1 Reply Latest reply on Dec 11, 2019 3:32 PM by Lisha Penn

    Who is the real Major Downing?

    James Washington Newbie

      My family includes (via his Daughter Jennie Crittenden) a British Colonial Major John(?) Downing, who was married to a Cherokee woman named Hanna Fawling. Her Father was Redman Fawling (sometimes cited as a Chief), and her Mother was Annie Beehunter. Major Downing was in the (Fort) 96 District area of SC, and during a confrontation with the Cherokee was captured, tortured, and burned at the stake about 1763. Or so the family oral history went but in a 'sketchier' form. When I first started to look into my Family Genealogy, I decided to try and find the Major and his story behind the 'stories'. That became very complicated/confused/convoluted and evidently intertwined with another Major Downing while doing on-line research. After this introduction I will include an article that illustrates how murky this has become over the years. What I can give is a simplified list my family line that leads to Major Downing in case it helps. I'll start with the most recent ancestor and work back to the Major. The line starts with James Earl Washington to Lois Williams to James Lewis Williams to Sarah Elizabeth Harnage to Martha 'Patsy' Snow to Lydia Wright to Jennie Crittenden to Major Downing.


      At this point, other than just my Genealogy...I've really began to wonder who he really was. Now, comes the article that was on a website by a Researcher/Genealogist(?) that I felt did a good Job at illustrating the Major Downing confusion. (I am new to History Hub so I hope this doesn't violate any of your rules. I did give credit to the writer and the site.) Any and all help would be appreciated.



      Major Downing Synopsis:


      Fm: www.geni.com

      Managed by:  Pam Wilson

      Updated: March 31, 2018


      About Major Downing (unknown origin)

      Note from Curator: A great deal of misinformation has been gathered and shared over the years about these colonial-era families, including the identity and escapades of "Major Downing," who left his name as legacy throughout the Cherokee tribe. Very little is known about Major Downing, including his first name. The "John B." was borrowed from a man of that name who lived and died in Northumberland County, Virginia and likely never came to Cherokee Territory; however, the identity of his wife (Hannah Fallin) has also become confused with the identity of the Cherokee partner of Major Downing.

      In these cases, it is best to strip back to include only the information that is proven. The most reliable source is Emmet Starr's 1921 History of the Cherokee Indians [https://archive.org/stream/historyofcheroke00lcstar?], but even that has been misquoted. It's best to look for yourself; the book is fully searchable online.

      Previously on the Geni About for Major Downing (with my comments in italics):

      According to the book by Emmet Starr "the History of the Cherokee," Major John B. Downing [Curator: No, Starr did not provide a first name for him; he only called him Major Downing] was said to have been an Officer in the British Army, who supervised the manufacturer of gun powder for the British troops. Major Downing was one of the white settlers who lived amongst the Cherokee Indians in the 1700's. He was said [Need documentation] to have married Hanna (Cherokee) Fawling who was born about 1720 in the Cherokee Nation (East) and she died after 1755. She was the daughter of [Sometimes referenced as Chief] Redman Fawling and Annie Beehunter. Hanna Fawling was a full-blooded Cherokee and was a member of the Wolf Clan (N Fawling).

      Major John B. Downing was the son of then Major John Downing who resided in England, and was born in 1667 and died Feburary, 1717/1718 and Elizabeth Downing born about 1669 in England._______> [Evidence is needed for this]

      Major Downing lived many dangerous adventures while living amongst the Indians. For example in 1752 the Creek Indians attacked the lower Cherokee and plundered three packhorsemen at the Keowee Village, and those were James Welch, Major John Downing and William Bailus. [source would be appreciated] By 1753, many mixed settlers, White and Indian, came down from the Cherokee Nation to live at Fort 96, and among them was Major John Downing and family. On any Cherokee list, East or West, you are likely to find names like Welch, Murphy, Downing and Bushyhead names or descendants close together. Major John Downing partnered with James Welch when they worked for James Beamer in the Lower Towns of the Cherokee Nation. Also, the Downing name was closely related to the infamous Vanns of his day, by intermarriage. And the Crittenden, McCarter, Johnson name descended down from the Downey [Downing?] name. In addition to these things, Major John Downing was the great-great-grandfather of "Principal Chief of the Cherokee's" Lewis Downing.

      Also in 1760 Major Downing and Benard Hughes fled some unfriendly Cherokee's and stayed at John Vann's house on the Board River [? Check name--no river exists by this name] in Georgia . These were the types of events that formed family ties that endured and are still written about.

      There are other events that are written about Major John B. Downing but finally, again written by Emmett Starr [No, this is not found in Starr's book], "Major John B. Downing was captured by the attacking Cherokee's who were not friendly to the British Army at or near Fort 96 in South Carolina, he was tortured, mutilated, and finally burned at the stake. His body completely destroyed by the fire and no burial was recorded.


      (LM ENTRY:) Said to have been burned at the stake by the Cherokee. His wife's name was supposedly "Nannie" although other sources state her name was Hanna Fawling. According to poncy-mclean.net geneology, this John Downing was "the third." It states he was an Ordinance Expert for the British Army. It also lists his parents and grandparents, which I have incorporated in this history. I have (to date) no other source for confirmation or denial of this lineage but have faith that it is correct.

      In Emmet Starr's "History of the Cherokee Indians," 1921, reprint 2009, p.335 starts the Downing Family as one of the "Old Families." This is the Major Downing that starts the Downing Family in Starr's book. It says that Maj Downing had four children: George, John, William, and Nannie. It does not list a husband for Nannie but her children are listed as Petit and Crittenden so it is assumed she married at least twice [note: later evidence points to Nannie/Nancy as having married 3 times to: 1) Joshua Petit, 2) Charles Crittenden, and 3) Alexander McSwain.] It has John Downing with Jennie and Nannie listed as wives. George and WIlliam do not have wives listed, however, grandchildren to George are listed. The most curious thing is that William is totally skipped in Starr's "History..." I believe I have "found" him going "backwards" up one side of the family tree in which he is married to Alice.

      On the website "familytreemaker.com" in the "Descendants of John Downing, Major," section, it states that Maj Downing had four children: George, John, William, and Nannie (Fawling). "Nannie" was a very common name (and was also used as a nickname for "grandmother") so the records can get confused as to which Nannie is which. I believe that the "Nannie (Fawling)" on this site is actually the sister to George, John, William as I have found evidence (as listed above) to this Nannie having been married 3 times, none to a Fawling.

      Things get curious-er in that according to poncy-mclean.net, contribution by Christine Walters, Hannah Fawling may have been ONE of Major John Downing, III's, wives. According to Christine, John's "other" wife was Annie Beehunter who was the full-blooded Cherokee of the Wolf Clan who probably started the Cherokee lineage. Hannah Fawling (Fallin) is supposed to have only roots going back to a very old Virginia family, starting with Charles Fallin from Northumbridge, Virginia, around 1650, and no Cherokee roots whatsoever. [Note: according to other sources, Annie Beehunter is Hannah Fawling's mother.]

      In studying Christine Walter's geneology (rootweb.ancestry.com, Thomas Kesterton Family) about HER Hannah Fallin (born 1720) and Hannah's marriage in 1737 to a John Downing (b.1710), I found that her John Downing's parents were John and Elizabeth but that the father died in 1689, 21 years BEFORE her John Downing was born. I also discovered that her John's grandfather's name was William whereas the grandfather of the John Downing here was also a John Downing. She then lists Hannah and John Downing's children as: Charles (b.1738), Elizabeth (b.1740), Hannah (b.1742), Nancy (b. 1743/2), Edward (b. 1750), Sarah (B. 1753) and John (b. after 1754.) Since the John Downing/Nannie couple in Starr's history had their four children in years 1739, 1742 (a second son named John???), 1736, and 1744, then EITHER this John Downing had two wives at the same time OR they are NOT the same John Downings. My vote is that they are not the same couple.


      Indian Trader to the Cherokees. According to the book by Emmett Starr "the History of the Cherokee" Major John B. Downing was said to have been an Officer in the British Army, who supervised the manufacture of gun powder for the British troops. He was said to have married a Cherokee woman, Hanna Fawling, who was born about 1720 in the Cherokee Nation (East).

      More than one John Downing, III seems to have lived around the same time and to make matters more confusing, they each seem to have married a person (again, probably two separate individuals) named Hannah Fallin/Fawling and had children that included a daughter named Nancy. One John Downing lived and died in Northumberland County, Virginia. The other John Downing (Major) was said to be a former British army officer who became an Indian trader to the Cherokees. He is said to have been captured, tortured and killed near Fort 96 in 1762 (See James Hicks, Cherokee Lineages) http://www.genealogy.com/ftm/h/i/c/James-R-Hicks-VA/BOOK-0001/0010-0001.html.

      The other John Downing died in 1793. See John Downing of Fairfields, Northumberland County, Virginia, and His Descendants O. A. Keach The William and Mary Quarterly Vol. 25, No. 1 (Jul., 1916), pp. 41-51 https://www.jstor.org/stable/1915103?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents