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History of Tennessee
An extract about the Scots-Irish



59. Anglo-American Excursionists Visit Tennessee.—Although Tennessee had been included as a part successively of three English colonies, yet none of them had thought it worth their while to explore or settle the country. The settlement was due to no concerted or governmental act, but to the agency of the most "unique and picturesque character of history"—the American pioneer. The term "pioneer" may be extended to include the first persons who explored or visited the country. It is especially used to designate those who made the early permanent settlements. While there had been no attempt at settlement, or permanent occupation by the English previous to the establishment of Fort Iyoudon, in 1756, yet there had been casual visitors, traders, hunters, and tourists, who had made excursions into Tennessee. The names of many of these have been lost to history, but a few have been preserved by the early historians.

60. The Traders.—Perhaps the first English travelers-who visited Tennessee were attracted by the hope of gain in trade. In 1690, i trader from Virginia, named Doherty, visited the Cherokees. In 1730, Adair, from South Carolina, made an extensive tour, visiting the Cherokees and other tribes. Dr. Ramsey says of Adair: "He was not only an enterprising trader, but an intelligent tourist. To his observations upon the several tribes which he visited we are indebted for most that is known of their early history. They were published in 1775." In 1740 a party of traders from Virginia visited the Cherokees. This party employed Mr. Vaughan as packman. There were, doubtless, many other traders of whom history makes no mention. Many advantages resulted from this irregular trade. It was found to be lucrative, and led to important results. The returning traders gave glowing accounts of the wonderful resources and fertility of the western country, and the abundance of game, which excited a lively interest among the eastern colonists.

61. The Hunters.—Following the traders, came the hunters, sometimes in company with a trading party, and sometimes in separate bands. Historians have recorded a few of these hunting excursions. "As early as 1748," says Dr. Ramsey, quoting from Monette, "Dr. Thomas Walker, of Virginia, in company with Colonels Wood, Pat-ton, and Buchanan, and Captain Charles Campbell, and a number of hunters, made an exploring tour upon the western waters. Passing Powell's Valley, he gave the name of ' Cumberland' to the lofty range of mountains on the west. Tracing this range in a southwestern direction, he came to a remarkable depression in the chain ; through this he passed, calling it 'Cumberland Gap.' On the western side of the range he found a beautiful mountain stream, which he named 'Cumberland River,' all in honor of the Duke of Cumberland, then Prime Minister of England." In 1760, a Virginia company of hunters, composed of "Wallace, Scags, Blevins, Cox, and fifteen others," spent eighteen months in a hunting excursion along Clinch and Powell rivers.

62. Daniel Boone.—In 1760 the famous Daniel Boone visited Tennessee at the head of a party of hunters. It is conjectured by Dr. Ramsey that this was not Boone's first visit to Tennessee, although it is the first that has come to the knowledge of historians. In testimony of this visit, Dr. Ramsey gives in his history an inscription cut by Daniel Boone on a beech tree, "standing, in sight and east of the present stage road leading from Jonesboro to Blountville, and in the valley of Boone's Creek, a tributary of Watauga. This tree and inscription is shown in the annexed picture, engraved from a photograph in the Tennessee Historical Society. There is no doubt of the genuineness of the inscription, but doubts have been expressed as to whether it was carved by Daniel Boone. Daniel Boone visited Tennessee again in 1771, and remained until 1774. Many other hunting parties prepared the way for the advent of the pioneers of permanent settlement.

63. The First Negro.—In 17682 an expedition of hunters traversed the country from the banks of the Holston, in East Tennessee, to the Ohio River at the mouth of the Tennessee River, passing along the banks of the Cumberland River, and giving the name to Stone's River. The party consisted of Colonel James Smith, William Baker, Uriah Stone, for whom Stone's River was named, and Joshua Horton. The last-named member of the party, Joshua Horton, had with him "a mulatto slave," eighteen years old, whose name is not given. Judge Haywood states that Mr. Horton left this mulatto boy with Colonel Smith, who carried him back to North Carolina.

64. The Approach of the Pioneer.—In 1763, the period of nearly five generations of men had passed since the settlement of Jamestown in 1607. A new generation now dominated the colonies who were Americans by birth, and distinctly American in thought, character, and habit. This differentiation in colonial character was, however, largely restrained by the influence of English governors, by constant contact with English laws and institutions, and by the influx of fresh immigrants who continued to pour in from the mother country. Along with this stream of immigrants came the "Scotch Irish." This latter element inherited the clannish spirit which prompted them to keep together. They early evinced the desire to found settlements in which they should be the controlling element. This tendency, together with their resolute character and adventurous spirit, constantly prompted them to move further west. Thus, the Scotch Irish immigrants formed a large element in the vanguard of the western march of colonization, which their descendants continued to push further and further westward. This hardy band of pioneers was now ready to cross the mountains. The way had been prepared by the Treaty of Paris in 1763, by which the title of France had been ceded to Kuglaud, and by the various Indian treaties above named.

65. The First Settlers in Tennessee Largely Scotch-Irish.—The Holston and Watauga were not colonized, as the Cumberland afterward was, by strong companies moving in concert, under organized leaders. Their first settlers came in single families or small parties, with no concert of action, and without any recognized leader. The Virginia frontiers had now reached the headwaters of the Holston River, and straggling immigrants followed that stream beyond the borders of the province, and formed the first settlements in Tennessee ; supposing their settlements to be still in Virginia, some families even crossed the Holston. In 1769 or 1770, William Been, originally from Pittsylvania County, Virginia, penetrated as far south as the Watauga, and erected a log cabin at the mouth of Boone's Creek, where his son Russell, the first native white Tennessean, was soon afterwards born. His settlement was greatly augmented by the arrival of small bands of Regulators, whom the tyranny of the royal governor had driven out of North Carolina. But whether they came from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Pennsylvania, the first settlers of Tennessee were, in the main, the same type of people— an aggressive, daring, and hardy race of men, raised up in the faith of the Presbyterian Covenanter, and usually comprehended under the general designation of Scotch-Irish, that people forming their largest element.

66. Origin of the Scotch-Irish.—Ireland, in the time of Henry VIII, was so strongly Catholic that all the power of that monarch was not sufficient to establish the Episcopacy on the island. His effort to do so resulted in a long, bitter, and bloody war, which was not finally terminated until near the close of Elizabeth's reign. When it did close, the province of Ulster, containing nearly a million acres, was found to have been almost depopulated b)T its devastations. James IV, of Scotland, succeeded to the throne, and in him the two kingdoms were united. He conceived the idea of colonizing Ulster with Protestant subjects. These he chose chiefly from his old subjects, the Scotch Covenanters, though mainly Englishmen settled in the southern part of the province.

67. Character of the Scotch-Irish.—These Scotch emigrants were stern, strict, liberty-loving Presbyterians, who believed in the Westminster Catechism and taught it to their children. They resented the pretensions of the Crown to be the head of the church, and believed with John Knox that the King derived his authority from the people, who might lawfully resist, and even depose him, when his tyranny made it necessary. They believed in education, and followed a system under which every preacher became also a teacher, a circumstance that had a marked influence on the educational history of Tennessee. The colony prospered wonderfully. But these Scotch-Irish as steadfastly resisted the Episcopacy as did the Irish Catholics, and were destined to suffer a like persecution. As early as 1636 some of them set sail on board the "Eagle Wing" for America, but unfavorable weather sent her back to port in a disabled condition, and the experiment was not again repeated for half a century.

68. The Great Ulster Exodus.—Their persecutions continued, with the exception of a short respite under the reign of William of Orange. Finally, in the latter part of the seventeenth century, the great exodus began. It reached its flood-tide near the middle of the eighteenth century. For some time prior to 1750, about twelve thousand Irish emigrants had annually lauded in America. In the two years following the Antrim evictions in 1771, as many as one hundred vessels sailed from the north ports of Ireland, carrying from twenty-five to thirty thousand Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, mostly to America. Their experience in Ireland had peculiarly fitted them to lead the vanguard of western civilization. Their hereditary love of liberty, both civil and religious, was strengthened by a long course of persecution and oppression. Moreover, the constant presence of danger from their turbulent neighbors had made them alert, active, resolute, and self-confident.

69. The Scotch-Irish Settle on the Frontiers.—The Scotch-Irish reached the interior of America in two streams. The earliest and largest poured into Pennsylvania through the ports of New Castle and Philadelphia, whence it moved southward through Maryland and Virginia, up the Potomac and Shenandoah valleys, and along the Blue Ridge into North and South Carolina. There it met the counter stream flowing in from the south, mostly through the port of Charleston, but in smaller numbers through those of Wilmington and Savannah. All along the frontiers, from Pittsburg to Savannah, they interposed themselves as a conscious barrier between the sea-board settlements and their Indian foes.

70. The Scotch-Irish in America.—The Scotch-Irish were everywhere a masterful people. In Pennsylvania they were not regarded with favor. In 1725 the president of the province described them as bold, though rude and indigent strangers, who frequently sat down on any vacant land without asking questions. He expressed the fear that, if they continued to come, they would make themselves proprietors of the province. They were always jealous of their liberties, and ready to resist oppression with blood. In North Carolina they have made two counties famous — Mecklenburg for the first Declaration of Independence, and Orange for the battle of the Alamance.


71. The North Holston. Settlement.—The first settlements in Tennessee, as we have seen, were but extensions of the frontier settlements of Virginia. They lay north of the Holston River, in what is now Sullivan County. Lying east of the Indian line established by the treaty of Eochabar, they received the protection of Virginia, under whose laws they lived, and whose authority they supported, until the Walker-Henderson line of 1779 showed them to be in North Carolina. The leading family of the North Holston settlement was the Shelbys. Gen. Evan Shelby, who settled at King's Meadows, was a famous woodsman, and figured prominently in the Indian wars on the border. His son, Col. Isaac Shelby, distinguished himself at the battle of King's Mountain. He afterwards went to Kentucky, and became the first governor of that Commonwea!th.


ln 1738 the Synod of Pennsylvania, upon tl.e application of John Caldwell, the grandfather of the great statesman, John Caldwell Calhoun, sent a commission to the Governor of Virginia with a proposal to people the valley west of the Blue Rigde with Presbyterians, who should hold the western frontier against the Indians, and thus protect the colony, upon condition "that they be allowed the liberty of their consciences and of worshiping God in a way agreeable to the principles of their education."—Scotch-Irish in America, First Congress, p. 117.

On the subject of the Scotch-Irish in America, and particularly in Tennessee, see the Life of George Donnell, by President T. C. Anderson. See also the proceedings of the Scotch-Irish in America, at their various congresses, the first of which was held at Columbia, Tennessee, in 1879.

72. The Carter's Valley Settlement.—There was another settlement north of Holston, known as the Carter's Valley Settlement, in what is now Hawkins County. It was, also, believed to be in Virginia, but was beyond the Indian line. Its people acknowledged the jurisdiction of Virginia, but being on the Cherokee lands, were deprived of its protection. Carter's Valley took its name from John Carter, one of its first settlers, who afterward became prominent in the Watauga settlement. These two settlements lived, during all the historic life of the Watauga Association, under the laws of Virginia, and had no other connection with the South Holston settlements than that of near and friendly neighbors, who stood in common peril from the Indian wars which commenced with the first struggles for American independence. (See map.) The only distinctive Tennessee history from 1769 to 1779, was made by the people south of the Holston River.

73. South Holston Settlements.—There were two South Holston settlements; Watauga, on the Watauga River, and Brown's, on the Nollichucky River. The latter was just being planted when the Watauga Association was formed in 1772, and took no part in its organization. It was founded by Jacob Brown, a native of South Carolina, who distinguished himself both in the Indian wars, and at King's Mountain.

74. James Robertson.—The first decade of Tennessee history centers in the little settlements on the Watauga River, of which James Robertson was the most distinguished member. Robertson was a native of Brunswick County, Virginia, but in his youth moved with his parents, John and Mary (Gower) Robertson, to Orange County, North Carolina. He had just reached manhood when the Regulators began an organized resistance to the oppressions of the royal government. He had neither wealth nor education, but his native talent, his resolute spirit, and his inspiring manner were such that he could neither have been an indifferent spectator in the stirring scenes of the first year of the Regulators, nor could he have passed unnoticed through them.

75. Robertson Determines to Leave North Carolina.—During the year or more of quiet dejection following the dispersion of the Regulators in the fall of 1768, Robertson determined to seek a home beyond the reach of British oppression. Accordingly, in the spring of 1770, he found the beautiful valley of the Watauga, where he accepted the hospitality of one Honeycutt, raised a crop of corn, and returned for his family and friends. On the trackless mountain he lost his way, and would have perished but for the providential relief afforded by two hunters who chanced to discover him when his strength was fairly exhausted from hunger and fatigue.

76. Robertson, the Father of Tennessee.—Robertson was not the first to settle on the banks of the Watauga. Perhaps that distinction is properly accorded to William Been. It is certain Robertson found Honeycutt there on his first arrival. But he has been justly called the "Father of Tennessee" in recognition of his eminent services to its infant settlements. It is true, his name is more intimately linked with the history of the middle portion of the State, but his public services here antedate the settlement of the Cumberland Valley by a period of nearly ten years; during this time he was the leading spirit of the Watauga settlements, where he proved himself in every way worthy of the affectionate title he has received. He had an elevation of soul that enabled him to take upon himself the burden of the whole community. He was wholly unconscious of self. He never sought popularity, nor honor, nor position. If there was a service too humble to attract the ambitious, a post so perilous as to make the brave quail, or a duty so difficult as to fill every other heart with despair, that service or post or duty was accepted as a matter of course by James Robertson. And his head was so cool and clear; he had such a brave, resolute and devoted spirit; and his vigilance was so alert and active, that success followed him like the blessings of a special providence.

77. The Watauga Settlers Ordered off.—By the spring of 1772, wheu the first political organization in the State was effected, the Watauga settlement numbered many families. Some of them, as we have seen, had settled there in consequence of the treaty of L,ochabar, believing that they were within, the limits of Virginia. But in 1771, Anthony Bledsoe made an experimental survey from Steep Rock to Beaver Creek, which clearly indicated that the Virginia line would not falisouth of the Holston River. This was followed, in 1772, by a treaty between the authorities of Virginia and the Cherokees, making the Indian line on the south identical with the line between Virginia and North Carolina. Under this treaty, Alexander Cameron, an agent of the royal government, residing among the Cherokees, ordered the "Watauga settlers to move off.

78. The Indians Intercede for the Watauga Settlers.— His order placed the Watauga settlers in a most critical situation. Hitherto, they had relied on Virginia. Now, they found themselves without laws, and beyond the protection of any organized government. Being on Iudialwaud which was controlled by the Crown, .they were without the jurisdiction, as they were physically beyond the protection, of North Carolina. They could not obtain title to their lands, either from the Indians or from the provincial government. Fortunately for them, a profound peace existed between the colonists and the Southern Indians. When the British agent ordered them to move back, some of the Cherokees expressed a wish that they might be permitted to remain, on condition that they should not encroach beyond the lands they then held. After that, no further effort was made to remove them.

79. Settlers Form an Association.—At this juncture a convention of the settlers was called to consider their anomalous condition, and to devise means for its improvement. They never thought of abandoning their homes. They said they were "too inconveniently situated to remove back," and besides, they were "unwilling to lose the labor bestowed on their plantations.'' They determined to do two sensible things: (1) To form a government of their own for the administration of justice in their settlement; and (2) to lease for a number of years the lauds on which they lived, conceiving that the King's proclamation of 1763, prohibiting them from buying the land from the Indians, did not extend to a leasing. [Petition of the inhabitants of Washington District, Ramsey's Annals of Tennessee, p. 134.]

80. Wafauga Adopts the First Written Constitution in America.— Accordingly, they entered into a written association and articles for the government of the settlement, which was the first written constitution adopted by the consent of a free and independent people in America. [Compare Ramsey, p. 107; Kelly, in Proceedings of the First Scotch Irish Congress, p. 153; Allison, in Proceedings of the Seventeenth Meeting of the Tennessee Press Association, p. 27; Roosevelts "Winning of the West, Vol. I, p. 184; Caldwell's Studies in the Constitutional History of Tennessee, p. 27. See also, Dunmore to Dartmouth, May 16, 1774; Bancroft's History of the United States (first edition), Vol. VI, p. 401, note.] The instrument itself has not been preserved. Every member of the settlement signed the Constitution. They adopted for their government the laws of Virginia, and not those of North Carolina. A court, consisting of five magistrates, having a clerk and a sheriff, were appointed to administer the law under the Constitution. This government continued until the beginning of the Revolution, in 1775, when it was merged into Washington District.

81. Land Leased from the Indians.—A form of government being now established, and magistrates appointed, steps were immediately taken to secure the settlers in the possession of the lands they had so recently been notified to vacate. James Robertson and John Bean were appointed to negotiate a lease from the Cherokees. They assembled the Indians near their own settlement, and for the sum of five or six thousand dollars in merchandise leased all the land lying on the waters of the Watauga, for a period of ten years. Afterwards, in 1775, following the precedent set by Henderson & Co., in their great Transylvania purchase, the Watauga people bought their lands in fee simple.

Jacob Brown made a similar lease, and purchased on the Nolli-chucky. John Carter also met the Indians at Sycamore Shoals, and obtained a deed to Carter's Valley, partly as an indemnity for a store destroyed by the Indians some years before, and also for an additional consideration, which Carter was enabled to raise by admitting Robert Lucas to the firm. The accompanying map, page 52, shows the boundaries of each of these private purchases.

82. The First Geographical Division Named for "Washington.— The Watauga Association never had, nor sought a political connection with North Carolina until she declared her independence of Great Britain. Its people had lived in peace under their own government from 1772 to 1775. When the conflict between Great Britain and her colonies began in that year, the united settlements on the Watauga and Nollichucky formed themselves into Washington District. This was the first geographical division in the United States, named for the Father of his Country.

83. "Washington District Supersedes "Watauga Association.—Having formed themselves into Washington District, they appointed a Committee of Safety. This was a kind of provisional government generally adopted by the colonies. Their Committee of Safety was composed of thirteen members, of whom Col. John Carter was made Chairman. The Committee resolved to adhere to the Continental Congress, and acknowledged themselves to be indebted to the united colonies for their full proportion of the Continental expense. Immediately after the Declaration of Independence, in 1776, Washington District presented a petition to the Provincial Council of North Carolina, praying to be so annexed to that province as to be enabled to share in the glorious cause of liberty. [Those desiring further information on the organization of the Watauga Association are referred to the American Historical Magazine, Vol. III., p. 103, etseq., where the subject is discussed more in detail. For an admirable discussion of the "Watauga Commonwealth," see Roosevelt's Winning of the West, Vol. I., Chapter 7 ; Putnam, pp. 45 to 49; Ramsey, pp. 134-140. See also Caldwell's Studies in the Constitutional History of Tennessee.]

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