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This webpage reproduces an item in the
Tennessee Historical Magazine

published by the
Tennessee Historical Society

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Vol. VI
p46
The North Carolina-Tennessee Boundary Line Survey (1799).

The State of North Carolina, by an act of her Legislature, in 1789 authorized a cession of all her western territory to the United States, through the execution of a deed of conveyance by her Senators in behalf of the State. This Act of 1789, Chapter 3, the deed made in pursuance thereof, and the Tennessee Constitution of 1796, Article 11, Section 32, and the Constitution of 1870, all agree as to the description of the boundary line between North Carolina and the ceded territory, as follows:

"Beginning on the extreme height of the Stone Mountain, at the place where the Virginia line intersects it, running thence along the extreme height of said mountain to the place where Watauga river breaks through it; thence a direct course to the top of the Yellow Mountain where Bright's Road crosses the same; thence along the ridge of said mountain between the waters of Doe river and the waters of Rock creek, to the place where the road crosses the Iron Mountain, thence along the extreme height of said mountain to where Nolachucky river runs through the same, thence to the top of Bald Mountain; thence along the extreme height of said mountain to the Pointed Rock, one French Broad river," etc.

In 1796, soon after the State of Tennessee was admitted to the Union, North Carolina passed an act (Laws 1796, Ch. 18) providing for accurately and distinctly running, marking and permanently establishing this boundary line, and named Joseph McDowell, Mussendine Matthews and David Vance as commissioners on the part of North Carolina to meet commissioners who might be appointed by the State of Tennessee for the purpose; and directed them, in conjunction with the Tennessee commissioners, to establish the line agreeable to the true intent and meaning of the cession act. It was also provided that a copy of the act be certified to the Governor of Tennessee with the request that commissioners be appointed to represent that State in the survey; but that if Tennessee failed to make appointments, then that the three North Carolina commissioners were authorized and required to proceed by themselves in effecting the purpose of the act.

Commissioners Appointed.

The Tennessee legislature took no steps for the appointment of commissioners to co‑operate with those of the mother State; and the commissioners of North Carolina proceeded, in April and May, 1799,a1 to locate this line from the Virginia State line to Paint Rock on the French Broad river. On October 15, 1799, their report was certified and filed; and at the p47next session of the North Carolina Assembly it came up for action, after reference to committees. There was objection urged in that body to the survey because of a claimed departure by the commissioners at one point in the survey. The claim of error was in that a part of North Carolina's ceded territory was by the survey left in North Carolina. It appears that the commissioners, on reaching the peak just north of Watauga river ran (May 2d and 3d) a direct line to the peak known as the Bald ofº the Yellow Mountain, disregarding the watershed. They construed that to be the requirement of this call of the cession act:

"To the place where Watauga river breaks through it (the mountain range), thence a direct course to the top of Yellow Mountain."

This straight line cut off a considerable section of territory on the waters flowing westward, finally into the Tennessee river. This, notwithstanding "the lands westward of said mountain," was broadly referred to by the cession act.

Notwithstanding this objection, the General Assembly of North Carolina approved and confirmed the report at the same session.

On December 30, 1802, Governor Archibald Roane, by letter addressed to Governor James Turner of North Carolina, requested a certified copy of the report and of the plot of the survey, showing the location and calls of the line. This request was complied with on July 10, 1803, the Secretary of State of North Carolina, transmitting a copy, which is now on file in the office of the Archivist of Tennessee.

Legislative Action.

The Tennessee Legislature passed an act (Acts 1805, Chapter 47) reciting that the line had not been correctly run inasmuch as it was believed that the North Carolina commissioners left the main Bald Mountain and took a ridge running in an easterly direction to the lower Paint Rock on French Broad river, contrary to the true intent of the cession act; and John Shields, of Cocke County, and Robert Nelson, of Greene County, were named as commissioners to act with commissioners to be appointed by North Carolina in re-running the line. It was directed that a report be made to the next General Assembly, but no step appears to have been taken under the act by either State.

In 1832, the Legislature of Tennessee in a resolution referred to the above act of 1805, and the Governor was requested to open correspondence with the Governor of North Carolina respecting it, but nothing was done at that time.1

p48 During the first administration of Governor Robert L. Taylor the General Assembly of Tennessee passed an act (Acts 1885, Chapter 80) appointing William E. Tilson, Frank H. Hannum and David White, all of Unicoi County, to act in conjunction with commissioners of North Carolina, in running and marking the true line, commencing on the Iron (Unaka) Mountain at the Indian Grave Gap and running to the point where the Jonesboro and Asheville road passes through a gap of Bald Mountain. North Carolina appointed a commission headed by James M. Gudger to act in her behalf. The two sets of commissioners met, but could not agree. The North Carolinians insisted upon the line as it had been run by the commissioners of North Carolina in 1799, and the Tennesseans stood for a line which would conform to the watershed or Alleghany crest.

Resultant Litigation.

This failure to reach an agreement gave rise to a prolonged litigation in regard to the true location of the State line, the dispute being over a wedge-like strip of land setting in at and lying south of the Nolachucky river gorge. Suit was first brought in the United States Circuit Court at Asheville, North Carolina, by Tennessee claimants. That camp held that it, as a court sitting in North Carolina, had no jurisdiction because the lands were not in that State. It appeared to that court that the United States topographical Survey truly showed the line to be favorable to those who claimed, under Tennessee titles, to the watershed of the Alleghany Mountains.

It may be remarked that in all maps ever issued by the various departments of the State government of North Carolina, save one issued in 1882 by W. C. Kerr, this line was indicated to run at this point with the crest of the mountain range. So do maps put out by Tennessee, the United States and all unofficial publishers.

The contest was over the location of the call:

"Along the extreme height of Iron mountain to where the Nolachucky river runs through the same (mountains), thence to the top of Bald Mountain."

The North Carolina commission in 1799 ran a direct line, though none was called for in terms, from Iron Mountain at the breaks of the Nolachucky to Little Bald Mountain, with the result that the heads of streams flowing westward were by them left in North Carolina.

The litigation above referred to was renewed in the Tennessee courts and finally settled by the Supreme Court of Tennessee in 1915, in McCarty vs. Carolina Lumber Company, 134 p49Tenn. 35, the decision in which sustained the survey made by the commission in 1799. The writer was of counsel in the above suits and there came into his hands a copy of a diary kept by John Strother, a surveyor employed by the commissioners, in which was kept the occurrences of each day — a document separate and distinct from the book of field-notes, and one full of interest.

Personnel of the Commissioners.

General Joseph McDowell, of the commission, was from Burke County. He led North Carolina troops in the battle of King's Mountain, and in the spring of 1781 against Lord Cornwallis. He served in the North Carolina House of Commons in 1787, 1788, 1791, and 1792. He represented his district in Congress 1793‑95 and 1797‑99. He died in 1801 at age of forty-four years, "the idol of the western people of North Carolina."

David Vance was of Scotch-Irish descent; born in Frederick County, Virginia, about 1748. He removed to Burke County, N. C., and became a surgeon. Served with Washington at Brandywine and Germantown, and later was in the South Carolina campaign and in the battle of King's Mountain. After the war, he was a member of the House of Commons in 1786 and 1791. At the time of service on the boundary commission he resided in Buncombe County. He was the grandfather of Governor and Senator Zeb Vance and Hon. R. B. Vance, of North Carolina.

Mussendine Matthews was of less note. Judge David Schench said of him that "he represented Iredell County in the North Carolina House of Commons from 1789 to 1802 continuously. He was either a Tory or a cynic, it seems."

Robert Henry, a soldier of the Revolution, was one of the surveyors, John Strother, the diarist, being the other. His diary, never printed in full before, follows, with annotations by the present writer:

Diary of John Strother.

April 12th, 1799 Set out from Asheville Buncombe Cty in order to meet ye Commissioners appointed by the State of North Carolina to run the line between that State & ye State of Tennessee at Capt Robert Nalls on New River where I arrived the 17th Inst. Met with Majr Mussendineº Matthews one of the Commrs, his son & Mr. Joseph McDowell & Colo David Vance the other two Commissioners & the rest of the Company. Ye 18th, No news of McDowell & Vance. Went to Mr. Elsburgs to wait their arrival.

19th Still at Elsburgs in a state of suspense.

p50 20th Colo Vance & Mjr B––––– Collins arrived last night. We left Elsburgs & went to Capt Isaac Weavers where the Company all met composed of the following gentlemen (to wit) Genl Jos McDowell, Colo D. Vance, Majr Mussendine Mathewsº Commissioners.

Myself & Mr. Robt. Henry Surveyors.

Messrs B Collins James Hawkins George Penland Robt. Logan Geo. Davidson & John Matthews chain bearers and markers, Majr James Neely Commissary, two pack horse men & a pilot.

Set out from Weavers went half a m & camped on Stag Creek.

21st Tuesdaya2 — Set out at 8 o. c. went up Stag Creek 3 m. then assended the ridge dividing ye water of Laurel Cr. Continued on said ridge about 7 m. to a place called the lower Rye Patch where we refreshed ourselves till 3 o. c. P.M. then continued our route 4 m. to camp at the foot of ye Stone Mn and spent ye evening agreeably.

Wednesday 22d — After taking a hearty breakfast we set out and assended the Stone Mountain to ye top found it very steep & the name very applicable. Continued on the mountain ¾ m. to a place called the Upper Rye Patch where we camped & Majr Matthews myself the pilot & two chain bearers set out in order to find the place where the Virginia line crosses the extreme height of the Stone Mountain. After some hours search we found it in a low gap between the head of Horsepen Cr. of New River & a branch of Laurel of Holston River 2 or 3 m. S. W. from the white top mountain. We run the line between the State of N. C. & T. on the extreme height of the Stone Mn to our camp at the Upper Rye Patch where we feasted sumptuously on stewed venison & bacon while the rest of the company went back to see the place where we set out with the line from ye Virginia.

Thursday 23d A — After a pleasant night rest & a hearty breakfast we set out & continued the line on the extreme height of the Iron or Stone Mn through extreme rough ground and some bad Laurel Thickets to a low gap2 at the head of the Laurel fork of Holston & the head of a branch of the Laurel fork on N. R.,3 where we camped at a very bad place for that purpose.

Friday 24th A. We had but an indifferent nights rest, the wind blew extremely hard, the horses were much scattered this morning & were troublesome to find, however they were at length collected. We eat breakfast packed up and continued the line some miles to the head of a rich Hollow where we found good water; refreshed ourselves an hour, then set out & continued the line about ½ m when it set in and rained most powerfully which obliged us to take up camp at the most convenient place or rather the first place that offered as it is but at certain places where water can be had in a reasonable distance down the mountain; had a very uncomfortable wet evening.

Saturday 25th. We had a very disagreeable night; the morning appears gloomy; some of our horses lost. Mr. Logan cut his foot; it will be bad. The horses were at length found we all eat our breakfast & set out on the line went ¾ m.; it set in and rained p51hard and obliged to take up camp at the first place that offered which was a br. of Roans creek where we spent an uncomfortable evening; the next day being the Lords day we spent it here in prayers for a pleasant Tour to ye painted rock. Genl McDowell left us this day; he is sick.4

Monday 27th A fine pleasant morning set out on the line at 7 o. c. and continued about 1½ m. to the top of a high knob from which the mns appearsº in every direction high and craggy; the view is wild and romantic yet the greatest part of the mns through which we passed for some miles back are very rich and covered with rich herbage the timber generally sugar tree & Buckeye. We continued on till evening over rich mns & camped at place we called romp camp in a low gap between the left hand fork of the beaver dam Cr of New River & a branch of Roans Cr where we spent the evening very agreeably.

Tuesday 28 A fine morning. Set out at 8 o. c. and continued the line on through rich fertile mountain a few miles to a low gap where we encamped at 2 o. c. Our pilot not being acquainted with the dividing ridges further than this place Majr Matthews and myself set out in search of a pilot; went to a Mr. Millers where Majr Matthews got a young man as pilot & returned next day to the place where we left the rest of the company. I went from Millers to Cove Creek where I got a Mr. Curtis and met the Company in a low gap between the waters of Cove Cr & Roans creek where the road xes ye same.5 On Wednesday night the 29th Inst, I was informed by Mr. Henry that Matthews pilote was no woodsman. Of course he was discharged; from where I left the company to this place the Mns Generally rich & fertile.

Thursday 30th A — After a comfortable nights rest we eat a hearty breakfast & set out on the line, the morning gloomy; all continued the line about 2 m. when it set in and rained hard which obliged us to take up camp in a low gap6 between the waters of p52Cove Cr & Roans Cr where we had an uncomfortable wet evening, the gnats most insufferably bad.

Friday 31st A.º We had a blustering rainy night, severe lightning & some hard claps of thunder; the Company very little the better of their nights rest; drank a cup of coffee, eat some broiled bacon & Johnny cakes then set out on the line with the prospects of a fair day; assended the Stone Mn. Continued on the extreme height 6 m to the Star Gap on ye same where we camped as much fatigued as men could be in going that distance through Locust thickets over rocky knobs & narrow ridges almost impassable.

Saturday 1st May — After being much refreshed from our last nights rest eat a hearty Breakfast started and continued ye State line along the extreme height of ye Stone Mn.; in the course of one m. seen a very large Rattlebug; attempted to kill it but it was too souple in the heels for us; continued about 2 m further took several observations of ye Yellow Mn; ground very rough. Came to Wattaga River at a very rocky place. Crossed on rocks and proceeded near one mile where we encamped on a handsome eminence near a good spring; one of our party turned out and killed a two year old bear, very poor upon which and some bacon stewed together with some good tea and Johnny cake we made a Sabbaths morning breakfast fit for a European Lord.

Monday 2d M. The company being much refreshed we breakfasted & started early this morning and continued the State line 3 or 4 miles through very rough hilly ground and encamped on ye waters of Elk Creek; had a pleasant evening; the gnats extremely troublesome here as well as in all other places in the Mns at this season.

Tuesday 3tha3 M. Set out on the line at 7 o. c. a fair morning. Continued it about 3 or 4 m through extreme bad ground. Crossed Elk Creek assended a steep spur; crossed & encamped at a place where there was nothing but honeysuckle & Laurel for our horses to feed on; this camp is called Camp Poverty.

Wednesday 5th M. After a good nights rest (it being windy the gnats did not plague us) we eat a hearty breakfast and examined the provision bags which appeared to decline fast; the consumption has been imperceptibly stealing on them for some days past and I am apprehensive they will fail to supply us longer than tomorrow unless a speedy remedy is applied. We set out at 7 o. c. & continued the line through extreme bad ground to a low gap on a ridge leading from the ripshin Mn to ye yellow moun'n where encamped at a good spring; an excellent range. Majr Neely turned off the line today & went to Doe River settlements7 for a fresh supply of provisions & is to met us at ye yellow Mn.

p53 Thursday 6th M. A pleasant clear morning; slep sound & comfortable last night; had no gnats to trouble us. Breakfasted on short allowance and set out on the line at 7 o. c.; went about 2 m to the top of the yellow Mn ½ m from ye yellow spot on a course N. W. by W. at Brights path;8 then went to ye yellow spot in order to take observations but was disappointed by a hard thunder storm; the lightning and thunder was so severe that it was truly alarming; the Trees at this place is just a creeping out of there winters garb. We went back and continued the line to a low gap at the head of Roaring or Sugar Creek of Towe R9 and a creek of Doe R at the road leading from Morganton to Jonesborough where we encamped as wet as we could be. Mr ––––– Hawkins & myself went down Sugar Cr to a Mr Currys, where we got a good supper & a bed to sleep in.

Friday 7th. This morning very wet & is still a raining; took Breakfast with Mrs. Currey; got our clothes washed & went to camp where Maj Neely met us with a fresh supply of provision; it rained all day; of course we are still at our camp at ye head of Sugar Cr.

Saturday 8th. A pleasant fair morning we packed up and proceeded with the line, 4 or 5 m.; crossed a high spur of the Roan Mn to a low gap therein where we encamped at a pleasant Beech flat & good spring; spent the Sabbath day in taking observations from the high spur we crossed; in gathering the fer oil of ye Balsam of Pine which is found on this mountain, in collecting a root said to be an excellent preventative against the bite of a rattlesnake and in viewing the wonderful scene this conspicuous situation affords. There is no shrubbage grows on the tops of this Mn for several mile, say; & the wind has such power on the top of this mountain that the ground is blowed in deep holes all over the North west sides. The prospects from the Roan Mn is more conspicuous than from any other part of the Appelatchinb Mns.10

Monday 10th Set out on the State line at 7 o. c. with the pleasing prospect of a fair day; assended a high spur of the Roan Mn; took sundry observations of the neighboring Mns. Proceeded on between head of Rock C. & Doe R to a low gap; got some good water; marked initials of my name on a Sugar tree; proceeded on the line a few miles and encamped in a low gap at the head of a Cr of Doe R & Rock Creek.

p54 Tuesday 11th. After a comfortable nights rest we breakfasted early and set out at 7 o. c.; a pleasant morn'g. Continued the line through rough woods to the foot of the Iron Mn where all encamped at a pleasant place and good spring. Called it Strothers Camp where we spent ye evening quite agreeable.

Wednesday 12th M. Spent the forepart of the last night agreeable; was entertained with some good songs, then raped ourselves up in our blankets & slep sound till this morning; arose collected our horses eat our Break't packed up and started on the line. Colo Vance & Neely went to the Limestone settlements for a Pilote; returned to us on the line at 2 o. c. with a Mr. Collier11 as Pilot & two gallons whis'y; we stop; drank our own health & proceeded on the line; assended a steep spur of the Unaker Mn got into a bad Laurel thicket. Cut our way some distance; night come on, we turned off & camped at a very bad place — it being a steep Laurelly hollow — but the whiskey had such marvelous powers that it made the place tolerably comfortable.

Thursday 13th. This morning our pilot informs us that the Pack horses cannot proceed on with the line the Mns through which it runs being impassable for two or three days march; myself together with the chain B'rs & Markers packed our provisions on our backs, and proceed on with the line. The horses & rest of the Comp'y was conducted round by the pilot a different route; we continued the line through a bad laurel thicket to ye top of ye Unaker Mn and along the same about 3 m & camped at a bad laurelly branch.

Friday 14th. Set out early; went through a bad laurel thicket into a low gap where we got clear of laurel and continued on the extreme height of the Unaker Mn to the Path in ye same from ye Hollow poplar to ye Greasy Cove12 met our Company; it rained hard; we encamped on ye top of ye Mn ½ m. from water; had an uncomfortable evening.

Saturday 15th M. This morning I prevailed with the Commissioners to discharge Mr. Collier as the information he gave respecting the Unaker Mn was false; of course he could not be acquainted with the leading Mn & was only an imposture; he was discharged & we continued on the state line to ye place where Nolichucky breaks through the Unaker or Iron Mn;13 finding it impracticable to take horses fromº this place on the line to ye Bald Mn Mr Henry, the chain Bearers & Markers took provision on their backs proceeded on the line14 & the horses went round by the Greasy Cove & met the rest of the Comp'y on Sunday; on the top of the bald Mn where we tarried till Tuesday Morning.15

p55 Tuesday 18th M. Set out early this morning on ye line. Colo Robt Love our Pilot; continued it along on the extreme Height16 of the Mn about 5 m to a logº gap between the head of Indian Cr & the waters of So fork of laurel where we encamped and called it Vances Camp; the Mns which we passed today is generally good & rich.

Wednesday 19th M. The gnats was very severe on us last night. Collected our horses packed up and set out 7 o. c.; fair morning; proceeded on the line 4 or 5 m over some very steep rough knobs to Boons Cove17 between the waters of Laurel & Indian Cr where we encamped and spent the evening quite agreeable.

Thursday 20th. Set out at 7 o. c.; proceed on the line 4 m over steep Rocky & Brushy Knobs, and encamped on ye waters of Indian Cr. ½ m. from the line; this days march was very severe, water scarce & that a considerable distance from the line; had but an indifferent nights rest; the ground being very steep where we encamped was the cause of our resting but little; add to this the severity of gnats.

Friday 21st. Our horses rambled a mile or two from camp; bad range; at length they were collected, and at 8 o. c. on the line proceeded on about 3 m. on a high Buckeye ridge to a thick laurelly, narrow, Rocky ridge, impassable for man or horse; attempted to go around it; continued ½ m. through laurel & rocks & encamped at a rocky Br of Laurel River; no food for our horses; they suffered much for two days both for water & food.18

Saturday 22d. Made an early start; the horses looks very bad. Cut our way up to ye top of ye Mn & proceed on with the line 1¼ m.; was four hours & 23 mts going this distance; got through the laurel & came into an open flat, top Beech Mn where we encamped till Monday at a good spring & excellent range for our horses.

p56 Monday 24th. Our provisions is getting very much exhausted; set out at 6 o. c. and proceed on the line 6 m went over on very high rough laurelly knob & through some poor flat top Mns; Xed the road leading from Barnets Station19 to the Brushy Cove and encamped in a low gap between the waters of Paint Cr and Laurel River; had a wet evening. Suped on venison stewed with a recruit of Bacon Majr Neely brought us this day from ye Brushy Cove settlement.

Tuesday 25th — Set out early Proceeded on the line about 3 m. over very poor Brushy Knobs, then missed the right ridge and fell in and encamped in a fork of Paint Cr. where we had a very uncomfortable time of it.

Wednesday 26th. The Surveyors, Markers & Chain Bearers set out early this morning & took the line onº the right ridge from ye place we got off of it & proceeded on the line 5 m. & encamped between the waters of F. B. R.20 & Paint Cr.

Thursday 27th. This morning is cloudy & Hasey; the Commissioners being anctoous to get on to the Painted rock Started us early; went on with the line a small distance; took a wrong ridge and fell into another fork of Paint Cr.; returned and encamped on the right ridge where we spent our time uncomfortable this evening.

Friday 28th. Set out very early and proceeded on the line about 4 m to the Painted rock on F. B. River, about 5 m below the Warm Springs;21 measured the height of the rock and found it to be 107 feet 3 Inches high from the top to the base; it rather projects over. The face of the rock bears but few traces of its having formerly been painted — owing to its being smoked by pine knots and other wood from a place at its base where Travellers have frequently camped — in the year 1790 it was not much smoked; the Pictures of some human's — wild beasts fish & fowls were to be seen plainly made with red paint, some of them 20 & 30 feet from its base.

There is another rock on F. B. river about 7 m higher up on the opposite side or S. W. side in a very obscure place which some gentlemen of Tennessee wish to construe as the painted rock referred to in an act of the Genl assembly of No. Carolina entitled an act to cede to the United States certain western lands therein described. But it is to be observed that there is no Rock on French Broad River, that ever was known as the painted rock, but the one first described, which has ever since the River F. Broad was explored by white men been a place of Publick Notriety.

There may be and I believe there is a rock known by a few Hunters as the paint'd rock Situate about 7 m above the painted Rock on the S. W. side of French Broad River opposite to an Island known by the name of the Mountain Island, but it is so obscure a place, p57that but few know of it & them few knows it as the paint rock; so that it appears to me, that the rock first described is unquestionably the rock on F. B. River contemplated by the act of the Genl assembly before aluded to. This rock is situated on the N. E. side of French Broad River just above the mouth of a Cr. emptying in ye same side called paint Creek — from whence the river runs S. W. 10 m. then winds to ye N. W. & W. 15 m & receives the mouth of Big pigeon, &c. &c.

We then went up to the Warm Springs where we spent the evening in conviviality and friendship.

Saturday 29th. The company set out for home to which place I wish them a safe arrival and happy reception as for myself — I stay at the Springs to get clear of the fatigue of the Tour.

Sam'l C. Williams.

(Editor)


The Editor's Notes:

1 Whitney, Land Law, 632; Acts Tenn. 1832, p58.

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2 Called "Cut Laurel Gap" at the present time because the road through it is literally cut through a thick growth of laurel for a mile. A small hotel stands here, the State line running through the building.

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3 New River.

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4 It was on this rainy Saturday, or the Sunday following, that two of the soldiers of the Revolution (Gen. Joseph McDowell and Col. David Vance) in familiar conversation were led by questions put by the younger men of the party to relate to the chain-bearers, markers and horsemen gathered around them, their accounts of the battle of King's Mountain. These accounts were reduced to writing by one of the party and were preserved by Robert Henry. These statements were obtained by Draper, who frequently cited and quoted from them in his "King's Mountain and Its Heroes." These accounts of the battle by Vance and McDowell appear in full in Trinity College Historical Papers, Series III, 24‑35, 78‑90, with a prefatory statement: "A wet day happened when we were at the head of the round-about on the Stone Mountain. Our bark camp was soon fixed, and Col. Vance gave the account, ending with the details of the battle of King's Mountain. . . . whereupon Musendine Matthews observed: 'Oh! You would have been a formidable and destructive set of blue hen's chickens among eggs, if each one of you had been provided with a good stick. When anybody pretends to tell the story of that transaction, it would be to his credit to play the game of shut mouth.' " This cynical remark of Matthews, who must have been of Tory leanings, provoked a detailed statement by McDowell of his recollections. To both statements Henry added his own; and thus, in a bark camp on the crest of the Alleghanies, was preserved data which is among the most valuable in existence in respect to the defeat of Col. Patrick Ferguson at King's Mountain. Of Henry, Draper says: "His memory deserves to be held in grateful remembrance for preserving the narrative of the King's Mountain campaign and battle, so frequently cited in this work." Draper, 259.

Thayer's Note: For several years I was puzzled by the "bark camp", the resources of the Web seemingly unhelpful. I am indebted to alert reader Gerrit Stover who took the time to respond to my bleat for help: he points out that the native American longhouse was a structure made of wood and covered with bark, and surely we have here a temporary camp of cabins similarly built. I've since learned that there were several types of native American structures using the technique, and that colonists found them useful as well, as here. Although wood may rot pretty quickly, bark will actually hold the structure in place for a while after that.

[decorative delimiter]

5 "This, in all probability, is the gap through which Daniel Boone and his party passed in 1769 on their way to Kentucky. It is between Zionville, N. C., and Trade, Tenn., and the gap is so low that one is not conscious of passing over the top of the high mountain. Tradition says that an Indian trail went through the same gap, and traces of it are still visible to the north of the present turnpike." Arthur, History of Western North Carolina, 40. Doubtless the buffaloes first opened the trail.

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6 It was through this gap that Bishop Asbury passed into Tennessee, April 5, 1790: "Slept at the Beaver-Dam in a cabin without a cover, except what a few boards supplied; we had very heavy thunder and lightning, and most hideous yelling of wolves around — with rain which is frequent in the mountains. . . . We were compelled to ride through the rain, and crossed Stone Mountain: — those who wish to know how rough it is may tread in our path. What made it worse to me, was I was looking to see what was become of our guide. I was carried off with full force against a tree that hung across the road some distance from the ground, and my head received a very great jar, which, however, was lessened by my having on a hat that was strong in the crown. We came on to a dismal place called Roan's Creek, which was pretty full." 2 Journal, 69. The bishop crossed here a second time three years later. 2 Ib. 161.

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7 Doe river, a tributary of Watauga river, in Carter County. The gorge of this small stream is one of the finest bits of scenery east of the Rocky Mountains. The East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railway runs through it to Cranberry, N. C.

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8 Bright's Path near Carver's Gap, as it is known at this time, which gap lies between the Yellow and Roan Mountains. Through this gap the great current of travel flowed in the early days from Morganton, N. C., to Jonesboro, Tenn. The ascent to Cloudland Hotel on Roan Mountain is by way of this gap. The troops of Sevier and Campbell passed through this gap on their way to King's Mountain, and encamped at night at a fine spring on Roaring Creek of North Toe river. Andrew Jackson traveled Bright's trail when he came to Jonesboro in 1788.

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9 Toe river, so called in North Carolina, but the same stream became the Nolachucky in Tennessee. The gap here referred to was one of those first used by travelers. Col. Waightstill Avery passed through it in 1777 in going to Long Island of Holston, there to treat with the Cherokee Indians as one of North Carolina's commissioners. Passing up Roaring Creek he heard a war-whoop behind, and spurred his horse and galloped through this gap to the Watauga Settlement on Doe River. When, after the treaty, he returned with his fellow-commissioner, Col. Sharp, he learned from a woman, who had been a prisoner of the Cherokees, that several braves had followed him for some distance and desisted only because they suspected an ambuscade. 10 N. C. Colonial Rec. 713.

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10 Many a tourist who has visited Cloudland Hotel on the crest of Roan Mountain will agree with the diarist in this estimate, as also with a Philadelphian quoted by Zeigler and Crossup in "The Heart of the Alleghenies," 253: "The view from the Roan eclipses anything I have ever seen in the White, Green, Catskill and Virginia mountains."

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11 Charles Collier who lived in Limestone Cove (Unicoi County).

Andre Michaux in his Journal of Travels (Thwaites' "Early Western Travels," III, 990) relates that on March 21, 1796, he "arrived at Limestone Cove and slept at Charles Collier's 18 miles from Colonel Tipton's. The 22d crossed Iron Mountain and arrived at night at David Beeker's 23 miles without seeing a house." The ancestors of the Tennessee family of Colyars lived in Washington county which then included a part of Unicoi County.

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12 Indian Grave gap leading from Hollow Poplar creek to Rock creek, thence into a broad cove, yet known as Greasy Cove, in which is situated Erwin, the county seat of Unicoi County.

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13 At this point the Carolina, Clinchfield & Ohio Railway is constructed through the river gorge. Before it was built the gorge was impassable for any kind of vehicle; the mountains covering the water-break too precipitously.º The railway is primarily a carrier of coal and an immense volume of traffic flows through the break where immigrants into Tennessee dared not venture.

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14 It was this part of the line that was in contest in the case of McCarty v. Carolina Lumber Co., 134 Tenn., 35.

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15 Here was passed Bald Mountain, sometimes called Grier's Bald from the fact that David Grier, a hermit, lived on it for thirty-two years. "In the Heart of the Alleghenies," 271. Disappointed because one of the daughters of Col. David Vance refused to marry him, Grier withdrew to this mountain and built himself a cabin about 1802. The Bald mountain was visited from the Tennessee side by D. H. Strother ("Porte Crayon") in 1856, and his description may be found in Harper's Magazine, XIV, 433, 741, XV, 154, 289.

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16 Arthur, in his "History of Western North Carolina" (pages 44, 59) surmises that Robert Henry met his fate at the home of Col. Robert Love, on this detour, in the daughter of Love, Dorcas, whom he married a few years later. In fact, Love did not reside in the Greasy Cove of Washington County at the time of the boundary survey, he having removed to North Carolina in 1792. 2 American Historical Magazine 248; Allen's Centennial of Haywood County, N. C., 52. He was the agent of John Gray Blount for the latter's western lands and as Blount had an immense North Carolina grant (320,640 acres) which included lands west of the Allegheny water-shed, at this point on the boundary line. It is more probable that Love was purposely present to protect his principal by seeing that the State line was run so as to conform to the grant's western line, thus making it to appear that the grant laid wholly within the jurisdiction of North Carolina.

Robert Love was born in Augusta County, Va., May 11, 1760, and was a soldier of the Revolutionary war. He removed to Washington County, N. C. (now Tennessee) in the fall of 1782, settling in the Greasy Cove, near the present town of Erwin. He was a delegate to the Franklin State Constitutional Convention, and served as lieutenant-colonel for Washington County under the government of the Territory South of the Ohio River. A his removal to Buncombe County, N. C., he was prominent in public affairs, as a member of the legislature, presidential elector and boundary commissioner. Governor Robert Love Taylor bears his name, though it was given in honor of the second Col. Robert Love of Johnson City, son of the early settler.

Thayer's Note: A fuller biographical sketch of Robert Love is given by Samuel Cole Williams, History of the Lost State of Franklin, p336.
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17 A gap evidently named for Daniel Boone; now called Laurel Gap, the cove on the Tennessee side being known as the Flag Pond. It was through this gap that Sevier was taken under arrest to Morganton for trial, following the collapse of the State of Franklin.

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18 Here the party were on the boundary line of Greene County.

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19 Of Colonel J. Barnett, who settled there about 1785, and piloted travelers through the mountains. He adopted the expedient of putting the two big wheels of wagons on the lower side of the sloping mountain roads. Bennett's Chronology of N. C.

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20 French Broad River.

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21 Hot Springs, N. C., a station on the Southern Railway. As far back as 1785 the Warm Springs were resorted to for their curative powers. In a letter written from the State of Franklin to a correspondent in Virginia, August 17, 1785, and printed in the Pennsylvania Packet, September 30, 1785, it was said: "One occurrence more I am sure will rejoice you: A remarkable mineral spring has been found near the banks of the French Broad River. The waters are warm, surpassing perhaps any yet used in America, impregnated with different substances, and prove a sovereign remedy for chronic and scorbutic disorders; several hundred are now at this new bath from the Southern States."


Thayer's Notes:

a1 a2 a3 The expedition almost certainly took place in May and June, 1799; the diary itself is consistent evidence to the fact.

The first date for which a day of the week is given is "21st Tuesday (April)": but April 21, 1799 was a Sunday; after which, the days of the week in this diary are all wrong, but consistently so, by two days. Since our pioneers scrupulously observed Sunday the Lord's Day, the solution to this is surely that it's the months that are wrong: in fact, this "21st Tuesday" is the correct calendar date of Tuesday the 21st of May, and so on thruout. The expedition was not in April and May, but in May and June: the clincher is the date given further on in the diary as "Friday 31st A." — April of course has only thirty days: May cancels the mistake.

Even correcting the months forward by one, "Tuesday 3th M." is an additional error, since the 3rd of June was a Monday. This should probably be "Tuesday 4th"; the curious "3th" may point to an entry for Monday the 3rd skipped by the editor.

The systematic calendrical error in the diary is all the stranger that (1) Strother stayed in a settlement at least once during the period covered, and would surely have known what month it was; (2) he was fairly careful in recording the days of the week; (3) as might be expected of a surveyor, he was of a meticulous bent of mind, frequently records the time of day, and once even notes an interval down to the minute. On the other hand, an editorial mistake by Williams seems out of the question, since it would involve multiple transcription errors of different kinds thruout the text.

The matter might be settled by the official report of the expedition, mentioned above; or better yet — since that official report may have been drawn up as much as three years after the fact — the surveyors' field notes if they still exist.

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b Still today the Appalachian pronunciation of Appalachian — and thus by my lights the only correct one — even if very infrequently heard outside the region.


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Page updated: 5 Aug 13