At some time previous to the year 1786 a band of outlaw Indians, composed of Creeks, Cherokees and Chicakamaugas, moved down the Tennessee River to Muscle Shoals, and going thence south a few miles, established a town near the present site of Tuscumbia, Ala. This village was called Cold Water because of its close proximity to a large spring which to this day flows out from under a bluff of limestone rock, and from which they secured a water supply. Soon after their arrival there came hither ten French traders and a woman, the reputed wife of one of the latter, down from Kaskaskia, Illinois, and joining the Indians, founded a post for the sale and exchange of goods and furs. The location of this village was for a time kept secret. However, the settlers soon noticed that in chasing certain bands of marauders, who now made frequent inroads upon the settlement, the latter always fled to the southwest. This caused the whites to suspect the fidelity of the Chickasaws, with whom they had long been at peace. At length two Chickasaw warriors, one of whom was named Toka, were hunting in the region now comprising northern Alabama. Late one afternoon they came upon this hidden town, which was called Cold Water, and there being received in a friendly manner by the inhabitants, decided to spend the night. During this visit the villagers confided to Toka and his companion the fact that their object in selecting this location was that they might more easily plunder and harass the Cumberland settlers. Early next morning the Chickasaws took their leave and returning in great haste to their villages near the present site of Memphis, related to Piomingo, the chief, the things they had seen and heard. Piomingo sent them at once to Nashville in order that they might impart this information to Colonel ROBERTSON. The latter lost no time in raising a company for an expedition against this band of thieves and murderers, who had so long preyed upon the settlement. A force of one hundred and twenty picked men, well armed and equipped, were soon ready to march. It was also deemed expedient to send a few boats down the Cumberland and up the Tennessee for the purpose of co-operating with the land force. It was agreed that the latter should carry an extra supply of provisions, and that in an emergency it might be used to convey the troops across the river. Accordingly a large boat bearing the name "Piragua", and two canoes were rigged up, and under command of David HAY and Moses SHELBY, brother of Col. Isaac SHELBY, began their voyage. Beside the officers mentioned there were aboard a crew of eighteen men, among whom were Hugh ROGAN, Josiah RENFROE, Edward HOGAN and John TOP. They were instructed to proceed as far as Colbert's Landing. If the horsemen should have trouble in crossing elsewhere they were to march down to this place and ferry over. After seeing the boats off, the land force, guided by two friendly Chickasaws, who had volunteered their service, and under command of Colonel ROBERTSON and Lieut. Cols. Robert HAYS and James FORD, began the journey toward the South. The route traversed was as follows: By the mouth of Little Harpeth River, west to the mouth of Turnbull's Creek in Cheatham County, thence up same to its source in the southern portion of Dickson County. From there they journeyed on, henceforth in a southerly direction, through Hickman County to Lick Creek of Duck River, thence by the head of Swan Creek, in Lewis County, to the source of Blue Water Creek, in Lawrence County. They followed this stream to where it empties into the Tennessee, a mile and a half above the lower end of Muscle Shoals.
This journey consumed several days, but finally when within hearing of the Shoals they went into camp for a day while the scouts went forward to reconnoiter. At dawn on the following morning the company cautiously approached the river and crossed over, some in a boat which was tied to the shore and others swimming across on their horses. After making a brief stop on the south bank for breakfast, and to dry their clothes, they mounted again and, striking a swift gallop, rushed down upon the village, some six or eight miles below. After a ride of forty minutes a halt was called for consultation.
The village was located on a rise a few hundred yards to the west of cold Water Creek. A sharp decline ran therefrom down to the edge of the stream. The attacking party now crossed at a ford some distance above, and from there proceeded in two detachments. Colonel ROBERTSON, with the larger part of the force, went around to the rear of the village, while Capt. John RAINS, with a few chosen men, crept along the bank of the creek to the ford, there to intercept the fugitives who might rush down to escape in canoes. The larger force now having reached its vantage ground, a charge was ordered. However, the Indians had discovered their presence and were already in flight toward the ford. There they were met by RAINS and his men, who shot and killed twenty-six of them as they tried to embark in the boats. The rest of the savages fled hastily in every direction without firing a shot, leaving all their guns, ammunition and other possessions behind. Three of the Frenchmen and the woman who came with them were killed. The remainder of their party, together with several Indians, were captured.
After sacking the village, the settlers applied the torch, burning every cabin to the ground, and by the smoldering ruins camped for the night. On the following morning they began the return journey. The captives and the booty were placed in canoes and started down the river in charge of Jonathan DENTON, Benjamin DRAKE and John and Moses ESKRIDGE. At an appointed place they met the land force which had moved down the west bank of the river. Here they released the prisoners with instructions to hurry back up the river. This, of course, the latter lost no time in doing. After the troops had been ferried over, the party in canoes proceeded by river with the captured goods to Nashville. The Indian guides were also dismissed at this point. In reward for faithful service they were presented with a horse each and a part of the booty, with all of which they returned much pleased to Piomingo's village. The land force began its homeward march, reaching the settlement in due time without the loss of a single man.
But the fleet under command of HAY and SHELBY was less fortunate. After leaving Nashville it had proceeded without event to the mouth of Duck River, in Humphreys County. Here Shelby discovered an empty canoe tied to the shore within the mouth of the stream. His curiosity thus excited, he concluded to investigate. Heading his boat that way he rowed over alongside the strange craft. No sooner was this done than the Indian occupants of the canoe, who, when they discovered the approach of the boat, had hid themselves in the cane, opened upon the whites a deadly fire. Josiah RENFROE was killed outright and Hugh ROGAN, Edward HOGAN, and John TOP were severely wounded.
It was with difficulty that SHELBY now removed his boat out to midstream, where a council was held with the other members of his party, the latter not having followed him into the trap. There it was decided to abandon the voyage and return at once to Nashville in order that medical aid might be secured for the wounded.
The fearless and successful raid above detailed, which is known in history as the Cold Water Expedition, cowed the savages for a few weeks, but soon they began anew their bloody carnage, slaying and torturing without regard for age or sex.
One band of Indian warriors, led by a chief called Big Foot, was pursued from the settlement by a company under command of Captain SHANNON. With him were Luke ANDERSON, Jacob SATSLEMAN, the noted scout, and William PILLOW, uncle of Gen. Gideon J. PILLOW, the latter of more recent fame. On the bank of the Tennessee river the Indians were overtaken while in the act of crossing and thus making their escape into West Tennessee. Captain SHANNON and his party rushed down upon them, and being about equal in numbers, a hand to hand conflict ensued. CASTLEMAN and PILLOW each killed an Indian and then turned to the aid of their less fortunate comrades. Down near the water ANDERSON was engaged in a desperate struggle with big Foot, who was much the larger of the two. Just as ANDERSON'S gun was wrested from his hand and he was being hurled to the ground, PILLOW sprang upon Big Foot and split open his head with a tomahawk. His braves, seeing the death of their chief, now fled in dismay, leaving all their stolen goods behind.
Soon thereafter Randal GENTRY was surprised and killed near the Bluff Fort. Curtis WILLIAMS, Thomas FLETCHER and the latter's son met a like fate while exploring near the Harpeth River in Cheatham County.
This year a branch road was cut out from Bledsoe's Lick across to the main highway which had previously been opened from Nashville to the foot of Clinch Mountain, in East Tennessee. At the point where the branch road crossed the Cumberland River there was established a new station called Fort Blount. Because of this highway many of the new emigrants now turned aside and sought the rich lands of Sumner County, thus in a short time making it more populous than its sister county on the south. During this year also a census of Middle Tennessee was ordered and carefully taken. By this it was found that there were within its bounds four hundred and seventy-seven males, or fighting men, over twenty-one years of age. The negroes, male and female, over twelve and under sixty years, numbered one hundred and five.
The tax list for the year 1787 shows a hundred and sixty-five thousand acres of land at that time under legal ownership in Middle Tennessee, nearly one-fifth of which was assessed to Col. James ROBERTSON. The latter, however, at this time was acting in the capacity of agent for many non-resident owners, and it is probable that much of the above belonged to his clients.
The record of this assessment also shows that at this time in Nashville there were only twenty-six town lots on which taxes were paid.
While the colony was being so greatly harassed by the Indians in 1787, the parent State legislated in behalf of her dependants on the Cumberland, thereby ordering to their aid a battalion of men. It was commanded by Major EVANS, a brave soldier, and was called "Evans' Battalion". These troops were to receive for their services four hundred acres of land each, the officers thereof being granted a greater amount in proportion. One company was led by Capt. William MARTIN, afterwards Colonel MARTIN, who died in Smith County. Another was under command of Capt. Joshua HADLEY, who died many years ago in Sumner County. This battalion remained in the settlement about two years and rendered good service in guarding the various forts and in pursuing the enemy when the latter had committed murders or stolen horses. The Legislature, however, as was its custom in pursuance of such acts of generosity, provided that these soldiers should be sheltered, clothed and fed by the people whom they were sent to guard. At the October terms of the Davidson County Court, 1787, a tax was levied for their support. The resolution authorizing same was as follows: "Resolved, That for the better furnishing of the troops now coming into the county under command of Major EVANS, with provisions, etc., that one-fourth of the tax of this county be paid in corn, two-fourths in beef, pork, bear meat and venison; one-eighth in salt, and an eighth in money, to defray expenses of removing provisions." In fixing the rate at which the above provisions should be valued, it was provided that beef should be reckoned at five dollars per hundred; pork, eight dollars per hundred; "good bear meat without bones," eight dollars per hundred; venison, ten shillings per hundred, and salt at sixteen dollars per bushel. The "superintendent" was directed to call for such a part of the aforesaid tax as the commanding officer of the troops might direct. If any person or persons failed to deliver his or their quota or quotas, at the time and place directed, the said Superintedent should give notice thereof the sheriff of the county who was directed to "distrain immediately."
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