THE FIRST SHARP SPENCER REYNOLDS (1801-1890)

by Randy Reynolds                                                                              


Sharp Spencer Reynolds, Sr., lived 60 years before the Civil War and 25 years afterward (1801-1890.)  He was a slaveholder, but had been a longtime opponent of secession.  He was a member of the Union Party but saw two of his sons leave the family’s north Georgia farms to go off and fight the Union as members of Company D, 27th Regiment Georgia Infantry.  John B. Reynolds (b. 1838) died of typhoid on April 5, 1862 in Richmond, VA. Andrew Jackson Reynolds, (b. Aug. 4, 1842) was injured by a cannonball in 1864 and had a leg amputated, but survived the war and became a Baptist preacher in Gainesville, Georgia.  (He died on Feb. 9, 1900.)

Sharp was born in Pickens County, South Carolina, in 1801, to Bartemous Reynolds (son of William Acheleus Reynolds, a Patrick County, Virginia, plantation owner) and Mary Mildred Taylor Reynolds, daughter of another Patrick County, Virginia, planter and first cousin to the Zachary Taylor who became President of the United States.

Bartemous Reynolds, with his growing family and an entourage of slaves, settled in the place now known as Hall County, Georgia, in 1804. He became one of the founders of Hall County (along with John W. Bates and others.)  Bartemous was elected Justice of the Peace. He was also a founder and pastor of Timberwill Baptist Church.  When Bartemous died, in 1854, he left no will. Therefore, his estate had to be inventoried for taxing purposes.  When he died his storehouses were filled with corn. He still had herds of farm animals but only 7 slaves, two of whom were very old, three very young, and two of prime working age.  Several entries on the inventory from November 28, 1854, six days after his death, were individual books and several 'lots' of books, including a Bible, “Dr. Wright’s Book,” two “Law Books,” and a walnut bookcase.  So we know that his son Sharp Spencer Reynolds grew up in a slave-holding, religious family, in a home with books.  And we know from his lengthy letter to the editor of The Athenian (an Athens, Georgia, newspaper) that he had a way with words.

On January 25, 1827, Sharp Spencer Reynolds married Nancy Bates, daughter of another Hall County founder, General John W. Bates, a member of the committee that had formed the county from a slice of Jackson County.  John W. Bates was a member of Hall County’s first Inferior Court. He was Hall County’s first representative in the State Legislature (for 16 years.)  He was the leader of the Union Party in Hall County, Chairman of the Union Democratic Republican Convention in 1835, a veteran of the War of 1812, a Major-General in the 7th Division of the Georgia Militia from 1832-35, resigning in 1835, allegedly over the state’s takeover of Cherokee lands and the ethnic cleansing that would—three years later—send the entire tribe to Oklahoma over “the trail of tears.” John Bates’ wife, (who was, of course, Sharp Reynolds’ mother-in-law,) Barbary Crenshaw, was said to be a full-blood Cherokee.  When John Bates moved to Murray County which was taken from the Cherokee and awarded to white men by allotment in 1836, Representative/Judge/General Bates was once again elected to the Georgia Legislature.

So there was a time when Sharp Spencer Reynolds was in his late 40’s that:
- his mother’s first cousin was President of the United States, 
- and his father-in-law was a state legislator, ex-general and ex-judge 
- and his father was a major land-owner, prosperous farmer, preacher and local elected official.

(Note: After bearing 9 children, Nancy Bates Reynolds died in 1851.  The next year, Sharp married Elizabeth Terrell, the daughter of a civil engineer, surveyor and War of 1812 veteran named Timothy Terrell.   Elizabeth Terrell Reynolds bore four sons, including my Great-Great-Grandfather Sharp Spencer Reynolds, Jr., born on July 23, 1857. Sharp, Sr.'s third wife, Mary Anne Hendrix Parks bore him one son Minor Grey Reynolds. Minor had one son, Minor Garland "Butch" Reynolds.)

Sharp and  Nancy’s eldest son John B. (named after his grandfather Bates) was born in Hall County in 1838 and enlisted in Company D, 27th Georgia Volunteers, (Captain Dorsey’s Company,) on September 23, 1861.  John B. Reynolds was 23 years old when he said goodbye to his twice-widowed father, his five older sisters, one younger sister and his four little brothers. My great-great grandfather Sharp Spencer Reynolds, Jr., age 4, was the youngest of the brood when his gallant big brothers marched off to war.

The Civil War was a horrible thing for those who fought it and for those who got in its way.  For some southern cotton planters, it was a bonanza, both because cotton prices went up and because secession allowed indebted planters to get out of millions of dollars in debt to northern banks.  The Confederate government wanted the region’s planters to grow more corn and foodstuffs, but many planters refused to do so.  With dollar signs in their eyes, they kept on growing cotton. The Confederate government confiscated or bought much of the food that was grown in the south.  Confederate soldiers sometimes lived off the land; unfortunately, it was their own territory, and the more the army took, the less there was to feed the women and children at home.   There were several women’s riots in Georgia in which women broke into stores and warehouses to steal food.  Confederate soldiers, hearing about the dire conditions back home, deserted in droves to try get home to find some way to feed their families.  Many of these family men were tracked down by special squads and brought back to the front lines to be executed.

Sharp Reynolds, although a slave owner, had never been in favor of secession, arguing against it for decades before it finally happened.  His writing shows his loyalty to the concept of the Union.  His first father-in-law had been a leader of the Union Party and the anti-secessionist Democratic-Republican Party in Georgia, and Sharp had also espoused those causes. Once secession became a reality, Sharp’s loyalties may have changed.  Certainly when two of his sons, John B. Reynolds and Andrew Jackson Reynolds, went off to war, Sharp’s notions of Union vs. Secession would have become irrelevant.

When sons of the most prominent southern families grew tired of the war, they were allowed to go back home to their lives of relative ease to help run their plantations and businesses.

Whether the Reynolds family, being north Georgia farmers, not south Georgia plantation owners, were prominent enough to have eventually gotten John B. and Andrew out of service, I don’t know, but after April 05, 1862 it was too late.  John B. Reynolds died that day of Typhoid Fever in Chimborazo Hospital, Richmond, Virginia.

Andrew survived the war, returned home, and--like his grandfather--became a Baptist preacher.

Sharp Spencer Reynolds, Sr., lived through almost all of that tumultous century.
He died in 1890 and is buried on land that was part of his father's original land grant in Hall County, Georgia.




SHARP REYNOLDS' MYSTERIOUS LIQUOR LICENSE

My 2nd-Cousin Gloria McDaniel of Lula discovered that in 1821 Sharp obtained the first permit to sell "spiritous liquor" in Hall County. We've, so far, been unable to determine why.

If he ran a tavern, we have found no record of it.

If they, like farmers elsewhere, shipped some of their corn to market in "liquid" form, there's no record of that, either.

Although it was a widespread practice among slave owners to encourage binge-drinking and weeklong drinking competitions among their slaves during Christmas week, according to Frederick Douglass and other writers, that would not seem to require a liquor license.

The Reynolds were likely tee-totalers.  Sharp's father Bartemous was a founder and pastor of two Baptist Churches (Timberwill and Mud Creek.)  Sharp's brother Pickens Taylor Reynolds was a Baptist Preacher. Sharp himself donated the land for Springway Baptist Church and was said to be an extremely religious person.

So why he, at the age of 20, obtained a liquor license remains a mystery.


SHARP SPENCER REYNOLDS' LETTER TO THE ATHENIAN
 by Randy Reynolds 

31 years before the Civil War, former Georgia Governor George Troup and the state’s aristocratic landowners were pushing hard for secession. They were opposed by former Governor John Clark and his backers, who were mostly tradesmen and small farmers including 29 year old Sharp Spencer Reynolds of Hall County (my g-g-g-grandfather.) When young Reynolds expressed his views in a letter to the editor of the Statesman and Patriot, the editor of a rival paper, The Athenian, ridiculed him. Sharp Reynolds responded in a second letter to the Statesman and Patriot, June 19, 1830.  (He writes like an educated man, though there is no record of where he may have gotten that education.)

“I had no thought of exciting the ire of that most renowned and potent knight of the quill, the editor of the Athenian… But inasmuch as he has thought fit to pause a moment in the career of his glory, and honor my humble effusion with his ‘right wittie and conceited’ remarks, I have been driven to the necessity of fleshing my maiden pen, by entering the lists against this gigantic opponent, and joining battle with him and his auxiliary.”

Sharp wasn’t afraid to take on the power structure, because he felt truth was on his side: “We are informed, by sacred history, that a certain little son of Jesse, David by name, armed only with a sling and smooth pebble from a brook, encountered and slew the mighty Goliath… and the cause of his success is stated in the same authority to have been the armour of truth in which he stood invulnerably clothed. Now although there may exist the same disproportion between my assailant of the Athenian & myself, intellectually speaking…I feel that the mantle which protected David, had descended upon my shoulders…”
In other words, Me David. You Goliath.

Sharp Reynolds tried to show that Troupites weren’t practicing what they preached: “The government of Hall county stands in the same relation to the Government of the State, as the latter does to the Government of the United States. …A party of the State wishes forcibly to resist the right of the United States’ Government to interfere with its regulations… That same party is busying itself with endeavoring to control the conditions of every county in the State…”

“…the Athenian—printed in Clark county—stoutly objects (to what is going on in Hall county) and with a long string of jibes, and jeers, and reproaches, seeks to (interfere)…”

The newspaper treated Sharp as if he—not the armed insurrectionists—was stirring up all the trouble. He responded:

“The Athenian raises so great a lure and cry, as if like Troup, I had talked of guns, swords, & pistols…. Its extreme sensibility upon this point, is a sufficient commentary upon the enormity of its own doctrines in regard to the relation of the State, to the United States—so much for the gratuity of its interference; let us proceed to dissect the carcass before us.”

Sharp must have gotten some laughs with lines like “Let us proceed to dissect the carcass before us” but it was a serious issue. George Troup, while governor, had signed a treaty with his cousin, a half-Indian named William McIntosh, giving the State of Georgia title to all remaining Creek Indian lands. McIntosh had no authority to do this—and the Creeks murdered him for it. President John Quincy Adams called the treaty illegal and overturned it. This enraged former Governor Troup and the plantation owners, and they began agitating for secession. Former Governor Clark’s followers, including Sharp Reynolds, favored a more reasoned approach: they stayed in the Union and took the Creek Indian lands “legally.”

Sharp writes that it was the “…height of imprudence to take possession of the Indian lands under a title which was not only voidable, but actually void; when by pursuing a different course, with a little patience, it could be had (and was) with title sound and indefeasible.”

Even after the state reclaimed the Creek land, the Troupites continued to demonize the Clarkites for not being willing to secede. Sharp said the Clarkites were only doing the patriotic thing:
“We refuse to enter into the disunion schemes of Troup, and there lies our sin. Because we will not contribute to strengthen the arm that is raised to cut up root and branch the tree of our liberty, planted by Washington, Jefferson, and their illustrious compeers…

"Because we are not willing to erect the standard of civil war... we are subjected to the abuse of The Athenian, and all others who would plunge us into civil war…”

When Sharp Reynolds wrote that letter at the age of 29, the issue was “States Rights”--the state’s right to secede over how to take land away from the Creek Nation.

When he was 60 and the plantation owners finally got the Civil War they had wanted for so long, the issue was still (supposedly) “States Rights”—the state’s right to secede from the Union. But after seceding, they formed their own nation—the Confederate States of America—that denied the right of states to secede.

OLD MAN SHARP

The 10 Oct 1884 edition of the local newspaper in Hall County, Georgia, noted "Major S.S. Reynolds, of the Glade district, presented us with some of the largest Irish potatoes, this week, that we have ever seen.  His patch was just one rod square and his yield from that area was three bushels.  At this rate, an acre would yield 480 bushels.  This is the work of a practical farmer upwards of 82 years of age."




SHARP SPENCER REYNOLDS' FATHER: SLAVEMASTER IN THE PULPIT
Bartemous Reynolds by Randy Reynolds  

I was surprised to learn that my great grandfather (5 generations back) was both a Baptist preacher and a slaveholder.  Wondering if that was unusual, I did some research and learned that, at a time when only 1 out of 11 white southern men owned slaves, fully 40 percent of Baptist ministers in South Carolina were slaveholders.  (James Oakes, THE RULING RACE) ...

Bartemous Reynolds (whose name was spelled at least 5 different ways in official records) was born in Patrick CountyVirginia, and lived in Pickens CountySouth Carolina, during his young adulthood, before moving (with his slaves) to the area that is now Hall County,Georgia. He was a farmer, not a “planter,” but it was a big farm located on a portion of the 3,000 acres that he apparently obtained via land grant.  Like all prosperous farms of any size in the south, it ran on slave labor.  How many slaves, I don’t know.  

At the time of Bartemous’ death at the age of 85, he had only 280 acres left… the remainder had been sold off and/or transferred to his eldest son Sharp.  He had barely enough slaves left to run an old man’s household and the much-reduced farm.  His remaining slaves were listed by the Hall County appraisers who evaluated the estate on the 28th of November, 1854, six days after his death.  They were:

1 NEGRO MAN, DICK, FORTY YEARS OLD  $700.00
1 NEGRO MAN, DAN, SEVENTY YEARS OLD   $50.00
1 NEGRO MAN, WILL, VERY OLD AND SIMPLE  $00.00
1 NEGRO WOMAN, SELIA, FORTY-ONE YRS OLD  $500.00
1 NEGRO GIRL, SOPHIA, TEN YEARS OLD  $600.00
1 NEGRO GIRL, MANDI, NINE YEARS OLD  $500.00
1 NEGRO GIRL, MARY, THREE YEARS OLD  $300.00
1 NEGRO BOY, THOMAS, FIVE YEARS OLD  $300.00     

Dick, Dan, Selia, Will and the four children, like their forebears, probably went to church with their white master and preacher.  Bartemous founded and, at various times, pastored Timber Will Baptist Church and Mud Creek Baptist church.

Sermons of other southern slave-holding Baptist preachers of that era were rife with politics, and often—directed at the slaves themselves—used scripture to justify their bondage, including such verses as:  

Colossians 3:22-25, Colossians 4:9, Deuteronomy 24:7, Ephesians 6:5, Exodus 12:44, Exodus 21:1-7, Exodus 21:7-11, Exodus 21:20-32, Exodus 22:2-3, Ezekiel 27:12,13, First Kings 2:39, First Kings 11:26-35, First Peter 2:18, First Peter 2:21-25, First Samuel 25:10, First Timothy 6:1-5, Gen.9:20-25, Genesis 9:25-27, Genesis 17:12,13, Genesis 37:27,28, 36, Genesis 41:1-45, Leviticus 22:11, Leviticus 25:40-46, Luke 12:46-47, Philemon 1:10, Numbers 31:28-40, Revelation 18:13, Second Samuel 8:2, and Titus 2:9-10,15.

Whether those slavery justifications were part of Bartemous Reynolds’ sermons, I don’t know.  No manuscripts, outlines or notes of his sermons remain, as far as I know. 

Both of the churches he founded are still active.