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Sevier County Tennessee



History of Tennessee, The Goodspeed Publishing Company

- 1887 -

Sevier County lies east of Blount County, and adjoins North Carolina on the south. It is one of the largest counties in the State, having an area of about 660 square miles. A considerable part of the land is broken and untillable, but along the streams, and in the coves and valleys it is exceedingly fertile. The French Broad River flows through the northern portion, and receives the waters of Little Pigeon River, formed by the junction of two forks which take their rise in the Great Smoky Mountains. Boyd's Creek flows through the eastern portion of the county, and also empties its waters into the French Broad.

The settlement of the territory now embraced in Sevier County was begun about 1788, although the several years previous it had been traversed by traders and military bodies operating against the Cherokees.

In 1775 two traders from Virginia, Boyd and Doggett, while returning from a trip into the Indian nation, were killed by a band of savages, who threw their bodies into the stream which has since been known a Boyd's Creek. In 1780 one of the best fought of the early Indian battles took place on this creek, near what is now known as Rocky Springs.

In 1783 a number of settlers, who had recently located in the vicinity, assembled at Maj. [Major] Henry's, near the mouth of Dumplin Creek, and there built a fort. At about the same time, a friendly conference with the Indians was held at the house of a Mr. Gist. It was attended by Maj. James Hubbard, who had settled on the north bank of the French Broad River just above Bryant's Ferry, and who became notorious for his enmity toward the Indians. His father's family in Virginia had been cruelly murdered by the Shawnees, and he had sworn vengeance against the whole race. He spared no pains to create Indian disturbances in order to afford opportunity to gratify his revenge, and this occasion was no exception. He attempted to frighten the Cherokees in attendance upon the conference into some hasty action which might furnish a pretext for violating the truce, but in this he was prevented by Capt. James White, and for a time peace was secured. After this the settlements south of the French Broad increased quite rapidly. In November, 1783, Thomas Stockton began the erection of the first gristmill in the county. It was located at Christian's Ford on the French Broad. During the following year the pioneers built their cabins and cleared fields along Little Pigeon River and Boyd's Creek. On the later stream, two strong forts were erected: One was at Samuel Newell's, near the head of the creek, and the other at Samuel McGaughey's lower down.

In 1784, the State of Franklin was organized, and in March of 1785, the first legislature of the new State met. Among the acts passed was one for the division of Greene County into three separate counties, one of which was named Sevier. It embraced the greater part of the territory south of the French Broad extending from the Big Pigeon River to the ridge dividing the waters of Little River and Little Tennessee. The courts were held at Newell's Station, and Samuel Wear became clerk of the county court. At the next election Samuel Newell and John Clark were chosen to represent the county in the Legislature.

In 1785 a treaty was concluded with the Cherokees at Henry's Station, known as the treaty Dumplin [Treaty of Dumplin], by the terms of which the Indians relinquished their right and title to the land embraced within Sevier County. After this treaty, the occupation of the county south of the French Broad went on rapidly. Prominent among the early settlers beside those already mentioned were Isaac Thomas, who lived on the west bank of the Pigeon opposite Sevierville, William Cannon located opposite Catlettsburg, where his grandson later lived. Jacob Huff lived on the site of Catlettsburg, where he build a mill. Samuel Blair also located in the same neighborhood and Josiah Rogers still further down the river. North of the French Broad were Peter and Allen Bryant, Joshua Gist, the Cates and Underwoods. Eight miles below Sevierville was the residence of Thomas Buckingham, who, it is said, built the first brick house in the county. The Brabsons, Chandlers, Crewells and Capt. Nathaniel Evans located on Boyd's Creek, and Thomas Sharp in the neighborhood of Trundle's Cross Roads. Randall Hill lived three miles east of Catlettsburg and Thomas Evans about five miles from the same place of the French Broad. Benjamin Atchley also located in the same neighborhood. The upper end of the county in the vicinity of Bird's Cross Roads a colony of Germans from Virginia was located: among them were Jacob Bird, Jacob Derrick, Adam Fox and James Baker. Frederick Emert and Martin Shultz settled in what is now known as Emert's Cove. Andrew Wells and John Baughman lived in the area of Jones Cove. George Bush settled the place where Mrs. Hodsden lived in ____. William Henderson, John Jenkins and Robert Duggan also lived east of Sevierville. Among others of the early settlers were Shields, Calverts, Richardsons, Creswells and Keelers.

In 1788 the Franklin government came to an end, and the government of North Carolina, ignoring the acts of the former, among which was the treaty of Dumplin, still recognized the French Broad, Houston and Big Pigeon Rivers, as a part of the Indian boundary line, leaving the inhabitants to the south of these steams in the position of trespassers upon the Cherokee lands. Realizing their exposed condition, these people adopted articles of association by which they proposed to be governed. The constitution and laws of North Carolina were adopted, and all civil and military officers of Sevier County, elected under the government of Franklin, were continued in office. For the General supervision of affairs, a committee, composed of two members from each militia company, was provided for. Who composed the committee is not known, but their place of meeting is supposed to have been Newell's Station. This remained practically the condition of Sevier County until after the conclusion of the treaty of Holston in 1791, and the organization of Jefferson County in July of the following year [1792]. The latter included the present Sevier County, and Samuel Wear was one of the representatives in the first territorial assembly. During the first session an act to divide Jefferson County into two distinct counties was passed, and Joseph Wilson, Robert Polk, Samuel McGaughey, Samuel Newell and Thomas Buckingham were appointed to locate the seat of justice, the courts to be held for the time at the house of Isaac Thomas. The first court met on November 8, 1794. Samuel Newell, Joseph, Joshua Gist, Peter Bryant, Joseph Vance and Andrew Evans were the magistrates present, while Mordecai Lewis and Robert Polock were absent. Samuel Newell was chosen chairman; Samuel Wear, clerk; Jesse Byrd, register; Thomas Buckingham, sheriff; Mordecai Lewis, coroner, and Alexander Montgomery, surveyor.

In October, 1795, Sevierville was laid out at the confluence of the east and west forks of the Little Pigeon River. Tradition has it that the first courts, after the town was established, were held in a building previously occupied as a stable, and that owing to the great number of fleas infesting it, the lawyers accomplished its destruction through as Irishman and a bottle of whisky. A courthouse and jail, both probably built of logs, were then erected.

On July 4, 1796, the first court for Sevier County was held under the State constitution. The justices present were Samuel Newell, Joshua Gist, Joseph Wilson, Andrew Cowan, Joseph Vance, James Riggin, Alexander Montgomery, Jesse Griffin and Isom Green. The county officers, who had served under the territorial government, with the exception of the register and coroner, were retained. James McMahan was elected register and James D. Puckett, coroner.

At the time and for more than thirty years afterward, the people south of the French Broad, and Holston, who had occupied their lands under treaties made by the Franklin government, were harassed by law of both the United States and the States attempting to compel them to purchase their land at the rate of $1 per acre. The settlers denied the right and justice of these laws, and obstinately refused to comply with them. An act was finally passed in 1829, allowing occupants to enter a tract of not more than 200 acres, including their improvements.

As has been stated Sevierville was laid out in 1795, but previous to that time, September 29, 1789, a Baptist Church had been organized in the vicinity. Among the first settlers of the town were Alexander Preston and M. C. Rogers, merchants; Benjamin Catlett, tavern-keeper; Richard Catlett, hatter; John Catlett, carpenter; Spencer Clack, who had a mill on the right bank of the East Fork, just above town; James McMahan, the county register, and Isaac Thomas, who lived on the left bank of Pigeon, and owned and operated a mill there. Hugh Blair was the first blacksmith, but resided below town.

Sometime about 1820, a new courthouse and jail were built. The former was a frame structure and stood just north of the present building. The jail was substantially built of logs.

© Copyright 1995, 1996 Smoky Mountain Historical Society

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