The Historic Blue Grass Line
A Review Of The History Of Davidson
And Sumner Counties,
Sketches of Places and Events
the Route Of The
GALLATIN INTERURBAN RAILWAY
By James Douglas Anderson
Originally Published by the NASHVILLE-GALLATIN INTERURBAN RAILWAY,
Nashville, Tennessee. 1913
III. INCIDENTS BY THE WAY.
The Public Square in the Robertson Period.
Timothy Demonbreun and his Lick Creek Trading Post. - From the Square entrance to the bridge may be seen the spot east of the baseball park and north of the railroad bridge, where Lick "Creek" of Timothy Demonbreun's day joined the Cumberland. On the north side of this creek, about half way between the river and the Sulphur Spring, Demonbreun and his several assistants had a fort or trading post, on a mound which had been used of the same purpose as early as 1710 by an old Frenchman, name unknown and his young assistant, Charles Charleville, who succeeded him in business. No trace of this mound is now to be found. While buying furs here in this neutral hunting ground of the Indians, Demonbreun lived in a cave in the (south) river bank near the present city pumping station, and here a child was born to him - William Demonbreun, later of Williamson County. Demonbreun was here as early as 1775 (Note - Judge Guild says 1760), was here when the first settlement was formed in 1780 and remained here until his death in 1826, at the age of 96 years.
Robertson Party Crosses on Ice at Mouth of Lick Creek. - At the mouth of Lick Creek Robertson and his party of men, Rains and his party of men, women and children, interspersed with horses, dogs and cattle - a motly group indeed - crossed on the ice near Christmas, 1779, passed the site of their first crop of corn grown the previous season and ended their journey near the square.
At the Mouth of Lick Creek Donelson and the remaining members- about 125 or 130 - of his original party of 50 men and 130 women and children, anchored their 35 or more boats on April 24, 1780, while all the nearby settlers that were then around the bluff rushed down to greet them and claim their own. Miss Rachel Donelson was among the passengers who disembarked from her father's "good boat, Adventure," after a four months' voyage, which James R. Gilmore says: "has no parallel in history."
Among many other fatalities, twenty-eight of the party, in one boat, were cut off from their companions below Chattanooga. Their dying screams were plainly heard by those in advance, but assistance was impossible. All were either killed or taken captive.
The Fort at Nashborough - South of the square the fort and stockade were erected so as to include within their limits (Note - Putnam) a spring that gushed from the river bluff below the present intersection of Third Avenue (College Street) and Church (then Spring) Street. (Note - Morton B. Howell.) Haywood says: That the settlers built cabins in lines and stockaded the intervals; two lines were parallel to each other, and so were the other two lines, the whole forming a square within."
"This place of defense," say Putnam, "like all the forts erected at other stations, was a log building two stories high, with port holes and lookout station; other log houses were near it and the whole were enclosed with palisades or pickets, firmly set in the earth, having upper ends sharpened. There was one large entrance or gateway with a lookout station thereon for the guard. The top of the fort afforded an elevated view of the country around," though this view to the South was obstructed by a dense growth of privet bushes.
By common consent, Ft. Nashborough was selected as the capitol of the settlement. Here the "notables" made and signed their compact of government, in May, 1780.
Here, in the summer of 1780, was performed the (first) marriage ceremony, uniting Capt. James Leiper and Miss Susan Drake. In defense of this fort, on April 2, 1781, Capt. Leiper was killed by Indians. At a critical juncture in the fight Mrs. James Robertson turned the dogs out of the stockade. By diverting the attention of the Indians, the dogs enabled the whites to get back to the fort from which they had been cut off by Indian strategy.
The Council of 1782 was held at Fort Nashborough.
Commissioners and Guards. - And here in 1783 the three Commissioners with their 100 guards - stopped on their way to survey lands for ex-soldiers, and pre-emptor.
Court House, Jail and Stocks. - How long this fort stood is not known, but its governmental importance passed away with the completion of the court house, jail and stocks, which the Inferior Court of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions, October term, 1783, ordered erected on the four acre tract later reserved for public buildings by the Act of 1784, creating Nashville. It was provided that the houses "be built at the public expense, of hewed logs. The court house to be eighteen feet square, with a lean-to (or shed) of twelve feet on one side of the house, with benches, bar, and table, for the use of the court. The prison to be of square hewed logs, a foot square: both with loft floor, except the same shall be built on a rock."
In 1792 it was ord'd by the Court that David Hays repair the court house by making two doors, well fixed and hung, with three window shutters, well hung, and the house well chinked.
Andrew Jackson Sworn In. - In this dingy hut Andrew Jackson was sworn in as attorney at law on January 12, 1789.
Chickasaws Entertained. - In 1795 the 100 friendly Chickasaws, who came uninvited and undesired, to visit Gen. Robertson, were entertained here with a "grand dinner party," given by the citizens playing a diplomatic "make-believe." On the Sunday of their stay there were two sermons in the court house, one by Rev. Thomas Craighead and one by a Methodist circuit rider, name unknown. The congregation more than filled the edifice and the "lean-to."
First Church. - Besides this court house in 1796 the Methodist built the first church erected in Nashville.
Improvements. - In the same year the court house, jail and stocks were improved by the construction of posts and horse racks. A rail fence near by was used for stocks before the stocks were built.
New Court House. - On October 15, 1802, the Davidson County Court "adjourns for five minutes to meet in the new court house."
(Note - Minutes 1799-1804, page 367.) Three French Exiles. - Going back three years, an event in May, 1797, of passing interest to the crowd under the "lean-to," if not to gentlemen sobering in the stocks, was the visit of three young exiled sons of the Duke of Orleans, one of who was later known as Louis Philippe, King of France. They "put up" at a tavern situated on the north side of square, and on the second lot east of Market street. They met Gen. Robertson and other men of note, among the number being the highly elated Timothy Demonbreun, a veteran of the Plains of Abraham. After seeing the court house, the future king and his brothers left on a well provisioned flat boat for other shores.
Thomas Bailey, later President of the Royal Astronomical Society of England, in making a horseback journey from New Orleans to New York, spent the night of July 31, 1797, at the "Maj. Lewis" tavern (referred to above), which he says was the principal tavern of the three or four then here. "There we met with good fare," writes Bailey, "but poor accommodations for lodgings; three or four beds of the roughest construction in one room, which was open at all hours of the night for the reception of any rude rabble that had a mind to put up at the house."
Talbot's Tavern. - It seems that the "Maj. Lewis" tavern came under the ownership or management of Clayton Talbot in 1797 or 1798, for the minutes of the Board of Trustees of Davidson Academy show that the Board met at Talbot's tavern December 24, 1798.
The Public Square in the Jackson Period.
In 1804 Andrew Jackson resigned his position as Supreme Judge, which he had filled for six years; held on to his commission as Major-General of the State Militia, voted him two years previous; built a two-story, three-room log house (to which one ground room was later added), named it "The Hermitage," and made it his home till a more commodious structure was erected in 1819.
Jackson was 37 years old when he resigned from the bench, and during the nine years previous to becoming Judge at 31, he had served as District Attorney, member of the Constitutional Convention, Congressman, and United States Senator. None of these offices then out-ranked that of Major-General in popular esteem.
In addition to his political and military distinction he occupied the high and exalted position of a country gentleman of ample means, fond of a horse race and not averse to a cock fight. His personality was attractive, his courage known. The combination of likable qualities in the man and his fortunate circumstances and environments always drew around him at his home, at the race track, in town, a crown of congenial spirits.
Subsequently, his military successes made Nashville the war center of the great Southwest and his political career made it the Democratic headquarters of the United States. Distinguished men came from afar to drink at the fountain of his wisdom, and lay plans to continue his dynasty. But the autocracy of his Democracy contributed greatly to the birth and life of the Whig party, and Nashville, the home of Jackson, became the storm center of the opposition to him. Men who had paid due homage to the hero of Horseshoe Bend and of New Orleans, resented party rule with drawn sword.
And this is how it came about that the men and events of half a century, long since gone, cast sunlight and shadow on the Public Square, and invested the Nashville Inn, City Hotel and Court House with a panorama of historic associations.
The Genesis of the Nashville Inn. - The "Major Lewis" tavern of 1797 had been built for a private residence by either William T. Lewis or his son-in-law, Wm. B. Lewis.
In 1797 or 1798, as stated, it came under the management of Clayton Talbot, and was known as Talbot's Tavern for many years.
In 1825 it was called the Jackson Hotel with William Brooks, proprietor. William's rates throw a flash on the cost of living in the city in that day. "Board and lodging, $12.50 per month; Board without lodging, $12; Single meal, 37 and 1/2 c; Lodging, 12 and 1/2; Man and horse per day, $1.50; horse per week, $2.00."
Between 1825 and 1832 this old tavern passed into the Nashville Inn of a new generation and as such it continued to the end.
The wings at either side, as shown in the picture, were doubtless added to accommodate the stage lines and incidentally draw trade to the Inn. In 1830, and possibly before, stages of twenty-four different lines were dashing across the square toward the Inn at all hours of the day and night from all sections of Tennessee, direct connection being had, even with Warm Springs, N.C., Shawneetown, Ill., and various points in Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky; and almost as often, buses were arriving with passengers from the many boats that plied the waters of the Cumberland, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. They were great days in the hotel life of Nashville.
Jackson's early and long continued preference for Talbot's and its successors made this tavern a popular gathering place and later Democratic headquarters. "After his return from the battle of New Orleans," says Col. A. W. Johnson, who was here at that period, "Jackson frequently spent weeks at the Inn, always surrounded by a cotorie of his friends. . . . . It was nothing to see the crowd gather in the vacant lot and witness a cock fight, or even a set-to between some of the lookers-on."
(Note - Interview in the Nashville American, June 26, 1887.)
The City Hotel. - The Inn being Democratic headquarters, the Whigs at a later day selected as their rallying place the new and enlarged City Hotel, built on the same site occupied by the first City Hotel, which had been built on the same site occupied by the first City Hotel, which had been built prior to 1813. This site was on the sat side of the square, north of and adjoining the narrow alley which runs about half way the block.
An enumeration of military or political events around the square, court house and these tow hotels, together with other incidents that reflect the manners and customs of the times, are here noted in chronological order.
Aaron Burr. - A dinner - most likely at Talbot's Tavern - was given in honor of Aaron Burr, who first arrived in Nashville May 29, 1805. Gen. Jackson, who had known Burr at the National Capitol, rode in with a servant leading milk white horse which Burr rode 12 miles to the Hermitage after the dinner - a remarkable after dinner "effort." At this banquet Jackson responded to the toast: "Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute." Burr left on June 3, in a boar provided by Jackson. He returned August 8, and was here eight days.
"Col. Aaron Burr, the steady and firm friend of Tennessee, arrived at this place on Friday, 28, ult," says the Impartial Review of October 31, 1806, "and on the next day a dinner was given him at Talbot's hotel at which were convened many of the most respectable citizens of Nashville and its vicinity. There appeared an union of sentiment on this occasion. Many appropriate toasts were drank, and a few of the most suitable songs given, when the company retired quite gratified."
While here on one of these visits, Burr appeared in court in a prominent divorce suit. His client was Mrs. Yates, a daughter of Dr. Henning, a prominent man of that day.
Burr went away, but appeared again at the Hermitage about December 17. Jackson was absent and he saw from Mrs. Jackson's manner that he would not be a welcome guest. He went to the Clover Bottom Tavern, where John Coffee was building him some boats. Jackson and Overton called on him there and informed him of their suspicions. Burr protested his innocence.
On December 22, Burr, en route to New Orleans, passed by the square with "two long flat boats which did not appear to be loaded."
(Note - Impartial Review, December 27, 1806.)
In a few days the President's proclamation reached Nashville denouncing Burr as a traitor. On December 27th, Burr was burned in effigy as a traitor on the Public Square. Later Jackson became convinced of Burr's innocence and went all the way to Richmond to help him in his trial.
A Cotton Combine. - At Talbot's Tavern a dozen or two Nashville merchants, whose names are known, met on October 12, 1807, and fixed the price of cotton at "$12 loose and $14 baled," perhaps the first trust or combine in this section. On account of the lack of transportation facilities and the small quantity grown by the respective planters, all were at the mercy of the combine. One protest, if not more, found its way into print.
The Famous Ride of Bill Phillips - On the same day that war was declared with England, June 12, 1812, Bill Phillips, a Government express rider, who, as one of Gen. Jackson's jockeys had ridden Truxton in his greatest race, left Washington on horseback, via Salisbury, North Carolina, for Knoxville, with a message to Gov. Blount. The Governor being in Nashville, Bill continued his journey and on June 21, just before sundown, after traveling 860 miles - ninety-five miles every twenty-four hours - dashed into the Public Square, announcing the news as he went along. This was Bill's old home and he took a night off.
The next day he continued his journey to New Orleans and was never heard of by this generation, brought up on "Paul Revere," till a Northern writer (Note - See Buell's Life of Jackson), rescued his ride from oblivion.
War Preparations in 1812-13. - on December 10, 1812, when the Cumberland River was frozen, 2,000 young Tennesseans, in response to an address by Gen. Jackson and a call by Gov. Willie Blount, appeared in Nashville, a town of about 1200 or 1500 population, to be mustered into service against the British. The recruits had to make the best of it in camps with great fires from wood provided by Wm. B. Lewis. For a month the Public Square was dressed in the habiliments of war. William Carroll, Tom Benton, John Coffee, William Hall, and many others later known to fame, doubtless met about the wood fires in the Court House,. Talbot's Tavern and City Hotel and discussed their prospective journey to New Orleans, which was to begin January 7. Coffee left with the cavalry by land, and Jackson with the infantry by boats.
For reasons well known they all came back from Natchez to Nashville.
Troops Dismissed. - On May 22, 1813, the last volunteers were drawn up on the Public Square and dismissed. This was Jackson's first experience as an officer in command of troops.
Jackson-Benton Fight. - In the spring or summer of 1813, Jesse Benton and William Carroll got into a personal difficulty on Market Street, just south of the Square. This trouble led to a laughable duel fought north of old Freeland's station, then David McGavock's home. Circumstances forced Jackson to act as Carroll's second, though he had at first declined because of disparity on ages and because of his friendly relations with Thomas H. Benton, Jesse's elder brother. When Tom Benton, then in Washington, heard of Jackson's part in this affair, he was very, very wroth and swore what he would do to Jackson. Jackson, forbearing at first, finally became enraged, and swore what he would do to Benton. Neither party swore in secret. So, after Tom Benton's arrival from Washington, when the populace saw Jackson and Coffee ride up Market Street, and across the Square to Talbot's, late in the afternoon of September 3, they knew what to expect.
The next morning about 9 o'clock, Jackson and Coffee cut across the Square, from Talbot's to the Postoffice, south of the alley on the east side of the Square.
"I can remember distinctly how Jackson looked as he strode across the Square," says Col. A. W. Johnson. "The General wore a small sword and, as was his custom, carried his riding whip in his hand. As they, Jackson and Coffee, passed in front of the City Hotel, Benton was observed standing in the front door looking at them."
After getting his mail, Jackson read his letters and then started north down the sidewalk by the City Hotel. "Jesse Benton, who was just recovering from his wound, was observed near his brother," says Col. Johnson, "and those around the hotel knew a crisis was at hand."
When in front of Col. Benton, Jackson turned and raising his whip, said - with more emphasis than here indicated: "Now, you rascal, I am going to punish you; defend yourself." Benton tried to get his pistol, but Jackson got his out first, and pointing it at Benton's heart, backed him to the rear of the house. Jesse Benton rushed in, and seeing his brother's predicament, raised his pistol, loaded with a slug and two bullets, and put Jackson out of the fight with a shattered shoulder and broken arm. Then Coffee rushed in, and seeing Jackson lying prostrate at Thomas Benton's feet, fired at Tom Benton, missed him, and then attacked him with the butt end of his pistol. Benton stepped into an open stairway and fell to the piazza below and lay there.
In the meantime, Jesse Benton and Stockley Hays, a nephew of Mrs. Jackson, engaged in a hand to hand contest with sword and dirk, and just as Hays, after a long struggle, had freed his hand from the vice-like grip of Benton and had raised his arm to bury his dirk in Benton's heart, a by-stander caught the upraised arm, other rushed in and the fight was over.
Jackson was carried to The Inn. Two mattresses were saturated with his blood, the flow of which, all the doctors in town could not stop with their up-to-date slippery elm poultices. He was so exhausted from loss of blood each gasp, it seemed, would be his last.
Twenty years later, when Tom Benton was leading the fight for Jackson in the United States Senate, Jackson called a surgeon and had Jesse Benton's slug "expunged from the record."
A Message From the South. - On September 18, 1813, another overland express message threw the Public Square into consternation. This message was from Gov. Claiborne, was brought by two horsemen, and told of the massacre of Ft. Mims on August 30. A public meeting, and address by Rev. Thomas Craighead, a legislative appropriation, a gathering of troops - and Jackson had to be lifted into his saddle when he left the Hermitage for Fayetteville.
Jackson Returns From the Creek Campaign. - According to the Nashville Whig of May 16, 1814, Gen. Jackson arrived home from the Creek war "on Monday evening last." Four miles from town several hundred citizens met him, escorted him to the court house, where Felix Grundy delivered and address of welcome. For some reason not explained by history or tradition Jackson was not taken to Talbot's for his banquet, but to Bell's Tavern, west of the Market Street on the north side of the Square. Thomas Childress was proprietor of Bell's about this time.
Jackson Returns From New Orleans. - "A banquet and reception was given at 'Clayton Talbot's Inn' on Friday evening, May 22, 1815, to celebrate the return of Gen. Andrew Jackson to Tennessee." And a great return it was. Citizens and students from Cumberland College went out to meet him and escort him into town. In welcoming the hero at the court house, Felix Grundy delivered one of his greatest speeches. At the banquet at Talbot's Gov. Willie Blount presided and, at an opportune moment, arose and presented Gen. Jackson with a sword voted by the Legislature of Mississippi for his services in the Creek war. Hundreds were in the hotel and witnessed the presentation.
Jackson Returns From Florida. - On Gen. Jackson's return from the Seminole war, April 6, 1819, a large assemblage of citizens met him several miles from town and escorted him to the Public Square, where John Overton delivered as address of welcome and Gen. Jackson a response. The feature of the reception was a dinner at Talbot's Hotel, at which 22 toasts were drunk. Among the guests were John Haywood and Thomas Emmerson, of the Supreme Bench. Ephraim H. Foster acted as President and John Somerville as Vice-President of the banquet.
James Monroe and Edmund P. Gaines. - President James Monroe and Edmund P. Gaines, a Tennessean, of Ft. Erie fame were in Nashville in June, 1819, visiting Gen, Jackson a the Hermitage, and on the 9th were escorted to town with much pomp and ceremony, to partake of a 4 o'clock dinner at Talbot's. One hundred guests were present. Major Ephraim H. Foster presided. Jackson and Gaines divided honors with Monroe in the toasts and speech making. The next night a ball was given at Talbot's in honor of the President.
A Scene in the Seat of Justice. - Young Jo C. Guild "bulged" into Nashville in the spring of 1821, to read law with somebody, sauntered into the court house to pick up a little legal knowledge, in passing, and was just in time to see Ephraim H. Foster, in an effort to clinch an argument, throw a book at the Judge, Robert Weakly, who, in turn, drew his "arms," left the bench and was confronted with the drawn pistol of Foster. Bystanders also drew their "arms," including ammunition, and made ready for the game, but peace was soon restored.
Reception to LaFayette. - About May 1, 1825, more than 20,000 visitors were encamped about Nashville - which then had a population of 4,000 - all waiting for the arrival of Marquis de LaFayette. When LaFayette got here on the 4th, the river banks were lined with people to greet him. Cannons were brought into play and every conceivable form of demonstration was adopted to express the pleasure of the populace. After getting off his boat near the residence of William B. Lewis, addresses were made by Gen. Jackson, Gov. Carroll and others. Amid flying flags and beneath triumphal arches LaFayette was escorted up Market Street by a great military and civic procession to the Square, where the river crowd had already gathered and filled this open area, except the space reserved by the militia for the arrival of the procession. All the windows and tops of houses were filled with people. LaFayette rode with Gen. Jackson, Gov. Carroll and Dr. Philip Lindsley, in an open carriage drawn by six blooded grays. Thirteen young ladies in the procession represented the thirteen colonies, whose independence LaFayette had helped to achieve. Stopping in an open area, Maj. Robt. B. Currey welcomed LaFayette in behalf of Nashville. After visiting the Female Academy, the reception committee returned with LaFayette to the Square in front of the Inn, where the militia formed two open columns. Between these lines Jackson escorted LaFayette, who shook hands with the citizens and soldiers.
The reception was continued at Talbot's. At 4 P.M. a dinner was given in laFayette's honor. Gen. Jackson presided and Geo. W. Campbell, Henry M. Rutledge, John Somerville, and Felix Grundy acted as Vice-Presidents. The toasts that were drunk are yet preserved in the papers of that time. Timothy Demonbreun, aged 95, dressed in knee breeches with buckles, and with a head filled with sound teeth, attended this banquet. In his honor Col. Hynes proposed and all drank this toast: "Timothy Demonbreun, the patriarch of Tennessee, our fellow citizen who is now present and the first white man that settled in the country."
Justice Without Mercy. - On May 25, 1825, John A Murrell, tried here on a charge of venue, was convicted of stealing a horse from a Williamson County widow. The verdict and judgment was that Murrell should serve twelve months imprisonment; be given thirty lashes on his bare back at the public whipping post; that he should sit two hours in the pillory on each of three successive days; be branded on the left thumb with the letters "H.T.," in the presence of the Court, and be rendered infamous.
The branding was not only done in the presence of the court - Judge Wm. E. Kennedy - but in the presence of a crowded courtroom. Murrell, in custody of Sheriff Joseph W. Horton, appeared handsomely dressed, and was by far the most unconcerned man there.
(Note - C. W. Nance, an eye witness, in Nashville Banner, many years ago.)
At the direction of the Sheriff Murrell placed his hand on the railing around the Judge's bench. With a piece of rope Horton then bound Murrell's hand to the railing. A Negro brought a tinner's stove and placed it beside the Sheriff. Horton took from the stove the branding iron, glanced at it, found it red hot, and put it on Murrell's thumb. "The skin fried like meat." Horton held the iron on Murrell's hand until the smoke rose two feet. Then the iron was removed. Murrell stood the ordeal without flinching. When his hand was released he calmly tied a handkerchief around it and went back to the jail, south of the Square. Here he was to receive the lashes and go into the pillory. But the whipping was too much for his powers of endurance. Several times in compliance with Murrell's request, Sheriff Horton held his whip to give Murrell time to get his breath and collect his nerve for the blood-fetching lashes to follow. If Sheriff Horton ever rode through West Tennessee or Mississippi after that, history fails to record it.
Houston-White Duel. - Sam Houston came to Nashville in 1818, after distinguishing himself in the Creek campaign. In 1826, while a member of Congress, he preferred charges against Postmaster Irwin, who very promptly made known his intentions with respect to Mr. Houston when that gentleman should return to Nashville. About the time Houston got here from Washington a mighty bad man, named John T. Smith, came in "from Missouri."
Smith was a noted duelist, had slain seven men in a single handed combat and had well earned the title of "Colonel."
It became generally known that Smith, as Irwin's second, would take to Col. McGregor, Houston's second, a challenge, and that its acceptance would be declined because Smith was seen walking in the direction of the Inn, where Houston was stopping, friends of both parties rushed to the Inn. Among the number were Maj. Philip Campbell, of Creek war fame, and ten or fifteen other friends of Houston, just as loyal and well-armed. Upon McGregor's declining to receive the challenge, Smith walked away.
Inside the Inn Gen. Wm. White, of White's Creek, remarked in Houston's presence that he did not think Smith had been treated with proper courtesy.
"If you have any grievances," said Houston, " I will give you any satisfaction you may demand." Next day wagging tongues spread the news that Houston had made White back down. White then challenged Houston. Accepted. Robert C. Foster swore out warrants for the arrest of both belligerents. Before Sheriff Joseph W. Horton got to Houston, he had left via the Hermitage for the plantation of "Jimmy Dry" Saunders, near the present site of Hendersonville.
The duel was fought a day or two later beneath a blood red Kentucky sunrise. That evening a large crowd - including Gen. Jackson, Houston's admirer - assembled at the Inn to get tidings of the gladsome affair.
A bridge had recently been erected across the Cumberland at the northeast corner of the square; standing in front of the Inn and looking along the bridge, the evening of the duel, the expectant throng saw an ardent Houston man running toward them at full speed. They soon learned that Houston was safe and were told that White was "mortally" wounded. (Note - White got well.) There was great rejoicing among the Jacksonians at the Inn over Houston's victory.
A Shift in the Scenes. - Three years later, April 16, 1829, in a room at that same Inn, sat Houston, vanquished without a foe. Over the protest of his friends Dr. John Shelby and Willoughby Williams, he was writing his resignation as Governor, which Williams later delivered to the Secretary of State. The next morning (Note - According to Williams. The True Whig of April 28, 1829, places his departure on the "Red Rover," a week later), he disguised himself, and, accompanied by Shelby and Williams, went from the Inn to the steamboat and left to join the Indian friend of his boyhood, then residing in the Cherokee nation. Some time after this (Note - Mr. Williams does not give the date), Houston returned to Nashville. Dressed in the full garb of a Cherokee, and accompanying a delegation of that tribe to Washington, he passed through the capital of the State, concealing his identity from men whose plaudits he had often sought and who had honored him to their fullest power.
Room for the Supreme Court. - When the "new" market house was built in 1829, the principal room in it was reserved for the use of the Supreme Court.
Legislature, Federal Court and Court House. - In 1834, when Nashville had a population of 5,566, of which 1,108 were slaves and 204 free Negroes, the court house built in 1802 was described in the Tennessee Gazetteer, which, among other facts, stated: "the two fronts are ornamented with four white pilasters each. The dome contains a good town clock, and is supported by eight columns of Ionic order. The Marshal's office ison the second floor and the Secretary of State's on the third. All the State Courts are held in the north room of the second story, and the Federal Court occupies the south room in the same. The two large rooms in the third story are handsomely fitted up for the use of the Legislature until a State house shall be built."
John Tipton, whose long and implacable hatred of John Sevier has been much exploited by historians, died at the Nashville Inn, October 8, 1831.
In spite of Sevier's opposition, Tipton seems to have stood well at home, and at this death, though not a member of the Legislature then in session, his remains lay in state at the Capitol and a suitable monument was erected by the State to mark his resting place in the City Cemetery, Nashville.
Tipton represented Washington County in the North Carolina Legislature, as a Senator, in 1786 and as a Representative in 1787. He represented Washington County in the Tennessee Constitutional Convention in 1796, and in the State Senate of 1797. He enjoys the unique distinction of having lived in three States and on Territory while living in one county, and of having served two of these governments in a representative capacity while living in this one county. Even while living in the State of Franklin, Tipton served in the Legislature of North Carolina.
He represented Sullivan County, Tenn., in the lower house in 1803, 1805, 1807 (when he was Speaker), 1809 and 1812, and was Senator from Sullivan and Hawkins in 1817.
Amos Dresser Flogged. Between the drum beats of the Seminole and Mexican wars, the low rumblings of the Great War was heard in the distance. On Saturday evening, August 8, 1835, a vigilance committee, assembled at the court house, in the presence of a large crowd, heard evidence upon which they found a young man, named Amos Dresser, of Ohio, guilty of disseminating anti-slavery literature in Davidson and Sumner Counties. He was given twenty lashes and twenty-four hours to get out of town - and he got out of town. But for this judgment and its execution, he would have been hanged our of effigy by the large crown of infuriated citizens who heard the evidence.
The Man From Mexico. - Another distinguished foreigner, Gen. Santa Ana, was in Nashville in 1836, enroute to Washington City, though the trip was somewhat against his will. In the absence of the register to disprove it, the statement is here ventured that the General supped at the Inn purely out of respect to a former patron whose acquaintance he had recently formed at San Jacinto.
Troops Return From Second Seminole War. - Gen. Robert Armstrong and some of the troops from the Florida wars arrived Sunday afternoon, January 2, 1837, on the steamer Shoalwater. On account of bad weather, arrangements made for the reception of the troops could not be carried out until Saturday, February 4. On that day a procession formed on the Public Square and marching through town, went to the Spring Street (McKendree) Methodist Church, where Ephraim H. Foster made an address of welcome, responded to by Gen. Armstrong.
Last Reception to Jackson. - At the close of his second term as President, Gen. Jackson arrived in Nashville March 24, 1837. Before going to the Hermitage he stopped in Nashville - probably at the Inn - and was given a formal reception by the citizens.
Ex-President Martin Van Buren arrived in Nashville on April 27, 1842, on the steamer Nashville, and stopped at the Nashville Inn. The next day he went to the Hermitage. Two days later a large procession, including the Nashville Blues, escorted Mr. Van Buren, Ex-President Jackson, Ex-Secretary of the Navy James K. Paulding and Ex-Governor James K. Polk from the Hermitage to the Nashville Inn, where a reception was held. Many Whigs were among the callers.
Marshal Bertrand, Napoleon's aide-de-camp and famous for his loyalty to his chief, registered at the City Hotel, September 29, 1843. A large number of citizens called to pay their respects. He visited Gen. Jackson at the Hermitage, and on his return tot eh city, he was a guest of Gen. Carroll, Gov. Jones, and others.
The Great Whig Convention of 1840. - The most noted political gatherings in the history of the Square were the Great Whig Convention of August 17, 1840, and the Greater Whig Convention of August 21, 1844.
The first meeting, which had been got up to boost Harrison and Tyler, was attended by delegates from fourteen states, carrying hundreds of appropriate designs. Log cabins, canoes and coon skin caps, hunting shirts, and other reminder of pioneer days were much in evidence. The Kentucky giant, Porter, eight feet tall, was in the procession, rolling an enormous ball, bearing among other mottoes the Whig battle cry" "Keep the ball rolling."
The procession was due to form on Market Street, at 7 A. M. and march to Walnut Grove in a 250-acre tract owned by D. T. McGavock, and lying north and northwest of what this generation knows as "Cheatham's Corner," in North Nashville. A race course and other amusement resorts were located in this tract.
Mr. Clay "arrived the afternoon before the celebration, and was kept concealed on the east side of the river," said the late Judge James T. Bell in an interview several years ago. "It was feared that if his presence and whereabouts became known the crowd going across the river would break down the old bridge.
"A great many, knowing that he would arrive from that side of the river, went across and concealed themselves in the bushes over night by the side of the pike to get a sight of him. Early the next morning he came over the bridge and was met by 25,000 men in line. The sight can never be forgotten by me. Old men and boys cried at the sight of their greatest leader. He was the hero of Ashland, the Mill Boy of the Slashes, the Harry of the West, but most of all, he was their leader, the man in whom was centered all their hopes for Whig supremacy. . . . . No living man can, in my estimation, equal his Nashville speech in 1840."
When Mr. Clay arose to speak at Walnut Grove, says Phelan: "The audience, as if electrified, arose with him. The applause rose and swelled like the roar of the waters at Niagra. Hats were thrown in the air. Men acted as if possessed, some of them embracing each other as if in transports of rapture, other with tears in their eyes, choking with emotion. In those days the fever of political frenzy had spread even to the women and many were present.
(Note - The wife of a man who was probably the ablest statesman in the Whig party of Tennessee, walked in this procession with a live 'coon on her shoulder. This information, and the name of the worthy woman, is given the writer by and eyewitness still residing in Nashville. The mutations of time make ordinary customs of the past seem freakish now, so the name of the enthusiastic Whig lady is withheld.)
"They were as ungovernable in their emotions as the sterner sex, and several fainted, overcome by an excess of zeal and enthusiasm. Clay stood for a moment and gazed with kindling eye upon the frantic spectacle. Then he lifted one hand and in a little while the silence was so deep that the crying of a child on the outskirts of the crowd could be heard by all who were present."
The speaking continued that night on the Square, and for several day, John J. Crittendon and Balie Payton being among the speakers.
The Greater Whig Convention of 1844. when Clay and Polk were rival candidates, surpassed anything of its kind ever held in the Southwest. The banners, costumes, etc., were arranged on a magnificent scale, the whole resembling, says Phelan, a tournament of the Middle Ages. The procession, 6,000 strong, formed on the Public Square and marched to Walnut Grove, where 40,000 people assembled. Nearly every Southwestern State had a delegation present. Among the orators present were Gen. Albert Pike and S. S. Prentiss. Prentiss, after speaking several hours in the day, was forced against his will to speak again that night on the Square. At the court house he delivered the most wonderful speech ever heard in the Southwest. It was while making this speech that Prentiss fell back into the arms of Gov. Jones, who, overcome with emotion, exclaimed: "Die, Prentiss, die; you will never have a more glorious opportunity."
Judge Bell, in the interview previously quoted, says: "The event of the convention was the presence of that matchless orator, Sargent S. Prentiss, who was then in the zenith of his splendor and popularity. His speech I heard. It has been mentioned ever since as one of the grandest oratorical efforts of the greatest orator this country has ever produced. So powerful was the effort that it is told of a then prominent citizen that, at the opening of Prentiss' speech, he pulled out his watch to time the orator and was so spellbound that he forgot to put it up until four hours later when the speech was ended."
Troops Bound for Mexico. - In 1846, when Gov. Aaron V. Brown called for 2800 volunteers, 30,000 responded, and Tennessee became the "Volunteer State." Twelve companies assembled at Nashville to embark for New Orleans. It was a busy day on the Square. The river banks for miles below the wharf were crowded with people to witness the departure. On that day many parents saw their sons for the last time.
Copyright © 2006, Debie Cox.