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Indian forays trouble Southwest Territory

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of Southwest History provided by the Daughters of the American Revolution from the files of Mrs. Mary Sue Hurt Campbell.)

By John Kiener
Associate Editor

 [email protected]

“The passage of a few months sufficed to show the Governor (William Blount) that (John) Tipton could not so easily be held in leash. Early in 1793 Indian forays against the whites in the Territory were causing no little discontent, and the mercurial Tipton thought to capitalize on it by raising and heading a force to march into the Cherokee country to make war — all without authority of the territorial or national government.”

As quoted in the final page of Chapter II of “Washington County in the Territorial Period” authored by Samuel C. Williams for the celebration of the Sesqui-Centennial of the Territory on Oct. 13, 1940, “The story is told by Blount in a report to the Secretary of War, General Henry Knox: ‘It is with the utmost difficulty that the people can be restrained from embodying, going and destroying the Cherokee towns, as many as may be in their power, and particularly about the time these murders were committed, John Tipton, heretofore Colonel of Washington County, was actually using his endeavors to raise a large party for that purpose, and boasted that he should be joined by at least nine hundred. His rendezvous was at Jonesboro about seven miles from his own house on the 10th inst., where only five men appeared. This so discouraged him that he did not proceed towards the frontiers farther than a few miles; but had he come on at this unfortunate moment it is to be feared that he would have been joined by a number of the frontier people.

‘The judges, upon my causing proof to be made of the intentions of Mr. Tipton to disturb the peace and order of government, have issued a warrant for apprehending him, which is probably before this executed. They have also issued warrants against several other turbulent characters who appeared to be engaged with him.’

“Tipton, however, rebounded in time to be elected by the voters of his county in the following year to the general assembly of the Territory, where he rendered most effective service.”

The SEQUICENTENNIAL CELEBRATION of the Southwest Territory: 1790 – 1940 on Sunday, Oct. 13, 1940 featured a “Historical Pageant” as described in the third installment of this series. Produced by Tusculum College, the “CHARACTERS – IN ORDER OF SPEAKING — PROLOGUE” were with the historical character listed first and the name of the player second: James Robertson – George Moore; John Sevier – John S. Irvine, Jr.; Bonnie Kate Sherrill – Elizabeth Morris; Fighters – William Sharp, John Vogt, Richard Bodtke, and Harry Sears; Women – Violet Rodefer, Evelyn Carter, and Benny Lane; Indians – George Wingate, Michael Giuliano, Lawrence Brinster, Roger Thompson, Alan Robinson, Evan Shipe, Edward Anson, Thomas Thomann, and Robert Reinhart.

In EPISODE I the major players were: William Cobb – Thomas Van Den Bosch; David Campbell – James Moir; Joseph Anderson – Robert Faulls; John McNairy – John Poggi; Mrs. Cobb – Violet Rodefer; Gov. William Blount – James Dobson and Hugh White – William Woodward.

In EPISODE II the major players were: Joseph Brown – William Sharp; John Williams – John Vogt; Barman – William Woodward; John Sevier – John S. Irvine, Jr.; Gov. William Blount – James Dobson; James Winchester – Richard Bodtke and Stockley Donelson – Harry Sears.

In EPISODE III the major players were (last names only of characters and players that were previously identified): Daniel Kennedy – Moore; Rev. Hezekiah Balch – Faulls; Samuel Carrick – Moir; Sevier – Irving; Mrs. Sevier – Miss Morris; Rev. Samuel Doak – Poggi and Blount – Dobson. A note printed below the list of Characters stated: “All members of the cast are Tusculum College Students.”

Chapter III of the SOUTHWEST TERRITORY HISTORY is titled “Sullivan County.” The text reads: “Sullivan County being the first carved from Washington County, came next for organization. On October 25, 1790, the governor appeared at the then court house of Sullivan for that purpose. Blountville, named for the governor, was not yet the county seat. That was at or near Eaton’s Fort of 1776, on the waters of Reedy Creek, about five miles from the site of Kingsport and under Eden’s (corrupted from Eaton’s) Ridge.

“The governor there commissioned the following as justices of the peace for the county: George Maxwell, John Scott, John Shelby, Abraham McClellan, William King, William Delaney, Gilbert Christian, John Anderson, Joseph Wallace, Robert Allison, Richard Gammon, David Perry, George Vincent and David Looney. Later in commission as justices were Thomas Nash, John Vance, Samuel Smith, John Yancey, John Spurgeon, John Williams, Samuel McCorkle, George Rutledge, James King, James Gaines, Thomas Rhea, Walter Johnson and Robert Elsee.

“Matthew Rhea was the first clerk of the court; George Rutledge sheriff with Robert Rutledge and Wm. McCormack his deputies; Stephen Majors, registrar.

“George Rutledge was also honored by the people with a seat in the territorial legislature; but one representative was allotted to the county and Rutledge appeared for it at the two legislative sessions. When Grainger County was later laid out, its seat of justice was named in honor of Rutledge, who succeeded John Sevier as brigadier.

“The first lawyer licensed by the territorial government was John Rhea, later and for a long period to be congressman from the first district of Tennessee.

Of course numerous other lawyers had preceded Rhea at the bar, but his was the first license issued by Governor Blount. He was at the same time appointed as county attorney.

“Due, perhaps, to the death or removal of the members of the distinguished Shelby family of Sapling Grove, the county had no representative in the legislative council, nor in the composition of the district cavalry nor on the bench of the superior court of the District of Washington.

Officers in the Sullivan regiment of militia were Gilbert Christian, lieutenant-colonel; Matthew Rhea, first major; George Rutledge, second major; David Bragg, Wm. Burk, Robert Christian, William Childress, Samuel Bouchers, Andrew Beatty, Joseph Cole, Solomon Smalling, Wm. McCormack, Francis Berry, William Pemberton and James Gregg, captains; Isaac White, Nicholas Mercer, Wm. Skillen, Joshua Hamilton, Wm. Simpson, William Snodgrass, David Lewis, Jacob Weaver, Robert Rutledge, William Blair, John Laughlin and John King, lieutenants; Robert Easly, Jacob Jobe, John Craft, Anthony Sharp, Robert Yancey, James Beatty, Elisha Cole, Daniel Smith, John McClellan, Robert Blair, John Kaywood, Jr., and Samuel Dunsmore, ensigns. Later David Brigham was appointed a cornet of cavalry. In January, 1795, John Scott was made lieutenant-colonel commandant to succeed Gilbert Christian, and Matthew Rhea was advanced to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, George Rutledge becoming first major, and Wm. Childress, second major.”

(To Be Continued in Installment V of this series.)