David Crockett - Parentage and Childhood
A little more than a hundred years ago, a poor man, by the name of
Crockett, embarked on board an emigrant-ship, in Ireland, for the New
World. He was in the humblest station in life. But very little is known
respecting his uneventful career excepting its tragical close. His family
consisted of a wife and three or four children. Just before he sailed, or
on the Atlantic passage, a son was born, to whom he gave the name of John.
The family probably landed in Philadelphia, and dwelt somewhere in
Pennsylvania, for a year or two, in one of those slab shanties, with which
all are familiar as the abodes of the poorest class of Irish emigrants.
After a year or two, Crockett, with his little family, crossed the almost
pathless Alleghanies. Father, mother, and children trudged along through
the rugged defiles and over the rocky cliffs, on foot. Probably a single
pack-horse conveyed their few household goods. The hatchet and the rifle
were the only means of obtaining food, shelter, and even clothing. With
the hatchet, in an hour or two, a comfortable camp could be constructed,
which would protect them from wind and rain. The camp-fire, cheering the
darkness of the night, drying their often wet garments, and warming their
chilled limbs with its genial glow, enabled them to enjoy that almost
greatest of earthly luxuries, peaceful sleep.
The rifle supplied them with food. The fattest of turkeys and the most
tender steaks of venison, roasted upon forked sticks, which they held in
their hands over the coals, feasted their voracious appetites. This, to
them, was almost sumptuous food. The skin of the deer, by a rapid and
simple process of tanning, supplied them with moccasins, and afforded
material for the repair of their tattered garments.
We can scarcely comprehend the motive which led this solitary family to
push on, league after league, farther and farther from civilization,
through the trackless forests. At length they reached the Holston River.
This stream takes its rise among the western ravines of the Alleghanies,
in Southwestern Virginia. Flowing hundreds of miles through one of the
most solitary and romantic regions upon the globe, it finally unites with
the Clinch River, thus forming the majestic Tennessee.
One hundred years ago, this whole region, west of the Alleghanies, was an
unexplored and an unknown wilderness. Its silent rivers, its forests, and
its prairies were crowded with game. Countless Indian tribes, whose names
even had never been heard east of the Alleghanies, ranged this vast
expanse, pursuing, in the chase, wild beasts scarcely more savage than
The origin of these Indian tribes and their past history are lost in
oblivion. Centuries have come and gone, during which joys and griefs, of
which we now can know nothing, visited their humble lodges. Providence
seems to have raised up a peculiar class of men, among the descendants of
the emigrants from the Old World, who, weary of the restraints of
civilization, were ever ready to plunge into the wildest depths of the
wilderness, and to rear their lonely huts in the midst of all its perils,
privations, and hardships.
This solitary family of the Crocketts followed down the northwestern banks
of the Hawkins River for many a weary mile, until they came to a spot
which struck their fancy as a suitable place to build their Cabin. In
subsequent years a small village called Rogersville was gradually reared
upon this spot, and the territory immediately around was organized into
what is now known as Hawkins County. But then, for leagues in every
direction, the solemn forest stood in all its grandeur. Here Mr. Crockett,
alone and unaided save by his wife and children, constructed a little
shanty, which could have been but little more than a hunter's camp. He
could not lift solid logs to build a substantial house. The hard-trodden
ground was the only floor of the single room which he enclosed. It was
roofed with bark of trees piled heavily on, which afforded quite effectual
protection from the rain. A hole cut through the slender logs was the only
window. A fire was built in one corner, and the smoke eddied through a
hole left in the roof. The skins of bears, buffaloes, and wolves provided
couches, all sufficient for weary ones, who needed no artificial opiate to
promote sleep. Such, in general, were the primitive homes of many of those
bold emigrants who abandoned the comforts of civilized life for the
solitudes of the wilderness.
They did not want for most of what are called the necessaries of life. The
river and the forest furnished a great variety of fish and game. Their
hut, humble as it was, effectually protected them from the deluging
tempest and the inclement cold. The climate was genial in a very high
degree, and the soil, in its wonderful fertility, abundantly supplied them
with corn and other simple vegetables. But the silence and solitude which
reigned are represented, by those who experienced them, as at times
One principal motive which led these people to cross the mountains, was
the prospect of an ultimate fortune in the rise of land. Every man who
built a cabin and raised a crop of grain, however small, was entitled to
four hundred acres of land, and a preemption right to one thousand more
adjoining, to be secured by a land-office warrant.
In this lonely home, Mr. Crockett, with his wife and children, dwelt for
some months, perhaps years--we know not how long. One night, the awful
yell of the savage was heard, and a band of human demons came rushing upon
the defenceless family. Imagination cannot paint the tragedy which ensued.
Though this lost world, ever since the fall of Adam, has been filled to
repletion with these scenes of woe, it causes one's blood to curdle in his
veins as he contemplates this one deed of cruelty and blood.
The howling fiends were expeditious in their work. The father and mother
were pierced by arrows, mangled with the tomahawk, and scalped. One son,
severely wounded, escaped into the forest. Another little boy, who was
deaf and dumb, was taken captive and carried by the Indians to their
distant tribe, where he remained, adopted into the tribe, for about
eighteen years. He was then discovered by some of his relatives, and was
purchased back at a considerable ransom. The torch was applied to the
cabin, and the bodies of the dead were consumed in the crackling flames.
What became of the remainder of the children, if there were any others
present in this midnight scene of conflagration and blood, we know not.
There was no reporter to give us the details. We simply know that in some
way John Crockett, who subsequently became the father of that David whose
history we now write, was not involved in the general massacre. It is
probable that he was not then with the family, but that he was a hired boy
of all work in some farmer's family in Pennsylvania.
As a day-laborer he grew up to manhood, and married a woman in his own
sphere of life, by the name of Mary Hawkins. He enlisted as a common
soldier in the Revolutionary War, and took part in the battle of King's
Mountain. At the close of the war he reared a humble cabin in the frontier
wilds of North Carolina. There he lived for a few years, at but one
remove, in point of civilization, from the savages around him. It is not
probable that either he or his wife could read or write. It is not
probable that they had any religious thoughts; that their minds ever
wandered into the regions of that mysterious immortality which reaches out
beyond the grave. Theirs was apparently purely an animal existence, like
that of the Indian, almost like that of the wild animals they pursued in
||At length, John Crockett, with
his wife and three or four children, unintimidated by the awful fate
of his father's family, wandered from North Carolina, through the
long and dreary defiles of the mountains, to the sunny valleys and
the transparent skies of East Tennessee. It was about the year 1783.
Here he came to a rivulet of crystal water, winding through majestic
forests and plains of luxuriant verdure. Upon a green mound, with
this stream flowing near his door, John Crockett built his rude and
floorless hut. Punching holes in the soil with a stick, he dropped
in kernels of corn, and obtained a far richer harvest than it would
be supposed such culture could produce. As we have mentioned, the
building of this hut and the planting of this crop made poor John
Crockett the proprietor of four hundred acres of land of almost
In this lonely cabin, far away in the wilderness, David Crockett was
born, on the 17th of August, 1786. He had then four brothers.
Subsequently four other children were added to the family.
His childhood's home was more humble than the majority of the readers
of this volume can imagine. It was destitute of everything which, in a
higher state of civilization, is deemed essential to comfort. The wigwam
of the Indian afforded as much protection from the weather, and was as
well furnished, as the cabin of logs and bark which sheltered his father's
family. It would seem, from David Crockett's autobiography, that in his
childhood he went mainly without any clothing, like the pappooses of an
Indian squaw. These facts of his early life must be known, that we may
understand the circumstances by which his peculiar character was formed.
He had no instruction whatever in religion, morals, manners, or mental
culture. It cannot be supposed that his illiterate parents were very
gentle in their domestic discipline, or that their example could have been
of any essential advantage in preparing him for the arduous struggle of
life. It would be difficult to find any human being, in a civilized land,
who can have enjoyed less opportunities for moral culture than David
Crockett enjoyed in his early years.
There was quite a fall on the Nolachucky River, a little below the cabin
of John Crockett. Here the water rushed foaming over the rocks, with fury
which would at once swamp any canoe. When David was four or five years
old, and several other emigrants had come and reared their cabins in that
vicinity, he was one morning out playing with his brothers on the bank of
the river. There was a canoe tied to the shore. The boys got into it, and,
to amuse themselves, pushed out into the stream, leaving little David,
greatly to his indignation, on the shore.
But the boys did not know how to manage the canoe, and though they plied
the paddies with all vigor, they soon found themselves caught in the
current, and floating rapidly down toward the falls, where, should they be
swept over, the death of all was inevitable.
A man chanced to be working in a field not far distant. He heard the cries
of the boys and saw their danger. There was not a moment to be lost. He
started upon the full run, throwing off coat and waistcoat and shoes, in
his almost frantic speed, till he reached the water. He then plunged in,
and, by swimming and wading, seized the canoe when it was within but about
twenty feet of the roaring falls. With almost superhuman exertions he
succeeded in dragging it to the shore.
This event David Crockett has mentioned as the first which left any
lasting imprint upon his memory. Not long after this, another occurrence
took place characteristic of frontier life. Joseph Hawkins, a brother of
David's mother, crossed the mountains and joined the Crockett family in
their forest home. One morning he went out to shoot a deer, repairing to a
portion of the forest much frequented by this animal. As he passed a very
dense thicket, he saw the boughs swaying to and fro, where a deer was
apparently browsing. Very cautiously he crept within rifle-shot,
occasionally catching a glimpse, through the thick foliage, of the ear of
the animal,--as he supposed.
Taking deliberate aim he fired, and immediately heard a loud outcry.
Rushing to the spot, he found that he had shot a neighbor, who was there
gathering grapes. The ball passed through his side, inflicting a very
serious though not a fatal wound, as it chanced not to strike any vital
part. The wounded man was carried home; and the rude surgery which was
practised upon him was to insert a silk handkerchief with a ramrod in at
the bullet-hole, and draw it through his body. He recovered from the
Such a man as John Crockett forms no local attachments, and never remains
long in one place. Probably some one came to his region and offered him a
few dollars for his improvements. He abandoned his cabin, with its growing
neighborhood, and packing his few household goods upon one or two horses,
pushed back fifty miles farther southwest, into the trackless wilderness.
Here he found, about ten miles above the present site of Greenville, a
fertile and beautiful region. Upon the banks of a little brook, which
furnished him with an abundant supply of pure water, he reared another
shanty, and took possession of another four hundred acres of forest land.
Some of his boys were now old enough to furnish efficient help in the
field and in the chase.
How long John Crockett remained here we know not. Neither do we know what
induced him to make another move. But we soon find him pushing still
farther back into the wilderness, with his hapless family of sons and
daughters, dooming them, in all their ignorance, to the society only of
bears and wolves. He now established himself upon a considerable stream,
unknown to geography, called Cue Creek.
David Crockett was now about eight years old. During these years
emigration had been rapidly flowing from the Atlantic States into this
vast and beautiful valley south of the Ohio. With the increasing
emigration came an increasing demand for the comforts of civilization.
Framed houses began to rise here and there, and lumber, in its various
forms, was needed.
John Crockett, with another man by the name of Thomas Galbraith, undertook
to build a mill upon Cove Creek. They had nearly completed it, having
expended all their slender means in its construction, when there came a
terrible freshet, and all their works were swept away. The flood even
inundated Crockett's cabin, and the family was compelled to fly to a
neighboring eminence for safety.
Disheartened by this calamity, John Crockett made another move. Knoxville,
on the Holston River, had by this time become quite a thriving little
settlement of log huts. The main route of emigration was across the
mountains to Abingdon, in Southwestern Virginia, and then by an extremely
rough forest-road across the country to the valley of the Holston, and
down that valley to Knoxville. This route was mainly traversed by
pack-horses and emigrants on foot. But stout wagons, with great labor,
could be driven through.
John Crockett moved still westward to this Holston valley, where he reared
a pretty large log house on this forest road; and opened what he called a
tavern for the entertainment of teamsters and other emigrants. It was
indeed a rude resting-place. But in a fierce storm the exhausted animals
could find a partial shelter beneath a shed of logs, with corn to eat; and
the hardy pioneers could sleep on bear-skins, with their feet perhaps
soaked with rain, feeling the warmth of the cabin fire. The rifle of John
Crockett supplied his guests with the choicest venison steaks, and his
wife baked in the ashes the "journey cake," since called johnny cake, made
of meal from corn pounded in a mortar or ground in a hand-mill. The
brilliant flame of the pitch-pine knot illumined the cabin; and around the
fire these hardy men often kept wakeful until midnight, smoking their
pipes, telling their stories, and singing their songs.
This house stood alone in the forest. Often the silence of the night was
disturbed by the cry of the grizzly bear and the howling of wolves. Here
David remained four years, aiding his father in all the laborious work of
clearing the land and tending the cattle. There was of course no school
here, and the boy grew up in entire ignorance of all book learning. But in
these early years he often went into the woods with his gun in pursuit of
game, and, young as he was, acquired considerable reputation as a
One day, a Dutchman by the name of Jacob Siler came to the cabin, driving
a large herd of cattle. He had gathered them farther west, from the
luxuriant pastures in the vicinity of Knoxville, where cattle multiplied
with marvellous rapidity, and was taking them back to market in Virginia.
The drover found some difficulty in managing so many half wild cattle, as
he pressed them forward through the wilderness, and he bargained with John
Crockett to let his son David, who, as we have said, was then twelve years
of age, go with him as his hired help. Whatever wages he gave was paid to
The boy was to go on foot with this Dutchman four hundred miles, driving
the cattle. This transaction shows very clearly the hard and unfeeling
character of David's parents. When he reached the end of his journey, so
many weary leagues from home, the only way by which he could return was to
attach himself to some emigrant party or some company of teamsters, and
walk back, paying for such food as he might consume, by the assistance he
could render on the way. There are few parents who could thus have treated
a child of twelve years.
|The little fellow, whose affections had never
been more cultivated than those of the whelp of the wolf or the
cub of the bear, still left home, as he tells us, with a heavy
heart. The Dutchman was an entire stranger to him, and he knew not
what treatment he was to expect at his hands. He had already
experienced enough of forest travel to know its hardships. A
journey of four hundred miles seemed to him like going to the
uttermost parts of the earth. As the pioneers had smoked their
pipes at his father's cabin fire, he had heard many appalling
accounts of bloody conflicts with the Indians, of massacres,
scalpings, tortures, and captivity.
David's father had taught him, very sternly, one lesson, and that was
implicit and prompt obedience to his demands. The boy knew full well
that it would be of no avail for him to make any remonstrance. Silently,
and trying to conceal his tears, he set out on the perilous enterprise.
The cattle could be driven but about fifteen or twenty miles a day.
Between twenty and thirty days were occupied in the toilsome and
perilous journey. The route led them often through marshy ground, where
the mire was trampled knee-deep. All the streams had to be forded. At
times, swollen by the rains, they were very deep. There were frequent
days of storm, when, through the long hours, the poor boy trudged
onward, drenched with rain and shivering with cold. Their fare was most
meagre, consisting almost entirely of such game as they chanced to
shoot, which they roasted on forked sticks before the fire.
When night came, often dark and stormy, the cattle were generally too
much fatigued by their long tramp to stray away. Some instinct also
induced them to cluster together. A rude shanty was thrown up. Often
everything was so soaked with rain that it was impossible to build a
fire. The poor boy, weary and supperless, spattered with mud and
drenched with rain, threw himself upon the wet ground for that blessed
sleep in which the weary forget their woes. Happy was he if he could
induce one of the shaggy dogs to lie down by his side, that he might hug
the faithful animal in his arms, and thus obtain a little warmth.
Great was the luxury when, at the close of a toilsome day, a few pieces
of bark could be so piled as to protect from wind and rain, and a
roaring fire could blaze and crackle before the little camp. Then the
appetite which hunger gives would enable him to feast upon the tender
cuts of venison broiled upon the coals, with more satisfaction than the
gourmand takes in the choicest viands of the restaurant. Having feasted
to satiety, he would stretch himself upon the ground, with his feet to
the fire, and soon be lost to all earth's cares, in sweet oblivion.
The journey was safely accomplished. The Dutchman had a father-in-law,
by the name of Hartley, who lived in Virginia, having reared his cabin
within about three miles of the Natural Bridge. Here the boy's contract
came to an end. It would seem that the Dutchman was a good sort of man,
as the world goes, and that he treated the boy kindly. He was so well
pleased with David's energy and fidelity, that he was inclined to retain
him in his service. Seeing the boy's anxiety to return home, he was
disposed to throw around him invisible chains, and to hold him a
captive. He thus threw every possible hindrance in the way of his
return, offered to hire him as his boy of all work, and made him a
present of five or six dollars, which perhaps he considered payment in
advance, which bound the boy to remain with him until he had worked it
David soon perceived that his movements were watched, and that he was
not his own master to go or stay as he pleased. This increased his
restlessness. Four or five weeks thus passed away, when, one morning,
three wagons laden with merchandise came along, bound to Knoxville. They
were driven by an old man by the name of Dugan, and his two stalwart
sons. They had traversed the road before, and David had seen the old man
at his father's tavern. Secretly the shrewd boy revealed to him his
situation, and his desire to get back to his home. The father and sons
conferred together upon the subject. They were moved with sympathy for
the boy, and, after due deliberation, told him that they should stop for
the night about seven miles from that place, and should set out again on
their journey with the earliest light of the morning; and that if he
could get to them before daylight, he might follow their wagons.
It was Sunday morning, and it so happened that the Dutchman and the
family had gone away on a visit. David collected his clothes and the
little money he had, and hid them in a bundle under his bed. A very
small bundle held them all. The family returned. and, suspecting
nothing, all retired to sleep.
David had naturally a very affectionate heart. He never had been from
home before. His lonely situation roused all the slumbering emotions of
his childhood. In describing this event, he writes:
"I went to bed early that night, but sleep seemed to be a stranger to
me. For though I was a wild boy, yet I dearly loved my father and
mother; and their images appeared to be so deeply fixed in my mind that
I could not sleep for thinking of them. And then the fear that when I
should attempt to go out I should be discovered and called to a halt,
filled me with anxiety."
A little after midnight, when the family were in profoundest sleep,
David cautiously rose, and taking his little bundle, crept out doors. To
his disappointment he found that it was snowing fast, eight inches
having already fallen; and the wintry gale moaned dismally through the
treetops. It was a dark, moonless night. The cabin was in the fields,
half a mile from the road along which the wagons had passed. This boy of
twelve years, alone in the darkness, was to breast the gale and wade
through the snow, amid forest glooms, a distance of seven miles, before
he could reach the appointed rendezvous.
For a moment his heart sank within him. Then recovering his resolution,
he pushed out boldly into the storm. For three hours he toiled along,
the snow rapidly increasing in depth until it reached up to his knees.
Just before the dawn of the morning he reached the wagons. The men were
up, harnessing their teams. The Dunns were astounded at the appearance
of the little boy amid the darkness and the tempest. They took him into
the house, warmed him by the fire, and gave him a good breakfast,
speaking to him words of sympathy and encouragement. The affectionate
heart of David was deeply moved by this tenderness, to which he was
And then, though exhausted by the toil of a three hours' wading through
the drifts, he commenced, in the midst of a mountain storm, a long day's
journey upon foot. It was as much as the horses could do to drag the
heavily laden wagons over the encumbered road. However weary, he could
not ride. However exhausted, the wagons could not wait for him; neither
was there any place in the smothering snow for rest.
Day after day they toiled along, in the endurance of hardships now with
difficulty comprehended. Sometimes they were gladdened with sunny skies
and smooth paths. Again the clouds would gather, and the rain, the
sleet, and the snow would envelop them in glooms truly dismal. Under
these circumstances the progress of the wagons was very slow. David was
impatient. As he watched the sluggish turns of the wheels, he thought
that he could travel very much faster if he should push forward alone,
leaving the wagons behind him.
At length he became so impatient, thoughts of home having obtained
entire possession of his mind, that he informed Mr. Dunn of his
intention to press forward as fast as he could. His elder companions
deemed it very imprudent for such a mere child. thus alone, to attempt
to traverse the wilderness, and they said all they could to dissuade
him, but in vain. He therefore, early the next morning, bade them
farewell, and with light footsteps and a light heart tripped forward,
leaving them behind, and accomplishing nearly as much in one day as the
wagons could in two. We are not furnished with any of the details of
this wonderful journey of a solitary child through a wilderness of one
or two hundred miles. We know not how he slept at night, or how he
obtained food by day. He informs us that he was at length overtaken by a
drover, who had been to Virginia with a herd of cattle, and was
returning to Knoxville riding one horse and leading another.
The man was amazed in meeting a mere child in such lonely wilds, and
upon hearing his story, his kind heart was touched. David was a frail
little fellow, whose weight would be no burden for a horse, and the good
man directed him to mount the animal which he led. The boy had begun to
be very tired. He was just approaching a turbid stream, whose icy
waters, reaching almost to his neck, he would have had to wade but for
this Providential assistance.
Travellers in the wilderness seldom trot their horses. On such a
journey, an animal who naturally walks fast is of much more value than
one which has attained high speed upon the race-course. Thus pleasantly
mounted, David and his kind protector rode along together until they
came within about fifteen miles of John Crockett's tavern, where their
roads diverged. Here David dismounted, and bidding adieu to his
benefactor, almost ran the remaining distance, reaching home that
"The name of this kind gentleman," he writes, "I have forgotten; for it
deserves a high place in my little book. A remembrance of his kindness
to a little straggling boy has, however, a resting-place in my heart,
and there it will remain as long as I live."
It was the spring of the year when David reached his father's cabin. He
spent a part of the summer there. The picture which David gives of his
home is revolting in the extreme. John Crockett, the tavern-keeper, had
become intemperate, and he was profane and brutal. But his son, never
having seen any home much better, does not seem to have been aware that
there were any different abodes upon earth. Of David's mother we know
nothing. She was probably a mere household drudge, crushed by an
unfeeling husband, without sufficient sensibilities to have been aware
of her degraded condition.
Several other cabins had risen in the vicinity of John Crockett's. A man
came along, by the name of Kitchen, who undertook to open a school to
teach the boys to read. David went to school four days, but found it
very difficult to master his letters. He was a wiry little fellow, very
athletic, and his nerves seemed made of steel. When roused by anger, he
was as fierce and reckless as a catamount. A boy, much larger than
himself, had offended him. David decided not to attack him near the
school-house, lest the master might separate them.
He therefore slipped out of school, just before it was dismissed, and
running along the road, hid in a thicket, near which his victim would
have to pass on his way home. As the boy came unsuspectingly along,
young Crockett, with the leap of a panther, sprang upon his back. With
tooth and nail he assailed him, biting, scratching, pounding, until the
boy cried for mercy.
The next morning, David was afraid to go to school, apprehending the
severe punishment he might get from the master. He therefore left home
as usual, but played truant, hiding himself in the woods all day. He did
the same the next morning, and so continued for several days. At last
the master sent word to John Crockett, inquiring why his son David no
longer came to school. The boy was called to an account, and the whole
affair came out.
John Crockett had been drinking. His eyes flashed fire. He cut a stout
hickory stick, and with oaths declared that he would give his boy an
"eternal sight" worse whipping than the master would give him, unless he
went directly back to school. As the drunken father approached
brandishing his stick, the boy ran, and in a direction opposite from
that of the school-house. The enraged father pursued, and the unnatural
race continued for nearly a mile. A slight turn in the road concealed
the boy for a moment from the view of his pursuer, and he plunged into
the forest and hid. The father, with staggering gait, rushed along, but
having lost sight of the boy, soon gave up the chase, and returned home.
This revolting spectacle, of such a father and such a son, over which
one would think that angels might weep, only excited the derision of
this strange boy. It was what he had been accustomed to all his life. He
describes it in ludicrous terms, with the slang phrases which were ever
dropping from his lips. David knew that a terrible whipping awaited him
should he go back to the cabin.
He therefore pushed on several miles, to the hut of a settler whom he
knew. He was, by this time, too much accustomed to the rough and tumble
of life to feel any anxiety about the future. Arriving at the cabin, it
so chanced that he found a man, by the name of Jesse Cheek, who was just
starting with a drove of cattle for Virginia. Very readily, David, who
had experience in that business, engaged to accompany him. An elder
brother also, either weary of his wretched home or anxious to see more
of the world, entered into the same service.
The incidents of this journey were essentially the same with those of
the preceding one, though the route led two hundred miles farther into
the heart of Virginia. The road they took passed through Abingdon,
Witheville, Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Orange Court House, to Front
Royal in Warren County. Though these frontier regions then, seventy-five
years ago, were in a very primitive condition, still young Crockett
caught glimpses of a somewhat higher civilization than he had ever
encountered before in his almost savage life.
Here the drove was sold, and David found himself with a few dollars in
his pocket. His brother decided to look for work in that region. David,
then thirteen years of age, hoping tremblingly that time enough had
elapsed to save him from a whipping, turned his thoughts homeward. A
brother of the drover was about to return on horseback. David decided to
accompany him, thinking that the man would permit him to ride a part of
Much to his disgust, the man preferred to ride himself. The horse was
his own. David had no claim to it whatever. He was therefore left to
trudge along on foot. Thus he journeyed for three days. He then made an
excuse for stopping a little while, leaving his companion to go on
alone. He was very careful not again to overtake him. The boy had then,
with four dollars in his pocket, a foot journey before him of between
three and four hundred miles. And this was to be taken through desolate
regions of morass and forest, where, not unfrequently, the lurking
Indian had tomahawked, or gangs of half-famished wolves had devoured the
passing traveller. He was also liable, at any time, to be caught by
night and storm, without any shelter.
As he was sauntering along slowly, that he might be sure and not
overtake his undesirable companion, he met a wagoner coming from
Greenville, in Tennessee, and bound for Gerardstown, Berkeley County, in
the extreme northerly part of Virginia. His route lay directly over the
road which David had traversed. The man's name was Adam Myers. He was a
jovial fellow, and at once won the heart of the vagrant boy. David soon
entered into a bargain with Myers, and turned back with him. The state
of mind in which the boy was may be inferred from the following extract
taken from his autobiography. I omit the profanity, which was ever
sprinkled through all his utterances:
"I often thought of home, and, indeed, wished bad enough to be there.
But when I thought of the school-house, and of Kitchen, my master, and
of the race with my father, and of the big hickory stick he carried, and
of the fierceness of the storm of wrath I had left him in, I was afraid
to venture back. I knew my father's nature so well, that I was certain
his anger would hang on to him like a turtle does to a fisherman's toe.
The promised whipping came slap down upon every thought of home."
Travelling back with the wagon, after two days' journey, he met his
brother again, who had then decided to return himself to the parental
cabin in Tennessee. He pleaded hard with David to accompany him
reminding him of the love of his mother and his sisters. The boy, though
all unused to weeping, was moved to tears. But the thought of the
hickory stick, and of his father's brawny arm, decided the question.
With his friend Myers he pressed on, farther and farther from home, to
Back to: Biography of David
Source: David Crockett: His Life and
Adventures by John S. C. Abbott
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