The “Regulators”

CHAPTER XI. The Regulators

It is not a persons labour, nor yet his effects that will do, but
if he has but one horse to plow with, one bed to lie on, or one
cow to give a little milk for his children, they must all go to
raise money which is not to be had. And lastly if his personal
estate (sold at one tenth of its value) will not do, then his
lands (which perhaps has cost him many years of toil and labour)
must go the same way to satisfy, these cursed hungry
caterpillars, that are eating and will eat out the bowels of our
Commonwealth, if they be not pulled down from their nests in a
very short time.–George Sims: A Serious Address to the
Inhabitants of Granville County, containing an Account of our
deplorable Situation we suffer …. and some necessary Hints with
Respect to a Reformation. June 6, 1765.

It is highly probable that even at the time of his earlier
explorations in behalf of Richard Henderson and Company, Daniel
Boone anticipated speedy removal to the West. Indeed, in the very
year of his first tour in their interest, Daniel and his wife
Rebeckah sold all their property in North Carolina, consisting of
their home and six hundred and forty acres of land, and after
several removals established themselves upon the upper Yadkin.
This removal and the later western explorations just outlined
were due not merely to the spirit of adventure and discovery.
Three other causes also were at work. In the first place there
was the scarcity of game. For fifteen years the shipments of
deerskins from Bethabara to Charleston steadily increased; and
the number of skins bought by Gammern, the Moravian storekeeper,
ran so high that in spite of the large purchases made at the
store by the hunters he would sometimes run entirely out of
money. Tireless in the chase, the far roaming Boone was among
“the hunters, who brought in their skins from as far away as the
Indian lands”; and the beautiful upland pastures and mountain
forests, still teeming with deer and bear, doubtless lured him to
the upper Yadkin, where for a time in the immediate neighborhood
of his home abundance of game fell before his unerring rifle.
Certainly the deer and other game, which were being killed in
enormous numbers to satisfy the insatiable demand of the traders
at Salisbury, the Forks, and Bethabara, became scarcer and
scarcer; and the wild game that was left gradually fled to the
westward. Terrible indeed was the havoc wrought among the elk;
and it was reported that the last elk was killed in western North
Carolina as early as 1781.

Another grave evil of the time with which Boone had to cope in
the back country of North Carolina was the growth of undisguised
outlawry, similar to that found on the western plains of a later
era. This ruthless brigand age arose as the result of the
unsettled state of the country and the exposed condition of the
settlements due to the Indian alarms. When rude borderers,
demoralized by the enforced idleness attendant upon fort life
during the dark days of Indian invasion, sallied forth upon
forays against the Indians, they found much valuable
property–horses, cattle, and stock–left by their owners when
hurriedly fleeing to the protection of the frontier stockades.
The temptations thus afforded were too great to resist; and the
wilder spirits of the backwoods, with hazy notions of private
rights, seized the property which they found, slaughtered the
cattle, sold the horses, and appropriated to their own use the
temporarily abandoned household goods and plantation tools. The
stealing of horses, which were needed for the cultivation of the
soil and useful for quickly carrying unknown thieves beyond the
reach of the owner and the law, became a common practice; and was
carried on by bands of outlaws living remote from one another and
acting in collusive concert.

Toward the end of July, 1755, when the Indian outrages upon the
New River settlements in Virginia had frightened away all the
families at the Town Fork in the Yadkin country, William Owen, a
man of Welsh stock, who had settled in the spring of 1752 in the
upper Yadkin near the Mulberry Fields, was suspected of having
robbed the storekeeper on the Meho. Not long afterward a band of
outlaws who plundered the exposed cabins in their owners’
absence, erected a rude fort in the mountain region in the rear
of the Yadkin settlements, where they stored their ill-gotten
plunder and made themselves secure from attack. Other members of
the band dwelt in the settlements, where they concealed their
robber friends by day and aided them by night in their nefarious
projects of theft and rapine.

The entire community was finally aroused by the bold depredations
of the outlaws; and the most worthy settlers of the Yadkin
country organized under the name of Regulators to break up the
outlaw band. When it was discovered that Owen, who was well known
at Bethabara, had allied himself with the highwaymen, one of the
justices summoned one hundred men; and seventy, who answered the
call, set forth on December 26, 1755, to seek out the outlaws and
to destroy their fortress. Emboldened by their success, the
latter upon one occasion had carried off a young girl of the
settlements. Daniel Boone placed himself at the head of one of
the parties, which included the young girl’s father, to go to her
rescue; and they fortunately succeeded in effecting the release
of the frightened maiden. One of the robbers was apprehended and
brought to Salisbury, where he was thrown into prison for his
crimes. Meanwhile a large amount of plunder had been discovered
at the house of one Cornelius Howard; and the evidences of his
guilt so multiplied against him that he finally confessed his
connection with the outlaw band and agreed to point out their
fort in the mountains.

Daniel Boone and George Boone joined the party of seventy men,
sent out by the colonial authorities under the guidance of
Howard, to attack the stronghold of the bandits. Boone afterward
related that the robbers’ fort was situated in the most fitly
chosen place for such a purpose that he could imagine–beneath an
overhanging cliff of rock, with a large natural chimney, and a
considerable area in front well stockaded. The frontiersmen
surrounded the fort, captured five women and eleven children, and
then burned the fort to the ground. Owen and his wife,
Cumberland, and several others were ultimately made prisoners;
but Harman and the remainder of the band escaped by flight. Owen
and his fellow captives were then borne to Salisbury,
incarcerated in the prison there, and finally (May, 1756)
condemned to the gallows. Owen sent word to the Moravians,
petitioning them to adopt his two boys and to apprentice one to a
tailor, the other to a carpenter. But so infuriated was Owen’s
wife by Howard’s treachery that she branded him as a second
Judas; and this at once fixed upon him the sobriquet “Judas”
Howard-a sobriquet he did not live long to bear, for about a year
later he was ambushed and shot from his horse at the crossing of
a stream. He thus paid the penalty of his betrayal of the outlaw
band. For a number of years, the Regulators continued to wage war
against the remaining outlaws, who from time to time committed
murders as well as thefts. As late as January, 1768, the
Regulators caught a horse thief in the Hollows of Surry County
and brought him to Bethabara, whence Richter and Spach took him
to the jail at Salisbury. After this year, the outlaws were heard
of no more; and peace reigned in the settlements.

Colonel Edmund Fanning–of whom more anon–declared that the
Regulation began in Anson County which bordered upon South
Carolina. Certain it is that the upper country of that province
was kept in an uproar by civil disturbances during this early
period. Owing to the absence of courts in this section, so remote
from Charleston, the inhabitants found it necessary, for the
protection of property and the punishment of outlaws, to form an
association called, like the North Carolina society, the
Regulation. Against this association the horse thieves and other
criminals made common cause, and received tacit support from
certain more reputable persons who condemned “the irregularity of
the Regulators.” The Regulation which had been thus organized in
upper South Carolina as early as 1764 led to tumultuous risings
of the settlers; and finally in the effort to suppress these
disorders, the governor, Lord Charles Montagu, appointed one
Scovil, an utterly unworthy representative, to carry out his
commands. After various disorders, which became ever more
unendurable to the law-abiding, matters came to a crisis (1769)
as the result of the high-handed proceedings of Scovil, who
promiscuously seized and flung into prison all the Regulators he
could lay hands on. In the month of March the back country rose
in revolt against Scovil and a strong body of the settlers was on
the point of attacking the force under his command when an
eleventh-hour letter arrived from Montagu, dismissing Scovil from
office. Thus was happily averted, by the narrowest of margins, a
threatened precursor of the fight at Alamance in 1771 (see
Chapter XII). As the result of the petition of the Calhouns and
others, courts were established in 1760, though not opened until
four years later. Many horse thieves were apprehended, tried, and
punished. Justice once more held full sway.

Another important cause for Boone’s removal from the neighborhood
of Salisbury into the mountain fastnesses was the oppressive
administration of the law by corrupt sheriffs, clerks, and
tax-gatherers, and the dissatisfaction of the frontier squatters
with the owners of the soil. At the close of the year 1764
reports reached the town of Wilmington, after the adjournment of
the assembly in November, of serious disturbances in Orange
County, due, it was alleged, to the exorbitant exactions of the
clerks, registers, and some of the attorneys. As a result of this
disturbing news, Governor Dobbs issued a proclamation forbidding
any officer to take illegal fees. Troubles had been brewing in
the adjacent county of Granville ever since the outbreak of the
citizens against Francis Corbin, Lord Granville’s agent (January
24, 1759), and the issuance of the petition of Reuben Searcy and
others (March 23d) protesting against the alleged excessive fees
taken and injustices practised by Robert (Robin) Jones, the
famous lawyer. These disturbances were cumulative in their
effect; and the people at last (1765 ) found in George Sims, of
Granville, a fit spokesman of their cause and a doughty champion
of popular rights. In his “Serious Address to the Inhabitants of
Granville County, containing an Account of our deplorable
Situation we suffer . . . and some necessary Hints with Respect
to a Reformation,” recently brought to light, he presents a
crushing indictment of the clerk of the county court, Samuel
Benton, the grandfather of Thomas Hart Benton. After describing
in detail the system of semi-peonage created by the merciless
exactions of lawyers and petty court officials, and the
insatiable greed of “these cursed hungry caterpillars,” Sims with
rude eloquence calls upon the people to pull them down from their
nests for the salvation of the Commonwealth.

Other abuses were also recorded. So exorbitant was the charge for
a marriage-license, for instance, that an early chronicler
records “The consequence was that some of the inhabitants on the
head-waters of the Yadkin took a short cut. They took each other
for better or for worse; and considered themselves as married
without further ceremony.” The extraordinary scarcity of currency
throughout the colony, especially in the back country, was
another great hardship and a perpetual source of vexation. All
these conditions gradually became intolerable to the uncultured
but free spirited men of the back country. Events were slowly
converging toward a crisis in government and society. Independent
in spirit, turbulent in action, the backwoodsmen revolted not
only against excessive taxes, dishonest sheriffs, and
extortionate fees, but also against the rapacious practices of
the agents of Lord Granville. These agents industriously picked
flaws in the titles to the lands in Granville’s proprietary upon
which the poorer settlers were seated; and compelled them to pay
for the land if they had not already done so, or else to pay the
fees twice over and take out a new patent as the only remedy of
the alleged defect in their titles. In Mecklenburg County the
spirit of backwoods revolt flamed out in protest against the
proprietary agents. Acting under instructions to survey and close
bargains for the lands or else to eject those who held them,
Henry Eustace McCulloh, in February, 1765, went into the county
to call a reckoning. The settlers, many of whom had located
without deeds, indignantly retorted by offering to buy only at
their own prices, and forbade the surveyors to lay out the
holdings when this smaller price was declined. They not only
terrorized into acquiescence those among them who were willing to
pay the amount charged for the lands, but also openly declared
that they would resist by force any sheriff in ejectment
proceedings. On May 7th an outbreak occurred; and a mob, led by
Thomas Polk, set upon John Frohock, Abraham Alexander, and
others, as they were about to survey a parcel of land, and gave
them a severe thrashing, even threatening the young McCulloh with

The choleric backwoodsmen, instinctively in agreement with
Francis Bacon, considered revenge as a sort of wild justice.
Especial objects of their animosity were the brothers Frohock,
John and Thomas, the latter clerk of the court at Salisbury, and
Edmund Fanning, a cultured gentleman-adventurer, associate
justice of the superior court. So rapacious and extortionate were
these vultures of the courts who preyed upon the vitals of the
common people, that they were savagely lampooned by Rednap
Howell, the backwoods poet-laureate of the Regulation. The temper
of the back country is well caught in Howell’s lines anent this
early American “grafter”, the favorite of the royal governor:

When Fanning first to Orange came,
He looked both pale and wan;
An old patched coat was on his back,
An old mare he rode on.

Both man and mare wan’t worth five pounds,
As I’ve been often told;
But by his civil robberies,
He’s laced his coat with gold.

The germs of the great westward migration in the coming decade
were thus working among the people of the back country. If the
tense nervous energy of the American people is the transmitted
characteristic of the border settlers, who often slept with
loaded rifle in hand in grim expectation of being awakened by the
hideous yells, the deadly tomahawk, and the lurid firebrand of
the savage, the very buoyancy of the national character is in
equal measure “traceable to the free democracy founded on a
freehold inheritance of land.” The desire for free land was the
fundamental factor in the development of the American democracy.
No colony exhibited this tendency more signally than did North
Carolina in the turbulent days of the Regulation. The North
Carolina frontiersmen resented the obligation to pay quit-rents
and firmly believed that the first occupant of the soil had an
indefeasible right to the land which he had won with his rifle
and rendered productive by the implements of toil. Preferring the
dangers of the free wilderness to the paying of tribute to
absentee landlords and officials of an intolerant colonial
government, the frontiersman found title in his trusty rifle
rather than in a piece of parchment, and was prone to pay his
obligations to the owner of the soil in lead rather than in gold.

CHAPTER XII. Watauga–Haven of Liberty

The Regulators despaired of seeing better times and therefore
quitted the Province. It is said 1,500 departed since the Battle
of Alamance and to my knowledge a great many more are only
waiting to dispose of their plantations in order to follow them.-
-Reverend Morgan Edwards, 1772.

The five years (1766-1771) which saw the rise, development, and
ultimate defeat of the popular movement known as the Regulation,
constitute a period not only of extraordinary significance in
North Carolina but also of fruitful consequences in the larger
movements of westward expansion. With the resolute intention of
having their rulers “give account of their stewardship,” to
employ their own words, the Sandy Creek Association of Baptists
(organized in 1758), in a series of papers known as Regulators’
Advertisements (1766-8) proceeded to mature, through popular
gatherings, a rough form of initiative and referendum. At length,
discouraged in its efforts, and particularly in the attempt to
bring county officials to book for charging illegal fees, this
association ceased actively to function. It was the precursor of
a movement of much more drastic character and formidable
proportions, chiefly directed against Colonel Edmund Fanning and
his associates. This movement doubtless took its name, “the
Regulation,” from the bands of men already described who were
organized first in North Carolina and later in South Carolina, to
put down highwaymen and to correct many abuses in the back
country, such as the tyrannies of Scovil and his henchmen.
Failing to secure redress of their grievances through legal
channels, the Regulators finally made such a powerful
demonstration in support of their refusal to pay taxes that
Governor William Tryon of North Carolina, in 1768, called out the
provincial militia, and by marching with great show of force
through the disaffected regions, succeeded temporarily in
overawing the people and thus inducing them to pay their

The suits which had been brought by the Regulators against Edmund
Fanning, register, and Francis Nash, clerk, of Orange County,
resulted in both being “found guilty of taking too high fees.”
Fanning immediately resigned his commission as register; while
Nash, who in conjunction with Fanning had fairly offered in 1766
to refund to any one aggrieved any fee charged by him which the
Superior Court might hold excessive, gave bond for his appearance
at the next court. Similar suits for extortion against the three
Froliocks in Rowan County in 1769 met with failure, however; and
this outcome aroused the bitter resentment of the Regulators, as
recorded by Herman Husband in his “Impartial Relation.” During
this whole period the insurrectionary spirit of the people, who
felt themselves deeply aggrieved but recognized their inability
to secure redress, took the form of driving local justices from
the bench and threatening court officials with violence.

At the session of the Superior Court at Hillsborough, September
22, 1770, an elaborate petition prepared by the Regulators,
demanding unprejudiced juries and the public accounting for taxes
by the sheriffs, was handed to the presiding justice by James
Hunter, a leading Regulator. This justice was our acquaintance,
Judge Richard Henderson, of Granville County, the sole high
officer in the provincial government from the entire western
section of the colony. In this petition occur these trenchant
words: “As we are serious and in good earnest and the cause
respects the whole body of the people it would be loss of time to
enter into arguments on particular points for though there are a
few men who have the gift and art of reasoning, yet every man has
a feeling and knows when he has justice done him as well as the
most learned.” On the following Monday (September 24th), upon
convening of court, some one hundred and fifty Regulators, led by
James Hunter, Herman Husband, Rednap Howell, and others, armed
with clubs, whips, and cudgels, surged into the court-room and
through their spokesman, Jeremiah Fields, presented a statement
of their grievances. “I found myself,” says Judge Henderson,
“under a necessity of attempting to soften and turn away the fury
of these mad people, in the best manner in my power, and as such
could well be, pacify their rage and at the same time preserve
the little remaining dignity of the court.”

During an interim, in which the Regulators retired for
consultation, they fell without warning upon Fanning and gave him
such rough treatment that he narrowly escaped with his life. The
mob, now past control, horsewhipped a number of leading lawyers
and citizens gathered there at court, and treated others, notably
the courtly Mr. Hooper of Boston, “with every mark of contempt
and insult.” Judge Henderson was assured by Fields that no harm
should come to him provided he would conduct the court in
accordance with the behest of the Regulators: namely, that no
lawyer, save the King’s Attorney, should be admitted to the
court, and that the Regulators’ cases should be tried with new
jurors chosen by the Regulators. With the entire little village
terrorized by this campaign of “frightfulness,” and the court
wholly unprotected, Judge Henderson reluctantly acknowledged to
himself that “the power of the judiciary was exhausted.”
Nevertheless, he says, “I made every effort in my power
consistent with my office and the duty the public is entitled to
claim to preserve peace and good order.” Agreeing under duress to
resume the session the following day, the judge ordered an
adjournment. But being unwilling, on mature reflection, to permit
a mockery of the court and a travesty of justice to be staged
under threat and intimidation, he returned that night to his home
in Granville and left the court adjourned in course. Enraged by
the judge’s escape, the Regulators took possession of the court
room the following morning, called over the cases, and in futile
protest against the conditions they were powerless to remedy,
made profane entries which may still be seen on the record:
“Damned rogues,” “Fanning pays cost but loses nothing,” “Negroes
not worth a damn, Cost exceeds the whole,” “Hogan pays and be
damned,” and, in a case of slander, “Nonsense, let them argue for
Ferrell has gone hellward.”

The uprising of these bold and resolute, simple and imperfectly
educated people, which had begun as a constitutional struggle to
secure justice and to prevent their own exploitation by dishonest
lawyers of the county courts, now gave place to open anarchy and
secret incendiarism. In the dead of night, November 12th and
14th, Judge Henderson’s barn, stables, and dwelling house were
fired by the Regulators and went up in flames. Glowing with a
sense of wrong, these misguided people, led on by fanatical
agitators, thus vented their indiscriminate rage, not only upon
their op pressors, but also upon men wholly innocent of injuring
them–men of the stamp of William Hooper, afterward signer of the
Declaration of Independence, Alexander Martin, afterward governor
and United States Senator,,and Richard Henderson, popular
representative of the back country and a firm champion of due
process of law. It is perhaps not surprising in view of these
events that Governor Tryon and the ruling class, lacking a
sympathy broad enough to ensure justice to the oppressed people,
seemed to be chiefly impressed with the fact that a widespread
insurrection was in progress, threatening not only life and
property, but also civil government itself. The governor called
out the militia of the province and led an army of well nigh one
thousand men and officers against the Regulators, who had
assembled at Alamance to the number of two thousand. Tryon stood
firm upon the demands that the people should submit to government
and disperse at a designated hour. The Regulators, on their side,
hoped to secure the reforms they desired by intimidating the
governor with a great display of force. The battle was a tragic
fiasco for the Regulators, who fought bravely, but without
adequate arms or real leadership. With the conclusion of this
desultory action, a fight lasting about two hours (May 16, 1771),
the power of the Regulators was completely broken.”

Among these insurgents there was a remarkable element, an element
whose influence upon the course of American history has been but
imperfectly understood which now looms into prominence as the
vanguard of the army of westward expansion. There were some of
the Regulators who, though law-abiding and conservative, were
deeply imbued with ideas of liberty, personal independence, and
the freedom of the soil. Through the influence of Benjamin
Franklin, with whom one of the leaders of the group, Herman
Husband, was in constant correspondence, the patriotic ideas then
rapidly maturing into revolutionary sentiments furnished the
inspiration to action. As early as 1766, the Sandy Creek leaders,
referred to earlier in this chapter, issued a call to each
neighborhood to send delegates to a gathering for the purpose of
investigating the question “whether the free men of this country
labor under any abuses of power or not.” The close connection
between the Sandy Creek men and the Sons of Liberty is amply
demonstrated in this paper wherein the Sons of Liberty in
connection with the “stamp law” are praised: for “redeeming us
from Tyranny” and for having “withstood the lords in Parliament
in behalf of true liberty.” Upon the records of the Dutchman’s
Creek Church, of “regular” Baptists, at the Forks of the Yadkin,
to which Daniel Boone’s family belonged, may be found this
memorable entry, recognizing the “American Cause” well-nigh a
year before the declaration of independence at Philadelphia: “At
the monthly meeting it was agreed upon concerning the American
Cause, if any of the brethren see cause to join it they have the
liberty to do it without being called to an account by the
church. But whether they join or do not join they should be used
with brotherly love.

The fundamental reasons underlying the approaching westward
hegira are found in the remarkable petition of the Regulators of
An son County (October 9, 1769), who request that “Benjamin
Franklin or some other known PATRIOT” be appointed agent of the
province in London to seek redress at the source. They exposed
the basic evil in the situation by pointing out that, in
violation of the law restricting the amount of land that might be
granted to each person to six hundred and forty acres, much of
the most fertile territory in the province had been distributed
in large tracts to wealthy landlords. In consequence “great
numbers of poor people are necessitated to toil in the
cultivation of the bad Lands whereon they hardly can subsist.” It
was these poor people, “thereby deprived of His Majesties
liberality and Bounty,” who soon turned their gaze to the
westward and crossed the mountains in search of the rich, free
lands of the trans-Alleghany region.

This feverish popular longing for freedom, stimulated by the
economic pressure of thousands of pioneers who were annually
entering North Carolina, set in motion a wave of migration across
the mountains in 1769. Long before Alamance, many of the true
Americans, distraught by apparently irremediable injustices,
plunged fearlessly into the wilderness, seeking beyond the
mountains a new birth of liberty, lands of their own selection
free of cost or quit-rents, and a government of their own
choosing and control.”‘ The glad news of the rich valleys beyond
the mountains early lured such adventurous pioneers as Andrew
Greer and Julius Caesar Dugger to the Watauga country. The
glowing stories, told by Boone, and disseminated in the back
country by Henderson, Williams, and the Harts, seemed to give
promise to men of this stamp that the West afforded relief from
oppressions suffered in North Carolina. During the winter of
1768-9 there was also a great rush of settlers from Virginia into
the valley of the Holston. A party from Augusta County, led by
men who had been delighted with the country viewed seven years
before when they were serving under Colonel William Byrd against
the Cherokees, found that this region, a wilderness on their
outward passage in 1768, was dotted with cabins on every spot
where the grazing was good, upon their return the following year.
Writing to Hillsborough on October 18, 1770, concerning the “many
hundred families” in the region from Green River to the branches
of the Holston, who refused to comply with the royal proclamation
of 1763, Acting-Governor Nelson of Virginia reports that “very
little if any Quit Rents have been received for His Majesty’s use
from that Quarter for some time past”–the people claiming that
“His Majesty hath been pleased to withdraw his protection from
them since 1763.”

In the spring of 1770, with the express intention of discovering
suitable locations for homes for himself and a number of others,
who wished to escape the accumulating evils of the times, James
Robertson of Orange County, North Carolina, made an arduous
journey to the pleasing valley of the Watauga. Robertson, who was
born in Brunswick County, Virginia, June 28, 1742, of excellent
Scotch-Irish ancestry, was a noteworthy figure of a certain type-
-quiet, reflective, conservative, wise, a firm believer in the
basic principles of civil Liberty and the right of local
self-government. Robertson spent some time with a man named
Honeycut in the Watauga region, raised a crop of corn, and chose
for himself and his friends suitable locations for settlement.
Lost upon his return in seeking the mountain defiles traversed by
him on the outward journey, Robertson probably escaped death from
starvation only through the chance passing of two hunters who
succored him and set him upon the right path. On arriving in
Orange he found political and social conditions there much worse
than before, many of the colonists declining to take the
obligatory oath of allegiance to the British Crown after the
Battle of Alamance, preferring to carve out for themselves new
homes along the western waters. Some sixteen families of this
stamp, indignant at the injustices and oppressions of British
rule, and stirred by Robertson’s description of the richness and
beauty of the western country, accompanied him to Watauga shortly
after the battle.

This vanguard of the army of westward advance, independent
Americans in spirit with a negligible sprinkling of Loyalists,
now swept in a great tide into the northeastern section of
Tennessee. The men of Sandy Creek, actuated by independent
principles but out of sympathy with the anarchic side of the
Regulation, left the colony almost to a man. “After the defeat of
the Regulators,” says the historian of the Sandy Creek
Association, “thousands of the oppressed, seeing no hope of
redress for their grievances, moved into and settled east
Tennessee. A large proportion of these were of the Baptist
population. Sandy Creek Church which some time previous to 1771,
numbered 606, was afterward reduced to fourteen members!” This
movement exerted powerful influence in stimulating westward
expansion. Indeed, it was from men of Regulating principles-
-Boone, Robertson, and the Searcys–who vehemently condemned the
anarchy and incendiarism of 1770, that Judge Henderson received
powerful cooperation in the opening up of Kentucky and Tennessee.

The several treaties concerning the western boundary of white
settlement, concluded in close succession by North Carolina,
Virginia, and the Crown with the Southern and Northern Indians,
had an important bearing upon the settlement of Watauga. The
Cherokee boundary line, as fixed by Governor Tryon (1767) and by
John Stuart (1768), ran from Reedy River to Tryon Mountain,
thence straight to Chiswell’s Mine, and thence direct to the
mouth of the Great Kanawha River. By the treaty at Fort Stanwix
(November 5, 1768), in the negotiation of which Virginia was
represented by Dr. Thomas Walker and Major Andrew Lewis, the Six
Nations sold to the Crown their shadowy claim to a vast tract of
western country, including in particular all the land between the
Ohio and the Tennessee Rivers. The news of the cession resulted
in a strong southwestward thrust of population, from the
neighborhood of Abingdon, in the direction of the Holston Valley.
Recognizing that hundreds of these settlers were beyond the line
negotiated by Stuart, but on lands not yet surveyed, Governor
Botetourt instructed the Virginia commissioners to press for
further negotiations, through Stuart, with the Cherokees.
Accordingly, on October 18, 1770, a new treaty was made at
Lochaber, South Carolina, by which a new line back of Virginia
was established, beginning at the intersection of the North
Carolina-Cherokee line (a point some seventy odd miles east of
Long Island), running thence in a west course to a point six
miles east of Long Island, and thence in a direct course to the
confluence of the Great Kanawha and Ohio Rivers. At the time of
the treaty, it was agreed that the Holston River, from its
intersection with the North Carolina-Virginia line, and down the
course of the same, should be a temporary southern boundary of
Virginia until the line should be ascertained by actual survey. A
strong influx of population into the immense new triangle thus
released for settlement brought powerful pressure to bear upon
northern Tennessee, the point of least resistance along the
western barrier. Singularly enough, this advance was not opposed
by the Cherokees, whose towns were strung across the extreme
southeast corner of Tennessee.

When Colonel John Donelson ran the line in the latter part of
1771, The Little Carpenter, who with other Indian chiefs
accompanied the surveying party, urged that the line agreed upon
at Lochaber should break off at the head of the Louisa River, and
should run thence to the mouth thereof, and thence up the Ohio to
the mouth of the Great Kanawha. For this increase in the
territory of Virginia they of course expected additional payment.
As a representative of Virginia, Donelson agreed to the proposed
alteration in the boundary line; and accordingly promised to send
the Cherokees, in the following spring, a sum alleged by them to
have been fixed at five hundred pounds, in compensation for the
additional area. This informal agreement, it is believed, was
never ratified by Virginia; nor was the promised compensation
ever paid the Cherokees.

Under the belief that the land belonged to Virginia, Jacob Brown
with one or two families from North Carolina settled in 1771 upon
a tract of land on the northern bank of the Nonachunheh
(corruption, Nolichucky) River. During the same year, an
experimental line run westward from Steep Rock and Beaver Creek
by Anthony Bledsoe showed that upon the extension of the boundary
line, these settlers would fall within the bounds of North
Carolina. Although thus informally warned of the situation, the
settlers made no move to vacate the lands. But in the following
year, after the running of Donelson’s line, Alexander Cameron,
Stuart’s deputy, required “all persons who had made settlements
beyond the said line to relinquish them.” Thus officially warned,
Brown and his companions removed to Watauga. Cameron’s order did
not apply, however, to the settlement, to the settlement north of
the Holston River, south and east of Long Island; and the
settlement in Carter’s Valley, although lying without the
Virginia boundary, strangely enough remained unmolested. The
order was directed at the Watauga settlers, who were seated south
of the Holston River in the Watauga Valley.

The plight in which the Watauga settlers now found themselves was
truly desperate; and the way in which they surmounted this
apparently insuperable difficulty is one of the most striking and
characteristic events in the pre-Revolutionary history of the Old
Southwest. It exhibits the indomitable will and fertile resource
of the American character at the margin of desperation. The
momentous influence of the Watauga settlers, inadequately
reckoned hitherto by historians, was soon to make itself
powerfully felt in the first epochal movement of westward


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