Sunday, January 13, 2008

1799 Tennessee Boundary Survey (part 1)

From Western North Carolina: A History (1730-1913), by John Preston Arthur, published 1914, Edwards & Broughton Printing Co., North Carolina, pp. 38-40:

    THE FIRST TENNESSEE BOUNDARY SURVEY. From the narratives of David Vance and Robert Henry of the battles of Kings Mountain and Cowan's Ford, as well as from the dairy of John Strother, can be gathered a fine account of the survey from Virginia to the Painted Rock on the French Broad and the Stone on the Cataloochee Turnpike. The survey began on the 20th of May and ended Friday the 28th of June, 1799. The original of Strother's diary is filed in the suit of the Virginia, Tennessee & Carolina Steel and Iron Company vs. Newman, in the United States court at Asheville, N. C. The actual survey began May 22d, "at a sugar-tree and beech on Pond mountain, so called from two small ponds on it." Both trees are now gone, and a stone four feet by two feet by sixteen inches in thickness, is buried in the ground where they stood, with a simple cross, east and west, chiseled upon it. Its upper surface is level with the ground, and it was placed there in 1899 or 1900 by a Mr. Buchanan of the United States coast survey. Marion Miller and John and Alfred Bivins assisted him. Mr. Miller still lives within a mile and a half of the corner rock. Strother's party set out from Asheville May 12, and reached Capt. Robert Walls on New River, where Strother arrived on the 17th, and met with Major Mussendine Mathews, of whom Judge David Schenck says that he "represented Iredell county in the House of Commons from 1789 to 1802 continuously. He was either a Tory or a Cynic, it seems." They were awaiting the arrival of Col. David Vance and Gen. Joseph McDowell, but as they did not come, Strother went to the house of a Mr. Elsburg on the 18th.

    THE PARTY GATHERS. Col. Vance and Major B. Collins arrived on the 19th, and they all went to Captain Isaac Weaver's. They were General Joseph McDowell, Col. David Vance, Major Mussendine Mathews, commissioners; John Strother and Robert Henry, surveyors; Messers. B. Collins, James Hawkins, George Penland, Robert Logan, Geo. Davidson, and J. Matthews, chain-bearers and markers; Major James Neely, commissary; two pack-horse men and a pilot. They camped that night on Stag creek. On the night of the 23d of May they camped "at a very bad place" in a low gap at the head of Laurel Fork of New river and Laurel Fork of Holston at the head of a branch, “after having passed through extreme rough ground and some bad laurel thickets.” A road now runs through that laurel thicket, built since the Civil War, and runs from Hemlock postoffice, where there is now a narrow gauge lumber railroad and an extract plant, to Laurel Bloomery, in Tennessee. A small hotel now stands half on the North Carolina and half on the Tennessee side of the line those men then ran, and the gap is called “Cut Laurel” gap because it is literally cut through the laurel for a mile or more. Thousands of gallons of blockade whiskey used to be carried through that gap when there was nothing but a trail there. It is called by Mr. Strother a low gap, but it is one of the highest in the mountains. On the 28th they went to a Mr. Miller's and got a young man to act as a pilot. Strother went from Miller's “to Cove creek, where I got a Mr. Curtis and met the company in a low gap between the waters of Cove creek and Roan's creek where the road crosses the same,” on Wednesday night, the 29th.

    CROSSED BOONE'S TRAIL. This, in all probability, is the gap through which Daniel Boone and his party had 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 a 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. The young man who had been employed as a pilot at Mr. Miller's house on the 28th was found on the 29th not to be a “woodsman and of course he was discharged.” On June 1st they came to the "Wattogo" river, where they killed a bear, "very poor," upon which and "some bacon stewed together, with some good tea and johnny cake we made a Sabbath morning breakfast fit for a European Lord." There is a tradition among the people living near the falls of the Watauga at the State line, that the line between the peak to the north of the falls and the Yellow mountain was not actually run and marked; but the field notes of both Strother and Henry show that the line was both run and marked all the way. The reason the line was run from the peak north of the Watauga to the bald of the Yellow was because the act required it to be run in precisely that way; the language being "to the place where Watauga river breaks through it [the mountain], thence a direct course to the top of the Yellow Mountain where Bright's road crosses the same." As it is impossible to see the Yellow from the river at the falls where the river breaks through, it was necessary to get the course from the top of the peak north of the river.