THE CONQUEST OF THE OLD SOUTHWEST: THE ROMANTIC STORY OF THE EARLY PIONEERS INTO VIRGINIA, THE CAROLINAS, TENNESSEE, AND KENTUCKY 1740-1790
BY ARCHIBALD HENDERSON, Ph.D., D.C.L.
Some to endure and many to fail, Some to conquer and many to quail Toiling over the Wilderness Trail.
NEW YORK THE CENTURY CO. 1920
TO THE HISTORIAN OF OLD WEST AND NEW WEST FREDERICK JACKSON TURNER WITH ADMIRATION AND REGARD
The country might invite a prince from his palace, merely for the pleasure of contemplating its beauty and excellence; but only add the rapturous idea of property, and what allurements can the world offer for the loss of so glorious a prospect?--Richard Henderson.
The established Authority of any government in America, and the policy of Government at home, are both insufficient to restrain the Americans . . . . They acquire no attachment to Place: But wandering about Seems engrafted in their Nature; and it is a weakness incident to it, that they Should for ever imagine the Lands further off, are Still better than those upon which they are already settled.--Lord Dunmore, to the Earl of Dartmouth.
The romantic and thrilling story of the southward and westward migration of successive waves of transplanted European peoples throughout the entire course of the eighteenth century is the history of the growth and evolution of American democracy. Upon the American continent was wrought out, through almost superhuman daring, incredible hardship, and surpassing endurance, the formation of a new society. The European rudely confronted with the pitiless conditions of the wilderness soon discovered that his maintenance, indeed his existence, was conditioned upon his individual efficiency and his resourcefulness in adapting himself to his environment. The very history of the human race, from the age of primitive man to the modern era of enlightened civilization, is traversed in the Old Southwest throughout the course of half a century.
A series of dissolving views thrown upon the screen, picturing the successive episodes in the history of a single family as it wended its way southward along the eastern valleys, resolutely repulsed the sudden attack of the Indians, toiled painfully up the granite slopes of the Appalachians, and pitched down into the transmontane wilderness upon the western waters, would give to the spectator a vivid conception, in miniature, of the westward movement. But certain basic elements in the grand procession, revealed to the sociologist and the economist, would perhaps escape his scrutiny. Back of the individual, back of the family, even, lurk the creative and formative impulses of colonization, expansion, and government. In the recognition of these social and economic tendencies the individual merges into the group; the group into the community; the community into a new society. In this clear perspective of historic development the spectacular hero at first sight seems to diminish; but the mass, the movement, the social force which he epitomizes and interprets, gain in impressiveness and dignity.
As the irresistible tide of migratory peoples swept ever southward and westward, seeking room for expansion and economic independence, a series of frontiers was gradually thrust out toward the wilderness in successive waves of irregular indentation. The true leader in this westward advance, to whom less than his deserts has been accorded by the historian, is the drab and mercenary trader with the Indians. The story of his enterprise and of his adventures begins with the planting of European civilization upon American soil. In the mind of the aborigines he created the passion for the fruits, both good and evil, of the white man's civilization, and he was welcomed by the Indian because he also brought the means for repelling the further advance of that civilization. The trader was of incalculable service to the pioneer in first spying out the land and charting the trackless wilderness. The trail rudely marked by the buffalo became in time the Indian path and the trader's "trace"; and the pioneers upon the westward march, following the line of least resistance, cut out their, roads along these very routes. It is not too much to say that had it not been for the trader--brave, hardy, and adventurous however often crafty, unscrupulous, and immoral--the expansionist movement upon the American continent would have been greatly retarded.
So scattered and ramified were the enterprises and expeditions of the traders with the Indians that the frontier which they established was at best both shifting and unstable. Following far in the wake of these advance agents of the civilization which they so often disgraced, came the cattle-herder or rancher, who took advantage of the extensive pastures and ranges along the uplands and foot-hills to raise immense herds of cattle. Thus was formed what might be called a rancher's frontier, thrust out in advance of the ordinary farming settlements and serving as the first serious barrier against the Indian invasion. The westward movement of population is in this respect a direct advance from the coast. Years before the influx into the Old Southwest of the tides of settlement from the northeast, the more adventurous struck straight westward in the wake of the fur-trader, and here and there erected the cattle-ranges beyond the farming frontier of the piedmont region. The wild horses and cattle which roamed at will through the upland barrens and pea-vine pastures were herded in and driven for sale to the city markets of the East.
The farming frontier of the piedmont plateau constituted the real backbone of western settlement. The pioneering farmers, with the adventurous instincts of the hunter and the explorer, plunged deeper and ever deeper into the wilderness, lured on by the prospect of free and still richer lands in the dim interior. Settlements quickly sprang up in the neighborhood of military posts or rude forts established to serve as safeguards against hostile attack; and trade soon flourished between these settlements and the eastern centers, following the trails of the trader and the more beaten paths of emigration. The bolder settlers who ventured farthest to the westward were held in communication with the East through their dependence upon salt and other necessities of life; and the search for salt-springs in the virgin wilderness was an inevitable consequence of the desire of the pioneer to shake off his dependence upon the coast.
The prime determinative principle of the progressive American civilization of the eighteenth century was the passion for the acquisition of land. The struggle for economic independence developed the germ of American liberty and became the differentiating principle of American character. Here was a vast unappropriated region in the interior of the continent to be had for the seeking, which served as lure and inspiration to the man daring enough to risk his all in its acquisition. It was in accordance with human nature and the principles of political economy that this unknown extent of uninhabited transmontane land, widely renowned for beauty, richness, and fertility, should excite grandiose dreams in the minds of English and Colonials alike. England was said to be "New Land mad and everybody there has his eye fixed on this country." Groups of wealthy or well-to-do individuals organized themselves into land companies for the colonization and exploitation of the West. The pioneer promoter was a powerful creative force in westward expansion; and the activities of the early land companies were decisive factors in the colonization of the wilderness. Whether acting under the authority of a crown grant or proceeding on their own authority, the land companies tended to give stability and permanence to settlements otherwise hazardous and insecure.
The second determinative impulse of the pioneer civilization was wanderlust--the passionately inquisitive instinct of the hunter, the traveler, and the explorer. This restless class of nomadic wanderers was responsible in part for the royal proclamation of 1763, a secondary object of which, according to Edmund Burke, was the limitation of the colonies on the West, as "the charters of many of our old colonies give them, with few exceptions, no bounds to the westward but the South Sea." The Long Hunters, taking their lives in their hands, fared boldly forth to a fabled hunter's paradise in the far-away wilderness, because they were driven by the irresistible desire of a Ponce de Leon or a De Soto to find out the truth about the unknown lands beyond.
But the hunter was not only thrilled with the passion of the chase and of discovery; he was intent also upon collecting the furs and skins of wild animals for lucrative barter and sale in the centers of trade. He was quick to make "tomahawk claims" and to assert "corn rights" as he spied out the rich virgin land for future location and cultivation. Free land and no taxes appealed to the backwoodsman, tired of paying quit-rents to the agents of wealthy lords across the sea. Thus the settler speedily followed in the hunter's wake. In his wake also went many rude and lawless characters of the border, horse thieves and criminals of different sorts, who sought to hide their delinquencies in the merciful liberality of the wilderness. For the most part, however, it was the salutary instinct of the homebuilder--the man with the ax, who made a little clearing in the forest and built there a rude cabin that he bravely defended at all risks against continued assaults--which, in defiance of every restraint, irresistibly thrust westward the thin and jagged line of the frontier. The ax and the surveyor's chain, along with the rifle and the hunting-knife, constituted the armorial bearings of the pioneer. With individual as with corporation, with explorer as with landlord, land-hunger was the master impulse of the era.
The various desires which stimulated and promoted westward expansion were, to be sure, often found in complete conjunction. The trader sought to exploit the Indian for his own advantage, selling him whisky, trinkets, and firearms in return for rich furs and costly peltries; yet he was often a hunter himself and collected great stores of peltries as the result of his solitary and protracted hunting-expeditions. The rancher and the herder sought to exploit the natural vegetation of marsh and upland, the cane-brakes and pea-vines; yet the constantly recurring need for fresh pasturage made him a pioneer also, drove him ever nearer to the mountains, and furnished the economic motive for his westward advance. The small farmer needed the virgin soil of the new region, the alluvial river-bottoms, and the open prairies, for the cultivation of his crops and the grazing of his cattle; yet in the intervals between the tasks of farm life he scoured the wilderness in search of game "and spied out new lands for future settlement".
This restless and nomadic race, says the keenly observant Francis Baily, "delight much to live on the frontiers, where they can enjoy undisturbed, and free from the control of any laws, the blessings which nature has bestowed upon them." Independence of spirit, impatience of restraint, the inquisitive nature, and the nomadic temperament--these are the strains in the American character of the eighteenth century which ultimately blended to create a typical democracy. The rolling of wave after wave of settlement westward across the American continent, with a reversion to primitive conditions along the line of the farthest frontier, and a marked rise in the scale of civilization at each successive stage of settlement, from the western limit to the eastern coast, exemplifies from one aspect the history of the American people during two centuries. This era, constituting the first stage in our national existence, and productive of a buoyant national character shaped in democracy upon a free soil, closed only yesterday with the exhaustion of cultivable free land, the disappearance of the last frontier, and the recent death of "Buffalo Bill". The splendid inauguration of the period, in the region of the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, during the second half of the eighteenth century, is the theme of this story of the pioneers of the Old Southwest.
Chapter I. The Migration of the Peoples
Inhabitants flock in here daily, mostly from Pensilvania and other parts of America, who are over-stocked with people and Mike directly from Europe, they commonly seat themselves towards the West, and have got near the mountains.--Gabriel Johnston, Governor of North Carolina, to the Secretary of the Board of Trade, February 15, 1751.
At the opening of the eighteenth century the tide of population had swept inland to the "fall line", the westward boundary of the established settlements. The actual frontier had been advanced by the more aggressive pioneers to within fifty miles of the Blue Ridge. So rapid was the settlement in North Carolina that in the interval 1717-32 the population quadrupled in numbers. A map of the colonial settlements in 1725 reveals a narrow strip of populated land along the Atlantic coast, of irregular indentation, with occasional isolated nuclei of settlements further in the interior. The civilization thus established continued to maintain a close and unbroken communication with England and the Continent. As long as the settlers, for economic reasons, clung to the coast, they reacted but slowly to the transforming influences of the frontier.. Within a triangle of continental altitude with its apex in New England, bounded on the east by the Atlantic, and on the west by the Appalachian range, lay the settlements, divided into two zones--tidewater and piedmont. As no break occurred in the great mountain system south of the Hudson and Mohawk valleys, the difficulties of cutting a passage through the towering wall of living green long proved an effective obstacle to the crossing of the grim mountain barrier.
In the beginning the settlements gradually extended westward from the coast in irregular outline, the indentations taking form around such natural centers of attraction as areas of fertile soil, frontier posts, mines, salt-springs, and stretches of upland favorable for grazing. After a time a second advance of settlement was begun in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, running in a southwesterly direction along the broad terraces to the east of the Appalachian Range, which in North Carolina lies as far as two hundred and fifty miles from the sea. The Blue Ridge in Virginia and a belt of pine barrens in North Carolina were hindrances to this advance, but did not entirely check it. This second streaming of the population thrust into the long, narrow wedge of the piedmont zone a class of people differing in spirit and in tendency from their more aristocratic and complacent neighbors to the east.
These settlers of the Valley of Virginia and the North Carolina piedmont region--English, Scotch-Irish, Germans, Scotch, Irish, Welsh, and a few French--were the first pioneers of the Old Southwest. From the joint efforts of two strata of population, geographically, socially, and economically distinct--tidewater and piedmont, Old South and New South--originated and flowered the third and greatest movement of westward expansion, opening with the surmounting of the mountain barrier and ending in the occupation and assumption of the vast medial valley of the continent.
Synchronous with the founding of Jamestown in Virginia, significantly enough, was the first planting of Ulster with the English and Scotch. Emigrants from the Scotch Lowlands, sometimes as many as four thousand a year (1625), continued throughout the century to pour into Ulster. "Those of the North of Ireland . . .," as pungently described in 1679 by the Secretary of State, Leoline Jenkins, to the Duke of Ormond, "are most Scotch and Scotch breed and are the Northern Presbyterians and phanatiques, lusty, able bodied, hardy and stout men, where one may see three or four hundred at every meeting-house on Sunday, and all the North of Ireland is inhabited by these, which is the popular place of all Ireland by far. They are very numerous and greedy after land." During the quarter of a century after the English Revolution of 1688 and the Jacobite uprising in Ireland, which ended in 1691 with the complete submission of Ireland to William and Mary, not less than fifty thousand Scotch, according to Archbishop Synge, settled in Ulster. Until the beginning of the eighteenth century there was no considerable emigration to America; and it was first set up as a consequence of English interference with trade and religion. Repressive measures passed by the English parliament (1665 1699), prohibiting the exportation from Ire land to England and Scotland of cattle, beef, pork, dairy products, etc., and to any country whatever of manufactured wool, had aroused deep resentment among the Scotch-Irish, who had built up a great commerce. This discontent was greatly aggravated by the imposition of religious disabilities upon the Presbyterians, who, in addition to having to pay tithes for the support of the established church, were excluded from all civil and military office (1704), while their ministers were made liable to penalties for celebrating marriages.
This pressure upon a high-spirited people resulted inevitably in an exodus to the New World. The principal ports by which the Ulsterites entered America were Lewes and Newcastle (Delaware), Philadelphia and Boston. The streams of immigration steadily flowed up the Delaware Valley; and by 1720 the Scotch-Irish began to arrive in Bucks County. So rapid was the rate of increase in immigration that the number of arrivals soon mounted from a few hundred to upward of six thousand, in a single year (1729); and within a few years this number was doubled. According to the meticulous Franklin, the proportion increased from a very small element of the population of Pennsylvania in 1700 to one fourth of the whole in 1749, and to one third of the whole (350,000) in 1774. Writing to the Penns in 1724, James Logan, Secretary of the Province, caustically refers to the Ulster settlers on the disputed Maryland line as "these bold and indigent strangers, saying as their excuse when challenged for titles, that we had solicited for colonists and they had come accordingly." The spirit of these defiant squatters is succinctly expressed in their statement to Logan that it "was against the laws of God and nature that so much land should be idle while so many Christians wanted it to work on and to raise their bread."
The rising scale of prices for Pennsylvania lands, changing from ten pounds and two shillings quit-rents per hundred acres in 1719 to fifteen pounds ten shillings per hundred acres with a quit-rent of a halfpenny per acre in 1732, soon turned the eyes of the thrifty Scotch-Irish settlers southward and southwestward. In Maryland in 1738 lands were offered at five pounds sterling per hundred acres. Simultaneously, in the Valley of Virginia free grants of a thousand acres per family were being made. In the North Carolina piedmont region the proprietary, Lord Granville, through his agents was disposing of the most desirable lands to settlers at the rate of three shillings proclamation money for six hundred and forty acres, the unit of land-division; and was also making large free grants on the condition of seating a certain proportion of settlers. "Lord Carteret's land in Carolina," says North Carolina's first American historian, "where the soil was cheap, presented a tempting residence to people of every denomination. Emigrants from the north of Ireland, by the way of Pennsylvania, flocked to that country; and a considerable part of North Carolina . . . is inhabited by those people or their descendants." From 1740 onward, attracted by the rich lure of cheap and even free lands in Virginia and North Carolina, a tide of immigration swept ceaselessly into the valleys of the Shenandoah, the Yadkin, and the Catawba. The immensity of this mobile, drifting mass, which sometimes brought "more than 400 families with horse waggons and cattle" into North Carolina in a single year (1752-3), is attested by the fact that from 1732 to 1754, mainly as the result of the Scotch-Irish inundation, the population of North Carolina more than doubled.
The second important racial stream of population in the settlement of the same region was composed of Germans, attracted to this country from the Palatinate. Lured on by the highly colored stories of the commercial agents for promoting immigration--the "newlanders," who were thoroughly unscrupulous in their methods and extravagant in their representations--a migration from Germany began in the second decade of the eighteenth century and quickly assumed alarming proportions. Although certain of the emigrants were well-to-do, a very great number were "redemptioners" (indentured servants), who in order to pay for their transportation were compelled to pledge themselves to several years of servitude. This economic condition caused the German immigrant, wherever he went, to become a settler of the back country, necessity compelling him to pass by the more expensive lands near the coast.
For well-nigh sixty years the influx of German immigrants of various sects was very great, averaging something like fifteen hundred a year into Pennsylvania alone from 1727 to 1775. Indeed, Pennsylvania, one third of whose population at the beginning of the Revolution was German, early became the great distributing center for the Germans as well as for the Scotch-Irish. Certainly by 1727 Adam Miller and his fellow Germans had established the first permanent white settlement in the Valley of Virginia. By 1732 Jost Heydt, accompanied by sixteen families, came from York, Pennsylvania, and settled on the Opeckon River, in the neighborhood of the present Winchester. There is no longer any doubt that "the portion of the Shenandoah Valley sloping to the north was almost entirely settled by Germans."
It was about the middle of the century that these pioneers of the Old Southwest, the shrewd, industrious, and thrifty Pennsylvania Germans (who came to be generally called "Pennsylvania Dutch" from the incorrect translation of Pennsylvanische Deutsche), began to pour into the piedmont region of North Carolina. In the autumn, after the harvest was in, these ambitious Pennsylvania pioneers would pack up their belongings in wagons and on beasts of burden and head for the southwest, trekking down in the manner of the Boers of South Africa. This movement into the fertile valley lands of the Yadkin and the Catawba continued unabated throughout the entire third quarter of the century. Owing to their unfamiliarity with the English language and the solidarity of their instincts, the German settlers at first had little share in government. But they devotedly played their part in the defense of the exposed settlements and often bore the brunt of Indian attack.
The bravery and hardihood displayed by the itinerant missionaries sent out by the Pennsylvania Synod under the direction of Count Zinzendorf (1742-8), and by the Moravian Church (1748-53), are mirrored in the numerous diaries, written in German, happily preserved to posterity in religious archives of Pennsylvania and North Carolina. These simple, earnest crusaders, animated by pure and unselfish motives, would visit on a single tour of a thousand miles the principal German settlements in Maryland and Virginia (including the present West Virginia). Sometimes they would make an extended circuit through North Carolina, South Carolina, and even Georgia, everywhere bearing witness to the truth of the gospel and seeking to carry the most elemental forms of the Christian (CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE, CLICK HERE)