Although less known today than William Weatherford, Savannah Jack was considered “one of the bloodiest villains that ever infested any country” during his own time. Yet so much mystery surrounds Jack’s background and legacy that he has become the stuff of legend.
Whatever his lineage, that Savannah Jack was hostile and bent on revenge seems to be universally accepted. Of his many supposed crimes against white settlers, one story reigns supreme. In March 1818, Jack led two attacks that resulted in the deaths of at least ten settlers in what is now Butler County. In the first attack, Jack and his men advanced upon the Ogly (or Ogle) homestead near the Federal Road close to Poplar Springs. William Ogly lived in the house with his wife and six children; visiting them were Eli Stroud, his wife Elizabeth, and their infant child. The Strouds were on their way home to Claiborne and had stopped with the Ogly family for the night.
On the evening of March 13, 1818, Savannah Jack and his band set upon the cabin, killing Ogly outright. Eli Stroud and Ogly’s wife escaped without injury, but everyone else was tomahawked, scalped, and left for dead. Surprisingly, Elizabeth Stroud and two of the Ogly children, Mary Ann and Elizabeth, survived the initial attack. Elizabeth Stroud died en route to Claiborne where she was being taken for medical treatment; she was buried by the side of the road. Mary Ann Ogly died shortly after reaching Claiborne, but her sister Elizabeth survived into adulthood.
After the two massacres, a reward of $1,000 was offered for the capture or destruction of Savannah Jack and his men. No one ever claimed the bounty.
After the two massacres, a reward of $1,000 was offered for the capture or destruction of Savannah Jack and his men. No one ever claimed the bounty, though, for not long after the massacres, Savannah Jack seems to have left Alabama for good. With a price on his head, he may have had no other choice. At least one report had Jack going west to an area known as the Cross Timbers on the Red River. Whether Savannah Jack settled down or continued to wreak havoc is anyone’s guess, but it would not have taken long for westward expansion to catch up with him.
Although the horrors Savannah Jack committed and the body count he left behind come nowhere near the atrocities executed during the massacre at Fort Mims, where reportedly hundreds of settlers died, Jack and others like him instilled fear in settlers coming into what had once been the Creek territory. Still they could not stop the wave of frontiersmen and women who arrived steadily.
Because of his enigmatic background and uncertain fate, Savannah Jack remains a figure shrouded in mystery—a haunting legacy for a man whose actions evoked dread in his own era, and a reminder of the tensions that permeated the Alabama Territory.
This article was originally published in Alabama Heritage Issue #113, Summer 2014.
Mollie Smith Waters is an instructor of the humanities at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College.