduced Plans; and embellished to any Degree of Elegance required; on the most reasonable Terms.” (Gazette Of The State Of Georgia, Feb. 2, 1786)
From at least 1787-1791 he was County Surveyor for Chatham, during which time he surveyed the boundary between Chatham and Effingham Counties. In 1787 he also undertook as a private venture the publication of a map of the Georgia back country, which never came to fruition on account of a lack of subscriptions (Cadle, pp. 121, 149, 153). He was reappointed County Surveyor for Chatham in 1793, and replaced by the Scottish surveyor John McKinnon (M’Kinnon) in 1795. He stood again as County Surveyor in 1797, but withdrew from consideration on grounds of “his state of health, added to some late reverses” (Georgia Gazette November 3, 1797). Subsequently, John Adams appointed him Collector at Brunswick, Georgia in December 1800, which is where the trail seems to end.
In all, a terrific 18th-century Georgia manuscript promotional map with a fascinating backstory connecting it to the pell-mell rush for land in the post-Revolutionary United States.
Background on Beall from WikiTree and Daughters of the American Revolution. Background on Thomson from MESDA’s online biography file and Farris W. Cadle, Georgia Land Surveying History and Law. For Georgia’s headright system and abuse thereof, including Beall’s, see Sam Bowers Hilliard, “Headright Grants and Surveying in Northeastern Georgia”, Vol. 72, No. 4 (Oct., 1982), pp. 416-429. A bit more on the subject from E. Merton Coulter, “Edward Telfair”, The Georgia Historical Quarterly, vol. 20 no. 2 (June 1936).
The within Plat is a Representation of a Body of Land containing one hundred & forty-seven thousand, seven hundred & seventy-three Acres in all, granted in the Name of Daniel Beall, situated in Franklin County, on the Waters of Broad River, &c. which I have reviewed at the Request of Patr:k Crookshanks, Esq.– There is a considerable quantity of the land of a quality that will produce Tobacco, Indigo or Wheat, & the Water Courses are generally skirted with low Ground of the first Quality, which in similar situations I have known produce from 50 to 60 & 70 Bushels of Corn to the Acre, & but little of the whole that will not bring from 25 to 35 to the Acre, & Cotton, high Land Rice, Rye, Oats, &c. in Proportion.__ The Climate here is remarkably healthy, the Air salubrious, & Sickness hardly ever known in this County, as it is in most of the lower ones of this State, at certain Seasons, to which no Doubt the Excellence of the Water contributes much,__ the within Tract being well-water’d throughout, abounding in Springs, & clear never failing Creeks & Branches (which afford numerous Situations for Mill Seats) the Bottoms of which are generally Rock or Gravel; & the whole much better water than express’d in the within Plat. Trout, Bream, Perch, Rock, Jack, Eel, Cat Fish, &c. are to be found on the Streams & the Country abounds with Deer, wild Turkey, Pheasant, & other species of Game.__ The Land is broken into small Hills in many Places, but where it is so; is generally of an exceeding good quality, & admirably adapted for the Culture of the Grape, being as well many other Parts of the Tract, overgrown as well as with wild Vines; & where these Inequalities take Place, afford beautiful & extensive Views. The Growth of Timber, White, Red, Black, Water, & Post Oaks; Pine, Hickory, Poplar, Gum, Chesnut, Persimon, Maple, with some Walnut & Mulberry, &c. &c.__ The Land affords excellent Pasturage for Cattle almost all over, especially the low Ground, which is commonly cover’d with a small Growth of Canes, as is also the high land in many Places, together with good sweet Grass, wild Pea Vine, &c.__ Within less than a quarter of a Mile below the Shoal on Hudson there has been lately a military Station fixt, of Horse & Foot, to which there are Waggon Roads from different Places on the Settlements, which are not more than six co seven Miles off.__ After an Investigation on the Ground, & searching in the Offices, I find there is about four or five thousand Acres of old Surveys in the above, or within, which I have mostly succeeded in finding out, but have not been able to lay them down with Accuracy; & which is not very essential as I have engag’d to purchase the same of the Proprietors, for Mr. Crookshanks.__ Adjoining the within Tract, is a Body of Land granted to Nathaniel Durkie, for 7843 Acres, the Description of which answers in every respect to the above.
Certified for August, 1794, by
Claud Thomson, Surveyor