Hawkins County - Ceded to Tennessee

A History of Hawkins County - Ceded to Tennessee

Goodspeed's History of Hawkins County, Tennessee [with minor edits]

In November of 1786, the Legislature of North Carolina passed an Act creating Hawkins County out of Sullivan County. It included within its limits all the territory between Bays Mountain and the Holston and Tennessee Rivers on the east to the Cumberland Mountains on the west. The county court was organized at the house of Thomas Gibbons, but as the early records were destroyed during the U.S. Civil War nothing is known of its transactions.

The first permanent settlements within the limits of Hawkins County were made in 1772, very soon after the settlements on the Watauga were begun. They were made in Carter's Valley, a short distance west of New Canton.

Among these pioneers were Mr. Kincaid, Mr. Love, Mr. Long, and Rev. Mr. Mulkey. At about the same time Messrs. Carter and Parker established a store in the neighborhood. Soon after this store was robbed by a party of Cherokee, and when Henderson & Co.'s treaty was held with the Indians the proprietors of the store demanded as compensation all the lands in Carter's Valley, extending from Cloud Creek to Chimney Top Mountain of Beech Creek. This was granted upon payment of a small amount advanced by Robert Lucas, who then became a parter of Messrs. Parker and Carter. The firm leased their lands to the settlers much after the manner of the patrons, in the early history of New York. This continued for a time, but when it became known that the lands lay in North Carolina instead of Virginia, the settlers refused to recognize the ownership of the firm, and the right and title to the territory acquired was denied by the former state. They were afterward included with the members of the Henderson Company, to whom a grant of 200,000 acres was given by the government of North Carolina as a compensation for the trouble they had in obtaining these lands.

The deeds obtained by Henderson & Co. from the Cherokees are recorded in the register's office of Hawkins County. It was given by "Oconistoto, the chief warrior and representative of the Cherokee Nation, and Attakullakulla and Savanooka, otherwise Coronoh, appointed by the warriors and other head men to convey for the whole nation," to Richard Henderson, Thomas and Nathaniel Hart, John Williams, John Luttrell, William Johnston, James Hogg, David Hart, and Thomas H. Bullock. The compensation for the immense tracts conveyed by these deeds as expressed at £10,000.

In 1789, Rogersville, which had first been settled in 1775, was named the County Seat of Hawkins County.

The settlement in Hawkins County was confined chiefly to Carter's Valley until about 1780. Several stations or forts were built, and it is said that a Presbyterian Church was organized there as early as that date. At about the same time a fort was built at Big Creek. Not far from this fort, about three and one-half miles above Rogersville, Thomas Amis, in 1780 or 1781, created a stone house, around which he built a palisade for protection against the Indians. The next year he opened a store, and erected a blacksmith shop and a distillery. Very soon after he also put into operation a saw and grist-mill, and from the first he kept a house of entertainment. A Baptist Church was organized, and a school established very soon after the settlement was made. The church was probably organized by Thomas Murrell. Among the schoolmasters, who taught in the school at this place, were John Long in 1783, William Evans, 1784; James King, 1786; Robert Johnston, and Samuel B. Hawkins, 1796.

Sometime about 1795, one of the most extensive iron works of those days was erected near the present area of Rotherwood, by Daniel Ross & Co., and considerable business was done there for a number of years.

Hawkins County suffered much less from Indian depredations than some other sections of the state. A few instances of massacres and robberies are mentioned by Haywood, but the most of these occurred in what is now Hancock County. The comparitive immunity of this section from Indian attacks was due partly to the position of the county and partly to the vigilance of the settlers, who had taken every precaution for the protection of themselves and families. The Indians made several incursions into Carter's Valley, but finding the people in the forts and prepared for them they retreated without doing serious damage.

On one occasion the families that had gathered into the fort at Big Creek, became greatly in need of salt, and a young man, Joab Mitchell, volunteered to go out and procure a supply. While upon his return he was attacked by a party of Cherokees and mortally wounded. He succeeded, however, in reaching the fort, and his remains were interred in that depression which has since borne the name of Mitchell's Hollow. In December of 1787, William English was killed by the Indians and two of his children carried into captivitiy.

The county court records of 1790 contained the following entry: "Whereas it has been represented to the court by Thomas King, that Matthew English and Elizabeth English, orphan children of William English, who was taken and killed by the Indians in December, 1787, at which time the aforesaid children were carried into captivity by the Indians, supposed to be of the Wyandotte Nation, and are yet in captivity. Thomas King therefore represents that the said orphans might be recovered if there was property sufficient for that purpose. Ordered by the court that James Blair and William Patterson do receive from the said Thomas King or from any other person the property belonging to the estate of the said William English, and the same apply as they shall think best for the redemption of the said orphans, and Thomas King was discharged thereupon of said property."

In 1785, the state of Franklin organized Spencer County, including, besides other territory, the present Hawkins County. Thomas Henderson was chosen county court clerk and colonel of militia, and William Cocke and Thomas King representative to the Assembly. the remaining officers are unknown.

In 1790, Hawkins County, along with other North Carolina counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, was ceded to the Territory South of the Ohio River, aka the Southwest Territory.


Click Here to see the approximate boundaries of Hawkins County from 1786 to 1790, when it was ceded to the Territory South of the Ohio River, aka the Southwest Territory.


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