Sunday, January 13, 2008

1799 Tennessee Boundary Survey (part 5)

From Western North Carolina: A History (1730-1913), by John Preston Arthur, published 1914, Edwards & Broughton Printing Co., North Carolina, pp. 43-45:

    VANCE'S CAMP. From the Bald mountain, now in Yancey county, it seems that Col. Love became their pilot; and five or six miles further on in "a low gap between the head of Indian creek and the waters of the south fork of Laurel, we encamped and called it Vance's Camp." The richness of the mountains is noted.

    THE GRIER BALD. This Bald is sometimes called the Grier Bald from the fact that David Grier, a hermit, lived upon it for thirty-two years. Grier was a native of South Carolina who, because one of the daughters of Col. David Vance refused to marry him, built himself a log house here in 1802, just three years after Colonel Vance had passed the spot, and it is probable Grier first heard of it through this gentleman. In a quarrel over his land he killed a man named Holland Higgins and was acquitted on the ground of insanity "and returned home to meet his death at the hands of one of Holland's friends."

    BOONE'S COVE. On Wednesday the 19th of June, after having suffered severely the previous night from gnats, they went to "Boone's Cove, between the waters of Laurel and Indian creeks," while on the 20th they had to pass over steep and rocky and brushy knobs, with water scarce and a considerable distance from the line. All day Friday their horses suffered from want of water and food, part of the way being impassable for horses; while on Saturday it took them "four hours and 23 minutes" to cut their way one and one-fourth miles to the top of the mountain, where, after getting through the laurel, they "came into an open flat on top of Beech mountain where we camped till Monday at a good spring and excellent range for our horses."

    A RECRUIT OF BACON. On Monday, the 24th of June, their provisions began to fail them again, but they proceeded on the line six miles and "crossed the road leading from Barnett's Station to the Brushy Cove and encamped in a low gap between the waters of Paint creek and Laurel river." They had a wet evening here; but as they "suped on venison stewed with a recruit of bacon Major Neely brought in this day from the Brushy Cove settlement," we may hope their lot was not altogether desolate; for it is possible that this enterprising commissary, Major Neely, might have brought them something besides that "recruit of bacon"; for it will be recalled that on a former occasion he went for a pilot and returned not only with a pilot but with two gallons of a liquid that "had such marvelous powers" that it made a very "bad place" "tolerably comfortable."

    BARNETT'S STATION. At any rate, they knew they were nearing the end of their long and arduous journey, for they had now reached the waters of Paint creek, which they must have known was in the neighborhood of the "Painted Rock," their destination. The Barnett Station referred to above was probably Barnard's old stock stand on the French Broad river, five or six miles below Marshall.

    OFF THE TRACK FOR AWHILE. After losing their way on the 25th and "having a very uncomfortable time of it" on Paint creek, they got on the "right ridge from the place we got off of it and proceeded on the line five miles and encamped between the waters of F. B. R. [French Broad river] and Paint creek."

    "HASEY" AND "ANCTOOUS." "Thursday 27. This morning is cloudy and hasey. The Commissioners being anctoous to get on to the Painted Rock started us early"; but they took a wrong ridge again and had to return and spend an uncomfortable evening.

    DROPPING THE PLUMMET FROM PAINT ROCK. However, on Friday, the 28th day of June, 1799, they reached the Painted Rock at last and measured its height, finding it to be "107 feet three inches high from the top to the base," that "it rather projects out," and that "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 humans, wild beasts, fish and fowls were to be seen plainly made with red paint, some of them 20 and 30 feet from its base."

    ANIMAL PICTURES HAVE DISAPPEARED. How much more satisfactory this last sentence would have been if he had only added: "I saw them." For, as the rock appears today, the red paint seems to be nothing more or less than the oxidation of the iron in the exposed surfaces, while all trace of "some humans, wild beasts," etc., mentioned by him have entirely disappeared.

    THE REAL "PAINTED ROCK." However, he leaves us in no doubt that they had reached the real Painted Rock called for by the Act of Cession, ceding "certain lands therein described"; for he goes on to say that, while "some gentlemen of Tennessee wish to construe as the painted rock referred to" another rock in the French Broad river "about seven miles higher up on the opposite or S. W. side in a very obscure place," that "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 Notoriety."

    SURPASSES A "BEST SELLER" OF TO-DAY. This is the next to the concluding sentence in this quaint and charming narrative—a narrative that one hundred and fifteen years after it was penned can still be read with more interest than many of the so-called "best sellers" of the present day. " We then went up to the Warm Springs where we spent the evening in conviviality and friendship."

    THE LONELINESS OF BACHELORHOOD. But it is in the very last sentence that one begins to suspect that John Strother was at that time a bachelor, for we read: "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." One wonders whose bright eyes made his "fatigue" so much greater than that of the others and kept him so long at the springs.

    TO THE "BIG PIGEON." The line from the Painted Rock to the Big Pigeon was run a few weeks later on by the same commissioners and surveyors; but we have no narrative of the trip, which, doubtless, was without incident, though the way, probably, was rough and rugged.