by Walter T. Durham
From Old Sumner, A History of Sumner County, Tennessee, From 1805 to1861.
Reprinted with permission.
The Wolf Hill community in the extreme eastern part of the county was developed around a land grant taken up in the late eighteenth century by Bartholomew STOVALL, a Welsh immigrant. Settlement at Buffalo, located at the head of Bledsoe Creek near the present Macon County line, was begun a short while later. In the early nineteenth century, the community of Pleasant Grove, east of Westmoreland, was settled. Among the first settlers there were families of Robert HOLMES and Dance BROWN.
Other neighborhoods developed quickly in the ridge or Highland Rim section of the county. Mount Vernon, north of Bethpage, was settled by the family of William DURHAM. Brush Fork Campground, scene of many camp meetings during the evangelistic period of 1800 and 1810, was located on DURHAM's land. He later gave the campground to the Mount Vernon Methodist Church, although the deed was not made until after his death. His wife Mary and their children signed the conveyance in 11870. The Methodist chapel and cemetery occupy the site today.
Mount Olive was a community on the middle fork of Drake's Creek near the lands of William DURHAM's son James, who with his five brothers served in the war of 1812. Fairfield grew up around the land settled in 1808 by John SARVER. German immigrant and, like Nubia three miles to the east, received most of its settlement between 1800 and 1850. Sulphura and Brackentown were settled during this period also, and most of the families are said to have arrived from North Carolina in wagons pulled by teams of oxen. The Martin Community, west of Portland, developed after first settlement by the Asa PERDUE family. PERDUE's horse-operated flour mill was reported to have been the only one of its kind in the county.
Southwest of present-day Portland was the original Austin community which grew out of the first settlement by Jimmy AUSTIN. Like most of his contemporaries, AUSTIN first built a log house. Sometimes thereafter, before 1825, he built a large four-story brick house which stood until razed by fire over 100 years later. Also, like many of the first settlers, AUSTIN gave land for a schoolhouse. For more then a century the school, originally built of logs, was known as Uncle Jimmy AUSTIN's schoolhouse. .
The community that developed along the eastern bank of Mansker's Creek in Sumner County near Mansker's Fort is known as Madison Creek. The first settlers were Kasper MANSKER and his wife, Elizabeth. They were followed by the William BOWEN family and many others.
Fairmont and Ocana were settled in the early 1800's. John Nicholas LINCK settled at Fairmont in 1828. Most of the LINK family in Sumner today is descended from this pioneer* (they have in almost every case dropped the "c" from the surname spelling). The family of Benny DOUGLASS was among the early residents of Ocana.
On the Robertson County line and the Kentucky trail there developed a community called White House, its name taken from the white-painted clapboard siding of a two-story house that served as a stagecoach inn for many years. The inn was operated during its early years by William GRIFFIN and, according to local traditions, the guest register contained the names of Andrew JACKSON, Sam HOUSTON, Jenny LIND, and other prominent personages.
Approximately seven miles north of White House was Cheek's Tavern, a stand on the road between Nashville and Lexington at Red River, a natural location for the development of a town or small community. But the rumors and developing legend about the suspicious purposes of its owner Elisha CHEEK, were enough to thwart settlements in the area.
When recalling the stories abut CHEEK that centered around his allegedly robbing and murdering prosperous-looking patrons of his inn, a local writer characterized him as "dark of countenance and dark of soul He looked at one from under brushy eyebrows with eyes that foretold the savagery of his heart." Travelers tales, spread up and down the road pat CHEEK's Tavern from Philadelphia to New Orleans by growing number of immigrants, traders, and adventures, suggested that travelers stopping for the night at CHEEK's were never seen again. It was said that CHEEK disposed of the bodies of his victims by dropping them into a sink hole adjoining a cave, whose entrance was near the back door of the tavern.
His interest whetted by stories heard along the road between Philadelphia and Sumner County, the Scotch poet-ornithologist Alexander WILSON determined to stop at CHEEK's to see the reputed murderer and his cave-tomb firsthand. WILSON wrote on April 28, 1810: "As this man's house stands by the roadside, I was induced by motives of curiosity to stop and take a peek at him. I found two persons in conversation under the piazza, one of whom informed me he was the landlord. He was a dark man, rather above the common size, inclining to corpulency, with legs small in proportion to his size and walked lame. His countenance bespoke a soul capable of deeds of darkness."
WILSON asked CHEEK to show him the cave behind the tavern, and CHEEK led him fifty yards or so into its mouth before turning about to come out. At this time WILSON decided to confront his host with the reports that had been circulated about robbery and murder. WILSON wrote, "Confident in my plans of self defense, whatever mischief the devil might suggest to him, I fixed my eyes steadily on his and observed to him that he could not be ignorant of the reports circulated about the country relative to this cave." CHEEK responded, "Yes, I understand you-that I killed somebody and threw them into this cave. I can tell you the whole beginning of the d_ lie." But what he told the intrepid WILSON was not recorded. WILSON concluded his observations about CHEEK: "Whether the man be guilty or not, I know not; but his manners and a!
spect are such as by no means to allay suspicion."
Reports persist that human bones have been washed out of CHEEK's cave in the flow of the tiny stream that sweeps its floor and empties out at the cave's mouth. Will FREEDLE, farm overseer for twentieth-century owners of the original CHEEK lands, reported that he found "half a shoebox full of human teeth, plus a gold watch and some old Spanish and English coins at the bottom of the pit in the cave.
Elisha CHEEK died in 1818. Tradition is that afterward a rhyme was often repeated by travelers on the road that passed his door:
After CHEEK's death, John STROTHER of Robertson County became operator of the tavern. On June 12, 1819, he announced that he had taken for a number of years "The Publick House formerly occupied by Mr. Elisha CHEEK, 30 miles north of Nashville on the Lexington Road." Sometime later the tavern was operated by Abraham B. YOUNG. In 1847, Daniel CARTER, partner in a stagecoach line operating between Nashville and Louisville, became owner of the CHEEK property.
East of Gallatin the families of George T. BROWN, John HARRIS, John BYRN and James LAUDERDALE settled on "Goose Creek," now called Chipman. Between Chipman and Gallatin developed a concentration of Presbyterian families who constituted the elders and membership of Shiloh Church. Their community became known as Sideview, and the family names of BARR, ANDERSON, ALEXANDER, REESE, BLACKMORE, BRYSON, DONNELL, WILSON, and RUTHERFORD were prominent there during the early nineteenth century.
The valley of Desha's Creek was the location of early settlement by several families. Robert ANDERSON, a veteran of the American Revolution, lived on the south side of Desha's Creek on land now owned by Collins BROWN. His daughters and their husbands, John MCLIN and Gideon WRIGHT, lived nearby. ANDERSON's sister Jane MCLIN lived with her husband, James STEWART, on the farm now owned by Mrs. Joe STEWART of Gallatin. In the same neighborhood were located the families of James WRIGHT, Samuel MCMURRY, John MCMURRY, Pleasant TYREE, Samuel TYREE, Issac MCWHIRTER, Frederick TYREE, and Robert PARKER.
The picturesque valley of Dry Fork Creek had been singled out for settlement as early as 1787 when a son of Captain David BEARD, Sr., was killed near his home there by Indians. A generation later, the rolling land and foothills were being settled at a fast rate. Three of Captain BEARD's sons claimed land there. The families of Alexander DOBBINS, John DOBBINS, Thomas NEEL, Samuel NEEL, Britton NEEL, Robert Wesley GUTHERIE, his cousin Robert GUTHERIE, Dr. Philip DRANE, and Dr. Enoch SIMPSON were situated on lands that spread out up and down both sides of the length of the creek.
North of Gallatin, the Salem community included among its first settlers the families of Jack GREEN, James YOUNG, and William H. DOUGLASS, William and Thomas EDWARDS, and John ODUM. Seven miles west of Gallatin the settlement of the COTTON family dating from 1795 became known as Cottontown during the early nineteenth century. Nearby were the famous Strother's meetings and farms belonging to Richard STROTHER and others in the STROTHER family.
Hendersonville took its name from William HENDERSON, an early settler whose lands adjoined those of General Daniel SMITH. Born in 1752 in Albermarle County, Virginia, HENDERSON had served as a Captain in the American Revolution. He came to Sumner County about 1790 and was the first postmaster of Hendersonville. The first store was operated by Priestly BRADFORD and was located in a brick house on his property east of Drake's Creek and across the present Highway 31-E from Hazel PATH, home of Daniel Smith DONELSON, built in 1857. BRADFORD's place was built about 1800 and stood until it was razed in 1915. For the first quarter of the nineteenth century it was the only business house in the community.
Nearby on Drake's Creek, Mount Pleasant Academy, founded earlier by Samuel P. BLACK, was in 1807 the site of instruction and classwork. Among its boarding students was young Cave JOHNSON, destined to be a prominent figure in Tennessee politics in later years.
Mount Pleasant must have been closed by 1819 when Daniel Smith DONELSON, 18-year-old grandson of General Daniel SMITH, was attending boarding school in Nashville. In a letter dated March 12, 1819, to his older brother, Andrew Jackson DONELSON, then a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Daniel registered approval of his teacher but was anxiously looking forward to vacation time. He wrote, "I am pleased very much with Dr. PRIESTLY, but it is a very lonesome place and the fare extremely bad. Our vacation is just three weeks off when I will enjoy myself a little in hunting for fox. Mr. WATSON and Cousin Polly have settled at Drake's Lick, where him and Uncle George SMITH have a store.
- "He robbed the rich, he killed the poor,
- He's gone to hell forevermore."
Return to Sumner County Communities Page
Return to Sumner County Main Page