Sumner County - Ceded to Tennessee

A History of Sumner County - Ceded to Tennessee

By Jay Guy Cisco, 1909 [with minor edits]

Summer County was organized under a Legislative Act passed by the General Assembly of North Carolina on January 17, 1787, and was so named in honor of Brigadier General Jethro Summer, of North Carolina, a gallant soldier in the War of Independence. The county as originally formed embraced a much larger area than at present. It was the second county to be formed in middle Tennessee, created out of Davidson County. The first court of Summer County was held on the second Monday in April of 1787, at the house of John Hamilton at Station Camp Creek, about five miles southwest from where Gallatin now is.

The members of that court were General Daniel Smith, Major David Wilson, Major George Winchester, Isaac Lindsey, William Hall, John Hardin, Joseph Kuykendall, Colonel Edward Douglass, and Colonel Isaac Bledsoe. David Shelby, son-in-law of Colonel Anthony Bledsoe, was appointed Clerk, and held that position until his death in 1822. John Hardin, Jr., was appointed Sheriff, and Issac Lindsey, Ranger. "And thus there were associated in that court men of education, sound judgment, good morals, and of great influence in the community." The commendation bestowed upon these gentlemen was that most of them could worthily fill the office of Governor or Chief Justice - "fit for Lord Chief Justice or Governor-General." In those days no man held office as a mere sinecure, nor solely for the sake of the pay.

On April 20, 1796, the General Assembly of Tennessee passed an Act appointing Commissioners and Trustees. The Commissioners so appointed were William Bowen, John Wilson, Isaac Walton, George D. Blackmore, and Hugh Crawford. It was made their duty to fix on a location for the seat of government for the county. The Trustees appointed by the Act were Henry Bradford, David Shelby, and Edward Douglass. It was made their duty to purchase the land selected by the Commissioners, erect a court house, prison and stocks, and establish a town.

Section 3 of the Act provided that the town should be called "Ca Ira," which name afterwards became corrupted into "Cairo," and it was so incorporated on November 5, 1815. On October 2, 1797, the above Act was repealed and another one passed appointing "James Clendenning, Kasper Mansker, William Edwards, William Bowen, Captain James Wilson, son of John Wilson; James Frazier, Moro Stephenson, William Gillespie, James White, Wetherel Lattimore, and John Morgan, Commissioners, to make choice of a place most convenient in the county of Summer, to purchase land, erect a court house, prison and stocks, and establish a town thereon, having respect to the center of said county, which is not to exceed, more than twenty-five miles, on a direct line from a ford on Mansker's Creek, on the road leading from Mansker's Lick to Bledsoe's Lick."

Daniel Smith, James Winchester and Wilson Cage were named as Trustees. In this Act it was provided that the name of the town should be "Ca Ira."

On October 26, 1799, the above Act was repealed, Summer County was reduced to its constitutional limits, and "David Shelby, David Beard, Sr., James Crier, Edward Guinn and Captain James Wilson, son of John Wilson, were appointed Commissioners to purchase sixty acres of land, on some part of which shall be erected a court house, prison and stocks, and that the town be given the name Rutherford," in honor of Brigadier General Griffith Rutherford.

On November 6, 1801, an Act was passed by the Legislature providing that the "public buildings of Summer County shall be established and erected at one of three hereinafter named places, situated and lying on the east fork of Station Camp Creek, viz.: On the place known by the name of Dickens, now said to be the property of John C. Hamilton, Esq., or at the place of Captain James Trousdale, whereon he now lives, lying on the road that leads from Major David Wilson's to John Dawson's; or at the place whereon David Shelby now lives."

Samuel Donelson, Shadrack Nye, James Wilson, "Curly, son of Samuel Wilson;" Charles Donaho, Esq., and Major Thomas Murray were by this Act appointed Commissioners. It was further provided by the act that "the town so laid off should be known by the name of Gallatin," in honor of Albert Gallatin. Thus, Gallatin became the permanent county seat. It was not incorporated until November 7, 1815.

The Tennessee Legislature on October 25, 1797, passed an Act establishing a town by the name of "Bledsoeborough on the north bluff of the Cumberland River, known by the name of Sanders' Bluff, between the mouth of Dixon's creek and Dry creek, in Summer county, on the lands of Will Saunders."

During the year 1787, beginning with the April term, the court met at the house of John Hamilton. In 1788, it met at the house of Elmore Douglass; the January and April terms of 1789 at Simon Kuykendall's, then until July of 1790, at Elmore Douglass'; then in the first court house, a small log building erected on West station Camp creek at a place then known as Mrs. Clarke's. The courts continued to meet there until January of 1793, when it met at the house of John Dawson. The April term of 1793 met at Pearce Wall's and after that until January of 1796, at Ezekiel Douglass'. From that date to January of 1800, the sessions were held at the home of William Gillespie. From April of 1800, to July of 1802, they were held at Ca Ira ("Cairo"), the county seat. From October of 1802, to January of 1803, they were held at the house of James Trousdale in Gallatin, and then at the house of James Crier until October, when the first term was held in the first court house in the permanent capital.

The first court held under the Tennessee state government was in July of 1796 (previous to that date they were held under the jurisdiction of North Carolina), at the home of Ezekiel Douglass. It was composed of the following members, commissioned by Governor John Sevier: William Cage, Stephen Cantrell, James Douglass, Edward Douglass, James Gwyn, Wetheral Lattimore, Thomas Masten, Thomas Donald, James Pearce, David Wilson, James Winchester, and Isaac Walton.

The first grand jury was composed of the following named gentlemen: Archibald Martin, foreman; Armond Alton, William Crabtree, Lazarus Cullum, Jeremiah Doney, William Edwards, James Farr, Robert Hamilton, Peter Looney, James Snowden, Edward Williams, Joshua Wilson, and Thomas Walton.

The first school in Summer County was at Bledsoe's Lick. General Hall, in his narrative, mentions it as early as 1787. George Hamilton was the "schoolmaster." One night "the little schoolmaster" was sitting in Anthony Bledsoe's room at his brother's fort singing at the top of his voice. Indians were prowling around, and one of them found a hole in the back of the chimney through which he poked his gun and fired, hitting Hamilton in the mouth. The teacher recovered, but what became of him afterwards history does not record and tradition is silent.

The ground upon which Gallatin was located originally belonged to James Trousdale, father of William Trousdale, afterwards governor, and grandfather of the late Hon. J. A. Trousdale. The deed called for forty-one (41.80) acres and eighty one-hundredths. The fraction, the deed stated, was for a road. One acre was reserved by Mr. Trousdale for himself, which left forty acres for the town site. The acre reserved was on the south side of the public square, and upon this he built the first house to be built in Gallatin. It was afterwards torn down and a part of the material used in a house still standing in the rear of the original site.

Following is a schedule of taxes levied by the first court of Summer County: One shilling on every poll and four pence on every 100 acres of land to defray the contingent charges of the county, also one shilling on every poll and four pence on every 100 acres of land for the purpose of building the court house, prison and stocks; and, that corn be received in taxes at 2s 6p per bushel, beef at 3p per pound, pork at 4p per pound, 4p per pound for good fat bear meat, if delivered at the place where the troops are stationed, 3p per pound for prime buffalo beef; 1p per pound for good venison, if delivered aforesaid; 9p per pound for bacon; each person to pay in proportion as follows, to wit: one-fourth in corn, one-half in meat, one-eighth in salt, and one-eighth in money."

At the October term of 1788, the following rates were fixed: "The court regulates and rates taverns and ordinaries in the following manner, to wit: One-half pint of whiskey, such as will sink tallow, 2s; ditto of taffia, 2s; ditto of West India rum, 2s 6p; ditto Jamaica spirits, 3s; one bowl of toddy made of loaf sugar and whiskey, per quart, 3s 6p; ditto of taffia, 3s 6p; ditto of West Indian rum, 3s 6p; ditto Jamaica spirits, 4s; dinner and grog at dinner, 4s; dinner and toddy, 4s 6p; dinner, 3s; breakfast, 2s; supper, 2s; one horse feed of corn, 3p; lodging, 6p; pasture for horse twenty-four hours, 9p; stableage with fodder, 2s; horse feed of oats, per quart, 3p; one half pint of brandy, 2s; one quart bowl of punch made with fruit, 19s; one bottle of wine called port, 10s; ditto Madeira, 15s; ditto Burgundy, 15s; ditto champagne, 20s; ditto claret, 8s."

The first settlers in the county located claims, or pre-empted lands, and as soon as possible thereafter they entered them. In almost every instance the first entries were made by land warrants received for services in the Revolutionary War. In 1786, Isaac Bledsoe, Robert Desha, Jordon Gibson, Henry Loving, William Morrison, John Morgan, John Sawyer, Robert Steele, and Jacob Zeigler each entered 640 acres, all on or near Bledsoe's Creek. The next year Colonel Anthony Bledsoe entered 6,280 acres on warrants given him for his services in the North Carolina Continental Line. The same year his brother, Isaac, located 370 acres granted for services as a guard to the Commissioners, who set apart the lands granted to the above named soldiers.

In the same year Henry Ramsey located 960 acres for similar service. Later Colonel Isaac Bledsoe located 1,836 acres. About the same time William Hall, Hugh Rogan, David Shelby, George D. Blackmore, James and George Winchester, Robert Peyton, Joseph Wilson, Michael Shafer, James Hayes, Charles Morgan, Gabriel Black, John Carr, and Robert Brigham settled on Bledsoe's creek and tributaries. Charles Campbell, William Crawford, Edward and Elmore Douglass, James Franklin, Richard Hogan, Robert and David Looney, George Mansker, Benjamin Kuykendall, Thomas Spencer, John Peyton, James McCain, Benjamin Porter, John Withers, John Hamilton, John Latham, and William Snoddy each entered 640 acres on Station Camp creek and its branches.

In 1790, Sumner 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.

James Cartwright, James McCann, John and Joseph Byrns, James Trousdale, Benjamin Williams, John Edwards, Samuel Wilson and John Hall were the pioneer settlers of the Gallatin neighborhood. William Montgomery, Thomas Sharp Spencer and Edward Hagan each entered 640 acres on Drake's creek. General Daniel Smith located 3,780 acres and William Frazier 320 acres on the same creek. Benjamin Sheppard entered by land warrants 10,880 acres in the northern part of the county, and Redmond D. Barry in 1800 entered 26,400 acres north of the rim.

After 1800, when the settlers felt no fear of the Indians, "newcomers" came fast, and all the best lands were soon taken up and much of them occupied.

Click Here to see the approximate boundaries of Sumner County from 1787 to 1790, when it was ceded to the Territory South of the Ohio River, aka the Southwest Territory. 

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