Following the example of other States, North Carolina this year ceded its western territory, comprising the State of Tennessee, to the United States Government. The act of the Legislature making such a cession was passed February 25, 1790, and was formally accepted by Congress April 2 following. Thus the region embracing the Watauga and Cumberland Settlements became a territory, separate and apart from the parent State.
Soon thereafter President WASHINGTON appointed William BLOUNT, of Watauga, Governor of the new territory; Gen. Daniel SMITH, of Sumner County, Secretary, and David CAMPBELL and John MCNAIRY Judges of the "Superior Court of Equity". Judge Joseph ANDERSON was added to this court in 1791.
There were already organized within the bounds of Tennessee at that time seven counties, to wit: Washington, Sullivan, Green and Hawkins, grouped around Watauga; and Davidson, Sumner and Tennessee, along the Cumberland. These counties were now divided into two judicial districts, the first named group being known as Washington District and the latter constituting Mero District. The designation, Mero, was thus adopted from a name previously applied to this section in 1788, and was in honor of Don Estevan MIRO, a newly appointed Governor of Spanish possessions on the south. By courting the good graces of the latter Colonel ROBERTSON and others in authority hoped to establish friendship relations with Spain and thereby bring about a cessation of Indian hostilities, which they believed to have been secretly incited by Spanish influence.
However, this desire on the part of the settlers was not immediately realized.
Col. John SEVIER was appointed Brigadier-General for Washington District, and Col. James ROBERTSON was commissioned to a like position in the district of Mero, which comprised the whole of Middle Tennessee.
Soon thereafter the reorganization of the militia was completed by the following appointments: Robert HAYS, Lieutenant-Colonel; Edwin HICKMAN, First Major, and George WINCHESTER, Second Major.
The instructions from the War Department of the Federal Government to these, and all other officers of the south, was that they should treat the Spanish with politeness and "act only on the defensive toward the Indians for fear of offending the Spaniards who had unjustifiably taken them under their protection".
Among those citizens appointed by the Governor to official positions in the three counties of Mero District were Col. James ROBERTSON, Charles ROBERTSON, Stockley DONELSON, John RAINS, Andrew EWING, Isaac BLEDSOE, Kasper MANSKER, Luke LEA and others equally as well known in early history.
During his administration as Governor of this territory William BLOUNT held also another office, the title of which was "United States Superintendent of Indian Affairs". His Secretaries were Hugh Lawson WHITE, Willie BLOUNT and Richard MITCHELL.
White afterwards became a Judge of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, President pro tem of the United States Senate, and later candidate for President of the United States. Willie BLOUNT served as Governor of Tennessee from 1809 to 1815. Both WHITE and the last named BLOUNT lie buried in the old graveyard adjoining the First Presbyterian Church at Knoxville.
In the spring of 1791, Andrew JACKSON, having previously been admitted to the bar, was appointed Attorney General of Mero District.
As compared with previous periods of its existence the year 1790 was one of peace for the settlement, though a number of murders were committed. Henry HOWDYSHALL and Samuel FARR lost their lives while fishing on the Cumberland River near Cairo, in Sumner County.
Benjamin WILLIAMS had settled on a tract of land about two and a half miles north of Gallatin, near the present site of Love's Chapel. The tract was formerly owned by James HOUSE, Sr. Beside it ran a trail which has since become the Dobbins Turnpike.
A party of Indians came in the night and, making a deadly assault upon the sleeping household, killed WILLIAMS, his wife and children and two of his slaves. One negro boy, Philip, ran up the chimney and, thus hiding himself, escaped.
At this time Samuel WILSON was living a mile and a half northwest of Gallatin on what is still known as the Wilson place. Not having heard of the above attack he was out on the trail next morning looking for his horse over in the neighborhood of the WILLIAMS residence. Hearing someone riding toward him he hid behind a tree. Soon an Indian appeared on horseback.
WILSON, who was a fine marksman, had with him his trusted rifle, and taking aim, fired. At the crack of the gun the unwary savage tumbled from his horse and journeyed on to the happy hunting ground. WILSON then shouted at the top of his voice, "Surround them, boys; surround them!" and ran toward home. The Indians who were following supposed a company of whites were upon them, and turning fled, going westward toward Station Camp Creek. A few days later John EDWARDS was killed near Salem Church, on the Douglass Turnpike, probably by the same murderous band.
In midsummer Alexander NEELY and his two sons, James and Charles, were killed a mile north of Bledsoe's Lick. They were going to haul tanbark from NEELY S farm, near the fort.
During the same season Benjamin and Robert DESHA, sons of Robert DESHA, Sr., were killed four miles northwest of Bledsoe's, on the creek which bears their name. Their graves may yet be seen under some tall trees near the site of Saunder's Fort, on the farm of Robert GREEN.
Henry RAMSEY was shot from ambush near where Rural Academy afterwards stood. He was passing from Greenfield to Bledsoe's. His companion, a man named HICKS, was wounded.
Soon thereafter William RAMSEY came from his home on
White's Creek, in Davidson County, to look after the settling of his brother Henry's estate. On the
homeward journey both he and his horse were killed by the enemy lying in wait on the north side
of the lane which led down from Bledsoe's Fort to Bledsoe's Creek.