Founding of the Cumberland Settlements
The First Atlas 1779 - 1804
A New Beginning – David Wright, Artist
News Stories & Press Releases
Masterpiece of local history by Drake, Masters and Puryear - Founding of the Cumberland Settlements Now Available
"Everyone from around here has some dim family memory or tradition of the old home place with its spring branch, rocky pastures,
creek bottom land, saddle horses, stone fences and grandparents who farmed. The Cumberland Gap was our birth canal, and we lost
touch with the folks left behind two centuries ago in the Carolinas and Virginia. We are and always have been a distinct
culture. We are Middle Tennesseans."
With the publication of Founding of the Cumberland Settlements: The First Atlas 1779-1804, three Sumner County men, whom many
would mistakenly call amateur historians, have created the first of what will become a landmark resource for anyone
wanting accurate and detailed mapping of Pioneer Middle Tennessee, as well as a unique understanding of the lives of
these determined settlers who approached this new land where no human had yet made a home.
After three years of intensive research and study and finally mapping of land grants and undertaking treks through Middle Tennessee
in search of elusive evidence of early "traces," or roadways used by the early settlers, that followed paths set by herds of buffalo
and the rivers and creeks, Doug Drake, Jack Masters and Bill Puryear have completed the first volume in outlining the
struggle to create homeplaces and communities.
As Puryear states in the foreword, this area that we travel in our everyday lives was the foundation for the development of our country
as it expanded westward - Middle Tennessee became "the heartland of Jacksonian Democracy that dominated American politics up until the
Civil War. Had it not survived, there might have been no victory over the British, at New Orleans, Florida might still be Spain's, Texas
part of Mexico, and Mr. Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase a failed investment."
Reading this book is a complete submersion into the forests and the rivers of Middle Tennessee as they appeared almost three hundred years
Anyone with interests in Middle Tennessee or anyone who wants to learn about life in early America should experience this book.
The forces opposing the colonists were enormous and almost unimaginable to us today who carry the non-threatening image of Davy
Crockett in his coonskin hat as our primary image of early settlers.
However, as Puryear stated in a recent interview, even though the colonies defeated the British during the Revolutionary War, the
British, as well as the Spanish governments continued to supply and encourage tribes of Indians to attack the pioneer settlers.
When the veterans of the Revolutionary War began to travel to their promised land, they encountered obstacles from exposure to severe
weather to unknown territory to hostile raids by various Indian tribes.
"They came up here and had to fight another war," explained Puryear.
"The British were still supplying the Indians and encouraging them to attack. The Spanish were assisting and supplying the Indians as well,
and they controlled the lower Mississippi, which was where all the commerce had to go out; the corn and tobacco and
everything had to be shipped on the Mississippi."
"Then they had five Indian tribes slam us. You had the Shawnees. The Cherokee and the Chickamaugas to the southeast, the Creeks to the
south and Chickasaws to the west. Fortunately we made peace with the Chickasaws. They were our allies. They were at war with the Creek
But we were outnumbered at all times, never less than 10 to one."
However, Puryear noted that the pioneers had something important on their side.
"The settlers had the advantage in that they were fighting on their land. There were no Indians inhabiting this
region. They were defending homeland, home and hearth. They had the rule of law; they were organizers."
Puryear quoted his father's saying about Englishmen: "When three Englishmen land in a new country, the first thing
they do is elect a president, vice-president, and a secretary to keep minutes." Puryear said that the Indians
were unable to finally defeat the settlers, not only because of the distance to travel attacks and then retreats,
also because of the manner of the conduct of attack.
"The Indians had to have unanimous consent to go to war. One group might get up and leave. They fought the same way.
There was never a disciplined attack. Five or ten settlers in a fort or stockade could hold out
against hundreds of Indians. The Indians would run up two or three at a time. They couldn't organize a frontal
In order to protect themselves, eventually, the settlers organized a militia.
"The militia later became the social network agency of
the colonists," said Puryear.
"Any man who was 16 had to belong to the militia if he was going to have any recognition
in the community."
Puryear explained, "They could organize relief parties; they could send help. There
were several instances where Indians would attack and kill the boys and take the women
and children. The militia could actually overtake them."
This first volume is full of accounts of individual bravery, families' toils, longhunters'
legends and treks and the emergence of communities.
There is also a section with information about the slaves who came to this area and
their lives and what historical references are available to understand their plight.
The American buffalo influenced the settling of Middle Tennessee because their roadways and even
later land divisions followed the leads of these massive travelers.
The buffalo traveled "single file through woods and thick cane bottoms," writes Puryear.
Yet these animal pioneers were hunted to near extinction and eventually fenced out of their
Extensive illustrations and maps are included in this book that brings the realities of
this important period to immediate impact upon the reader.
An optional print-on-demand disk is available for those who want a complete library of
the original source documents.
There are 100 color pages placing 1,500 land grants on a modern map; a five-page
listing of what became of each of the 244 signers of the Cumberland Compact;
biographies of early families and citizens; charts and graphs of population, immigration,
and demographics, with time lines showing historic content; twenty-eight pages of
pioneer road maps, showing buffalo traces and salt licks, Indian warpaths, and pioneer
forts and stations; twenty lavishly illustrated pages of color photos of ghost roads
remaining today as well as historic art of David Wright and other recognized artists;
survey techniques and tools used to parcel out the land; charts and maps showing dates
and location of 441 known settler deaths; a full index with a bibliography showing
the historical context of 1779 - 1804.
Excerpted from a October 15, 2009 article in The Gallatin Newspaper by Marjorie Lloyd
Tennessee's Pioneer Paths
The book … is already a big hit with historians and genealogists. It pulls together a tremendous amount of information
about the settlement of an 11-county region in what would become Middle Tennessee. Some of the information had
been available before, though scattered. Other parts of the work had never before been compiled. The result is a 240 -
page, glossy, 11-inch-by-I4-inch book filled with maps of land grants; original survey maps; information about the
244 signers of the Cumberland Compact, an early governing document for the area's settlers; charts and graphs of population,
immigration and demographics; and maps detailing locations of pioneer roads, salt licks, buffalo traces, Indian
warpaths and pioneer forts and stations. Also included is a CD with transcriptions and the original survey maps of all
1,500 deeds included in the book.
Excerpted from an article in The Tennessee Magazine by Trish Milburn
The book Transcribes 1500 Land Grants
The book features 100 color pages detailing 1,500 land grants in the Cumberland Settlement. Also featured in the book are: a compact
disk with transcriptions and original survey maps of all 1,500 deeds; a five-page listing of what became of each of the 244 signers of The
Cumberland Compact; charts and graphs of population, immigration, and demographics, with timelines showing historic context; 28 pages of
pioneer road maps, showing buffalo traces and salt licks, Indian warpaths, and pioneer forts and stations; and 20 lavishly illustrated pages
of color photos of ghost roads remaining today as well as historic art of David Wright and other recognized artists.
Masters said, "We take great pride in knowing countless dozens of individuals in this 11-county region who have contributed to our work. Many
various field trips in this Central Valley of the Cumberland Settlements offered a view of history upon which to mesh various pieces of
information gathered from many various sources." Masters said the authors "walked, crawled, waded and climbed fences" to gather information for the book.
"Add to that ticks, mad bulls, upset dogs, mud, quick rains and sometimes very cold or hot weather, and you can begin to understand some of
But Masters said the effort was worth it. "There is certainly no greater reward than exploring this Cumberland region, walking the roads,
meeting some of the finest folks in the world and embracing a feeling of pioneer history we never previously knew existed."
Excerpted from a Nov 18, 2009 article in The Portland Progressive by Andrew Simmons
Three-year project unveils untold stories - Three unusual historians hope their work will help others
….Curiosity and thirst for knowledge to learn from where Middle Tennessee's
society came from sent the three friends on an adventure through time. One
of their main goals is to establish a baseline of the earliest road system
the pioneers used that eventually led to the development of the modern transportation structure, Masters,
"Instead of traveling
through space, we're
traveling through time,"
Puryear said. "It's even more
exciting to me because we're
finding things under our feet
that most people don't know
Middle Tennessee was a primary gateway to the Western United States, and people can use this information to see if their folks came through here,” Masters said.
Excerpted from Sunday Sumner Edition of The Tennessean June 29, 2008
Book chronicles first settlers hardships
The book tells the remarkable story of the of this area's first settlers and their battle to survive. It also tells the people
of Middle Tennessee today about their ancestors and what they went through to carve out a place for themselves in
the wilderness… Prior to the arrival of those settlers, the Cumberland area was the hunting land for the Cherokee, the Creeks
and the Chickasaw. Those tribes did not want those grounds inhabited "Those first settlers were immediately embroiled in a war with the
Indians," Puryear said.
Many of the original settlers were Revolutionary War soldiers from North Carolina. That state had no money to pay them for their war service, so … land grants were
"All they had to do was cross the
Cumberland Mountains, hack out a
trail, bring their families past the
Cherokee, stake out a claim, clear the
land, plant crops and defend themselves from five hostile tribe and three
nations, the British, French and Spanish," Puryear said.
Founding of the Cumberland Settlements tells how this was accomplished
through land grants, maps of their
routes through the mountains, diagrams of the settlements and forts and
artwork depicting their successes and battles with Indians.
"These were our sturdy ancestors," Puryear said "No wonder Andrew Jackson when he went to fight in
New Orleans came to Sumner County for men."
State Historian Walter Durham, also from Sumner
County, called the book being compiled by the men an "incredibly important book."
"For anyone interested in Tennessee and early American history, this book documents and shows through
maps and charts the pattern and manners of the people who came to Tennessee.
"The people who came to Sumner County and Middle Tennessee paved the way westward, a movement that
shot people all the way to the west coast," Durham said.
Copies of the first volume have already been ordered by libraries across the country from California to
Washington, D.C., Puryear said.
Excerpted from an article by Cheryl Tatum in The News Examiner of Sunday May 10, 2009,