Friday, December 9, 2011

Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier and the Father-in-law of the Wife of my Third Great Grandmother's First Cousin

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Austin, Texas Courthouse
I was in Austin, Texas this week and on my way to the airport to fly home, I couldn't resist stopping to check out the historic Austin courthouse. Being so far from home, I didn't expect to run into anyone I knew but, the moment I passed through the metal detectors, I looked up and there on the wall was my old friend and fellow Tennessean Davy Crockett.

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Davy Crockett painting in lobby
of Austin, Texas Courthouse
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Davy Crockett painting
by William Henry Huddle
For the last several weeks I have been researching the ancestors of my second great grandmother, Nancy Mariana Johnson (my grandmother, Elizabeth Williams' grandmother) and she grew up in what would became Crockett County which was named after the "king of the wild frontier."

Other than our mutual home state, I actually have two very minor connections to Davy. The first is through Nancy. Her maternal grandfather (who was my fourth great grandfather) was Frances M. Wood who was born in North Carolina in 1777 and was one of the first settlers in Haywood County, TN in an area that would later become Crockett County. He arrived in 1824 with a few others and began farming.

Fast forward 20 years and the people of that community in Haywood County had joined with some of their neighbors who were in Gibson, Madison and Dyer Counties to petition to become their own Tennessee county.

On December 20, 1845 an act by the Tennessee General Assembly stated:
"An act entitled to establish the county of Crockett in honor of and to perpetuate the memory of David Crockett, one of Tennessee's distinguished sons. The act provided that the county should be formed out of the counties of Haywood, Gibson, Madison, and Dyer..."
Those who were selected to help the new county take its first steps included Nancy's brother-in-law, David Whitaker and a neighbor and possible relative Isaac M. Johnson. They kept the Davy Crockett theme going and named the county seat, "Alamo."

My second Davy Crockett connection is through my third great grandmother, Eleanora Harriet Dougan Williamson (wife of Beverly M. Williamson of the Providence community on the Haywood and Madison County lines) who is my grandfather, Bo Williams' great grandmother.

Three of Harriet's first cousin's James Jr., Thomas and Robert (through her father's brother, Revolutionary War hero Major James Dougan) supposedly settled the area of Reelfoot Lake along with the Crockett family. Source Source

Eventually, James Jr. even married Clorinda Crockett who was the widow of Davy's son William.

But the lobby wasn't the only place I found Davy.

A tour of the Austin courthouse was just beginning so I slid into place and joined it.

As we entered the Texas Senate Chamber, I noticed a large painting on the back wall which I correctly assumed was of the battle of the Alamo. Unfortunately, a beam of light from a window above slides over the painting each day as the sun passes over the courthouse. I am not going to tell the good people of Texas what to do with their paintings but I'm pretty sure that's not very good for it.

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Dawn of the Alamo by Henry Arthur McArdle
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Anyway, our tour guide pointed out Davy Crockett who, in the mind of the artist, McArdle, didn't let the fact he had run out of bullets stop him from attacking the enemy. He just beat the crap out of 'em with the butt of his gun. That's how we roll in Tennessee.

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Davy Crockett showing the enemy what Tennesseans
do when they run out of bullets.
I hate to admit it, but although I knew the name and that he wore a coon skin cap, I didn't know much about Davy Crockett until I got home and looked him up.

I remember watching a few reruns of this show and for some reason can sing the theme song:

If you are interested, there is a ton of Davy Crockett info online including a Wikipedia page. You can also download free books about Davy like this one and this one. Yes, I downloaded both.

Finally, I also discovered that the "descendants and kin" of Davy Crockett have their own Web site and a private Facebook group so I do plan on letting them know about my connection so I can get to be a member. After all, my third great grandmother's first cousin married his son's widow. Can't get much closer than that.

Visit my Blog Home Page or the Haywood County Line Genealogy Page.


  1. what a great synopsis of your impromptu visit :-).

  2. Wish you had consulted me on Davy. My first coaching job was at Rutherford Elementary, a k-8 school in Rutherford, Tn in Gibson County. The last Tennessee home place of Davy was right behind our school. I can not count the times we accidentally bounced footballs off of old Davy's place.

    The Austin state house is wonderful.

  3. When a group of us from the Tennessee Association of Museums toured the East Tennessee Historical Society a few years ago, we saw Davy Crockett's first rifle, a .48-caliber flintlock. It hasn't been outside Tennessee since 1806, and now resides in the ETHS pioneer collection in Knoxville.

    Our guide told us that a significant number of visitors actually pause to genuflect before the revered artifact.

    I can't claim kinship with the man who "killed a bar when he was only three," but some of my direct ancestors (I'd have to count up the g's) were involved, along with Crockett, in the founding of Lawrence County. According to Goodspeed's History of Tennessee, Robert Chaffin and Crockett were among the original justices selected by the legislature. George Gresham, who was appointed the county's first ranger, sold land to the state that would become the site of the county seat, Lawrenceburg.

    I thought "ranger" might have been a position of authority -- akin to a Texas Ranger! Somehow learning that rangers were the men in charge of rounding up the county's stray pigs and cattle sounded slightly less impressive (but crucial in days before fences, or even roads, were effective or even existent).

    And you're absolutely right, that beam of bright light hitting that painting of the battle of the Alamo can NOT be a good thing. I hope the window is coated with a UV protectant, but that can only do so much ....

    Thanks for sharing a fun, thought-provoking experience.



  4. Well hello distant fellow cousin! I am the 5th Great Granddaughter of Aaron Crockett. Nice to meet you! This is my blogspot family line to the Crocketts.

    1. Nice to meet you! Thanks for saying hello.