The Durant family represents an important link between a large number of modern Alabamans and Mississippians of mixed blood heritage and its line can easily be traced into several prominent pre-Civil War southern families (see Charts 7, 8 and 9). One such example is the Linder family of south Alabama. Their history stretches back across the Atlantic to Switzerland and touches the mixed bloods when John Linder, V, married Sophie Durant, another daughter of Ben Durant and Sophie McGillivray, and lived near the mixed-blood communities along the Alabama River above Mobile. 1 The Durants are more amply documented than many mixed-blood families and have a large number on the Halbert Roll. Their lineage has also been addressed in detail by Cushman and the Alabama chronicler, Thomas S. Woodward. 2 There are two distinct lines of Durants, one Creek and one Choctaw.
One of the earliest Durants in Creek country, according to Woodward, was:
“Ben or Peter Durant — he was called by both names — who was a South Carolinian of French origin. He came to the Nation and married Sophia McGillivray, sister of Alexander. They raised three sons, Laughlin, John and Sandy. Laughlin married a Miss Hall, who was born and raised at or near the Cow-ford St. Johns River, East Florida, where Jacksonville is now. John and Sandy went off with Peter McQueen to Florida. After the old Creek War, Sandy died at Tampa Bay; John went to the Island of New Providence. Laughlin Durant raised several children. His daughter, Sarah, brought up pretty much by Davy White in Mobile, married Sam Adams, who once run a line of stages from Vera Cruz to the city of Mexico, and afterwards run a line through the Creek Nation….” 3
Key to Chart
Probable = P, Countryman = C, Yes = Y, Trader = T,
Married = md, Mixed Blood = mb
Durant List of Mixed Bloods
|Durant, Benjamin A.||Wash. Co||P|
|Durant, Betsy||Creek Nation||Y||md Pete McQueen|
|Durant, Bissant||Y||son of Fisher|
|Durant, Capt.||Opooktah Creek||P||11 in family|
|Durant, Charles||Big Black||Y||6 in family|
|Durant, Dixon||Y||son of Fisher|
|Durant, Ellis||Y||son of Pierre|
|Durant, Fisher||Y||son of Pierre|
|Durant, Fisher||Big Black||P|
|Durant, George||Y||son of Pierre|
|Durant, Isham||Y||son of Pierre|
|Durant, Jefferson||Y||son of Pierre|
|Durant, Jesse||Y||son of Fisher|
|Durant, John||Creek Nation||Y|
|Durant, Joseph||Y||son of Pierre|
|Durant, Lachlan||Creek Nation||Y|
|Durant, Lewis||Big Black R.||Y||2 mb chil.|
|Durant, Louis||C||md Choc/3sons|
|Durant, Lua||Long Creek||P||3 in family|
|Durant, Margaret||Y||dtr of John|
|Durant, Pier||Big Black R.||P||6 mb chil.|
|Durant, Pierre||Y||son of Louis|
|Durant, Ranson||Yockanookana||P||4 in family|
|Durant, Rasease||Big Black R.||P||2 mb chit.|
|Durant, Sandy||Creek Nation||Y|
|Durant, Syllan||Y||dtr of John|
|Durant, Sylvester||Y||son of Pierre|
|Durant, Twiny||Bulockchaksha||P||2 in family|
Durant Genealogy Chart: Choctaw Branch, Chart 8
Durant Genealogy Chart: Choctaw Branch, Chart 9
Woodward goes on to discuss an important mixed-blood line of the Durant family:
“The daughters of Ben Durant were Rachael, who married Billy McGirth, a son of Daniel McGirth, of revolutionary memory; they raised one son named Billy. After McGirth’s death, she married Davy Walker, and raised two sons, Davy and Ben; after Walker died, she married a man by the name of Bershins [Brashears], and was living among the Choctaws the last I knew of her. Polly the second daughter, married a full blooded Tallassee, named Cochirny, and lived like all other Indians. Sophia married a Dr. Macomes; Betsy married Peter McQueen…. 4
Benjamin Durant, who has been identified by historians as descending from French Huguenots, came from South Carolina and settled on the Alabama River as early as 1786. Benjamin Durant’s family was one of those “connected families of mixed blood, talented, wealthy, [and] influential….. 5
In discussing a Durant relative, Dixon Daily who fought and died at Ft. Mimms, Halbert and Ball state that “His wife was a white woman from South Carolina,” 6 but explain in a note:
“But [an]other, and quite as reliable authority, gives as the wife of Dixon Bailey a daughter of Mrs. Sophia Durant, thus making a connection with the McGillivray family. These families seem to be able to trace a line back by various marriages, to the Princess Sehoy: McGillivray, Tate or Tait, Cornells, Bailey, Moniac or McNae, Weatherford, Durant, Turnstul, all wealthy and influential; in whose veins mingled Indian French, British, and American blood.” 7
The Alabama historian Albert Pickett elaborated on Ben Durant’s wife:
“Sophia Durant had an air of authority about her, equal, if not superior, to that of her brother, Alexander. She was much better acquainted with the Indian tongue, for he had long lived out of the Nation. When, therefore, he held councils in the vicinity of her residence, she was accustomed to deliver his sentiments in a set speech, to which the Chiefs listened with delight. Her husband became a wealthy man, and ‘Durant’s Bend’ and other places upon the Alabama, still preserve his memory. In the Summer of 1790, while McGillivray was at New York, the Creeks threatened to descend upon the Tensaw settlers and put the whole of them to death. Mrs. Durant mounted a horse, with a Negro woman upon another, and set out from Little River, camped out at night, and, on the fourth day, arrived at the Hickory Ground, where she assembled the Chiefs, threatened them with the vengeance of her brother upon his return, which caused the arrest of the ringleaders, and put a complete stop to their murderous intentions. Two weeks afterwards, this energetic and gifted woman was delivered of twins, at the Hickory Ground . One of them married James Bailey, who was killed at the fall of Fort Mims, in 1813, and the other lived to be an old woman.” 8
The noted Mississippi historian J. F. H. Claiborne related that Sophia Durant was captured by the Red Sticks and only barely rescued from execution along with ten other “half-breeds, friendly to the whites.” 9 The degree of kinship between Sophia Durant’s daughter, Rachael, and the Choctaw Durants is unknown, but she obviously did move into Choctaw country with her husband, Samuel Brashears, who was well connected with that tribe. In discussing the Choctaw line Cushman states:
“Louis Durant, a Canadian Frenchman, was the progenitor of the Durant family among the Choctaws, who came… to the Choctaw Nation with the two brothers, Louis and Michael Leflore, about the year 1770. He, like his friends and contemporaries, the two LeFlore brothers, also selected a wife among the Choctaw forest flowers, but whose name has been lost amid the vicissitudes through which her people have passed. They had three sons, Pierre, Charles, and Lewis; and two daughters, Margaret and Syllan. The Father and three sons served under their renowned chief, Pushamataha, as allies of the Americans in the Creek War of 1812.” 10
Cushman relates some of the Durant genealogy:
“Pierre had seven sons viz: Fisher, George, Jefferson, Sylvester, Isham, Ellis and Joseph. Ellis
and Sylvester served in the Confederate army during the Civil War….”
“Margaret Durant married a man by the name of Eli Crowder; and Syllan, a William Taylor. The two husbands were with their father-in-law and their three brothers-in-law in the Creek war of 1812 as allies of the Americans.” 11
Many Durants removed west of the Mississippi and remained leaders in the tribe for a very long period. 12
The extensive Durant family history again demonstrates a high degree of mixed bloods intermarrying within their group, but also shows marriages into white society as well. The family had roots in both the Creek and Choctaw tribes and was also related to both tribes through marriage with the Brashears family.
- Linder Genealogy, Lackey collection, University of Southern Mississippi (hereafter USM); Peter J. Hamilton, Colonial Mobile, ed., Charles G. Summershell (1910, reprint, Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1976) 426.
- Thomas S. Woodward was an early Alabama frontiersman who participated in many actions against the Creek and Seminole Indians and was well acquainted with the principal characters of whom he wrote.
- Woodward, Reminisinces, 113.
- Woodward, Reminisinces, 110-114.
- Lachau Durant heard Tecumseh’s inflammatory speech at Tookabatcha; Halbert and Ball The Creek War of 1813 and 1814, 27-8.
- Halbert and Ball Creek War, 164.
- Halbert and Ball, Creek War, n164-5.
- Pickett, History of Alabama, 419. Dixon and James Bailey were brothers. Dixon was killed at Fort Mimms and James went on as a militia Lieutenant defend the Tensaw district against the Red Stick uprising. This fact indicates that Pickett has confused the two brothers. Probably the correct husband was Dixon.
- Claiborne, Mississippi, 330.
- Cushman, History, 349.
- Angie Debo, The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972) 131.