This year, despite frequent attacks from the enemy, the population of the settlement was largely increased by immigration from beyond the mountains. A new station was established by John MORGAN, who built a fort in Sumner County at the mouth of Dry Fork Creek, two and a half miles northwest of Col. Anthony BLEDSOE'S Station at Greenfield, and near the present site of Rogana. This fort was also in the midst of a beautiful body of land, formerly the property of William BASKERVILLE, but now owned by Dr. Jesse JOHNSON. The Indians were again on the warpath, however, and the first act in the annual tragedy was the murder of Peter BARNETT and David STEEL by a party of Cherokees on the waters of Blooming Grove Creek, below Clarksville, in Montgomery County. Near the same place a few days later the Indians captured William CRUTCHER, and sticking a rusty hunting knife into his body, went on their way, leaving him by the roadside to die of pain and neglect. When they were gone CRUTCHER crawled to the cabin of a neighboring settler, where he was nursed back to life. He continued for many years thereafter a valued citizen of the settlement.
In January a band of horse thieves, probably Creeks, who having ended a war in Georgia now turned their attention to the Cumberland, appeared in the region around Bledsoe's Lick. During the night they stole all William HALL'S horses, twelve in number, from an enclosure near his house. Fearing for the safety of his family, HALL now moved back to Bledsoe's fort, where he remained until fall, when he again returned to his plantation. About the first of February a party, consisting of John PEYTON, Ephraim and Thomas PEYTON, his brothers; John FRAZIER, Thomas PUGH and Esquire GRANT, went hunting and surveying in Smith County. They camped on what is now known as defeated Creek, north of Carthage. The weather was cold, the ground being covered with snow, and they had built a log fire around which they were lounging late at night. About ten o'clock the dogs belonging to the party began to bark and run about the camp, but the hunters supposed that wild animals were prowling around, having been attracted thither by the fresh meat of which they had killed a large quantity. John PEYTON raised himself on his elbow and was in the act of hissing the dogs on when a band of about sixty Indians, led by "Hanging Maw", the Cherokee chief, fired a volley in upon the unsuspecting whites as they lay stretched around the camp fire. Four of the six were wounded. John PEYTON'S arm was broken in two places. Thomas PEYTON was shot in the shoulder, Esquire GRANT in the thigh, and John FRAZIER through the calf of the leg. Ephraim PEYTON escaped a shot, but put his ankle out of place in jumping down a bluff on the bank of the creek. As he sprang to his feet in the beginning of the attack John PEYTON threw over the fire a blanket which was around him, and in the darkness the party separated and fled through the lines of the enemy. In so doing they left behind them their horses, saddles and bridles, surveyor's compass and camp outfit, all of which the Indians captured. The entire party finally reached Bledsoe's fort in safety, coming in one at a time and each reporting that his comrades were killed or captured.
By the aid of a crooked stick Ephraim PEYTON hobbled along for a distance of twenty miles, when in what is now Trousdale County, near where Hartsville stands, he fortunately slipped and fell, knocking his ankle back in place. After this he walked on to the fort without further delay.
The stream on which this ill-fated camp was located took its name from the attack.
A year later PEYTON sent Hanging Maw a message requesting him to return the horses and compass he had stolen. In his reply declining to do so, the chief is reported to have said: "You, John PEYTON, ran away like a coward and left them. As for your land stealer, I have broken that against a tree". Of course the charge of cowardice was unfair, as all the party were trained soldiers and men of unsullied bravery. Besides such an accusation from such a source was not well taken, for when brought face to face with a superior force none was more fleet of foot than Hanging Maw.
John PEYTON was the son of Robert and Ann GUFFEY PEYTON and was born in Amherst County, Virginia, in 1755. He was descended from a prominent family of Virginians whose family tree may be traced to the reign of William the Conqueror. At the age of nineteen, together with his twin brother, Ephraim, he joined the army of the Revolution under Gen. Andrew LEWIS. Both were in the battle of Point Pleasant, at the mouth of the Big Kanawah, in 1774. He came to Middle Tennessee in 1779, where he fought with distinction in the various Indian battles. John PEYTON was in command of Rock Island Ford, on the Caney Fork River, in which battle he displayed great courage and presence of mind. His father, Robert PEYTON, came to visit his son John some years later, at what is now known as "Peytonia Farm", in Sumner County, and was the last white man killed by the Indians. This occurred at Bledsoe's Lick, where he had gone to look after some cattle. John PEYTON, who was by occupation a surveyor, married Margaret HAMILTON, daughter of Capt. John W. HAMILTON, of the British army. The latter was of distinguished Scotch lineage and participated in the battle of Fort Duquesne under General BRADDOCK. He resigned years afterward and became a citizen of Tennessee, where he, too, engaged in the Indian Wars. His son, John W. HAMILTON, Jr., was an able lawyer and jurist and was a contemporary of Jackson, Grundy, Houston and other legal lights.
John and Margaret HAMILTON PEYTON reared a large family, among them being Bailie and Joseph PEYTON, both of whom became members of Congress from the district of which Sumner County was a part. As previously related, Ephraim PEYTON was one of the party that accompanied James ROBERTSON across the mountains from Watauga to the Cumberland.
The tragic death of Col. John DONELSON during the fall of 1786 ended a useful and honorable career. A short time before the occurrence of this unfortunate event his family, together with that of his son, John DONELSON, Jr., had returned from Kentucky, again taking up their residence at Mansker's station. At the time of this removal the colonel was away on business in Virginia. His affairs being finally arranged there he journeyed back toward Davis' Station, in Kentucky, traveling the well-known route through Cumberland Gap. At Davis' he learned that his family had already returned to the Cumberland, and after a few days rest he started south to join them.
On the morning of his departure two young men at the station asked permission to accompany him on the journey, saying that they, too, were bound for the southern settlement. Two days later these young men appeared alone at the gate of the fort at Mansker's and made a statement in substance as follows: On the morning of their departure from the Kentucky station they had traveled with Colonel DONELSON until the heat of the day. Coming at that time to a spring by the roadside they stopped for a drink. Colonel DONELSON did not tarry with them, but rode on, saying that he was anxious to reach home. He had not gone far when they heard several shots. Their impression at the time was that his sons had met him on the way and were firing a salute. After some delay at the spring they had resumed their journey and at length overtook him, severely wounded and in great agony, but still riding along the road. Their supposition now was that he had been shot by Indians. They had camped together at sundown on the north bank of Barren River, and during the night Colonel DONELSON died. On the following morning they had buried his body beside the stream, and taking his horse, saddle and saddle-bags, started toward Nashville, but in crossing the river the saddle-bags had washed off and floated away.
On receipt of this intelligence the sons of Colonel DONELSON took one of the young men with them and returned at once to the designated ford on Barren River in search of their father's remains and for evidence in confirmation of the above story of his death. They found the body and surroundings very much as their informants had described. The saddle-bags above mentioned had contained many valuable papers, and it was believed a large amount of money also. Some distance down stream from where the crossing was alleged to have taken place the saddle-bags and some of the papers were found, but the money was missing.
The young men were placed under arrest, charged with the murder of Colonel DONELSON, but no further evidence of their guilt being discovered, they were subsequently released. Thus to this day the death of Colonel John DONELSON remains shrouded in mystery.
By an act of the North Carolina Legislature the county of Sumner was established in November, 1786. It was so named in honor of General Jethro SUMNER, a brave officer of the North Carolina line throughout the war of the Revolution, and comprised a scope of country north of the Cumberland River. The first county court thereof was held on the second Monday in April, 1787, in the house of John HAMILTON. At this time the following citizens qualified as Magistrates: Gen. Daniel SMITH, Maj. David WILSON, Maj. George WINCHESTER, Isaac LINDSEY, William HALL, John HARDIN and Joseph KEYKENDALL. David SHELBY was elected clerk of the court, an office which he held during the remainder of his life. John HARDIN, Jr., became the first sheriff of the county and Isaac LINDSEY the first ranger.
Soon thereafter Col. Edward DOUGLASS and Col. Isaac BLEDSOE were added to the court. This first legislative body of the county was composed of men possessed of splendid character and ability, who, by the old writers, are accredited with having ruled both wisely and well.
Col. Edward DOUGLASS was a prominent figure in the affairs of the early settlement. He was a native of North Carolina and held a Major's commission in the colonial army during the war of the Revolution. He is described as having been a prudent military officer, and in the early years of his residence in Sumner County gained great renown as an Indian fighter. In the latter years of his life he was a successful practitioner and business man. >From himself and his brother are descended a long line of honored citizens of Sumner County.