Tennessee Records Repository, Giles County, TNGenNet Inc.

A Brief Sketch of the
Settlement and Early History of
Giles County Tennessee

by James McCallum, 1876

Published by the Pulaski Citizen, 1928

[Page 8]
Centennial Address, July 4th, 1876

There are epochs in the history of every country, characterized by a nobler type of humanity, than that which falls to the common lot of mankind; which leaves its impress on posterity.
Such was the era of our natal day, and of such were the great Statesmen and daring patriots, who, one hundred years ago, declared that the American Colonies owed no allegiance to the King of Great Britain, and boldly proclaimed the great political truth that "All Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed" And trusting to the God of Battles, threw down the wager to the Champion of the World. After several years of terrific warfare, they triumphed, and finally established a government upon the principles enunciated in their platform. The significance of the fundamental truth announced, and the establishment of a Government in accordance therewith, like a subterranean wave from a mighty volcano, shook all Europe, and extorted from the monarchies thereof written constitutions, or concessions, acknowledging in a greater or less degree, the rights of the people.
The virtues of those noble patriots were impressed in no section of the country more indelibly than on Tennessee.
She was born of the Revolution, baptized in its sufferings, "reared in times which tried men's souls." She came forth into the family of States as a trained athlete for victory and for honor. True to the inspiration of her early training, whenever duty has called or danger threatened, there her sons have been foremost, their blood has flown on every battlefield. Their valor has given renown to American arms, and won for them the proud appellation of the "Bravest of the brave."
Not alone on the battlefield has she won glory, but in the halls of legislation, in the forum, in the tribunals of justice, in the office of Chief Executive, her sons have stood the peers of the greatest and the best.
[Page 9]
Giles County was the out-growth of those great principles The brave men and noble-hearted woman who were the first settlers of the County were the children of the Revolution. And shall their names be forgotten? Shall no memorial be made of their adventures, their trials, and hardships, their energy, perseverance, and triumph? Shall no flower be dropped upon their graves, or rude stone mark their final resting place?
By request I propose to read you a "Brief Sketch of the Settlement and Early History of Giles County." It is known to most of you that at the request of the Pulaski Lyceum last year, I collected a considerable amount of information on the subject which would require more time to read, than is allowed me on this occasion. The brief sketch now offered embraces only a few of the names, and some of the most prominent features in the character of the first settlers.
Imperfect, as it may be, and, perhaps, in some of its details inaccurate, it is presented with the sincere desire to contribute something to rescue from oblivion the memory of those noble pioneers, to whom our country owes such a debt of gratitude. And with the hope that this humble effort will awaken inquiry, and call forth much that has not been within my reach.
To trace the development of those principles which animated the first settlers of our County, and ascertain the dominant idea with them to what they owed their success, and to note the changes and the wonderful progress that has been made, would be appropriate on the present occasion; but I do not propose to give a continuous history of the County. I shall confine myself chiefly to the settlement and early history of it, leaving to a future occasion, and to some other person, the less difficult and more pleasing task of showing the progress that his been made, with appropriate notices of the many useful and patriotic citizens that have passed away.


To fully appreciate the character and noble achievements or those heroic men and women who came to the County when the whole face of the country was a dense cane-brake, inhabited only by wild beasts of the forest, with the Indians [Page 10] living in near proximity, and occasionally passing through it on their hunting or marauding excursions, it is necessary to recur to the antecedent and contemporaneous history of the country.
For this digression I ask your indulgence; it will doubtless be uninteresting to a portion of you, but to the youth who may be present, it may be necessary, to give them a just conception of the trials and difficulties the first settlers had to encounter.
Prior to the Revolutionary War, the British Government claimed the title in fee simple to all the lands in her American possessions not disposed 'of by the King, vested in him, and that the Indians were but tenants at will.
The Colony of North Carolina claimed that, under her Colonial Grant from the King, her boundaries extended West as far as the British Government had title, and, without admitting the title of the Indians, but from motives of policy, treated with them from time to time for portions of the land.
At that time and for many years before no Indians permanently resided within the State of Tennessee, except the southern portion of East Tennessee.


The Cherokees lived in North Georgia, the Southern part of East Tennessee, and South-western North Carolina, but claimed as hunting grounds East Tennessee, and Middle Tennessee, also Kentucky, and as far north as the Ohio River.
The Chickasaws occupied North and West Mississippi, the North-west part of Alabama, and the South bank of the Tennessee river, as far East as above Ditto's landing; and claimed as hunting grounds Middle and West Tennessee, and North Alabama; as far East as the head-waters of Duck and Elk Rivers, and North to the Cumberland and its tributaries.
The Creeks occupied the greater portion of Central and Eastern Alabama; the Middle and Western part of Georgia, and claimed the right to hunt in Middle Tennessee.
The Choctaws occupied Central and Eastern Mississippi, and Western Alabama; and claimed the right to hunt in Middle and West Tennessee.
The Shawnees lived on the Wabash, the Six Nations on [Page 11] the Miami and Scioto, and the Western Confederacy, consisting of about twenty nations, lived North of the Ohio, and West of the Six Nations. These all claimed the right to hunt on the Cumberland.
The Indians had their trails and war paths through Tennessee, which they traveled in their hunting and war excursions from the settlements South of the Tennessee River, and those North of the Ohio.
One of these, the old McCutcheon trail, crossed Elk River at Latitude Hill, passed through the Eastern portion of Giles crossed Duck River near the mouth of Fountain Creek, and North to the neighborhood of Nashville. Another crossed Elk River at the mouth of Ford's Creek near Prospect, and went North or North-west and was traveled in their excursions to Northern tribes.
The country between the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers had been for many years the great battle ground of the Indians, each Nation claiming an interest in it, but no one of them was permitted by the others to permanently occupy it; hence the vindictive and unceasing warfare they waged against the first settlers.


A permanent settlement having been effected on the Cumberland in 1779 or 1780 by General James Robertson and others, the General Assembly of North Carolina in 1783, established the County of Davidson, embracing the territory included in the district set apart to the officers and soldiers, and East to the Cumberland mountains, although the Indians at that time claimed all the territory in the County.
Without referring to the various treaties with the Indians, it is sufficient for our present purpose to state that in November, 1785, the Cherokees ceded their claim to the land North of the Ridge which divides the waters of the Cumberland from those of Duck, and and Eastwards to where a North-east line would strike the Cumberland forty miles above Nashville, thence with the river to where the Kentucky line crosses it, thence to Campbell's line near Cumberland Gap. In January, 1786, the Chickasaws ceded their claim to land North of sold line. The Indian boundary as thus [Page 12] established, remained such until January 1806, except the portion which lies North of Duck River, as to which the Indian title was extinguished in October 1805, and no person was permitted to settle South of that line.
Emigrants from the Eastern States came by way of Cumberland Gap or down the Ohio, and up the Cumberland.
In 1801 the United States Government opened a road from Nashville to Natchez, called to Natchez road, which crossed Duck River at Gordon's Ferry, below Williamsport, and the Tennessee at Collburt's Ferry [Colbertís Ferry]. The road from Williamson County was through Chickasaw territory the most of the way, and they claimed the right to establish ferries, and houses of entertainment, on the road. There was then no white family on the road from Gordon's Ferry to near Natchez.
In July, 1805, a treaty was made with the Chickasaws by General Robertson and Colonel Meigs, by which they ceded all their claims to land North of Duck River, and East of the Natchez Road as far as the ridge that divides the waters of Duck River from those of Buffalo, at Grinder's Station, twenty-three miles South of Duck River, at present known as "Lewis's Grave," and all North and East from a line from Lewis's Grave eastwardly along said ridge to the headwaters of the Buffalo, thence South-east to Ditto's landing, - striking the Tennessee River three. miles below the landing, and eight miles below the Eastern boundary of the Chickasaw clain. This line passed through Giles, entering it near the Northwest corner, crossing the Lawrenceburg road at the eightmile post, near where Robert Reed lived, passed four or five miles West of Pulaski, crossed Elk River about three miles above Prospect just West of the Ward place, and the State Line at Phillips's Mill, the place known as "Old Virginia," and then to Ditto's landing or near that on the Tennessee, leaving a considerable part of the Western and South-western portion of Giles County in Chickasaw territory; and such it remained until the treaty of 1816, when the Chickasaws ceded all their land North and East of the Tennessee River. In October, 1805, the Cherokees ceded their claim to land North of Duck River, and to the headwaters of the most Southern branch, then Eastwardly to the mouth of the Hiawassee on the Tennessee River.
[Page 13]
In January, 1806, the Cherokees ceded all their claim to lands North of the Tennessee River, and West of the line run from upper part of Chickasaw "Old Fields" on the Tennessee River, about five miles above Ditto's landing, to the most eastwardly headwaters of Duck river, etc.
This treaty not being entirely satisfactory was reaffirmed by a subsequent treaty in September, 1807, including the headwaters of Elk River.

Transcription of this page by
Fred Smoot

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