Saturday, April 7, 2012

Clayton's History of Davidson Co., Chapter I.

History of Davidson County, Tennessee
with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers
by Prof. W. W. Clayton
J. W. Lewis & Co., Philadelphia
Formative Period-Primitive Condition of the Country-First Explorers-Discovery of Cumberland River and Gap
-First Forts in Tennessee-Absence of Indian Settlements-First Permanent Settlement at Watauga-Spirit and
Character of the First Settlers-Wake County, North Carolina-The Regulators-Mecklenburgh Resolves-Capt.
James Robertson-Government established at Watauga.
           THE first period of the history of Davidson County is that which may be termed its formative period, beginning with the first distinctive shaping of those events which led to its settlement, and closing with its organization as a civil division of North Carolina in the year 1783. It will be seen that this division of our subject will carry us through the first stages of discovery and settlement west of the Alleghany Mountains, and through the period of the Revolution , down to the treaty of peace between the thirteen original States and Great Britain, which was ratified the same year that Davidson County was organized. 
          In order to see the earliest, and to some extent the most interesting, phase of the country about which we propose to write we must fall in with the current of population advancing westward and trace its gradual swell and progress until at length its first wave breaks over the crest of the Appalachian Range and falls into the valleys below. All that magnificent country lying to the westward of this great mountain-chain, embracing Tennessee and Kentucky, was a vast hunting-ground for various Indian tribes, within which a few Anglo-American hunters, clad in buckskin breeches, leggins, and moccasins, with their rifles and powder-horns slung upon their shoulders, had begun to dispute with the aborigines the exclusive monopoly of the finest game-park on the continent. We cannot well conceive at the present day the interest which this fine country, abounding with magnificent forests and streams and stocked to repletion with herds of the noblest wild animals, must have awakened in the minds of the primitive explorers who first penetrated beyond the great mountain-range which for more than a century had shut in the view of the dwellers upon the more barren and sterile Atlantic slope. It was like the vision of a new world, greater far in extent and more beautiful than anything of which they had ever conceived; but of the country itself little was positively known. A wandering Indian would imperfectly delineate upon the sand a feeble outline of its more prominent physical features. A voyage in a canoe from the sources of the Hogohegee[1] to the Wabash [2] required for its performance, in their figurative language, "two paddles, two warriors, three moons." The Ohio itself was but the tributary of a still larger river, of whose source, size, and direction no intelligible account could be communicated. The Mussel Shoals and the obstructions in the river above them were magnified into mighty cataracts and fearful whirlpools, and the Suck was represented as an awful vortex. The wild beasts with which the illimitable forests abounded were numbered by pointing to the leaves upon the trees or the stars in a cloudless sky. 
          These vague and uncertain intimations were soon supplemented by more definite information coming through traders who penetrated to the Indian countries of the Southwest. The first of these was Cornelius Dogherty, a trader from Virginia, who established himself at the Middle Settlement of the Cherokees, on the Little Tennessee, as early as 1690. He sent furs and peltry by Indian packmen to Charleston, who returned packed with merchandise, which the natives received in exchange. Other traders followed, and in 1740 a regular route of communication for pack-horses and agents was opened along the Great Path from Virginia to the centre of the Cherokee Nation. The last hunter's cabin at that time was on the Otter River, now in Bedford Co., Va. The traders and packmen generally confined themselves to the Great Path till it crossed the Little Tennessee; then spreading themselves out among the several Cherokee villages, they continued their traffic as far down the Great Tennessee as the Indian settlement upon Bear Creek. The commerce with the natives was profitable, and not only attracted many traders but others, who pursued trapping and hunting independently of the Indians. 
          Among these early adventurers were some men of considerable note. Dr. Thomas Walker, of Virginia, in company with Cols. Wood, Patton, and Buchanan, Capt. Charles Campbell, and a number of hunters, passed Powell's Valley in 1748, and gave the name of Cumberland to the lofty range of mountains on the west. Tracing this range in a southwestern direction, Dr. Walker and his party came to the remarkable depression in the chain to which they gave the name of Cumberland Gap. Through that gap flowed the tide of emigration from the East to the West for more than half a century. On the western side they discovered the beautiful mountain-stream which they called the Cumberland River.[3]
          Two forts were built in what is now Tennessee during the French war, viz., Fort Loudon, on the Tennessee, in 1756, and the Long Island fort, on the Holston, in 1758. The former was destroyed in 1760. When it was erected it was one hundred and fifty miles in advance of any settlement, the most western settlement at that time being composed of six families on the western side of New River. During the French war the Indians attacked these settlers, murdering Burke and his family, and compelling the others to fly for safety to the eastern side of the river. No attempt was made to carry the white settlements farther west till the close of the war.
           In 1760 the Cherokees were at peace with the whites, and hunters began to renew their explorations. In this year Dr. Walker made a tour of inspection in what is now Kentucky, and Daniel Boone left his famous inscription on a beech-tree in the valley of Boone's Creek, a tributary of the Watauga, commemorating his deed of prowess in having there " cilled a bar" that year. In 1761 he came at the head of one of the companies from Virginia and North Carolina who settled in Carter's Valley, in what is now Hawkins Co., Tenn. Boone himself was from the Yadkin, in North Carolina, and, according to Haywood, traveled with the company he was guiding as far down as where Abingdon now stands, and there left them. This famous pioneer of civilization continued in his work of guiding settlers into new counties still farther westward till he reached the St. Charles district in Missouri, where he died in 1820. In 1762, Wallen and his company passed down the south fork of the Holston, having crossed the Blue Ridge at Flower Gap, New River at Jones' Ford, and the Iron Mountain at the Blue Spring. They fixed their station camp near the Tennessee line, and on the present road from Jonesborough to Rogersville. Some of the company descended to Greasy Rock Creek, and fixed their camp near the present line between Hawkins and Claibourne Counties. The next year Wallen and his party passed through Cumberland Gap, and hunted during the whole season on the Cumberland River.
          In 1764, Daniel Boone, still living on the Yadkin, set out, in the employ of the Transylvania Company, to explore portions of the great country now included in Kentucky and Tennessee. With him came Samuel Callaway, his kinsman and the ancestor of the respectable family of that name who were pioneers of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri. Callaway was at the side of Boone when, approaching the spurs of the Cumberland Mountain and in view of the vast herds of buffalo grazing in the valleys between them, he exclaimed, "I am richer than the man mentioned in Scripture, who owned the cattle on a thousand hills; I own the wild beasts of more than a thousand valleys." During the following year Henry Scaggins, who was also employed by Col. Richard Henderson, of the Transylvania Company, extended his explorations to the lower Cumberland, and fixed his station at Mansker's Lick.
          About the last of June, 1766, Col. James Smith set off to explore the great body of rich lands which, by conversing with the Indians, he understood to be between the Ohio and Cherokee Rivers, and lately ceded by a treaty made with Sir William Johnson to the king of Great Britain. He went, in the first place, to Holston River, and thence traveled westwardly in company with Joshua Horton, Uriah Stone, and William Baker, who came from Carlisle, Pa.- four in all-and a slave, aged eighteen, belonging to Horton. They explored the country south of Kentucky, and no vestige of a white man was to be found there, more than there is now at the head of the Missouri. They also explored Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers from Stone's River down to the Ohio. Stone's River is a branch of Cumberland, and empties into it eight or ten miles above Nashville. It was so named in the journal of these explorers after Mr. Stone, one of their number, and has ever since retained the name. When they came to the mouth of Tennessee Col. Smith concluded to return home, and the others to proceed to the Illinois. They gave to Col. Smith the greater part of their powder and lead, amounting only to half a pound of the former and a proportionate quantity of lead. Mr. Horton also left with him his slave, and Smith set off with him through the wilderness to Carolina. Near a buffalo-path they made them a shelter; but fearing the Indians might pass that way and discover his fireplace he removed to a greater distance from it. After remaining there six weeks he proceeded on his journey, and arrived in Carolina in October. He thence traveled to Fort Chissel, and from there returned home to Coneco-Cheague in the fall of 1767." [4]
          This exploration of Col Smith was, with the exception of Scaggins', the first that had been made of the country west of Cumberland Mountain in Tennessee by any of the Anglo-American race. The extraordinary fertility of the soil upon the Lower Cumberland, the luxuriant canebrakes upon the table-lands of its tributaries, its dark and variegated forest, its rich flora, its exuberant pasturage, in a word, the exact adaptation of the country to all the wants and purposes of a great and flourishing community, impressed the explorer with the importance of his discovery, and of its great value to such of his countrymen as should afterwards come in arid possess it. Not strange was it that the recital of what he had seen during his long and perilous absence should excite in Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, as he passed homeward, an urgent and irrepressible desire to emigrate to and settle this El Dorado of the West. [5]
          During the year 1767, John Findley, a fearless Indian trader from North Carolina, accompanied by several associates, made an excursion into the new country now exciting so much interest in the Eastern settlements. They passed through upper East Tennessee to Cumberland Gap, and thence continued their explorations to the Kentucky River. The spirit of adventure had now become almost a mania, numbering among its subjects nearly every bold and fearless backwoodsman. Companies of these varying in numbers from two to forty accumulated in rapid succession upon the border settlements from the Monongahela to the Savannah, and excited in the minds of the more discreet and sagacious settlers apprehensions of renewed hostilities from the now friendly Indians. These apprehensions were not without foundation. By the opening of the spring of 1768 the savages along the whole line of the western frontier, from the sources of the Savannah to those of the Tennessee, had become exasperated and united in their determination to check further encroachments upon their territory. None of these Indians were residing at this time in the territory of Kentucky or Tennessee, nor had any of them a rightful claim to a foot of it, save as a common hunting-ground. The exploring and hunting parties discovered no signs of Indian occupation.
           "But in their frequent peregrinations and trading expeditions through the vast territories between the Ohio and the Tennessee Rivers the first traders, hunters, and explorers never found, within that extent of country, a single wigwam or modern Indian village. The Indian settlements nearest to the frontier borders of the Carolinas, and of Southwestern Virginia, were on the Scioto and Miami in the North, and on the waters of the Little Tennessee in the South. From these points the various war or hunting parties issued to engage in the one or the other pursuit as the passions or the opportunities of their expeditions might lead. Here the Choctaws, Chickasaws, or Cherokees of the South used to engage with the various tribes of the Miami Confederacy of the North; here they indulged their passion for hunting in the profusion of game afforded by Tennessee and Kentucky. That part of these two States embraced within the boundaries mentioned was one great park, where the skill of the uncivilized hunter was practiced, and a central theatre, upon which the desperate conflicts of savage warriors and bloody rivals were perpetrated. By common agreement of all the surrounding tribes this whole section of country seems to have been reserved for these purposes from permanent occupancy; and so much was it exempted from settlement, that south of the Ohio and north and east of the Tennessee it is not known that a single village was settled by the Indians; yet no situations have generally delighted savage tribes so much as the margins of water-courses,- the opportunities of navigation and of fishing unite to attract them to such spots. Some known and acknowledged inhibition must have, therefore, prevented the settlement and possession of this great Mesopotamia. What was it? On this subject tradition and history are alike indistinct and unsatisfactory."[6] 
          We think, on the contrary, that quite a clear and satisfactory explanation is furnished. It is well known to the careful student of history that at the period of which we are speaking the whole territory of this neutral hunting-ground as far south as the Tennessee River (called in ancient treaties the river of the Cherokees) was admitted by all other tribes to belong to the confederacy of the Six Nations by right of conquest, and that the Six Nations inhibited the occupancy of it by any of the surrounding tribes except for the purpose of a common hunting-ground. This will appear in our Indian history in another chapter.
          After the return of Col. Smith, Isaac Lindsay and four others from South Carolina visited the Lower Cumberland. Nothing of importance is mentioned in connection with this expedition, except that the explorers met at the mouth of Stone's River two other hunters-Stoner and Harrod-who were from the Illinois, having descended the Ohio River from Pittsburgh. They were informed that the French had a station at the bluff where Nashville now stands, and another ten or twelve miles above the mouth of the Tennessee.
          We come now to the period when the first permanent settlement was effected in Tennessee. The progress of events thus far has shown us only the avant courier of the mighty host soon to cross the border and begin the conquest of the wilderness,- a conquest to be carried forward across the Western continent till the banner of civilization should be planted upon the shores of the Pacific. At this point in our progress we can well appreciate the spirit and beauty of that passage in Ramsey's "Annals of Tennessee" where he sees crowds of immigrants concentrating at the leading avenues from the Atlantic to the Western waters, standing for a moment impatient of longer restraint and casting a wishful look upon the inviting country before them. We quote:
          "Tennessee was yet without a single civilized inhabitant. We have traced the approaches of the Anglo-American population to her eastern boundary. The genius of civilization, in her progress from the East, had passed the base of the great Appalachian Range. She stood upon its summit, proud of past success, and; ambitious of further and greater achievement, surveyed from that height the wide field, before and around her. On her right are the rich valleys and luxuriant plains of Kentucky and Ohio, as yet imperfectly known from the obscure report of the returning explorer or the Shawnee prisoner. On the left her senses are regaled by the luxuriant groves, the delightful savannas, and the enchanting beauties of the sunny South. Far in the distance and immediately before her she contemplates the Great West. Its vastness at first overwhelms and astounds her, but at the extreme limit of her vision American adventure and Western enterprise are seen beckoning her to move forward and to occupy the goodly land. She descends to the plains below, and on the prolific soil of the quiet Watauga, in the lonely seclusion of one of its ancient forests, is deposited the germ of the future State of Tennessee. In that germ were contained all the elements of prospective greatness and achievement. What these elements were succeeding pages will but feebly develop and illustrate. Toil, enterprise, perseverance, and courage had planted that germ in a distant wilderness. The circumstances that surrounded it required for its growth, culture, and protection wisdom, virtue, patriotism, valor, and self-reliance. American was to become Western character, and here was the place and this the time of its first germination."
          The great impulse given to immigration at this time was caused in a great measure by the result of the treaty of Fort Stanwix, in which the Six Nations of New York had ceded to the English their acknowledged claim to the country between the Ohio and the Tennessee Rivers. This treaty was concluded in November, 1768. Dr. Walker, the commissioner from Virginia, had returned from Fort Stanwix, and brought with him an account of the cession. At Hard Labor, also, in October of the same year, the Cherokees has given their assent to the further expansion of the settlements on the Holston; and in January, 1769, was formed the nucleus of the first permanent settlement of the white race in Tennessee. "It was merely an enlargement of the Virginia settlement near it, and at the time was believed to be upon the territory of that province, the line dividing Virginia from North Carolina not having been yet run west of Steep Rock. . . . Of those who ventured farthest into the wilderness with their families was Capt. William Bean. He came from Pittsylvania Co., Va., and settled early in 1769 on Boone's Creek, a tributary of Watauga, in advance of Carter and others, who soon after settled upon the stream. His son, Russell Bean, was the first white child born in what is now Tennessee. Capt. Bean had hunted with Boone, knew his camp, and selected this as the place of his settlement on account of its abundant game. His cabin was not far from Watauga. He was an intrepid man, and will be mentioned hereafter. Bean's Station was afterwards settled by him." 
           As the settlers at Watauga were chiefly from Wake Co., N. C., and some of them subsequently bore a conspicuous part in the settlements on the Cumberland and in founding the city of Nashville, it will be proper to glance briefly at their antecedents, to see the character of the social and political life out of which they sprang, and the spirit which they brought with them to their new homes beyond the mountains. In a strictly philosophical history it would be necessary to consider the race and blood of a people. The first great force in any local or social development is character. The question is, What kind of people were the movers in it? From what race did they spring? Were they Turks, Jews, Germans, or Anglo-Saxon? What blood flowed in their veins, Irish, Scotch, Welsh, or Huguenot? Were they English Royalists or Puritan Dissenters, Cavaliers or Roundheads? The typical development in all political, ecclesiastical, social, industrial, and educational matters is so distinctly marked in each separate race that it is an easy matter for the skilled ethnologist to trace all these, a posteriori, to the particular nationality whence they spring, and to determine, a priori, precisely what kind of civilization might naturally be expected from the peculiar genius of each people. The tendency in our composite state of society is towards the obliteration of all these primitive ethnical peculiarities in one homogenous American type of character. Still, these distinctions were marked during the colonial period of our history, and each branch or family of original settlers has left its own peculiar impress upon the social organizations and institutions which it founded, so that it is more or less visible to the present day.
           This would be an interesting theme for the philosophical historian to discuss, but we lay no claim to such qualifications, nor is a history which must deal chiefly with mere local annals the place for it. It is due, however, to the noble race of Scotch-Irish patriots, and to the old North State whence they came to Eastern and Middle Tennessee, that due credit should be given them in a history which they contributed so largely to form.
           At the date of our allusion to affairs in North Carolina the storm of the Revolution was gathering. Wake and Mecklenburg Counties had been settled by Scotch-Irish from Pennsylvania and Virginia, who at an early period of the of colonies had emigrated from the north of Ireland,- a people noted throughout all their history for their love of liberty and for their readiness and energy in resisting oppression in all its forms. From the Covenanters to Carrickfergus. the home of the ancestors of Gen. Jackson, and in the whisky riots of Virginia, these people had shown their valor and patriotism; and now another occasion was offered under the odious administration of Governor Tryon, whose rapacity and greed to devour the substance of the people were significantly epitomized in the appellation "The Great He-Wolf," applied to him in the vigorous parlance of that day. The oppressive measures of this Governor, in exorbitant and unjust taxes and fees imposed without their consent and against their oft-repeated remonstrances, led to the famous organization of the Regulators, at the head of whom was that remarkable man Herman Husbands.
           Husbands published in 1770 his "Impartial Relation," the most remarkable book of the period, full of sound maxims of political wisdom, and of the most scathing invectives against tyrants. It made a most profound impression. The spirit of resistance, which had now been thoroughly aroused, widened and increased, until the result was the battle of Alamance, in which was shed the first blood of the Revolution. This battle was fought on the 16th of May, 1771,-four years before Lexington and Bunker Hill,-between about eleven hundred well-armed troops, under Governor Tryon, and about two thousand citizens, hastily assembled and poorly equipped, commanded by Husbands, who had no experience in military tactics. The battle terminated in the defeat of the citizens, with a loss of two hundred on their part and of sixty-odd of the regular army.
           The historian Bancroft, who examined the British state papers touching all matters pertaining to the Regulation, wrote D. L. Swain, Esq., of North Carolina: "Their complaints were well founded, and were so acknowledged, though their oppressors were only nominally punished. They form the connecting link between the Stamp Act and the events of 1775, and they also played a glorious part in taking possession of the Mississippi Valley, towards which they were carried irresistibly by their love of independence. It is a mistake if any have supposed that the Regulators were cowed down by their defeat at the Alamance. Like the mammoth, they shook the bolt from their brow and crossed the mountains."
           Putnam, in his " Life and Times of General Robertson," remarks, "The battles of Lexington and Bunker Hill came in after-years; but the ball was set in motion as early and by as pure hearts and resolute hands in North Carolina as in Massachusetts. And here, as well as there, was a people religiously educated in the great truths of the Bible, the right of conscience, and the rights of property."
           We place by the side of this first conflict of the Revolution the famous "Mecklenburg Resolves," adopted by a convention of Mecklenburg Co., N. C., at Charlotte, May 20, 1775, one year, one month, and sixteen days before the general declaration of independence. Abraham Alexander was chosen chairman and John McKnitt Alexander secretary. After a free and full discussion of the various objects of the meeting, which continued in session till two o'clock A.M. on the 20th, it was unanimously
           "I. Resolved, That whosoever, directly or indirectly, abetted, or in any way. form, or manner countenanced the unchartered and dangerous invasion of our rights, as claimed by Great Britain, is an enemy to this country, to America, and to the inherent and inalienable rights of man.
           "II. Resolved, That we, the citizens of Mecklenburg County, do hereby dissolve the political bands which have connected us to the mother-country, and hereby absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the British crown, and abjure all political connection, contract, or association with that nation, who have wantonly trampled on our rights and liberties and inhumanly shed the blood of American patriots at Lexington.
           "III. Resolved, That we do hereby declare ourselves a free and independent people, are, and of right ought to be, a sovereign and self-governing association, under the control of no power other than that of our God and the general government of the Congress; to the maintenance of which independence we solemnly pledge to each other our mutual co-operation, our lives, our fortunes, and our most sacred honor.
           " IV. Resolved, That as we now acknowledge the existence and control of no law or legal officer, civil or military, within this county, we do hereby ordain and adopt, as a rule of life, all, each, and every of our former laws, wherein, nevertheless, the crown of Great Britain never can be considered as holding rights, privileges, immunities, or authority therein." 
           Other resolutions were adopted making provision for the new condition of things. A copy of the proceedings of the convention was sent by express to the North Carolina members of Congress, then in session in Philadelphia. These delegates, approving of the spirit of their fellow-citizens and the elevated tone of the resolutions, thought them, nevertheless, premature, as the Continental Congress had not yet abandoned all hopes of reconciliation, upon honorable terms, with the mother-country.
           Out of the bosom of such society came those noble pioneers who at a later day established independent governments in the wilderness beyond the mountains, first at Watauga and then upon the Cumberland. The same blood flowed in their veins, the same spirit animated them, and the same love of law and order was the germinal principle of the institutions which now flourish in Tennessee.
           Robertson had crossed the mountains to Watauga before the battle of Alamance, in 1770, made preparation for the removal of his family, and returned to Wake County. He was there at the time of the battle of Alamance, and is thought by some to have participated in it. We take the following account of his first visit to Watauga from Haywood's "History of Tennessee":
           "He visited the delightful country on the waters of Holston, to view the new settlements which then began to be formed on the Watauga. Here he found one Houeycut living in a hut, who furnished him with food. He made a crop there the first year. On recrossing the mountains he got lost for some time, and coming to a precipice, over which his horse could not be led, he left him there and traveled on foot. His powder was wetted by repeated showers, and could not be used in the procurement of game for food. Fourteen days he wandered without eating, till he was so much reduced and weakened that he began seriously to despair of reaching his home again. But there is a Providence which rules over the destinies of men, and preserves them to run the race appointed for them. Unpromising as were the prospects of James Robertson at that time, having neither learning, experience, property, nor friends to give him countenance, and with spirits drooping under the pressure of penury and a low estate, yet the God of nature had given him an elevated soul and planted in it the seeds of virtue, which made him in the midst of discouraging circumstances look forward to better times. He was accidentally met by two hunters, on whom he could not, without much and pressing solicitation, prevail so far as to be permitted to ride on one of their horses. They gave him food, of which he ate sparingly for some days till his strength, and spirits returned to him. This is the man who will figure in the future so deservedly as the greatest benefactor of the first settlers of the country. He reached home in safety, and soon afterwards returned to Watauga with a few others and there settled."
           The place became an asylum from tyranny in the old portion of the colony, and many who saw no immediate prospect of a redress of their grievances resorted thither for peaceful and quiet homes. The settlement increased rapidly, and soon the people organized a form of government for themselves. Meeting at Robertson's in May, 1772, they adopted articles of association. The commissioners elected were John Carter, James Robertson, Charles Robertson, Zachariah Isbell, John Sevier, James Smith, Jacob Brown. William Bean, John Jones, George Russell, Jacob Womack, Robert Lucas, and William Tatham. Those selected as judges of the court were John Carter, James and Charles Robertson, Zachariah Isbell, and John Sevier. William Tathaui was chosen clerk. The reader will become familiar with some of these names farther on in our history.
           The simple form of government thus established was sufficient for all practical purposes for several years. The articles of this association, which, it is believed, formed the first written compact of government west of the Alleghany Mountains, have unfortunately been lost. They were adopted three years prior to the association formed for Kentucky under the great elm-tree outside of the fort at Boonesboro', on the thick sward of the fragrant clover so graphically spoken of by Bancroft.
[2] The Ohio was known for many years by that name.
[3]These names were given in honor of the Duke of Cumberland
[4] Haywood.
[5] Annals of Tennessee, p. 70.
[6] Mouette.

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