Friday, October 4, 2013

"Grandpa, tells us again about when you were scalped," begged the grandchildren.  Little Buddie on his lap reached up and felt his grandpa's scars with his chubby hand.

"Well, fortunately I don't recall too much myself, but my sister Millie (Emily) and brother Owen told me what happened.  My mother's cousin John Sevier had moved to Watauga Territory and encouraged the family to follow.   So, many of the Goads, my mother's people, and the Adkins families moved to this wilderness.  That day, it was a good thing that three of my older brothers were gone, but my parents and us younger children were there when the Cherokees attacked.  It was 1790.  Millie grabbed little Owen and found a hollow log near where they were playing and stayed hidden until it was over.  Since I was only two, I was with my ma when they came.  Pa was not able to fight them all off, and so they fell.  I have no memory of that horrible time but it is said that Millie and Owen found us all to be, what they thought, scalped and dead. She went screaming for help with Owen on her heels.  When the neighbors and family came, they found I was still alive though bleeding badly.  Someone found spider webs in the woods and bound my head with those then with bandages.  Our uncles then raised us orphans amongst themselves." 

"Are injuns goin' to attack us?"

"Nah.  We took all their land and packed them up and sent them away. There were many attacks against and by the Indians back and forth over those years.  It was a time of terror.  Hardly a family did not suffer a loss. First the French, then the British kept them stirred up against us settlers.  At first the British fought the Indians with us, like the British Captain Byrd who was with George Washington, then he turned and used the Indians against us.  Unfortunately, it is getting closer to Americans fighting their own brothers if a Civil War breaks out over slavery.  Since Cain and Able, the first brothers, violence has been too much a part of life." 

"Tell my brother to stop hitting me, Grandpa."

"Mercy!  You boys quit wrassling," their mother chided as she pulled them apart.  "Don't interrupt your grandpa!"
"Most of the Cherokee in these parts adapted to the white man's ways since President George Washington sent them spinning wheels and plows when the buffalo were driven far from Tennessee.

"There were buffalo here in Tennesse?"
"Yes, the last were seen a couple of years after the massacre.  The Indians had to become farmers instead of hunters.  Most of the Cherokees adapted peacefully.   In fact, some say more Cherokee learned to read than the white men in these parts.  They had their own printing press, newspaper, and Bible in their own language.  Many did so well they had plantations with slaves.  Yet, there were others under Dragging Canoe and Doublehead who fought with their last breath.  They became the dreaded Chickamaugas.  So, a plan began under Jefferson, then drawn up under Indian- hater President Andrew Jackson to move the Cherokee to Oklahoma Indian territory.  Didn't help their cause any when gold was discovered on their land.  Plenty of men coveted their land to be sure.  So even though it was winter, the Cherokee were rounded up and soldiers made them leave on what was called a Trail of Tears because so many died on the way.  Their property was given away by lottery when they left, some of them, without even their shoes on their feet in their winter march.  We lost a few good neighbors that way.  Can't say that of some who took over their houses and lands.

"How can you say that when it was the Injuns who killed your Ma and Pa and brothers and sisters?"

"That was how it was at that time when we came and took their lands.  Some turned Indian killers like Governor Sevier and Hiram "Big Tooth" Gregory.  They would yell, 'Kill the nits, kill the lice,' when they attacked innocent Cherokee women and children."

Why did they talk about lice?"

"They thought if they killed all the Indian children, the 'nits,' they could be rid of their Indian problem, before they grew up to become the 'lice.'  Just like I was scalped, so the white men were after their young ones.  There was a terrible massacre at Yahoo Falls where Cornblossom had gather over a hundred children to be taken to a mission school under the protection of Rev. Blackburn."

"Some of us and them just tried to be good neighbors to each other.  That didn't work either as long as greedy men coveted the Cherokee lands.  Now we're on the verge of another war over slavery.  You children pray that you won't have to see the menfolk go off to war again.  I'm an old man and have seen too much bloodshed.  Our people fought in the Revolutionary War, the French and Indian War, and the Battle of King's Mountain.  Some of our menfolk named their muskets "True Love and Sweet Lips," but in war, it is any thing but that.  Though our family started out as slave holders, I hope my family fights for the Union.  It is still a great country worth keeping united."

Mary shooed the children away, "Grandpa's tired, young'uns.  Go out and play while we make our supper.  Your older brothers shot a passel of squirrels for dinner."

With a whoop, they ran out where the sunshine poured peacefully over the Tennessee hills.  The trees were beginning to dress in their deep fall colors with a skirt of yellow over petticoats of orange, and red.  Martha cherished this visit with her Pa.  It was obvious that it would be his last visit with them as old age would soon lay a final claim to him.  She smiled at the thought of him meeting his ma and pa in heaven.  That would be a glorious reunion for a little boy who was two years old when last he saw his parents.

Owen Adkins, my gr gr. grandfather, killed by Indians in 1790 at forty years old.

The area in Tennessee where they lived.

I had no idea that we were shirt-tail relatives of Governor John Sevier (a cousin to our 4 gr. grandmother) who I feature in my book, "Nest,"  (He was also a "good friend" of the Sharp's).  Jesse Adkins, who lived through a scalping, was Uncle Bud's grandpa, his mother Martha's father.  I don't know that they ever had a chance to meet though their lives overlapped in years.  Both lived in Tennessee, but the distance may have been too great to meet.  Most of the Adkins men did fight for the Union.     


1 comment:

  1. This man is Owen Sanford Adkins of Pittsylvania co. Va. Born 1785, died 1885 at age 99 1/2. He had around 108 children by around 44 women in the town. He is known here in Va. As "Owen of all". He is my 4x great grandfather on both sides of the family.