Early Times in Middle Tennessee
Early Times in Middle Tennessee
Chapter 5

By John Carr, 1857

Retyped for the page by Diane Payne, 2001

Chapter 5

In the year 1795, Gov. Blount, in accordance with the action of the General Assembly, secured an enumeration of the population in the territory south of the Ohio river; and it appeared that there were seventy- seven thousand two hundred and sixty-two inhabitants contained in eleven counties, three in Middle Tennessee and eight in East Tennessee. Whereupon proclamation was made, and an election held for five members from each county, to represent the people in a Convention for the formation of a Constitution preparatory to the admission of the Territory as a State of the Federal Union. The Convention met at Knoxville, January 11th, 1796, and the following gentlemen presented their credentials and took their seats as members, namely: David Craig, James Greenaway, Joseph Black, Samuel Glass, James Houston, from the county of Blount; John McNairy, Andrew Jackson, James Robertson, Thomas Hardeman, Joel Lewis, from the county of Davidson; Samuel Frazier, Stephen Brooks, William Rankin, John Galbreath, Elisha Baker, from the county of Greene; James Berry, Thomas Henderson, Joseph McMinn, William Cooke, Richard Mitchell, from the county of Hawkins; Alexander Outlaw, Joseph Anderson, George Doherty, William Roddye, Archibald Roane, from the county of Jefferson; William Blount, James White, Charles McClung, John Adair, John Crawford, from the county of Knox; George Rutledge, William C. C. Clairborne, John Shelby, Jr., John Rhea, Richard Gammon, from the county of Sullivan; Peter Bryan, Samuel Wear, Spencer Clack, John Clack, Thomas Buchanan, from the county of Sevier; Thomas Johnson, James Ford, William Ford, Robert Prince, William Prince, from the county of Tennessee; Landon Carter, John Tipton, Leroy Taylor, James Stuart, Samuel Handly, from the county of Washington; and David Shelby, Isaac Walton, William Douglass, Edward Douglass, Daniel Smith, from the county of Sumner.

The Convention proceeded to the choice of a president, when William Blount was unanimously elected and conducted to the chair. I have but little doubt that this Convention framed and adopted one of the best Constitutions in the United States. Our State was named TENNESSEE.

The first Legislature of the new State convened at Knoxville, March 28th, 1796. James Winchester was Senator from the county of Sumner, James Ford from the county of Tennessee, and Joel Lewis from the county of Davidson. The Representatives from Sumner were Stephen Cantrell and William Montgomery; from Tennessee, Thomas Johnson and William Ford; and from Davidson, Robert Weakley and Seth Lewis.

The Indian war having ceased in 1795, there was an immense immigration to our country, and large settlements were made, so that new counties sprang up as it were almost by magic. The county of Tennessee was divided, and out of it the counties of Robertson and Montgomery were formed, in honor of Gen. Robertson and Col. Montgomery respectively: the latter gentleman was killed below Clarksville. The county of Sumner was, at the session of the Legislature in 1799, reduced to its constitutional limits, and a new county, by the name of Smith, established, the first court for which was held at the house of Major Tilman Dixon. This county was named for Gen. Daniel Smith, a native of Virginia, who was appointed by Gov. Jefferson a commissioner to run the dividing line between Virginia and North Carolina. He was also appointed Secretary of the Territory, and was a member of the Convention of 1796. Subsequently he was one of the United States Senators from Tennessee. I knew him well; he was an excellent surveyor, and a well-cultivated and intelligent man. During the same session, another new county-Wilson- was formed: named in honor of Major David Wilson, who settled in Sumner county at an early day. It was said that he was an active and valuable officer in the Revolutionary war. He was a member of the Territorial Assembly, and was Speaker of the House of Representatives. He was an honest and highly meritorious citizen. I knew him long and well. The first court for Wilson county was held at the house of Capt. John Harpole. The first magistrates were Charles Kavanaugh, John Allcorn, John Lancaster, Elmore Douglass, John Doke, Matthew Figures, Henry Ross, William Grey, Andrew Donelson, and William McClain. Robert Foster was elected Clerk; Charles Rosborough, sheriff; William Grey, ranger; and John Allcorn, register. Not long afterwards, another new county was laid off, called Rutherford, in honor of Gen. Griff Rutherford, a native of North Carolina, and, I am told, an excellent officer during the Revolutionary war. He was a man of great worth. He ended his days in Sumner county.

At this stage of my narrative, I must mention particularly several men who were prominent among us in the early settlement of this country- men whose memories should be cherished by the people.


Kasper Mansker was one of the first pioneers. In June, 1769, a company of adventurers, consisting of twenty men or more, was formed for the purpose of hunting game and exploring the country now known as Middle Tennessee. Among these were Kasper Mansker, John Rains, Abram Bledsoe, John Baker, Joseph Drake, Obadiah Terril, Uriah Stone, Henry Smith, Ned Cowan, and Robert Crockett. They were from Virginia and North Carolina. They were well equipped with guns and ammunition, and with every thing else that was essential to a protracted hunting and exploring expedition. After having met on New river, they went to the head of Holston river, the north fork of which they crossed; traveling on, they crossed Clinch river and Powell's river; and, passing through the Cumberland Mountain gap, they fell over upon the Cumberland river; and, proceeding down it, they fixed their camp at a place since called Price's Meadows, in Wayne county, Kentucky. They explored the country south and south-west, as low as the Caney Fork. They hunted mostly on Roaring river and Obed's river, which. took its name from old Obadiah Terril, a man with whom I was well acquainted. The country abounded with game, and the hunters were very successful. They hunted and explored for a long time-I believe till the spring of 1770-when part of the company returned home. Kasper Mansker, and eight or ten others, having built boats, or "dug-outs," went with the proceeds of their hunt down the Cumberland river. They were, doubtless, the first white men that navigated that stream. They discovered the French Lick; and Mansker stated that he had never before seen such vast herds of buffalo - -the whole face of the country seeming to be alive with them. The voyagers continued down stream into the Ohio river, and thence to Natchez, which then belonged to Spain. There they sold the proceeds of their hunt; after which Mansker, with some others, returned to New river, in Virginia, and the remainder of the company settled at Natchez. The adventurers who returned to Virginia and North Carolina gave such wonderful, glowing accounts of the abundance of game and the fertility of the soil on the Cumberland river, that the fever of exploring the West became very intense.

In the fall of I771, Kasper Mansker, with the adventurers, made another trip to the country now known as Middle Tennessee. Mansker was the leader of the company; and some of the others were Isaac Bledsoe, John Montgomery, Joseph Drake, James Knox, Henry Suggs, William Allen, and William and David Lynch. They were called the Long Hunters. Arriving in the country, they pitched their station-camp near the spot where Dr. Anderson now resides, on the turnpike road from Nashville to Gallatin; and that is the way Station-Camp took its name. Each hunter made a discovery, which has been signalized by the name of the discoverer. Mansker's Lick and Mansker's Creek, Bledsoe's Lick and Bledsoe's Creek, and Drake's Lick and Drake's Creek, took their names from Mansker, Bledsoe, and Drake. Stoner's Lick and Stoner's Creek were named for Mike Stoner, a Dutchman. Flinn's Lick and Flinn's Creek, in Jackson county, were named for George Flinn. Barton Creek, where Lebanon now stands, was called for Col. Samuel Barton. Spencer's Lick and Spencer's Creek were called for Thomas Spencer-of whom I will write hereafter.

Mansker stated that, when he discovered the two licks, the upper and the lower, which were only a few hundred yards apart, in passing from one to the other, he killed nineteen deer. Col. Isaac Bledsoe stated that, when he discovered Bledsoe's Lick, the buffaloes were so numerous that, though on horseback, he was fearful of being run over and trampled to death by them. Indeed, the country abounded with buffaloes, bears, and all kinds of game. This company of hunters and explorers, under the leadership of Kasper Mansker, having constructed huts out of buffalo hides, remained during the winter; and, having made a great hunt, and explored the beautiful country of Middle Tennessee, they returned in the spring to their homes.

As already stated in my narrative, Kasper Mansker, in l779 or 1780, built a fort on Mansker's Creek, not far from Mansker's Lick. I knew him long and well. He was a Dutchman, and spoke broken English; and though without education, he was a man of fine sense. He was a great woodsman and a mighty hunter-one of the best marksmen I ever saw shoulder a rifle. He was an excellent soldier; and no man among us understood better than he did how to fight the Indians; so that he rendered great service in driving the savages from the country. I have often listened with eager attention, while he told his exploits and scrapes with the Indians. He was made a militia-colonel. He was present, though far advanced in years, at the taking of Nickajack. He never had any children. He possessed a handsome property, was fond of raising stock, and loved his gun as long as he was able to hunt. In his old age he would attend shooting-matches, and frequently took prizes when they shot for beef. He died where he built his second fort, on the east side of Mansker's Creek, in Sumner county.

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