The history in Northeast Tennessee is rich with happenings, major events and perhaps most interesting influential people. The area known as the gateway to the west has hosted many pioneers during their journeys through new lands. Out of those, some decided to settle in Northeast Tennessee and make a home. This is where our story begins. During that time, the small town Greeneville was beginning to grow in population and commerce. One particular man in town was heading the charge on the growth and stability; he was starting businesses and encouraging others to do the same. That man was John Crockett. John was a magistrate, land speculator and owned the town’s tavern. He was married to the beautiful Rebecca Hawkins who was part of a wealthy family in which a Tennessee county is named after.
The couple had nine children, who they both loved and were proud of. As the children grew older, Rebecca could tell there was something special about her fifth child, whom they named David. Little Davy Crockett was born on August 17th, 1786 into an ever-expanding frontier. He was quite the intelligent little boy and carried his parents’ entrepreneurial spirit. He was so much like his father that when little Davy was only eight years old, he ran away from home after a big spat.
Now Davy was young, but he wasn’t dumb. After running away, it didn’t take him long to realize he didn’t have much of a chance at success without learning to read and write. So he enrolled himself in a school to learn his reading, writing and arithmetic. A few years went by and Davy grew into a handsome young man. He began to miss his family and decided it was time to forget the quarrel and return home. His family was so happy to see him! His father let him work off his punishment and life returned to normal for Davy.
At 20 years old, Davy met a lovely young lady named Mary Finely. Mary and Davy were head over heels for each other. They bought a large piece of property, built the cutest little home and the couple began farming. They were content for a while until Davy learned how hard frontier farming was. They decided they wanted a different life so they moved to Franklin County, Tennessee.
Now Franklin County at this time was far west and could be a dangerous place. Shortly after they moved, Davy learned of a frontiersman ambush on a band of Indians that lead to a Native American attack on Fort Mims, killing over 500 people. He wasted no time and volunteered to serve with the frontier military. Davy knew defending his country was what he was supposed to do. He served as a scout and a hunter and every now and then he was forced in to a little fighting. While he was away, Davy learned of Mary’s passing. He was heartbroken and left the military to go home at once. On his way home though, he contracted Malaria. The men he was traveling with didn’t want to take a chance getting the disease themselves so left him on the road convinced he would die. They didn’t know just how tough good ole Davy was, he fought that disease and fully recovered to return to his family. After much mourning and heartache, Davy found another woman he loved and remarried. He and his second wife moved to Lawrence Tennessee. It was in Lawrence where Davy realized he wanted to try his hand in politics. He ran, won his election and served as County Commissioner for a few years. Davy missed his military days and decided to run for Lieutenant Colonel of the local military. He won and served in that position for a number of years. In 1823 Davy Crockett ran and was elected to the Tennessee State Legislature. Because of his relatable background, everyone wanted Davy to represent them. They knew a good frontier boy would never steer them wrong.
In 1825 Davy took his chances and ran for a seat in the U.S. Congress but was defeated. That wouldn’t stop him though, he ran again in 1827 and won and was reelected in 1829. After several disagreements with Andrew Jackson, Davy took a stand for what was best for the people. Because of that he lost his seat in the house. He was reelected two years later and done many great things for the people. It was at that point that he felt the need to tell his story. He wrote his autobiography, “A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee,” and began handing out copies.
While Davy Crockett had an impressive congressional career, today he is more famous for his death. In 1834 he moved to Texas to lead the westward expansion. A year later he and four neighbors began looking for new land. By January 1836 he had joined the Texas volunteers and within the first month reached San Antonio, Texas. In the first week of March the Alamo was attacked by enemy troops who had come to take back their city. Davy was going to protect his country or die trying. He led the troops in their defense but they were severely outnumbered. Tradition says that Davy was the last troop alive and wouldn’t leave his post. It has also been said that he killed more enemy troops than anyone.
It was during his political career when he developed the reputation as the great frontiersman. After his heroic death, story after story began being told about Davy Crockett and while at times exaggerated, these are the stories that elevated him to folk legend status. His noble fight to the death at the Alamo was the tale of tales for the next few decades.
Northeast Tennessee is proud to be the home of Davy Crockett, in fact much of his history can still be seen today. His birthplace is a beautiful state park along the Nolichucky river that welcomes guests all year around to explore the memorial to Davy Crockett; which includes a replica of the cabin he was born in as well as visitor center exhibits. The park also hosts events and has beautiful campgrounds.
In Morristown, Tennessee the Crockett Tavern Museum was built on the site of the boyhood home of Davy Crockett and it is a reconstruction of John Crockett’s tavern. The museum is open most of the year and arranges tours for guests to learn as much as possible about Davy Crockett. Greeneville is home to the Davy Crockett Travel Center where visitors from around the country go to find anything they may need. David Crockett became a folk hero during his life time. He fought for what he believed in and stood up for his morals. He was forever pushing to expand westward and to make his country a greater place for future generations. Crockett was living what is now called the American Dream. He was bold in life and even in death. He truly was the “king of the wild frontier.”