Part 3 out of 5
gloomy ravine, damp and cold, and thrown into shade by the thick
foliage of the overhanging trees. So far as he knew, no human
habitation was near. Night was approaching. He could go no farther.
He had no food; but he did not need any, for a deathly nausea
oppressed him. Utterly exhausted, he threw himself down upon the
grass and withered leaves, on a small dry mound formed by the roots
of a large tree.
Crockett had no wish to die. He clung very tenaciously to life, and
yet he was very apprehensive that then and there he was to linger
through a few hours of pain, and then die, leaving his unburied body
to be devoured by wild beasts, and his friends probably forever
ignorant of his fate. Consumed by fever, and agitated by these
painful thoughts, he remained for an hour or two, when he heard the
sound of approaching footsteps and of human voices. His
sensibilities were so stupefied by his sickness that these sounds
excited but little emotion.
Soon three or four Indians made their appearance walking along the
narrow trail in single file. They saw the prostrate form of the
poor, sick white man, and immediately gathered around him. The rifle
of Crockett, and the powder and bullets which be had, were, to these
Indians, articles of almost inestimable value. One blow of the
tomahawk would send the helpless man to realms where rifles and
ammunition were no longer needed, and his priceless treasures would
fall into their hands. Indeed, it was not necessary even to strike
that blow. They had but to pick up the rifle, and unbuckle the belt
which contained the powder-horn and bullet-pouch, and leave the
dying man to his fate.
But these savages, who had never read our Saviour's beautiful
parable of the good Samaritan, acted the Samaritan's part to the
white man whom they found in utter helplessness and destitution.
They kneeled around him, trying to minister to his wants. One of
them had a watermelon. He cut from it a slice of the rich and juicy
fruit, and entreated him to eat it. But his stomach rejected even
that delicate food.
They then, by very expressive signs, told him that if he did not
take some nourishment he would die and be buried there--"a thing,"
Crockett writes, "I was confoundedly afraid of, myself." Crockett
inquired how far it was to any house. They signified to him, by
signs, that there was a white man's cabin about a mile and a half
from where they then were, and urged him to let them conduct him to
that house. He rose to make the attempt. But he was so weak that he
could with difficulty stand, and unsupported could not walk a step.
One of these kind Indians offered to go with him; and relieving
Crockett of the burden of his rifle, and with his strong arm
supporting and half carrying him, at length succeeded in getting him
to the log hut of the pioneer. The shades of night were falling. The
sick man was so far gone that it seemed to him that he could
scarcely move another step. A woman came to the door of the lowly
hut and received them with a woman's sympathy. There was a cheerful
fire blazing in one corner, giving quite a pleasing aspect to the
room. In another corner there was a rude bed, with bed-clothing of
the skins of animals. Crockett's benefactor laid him tenderly upon
the bed, and leaving him in the charge of his countrywoman, bade him
adieu, and hastened away to overtake his companions.
What a different world would this be from what it has been, did the
spirit of kindness, manifested by this poor Indian, universally
animate human hearts!
"O brother man! fold to thy heart thy brother:
Where pity dwells the peace of God is there;
To worship rightly is to love each other,
Each smile a hymn, each kindly word a prayer."
The woman's husband was, at the time, absent. But she carefully
nursed her patient, preparing for him some soothing herb-tea.
Delirium came, and for several hours, Crockett, in a state of
unconsciousness, dwelt in the land of troubled dreams. The next
morning he was a little more comfortable, but still in a high fever,
and often delirious.
It so happened that two white men, on an exploring tour, as they
passed along the trail, met the Indians, who informed them that one
of their sick countrymen was at a settler's cabin at but a few
miles' distance. With humanity characteristic of a new and sparsely
settled country they turned aside to visit him. They proved to be
old acquaintances of Crockett. He was so very anxious to get back to
the camp where he had left his companions, and who, knowing nothing
of his fate, must think it very strange that he had thus deserted
them, that they, very reluctantly, in view of his dangerous
condition, consented to help him on his way.
They made as comfortable a seat as they could, of blankets and
skins, which they buckled on the neck of one of the horses just
before the saddle. Upon this Crockett was seated. One of the men
then mounted the saddle behind him, threw both arms around the
patient, and thus they commenced their journey. The sagacious horse
was left to pick out his own way along the narrow trail at a slow
foot-pace. As the horse thus bore a double burden, after journeying
an hour or two, Crockett's seat was changed to the other horse. Thus
alternating, the painful journey of nearly fifty miles was
accomplished in about two days.
When they reached the camp, Crockett, as was to have been expected,
was in a far worse condition than when they commenced the journey.
It was evident that he was to pass through a long run of fever, and
that his recovery was very doubtful. His companions could not thus
be delayed. They had already left Frazier, one of their company,
perhaps to die of the bite of a venomous snake; and now they were
constrained to leave Crockett, perhaps to die of malarial fever.
They ascertained that, at the distance of a few miles from them,
there was another log cabin in the wilderness. They succeeded in
purchasing a couple of horses, and in transporting the sick man to
this humble house of refuge. Here Crockett was left to await the
result of his sickness, unaided by any medical skill. Fortunately he
fell into the hands of a family who treated him with the utmost
kindness. For a fortnight he was in delirium, and knew nothing of
what was transpiring around him.
Crockett was a very amiable man. Even the delirium of disease
developed itself in kindly words and grateful feelings. He always
won the love of those around him. He did not miss delicacies and
luxuries of which he had never known anything. Coarse as he was when
measured by the standard of a higher civilization, he was not coarse
at all in the estimation of the society in the midst of which he
moved. In this humble cabin of Jesse Jones, with all its aspect of
penury, Crockett was nursed with brotherly and sisterly kindness,
and had every alleviation in his sickness which his nature craved.
The visitor to Versailles is shown the magnificent apartment, and
the regal couch, with its gorgeous hangings, upon which Louis XIV.,
the proudest and most pampered man on earth, languished and died.
Crockett, on his pallet in the log cabin, with unglazed window and
earthern floor, was a far less unhappy man, than the dying monarch
surrounded with regal splendors.
At the end of a fortnight the patient began slowly to mend. His
emaciation was extreme, and his recovery very gradual. After a few
weeks he was able to travel. He was then on a route where wagons
passed over a rough road, teaming the articles needed in a new
country. Crockett hired a wagoner to give him a seat in his wagon
and to convey him to the wagoner's house, which was about twenty
miles distant. Gaining strength by the way, when he arrived there he
hired a horse of the wagoner, and set out for home.
Great was the astonishment of his family upon his arrival, for they
had given him up as dead. The neighbors who set out on this journey
with him had returned and so reported; for they had been
misinformed. They told Mrs. Crockett that they had seen those who
were with him when he died, and had assisted in burying him.
Still the love of change had not been dispelled from the bosom of
Crockett. He did not like the place where he resided. After spending
a few months at home, he set out, in the autumn, upon another
exploring tour. Our National Government had recently purchased, of
the Chickasaw Indians, a large extent of territory in Southern
Tennessee. Crockett thought that in those new lands he would find
the earthly paradise of which he was in search. The region was
unsurveyed, a savage wilderness, and there were no recognized laws
and no organized government there.
Crockett mounted his horse, lashed his rifle to his back, filled his
powder-horn and bullet-pouch, and journeying westward nearly a
hundred miles, through pathless wilds whose solitudes had a peculiar
charm for him, came to a romantic spot, called Shoal Creek, in what
is now Giles County, in the extreme southern part of Tennessee. He
found other adventurers pressing into the new country, where land
was abundant and fertile, and could be had almost for nothing.
Log cabins were rising in all directions, in what they deemed quite
near neighborhood, for they were not separated more than a mile or
two from each other. Crockett, having selected his location on the
banks of a crystal stream, summoned, as was the custom, some
neighbors to his aid, and speedily constructed the cabin, of one
apartment, to shield his family from the wind and the rain. Moving
with such a family is not a very arduous undertaking. One or two
pack-horses convey all the household utensils. There are no mirrors,
bedsteads, bureaus, or chairs to be transported. With an auger and a
hatchet, these articles are soon constructed in their new home. The
wife, with the youngest child, rides. The husband, with his rifle
upon his shoulder, and followed by the rest of the children, trudges
along on foot.
Should night or storm overtake them, an hour's work would throw up a
camp, with a cheerful fire in front, affording them about the same
cohorts which they enjoyed in the home they had left. A little meal,
baked in the ashes, supplied them with bread. And during the journey
of the day the rifle of the father would be pretty sure to pick up
some game to add to the evening repast.
Crockett and his family reached their new home in safety. Here quite
a new sphere of life opened before the adventurer, and he became so
firmly settled that he remained in that location for three years. In
the mean time, pioneers from all parts were rapidly rearing their
cabins upon the fertile territory, which was then called The New
The Justice of Peace and the Legislator.
Vagabondage.--Measures of Protection.--Measures of
Government.--Crockett's Confession.--A Candidate for Military
Honors.--Curious Display of Moral Courage.--The Squirrel Hunt.--A
Candidate for the Legislature.--Characteristic
Electioneering.--Specimens of his Eloquence.--Great Pecuniary
Calamity.--Expedition to the Far West.--Wild Adventures.--The
Midnight Carouse.--A Cabin Reared.
The wealthy and the prosperous are not disposed to leave the
comforts of a high civilization for the hardships of the wilderness.
Most of the pioneers who crowded to the New Purchase were either
energetic young men who had their fortunes to make, or families who
by misfortune had encountered impoverishment. But there was still
another class. There were the vile, the unprincipled, the desperate;
vagabonds seeking whom they might devour; criminals escaping the
penalty of the laws which they had violated.
These were the men who shot down an Indian at sight, as they would
shoot a wolf; merely for the fun of it; who robbed the Indian of his
gun and game, burned his wigwam, and atrociously insulted his wife
and daughters. These were the men whom no law could restrain; who
brought disgrace upon the name of a white man, and who often
provoked the ignorant savage to the most dreadful and indiscriminate
So many of these infamous men flocked to this New Purchase that life
there became quite undesirable. There were no legally appointed
officers of justice, no organized laws. Every man did what was
pleasing in his own sight. There was no collecting of debts, no
redress for violence, no punishment for cheating or theft.
Under these circumstances, there was a general gathering of the
well-disposed inhabitants of the cabins scattered around, to adopt
some measures for their mutual protection. Several men were
appointed justices of peace, with a set of resolute young men, as
constables, to execute their commissions. These justices were
invested with almost dictatorial power. They did not pretend to know
anything about written law or common law. They were merely men of
good sound sense, who could judge as to what was right in all
ordinary intercourse between man and man.
A complaint would be entered to Crockett that one man owed another
money and refused to pay him. Crockett would send his constables to
arrest the man, and bring him to his cabin. After hearing both
parties, if Crockett judged the debt to be justly due, and that it
could be paid, he would order the man's horse, cow, rifle, or any
other property he owned, to be seized and sold, and the debt to be
paid. If the man made any resistance he would be very sure to have
his cabin burned down over his head; and he would be very lucky if
he escaped a bullet through his own body.
One of the most common and annoying crimes committed by these
desperadoes was shooting an emigrant's swine. These animals,
regarded as so invaluable in a new country, each had its owner's
mark, and ranged the woods, fattening upon acorns and other nuts.
Nothing was easier than for a lazy man to wander into the woods,
shoot one of these animals, take it to his cabin, devour it there,
and obliterate all possible traces of the deed. Thus a large and
valuable herd would gradually disappear. This crime was consequently
deemed to merit the most severe punishment. It was regarded as so
disgraceful that no respectable man was liable to suspicion.
The punishment for the crime was very severe, and very summary. If
one of these swine-thieves was brought before Justice Crockett, and
in his judgment the charge was proved against him, the sentence
"Take the thief, strip off his shirt, tie him to a tree, and give
him a severe flogging. Then burn down his cabin, and drive him out
of the country."
There was no appeal from this verdict, and no evading its execution.
Such was the justice which prevailed, in this remote region, until
the Legislature of Alabama annexed the territory to Giles County,
and brought the region under the dominion of organized law.
Crockett, who had performed his functions to the entire satisfaction
of the community, then was legally appointed a justice of peace, and
became fully entitled to the appellation of esquire. He certainly
could not then pretend to any profound legal erudition, for at this
time he could neither read nor write.
Esquire Crockett, commenting upon this transaction, says, "I was
made a Squire, according to law; though now the honor rested more
heavily upon me than before. For, at first, whenever I told my
constable, says I, 'Catch that fellow, and bring him up for trial,'
away he went, and the fellow must come, dead or alive. For we
considered this a good warrant, though it was only in verbal
"But after I was appointed by the Assembly, they told me that my
warrants must be in real writing and signed; and that I must keep a
book and write my proceedings in it. This was a hard business on me,
for I could just barely write my own name. But to do this, and write
the warrants too, was at least a huckleberry over my persimmon. I
had a pretty well informed constable, however, and he aided me very
much in this business. Indeed, I told him, when he should happen to
be out anywhere, and see that a warrant was necessary, and would
have a good effect, he needn't take the trouble to come all the way
to me to get one, but he could just fill out one; and then, on the
trial, I could correct the whole business if he had committed any
"In this way I got on pretty well, till, by care and attention, I
improved my handwriting in such a manner as to be able to prepare my
warrants and keep my record-books without much difficulty. My
judgments were never appealed from; and if they had been, they would
have stuck like wax, as I gave my decisions on the principles of
common justice and honesty between man and man, and relied on
natural-born sense, and not on law-learning, to guide me; for I had
never read a page in a law-book in all my life."
Esquire Crockett was now a rising man. He was by no means diffident.
With strong native sense, imperturbable self-confidence, a memory
almost miraculously stored with rude anecdotes, and an astonishing
command of colloquial and slang language, he was never embarrassed,
and never at a loss as to what to say or to do.
They were about getting up a new regiment of militia there, and a
Captain Mathews, an ambitious, well-to-do settler, with cribs full
of corn, was a candidate for the colonelship. He came to Crockett to
insure his support, and endeavored to animate him to more cordial
cooperation by promising to do what he could to have him elected
major of the regiment. Esquire Crockett at first declined, saying
that he was thoroughly disgusted with all military operations, and
that he had no desire for any such honors. But as Captain Mathews
urged the question, and Crockett reflected that the office would
give him some additional respect and influence with his neighbors,
and that Major Crockett was a very pleasantly sounding title, he
finally consented, and, of course, very soon became deeply
interested in the enterprise.
Captain Mathews, as an electioneering measure, invited all his
neighbors, far and near, to a very magnificent corn-husking frolic.
There was to be a great treat on the occasion, and "all the world,"
as the French say, were eager to be there. Crockett and his family
were of course among the invited guests. When Crockett got there he
found an immense gathering, all in high glee, and was informed, much
to his surprise and chagrin, that Captain Mathews's son had offered
himself for the office of major, in opposition to Crockett.
The once had, in reality, but few charms for Crockett, and he did
not care much for it. But this unworthy treatment roused his
indignation. He was by nature one of the most frank and open-hearted
of men, and never attempted to do anything by guile. Immediately he
called Captain Mathews aside, and inquired what this all meant. The
Captain was much embarrassed, and made many lame excuses, saying
that he would rather his son would run against any man in the county
than against Squire Crockett.
"You need give yourself no uneasiness about that," Crockett replied.
"I care nothing for the office of major; I shall not allow my name
to be used against your son for that office. But I shall do
everything in my power to prevent his father from being colonel."
In accordance with the custom of the region and the times, after the
feasting and the frolicking, Captain Mathews mounted a stump, and
addressed the assembly in what was appropriately called a stump
speech, advocating his election.
The moment he closed, Squire Crockett mounted the stump, and on the
Captain's own grounds, addressing the Captain's guests, and himself
one of those guests, totally unabashed, made his first stump speech.
He was at no loss for words or ideas. He was full to the brim of
fun. He could, without any effort, keep the whole assembly in roars
of laughter. And there, in the presence of Captain Mathews and his
family, he argued his total unfitness to be the commander of a
It is to be regretted that there was no reporter present to transmit
to us that speech. It must have been a peculiar performance. It
certainly added much to Crockett's reputation as an able man and an
orator. When the election came, both father and son were badly
beaten. Soon after, a committee waited upon Crockett, soliciting him
to stand as candidate for the State Legislature, to represent the
two counties of Lawrence and Hickman.
Crockett was beginning to be ambitious. He consented. But he had
already engaged to take a drove of horses from Central Tennessee to
the lower part of North Carolina. This was a long journey, and going
and coming would take three months. He set out early in March, 1821.
Upon his return in June, he commenced with all zeal his
electioneering campaign. Characteristically he says:
"It was a bran-fire new business to me. It now became necessary that
I should tell the people something about the Government, and an
eternal sight of other things that I know'd nothing more about than
I did about Latin, and law, and such things as that. I have said
before, that in those days none of us called General Jackson the
Government. But I know'd so little about it that if any one had told
me that he was the Government, I should have believed it; for I had
never read even a newspaper in my life, or anything else on the
Lawrence County bounded Giles County on the west. Just north of
Lawrence came Hickman County. Crockett first directed his steps to
Hickman County, to engage in his "bran-fire" new work of
electioneering for himself as a candidate for the Legislature. What
ensued cannot be more graphically told than in Crockett's own
"Here they told me that they wanted to move their town nearer to the
centre of the county, and I must come out in favor of it. There's no
devil if I know'd what this meant, or how the town was to be moved.
And so I kept dark, going on the identical same plan that I now find
is called non-committal.
"About this time there was a great squirrel-hunt, on Duck River,
which was among my people. They were to hunt two days; then to meet
and count the scalps, and have a big barbecue, and what might be
called a tip-top country frolic. The dinners and a general treat was
all to be paid for by the party having taken the fewest scalps. I
joined one side, and got a gun ready for the hunt. I killed a great
many squirrels, and when we counted scalps my party was victorious.
"The company had everything to eat and drink that could be furnished
in a new country; and much fun and good humor prevailed. But before
the regular frolic commenced, I was called on to make a speech as a
candidate, which was a business I was as ignorant of as an
"A public document I had never seen. How to begin I couldn't tell. I
made many apologies, and tried to get off, for I know'd I had a man
to run against who could speak prime. And I know'd, too that I
wasn't able to cut and thrust with him. He was there, and knowing my
ignorance as well as I did myself, he urged me to make a speech. The
truth is, he thought my being a candidate was a mere matter of
sport, and didn't think for a moment that he was in any danger from
an ignorant back woods bear-hunter.
"But I found I couldn't get off. So I determined to go ahead, and
leave it to chance what I should say. I got up and told the people I
reckoned they know'd what I had come for; but if not, I could tell
them. I had come for their votes, and if they didn't watch mighty
close I'd get them too. But the worst of all was, that I could not
tell them anything about Government. I tried to speak about
something, and I cared very little what, until I choked up as bad as
if my mouth had been jamm'd and cramm'd chock-full of dry mush.
There the people stood, listening all the while, with their eyes,
mouths, and ears all open to catch every word I could speak.
"At last I told them I was like a fellow I had heard of not long
before. He was beating on the head of an empty barrel on the
roadside, when a traveller, who was passing along, asked him what he
was doing that for? The fellow replied that there was some cider in
that barrel a few days before, and he was trying to see if there was
any then; but if there was, he couldn't get at it. I told them that
there had been a little bit of a speech in me a while ago, but I
believed I couldn't get it out.
"They all roared out in a mighty laugh, and I told some other
anecdotes, equally amusing to them, and believing I had them in a
first-rate way, I quit and got down, thanking the people for their
attention. But I took care to remark that I was as dry as a
powder-horn, and that I thought that it was time for us all to wet
our whistles a little. And so I put off to a liquor-stand, and was
followed by the greater part of the crowd.
"I felt certain this was necessary, for I know'd my competitor could
talk Government matters to them as easy as he pleased. He had,
however, mighty few left to hear him, as I continued with the crowd,
now and then taking a horn, and telling good-humored stories till he
was done speaking. I found I was good for the votes at the hunt; and
when we broke up I went on to the town of Vernon, which was the same
they wanted me to move. Here they pressed me again on the subject. I
found I could get either party by agreeing with them. But I told
them I didn't know whether it would be right or not, and so couldn't
promise either way."
This famous barbecue was on Saturday. The next Monday the county
court held its session at Vernon. There was a great gathering of the
pioneers from all parts of the county. The candidates for the
Governor of the State, for a representative in Congress, and for the
State Legislature, were all present. Some of these men were of
considerable ability, and certainly of very fluent speech. The
backwoodsmen, from their huts, where there were no books, no
newspapers, no intelligent companionship, found this a rich
intellectual treat. Their minds were greatly excited as they
listened to the impassioned and glowing utterances of speaker after
speaker; for many of these stump orators had command of a rude but
very effective eloquence.
Crockett listened also, with increasing anxiety. He knew that his
turn was to come; that he must mount the stump and address the
listening throng. He perceived that he could not speak as these men
were speaking; and perhaps for the first time in his life began to
experience some sense of inferiority. He writes:
"The thought of having to make a speech made my knees feel mighty
weak, and set my heart to fluttering almost as bad as my first
love-scrape with the Quaker's niece. But as good luck would have it,
these big candidates spoke nearly all day, and when they quit the
people were worn out with fatigue, which afforded me a good apology
for not discussing the Government. But I listened mighty close to
them, and was learning pretty fast about political matters. When
they were all done, I got up and told some laughable story, and
quit. I found I was safe in those parts; and so I went home, and did
not go back again till after the election was over. But to cut this
matter short, I was elected, doubling my competitor, and nine votes
"A short time after this, I was at Pulaski, where I met with Colonel
Polk, now a member of Congress from Tennessee. He was at that time a
member elected to the Legislature, as well as myself. In a large
company he said to me, 'Well, Colonel, I suppose we shall have a
radical change of the judiciary at the next session of the
Legislature.' 'Very likely, sir,' says I. And I put out quicker, for
I was afraid some one would ask me what the judiciary was; and if I
know'd I wish I may be shot. I don't indeed believe I had ever
before heard that there was any such thing in all nature. But still
I was not willing that the people there should know how ignorant I
was about it."
At length the day arrived for the meeting of the Legislature.
Crockett repaired to the seat of government. With all his
self-complacency he began to appreciate that he had much to learn.
The two first items of intelligence which he deemed it important
that he, as a member of the Legislature, should acquire, were the
meaning of the words government and judiciary. By adroit questioning
and fixed thought, he ere long stored up those intellectual
treasures. Though with but little capacity to obtain knowledge from
books, he became an earnest student of the ideas of his
fellow-legislators as elicited in conversation or debate. Quite a
heavy disaster, just at this time, came upon Crockett. We must again
quote his own words, for it is our wish, in this volume, to give the
reader a correct idea of the man. Whatever Crockett says, ever comes
fresh from his heart. He writes:
"About this time I met with a very severe misfortune, which I may be
pardoned for naming, as it made a great change in my circumstances,
and kept me back very much in the world. I had built an extensive
grist-mill and powder-mill, all connected together, and also a large
distillery. They had cost me upward of three thousand dollars; more
than I was worth in the world. The first news that I heard, after I
got to the Legislature, was that my mills were all swept to smash by
a large freshet that came soon after I left home.
"I had, of course, to stop my distillery, as my grinding was broken
up. And indeed I may say that the misfortune just made a complete
mash of me. I had some likely negroes, and a good stock of almost
everything about me, and, best of all, I had an honest wife. She
didn't advise me, as is too fashionable, to smuggle up this, and
that, and t'other, to go on at home. But she told me, says she,
'Just pay up as long as you have a bit's worth in the world; and
then everybody will be satisfied, and we will scuffle for more.'
"This was just such talk as I wanted to hear, for a man's wife can
hold him devilish uneasy if she begins to scold and fret, and
perplex him, at a time when he has a full load for a railroad car on
his mind already. And so, you see, I determined not to break
full-handed, but thought it better to keep a good conscience with an
empty purse, than to get a bad opinion of myself with a full one. I
therefore gave up all I had, and took a bran-fire new start."
Crockett's legislative career was by no means brilliant, but
characteristic. He was the fun-maker of the house, and, like
Falstaff, could boast that he was not only witty himself, but the
cause of wit in others. His stories were irresistibly comic; but
they almost always contained expressions of profanity or coarseness
which renders it impossible for us to transmit them to these pages.
He was an inimitable mimic, and had perfect command of a Dutchman's
brogue. One of the least objectionable of his humorous stories we
will venture to record.
There were, he said, in Virginia, two Dutchmen, brothers, George and
Jake Fulwiler. They were both well to do in the world, and each
owned a grist mill. There was another Dutchman near by, by the name
of Henry Snyder. He was a mono-maniac, but a harmless man,
occasionally thinking himself to be God. He built a throne, and
would often sit upon it, pronouncing judgment upon others, and also
upon himself. He would send the culprits to heaven or to hell, as
his humor prompted.
One day he had a little difficulty with the two Fulwilers. He took
his seat upon his throne, and in imagination summoning the culprits
before him, thus addressed them:
"Shorge Fulwiler, stand up. What hash you been dain in dis lower
"Ah! Lort, ich does not know."
"Well, Shorge Fulwiler, hasn't you got a mill?"
"Yes, Lort, ich hash."
"Well, Shorge Fulwiler, didn't you never take too much toll?"
"Yes, Lort, ich hash; when der water wash low, and mein stones wash
dull, ich take leetle too much toll."
"Well, den, Shorge Fulwiler, you must go to der left mid der goats."
"Well, Shake Fulwiler, now you stand up. What hash you been doin in
dis lower world?"
"Ah! Lort, ich does not know."
"Well, Shake Fulwiler, hasn't you got a mill?"
"Yes, Lort, ich hash."
"Well, Shake Fulwiler hasn't you never taken too much toll?"
"Yes Lort, ich hash; when der water wash low, and mein stones wash
dull, ich take leetle too much toll."
"Well, den, Shake Fuhviler, you must go to der left mid der goats."
"Now ich try menself. Henry Snyder, Henry Snyder, stand up. What
hash you bin dain in die lower world?"
"Ah, Lort, ich does not know."
"Well, Henry Snyder, hasn't you got a mill?"
"Yes, Lort, ich hash."
"Well, Henry Snyder, didn't you never take too much toll?"
"Yes, Lort, ich hash; when der water wash low, and mein stones wash
dull, ich hash taken leetle too much toll."
"But, Henry Snyder, vat did you do mid der toll?"
"Ah, Lort, ich gives it to der poor."
The judge paused for a moment, and then said, "Well, Henry Snyder,
you must go to der right mid der sheep. But it is a tight squeeze."
Another specimen of his more sober forensic eloquence is to be found
in the following speech. There was a bill before the house for the
creation of a new county, and there was a dispute about the
boundary-line. The author of the bill wished to run the line in a
direction which would manifestly promote his own interest. Crockett
arose and said:
"Mr. Speaker: Do you know what that man's bill reminds me of? Well,
I s'pose you don't, so I'll tell you. Well, Mr. Speaker, when I
first came to this country a blacksmith was a rare thing. But there
happened to be one in my neighborhood. He had no striker; and
whenever one of the neighbors wanted any work done, he had to go
over and strike until his work was finished. These were hard times,
Mr. Speaker, but we had to do the best we could,
"It happened that one of my neighbors wanted an axe. So he took
along with him a piece of iron, and went over to the blacksmith's to
strike till his axe was done. The iron was heated, and my neighbor
fell to work, and was striking there nearly all day; when the
blacksmith concluded that the iron wouldn't make an axe, but 'twould
make a fine mattock.
"So my neighbor, wanting a mattock, concluded that he would go over
and strike till the mattock was done. Accordingly he went over the
next day, and worked faithfully. But toward night the blacksmith
concluded his iron wouldn't make a mattock but 'twould make a fine
"So my neighbor, wanting a ploughshare, agreed that he would go over
the next day and strike till that was done. Accordingly he went
over, and fell hard at work. But toward night the blacksmith
concluded his iron wouldn't make a ploughshare, but 'twould make a
fine skow. So my neighbor, tired of working, cried, 'A skow let it
be;' and the blacksmith, taking up the red-hot iron, threw it into a
trough of hot water near him, and as it fell in, it sung out skow.
And this, Mr. Speaker, will be the way of that man's bill for a
county. He'll keep you all here, doing nothing, and finally his bill
will turn up a skow; now mind if it don't."
At this time, Crockett, by way of courtesy, was usually called
colonel, as with us almost every respectable man takes the title of
esquire. One of the members offended Colonel Crockett by speaking
disrespectfully of him as from the back woods, or, as he expressed
it, the gentleman from the cane. Crockett made a very bungling
answer, which did not satisfy himself. After the house adjourned, he
very pleasantly invited the gentleman to take a walk with him. They
chatted very sociably by the way, till, at the distance of about a
mile, they reached a very secluded spot, when the Colonel, turning
to his opponent, said:
"Do you know what I brought you here for?"
"No," was the reply.
"Well," added the Colonel, "I brought you here for the express
purpose of whipping you; and now I mean to do it."
"But," says the Colonel, in recording the event, "the fellow said he
didn't mean anything, and kept 'pologizing till I got into good
They walked back as good friends as ever, and no one but themselves
knew of the affair.
After the adjournment of the Legislature, Crockett returned to his
impoverished home. The pecuniary losses he had encountered, induced
him to make another move, and one for which it is difficult to
conceive of any adequate motive. He took his eldest son, a boy about
eight years of age, and a young man by the name of Abram Henry, and
with one pack-horse to carry their blankets and provisions, plunged
into the vast wilderness west of them, on an exploring tour, in
search of a new home.
Crockett and the young man shouldered their rifles. Day after day
the three trudged along, fording streams, clambering hills, wading
morasses, and threading ravines, each night constructing a frail
shelter, and cooking by their camp-fire such game as they had taken
by the way.
After traversing these almost pathless wilds a hundred and fifty
miles, and having advanced nearly fifty miles beyond any white
settlement, they reached the banks of a lonely stream, called Obion
River, on the extreme western frontier of Tennessee. This river
emptied into the Mississippi but a few miles from the spot where
Crockett decided to rear his cabin. His nearest neighbor was seven
miles distant, his next fifteen, his next twenty.
About ten years before, that whole region had been convulsed by one
of the most terrible earthquakes recorded in history. One or two
awful hurricanes had followed the earthquake, prostrating the
gigantic forest, and scattering the trees in all directions.
Appalling indications remained of the power expended by these
tremendous forces of nature. The largest forest-trees were found
split from their roots to their tops, and lying half on each side of
a deep fissure. The opening abysses, the entanglement of the
prostrate forest, and the dense underbrush which had sprung up,
rendered the whole region almost impenetrable. The country was
almost entirely uninhabited. It had, however, become quite
celebrated as being the best hunting-ground in the West. The fear of
earthquakes and the general desolation had prevented even the
Indians from rearing their wigwams there. Consequently wild animals
had greatly increased. The country was filled with bears, wolves,
panthers, deer, elks, and other smaller game.
The Indians had recently made this discovery, and were, in
ever-increasing numbers, exploring the regions in hunting-bands.
Crockett does not seem to have had much appreciation of the
beautiful. In selecting a spot for his hut, he wished to be near
some crystal stream where he could get water, and to build his hut
upon land sufficiently high to be above the reach of freshets. It
was also desirable to find a small plain or meadow free from trees,
where he could plant his corn; and to be in the edge of the forest,
which would supply him with abundance of fuel. Crockett found such a
place, exactly to his mind. Being very fond of hunting, he was the
happiest of men. A few hours' labor threw up a rude hut which was
all the home he desired. His rifle furnished him with food, and with
the skins of animals for bed and bedding. Every frontiersman knew
how to dress the skin of deer for moccasins and other garments. With
a sharpened stick he punched holes through the rank sod, and planted
corn, in soil so rich that it would return him several hundred-fold.
Thus his tastes, such as they were, were gratified, and he enjoyed
what to him were life's luxuries. He probably would not have been
willing to exchange places with the resident in the most costly
mansion in our great cities. In a few days he got everything
comfortable around him. Crockett's cabin, or rather camp, was on the
eastern side of the Obion River. Seven miles farther up the stream,
on the western bank, a Mr. Owen had reared his log house. One
morning, Crockett, taking the young man Henry and his son with him,
set out to visit Mr. Owen, his nearest neighbor. He hobbled his
horse, leaving him to graze until he got back.
They followed along the banks of the river, through the forest,
until they reached a point nearly opposite Owen's cabin. By crossing
the stream there, and following up the western bank they would be
sure to find his hut. There was no boat, and the stream must be swum
or forded. Recent rains had caused it to overflow its banks and
spread widely over the marshy bottoms and low country near by. The
water was icy cold. And yet they took to it, says Crockett, "like so
The expanse to be crossed was very wide, and they knew not how deep
they should find the channel. For some distance the water continued
quite shoal. Gradually it deepened. Crockett led the way, with a
pole in his hand. Cautiously he sounded the depth before him, lest
they should fall into any slough. A dense growth of young trees
covered the inundated bottom over which they were wading.
Occasionally they came to a deep but narrow gully. Crockett, with
his hatchet, would cut down a small tree, and by its aid would
At length the water became so deep that Crockett's little boy had to
swim, though they evidently had not yet reached the channel of the
stream. Having waded nearly half a mile, they came to the channel.
The stream, within its natural banks, was but about forty feet wide.
Large forest-trees fringed the shores. One immense tree, blown down
by the wind, reached about halfway across. Crockett, with very
arduous labor with his hatchet, cut down another, so that it fell
with the branches of the two intertwining.
Thus aided they reached the opposite side. But still the lowlands
beyond were overflowed as far as the eye could see through the dense
forest. On they waded, for nearly a mile, when, to their great joy,
they came in sight of dry land. Their garments were dripping and
they were severely chilled as they reached the shore. But turning
their steps up the stream, they soon came in sight of the cabin,
which looked to them like a paradise of rest. It was one of the
rudest of huts. The fenceless grounds around were rough and
ungainly. The dismal forest, which chanced there to have escaped
both earthquake and hurricane, spread apparently without limits in
Most men, most women, gazing upon a scene so wild, lonely,
cheerless, would have said, "Let me sink into the grave rather than
be doomed to such a home as that." But to Crockett and his
companions it presented all the attractions their hearts could
desire. Mr. Owen and several other men were just starting away from
the cabin, when, to their surprise, they saw the party of strangers
approaching. They waited until Crockett came up and introduced
himself. The men with Mr. Owen were boatmen, who had entered the
Obion River from the Mississippi with a boat-load of articles for
trade. They were just leaving to continue their voyage.
Such men are seldom in a hurry. Time is to them of but very little
value. Hospitality was a virtue which cost nothing. Any stranger,
with his rifle, could easily pay his way in the procurement of food.
They all turned back and entered the cabin together. Mrs. Owen was
an excellent, motherly woman, about fifty years of age. Her
sympathies were immediately excited for the poor little boy, whose
garments were drenched, and who was shivering as if in an ague-fit.
She replenished the fire, dried his clothes, and gave him some warm
and nourishing food. The grateful father writes:
"Her kindness to my little boy did me ten times as much good as
anything she could have done for me, if she had tried her best."
These were not the days of temperance. The whiskey-bottle was
considered one of the indispensables of every log cabin which made
any pretences to gentility. The boat, moored near the shore, was
loaded with whiskey, flour, sugar, hardware, and other articles,
valuable in the Indian trade in the purchase of furs, and in great
demand in the huts of pioneers. There was a small trading-post at
what was called McLemone's Bluff; about thirty miles farther up the
river by land, and nearly one hundred in following the windings of
the stream. This point the boatmen were endeavoring to reach.
For landing their cargo at this point the boatmen were to receive
five hundred dollars, besides the profits of any articles they could
sell in the scattered hamlets they might encounter by the way. The
whiskey-bottle was of course brought out. Crockett drank deeply; he
says, at least half a pint. His tongue was unloosed, and he became
one of the most voluble and entertaining of men. His clothes having
been dried by the fire, and all having with boisterous merriment
partaken of a hearty supper, as night came on the little boy was
left to the tender care of Mrs. Owen, while the rest of the party
repaired to the cabin of the boat, to make a night of it in drinking
They had indeed a wild time. There was whiskey in abundance.
Crockett was in his element, and kept the whole company in a
constant roar. Their shouts and bacchanal songs resounded through
the solitudes, with clamor and profaneness which must have fallen
painfully upon angels' ears, if any of heaven's pure and gentle
spirits were within hearing distance.
"We had," writes Crockett, "a high night of it, as I took steam
enough to drive out all the cold that was in me, and about three
times as much more."
These boon companions became warm friends, according to the most
approved style of backwoods friendship. Mr. Owen told the boatmen
that a few miles farther up the river a hurricane had entirely
prostrated the forest, and that the gigantic trees so encumbered the
stream that he was doubtful whether the boat could pass, unless the
water should rise higher. Consequently he, with Crockett and Henry,
accompanied the boatmen up to that point to help them through,
should it be possible to effect a passage. But it was found
impossible, and the boat dropped down again to its moorings opposite
Mr. Owen's cabin.
As it was now necessary to wait till the river should rise, the
boatmen and Mr. Owen all consented to accompany Crockett to the
place where he was to settle, and build his house for him. It seems
very strange that, in that dismal wilderness, Crockett should not
have preferred to build his cabin near so kind a neighbor. But so it
was. He chose his lot at a distance of seven miles from any
"And so I got the boatmen," he writes, "all to go out with me to
where I was going to settle, and we slipped up a cabin in little or
no time. I got from the boat four barrels of meal, one of salt, and
about ten gallons of whiskey."
For these he paid in labor, agreeing to accompany the boatmen up the
river as far as their landing-place at McLemone's Bluff.
Life on the Obion.
Hunting Adventures.--The Voyage up the River.--Scenes in the
Cabin.--Return Home.--Removal of the Family.--Crockett's Riches.--A
Perilous Enterprise.--Reasons for his Celebrity.--Crockett's
Narrative.--A Bear-Hunt.--Visit to Jackson.--Again a Candidate for
the Legislature.--Electioneering and Election.
The next day after building the cabin, to which Crockett intended to
move his family, it began to rain, as he says, "rip-roariously." The
river rapidly rose, and the boatmen were ready to resume their
voyage. Crockett stepped out into the forest and shot a deer, which
he left as food for Abram Henry and his little boy, who were to
remain in the cabin until his return. He expected to be absent six
or seven days. The stream was very sluggish. By poling, as it was
called, that is, by pushing the boat with long poles, they reached
the encumbrance caused by the hurricane, where they stopped for the
In the morning, as soon as the day dawned, Crockett, thinking it
impossible for them to get through the fallen timber that day, took
his rifle and went into the forest in search of game. He had gone
but a short distance when he came across a fine buck. The animal
fell before his unerring aim, and, taking the prize upon his
shoulders, he commenced a return to the boat.
He had not proceeded far before he came upon the fresh tracks of a
herd of elks. The temptation to follow their trail was to a veteran
hunter irresistible. He threw down his buck, and had not gone far
before he came upon two more bucks, very large and splendid animals.
The beautiful creatures, though manifesting some timidity, did not
seem disposed to run, but, with their soft, womanly eyes, gazed with
wonder upon the approaching stranger. The bullet from Crockett's
rifle struck between the eyes of one, and he fell dead. The other,
his companion, exhibited almost human sympathy. Instead of taking to
flight, he clung to his lifeless associate, looking down upon him as
if some incomprehensible calamity had occurred. Crockett rapidly
reloaded his rifle, and the other buck fell dead.
He hung them both upon the limb of a tree, so that they should not
be devoured by the wolves, and followed on in the trail of the elks.
He did not overtake them until nearly noon. They were then beyond
rifle-shot, and kept so, luring him on quite a distance. At length
he saw two other fine bucks, both of which he shot. The intellectual
culture of the man may be inferred from the following characteristic
description which he gives of these events:
"I saw two more bucks, very large fellows too. I took a blizzard at
one of them, and up he tumbled. The other ran off a few jumps and
stopped, and stood there until I loaded again and fired at him. I
knocked his trotters from under him, and then I hung them both up. I
pushed on again, and about sunset I saw three other bucks. I down'd
with one of them, and the other two ran off. I hung this one up
also, having killed six that day.
"I then pushed on till I got to the hurricane, and at the lower edge
of it, about where I expected the boat was. Here I hollered as hard
as I could roar, but could get no answer. I fired off my gun, and
the men on the boat fired one too. But, quite contrary to my
expectations, they had got through the timber, and were about two
miles above me. It was now dark, and I had to crawl through the
fallen timber the best way I could; and if the reader don't know it
was bad enough, I am sure I do. For the vines and briers had grown
all through it, and so thick that a good fat coon couldn't much more
than get along. I got through at last, and went on to near where I
had killed my last deer, and once more fired off my gun, which was
again answered from the boat, which was a little above me. I moved
on as fast as I could, but soon came to water; and not knowing how
deep it was, I halted, and hollered till they came to me with a
skiff. I now got to the boat without further difficulty. But the
briers had worked on me at such a rate that I felt like I wanted
sewing up all over. I took a pretty stiff horn, which soon made me
feel much better. But I was so tired that I could scarcely work my
jaws to eat."
The next morning, Crockett took a young man with him and went out
into the woods to bring in the game he had shot. They brought in two
of the bucks, which afforded them all the supply of venison they
needed, and left the others hanging upon the trees. The boatmen then
pushed their way up the river. The progress was slow, and eleven
toilsome days passed before they reached their destination. Crockett
had now discharged his debt, and prepared to return to his cabin.
There was a light skiff attached to the large flat-bottomed boat in
which they had ascended the river. This skiff Crockett took, and,
accompanied by a young man by the name of Flavius Harris, who had
decided to go back with him, speedily paddled their way down the
stream to his cabin.
There were now four occupants of this lonely, dreary hut, which was
surrounded by forests and fallen trees and briers and brambles. They
all went to work vigorously in clearing some land for a corn field,
that they might lay in a store for the coming winter. The spring was
far advanced, and the season for planting nearly gone. They had
brought some seed with them on their pack-horse, and they soon had
the pleasure of seeing the tender sprouts pushing up vigorously
through the luxuriant virgin soil. It was not necessary to fence
their field. Crockett writes:
"There was no stock nor anything else to disturb our corn except the
wild varmints; and the old serpent himself, with a fence to help
him, couldn't keep them out."
Here Crockett and his three companions remained through the summer
and into the autumn, until they could gather in their harvest of
corn. During that time they lived, as they deemed, sumptuously, upon
game. To kill a grizzly bear was ever considered an achievement of
which any hunter might boast. During the summer, Crockett killed ten
of these ferocious monsters. Their flesh was regarded as a great
delicacy. And their shaggy skins were invaluable in the cabin for
beds and bedding. He also shot deer in great abundance. The smaller
game he took, of fat turkeys, partridges, pigeons, etc., he did not
deem worth enumerating.
It was a very lazy, lounging, indolent life. Crockett could any
morning go into the woods and shoot a deer. He would bring all the
desirable parts of it home upon his shoulders, or he would take his
pack-horse out with him for that purpose. At their glowing fire,
outside of the cabin if the weather were pleasant, inside if it
rained, they would cook the tender steaks. They had meal for corn
bread; and it will also be remembered that they had sugar, and ten
gallons of whiskey.
The deerskins were easily tanned into soft and pliant leather. They
all knew how to cut these skins, and with tough sinews to sew them
into hunting-shirts, moccasins, and other needed garments. Sitting
Indian-fashion on mattresses or cushions of bearskin, with just
enough to do gently to interest the mind, with no anxiety or thought
even about the future, they would loiter listlessly through the long
hours of the summer days.
Occasionally two or three Indians, on a hunting excursion, would
visit the cabin. These Indians were invariably friendly. Crockett
had no more apprehension that they would trouble him than he had
that the elk or the deer would make a midnight attack upon his
cabin. Not unfrequently they would have a visit from Mr. Owen's
household; or they would all go up to his hut for a carouse. Two or
three times, during the summer, small parties exploring the country
came along, and would rest a day or two under Crockett's hospitable
roof. Thus with these men, with their peculiar habits and tastes,
the summer probably passed away as pleasantly as with most people in
this world of care and trouble.
Early in the autumn, Crockett returned to Central Tennessee to fetch
his family to the new home. Upon reaching his cabin in Giles County,
he was met by a summons to attend a special session of the
Legislature. He attended, and served out his time, though he took
but little interest in legislative affairs. His thoughts were
elsewhere, and he was impatient for removal, before cold weather
should set in, to his far-distant home.
Late in October he set out with his little family on foot, for their
long journey of one hundred and fifty miles through almost a
pathless forest. His poverty was extreme. But the peculiar character
of the man was such that he did net seem to regard that at all. Two
pack-horses conveyed all their household goods. Crockett led the
party, with a child on one arm and his rifle on the other. He walked
gayly along, singing as merrily as the birds. Half a dozen dogs
followed him. Then came the horses in single file. His wife and
older children, following one after the other in single file along
the narrow trail, closed up the rear. It was a very singular
procession, thus winding its way, through forest and moor, over
hills and prairies, to the silent shores of the Mississippi. The
eventful journey was safely accomplished, and he found all things as
he had left them. A rich harvest of golden ears was waving in his
corn-field; and his comfortable cabin, in all respects as
comfortable as the one he had left, was ready to receive its
He soon gathered in his harvest, and was thus amply supplied with
bread for the winter. Fuel, directly at his hand, was abundant, and
thus, as we may say, his coal-bin was full. Game of every kind,
excepting buffaloes, was ranging the woods, which required no
shelter or food at his expense, and from which he could, at
pleasure, select any variety of the most delicious animal food he
might desire. Thus his larder was full to repletion. The skins of
animals furnished them with warm and comfortable clothing, easily
decorated with fringes and some bright coloring, whose beauty was
tasteful to every eye. Thus the family wardrobe was amply stored.
Many might have deemed Crockett a poor man. He regarded himself as
one of the lords of creation.
Christmas was drawing nigh. It may be doubted whether Crockett had
the slightest appreciation of the sacred character of that day which
commemorates the advent of the Son of God to suffer and die for the
sins of the world. With Crockett it had ever been a day of
jollification. He fired salutes with his rifle. He sung his merriest
songs. He told his funniest stories. He indulged himself in the
highest exhilaration which whiskey could induce.
As this holiday approached, Crockett was much troubled in finding
that his powder was nearly expended, and that he had none "to fire
Christmas guns." This seemed really to annoy him more than that he
had none to hunt with.
In the mean time, a brother-in-law had moved to that region, and had
reared his cabin at a distance of six miles from the hut of David
Crockett, on the western bank of Rutherford's Fork, one of the
tributaries of Obion River. He had brought with him a keg of powder
for Crockett, which had not yet been delivered.
The region all around was low and swampy. The fall rains had so
swollen the streams that vast extents of territory were inundated.
All the river-bottoms were covered with water. The meadows which
lined the Obion, where Crockett would have to pass, were so flooded
that it was all of a mile from shore to shore.
The energy which Crockett displayed on the difficult and perilous
journey, illustrates those remarkable traits of character which have
given him such wide renown. There must be something very
extraordinary about a man which can make his name known throughout a
continent. And of the forty millions of people in the United States,
there is scarcely one, of mature years, who has not heard the name
of David Crockett.
When Crockett told his wife that he had decided to go to his
brother's for the powder, she earnestly remonstrated, saying that it
was at the imminent hazard of his life. The ground was covered with
snow. He would have to walk at least a mile through icy water, up to
his waist, and would probably have to swim the channel. He then,
with dripping clothes, and through the cold wintry blast, would have
to walk several miles before he could reach his brother's home.
Crockett persisted in his determination, saying, "I have no powder
for Christmas, and we are out of meat."
He put on some woollen wrappers and a pair of deerskin moccasins. He
then tied up a small bundle; of clothes, with shoes and stockings,
which he might exchange for his dripping garments when he should
reach his brother's cabin. I quote from his own account of the
"I didn't before know how much a person could suffer and not die.
The snow was about four inches deep when I started. And when I got
to the water, which was only about a quarter of a mile off, it
looked like an ocean. I put in, and waded on till I came to the
channel, where I crossed that on a high log. I then took water
again, having my gun and all my hunting tools along, and waded till
I came to a deep slough, that was wider than the river itself. I had
often crossed it on a log; but behold, when I got there no log was
to be seen.
"I know'd of an island in the slough, and a sapling stood on it
close to the side of that log, which was now entirely under water. I
know'd further, that the water was about eight or ten feet deep
under the log, and I judged it to be three feet deep over it. After
studying a little what I should do, I determined to cut a forked
sapling, which stood near me, so as to lodge it against the one that
stood on the island. In this I succeeded very well. I then cut me a
pole, and then crawled along on my sapling till I got to the one it
was lodged against, which was about six feet above the water.
"I then felt about with the pole till I found the log, which was
just about as deep under the water as I had judged. I then crawled
back and got my gun, which I had left at the stump of the sapling I
had cut, and again made my way to the place of lodgment, and then
climbed down the other sapling so as to get on the log. I felt my
way along with my feet in the water about waist-deep, but it was a
mighty ticklish business. However, I got over, and by this time I
had very little feeling in my feet and legs, as I had been all the
time in the water, except what time I was crossing the high log over
the river and climbing my lodged sapling.
"I went but a short distance when I came to another slough, over
which there was a log, but it was floating on the water. I thought I
could walk it, so I mounted on it. But when I had got about the
middle of the deep water, somehow or somehow else, it turned over,
and in I went up to my head. I waded out of this deep water, and
went ahead till I came to the highland, where I stopped to pull of
my wet clothes, and put on the others which I held up with my gun
above water when I fell in."
This exchanging of his dripping garments for dry clothes, standing
in the snow four inches deep, and exposed to the wintry blast, must
have been a pretty severe operation. Hardy as Crockett was, he was
so chilled and numbed by the excessive cold that his flesh had
scarcely any feeling. He tied his wet clothes together and hung them
up on the limb of a tree, to drip and dry He thought he would then
set out on the full run, and endeavor thus to warm himself by
promoting the more rapid circulation of his blood. But to his
surprise he could scarcely move. With his utmost exertions he could
not take a step more than six inches in length. He had still five
miles to walk, through a rough, pathless forest, encumbered with
By great and painful effort he gradually recovered the use of his
limbs, and toiling along for two or three hours, late in the evening
was cheered by seeing the light of a bright fire shining through the
chinks between the logs of his brother's lonely cabin. He was
received with the utmost cordiality. Even his hardy pioneer brother
listened with astonishment to the narrative of the perils he had
surmounted and the sufferings he had endured. After the refreshment
of a warm supper, Crockett wrapped himself in a bearskin, and lying
down upon the floor, with his feet to the fire, slept the sweet,
untroubled sleep of a babe. In the morning he awoke as well as ever,
feeling no bad consequences from the hardships of the preceding day.
The next morning a freezing gale from the north wailed through the
snow-whitened forest, and the cold was almost unendurable. The
earnest persuasions of his brother and his wife induced him to
remain with them for the day. But, with his accustomed energy,
instead of enjoying the cosey comfort of the Fireside, he took his
rifle, and went out into the woods, wading the snow and breasting
the gale. After the absence of an hour or two, he returned tottering
beneath the load of two deer, which he had shot, and which he
brought to the cabin on his shoulders. Thus he made a very liberal
contribution to the food of the family, so that his visit was a
source of profit to them, not of loss.
All the day, and during the long wintry night, the freezing blasts
blew fiercely, and the weather grew more severely cold. The next
morning his friends urged him to remain another day. They all knew
that the water would be frozen over, but not sufficiently hard to
bear his weight, and this would add greatly to the difficulty and
the danger of his return. It seemed impossible that any man could
endure, on such a day, fording a swollen stream, a mile in breadth,
the water most of the way up to his waist, in some places above his
head, and breaking the ice at every step. The prospect appalled even
Crockett himself. He therefore decided to remain till the next
morning, though he knew that his family would be left in a state of
great anxiety. He hoped that an additional day and night might so
add to the thickness of the ice that it would bear his weight.
He therefore shouldered his musket and again went into the woods on
a hunt. Though he saw an immense bear, and followed him for some
distance, he was unable to shoot him. After several hours' absence,
he returned empty-handed.
Another morning dawned, lurid and chill, over the gloomy forest.
Again his friends entreated him not to run the risk of an attempt to
return in such fearful weather. "It was bitter cold," he writes, "but
I know'd my family was without meat, and I determined to get home to
them, or die a-trying."
We will let Crockett tell his own story of his adventures in going
"I took my keg of powder and all my hunting tools and cut out. When
I got to the water, it was a sheet of ice as far as I could see. I
put on to it, but hadn't got far before it broke through with me;
and so I took out my tomahawk, and broke my way along before me for
a considerable distance.
"At last I got to where the ice would bear me for a short distance,
and I mounted on it and went ahead. But it soon broke in again, and
I had to wade on till I came to my floating log. I found it so tight
this time, that I know'd it couldn't give me another fall, as it was
frozen in with the ice. I crossed over it without much difficulty,
and worked along till I came to my lodged sapling and my log under
"The swiftness of the current prevented the water from freezing over
it; and so I had to wade, just as I did when I crossed it before.
When I got to my sapling, I left my gun, and climbed out with my
powder-keg first, and then went back and got my gun. By this time, I
was nearly frozen to death; but I saw all along before me where the
ice had been fresh broke, and I thought it must be a bear struggling
about in the water. I therefore fresh-primed my gun, and, cold as I
was, I was determined to make war on him if we met. But I followed
the trail till it led me home. Then I found that it had been made by
my young man that lived with me, who had been sent by my distressed
wife to see, if he could, what had become of me, for they all
believed that I was dead. When I got home, I wasn't quite dead, but
mighty nigh it; but had my powder, and that was what I went for."
The night after Crockett's return a heavy rain fell, which, toward
morning, turned to sleet. But there was no meat in the cabin. There
were at that time three men who were inmates of that lowly
hut--Crockett, a young man, Flavius Harris, who had taken up his
abode with the pioneer, and a brother in-law, who had recently
emigrated to that wild country, and had reared his cabin not far
distant from Crockett's. They all turned out hunting. Crockett,
hoping to get a bear, went up the river into the dense and almost
impenetrable thickets, where the gigantic forest had been swept low
by the hurricane. The other two followed down the stream in search
of turkeys, grouse, and such small game.
Crockett took with him three dogs, one of which was an old hound,
faithful, sagacious, but whose most vigorous days were gone. The
dogs were essential in hunting bears. By their keen scent they would
find the animal, which fact they would announce to the hunter by
their loud barking. Immediately a fierce running fight would ensue.
By this attack the bear would be greatly retarded in his flight, so
that the hunter could overtake him, and he would often be driven
into a tree, where the unerring rifle-bullet would soon bring him
The storm of sleet still raged, and nothing could be more gloomy
than the aspect of dreariness and desolation which the wrecked
forest presented with its dense growth of briers and thorns.
Crockett toiled through the storm and the brush about six miles up
the river, and saw nothing. He then crossed over, about four miles,
to another stream. Still no game appeared. The storm was growing
more violent, the sleet growing worse and worse. Even the bears
sought shelter from the pitiless wintry gale. The bushes were all
bent down with the ice which clung to their branches, and were so
bound together that it was almost impossible for any one to force
his way through them.
The ice upon the stream would bear Crockett's weight. He followed it
down a mile or two, when his dogs started up a large flock of
turkeys. He shot two of them. They were immensely large, fat, and
heavy. Tying their legs together, he slung them over his shoulder,
and with this additional burden pressed on his toilsome way. Ere
long he became so fatigued that he was compelled to sit down upon a
log to rest.
Just then his dogs began to bark furiously. He was quite sure that
they had found a bear. Eagerly he followed the direction they
indicated, as fast as he could force his way along. To his surprise
he found that the three dogs had stopped near a large tree, and were
barking furiously at nothing. But as soon as they saw him
approaching they started off again, making the woods resound with
their baying. Having run about a quarter of a mile, he could
perceive that again they had stopped. When Crockett reached them
there was no game in sight. The dogs, barking furiously again, as
soon as they saw him approaching plunged into the thicket.
For a third time, and a fourth time, this was repeated. Crockett
could not understand what it meant. Crockett became angry at being
thus deceived, and resolved that he would shoot the old hound, whom
he considered the ringleader in the mischief, as soon as he got near
enough to do so.
"With this intention," he says, "I pushed on the harder, till I came
to the edge of an open prairie; and looking on before my dogs, I saw
about the biggest bear that ever was seen in America. He looked, at
the distance he was from me, like a large black bull. My dogs were
afraid to attack him, and that was the reason they had stopped so
often that I might overtake them."
This is certainly a remarkable instance of animal sagacity. The
three dogs, by some inexplicable conference among themselves,
decided that the enemy was too formidable for them to attack alone.
They therefore summoned their master to their aid. As soon as they
saw that he was near enough to lend his cooperation, then they
fearlessly assailed the monster.
The sight inspired Crockett with new life. Through thickets, briers,
and brambles they all rushed--bear, dogs, and hunter. At length, the
shaggy monster, so fiercely assailed, climbed for refuge a large
black-oak tree, and sitting among the branches, looked composedly
down upon the dogs barking fiercely at its foot. Crockett crept up
within about eighty yards, and taking deliberate aim at his breast,
fired. The bullet struck and pierced the monster directly upon the
spot at which it was aimed. The bear uttered a sharp cry, made a
convulsive movement with one paw, and remained as before.
Speedily Crockett reloaded his rifle, and sent another bullet to
follow the first. The shaggy brute shuddered in every limb, and then
tumbled head-long to the icy ground. Still he was not killed. The
dogs plunged upon him, and there was a tremendous fight. The howling
of the bear, and the frenzied barking of the dogs, with their sharp
cries of pain as the claws of the monster tore their flesh, and the
deathly struggle witnessed as they rolled over and over each other
in the fierce fight, presented a terrific spectacle.
Crockett hastened to the aid of his dogs. As soon as the bear saw
him approach, he forsook the inferior, and turned with all fury upon
the superior foe. Crockett was hurrying forward with his tomahawk in
one hand and his big butcher-knife in the other, when the bear, with
eyes flashing fire, rushed upon him. Crockett ran back, seized his
rifle, and with a third bullet penetrated the monster's brain and he
fell dead. The dogs and their master seemed to rejoice alike in
their great achievement.
By the route which Crockett had pursued, he was about twelve miles
from home. Leaving the huge carcass where the animal had fallen, he
endeavored to make a straight line through the forest to his cabin.
That he might find his way back again, he would, at every little
distance, blaze, as it was called, a sapling, that is, chip off some
of the bark with his hatchet. When he got within a mile of home this
was no longer necessary.
The other two men had already returned to the cabin. As the wolves
might devour the valuable meat before morning, they all three set
out immediately, notwithstanding their fatigue and the still raging
storm, and taking with them four pack-horses, hastened back to bring
in their treasure. Crockett writes:
"We got there just before dark, and struck a fire, and commenced
butchering my bear. It was some time in the night before we finished
it. And I can assert, on my honor, that I believe he would have
weighed six hundred pounds. It was the second largest I ever saw. I
killed one, a few years after, that weighed six hundred and
seventeen pounds. I now felt fully compensated for my sufferings in
going back after my powder; and well satisfied that a dog might
sometimes be doing a good business, even when he seemed to be
barking up the wrong tree.
"We got our meat home, and I had the pleasure to know that we now
had a plenty, and that of the best; and I continued through the
winter to supply my family abundantly with bear-meat, and venison
from the woods."
In the early spring, Crockett found that he had a large number of
valuable skins on hand, which he had taken during the winter. About
forty miles southeast from Crockett's cabin, in the heart of Madison
County, was the thriving little settlement of Jackson. Crockett
packed his skins on a horse, shouldered his rifle, and taking his
hardy little son for a companion, set off there to barter his
peltries for such articles of household use as he could convey back
upon his horse. The journey was accomplished with no more than the
ordinary difficulties. A successful trade was effected, and with a
rich store of coffee, sugar, powder, lead, and salt, the father and
son prepared for their return.
Crockett found there some of his old fellow-soldiers of the Creek
War. When all things were ready for a start, he went to bid adieu to
his friends and to take a parting dram with them. There were three
men present who were candidates for the State Legislature. While
they were having a very merry time, one, as though uttering a
thought which had that moment occurred to him, exclaimed, "Why,
Crockett, you ought to offer yourself for the Legislature for your
district." Crockett replied, "I live at least forty miles from any
white settlement." Here the matter dropped.
About ten days after Crockett's return home, a stranger, passing
along, stopped at Crockett's cabin and told him that he was a
candidate for Legislature, and took from his pocket a paper, and
read to him the announcement of the fact. There was something in the
style of the article which satisfied Crockett that there was a
little disposition to make fun of him; and that his nomination was
intended as a burlesque. This roused him, and he resolved to put in
his claim with all his zeal. He consequently hired a man to work
upon his farm, and set out on an electioneering tour.
Though very few people had seen Crockett, he had obtained very
considerable renown in that community of backwoodsmen as a great
bear-hunter. Dr. Butler, a man of considerable pretensions, and, by
marriage, a nephew of General Jackson, was the rival candidate, and
a formidable one. Indeed, he and his friends quite amused themselves
with the idea that "the gentleman from the cane," as they
contemptuously designated Crockett, could be so infatuated as to
think that there was the least chance for him. The population of
that wilderness region was so scarce that the district for which a
representative was to be chosen consisted of eleven counties.
A great political gathering was called, which was to be held in
Madison County, which was the strongest of them all. Here speeches
were to be made by the rival candidates and their friends, and
electioneering was to be practised by all the arts customary in that
rude community. The narrative of the events which ensued introduces
us to a very singular state of society. At the day appointed there
was a large assembly, in every variety of backwoods costume, among
the stumps and the lowly cabins of Jackson. Crockett mingled with
the crowd, watching events, listening to everything which was said,
and keeping himself as far as possible unknown.
Dr. Butler, seeing a group of men, entered among them, and called
for whiskey to treat them all. The Doctor had once met Crockett when
a few weeks before he had been in Jackson selling his furs. He
however did not recognize his rival among the crowd. As the whiskey
was passing freely around, Crockett thought it a favorable moment to
make himself known, and to try his skill at an electioneering
speech. He was a good-looking man, with a face beaming with fun and
smiles, and a clear, ringing voice. He jumped upon a stump and
shouted out, in tones which sounded far and wide, and which speedily
gathered all around him.
"Hallo! Doctor Butler; you don't know me do you? But I'll make you
know me mighty well before August. I see they have weighed you out
against me. But I'll beat you mighty badly."
Butler pleasantly replied, "Ah, Colonel Crockett, is that you? Where
did you come from?"
Crockett rejoined, "Oh, I have just crept out from the cane, to see
what discoveries I could make among the white folks. You think you
have greatly the advantage of me, Butler. 'Tis true I live forty
miles from any settlement. I am poor, and you are rich. You see it
takes two coonskins here to buy a quart. But I've good dogs, and my
little boys at home will go to their death to support my election.
They are mighty industrious. They hunt every night till twelve
o'clock. It keeps the little fellows mighty busy to keep me in
whiskey. When they gets tired, I takes my rifle and goes out and
kills a wolf, for which the State pays me three dollars. So one way
or other I keeps knocking along."
Crockett perhaps judged correctly that the candidate who could
furnish the most whiskey would get the most votes. He thus adroitly
informed these thirsty men of his readiness and his ability to
furnish them with all the liquor they might need. Strange as his
speech seems to us, it was adapted to the occasion, and was received
with roars of laughter and obstreperous applause.
"Well, Colonel," said Dr. Butler, endeavoring to clothe his own
countenance with smiles, "I see you can beat me electioneering."
"My dear fellow," shouted out Crockett, "you don't call this
electioneering, do you? When you see me electioneering, I goes fixed
for the purpose. I've got a suit of deer-leather clothes, with two
big pockets. So I puts a bottle of whiskey in one, and a twist of
tobacco in t'other, and starts out. Then, if I meets a friend, why,
I pulls out my bottle and gives him a drink. He'll be mighty apt,
before he drinks, to throw away his tobacco. So when he's done, I
pulls my twist out of t'other pocket and gives him a chaw. I never
likes to leave a man worse off than when I found him. If I had given
him a drink and he had lost his tobacco, he would not have made
much. But give him tobacco, and a drink too, and you are mighty apt
to get his vote."
With such speeches as these, interlarded with fun and anecdote, and
a liberal supply of whiskey, Crockett soon made himself known
through all the grounds, and he became immensely popular. The
backwoodsmen regarded him as their man, belonging to their class and
representing their interests.
Dr. Butler was a man of some culture, and a little proud and
overbearing in his manners. He had acquired what those poor men
deemed considerable property. He lived in a framed house, and in his
best room he had a rug or carpet spread over the middle of the
floor. This carpet was a luxury which many of the pioneers had never
seen or conceived of. The Doctor, standing one day at his window,
saw several persons, whose votes he desired, passing along, and he
called them in to take a drink.
There was a table in the centre of the room, with choice liquors
upon it. The carpet beneath the table covered only a small portion
of the floor, leaving on each side a vacant space around the room.
The men cautiously walked around this space, without daring to put
their feet upon the carpet. After many solicitations from Dr.
Butler, and seeing him upon the carpet, they ventured up to the
table and drank. They, however, were under great restraint, and soon
left, manifestly not pleased with their reception.
Calling in at the next log house to which they came, they found
there one of Crockett's warm friends. They inquired of him what kind
of a man the great bear-hunter was, and received in reply that he
was a first-rate man, one of the best hunters in the world; that he
was not a bit proud; that he lived in a log cabin, without any glass
for his windows, and with the earth alone for his floor.
"Ah!" they exclaimed with one voice, "he's the fellow for us. We'll
never give our votes for such a proud man as Butler. He called us
into his house to take a drink, and spread down one of his best
bed-quilts for us to walk on. It was nothing but a piece of pride."
The day of election came, and Crockett was victorious by a majority
of two hundred and forty-seven votes. Thus he found himself a second
time a member of the Legislature of the State of Tennessee, and with
a celebrity which caused all eyes to be turned toward "the gentleman
from the cane."
Adventures in the Forest, on the River, and in the City
The Bear Hunter's Story.--Service in the Legislature.--Candidate for
Congress.--Electioneering.--The New Speculation.--Disastrous
Voyage.--Narrow Escape.--New Electioneering Exploits.--Odd
Speeches.--The Visit to Crockett's Cabin.--His Political Views.--His
Honesty.--Opposition to Jackson.--Scene at Raleigh.--Dines with the
President.--Gross Caricature.--His Annoyance.
Crockett was very fond of hunting-adventures, and told stories of
these enterprises in a racy way, peculiarly characteristic of the
man. The following narrative from his own lips, the reader will
certainly peruse with much interest.
"I was sitting by a good fire in my little cabin, on a cool November
evening, roasting potatoes I believe, and playing with my children,
when some one halloed at the fence. I went out, and there were three
strangers, who said they come to take an elk-hunt. I was glad to see
'em, invited 'em in, and after supper we cleaned our guns. I took
down old Betsey, rubbed her up, greased her, and laid her away to
rest. She is a mighty rough old piece. but I love her, for she and I
have seen hard times. She mighty seldom tells me a lie. If I hold
her right, she always sends the ball where I tell her, After we were
all fixed, I told 'em hunting-stories till bedtime.
"Next morning was clear and cold, and by times I sounded my horn,
and my dogs came howling 'bout me, ready for a, chase. Old Rattler
was a little lame--a bear bit him in the shoulder; but Soundwell,
Tiger, and the rest of 'em were all mighty anxious. We got a bite,
and saddled our horses. I went by to git a neighbor to drive for us,
and off we started for the Harricane. My dogs looked mighty wolfish;
they kept jumping on one another and growling. I knew they were run
mad for a fight, for they hadn't had one for two or three days. We
were in fine spirits, and going 'long through very open woods, when
one of the strangers said, 'I would give my horse now to see a
"Said I, 'Well, give me your horse,' and I pointed to an old bear,
about three or four hundred yards ahead of us, feeding on acorns.
"I had been looking at him some time, but he was so far off; I
wasn't certain what it was. However, I hardly spoke before we all
strained off; and the woods fairly echoed as we harked the dogs on.
The old bear didn't want to run, and he never broke till we got most
upon him; but then he buckled for it, I tell you. When they
overhauled him he just rared up on his hind legs, and he boxed the
dogs 'bout at a mighty rate. He hugged old Tiger and another, till
he dropped 'em nearly lifeless; but the others worried him, and
after a while they all come to, and they give him trouble. They are
mighty apt, I tell you, to give a bear trouble before they leave
"'Twas a mighty pretty fight--'twould have done any one's soul good
to see it, just to see how they all rolled about. It was as much as
I could do to keep the strangers from shooting him; but I wouldn't
let 'em, for fear they would kill some of my dogs. After we got
tired seeing 'em fight, I went in among 'em, and the first time they
got him down I socked my knife in the old bear. We then hung him up,
and went on to take our elk-hunt. You never seed fellows so
delighted as them strangers was. Blow me, if they didn't cut more
capers, jumping about, than the old bear. 'Twas a mighty pretty
fight, but I believe I seed more fun looking at them than at the
"By the time we got to the Harricane, we were all rested, and ripe
for a drive. My dogs were in a better humor, for the fight had just
taken off the wiry edge. So I placed the strangers at the stands
through which I thought the elk would pass, sent the driver way up
ahead, and I went down below.
"Everything was quiet, and I leaned old Betsey 'gin a tree, and laid
down. I s'pose I had been lying there nearly an hour, when I heard
old Tiger open. He opened once or twice, and old Rattler gave a long
howl; the balance joined in, and I knew the elk were up. I jumped up
and seized my rifle. I could hear nothing but one continued roar of
all my dogs, coming right towards me. Though I was an old hunter,
the music made my hair stand on end. Soon after they first started,
I heard one gun go off, and my dogs stopped, but not long, for they
took a little tack towards where I had placed the strangers. One of
them fired, and they dashed back, and circled round way to my left.
I run down 'bout a quarter of a mile, and I heard my dogs make a
bend like they were coming to me. While I was listening, I heard the
bushes breaking still lower down, and started to run there.
"As I was going 'long, I seed two elks burst out of the Harricane
'bout one hundred and thirty or forty yards below me. There was an
old buck and a doe. I stopped, waited till they got into a clear
place, and as the old fellow made a leap, I raised old Bet, pulled
trigger, and she spoke out. The smoke blinded me so, that I couldn't
see what I did; but as it cleared away, I caught a glimpse of only
one of them going through the bushes; so I thought I had the other.
I went up, and there lay the old buck kicking. I cut his throat, and
by that time, Tiger and two of my dogs came up. I thought it
singular that all my dogs wasn't there, and I began to think they
had killed another. After the dogs had bit him, and found out he was
dead, old Tiger began to growl, and curled himself up between his
legs. Everything had to stand off then, for he wouldn't let the
devil himself touch him.
"I started off to look for the strangers. My two dogs followed me.
After gitting away a piece, I looked back, and once in a while I
could see old Tiger git up and shake the elk, to see if he was
really dead, and then curl up between his legs agin. I found the
strangers round a doe elk the driver had killed; and one of 'em said
he was sure he had killed one lower down. I asked him if he had
horns. He said he didn't see any. I put the dogs on where he said he
had shot, and they didn't go fur before they came to a halt. I went
up, and there lay a fine buck elk; and though his horns were four or
five feet long, the fellow who shot him was so scared that he never
saw them. We had three elk, and a bear; and we managed to git it
home, then butchered our game, talked over our hunt, and had a
Crockett served in the Legislature for two years, during which time
nothing occurred of special interest. These were the years of 1823
and 1824. Colonel Alexander was then the representative, in the
National Legislature, of the district in which Crockett lived. He
had offended his constituents by voting for the Tariff. It was
proposed to run Crockett for Congress in opposition to him. Crockett
"I told the people that I could not stand that. It was a step above
my knowledge; and I know'd nothing about Congress matters."
They persisted; but he lost the election; for cotton was very high,
and Alexander urged that it was in consequence of the Tariff. Two
years passed away, which Crockett spent in the wildest adventures of
hunting. He was a true man of the woods with no ambition for any
better home than the log cabin he occupied. There was no excitement
so dear to him as the pursuit and capture of a grizzly bear. There
is nothing on record, in the way of hunting, which surpasses the
exploits of this renowned bear-hunter. But there is a certain degree
of sameness in these narratives of skill and endurance which would
weary the reader.
In the fall of 1825, Crockett built two large flat-boats, to load
with staves for the making of casks, which he intended to take down
the river to market. He employed a number of hands in building the
boat and splitting out the staves, and engaged himself in these
labors "till the bears got fat." He then plunged into the woods, and
in two weeks killed fifteen. The whole winter was spent in hunting
with his son and his dogs. His workmen continued busy getting the
staves, and when the rivers rose with the spring floods, he had
thirty thousand ready for the market.
With this load he embarked for New Orleans. His boats without
difficulty floated down the Obion into the majestic Mississippi. It
was the first time he had seen the rush of these mighty waters.
There was before him a boat voyage of nearly fifteen hundred miles,
through regions to him entirely unknown. In his own account of this
adventure he writes:
"When I got into the Mississippi I found all my hands were bad
scared. In fact, I believe I was scared a little the worst of any;
for I had never been down the river, and I soon discovered that my
pilot was as ignorant of the business as myself. I hadn't gone far
before I determined to lash the two boats together. We did so; but
it made them so heavy and obstinate that it was next akin to
impossible to do any thing at all with them, or to guide them right
in the river.
"That evening we fell in company with some Ohio boats, and about
night we tried to land, but we could not. The Ohio men hollered to
us to go on and run all night. We took their advice, though we had a
good deal rather not. But we couldn't do any other way. In a short
distance we got into what is called the Devil's Elbow. And if any
place in the wide creation has its own proper name I thought it was
this. Here we had about the hardest work that I was ever engaged in
in my life, to keep out of danger. And even then we were in it all
the while. We twice attempted to land at Wood Yards, which we could
see, but couldn't reach.
"The people would run out with lights, and try to instruct us how to
get to shore; but all in vain. Our boats were so heavy that we could
not take them much any way except the way they wanted to go, and
just the way the current would carry them. At last we quit trying to
land, and concluded just to go ahead as well as we could, for we
found we couldn't do any better.
"Some time in the night I was down in the cabin of one of the boats,
sitting by the fire, thinking on what a hobble we had got into; and
how much better bear-hunting was on hard land, than floating along
on the water, when a fellow had to go ahead whether he was exactly
willing or not. The hatch-way of the cabin came slap down, right
through the top of the boat; and it was the only way out, except a
small hole in the side which we had used for putting our arms
through to dip up water before we lashed the boats together.
"We were now floating sideways, and the boat I was in was the
hindmost as we went. All at once I heard the hands begin to run over
the top of the boat in great confusion, and pull with all their
might. And the first thing I know'd after this we went broadside
full tilt against the head of an island, where a large raft of drift
timber had lodged. The nature of such a place would be, as everybody
knows, to suck the boats down and turn them right under this raft;
and the uppermost boat would, of course, be suck'd down and go under
first. As soon as we struck, I bulged for my hatchway, as the boat
was turning under sure enough. But when I got to it, the water was
pouring through in a current as large as the hole would let it, and
as strong as the weight of the river would force it. I found I
couldn't get out here, for the boat was now turned down in such a
way that it was steeper than a house-top. I now thought of the hole
in the side, and made my way in a hurry for that.
"With difficulty I got to it, and when I got there, I found it was
too small for me to get out by my own power, and I began to think
that I was in a worse box than ever. But I put my arms through, and
hollered as loud as I could roar, as the boat I was in hadn't yet
quite filled with water up to my head; and the hands who were next
to the raft, seeing my arms out, and hearing me holler, seized them,
and began to pull. I told them I was sinking, and to pull my arms
off, or force me through, for now I know'd well enough it was neck
or nothing, come out or sink.
"By a violent effort they jerked me through; but I was in a pretty
pickle when I got through. I had been sitting without any clothing
over my shirt; this was tom off, and I was literally skinn'd like a
rabbit. I was, however, well pleased to get out in any way, even
without shirt or hide; as before I could straighten myself on the
boat next to the raft, the one they pull'd me out of went entirely
under, and I have never seen it any more to this day. We all escaped
on to the raft, where we were compelled to sit all night, about a
mile from land on either side. Four of my company were bareheaded,
and three barefooted; and of that number I was one. I reckon I
looked like a pretty cracklin ever to get to Congress!
"We had now lost all our loading, and every particle of our
clothing, except what little we had on; but over all this, while I
was sitting there, in the night, floating about on the drift, I felt
happier and better off than I ever had in my life before, for I had
just made such a marvellous escape, that I had forgot almost
everything else in that; and so I felt prime.
"In the morning about sunrise, we saw a boat coming down, and we
hailed her. They sent a large skiff, and took us all on board, and
carried us down as far as Memphis. Here I met with a friend, that I
never can forget as long as I am able to go ahead at anything; it
was a Major Winchester, a merchant of that place; he let us all have
hats, and shoes, and some little money to go upon, and so we all
"A young man and myself concluded to go on down to Natchez, to see
if we could hear anything of our boats; for we supposed they would
float out from the raft, and keep on down the river. We got on a boat
at Memphis, that was going down, and so cut out. Our largest boat,
we were informed, had been seen about fifty miles below where we
stove, and an attempt had been made to land her, but without
success, as she was as hard-headed as ever
"This was the last of my boats, and of my boating; for it went so
badly with me along at the first, that I had not much mind to try it
any more. I now returned home again, and, as the next August was the
Congressional election, I began to turn my attention a little to
that matter, as it was beginning to be talked of a good deal among
Cotton was down very low. Crockett could now say to the people: "You
see the effects of the Tariff." There were two rival candidates for
the office, Colonel Alexander and General Arnold. Money was needed
to carry the election, and Crockett had no money. He resolved,
however, to try his chances. A friend loaned him a little money to
start with; which sum Crockett, of course, expended in whiskey, as
the most potent influence, then and there, to secure an election.
"So I was able," writes Crockett, "to buy a little of the
'creature,' to put my friends in a good humor, as well as the other
gentlemen, for they all treat in that country; not to get elected,
of course, for that would be against the law, but just to make
themselves and their friends feel their keeping a little."
The contest was, as usual, made up of drinking, feasting, and
speeches. Colonel Alexander was an intelligent and worthy man, who
had been public surveyor. General Arnold was a lawyer of very
respectable attainments. Neither of these men considered Crockett a
candidate in the slightest degree to be feared. They only feared
each other, and tried to circumvent each other.
On one occasion there was a large gathering, where all three of the
candidates were present, and each one was expected to make a speech.
It came Crockett's lot to speak first. He knew nothing of
Congressional affairs, and had sense enough to be aware that it was
not best for him to attempt to speak upon subjects of which he was
entirely ignorant. He made one of his funny speeches, very short and
entirely non-committal. Colonel Alexander followed, endeavoring to
grapple with the great questions of tariffs, finance, and internal
improvements, which were then agitating the nation.
General Arnold then, in his turn, took the stump, opposing the
measures which Colonel Alexander had left. He seemed entirely to
ignore the fact that Crockett was a candidate. Not the slightest
allusion was made to him in his speech. The nervous temperament
predominated in the man, and he was easily annoyed. While speaking,
a large flock of guinea-hens came along, whose peculiar and noisy
cry all will remember who have ever heard it. Arnold was greatly
disturbed, and at last requested some one to drive the fowls away.
As soon as he had finished his speech, Crockett again mounted the
stump, and ostensibly addressing Arnold, but really addressing the
crowd, said, in a loud voice, but very jocosely:
"Well, General, you are the first man I ever saw that understood the
language of fowls. You had i not the politeness even to allude to me
in your speech. But when my little friends the guinea-hens came up,
and began to holler 'Crockett, Crockett, Crockett,' you were
ungenerous enough to drive them all away."
This raised such a universal laugh that even Crockett's opponents
feared that he was getting the best of them in winning the favor of
the people. When the day of election came, the popular bear-hunter
beat both of his competitors by twenty-seven hundred and forty-seven
votes. Thus David Crockett, unable to read and barely able to sign
his name, became a member of Congress, to assist in framing laws for
the grandest republic earth has ever known. He represented a
constituency of about one hundred thousand souls.
An intelligent gentleman, travelling in West Tennessee, finding
himself within eight miles of Colonel Crockett's cabin, decided to
call upon the man whose name had now become quite renowned. This was
just after Crockett's election to Congress, but before he had set
out for Washington. There was no road leading to the lonely hut. He
followed a rough and obstructed path or trail, which was indicated
only by blazed trees, and which bore no marks of being often
At length he came to a small opening in the forest, very rude and
uninviting in its appearance. It embraced eight or ten acres. One of
the humblest and least tasteful of log huts stood in the centre. It
was truly a cabin, a mere shelter from the weather. There was no
yard; there were no fences. Not the slightest effort had been made
toward ornamentation. It would be difficult to imagine a more lonely
and cheerless abode.
Two men were seated on stools at the door, both in their
shirt-sleeves, engaged in cleaning their rifles. As the stranger
rode up, one of the men rose and came forward to meet him. He was
dressed in very plain homespun attire, with a black fur cap upon his
head. He was a finely proportioned man, about six feet high,
apparently forty-five years of age, and of very frank, pleasing,
open countenance. He held his rifle in his hand, and from his right
shoulder hung a bag made of raccoon skin, to which there was a
sheath attached containing a large butcher-knife.
"This is Colonel Crockett's residence, I presume," said the
"Yes," was the reply, with a smile as of welcome.
"Have I the pleasure of seeing that gentleman before me?" the
"If it be a pleasure," was the courtly reply, "you have, sir."
"Well, Colonel," responded the stranger, "I have ridden much out of
my way to spend a day or two with you, and take a hunt."
"Get down, sir," said the Colonel, cordially. "I am delighted to see
you. I like to see strangers. And the only care I have is that I
cannot accommodate them as well as I could wish. I have no corn, but
my little boy will take your horse over to my son-in-law's. He is a
good fellow, and will take care of him."
Leading the stranger into his cabin, Crockett very courteously
introduced him to his brother, his wife, and his daughters. He then
"You see we are mighty rough here. I am afraid you will think it
hard times. But we have to do the best we can. I started mighty
poor, and have been rooting 'long ever since. But I hate apologies.
What I live upon always, I think a friend can for a day or two. I
have but little, but that little is as free as the water that runs.
So make yourself at home."
Mrs. Crockett was an intelligent and capable woman for one in her
station in life. The cabin was clean and orderly, and presented a
general aspect of comfort. Many trophies of the chase were in the
house, and spread around the yard. Several dogs, looking like
war-worn veterans, were sunning themselves in various parts of the
All the family were neatly dressed in home-made garments. Mrs.
Crockett was a grave, dignified woman, very courteous to her guests.
The daughters were remarkably pretty, but very diffident. Though
entirely uneducated, they could converse very easily, seeming to
inherit their father's fluency of utterance. They were active and
efficient in aiding their mother in her household work. Colonel
Crockett, with much apparent pleasure, conducted his guest over the
small patch of ground he had grubbed and was cultivating. He
exhibited his growing peas and pumpkins, and his little field of
corn, with as much apparent pleasure as an Illinois farmer would now
point out his hundreds of acres of waving grain. The hunter seemed
surprisingly well informed. As we have mentioned, nature had endowed
him with unusual strength of mind, and with a memory which was
almost miraculous. He never forgot anything he had heard. His
electioneering tours had been to him very valuable schools of
education. Carefully he listened to all the speeches and the
conversation of the intelligent men he met with.
John Quincy Adams was then in the Presidential chair. It was the
year 1827. Nearly all Crockett's constituents were strong
Jackson-men. Crockett, who afterward opposed Jackson, subsequently
said, speaking of his views at that time:
"I can say on my conscience, that I was, without disguise, the
friend and supporter of General Jackson upon his principles, as he
had laid them down, and as I understood them, before his election as
Alluding to Crockett's political views at that time, his guest
writes, "I held in high estimation the present Administration of our
country. To this he was opposed. His views, however, delighted me.
And were they more generally adopted we should be none the loser. He
was opposed to the Administration, and yet conceded that many of its
acts were wise and efficient, and would have received his cordial
support. He admired Mr. Clay, but had objections to him. He was
opposed to the Tariff, yet, I think, a supporter of the United
States Bank. He seemed to have the most horrible objection to
binding himself to any man or set of men. He said, 'I would as lieve
be an old coon-dog as obliged to do what any man or set of men would
tell me to do. I will support the present Administration as far as I
would any other; that is, as far as I believe its views to be right.
I will pledge myself to support no Administration. I had rather be
politically damned than hypocritically immortalized.'"
In the winter of 1827, Crockett emerged from his cabin in the
wilderness for a seat in Congress. He was so poor that he had not
money enough to pay his expenses to Washington. His election had
cost him one hundred and fifty dollars, which a friend had loaned
him. The same friend advanced one hundred dollars more to help him
on his journey.
"When I left home," he says, "I was happy, devilish, and full of
fun. I bade adieu to my friends, dogs, and rifle, and took the
stage, where I met with much variety of character, and amused myself
when my humor prompted. Being fresh from the backwoods, my stories
amused my companions, and I passed my time pleasantly.
"When I arrived at Raleigh the weather was cold and rainy, and we
were all dull and tired. Upon going into the tavern, where I was an
entire stranger, the room was crowded, and the crowd did not give
way that I might come to the fire. I was rooting my way to the fire,
not in a good humor, when some fellow staggered up towards me, and
cried out, 'Hurrah for Adams.'
"Said I, 'Stranger, you had better hurrah for hell, and praise your