Historic Sumner County, Tennessee
Historic Sumner County, Tennessee

By Jay Guy Cisco, 1909

Chapter Two

Retyped for the page by Diane Payne

First Settlement

The curtain of history rises on Summer county in the year 1779, when a settlement of a dozen families was formed near Bledsoe's Lick. "Isolated in the heart of the wilderness, their only protection from marauding Indians was their undaunted courage and the stockade enclosures around their cabins."

The winter of 1779-80 brought many new settlers. The tide had set in, and it continued to flow, despite the many dangers and hardships which the people had to encounter. The first settlers came chiefly from the Watauga, North Carolina and from Virginia, though a few came from Pennsylvania and South Carolina. Many of these hardy men were fresh from the battlefields of the revolution, and brought with them the rifles and the muskets with which they had helped to win independence for their country. Better than rifles and muskets, they brought with them strong and vigorous minds, strong and healthy bodies, a love of freedom, undaunted courage and a determination to conquer dangers and difficulties and build new homes for their descendants or die in the wilderness. And many did die in the struggle. But their efforts were successful, and we owe it to their memories to mark their last resting places, to keep their graves forever green and to keep in mind their heroic deeds and unselfish sacrifices.

The men who settled Summer county were for the most part of obscure birth and accustomed to poverty. A few of them were men of wealth, and a small per cent of them were of aristocratic descent. Some brought with them to their new homes money and slaves. They came to found in the wilderness new homes and greater estates and to find better opportunities for their children. Some of the higher social class who had lost their fortunes in the older settlements came to begin life anew. Some were sons of the older families, young men, who came, purchased large estates, married and founded families. But the greater number were poor men, who saw no opportunities in the older settlements. It was these men who "animated by the twin spirit of chivalry and ad- venture united," contended with the Indians and laid the foundation of Tennessee. It was their sons that followed Jackson in the Indian wars and fought under his banner at New Orleans, and who fought the battles in the war with Mexico, and who followed Lee, Jackson, Bate and Forrest in the Civil War.

Northern historians grow eloquent when they write about the bloodshed at Lexington and Bunker Hill, but they have little to say about the bloodshed at Alamance, Camden, Cowpens, Guilford Court-House, Eutaw Springs, Charleston and King's Mountain, in which many of the pioneers of Tennessee, gained imperishable renown.

The first organized resistance to British tyranny in America was by the people of North Carolina in 1770. The first battle of the Revolution which gave independence to the colonies, and the first blood shed in that cause was on the 16th of May, 1771, when the forces of Governor Tyron, numbering 1,100 men, met about 200 of the "Regulators" at Alamance, in Orange county, North Carolina. In the battle that ensued there was stubborn fighting until the ammunition of the Regulators was exhausted and they were driven from the field. Twenty of these brave men were killed and several prisoners were taken, one of which was hung without trial, and twelve others were convicted of high treason and executed. The loss of the British in killed, wounded and missing were sixty-one men.

North Carolina, the mother of Tennessee, was the first of the colonies to throw the gauntlet of defiance in the face of the British. The battle of Lexington was fought on April 19, 1775, and one month and a day later, on May 20, the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was signed at Charlotte, twenty-seven brave men affixing their names thereto. A number of the descendants of these signers found their way to Tennessee, among them the Brevards and the Alexanders, ancestors of the families of those names now residents of Summer and other counties in Tennessee.

Edmund Burke said: "Wherever slavery exists, in any part of the world, those who are free are by far the most proud and jealous and of their freedom-and these people of the Southern colonies are much more strongly and with a higher and more stubborn spirit attached to liberty than those to the northward."

Bancroft said: "We shall find that the first voice publicly raised in America to dissolve all connection with Great Britain came not from the Puritans of New England or the Dutch of New York, nor the planters, but from the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians" of North Carolina, the mother of Tennessee. But the Scotch-Irish were not all Presbyterians, many of them Methodists, and it appears that large numbers of the early pioneers of Summer county were of the latter faith.

Gilmore says in his "Life of John Sevier:" "With but one exception, the trans-Allegheny leaders were all Virginians, Sevier, Donelson, and the two being from the ranks of the gentry, Robertson and Cocke from that of the yeoman class, which has given some of its most honored names to English history. The one exception was Isaac Shelby, who Welsh descent, but born and educated in Maryland.

"The over-mountain settlers were not fugitives from nor needy adventurers seeking in the untrodden, West a scanty subsistence, which had been denied them in the Eastern settlements. And they were not merely Virginians - they were the culled wheat of the Old Dominion, with all those grand qualities which made the name of "Virginia" a badge of honor throughout the colonies. .Many of them were cultivated men of large property, and, though the larger number were poor in this world's goods, they all possessed those more stable riches which consist of stout. arms and brave hearts, unblemished integrity and sterling worth. They were so generally educated that in 1776 only two in about two hundred were found unable to write their names in, good, legible English."

Forts or Stations

There are no positive records as to where the first stockade was built in Summer county, but it is probable that the one built by Col. Isaac Bledsoe was the pioneer. It was built on the borders of the cleared field before mentioned, near a large spring and about one- quarter mile west from the Lick. The only remaining vestige of that famous stockade and the cabins are a few scattered stones and fragments of broken crockery. Some of the logs of which the cabins were constructed were used in building a stable at the home of the present owner of the place, Mr, Belote.

Col. Anthony Bledsoe built his fort two and one-half miles further north, and gave to it the name "Green- field." It was situated on a beautiful eminence, and in the heart of one of the richest bodies of land to be found anywhere. There were in the original tract 6,280 acres. Besides this, he owned several thousands of acres of lands elsewhere, some on the Holston, and some in Kentucky.

Asher, with some others, built a fort two and one- half miles southeast of where Gallatin was afterwards located. That fort was called Asher's Station.

John Morgan built his fort on the west side of Bledsoe's Creek near the mouth of Dry Fork, about two and one-half miles from Greenfield.

Major James White built a fort about three and one-half miles northeast of Gallatin on the waters of Desha creek.

About the same time Colonel Sanders built one on the west side of Desha creek, and about two and one-half miles from White's Station.

Jacob Zigler's station, or fort, was one and one-half miles from Cairo, on the western branch of Bledsoe's creek. That fort was taken by the Indians in 1791. There were four white persons killed, four wounded and thirteen taken prisoners and carried to the Indian country.

Capt. Joseph Wilson, ancestor of Judge B. F. Wil- son, one of the members of the pr.esent Court of chancery Appeals, built a fort which he called Walnut Field Station, about three miles east from Gallatin.

Kasper Mansker and others built a fort on Mansker's creek, about three hundred yards below the site of Walton's Camp ground. The next year, 1782, Mansker built another fort about one mile east from the one he had previously built.

Hamilton's Station was established at the head of Drake's creek; about six miles north of Shackle Island.

Other settlements were made about the same time, but less is known of them, and there is no positive knowledge of their exact locations.

Elmore Douglass, James McCain, James Franklin, and Charles Carter made a settlement on Big Station Camp creek, where the upper Nashville road crosses the creek. James Harrison and William Gibson settled near the Hall place. William Montgomery settled on Drake's creek.

Among the early settlers, of whom the writer has not been able to collect detailed information are the following families: Alexander, Allen, Bryson, Belote, Bentley, Brown, Baker, Baber, Bowyer, Bracken, Chenault, Cantrell, Chapman, Cryer, Crenshaw, Carter, Cummings, Dickinson, Dunn, Darnell, Duffey, Franklin, Gillespie, Clendening, Hassell, Hargrove, Hays, Hanna, House, Harris, Joyner, King, Lewis, Mitchner, Murray, Montgomery, McCain, Provine, Perdue, Pond, Pryor, Roscoe, Read, Rawling, Robb, Turner, Tompkins, Mastin, Watkins, Wherry, Witherspoon, Woodson, Walton, Williams, Grant, and others.

From the beginning, the settlers of Sumner county were in constant peril. The men seldom ventured from their homes without arms. They lived in groups of several families, bound together by ties of common interest, exposed to common dangers, and ever ready to hazard their lives for the common good. Most of them had been born and reared on the frontiers of Virginia and North Carolina during the stirring times immediately preceding the Revolution. They grew to manhood and womanhood in the wilderness, where danger lurked on every hand, where Tory, British and Indian foes were liable to be met at every turn. Under such circumstances, where midnight attacks were of common occurrence, where fathers, brothers, husbands and sons, when they went to the clearings in the morning were in danger of being shot from am bush and their scalps torn from their heads before they returned to their cabins. Such men courted danger for danger's sake. They were cool and dispas sionate, and fear never entered their souls.

The Cherokees and the Creeks were constantly on the war path. There ,was no safety for the settlers until General Robertson ordered the destruction of the Chickamauga towns, and that order was successfully executed on September 13, 1794. After that time there was peace and safety. But many homes were in mourning for loved ones who had fallen victims to savage cruelty.

The Killed

Following is a list of Sumner countains, who were killed by the Indians, so far as has been obtained. There may have been others, but their names have not been preserved:
George Aspey, killed on Drake's creek.
John Bartlett, Jr., August 31, 1792, near Greenfield.
Richard Bartley, near Walnut Fields Fort.
John Beard, near the head of Big Station Camp creek.
John Benton, near Cragfont, April 11, 1793.
Colonel Anthony Bledsoe, at Bledsoe's Lick, July 20, 1788.
Anthony Bledsoe, Jr., near Rock Castle, April 21, 1794.
, Anthony, son of Colonel Isaac Bledsoe, near Rock Castle, April 21, 1794.
Colonel Isaac Bledsoe, near Bledsoe's Fort, April 9, 1793.
Thomas, son of Colonel Anthony' Bledsoe, near Greenfield, October 2, 1794.
William Brattan, near White's Station.
Robert Brigham, near White's Station.
_ Campbell, a young Irishman, at Bledsoe's Lick, July 20, 1788.
Benjamin Desha, in the summer of 1790, between White's and Sanders' Stations.
Robert Desha, at the same time and place.
James Dickinson, at the same time and place.
John Dixon, near General Winchester's, July 3, 1792.
John Edwards, four miles northeast from Gallatin, where Salem church was afterwards built.
Samuel Farr, or Pharr, near Walnut Fields Fort, April 14, 1793.
Mr. Gibson, near the Hall place, in the winter of 1788.
John Hacker, on Drake's Creek, May 20, 1793.
James Hall, brother of William, June 3, 1787.
Richard Hall, another brother of William Hall, June 3,1787.
Major William Hall, father of the two last named, and of William Hall, afterwards Governor. They were killed at the same time about half a mile south- west from the Hall home, while moving to Bledsoe's Fort for better protection from the Indians.
Michael Hampton, near the head of Red river.
William Haynes, at the same place.
Robert Hardin, near Fort Blount.
Mr. Hickerson, a young man, near Bledsoe's Lick.
Captain John Hickerson, on Smith's Fork, Augt 1st, 1788.
Henry Howdyshell, near Walnut Fields Fort, April 14, 1793.
Mr. Jarvis, a young man, near Greenfield, April 27, 1793.
A negro slave, belonging to Mrs. Bledsoe, at the same time.
Benjamin Keykendall, near Sanders' Fort, May 16, 1792.
Nathan Latimore, near Rock Island.
John Lawrence, at the head of Red river.
William McMurray, near Winchester's Mill.
John Montgomery, on Drake's Creek, two and one- half miles below Shackle Island, in the spring of 1788.
Robert Montgomery, at the same place.
Thomas Montgomery, at the same place.
Mr. Morgan, an aged man, the father of Captain John Morgan, at Morgan's Fort, in the winter of 1788.
Armistead Morgan, at Crab Orchard.
Captain Charles Morgan, near the Hall place, in the winter of 1788.
Captain Alexander Neely, near Bledsoe's Lick, in the summer of 1790.
Two sons of Captain Neely , at the same time and place.
Mr. Peyton, at Bledsoe's Lick, said to have been the last man to be killed by the Indians in Sumner county.
John Provine, two miles northeast from Gallatin, in May, 1792.
Mr. Price and his wife, near Gallatin.
Prince, a negro man.
Henry Ramsey, "the bravest of the brave," a brother of Mrs. Anthony Bledsoe, near Bledsoe's Lick, in the summer of 1793.
William Ramsey, brother of the above, at the same time and place.
Two sons of Colonel Sanders, near Sanders' Fort, February 22, 1793.
Thomas Sharp Spencer, at Spencer's Hill, Van Buren county.
Michael Sheaver, at Zigler's Station, in June, 1791. His body was burned with the fort after the Indians had captured it.
Mr. Stawder, near Station Camp creek, May 26, 1794.
John Steel, while going from Morgan's Fort to Greenfield.
Elizabeth Steel, daughter of John Steel, at the same time and place.
Hugh Tenin, on Harpeth, December 20, 1794. Nathan Thomas, near Hartsville.
Nash Trammel, on Goose creek.
Mr. Waters and another man, whose name has not been preserved, on Bledsoe's creek.
Evan Watkins, near Winchester's Mill, October 24, 1794.
Benjamin Williams, his wife and children, and a negro lad, two and one-half miles north from Gallatin.
Archie Wilson, at Zigler's Fort.
George Wilson, in Davidson county.
Major George Winchester, near the east end of Water street, in Gallatin, August 9, 1794. He was on his way to attend court.
Two negroes belonging to James Clendenning.
Jacob Zigler, at his fort when it was captured June 27, 1791.

On June 26, 1791, Zigler's Station was attacked by a large body of Indians, first in the afternoon, when Michael Shafer was killed, and then at night. The station was defended by thirteen men. Jacob Zigler, Archie Wilson and two others were killed; Joseph Wilson and three others were wounded and escaped; three escaped unhurt; eighteen persons were made prisoners. Mrs. Zigler stuffed a handkerchief into one of her children to prevent its cries attracting the enemy, and thus made her escape, while two of her children were captured. Of the prisoners were regained by purchase by their parents and friends. One of the prisoners was Joseph Wilson, half-sister to General James White, father of Hugh Lawson White. She was afterwards ransomed by him. Her daughter, who was only nine years of age at the time, was twice redeemed from her captors, but was treacherously kept from away her friends. General White determined to make a third effort to liberate her, and accordingly made a long journey to the camp of the Indians, and the third time paid a ransom for his niece, and set out on his return home, with the girl seated on the horse behind him. He was soon overtaken by a friendly Indian, who informed him that the Indians had repented of their bargain, and had determined to pursue and kill him and recapture the girl. The Indian offered to guide him by a more secure route, which was accepted, and he was soon beyond the reach of his enemies.

After plundering Zigler's Fort the Indians set fire to it, and with it was consumed the bodies of the whites who were killed. Among the captured were four Negroes.

The soil of Sumner county is sacred because mingled with it is the dust of heroes and heroines, of martyrs in the cause of civilization; men who fought in the battle of the Revolution; men who wrested this beautiful land from the savage red men and paved the way for empire; men who saw their fathers and mothers, their and sisters, their wives and their children, friends and companions fall before the rifles of Indian foes, saw the scalps torn from their heads and their mangled bodies left as food for beasts and birds of prey. And the women and children were no less heroic than the men, and, if possible, they suffered more. In those days "heroic action sprang spontaneously from the hearts of the people." Many of the men and women who toiled and struggled and conquered the wilderness now sleep in unmarked graves, which time and the plow have obliterated, and in many instances the sacred spot has been forgotten.

In Doddridge's notes we find this: "Is the memory of our forefathers unworthy of historic or sepulchral commemoration? No people on earth, in similar circumstances, ever acted more nobly or more bravely than they did. No people of any country or age made greater sacrifices for the benefit of their posterity than those which were made by the first settlers of our western regions. What people ever left such noble legacies to posterity as those transmitted by our forefathers to their descendants?"

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