The family of Col. James Brown, while travelling down the Tennessee River from the Holston Settlements, bound for Nashville, was attacked by Indians. James Brown and seven other men were killed, while Mrs. Brown and five younger children were captured and held as captives by the Indians. Incidental to the story, but of significance to Gentry historians was the fact that two of the men who died were William Gentry and John Gentry. Of particular interest is the description of life as an Indian captive by James Brown's son, Joseph.
The early settlement of Tennessee was a particularly violent time of confrontation between white would-be settlers and Indians determined to protect their hunting grounds. In a fifteen year span between 1782 and 1797, at least five Gentrys are known to have been killed by Indians. A sixth, David Gentry, was killed some years later but under different circumstances, since he had married into the Cherokee tribe and was killed in a battle between two competing Indian tribes in Oklahoma. It is not in the least unlikely that there may have been others killed of whom we know nothing.
The Tennessee killings were experienced by Nicholas Gentry, in about 1782, in the vicinity of Nashville in what was soon to become Davidson County. A Randal Gentry, who surely must have been a son of Nicholas, was killed in the same area in 1787. Another son, John, was killed on the Cumberland River in 1797. Two other Gentrys, presumably brothers, William and another John, were killed in 1788 on the Tennessee River at the town of Nickajack and are a part of the subject of the present article. There is no information as to the family connections of these last two Gentrys, but it is probable that they were sons of a William Gentry and wife who died and were buried in Sullivan County on the upper reaches of the Holston River in the 1790's. The two men were probably in their very early twenties, born in Virginia within a year or two after 1765. [The Journal of Gentry Genealogy has commented and speculated earlier about this family, in vol. 1, #12, and vol 3, #9.]
The two Gentrys of whom we speak now were but a very minor part of an incident which aroused much indignation at the time along the Tennessee frontier. This was the massacre by Cherokee and Creek Indians of Col. James Brown and seven other men, and the capture of Col. Brown's wife and five young children while enroute by boat from the Holston Settlements in East Tennessee to Nashville in Middle Tennessee. The circumstances surrounding this tragic situation have been described in some detail in "The Annals of Tennessee", by James Ramsey, written in 1853. They provide some fascinating insights into the difficult life of white settlers (mostly women and children) who were captured by the Indians and held in slavery or for ransom. The story as a by-product also reveals a surprising number of whites living independently among the Indians.
To set the stage for this story, it may be helpful to the reader to very briefly review the situation prevailing in eastern Tennessee in the late 1780's. Originally barred from settlement by the British Crown with its Line of Demarkation setting the limits of westward movement at the Blue Ridge Mountains, Tennessee started a period of rapid growth after the close of the Revolutionary War. The area was a westward extension of the State of North Carolina from 1777 to 1784, organized as Washington County during most of that time. Because of the difficulties of communicating between the eastern part of North Carolina and its westward extension, North Carolina abandoned Washington County to its own devices in 1784. The local Tennessee settlers organized their own State of Franklin, under the leadership of Robert Sevier. This lasted until 1788 when North Carolina took back ownership of Tennessee for two years. In 1790, North Carolina turned over the area to the Federal Government when it became the Territory of the United States South of the Ohio.
During all this time, only small areas of land were actually settled and controlled by the whites. Most of the land belonged to Indian tribes - principally the Cherokees, but also Chickamaugas, Creeks, Chickasaws and Choctaws. There was a continuing series of skirmishs between Indians and settlers, followed by treaties defining lines of demarcation. By 1788 this resulted in a situation where there were four counties in the east: Washington, Sullivan, Greene, and Hawkins and three counties in the west: Davidson, Sumner, and Tennessee County. The eastern counties were along the watersheds of the Holston, French Broad and Clinch Rivers above their confluence at the start of the Tennessee River. All the rest of present-day Tennessee, as well as parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and present-day Alabama, were established by treaty as Indian Lands.
The Narrative Begins
In May of 1788, the story begins with the decision by Col. James Brown, a former officer of the North Carolina Revolutionary Continental line to travel by boat to Davidson County. In recognition and appreciation for his military service, Col. Brown had received military land warrants which he could use to claim unoccupied land in any of the western territories (see Appendix for land grant procedure). He had come to Greene County with the intention of claiming land in Middle Tennessee for his proposed new home. We turn to Ramsey's description of Col. Brown's subsequent actions.
"Taking with him to the distant wilderness, his family, consisting of his wife, five sons, two of whom were grown, and three younger, four small daughters, together with several negroes, he was unwilling to expose them to the dangers of the route through Cumberland Gap, or the more direct, but no less unsafe passage, over the [Cumberland] mountain; and, therefore, determined to descend the Tennessee River, and reach Nashville, by ascending the Ohio and Cumberland [Rivers], to that place. The boat was built on Holston [River], a short distance below Long Island. He took the precaution to fortify it, by placing oak plank, two inches thick, all around above its gunwales. These were perforated with port-holes, at suitable distances. To these measures of defense was added a swivel, placed in the stern. Besides his two grown sons, James and John, Colonel Brown had five other young men, viz: J. Bays, John Flood, John Gentry, Wm. Gentry and John Griffin. These were all good marksmen. The emigrants, adventurers rather, embarked on the fourth of May.
"On the ninth, the boat passed the Chickamauga towns, about daybreak, and the Tuskigagee Island Town, a little after sunrise. The head man, Cutleotoy, and three other warriors, came on board there, and were kindly treated. They then returned to their town, from which they immediately dispatched runners across the mountain to Running Water Town and Nickajack, to raise all the warriors they could get, to ascend the river and meet the boat. The narrative of the capture of the boat, the massacre of most of the passengers, and the captivity of such as survived, will be given in the words of the narrator--the youngest son--the late Colonel Joseph Brown, of Murray County, Tennessee. 'It contains such a horrid recital of Indian cruelty and barbarism by the savage banditti, that so long lay concealed in the fastnesses of Nickajack and Running Towns--is withal, so truthful and minute in its details of the captivity and sufferings of one of the prisoners, who himself piloted the expedition in 1794, which penetrated these mountain recesses, and extirpated the miscreant land pirates and murderers that infested them--and is, besides, now for the first time published, that no apology is needed for giving it entire without condensation or abridgment.' "
[We will return to the narrative of the experiences of young Joseph Brown shortly, but will comment briefly on James Ramsey's account at this point. There has been some uncertainty in various records of this affair as to the participants involved. One report refers to three of the young men as "sons-in-law", and perhaps by extension from that, a few Gentry genealogists have assumed that William and John Gentry were sons-in-law. The fact that the only females listed in any accounts were Mrs. Brown and the young daughters (the oldest being 10), belies the thought that any of the men were sons-in-law otherwise their wives would certainly have been present. There is another small discrepancy in Ramsey's account. He mentions above that Col. Brown had four daughters with him, yet in further passages he refers only to a daughter Jane, age 10, an unnamed daughter, age 7, and a daughter Mary (Polly), age 5, with no indication of a fourth daughter dying or being killed. As we will see, Col. Brown's younger sons were Joseph, age 16, and George, age 9.]
We return now to a description of the capture of the Browns' boat, and the massacre of the adult men, and the captivity of young Joseph Brown, as given in Joseph's own words.
"After they came to us, they appeared friendly, until the other canoes came around; and then they began to gather our property, and put it into their canoes. My father begged Vann not to let them behave so, and he replied, that the head man of the town was gone from home, but that he would be at home that night, and would make them give up everything. He also promised that one of them should go with us over the Muscle Shoals, and pilot us, as the passage was dangerous for boats.
"Before they had finished robbing the boats, however, a dirty black-looking Indian, with a sword in his hand, caught me by the arm, and was about to kill me, when my father, seeing what he was attempting, took hold of him, and said, that I was one of his little boys, and that he must not interrupt me. The Indian then let me go, but us soon as my father' back was turned, struck him with the sword, and cut his head nearly half off. Another Indian then caught him, and threw him overboard. I saw him go overboard, but did not know that he was struck with the sword; it, therefore, astonished me to see him sink down, as I knew him to be a good swimmer. As this took place in the stern, and my brothers and the other young men were with Vann in the bow, I went to them, and told them that an Indian had thrown our father overboard, and he was drowned.'
"Our boat was landed at the upper end of the town of Necojack, but before it reached shore, an Indian wanted me to go out of the boat into a canoe, which I refused, not dreaming that I was a prisoner. As soon as we landed, the same Indian brought an old white man and his wife to me, who said to me, 'My boy, I want you to go home with me.' I enquired where he lived, and he said his house was about a mile out of town. I told him that I supposed I could go home with him that night, but that we would continue our journey in the morning. On his saying that he was ready to start, and wishing me to go with him, I mentioned to one of my brothers the old man's wish that I should go with him, and told him that I would return early in the morning, to which he replied, 'Very well.'
"Before I went, however, the Indians were telling my brothers and the other young men of a certain house, in which they could stay till morning; after I had left them, they were told that there was a better house down toward the lower end of the town, and that a young man would pilot them that far. Now the town of Necojack was on a higher bank than common, and had only been settled about three years; thus the banks were still full of cane. When the boat was about to drop down to the lower end of the town, the Indians placed themselves behind stumps and in the cane, and as she floated down, they picked off the men with their rifles. Three of them fell, the others ran, but were all butchered, some with knives and some with tomahawks and guns."
As Joseph was being taken away, his mother, brother George, three sisters, and the negroes travelling with them on the boat were led off to captivity while the Indian men ("banditti" as James Ramsey described them and mostly Creek confederates of the Cherokee residents of Nickajack) looted the boat of its booty which must have been substantial. The cargo would have consisted of the family's furniture and other personal possessions plus a substantial supply of food to last them for the duration of their expected journey as well as provide provisions with which to start their new life. As Ramsey says,
"Mrs. Brown, when hurried off by her captors, heard the savage yells, that she but too well knew, announced the hard fate of her sons and their comrades. To increase the poignancy of her bereavement, two of her daughters were snatched from her side, and carried back to the scene of the calamity which had overwhelmed her family. A single source of consolation was left to her--her two children--the son, aged nine, and the daughter, seven.
"After the capture and plunder of the boat and the massacre of the men, the Creek banditti started to their town, having two of the daughters of the unfortunate Colonel Brown--Jane, aged ten, and Polly, five-prisoners. These were pursued by the Cherokee braves, recaptured, and brought back to Nickajack."
The two girls were taken away from their mother after the family was first captured and were adopted separately by individual Indian families. The children remained in the town where they were captured, and were generally well treated save that "the usual menial offices of savage life were imposed upon them, during their captivity of nearly twelve months". Their brother Joseph was allowed to see them occasionally and from them he learned that "the Creek confederates had gone with his mother, his brother George, a lad ten years old, and his three small sisters, and much of the booty taken in the boat, in the direction of their distant homes on the Talapoosa River [more than a hundred miles south in Georgia], and that two of the children had been recaptured by the Cherokees", as already mentioned. Mrs. Brown, George, and the third daughter remained together briefly, then they too were separated and sent to two neighboring villages. The negroes were despatched by water to the Upper Cherokee towns.
As to Joseph's plight after he was led away from the riverfront, we continue his account.
"I had not got half way to the old man's house, before I heard the report of the guns which were killing my brothers and the other young men; but thought it was the noise of our guns, probably taken out of the boat to see how they would shoot. I had been at the old man's only fifteen or twenty minutes, when a very large corpulent old woman came in, the sweat falling in big drops from her face, who appeared very angry, and told the old white people that they had done very wrong in taking me away, that I ought to be killed, that I would see everything, and that I would soon be grown and would guide an army there and have them all cut off; in short, that I must be killed. This was said in Indian, so that I did not understand it, nor what she went on to say, viz: that all the rest were killed, and that her son would be there directly and would kill me, she knew.
"The old Irishman, however, informed me that my people were all slain, but added that I should not be hurt, though the squaw had just told him that her son would kill me immediately. He then directed me to sit on the side of the bed, and getting up stood in the door with his face outward, talking all the time to his wife and the old squaw in Indian, which of course I did not understand. In about ten or fifteen minutes, the old squaw's son arrived, sure enough, but had not come up the road, so that the old man did not see him till he reached the comer of the house. He asked at once if there was a white man within. The old man answered 'No,' that there was a 'bit' of a white boy in there; to which the Indian replied, that he knew how big I was, and that I must be killed. The old white man pled for my life, saying it was a pity to kill women and children; but the Indian used the same argument that his mother had employed, i.e. that I would get away, when I grew up, and pilot an army there and have them all killed, and that I must be killed.
"This old fellow was a British deserter, who had come to America before the Revolutionary war, and had deserted several times, and had at length got into the Cherokee nation, having been there about eighteen years. His name was Thomas Tunbridge; he had lived with his wife about sixteen years. She was a French woman, who had been taken by the Indians when a small girl, and grew up and had children to them, before she had an opportunity of returning to her people. Her name, she said, was Polly Mallett. She had no children by Tunbridge, but it was an Indian son of hers that took me prisoner. He gave me to his mother, telling her that I was large enough to help her hoe corn. He had also said that they would kill the rest directly, and that I was so large that when they got in a frolic killing the others, some of them would knock me over. When, therefore, Cutleotoy insisted on killing me, old Tunbridge told him that I was his son's prisoner, and he was still in town, and that I must not be killed.
"No greater insult could be offered him, for he was a great man and did as he pleased usually; while Tunbridge's son was only twenty-two years old, and a perfect boy in Cutleotoy's estimation. Incensed at this insult, he came to Tunbridge, with his knife drawn and tomahawk raised, and asked him if he was going to be the Virginian's friend. In fact, he would have killed him instantly, had he admitted it, but Tunbridge said 'no,' and stepping back from the door-sill into the house, spoke for the first time in English: 'Take him along'. Cutleotoy, who was a very large strong Indian, followed in a rage, and came to me with his knife and tomahawk both drawn; but the old woman begged him not to kill me in her house, to which he agreed, and catching me by the hand, jerked me up and out of the house.
"Outside were ten of his men surrounding the house door, and one had in his hand the scalp of one of my brothers, and another that of the other men, on a stick. Some had their guns cocked, and others their knives and tomahawks drawn, ready to put me to death. I requested Tunbridge to beg them to let me have one half hour to pray, to which he replied that it was not worth while; but they concluded to strip my clothes off, so as not to bloody them, and while they were doing so, the old French woman begged them not to kill me there, nor in the road that she carried water along, for the road passed by her spring. They answered that they would take me to Running Water Town, as there were no white people there, and would have a frolic knocking me over. All this was said in Indian, however, and I knew nothing of what they discussed; and as soon as my clothes were off, I fell on my knees, and cried, like the dying Stephen, "Lord Jesus, into thy hand I commend my spirit,' expecting every moment to be my last. But I had not been on my knees more than one minute, when Tunbridge said, 'My boy, you must get up and go with them; they will not kill you here,' but told me nothing of what they said of having a frolic at Running Water Town.
"We had not gone more than seventy or eighty yards, when Cutleotoy stopped his men, and said to them, that he could not, and they must not kill me, as they were his men, and it would be as bad for him, as though he himself had done it; for that I was the prisoner of Poor Job, (the French woman's son), who was a man of war.
"'Now,' said he, 'I have taken a negro woman out of the boat, and sent her by water to where I live, and if we kill this fellow, Poor Job will go and kill my negro, and I don't want to lose her; nor could all the Indians in the nation keep him from putting her to death.' Well might he fear Poor Job, for, although he was only twenty-two years old, and it had been a time of peace since he was a small boy, he had taken the lives of six white men. The Hopewell and Holston treaties bound them to peace, but their young men were away with the Creeks and Shawnees at war; the Chickasaws and Choctaws were exceptions to the rule, however.
"Now, when Cutleotoy spoke thus, the thought of my being one day a man, and leading an army there, and having them killed, had given way to avarice, for the old woman, as well as her son, wanted the service of the negro. As I knew nothing of what they were saying, I was on my knees, trying to give my soul to God, through the merits of the Saviour, and expecting the tomahawk to sink into my skull every moment. At length, the favour given to Stephen in his dying moments, came to my mind; how he saw the heavens opened, and the blessed Saviour sitting at the right hand of God. I opened my eyes, and looking up, saw one of the Indians, as they stood all round me, smile; then, glancing my eyes round on them, saw that all their countenances were changed from vengeance and anger, to mildness.
"This gave me the first gleam of hope. Cutleotoy then called to old Tunbridge to come after me, that he loved me, and would not kill me then, but that he would not make peace with me then; but if I lived three weeks, he would be back again to make peace with me. The other Indians, however, explained the reason of this sudden love for me; that it was the negro he loved so much. The old squaw said, she would have some of my hair any how, and coming behind me, loosed my hair, (it was customary for young people, then, to wear their hair long,) and gathering a lock from the crown of my head, with an old dull knife, cut off a parcel, and kicked me in the side, and called me a poor Virginian.
"That day the old head-man of the town had gone to a ... town sixteen miles off, called Stecoyee, south-east from Nicojack Town. I understood that he was much displeased with their conduct, for he was a man of fine mind, and boasted that he had never stained his knife in the blood of a white man; but he had killed a Shawnee, when that nation was at war with the Cherokees; his name was the Breath. He sent for me the second day after I was taken, and warned me that some of them would kill me, if I was not put into a family, with my hair trimmed like an Indian's, and my face painted. He also said that as his was one of the strongest families in the nation, he would receive me into it, directing me to call him uncle, and Poor Job, brother.
"On the same day, the 11th of May, 1788, he bored holes in my ears, cut off my hair, only leaving a scalp-lock on the top of my head, and taking off my pantaloons, gave me a flap and short shirt, pulling open the collar and putting a small broach in my bosom. On the 12th, which was next day, I was turned out to hoe corn, in the broiling sun; by noon, all my forehead and ears, and the back of my head, and my neck and thighs, were all blistered with the heat; but the Lord was good, and when I was sick with sun-burns, sent a good thunder cloud, and drove us all out of the field. The next day it rained all day, and the third day I was able to go to the field again; after that there came a skin on me that stood everything.
"A grandson of the French woman went every where with me, to let me know who were Creeks, for they said that if the Creeks caught me out by myself, they might kill me. I was also cautioned not to look at a Cherokee, because it made an Indian angry to look at him. I had never seen any Indians before, so that every movement they made was strange to me. About three weeks after I was taken, I was going to the spring for water, and saw several Indians sitting about there. The little boy seemed alarmed, and I knew that it was on my account, for he said they were Creeks; but after looking again he pronounced them Cherokees, saying he knew some of them. My fears being removed, I went on, and his being a small tin bucket, I dipped it full first, and handed it up the bank to him, and, never looking at the Indians, dipped up my bucket full. Just as I climbed up the bank, two of them jumped on their horses and came galloping across the branch which ran from the spring. As they came along, I stole a glance at one of them; he had one side of his head painted red and the other black, and a scalp on his breast. Jumping off his horse, he struck me with the butt-end of a white-oak stick, about an inch in diameter and four feet long, on the side of the head. He was so near me that he did not hurt me much, but the second time, he was further off, and that staggered me very much. He and his party consisting of five others, had been away with the Shawnees and northern Indians, at war, and they had heard that war had broken out at home, and as they were coming home they determined to come by the Holston settlements and steal some horses; they found two little boys, one morning, feeding some cows, and having killed the little fellows, were pursued by the whites, who killed three of them, while they were crossing the Tennessee River. The anger excited by this occurrence, caused him, on seeing me, to strike me, thinking, as he said, that he would knock me down and beat me as long as he thought he could without killing me. I do not suppose he would have cared if I had died.
"During that whole summer there was war, with frequent alarms of white people coming, and at one time a Col. Martin got to Chattanooga, within twenty miles of where I lived; but the Indians killed three of his captains [in a battle at Lookout Mountain], and he only killed one Shawnee and one negro. No Cherokees were killed, but they raised an army of three thousand men, borrowed one thousand Creeks, to go with fifteen hundred Cherokees on foot, and five hundred mounted Cherokees, many of whom were half-breeds, and dressed like white men; they kept them ahead of the army, and white men who met them thought them a scouting party of whites, and were by this scheme readily taken prisoners, when they would be kept until it was convenient to kill them without giving alarm. Several men were taken in this way the day they got to Gillespie's Fort. Their object in raising the army was to drive all the whites from the south side of French Broad, on the pretext that the Indians who sold land on the south side of that river, were not authorized to do so by the nation; but, finding only one man in the fort, Captain William Gillespie, they plundered it, and got so much booty from it and the surrounding farms, as sufficed, together with their twenty-seven prisoners, taken without the loss of a single man, to induce them to return home, and that with great triumph.
"Most of us at Necojack Town, now moved off for the winter; old Tunbridge went down to Crow Town, thirty miles below Necojack Town; and one of the prisoners, Major Glass's wife, was purchased from the Indians who owned her, by Moses Price, who lived about half a mile from us, opposite the head of Crow Island, at an old crossing place of the Creeks, where the river could be forded nearly across.
"... It was but a few weeks, that we got information that Gov. Sevier had taken a town [the Creek stronghold of Coosa] on the waters of the Coosa River [well to the south near the present-day town of Calhoun, Georgia], and there would be an exchange of prisoners shortly. In a few weeks more, sure enough, there was a runner sent after us to come to Running Water Town; and when we reached Necojack Town, I found there the Indian who had my little sister, having just returned from his winter's hunt, bringing his wife and my little sister. The old squaw seemed to think as much of her as though she had been her own child. The little girl was stripped of all her finery, it is true, but she was only five years old, and when I told her I was going to take her to her own mother, she ran to the old Indian woman and caught her round the neck, so that I had to take her by force and carry her twenty or thirty yards; then telling her she should go to see her own mother, I set her down and led her by the hand. My eldest sister was at another place, a child of ten years old.
"We got to Running Water about three o'clock, and found that the Head-man from the Upper Towns had come after us. The old Head-man of Necojack grumbled at giving us up, as we, who were taken out of the boat, had come from North Carolina, and did not belong to Holston Settlement. The old Indian who had come for us, said that was all true, but that Little John (their name for Gov. Sevier) was so mean and ugly that he could do nothing with him. This word ugly is their hardest term of abuse. He went on to say that Little John declared he would not let one of their people free, unless he got all the whites who were in the nation, naming those taken from the boat particularly.
"The next morning they spoke of starting, but I told them I could not go without my sister; a young man was immediately started after her. She was thirty miles off, and the third day the messenger returned about ten o'clock in the morning without her, and announced that the man who had her, would not let her come without pay. There was an old warrior sitting by, his sword hanging on the wall, and his horse standing at a tree in the yard. He rose, and putting on his sword, made this short speech: 'I will go and bring her, or his head.' Sure enough, the next morning, here he came with her; when asked what the Indian said, he replied, 'nothing.' The [following] morning we started, and in a few days were [on the Coosawatee River (in Georgia)], where all exchange of prisoners was made instead of at Swannanoa [North Carolina] as at first proposed. This was about the 20th of April, 1789. At this time my weight was only eighty pounds, though I was in my seventeenth year."
During much of this time, in the words of James Ramsey, Mrs. Brown "continued the prisoner and slave of a Creek warrior, and remained for some time in the condition of hopeless bondage and exile. By the influence and assistance of the wife of Durant, a French trader, Mrs. Brown contrived to escape to the residence of McGillevray, the Head-man of the Creek nation, who generously ransomed her from her savage owner. The daughter was, some time after, also ransomed, and with Mrs. Brown, was taken by Col. McGillevray, in November, 1789, to Rock Landing, in Georgia, and restored to her surviving friends. McGillevray was offered compensation for the kind offices he had performed in ransoming and restoring the captives. This was nobly declined, with the further assurance, that he would endeavor to recover the son, still in captivity in his nation. This was at length effected."
Eventually, after a period of about five years, George, the last member of the Brown family,
was released in a prisoner exchange and the remnants of the family were reunited. In 1794,
the prophecy was fulfilled of one of Joseph's captors, who said, "he will soon be grown, and
will pilot an army here, and have us all cut off." A military force under the command of Major
James Ore was led by Joseph Brown overland to the towns of Running Water and Nickajack
which were destroyed, thereby ending the current series of Indian wars. Joseph went on to
live to the ripe old age of 90, attaining the rank of Colonel like his father. His obituary in a Giles
County, Tennessee, newspaper is posted on the internet at the county website.
Daniel Byron Dovenbarger, "Land Registration in Early Middle Tennessee", copyrighted 1981, 1999, and published at <http://www.tngenweb.org/tnland/dov2.htm>. An abstract follows:
Beginning in 1777, the North Carolina legislature established a series of policies for the granting of land, including establishing the offices of "surveyor" and "entry-taker" in Western North Carolina [Tennessee]. The procedure provided that a prospective settler, or "entry-maker" located land which he wished to claim, then submitted a description of the location and boundaries to the entry-taker. If no conflicting claims to the land were filed within three months, a warrant was issued to the entry-maker to give to the official surveyor who would then survey the land. Upon the completion of the latter and the payment of all required fees, a grant for the land was issued by the State. A time restriction for the settler accumulating enough money to pay for his claim, was extended in later acts so that often a period of several years passed between the time an entry-maker first claimed his land until the survey was completed and the entry-maker had enough money to pay all the fees before a land patent was actually issued.
Unless otherwise authorized by a military land warrant, where the desired land bordered vacant land, each settler was allowed to enter a claim for no more than 640 acres, plus the option to pay for an additional 100 acres for a wife and each child. If the land claim lay between lines already surveyed, the entry-maker could claim no more than 1000 acres. There were further restrictions upon the shape and boundaries of the land, particularly at the point where it might front on navigable waters. A provision of one of the acts of 1778, stipulated that settlers were forbidden to claim lands not ceded to North Carolina by Indian treaties.
In 1782, the General Assembly established a series of designated amounts of land to be made available for various ranks of officer and soldier veterans of the Continental Line. [A colonel, such as James Brown, who had served a full seven years, was authorized a grant of 7200 acres, an amount which was later reduced to 5000 acres. Those who had served a lesser amount of time, but at least two years, were granted proportionately less.]. In 1783, a bill was passed creating Davidson County, the first official move opening the lands of Middle Tennessee for settlement. In addition the outlines of the military reservation lands had been laid out and warrants for eight million acres were authorized. This same act renewed efforts to protect Indian rights. Settlers attempting to claim Indian lands were subject to fine, as were settlers who attempted to purchase land from various Indian tribes, or who were caught grazing animals, hunting, or foraging on Indian lands. With these laws, despite their restrictions, settlers were once again free to secure titles to western lands.
These restrictions did not last long and for a period of several years between 1783 and 1789, the status of Tennessee land claims was in flux. During this time, North Carolina first ceded the land to the United States Continental Congress, then revoked the cession, then ceded it back to the Federal government. In the interim, there was much abuse by land speculators who bought up land and held it to sell back to prospective settlers at highly-inflated prices. Many of the acts by the North Carolina General Assembly were aimed at combating such actions. With the establishment of the Territory of the United States South of the Ohio, at the end of 1789, all land regulations passed to the United States Congress.
1. J. G. M. Ramsey, "The Annals of Tennessee to the End of the Eighteenth Century, comprising its Settlement as
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