With the beginning of 1783 prospects of peace began to brighten. News of the surrender of Cornwallis and the acknowledged independence of the American colonies came over the mountains and caused great rejoicing on the western frontier. In its wake came a number of emigrants to take the place of those to take the place of those who had removed to other localities. The colonies at Boonesborough, Harrodsburg and Davis' Station, in Kentucky, were also augmented by emigrants from the East. During this year the first dry goods store west of the Allegheny Mountains was established at Louisville, the goods with which it was stocked being brought on pack horses from Philadelphia. Soon thereafter Col. James WILKINSON established a second store at Lexington.
Because of a feeling of greater security which now prevailed, some of the Cumberland Stations formerly abandoned were re-occupied and other established. Kasper MANSKER and his associates who for two years had been living at Eaton's and the Bluff, selected a site on the east side of Mansker's Creek a mile above the old station, and there built a new fort. The Ashers also returned to their station southeast of Gallatin.
In the early spring Maj. John BUCHANAN and the MULHERRINS selected land and built a fort four miles east of Nashborough, near where the Lebanon branch of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railroad crosses Mill Creek. This was known as Buchanan's Station and some years later was the scene of a vigorous assault by the Indians.
During this year Anthony BLEDSOE, Absalom TATOM and Isaac SHELBY, who afterwards became the first governor of Kentucky, were sent over as a commission from North Carolina charged with the duty of laying off to certain soldiers lands in the Cumberland Valley. This was in payment for services rendered in the recent war of the Revolution. BLEDSOE, who was accompanied thither by his family, decided to remain in the settlement. In the fall he established a station at Greenfield, about two and a half miles north of his brother Isaac's fort at Bledsoe's Lick, and on a beautiful eminence in one of the richest bodies of land in Sumner County. The site is on the farm now owned by William CHENAULT. About the same time James MCCAIN, James FRANKLIN, Elmore DOUGLASS, Charles CARTER and others built a fort on the west side of big Station Camp Creek in Sumner County. It was located at a point south of where the Long Hollow turnpike crosses that stream. This site is near Douglass chapel and on the land owned by Mrs. Ellen BROWN, wife of the late Dr. Alfred BROWN.
Because of an almost incessant warfare with the Indians the court of Triers had held but few sessions since its creation two years before and of these no official record had been kept. It now began to sit regularly, the first recorded session being held on January 7, 1783. At this time the following Judges were present, to wit: James ROBERTSON, George FREELAND, Thomas MOLLOY, Isaac LINDSEY, David ROUNDSEVELL, Heydon WELLS, James MAULDING, Ebenezer TITUS, Samuel BENTON, and Andrew EWING. At a second meeting held on January 18, Isaac BLEDSOE and Capt. John BLACKMORE appeared and took the oath of office, completing the twelve, and thus constituting a full bench.
Numerous sessions were held this year at which a number of orders were made and decisions rendered. On February 5, John MONTGOMERY was sworn in as sheriff of the district, and Andrew EWING, one of their number, was made clerk of the court. MONTGOMERY was later deposed from office because he was suspected of being in league with the "Colbert Gang," a notorious band of river pirates who infested the Cumberland, Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers. Thomas FLETCHER was selected by the court to fill out MONTGOMERY'S unexpired term.
The minutes of this court as preserved by the Tennessee Historical Society are at once unique and interesting. By an order made at the February term the sheriff was commanded to take the body of John SASSEED, keep it safely and bring it before the court on the first day of March following, then and there to satisfy a judgment for twenty pounds and cost of suit, recently rendered against said SASSEED and in favor of John TUCKER.
At the august meeting of the court one of the cases heard was that of Frederick STUMP against Isaac RENFROE. This suit was over certain property hidden away at the breaking up of Renfroe's Station, on Red River. RENFROE had left there at that time a quantity of iron which he later sold "sight unseen" to STUMP, who was a miller and blacksmith. RENFROE'S brother James afterwards brought away a part of this iron, placing it in the custody of David ROUNDSEVALL. STUMP, hearing of this action, forthwith attached the estate of Isaac RENFROE, seeking to hold same for the loss thus sustained. He also caused to be issued a garnishment against ROUNDSEVALL. The latter answered, but declined to make defense. The facts appearing to the court as alleged, judgment was given against RENFROE for a hundred and sixty dollars and costs. However, the court considered that the iron in ROUNDSEVALL'S possession was of equal value and it was ordered delivered to the plaintiff in satisfaction of all claims.
This year six spies were employed by the settlement. It was their duty to continually scout through the woods and thus discover, if possible, the movements of the savages. They were under the direction of Colonel ROBERTSON and Isaac BLEDSOE, and were paid seventy-five bushels of corn per month in compensation for services rendered. As fifty dollars per bushel was considered a reasonable price for corn on the Cumberland at that time it would seem that their wages were ample. However, their duties were full of peril. The record shows that most of the spies employed from time to time in defense of the settlement met death at the hands of the Indians. The latter exhibited an especial delight in taking them captive, torturing them, and mutilating their bodies after death. In the month of March colonel ROBERTSON was elected to represent the settlement in the North Carolina Legislature, which was then in session. He set out at once for Hillsborough, the State capital, traveling the entire distance of seven hundred miles alone and at his own expense. While there he secured the passage of an act establishing an "Inferior Court of Pleas and Quarter Session" at Nashborough. This tribunal, which took the place of the Court of Judges and Triers, consisted of eight members, appointed by the Governor from the citizenship of the settlement. It was clothed with military, legislative and judicial powers. As members of the court the Governor issued a commission each to Isaac BLEDSOE, Samuel BARTON, Isaac LINDSEY, Francis PRINCE, James ROBERTSON, Thomas MOLLOY, Anthony BLEDSOE and Daniel SMITH.
The peace which for several months had been maintained was now broken, and the fury of the savages was again upon the settlement, Roger TOP was killed and Roger GLASS wounded at Rains' Station, in Waverly Place. William, Joseph and Daniel DUNHAM, were all killed, while prospecting on Richland Creek, and Joshua NORRINGTON and Joel MILLS soon thereafter met a like fate. Patsy, daughter of John RAINES, with Betsy WILLIAMS behind her, was riding on horseback in West Nashville when they were fired upon and the latter killed. Miss RAINES escaped uninjured and fled in safety to the bluff. Joseph NOLAN lost his life while alone in the woods, and a while thereafter his father, Thomas NOLAN, was also killed. The Indians crept up to Buchanan's Station, only recently established, and killed Samuel BUCHANAN and William MULHERRIN, who were guarding the fort. William OVERALL and Joshua THOMAS were ambushed and shot while en route from the Cumberland Settlement to Kentucky. Finally the enemy came at night to the bluff, stole all the horses around the countryside and began a hasty flight toward the South. A company of twenty soldiers under command of Captain PRUETT pursued them to a point beyond Duck River. There they overtook the Indians, whom they fired upon and dispersed. Recovering the stolen horses the whites recrossed the river and camped for the night on the northern shore. The Indians followed them over in the darkness, and at daybreak made an attack on the camp, during which they killed Moses BROWN. Thus surprised, the whites fled from the canebrake in which the camp was located to a higher point on the open ground in the rear. There they reformed and awaited the approach of the enemy. The latter, who were far superior to them in numbers, came up in good order and a fierce battle ensued. Captain PRUETT'S men were put to rout and fled in all haste to the bluff, leaving Daniel PRUETT and Daniel JOHNSON dead on the field. Morris SHINE and several others were wounded, but escaped by the aid of their comrades. The Indians recaptured all the stolen horses, together with those belonging to the men who had been killed. This defeat was a great misfortune, coming as it did at a time when the strength of the enemy was somewhat on the wane. Captain PRUETT had only recently come to the settlement, and though a trained soldier, was unskilled in Indian warfare. At the beginning of the attack he reproved his men for sheltering behind rocks and trees, insisting that they should line up in the open and fight as in regular warfare. They obeyed his command and thus met disastrous defeat.
During April or May, 1783, the State of Virginia appointed a commission to visit the Cumberland Settlement and there make a treaty with the southern tribes. This action aroused some indignation on the part of the settlers. They desired to known by what authority representatives of another State could come upon soil of North Carolina for such a purpose. They also doubted the wisdom of assembling around the stations a large party of the enemy whom they had so long fought, and of whom the people stood in such continuous dread. Added to the danger with which such action was fraught was also the expense of furnishing food to so large a company for an indefinite period. On the other hand it was argued that such a gathering might bring about peace, a condition above all others to be desired.
To determine the will of the people on this subject an election was held at the various stations on June 5. Colonel ROBERTSON and the leading men of the settlement generally voted against the proposition, but a summing up of the returns showed that it was favored by a majority of the settlement, and in pursuance thereof the Indians and commissioners were invited to assemble.
The council took place the latter part of June at the big spring four miles northwest of Nashville on the east side of the Charlotte turnpike. The body of land surrounding this spring had already been selected by Colonel ROBERTSON as his homestead, and thereon he later built a brick residence, which stood for many years after his death. This was also the site of the old Nashville campground. Thither came the chiefs and head warriors of the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws and Chickasaws, bedecked in all their savage regalia and accompanied by a vast horde of squaws and papooses, and as is the latter-day custom of these tribes in the West on such occasion, they brought with them all the dogs, cats, chickens, gees and other domestic animals and fowls, such as they happen to possess. On the whole the assembly was indeed a motley crew. However, they were received in a cordial manner by the settlers, by whom they were well fed and otherwise provided for during a stay of a week or ten days. There were provided for the occasion various kinds of amusement, such as foot races, ball games and jumping contests, in which the visitors engaged with great zest. They were delighted with the reception accorded and some friendships were formed which proved of value to the settlers in after years.
Col. John DONELSON, at that time living in Kentucky, and Colonel MARTIN represented Virginia at this council, and by the end of June a treaty was concluded ceding to the whites a scope of country extending forty miles south of the Cumberland to the watershed of Elk and Duck Rivers. But this agreement was likewise between an individual State and the Indians instead of being between the latter and the federal government. It was therefore open to legal objections and was later declared void. However, the occasion of its making was of benefit to the settlers by reason of the personal association above mentioned, and also because it served to further cement the friendship already existing between them and the Chickasaws. The Creeks and Cherokees, as was their custom, violated all the terms of the treaty and soon thereafter were preying upon the settlement with characteristic cruelty.
Though this treaty was rendered void, its principal features were included in that made by the Government with the same tribes at Hopewell, South Carolina, in November, 1785.
On April 14, 1783, the Legislature of North Carolina established Davidson County. It was so named in honor of Gen. William DAVIDSON, of North Carolina, who was killed on the Catawba while trying to check the British troops in pursuit of General MORGAN on his march from the battle of the Cowpens. The boundary of Davidson at that time included the entire populated portion of Middle Tennessee.
The first act of the Davidson County court was to order the building of a courthouse and jail, the contract for these structures being let soon thereafter. The former was eighteen feet square and of hewed logs. There was also on one side of the building a lean-to, or shed, twelve feet long. The site of the present courthouse on the Public Square in Nashville was selected for its location. The jail building was also built of hewed logs, each a foot square.
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