Monday, September 12, 2011

From Whence They Came

    Where did the early settlers of Big Fork come from before moving to Arkansas?  After 1820, a large westward expansion brought settlers to Arkansas.    The Ouachita Mountains attracted many people from Northern Georgia.  Land in western Arkansas was fairly easy to obtain.  Sometimes a settler didn't have to pay taxes for five years on land he bought so that was an incentive.
     Before moving to Arkansas, many of the Big Fork families lived in Georgia in the counties of Lumpkin, Habersham, White, Hall, Gilmer, Fannin, Cobb, Cass and Cherokee.  When the Goss family first moved to Georgia about 1810, they settled in what was then Cherokee land in the north.  They lived in what later became, in 1818, Hall and Habersham Counties.  Other families such as the Dilbecks, Edwards, Turners, and Walkers came to Georgia probably sometime between 1819 and 1825.  The Dilbecks lived in Gilmer Co. where they knew the Benjamin Goss family and the Turner family by at least 1834.   The Bates family moved to Georgia into Cherokee Co. in 1834.  The Abernathy family moved to Cass Co. (Bartow Co. today) by 1844.   

    Other Big Fork people from Georgia included the Head, Cox, Jeffery, Stover, Standridge, Bowen, Garmon, Putman, O'Barr, Smith, Rider, Vandevier, Abair. Shedd. Wehunt, Crawford, Fowler, Hendrix, Ellison, Fountain, Masters and Hooper families, and more.  Most, if not all, of these people lived in more than one county of the northern part.  Several of these families knew each other in Georgia before moving to Big Fork.
    The south end of the Blue Ridge Mountains extended into northeast Georgia.  Here the Cherokee Indians wanted to make this area their permanent home but to their dismay settlers, seeking new, fertile farm land, kept pouring in.   To add impetus to the trouble, gold was discovered in 1829.  There was no way to stop the intrusion and the gold rush.  To settle the problem, a land and gold mine lottery was held by the state government in 1832 which required certain qualifications to register for the draw.   Thomas Goss, the father of Benjamin Goss,  was one to receive a 40 acre certificate, probably for gold, which was signed by the governor in 1843.  However he died in 1833 and the certifcate of this 40 acres was also granted to his heirs but what happened to it is unknown to me.   History does tell us that  many settlers in northern Georgia mined gold to supplement their farming. 
    I received a letter from a Dilbeck relative in Dawson Co., Georgia.  In her research, she said she found five Dilbecks that came to Georgia about the same time.  One of these,David Dilbeck, father of John W. Dilbeck of Big Fork, born about 1788 in South Carolina, had land that was located near Amicalola Falls, located in what is now Dawson Co. but was once part of Gilmer Co.   This beautiful falls is 729 feet and located in the Amicalola Falls State Park. 
   The Bates family moved to Georgia in 1834 and settled in Cherokee County, just west of Lumpkin Co. and south of Gilmer Co.   Stephen Bates bought a farm here in 1835.  Here they eventually met the Edwards, Ellisons, and Walkers.  They also knew the Abernathy family who lived just over the line in Cass Co.
    Some early families of Big Fork also came from Tennessee.   Here are a few surnames of these:  Cabler, Gann, Heath, Cheny Huddleston, Scott, North, Dempsey and more.   A few other families came from Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina, and Mississippi. And some came from the north, such as the Fried family from Indiana.  In the 1880 census, there was a William Baker,  born in Ohio; a William Hosler, in the 1860 census, was born in England and had the occupation of miller.   This is all just a small sample of the people who once lived in or near Big Fork and where they came from.



  1. I am a Dilbeck descendant and live in Gilmer County. Do you happen to know the names of the 5 Dilbecks who came to GA about the same time? Or do you have the contact information for the lady you mentioned? Thank you for all the research and work you have put into this blog. It's not only good for Big Fork, Ark it is also very informative for those of us "left" along the trail! Have a great day! :-D

  2. Glad you've enjoyed this blog! Sorry I have no contact information now for Mrs. Dilbeck because she's no longer with us. I corresponded with her in 1978.
    She said that John, David, Josiah, & William were brothers. She also thought that a Jacob Dilbeck was a brother too but had no proof. For more information, you might check the Dilbeck forum on Genealogy. com.

  3. I believe that I am a descendant of David (just trying to connect all the dots) and have seen on the forums that Jacob may have been another brother also.

  4. I came across your information and you have done a very good job.. Well done, I was looking for a photo to add to one of my husband family line from Big Fork,AK and that is how I found your page.
    my husband line is :
    Catharine Martin
    Birth 6 Jan 1850 in Wilcox, Alabama
    Death 9 Jan 1884 in Big Fork, Polk, Arkansas, USA
    her husband :

    Jacob Pinkney Masters
    Birth 22 Aug 1845 in Savannah, Chatham, Georgia, USA
    Death 9 Apr 1909 in Big Fork, Polk, Arkansas, USA . I cant not fine her parents..?
    her children;
    Elijah E Masters 1868 –
    William P Masters 1869 – 1932
    Cordelia Emma Masters 1873 – 1945
    Jacob Lee Masters 1875 –
    John Ada Masters 1881 –
    James Otto Masters 1883 – 1966