Tennessee Seviers of the
Revolutionary War

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Biographies of Our Ancestors: John Sevier

"COL. JOHN SEVIER Near the close of the seventeenth century, the grandfather of the subject of this sketch fled from his native Paris, on account of religious persecution, and settled in London. The family name of xavier was now Anglicized to SEVIER. Here he married a Miss SMITH, and had two sons, Valentine and William, who, when scarcely grown, ran away, and took passage for America. This was not far from 1740. Among their fellow-passengers were several young men of a wild and sporting character, from whom Valentine SEVIER acquired habits of gambling and dissipation. Landing at Baltimore, he subsequently married a Miss Joanna GOADE (1), and settled in then Augusta, now Rockingham County, in the Valley of Virginia, six miles south-west of where the little village of New Market was subsequently located. Here he opened a farm, and carried on trade with the Indians. and here John SEVIER was born, September twenty-third, 1745. After the Indian war of 1755 broke out, the family removed for safety to Fredericksburg, where they remained nearly two years, and where young SEVIER attended school.

"Returning to his old home in the Valley, Valentine SEVIER found his domicil had been burned by the Indians. The cabins were re-built, and trade re-commenced. John SEVIER was sent to Staunton to school; and while there, he one day accidentally fell into a mill-race, and was saved from drowning by the heroic efforts of two young ladies—one of whom subsequently became the wife of George MATTHEWS, one of the heroes of Point Pleasant, and subsequently a Colonel in the Revolution, and Governor of Georgia. He now engaged with his father in trade; and, in 1761, before he had turned of seventeen, he married Miss Sarah HAWKINS, cleared up a farm, and engaged in excursions against the Indians--on one occasion, he and his party narrowly escaping a fatal ambuscade by a timely discovery of the trap their enemies had set for them. He laid out the village of New Market, and there for some time he kept a store and inn, and carried on a farm; and then engaged in merchandizing in the neighboring village of Middletown.

"About 1771, he visited the Holston country, carrying some goods with him for trade, and repeated the visit in 1772. At the Watauga Old Fields, on Doe river, near its junction with the Watauga, he witnessed a horse-race, where a large, savage fellow named SHOATE took from a traveling stranger his horse, pretending that he had won him in a bet. Such an act disgusted SEVIER with the country, naturally beautiful; but the elder Evan SHELBY remarked: "Never mind these rascals: they'll soon take poplar" (meaning canoes), and put off. This SHOATE became a noted horse-thief, and was pursued and killed about 1779-80. Late in 1773, John SEVIER removed his family to the Holston country, and first located in the Keywood settlement, on the north shore of Holston, half a dozen miles from the SHELBYS. Before his removal from Virginia, he had been commissioned a Captain by Governor DUNMORE.

"He was at Watauga Fort when attacked, July twenty-first 1776. At day-break, when there were a large number of people gathered there, and the women were out-side milking the cows, a large body of Cherokees fired on the milkers; but they all fortunately escaped to the fort, the gates of which were thrown open for their reception. Among the young girls thus engaged was Catharine SHERRILL (2), who when she reached the gate, found it shut; but equal to the emergency, she threw her bonnet over the pickets, and then clambered over herself, and, as she jumped within, was caught in the arms of John SEVIER— her future husband. A warm attack on the fort ensued, during which Captain SEVIER thought he killed one of the Indians. A man stole out of the stockade at night, went to the Holston, when a large party marched to the relief of the beleaguered garrison. It was because the people refused to join and cooperate with the enemies of their country, that the savages were instigated to murder them, destroy their crops and improvements and drive off their cattle and horses.

"John SEVIER was among the foremost in the defence of the Watauga and Nolachucky settlements. He had been elected Clerk of the first self-constituted court in 1775; and, in 1776, he was chosen one of the representatives of the united settlements to the North Carolina Convention at Halifax, and took his seat, securing the establishment of the district of Washington. Hastening back home, he reached there in season to serve on CHRISTIAN's expedition against the Cherokees at the head of a fine company of riflemen; and also, at Colonel CHRISTIAN's request, he acted as a spy during the campaign. He continued his services, till the conclusion of the treaty at Long Island of Holston in July, 1777. In the fall of that year, he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel for Washington County. During the period 1777-79, the Indians, Tories and horse-thieves required Colonel SEVIER'S constant vigilance. In the summer of 1780, he was left in defence of the settlements, while Major Charles ROBERTSON led the Watauga troops on the campaign in South Carolina. During their absence, August fourteenth, having some time previously lost his wife, he was married to Miss Catharine SHERRILL.

"His gallant services at King's Mountain cannot be too highly extolled. December sixteenth following, he defeated the Cherokees at Boyd's creek, killing thirteen, and taking all their baggage, and then joined Colonel Arthur CAMPBELL on an expedition against the hostile Indian towns. On the third of February, 1781, he was made a full Colonel; and in March, he led a successful foray against the Middle Cherokee Settlements, killing about thirty of their warriors, capturing nine prisoners, burning six towns, and bringing off about two hundred horses.

"What time from right to left there rang the Indian war-whoop wild, Where SEVIER's tall Watauga boys through the dim dells defiled."

"Having, in February, been appointed by General GREENE one of the Commissioners to hold a treaty with the Indians, a conference took place with the Cherokees at the Long Island of Holston in July, Colonel SEVIER and Major [Josiah] MARTIN attending, but without any permanent results. In the autumn of this year, Colonel SEVIER served under Generals GREENE and MARION in South Carolina; and, in 1782, he carried on a campaign against the Cherokees.

"In November, 1784, he was appointed Brigadier-General, which he declined because of his leadership in the effort to establish the republic of Franklin. During the period of 1784 to 1788, he was made its Governor and defender. He was apprehended by the North Carolina authorities, on a charge of rebellion against the State, and conveyed to Morganton, where he was rescued by a party of his friends; and returning home, "Chucky Jack" led a campaign against the Indians. As the East Tennesseans were divided in sentiment, the Franklin Republic, after a turbulent career of some four years, ceased to exist. In 1789, General SEVIER was chosen a member of the Legislature of North Carolina, when an act of oblivion was passed, and he was re-instated as Brigadier-General. In 1790-91, he was elected to represent the East Tennessee district of North Carolina in Congress. When Tennessee was organized into a Territory, he was appointed by President Washington a Brigadier-General in the militia; and he continued to protect the frontier settlements, carrying on the HIGHTOWER campaign against the Cherokees in 1793. In 1798, he was made a General in the Provisional army.

"On the organization of a State Government in 1796, General SEVIER was chosen the first Governor, and by successive re-elections was continued in that office till 1801. In 1802, he served as a Commissioner in running the boundary line between Tennessee and Virginia. He again served as Governor from 1803 till 1809, and then a term in the State Senate. He was chosen to a seat in Congress in 1811, serving, during the war, on the important committee on military affairs, till 1815; when President Madison appointed him one of the Commissioners, to ascertain the boundary of the Creek territory, and died while on that service, in camp, on the east side of the Tallapoosa, near Fort Decatur, Alabama, September twenty-fourth, 1815, closing a busy, useful life at the age of seventy years. As a proof of the love and veneration of his neighbors and friends, while absent in the Creek country, they had again elected him to Congress without opposition. In the language of the distinguished Hugh L. White, who had served under him in the old Indian wars: "General SEVIER was considered in his day, among the most gallant, patriotic, and useful men in the country where he lived."
(Excerpted from King's Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of King's Mountain, October 7th, 1780, and the Events Which Led to It by Lyman C. Draper, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1881, pp. 418-424)

According to an application for Revolutionary War benefits made by the children of Col. John SEVIER (Certificate issued 31 May 1839), he had married Catharine SHERRILL, as his second wife, on 14 Aug 1780 in East Tennessee. He died on 24 Sep 1815, near Fort Decatur, Alabama, and she died 02 Oct 1836 at Russellville, Franklin County, Alabama at about age 80 (born ca 1756). They also declared that their father had served as a Col. in the North Carolina Line, was at both King's Mountain and several Indian Campaigns against the Cherokees and the first Militia General of the State of Tennessee and first Governor of the State. His children by his second wife were shown as George Washington SEVIER (of Davidson Co, TN in 1839), Samuel and Robert SEVIER, Elizabeth MCCLELLAND, Mary OVERSTREET and Joanna (died 31 Jul 1823 in Overton Co, TN), and a step-daughter, Mary GARLAND, who was still alive at the time Catherine died. The Col.'s son, James, by his first wife, was aged 74 in 1838 and living at Jonesborough [Jonesboro], Washington County, Tennessee, at which time the latter declared that he had married about nine years after his father had married his second wife, and that he had served in several campaigns with his father (File No. W6011, and see James below).

VALENTINE SEVIER was born in what is now Rockingham County, Virginia, about 1747, and settled at an early period in East Tennessee. He was a Sergeant, and one of the spies, at the battle of Point Pleasant, where, says Isaac SHELBY, "he was distinguished for vigilance, activity, and bravery." He subsequently served in the Indian wars in East Tennessee, and commanded a company at Thicketty Fort, Cedar Springs, Musgrove's Mill, and King's Mountain. He was the first Sheriff of Washington County, a Justice of the court, and rose in the militia to the rank of a Colonel. He removed to the mouth of Red river on Cumberland, now Clarksville, where he was attacked by Indians, November eleventh, 1794, killing and wounding several of his family. After long suffering from chronic rheumatism, he died at Clarksville [Montgomery Co, TN], February twenty-third, 1800, in his fifty-third year; his widow surviving till 1844 in her one hundred and first year, His younger brother, Robert SEVIER, who also commanded a company at King's Mountain, and was mortally wounded in the conflict, was previously much engaged in ridding the Watauga and Nolachucky region of Tories and horse thieves.

(Excerpted from King's Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of King's Mountain, October 7th, 1780, and the Events Which Led to It by Lyman C. Draper, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1881, pp. 418-424)
Clarkesville, Dec. 18, 1794

Dear Brother: - The news from this place is desperate with me. On Tuesday, 11th of November last, about twelve o'clock, my station was attacked by about forty Indians. On so sudden a surprise, they were in almost every house before they were discovered. All the men belonging to the station were out, only Mr. Snider and myself. Mr. Snider, Betsy his wife, his son John and my son Joseph, were killed in Snider's house. I saved Snider, so the Indians did not get his scalp, but shot and tomahawked him in a barbarous manner.

They also killed Ann King and her son James, and scalped my daughter Rebecca. I hope she will still recover. The Indians have killed whole families about here this fall. You may hear cries of some persons for their friends daily.

The engagement, commenced by the Indians at my house, continued about an hour, as the neighbours say. Such a scene no man ever witnessed before.

Nothing but screams and roaring of guns, and no man to assist me for some time. The Indians have robbed all the goods out of every house, and have destroyed all my stock. You will write our ancient father this horrid news; also my son Johnny. My health is much impaired. The remains of my family are in good health. I am so distressed in my mind, that I can scarcely write. Your affectionate brother, till death.

— Valentine Sevier
(Excerpted from The Annals of Tennessee to The End of The Eighteenth Century by J. G. M. Ramsey, Lippincott, Grambo & Co., Philadelphia, 1853, p. 619, letter of Valentine SEVIER to his brother, Col. John SEVIER, prefaced by Ramsey's statement that "Col. Valentine SEVIER had removed west of Cumberland Mountain, and built a station near Clarkesville [Montgomery Co, TN]. This the Indians attacked. An account of the assault is copied from his letter to his brother, General SEVIER)."

On 1 May 1837, Naomi "Amy" DOUGLAS Sevier, widow of Valentine SEVIER, applied for Revolutionary War widow benefits in Greene County, TN, aged 91. She declared that her late husband had first enlisted in Shenandoah Co, VA (4), then removed to Washington County, North Carolina, the part that later became Carter County, Tennessee, that he also enlisted there, serving under Col. John SEVIER on several campaigns (no relationship stated), and that he died on 22 Feb 1800. She further stated that they had married about 1767 in Shenandoah County, Virginia, and had six children, of which two were twins born before the start of the Revolution, and that at the time of his death, three of their children were minors: Abraham, Joseph and Aleander, all of whom were deceased by 1837. Amy died on 17 Jul 1844, leaving children: James SEVIER, Rebecca RECTOR (aged 69 in 1851, a resident of Greene County), Elizabeth, John, Ann and Valentine. In 1837, a Major John SEVIER was aged 70, a resident of Greene, who steaed that he had known Valentine and Amy very well, and in 1837, a James SEVIER, aged 73, referred to Valentine SEVIER as his uncle. In 1843, one A. H. [Ambrose Hundley] SEVIER was a U.S. Senator, but no relationship was stated. On 17 Jul 1851, her daughter, Rebecca, applied for an increase of her mother's pension [sic-Armstrong, and declared that her father had served as a Major in the Revolution, and that at the time of her mother's death on 17 Jul 1845, she had only two living children, James SEVIER and Rebecca SEVIER Rector, and that Valentine SEVIER had died some fifty years ago. (Pension File No. W6012).

Joseph SEVIER, son of Col. John SEVIER, at the Battle of King's Mountain, had heard that his father had been killed in the action, "a false report, originatting, probably, from the fact of the Colonel's brother, Captain Robert SEVIER, having been fatally wounded; and the young soldier kept up firing upon the huddled Tories, until admonished to cease, when he excitedly cried out, with the tears chasing each other down his cheeks—"The d—d rascals have killed my father, and I'll keep loading and shooting till I kill every son of a b—h of them." Colonel SEVIER now riding up, his son discovered the mistake under which he had labored, and desisted." (Statement of Colonel George W. Sevier).
(Excerpted from King's Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of King's Mountain, October 7th, 1780, and the Events Which Led to It by Lyman C. Draper, Cincinnati, 1881, p. 282)

Capt. Robert SEVIER, brother of Col. John SEVIER, was mortally wounded at the battle [King's Mountain] "Near the close of the action, Captain SEVIER, while stooping to pick up his ramrod, received a buck-shot wound near his kidney; after the action, the British Surgeon, Doctor [Uzel] JOHNSON, endeavored to extract the shot, but failed in the effort; dressed his wound, saying if he would remain quiet awhile, the shot could be extracted, and he would probably recover; but if he attempted to return home at once, his kidneys would inflame, and about the ninth day he would expire. Fearing to be left behind, lest the Tories might wreak their vengeance on him, he started on horseback for his Nolachucky home, accompanied by his nephew, James SEVIER. On the ninth day, when at Bright's Place on the Yellow Mountain, preparing their frugal meal, he was suddenly taken worse, and died within an hour, and his remains, wrapped in his blanket, were interred beneath a lofty mountain oak." (source not given)
(Excerpted from King's Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of King's Mountain, October 7th, 1780, and the Events Which Led to It by Lyman C. Draper, Cincinnati, 1881, p. 303)

ABRAHAM SEVIER born 14 Feb 1760 in Shenandoah County, Virginia, died 18 Jun 1841, Overton County, Tennessee, had lived during the Revolutionary War in then Washington County, North Carolina (now Tennessee), serving first as a spy under Ensign Robert SEVIER, and also under Col. John SEVIER. After the Revolution, he removed to Overton County, Tennessee where he applied for his Revolutionary War pension on 31 Oct 1832 (Pension File No. S1589) According to the 1835 TN Pension Rolls, Abraham served as both a Private and a Sergeant in the North Carolina Militia: $58.88 Annual Allowance, $176.64 Amount Received, October 17 1833 Pension Started, Age 72. (1835 Overton County, TN Pension Roll)

Note: Ramsey identifies one Abraham SEVIER as the brother of Col. John, and also a participant at Boyd's Creek, but whether this is him is unknown to the compiler.

JAMES SEVIER, according to the 1835 Pension Roll, Washington County, Tennessee, had served as a Private in the Virginia [sic] State Troops: $33.33 Annual Allowance, $99.99 Amount Received, January 15 1833 Pension Started, Age 70. According to his pension application, made 11 Dec 1832 in Washington County, Tennessee, he was born in 1764 in Virginia, and enlisted in the North Carolina troops while living in that part of North Carolina which became Tennessee in 1780, in his uncle Capt. Robert SEVIER'S company and was in the battle of King's Mountain where Capt. Robert SEVIER was mortally wounded. Other officers were Col. John SEVIER, Maj. Jesse Walton and Maj. Jonathan Tipton. He enlisted again in the company of Capt. Landon Carter and was in the battle of Boyd's Creek. He also enlisted for the South Carolina campaign and his officers were Col. John SEVIER, Lieut. Col. Charles Robertson, Maj. Valentine SEVIER and Maj. Jonathan Tipton. They joined Gen. Greene and were sent on to join Gen. Francis Marion. He was with a party that captured 100 British soldiers near Monk's Corner. He enlisted again in 1782 in Col. John SEVIER'S Cherokee Indian Campaign, serving in Capt. Alexander Moore's Company. Other Captains in this campaign were Capt. Samuel Wear and Capt. Robert Bean.

Note: The above information was extracted primarily from Armstrong who adds that "James SEVIER was the second son of Gov. John SEVIER and his first wife, Sarah HAWKINS Sevier. He married Nancy CONWAY, daughter of Col. Henry CONWAY. The abstract of White conflicts with the above in several respects, including the statement that James had served with an older brother (unnamed) and his uncle Col. Richard CAMPBELL who was killed at the battle of Eutaw Springs, and that he had made reference to his brother Capt. Robert SEVIER being mortally wounded at King's Mountain, as well as to a Col. William CAMPBELL of Virginia. (3)


1 Joanna GOADE was the daughter of John GOADE and granddaughter of Abraham and Katherine Williams Goade (Dodson-Dotson Families of Northfarnum Parish, Richmond County, Virginia, hereinafter Dodson, Ms. Sherrill Williams, editor, Southern Historical Press, Easley, SC, 1988)

2 Catherine SHERRELL Sevier was the daughter of Samuel and Mary PRESTON Sherrill according to Dodson. John, Valentine and Robert SEVIER, Adam SHERRELL and Samuel SHERRELL Jr. and Sr.were all signers of the 1776 Watauga Petition for the creation of then Washington County, North Carolina.

3 If James was the son of Col. John SEVIER, then Robert who was killed at King's Mountain should have been his paternal uncle, not his brother. Likewise, if he was the son of Sarah HAWKINS, who was his uncle Robert CAMPBELL?

4 Valentine SEVIER was already in now-Tennessee by 1776 at the latest, thus his first enlistment was probably not(?) in Shenandoah County, Virginia, although that is where he was most recently before coming Overmountain.

Bibliography (in addition to sources stated above):

Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pensions by Virgil White, National Historical Publishing Company, Waynesboro, Tennessee, 1992, Vol. II, p. 3072

Some Tennessee Heroes of the Revolution, compiled from Pension Statements, Zella Armstrong, originally published in five pamphlets in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1933, reprinted Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, Maryland, 1975, 1989 and 1996.

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