The Brigman Family
of North and South Carolina
and Northwest Florida
Isaac Brigman circa 1740 - 1811
saac, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Brigman, was born in North Carolina and on 26 Oct 1767 received a land grant in Anson County on Little River off of the Pee Dee River. His two brothers, Thomas and Joshua, received land grants in the same vicinity. And his sister, Mary, ended up there with them by the early 1800s. In 1774 their father, Thomas Brigman (born about 1715), died. The Revolutionary War ensued and Isaac’s brother, Thomas, joined on 7 Sep 1778. This act of patriotism lasted until 2 July 1779 when Thomas deserted. After the war Isaac was granted land on the Pee Dee River near Sweats Swamp in South Carolina on 14 Nov 1789 by Thomas Pinkney, Governor. Isaac and Thomas moved into South Carolina and Isaac is shown in the 1790 North Carolina state census with a wife and two sons living in the Georgetown District of Prince George Parish. On 15 June 1811 Isaac wrote his will (see attachments) which was recorded 3 Oct 1811 after his death. In his will he names his wife, Fereby, and their nine children. Six of his children were still under 21 years of age at the time of his death. One of these younger children was Moses our great-great-great-grandfather.
Fereby Hayes Brigman circa 1765 - 1811+
ereby was Isaac’s wife and the mother of his nine children. She was probably a North Carolinian since that’s where her parents were at about the time of her birth. She had a sister and two brothers. Her brothers travelled with Moses Brigman on his trek into Barbour County, Alabama around 1832 and may have been the motivating force behind Moses leaving South Carolina for the deeper South. Fereby’s parents were Belithia Hays and Amey Clark. Amey’s parents were Phillip and Fereby Clarke.
Moses Brigman 1796 - 1850+
oses was born the year John Adams was elected as the second President of the United States. George Washington was still President. Moses received $100 dollars on reaching his 21st birthday in 1817 as specified in his father’s will. Moses stayed in the Pee Dee River area of North Carolina through 1830, marrying Nancy Shanks shortly after he had turned 21. After the birth of his third child - and his first son - Moses and Nancy departed for Alabama. There is a record of Moses being in Barbour County, Alabama in 1833. By then he and Nancy had had another daughter, Nancy. They continued moving southward until reaching Monroe County by 1840. I have never found Moses during this period but since his last child wasn’t born until 1844 and was born in Alabama, he and Nancy must have been somewhere in Alabama as well. My last record of Moses shows him working as a farm hand for Isaac Metcalf in Coffee County, Alabama in 1850. From there he disappeared. The location of his grave site remains unknown as does his date of death.
Nancy Shanks Brigman circa 1800 - circa 1845
ancy was born in South Carolina. She had nine children. The first three were born in South Carolina. The others were probably all born in Alabama. The last one, Sallie, was born in 1844. Nancy died sometime between her daughter Nancy’s birth and 1850 when Moses is working alone as a farm hand in Coffee County, Alabama.
Moses Brigman 1829 - 2 Apr 1892
oses was born in North Carolina but moved with his parents into Alabama in the early 1830s. He and his parents were still in North Carolina in 1830 but his father, Moses Senior, shows up in the records of Barbour County, Alabama in 1833. Moses’ mother died sometime during this trek southward and the family split up. They are not listed in the 1840 census but some of Moses’s brothers and sisters show up in Monroe County, Alabama. Moses’ sister, Hester, married Timothy Bloodworth and Nancy, Columbus and Sarah were living with them. Ann Jane had married Robert Smith Matthews and in 1850, Amanda Brigman was living with them in Dale County, Alabama. Henretta married Dock Reeves and Nancy later married a McGregory. At the same time Moses was in Coffee County, Alabama working as a farm hand and living with the Metcalfs. That leaves only Henry and Moses Brigman unaccounted for during that period. Indians were a problem during the early years of Moses’ life and he fought against them as a Captain in Colonel Currie's 42nd Regiment of the Alabama Militia during the Creek War. This means he was in Alabama somewhere. But by 1860 Moses was in Freeport, Florida married to Caroline Watson.
Moses and Caroline did quite well and in 1862 had 160 acres of land worth $200 and 30$ in the bank drawing interest. They also had a horse and a buggy worth $18, 70 head of cattle worth $220 and household furniture worth $40. To help put those values into perspective in today’s dollars, Moses paid $1.46 in state tax and $.73 in county tax. But the War Between the States was at hand and Moses joined the Confederate Army as part of the 53rd Alabama Cavalry on 14 Sep 1862. On 1 Mar of the next year he was appointed 3rd Corporal and fought for another year. Then in April of 1864 after two and a half years with the Confederacy, he deserted and joined the 11th Illinois Cavelry. He must have told his comrades about his intent because his record is annotated that he reportedly “went to the enemy.” Moses was 36 at the time of his desertion. At any rate, it’s certainly unusual to have an ancestor who fought on both sides of the Civil War.
After the Civil War was over he is not shown owning any land but still had 46 head of cattle and 10 sheep. He also had two carriages by this time and paid $1.80 in state tax so he must have still had the land to owe as much tax as ever. He must also have somehow reconciled his desertion of the Confederate cause with his neighbors since he continued to live in the same small town for many years to come.
By 1870 he and Caroline had seven children ranging from age two to twelve and Moses is recorded as a farmer. They had their last child a year later and Moses had moved into timber cutting, a trade which he followed well into his fifties and perhaps beyond. The last record I have of him alive was in 1885. He was still in Freeport cutting timber for the mills and probably farming on the side. Seven years later he died in Holmes Co., Florida.
He evidently lived his final years with one of his sons whom I found in Holmes County in the 1900 census. He died 2 April 1892 and was buried in the Whitewater Cemetery in Bonifay, Florida the next day. In 1993 the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, Washington County Camp, erected a white marble headstone over his grave.
Caroline Watson Brigman 1836 - 1902
aroline was born in Alabama the year the Alamo fell to Mexican Forces, but spent all of her married life in Walton, and later Holmes, county in Florida. In the 1850 census of Coffee County, Alabama Caroline is listed as Penelope C. Watson. Her future husband, Moses is listed on the same census page with Isaac Medcalf. Caroline raised her then five children during the Civil War by herself in an area that was beset by vicious bands of deserters, thieves and murderers. During this period two of her children were toddlers, one being Postell. After the war she had three more children for a total of eight. Caroline outlived her beloved Moses by ten years and must have spent those last years with one of her children though I have never found her in any 1900 census. She is buried in the Westville Cemetery with eleven other Brigmans. Moses is buried in the pine barrens twenty miles away to the northwest.
Postell Brigman 21 Feb 1860 - 6 Jun 1941
ostell was a man who loved children. He was born in Freeport, Florida during the year the first Pony Express rider made the journey across the American West, Postell was raised on the bayous and creeks of Walton County during the years of the Civil War. He was too young to remember the day his father left to join the fighting. The night sounds from the nearby swamps may have seemed unusually loud that night as his two older brothers and an older sister kept him company in the loft. Postell may have listened as they discussed the war that night until their mother, Caroline, told them to shush and go to sleep.
In the spring of 1882 Postell married a half Indian girl named Mary Nicey Ward. The next year they had a son, Edward Lorin, my grandfather and the man whose first name I carry as my middle name. Postell lost Nicey the next year and 1885 finds him living with his father and mother with infant Lorin. A few years later he met and married a girl from Elba, Alabama. She was Mary Jane Gomillion, born 7 Dec 1863, and would be Lorin's stepmother. She also had the same birthday Lorin's daughter would have. Postell had another six children with Mary Jane. Growing up with a family of half brothers and sisters may have had some effect on Lorin. Perhaps his lack of attachment to his own kids was in part due to this upbringing.
By 1910 Postell had moved with other family members up to Westville in Holmes county. A number of Brigmans are buried there in the Westville Cemetery. He managed a sawmill there in town but later moved on to Millville near Panama City. Evidently he had figured out the money was in selling to the sawmill workers, not in being a sawmill worker, because in 1914 he bought half interest in the Charles Cotton grocery store in Millville and moved his family down to join his son Lorin who was already well established in the area. Over the next few years he acquired a number of pieces of property in the neighborhood. Then on 1 Jun 1918 disaster struck. Twenty-two years after the death of Mary Nicey Ward, Postell had a daughter he named after his beloved first wife. Mary Nicey used to go swimming with her friend Kathleen Martin in Watson Bayou just down the street from their house in Millville. On the night of 31 May 1918 a tugboat ran aground on the beach where the children swam and in struggling to free itself blew out a deep hole with its propellers. The next afternoon about three o’clock Mary and Kathleen ran down to the beach for a swim and charged out into the usual swimming area where the sandy bottom had the day before given good support. That day, however, the sand was blown away and a deep, black hole lurked beneath the water in their play area. Mary Nicey and her friend, Kathleen, fell into the hole and were enveloped by the dark waters of the bayou. Or perhaps one of the girls fell into the hole and the other went in to try to save her friend and drowned in the process. There were no witnesses so we’ll never know. Postell recovered Mary’s body and tried to resuscitate her for hours before neighbors pulled him away. At four o’clock on Sunday afternoon they held Mary Nicey’s funeral at the house amid numerous floral pieces from family and friends and buried her an hour later in the cemetery at Millville. Postell never let the kids go swimming again and the younger children of the family never learned to swim for the remainder of their lives. Nor did their children learn to swim. Nor did any of them ever go into the water again.
Postell stayed in the Panama City area until around 1925. By then many of his kin had migrated over to Mobile, Alabama but his first son, Lorin, had left for Miami to open the Nash dealership there and Postell decided to join him. After a short stay, not to mention his investing in Lorin’s oil well and losing his money, Postell moved to Mobile to join his other sons. He operated a grocery on the north side on Haas Avenue for a time. Then in 1930 his second wife, Mary Jane, the mother of all of his children except Lorin, died at the age of 68. But Postell was a survivor. On the last day of November 1931 Postell and Ethel Foster traveled over to Pascagoula, Mississippi to get married. He was 71 years of age, she was 30. With Ethel he had Annice and, at the age of 74, his last child, Glen. Glen was Lorin’s youngest brother by more than a half century. Glen is only nine years older than I, Lorin’s grandson. And I was born when my mother was already 32 years 9 months and 14 days old.
Postell was active all of his life. The day before he died he had insisted on driving over to see some old friends. It was an enjoyable visit and as he was leaving they expressed how glad they were that he had come by and told him they were looking forward to his next visit. He told them that this visit was the last - that they would never met again. That afternoon he went up on the roof to make some repairs. The next morning he awakened and told his wife to go next door where they had a telephone and to call a doctor. Ethel left him in the care of his daughter, Annice, to go make the call. Annice remembers that he spoke with a death rattle. He asked to go out on the back porch to sit in his rocking chair. Annice held his hand going through the kitchen and knew her father’s death was eminent. She began to sob. Postell hugged her to his side and said, “Honey, don’t cry.” She sat with him on the back porch and held his hand until the doctor arrived. They helped him into his bed and stayed with him until his son, Bert Lee, showed up. Postell’s last words were as he looked over at his son. He said, “Look after my children,” and was gone. And Bert Lee was so struck by his father’s last request that he was a second father to Glen and Annice for the rest of his life.
Postell was buried in Pine Crest Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama.
Mary Nicey Ward Brigman 5 Jan 1864 - 12 Mar 1884
ary Nicey, or Dicey as many called her, was born a twin in Dale County, Alabama in the year Sherman made his march across Georgia to the sea. She was raised with her 10 brothers and sisters and Dale County, Alabama by a devoted mother and father. She would have had a strong religious upbringing because her father was a very reverent man who had memorized large portions of the Bible.
Nicey married Postell in Freeport, Florida at age 18 and shortly thereafter had a large photographic portrait made. It is fortunate for her progenitors that she did because she died at age 20 - six months after giving birth to Lorin Brigman. That picture is the only evidence we have of her today other than her records in the censuses. My mother, Margaret Brigman Merritt, discovered the picture still in its original frame being used to block the draft in the chimney of a long-abandoned house near Freeport. (See the separate story of the discovery of this photo in the appendix.) Margaret had been in the area doing research on the family’s Indian connections in preparation for a perceived big payment to be made to the Creek descendants for the millions of acres of land confiscated from them. I recall being there when she found the picture. Nicey’s twin sister, Elizabeth Rebecca then 96 years old, was with us and identified the picture as that of her sister. Margaret took the picture with her and some twenty years later I rebuilt and gilded the frame for her. That picture hung in the house for many years and was hanging in Margaret's room when she died.
In a conversation with Mary Nicey’s niece, Mazie Ward, in 1997, I asked why Mary was buried so far out in the woods. Mazie said the story was that Mary Nicey and her twin sister where out gathering hickory nuts and berries one day and decided to rest under a large hickory tree. Mary remarked that the spot was so restful that if she died she wanted to be buried under that tree. When that came to pass her sister remembered that conversation and the family buried Mary where she had requested. She was the first one buried there and the small cemetery of Antioch grew up around her grave. Mary is today surrounded by her parents and aunts and uncles in the desolate Antioch Cemetery near Bruce, Florida.
Edward Lorin Brigman 9 Sep 1883 - 9 Jan 1956
orin was born the same year Krakatoa exploded in the Straits of Sunda east of Java. It was also the same year Jessie James was killed. He first saw light in Freeport, a little town in the Florida panhandle lying on the northeast shore of Choctawhatchee Bay. Freeport is still today a mere bump on highway 20. Lorin’s mother died six months after he was born and in 1885 he and his father were living in Freeport with Moses and Caroline Brigman, Lorin’s grandparents. When Lorin was five his father remarried and Lorin was raised by Mary Jane Gomillion from Elba, Alabama. Mary Jane was his father’s second wife and the only mother Lorin ever knew though I’m sure his grandmother, Caroline Brigman, must have paddled his little rump a few times while he was growing up with her in Freeport.
Lorin was raised believing that a good education involved hard work and diligence and he applied himself to his school work in his early years. By 1900 his family had moved up to Westville just outside of what is now Bonifay, Florida. His father managed the sawmill and later opened a store with his brother. Lorin must have met Sallie Parker around this time in Westville because she and her family were just across the state line in Genevatown, Alabama during the same period. He married Sarah Margaret (Sallie) Parker on 6 Nov 1904 in Florala, Alabama.
In the 1900 census he is listed as a bookkeeper and by 1910 he was a clerk in a grocery store in Millville, near Panama City, with a three year old son, Everitt. But Lorin put his education to good use and by 1913 he was the first Superintendent of Schools for Bay County (or Supt. of Public Instruction as it was known in those days) and was beginning to put together a thriving car dealership selling the new fangled Buick touring car. He and Sallie had had Margaret May Brigman by this time - the maternal linkage to those of us living in the 1990s.
As school superintendent, Lorin worked hard and won many accolades in the local newspaper. He was reelected several times and was even given a Masonic watch fob for Christmas in 1914 by the teachers in their gratitude for all he had done. Under his supervision a new high school was constructed and schools already in place were “attractively decorated” as the State Rural School Inspector put it in 1915. The ceremony to lay the corner stone for the new school was an elaborate affair. The school children from the surrounding areas were brought in by boat and landed at the Tarpon Dock where they were met by the local children. Then under the charge of Supt. Brigman they marched up the main street where they were joined by the Masons as they passed the lodge. In all 2,000 people joined in as the procession marched to the site of the new school where the children filed past the cornerstone each placing into its interior a card with their name and grade. Lorin introduced the speakers and later presided over the Masonic rite provided for such occasions. This was followed by singing and drilling by the children. It must have been some affair. The paper said, “The occasion was one that will be long remembered by those present. The sight of nearly a thousand children marching with all the precision of trained soldiers, was one that attracted the most favorable comment and was in itself the most inspirational.” Things were looking up for Lorin.
In January of 1916 Lorin went up to Troy, Alabama and purchased an Overland Touring car. Later that same month he bought two residences on Pine Street in Millville. His family must have thought that things couldn’t get much better but on 1 Mar 1917 news reached Panama City that Lorin had been appointed by the President as postmaster.
Then Lorin began working with a teacher named Ettie Mae Allen Dyer. The two of them hit it off quite well and by late 1919 he had divorced Sallie (and Ettie Mae her own husband), remarried, and moved to Miami to open a Nash dealership. He grew quite wealthy during these years in Miami and would have remained so except for a geologist he met who had been exploring the karst topography of Dade County for signs of oil. He convinced Lorin that South Florida had all the markings of abundant oil reserves that had been prevalent in Texas prior to the oil boom there. Lorin put a large sum of money up to finance the drilling efforts to recover the hidden oil. When the first well came up dry, he followed with another well based on the geologist's assurance that there was enough oil there in Dade County to make them rich in the same manner of the wealthy Texans. When the second well came up dry Lorin's fortune was gone. Lorin’s dad and several brothers lost money in the venture as well. Undaunted, Lorin pressed on with life. Then in 1948 Ettie Mae died.
Sometime later he married Agnes Bates, a delightful woman born on St. Valentines day in 1901. He sold what was left of his Nash dealership in the 1940s and moved to Tampa where he opened the Pan American Solar Heating Company. Here, he was way ahead of his time. He used a secret method to overcome past problems with solar heaters - the water in the solar panels freezing on cold nights. He solved this problem by not allowing the water in the panels to mix with the water in the hot water tank but instead to transfer its heat to the water tank through a closed coil that connected to the solar panel via pipes. Then he mixed ethylene glycol with the water in the solar panel/heat transfer loop to lower its freezing point. The resulting design proved highly successful. Thousands were installed under government contract in housing projects in Tampa. My Dad left Pensacola in the late '40s to assist in this effort and our family stayed in Tampa until the Eisenhower Administration cut funding for public housing and Pan American went bankrupt.
After the solar heating business fell through, Lorin retired to Tavares, Florida and divided his remaining days between his house on Lake Eustis and his cabin in the mountains near Hendersonville, North Carolina. He died as a result of cancer metastasizing from his prostate to his liver.
Lorin, in later years, made amends with my mother, sending her to college until he went broke in the oil venture and later hiring Dad to help in the solar heating business. He even asked his son Everitt what he could do for him. When Everitt said he wanted a world tour, Lorin got so mad he gave him nothing. Except for Everitt, everyone was in good standing with him at his death with the possible exception of Sallie, his first wife. I don't know what her feelings were but Sallie was a sweet person and had probably accepted long before what life had dealt her.
Lorin’s individualistic life may have been fueled by his upbringing. He evidently had mixed feelings about his brothers and sisters. As the first born of Postell Brigman he was only a half relation to his siblings and he was quarter Creek Indian - the only member of the family so bred. And during this time being part Indian put a great blot on ones social standing. Agnes told me once of Lorin deciding to drive several hundred miles to check on one of his brothers he hadn't seen in thirty years. He pulled up in front of a big house sitting just back from the street. Agnes saw a man that resembled Lorin sitting in the swing on the front porch and was making ready to get out when Lorin drove off. Agnes asked if it was the wrong house. Lorin said no it was the right house. Agnes then asked who the man on the front porch was. Lorin said it was his brother he had driven up to check on. Agnes then asked why he hadn’t gone up to see how his brother was. Lorin said he could tell from the car that his brother was doing fine - there was no need to get out. Yet, after his father died in Mobile and his step mother remarried, Lorin paid a detective to check on his two youngest siblings to make sure they were being taken care of properly. He seems to have been a complex man and I imagine that I can never come close to doing him justice in this biographical sketch.
Perhaps the best I can do is to say my memories of Lorin, or Granddaddy Brigman, were always of a fun loving man. He drove a big Cadillac everywhere he went and he liked practical jokes. He had numerous joke gadgets and devices that he used at every opportunity. There were dribble glasses, air bulbs to move table settings during dinner, and puzzles of every sort. He also loved to go out in his little cabin cruiser and bass fish on Lake Eustis. In short, he lived the good life. A visit to see Granddaddy Brigman and Agnes was always a treat. You never knew what was going to happen but something fun and invariably hilarious always took place nearly everyday. Anything else I have entered here about his motivations and character is necessarily drawn from old documents and brief conversations with people who knew him and is probably incomplete and in many cases just plain wrong.
His last wife, Agnes, remarried Harry Day and outlived him. She remained a close friend of Margaret Merritt until her death in Aug 1987 in Lake Eustis, Florida.