David Crockett: 1786 - 1836
When David Crockett was born on this site on August 17, 1786 he entered a new world surrounded by extreme poverty, danger, and uncertainty - the birthright of almost every frontier family in the late eighteenth century. He was the fifth of nine children, with five brothers and three sisters. The fledgling United States of America had just secured its independence from Great Britain three years earlier (1783), but the infant republic was now in the depth of a severe post-Revolutionary War economic depression because of currency shortages, high taxes, and high debt.
This very spot where you now stand has had several masters. Native cultures, according to archeological evidence, have inhabited this area for tens of thousands of years. By the 18th century the only permanent native people were the Cherokee who claimed this land for their own, while the British insisted it was a colony of North Carolina. In 1784 the region including the valley of the Nolichuckey River was included in the formation of the State of Franklin which only lasted until 1789. By 1796, the area that was made up of Greene, Carter, Washington, and Sullivan Counties officially became part of the new State of Tennessee.
" . . . the most singular, and in many respects the most remarkable, man in the history of the pioneer settlement in the great west was without a moment's consideration of others . . . Davy Crockett."- Buffalo Bill Cody (1888)
The Crockett Family: The Early Years
The Crockett name becomes quite evident to us in the eighteenth century, when David's grandfather, also named David, inscribed his name to the Lincolnton, North Carolina courthouse records in 1771. Like so many Americans, Crockett's family had joined in with the western migration to the Appalachian mountain region, and in 1775 reached (what would later be called) the northeast portion of the state of Franklin - or what we now call Tennessee. However, the persistent probing by whites into this fertile wilderness ignited hostilities with the different Indian nations who were being aided by the British.
This occurred as the American Revolution was building momentum. By 1777, frontier war in Kentucky and Tennessee was at an apex and many small settlements were continually besieged by fast-striking bands of hostile Indians. In the spring of that year, known as the "terrible sevens," an Indian war party attacked the small frontier station at Rogersville and killed Crockett's grandparents.
David's father, John, not only survived the uprisings, but was one of Isaac Shelby's rangers who later fought with hundreds of "Over-mountain Men" to defeat the Tories and British at the decisive battle of Kings Mountain in 1780. Together, this rough collection of Scots-Irish frontiersmen answered British Major Patrick Ferguson's threat of "Fire & Sword" and elevated the lore of the American rifleman.
In his 1834 Narrative, David recalled only a few incidences from his youth but one was traumatic enough for him to vividly recall it from memory some forty years later:
"My four elder brothers, and a well-grown boy of about fifteen years old, by the name of Campbell, and myself, were playing on the river's side; when all the rest of them got into my father's canoe, and put out to amuse themselves on the water, leaving me on the shore alone. Just about a little distance below them there was a fall in the river, which went slap-right straight down. My brothers, though they were little fellows, had been used to paddling the canoe, and could have carried it."
Fortunately, a nearby farmer saw the danger the boys were in, sprinted down the opposite slope to the river past David, and rescued them just before they flipped over the falls. You can see the actual location of this episode if you walk away from the cabin area and follow the flow of the river to the rapids. Eroded by time, this is all that remains of the once impressive falls of the river. By 1792, the Crockets had purchased a tract of land and moved on to the headwaters of Lick Creek in present day Rheatown.