Tennessee Records Repository, Giles County, TNGenNet Inc.

A Brief Sketch of the
Settlement and Early History of
Giles County Tennessee

by James McCallum, 1876

Published by the Pulaski Citizen, 1928

Chapter Seven, pages 57-63

[Page 57]

       The party of citizens that went out to Latitude Hill in 1783, on their return camped the first night on Haywood Creek, where Elisha Robertson located a tract, of five thousand acres of land for John. Haywood, describing the land as beginning on a white oak one mile above a large spring on the bank of a small creek that runs into Richland, which the Commissioners and their guard came down on their return from Elk River, and on which they camped the first night.
       This was the land on which Albert Buford now, lives. Either because of the indefinite. description of the land, or fear of litigation, the depositions of. T. Cox. and General James Robertson were taken on the 10th of February 1809, under the orders of the County Court of Maury County, to identify the land, perpetuate testimony, etc. General Robertson identified the land very satisfactorily. Richard Hightower, Gideon and Wm. Pillow and Wm. P. Anderson were present, and asked a number of questions, among others who were along, the object of the expedition, and the route traveled. In answer to which he gave the names of such as he had remembered, and described travel as these, were the first white men who explored the County and as many of their descendents are still living in the County, I will give the names of those who were along and substance of the deposition
       He states that sixty or eighty persons were along, their names as far as he remembers were: Anthony Bledsoe, Kasper Mausker, Daniel Smith, Isaac Bledsoe, Philemon Thomas, Elijah and James Robertson, Frederick Stamps, Thomas Cole, John Lackey, Andrew Casselman, Benjamin Casselman, Wm. Davis, Davidson, William Doggans, Andrew Boyd, two by the name of Shelby, three by the name of McMurray, O. McCutcheon, Samuel McCutcheon, James McCutcheon, J. Hollis, Turner and Sampson Williams, James Clendener, D. Frazier, Robert Banks, E. McLain, Jamees Sanders, William Callensworth, D. Hays, Jas. Todd, Thomas Spencer, John Gibson, Edward Cox, Wm. Bradshaw and N. McClure.
       He states in substance that they started from Nashville in February, 1783, that leaving the Commissioners, Isaac Bledsoe and A.Tatum, and the balance of the guard at the Harpeth Glades, on the Big South road, they set out South to ascertain the Southern boundary of the State, and to hunt a body of good land, to run out General Greene’s 25,000 acres somewhere. South of the line the Commissioners were running. They camped the first night between Harpeth and Flat Creek, about two miles from Duck River, and crossed Duck River at what was called the Shallow Ford and encamped the secbnd night on What they called Floating Camp Creek, now called Cedar Creek; third night on Robertson Fork, fourth night on a branch, of Bradshaw Creek, the next night on Bradshaw, stopping before twelve o’clock to take their latitude, and stayed there two or three nights. They were then one or one and a half miles from mouth of the creek. Rain fell that night so as to raise the Elk River past fording. The next morning they went to Elk, going about two miles, and struck the river where McCutcheon’s trace crossed it. Gen. Daniel Smith took the observations, and concluded they were in about three miles of the South boundary of the State. Their purpose was to make a canoe and send some of the party over to ascertain the Southern boundary; but there being a good deal of fresh Indian signs and Indian horses, they concluded not to cross the river, but to turn back after marking a number of trees, which place is now known by the marked trees, where McCutcheon’s trace crossed Elk River. (The place is on a high bluff on the North-side of the river, and is now called Latitude Hill.) States that they aimed to go South from the Harpeth Glades but at times discovered that they were off the course. They took observations several times; some of the names of the, company I were generally cut upon the trees, at each encampment. The. weather was very, cold and they cut not less than a dozen trees at each encampment for fire wood. Elijah Robertson named Robertson Fork, and probably Haywood. Gen. Robertson himself named Richland Creek. Bradshaw and Indian Creeks were named but does not state who named them. After they left the marked trees at Elk river they went up Indian, Creek, over to and up Buchanan Creek out to and down Haywood, where they camped the first night; over to and down Fountain Creek to near the fork where they camped the second night. From there they went a North-western course to the mouth of Little Bigby, and run out General Greene’s twenty-five thousand acres on the South side of Duck River, including the mouth of Little Bigby.


       In 1809, 1910 and 1811, U. S. Soldiers from Fort Hampton situated on Elk River four miles above its mouth, were sent out in the month of June to drive all the settlers off the Indian land as it was called, although some of the settlers had grants for their land. They acted very rascally; cut down the corn with large butcher knives, threw down and burned fences and houses and forced the settlers back over the line. In some localities the settlers soon returned, and the villianous work of removal and destruction of improvements repeated. This was a terrible calamity on the settlers who had struggled against so many difficulties to get places on which to live. In the prospect of rising corn for their bread, the most of those driven off went back over the line, and built huts, and camps on the land of any one who would permit them to do so. They had to do this or anything to shelter their families until they could do better. Among those driven off were the following: William Welch, who lived six or seven, miles West of Campbellsvill, was driven off and his improvements and crop were destroyed. Lawson Hobson’s improvements and crop were totally destroyed, and his hands driven off. Robert Reed had inadvertently built his cabin on the line; the soldiers, would not allow it to remain, and threatened to burn it, but gave him permission to remove it. Charlees W. Dever who lived on the place now owned by Mrs. Lindsay was driven off and his extensive improvements and crop was destroyed. Levy Reed, Esq., says he saw six houses burning at one time on the banks of Weakley Creek by United States Soldiers, because they were on the Indian side of the line. Thomas Reed, Sr., who lived about a quarter of a mile East of where J. P. C. Reed now lives, was on Indian territory and his crop and improvements were destroyed, cut down and burned
       In the neighborhood of Prospect a good many persons were over the line, and they were treated as those on Weakley Creek, many of them went back over the line and built cabins and camps on the Ward tract of land. James Ford kept a little ferry on Elk at the mouth of Fords Creek, and the United States Government had contracted with him to ferry over the mail-rider who carried the mail from Columbia to Fort Hampton once every two weeks, was permitted to remain until his contract went out, and the very day it expired .the soldiers came and threw down his fence and took the roof off his house. Ford moved back a few miles and rented land for three years before he returned. A good many families on Shoal Creek and West of Prospect were driven off at the same time; among them were Reuben Riggs and Henry E. Morgan, who lived on the Carey Gilbert place; William Noblett, James McKinney, Kallett Nail and others lived over the line, were visited by the soldiers, and the crops and improvements of most of them were destroyed. On the South side of the river William Kyle had a large and valuable farm, and he was driven off three times. On the Alabama side the Reduses and Simmses and those who settled Simms’ settlement, were driven off and they went back over the line and built camps and shanties which they covered with bark which they stripped from the trees like tan bark. A considerable number of these camps were together, and the place was called Barksville for a long time. I saw the camps with the bark covers on them when a boy.

[Page 61]


       The early settlers lived for several years and until after the close of the war of 1812 in constant fear of the Indians. This was especially so in the Western and Southern portion of the County. It will be borne in mind that the Chickasaw Indians’ boundary line until September, 1816, ran from, Lewis’ Grove at the South-west corner of Maury County to Ditto’s landing on the Tennessee River, and approached to within five miles of Pulaski, and, crossed Elk River two or three miles above Prospect, leaving the West and South-western portion of the County in Indian territory.
       All the country West, South-west and South of that line, for hundreds of miles belonged to the Indians. Three miles above Ditto’s landing on a line to the head of Elk, and thence to the head of Duck River, and from thence to, the mouth of the Hiawassee on the Tennessee River, all South and East for hundreds of miles was claimed by the Cherokee Indians, until February, 1819, thus giving the Indians both banks of the Tennessee River, from the mouth of the Hiawassee to the mouth of Duck River, except eight miles on the North side at Ditto’s landing secured to the whites by the treaties of 1805 and 1806. In all the territory thus claimed by them they roamed and hunted at pleasure, and passed through the country to and from their excursions to Northern tribes; and even by the treaty of 1805, they were allowed to hunt North and East of said line for some time. The proximity of the early settlers to the Indians, and their frequent appearance in numbers sufficient to be formidable, in their hunting and traveling excursions, together with a knowledge of the cruelties perpetrated by them, on the early settlers on the Cumberland and other places; their character for treachery, ambuscade and stealthy approach, the sparse population and dense cane brakes, which covered the whole country, all contributed to keep up a state of uneasiness and dread of the Indians. And besides, during the war of 1812, it was generally believed that there were British and Spanish emigrants among the Indians encouraging them to acts of hostility. Frequently, reports from trivial circumstances, were circulated, that the Indians were hostile in feeling and meditated an attack; and some times that they were approaching. On such occasions the, settlers in the Southern and Western part of the County would go back into the settlements, and remain a few days. The terror and confusion of whole families in flight from a supposed hostile advance of Indians, is absolutely indescribable.
       I witnessed several of these flights when a boy. My father lived about ten miles from the nearest point to the Indian line. He never left home, but two or three times made preparations to go, hid his valuables, and had his horses and wagon ready. One time the settlers South of my father went back to Gordon’s twelve miles North-east of where we lived. At another time they went back to the Reverend Alx McDonald’s five miles North-west.
       On such occasions those who would remain would assemble three or four families at the strongest and most secure house in the neighborhood, and prepare for defense. At night they would carry the axes into the house, stretch chains across the door to keep the door shutters from being broken in suddenly, load their guns, have their butcher knives close at hand, select their cracks in the house to be used as portholes, put down the fire---and one man would sit up as sentinel while the others slept.
       At one time in the Fall of 1813, soon after the terrible massacre at Fort Mimms, the settlers were greatly alarmed, especially in the Southern portion of the County. It was reported the Indians w ere certainly advancing; had crossed the State Line, and had killed one person. Such was the alarm that all the families South of my father’s left home in great haste, not waiting to get up members of their families who were in the neighborhood, some in wagons, some on horseback, taking with them such of their valuables as they could conveniently carry. For a whole day they passed my father’s going back into the settlements. My father, although he had made preparations to leave was quite unwilling to go, as long as any others would remain. Late in the evening three or four families residing immediately South of my father’s came, and camped for the night. That night my father and three other neighbors, and those who had camped for the night, agreed to remain until more definite news could be obtained. In the morning they with several others started out to reconnoiter the Southern border of the County, and finding no Indians crossed the Tennessee River, and returned in a few days with the news that the Indians had no hostile intentions. The alarm was first given by a young man in the Southern part of the County, who had killed another and immediately fled; and to prevent being pursued told every person he saw that the Indians were coming, had crossed the State Line, and had killed one person (the one he had killed himself,) and in this way the murderer escaped. The news reached Pulaski in the evening, and caused great alarm among the women and those few unused to Indian warfare; the men resolutely preparing to make a desperate defense. Immediately preparations were made for the battle. After dark the women and children and negroes were removed a mile East of town, and hid in a dense cane brake, on what is know called McKimmon’s branch, two or three hundred yards East of Colonel Solon E. Rose’s residence, and left there with strict orders to be perfectly quiet, and to keep the children from making a noise. The men then returned to meet the Indians when they advanced, resolved to exterminate or be exterminated.
       All the dogs in town followed to the women and children’s camp, and not having the fear of the Indians before their eyes, or caring for military orders; and being instigated by their canine instincts, they kept up an incessant barking and fighting all night, and could have been heard for miles around to “the great terror of the good people then and there assembled.”

Transcription © 2003 by
Fred Smoot

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