Brief Sketch of a Country Neighborhood

Names Index

Chapter I

Long after William Bean had built his rude cabin on Tennessee soil, and some years after the hostile Indians had been subdued and Tennessee had already played an important part in national affairs, and about the time the elective franchise of county officers was placed in the hands of the people, there was a settlement made in the southeastern portion of Bradley County, which, I shall, for want of a better name, call Laurel Hill Settlement.  The history of this settlement is tantamount to that of other settlements in the extreme southeastern part of the state.  The first settlements were made in the year 1835 by emigrants mostly from Rhea and Monroe Counties, by parties who emigrated here to enter lands which cost from twelve and a half cents to seven dollars and fifty cents per acre.


Although it was not such an undertaking to make a settlement as it was in the time of John Sevier and James Robison, [sic] it was still quite an undertaking.  First a cabin must be built which consists of large logs, hewn into shape and fitted into each other by means of notches at the ends, for walls.  The cracks between the logs were filled with short pieces of wood, around these was daubed a plaster made of clay.  The doors were made of heavy cross pieces and the floor of logs hewn flat, called puncheon floor.  The chimney was made of sticks and clay, the roof of clap boards or long oak shingles fastened by heavy logs.  There were no nails in them of course.  The windows, if any, had greased paper for glass with a heavy shutter to close in rough weather.


Next came the clearing of the land which consisted in cutting down and burning the undergrowth and deadening the large growth.  By undergrowth it meant the smallest of the timber, there being no such thickets as we now have.  The timber was prepared for burning by cutting the logs short enough for several strong men to carry and pile them into heaps.  This was called a log rolling.


Then came the plowing and cultivation of the soil.  This was done in a very primitive style, the settler’s farming tools being as primitive as his cabin; besides having no farm wagons and other modern conveyances, he had but little knowledge of controlling stock, especially the horse.  He thought the horse was too speedy for a beast of burden, so the faithful ox was mostly relied upon.  The first horse which pulled the plow in this section were not driven but were ridden by a boy.  It took two hands to run one little narrow plow, one to guide the horse, the other to hold the plow.  It must be remembered that quite a number of settlers came to this place about the same time and they would assist each other with their work.  This it is that made the house raising, the log rolling and the corn husking so famous in this section.  The neighbors would congregate and relate their adventurous experiences and these were grand times although everything now seems to have been so rude.  There still survives two or three of these old settlers in this section.  If  you desire to see the first fire of youth flush the countenance of one of them only introduce a conversation on olden times.  His tongue will no longer cleave to the roof of his mouth but he will soon wax eloquent and will never tire of the theme.


The soil was very fertile when first cleared as had already been said, there were no worthless clusters of bushes as we have now.  The Indians kept the woods burnt so as to kill the undergrowth and instead of it, the ground was covered with a heavy broad bladed grass that made excellent pasturage.  This grass, like the buffalo, disappeared as civilization advanced.  The question is sometimes asked, why a piece of new ground in this section will not produce like it once did?  An old settler will immediately answer because the broad bladed grass is gone and clusters of bushes have taken its place and have absorbed the substance of the soil.  It may seem a little strange to some of my readers that the Indians were here so late as 1835.  This southeastern corner of the state, south of the Hiwassee and east of the Tennessee, is what is known as the new purchase which was last treated to the whites.  The Indians were wroth with their chiefs who treated it away and the chiefs had to keep guard to keep the Indians from seeking revenge on them.  The chiefs were sensible men and knew it was the best thing that could be done.  The Indians left here in the fall of 1838 and in the spring on 1839.  The government paid for their transportation.  Where an Indian was able to move his own family, he did so, and the government paid him the cost of the same.