By Mike Steely
Most of us know about Davy Crockett, the Tennessean born in Limestone east of Greeneville, soldier in the Indian Wars, and volunteer in the battle for Texas independence. We know he died at the Alamo and there have been movies and television series about his real and fictional life.
But most of us know little about his parents or grandparents and there is a story there worth telling. A Day Away trip to Crockett’s Birthplace, where a cabin has been built on the site at the state park, can be tied in easily with three other places in the Crockett family history.
If you’re a history fan or Crockett follower you may want to start your Crockett search in Rogersville. There you can visit the gravesite of the original David Crockett, Davy’s grandfather. The original David Crockett was a signer of the Watauga Association petition asking the state to annex what was then Washington District (East Tennessee). He was born in Pennsylvania and moved his family to what was then the frontier. Fifteen years later he was killed in an attack by the Chickamauga Cherokee, led by war chief Dragging Canoe, along with about a dozen other settlers.
Crockett was attacked and killed while some of his sons, including Davy’s father, were out of the region fighting in the Revolutionary War at King’s Mountain.
In 1927 the State of Tennessee placed a marker at the grave of David and Elizabeth Hedge Crockett. The Crockett, or Rogers, Cemetery is located a couple blocks from the Hawkins County Courthouse in Rogersville in Crockett Springs Park along South Rogen Road near West Crockett Street.
Some say that his son, John David Crockett, was born in Ireland before his family came to the colonies. Some historians say he was born on the boat on the way to our shores. Others have him born in Pennsylvania.
Located about 10 miles east of Greeneville the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Historic Park is about 110 acres that offers kayak rentals, hiking, fishing, a cabin similar to the original built by John and a museum.
Davy was born there in 1786 and learned to be a very good hunter. His father taught him to shoot at age 8 and he often went with his brothers to hunt game. Although the exact location of the family cabin hasn’t been located, the information Crockett supplied in his writings placed it on the river near Limestone Creek.
After the family moved from the original cabin on the waters of Nolichucky River near Limestone, Davy’s father established the large cabin which housed his wife and nine children. Davy’s chore was to hunt for food and care for the livestock brought there by herders who stayed at the tavern. When he was 15 Davy left home and didn’t return for three years.
On returning Davy had grown and changed so much his family did not recognize him at first. He worked there to help pay off his father’s debt and then worked for the debt owner.
The Crockett Tavern Museum in Morristown was constructed on the footprint of the original home and tavern. The site was located in 1949 and in 1956, in the height of the Davy Crockett national attention because of the movies and TV show, ground was broken for the tavern.
The tavern was reconstructed and reopened in 1958 with representatives from the Alamo, local leaders, and Fess Parker, who played Davy in the movie and on television, appearing.
Davy met and married Polly Finley and their marriage license can be found among the archives of the Jefferson County Court House in Dandridge. The young family is said to have rented a farm in Jefferson County where they lived until Davy turned 25 and he moved them further west in our state with his wife and two sons, John Wesley and William.
Other Crockett places
A rifle used by Crockett is housed at the East Tennessee Museum in Knoxville. The site of one of Davy’s homes in Lawrenceburg, south of Nashville, is now the “Davy Crockett State Park.” The timbers from Davy’s last home in our state, from 1822 until 1835, were used to reconstruct a dwelling in Rutherford, Tn. and now houses a museum. A statue of Crockett stands in the Rutherford town square.
There are many more connections to the Crockett family in our region and state. Davy was eventually elected to the U. S. House and left our state to join the fight to free Texas from Mexican control. His death at the Alamo along with many other volunteers is well known. He was buried in a mass grave at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas along with others who died in that historic battle.