Private Isaac Garrison, survey companion of George Washington

January 28, 2014

Isaac Garrison was born in 1732 possibly in North Carolina. As listed in the DAR Patriot Index, Isaac was a recognized patriot in North Carolina during the Revolutionary period. He is on several tax lists for Surry County, North Carolina and also fought as a soldier in the Revolutionary War.

Isaac married his first wife (name unknown) in about 1767 when he would have been 35 years old. They had 4 children: Sarah, Isaac, John, and Mary.

His first wife having died, Isaac was married to Martha (last name unknown) in about 1783 in Surry County, North Carolina. Isaac and Martha had 4 sons and 4 daughters. Only the sons’ names are known: David, Joseph, William, and James.

According to family tradition, Isaac Garrison knew George Washington in his youth and went with him on surveying trips. He is also said to have known Daniel Boone well and supposedly went with him on trips into the Kentucky Territory. It was a source of pride with him that he had come from the same generation as George Washington and Daniel Boone and had outlived both of them.

Isaac Garrison is believed to have first served in the North Carolina troops under either General Francis Nash or Col. Edward Buncombe. Their troops were from Surry, Wilkes, and other Northern counties of North Carolina. And their men served in the Battle of Brandywine on Sept. 11, 1777 and in the Battle of Germantown on Oct. 4, 1777. Both Nash and Buncombe were mortally wounded at Germantown along with six other officers. After the deaths of these two commanders, it is believed that their regiments combined to become the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment.

The Pennsylvania Archives do give record that Isaac Garrison served as a private in Joseph Howell’s Company, 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment from July 1, 1777 to August 1778 when it became Capt. Peter Gosner’s Company. This company served at Valley Forge under General Nathaniel Greene. He continued serving in this company until 1781.

After the Revolutionary War ended, Isaac Garrison was granted land in the Lick Creek area of Rowan and Surry County, North Carolina. He came to own 981 ½ acres of land in Surry County, North Carolina. This land became part of Stokes County in 1789. He sold the last of his North Carolina property in 1791, when he moved to Grayson County, Virginia. He moved back to Stokes County in 1795 but stayed only a short time.

He then went westward to Hawkins County in eastern Tennessee, where he bought land from John Cotteral in 1798. There he purchased 200 acres in Puncheon Camp Valley. Amazingly, he left Hawkins County, Tennessee in 1832 at the age of 100 and came to Missouri with his sons Joseph, James, and William. Joseph settled on the Dry Auglaze in what is now Camden County. The other two settled in Greene County, Missouri, in a place known as “The Rich Woods” on Finley Creek, northwest of the present site of Ozark. This is where the Richwood Cemetery got its name in later years.

After 4 years of living in southwest Missouri, Isaac Garrison died in 1836 in what was Greene County, Missouri and now is in Christian County. He was 104 years old at his death. His marker is in the southwest corner of the Richwood Cemetery.


Monument to Isaac Garrison

The monument currently at Isaac’s grave, was placed there by Jack Farthing of Ozark, Darrell Garrison, and other members of the Isaac Garrison Family Association in about 1976. The DAR marker was placed by the Meyongo Chapter of DAR from Buffalo in about 1990. About 20 Garrison descendants were present at that grave marking ceremony. Ozark Mountain Chapter SAR held a dedication service on November 19, 1994 (an SAR insignia had been placed at his grave several years earlier.)

Source: RootsWeb

Colonel David "Davy" Crockett

August 17, 2013

David “Davy” Crockett was a celebrated 19th century American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier and politician. He is commonly referred to in popular culture by the epithet “King of the Wild Frontier”. He represented Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives, served in the Texas Revolution, and died at the Battle of the Alamo.


Congressman David Crockett of Tennessee

Crockett grew up in East Tennessee, where he gained a reputation for hunting and storytelling. After being elected to the rank of colonel in the militia of Lawrence County, Tennessee, he was elected to the Tennessee state legislature in 1821. In 1826, Crockett was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Crockett vehemently opposed many of the policies of President Andrew Jackson, most notably the Indian Removal Act. Crockett’s opposition to Jackson’s policies led to his defeat in the 1834 elections, prompting his angry departure to Texas shortly thereafter. In early 1836, Crockett took part in the Texas Revolution and was killed at the Battle of the Alamo in March.

Crockett became famous in his own lifetime for larger-than-life exploits popularized by stage plays and almanacs. After his death, he continued to be credited with brazen acts of mythical proportion. These led in the 20th century to television and movie portrayals, and he became one of the best-known American folk heroes.[1][2]

David Crockett was born on August 17, 1786 in what is now Greene County, Tennessee, close to the Nolichucky River and near the community of Limestone. At the time of his birth, however, the surrounding area was part of the autonomous territory known as the State of Franklin. A replica of his birthplace cabin stands in Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park on the Nolichucky River near Limestone.[3]

Crockett was of primarily English and Scots-Irish descent but also had distant Irish and French Huguenot ancestry,[4] the family name being derived from Monsieur de la Croquetagne, a captain in the Royal Guard of French King Louis XIV.[5] The family converted to Protestantism and, as Huguenots fled France in the 17th century, to settle in Ireland. Family tradition says that David Crockett’s father was born on the voyage to America from Ireland, though in fact Crockett’s great-grandfather, William David Crockett, was registered as having been born in New Rochelle, New York in 1709.[6]

David Crockett was the fifth of nine children of John and Rebecca (Hawkins) Crockett. He was named after his paternal grandfather, who was killed in 1777 at his home near today’s Rogersville, Tennessee, by Indians led by Dragging Canoe.[7] Crockett’s father was one of the Overmountain Men who fought in the Battle of Kings Mountain during the American Revolutionary War. The Crocketts moved to Morristown, Tennessee, in the 1790s and built a tavern there. A museum stands on the site and is housed in a reconstruction of the tavern.[8]

In his autobiography, Crockett told that his early years were filled with adventure, hardship, and travel. When he was 8 years old, he told his father he wanted to hunt with a rifle. Crockett promised to make every shot count, and began hunting with his older brothers. After being sent to school, he dropped out to run away from home to avoid a beating at the hands of his father when he was 13. Crockett said he had “whupped the tar” out of a school bully who had embarrassed him on his fourth day in school. Crockett decided not to return to school for the next few days, fearing the bully would return with some friends backing him up, as well as the teacher’s punishments. The teacher eventually wrote to Crockett’s father to ask why his son did not attend class. Crockett told his father the truth. Angry that family trade goods exchanged for his son’s education had gone to waste, he refused to listen. Crockett ran away from home and spent three years roaming from town to town. He claimed he visited most of the towns and villages in Tennessee and learned his skills as a backwoodsman, hunter and trapper.

Near his 16th birthday, David Crockett returned home. Before Crockett had left, his father had opened a tavern on the road between Knoxville, Tennessee and Abingdon, Virginia. Crockett stopped in for a meal unannounced. The first to finally recognize him, his older sister, Betsy, cried, “Here is my lost brother! Look! He is home!” The family was delighted and he was welcomed back. His father was in debt, so he hired Davy out to Abraham Wilson to settle a debt of $36. Later, Crockett generously worked off a $40 debt to John Kennedy. In return, John Crockett told his son he was free to leave. Davy went to work again for Kennedy, this time working for himself.

Shortly afterwards, Crockett became engaged to Margaret Elder and, although the marriage never took place, the contract of marriage (dated October 21, 1805) has been preserved by the Dandridge, Tennessee, courthouse. It is well documented that Crockett’s bride-to-be changed her mind and married someone else. Heartbroken at age 19, Crockett decided he was “only born for hardships, misery, and disappointment”.[9][10]

On August 16, 1806, one day before his 20th birthday, Crockett married Mary (Polly) Finley in Jefferson County, Tennessee.[11] They had two sons: John Wesley Crockett was born July 10, 1807, followed by William Finley Crockett (born 1809). They also had a daughter, Margaret Finley (Polly) Crockett in 1812. As wild game ran scarce, the Crocketts then moved to Franklin County, Tennessee in 1813. He named the new settlement on Beans Creek “Kentuck.” [12]

After his wife Polly’s death, Crockett married a widow named Elizabeth Patton in 1815; they had three children: Robert, Rebecca and Matilda.

On September 24, 1813, Crockett joined the Second Regiment of Tennessee Volunteer Mounted Riflemen for an initial term of 60 days and served under Colonel John Coffee in the Creek War, marching south into present day Alabama and taking an active part in the fighting. Made a scout because of his abilities as a hunter, trapper, and woodsman, Crockett is known to supposedly have supported the starving troops during the time of the Creek War with the game he hunted. He was eventually discharged from service on March 27, 1814. Crockett was elected Lieutenant Colonel of the Fifty-seventh Regiment of Tennessee Militia on March 27, 1818.[13]

On September 17, 1821, Crockett was elected to the Committee of Propositions and Grievances. He lost his first run for Congress in 1824, but ran again in the next election. In 1826 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Jacksonian. As a Congressman, Crockett supported the rights of squatters, who were barred from buying land in the West without already owning property. He also joined the Anti-Jacksonians in opposing President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, and his opposition to Jackson caused his defeat when he ran for re-election in 1830; however, he won when he ran again in 1832. As he explained, “I bark at no man’s bid. I will never come and go, and fetch and carry, at the whistle of the great man in the White House no matter who he is.”[14]

Under the date of November 26, 1833, John Quincy Adams records in his diary an encounter with Crockett, whom he quotes as saying that he (Crockett) “had taken for lodgings two rooms on the first floor of a boarding-house, where he expected to pass the winter and to have for a fellow-lodger Major Jack Downing, the only person in whom he had any confidence for information of what the Government was doing.”[15]

In an 1884 book written by dime novelist[16] and non-fiction author[17] Edward S. Ellis, Crockett is recorded as giving a speech (the “Not Yours to Give” speech) critical of his Congressional colleagues who were willing to spend taxpayer dollars to help a widow of a US Navy man who had lived beyond his naval service, but would not contribute their own salary for a week to the cause.[18] Ellis describes how the once popular proposal died in the Congress largely as a result of the speech. It was said that a man from Crockett’s district, Horatio Bunce, converted Crockett to such a course of action by explaining that the Constitution did not allow Congress to give charity.[18] The authenticity of this speech is questioned, however, since the Register of Debates and the Congressional Globe do not contain transcripts of speeches made on the House floor. Crockett is on record opposing a similar bill and offering personal support to the family of a General Brown in April 1828,[19] but Crockett considered applications for relief on a case by case basis and sometimes voted in favor of the applicant.[20] An article by Crockett biographer James R. Boylston debunking the “Not Yours to Give” speech was published in the November 2004 issue of The Crockett Chronicle.[21]

In 1834, his autobiography titled A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett. Written by Himself was published.[22] Crockett went east to promote the book and was narrowly defeated for re-election. He said, “I told the people of my district that I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but if not … you may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.” Following his defeat, he did just that.

By December, 1834, Crockett was writing to friends about moving to Texas if Van Buren were elected President. The next year he discussed with his friend Benjamin McCulloch raising a company of volunteers to take to Texas in the expectation that a revolution was imminent.[23] After the election results became known in August, his departure to Texas was delayed by a court appearance in the last week of October as co-executor of his deceased father-in-law’s estate, and he finally left his home near Rutherford in West Tennessee on Nov. 1, 1835, with three other men to explore Texas.[24] His youngest child, Matilda, later wrote that she distinctly remembered the last time she saw her father: “He was dressed in his hunting suit, wearing a coonskin cap, and carried a fine rifle presented to him by friends in Philadelphia . . . He seemed very confident the morning he went away that he would soon have us all to join him in Texas.”[25]

From his home he traveled to Jackson, arriving there with 30 well-armed men, where he gave a speech from the steps of the Madison County courthouse, and then rode southwest to Bolivar, where he spent the night at residence of Dr. Calvin Jones, once again drawing crowds who sent him off the next morning.[26] He arrived in Memphis in the second week of November with a much-diminished company, and ferried over the Mississippi River the next day and continued his journey on horseback through Arkansas.[27]

On Nov. 12, 1835, Crockett and his entourage arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas. The local newspapers reported that hundreds of people swarmed into town to get a look at Crockett, and a group of leading citizens put on a dinner in his honor that night at the Jeffries Hotel. Crockett spoke “mainly to the subject of Texan independence,” as well as Washington politics.[28]

He arrived in Nacogdoches, Texas, in early January 1836. On January 14, 1836, Crockett and 65 other men signed an oath before Judge John Forbes to the Provisional Government of Texas for six months: “I have taken the oath of government and have enrolled my name as a volunteer and will set out for the Rio Grande in a few days with the volunteers from the United States.” Each man was promised about 4,600 acres (19 km2) of land as payment. He also sold two rifles to Colonel O’Neal for $60. (After his death there was a claim for his heirs for $57.50. In 1854 his widow received a payment certificate for $24.00 from Texas.) On February 6, Crockett and about five other men rode into San Antonio de Bexar and camped just outside the town. They were later greeted by James Bowie and Antonio Menchaca, and taken to the home of Don Erasmo Seguin.

Crockett arrived at the Alamo on February 8.[29] To the surprise of the men garrisoned in the Alamo, on February 23, a Mexican army, led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, arrived. The Mexican soldiers immediately initiated a siege.[30][31] Santa Anna ordered his artillery to keep up a near-constant bombardment. The guns were moved closer to the Alamo each day, increasing their effectiveness. On February 25, 200–300 Mexican soldiers crossed the San Antonio River and took cover in abandoned shacks approximately 90 yards to 100 yards from the Alamo walls.[32][33] The soldiers intended to use the huts as cover to establish another artillery position, although many Texans assumed that they actually were launching an assault on the fort.[34] Several men volunteered to burn the huts.[35] To provide cover, the Alamo cannons fired grapeshot at the Mexican soldiers, and Crockett and his men fired rifles, while other defenders reloaded extra weapons for them to use in maintaining a steady fire. Within two hours, the battle was over,[34] and the Mexican soldiers retreated.[36] Inside the Alamo, the stores of powder and shot were limited. On February 26, Travis ordered the artillery to stop returning fire so as to conserve precious ammunition. Crockett and his men were encouraged to keep shooting, as they were unusually effective.[37]

As the siege progressed, Alamo commander William Barret Travis sent many messages asking for reinforcements. Several messengers were sent to James Fannin, who commanded the only other official group of Texan soldiers. Fannin and several hundred Texans occupied Presidio La Bahia at Goliad. Although Fannin ultimately decided it was too risky to attempt to reinforce the Alamo, historian Thomas Ricks Lindley concludes that up to 50 of Fannin’s men left his command to go to Bexar.[38] These men would have reached Cibolo Creek, 35 miles (56 km) from the Alamo, on the afternoon of March 3. There they joined another group of men who also planned to join the garrison.[39]

That same night, outside the Alamo, there was a skirmish between Mexican and Texan troops.[40] Several historians, including Walter Lord, speculated that the Texans were creating a diversion to allow their last courier, John Smith, to evade Mexican pickets.[41] However, in 1876, Alamo survivor Susannah Dickinson said that Travis sent three men out shortly after dark on March 3, probably a response to the arrival of Mexican reinforcements. The three men, who included Crockett, were sent to find Fannin.[42] Lindley stated that just before midnight, Crockett and one of the other men found the force of Texans waiting along Cibolo Creek, who had advanced to within 20 miles (32 km) of the Alamo. Just before daylight on March 4, part of the Texan force managed to break through the Mexican lines and enter the Alamo. A second group was driven across the prairie by Mexican cavalry.[43]

The siege ended on March 6, when the Mexican army attacked just before dawn while the defenders were sleeping. The daily bombardment by artillery had been suspended, perhaps a ploy to encourage the natural human reaction to a cessation of constant strain. But the garrison awakened and the final fight began. Most of the noncombatants gathered in the church sacristy for safety. According to Dickinson, before running to his post, Crockett paused briefly in the chapel to say a prayer.[44] When the Mexican soldiers breached the north outer walls of the Alamo complex, most of the Texans fell back to the barracks and the chapel, as previously planned.[45] Crockett and his men were too far from the barracks to take shelter.[46] and were the last remaining group in the mission to be in the open. The men defended the low wall in front of the church, using their rifles as clubs and relying on knives, as the action was too furious to allow reloading. After a volley and a charge with bayonets, Mexican soldiers pushed the few remaining defenders back toward the church.[47] The Battle of the Alamo lasted almost 90 minutes.[48]

Once all of the defenders had been killed, Santa Anna ordered his men to take the bodies to a nearby stand of trees where they were stacked together and wood piled on top.[49] That evening, a fire was lit and the bodies of the defenders were burned to ashes.[50]

The ashes were left undisturbed until February 1837, when Juan Seguin and his cavalry returned to Bexar to examine the remains. A local carpenter created a simple coffin, and ashes from the funeral pyres were placed inside. The names of Travis, Crockett, and Bowie were inscribed on the lid.[51] The coffin is thought to have been buried in a peach tree grove, but the spot was not marked and can no longer be identified.[52]

All that is certain about the fate of David Crockett is that he died at the Alamo on March 6, 1836. According to many accounts of the battle, between five and seven Texans surrendered during the battle, possibly to General Castrillon.[53][54] Incensed that his orders had been ignored, Santa Anna demanded the immediate execution of the survivors. Although Castrillon and several other officers refused to do so, staff officers who had not participated in the fighting drew their swords and killed the unarmed Texans.[55] Weeks after the battle, stories began to circulate that Crockett was among those who surrendered and were executed.[54] However, Ben, a former American slave who acted as cook for one of Santa Anna’s officers, maintained that Crockett’s body was found in the barracks surrounded by “no less than sixteen Mexican corpses”, with Crockett’s knife buried in one of them.[56] Historians disagree on which story is accurate. According to Petite, “every account of the Crockett surrender-execution story comes from an avowed antagonist (either on political or military grounds) of Santa Anna’s. It is believed that many stories, such as the surrender and execution of Crockett, were created and spread in order to discredit Santa Anna and add to his role as villain.”[57]

In 1955 Jesús Sánchez Garza self-published a book called La Rebelión de Texas—Manuscrito Inédito de 1836 por un Ofical de Santa Anna purporting to be memoirs of José Enrique de la Peña, a Mexican officer present at the Battle of the Alamo. In 1975 the Texas A&M University Press published an English translation of the book, called With Santa Anna in Texas: A Personal Narrative of the Revolution. The English publication caused a scandal within the United States as it asserted that Crockett did not die in battle.[58] Historians disagree on whether any or all of the book has been falsified.[58][59] Because the original book was self-published, no editor or publisher ever vetted its authenticity.[60] Garza never explained how he gained custody of the documents or where they were stored after de la Peña’s death.[61]

Some historians, including Bill Groneman, found it suspicious that Garza’s compilation was published in 1955, at the height of interest in Crockett and the Alamo caused by Walt Disney’s television miniseries about Crockett’s life, Davy Crockett. Groneman also points out that the journals are made up of several different types of paper from several different paper manufacturers, all cut down to fit.[61] Historian Joseph Musso also questions the validity, likewise basing his suspicions on the timing of the diaries’ release. However, James Crisp, a history professor from North Carolina State University, has studied the papers and is convinced they are genuine.

In de la Peña’s narrative, he adds a footnote which may align both versions. He states that “All of the enemy perished, there remaining alive only an elderly lady and a Negro slave, whom the soldiers spared out of mercy and because we had established that only force had kept them in danger.” (Perry 1975) This implies that the summary execution of the survivors may have occurred prior to the releasing of Dickinson and Joe, so that they observed Crockett as dead, lending credence to their testimony. De la Peña describes the disposal of the dead and wounded as an ongoing process that took some time.

However, critics now tend to discount this on three key points. First, no other accounts of Crockett surviving the Alamo have surfaced besides de la Peña’s diary. No documentation in the archives of the Mexican government, nor any of the personal records of others present at the Battle of the Alamo, give any hint of survivors amongst the defenders, much less any claiming Crockett as a survivor. Secondly, there is some speculation that de la Peña’s account may have been a deliberate fabrication, with the intention of presenting Santa Anna in a far more diabolical light than American (and especially Texan) historians have given him since the fall of the Alamo. Finally, it is highly dubious that the Mexican soldiers – ripped and torn as they were in breaching the walls of the Alamo, filled with the blood-lust that battle generates, furious at seeing their friends killed or wounded beside them – and with explicit orders to give “no quarter” would have had the slightest intention to spare the lives of any obvious Texan combatants.

The written account by de la Peña, even if a legitimate writing, has also been questioned in that many doubt his abilities to identify any of the Alamo defenders by name. It is a popular belief by many historians that de la Peña may have witnessed or been told about executions of some Alamo survivors, but in fact neither he nor his comrades would have known who these men were. Part of the reason that de la Peña’s memoirs are questioned comes from his detailed account of Col. William Travis’ death in “With Santa Anna in Texas”. In that account, he describes with detail how Travis was heroic in his final moments, turning straight into the Mexican soldiers and facing his death with honor. The problem with this is: how would de la Peña have been able to distinguish Travis from any of the other defenders of the Alamo? The freed former slave to Travis, Joe, claimed Travis died early on in the battle, on the north wall. In addition to this, the Mexican Army had not breached the walls of the Alamo when Travis was killed, therefore they would have been seeing him from an area below the walls, while being fired down upon by the defenders. To add to this, Travis was killed before daybreak, meaning it was still dark. Therefore, it is believed that de la Peña either created the scenario of Travis’ death, or he saw another of the defenders after breaching the walls, and took him to be Travis.[62]

One tale tells how Crockett greeted a crowd on his way to Congress. He bragged, “I’m that same David Crockett, fresh from the backwoods, half-horse, half-alligator, a little touched with the snapping turtle; can wade the Mississippi, leap the Ohio, ride upon a streak of lightning, and slip without a scratch down a honey locust [tree].”

Davy Crockett’s Almanac, of Wild Sports in the West, Life in the Backwoods, & Sketches of Texas, a jest book, printed the text of a speech Crockett supposedly made to Congress. While there is no evidence whatever that the speech is authentic, it suggests the image of Crockett promoted by the “Crockett Alamanacs,” published annually for years after his death.

“Mr. Speaker.

“Who-Who-Whoop — Bow-Wow-Wow-Yough. I say, Mr. Speaker; I’ve had a speech in soak this six months, and it has swelled me like a drowned horse; if I don’t deliver it I shall burst and smash the windows. The gentleman from Massachusetts [Mr. Everett] talks of summing up the merits of the question, but I’ll sum up my own. In one word I’m a screamer, and have got the roughest racking horse, the prettiest sister, the surest rifle and the ugliest dog in the district. I’m a leetle the savagest crittur you ever did see. My father can whip any man in Kentucky, and I can lick my father. I can outspeak any man on this floor, and give him two hours start. I can run faster, dive deeper, stay longer under, and come out drier, than any chap this side the big Swamp. I can outlook a panther and outstare a flash of lightning, tote a steamboat on my back and play at rough and tumble with a lion, and an occasional kick from a zebra.

“To sum up all in one word I’m a horse. Goliah was a pretty hard colt but I could choke him. I can take the rag off-frighten the old folks-astonish the natives-and beat the Dutch all to smash-make nothing of sleeping under a blanket of snow and don’t mind being frozen more than a rotten apple.

“Congress allows lemonade to the members and has it charged under the head of stationery-I move also that whiskey be allowed under the item of fuel. For bitters I can suck away at a noggin of aquafortis, sweetened with brimstone, stirred with a lightning rod, and skimmed with a hurricane. I’ve soaked my head and shoulders in Salt River, so much that I’m always corned. I can walk like an ox, run like a fox, swim like an eel, yell like an Indian, fight like a devil, spout like an earthquake, make love like a mad bull, and swallow a Mexican whole without choking if you butter his head and pin his ears back.”

One of Crockett’s sayings, which were published in almanacs between 1835 and 1856 (along with those of Daniel Boone and Kit Carson), was:

“Always be sure you are right, then go ahead”

In 1838, Robert Patton Crockett went to Texas to administer his father’s land claim. In 1854, Elizabeth Crockett finally came to Texas to live, dying in 1860. Crockett’s son John Wesley Crockett was a U.S. Congressman from Tennessee, serving two terms between 1837 and 1841.

A section of U.S. Route 64 between Winchester, Tennessee and Lawrenceburg, Tennessee is signed as David Crockett Memorial Highway.

By the late 19th century, Crockett was largely forgotten. His legend was reborn in a 1950s TV show by Walt Disney, which also introduced his legendary coonskin cap. In 1948, Disney told columnist Hedda Hopper that it was “time to get acquainted, or renew acquaintance with, the robust, cheerful, energetic and representative folk heroes”.[63] As part of a deal that allowed him to build a theme park, Disneyland, Disney would produce weekly one-hour television programs for ABC.[64] Disney wished to highlight historical figures and his company developed three episodes on Crockett—Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter, Davy Crockett Goes to Congress, and Davy Crockett at the Alamo— starring Fess Parker as Crockett. According to historians Randy Roberts and James Olson, “by the end of the three shows, Fess Parker would be very well known, the power of television would be fully recognized, and Davy Crockett would be the most famous frontiersman in American history.”[65] The shows sparked heated debate, with many questioning whether Crockett was really deserving of the amount of attention he was now receiving. Letter writers also questioned the series’ historical accuracy.[66] Nevertheless, the shows proved very popular. They were combined into a feature-length movie in the summer of 1955, and Parker and his co-star Buddy Ebsen toured the United States, Europe, and Japan. By the end of 1955, Americans had purchased over $300 million worth of Davy Crockett merchandise ($2 billion by 2001).[67] The television series also introduced a new song, “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”. Four different versions of the song hit the Billboard Best Sellers pop chart in 1955. The versions by Bill Hayes, TV series star Fess Parker, The Wellingtons and Tennessee Ernie Ford charted in the Top 10 simultaneously, with Hayes’ version hitting #1.

The shows were repeated on NBC in the 1960s after Disney had moved his program to that network. The 1960 repeats marked the first time that the programs had actually been shown in color on TV. Davy Crockett made a return with Disney in two further adventures: Davy Crockett’s Keelboat Race and Davy Crockett and the River Pirates. In these two episodes Crockett faced off against Mike Fink, another early American legend. A three-episode 1988–89 revival was made entitled The New Adventures of Davy Crockett, in which Tim Dunigan took over Fess Parker’s famous role. Johnny Cash played an older Davy in a few scenes set before he went to Texas.

The fad eventually waned, but Crockett was often a prominent role in movies about the Alamo. In the 1960 film The Alamo, John Wayne portrayed Crockett. More recently was the John Lee Hancock version of The Alamo (2004). This Crockett, played by Billy Bob Thornton, is portrayed as a man trying to downplay his legend, but in the end unable to escape it. This is epitomized in a scene where Crockett, speaking to Bowie says, “If it was just me, simple old David from Tennessee, I might drop over that wall some night, take my chances. But that Davy Crockett feller…they’re all watchin’ him.”

A seventh-season episode of the Discovery Channel series MythBusters explored a story of Crockett’s backwoods exploits: that he could stick an axe into a tree trunk, fire his long rifle from 40 yards away, and hit the edge so precisely that the bullet would split in two. After some practice, Tory Belleci was able to duplicate the feat from 20 yards with the gun resting on sandbags and declared the myth “Confirmed,” reasoning that Crockett could have consistently made the 40-yard shot with enough experience.


  1. Michael Lofaro, “David Crockett.” The Encyclopedia of Appalachia (Knoxville, Tenn.: University of Tennessee Press, 2006), 300–301.
  2. Michael Lofaro, “David “Davy” Crockett.” The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, 2002. Retrieved: 22 May 2008.
  3. Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park
  4. Crockett (1834), 17.
  5. Jean-Baptiste Nadeau, Julie Barlow, The Story of French, p.106
  6. RootsWeb’s WorldConnect Project: Sharrow, Charron, Sharon, Carveth, Abbott, Armstrong, Miarecki and other Ancestors
  7. Pat Alderman, The Overmountain Men, 1970:38.
  8. Crockett Tavern Museum
  9. Program #1001. Antiques Roadshow. PBS. Tampa Convention Center. Original broadcast, January 9, 2006 and Lofaro, Michael A. “Crockett, David”. Handbook of Texas Online
  10. TN Secretary of State announces 2010 return of document to Dandridge courthouse
  11. Crockett News
  12. “Davy Crockett”. Florence, OR: Online Highways.
  13. David Crockett from the Handbook of Texas Online
  14. Pioneers, Passionate Ladies, and Private Eyes: Dime Novels, Series Books.
  15. Diary (New York: Longmans, Green, 1929), p. 445.
  16. “Ellis, Edward Sylvester.” Beadle and Adams Dime Novel Digitization Project. Northern Illinois University. By Larry E. Sullivan, Lydia Cushman. p. 73. 1996 Haworth Press
  17. Special Collections in Children’s Literature: An International Directory, By Dolores Blythe Jones, p. 50.
  18. Ellis, Edward S., The Life of Colonel David Crockett; Porter & Coates, 1884
  19. A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875. The Library of Congress
  20. James R. Boylston and Allen J. Wiener, David Crockett in Congress: The Rise and Fall of the Poor Man’s Friend, pg. 87, note 18, 2009 Bright Sky Press
  21. Jim Boylston, “Crockett and Bunce: A Fable Examined,” The Crockett Chronicle, #6, November, 2004, revised at
  22. Hubbell, Jay B. The South in American Literature: 1607–1900. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1954: 664.
  23. Cobias, 21–22.
  24. Derr, 225-26.
  25. Cobias, 25
  26. Cobias, 28–29
  27. Cobias, 29, 36
  28. Cobias, 40–44
  29. Hardin (1994), p. 117.
  30. Edmondson (2000), p. 299.
  31. Todish et al. (1998), p. 40.
  32. Todish et al. (1998), pp. 42–3.
  33. Tinkle (1985), p. 118.
  34. Tinkle (1985), p. 119.
  35. Lord (1961), p. 109.
  36. Nofi (1992), p. 83.
  37. Hardin (1994), p. 132.
  38. Lindley (2003), p. 137.
  39. Lindley (2003), p. 138.
  40. Lindley (2003), p. 143.
  41. Lord (1960), p. 143.
  42. Lindley (2003), p. 140.
  43. Lindley (2003), p. 142.
  44. Edmondson (2000), p. 363.
  45. Todish et al. (1998), p. 53.
  46. Lord (1961), p. 162.
  47. Edmondson (2000), p. 368.
  48. Petite (1998), p. 114.
  49. Edmondson (2000), p. 374.
  50. Petite (1998), p. 139.
  51. Petite (1998), p. 131.
  52. Petite (1998), p. 132.
  53. Edmondson (2000), p. 373.
  54. Petite (1998), p. 123.
  55. Hardin (1994), p. 148.
  56. Tikle (1985), p. 214.
  57. Petite (1998), p. 124.
  58. Todish et al. (1998), p. 120.
  59. Groneman (1999), p. 133.
  60. Groneman (1999), p. 128.
  61. Groneman (1999), p. 136.
  62. Michael Lind’s, The Death of David Crockett
  63. Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 238.
  64. Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 239.
  65. Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 240.
  66. Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 252–3.
  67. Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 245.


  • Cobia, Manley F., Jr. (2003), Journey into the Land of Trials: The Story of Davy Crockett’s Expedition to the Alamo, Franklin, TN: Hillsboro Press
  • Crisp, James E. (2005), Sleuthing the Alamo: Davy Crockett’s Last Stand and Other Mysteries of the Texas Revolution, New York: Oxford University Press
  • Crockett, David (1834), A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett (6th ed.), Philadelphia: E. L. Carey and A. Hart,
  • Edmondson, J.R. (2000), The Alamo Story-From History to Current Conflicts, Plano, TX: Republic of Texas Press
  • Groneman, Bill (1999), Death of a Legend: The Myth and Mystery Surrounding the Death of Davy Crockett, Plano, TX: Republic of Texas Press
  • Hardin, Stephen L. (1994), Texian Iliad, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
  • Jones, Randell (2006), In the Footsteps of Davy Crockett, Winston-Salem: John F. Blair
  • Kilgore, Dan (1978), How Did Davy Die?, College Station and London: Texas A&M University Press
  • Lindley, Thomas Ricks (2003), Alamo Traces: New Evidence and New Conclusions, Lanham, MD: Republic of Texas Press
  • Lofaro, Michael A., ed. (1985), Davy Crockett: The Man, The Legend, The Legacy, 1786–1986, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press
  • Lord, Walter (1961), A Time to Stand, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press
  • Nofi, Albert A. (1992), The Alamo and the Texas War of Independence, September 30, 1835 to April 21, 1836: Heroes, Myths, and History, Conshohocken, PA: Combined Books, Inc.
  • Petite, Mary Deborah (1999), 1836 Facts about the Alamo and the Texas War for Independence, Mason City, IA: Savas Publishing Company
  • Roberts, Randy; Olson, James S. (2001), A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory, The Free Press
  • Scott, Robert (2000), After the Alamo, Plano, TX: Republic of Texas Press
  • Shackford, James A. (1956), David Crockett: The Man and the Legend, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  • Tinkle, Lon (1985), 13 Days to Glory: The Siege of the Alamo, College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, Reprint. Originally published: New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958
  • Todish, Timothy J.; Todish, Terry; Spring, Ted (1998), Alamo Sourcebook, 1836: A Comprehensive Guide to the Battle of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution, Austin, TX: Eakin Press

Brigadier General Griffith Rutherford

August 10, 2013

Griffith Rutherford was an officer in the American Revolution, a political leader in North Carolina, and an important figure in the early history of the Southwest Territory and the state of Tennessee.

During the French and Indian War, Rutherford became a captain of a local British colonial militia. He continued serving in the militia until the start of the revolution in 1775, at which time he enlisted in the North Carolina militia as a colonel. He was appointed to the post of brigadier general of the “Salisbury District” in May 1776, and participated in the initial phases of the Chickamauga Wars against the Cherokee Indians along the frontier. In June 1780, he was partly responsible for the Loyalist defeat in the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. Rutherford was present at the Battle of Camden on August 16, 1780, where he was taken prisoner by the British. After being exchanged in 1781, Rutherford participated in several other campaigns, including further attacks on the Chickamauga faction of the Cherokee.

Originally from Ireland, Rutherford immigrated with his parents to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Colony, at the age of eighteen. In 1753 he moved to Rowan County, in the Province of North Carolina, where he married Elizabeth Graham. An active member of his community, Rutherford served in multiple civil occupations. He was a representative of both houses of the North Carolina House of Commons, as well as an unsuccessful candidate for governor. Rutherford was an advocate of the anti-federalist movement, and was appointed President of the Legislative Council of the Southwest Territory in 1794. Rutherford retired to Sumner County, Tennessee, where he died on August 10, 1805, at the age of 84.



Memorial for Griffith Rutherford in Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Little is known about Griffith Rutherford’s early life. Born in Ireland in either 1721 or 1731[1] to John Rutherford, who was of Scots-Irish descent, and Elizabeth (née Griffin), who was of Welsh descent,[2] he appears clearly in records after his immigration to Philadelphia at the age of eighteen.[3] His parents died during the voyage from Ireland, and for a while he worked on a relative’s farm,[3] where he was taught how to survey land.[4] Around 1753, he moved to Rowan County, North Carolina Colony, and bought a tract of land about seven miles from Salisbury, the first of several land purchases he made during the 1750s.[5] In the following year he married his neighbor’s sister, Elizabeth Graham, who bore him ten children.[2][6] One of their sons, James Rutherford, later became a major during the Revolutionary War, dying in the Battle of Eutaw Springs.[7] Rutherford also became friends with Daniel Boone, with whom he often went on hunting and surveying expeditions.[8] After the French and Indian War, Rutherford became increasingly active in the community. He is listed as a member of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1766, a sheriff and justice of the peace of Rowan County from 1767 to 1769, and a tax collector.[9]

Rutherford began his long career as a soldier in 1760 during the French and Indian War. He was a participant of several battles and skirmishes during the war, most notably the Battle of Fort Duquesne (1758); the battle at Fort Dobbs (1760); and James Grant’s campaign against the Cherokee in the southern Appalachians (1761). By the end of the war, he had achieved the rank of captain.[10] Between 1769 and 1771, he embraced the cause against the rebels during the Regulator Movement, eventually commanding a local militia which participated in the Battle of Alamance (May 16, 1771). The following month, Rutherford retired to Salem to recover from an acute attack of gout.[11]

Rutherford entered the war in 1775 as a colonel in the North Carolina militia following his appointment to the Rowan County Committee of Safety.[12] Throughout that year, his regiment helped to disarm and disperse Loyalist groups in the South Carolina back country, most notably during the Snow Campaign in Ninety Six, South Carolina.[13] Rutherford represented Rowan County at the Fourth Provincial Congress in Halifax from April 4 to May 14, 1776, during which he helped develop and write the North Carolina Constitution and was promoted to brigadier general of the Salisbury District.[3][14] In the summer following the conference, he raised an army of 2,400 men to campaign against local Cherokee Indians,[14] who had been attacking colonists on the western frontier since their alliance with the British.

Rutherford’s regiment rendezvoused at Fort McGahey with the Guilford and Surry regiments under Colonels James Martin and Martin Armstrong on July 23.[14] From there, the three groups traveled through the Blue Ridge Mountains at the Swannanoa Gap, passed up the valley of Hominy Creek, and crossed the Pigeon River. They then passed through Richland Creek, near the present day town of Waynesville, North Carolina, and crossed the Tuckasegee River near an Indian settlement. They moved further onwards towards the Cowee Gap, where they had a small engagement with a band of Cherokee, in which one of Rutherford’s men was wounded. After that conflict, they marched to the Overhill Cherokee “Middle Towns” (on the Tennessee River), where he met General Andrew Williamson of South Carolina on September 14.[15] Williamson was on a similar mission and readily joined forces with the original three regiments.[15]


Map of the route taken by Rutherford, known today as the Rutherford Trace

The now four regiments skirmished with hostile Indians at Valley Town, Ellijay, and near the southern Watauga settlements (present day northeast Tennessee). Eventually, the Indian tribes were subdued at the cost of three fatalities to Rutherford’s regiment.[15] Casualties to the Indians, however, were severe. By the end of the conflict, the four regiments had destroyed 36 Indian towns, decimated acres of corn farms, and chased off most of the Indians’ cattle.[16] Afterward, Rutherford returned home by the same route.[15] He arrived back in Salisbury in October, where he disbanded his troops.[15]

British strategists viewed the Southern colonies, especially lightly populated Georgia, as the most vulnerable of all. Despite early victories won by the Patriots at Charleston and other settlements, the South became the focus of English attack starting in 1778. Governor Richard Caswell of North Carolina identified this threat and immediately ordered militia to regroup. Rutherford, who had been checking on Loyalists since his return to Salisbury in 1776, received word of this by October.[17] Governor Caswell and Rutherford met in Kingston, North Carolina, on November 25 to discuss the specifics of Rutherford’s assignment. Apparently a fleet of British ships were en route from New York, heavily endangering key coastal cities. Rutherford was able to amass a force which reached the border of South Carolina by early December. They proceeded to establish headquarters near Savannah in Purrysburg, South Carolina, the following month.[18]

With the cities of Savannah and Augusta taken by February, the campaign was severely weakened. Rutherford moved his troops near Augusta, where he supported General John Ashe during the Battle of Brier Creek on March 3.[19] Soldiers’ enlistments soon began expiring; by April 10 most of Rutherford’s forces returned to North Carolina.[20]

The loss of Charleston in 1780 was a huge blow to the Patriot cause and posed a significant threat to neighboring North Carolina, which lacked adequate defenses due to expiring enlistments. Rutherford saw this danger, calling back his remaining troops stationed in South Carolina and ordering all soldiers from Salisbury to rally near Charlotte, North Carolina. A force of 900 had accumulated by early June.[21][22]

After rallying troops at Charlotte, Rutherford received information that Loyalists were gathering at arms at Ramsour’s Mill—near present day Lincolnton, North Carolina—and issued orders for local officers to disperse the group before they evolved into an even greater threat. After collecting troops from Rowan and Mecklenburg counties, Rutherford moved his men to the Catawba River and crossed it at the Tuckasegee Ford on June 19. He sent word to Colonel Francis Locke, of Rowan County, to rendezvous with him about 16 miles (26 km) from Ramsour’s Mill, near the forks of the Catawba.[23] Locke accumulated a force of 400 men and encamped at Mountain Creek, which was 35 miles away from Rutherford’s position, though still approximately the same distance from Ramsour’s Mill as Rutherford’s position was. It was resolved by Locke and his officers that a junction with Rutherford was unrealistic given the distance between the two regiments and the limited amount of time before the Loyalist group grew too large to safely engage. Therefore, it was decided Locke’s forces would attack the Loyalist’s position immediately. Colonel Johnson, one of Locke’s subordinates, informed Rutherford of the new situation by 10:00 pm.[21]

Locke’s forces left their encampment late in the evening of June 19; arriving at the Loyalist position by early morning, June 20. The Patriots took the Loyalists by surprise. While at first bewildered and confused, the Loyalists retaliated by firing at Locke’s cavalry, who were forced to fall back. The Patriots eventually forced the Loyalists to retreat to their camp, though it was discovered that they were regrouping on the other side of the mill stream. At this point, since an immediate attack from the Loyalists was expected, messages were sent to Rutherford, who had advanced to within six miles of Ramsour’s, to immediately move forward.[23] Rutherford met Locke within 2 miles of Ramsour’s, where he was informed that the Loyalists were in full retreat.[23]


Battle of Camden. Rutherford and other North Carolina militia were positioned in the center of the American formation.

The losses at Savannah, Charleston and the Battle of Waxhaws had practically driven the Continental Army from the South. State defenses had been reduced to a number of partisan militia companies led by local leaders. In response to the loss of military presence, Congress sent Horatio Gates, who had distinguished himself at Saratoga, to reform the Continental Army in Charlotte, North Carolina.[24] Against the advice of his officers and without knowing the capabilities of his troops—some of which were untested in battle—Gates marched toward South Carolina on July 27 with a force of over 4,000 men. He aimed at capturing the crossroads town of Camden, North Carolina, which would have provided the Continental Army with a strategic control point for the South Carolina back country. Lord Rawdon, who was stationed there with 1,000 men, alerted Lord Cornwallis of Gates’ movements on August 9. Cornwallis arrived at Camden by August 13 with reinforcements, increasing the British presence there to over 2,000 men.[25]

The battle ensued at dawn on August 16, 1780. Rutherford was positioned in the center of the Continental formation with other North Carolina militia. During the battle, he was wounded and taken prisoner. He was detained for ten months at Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida, and was later exchanged for another prisoner in 1781.[26][27]

Following his release, Rutherford returned to Salisbury in September 1781 to find his home ransacked by British troops.[27] In the summer of 1781, after a short reunion with his family, Rutherford took command of a North Carolina militia numbering 1,400 men. After training his new militia, he allegedly began to brutally attack Tory militias and communities alike—this according to several reports sent to his superior, General Greene.[28] This was much to the dismay of Greene, who told Rutherford that these methods would only bring more people to the Loyalist cause and that he should consider alternative strategies.[29] While these reports were later found to be untrue, Rutherford decided to redirect his forces from small Loyalist militias to the British encampment and surrounding militias at Wilmington, North Carolina, beginning with the Loyalist force at Raft Swamp.[30] During October and November, Rutherford continued to force the Loyalists into Wilmington, and eventually surrounded the city, successfully cutting off British communications and supply lines. The commanding British officer, Major Craig, was soon afterward informed of Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown, and his forces at Wilmington were hastily evacuated.[15][31]

In 1782, following his success at Wilmington, Rutherford again fought the Chickamauga in the west.[3] He followed the same route he had taken seven years before, which his soldiers had marked. No known accounts were written of the campaign, though in the end it was a success.[32]

Rutherford had been elected to North Carolina’s senate in 1779 and continued to serve in this position until 1789. He was opposed to the restoration of Loyalist lands and supported and assisted in their confiscation while serving on the Council of State. Rutherford ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1783. He was an ardent anti-federalist during the national debate of the recently created United States Constitution. At the Constitutional Convention held at Hillsborough, North Carolina in 1788, he had reservations about the Constitution—as did other anti-federalists at the meeting. Rutherford asked if he could challenge some of the clauses.[33] While each clause was able to be challenged individually, regardless of opposition from federalist, Samuel Johnston, and others, Rutherford rarely spoke during the meetings.[33] His final decision to vote against the ratification of the Constitution led to the loss of his seat in the state senate. However, his reputation with his colleagues was relatively unaffected, and he was elected Councilor of the State.[34]

Rutherford acquired nearly 13,000 acres of Washington District land through trading off his 700 acres in Salisbury, government grants and purchasing Continental soldier’s tracts.[35] With his family and eight slaves Rutherford relocated to this area, in what is today Sumner County, Tennessee, in September 1792. Two years later, he was appointed President of the Legislative Council of the Southwest Territory.[26]

Rutherford died in Sumner County, Tennessee, on August 10, 1805.[36] He is buried in the Shiloh Presbyterian Church Cemetery at Rogna in Sumner County, Tennessee.


Griffith Rutherford’s grave marker in Shiloh Presbyterian Church Cemetery

These areas are all namesakes of Griffith Rutherford:[16]

  • Rutherfordton, North Carolina
  • Rutherford County, North Carolina
  • Rutherford County, Tennessee


  1. MacDonald p. 11
  2. Ashe p. 381
  3. Wakelyn p. 176
  4. MacDonald p. 13
  5. MacDonald p. 21
  6. MacDonald p. 22
  7. Ashe p. 382
  8. MacDonald p. 20
  9. Clark p. 575
  10. MacDonald p. 28
  11. MacDonald p. 50
  12. MacDonald p. 55
  13. MacDonald p. 56
  14. Hunter p. 176
  15. Hunter p. 177
  16. Wheeler p. 384
  17. MacDonald pp. 113–114
  18. MacDonald p. 118
  19. MacDonald p. 119
  20. MacDonald p. 121
  21. Lossing p. 597
  22. MacDonald p. 125
  23. Russell p. 154
  24. Harrison pp. 107–108
  25. Murray p. 50
  26. Hunter p. 178
  27. MacDonald p. 138
  28. MacDonald pp. 143–145
  29. MacDonald pp. 143–146
  30. MacDonald p. 147
  31. MacDonald pp. 151–152
  32. MacDonald p. 161
  33. MacDonald p. 168
  34. MacDonald p. 169
  35. MacDonald p. 176
  36. Macdonald p. 179


Lieutenant Colonel Hardy Murfree from North Carolina

March 5, 2012

Hardy Murfree (June 5, 1752 – April 6, 1809) was a Lieutenant Colonel from North Carolina during the American Revolutionary War.[1]

Murfree was born at Murfree’s Landing, North Carolina, later renamed Murfreesboro, where he lived for most of his adult life. His parents were William Murfree and Mary Moore. Hardy Murfree’s first name is sometimes spelled “Hardee”, and some of his descendants spell their last name “Murphrey” or “Murphy”.


Military career

Murfree, a lieutenant in the Hertford County militia when the Revolutionary War began, was commissioned on September 1, 1775, as a captain in the 2nd North Carolina Regiment of the Continental Army. The regiment was commanded by Colonel Robert Howe, who was later a major general. Murfree saw action at the Battle of Monmouth on 28 June 1778, and achieved his greatest renown for leading a successful diversionary attack against British defenses in the Battle of Stony Point on July 15, 1779. He was then a major serving under General Anthony Wayne, and was soon thereafter promoted to lieutenant colonel.

On July 17, 1781, British forces led by Banastre Tarleton and Tarleton’s Raiders attacked Maney’s Neck on the Meherrin River near Murfree’s Landing. Murfree led the militia that repulsed the attack at Skinner’s Bridge.[2]


While home on recruiting duty, Major Murfree married Sally Brickell on February 17, 1780. They would have four children: William Hardy Murfree (1781), Fanny Noailles Murfree (1783), Mary Moore Murfree (1786) and Matthias Brickell Murfree (1788). Their great-granddaughter was the noted Tennessee writer Mary Noailles Murfree (1850–1922)

His wife Sally died on March 29, 1802.[2]

As a young man, Murfree became a member of the North Carolina chapter of the Society of the Cincinnati. He was a Freemason for all of his adult life, active in both North Carolina and Tennessee.[2]

Around 1807 he migrated to Williamson County, Tennessee, living on land granted to him after the American Revolution, and remained there until his death in 1809. In 1811 the Tennessee State Legislature renamed the town of Canonsburg to Murfreesboro in his honor.[2]


  1. Haywood, Marshall De Lancey; Samuel A’Court Ashe, Stephen B. Weeks, Charles L. Van Noppen (1905). Biographical History of North Carolina from Colonial Times to the Present. Greensboro, North Carolina: Charles L. Van Noppen. pp. 307–314.,M1.
  2. Stephenson, Frank E. Jr. (December 1986). Murfreesboro, North Carolina: 200 Years on the Meherrin River. Murfreesboro, North Carolina: Town of Murfreesboro. pp. 5–9.

Photo courtesy of Tennessee Photo Project,

Thanks to Kristen Leisman, in Murfreesboro, TN, for providing the source.

The State of Franklin 1784-1788

September 27, 2011

The State of Franklin, known also as the Free Republic of Franklin or the State of Frankland (the latter being the name submitted to the Continental Congress when it considered the territory’s application for statehood), was an unrecognized autonomous United States territory created in 1784 from part of the territory west of the Appalachian Mountains that had been offered, by North Carolina, as a cession to the federal government (to help pay off debts related to the American Revolutionary War). Its first capital was Jonesboro. Later, the area legally became, once again, part of North Carolina. Franklin encompassed what ultimately comprised a large share of the Tennessee Eastern Division of the Southwest Territory. Franklin was never admitted into the United States — falling two votes short for admission. The extra-legal state existed for only about four and a half years, ostensibly as a republic, before largely being abandoned.

After the summer of 1785, the government of Franklin (which was by then based in Greeneville), ruled as a “parallel government” running alongside (but not harmoniously with) a re-established North Carolina bureaucracy. The creation of Franklin is novel, in that it resulted from both a cession (an offering from North Carolina to Congress) and a secession (seceding from North Carolina, when its offer was not acted upon, and the original cession was rescinded).


Cession and rescindment

Franklin’s support

As the Congress of the Confederation was heavily in debt at the close of the Revolutionary War, the state of North Carolina voted, in April, 1784, “to give Congress the 29,000,000 acres (117,000 km2) lying between the Allegheny Mountains (as the entire Appalachian range was then called) and the Mississippi river.” The cession had a stipulation that Congress would have to accept responsibility for the area within two years. This act effectively left the western settlers of North Carolina at the mercy of the area’s native American populations, many of whom had not yet made peace with the new nation. These developments did not please the Cumberland settlers who had gained an earnest foothold on the western Cumberland River (at Fort Nashborough, now Nashville) or the Watauga Association settlers, who had earlier formed the Washington District of North Carolina. Some of the inhabitants even feared that the cash-starved Congress might sell the territory to a foreign power (such as France or Spain).

North Carolina’s reluctance

A few months later, fearing the land would not be used for its intended purpose (paying the debts of Congress), and loss of economic opportunities the western lands afforded (to many land speculating government officials), a newly elected North Carolina Legislature rescinded the offer of cession, and again laid claim to its remote western district. These North Carolina lawmakers also ordered judges to hold court in the western counties and arranged to enroll a brigade of soldiers, appointing John Sevier to command it.”

Secessionist movement

The spirit of the American Revolution was still very much a part of the frontier world view. Increasing dissatisfaction with the government of North Carolina by its citizens in trans-Appalachia led to the frontiersmen’s calls for the establishment of a separate, secure and independent state. On August 23, 1784, delegates from the North Carolina counties of Washington (which at the time included present day Carter County), Sullivan, Spencer (now Hawkins County) and Greene —all counties in present-day Tennessee —convened in the town of Jonesborough and declared the lands independent of the State of North Carolina. Leaders were duly elected. John Sevier reluctantly became governor, Landon Carter Speaker of the Senate, William Cage Speaker of the House of Representatives and David Campbell Judge of the Superior Court. Thomas Talbot served as Senate clerk, while Thomas Chapman served as clerk of the House. The delegates were then called to a constitutional convention in December of that year, where a proposed constitution that disallowed lawyers, doctors and preachers from election to the legislature was rejected by referendum. The area thus continued to operate under tenets set by the North Carolina state constitution.

Attempt at statehood

On May 16, 1785, a delegation submitted a petition for statehood to the Continental Congress. Seven states voted to admit what would have been the 14th federal state under the proposed name Frankland. The number of states voting in favor of statehood, however, fell short of the two-thirds majority required to admit a territory to statehood under the Articles of Confederation. Late the following month, the government again convened to address their options and to replace the vacancy at Speaker of the House, which had been held by William Cage. Addressing the vacancy, Joseph Hardin was elected to the Speaker of the House position. Then, in an attempt to curry favor for their cause, delegation leaders changed the official name back to “Franklin” (ostensibly after Benjamin Franklin), and even initiated a correspondence with the patriot to sway him to support their cause. Franklin politely refused, writing:

I am sensible of the honor which your Excellencey and your council do me, but being in Europe when your State was formed I am too little acquainted with the circumstances to be able to offer you anything just now that may be of importance, since everything material that regards your welfare will doubtless have occurred to yourselves. …I will endeavor to inform myself more perfectly of your affairs by inquiry and searching the records of Congress and if anything should occur to me that I think may be useful to you, you shall hear from me thereupon. —Franklin’s letter to Governor John Sevier, 1787

Independent republic


Replica of the Capitol of the State of Franklin in Greeneville, Tennessee

After the failed statehood attempt with the federal government, and still at odds with North Carolina over taxation and protection issues, Franklin operated as a de facto independent republic.

Up to this point, the government had been assembling at Jonesborough, mere blocks from where the competing (although idle) North Carolina seat of government had been. Because of this, Greeneville was declared the new capital. The first legislature to meet there did so in December, 1785. At Greeneville, they finally adopted a permanent constitution, known as the “Holston Constitution”, a decree which was modeled on that of North Carolina with few changes.

The new legislature made treaties with the Indian tribes in the area (with few exceptions, the most notable being the Chickamauga), opened courts, incorporated and annexed five new counties (see map below), and fixed taxes and officers’ salaries. Barter was the economic system de jure, with anything in common use among the people allowed in payment to settle debts, including federal or foreign money, corn, tobacco, apple brandy, and skins (Sevier himself was often paid in deer hides). Citizens were granted a two-year reprieve on paying taxes, but the lack of hard currency and economic infrastructure slowed development and often created confusion.

The year 1786 was the beginning of the end of the small state. Franklin had been placed in a precarious position by not having been admitted to the United States. Because it had shunned North Carolina’s claims of sovereignty over it, Franklin did not have the benefit of either the national army or the North Carolina militia. North Carolina offered to waive all back taxes if Franklin would reunite with its government. When this offer was rejected, North Carolina moved in with troops —under the leadership of Col. John Tipton —and re-established its own courts, jails and government at Jonesboro. The two rival administrations competed side by side for many months. Loyalties were divided among local residents.

This atmosphere led to hostilities between Sevier’s supporters and those of Tipton at a small “battle” fought in 1788 at Col. Tipton’s farm (which has been preserved as the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site in Johnson City, Tennessee).

In late March 1788, the Cherokee, Chickamauga and Chickasaw nations collectively began to attack white American settlements in Franklin with abandon. Becoming desperate over the Franklin government’s inability to function due to economic problems, Sevier sought a loan from the Spanish government, and along with James White (who was found to be a paid agent of Spain’s) attempted to place Franklin under Spanish rule. The North Carolina government was absolutely opposed to any foreign nation gaining a foothold in Franklin and ordered its officials to arrest Sevier, which happened in Aug, 1788. Sevier’s supporters, however, quickly freed him from the local jail. In February of 1789,[6] Sevier and the last holdouts of “Lesser Franklin” (what they called the area they had retreated to, which was south of the French Broad River) swore oaths of allegiance to North Carolina after turning themselves in.[6] With the collapse of the last vestige of Franklin, North Carolina was required to send their militia to aid in driving out the Native American attackers. The only punishment given Sevier was to swear the oath of allegiance to North Carolina.

In the last session of the Franklin legislature, John Sevier proposed to commission a Franklin state flag, but it was never designed.

Transition to Tennessee

As of 1789, the government of the State of Franklin had collapsed entirely and the territory was firmly back under the control of North Carolina. Sevier was elected in 1790 to the North Carolina legislature to represent the region. Soon thereafter, the state once again ceded the area that would soon become Tennessee to the national government to form the Southwest Territory. John Sevier became Tennessee’s first governor, and John Tipton signed the Tennessee Constitution as the representative from Washington County.


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