4th of July 1876
Speech of July 4th 1876
Reprinted in many sources over the years, including
In obedience to a resolution of a public meeting of citizens held at this place on the first Monday in May last, appointing Colonel John A. ROGERS and myself to deliver historical addresses, presenting the most important facts and events connected with the early settlement, growth and impovement of this county in a tangible shape, for preservation, I am here for the purpose of performing the duty assigned me.
In coming centuries, future generations of of descendants, four hundred of whom will then occupy every square mile of the fertile territory on which we now live; fishing in the same streams; cultivating the same soil, and gazing from the same lovely hill tops and fruitful valleys, on the same resplendent heavens, on which we now look, will read the annuls of their pioneer ancestors and the simple history of the early settlement of their native section with the most lively interest. Many of the denizens of this county, five hundred years hence, will bear the same names of some of us who are here today, and our blood will flow in their veins.
This was once the hunting ground of the red men of the forest. The mounds are still visible in which their dust now reposes; we daily trample and plow their graves; we drove the remnant of their brave race far westward toward the setting sun - beyound the rolling flood of the "Great Father of Waters," and where the Indians wigwam once stood, now stands the Anglo-Saxon's neat and comfortable residence; where he chased the deer we drive and plow. Such are some of the many mutations constantly taking place on our planet's surface. It is, however, gratifying to know that this is progress; progress from barbarism to civilization, from ignorance to knowledge, and from Fetishism to Christianity.
EARLY APPEARANCE OF THE COUNTY
The native vegatation of the country was excessively luxuriant. The wild pea vine grew in such profusion that the trail of an animal could be followed for miles. The "barren grass" as we called it, grew three or four feet high, and covered the ground as thickly as a good crop of millet. It afforded excellent grazing for stock while it was young and tender, and afterwards thousands of tons of very good course hay could have been made from it.
A considerable portion of the eastern half of the county was almost treeless, and was known in our early history as "barrens". Some of these barrens covered thousands of acres of level gently undulating land, so nearly bare of timber that in some places you could see a horseman for several miles; with here and there small clumps of scrubby blackjack, post oak and hickory bushes a few feet high, interspersed with patches of sumac and hazel. All over these prairies and out in the edge of the timber, was scattered the wild indigenous stawberry plant which yielded a plentiful crop of the most delicious fruit. In early spring these "barrens" rivaled in brilliancy and beauty the highest skill, and most cultivated taste of the scientific horticulturist, in the richness and variety of the wild flowers that literally covered the surfaces. Here and there the traveler could see a cow or horse nipping the tender herbage, or lazily lying, with satisfied appetite under the shade of a tree; or more rarely a scampering away, frightened by the appearance of the newcomer. Sometimes a solitary wolf would glide stealthily and quickly disappear from view.
Large bodies of barrens lay southeast of the Middle Fork of Obion [River], in the neighborhood of Capt. James SMITHS, extending to the Henry County line, and to where McKenzie [Carroll County] now stands. Caledonia was surrounded by barrens except along Spring Creed and it's small tributaries. The larger body of land owned by James SOMERS Esq., father of Chancellor John SOMERS, six or severn miles east of Dreden on the road to Paris [Henry Co., TN], was mostly barrens when the country was first settled; also beyond Thompson's Creek, around were the late Samuel IRVINE resided. North and northwest of Dresden, as far as Cane Creek, on this side of North Fork [Obion Rivver], was chiefly "barren" and in the northeast corner of the county extending a little below Dukedom, between the North Fork and the Kentucky line. There was a patch of barrens about Capt. NAILING'S, H. W. CHESTER'S, and the SPAIN place; also where Alfred GARDNER lives. The western half of the county was generally thickly clothed with timber.
THE WATER COURSES
In the Western part of this county, I know an insignificant branch - a tributary of the Cypress - so famous in early times as a quick-sand snare, that it received the name of "Grab Branch". It "grabbed" many an unsuspecting cow in a manner that cost the animal her life. The bottomlands, bordering the watercourses, were then lower, wetter, and more miry than at present. The same is true of the upland glades. Many cattle have lost their lives feeding around their miry margins. If the milk cow failed to come home at night she was immediately sought for in those treacherous glades, and generally found helplessly fast in the mud.
I well remember when the barnyard lot of BONDURANT & BLAKEMORE, in this town, was a whortleberry swamp, through which the strongest ox or horse could not have passed with safety. These swamps and glades have filled up from the washing of the cultivated lands, until many spots have been brought into successful tillage, where forty years ago would have mired the stoutest animal. Farms are everywhere embracing these glades and invading these swamps, and I predict that in another half century the finest farms in the county will be on these bottomlands.
Another peculiarity, I wish to notice is this. For many years after this county bein to settle at mid-summer the water was scarcely warm enough to furnish comfortable bathing. The reason of this was the streams where then fed by numerous springs, bursting from their banks and beds, and the margin of their swamps. The summer supply of water was, consequently greater than now. I think I can safely affirm that nine-tenths of these early springs have been chocked up by detritus carred down by the rains.
This town [Dresden] was located where it is on account of a spring a little north of the present jail, from which it was expected the inhabitants would derive their supply of water. Still another fact I will record in this connection. It is this: At an early day our streams rose and fell much more slowly than they do now, because the water was finding its way to their channels through tangled grass and beds of leaves and the rubbish of the forest, than from the firmer surface of cultivated fields. The result is our streams rise quicker and higher now than they did formerly.
On his arrival at the stream, the traveler would dismount, hitch his horse, strip off his saddle, and take it across a log, denude himself of his clothes, return to his horse, mount him, plunge into the stream and swim him across it, saddle up, resume his apparel, and on his way rejoicing, not having lost perhaps more than ten minutes of time.
WILD ANNIMALS - GAME
The wolves were numerous enough to be bery destructive upon the few hogs, sheep and calves in the country. Young domestic animals were kept near the habitations of the sellters to avoic the trepidations of their carnivorous enemies, amongst whcih was the wildcat and catamount, two species, I believe, of the same genera. Pens were contrived in which the wolves were sometimes taken, and sometimes a family of young cubs were found and destroyed, and occasionally a hunter would shoot and kill one. By these various means of destruction (to which should be added poisoning), this pestiferous race of wild animals were held in check, until the incresase of the population drove them out of the country. The panther was rare and scarce, and never became troublesome.
Raccooms were plentiful from the beginning, and proved very destructive to the patches of corn raised by the early setllers, as, also, the early stock of barnyard fowls. They were not hunted at all for carcass and but little for the sake of their fur.
We found the fox and opossum here, but they were not numerous. The former has increased in number; the latter has diminished.
The otter, the muskrat and the mink, inhabited the banks of our larger steams. The two former have disappeared; the latter remains and makes occasional raids on duck pens and poultry yards.
The grey squirrel among the tall timber, and the yellow fox squirrel about the scrubby growth, on the edge of the barrens, were more numerous in early times than now.
Mr. William HAMILTON informs me that wild turkeys were more numerous in the first settlement of the country than now. Deer, he says, were very abundant; so much so, that he tells me he has seen as many as forty or fifty in a gang. They are still hunted and sometimes they were hunted by torchlight. A single hunter would often kill six or eight a day, hanging them up in the wood out of the reach of wolves, to be collected and dressed the succeeding day.
Bear hunting, however, was considered the finest and most exciting sport as well as the most profitable. My old friend, Reuben EDMONSTON, I am told, killed a bear, at an early day, near where the old jail afterward stood in this town. He was one of our most adventurous and successful bear hunters. Mr. Tilghman JOHNSON tells me that Colonel CROCKETT and the surveying party killed eighty bears in one season. In "Col. CROCKETT'S Life", written by himself, he states that he killed one hundred and five in only one season. These were killed, mostly on the lower Obion [South Fork Obion River] and around Reelfoot Lake.
Our first Circuit Courts were held in a small, open log cabin, whch stood withing what is now the court-yard, the house being unenclosed and without a door-shutter; when the court adjourned in the evening a flock of sheep would take possession and occupy the house until expelled by the sheriff the next morning. The first courthouse was built with brick, and erected in 1827 by Johh SCARBOROUGH, of Stewart County. William H. JOHNSON was the first cleark of the county court. Ketchen WILLIAMS and John C. DODDS were his immediate successors. The first bench of justices of the peace was composed of J. R. SHULTZ, Stephen SMART, Joseph WILSON, John WEBB, William WEBSTER, John H. MOORE, Daniel CAMPBELL, Perry VINCENT, John TERRELL, Mears WARNER, E. D. DICKSON, Miles, and perhaps, J. M. GILBERT. Our first representative in the lower branch of the General Assembly, after our county was organized, was Col. Julian FRAZIER, father of our worthy countryman, Dr. T. J. FRAZIER, of Ralston. At this time Col John D. LOVE was our state senator. Alfred GARDNER was chosen, in 1835, our first member after our county, under the constution of 1834, becamme entitled to separate representation. Dr. John B. FONVILLE, in 1837, succeeded him. Our first congressman was Adam R. ALEXANDER, of Shelby, elected in August 1825. The whole of West Tennesssee then composed but one congressional district. The celebrated Col David CROCKETT was the competitor of Col. ALEXANDER, and although this was CROCKETT'S first racve for congreess, Col. ALEXAANDER beat him by only two votes.
COLONEL DAVY CROCKETT
At the following session of the legistlature he voted for John WILLIAMS against A. R. ALEXANDER, with the result I have already stated. ALEXANDER beat him by two votes. This was his first race for congress. ALEXANDER was in congress in 1823, and had voted for the tariff. The people objected to him on account of this vote. A lucky rise in cotton in 1825 to 25 cents per pound saved ALEXANDER from an over-whelming defeat by that year, and carried him back to congress by two votes. In 1827 CROCKETT concluded to be a cndidate for congress a second time to see what effect the price of cotton would have on another race. Col. ALEXANDER and Gen . William ARNOLD were his competitors. CROCKETT was successful being elected as a JACKSON man. He was re-elected in 1829 by majority of 3, 585 votes. Gen. JACKSON, in the meantime, had been elected President. CROCKETT opposed JACKSON'S Indian policy, and the removal of the public deposits from the bank of the United States, which raised a storm of opposition to him in his district. In 1831 he was candidate for congress, having as his only competitor William FITZGERALD. The contest was a very exciting one, the friends of each struggling hard for victory. The battle was fought and FITZGERALD won. In 1833 CROCKETT and FITZGERALD were again the only candidates for congress and CROCKETT'S friends industriously charged FITZGERALD for taking too much milage, by about $300 and this beat FITZGERALD. A member of congress in those days could take $3000, and instead of the effect of defeating him with some constituencies in the country, it seems to render them more popular, so demoralized are the electors in some counties. In this race, CROCKETT beat FITZGERALS 202 votes, this making his third term. In 1835 CROCKETT was opposed for congress by Adam HUNTSMAN, a wooden legged lawyer of Jackson, of great ingenutity and ability. Mr. HUNTSMAN beat him 230 votes. This terminated Col. CROCKETT'S public career.
It was in this canvass that CROCKETT played off his celebrated prank on Job SNELLING. He bought of Job ten quarts of whiskey to treat the crowd, and paid for each quart with the same coonskin, it being the price of a single quart. Job would stick it in the crack of the log cabin, and when Job's eyes were turned CROCKETT would steal it out and pay for another quart with it. CROCKETT afterwards offered to pay Job for the whiskey, but it was so good a joke that he refused to take the money.
CROCKETT'S hobby during his six years in congress was the Occupant Question. The title to all vacant and unappropriated land in his district was vested by the session act of North Carolina, in the Federal Goveernment. Our legislature from 1819 had passed many occupant laws encouraging people to settle on these vacant lands, and promising them protection and priority of entry. At each session during his service CROCKETT introduced what he called his "Occupant" bill, providing that the governmment should donate to the settler 200 acres of public land, including his home and impvrovements. He labored faithtully for the passage of the bill but failed. A large majority of his constituents and who had the fullest confidence in him, lived on public lands. It was his opposition to JACKSON that beat him. It was the old hero's popularity that enabled Mr. FTIZGERALD in 1831, and Mr. HUNTSMAN in 1835, to defeat him. It is my opinion that it was a prejudice against Gen. JACKSON, growing out of the Creek War that made CROCKETT oppose his administration and not his Indian policy or the removal of the [bank] deposits.
When eighteen years of age I was engaged in editing a Jackson paper at Paris called the West Tennesseean; in which I published several authograph letters received by me from Col. CROCKETT on public subjects, particularly his "Occupant" bill before congress. These letters I preserved until the Civil War came up, when they were destroyed with many ohters by the soldeires. Soon after his defeat by Mr. HUNTSMAN in 1835, he left his family in this county and went to Texas and joined the brave band of patriots under Gen. Sam HOUSTON, struggling their Mexican opprssors for freedon and independence. He fell fighting bravely in the bloddy conflict of the Alamo, thickly surrounded by the dead bodies of Mexicans, slain by destructive blows from his stalwart arm in and unequal contest. It is an honor to our county to have numbered Davy CROCKETT among her citizens for a period of twelve years.
Among the early settlers on Cane Creek northeast of Dresden in the vicinity of what is now Palmersville, were Levi MIZELL, Joseph WILSON, John WEBB, and a few others, who were here before the county was organgized. Then came the RIDGEWAYS, BUCKLEYS, KILLEBREWS, and KILGORES.
Of the early settlers in the northeast corner of the county between the Middle Fork of Obion River and the Kentucky line, my esteemed friend, John F. CAVITT, Esq., to whose kindness I am indebted for my information in reference to this section of the county, was amount the earliest. He settled here on the 20th of March 1920, before any crop had been made in that part of the county. Henry and John STEVENSON and Isaac and William WILLINGHAM had preceded him a short time and each family had erected a cabin to live in when he arriived. John ROGERS moved near Squire CAVITT. Soon afterwards other immigrants arrived - namely, Jesse B. DAVIS, Peter WILLIAMS, Masco AUSTIN, Littleton F. ABERNATHY, and Benjamin FARMER, the later of whom settled on Knob Creek, and was the third constable in that district. Of my old friend, Ben FARMER, some amusing anecdotes are told. It is said that soon after he was elected constable, having an execution on his hands, which he wished to levy on a cow and calf, that he ran the cow down and rubbed the execution notice upon her, as the only legal and valid manner of levying it, and being unable to catch the calf, he shook the execution at it, and said, "you too, calfy."
Samuel McGOWAN, a Baptist clergyman of Henry County was the first minister of the gospel who preached to these adventurous pioneers. Dr. McMORRISON was their first physician.
In 1830 John COOK settled on the Kentucky side of the line, about one half mile west of Boydsville, put up a small stock of goods and got a post-office established. COOK died, and BLYTHE put up a store a half-mile east of Boydsville and had the post office there. In the spring of 1832, Abner BOYD, the father of Capt. A. M. BOYD became interested with BLYTHE in his store. Soon after they dissolved the partnership, and BOYD settled at the present site of Boydsville, and laid off the town. Within a few months the village was doing a good deal of business in the way of trad and soon became celebrated for shooting matches, cockfights, horse racing and other games and fisticuffs.
John HUGGINS was the first, L. F. ABERNATHY the second and Ben FARMER the third constable in this district. Joseph WILSON and John WEBB were the first magistrates. When the district was divided William WESTER and John F. CAVITT were chosen the first magistrates in the new district. WESTER served only a short time, and was succeeded by Alexander W. SPROUT.
I come now to the northwest corner of the county. Among the earliest settlers in that part of the county was Alexander PASCHALL, of Carroll County, North Carolina, a noble specimen of honesty and industry from the old North State, who came here about the year 1824. He was followed from Madison County, Alabama, in 1826, by his son, Jesse M. PASCHALL, Esq., the father of Dr. G. W. PASCHALL of Fulton, KY, to whom I am indebted for these facts and much other important information. In building the heavy hewed log house, with two rooms, in which Squire PASCHALL raised his large family; he had to invite his neighbors twelve miles in every direction. He got thirty one hands, who were two days doing the work, with all their energies highly stimulated by the use of eight gallons of whiskey. The earlier settlers in that part of the county were Daniel LASSWELL, and his sons Daniel, Joseph, and Peter; Samuel MAJORS, John and George HORTON and Peter MOONEY. Some of the later settlers on Richalnd Creek were Reuben and King CLARK, Berry CHAMBERS, SNOWS, ADAMS and STANLEYS. James ASHLEY, Bassett A. BEADLES and James DREW, in the order in which they are here named were the first contables of this district. John HORTON was one of the magistrates. He was succeeded by J. M. PASCHALL, who served eighteen years.
Dr. PASCHALL communicated to me a characteristic anecdote of pioneer life. For several years after his father and grandfather settled in the country there were no school houses, no churches, and no preaching. At length it was rumored that a colored clergyman would preach in the neighborhood on a particular day. Couriosity and excitement at once ran high. A spritiual famine was prevailing in the land. The women and children wanted to hear a gospel sermon. A difficulty arose in the minds of the women, who rarely ever became so deeply interested in religious matters as to become indifferent about apparel. There was a dearth of decent clothes, as well as spiritual food in the neighborhood. How should they appear decently at church? This was an embarrassing question on such an interesting and rare occasion. Old Mrs. PASCHALL was known to have the best wardrobe in the settlement. She had seven dresses, most of them cotton, made by her own hands. We will borrow from her. There was a rush to her house. One pioneer never refuses another a favor. She loaned out six of her severn dresses for the occasion, and wore the seventh herself to church.
For the infomation and amusement of the young ladies and gentlemen of the present refinded and polished generation, I will relate another anecdote, for which I am indebted to Dr. PASCHALL. In the early days of which I have been speaking our ancestors lived in huts and cabins, constructed of rough, unhewn logs. These crude primitive structures were generally floor less, except for the earth. They used what was known as the Forked Deer bedstead, made with but one post, with two auger holes in it, to receive two pieced of timber extending in different directions to cracks in the wall of the house. Resting on a log of the wall at one end and one of the pieces inserted in the post at the other, clapboards were spread out, in the place of modern slats or springs, on which straw bed was laid. Under these beds on the ground, their scanty suppy of corn and pumpkins were stored. The pumpkins were used as seats and when a young man visited a girl to court her she would roll out a pumpkin for him to sit upon. If it was flat and comfortable, he at once knew he was in favor and would be accepted, but if it was sharp and uneasy, he knew his doom and discontinued his visits.
On Mud Creek, about eight miles west of Dresden, in 1819, our clever fellow citizen, yet living, Reuben EDMONDSON, now president of this meeting, and his father-in-law, Mr. GLASGOW, settled in a very early day. Dudley GLASS, Sr., Levi CLARK and Isreal JONES were also early settlers in the same direction. Between Mud Creek and the Middle Fork were the OWENS, the PARRISHES, the TANSILS, Thomas ETHERIDGE, the father of the Hon. Emerson ETHERDIDGE, A. CLEMENS, J. W. ROGERS and John JENKINS.
Between Middle and South Forks, among the early settlers were Duke CANTRELL, M. H. G. WILLIAMS, William HILLIS, Alfred BETHEL, F. A. KEMP, Calloway HARDIN. A little higher up the river were Robert MOSELEY, E. D. DICKSON, James HORNBEAK, John and Geton BRADSHAW and Richard DREWRY. The civil district extended from the junction of the rivers up to the meridian line and Spring Creek. E. D. DICKSON was one of the first magistrates, and Johnathan FOWLER, constable. Gilbert PATTERSON, Esq., an old and highly respected citizen, settled near where Greenfield is now in 1836 and yet resides there. To him I am indebted for valuable information.
In the Southeastern part of the county and on upper Spring Creek lived Thomas OSBORNE, Andy DENNING, John BRAWNER, Isaac CREWS, the McELROYS, McLUSKEYS, and ROGERS, Robert and Jonathan M. GILBERT, the latter of whom is now living in Paris. Capt. James and Alfred SMITH and William HAMILTON, all three are yet living. Also Ned BUCY, Francis LIDDLE, James O'NEAL and Jim KENNEDY. McELROY was the first constable. Isaac CREWS was one of the first magistrates. Capt SMITH and William HAMILTON settled near where they now live in 1824. Mr. HAMILTON tells me he raised the first corn on unfenced land. He says it was not troubled by domestic, but very much destroyed by wild animals.
Tilghman JOHNSON, one of our oldest and best itizens, who now lives in that neighborhood, came to this country in 1819, and, as a chain carrier, assisted in running the range and section lines. He first settled near McLemoresville, afterwards Carroll County.
On Thompson's Creek some of the early settlers were John THOMAS, Daniel CAMPBELL, Sam MORGAN, Elijah STANLEY, Daniel SHAW'S father, Wm GAY, John H. MORRE, Hayden E. WELLS.
EARLY HABITS - MANNER OF LIVING
They relied mostly on wild meat - bear, beef and venison. It was almost impossible to keep or rear hogs or sheep, on account of catamounts, wolves, and bear. These flesh-feeding animals were not so destructive on cattle. The settlers generally had plenty of milk and butter, and they constituted a very important part of their living. As the wild animals were destroyed or driven out the stock of the country increased very rapidly.
Stock raising soon became a leading and profitable business. Hogs, catttle, sheoop, and horses could live in the "range" all the year round. My Brother, Dr. Richard W. GARDNER, from 1828 to 1835 frequently owned as many as 1500 head of hogs ranging at large in the forst a distance of fifteen miles up and down the North Fork of the Obion [River]. He never fattened his hogs on corn, but killed them out of the woods.
With all the drawbacks and privations incident to the settlement of a new country- without the civilizing influence of the church and the schoolhouse or the softening effect of social life on manners and feeling, the sturdy pioneeers of whom I have been speaking were the most unselfish and friendly people I have ever known. Their hospitality was open-handed, warm-hearted, and free. They would loan you half of the only dollar and share with you their last loaf of bread. And this they would do with an entire stranger as well as with an old friend or acquaintance. And yet, strange to say, these free-hearted, generous men would fight, and often did fight, for no other reason than to test their relative strength, pluck and and manhood. In this they were a trifling clannish. The champion of one creek was generally matched against the stoutest man of another creek. They always fought fair - the fisticuff - pure and simple. The pistol, the Bowie knife and the Arkansas toothpick were unknown in these days. In these primitive times murders were very rare.
The hardest and longest fight I ever witnessed was between George DAMRON and Lemuel WHITE. It was fought to test their manhood, plunk and endurance. It came off just west of where the courthouse now stands, and lasted five minutes by the watch, and until the parties were so exhausted that they fell apart and were unable to get together.
The next hardest fight I ever saw was between Colonel CROCKETT and Robert POWELL. It occured in this town, at Captain BONDURANTT'S tavern. Unlike the other, this fight originated from some misunderstanding.
PRICE OF LAND AND OCCUPANTS
See the COUSIN MARTHA'S ABSTRACTS for more news of 1893
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