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Ancestor of the Month 

January 2006

 

William Crowson

b.1740            d. 14 July 1814

 

William Crowson led a life adventurous enough for three men.

 

Family Life

 

Born in 1740 in  Wilmington Co, NC, as a young man he married

Mary Thomas. Together they had twelve children:  Richard, Aaron, Moses, Mary Elizabeth, William, John, Jacob, Abraham, Isaac, Thomas B., Jonathan, and Jane.  At one point he owned four hundred acres in Greene Co., NC.

 

Military Service

                  

He enlisted in the Wilmington District Militia during the Revolutionary War and served as a private.  He was part of the "Nollichuckey [sic] Settlers" in Greene Co. TN after the war. (Several counties in NC were "given" to TN)  The "Nollichuckey Settlers" were Revolutionary War veterans who were known for their expert marksmanship with a rifle.  Wouldn't  events up to this point be enough for one lifetime?

 

Life in Tennessee

                  

By 1794 Crowson was living in Crowson's Cove, now called Wears

Valley, in Sevier County, TN.  Sevier County at that time was plagued with attacks from Cherokee Indians who were not happy that the white "squatters" had moved onto their land.  Several horrific massacres of settlers by Indians were reported in the Knoxville Gazette at that time.

                  

On May 14, 1794, William Crowson's son Aaron and Aaron's  friend, Peter Pearcifield were out looking at Crowson land and other land in the area for a possible homesite. One version says that William Crowson was with them; one says that he stayed home. In the "with them" version, the three men were set upon by a small band of Cherokees who had been hiding in wait.  By some strange quirk, the Indians fired only at the two younger men, killing Pearcifield.  The two Crowsons escaped.  The other version has the two younger men riding alone.  During the skirmish with the Indians, Aaron manages to escape, riding his horse along Walden's Creek to Wear's Fort where he reports the fight. A group of men accompany Aaron to the site, find Pearcifield's body, and bury it in an unmarked grave  (The grave has since been marked.)

 

The first story is told in awe that the elder Crowson was so lucky and in mystery that the Indians did not shoot at him.  The second story sounds more reasonable.

                  

On May 14, the same day as Pearcifield's murder, three men, Joseph Evans, Thomas Sellers, and James Hubbard, Jr., dressed and painted themselves as Indians and set out as a vigilante group to avenge the attack.  They tracked the Indians, sneaked into the camp at night and killed four Cherokees asleep around a campfire.  The vigilantes returned home safely by May 21. 

                  

Whether William took part in the skirmish that killed Pearcifield or not, the constant threat in Crowson's Cove of Indian attacks, massacres, and the

like—along with the standard hardships of pioneering—would be enough for most men in a lifetime.

 

Giles County, Tennessee

 

Several years later, in 1807, William Crowson sold his land in Crowson's Cove and took four of his sons, one married daughter, and her husband to Giles County, TN.  Aaron and other family members stayed and became influential in the Sevier Co.area.

                  

When the Crowson family arrived in Giles Co, the land was overgrown with tall cane and scrub brush.  They cleared the land and built a farm.  As new families arrived in the area, the Crowsons helped each to clear land and build their own homes.  This practice continued with the new arrivals for years and years with the whole community pitching in.

                  

Crowson led a prosperous life in Giles County for the next seven years. His establishment of the Crowson settlement near Pulaski, TN would certainly qualifiy as another "life's work." He had done far more with his life than most people ever do.

 

Last Act of Courage

 

On July 14, 1814 William Crowson went down to the river.  The Elk River flowed near his home, but he traveled on to the larger Tennessee River, which probably meant that he made his way into Alabama as the Tennessee makes a curve southward at that spot before heading north again into TN.  While he was at the river, he watched two boys rowing a skiff toward shore.  He could hear them from the bank, arguing with each other.  When they reached the bank, they were still arguing, and neither made any effort to secure the boat.  In fact, they argued over who would tie it up.  As they argued, the skiff began slipping out into the river.  Knowing that Mr. Crowson was a strong swimmer, one of the boys asked for help.

                  

Crowson, at age 74, probably had no great desire to step into the water, but he complied, made preparations, and waded out into the current.  Shortly after he had pushed off to swim, the boys on the bank could tell that he was in trouble.

                  

Perhaps he shouted that he had cramps as he struggled in the water, for his drowning was reportedly caused by cramps.  The boys could do nothing but watch.

                  

And there, in the Tennessee River, attempting to do a kind act, William Crowson died.  His life had been a full one; indeed, the events of his life would make enough excitement for three ordinary men,

                   

William Crowson was Mamaw McCarter's great, great, great grandfather in the Hatcher line.  His daughter Mary Elizabeth "Polly" Crowson (1790-1838) married William Hatcher (1776-?)  Polly is Mamaw's great, great grandmother.  Polly was three years old when her father had his Indian skirmish and twenty-three when he drowned.

 

Line of Descent from William Crowson to Mary Elizabeth “Betsy” Hatcher

 

William Crowson (1740-1814) + Mary Thomas (no dates)

Reuben Hatcher, Sr. (1798-1870) + Martha Magill (1802-1875)

James H. (Pete) Hatcher (1839-1911) + Mary Elizabeth McInturff (1837-1915)

Elder Israel Alexander Hatcher (1860-1950) + Susan A. Sutton (1866-1903)

Mary Elizabeth “Betsy” Hatcher (1889-1969) + Rev. Eli McCarter (1886-1955)

                  

Sources: 

 

DAR Patriot Index, Vol I, p. 167. 

 

Reagan, Donald B.  Smoky Mountain Clans, Rev. Ed.

 

Sharp, J. A.  "Sevier County Settlers Versus Cherokee Indians," 1952. 

 

Smith, Sarah, Early History of Giles Co., TN:  1765-1820

                  

 

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