For a long time an impelling influence hung about me that finally pulsed into an idea that something should be done to preserve the history of Sullivan County. It was a rich mine of undeveloped memories. In my talks with our old people I found those memories falling into deplorable and pathetic decay. The written records of the county had been burned during the battle of Blountville in 1863.
With a limited experience and other limited essentials I dared not permit myself to give existence to an effort so rash as the writing of a history, for well I knew it meant the tyranny of merciless truths.
The beginning was a store of boyhood recollections a green spot in all our lives of the traditions and legends and stories told in front of back-log fires. I thought by linking these with the accepted and more substantial facts I might be able to furnish a chain strong enough to carry us to another generation where some one better equipped could bring our chronicles to a more fruitful completion. Encouraged by this I decided to call what- ever my pen should bring forth, "Folk-lore of Sullivan County." But when I submitted this title with my intentions to a consulting friend, rather expecting approval, he looked at the floor for a while and then passively inquired: "let me see, now, which one of the Lores is that?" This provocation is my apology for giving you a history of Sullivan County.
It will be seen I have devoted more space to Isaac Shelby than to any of his compatriots. This, of course, is because he made his home in Sullivan, was identified with its interests and his followers were Sullivan County men. The names and fame of Sevier and Campbell and their associates are secure and I would in no way detract from them. But confined as I am to the limits of one county my entries cannot cover the ground of a general history.
I have not allowed myself to enter into the regretful controversy which took place in regard to Col. Camp- bell's position during the battle of King's Mountain. Posterity has accorded him the place he so valiantly won during his brief but thrilling career and is not in sympathy with the censure visited upon any of the men who followed him.
The secret of the affair, I believe, is that none of the men who went through that campaign ever dreamed their exploits would go sounding down the centuries or even beyond the mountains that encircled them like a barrier from the world without.
They did not look for the glory of arms nor booty after the battle, but made an aggressive defense of their homes and firesides. When, in after years, the survivors saw that this battle would be included in the list of decisive battles of the world's great wars, a species of envy crept into their bosoms and some felt they had not been dealt with fairly in the bestowal of praise. Col. Shelby's feelings in the affair were no doubt aggravated by his traducers in Kentucky. He had removed there and in 1792 was a candidate for Governor. His opponents tried to defeat him with reports discrediting his valiant services in behalf of his country, even going so far as to create a doubt that he commanded a regiment at King's Mountain.
This resulted in a breezy correspondence between Shelby and his old time friend and companion, John Sevier. And, while the revival of Campbell's tardiness was one of the topics, it has never occurred to me that the origin of Shelby's attack upon him was to question Campbell's bravery, but rather to sustain his own claims that he was one of the commanders and at the fore when the fighting was hottest.
But whatever the faults of these men may have been, and no one denies that they had faults, this generation will allow no censure now and should those old warriors of the wood come forth in line review a grateful nation would grant them any wish every man of them.
For space devoted to a review of the life of "Raccoon" John Smith apologies will hardly be necessary. While little heard of at the present time, still I regard him as the rarest human product that ever sprung from the soil of Sullivan County. Born in a log cabin in Holston Valley a poor boy and one of a large family he lived a knock-about life in his early days and had but five months school training during his entire career. He was tried by the severest tests of time; he was scourged by a living death, but with a masterful courage and unwavering devotion to the call of duty he arose to a rank that made him a power throughout great portions of Kentucky, Tennessee and the Middle West. He was a full measure man and you will be glad to know more about him.
Table of Contents
I. Before the Pioneer 1
II. The Cherokees 5
III. Pioneers Explorers First Settlers 20
IV. The Cavalcade 24
V. The Frontierwoman 28
VI. Coming of the Shelbys 33
VII. A Few Days Full of Trouble 39
VIII. The Battle of the Great Kanawha 45
IX. "Spirit of 75" 51
X. The Transylvania Trust 53
XI. Battle of Island Flats 59
XII. Christian Campaign 64
XIII. The Treaty of Long Island 68
XIV. The Shelby Campaign 73
XV. Donelson's Voyage 75
XVI. Sullivan County 89
XVII. King's Mountain Campaign 100
XVIII. The State of Franklin 109
XIX. Blountville 137
XX. Industries 151
XXI. Official Life 160
XXII. The Church 176
XXIII. War Times Tennessee Valor 203
XXIV. Travelways Transmission of Messages 224
XXV. The Boundary Line 239
XXVI. Hunters of the Holston 248
XXVII. The Old Field School 262
XXVIII. Slavery Days 272
XXIX. Agriculture 281
XXX. The Removal 286
XXXI. The Newspaper Politics 296
XXXII. - Bristol 312
XXXIII. - Odds and Ends 318
XXXIV. - The Last Leaf Passing of Old Families 323
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
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There are two eras in the life of any country one looking forward, the other looking backward. There was a time in the history of Sullivan County when our fore-fathers yearned for the day when they would be free from the ever-present dangers, the surprise attack, the fire- brand, the massacre all kept them in a state of alarm and they longed for the peace that would bring safety and happiness. They rarely recorded the stirring tragedies' of those days. They did not even try to remember them they tried to forget them. What made history for us meant horror for them. They blinded their eyes and deafened their ears to scenes and sounds and kept many sorrowful experiences from their children, thus cheering them on their way.