Phillip Hamman, Sr. (c. 1753 – August 3, 1832), known as "The Savior of Greenbrier", was an American frontier hero who was commended for bravery in the defence of Fort Donnally of Greenbrier County, West Virginia from a Shawnee attack in 1778. Hamman and John Pryor volunteered to go to Greenbrier County and warn the people of an impending Indian attack by two-hundred warriors. Chief Cornstalk's sister Nonhelema, a friend of the white people, painted Pryor and Hamman's faces as Indians. Even though the Indians had several days' head start, the two were able to get ahead of the Indians and warn the inhabitants of the fort. During the attack Hamman killed one man with his tomahawk as the Indian tried to force his way through the door of the fort. Dick Pointer, an African slave of Col. Andrew Donnally, loaded a musket and shot at the invading Indians until he and Hamman could shut the door, saving the inhabitants of the fort. Later Philip shot another Indian that had been underneath the flooring, trying to start a fire to burn down the building. The women had a large pot of water on the fire in case of wounds, Philip raised a board in the floor and the women poured boiling water onto the Indian, causing him to run to the stockade fence, and in trying to climb the wall, Philip shot him.
Marriage and family
Hamman married Christina Cook (c. 1763 – January 28, 1842), the daughter of "Captain" Valentine Cook (c. 1731 – April 23, 1798) and Susannah Baughman Cook (August 24, 1732 – 1807), on March 3, 1780 at Cook's Fort (near present Cook's Mill) in what was then Greenbrier County, Virginia (now Monroe County, West Virginia). Christina was born in York County, Pennsylvania. The couple had thirteen children:
- John (August 19, 1781 – December 1, 1854)
- Infant son (October 10, 1782 – October 17, 1782)
- Nancy (born November 19, 1783, date of death unknown)
- Polly (Born 8/1/1785 died October 1872) ** See comment about "Mary Hamman".
- Mary (August 4, 1785 – October 1872)*** I believe this entry is incorrect. Cope family records note that James P. Cope married Polly Hamman daughter of Phillip Hamman and Christenah Kuke (Cook). James and Polly were married approximately 1800. Court records lost in a fire.
- James (August 26, 1787 – 1857)
- Elizabeth (November 23, 1790 – November 18, 1879)
- Sarah (born December 23, 1792, date of death unknown)
- Celia (April 13, 1794 – March 1823)
- William Cook (June 26, 1796 – October 12, 1870)
- Jesse Franklin (January 31, 1799 – September 7, 1871), twin of Elijah.
- Elijah (January 31, 1799 – May 1860), twin of Jesse.
- Phillip, Jr. (August 28, 1801 – June 21, 1871)
- Valentine C. (August 15, 1802 – c. 1861)
The family moved from Virginia to Montgomery County, Kentucky in the early 1780s. Hamman and his wife, along with many of their younger children, moved to Alabama between 1821 and 1823.
Massacre near Crab Orchard
In 1782, Hamman, his family, and the Baughman's began their move to Kentucky. Along the Wilderness Road at Dix River, near the town of Crab Orchard in Lincoln County, tragedy befell the party when Indians attacked their camp. Several accounts of this event are recorded in history.
The first account can be found in "Kentucky, A History of the State", published in 1887, in a statement given by Joel Baughman. He states that his grandfather, Henry Baughman, Sr. was killed giving his relatives a chance to escape when Indians opened fire on the group about eight miles above Crab Orchard. Among those killed were: Hamman's unnamed son, only seven days old; Christina's aunt Margarethe Baughman Ferrill and her husband, Jonathan Ferrill; two of Christina's uncles, Jacob Baughman and Hans Henrich Baughman. Christina's maternal grandmother, Margaretha Schwizier Baughman (December 25, 1698 – October 17, 1782) was killed during the attack.
A second account is found in the Draper Collection, Kentucky Papers, Volume 12, page 149, in an interview with George Yocum, Montgomery County, Kentucky. He states, "Philip Hamman was in the defeated camps on Flat Creek (near Dix River). He, his wife, and little child, were in the company." They had undressed and lain down when the attack began. "He sprang, snatched up the child, and his hid gun, and his wife followed after."
A third account is found in "The Register", Kentucky Historical Society, Volume 36, July 1938, Whitley Papers, Volume 9. It states that "Baughman's Defeat was in October 1782 on the Wilderness Road and at the head of Dicks River. Jacob Baughman and his mother were killed. Mrs. (Christina) Hammans came into Crab Orchard in her linnen Wooley, wounded in the head with an arrow."
A fourth account is told in the Dickey Diary, Lee College Archives, Jackson, Kentucky. Rev. Dickey interviewed William Jackson Cope in 1898 and he told of his grandfather's immigration to America from Germany. He said his grandparents were camped by the river and a dog started barking. Someone cried, "That dog is barking at Indians." The Indians then attacked the camp an it was a fearful slaughter. The Indians ripped the bed tickings, and feathers were flying everywhere.
Greenbrier Petition of 1784
In early 1784, Hamman and John Pryor petitioned the Virginia House of Delegates for a rewarding of a tract of land for heroic services rendered while saving the Greenbrier Settlements from Indian massacre. The petition was rejected.
"That the Certificate on the other side, fully stating the nature of our Service, and emboldened by the Generosity wherewith this State always rewards those who are Happy enough to render it any service, We, your Petitioners Humbly Pray the Honorable House to grant us a Gratuity in land, in the Country to be laid off to the Officers and Soldiers, which will not only be a recompense to us, but also an Excitement to others to decline no Dangers in the Service of their Country when they find the same will be amply rewarded. And we as in Duty Bound will ever Pray."
"Green Brier, Va: We do certify that Phillip Hamman and John Pryor by their Resolution and Vigilance rendered an Essential Service to this Country in the year 1778, when it was discovered at Fort Randolph that a large Body of Indians had marched toward this country, they with great and imminent hazard followed after them near two hundred Miles, and having overtaken them when almost arrived at the Inhabitants did at the resque of their lives pass by and come and advertise us of their Approach, by which timely notice, We secured ourselves, and in the Attack made by Indians on the Station at Capt. Donnally's, they were by their courage highly instrumental in repulsing them. By which services they not only merit thanks but those of the State, as without their Information we had been Surprised and this County a Barrier of the State, been ruined.
Given under our hands in Green Brier this 18th May 1784
Signed Capt. John Stuart, Capt. Andrew Donnally, Capt. Sam'l Brown, and Capt. Andrew Hamilton.
On September 11, 1827, Friendship church was organized at Fackler and Hamman was ordained its first pastor. The church adopted the principals of the Duck River Association. The church minutes extend from its date of organization in 1827 up until 1873. Hamman and several other family members were among the first charter members.
Hamman's 1830 toast
On Saturday, July 3, 1830, the fifty-fifth anniversary of American independence was celebrated at Bellefonte, Jackson County, Alabama, at which among other participants were several Revolutionary patriots. After the reading of the Declaration of Independence by Henry F. Scruggs and the delivery of an oration by Hon. Samuel Moore, the company sat down to a plentiful dinner. After this many patriotic toasts were drunk. Only one, and that because of the historic fact it evoked, is here reproduced:
"By L. James, Esq. 'Capt. Phil Hamman: The Savior of Greenbrier–tho' his history is but little known, his intrepidity and patriotism are not less worthy of our commendation.'
"After the drinking of this toast, the old soldier rose and said: He thanked the gentlemen for introducing his name on an occasion where he had already been too much honored. Tho' his history was not much known, he could not object to have the transactions of his life divulged to the world. For nine years he had been in the wars of his country–during a greater part of which he had been engaged in the most dangerous parts of Indian service. He had suffered much; on one occasion he had been stripped by savage rapacity of every vestige of property he possessed, even the clothing of himself and family–one of his children fell a victim to their cruelty. But not to dwell on the dangers he had endured, he would merely speak of the occasion so kindly alluded to in the toast. When stationed at Fort Randolph, at the mouth of the Big Kanawha, nine hundred Indians set off in a body to make an unexpected attack on the inhabitants of Greenbrier, Virginia. Two men were dispatched to apprize the people in that quarter of their approaching danger. In three days they returned, wounded, and in despair; others were sought for who would carry the express; none were found willing to engage in so dangerous and hopeless an undertakin when he and one John Pryor (who was afterwards killed by the Indians) painted and dressed in Indian garb set off, and in forty-eight hours travelled one hundred and sixty miles through the wilderness; they overtook the Indians within twelve miles of the white settlements, passed through their camps, and gave timely warning to the people of their impending danger.–Such preparations were made for security and defense as the occasion permitted. About daylight a violent attack was made on Fort Donley; the conflict was desperate–the door of the Fort was broken open–he stood in it, and resisted the enemy–'till it could be shut and fastened. The foe were repelled with great loss, and the country saved from savage barbarity. He said that although he was old and poor, and had not received the compensation promised him by his country, yet he thanked God he was in peace and safety, and could live 'without the aid of public or private charity.' He then offered the following sentiment:" 'OUR RULERS: May they be just men, fearing God, and hating covetousness.'"— Southern Advocate, Huntsville, July 10, 1830.
The reporter that wrote this piece exaggerated the number of Indians in the attack, as it was known as several hundred at the time. The number of 900 was obviously added by reporter for dramatic effect.
Death and legacy
Hamman died on August 3, 1832 near Fackler, Alabama. Hamman was buried first on his plantation near Fackler, and later was reburied at the Valley Head Cemetery in DeKalb County, Alabama on March 2, 1972, along with his wife, Christina Cook Hamman. A U.S. government marker was issued for Hamman noting that he served in the "12th Virginia Regiment" in the Revolutionary War. An identical marker was purchased for Christina Hamman noting that she was born in York County, Pennsylvania. in 1763 and died in Valley Head, Alabama, January 28, 1842.
In 1938, Greenbrier County, West Virginia celebrated its 160th anniversary with a pageant entitled "Greenbrier on Parade." In the pageant, Phillip Hamman was portrayed by James Preston, Jr. as one of the defenders of the attack on Fort Donnally.
In May 1962, the Col. George Nichol's Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a bronze historic marker on the courthouse grounds of Montgomery County at Mt. Sterling, "honoring soldiers and patriots of the Revolutionary War", the name of "Philip Hammon" was among those included on the marker. However, the marker incorrectly states that Hammon was buried in Montgomery County.
In 1971, The Phillip Hamman Family Association of America was organized by descendants of Phillip and Christina Hamman, with the main objective to gather and publish a family tree and locate and preserve the gravesites of Hamman and his wife.
On September 1, 1971, the Tidence Lance Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution of Scottsboro, Alabama dedicated a roadside marker to Philip Hamman. It reads: "Philip Hamman, 'The Savior of Greenbrier'– Born 1750 in the Palatinate Germany–Married March 3, 1780 in Greenbrier Co, Virginia to Christina Cook, born 1763, died January 28, 1842 and is buried in a double grave with her husband one mile north of this spot. Nine years an Indian Spy & Scout, Colonial Soldier, Revolutionary War Hero. He died August 3, 1832 in Jackson County. Here rest in peace: A Noble Man, A Gracious Lady."
Another historical marker honoring the Revolutionary War exploits of Phillip Hamman is located six miles west of Lewisburg, West Virginia at the intersection of a road leading to the Fort Donnally site. It reads: "BORDER HEROES – Before the Fort Donnally attack, settlements had been warned by Philip Hammond and John Pryor, scouts at Point Pleasant, who made up as Indians by Nonhelema, the sister of Cornstalk, passed and outran the Indians."
On December 13, 1978, The Phillip Hamman Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution was organized at Fort Payne as the 81st chapter in Alabama with 28 members.
The Phillip Hammond (or Hamman) Chapter of the Children of the American Revolution was organized in Jackson, Breathitt County, Kentucky.
Genetic testing of patrilineal descendants of each of Hamman's sons shows his Y-DNA haplogroup to be G2a3b1. His 5th great grandson, Shane Hamman, is one of the greatest ever powerlifters and still holds many national and world records for weightlifting.