The gloom of despair hung like a cloud over the settlement at the beginning of 1785. Indian foes, incited to action by an unseen influence, were again making frequent excursions into the region round about, murdering and maiming as zealously as at any time during the previous four years.
The Spanish Government, with headquarters at New Orleans and Natchez, had so far failed in its attempts, first to win the allegiance of the colony, and second, to destroy it by intrigues with the savages. It now threatened to prohibit all navigation of the Mississippi River and thereby close the only avenue by which the settlers in Tennessee and Kentucky might market their corn and tobacco. Such action on the part of Spain must surely lead to ultimate disaster. Colonel ROBERTSON was again at the capitol of North Carolina. Here he was exerting himself in an effort to convince the Legislature of the needs of its western settlement in order that aid might be extended. About all he could at any time secure from that august body was its permission to do certain things, provided always that any expense thus incurred should be borne by the settlement, and that under no condition should any part thereof be paid from the State treasury.
An appeal to the Federal government for protection against Spanish oppression and savage onslaught was at this time and for many years thereafter equally futile. Some excuse for this action on the part of the latter may be found in the fact that during most of the period mentioned its foreign representatives were attempting to negotiate a treaty with Spain. It therefore feared to offend that power by demanding protection for its western frontier. Both Congress, and the Legislature of the parent State by their acts were continually saying to the struggling colonists beyond the mountains: "You have assumed your present position of danger without our leave, therefore shift for yourselves. We have enough to do to take care of our colonies east of the Alleghanies."
Moses BROWN this year built a fort two and a half miles west of Nashville, near Richardson Creek and south of Richland Turnpike. Scarcely was it finished when BROWN was killed and scalped and his family driven back to the Bluff. A hired man who lived with William STUART was murdered at the forks of Mill Creek on the farm which was afterwards owned by Judge John HAYWOOD, the Tennessee historian.
During the summer of this year Colonel ROBERTSON, Colonel WEAKLY and Edmund HICKMAN, the latter a popular man and a good surveyor, went down on Piney Creek, in Hickman County, for the purpose of entering some tracts of land. They were surprised by a party of Indians and in the fight, which followed, HICKMAN was killed. ROBERTSON and WEAKLY made a safe retreat to the bluff. Late in the fall William HALL arrived at Bledsoe's Lick. He was accompanied by his wife and children, among the latter being William HALL, Jr., a future governor of the State. Having sold his possessions in Surrey County, North Carolina, in 1779, the elder HALL started to Kentucky, but because of his inability to get through the wilderness with his family at that time, halted at New River, Virginia. There he bought a tract of land on which he lived until the present year. Concluding now to remove to the Cumberland country he again disposed of his property and pursued his journey, reaching Bledsoe's fort on November 20. Selecting land a mile north of the Lick he built a residence and removed his family thereto about January 1. This property has since remained in the family and is now owned by his great-grandson, Judge William HALL, of Gallatin.
The year 1785 was marked by the advent of Rev. Thomas B. CRAIGHEAD, a Presbyterian minister, and the first of any denomination to make his home on the Cumberland. CRAIGHEAD was a graduate of old Nassan Hall, now Princeton University, a man of sound learning, strong intellect and earnest piety. By the presbytery of Orange, in his native State, North Carolina, he was ordained to the ministry in 1780. A few years later he removed to Kentucky and for a time preached to the Stationers there, but again changed his residence, coming to Middle Tennessee. It is said that this was done at the solicitation of Colonel ROBERTSON, with whom he had become acquainted in North Carolina. On arriving at the Cumberland settlement he at once began his work, preaching his first sermon with a stump for a pulpit, and with fallen trees as seats for his congregation. Fixing his residence at Haysborough, six miles northeast of Nashville, he taught school during the week and preached on Sunday. A stone building twenty-four by thirty feet in size was erected at Nashville, and in this for thirty years thereafter he taught and held religious service. The declining years of this pioneer preacher were saddened by a trial for heresy, the result of which was his suspension from the ministry. This order of suspension, however, was revoked before his death. He was a man of strong character, and while active in extending the knowledge of the gospel, he was opposed to the revival measures which led to the formation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He died at Nashville in 1824. Throughout all this trials Gen. Andrew JACKSON was his staunch admirer and loyal friend.
During the year 1785 also the first physician to the settlement arrived at Nashville in the person of Dr. John SAPPINGTON. The latter acquired much reputation as a practitioner throughout the colony.
The first lawyers in the settlement came this year in the
persons of Edward DOUGLASS and Thomas MOLLOY, who announced that they would
practice in all the courts of Davidson County. A historian of that period says that neither of these
gentlemen had studied law as a science, but being of sound practical sense, and possessed of good
business talents, and of the gift of speech, they soon had a large clientage. The only law books
they possessed were the Acts of the North Carolina Legislature in pamphlet form.