The Hart family massacre
By By LYDIA GRIMES Feature Reporter
I wanted to tell you about the Indian attack on the Hart family that took place in 1836.
The families of both Josiah and Robert Hart were living in the lower part of Coffee County and there were many Indians living in the Pea River area. Hostile Indians were on the warpath and people were on constant guard for attacks. When anyone left the house there was always someone with a gun nearby.
Indians had cased the routine of both the Hart families and found that the Josiah Hart family milked their cows at night and the Robert Hart family milked the cows in the morning. Late in the afternoon on a May day of 1836, the women of the Josiah Hart family went to milk the cows while the men stood watch with their loaded guns.
The settlers were no match for the Indians as they attacked that afternoon. It was one of the bloodiest massacres in the history of Coffee County. The whole Josiah family was murdered except for one little girl, Melinda Hart, who was left for dead in a pile of her dead relatives in the cowpen. The Indians took their leave of the scene and hid out in the woods and swamp.
During the night the Indians came out of hiding and rode over to the Robert Hart household and waited for the women to come out to milk the cows. They lay in ambush until morning. The women, guarded by the men, soon came to the cowpen to milk the cows. The dogs began to bark and alerted the family to what was happening and they ran for the house. In all the excitement, one small girl was shut out of the house. When she started to scream, the Harts inside realized that they had left her outside. She ran around the house and as she came around near the door, her father grabbed her and pulled her inside just as a tomahawk was raised to kill her.
The family all took arms against the Indians, the men firing and the women loading the guns. It is told that the Indians set fire to the house and the family put out the fire by throwing a churn of buttermilk onto the flames.
The marksmanship of the Hart family members was too much for the attacking Indians. They were losing many men and when Robert Hart shot the chief they decided to abandon the fight. They picked up their dead and retreated to the Pea River Swamp.
Later that day, believing that the danger was past, Robert Hart's son-in-law, Dan Powell, rode over to check on the Josiah Hart family. What he found was the pile of seven dead bodies in the cowpen. He returned and got Robert and the rest of the family. They came over and and they proceeded to carry the bodies into the house until they could be buried. Someone noticed that Melinda Hart had a pulse beat in the large wound to her head. She was determined to be still breathing. She was nursed by her aunt and survived the awful battle that killed all of her family.
The settlers of the area gathered at the Josiah Hart home and prepared the seven bodies for burial. They were all placed in the same grave which was lined with cowhides. Today that burial ground is the Weeks Assembly of God Cemetery in Coffee County and is marked with a pedestal telling of the massacre.
The surrounding area's settlers were so outraged at the murderers that they organized a posse and chased them down. At a battle on May 7, 1836 there were 37 Indians killed.
Next week I will get back to the Hart family pedigree charts.