Saturday, April 7, 2012

Clayton's History of Davidson Co., Chapter II

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
Col. Richard Henderson-Treaty at Sycamore Shoals-Transylvania Land Company-Thomas Sharpe Spencer
-Kasper Mansker and Others of 1769-70-The Long Hunters-First Water Expedition on the Cumberland-Site
of Nashville-Origin of the Licks-Boundary Line between Virginia and North Carolina.

           BEFORE entering upon an account of the actual settlement of this portion of Middle Tennessee, it will be necessary to speak of the operations of Col. Richard Henderson and his treaty with the Cherokee Indians. In 1774, Col. Henderson and his associates of the "Transylvania Land Company"-a large corporation which had been formed for the purpose of speculating in lands between the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers-sent agents among the Cherokees to ascertain their views with reference to a cession of their claim to lands in "the Kentucky country." The chiefs were invited to the Sycamore Shoals, on the Watauga River, to enter into a treaty. Accordingly they assembled at the appointed time. Gen. Robertson was present to assist in the negotiations. "On this occasion," says Judge Haywood," and before the Indians had concluded to make the cession, Oconnostata,[1] a Cherokee orator, called also Chief Warrior and First Representative, as well as Head Prince of the Cherokee Nation, delivered a very animated and pathetic speech" in opposition to the sale of the lands. 
           In spite of his eloquence and predictions, however, the treaty was concluded on the 17th of March, 1775. It conveyed to Henderson and his associates all the lands lying between the Cumberland and Kentucky Rivers, in consideration of ten thousand pounds sterling, payable in merchandise. Twelve hundred Indians are said to have been assembled on the treaty-ground.[2] A young brave at the treaty was overheard by the interpreter to urge in support of the Transylvania cession this argument: That the settlement and occupancy of the ceded territory would interpose an impregnable barrier between the Northern and Southern Indians, and that the latter would in future have quiet and undisturbed possession of the choice hunting-grounds south of the Cumberland. His argument prevailed against the prophetic warning and eloquent remonstrance of Oconnostata. That aged chieftain signed the treaty reluctantly, and taking Daniel Boone by the hand, said, with most significant earnestness, " Brother, we have given you a fine land, but I believe you will have much trouble in settling it,"-words which subsequent events but too mournfully verified.
           The associates of Henderson were Thomas Hart, John Williams, James Hogg, Nathaniel Hart, David Hart, Leonard H. Bulloch, John Luttrell, and William Johnson. They proposed to establish a new colony by the name of Transylvania, and sent a petition to Continental Congress to be admitted as one of the united colonies, declaring themselves in hearty sympathy with the struggle for independence. 
           This treaty being made by a corporation of private individuals was pronounced invalid by proclamations of Lord Densmore, Governor of Virginia, and Governor Martin, of North Carolina. However, before this decision was had it had created an immense furor along the frontier, and multitudes were eagerly pressing to cross the boundary and take possession of the "goodly land." 
           A portion of Henderson's purchase on the Lower Cumberland was within the supposed bounds of North Carolina. It was at first reached through the old route by the. way of Cumberland Gap, and explorers continued to pass through it on their way to Middle Tennessee. Among others Kasper Mansker renewed his visit in 1775, and came to the Cumberland in company with the Bryants. They encamped at Mansker's Lick. Most of them became dissatisfied with the country and returned home. Mansker and three others remained and pursued trapping on Sulphur Fork and Red River. 
           Thomas Sharp Spencer and others, allured by the flattering accounts they had received of the country, the fertility of soil and abundance of game, visited it in 1776. They came to the Cumberland River and erected a number of cabins. Most of them returned, but Spencer and Halliday determined to remain. In 1778 they were joined by Richard Hogan, and in the spring of that year the party planted a small field of corn at Bledsoe's Lick, which was the first plantation cultivated by Americans in Middle Tennessee. Spencer was pleased with the country and with the prospect of rapid settlement, and determined to remain. He selected for his house a large hollow sycamore near the Lick, in which he resided for some time. Halliday, however, decided to leave the wilderness, and in vain attempted to persuade Spencer to go with him. Having lost his knife, Halliday was unwilling to attempt the long journey through the wilderness without one with which to skin his venison and cut his meat. With true backwoods generosity Spencer accompanied his comrade to the barrens of Kentucky, put him on the right path, broke his knife and gave him half of it, and then returned to his hollow tree at the Lick, where he passed the winter. 
           "Spencer was a man of gigantic stature, and passing one morning the temporary cabin erected at a place since called Eaton's Station, and occupied by one of Capt. De Mumbrune's hunters, his huge tracks were left plainly impressed in the rich alluvial. These were seen by the hunter on his return to the camp, who, alarmed at their size, immediately swam across the river and wandered through the woods until he reached the French settlements on the Wabash."[3] 
           That he was stronger than any two men of his day the following incident will show: With the help of two stout men he was building a house on "Spencer's choice." One day he lay before his fire sick and disinclined to exertion. The others continued the work, but finally had to stop on account of their inability to raise the heavy end of a log to its place, though they had succeeded with the lighter end. Spencer tried to stimulate them by saying that he could put it up by himself, when one of them, who had frequently expressed the belief that he was a match for Spencer, dared him insultingly to the trial. Spencer arose and lifted the log to its place with the greatest ease, and returned to his pallet. His opponent after this ceased to put in any claims of rivalry. 
           His peaceful disposition is illustrated in the following instance: Two young men were vigorously pummeling each other on some public occasion when Spencer stepped up and separated them at arms' length, mildly remonstrating with them on their conduct. Bob Shaw, a very stout man himself, wanted to see the fight, and dealt Spencer a stinging blow in the face for interfering. Spencer instantly turned on Shaw, and seizing him by the nape of the neck and the waistband of his trowsers, carried him bodily to a high fence not far off and tossed him over. This ended all fighting while he was present. 
           While on the scout or march he always preferred to go some distance in advance or rear, for safety as he thought, trusting to his own watchfulness to avoid danger. This peculiarity finally cost him his life. He had been to North Carolina to get a legacy of two thousand dollars in specie, and was returning with a train of wagons through the South Pass of Cumberland Mountains, now known as Spencer's Hill. As usual, he was far in advance, though it was one of the most dangerous localities on the route. A number of the whites had been killed or wounded here at different times, among the former Armistead Morgan, the best fiddler in the Cumberland settlement, and withal an excellent Indian-fighter. On this occasion Spencer was fired upon at short range and fell dead; his horse turned quickly, throwing off his saddle-bags containing his money, and made his way back to the train. 
The following account of the "Long Hunters," with a few slight changes, is quoted from Ramsey's "Annals of Tennessee": 
           "On the 2d of June, 1769, a large company of adventurers was formed for the purpose of hunting and exploring in what is now Middle Tennessee. As the country was discovered and settled by the enterprise and defended by the valor of these first explorers, we choose to give their names, the places from which they came, and such details of their hazardous journeyings as have been preserved. 
           "May the time never come when the self-sacrificing toil and the daring hardihood of the pioneers of Tennessee will be forgotten or undervalued by their posterity. The company consisted of more than twenty men, some of them from North Carolina, others from the neighborhood of the Natural Bridge, and others from the infant settlement near Inglis' Ferry, in Virginia. The names of some of them follow: John Rains, Kasper Mansker, Abraham Bledsoe, John Baker, Joseph Drake, Obadiah Terrill, Uriah Stone, Henry Smith, Ned Cowan, Robert Crockett. The place of rendezvous was eight miles below Fort Chissel, on New River. They came by the head of Holston, and crossing the north fork, Clinch and Powell's Rivers, and passing through Cumberland Gap, discovered the southern part of Kentucky, and fixed a station-camp at a place since called Price's Meadow, in Wayne County, where they agreed to deposit their game and skins. The hunters here dispersed in different directions, the whole company still traveling to the southwest. They came to Roaring River and the Cany Fork at a point far above the mouth and somewhere near the foot of the mountain. Robert Crockett was killed near the head-waters of Roaring River when returning to the camp, provided for two or three days' traveling; the Indians were there in ambush and fired upon and killed him. The Indians were traveling to the north, seven or eight in company. Crockett's body was found on the war-track leading from the Cherokee Nation towards the Shawnee tribe. All the country through which these hunters passed was covered with high grass; no traces of any human settlement could be seen, and the primeval state of things reigned in unrivaled glory, though under dry caves, on the side of creeks, they found many places where stones were set up that covered large quantities of human bones; these were also found in the caves, with which the country abounds. They continued to hunt eight or nine mouths, when part of them returned in April, 1770.[4] 
           "The return of Findley and Boone to the banks of the Yadkin, and of the explorers whose journal has just been given to their several homes, produced a remarkable sensation. Their friends and neighbors were enraptured with the glowing descriptions of the delightful country they had discovered, and their imaginations were inflamed with the account of the wonderful products which were yielded in such bountiful profusion. The sterile hills and rocky uplands of the Atlantic country began to lose their interest when compared with the fertile valleys beyond the mountains. A spirit of further exploration was thus excited in the settlements on New River, Holston, and Clinch, which originated an association of about forty stout hunters, for the purpose of hunting and trapping west of Cumberland Mountains. Equipped with their rifles, traps, dogs, blankets, and dressed in the hunting-shirt, leggins, and moccasins, they commenced their arduous enterprise in the real spirit of hazardous adventure, through the rough forest and rugged hills. The names of these adventurers are now not known. The expedition was led by Col. James Knox. The leader and nine others of the company penetrated to the Lower Cumberland, and making there an extensive and irregular circuit, adding much to their knowledge of the country, after a long absence returned home. They are known as the 'Long Hunters.' " 
           Following the long hunters in 1770 was the first water expedition down the Cumberland River. It was made by Kasper Mansker, Uriah Stone, John Baker, Thomas Gordon, Humphrey Hogan, Cash Brook, and others, ten in all, who built two boats and two trapping canoes, loaded them with the proceeds of their hunting, and descended the beautiful Cumberland, before unnavigated except by the French pirogue or the gliding canoe of the Indian. Where Nashville now stands they discovered the French Lick, and found around it immense numbers of buffalo and other wild game. The country was crowded with them, and their bellowing sounded upon the hills and the forest. On the mound near the French Lick the voyagers discovered a stockade fort, built, as they supposed, by the Cherokees on their retreat from the battle at the Chickasaw Old Fields. The voyagers proceeded down the river to the mouth of the Cumberland. Here they met a company of plumed and painted warriors on their way up the Ohio, about twenty-five in number, under John Brown, the old mountain leader; they replenished their guns and ammunition from the store of the hunters, and, without offering them any personal violence, proceeded on the war-path against the Senecas. They were kindly treated by French traders to the Illinois, whom they met at the mouth of the Ohio, and continued their voyage as far down as Natchez, where some of them remained; but Mansker and Baker returned by way of the Keowee towns to New River. 
           In the fall of 1771, Kasper Mansker, John Montgomery, Isaac Bledsoe, Joseph Drake, Henry Suggs, James Knox, William and David Linch, Christopher Stoph, William Allen, and others made further explorations on the Lower Cumberland. Among them was an old hunter named Russell, who was so dim-sighted that he was obliged to tie a white piece of paper at the muzzle of his gun to direct his sight at the game; and yet he was quite successful in killing deer. The winter being inclement the hunters built a house of skins, leaving five men in charge of it, while the others returned home for ammunition. During their absence, a company of Northern Indians attacked the camp and took Stoph and Allen prisoners. Hughes made his escape, and meeting the company returning they proceeded together to the camp, which they found undisturbed. This party, in extending their hunting excursions, built a camp upon a creek which still bears the name of Camp Creek. The camps of the hunters at this time were the only habitations in Middle Tennessee, there being no Indian lodges anywhere in the country visited by the explorers. There had probably been no permanent Indian occupation after the expulsion of the Shawnees. Whenever a hunter in ranging through the country discovered a "lick" it usually took his name. Hence Drake's Lick, Bledsoe's Lick, Mansker's Lick, etc., given by the party of hunters of 1771. The many "licks" which still bear the names of daring hunters in Kentucky and Tennessee give evidence of the abundance of moose, deer, and elk which resorted to them; and the buffalo trails between these primitive " watering-places" served as the only roads to guide the traveler through the uninhabited wilderness. 
           In 1749 the boundary-line between Virginia and North Carolina was extended by commissioners of the respective colonies to the Holston River at a place directly opposite Steep Rock. Had it been then extended to the Mississippi, or even made to keep pace with the advance of settlements westward, it would have saved a great deal of trouble, disputing, and litigation. For many years the boundary between Kentucky and Tennessee was in a state of uncertainty. In 1779 commissioners were appointed by both the parent States to extend the line to the Mississippi. They met in September of that year, and after due observation agreed upon the point from which the line should be continued. After running to Carter's Valley, some forty miles, they disagreed. The commissioners from North Carolina insisted upon running the line two miles farther north than was approved by those from Virginia, therefore they ran two parallel lines at that distance apart. The southern line was run by a surveyor by the name of Walker, and has ever since been known as "the Walker Line;" the northern one was run by Col. Richard Henderson, the great land-speculator, of whom more will be said hereafter. The disputed boundary was not adjusted till 1820, when the Walker Line was fully recognized. It is true that Col. Anthony Bledsoe, afterwards most favorably known and usefully identified with the settlements and perils on the Cumberland, had as early as 1771 examined the question of boundary, and being a practical surveyor, in whom much confidence was placed, he had extended the Walker Line some distance west, and thereby enabled many of the settlers to decide for themselves whether they owed allegiance to Virginia or North Carolina.
[1]This is the same chief whose elegant Indian treaty-pitcher was presented to the Tennessee Historical Society by Mrs. President Polk, of which more hereafter.

[3]Ramsey, p. 194.
Content on this page was transcribed and published by Debie Cox.
Copyright © May 5, 2007, Debie Cox.

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