Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Early Roads and Forts in the Cumberland Settlements

Map of Davidson County, Tenn. Wilbur F. Foster, 1871.



The earliest forts or stations of the Cumberland Settlements, in what is now Davidson and Sumner counties were;
1. French Lick Fort/The Bluff Station at Nashborough.  
2. Freeland's Station in North Nashville.
3. Stone's River Station at Clover Bottom.
4. Heaton's Station on the north side of Cumberland just north of downtown.  
5. Mansker's at Goodlettsville.
6. Asher's Station in Sumner County.
7. Bledsoe's Station in Sumner County.  
8. Fort Union at Renfro's Settlement.   

Stone's River Station (3.) was abandoned soon after it was established, with some of the inhabitants going to Freeland's and others to Mansker's.  Fort Union (8.) was also abandoned, by June of 1780.  In the late summer of 1780, fear of Indian attacks, caused the settlers at Asher's (6.) to pack up and move to Mansker's Station. The same fate met Bledsoe's Station, though it was taken up again about 1783.


The Bluff Station, Freeland's, Heaton's and Mansker's survived the early years of the settlements, as in April of 1783, the Committee of the Cumberland Association ordered that officers be chosen for each station for safety.  The named stations at that time were Nashborough Station, Freeland's Station, Heatonsburg, Mansker's Station and Maulding's Station.  Maulding's/Maudin's was north of Mansker's near the Kentucky line and was established after May of 1780 as it is not mentioned in the Cumberland Compact. Heatonsburg was at a different, but nearby, location from the old Heaton's Station.


The first roads through Nashville and surrounding area were trails, made by buffalo.  Though the correct term is bison, everyone calls them buffalo.  These trails or traces, were often several feet wide and tramped down over time.  This area was heavily forested and where there were no trees, cane grew so think, that it sometimes could not be penetrated.  The large number of buffalo in this area kept the trails clear of cane and of trees and often offered the only path to travel through. As pioneers moved into what is now Davidson and Sumner counties, these trails became a important as a way to move between the forts and stations in different parts of the settlement

Prior to the creation of Davidson County, the Committee of the Cumberland Association met to take care of local business.  In April of 1783, the committee made a motion to lay out the first official road in the settlement, to run from Nashville, north to Manker's Station and from Mansker's Station.  

Davidson County was created by the North Carolina Legislature in April of 1783 and by October the duties of the Cumberland Association were turned over to the newly created Davidson County Court.  In the first days after the court was established on October 7, 1783, the road from Nashville to Manskers was ordered by the court.  The next road ordered, in October of 1784, followed the path of the current White's Creek Pike. By the end of 1786, more than a dozen roads had been ordered to be layed out.  A person was named by the court, to determine the best path for the road, from point to point. The court ordered those persons who lived and owned land along the road, or that would be served by the road, to provide labor.  The road hands would help level and widen the roads that followed the old buffalo paths. Trees were cut and stumps removed.  Following is a list of roads mentioned in Davidson Court minutes from 1783 through 1786. Most of the early roads went north of the Cumberland River.

The information was abstracted from the book, Davidson County Court Minutes 1783-1792, by Carol Wells. Published by Heritage Books, Inc. Bowie Maryland

(p. 4) Oct 1783 - Road, Nashville to Mansco Station: Jas. Freeland to be overseer to Buchanan's Spring; Jas Shaw spring to Manco's.  

(p. 58) Oct 1784 – Ordered that Frederick Stump lay a road from Heaton's Bluff to Sycamore; Capt McFaddin from thence to Red River. Andrew Tomson to oversee the clearing out that part that Capt McFaddin lays off. Phenix Cox that part that Fred Stump lays off, and the inhabitants work thereon.

(p. 126) Apr 1785 – Road to be laid off from Dry Creek to Bledsoe's Lick. Capt Mansco and Ed Hogan to lay off road from said creek to Station Creek. George Mansco from Station Creek to the Lick.  Inhabitants from ridge between Mansco and Drake work on lower part; those above on upper part.

(p. 133) Jul 1785 – Isaac Johnson and John Cockrill to lay off road from John Fletchers Lick to Nashville. William Collins to oversee the clearing out road & call together for that purpose inhabitants at John Cockrills and on the waters of Richland Creek.

(p. 133) Jul 1785 – James Bosley and Elijah Robertson to lay off a road from Nashville to John Barrows ferry; John Bosley to oversee the clearing out of the same.

(p. 133) Jul 1785 – Jas Martin and Geo Frazer return they laid off a road from ridge above Frederick Stumps, past Thomas Cox. Wm Mitchell, John Frazer, (p. 134) Wm Loggins, and thru part of the clear lands of the old station, leaving Hoopers to the south. Wm Loggins & Haydon Wells to oversee the clearing of the same. Wells from Rays cabin; Loggins from that to the ridge.  Inhabitants below the road leading from Nashville to Mansker, and from the head of White Creek to the mouth work on the same.

(p. 134) Jul 1785 – Gasper Mansker returns that he has marked a road from the Station Camp Creek to the French Lick Road near Dry Creek.  John Blackamore to oversee clearing out said road from Dry Creek to Drakes Creek. Wm Montgomery there to Station Camp Creek.

(p. 139) Jul 1785 – John Phillips and Jacob Pennington to lay off a road from Manskers Station to William Grimes on Richland Creek.  Bazzel Boren to oversee the clearing out of said road.

(p. 140) Jul 1785 -  Frederick Stump and Wm Ramsey to lay off a road the nearest and best way from John Barrows ferry.  David Rounsevall to oversee the clearing out the said road

(p. 155) Oct 1785 -  Ordered John Rains and John Buchanan to lay of a road from John Mulherin's to F. Armstrong's mill; report to ensuing court. William Ellis and Bradley Gambrel to oversee clearing out of same.

(p. 159) Jan 1786 – Isaac Titsworth, Benjamin Drake, Benjamin Rogers and Jacob Pennington to mark a road from the mouth of Red River to Maulden's old station; report to ensuing court.

(p. 166) Apr 1786 - Isaac Titsworth, Benjamin Drake, and Jacob Pennington report they laid off a 
road from the mouth of the river to Maulden;s old station, supposed to be 25 miles

(p. 166) Apr 1786 – Sam Handley, Moses Winters, Wm Gilkison, and Caleb Winters to lay off a road from Shaw and Barrow Road where they come together on Whites Creek to ford of Sycamore, to Moses Winters, to Red River; make return to ensuing court.

(p. 170) Apr 1786 – Ordered John Drake and Isaac Rounsevall to lay off a road from Barrows ferry to the ford of Sycamore.

(p. 200) Oct 1786 - Order a road be laid out to John Buchanan's mill & that James Bryant, Jonas Manifee, Jos Davis, Isaac Thomas, John Estes, Robert McMullen, John Everitt, John Buchanan, John Kennedy, John Butler, Martin Hardin, William Thomas mark and lay off said road, and William Thomas oversee the same and Capt Buchanan's and Hay's company work on same.

Thanks to Paul Clements, for helping me to confirm and add to my recollections of this time.  I often check with him when I need help with early history.  I use his wonderful book, Chronicles of the Cumberland Settlements 1779 - 1796, on an almost daily basis.

Davidson County Court Minutes 1783-1792, by Carol Wells. Published by Heritage Books, Inc. Bowie Maryland is a shortcut to the early Davidson County Court Minutes with can be so difficult to read. 

You can view and download the 1871 map of Davidson county  at this link.

1 comment:

  1. You can view and download the 1871 map of Davidson county at this link. https://www.loc.gov/item/2006626025/

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