Sunday, April 8, 2012

Clayton's History of Davidson Co., Chapter III

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
Aborigines-Prehistoric Races-Mounds and Relics in Middle Tennessee-Original Occupation by the
Shawnees-Cherokees and Chickasaws-Conquest and Expulsion of the Shawnees-Conquest and Cession
by the Iroquois Confederacy-Power and Dominion of the Six Nations-They make a Neutral Hunting-Ground
of Tennessee and Kentucky.

           ALTHOUGH the hunters when they came into Middle Tennessee found the country unoccupied except by wild beasts and covered by dense forests and cane-brakes, yet centuries before it had been inhabited by a race of people far more numerous than the Indian tribes who occupied the soil at a later date. The hunters and pioneers trod over vast cemeteries of an extinct race, immense numbers of whose remains are buried in all the caves and mounds, and at every living spring on both sides of the Cumberland River from its source to its mouth and generally throughout Middle and Western Tennessee. No doubt can exist in the mind of the archaeologist as to the identity of these people with the ancient mound-builders, who at a remote period spread themselves over a large portion of the continent. The skeletons of these people appear in such numbers as to warrant the conclusion that their population at one time must have exceeded the present inhabitants of the United States. Their most populous centres appear to have been in the great valley of the Mississippi and its tributary valleys, along which they spread from the Alleghany Mountains and from the lake region of the Northwest to the Gulf of Mexico. It has been ascertained by careful observation that there are at least a hundred thousand skeletons of this ancient people within the limits of a single county in Iowa.[1] 
           Archaeologists, by comparative anatomy and by the study of the mounds and relics, have collected and classified a vast array of facts respecting the mound-builders and other prehistoric races. They are easily distinguished from the Indians by their skeletons, especially by the size and shape of the skull and by their structures and relics of art, which indicate a higher civilization than has been found among the Indians. The great antiquity of their works is proved by the large trees found growing above their mounds and fortifications, -trees as large as any to be found in the forest, and indicating the growth of centuries. The oldest Indians had no traditions reaching back to the origin of these works. Respecting the mounds of Tennessee and the Southwest, the Shawnees and Cherokees informed Gen. Robertson and Judge Haywood that they were in the country when their ancestors came to it, and that no tradition existed among them as to the origin and fate of the people who built them. 
           We cannot, of course, in a work of this sort, enter into a discussion of the prehistoric races, a subject which belongs to archaeology rather than to history.[2] 
           The first Indians who occupied the Cumberland Valley within the historic period were the Shawnees. On the map accompanying Marquette's journal, published in 1681, many of their town-sites on the Lower Cumberland are indicated, and the river itself is called the river of the Shawnees. At an early time this tribe was scattered over a wide extent of country, a portion of them living in Eastern Virginia, and another branch on the head-waters of the Savannah. In 1772, Little Cornplanter, an intelligent Cherokee chief, related that the Shawnees, a hundred years before, by the permission of his nation, removed from the Savannah River to the Cumberland. Many years afterwards, he said, the two nations became unfriendly, and the Cherokees marched in a large body against the Shawnees, many of whom they slew. The survivors fortified themselves and maintained a protracted war until the Cherokees were joined by the Chickasaws, and the Shawnees were gradually expelled from the Cumberland Valley. This was about the year 1710. Charleville, the French trader, came to the Cumberland a few years after, and occupied for his house the fort which the Shawnees had built, near the French Lick, on the Nashville side of the river. Charleville learned from a Frenchman who preceded him that the Chickasaws, hearing of the intended removal of the Shawnees, resolved to strike them upon the eve of their departure, and take possession of their stores. For this purpose a large party of Chickasaw warriors posted themselves on both sides of the Cumberland, above the mouth of the Harpeth River, provided with canoes to prevent their escape by water. The attack was successful. All the Shawnees were killed and their property captured by the Chickasaws. This, however, was only a small remnant of them, the main part of the tribe having previously removed to the vicinity of the Wabash, where, in 1764, they were joined by another portion of the tribe from Green River, in Kentucky. Of this tribe Tecumseh was subsequently the great chief and warrior, and also his brother, the famous Shawnee prophet. They were united with the Miamis and other Northwestern tribes in the wars with Harmar, St. Clair, and Gen. Anthony Wayne. Roving bands of them occasionally visited their old hunting-grounds on the Cumberland and the Tennessee, and inflicted great injury on the early settlers. They were a part of the banditti who committed enormous outrages on the emigrants and navigators while descending the famous passes of the Tennessee. 
           The Cherokees occupied only a portion of East Tennessee,- that part south of the Tennessee River, from the point where it crosses the North Carolina boundary to where it enters the State of Alabama. Their settlements extended thence southward into Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina; but they claimed the right to lands on the Cumberland, and not only expelled the Shawnees, but attempted for many years to destroy the settlements of the whites in this region. The Cherokees, before 1623, dwelt upon the Appomattox, in the neighborhood of Monticello, but in that year were driven out by the Virginians, who killed all they could find, cut up and destroyed their crops, and caused vast numbers of them to perish by famine. They removed to New River and made a temporary settlement, and also on the head of the Holston, whence, in a few years, on account of the hostility of the Northern Indians, they removed and formed the middle settlements on Little Tennessee. Cornelius Dogherty, who became a trader among the Cherokees in 1690, taught them to steal horses from the Virginians, which were the first horses the Cherokees ever had. Another tribe of Indians came from the neighborhood of Charleston, S. C., and settled themselves lower down the Tennessee. The Carolina tribe called themselves Ketawaugas, and came last into the county. 
           "The Cherokees found white people near the head of the Little Tennessee, who had forts from thence down the Tennessee River to the mouth of Chickamauga. They had a fort at Pumpkintown, one at Fox Taylor's reserve, near Hamilton Court-House, and one on Big Chickamauga, about twenty miles above its mouth. The Cherokees waged war against them, and drove them to the mouth of Big Chickamauga, where they entered into a treaty by which they agreed to depart the country if the Cherokees would permit them to do so in peace; which they did."[3] This temporary settlement,- the first attempted by English people in all the Southwest- is confirmed by Brown, a Scotchman, who came among the Cherokees in 1761. He saw on the Hiwassee and Tennessee remains of old forts, about which were boxes, axes, guns, and other metallic utensils. 
           The great war between the Cherokees and Creeks, which resulted in the settlement of a division-line between them, ended about the year 1710. The farthest extent of the Cherokee settlements was about the town of Seneca, in the Pendleton district of South Carolina. The Cherokees have in their language names for whales and sea-serpents, from which it appears that they migrated from the shores of an ocean in the northern part of America. 
           Adair says of the Cherokees, "Their national name is derived from Chee-ra, -fire,- which is their reputed lower heaven, and hence they call their magi Cheera-tahge, men possessed of the divine fire. The natives make two divisions of their country, which they term Ayrate and Ottare, signifying low and mountainous. The former is on the head-branches of the beautiful Savannah, and the latter on those of the easternmost river of the great Mississippi." 
           The same writer says that forty years before the time he wrote (1775) the Cherokees had sixty-four populous towns, and that the old traders estimated their fighting-men at above six. thousand. The frequent wars between the Over-hill towns and the northern Indians, and between the middle and lower towns and the Muskogee or Creek Indians, had greatly diminished the number of the warriors, and contracted the extent of their settlements. 
           The frontier of Virginia, the Carolinas. and Georgia all suffered from their vigor and their enterprise; and these pages will hereafter abound with instances of their revenge, their perfidy, and their courage. They were the mountaineers of aboriginal America, and, like all other mountaineers, adored their country, and held on to and defended it with a heroic devotion, a patriotic constancy, and an unyielding tenacity which cannot be too much admired or eulogized. 
           The native land of the Cherokee was the most inviting and beautiful section of the United States, lying upon the sources of the Catawba and the Yadkin,-upon Keowee, Tugaloo, Flint, Etowah, and Coosa, on the east and south, and several of the tributaries of the Tennessee on the west and north. 
           This tribe, inhabiting the country from which the southern confluents of the Tennessee spring, gave their name at first to that noble stream. In the earlier maps the Tennessee is called the Cherokee River. In like manner the name of this tribe also designated the mountains near them. Currahee is only a corruption of Cherokee, and in the maps and treaties where it is thus called it means the mountains of the Cherokees. 
           Of the martial spirit of this tribe abundant evidence will be hereafter given. In the hazardous enterprises of war they were animated by a restless spirit which goaded them into new exploits and to the acquisition of a fresh stock of martial renown. The white people for some years previous to 1730 interposed their good offices to bring about a pacification between them and the Tuscaroras, with whom they had long waged incessant war. The reply of the Cherokees was, "We cannot live without war. Should we make peace with the Tuscaroras, we must immediately look out for some other with whom we can be engaged in our beloved occupation." 
           The Chickasaws were another tribe of Indians intimately identified with our local history, though not residing within the limits of Middle Tennessee. 
           This nation inhabited the country east of the Mississippi and north of the Choctaw boundary; their villages and settlements were generally south of the thirty-fifth degree of north latitude, but they claimed all the territory within the present States of Tennessee and Kentucky which lies between the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers, and a considerable portion north of the former. These they claimed as hunting-grounds, though they had few or no permanent settlements within them. Tradition assigns to this tribe when they first emigrated to this country a very considerable population, but when Adair first visited them (1735) the Chickasaw warriors were estimated below five hundred. Though thus inconsiderable in numbers, the Chickasaws were warlike and valiant. They exercised an unwonted influence over the Natchez, Choctaws, and other tribes. 
           Whatever claim these several Indian nations may have set up to the country north of the Tennessee, and between that and the Ohio, they had evidently no right to it. It belonged by right of conquest to the Six Nations, or the Iroquois Confederacy. 
           At a celebrated treaty held at Lancaster the statement made by the delegates in attendance from the Six Nations to Dr. Franklin was, "that all the world knows that we conquered all the nations back of the great mountains; we conquered the nations residing there; and that land, if the Virginians ever get a good right to it, it must be by us." These Indian claims are solemnly appealed to in a diplomatic memorial addressed by the British ministry to the Duke Mirepoix, on the part of France, June 7,1755. "It is a certain truth," states the memorial, "that these lands have belonged to the confederacy, and as they have not been given up or made over to the English, belong still to the same Indian nations." The court of Great Britian maintained in this negotiation that the confederates were, by origin or by right of conquest, the lawful proprietors of the river Ohio and the territory in question. In support of this ancient aboriginal title, Butler adds the further testimony of Dr. Mitchell's map of North America, made with the documents of the Colonial Office before him. In this map, the same as the one by which the boundaries in the treaty of Paris in 1783 were adjusted, the doctor observes "that the Six Nations have extended their territories ever since the year 1672, when they subdued and were incorporated with the ancient Shawaneese, the native proprietors of these countries." This, he adds, is confirmed by their own claims and possessions in 1742, which include all the bounds as laid down in the map, and none have even thought fit to dispute them.[4] 
           On the 6th of May, 1768, a deputation of the Six Nations presented to the superintendent of Indian affairs a formal remonstrance against the continued encroachments of the whites upon their lands. The subject was immediately considered by the royal government, and near the close of summer orders were issued to Sir William Johnson, Superintendent of Northern Indian Affairs, instructing him to convene the chiefs, warriors, and sachems of the tribes most interested. Agreeably to these orders Sir William Johnson convened the delegates of the Six Nations, and their confederates and dependents, at Fort Stanwix (now Rome, N. Y.), October 24th. Three thousand two hundred Indians, of seventeen different tribes, tributaries to the confederacy, or occupying territories coterminous with theirs, attended. On the 5th of November a treaty of limits and a deed of cession to the King of England were agreed upon and signed, ceding all the lands south of the Ohio River as far as the Tennessee River. An incident which occurred at the treaty affords conclusive evidence of the understanding of the Cherokees of the claim which the confederates were about to surrender. Some of the visiting Cherokees on their route to Fort Stanwix had killed game for their support, and on their arrival at the treaty-ground tendered the skins to the Six Nations, saying, "They are yours, we killed them after passing the big river," the name by which they always designated the Tennessee. By the treaty of Fort Stanwix the Six Nations ceded all their right southeast of the Ohio down to the Cherokee River, which they stated to be their just right, and vested the soil and sovereignty thereof in the King of Great Britain. By the treaty of 1783 Great Britain surrendered the sovereignty of these lands to the States within whose limits they were situated. 
           In 1781, Colonel Crogan, who had lived thirty years among the Indians as deputy superintendent, deposed that the Six Nations claim by right of conquest all the lands on the southeast side of the river Ohio down to the Cherokee River, and on the west side down to the Big Miami, otherwise called Stony River; but that the lands on the west side of the Ohio below Stony River were always supposed to belong to the Western Confederacy. But evidences need not be multiplied. The settlement of the Cherokees on the south side of the Holston and Great Tennessee is an admission of the correctness of the claim of the Iroquois set up at the treaty of Fort Stanwix. 
           The Six Nations, who ceded the territory including Davidson County to the English in 1768, were the most powerful Indian confederacy on the continent. They occupied as the centre of their dominion what they metaphorically termed the "Long House," -that is, the territory of New York, extending from the Hudson River to Lake Erie. The Mohawks kept the eastern door, the Senecas the western; the southern door, through the Susquehanna to Chesapeake Bay, was guarded by a Cayuga viceroy, stationed at Old Tioga, now Athens, Pennsylvania; in the centre the Onondagas, or Men of the Mountain, kept the sacred council-fires of the confederacy at the capital, where all the great councils of the union were convened and the questions of peace and of war were decided. No people were ever so favorably situated for broad and sweeping conquests over large areas of country, having access to Lower Canada by the Hudson and Lake Champlain. The same great river carried them southward to Long Island, whence they subdued the tribes along the sound and on the Delaware. By the Oswego River northward, and by Lake Erie, they had access to the whole chain of upper lakes, by which they carried their conquest into the heart of Illinois. The great avenue of the Susquehanna on the south enabled them to subdue the Andastes and Delawares of that rich valley, and to carry their victorious arms into Virginia and North Carolina. On the west the great river Ohio and its tributaries opened an avenue for them to the borders of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, and Creek Nations, along which they carried their conquests to the Tennessee River, and held the territory by treaty with the conquered tribes, to whom they dictated terms of submission. There is no historic fact better established than that this great league or confederacy of the Iroquois dominated over all the surrounding tribes, from New England to Alabama, and from the Alleghany Mountains to the Mississippi. They had great men, great orators, and great statesmen among them. 
           The Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas probably crossed the St. Lawrence into the rich hunting-grounds of New York about the beginning of the seventeenth century. On the banks of the beautiful Lake Ganentaha, the site of the Jesuit mission of 1654, in the environs of what is now Syracuse, N. Y., their confederacy was formed, about 1620. 
           In 1712, when the Tuscaroras, a people occupying their tributary territory in North Carolina, were conquered by the whites, the Five Nations received them in New York, making a place for them in the bosom of the confederacy, where they were established as the sixth nation. This great confederacy was never in alliance with the French, although the ecclesiastical authorities at Quebec as early as 1641 began to make strenuous efforts to win their friendship by sending Fathers Jogues, Le Moyne, Lallamand, and other Jesuit missionaries among them. They became the strong and powerful allies of the English, and under the wise policy of Sir William Johnson, who lived among them on the Mohawk River, they maintained faithfully their allegiance through the French war and down to the struggle of the colonies for independence. 
           By their dictation the rich lands on the Cumberland and in Middle Tennessee were kept from Indian occupation till they ceded them to Great Britain in the treaty of Nov. 5, 1768. For this reason, and on account of the mildness of the climate and the rich pasturage furnished by its varied ranges of plain and mountain, Tennessee, in common with Kentucky, had become an extensive park, of which the finest game in the world held undisputed possession. Into these wild recesses savage daring did not often venture to penetrate. Equidistant from the settled territories of the Southern and Northern tribes, it remained by common consent uninhabited by either, and little explored. The approach of civilization from several directions began to abridge the territories of surrounding Indian nations, and the margin of this great terra incognita was occasionally visited by parties of savages in pursuit of game. Such was the state of things when the hunters and pioneers came to the Cumberland. 
[1] Lecture by Hon. Samuel Murdock, Garnavillo, Iowa.
[2] Those desirous of studying the subject will find valuable aids in Haywood's History of Tennessee, vol. i.; Foster's Prehistoric Races, and Short's Americans of Antiquity.
[3]Haywood, vol. i. p. 234.
[4] Franklin's works, as quoted by Butler.
Content on this page was transcribed and published by Debie Cox.
Copyright © May 5, 2007, Debie Cox.

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