John Ball
by Victor Davidson 1927
       "Senator John Ball, in whose honor the John Ball chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, of Irwinton, was named, according to family traditions was born near Fredericksburg, Va., date unknown, but presumably about 1740, and according to these family traditions was closely connected with the famous Ball family of which Martha Washington was a member. John Ball removed to Camden district, South Carolina, just prior to the American revolution, and was living there at the beginning of that struggle. We find on page 25 of Knight's 'Roster of the Revolution,' where he is certified as having served in the revolution, by Colonel Samuel Jack, who states further that Ball was of Camden district, South Carolina and that he served in a Georgia Regiment. Page 404 of the same book gives the roster of the regiment of Colonel John Stewart in which John Ball served as a private. On page 397 we find him receiving a bounty warrant as a veteran of the revolution, bearing date of 1784. He evidently moved first to Warren county, Georgia, about the close of the revolution, as Mrs. J. H. Duggan, a descendant, gives the information that he is buried at Warrenton.
     The lands lying between the Ogeechee and the Oconee rivers being thrown open to the veterans of the revolution, we thus find him seeking a new home in the rich lands on the eastern banks of the Oconee. In the selection of his home, we see in him a man of extraordinary foresight and discernment. True it was, there were many dangers to be encountered by settling at this outermost point of the frontier. Bear, catamount, panthers roamed the swamps near his home. The hostile Uchee tribe of Indians which claimed the land just across the river might at any moment swoop over and massacre his family. Tory outlaws, ho had fled justice at the end of the revolution and who were to be found squatting on the Indian lands, were another danger; yet, none of these terrors deterred him from his purpose. He thus built his home where the old Indian trail, leading from Savannah direct to the Indian country, crossed the Oconee, and established the famous ferry bearing his name, and probably a tavern at this place  to accommodate the numerous travelers who went to and from the Indian country. This trail must in time, as the country became settled, become an artery of commerce. Perhaps one of the reasons he selected this spot was that it was at the head of the navigable part of the Oconee river. Boats could, and yet do, come this far up the Oconee, a most important matter by reason of the fact that there were no railroads in those days and a navigable stream like the Oconee made it possible to carry on trade with the seaport towns. We can thus see how John Ball might well reason that in time a town would grow up on his lands, for no place offered more inducements for a town than this. Although all these visions of the future, which Ball might well have look forward to, were not realized, yet many of them were.
Twenty-Year Residence
     Ball evidently lived in Washington county approximately 20 years. He was there when the doughty Elijah Clarke, under whom he had fought in the bloody revolutionary campaigns, whose head, turned by French flattery and the payment of $10,000 per annum, in an evil moment fell victim to their wiles, and during this evil moment attempted to found a new nation, known as the trans-Oconee republic, on the lands just across from the river from Ball's plantation. Although hundreds of his countrymen followed Clarke across and settled on the new lands, Ball was evidently not one of their number. During the contest with these followers of Clarke, artillery was rushed to the scene from Savannah and all crossings of the Oconee were blockaded by the American and the Georgia troops. Doubtless, Ball's ferry was one of the points to be heavily guarded. With the failure of the Clarke scheme and the removal of his followers by the American and state troops, there were yet further attempts to seize lands across the river by squatters, many of whom were fugitive criminals.
     These frequent attempts on the part of certain elements of the whites in invading the lands of the Indians naturally incensed the red and the frontier settlers were often recipients of Indian cruelties. Especially was the home of John Ball in a dangerous spot. Just across the river from him lay rich hunting and fishing grounds claimed by the warlike Uchee tribe, and no tribe of Indians valued their hunting and fishing founds as did this one, and well might they value these lands for even to this day more wild turkeys and other wild game, nor finer fishing waters. For centuries the Uchees had borne a bad reputation among not only their fellow tribesmen, but among all the whites with whom they came in contact, as being the most warlike of all the Georgia Indians. The other Indiana tribes were glad to claim them as allies and dreaded them as enemies. So fierce was this tribe that it was often told of them that they not only would they kill and scalp their enemies, but would then cat them while they celebrated the victories. Swanson, in his history of the Creek Indians, however, discredits the idea that the Uchees were cannibals. Only three miles from Ball's ferry lay the dance ground of the Uchees where they were accustomed to dance their war dance and celebrate their victories.
      In addition to these dangers caused by a desire for revenge, there was another. There lived along the river on the Washington county side parties who would sell bad liquor to the Uchees, and when inflamed by liquor there was often trouble. Thus in 1789, a band of the Uchees suddenly, without warning, appeared at the home of Lieutenant Hogan, one of John Ball's near neighbors, and massacred him and his family. The news quickly spread and the entire frontier was thrown into the greatest of excitement. The white settlers flew to arms and the Indians recrossed the river. When Wilkinson county was opened up for settlement by the treaty of Fort Wilkinson and later acts of the legislature, there was a deluge of settlers seeking new lands. John Ball himself was one of these, though a the time retained his Washington county plantations, and apparently merely moved a short distance across the river from the ferry. As a mark of the esteem in which he was being held by his neighbors, those  who knew him best, we find John Ball being elected to the highest office that the people of Wilkinson county could offer, that of state senator. He served in this capacity for two terms. At no time in history did Wilkinson county need more as its senator a man of sterling honesty and strength of character, a man who could at all times be depended upon to protect the interests of the new county, and to see that it received a square deal at the hands of the legislature. Well might Wilkinson turn to John Ball at such a time. Never has Wilkinson regretted electing him, for no senator was more conscientious than he.
According to Records
     According to the records found at the courthouse at Irwinton, we find that John Ball amassed quite a fortune for that day. He owned, in addition to his plantations in Washington and Wilkinson counties, his ferry, which was considered valuable property in that day, besides numerous slaves, large quantities of livestock and other personal property. His son, Anson Ball, who later built Ball's church in the western part of the county, was his administrator. John Ball died about the year 1815. In every generation among John Ball's descendants in this county are numbered many of the most prominent men and women that the county has afforded. Senator Wesley King married a daughter of his son, Anson Ball. Captain Green B. Burney who commanded the Wilkinson Greys in the Indian war of 1836, married another daughter of Anson Ball. Well might John Ball's descendants be proud of their forbear; well might their forebear be proud of those who have represented him during the hundred and twelve years since his death."
source: The Atlanta Constitution Sept. 9, 1927

                      Copyright Eileen Babb McAdams 2006