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Settlers The Intruders

An 1820 Claim to Congress: Alabama Territory : 1817




Mr. WILLIAMS, of North Carolina, from the Committee of Claims, to whom was referred the petition of John McCartney, of the State of Alabama, reported:
     That the petitioner represents that, in the year 1817, he resided in Madison county, of the then Territory of Alabama; that his cattle would frequently, and unavoidably, run off to range upon the Indian lands; that, during this time, Lieutenant Houston, of the army of the United States, was ordered to remove intruders from the Indian lands, and to take all their stock; that, under this order, he forcibly took and carried from the lands aforesaid eighteen head of the petitioner’s cattle, whereby he has sustained considerable loss, and for which he asks Congress to make him compensation.

     It appears, by information the committee have received from the War Department, that General Jackson, at the time aforesaid, was ordered to cause to be removed, by military force, all persons who should be found upon the Indian lands, and to destroy their houses and improvements. In executing this order, General Jackson gave directions to Lieutenant Houston to destroy not only their houses and improvements, but also to seize their stock, and deliver it over into the hands of the marshal. Pursuant to order, Lieutenant Houston delivered to the agent of John Childers, marshal for the district of West Tennessee, fifty-one head of cattle and one horse creature, which were advertised and sold according to the laws and customs of that State. Other cattle, besides these, were subsequently taken, but the marshal refused to receive them. There is no evidence in the Treasury Department that any money arising from the sale has been paid to the United States.

     Such were the proceedings under the order from the War Department to remove intruders from the Indian !ands; the order extended only to the destruction of their houses and improvements, not to the confiscation of their property. The committee are of opinion that, if General Jackson exceeded the order, when he caused to seized and delivered over to the civil authority the stock which belonged to intruders, he would, according to the laws and usages of Government, be personally and individually responsible for any invasion of private rights committed without authority. The following resolution is therefore submitted:
     Resolved, That the prayer of the petitioner ought not to be granted.

TREASURY DEPARTMENT, December 11, 1820.
     Enclosed you will receive the petition of John McCartney, and the papers which were transmitted with it.
     It does not appear that any payment has been made to the Treasury of the United States on account of the money arising from the sale of cattle or other property of those who have intruded upon the public lands or Indian hunting grounds.
     There is no evidence in the possession of this Department which has any relation to the case of the petitioner.
     I remain, your most obedient servant,

     Chairman of the Committee of Claims.


Source: American State Papers, Gales and Seaton, Washington, 1834, Volume “Claims” pp. 753-754.


     John Childers (often spelled Childress) was the United States Marshal in the West Tennessee District, an area that today is known as Middle Tennessee. The area that was to become today’s Western District (or West Tennessee) was still the old Congressional Reservation and in 1817, still un-ceded by the Chickasaw. The Executive Journal of the US Senate (online, Library of Congress) shows that John Childress, of Tennessee, was nominated to be Marshal for the district of *West Tennessee* for a series of four year terms, 1803-1819. These nominations confirm that the West Tennessee referred to in the 1820 Claim was the old one, not the new one.
     Land west of Madison County (then Territory of Mississippi) was ceded by a Chickasaw 1816 cession, so by 1817, technically and realistically, the only land that could be intruded upon by John McCartney’s cattle was the land east of Madison County. That was Cherokee land which was not ceded until 1819.
     It is probable that the cattle were driven north to the Fayetteville area, or even Winchester or Pulaski Tennessee - where they were sold by the agent of John Childers, Marshall.

     Alabama Territory was created from the eastern part of the old Territory of Mississippi. Although the Alabama Territory was created by an Act of Congress, 3 Mar 1817, it did not become effective until 15 Aug 1817. The reason for the delay was a provision in the Congressional Act which stated that the Act was to take effect only if and when Mississippi formed its State Constitution. That event took place 15 Aug 1817. The State of Mississippi came into existence 10 Dec 1817, the east part of the old Territory of Mississippi having been detached 15 Aug 1817.

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