Early History
Early History of Middle Tennessee
By Edward Albright, 1908

Chapter 19
Events Of 1780 (Continued)
Massacre At Renfroe's Station
Attack At Asher's
Death Of Wm. Neely
Clover Bottom Defeat

     During the month of July RENFROE'S Station at the mouth of Red River was attacked by a combined force of Choctaws and Chickasaws. In this onslaught Nathan TURPIN and another man whose name is now unknown were slain and scalped. The fort was thereupon abandoned The TURPIN family were relatives of the Freeland's, and, therefore, would go to Freeland's Station, while JOHNS and some of the others would stop on the East side of the river at Eaton's. They began their journey at once, taking with them only a few necessary articles. The remainder of their household goods and personal effects were hidden as securely as possible about the deserted fort. After a day of hard travel they camped by the roadside about dusk. After they had eaten supper some of the party began to express regret at their hasty flight and decided to return that night to the fort and bring away more of their property. Beginning the return journey at once, they reached the deserted fort in the early hours of the morning, and by daylight had gathered up all they could carry away. They then started the second time toward Eaton's and the Bluff. That evening they went into camp in what is now Cheatham County, two miles north of Sycamore Creek.

     During the night they were surprised by a party of Indians who fell upon them with sudden and destructive fire. The settlers scattered and fled through the darkness in every direction, but they were pursued and all save one-a Mrs. JONES-perished by the tomahawk in the hands of an unrelenting foe. Men, women and children, the latter detected by their crying, were hunted down and chopped to death with wanton cruelty. About twenty persons were killed in this terrible massacre. Among the number were Joseph RENFROE, and Mr. JOHNS together with his entire family, consisting of twelve persons. Mrs. JONES, who escaped, was rescued next day and brought in safety to Eaton's Station by Henry RAMSEY, a brave Indian fighter and worthy pioneer. Those of the company who had not turned back but had continued their journey, arrived at their destination in safety. When news of the above disaster reached Eaton's and the bluff a rescuing party from each went at once to the scene of the massacre and there gave aid to the mortally wounded, and buried the dead. By the light of the morning they found that the Indians, probably the same band which had made the assault on Renfroe's Station, had captured and carried away all the horses and much of the plunder. Such of the latter as remained they had broken and scattered over the ground.

     At length the Indians directed their attention to Mansker's Station and killed Patrick QUIGLEY, John STUCKLEY, James LUMSLEY and Betsy KENNEDY. This station was afterwards abandoned for a time as will be later recorded. Late in the summer a party of hunters were spending the night in a cabin at Asher's Station, in Sumner County. The Indians who by some unknown means had learned of their presence, surrounded the cabin during the night and at daybreak made an attack by poking their guns through the cracks and firing at the sleeping whites. They killed a man named PAYNE and wounded another by the name of PHILLIPS. After scalping PAYNE and capturing all the horses about the station they started on toward Bledsoe's, riding single file in the buffalo path which led in that direction. Suddenly they found themselves face to face with a company of settlers composed of Alex. BUCHANAN, William ELLIS, James MANIFEE, Alex. THOMPSON and others, who were returning to the Bluff from a hunting expedition in Trousdale County. BUCHANAN, who was riding at the head of his party, fired and killed the first Indian and wounded the second. Seeing their leader slain, the remaining savages sought safety in flight, leaving to the whites the captured horses.

     After this the settlers at Asher's became so much alarmed that they broke up the station and went to Mansker's. A short time thereafter Col. ROBERTSON, Alex. BUCHANAN, John BROCK, William MANN and fourteen others equally as true and tried, chased a band of Indians from Freeland's Station, a distance of forty miles, to Gordan's Ferry, on Duck River. Here they came upon the savages, killed several of their number and captured a large amount of stolen plunder. This was the first military expedition conducted by Col. ROBERTSON under the new local government.

     Later in the fall another party of Indians approached the Bluff Station in the night, stole a number of horses, loaded them with such goods and plunder as they could lay hands on and made their escape. The next morning Capt. James LEIPER, with a company of fifteen, pursued and overtook them on Harpeth River. When the savages heard the approach of the whites they made every effort to escape, but their horses, which were heavily loaded with the plunder stolen from the settlement, could make but little headway through the entangled undergrowth. At the first fire from Leiper's party the Indians fled, leaving the horses and plunder to their pursuers.

     The settlers were now in great need of salt for use in seasoning the fresh meat upon which they were obliged to depend almost solely for food. Their only way of securing this necessity of life was by evaporation from the waters of sulphur springs.

     The first attempt at salt-making was at Mansker's Lick. Having failed there, a party consisting of William NEELY, his daughter, a young lady about sixteen years old, and several men, went from that station to Neely's Lick, afterwards known as Neely's Bend, up the river from the Bluff. Here they had established a camp and were meeting with some success. NEELY daily scoured the woods for game and thus kept the company supplied with food, while the young lady did the cooking. The kilns at which the salt was made were located some distance from the camp, and the workmen suspecting no danger, went off each day, leaving the father and daughter alone about the camp. One evening about sunset NEELY returned from a successful hunt, bringing with him a fine buck which had been killed a few miles away. Being much fatigued he lay down by the camp fire to rest while his daughter skinned the deer and prepared the venison for supper, singing as she passed back and forth from the tent to the oven, some distance away. Suddenly a rifle barrel gleamed in the fading sunlight from behind a neighboring tree and a shot broke the stillness of the forest. NEELY, raising himself half-way up on his elbow, uttered a groan and fell back dead. The savages now rushed out from their hiding places, seized the girl, tied her hands behind her and gathering up her father's gun and powder horn dragged her away captive, a big Indian holding her on either side. Thus they forced her to run between them until far into the night, when the party reached a Creek camp many miles south of Nashville. Here they rested for awhile, but the next morning resumed their flight, going on into the interior of the Creek nation.

     NEELY'S companions returning to camp shortly after dark and finding him dead and his daughter missing, hastened to carry the sad tidings to the wife and mother at Mansker's, which place they reached about daylight. The occupants of the fort at once organized a party to pursue the murderers and rescue the girl. After following the trail for fifteen or twenty miles, acting on the advice of Kasper MANSKER, their leader, they quit the chase lest the captors, seeing themselves pursued, might kill their prisoner. The details of Miss NEELY'S final rescue have not bee preserved. However, it is known to historians that after remaining in captivity among the Creeks for several years, her release was secured and she was allowed to return to her friends. Later she married a prominent settler at one of the Kentucky stations, living thereafter a happy life.

     As previously related, Col. DONELSON early in May had fixed his station at Clover Bottom, near the mouth of Stone's River. It was already late in the season, therefore he did not take time to build a fort, but constructed a number of cabins with open fronts, known in those days as "half camps", into which he moved his own family and other members of his party. Beside his wife and children, Col. DONELSON had with him a number of slaves and dependents. He therefore felt the necessity of pitching his crop at once that he might be able to provide them with food during the winter. He planted corn in an open field on the south side of Stones River, and then crossing over made a small clearing and planted a patch of cotton on the north shore. These crops came up promptly, thrived and gave promise of a fine yield. But in the month of July heavy rains fell throughout the Cumberland Valley, causing the river to overflow the bottoms on either side. Being now under water, it was supposed that the crops in the Clover Bottom were destroyed. This, together with the daily increasing danger of Indian attacks, caused the station to be abandoned, the settlers going by boat up the Cumberland to Edgefield Junction, and thence across the country to Mansker's Station, where they were received and where they took up a second residence.

     In the fall Col. DONELSON learned that the crops at Clover Bottom had not been destroyed, as he had supposed, but upon the receding of the water they had matured and now awaited the harvest. Generously wishing to divide with the settlers at the Bluff, the latter having suffered loss by reason of the summer floods, he proposed to them that a boat party from that place should meet a like company from Mansker's at the Clover Bottom on a given date for the purpose of gathering the corn and cotton. This offer was readily accepted and accordingly about November 1 the two parties met at the place mentioned. _____text illegible. came from the Bluff was under command of Capt. Abel GOWER, and beside the latter consisted of Abel GOWER, Jr., John Randolph ROBERTSON, a relative of Col. James ROBERTSON; William CARTWRIGHT and several others, to the number of ten or twelve. Col. DONELSON himself was not present, but sent his company under the direction of his son, Capt. John DONELSON, Jr., then a young man twenty-six years of age. With him were Hugh ROGAN, Robert CARTWRIGHT and several other white men, together with a number of the DONELSON slaves. Among the latter was Somerset, Col. DONELSON'S faithful body servant.

     This party had brought with them a horse to use in sledding the corn to the boats and also for the purpose of towing the latter down Stones River to the Cumberland after they were loaded.

     On their arrival the boats were tied to the bank near where the turnpike bridge now spans the stream and all hands began the harvest, packing the corn in baskets and sacks, which were in turn hauled on a sled to the boats.

     They were thus engaged for three or four days, during which time they saw nothing of the enemy. However, they felt some uneasiness because of the constant barking of the dogs at night, a circumstance which to the settlers indicated that Indians were skulking about. During the last night of their stay the dogs were much disturbed, rushing as if mad from place to place about the camp. By daylight next morning the hands were in the field gathering and loading the rest of the corn and making ready in all haste for a speedy departure.

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