From the expulsion of the Shawnees to the coming of the white settlers in 1779 the region now embraced in Middle Tennessee was indeed a hunter's paradise. Through its valleys and over its hills roamed countless herds of buffalo, deer, and elk. Within its forests and canebrakes bears, wolves, panthers, bobcats, foxes, and other wild animals in great number found a home. Besides the food necessary for each they must also have salt. The provision made my nature for this essential was the saline water of the sulphur springs with which the country yet abounds. In times of overflow these springs left on the surrounding ground a slight deposit of salt, and over this the beasts would tramp and lick until often long trenches or furrows were made, sometimes over several acres. Thus were formed the "licks" which played so important a part in determining the location of early forts. Sulphur springs and the accompanying "licks" were especially numerous in Sumner and Davidson Counties. To this fact, together with the close proximity of these counties to the Cumberland River is largely due their selection as a location by the pioneers. The big sulphur spring in the bottom now within the corporate limits of Nashville, no doubt determined the location of that city.
To the licks in the region now embraced in Sumner and Davidson came at regular intervals the animals from over a large territory, and these in their journeys to and fro formed beaten paths or trails, all centering in this locality like the spokes of a wheel. As with the ancients all roads led to Rome, so with the conquerors of this boundless and uninhabited wilderness, all traces led to central licks which spots were destined to become the scene of earliest activity. Hunters, both Indian and white, roaming at will through the forests came upon these narrow paths, and turning about threaded them to the end. Here these mighty Nimrods fell upon and mercilessly slaughtered their game, large and small, which was usually found assembled in great abundance. After feeding upon the flesh of the slain animals, they carried away the hides or pelts from which they made clothing for themselves and their families, and in the case of the Indian hunter, covering for their tents, or "tepees." Such as were not thus applied to personal use were sold for trade in the colonies east of the mountains, or for export to the countries of Europe.
In the course of time as a result of the natural evolution and growth of traffic, foreign-made clothing, blankets, boots and shoes, wares and trinkets were brought by enterprising traders to such localities and there exchanged for pelts. The Indian hunter, who, in such transactions, was sure of the worst of the bargain, readily exchanged the most valuable buffalo robe for a string of glass beads or a daub of red paint with which to bestreak his visage when he went forth to war.
The French were the earliest tradesmen in Middle Tennessee. The first of these to appear was a young man, Charles CHARLEVILLE by name, who, in 1714, built his post on a mound near the present site of Nashville. This mound has been mentioned already in connection with a sketch of the Mound Builders. Here, besides the hunting and trapping done by himself and his companions, an extensive trade was carried on with the savage hunters from all the tribes frequenting the hunting ground. However, Charlesville's station did not long remain, and in 1740 Middle Tennessee was again without a single white resident. The establishment of this and subsequent posts by men of the same nationality gave the locality around Nashville the name, French Lick, by which it was known to early historians. Some of the old logs from the walls of the Charleville school were found on the mound by settlers who came to Nashville sixty-five years later.
From the departure of CHARLEVILLE and his band to the year 1748, no white adventurer came to disturb the peaceful serenity of the hunting ground, but in the latter of that year Dr. Thomas WALKER led a party of hunters across the mountains from Virginia. WALKER was an explorer and surveyor of renown, and is described as a man of mark among the pioneers. With his company came Colonels WOOD, PATTON and BUCHANAN, and Captain Charles CAMPBELL. After giving the name Cumberland to the lofty range of mountains crossed, they pursued their journey by was of Cumberland Gap through the counties of Campbell, Scott, Fentress, Overton and Jackson. Finding a beautiful mountain stream flowing across their course they called it Cumberland River in honor of the Duke of Cumberland, who was then Prime Minister of Cumberland, a picturesque region of lakes and mountains in the northern portion of his native land. Previous to this time Cumberland River had been called Warioto by the Indians and Shauvanon by the French traders. It is probably that Walker's party hunted along the river as far as French Lick, and from thence to Virginia through Kentucky.