Page images

fellows who did not. The whole treaty was, in fact, on both sides, of a merely preliminary nature. The boundaries it arranged were not considered final until confirmed by the treaty of Hopewell a couple of years later.

Robertson meanwhile was delegated by the unanimous vote of the settlers to go to the Assembly of North Carolina, and there petition for the establishment of a regular land office at Nashborough, and in other ways advance the interests of the settlers. He was completely successful in his mission. The Cumberland settlements were included in a new county, called Davidson ;10 and an Inferior Court of Pleas and Common Sessions, vested by the act with extraordinary powers, was established at Nashborough. The four justices of the new court had all been Triers of the old committee, and the scheme of government was practically not very greatly changed, although now resting on an indisputably legal basis. The Cumberland settlers had for years acted as an independent, law-abiding, and orderly commonwealth, and the Court of Triers had shown great firmness and wisdom. It spoke well for the people that they had been able to establish such a government, in which the majority ruled, while the rights of each individual were secured. Robertson deserves the chief credit as both civil and military leader. The committee of which he was a member,

10 In honor of General Wm. Davidson, a very gallant and patriotic soldier of North Carolina during the Revolutionary

The county government was established in October,


had seen that justice was done between man and man, had provided for defence against the outside foe, and had striven to prevent any wrongs being done to neutral or allied powers. When they became magistrates of a county of North Carolina they continued to act on the lines they had already marked out. The increase of population had brought an increase of wealth. The settlers were still frontiersmen, clad in buckskin or homespun, with rawhide moccasins, living in log-cabins, and sleeping under bearskins on beds made of buffalo hides; but as soon as they ventured to live on their clearings the ground was better tilled, corn became abundant and cattle and hogs increased as the game diminished. Nashborough began to look more like an ordinary little border town.11

During this year Robertson carried on some correspondence with the Spanish governor at New Orleans, Don Estevan Miro. This was the beginning of intercourse between the Western settlers and the Spanish officers, an intercourse which was absolutely necessary, though it afterward led to many intrigues and complications. Robertson was obliged to write to Miro not only to disclaim responsibility for the piratical deeds of men like Colbert, but also to protest against the conduct of certain of the Spanish agents among the Creeks and Chickamaugas. No sooner had hostilities ceased

11 The justices built a court-house and jail of hewed logs, the former eighteen feet square, with a lean-to or shed of twelve feet on one side. The contracts for building were let out at vendue to the lowest bidder.

with the British than the Spaniards began to incite the savages to take up once more the hatchet they had just dropped,12 for Spain already recognized in the restless borderers possible and formidable foes.

Miro in answering Robertson assured him that the Spaniards were very friendly to the Western settlers, and denied that the Spanish agents were stirring up trouble. He also told him that the harassed Cherokees, weary of ceaseless warfare, had asked permission to settle west of the Mississippi although they did not carry out their intention. He ended by pressing Robertson and his friends to come down and settle in Spanish territory, guaranteeing them good treatment.13

In spite of Miro's fair words the Spanish agents continued to intrigue against the Americans, and especially against the Cumberland people. Yet there was no open break. The Spanish governor was felt to be powerful for both good and evil, and at least a possible friend of the settlers. To many of their leaders he showed much favor, and the people as a whole were well impressed by him; and as a compliment to him they ultimately, when the Cumberland counties were separated from those lying to the eastward, united the former under the name of Mero 14 District.

12 Calendar of Va. State Papers, III., 584, 608, etc.

13 Robertson MSS. As the letter is important I give it in full in the Appendix.

14 So spelt; but apparently his true name was Miro.




W its sitting

THEN the first Continental Congress began

its sittings the only frontiersmen west of the mountains, and beyond the limits of continuous settlement within the old Thirteen Colonies, were the two or three hundred citizens of the little Watauga commonwealth. When peace was declared with Great Britain the backwoodsmen had spread westward, in groups, almost to the Mississippi, and they had increased in number to some twenty-five thousand souls,2 of whom a few hundred dwelt in the bend of the Cumberland, while the rest were about equally divided between Kentucky and Holston.

This great westward movement of armed settlers was essentially one of conquest, no less than of colonization. Thronging in with their wives and

| This qualification is put in because there were already a few families on the Monongahela, the head of the Kanawha, and the upper Holston; but they were in close touch with the people behind them.

9 These figures are simply estimates; but they are based on careful study and comparison, and though they must be some hundreds, and maybe some thousands, out of the way, are quite near enough for practical purposes. Vol. VII.-3


children, their cattle, and their few household goods, they won and held the land in the teeth of fierce resistance, both from the Indian claimants of the soil and from the representatives of a mighty and arrogant European power. The chain of events by which the winning was achieved is perfect; had any link therein snapped it is likely that the final result would have been failure. The wide wanderings of Boone and his fellow hunters made the country known and awakened in the minds of the frontiersmen a keen desire to possess it. The building of the Watauga commonwealth by Robertson and Sevier gave a base of operations, and furnished a model for similar communities to follow. Lord Dunmore's war made the actual settlement possible, for it cowed the northern Indians, and restrained them from seriously molesting Kentucky during its most feeble years.

Henderson and Boone made their great treaty with the Cherokees in 1775, and then established a permanent colony far beyond all previous settlements, entering into final possession of the new country. The victory over the Cherokees in 1776 made safe the line of communication along the Wilderness Road, and secured the chance for further expansion. Clark's campaigns gained the Illinois, or northwestern regions. The growth of Kentucky then became very rapid; and in its turn this, and the steady progress of the Watauga settlements, rendered possible Robertson's successful effort to plant a new community still further west, on the Cumberland.

« PreviousContinue »