Historic Sumner County, Tennessee

By Jay Guy Cisco, 1909

Chapter Three

Retyped for the page by Diane Payne

Civil Government

Summer county was organized under an act passed by the General Assembly of North Carolina on November 17, 1786, and was so named in honor of General Jethro Summer, of North Carolina, a gallant soldier in the War of Independence, The county as originally formed embraced a much larger area than at present. It was the second county to be formed in Middle Tennessee, the first being Davidson. The first court of Summer county was held on the second Monday in April, 1787, at the house of John Hamilton at Station Camp Creek, about five miles southwest from where Gallatin now is. The members of that court were General Daniel Smith, Major David Wilson, Major George Winchester, Isaac Lindsey, William Hall, John Hardin, Joseph Kuykendall, Colonel Edward Douglass and Colonel Isaac Bledsoe. David Shelby, son-in-law of Colonel Anthony Bledsoe, was appointed Clerk, and held that position until his death in 1822. John Hardin, Jr., was appointed sheriff, and Issac Lindsey, ranger. "And thus there were associated in that court men of education, sound judgment, good morals, and of great influence in the community. The commendation bestowed upon these gentlemen was that most of them could worthily fill the office of Governor or Chief Justice-"fit for Lord Chief Justice or Governor-General." In those days no man held office as a mere sinecure, nor solely for the sake of the pay. Of how many officers in Tennessee can so much be said today?

On April 20, 1796, the General Assembly Of Tennessee passed an act appointing Commissioners and Trustees. The Commissioners so appointed were William Bowen, John Wilson, Isaac Walton, George D. Blackmore and Hugh Crawford. It was made their duty to fix on a location for the seat of government for the county. The Trustees appointed by the act were Henry Bradford, David Shelby and Edward Douglass. It was made their duty to purchase the land selected by the Commissioners, erect a courthouse, prison and stocks and establish a town.

Section 3 of the act provided that the town should be called "Ca Ira," which name afterwards became corrupted into "Cairo," and it was so incorporated on November 5, 1815. On October 2, 1797, the above act was repealed and another one passed appointing "James Clendenning, Kasper Mansker, William Edwards, William Bowen, Captain James Wilson, son of John Wilson; James Frazier, Moro Stephenson, William Gillespie, James White, Wetherel Lattimore and John Morgan, Commissioners, to make choice of a place most convenient in the county of Summer, to purchase land, erect a court-house, prison and stocks, and establish a town thereon, having respect to the center of said county, which is not to exceed, more than twenty-five miles, on a direct line from a ford on Mansker's creek, on the road leading from Mansker's Lick to Bledsoe's Lick."

Daniel Smith, James Winchester and Wilson Cage were named as Trustees. In this act it was provided that the name of the town should be "Ca Ira."

On October 26, 1799, the above act was repealed, Summer county was reduced to its constitutional limits, and "David Shelby, David Beard, Sr., James Crier, Edward Guinn and Captain James Wilson, son of John Wilson, were appointed Commissioners to purchase sixty acres of land, on some part of which shall be erected a court-house, prison and stocks, and that the town be given the name Rutherford," in honor of General Griffith Rutherford.

On November 6, 1801, an act was passed by the Legislature providing that the "public buildings of Summer county shall be established and erected at one of three hereinafter named places, situated and lying on the east fork of Station Camp Creek, viz.: On the place known by the name of Dickens, now said to be the property of John C. Hamilton, Esq., or at the place of Captain James Trousdale, whereon he now lives, lying on the road that leads from Major David Wilson's to John Dawson's; or at the place whereon David Shelby now lives."

Samuel Donelson, Shadrack Nye, James Wilson, "Curly, son of Samuel Wilson;" Charles Donaho, Esq., and Major Thomas Murray were by this act appointed Commissioners. It was further provided by the act that "the town so laid off should be known by the name of Gallatin," in honor of Albert Gallatin. Thus, Gallatin became the permanent county seat. It was not incorporated until November 7, 1815.

The Tennessee Legislature on October 25, 1797, passed an act establishing a town by the name of "Bledsoeborough on the north bluff of the Cumberland river, known by the name of Sanders' Bluff, between the mouth of Dixon's creek and Dry creek, in Summer county, on the lands of Will Saunders."

During the year 1787, beginning with the April term, the court met at the house of John Hamilton. In 1788, it met at the house of Elmore Douglass; the January and April terms of 1789 at Simon Kuykendall's, then until July, 1790, at Elmore Douglass'; then in the first courthouse, a small log building erected on West station Camp creek at a place then known as Mrs. Clarke's. The courts continued to meet there until January, 1793, when it met at the house of John Dawson. The April term of 1793 met at Pearce Wall's and after that until January, 1796, at Ezekiel Douglass'. From that date to January, 1800, the sessions were held at the home of William Gillespie. From April, 1800, to July, 1802, they were held at Ca Ira ("Cairo"), the county seat. From October, 1802, to January, 1803, they were held at the house of James Trousdale in Gallatin, and then at the house of James Crier until October, when the first term was held in the first courthouse in the permanent capital.

The first court held under the Tennessee State government was in July, 1796 (previous to that date they were held under the jurisdiction of North Carolina), at the home of Ezekiel Douglass. It was composed of the following members, commissioned by Governor John Sevier: William Cage, Stephen Cantrell, James Douglass, Edward Douglass, James Gwyn, Wetheral Lattimore, Thomas Masten, Thomas Donald, James Pearce, David Wilson, James Winchester and Isaac Walton.

The first grand jury was composed of the following named gentlemen: Archibald Martin, foreman; Armond Alton, William Crabtree, Lazarus Cullum, Jeremiah Doney, William Edwards, James Farr, Robert Hamilton, Peter Looney, James Snowden, Edward Williams, Joshua Wilson and Thomas Walton.

The first school in Summer county was at Bledsoe's Lick. General Hall, in his narrative, mentions it as early as 1787. George Hamilton was the "schoolmaster." One night "the little schoolmaster" was sitting in Anthony Bledsoe's room at his brother's fort singing at the top of his voice. Indians were prowling around, and one of them found a hole in the back of the chimney through which he poked his gun and fired, hitting Hamilton in the mouth. The teacher recovered, but what became of him afterwards history does not record arid tradition is silent.

The ground upon which Gallatin was located originally belonged to James Trousdale, father of William Trousdale, afterwards Governor, and grandfather of the late Hon. J. A. Trousdale. The deed called for forty-one (41.80) acres and eighty one-hundredths. The fraction, the deed stated, was for a road. One acre was reserved by Mr. Trousdale for himself, which left forty acres for the town site. The acre reserved was on the south side of the public square, and upon this he built the first house to be built in Gallatin. It was afterwards torn down and a part of the material used in a house still standing in the rear of the original site.

Following is a schedule of taxes levied by the first court of Summer county: One shilling on every poll and four pence on every 100 acres of land to defray the contingent charges of the county, also one shilling on every poll and four pence on every 100 acres of land for the purpose of building the court-house, prison and stocks; and, that corn be received in taxes at 2s 6p per bushel, beef at 3p per pound, pork at 4p per pound, 4p per pound for good fat bear meat, if delivered at the place where the troops are stationed, 3p per pound for prime buffalo beef; 1p per pound for good venison, if delivered aforesaid; 9p per pound for bacon; each person to pay in proportion as follows, to wit: One-fourth in corn, one-half in meat, one-eighth in salt and one-eighth in money."

At the October term, 1788, the following rates were fixed: "The court regulates and rates taverns and ordinaries in the following manner, to wit: One-half pint of whiskey, such as will sink tallow, 2s; ditto of taffia, 2s; ditto of West India rum, 2s 6p; ditto Jamaica spirits, 3s; one bowl of toddy made of loaf sugar and whiskey, per quart, 3s 6p; ditto of taffia, 3s 6p; ditto of West Indian rum, 3s 6p; ditto Jamaica spirits, 4s; dinner and grog at dinner, 4s; dinner and toddy, 4s 6p; dinner, 3s; breakfast, 2s; supper, 2s; one horse feed of corn, 3p; lodging, 6p; pasture for horse twenty-four hours, 9p; stableage with fodder, 2s; horse feed of oats, per quart, 3p; one half pint of brandy, 2s; one quart bowl of punch made with fruit, 19s; one bottle of wine called port, 10s; ditto Madeira, 15s; ditto Burgundy, 15s; ditto champagne, 20s; ditto claret, 8s."

The census of 1830 gave Sumner county a population of 20,606. Gallatin at that time contained a population of 666. It contained a court-house, a jail, a large brick church, Cumberland Presbyterian church, but free for all denominations of Christians, a Masonic hall, a printing office, twelve stores, two taverns, eleven lawyers, four doctors, one cabinet shop, one chair factory, three tailor shops, two shoe-maker's shops, two saddler-shops, one wagon-maker, one tanyard, one tinner, three blacksmith shops, one hatter, one male and two female academies, thirty-five log, thirty-eight frame and twenty-seven brick houses. Of the 666 inhabitants 234 were black. The mail stage between Lexington, Kentucky, and Nashville passed three times a week, and the eastern stage to Carthage arrived and departed semi-weekly.

At that time Cairo contained thirty families, two physicians, an academy and church, one tavern, one cabinet-maker, one machine-maker, one cotton and wool factory, one rope walk, two tailors, two black- smiths, one gunsmith, and two shoemakers.

Hendersonville at that time contained one store and a stage office.

The first annual conference of the Methodist church held in Middle Tennessee met at Strother's meetinghouse, near the head of Big Station Camp creek, in Sumner county, a few miles northwest of Gallatin, Bishop Asbury presiding.

Dr. McFerrin, in his "Methodism in Tennessee," says the Cumberland Presbyterian church had its origin in the great revival held on Desha's creek, near the Cumberland river, in 1800, though the organization was not perfected until 1810.

The First Land Owners
The First Land Owners

The first settlers in the county located claims, or preempted lands, and as soon as possible thereafter they entered them. In almost every instance the first entries were made by land warrants received for services in the Revolutionary War. In 1786 Isaac Bledsoe, Robert Desha, Jordon Gibson, Henry Loving, William Morrison, John Morgan, John Sawyer, Robert Steele and Jacob Zeigler each entered 640 acres, all on or near Bledsoe's Creek. The next year Colonel Anthony Bledsoe entered 6,280 acres on warrants given him for his' services in the Continental line. The same year his brother, Isaac, located 370 acres granted for services as a guard to the Commissioners, who set apart the lands granted to the above named soldiers. In the same year Henry Ramsey located 960 acres for similar service. Later Colonel Isaac Bledsoe located 1,836 acres. About the same time William Hall, Hugh Rogan, David Shelby, George D. Blackmore, James and George Winchester, Robert Peyton, Joseph Wilson, Michael Shafer, James Hayes, Charles Morgan, Gabriel Black, John Carr, and Robert Brigham settled on Bledsoe's creek and tributaries. Charles Campbell, William Crawford, Edward and Elmore Douglass, James Franklin, Richard Hogan, Robert and David Looney, George Mansker, Benjamin Kuykendall, Thomas Spencer, John Peyton, James McCain, Benjamin Porter, John Withers, John Hamilton, John Latham and William Snoddy each entered 640 acres on Station Camp creek and its branches, James Cartwright, James McCann, John and Joseph Byrns, James Trousdale, Benjamin Williams, John Edwards, Samuel Wilson and John Hall were the pioneer settlers of the Gallatin neighborhood. William Montgomery, Thomas Sharp Spencer and Edward Hagan each entered 640 acres on Drake's creek. General Daniel Smith located 3,780 acres and William Frazier 320 acres on the same creek. Benjamin Sheppard entered by land warrants 10,880 acres in the northern part of the county, and Redmond D. Barry in 1800 entered 26,400 acres north of the rim.

After 1800, when the settlers felt no fear of the Indians, "new-comers" came fast, and all the best lands were soon taken up and much of them occupied.

Topography of Sumner County

The topography of Sumner county is varied, level valleys, gently undulating uplands breaking into hills, some of which are too steep for cultivation. Numerous creeks, each bearing a historic name, murmuring mystic music as their limpid, waters now creep, then rush and leap to pour their flood into the beautiful Cumberland. Well-cultivated farms, fields of waving grain, pastures in which well-bred horses and cattle stand knee-deep in bluegrass. Orchards, where all the fruits grown in a temperate climate are produced in abundance. Attractive homes, in which every comfort, convenience and luxury demanded by a refined and cultured people can be found. School-houses and churches surrounded by shady groves in every neighborhood. A climate almost perfect, neither intensely cold in winter nor oppressively warm in summer. What more can be desired to render a people happy and contented? No wonder that Sumner county has produced so many good soldiers and so many great statesmen. And can we wonder that the Indians fought so hard and so long to hold their ancient possessions in such a land? A man, savage or civilized, who would not shed his blood for such a country deserves to be a slave. Patriotism, love of home and of native land is not exclusively a virtue of civilized man. The Bedouin loves the parched desert because it is his home. The Eskimo loves the bleak, ice-bound region of the frozen North for the same reason. And so, too, did the Indian love the hills and valleys of Tennessee because they were his own. For his own he shed his blood and that of the invaders who came to deprive him of the sacred soil.

Driving along the well-kept turnpikes, hedged by stone fences in this "dimple of the universe," one can scarcely realize that only a century and a quarter ago it was an unbroken wilderness, the home of wild beasts and the haunt of wilder men; that countless numbers of buffalo, deer and elk, fed on the succulent grass which grew upon these hills and in these smiling: vales; that the bear, the wolf and the catamount roamed undisturbed in the forest The early explorers of Sumner county beheld an enchanting scene from the tops of these hills. It was a fair land, fresh from the hand of its Maker. The sound of the woodman's ax had never been heard in its forests primeval, and the virgin soil had never been scarred by the white man's plow. Then, as now, sparkling waters bubbled from unknown depths; crystal streams flowed over pebbly beds and dashed against boulders, moss-covered and venerable with age. Doubtless the Creator could have made a fairer land, but He never did. Rich in natural beauty, "and no land surpasses it in varied resources. It was a fit place for the home of the highest type of men and women, and such men and women found and occupied it, but at fearful cost in precious blood. Such a land in Japan, where nature is worshipped, would have a shrine at every turn and a temple on every prominence.

To the east can be seen in all their purple beauty the foothills of the far stretching Cumberland Mountains, and beyond the mist are the "towering crags that meet the bending sky." Lady Mary Wortley Montague said: "The most romantic region of every country is where the mountains unite themselves with the plains and lowlands." Sumner county is one of those regions.

One might travel far without finding a more picturesque stream than Bledsoe's creek, or one with more historic associations. Somewhere among the hills in the northern part of Sumner county it has its source. Probably a big spring bubbles up out of the bowels of the earth and sends its limpid waters dancing and singing on their way toward the sea, the little brook gathering volume, force and strength as it rushes on and on through sun and shadow. Now sleeping in the shade of overhanging trees and vines now suddenly awaking, it dashes out into the bright sunlight where it mirrors the thickly wooded hills, then gliding on over its mosaic bed it encounters a gray, moss-covered stone, tosses its jewels in the air and hurries on to meet the great river.

If we could understand the never-ceasing voices of the waters of this beautiful stream, what a story they could tell. They could tell us of the days long gone when the only sounds heard along its course were the music of its own purling waters; the soughing of the wind; the rustle of the leaves; the songs of the birds; the bark of the wolf; the growl of the bear; the scream of the catamount; the bleat of the fawn and the bellow of the buffalo. They would tell us of the long years when the red man held undisputed possession; of dusky lovers; of the hopes and the fears and the tragedies of a people who live with nature and with nature's god. They would tell us of the days when the stranger came with guns and powder, and ax and plow. They could tell us of the civilized man's book, his bottle and his craft.

They could tell us of the red man lurking along its shady banks, and how it heard his whispered councils as he planned death and destruction to the encroaching white; how it heard the sharp crack of the rifle and the whiz of the deadly bullet as it sped on its fatal mission. It would tell of the groans of the victim and the shriek of the bereft wife and orphaned children. What tales of horror and blood it could repeat.

When Middle Tennessee was first explored by the whites they found no Indians living here, though occasional hunting parties were encountered. The territory was claimed as a common hunting ground by several tribes. But a long time before, so long that not even a tradition remains, it was the scene of busy life, the home of a people well advanced in the arts of civilization. Who these people were, whence they came and whither they went is a mystery which we have never been able to solve. That they remained long in this region is evidenced by their numerous remains, mounds, earthworks; stone and flint implements and fragments of pottery. It has been estimated that over fifty thousand graves of pre-historic people have been found within a radius of forty miles from Nashville, and that one-half of them have been explored by the antiquarian. We call these people "Mound Builders," and properly so, but that they were a race separate and distinct in blood and origin from the Indians whom the white people found, this writer must dissent. All the Indians found on this continent by the white discovers and explorers were practically of the same type, and had the same origin. In color they were copper-bronze, with coarse, black hair, keen, black eyes, high cheek-bones and arched noses. They had fixed homes, cultivated the soil to a limited extent, but their chief dependence for food was the abundant game in the forest, the fish in the streams and the natural products of the soil.

In all ages and among all people the centers of population have been where there was an abundance of good, pure water. The villages of the American Indians were invariably clustered around large springs where never-failing water could be had, and where fish and game abounded. There they built their huts and erected their altars. Bledsoe's Lick seems to have been one of the centers of population of the pre-historic Indians.

A village called Castalian Springs has grown up around Bledsoe's Lick, which is a spring of white sulphur water, slightly impregnated with salt. It bubbles up in a beautiful valley a few rods south of Bledsoe's creek. The village, surrounded by picturesque hills, is in the midst of a fine farming section, where "the people live at home and board at the same place." About two hundred yards southwest from the Lick, embowered in a grove of stately trees, on the slope of the hill, stands the hotel, a large building, erected about three-quarters of a century ago of hewn logs, on a stone foundation. The house is two stories high, with a broad passage between the two main buildings and with a porch extending the full length on the south side.

The Bledsoe Lick property passed from the heirs of Colonel Isaac Bledsoe more than a century ago to General James Winchester, and from him it was inherited by his daughter, the wife of Colonel A. R. Wynne, and from her it passed to her children, the present owners.

Territorial Laws

During the administration of William Blount, Governor of the Territory of the United States of America South 0 the River Ohio, the following ordinances relating to Sumner county, and citizens of the county, were promulgated:

December 15, 1790. Also that tract of country heretofore distinguished and known by the name of Sumner county, in the State of North Carolina, into a county to in future be distinguished and known by the name of Sumner county, in the Territory of the United States of America, South of the River Ohio.

And also laid out the three counties of Davidson, Sumner and Tennessee, being the same that heretofore formed the District of Mero in North Carolina, into a District in the future to be distinguished and known by the name of the District of Mero in the Territory of the United States of America South of the River Ohio.

David Shelby, Clerk for the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions for the County of Sumner.

James Wilson, for Stray Master for Sumner County.

And commissioned Bennet Searcy County Attorney and Solicitor for the counties of Sumner and Tennessee.

Appointed Isaac Walton Coroner for the County of Sumner.

Appointed and commissioned for the County of Sumner, Isaac Bledsoe, David Wilson, George Winchester, William Walton, Anthony Sharp, Edward Douglas, Joseph Kuykendall, James Winchester and Thomas Masten Justices of the Peace for Sumner county, of whom George Winchester, Anthony Sharp, and Edward Douglass, being those present, did take be- fore Judge McNairy in presence of the Governor an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and also an oath of office.

William Cage, Sheriff of Sumner county until the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in July next and to the end thereof, and no longer.

The militia officers for the county of Sumner were as follows: James Winchester, Lieutenant-Colonel, Commandant; Kasper Mansker, Lieutenant-Colonel; Anthony Sharp, First Major; Edward Douglass, Second Major; James Mckean, Jr., Zebulon Hubbard, Joseph McClewrath, John Morgan, James Frazier, Captains; Elisha Clary, James Yates, John White, Steven Cantril, and Thomas Patton, Lieutenants; Peter Looney, James Hamilton, William Snoddy, John Rule, and Joseph Morgan, Ensigns.

George Winchester, Register of Sumner county.

George Winchester, Second Major in the Cavalry of Mero District; George Blackmore, Captain, and Reuben Douglass, Lieutenant.

June 2, 1791. William Cage was reappointed Sheriff of Sumner county, until the July term, 1792, and to the end thereof, and no longer.

June 14, 1791. Richard Cavet appointed a Justice of the Peace for Sumner county; George Winchester, First Major of Cavalry, in the place of Edwin Hickman, killed.

July 3, 1792. William Cage was appointed Sheriff of Sumner county until the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in July next, and to the end thereof, and no longer.

July 14, 1792. Appointed and commissioned the following militia officers for Sumner county: Lieutenant Thomas Patton promoted to be a Captain in the place of Captain Wilson, resigned; Richard King, Lieutenant, and James Wilson, Ensign; Peter Looney, a Captain, heretofore a Lieutenant, in the place of Captain McKain, resigned; Ezekiel Norris, Captain; Joseph Morgan, Robert Brigance and John Cummings, Lieutenants; John Butler, an Ensign, and sent to Colonel Winchester five blank commissions to be filled by him, whose names he has not yet reported.

March 16, 1793. John Young, Captain, in the Sumner Regiment of Militia.

June 16, 1793. William Cage, Sheriff of Sumner county to the July term, 1794, and to the end thereof, and no longer.

September 27, 1794. David Wilson appointed Register of Sumner county.

December 26, 1794. Isaac Walton, a Lieutenant, and James Whitson, an Ensign in the Regiment of Infantry of Sumner county.

January 1, 1795. William Hall and Edward Hogan, Ensigns in the Sumner County Regiment of Infantry.

January 16, 1795. Edward Douglass, Lieutenant-Colonel of the Sumner County Infantry; George Dawson Blackmore, Second Major of the Cavalry of Mero District.

January 17, 1795. Reuben Douglass, Captain, and Wilson Cage, Lieutenant of the Cavalry of Mero District; James Frazier, First Major, and Joseph McElurath, Second Major of the Sumner County Regiment of Infantry; William Snoddy and Samson Hansborough, Captains of the same; William Hankins and John Williams, Lieutenants, and _ Latimer, Ensign of the same.

February 2, 1795. William Cage, Sheriff of Sumner county, Collector of the same in Sumner county for the year 1795.

March 2, 1795. The Governor appointed and commissioned Thomas Donald a Justice of the Peace for the County of Sumner.

July 6, 1795. Reuben Cage, Sheriff of Sumner county till the end of the July term, 1796; William Hall, Cornet of the Sumner county troop of cavalry.

July 27, 1796. Reuben Cage, Collector of Sumner County and Public Taxes, for the year 1796.

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