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 52]
Chapter VI-Congressional Reservation

By the terms of the cession of 1790, the Federal Government was bound to fulfill in good faith all the obligations of the State of North Carolina to her citizens at that time, thousands of warrants had not been located or extended, and no office having been opened for the entry of the same the State of Tennessee became impatient at such delay, and through her Legislature in 1801 claimed the right to dispose of all the vacant and unappropriated land within her boundaries, and appointed her Senators and Representatives in Congress her agents to have her claims settled. The result was a compromise; and to carry out said settlement Congress passed an Act in April 1806 requiring a line to be run beginning where Elk River intersects the Southern boundary of the State of Tennessee, thence North to Duck, thence down Duck, to the line of the district reserved for the officers and soldiers of the Continental line; thence with said boundary to the Tennessee River; thence down the river to the North boundary of the State, and upon the State of Tennessee relinquishing all claims to the lands South and West of this line, the United states ceded to the state of Tennessee all the claims to the land North and East of said line; subject to the conditions of the original act of cession of North Carolina and for the purpose therein prescribed; and subject to the express condition that all entries of land, rights of location, warrants of survey, etc., not actually located North and East of said line and subject to the further condition that the State of Tennessee shall appropriate one hundred thousand acres of land in one body--in the lands reserved for the Cherokee Indians in East Tennessee for the use of two colleges, one in East Tennessee, and the other in West Tennessee and one hundred thousand acres in one tract within the limits thus ceded for the use of County Acadamies, one to be established in each County, and six hundred and forty acres of land in every six miles where existing claims will permit for the use of schools for the instruction of children. To ascertain the Southern boundary of the State, with reference to running the line contemplated by the Act of Congress a party of surveyors went out in 1806. I have [Page 53] been unable to find any report or record of their proceedings, although I have had search made in the archives of this State; and of the State of North Carolina, and also the General land office at Washington. They doubtless made report, as the Legislature declined to adopt the line run by them. James Bright was one of the surveyors. The line was called Bright’s line; it passed through the land I first lived on. My deeds call for it. From my youth I had heard the tradition of the country in relation to it; I heard James Bright on several occasions talk about it, but I have no recollection that he stated where they took their observations. Two places have been assigned to the traditions of the country-one at Latitude Hill in Giles County and the other further East in Lincoln County. From my early impressions I believe it was Latitude Hill and so stated several years ago over my signature, which was published. From a recent investigation I am now of opinion that the observations were taken in Lincoln County, but whatever discrepancy there may be as to the place at which the observations were taken they all substantially agree that the surveyors, not having full confidence, either in their instruments or in the accuracy of their observations, were influenced to some extent by the observations taken at Latitude Hill by the Commissioners in 1783 and probably by measurement, and stopped a little short of their own calculations, and from the point thus ascertained, ran West, striking Elk River at the head of the island above the Freeman mill about a mile below Elkton, and from the West bank the river run North at a variation of six and a hall degrees, West for the true meridian, passing West of Elkton, and crossing the turnpike road about a mile North of Elkton and striking Duck River about eight miles above Columbia, This line was called the Old Congressional Reservation line or Brights Line.
In September, 1806, the Legislature, being dissatisfied with the line as run, appointed Gen. John Strother a Commissioner on the part of the State to ascertain the point at which the Southern boundary of the State crossed Elk River etc.
They provided that he should be attended by the surveyor of the Second District (William P. Anderson) and requested the Governor to communicate with the proper authorities at Washington and request the co-operation of the United [Page 54] States Government.
In October, 1807, General Strother and Wm. P. Anderson, on the part of the State of Tennessee, and Col. Meigs, as is believed, on the part of the United States government, with Thos. Freeman as mathematician commenced at a point twenty miles East of Elk River in Lincoln County. On the time adopted by the surveyors the years before and probably at the same place, and there the observations were taken by Freeman on the twelfth, fourteenth, and fifteenth of October 1807, for the determination of the South boundary of the State or the 35 degree of North Latitude which they ascertained to be two-miles 242.58 poles South of the place of observation, being about two and three-fourths miles further South than the temporary line adopted by the surveyors the year before. From the point thus ascertained, they run West striking Elk River at the mouth of Jenkins Creek and from the right or West bank of the River run North at variation of six and a half degrees West from the true meridian; passing two and one-fourth miles West of Prospect, passing the East margin of Pulaski and striking Duck River near the Eastern margin of Columbia a short distance above the bridge, and thence down the river. And here I beg leave to relate an incident that occurred while Strother’s line was being run, told to me by James Bright of Fayetteville. He was then a young man and engaged as a surveyor by Wm. P. Anderson, and Judge McNairy of Nashville who was largely interested in locating and entering land. By agreement with Anderson Bright was to meet him on the lines before they reached Duck River. Bright went to Columbia on his way to meet him. There was then only two or three houses where Columbia is situated. A man named Estes lived there; he traveled from thence South by his compass through the woods and came to no house on his way, until he came near to where Campbell Station is. There he found a family in a log cabin recently put up at which he stopped-but the occupants had nothing for him or his horse to eat. He pursued his course until he crossed Richland Creek near where the railroad crosses it without meeting any person or seeing a house. On the south side of the creek in a dense cane brake on the land now owned by David T. Reynolds he found a deer hung up and freshly [Page 55] skinned and some portions of it taken away. He got down and cut off a piece and broiled it on a fire which he struck up, but could not eat it without salt or bread. It made him sick. Believing that those who killed the deer could not be far off he commenced hollering, and was answered by the surveying party who were not far from him. On getting to their camp he found them lying down and resting, as he thought, but as they remained longer idle than he supposed they would, he asked if they were not going on with the line. They told him it was Sunday and they did not work on Sunday; he assured them it was not Sunday, but before they could be satisfied they examined the memorandum of their travels, and found they had lost a day. Bright received from Anderson his location and notes of vacant land he had found on the trip and Bright went back to Nashville and had the lands before the party got back. Among the lands thus saved by Anderson was the Patterson tract adjoining Pulaski. The owners and holders of warrants and land claims were dissatisfied with the settlement and compromise of April, 1806 Between the State of Tennessee and the United States Government, requiring all warrants not located to be located North and East of the reservation line. They insisted that in 1783 the State of North Carolina after assigning new boundaries to the Cherokee Indians in East Tennessee appropriated all other vacant land in the State, whether claimed by Cherokees or Chickasaw Indians to the redemption of her public debt, and to satisfy the claims of her officers and soldiers; that a large portion of the warrants were issued in exchange for special certificates of indebtedness, and that such warrants were received under the assurance that the holders had the right to locate them on any vacant land in the State. Met at that time North Carolina was an independent sovereign State with all her rights and sovereignty that Great Britain possessed; that by the Act of cession the U. S. Government took the territory subject to the satisfaction of the warrants and was bound to fulfill in good faith all the just obligations of the State of North Carolina to her own citizens in relation to said territory. That by restricting warrant holders to but little over one-half the State and withholding a portion of that for schools was impairing the obligation of the original contract between the State of North [Page 56] Carolina and her own citizens and was inequitable and unjust to the warrant holders. Such was the dissatisfaction that the legislature of Tennessee appointed a Commission of which General Strother was chief to ascertain whether there was sufficient vacant lands of suitable quality North and East of the reservation line to satisfy the warrants not located. Soon after the cession in February, 1796, Congress stopped the entering of lands and prohibited those who had obtained grants for lands to which the Indian title had not been extinguished from going on their lands or having them surveyed, or their lines marked. Many members of Congress from States that had no lands to cede, took the ground that all the entries made and grants issued on lands to which the Indian title had nut been extinguished were void, embracing nineteen-twentieths of the whole State. This view of the question was agitated for twenty-five years, and caused great uneasiness to those whose interests were affected by it. Governor McMinn in his message to the Legislature in September 1817, refers to it, and says in substance, that the U. S. Government had granted six hundred and forty acres of land for the County-seat of Giles County, situated at Pulaski; and in many other respects acted as though they held those lands by regular title. That the United States Government claimed to hold under the cession from North Carolina, and if it acquired title from North Carolina it followed that the officers and soldiers had an indisputable right to the lands granted to them before the cession. Mr. Grundy in a speech in the United States Senate in 1812, urged the early extinguishment of the Indian title to the lands West of Maury and Giles, embracing the Western and South-western part of Giles, and to the Mississippi river. It was charged that the delay was unnecessary; that by postponing the establishment of lines until the original locators and surveyors were dead or removed, the claimants would be unable to identify their lands.
In this way many persons lost their lands, and others were compelled to litigate their titles. For twenty years after Giles was first settled there was almost a continuous litigation of land claims; and but for the eminently wise and conservative policy of our Courts, in adjusting and quieting titles, the loss would have been much greater. But the equitable and [Page 57] liberal administration of our land laws could not reach the loss to the poor soldiers to whom the warrants were issued; many of them had no homes, their pay and their subsistence for the greater portion of their six years hard service were in land warrants; a considerable portion of which were entered, and grants issued to the owners before 1790, but they could not occupy them. The delay and indifference manifested by Congress, disheartened them and depreciated Western lands, and land warrants. The necessities of the owners and holders forced them to sell for whatever they could get; and in this way speculators and capitalists became largely possessed. As an evidence of it one among the first deeds registered in our County, was by parties in Philadelphia for 226,260 acres, made up of various tracts in different parts of the State, many of which were in Giles County.

Transcription of this page by
Fred Smoot

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