For fourteen years after the founding of the Cumberland settlement the lives of the pioneers were in daily peril. Looking back over that eventful period from a distance of more than a century we wonder that a single individual escaped such a terrible onslaught of savage cruelty. In the language of Judge HAYWOOD, it was indeed "a period of danger and hazard; of daring adventure and dangerous exposure." When the articles of agreement were adopted the settlers began in peace to plant their fields and plow their corn. But the Indians deeply resented this sudden advent of so large a number of the whites into their hunting grounds. By way of adding fuel to the flame, the British on the North and the Spaniards on the south were now busily, but secretly, engaged in urging the savages to open hostilities against the defenseless outposts on the western frontier. The latter now by seeming systematic effort began to pick off the stragglers from the various stations.
One morning during the month of May a hunter by the name of KEYWOOD came running into the fort at the bluff and reported that John MILLIKEN had been killed on Richland Creek, five or six miles away. The two men were journeying toward the settlement and had stopped at the creek for a drink. While they stooped down they were fired upon by a band of Indians hidden on the bank and MILLIKEN fell dead. KEYWOOD had escaped uninjured and made his way alone to the settlement to bear the news of the tragic death of his comrade.
A few days later Joseph HAY was alone down on the Lick Branch between the Bluff and Freeland's Station, when a skulking party of savages who were hiding in the cane shot and scalped him. They then beat a hasty retreat, carrying away with them his gun, hunting knife, shot pouch and powder horn. His body was buried by the settlers in the open ground on a point of land east of Sulphur Spring.
Soon thereafter a man named BERNARD was at work on his clearing near what is now Beuna Vista Springs. So busily engaged was he with his work that he did not hear the stealthy footfalls of the approaching savages. Creeping up to within easy range the latter shot him dead in his tracks, after which they cut off the head of their victim and carried it away in triumph.
In their retreat they encountered near by three young men; two brothers named DUNHAM, and the third, a son of John MILLIKEN, whose death is mentioned above as having occurred only a short time before. The DUNHAMS escaped to Freeland's Station, but young MILLIKEN was killed and his head likewise cut off and carried away by the enemy. In the month of June two settlers by the names of GOIN and KENNEDY were clearing land between Mansker's and Eaton's Stations. A party of Indians stole up behind some brush heaps the men were making and when the latter came near they were fired upon and killed. The savages then rushed out, tore off the scalps of their victims and escaped unharmed into the surrounding forest. During the months following a number of the settlers were killed within what are now the city limits of Nashville. D. LARIMER was shot, scalped and beheaded near Freeland's Station. Isaac LEFEORE met a like fate on the west bank of the river near the end of the Louisville & Nashville railroad bridge. Soloman MURRY, Soloman PHILLIPS, and Robert ASPEY were fired upon while at work near where the Fogg High School building now stands. MURRY and ASPEY were killed, the savages taking away the scalp of the former. PHILLIPS was wounded, but escaped to the fort at the Bluff, where he died a few days later. Benjamin RENFROE, John MAXWELL and John KENNEDY were fishing on the river bank near the mouth of Sulphur Spring Branch. Indians crept up behind them and made an attack. The men fought bravely, but were overpowered and made prisoners. RENFROE was tomahawked and scalped, but the lives of Kennedy and Maxwell were spared.
Phillip CATRON journeyed from Freeland's Station to the Bluff. The buffalo path along which he passed ran through a thick cluster of undergrowth near the present crossing of Cedar and Cherry Streets. While in the midst of this thicket he was shot from ambush. Holding on to his horse he rode to the station, where he received such medical attention as could be given him. Though severely wounded he finally recovered.
John CAFFREY and Daniel WILLIAMS, two occupants of the Bluff fort, went for a row up the river. On returning they had made fast their canoe and were coming up the bank near the foot of Church Street when the Indians opened fire, wounding them in the legs. Hearing the report of the rifles John RAINES and several companions who were in the fort near by rushed out and chased the savages, eight or ten in number, as far as the Sulphur Spring. The latter were fleet of foot and made their escape. Late in the month of August Jonathan JENNINGS, who with his family barely escaped death in the voyage over, was killed near the river bank at a point opposite Island No. 1, above Nashville. He was at that time building a cabin on the tract of land upon which he had recently made entry. Not content with taking his life, the Indians, who were a roving band of Delawares, chopped his body into pieces with their tomahawks and scattered the fragments over the surrounding ground.
James MAYFIELD and a man named PORTER were murdered in plain view of their comrades over in Edgefield near Eaton's Station. The men in the for caught up their rifles and gave chase, but the enemy made good their escape.
Col. Richard HENDERSON'S body servant and negro cook, Jim, was killed by a party of Indians near Clover Bottom. His master had begun the erection of a camp at that place, a short way above that occupied by Colonel DONELSON, but at that time was away on a visit to forts in Kentucky. Jim and a young white man, a chain carrier in HENDERSON'S surveying party, were about to begin a journey down the river by canoe from the camp to the Bluff. The savages were in hiding in the thick cane on the bank and fired upon them with the above result. The white man, Jim's companion, made his escape. One of the emigrants, Ned CARVIN by name, had made an entry on land four miles east of Nashville. He built thereon a cabin in which he lived with his family. One day while hoeing in his garden beside the house he was shot by the Indians from a neighboring thicket and instantly killed. His wife and two small children escaped by a door on the opposite side of the cabin and hid in the cane near by. For some unknown reason they were unmolested, and after remaining in hiding all night in the woods made their way in safety next morning to Eaton's Station. Here they were kindly comforted and provided for by the settlers.
A few days thereafter John SHOCKLEY and Jesse BALESTINE were killed while hunting in the woods not far from CARVIN'S cabin.
Jacob and Frederick STUMP, two Dutchmen, had selected land and built a cabin on White's Creek, three miles north of Eaton's Station. Pursuant to custom one of them usually stood on guard while the other worked in the clearing, but on a certain occasion this precaution was neglected. While both were busily engaged some Indians crept up behind a clump of trees at the edge of the field and fired at them, killing Jacob. His brother seeing that it would be folly to stand his ground started on a run toward Eaton's, the nearest place of refuge, closely pursued by the enemy. Up hill and down, over ledges of rock, through cane brakes and cedar thickets, the race was one of life and death. After a mile or two the pursuing savages got near enough to hurl a tomahawk at STUMP'S head with such force as to land it twenty or thirty feet beyond. There the race ended, the supposition being that the Indians stopped to search for the lost hatchet. They probably thought more of the latter than of the prospect of capturing STUMP'S scalp, especially so in consideration of the rate of speed STUMP was making just at that particular time.
This same band of marauders went on up the river to Bledsoe's Station and there killed and scalped two persons: William JOHNSON and Daniel MUNGLE. Then after shooting all the cattle they could find about the fort and setting fire to some out houses and fencing they pursued their journey up the river toward Hartsville. On the way they met Thomas Sharp SPENCER returning alone from a hunting trip and leading two horses laden with bear meat and pelts. The Indians fired at SPENCER, slightly wounding him. Finding himself badly outnumbered SPENCER "stood not on the order of his going" but very promptly dismounted and "went at once," leaving the horses and cargo to the enemy. He ran through the woods and escaped into Bledsoe's fort. Tradition tells us that when safely inside the station he made but little complaint because of his wound, but grieved long and loud on account of the loss of the horses and especially the bear meat, of which he was exceedingly fond.
Other hunters had been with SPENCER on this expedition, but had left him before the Indians were encountered.
Some of the forts were abandoned before the end of 1780
because of their apparent inability to defend themselves against attacks of which they were in
constant danger. In the latter part of May, John RAINES had moved his family from his station in
Waverly Place to the Bluff fort, and then later into Kentucky.