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Journal of Col. Benjamin Hawkins

 Native American Nations | Cherokee Nation of Indians                   


Journal of Col. Benjamin Hawkins.-The manuscript journal of Col. Benjamin Hawkins, now in the possession of the Historical Society of Georgia, shows that instructions were issued by the Secretary of War on the 2d of February, 1797, appointing and directing Col. Benjamin Hawkins, General Andrew Pickens, and General James Winchester as commissioners on the part of the United States to establish and mark the lines between the latter and the Indian nations south of the Ohio. These instructions reached Colonel Hawkins at Fort Fidius, on the Oconee, on the 28th of February. Notice was at once sent to General Pickens at his residence at Hopewell, on the Keowee, and also to General Winchester, through Silas Dinsmoor, at that time temporary agent for the Cherokee Nation, to convene at Tellico, on Tennessee River, on the 1st of April following, for the purpose of determining and marking the Cherokee boundary line pursuant to the treaty of 1791. Colonel Hawkins joined General Pickens at Hopewell, from which point they set out for Tellico on the 23d of March, accompanied by Joseph Whitner, one of their surveyors, as well as by an escort of United States troops, furnished by Lieut. Col. Henry Gaither. Passing Ocunna station, they were joined by their other surveyor, John Clark Kilpatrick. They reached Tellico block-house on the 31st of March, and were joined on the following day by Mr. Dinsmoor, the Cherokee agent. Here they were visited by Hon. David Campbell, who, in conjunction with Charles McLung and John McKee, had been appointed in 1792, as previously set forth, to survey and mark the line. Mr. Campbell informed them that he and his co-commissioners, in pursuance of their instructions, did in part ascertain and establish the boundary and report the same to Governor Blount, and that he would accompany the present commissioners and give them all the information he possessed on the subject. About the same time confidential information was received that General Winchester would not attend the meeting of his co-commissioners, and that this was understood to be in pursuance of a scheme to postpone the running of the line in the interest of certain intruders upon Indian land. On the 7th of April the commissioners set out to examine the location and direction of the ridge dividing the waters of Little River from those of Tennessee, at the same time noting that " we received information that the line run between the Indians and white inhabitants . by the commissioners, mentioned on the 3d instant by Mr. Campbell, was by order, for the express purpose of ascertaining a line of accommodation for the white settlers, who were then over the treaty line." By arrangement they met a number of the interested settlers at the house of Mr. Bartlett McGee on the 9th, and by them were advised that the ridge between the sources of Nine-Mile, Baker's, Pistol, and Crooked Creeks "is that which divides the waters running into Little River from those running into the Tennessee."

Proceeding with their observations, they set oat for the point on this ridge "where the experiment line for fixing the court-house of Blount County passes the ridge between Pistol Creek and Baker's Creek, due east from a point on the Tennessee 13 miles, and this point on the Tennessee is 1 miles south from a point from where a line west joins the confluence of the Holston and Tennessee." The point on the ridge here spoken of was 2 miles north of Bartlett McGee's and 1 mile north of the source of Nine-Mile Creek. The commissioners state that in noting observations they count distances in minutes, at the rate of 60' to 3 miles: From the foregoing point they proceeded west 8' to a ridge dividing Pistol and Baker's Creeks; turned south 6' to the top of a knoll, having on the right the falling grounds of Gallagher's Creek. This knoll they called "Iron Hill." Continuing south 11', they crossed a small ridge and ascended a hill 4' SSW., crossing a path from Baker's Creek to the settlements on Holston. From here the ridge bore SSW. 1 mile, SW. by W. 1 mile, SSW. 3 miles, and' thence NW., which would make it strike the Holston River near the mouth of that stream. This corresponded with the observations of the previous commissioners who had run the experimental line.

This inspection convinced the commissioners that a considerable number of the white settlers were on the Indian land. The latter were quite anxious that some arrangement should be made for their accommodation in the coming conference with the Indians, but received no encouragement from the commissioners further than an assurance that they should be permitted to gather their crops of small grain and fruit before removal.

Being asked by the commissioners why the line run by Mr. Campbell and his confreres was known by three names, "that of experience, of experiment, and the treaty line with the Indians," they answered that "it was not the treaty line, but a line run to see how the citizens could be covered, as they were then settled on the frontier; that they understood this to be the direction to the commissioners, and that they con-formed to it and ran the line as we had noticed in viewing the lands between the two rivers." The settlers also said, "the law, as they were likely to be affected, had been incautiously worded. They understood from it that the line from Clinch to cross the Holston at the ridge would turn thence south to the South Carolina Indian boundary on the North Carolina line. We replied that this understanding of it was erroneous. There was no such course in the treaty, and they should never suppose that the Government would be capable of violating a solemn guarantee; that, although the expression was ' thence south,' yet it must be under-stood as meaning southeastwardly, to the point next called for, as the point is in that direction and far to the east; that the lands in question had moreover been expressly reserved by the State of North Carolina for the Indians, and the occupants had not, as some others had, even the plea of entry in the land office of that State."

The law referred to above by the settlers and the commissioners was the act of Congress approved May 19, 1796, entitled "An act to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes and to preserve peace on the frontiers." This act recited the course of the Indian boundary as established by treaty with the various tribes extending from the mouth of Cuyahoga River along the line described in the treaty of 1795 at Greenville, to the Ohio River and down the same to the ridge dividing the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers; thence up and along said ridge and continuing according to the Cherokee treaty of 1791 to the river Clinch; "thence down said river to a point from which a line shall pass the Holston, at the ridge which divides the waters running into Little River from those running into the Tennessee; thence south to the North Carolina boundary," etc.

Owing to fears for their personal safety caused by the hostile tone of the settlers toward them, it was not until the 25th of April that a representative delegation of the Cherokees was convened in council by the commissioners. There were present 147 chiefs and warriors. Commissioners were appointed by them to act on behalf of their nation, in conjunction with those on behalf the United States, to run and mark the boundary line, and an agreement was reached that Messrs. Hawkins and Pickens should have authority to select the necessary sites for the proposed military posts within their country.

During the council a delegation of the intruding settlers presented themselves but were not allowed to attend the deliberations, being advised by the commissioners "that it was not in contemplation to make a new treaty but to carry the treaty of Holston into effect ; that we did not expect much light on this subject from the Indians; that we should form our decision from the instrument itself and not from interested reporters on either side; that all who were on the Indian lands could not be relieved by us; that he (Captain Henly) and most of the deputation lived on this side of the line of experiment, and that they had informed us that that line was merely to ascertain how the citizens could be accommodated and on this side of the true line intended in the treaty.; that to accommodate them a new treaty must be had and a new line agreed on, and, in our opinion, at this time it could not be effected; that the Indians were much alarmed for their situation, and viewed every attempt to acquire land as a violation of the solemn guaranty of the Government; that we need not expect ever to obtain fairly their consent to part with their land, unless our fellow-citizens would pay more respect than we saw they did to their treaties.

Following this conference with the Indians, the commissioners proceeded (examining the country carefully en route) to South West Point, at the mouth of Clinch River, which they reached on the 6th of May, and the journal of Colonel Hawkins concludes with this day's proceedings. It is learned, however, from an old map of the line now on file in the office of Indian Affairs, that the survey was not begun until more than three months after their arrival at South West Point. From another map in the same office it appears that the line as surveyed extended from a point about 1,000 yards above South West Point in a course S. 760 E. to the Great Iron Mountain, and was known as a Hawkins Line.1

From this point the line continued in the same course until it reached the treaty line of 1785, and was called a Pickens Line." The supposition is that as the commissioners were provided with two surveyors, they separated, Colonel Hawkins with Mr. Whither as surveyor running the line from Clinch River to the Great Iron Mountains, and General Pickens with Colonel Kilpatrick as surveyor locating the remainder of it. This supposition is verified so far as General Pickens is concerned by his own written statement.2

From the point where it struck the Clinch River, the line of cession by this treaty of 1791 followed up the course of that river until it struck Campbell's line at a point 3 or 4 miles southwest of the present town of Sneedville. From this point it became identical with the boundary line prescribed by the treaty of November 28, 1785 at Hopewell.

The tract of country ceded by this treaty comprised the territory within the present limits of Sevier, Cooke, Jefferson, Hamblen, Grainger, and almost the entirety of Knox, as well as portions of Roane, Loudon, Anderson, Union, Hancock, Hawkins, Sullivan, Washington, Greene, and Blount Counties in Tennessee, together with a portion of North Carolina lying principally west of the French Broad River.

1 See preamble to treaty of 1798; American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, pp.639-641; letters of Indian Bureau, War Department, December 13 and 14, 1828; also, old manuscript maps in Office of Indian Affairs, No. 716 and 749. By the former of these maps it appears that the survey of " Hawkins Line" from Clinch River was begun August 13, 1797, and that "the line commences on the Clinch, one-fourth mile above the ferry, in view of South West Point. (The ferry was 600 yards above the point.) From this point the view through the vista or street passing Captain Wade's garden to the right S. 26 W. the same side of the river above N. 47 W. The beginning tree, a Spanish oak, marked U. S. on the north side and C. on the south; on the oak 1797. A wahoo marked U. S. and C. under the U. S. Aug. 13, continues the line 4 cuts 7 strikes to the Cumberland road, here a white oak marked U. S. and C. The mile trees have U. S. and C. marked on them," etc.
2 Letter of .Gen. Andrew Pickens to Hon. Mr. Nott, of South Carolina, January 1, 1800. See American State Papers, Public Lands, Vol. I, p.104.

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Bureau of Ethnology, Volume 5, Cherokee Nation of Indians, 1883-84

Cherokee Nation of Indians


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