The name of Thomas Spencer was well known to the old settlers in this country. He was a native of Virginia. He was an extraordinary man in several respects-remarkable for his strength and courage, and his love of solitude. There was no bluster about him, no disposition to quarrel or to raise riots; indeed, he was one of the most kindly-disposed men within my knowledge, and could make himself pleasant and agreeable in company, even while he delighted to be alone and far away from society. It was in l775, I think, that having heard, through Manskcr and Bledsoe, glowing accounts of the fertility of the soil and abundance of game in this country, he came from Virginia in company with a man named Holloway, and they fixed their station-camp in a hollow sycamore tree at Bledsoe's Lick. They hunted and explored for some time. At length Holloway became dissatisfied. It was said that he and Spencer had a quarrel; but this rumor, so far as I know, was never confirmed by Spencer. At any rate, Holloway determined to go back to Virginia; and, as he had lost his knife, Spencer broke in two his butcher-knife, and gave him half of it. So they parted. Spencer remained alone in the country, I think, for four or five months, and during that time he never saw the face of a human being. He lived the life of a hermit, in his big hollow Sycamore tree. He explored the country from Bledsoe's Lick to the mouth of the Red river. He made some of the most valuable selections of land in Sumner county. The six hundred and forty acre tract where Gen. Miller now lives, in sight of Gallatin, to this day is known as Spencer's Choice.
In 1780, Spencer returned to this country among the first immigrants, and settled at the French Lick. He rendered valuable service against the Indians, of whom he seemed to have no fear; for, during the worst seasons of savage warfare, he would often roam alone all through the forests for ten or twelve days together. Once, shortly after the beginning of the settlement at the French Lick, he was hunting in company with another man; and the Indians, creeping upon them at their camp, fired and killed his companion, but did not hurt him. Immediately he took up the dead body, and the gun of his fellow-hunter, and with this weight added to his own arms, he dashed into the thick cane. The Indians, arguing his great strength and activity from this feat, and knowing that he had two loaded guns with him, followed him at a respectful distance. He succeeded in carrying off his friend's remains and burying them, and returned with both guns in safety to the French Lick.
Thomas Spencer was the stoutest man I ever saw. Indeed, he was a Hercules-stronger than two common men. Once I rode through a piece of ground cleared by him. There were about five or six acres in the piece. His rail timbers, each of which would have made from ten to fifteen rails, he had cut in the ground, and then had carried them and thrown them around his field. One more example of his strength I must not forget. I heard Frank Haney relate that in 1780 Thomas Spencer, Dick Hogan, and himself, were raising cabins, that they might obtain titles to the lands settled by them; as at that day all who made certain improvements obtained six hundred and forty acres of land. Hogan was very stout, and bore the name of a bully, and Haney was very little inferior to him in point of strength. They two were raising a cabin, while Spencer, being unwell, was in the camp lying on a blanket by the fire. Hogan and Haney had got up one end of the log, but for their lives they could not put the other end in place. Spencer, seeing their failure, observed that, if he were well, he could put up the log. At this, Hogan became excited, and cursing Spencer, told him he was a better man than he was, any day. Whereupon Spencer, rising, walked to the log, took hold of it, and threw it up with apparent ease; and, without a word, he walked back to the camp, and laid down again upon his blanket. Previously, Hogan had often tried to pick quarrels with Spencer, but this feat effectually cured him of all desire to fight one so clearly his superior in strength. In 1794, Spencer went back to Virginia for the purpose of winding up his business, and on his return, at what is now called Spencer's Hill, between South-west Point and Carthage, he fell by the hands of the Indians, whom he had so valiantly fought for fourteen years. Many pages might be filled with incidents in the life of Spencer; but the occasion allows me to give only this small sketch of one of the bravest men that ever fell in Tennessee.