It was on a summer day in the year 1787 that a couple of horsemen halted on the northern bank of the Holston, about four miles below the mouth of the French Broad, to survey the picturesque scene everywhere about them. They were at the summit of a low ridge that sloped abruptly down to the river, here flowing in a turbid stream, a hundred and fifty yards in width, and broken by a small island, clad in green, and covered with giant oaks and poplars towering a hundred feet and more into the air. On the opposite bank was a range of lofty hills, rising near by in grassy slopes from the water's edge, and beyond breaking into perpendicular cliffs whose summits bore the forest growth of many centuries. Everywhere was this primitive forest, interspersed with a dense foliage of laurel and rhododendron that loaded with perfume all the atmosphere. No sound broke the stillness save the music of the birds that were singing their morning hymn among the trees, and the low murmur of a little streamlet, which, fed by numerous springs, poured its clear waters into the turbid river through a deep ravine not a hundred yards away.
It was a scene of such quiet and peace and rural beauty as the weary travellers had never beheld. The dense growth of deciduous trees indicated a deep, rich soil, and the numerous springs that bubbled up along the margin of the narrow stream would furnish an inexhaustible supply of pure water for a settlement. These features marked the spot as an appropriate site for the home of which these men were in quest, and, moreover, the summit on which they stood was nature's own location for a fort--and without a fort no frontier hamlet was in those times safe from the murderous attacks of the Indians.
For these were troublous times in this wide territory, west of the Alleghanies. The settler who built his household fire in this wilderness carried his life in his hand. Scarcely a spring, or a ford, or a hamlet, or a wooded path among the hills in all the broad region now comprising the States of Kentucky and Tennessee but had, at the date of which I am writing, been the scene of some savage atrocity, or some heroic exploit of the white settler battling for his home and the lives of his wife and children. For nearly twenty years the conflict had been waged--a handful of white men against twenty thousand savage Creeks, Choctaws, Cherokees, and Chickasaws, the bravest, most warlike, and most blood-thirsty of all the native tribes east of the Mississippi; and nothing had saved the white settlers from total extermination, and Southwestern civilization from utter extinction, except these rude forts, and the sleepless vigilance and remarkable qualities of that greatest of Indian fighters, John Sevier. When Sevier was within striking distance, the home of the white man was safe, but, though he moved with the celerity of the wind, he was not altogether ubiquitous, and hence the settlers sought additional security in a stout barrack of logs erected in the heart of every settlement. The fort which the two horsemen whom I have mentioned erected on the summit of the ridge overlooking the Holston was a type of all that were built beyond the Alleghanies, and therefore merits a somewhat particular description.
It covered a triangular piece of ground of about half an acre. At each corner was a cabin of hewn logs a foot or more square, the ends morticed, and the logs fitted closely one upon the other, so as to form a wall impenetrable to bullets. Two of these cabins were of two stories, the upper story projecting about two feet beyond the lower, and pierced with port-holes, from which the settler could see and repel an enemy should he approach near enough to scale the stockade or set fire to the buildings. The stockade filled the intervening spaces between the cabins, and was of timber a foot square and eight feet long, imbedded firmly in the ground, the upper ends sharpened, and the whole set so closely together as to be impervious to small arms. A wide gate, hung on stout wooden hinges, and secured by heavy hickory bars, opened toward the little stream, and from it a path led down to one of the many springs along its border.
Though of rude construction, and not very imposing in appearance, the fort was altogether impregnable to any attack from such desultory warriors as the Indians, unless they should come upon it in overwhelming numbers, or by a regular siege starve out the garrison. In such a rude barrack John Sevier, with only forty men and a meagre supply of ammunition, held at bay for twenty days, and finally repulsed with considerable loss, a force of six hundred savages, led by Oconostota, the great archimagus and most renowned chieftain of the Cherokees! And this he did without the loss of a single man.
But attack and not defense was Sevier's favorite mode of warfare. An open forest and enough daylight to take good aim were all he asked for his unerring Deckard rifles; and woe to the Indian town on which he swooped down, firing its wigwams, and blasting with his lightning breath the very stalks in the corn fields! It was thus that with only a handful of riflemen he struck terror into the hearts of twenty thousand savages, and encircled as with a girdle of fire the infant settlements along the Holston and Watauga.
And why is it that the daring exploits and great services of this remarkable man have never been written? But I mistake: they have been written-in the hearts of a million and a half of people. Even now, after the lapse of nearly a century, aged men speak his name with loving reverence, and young children listen with wondering delight to the thrilling story of his life, in many a rude hut and many a stately mansion beyond the Alleghanies. I vividly remember how the venerable historian of Tennessee,* the late Dr. Ramsey, bedridden, his faculties fast sinking under the weight of eighty-eight years, heard the mention of his name. I had shown him the portrait of Sevier which accompanies this article, and asked if it was a correct likeness, when his eye brightened, his face lighted up, and half raising his palsied hand, he said, with tremulous animation: "Ah, sir, he was a great man, a very great man, one of the purest, most heroic, and most self-devoted men in American history. I knew him well when I was a lad; for many years we attended the same church. This picture of him was taken about the time of King's Mountain, when he turned the tide in favor of American freedom. He was the rear-guard of the Revolution, and without him, or some other man just like him, the colonies could never have beaten off the savages, or achieved their independence of Great Britain."
But I am writing about the fort at Knoxville, and the two Revolutionary veterans--James White and James Conner, from Iredell County, North Carolina&emdash;-who built it, and thus laid the foundation of the future capital of Tennessee. Felling the trees about the barrack, and clearing the ground of stumps to prevent their becoming hiding-places for savage assailants, they planted the cleared land in corn, and then went away for their families. They returned with them the same year, and, with the family of another Revolutionary soldier, took up their abode in the fort, and thus began the first settlement at this remote outpost of civilization.
They were in the heart of the primitive forest, and the life they led was of the most primitive description. Pounded corn was their only bread, their only meat the game brought down by their rifles. They planted flax, and this the women made into garments; but the men had scarcely other clothing than the deer-skin leggings and hunting-shirts of the aborigines. But not long did they live here alone. Emigration was rolling rapidly westward, and soon other settlers came about them, and among them some whose names have won at least casual mention in history. One of these was John Adair, the patriotic entry-taker (tax-collector) of the district of Washington.
In 1780 Sevier was recruiting and at his own expense equipping the army with which he conquered Ferguson at King's Mountain. His exchequer was low, from frequent drafts of a similar nature, and he had tried to borrow from his neighbors, on his personal responsibility, money enough to finish the fitting out of the expedition. But not a man among them had a dollar; they had expended all their ready means in taking up their lands, or in paying taxes to the entry-taker. He--John Adair--was the only one who had any money in the territory, and the plans of Sevier were likely to be retarded, if not altogether frustrated, for the lack of the wherewith to buy horses and equipments for his soldiery. From the distance of a hundred years we can look back, and, seeing all the circumstances, may realize that this was the turning-point of the Revolution, and that the fate of the nation, humanly speaking, hung on Sevier's securing possession of a paltry amount of legal currency. It may be questioned if Sevier saw the magnitude of the issue at stake; but whether he saw it or not, it is certain that he suggested to Adair that he should loan him whatever funds of the State were in his possession. And the following, as recorded by tradition, was Adair's answer:
"Colonel Sevier, I have no right to make any such disposition of this money. It belongs to the impoverished Treasury of North Carolina. But if the country is overrun by the British, liberty is gone. Let the money go too. Take it. If by its use the enemy is driven from the country, I can trust that country to justify and vindicate my conduct. Take it."
Sevier took it, and the result was King's Mountain.
Years afterward, in examining some papers of Sevier's that had been found in the attic of a deserted house in Knoxville, Dr. Ramsey came upon the following receipt, which shows that Sevier repaid this money to North Carolina, the very State for whose defense--yea, salvation--it had been expended:
"Rec'd Jan'y 31st, 1782, of Mr. John Adair, Entry-taker in the county of Sullivan, twelve thousand seven hundred and thirty-five dollars, which is placed to his credit on the Treasury books.
"Per ROBERT LANIER, Treas',
"12,735 Dollars. Salisbury Dis't."
Another settler who built his cabin a few miles distant from the fort at Knoxville was James Cosby, an old Indian fighter, and one of the most trusted of Sevier's lieutenants. He it was who about this time headed the little expedition which invaded North Carolina and rescued Sevier, when be was under the ban of outlawry and being tried for his life by the very State lie had so lately saved from destruction.
Rescue of Sevier
Such excitement was never known beyond the Alleghanies as when it was noised abroad in the early morning that Nolichucky Jack had been kidnapped overnight, placed in irons, and between dark and daylight spirited over the mountains, on a charge of high treason, by the State authorities of North Carolina. To quote the somewhat high-flown language of a document of the period, "Had the destroying angel passed through the land, and destroyed the first-born in every dwelling, the feelings of the hardy frontiersmen would not have been more aroused; had the chiefs and warriors of the whole Cherokee nation fallen upon and butchered the defenseless settlers, the spirit of retaliation and revenge would not have been more deeply awakened in their bosoms."
Sevier was the idol of the frontier people. His captivating manners, generous public spirit, great personal bravery, and high soldierly qualities had won him the admiration and love of every man, woman, and child in the territory. For years, without pay or reward, he had stood sentinel over their homes, had guarded them through terrible dangers, and led them to wonderful victories; and now, when a hand that should have been friendly bad been lifted against his life, every man felt it as a blow aimed at his own person, an outrage that could be wiped out only in blood. So every one thought and felt as he shouldered his trusty rifle and hurried to the rendezvous. The tidings had flown with the wind; men bad come together as if by instinct; and before night-fall more than a thousand dauntless backwoodsmen, armed to the teeth, had gathered at Jonesborough, determined to rescue their beloved commander, or "leave their bones to bleach on the sand hills of North Carolina." For a time it seemed as if nothing could hinder a hostile invasion of the mother State, and the bloodshed and lasting animosity that would inevitably have followed. But at last wiser and more moderate counsels prevailed,and these counsels came from James Cosby, of Knoxville. With three others-&endash;Major Evans and James and John Sevier, the two sons of the general, who, when boys of fifteen and seventeen, bad fought by his side at King's Mountain--Cosby proposed to go to the rescue-to effect by stratagem what would be impolitic and hazardous to undertake by open force.
They went, the four men, mounted on fleet horses, and leading a bay mare of Sevier's, which was noted as the swiftest footed animal in the territory. The trial was in progress at Morganton, and many thousands had come together to witness what was deemed by far the most important political event that had occurred since the proclamation of peace with Great Britain. The rude log court-house could not contain the crowd, and the court sat with open doors and windows, much the larger part of the auditory being gathered outside in the court-yard.
The rescuers halted on the outskirts of Morganton, and concealing their horses in a clump of underbrush, left them there, all saddled and bridled, in charge of the young Seviers. Then Cosby and Evans, disguised as countrymen, entered the town, the former lounging along on foot, the latter astride of the fleet mare of his old commander. When they arrived at the courthouse, Evans dismounted, and throwing the bridle loosely over the neck of the animal, stood with her directly before the open door, and in plain view from the interior of the building. Then Cosby entered the court-room, and elbowing his way up the crowded aisle, halted directly in front of the judge's bench, and only a few feet from where his beloved leader sat, encompassed by the court officials, but as " cool and undaunted as when charging the hosts of Wyuca on the Lookout Mountain." Soon Cosby caught his eye, and by a significant gesture directed his attention to his favorite horse, which stood impatiently pawing the ground at the doorway. With one glance the quick eye of Sevier took in the situation. Seeing that he was understood, Cosby pressed nearer to the bench, and in the quick, energetic tone which was peculiar to him, said to the judge, " Are you not about done with that man?"
The question, and the tone and manner of the speaker, drew all eyes upon him in amazement. For a few moments--as Cosby had intended--all was confusion. Taking instant advantage of this, Sevier sprang from among the officers, and the crowd parting to the right and left, with two bounds he was upon the back of his horse, and in two hours far away among the mountains. He was followed by the cheers of the crowd, and by a posse of State officials, who rode as if the fate of North Carolina hung upon the capture of the fugitive. But they could not outstrip the wind; the mare did that, and she scarcely slackened her pace till she had borne her brave rider in safety to his home on the Nolichucky.
As tidings of Sevier's escape flew from hamlet to hamlet, the whole territory broke out into a blaze of bonfires and illuminations, and soon the people elected him--branded rebel and outlaw as he was--to the Senate of North Carolina, and within a twelvemonth Washington gave him the rank of General, and supreme military command of the district now comprised in East Tennessee.
This was the verdict which the people and the President rendered to the indictments for high treason brought against John Sevier by the State of North Carolina.
These brief anecdotes illustrate the kind of men who were among the first settlers upon the Holston. Others were there as good and true, and I might fill this article with their exploits; but if I did I should stray away from my subject, which is "Knoxville in the Olden Time," and the men and women who made it the first capital of a great commonwealth.
Knoxville had a gradual growth; it did not, like some Western towns, blossom out in a single day in all the glory of painted weather-boarding. Its progress was by more regular and moderate stages. First came the rude cabin of hewn logs with puncheon floor and unglazed windows; then, at the end of a half-decade, there went up a frame dwelling. This was the Governor's house, and it stood alone in its glory for another half-decade; but soon after 1796, when commenced the long reign of John Sevier--which brought to the entire frontier peace, security, and abounding prosperity--the whole town developed into clap-boards, and before long arrayed itself in dingy bricks and mortar. Dwellings and public buildings rapidly went up that were remarkable for an inland town of the period, and the people, waxing proud, began to despise the humble log dwellings in which they had been cradled. One by one the old cabins were torn down to make room for more stately structures; and today only one of them remains, a sad, dilapidated memorial of the simple tastes and frugal lives of the past century.
This rude cabin was in its day the home of one of the most influential citizens of Knoxville. He was a God-fearing man with a large family, and be planned to build a two-storied dwelling with room and verge enough for his numerous progeny. But when the logs were upon the ground, and the structure had risen a short distance above the first story, he said to the friends who were aiding in its erection: "Why should I have a house so much better than my neighbors? And, besides, shall I not be tempting Providence if I build such a tower of Babel as this will be if we carry it up a full second story?" So the cabin rose no higher than it was, and thus it has remained to this day, except that a descendant of the patriarch, less humble of spirit than his progenitor, years ago covered its naked ugliness with a coat of rough weather-boarding.
In 1790 North Carolina shook off her troublesome offspring, and ceded to the United States her broad domain west of the Alleghanies. This Congress at once erected into the "Territory southwest of the river Ohio," and Washington appointed as its Governor William Blount, of North Carolina, and as its military commandant John Sevier, the Nolichucky Jack of the border. Blount bad been one of the framers of the Constitution, and was a personal friend of Washington. He was a man of character and position, one of the old-time Carolina gentry, and with his accomplished lady--the venerated and beloved Mary Grainger--soon infused into the Territorial society a degree of culture and refinement that is not often found among a backwoods people. He at first made his capital at Watauga Old Fields, where had been planted, twenty years before, the germ of Southwestern civilization; but he soon removed to Knoxville, to be nearer the restless Cherokees, whose murderous raids were giving constant trouble to the dwellers upon the border.
Here at first he lived in a plain log cabin, which stood on a gentle knoll, about a quarter of a mile west of the fort, and near the grounds now occupied by the university. In this humble mansion he held such state as he could, for he was a man fond of ceremony; and here, too, Mary Grainger dispensed such numberless graces as charmed alike the rude frontiersman and the still ruder aborigines. She was a gentle, lovable woman, and she so won the hearts of even the Cherokee chieftains that, when carrying fire and tomahawk to the settlements along the Holston, they passed by the town where she had her dwelling. She was born for another sphere, for a more refined and cultured existence; but she cheerfully accepted her lot in life, and did worthily and well the duties of her station. In remembrance of this and of her many virtues a grateful people have rendered her an honor rarely shown to a woman: they have written her name on the map of Tennessee, in a town, Maryville, and a county, Grainger.
But a rude log hut was not a suitable house for the Governor's gentle wife, and lie, being a man of abundant means, planned and erected for her a more elegant and commodious mansion. It was located on the slope between the fort and the river, and when built was as pretentious a dwelling as could be found anywhere west of the sea-board. The frame was of oak, covered with planed weather-boarding, and the house was surrounded by a well-kept garden, which was the delight of all beholders. It looked down upon a log court-house, a log jail, and a score or two of log dwellings, which, with the log barrack previously mentioned, composed the capital of the vast territory over which Governor Blount held dominion, and out of which have since been carved a number of the largest States of this Union.
In this old house the Governor lived freely, and even elegantly, and dispensed the liberal hospitality so natural in the olden time to the well-born and well-bred Carolina gentleman. Levees and receptions were frequent, and the mansion was often crowded with strangers, drawn to the frontier by business, pleasure, or curiosity from all parts of the Union. The style of hospitality was, of necessity, below that of Philadelphia and other of the older cities; but in the condition of things it was not less expensive to the liberal host, who was forced to draw all his luxuries and elegancies from long distances on pack-horses or clumsy ox-wagons. The visitor, however, whoever he was, rich or poor, white man or red, was sure of a cordial welcome, and none ever went away without speaking in honest praise of the hearty good feeling of the gentlemanly Governor, and the genuine grace and goodness of his accomplished lady. And so it was that an influence went out from the old mansion which had a wonderful effect in giving a certain polish and refinement to the rustic sons and daughters of the border--an influence which perhaps they would not have felt or profited by bad it not been communicated by so much unassuming grace and hearty kindliness.
"The Cherokees are Coming!"
But the old mansion was built in troublous times, and the new coat of paint on it was scarcely dry when it narrowly escaped a fiery baptism. Soon after the solitary cannon of the fort announced the sunrise on the morning of September 25, 1793, a horseman, his horse covered with foam, rode in hot haste into the quiet town crying out: "The Cherokees are coming! A thousand strong! Not ten miles away! Every man to the barrack!"
They fled to the fort, the men leaving the plough in the furrow, the women the morning hoe-cake unbaked before the fire, and there they made ready, as well as they could, to meet and repel so overwhelming a force of the enemy. Governor Blount and General Sevier are both away, the latter in pursuit of this same horde of Creeks and Cherokees, who have stolen into his rear by a flank movement; and James White, the pioneer settler, a man now beyond his prime, but an able soldier, takes command of the little band of forty settlers. Three hundred United States muskets and a large amount of ammunition are stored in the fort, and this is the prize for which the Indians hazard an attack on the town, with Nolichucky Jack on their flank, and, not more than twenty miles away.
The fire-arms are unboxed, put in order, and set beside the port-holes, and every soul--even the women and older children are put at work moulding bullets and loading muskets. The women and children are to load, while the men are to fire, and thus the effective force of the garrison will be augmented to a hundred, There is no haste, nor hurry, but all work for dear life, for well each one knows that his life depends upon it--for the savages spare neither sex nor age: if the fort is taken, it will be an indiscriminate massacre.
So the hours wear away--one hour, two hours, and the watchman on the look out sees, as yet, no sign of the savages. Now another horseman rides up also in hot haste, his horse too covered with the foam and dust of hard riding. He reports the Cherokees, fifteen hundred strong, at Coret's, scarcely eight miles away. They have halted there, set fire to the stables, and will no doubt massacre the thirteen men, women, and children who are at the station. Is this not a prophecy of the fate that awaits the little garrison? This they all think, but not a soul gives his thought expression. With firm, fixed eyes they look into one another's faces, and what they say is, "If we must die, we will sell our lives as clearly as possible."
Then other anxious hours wear away: one hour, two hours, three, four, five, till the sun begins to sink below the hills; but still the watchman on the lookout calls at regular intervals, "Nothing yet of the redskins." What does it mean this delay of the savages? The veteran White now calls a council, and asks every man for his opinion. The majority think that the Indians, true to their usual tactics, are waiting for the darkness to cover their movements, and that they will be upon the fort by midnight. White himself is of this opinion, and he asks, "But what can we do--forty men against a thousand?"
"We can die," answers Crozier; "but before we die we can send hundreds of those red fiends to rake coals in the devil's kitchen."
White is as brave a man as Crozier, and like him an old soldier; but he believes that what can not be effected by force can sometimes be accomplished by stratagem. A mile to the west, by the route the savages will come, is a high ridge covered with a dense growth of oak and poplar. He proposes that all the men in the fort shall repair there after night-fall, conceal themselves among the trees, in a line, about twenty yards apart, and thus await the coming of the Indians. When the advance of the savages is within short musket range of the most remote of the garrison, be shall fire, and that shall be the signal for each man to take deliberate aim and bring down an enemy. Then, without waiting to even note the effect of his discharge, every man shall make his way as quickly as he can to the fort, which, if the Indians should come on, they shall defend to the last extremity. But it is thought that the sudden attack in the woods will throw the enemy into confusion, that he will expect a formidable ambuscade, and will seek safety in flight, leaving the fort unmolested.
It was a hazardous plan, but these brave men put it into execution. All night long they waited there, resting on their muskets; but no savage yell broke the stillness of their vigil, and in the morning another horseman came, announcing that the Indians, after destroying Coret's, had turned suddenly southward. They were then in full retreat to the Tellico, and close at their heels was Nolichucky Jack, the Nemesis of the Cherokees. This the savages knew, and hence their sudden flight to their mountain fastnesses.
And now a month goes away, the Governor has returned, and we may suppose the old house to be lighted up for a social gathering; for a document now before me shows that Sevier was there on the 25th of October, 1793, and doubtless the whole town turned out to greet and welcome him; for the mere terror of his name had but lately saved them from massacre, and now he had returned from a campaign of victory. While, as we imagine, the towns-people are crowding about him, we will glance for a moment at his personal appearance.
He is now a man of about forty-nine, somewhat above the medium stature, and with a slight but well-knit and sinewy figure. He wears the ordinary hunting shirt of the frontiersman, with a pair of heavy epaulets upon his shoulders. His face is closely shaven, but his light hair hangs loosely half-way down his neck, and well sets off his finely cut, handsome features. But his eye is that about him which first attracts attention. It is mirthful, yet commanding, blue and mild, yet stern and piercing--a living flame which, stirred, as it doubtless is now, by friendly greetings, actually dances with good-humor and kindliness. It glitters from beneath an arching eyebrow and a peculiarly white and lofty forehead, which, with a prominent nose, give dignity to his face, despite the uncommon ease, geniality, and vivacity of his manner. He would attract attention in any assemblage; but one would be a wonderful reader of human character to detect in this buoyant and free-hearted but cultured and well-bred gentleman the most renowned of Indian fighters; the hero of thirty-five battles, every one of which has been a victory; the dashing leader, whose sword has ever flashed where the fight was hottest, and, whose electric words, sounding in the desperate charge, have set his men on fire, and transformed the most timid among them into heroes.
But this is he--Nolichucky Jack--as he appeared when he came from the campaign of Etowah, in which he well-nigh exterminated that raiding horde of a thousand savages, and carried havoc and fire to scores of Cherokee villages. And the, woman by his side is his wife, his "bonnie Kate," still tall and queenly and beautiful; but now twenty years older than when, fleeing from an Indian tomahawk, she with one bound leaped the stockade at Watauga, and fell into the arms of Sevier-not then her husband. She enjoys telling of that leap yet, and merrily she says, "I would make it again--every day in the year--for such a husband."
But ere long the sceptre departed from the old mansion, and soon the genial host and gentle hostess who bade "welcome home" to so many thousands within its walls were borne out of its portal to return to it no more forever.
And so it passes away from history, but before we bid it a final farewell let us say over it one word of blessing--blessing upon its battered frame, its dingy walls, its. smoke-begrimed rafters, beneath which was nursed and cradled and fostered into, lusty life the infant Hercules who was destined to found in those Western wilds. a grander empire than the world has seen since the age of Pericles! And blessing, too, upon its manly host and its gentle hostess, and upon all the brave men and beautiful women who once made the glad music of life resound through its deserted chambers. Silence now, death's music, is over and about them; but a beauty and a fragrance went out of their lives that have floated down to us, and will be felt by many coming generations. Men die, but their deeds live after them, and the deeds. of these men will live when much of later history is forgotten.
So the sceptre departed from the old house, and it ceased to control the destinies of the territory. In 1796 Tennessee was admitted a State into the Union, and the people elected John Sevier their Governor, and henceforth till 1810, during the six terms for which he held that office, though Knoxville continued to be the capital and chief city of the State, it held no Gubernatorial Mansion, for the good and sufficient reason that the Governor was altogether too poor a man to support the dignity of an official establishment. For more than twenty years his means had been exhaustively drawn upon for the equipment and support of the men who under him had fought for the country against both the British and the Indians, and the consequence was that, though free from debt, he was actually penniless when elected to office in 1796. He had rendered vast services to the country, and at the cost of all he possessed, but he never thought of asking remuneration of a government that was quite as poor as he was.
However, feeling the need of a residence somewhat in keeping with the dignity of the new State, and not realizing exactly how poor he was, lie, soon after his first election, bought a house lot in Knoxville, and began the erection of a spacious brick mansion. But the building had arrived at only the top of the basement story when he found himself in the position of the man in Scripture--he bad begun to build and was not able to finish-and, like an honest man, he went no further, but, selling his lot and unfinished house, paid off his debts, and then, like Cincinnatus, retired to his farm, transacting his official business henceforth in one corner of the old log court-house.
The hostility of the Indians continued after their crushing defeat at Etowah, but they never again, till 1812, mustered in force for a general attack upon the border. For a time they made inroads upon the settlements in small gangs, which, stealing at midnight upon some solitary cabin, would be miles away by the morning; but gradually even these raids ceased, for the fast increasing population soon gave Sevier so considerable a force that lie was able to patrol every hamlet and every by-path in the territory. When he was made Governor there were in the State 16,179 "free white males sixteen years old and upward," and with such a force as might be drawn from them, led, too, by Nolichucky Jack, the Cherokees were altogether too wise to come into collision. They beat their "spears into pruning-hooks, "and with their tomahawks set about the felling of the forest. Flogged into peaceful pursuits, they planted and sowed, and thus began that career of civilization in which they have made such commendable progress in their new home beyond the Mississippi. And so peace and Nolichucky Jack reigned upon the border.
It was a patriarchal "reign," such as never before or since has been known in this country. Sevier's will was law; but it was law regulated by love, which every man, woman, and child recognized and accepted. For years there was no State prison, and the jail at Knoxville--sixteen feet square--never at one time had more than ten inmates. There were courts and judges and juries; but Sevier was the court of last resort, the supreme judge, the grand jury. Was any one aggrieved, he complained to the Governor; did two men differ, they submitted their controversy to his decision; were some of his old comrades in poverty or distress, they appealed to their old commander, and he always found some way--with only a meagre pittance of a thousand dollars a year--to give them relief and assistance. And so he lived, blessed by a love that was universal. In this age of greed among public men it is well to contemplate such a character.
*Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey, of Knoxville, author of the Annals of Tennessee, to whom the writer is indebted for many of the facts in this sketch.