Today is Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Parting the Canebrakes

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The express purpose of the writing of this column is very simple. Many, many people and families have moved to Lebanon and to Wilson County from other places who have absolutely no knowledge of our history, how we came to be and of who and what we are.

Long gone are the valued historians such as I.W.P. Buchanan, G. Frank Burns, Dixon Lanier Merritt, J. Bill Frame, Virginia and Dick Lawlor, Eugene Sloan, Hugh Walker, Ellen Schlink, Herman Eskew, Jr., Paul Wooten, and many others.

As has been previously stated, history cannot be accurately told by just giving "snippets "of history, the complete story must be told.

Today, we shall return to the discussions of what made early Wilson County a success, and we will discuss who made early Wilson County a success. Today, we will go back to discussing the early Wilson County Settlements.

Stoner's Creek

Migration from west to east is a rarity in world history. Yet because the settlement at French Lick was flung into the heart of the wilderness like a pebble hurled by a boy into a pond, many pioneers of the land that became Wilson County traveled eastward on the final stages of the journey.

So, the first permanent settlers of the fertile acres now a part of Green Hill and Mt. Juliet communities came up Stoner's Creek to locate their homes.

The story of the settlement is the story of the Cloyd and Williamson families.

John Cloyd came to Augusta County, Virginia, from England with his father in 1758. In 1789, he received a grant in Montgomery County, Virginia, a county that was carved from Augusta County in 1776.

In 1781, a 17-year-old youth, John Williamson, who was returning from service with the patriot armies in the Carolinas, met and married 15-year-old Margaret Cloyd, the daughter of John Cloyd. In 1785, her brother, Ezekiel Cloyd, married John Williamson's sister, Rebecca. They lived in Max Meadows, on New River, in Wythe County, Virginia.

From this point, dates become uncertain and have been reported variously. In about 1789, John and Margaret Williamson and Ezekiel and Rebecca Cloyd and their children left Virginia for the Cumberland Settlements. (Statements that they came earlier than 1784 cannot be correct. John's two eldest children had been born in Virginia before he came west; Sarah in 1782 and Margaret in 1784.)

It is said that John and Ezekiel came to the Cumberland with John Donelson and made a crop in Clover Bottom. It is said that at a laying-by time in the fall they were forced to flee by a Native American attack, abandoning both crops and boats, and that when they returned much later they found the crops not only unharmed but the best that they had ever made. That winter, they went back for their families. Other references say it was the father-in-law who came with John Williamson, Ezekiel coming later from North Carolina. Descendants of John Cloyd say that the Clover Bottom crop was made in 1789, and that smallpox broke out among the settlers in the fort in Nashville in 1790, and that John Cloyd and John Williamson in 1791 sought a healthier place to live, choosing tracts of land on the waters of Stoner's Creek.

The birthdates of two children, recorded in a genealogical study by Dr. A. D. Cloyd are thought-provoking. Elizabeth Williamson was born to John and Margaret Williamson "in Wilson County, Tennessee," on March 8, 1790. Joseph Cloyd was born to Ezekiel and Rebecca Cloyd "in Wilson County" on July 30, 1794. Both dates are earlier than those of any other births within the limits that were to bound the county.

This brings on another question: how often was the eastern line of Davidson County shifted? Certainly between 1801 and 1804 the western border lands were within Davidson County. Probably the line between Davidson County and Sumner County south of the river was also often farther east. In 1797, John Williamson was commissioned a captain in the Regiment of Davidson County. The previous year he had been commissioned a justice of the peace of Davidson County. In March, 1804, he qualified as a Wilson County justice of the peace.

James V. Drake, listing pioneers by creek neighborhoods in his historical sketch of the county, places Ezekiel Cloyd and his brothers-in-law John Williamson and Henry Thompson, among those on Stoner's Creek. Blake Rutland, Zebulon Baird, John Graves, Benjamin Graves, Thomas Watson, Joseph Watson, John Wilson, Thomas Gleaves, Anderson Tate, Jacob Woodrum (Woodrum's Path went south from the great county road to Nashville), Ezekiel Clampet, Andrew Wilson, James Cothorn and Davids Kendall were also listed.

The house that John Cloyd built was still standing in 1960, a part of the home of his great-grandson, Duncan Ligon, beside Highway 70 North at Green Hill.

Ezekiel Cloyd farmed during the week and he preached on the Sabbath. He entered the ministry of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in its earliest days, being a candidate when the presbytery was first organized in 1810.

Cotton and corn were the main crops of the settlement. A cotton gin was built to serve the farmers of the neighborhood at a very early date.

Col. John Donelson Jr. is said to have located his summer home at Green Hill in 1806, believing the rolling, fertile hills to be much more healthful than his residence on the river.

Source: HISTORY OF WILSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE, ITS LAND AND ITS LIFE, BY DIXON LANIER MERRITT AND G. FRANK BURNS, CHAPTER III, THE SETTLEMENTS, pages 24 and 25, copyrighted and published in 1960.

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