Whenever we have an opportunity to understand the land around us, we should take advantage of that education. The state of Tennessee is a diverse landscape with people whose background is as widely varied as the terrain where they settled. Tennessee is distributed into three natural geographic divisions called East, Middle and West Tennessee. These geographic grand divisions correspond to the political, economic and settlement cultures of the state’s three regions.
The land that became the state of Tennessee was originally part of North Carolina. The King’s Proclamation of 1763 was intended to prevent settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains on the land of native people. However, settlers in southwest Virginia just continued to move down the valley into what is today, Tennessee. The first permanent settlement in Tennessee was made in 1769 on Boone Creek by Capt. William Bean, who came in that year from Pittsylvania county, Va. His son, Russell Bean, is said to have been the first white child born in the State.
Soon after Bean made his settlement, in 1770 and 1771, James Robertson. Landon Carter and others, laid the foundation of the Watauga settlements, which at first were in what is now known as Carter county. The steady stream of emigrants from the older States, however, soon forced these to overflow into the territory now embraced in Washington and Greene counties. Richard Henderson and the Transylvania Company purchased most of the land in northern Middle Tennessee and Kentucky from the Cherokees. In 1780, James Robertson and John Overton brought settlers to the area of Nashville.
With the Revolutionary War, colonies (states) did not have an abundance of money, but did possess unsettled land. Soldiers were promised land in return for service. The military district for the state of North Carolina covered the Middle Tennessee area from the Tennessee River eastward into Clay county. These soldiers or their heirs were given grants on the basis of military service in the North Carolina Continental Line. In addition, North Carolina granted land to those families who were settled in the area (or prempted) prior to statehood. Land was also available to surveyors and assistants, commissioners, individuals for special service and, finally, to the general public for purchase.
Knowledge of these land grants paint a vivid picture of life out on the frontier. Identification of trails, stations, forts and homeplaces would make understanding the Cumberland settlements more complete. It was just that desire for knowledge that led three historians to construct the Founding of the Cumberland Settlements: The First Atlas 1779 – 1804. Doug Drake, Jack Masters and Bill Puryear studied and worked together to compile the first land grants located in portions of eleven counties in Middle Tennessee. In addition this book will include the locations of publicly designed areas, early Indian trails, traces and roads.
Doug Drake traces his kin back to signers of the Cumberland Compact and an original pioneer, John Drake. Jack Masters is a retired Engineering Manager of Aladdin Industries in Nashville and an active member of Bledsoe Lick Historical Association and Sumner County Historical Society. Bill Puryear is a Sumner county native with roots in Dixon Springs & Hartsville and he chairs one of the largest charitable foundations in Tennessee. All three are active historians. In a discussion with Jack Masters at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, he told me that three came together through the Bledsoe Lick Historical Association. One of them mentioned that they should locate the original road or trace and began their search. They learned about the North Carolina land grants and a three-year project was born.
This book will become a well-used reference for land and family historians of Tennessee. The Atlas includes the 1500 land grants taken from the manuscripts of the North Carolina Secretary of State Land Grant Office. This will include a transcription of the land description along with a copy of the surveyor plats from the grant.
Drake, Masters, and Puryear started this project in an effort to locate sites of stations and roads. With the information learned from these grants, these men have been able to identify original sites and have walked the grounds of these pioneer roads. Their first book covers all of Robertson, Macon, Trousdale and Sumner counties and portions of Cheatham, Davidson, Montgomery, Wilson, Smith, and others.
In addition, these compilers have included topographic maps depicting the earliest Indian trails, pioneer roads/traces and a sequence of maps depicting the growth of settlements. In addition to an every-name index, you will find biographical sketches for the pioneers who signed the Cumberland Compact on May 13, 1780.
Lest you think this book is filled with great historical information – it is. However, it is also illustrated with the paintings of nationally recognized artist, David Wright and abundant photography of old roads, buffalo trace segments, fords, fort sites and ruins, relics, historic sites, and portraits of pioneers.
Volume I Founding of the Cumberland Settlements - The First Atlas 1779 - 1804 is in limited pre-publication sales (through August 31st) and can only be purchased via their website www.cumberlandpioneers.com
. Delivery on these books is expected in October. Also included with the Atlas is a CD containing copies of all 1,500 land grants. This data supplement is also available in a separately purchased book.