Half Horse & Half Alligator

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Davy Crockett brings his family to the Obion River Valley

Certainly the most celebrated man to settle in the Obion Valley was the famous Davy Crockett. Crockett lived in West Tennessee for nearly fourteen years, and it was while living in Gibson County that his legendary status actually began. James Paulding's play, "Nimrod Wildfire" was based on Crockett's life and there is no question that Crockett fanned the fires of his popularity by his own backwoods humor. Once, while traveling out East, someone asked who he was and he was reported to have replied "I am that same David Crockett, fresh from the backwoods, half horse, half alligator, a little touched with the snapping-turtle. I can wade the Mississippi, leap the Ohio, ride upon a streak of lightning, and slip without a scratch down a honey-locust. I can whip my weight in wildcats, and, if any gentleman pleases, for a ten-dollar bill he can throw in a panther. I can hug a bear too close for comfort, and eat any man opposed to General Jackson.'" Many refined men of the time thought Crockett was loud, brash, and uncouth, but Crockett consistently lobbied for the poor homesteader, and showed a compassion for Native Americans, long before it became fashionable. It may be true that Colonel Crockett was no scholar, but he was blessed with a keen intelligence, uncanny memory and a personality that nearly took him to the White House.

"The Happiest of Men."

Like many pioneers of the time, it seemed that Crockett was always on the move. Shortly before his death the Colonel would recall, "Having returned home from the legislature, I determined to make another move, and so I took my eldest son with me and a young man by the name of Abram Henry, and cut out for the Obion. I selected a spot when I got there, where I determined to settle; and the nearest house to it was seven miles…" Crockett's first cabin was located about 10 miles west of Dyer County on a bluff overlooking the Rutherford Branch of the Obion River. One author wrote, "In selecting a spot for his hut, he wished to be near some crystal stream where he could get water, and to build his hut upon land sufficiently high to be above the reach of freshets. It was also desirable to find a small plain or meadow free from trees, where he could plant his corn; and to be in the edge of the forest, which would supply him with abundance of fuel. Crockett found such a place, exactly to his mind. Being very fond of hunting, he was the happiest of men." Later Crockett would build a cabin a couple of miles east of his first homestead, but it is uncertain when he made his move. Though Crockett and his boy had built a rude cabin in 1822, he had to return home for his family, and it was not until the following fall that he actually settled on the Obion. The author, John Abbott, would later write, "Late in October he set out with his little family on foot, for their long journey of one hundred and fifty miles through almost a pathless forest. His poverty was extreme. But the peculiar character of the man was such that he did not seem to regard that at all. Two packhorses conveyed all their household goods. Crockett led the party, with a child on one arm and his rifle on the other. He walked gaily along, singing as merrily as the birds. Half a dozen dogs followed him. Then came the horses in single file. His wife and older children, following one after the other in single file along the narrow trail, closed up the rear. It was a very singular procession, thus winding its way, through forest and moor, over hills and prairies…" His brother-in-law, Mr. Patton, would settle about five miles from present day Trimble and it is near Patton's old homestead that Davy's mother, Rebecca, is buried. The Patton home also sat about six miles from Obion Lake. It was at the north end of this lake that Crockett manufactured barrel staves in the fall of 1825, and may be the reason that location is now known as Crockett Bottoms. Crockett's Kinfolk's in and Around Dyer County

In 1822 Davy's older brother, Aaron, also moved to within a few miles of the Colonel. Aaron's son, Aaron D. Crockett, became a millwright and once owned a town lot in Dyersburg. In 1851 the younger Aaron joined the local Masonic Lodge and today lies buried at the Old City Cemetery on East Court Street. Another son of Aaron Sr., John S. Crockett, was living in Dyer County as early as 1840. Davy's nephew, Reuben T. Crockett, owned 875 acres on Obion Lake and later opened Crockett's mill on Dougan's Creek. His daughter Sarah married William Starrett, who took control of the mill after Reuben's death. Starrett also ran a distillery on the lake, but it is uncertain if that dated back to Reuben or was a later addition. Starrett would later become a business partner with General Tyree Bell of Dyer County.

Davy's immediate family also had a tie with the Dougan family in Dyer County. Davy's boy, William Crockett, married Clorinda Boyett in Gibson County, and moved to Dyer County before 1836. After William died, Clorinda married James Dougan, Jr., of Dyer County, the son of Major Dougan. Later Clorinda and her son, William A. Crockett, would move with her new husband to Arkansas. Another interesting note is that Col. Crockett's boy, Robert Patton Crockett, married Matilda Porter. This could be the Porter family of Dyer County, who also lived near the lake. Robert would later go to Texas with Ben McCulloch of Dyer County and become a Lieutenant in the new Lone Star Republic.

There is also a Samuel Crockett living in Dyer County in 1836. I do not know his connection, but he may have been one of the 15 children of Davy's brother John. I also believe that Archibald Crockett, the former Sheriff & Trustee of Obion County, and John M. Crockett, also of Obion, may have been from that same family. In addition to Crockett's extended family, there were other Dyer County settlers that had some type of tie to Davy. An example of this was the Pace family. James Pace, Davy's old captain, had died in the War of 1812, but the Captain's sister, Mrs. George Williamson moved to Dyer County, and the Captain's mother and father soon followed.

There is little question that many of Crockett's neighbors were poor like himself and had strong ties with the Colonel. No doubt this heavily influenced his goal of securing what he called the "Occupant Bill" to protect those that had settled on vacant lands.

Next week we will continue the story about those early families that settled near Obion Lake.