Part of the American History and Genealogy Project

Events of 1787, Increase Of Immigration

By reason of the westward flowing tide of immigration the settlement this year continued to increase in population. However, there was but little extension of its boundaries except in the region around Red River. As a whole the year was indeed one of bloodshed and disaster.

The population of Davidson County had previously increased to the extent that it was entitled to an additional representative in the State Legislature. Thereupon Col. Isaac Bledsoe was elected to that position, and together he and Colonel Robertson had traveled to and fro across the mountains between the settlement and the State Capital. But this year Bledsoe, being now a citizen of the new county of Sumner, David Hays was elected in his stead. The latter was related by marriage to the family of Colonel Donelson, and as previously stated, had founded Fort Union, afterwards known as Haysborough. He was a man of superior talents and withal a conspicuous figure among the pioneers. The first official act of Robertson and Hays this year was the presentation of a memorial to the Legislature. In this they set forth the sufferings of their constituents by reason of the barbarous attacks of the Creeks and Cherokees. They also detailed the part played by the Spanish Government in inciting such hostility. This recital closed with a petition that North Carolina follow the example of other States by ceding its western territory to the Federal Government. These far-sighted frontiersmen foresaw the ultimate organization of a new State west of the mountains, and the above action was the beginning of a movement looking toward such an end.

Sumner County now became the storm center of savage fury. A man by the name of Price and his wife were killed on the town creek just south of Gallatin. Judge Haywood, in recording this incident, says that the Indians also "chopped the children."

John Beard was murdered with a tomahawk and scalped near the headwaters of Big Station Camp. At Bledsoe's Lick, James Hall, son of Maj. William Hall, was killed on June 3, near his father's residence. He and his brother, William Hall, Jr., afterwards Governor Hall, were going from the barn through the woods to a neighboring field after some horses. A party of fifteen Indians were in ambush beside the path; ten of them behind a log heap, and the others further on in the top of a fallen tree. The first party allowed the boys to pass their hiding place, when with rifle in one hand and battle axe in the other, they rushed upon James who was some distance behind his brother, and laying hold of him struck a tomahawk deep into each side of his forehead. William, terrified at the sight, fled down the path, but soon encountered the party in the treetop, who now came running toward him. When one of them raised an axe to strike, the little fellow, as if by sudden forethought, turned aside and ran into the cane. The Indians followed, but he outwitted them, and by dodging from place to place reached his father's home unharmed. The latter would probably have been burned and the occupants murdered had it not been that just as the boy ran up there arrived a company of young people who were coming to spend the day with the family. The young men of the party, all of whom were armed, went at once in search of the Indians, but the latter had already made good their escape, taking with them the scalp of their victim. News of the attack was sent to Bledsoe's Fort, and five men therefrom, led by Maj. James Lynn, started at once in pursuit. It was found that the Indians had taken the buffalo trace leading from Bledsoe's to what was known as Dickson's Lick, in the upper country. The settlers did not take this trail lest they might be led into ambush. They traveled another which ran parallel and formed a juncture with the first at a crossing on Goose Creek, in Trousdale County. Just at this ford they came upon the fleeing savages, upon whom they opened fire, wounding two of their number. The culprits escaped, but in doing so threw aside their guns, tomahawks and baggage, all of which were captured and brought back to the fort. Tied to one of the packs was found the scalp which had just been taken.

Maj. William Hall was at this time absent from home, having been summoned to Nashville by Colonel Robertson to attend a council the latter was holding with Little Owl and other Cherokee chiefs. A few weeks before this a raid had been made upon Morgan's Station, at the mouth of Dry Fork, and a number of horses stolen. The Indians who committed the theft made a circuit through the knobs, expecting to recross the Cumberland at Dixon Springs and thus escape to the Cherokee nation. However, their movements were betrayed by the sound of a bell worn by one of the horses. Suddenly pouncing upon them in the hills | above Hartsville the Stationers killed one of their number and recovered the stolen property. It was believed that the murder of young Hall was in revenge for this pursuit and subsequent attack by the Morgan party. When Major Hall returned from the council at Nashville and learned what had happened he consulted with his neighbors, Messrs. Gibson and Harrison, as to whether they should stay out until crops were laid by or remove at once to the fort. It was decided to brave the danger for the time being, but that each household should employ two spies or scouts who should stand guard during the remainder of the summer.


Old Wm. Hall Home

No alarm was occasioned until August 2. On that day the scouts reported that a party of thirty Indians were skulking about the neighborhood. Early next morning the Hall family began moving to Bledsoe's fort. The household goods were conveyed thither on a sled. Mrs. Hall and the smaller children remained at the farmhouse to assist in packing and loading. The eldest daughter went to the fort to set up the furniture and arrange for the reception of the family. Three loads had been brought during the day. With the fourth and last load late in the afternoon came Major Hall, his wife, three sons and a daughter. With them also were Major Hall's son-in-law, Charles Morgan, and a man by the name of Hickerson. When about halfway between the house and the fort they were attacked by a party of Indians, who were in ambush for a hundred yards or more on either side of the road. Uttering a war whoop the savages sprang up and poured into the settlers a deadly fire. Richard, the eldest son, who was in advance of the rest, received a fatal shot and fell in the woods a short distance away. Hickerson, who was next in line, bravely stood his ground, but his gun missed fire. Receiving six rifle shots almost at one time, he sank to the earth, mortally wounded. The horse on which Mrs. Hall was riding now became frightened, and dashing through the lines of the enemy, carried her in safety to the fort. William Hall, Jr., who was driving the sled, dropped the lines and ran back to his little brother, and sister. Prudence, that, if possible, he might save them from capture. Major Hall ordered them to scatter in the woods while he and Morgan covered their retreat. All three of the children reached the Station unharmed. Major Hall and Morgan, now left alone face to face with the enemy, made a gallant defense, returning the fire with telling effect. Finally, however, Morgan, finding himself severely wounded, ran into the woods and thus escaped. Major Hall fell in the road, his body pierced by thirteen bullets. The Indians scalped him and taking his rifle and shot pouch disappeared in the forest. Maj. Hall's untimely death was a loss greatly deplored by his fellow settlers. Other outrages were committed during the summer and fall. John Pervine was killed two miles northeast of Gallatin on the farm formerly owned by Dr. Donnel. Early in the fall John Allen was surprised and shot through the body a short distance north of Bledsoe's, but escaped and recovered. Mark Robertson, brother of Col. James Robertson, was captured in a cane thicket on Richland Creek and brutally cut to pieces with tomahawks and knives. From the broken cane and blood on the surrounding shrubbery it was evident that he had contended long and fiercely with the savages before being finally overcome.

Soon after the events above mentioned, the father of Esquire John Morgan was killed just outside the stockade at Morgan's fort. Two companies gathered from the stations in Sumner County, started in pursuit of the murderers. One of these was under command of Maj. George Winchester and the other was led by Capt. Wm. Martin. There seems to have been no definite understanding as to the route to be followed, and while searching through the cane in the Bledsoe Creek bottom the parties suddenly approached each other. One of Winchester's men, thinking he had come upon the Indians, fired into Martin's party, killing William Ridley, son of George Ridley, late of Davidson County. Saddened by this unfortunate accident the troops abandoned the search and returned to their respective stations.

During the winter of this year Charles Morgan, who a few months before was wounded while defending the family of his father-in-law. Major Hall, together with Jordan Gibson, was mortally wounded and scalped a few hundred yards from the Hall residence while they were on their way to Greenfield Station. Morgan lived for several days, and before he died stated to the attendants that the Indian who scalped him had a harelip. It is believed this was a celebrated chief called "Moon," who was killed on Caney Fork two years later by Capt. James McCann. The latter was at the time a member of an expedition led into the upper country by Gen. James Winchester. The Indian killed by McCann was hare lipped and was said to have been at that time the only member of his race among the Southern tribes who bore such a mark.

The Cold Water Expedition

At some time previous to the year 1786 a band of outlaw Indians, composed of Creeks, Cherokees and Chickamaugas, moved down the Tennessee River to the 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 cooperating 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 services, 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 m 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 Castleman, 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 dependents 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 term of the Davidson County Courts 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 Superintendent should give notice thereof to the sheriff of the county who was directed to "distain immediately."

Early History of Middle Tennessee

Early History of Middle Tennessee, BY Edward Albright, Copyright, 1908, Brandon Printing Company, Nashville, Tennessee, 1909

 

Please stop in again!!

Back to AHGP

Copyright August @2011 - 2017 AHGP - Judy White
For the exclusive use and benefit of The American History and Genealogy Project. All rights reserved.

This web page was last updated.
2014