Family Histories

Family Histories for the Rose and Kirkpatrick Families

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fearless Females: Mammy Kate

Ceremony to honor patriotic Georgia slave woman

In 1779, colonial Georgia was under siege and a future governor was set to be executed by the British. But the world's most powerful army at the time was no match for a shrewd and spirited slave woman.
Stephen Heard was wounded and jailed in Augusta for fighting against the Tories in a Valentine's Day skirmish called Kettle Creek, just outside what's now Elbert County. When the woman known as "Mammy Kate" learned of Heard's capture, she rode 50 miles by horse to Augusta to help her owner. She devised a plan to wash clothes for the Tories which ultimately won Kate their trust, according to oral accounts of  the incident which took place over a couple of months. Shortly before Heard's scheduled hanging, she asked soldiers if she could wash Heard's clothes so he wouldn't die in dirty clothes. They agreed. The six-foot-tall woman toted the diminutive Heard out of the prison in a laundry basket full of clothes. She and her husband, Daddy Jack, then carried him to safety. The couple's daring escapade saved Heard who was later appointed governor of Georgia. (Heard offered Kate her freedom but she preferred to stay with the Heard family)
That simple but ingenious act more than 230 years ago is now being recognized for its patriotism by the state and national societies of the Sons of the American Revolution as well as the Daughters of the American Revolution.
"Absolutely. She is considered a patriot," said Elberton resident James Larry Wilson, president of the SAR Samuel Elbert chapter, host of the event.
A bronze SAR medallion will be placed Saturday on the graves of the slave couple  - as well as four other patriots, including Heard -- in Elbert County, about 100 miles east of Atlanta. The 10:30 a.m. patriotic grave markings at the Heardmont cemetery will be attended by five SAR chapters and 150 to 2oo people. The slave couple is buried near Heard.
Kate is believed to be the first woman of color below the Mason-Dixon line to receive the medallion, which is awarded to people who perform feats of heroism or fought in the American Revolution.  "The Forgotten Patriots -- African American and American Indian Patriots of the Revolutionary War," a book published in 2008 by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, identified and compiled some 6,600 names. Thirty-two were from Georgia.  "Mammy Kate" is the only woman on the Georgia list. So far, no descendants of  the slave couple have been found.
The couple's patriotism would have remained a postcript in Georgia history had it not been for Sugar Hill resident Michael Henderson, a history-lover who himself made history last year by becoming the first black person inducted into the state Sons of the American Revolution. Henderson was admitted to the organization after  tracing his lineage to an ancestor Mathieu de Vaux dit Platillo, a French national who fought under the command of the Spanish colonial governor-general Bernardo de Galvez during the American Revolution.
Earlier this year,  Henderson participated in a similar ceremony for Austin Dabney, the first black man in Georgia designated an American Revolutionary patriot due to his Kettle Creek participation. While there, Henderson saw Heard's grave and learned about the slave couple.
"I started thinking, ‘why had these two people not been recognized for their patriotism?’ I took it on as a personal challenge to honor these two patriots," said Henderson, a retired Naval officer and vice president of SAR's Button Gwinnett Chapter. The 25-year genealogist was featured last year in the PBS television series "History Detectives" for his work in tracing his lineage to people who fought in the American Revolution.
"What we all have to really appreciate is the historical narrative," said Henderson, a descendant of a slave who gained her freedom. "A lot of these individuals who participated (in the revolutionary war) may not have gotten their stories told because they were slaves. We have a chance to honor them. This is not generally done. It is symbolic. I owe it to my ancestors to honor people who came before." (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 2011)

I am descended from Stephen Heard, the man that Kate saved from execution by the British.  Last summer, we visited the family cemetery in Elberton and saw her grave, and that of her husband, in the family cemetery. 


  1. October 15, 2011 in the city of Elberton, Georgia at the Stephen Heard cemetery many gathered to commemorate the patriot service of Capt. Stephen Heard, Capt. John Darden, a Georgia slave Woman named Kate and husband Jack. See more here

  2. Pam and Michael, perhaps you can help me with the family history I'm trying to unravel. The Heard line I'm tracing is solid back to Wess (Wesley) Heard, born in Georgia, and his wife Mattie as documented in the 1900 census. I believe he very well may be the 17 year old, 30 years ealier living in Dooly Counnty, right next door to Stephen T. Heard (and wife Louisa). Stephen T. Heard was a physcian, and grandson of Govenor Heard.

    A theory I'm working is that the Heard name was assigned to our family when members were held as slaves by a large landholding family. I've read the accounts of Mammy Kate, and Daddy Jack. It's been stated there are no know living descendants, but I do wonder about our line. I've read:

    When Heard died in November 1815 without a will, his son, John A. Heard, administrator of the estate, created and filed a will in 1816 with the courts. Mammy Kate and Daddy Jack are each mentioned in the former governor’s will as drawn up by his son.

    It was also stated that the 9 children of Mammy Kate, and Daddy Jack were assigned to the nine children of Gov. Heard through the will of Mammy Kate.

    Would you have any clues as the where I could locate these documents? The Stephen T. Heard I referred to was son of:
    Barnard Carroll HEARD
    1787 – 1827
    "Major Barnard Heard, 37 yr., d 1-22-1827 at his residence in Elbert County, leaving a widow."
    This appeard in the Augusta Constitutionalist, Augusta, Ga. 2-6-1827.

    I'd also be very inteseted in any clues to a will of Barnard Carroll Heard. Perhaps with these clues it could be determined which of Mammy Kate and Daddy Jacks children passed to Barnard Carroll Heard, son of the Govenor. Did he in turn mention any of the Heard servants in his will? (The Wesley I refer to in 1870 had a mother named Queen per the census.)

    Thanks in advance for any clues you may provide.
    Karen Allman

    1. Karen, I am Linda Heard, and I am married to a Gov. stephen Heard descendant. I would be happy to work with you on your genealogy. I will think thru your history and see if I can help. Elberton, ga is the place that your ancestors info would be found. Actually MAMMY Kate had many descendants and we should be able to find them. I have been interested in tracing her descendants for a long time. Also, I believe that Barnard Carroll heard was not Stephen Heard's son. I have the family bible with Stephen Heard's descendants. I WILL TAKE SOME TIME TO WORK THRU YOUR COMMENTS OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS. and then contact you. I am getting ready for bed and am too tired to think it thru. Jim Rene African American museum may be able to help on Heard descendants of mammie Kate and other Heards. I will contact you by email so we can be more private. Blessings! Linda Heard

    2. I have recently been reseraching the wills of Gov. Heard's children, including Barnard Carroll, and am in the process of creating a post with the names of the slaves included in those wills. Possibly there will be some names in there that could be of help.