First Slander Suit in Middle Tennessee

I came across this interesting article from an 1859 newspaper about Russell Gower, Sam Martin and John Boyd in early Nashville history. The voice reminds me of AW Putnam, writer of “History of Middle Tennessee: Or, Life and Times of Gen. James Robertson”, but no author is listed. It is based on real court cases, but I am sure the details are embellished. Here is the transcribed copy, which equals 13 reguarly typed pages.

Nashville Union and American, 15 May 1859

Mystery of the “Spanish Milled Dollar,” or, First Slander Suit in Middle Tennessee.

“Chick-any, chick any, Crany Crow!
“I went to the well to wash my toe, –
“When I came back, – my chicken was gone:
“What o’clock, old witch?”

[Old Nursery Play,

There were, in early times, some odd characters and amusing incidents at the little log town on the Bluff, where is now the beautiful capitol of Tennessee ; when “our old town was young,” three-quarters of a century have passed away since then.

Sufficient reasons are known to us to assign the 10th and 11th days of January, 1785, as the dies focosa mystegogi – days of “Old Sledge,” “Trip Trap,” “Cut,” and “Rattle and Snap.”

And we are very sure, we know much of the chief personages, though we never saw them. They acquired some distinction, even notoriety. They acquired, also, property, – but above all, high sounding titles of distinction. These prominent individuals were known as “King Boyd,” of the “Red Heifer,” and “mysterious SAm Martin,” with the “silver spurs.” The one was a sober man, of industry and dignity, though he owned the “Red Heifer.” THe other was a queer, giddy, jolly fellow, who loved whiskey and himself. The other one came in excellent company and to be a stationer and man of substance, bringing “his family and truck” with him. The other came, but without family and without “truck.” The one distilled whiskey ; the other tasted it. Boyd came, settled, died, and is buried here. Sam came, – went and came, then disappeared-and whether he is dead and buried, we know not. The character of Boyd was respectable, but that of Sam, according to our earliest historian, was “none of the best.”

He ought to have added, “any man’s character was as good as Red Heifer whiskey.”

We shall not tarry to discuss either. We can make our story long enough, without debating either question; and tell it in less time, and with not half the excitement of King Boyd or Olly Sam.

The 10th and 11th days of January, 1785, were Monday and Tuesday,-the two preceding days were Sunday and Saturday ; and if you see proper to count upon your fingers, you will find that New Year’s day came on Saturday, and the day thereafter was Sabbath day.

Well, this is enough about the time. The events to which we turn back our attention, transpired all along the track of those days.

We have thus mentioned the time, the place, and the chief persons. The incidents belong to each of these. As Hood said to himself when he played “possum, and deceived the Indians,-”nothing could have been did without time, place and actors.”

Now it is never to be forgotten that the “Red Heifer” was “An Institution” established on the bluff, at the east end of Spring street or path, so called by the first stationers in the Fort, and by the earliest debtors in prison-bounds. It was a place of public and general resort ; head quarters for news, depot for peltries and fresh meats, – the “Omnium Gathrum” of wolf scalps, deer skins, bear skins and buffalo robes. The mart and market of our incipient city. A place where men did congregate, but women, never. Boys and girls were often sent to the “Sprout Spring,” and often their mothers went with them ; but it is to be recorded to the honor of John Boyd and of Sam Martin, that they gave neither whiskey or tobacco to “boys.” They had to come for water, they need not come for whiskey.

The Spout Spring dashed its pure limestone water over the bluff at the east end of “Spring street,” now consecrated “Church street,” and there was the Red Heifer. This heifer has been dead three score years, and so has been the “Buffalo Bull,” of Montgomery county,-but the natural and hybrid progeny, “suckers” and “pukes,” swaggerers and staggerers, are yet numerous in city, town and country.

“Our army swore terribly in Flanders!”

And the many cases of fines imposed and entered on record by our earliest court, prove that the “rip-round tearers” and the “rip-out swearers,” were not all born within the present century. Desecrations of the Sabbath were more rigidly punished by the pioneer settlers and through the last years of the last century, than at the present day, due allowance being made for the then abnormal condition of things in these wild woods.

It is true, the fines seem small; five shillings “for getting drunk,” “for profane swearing,” and for “Sabbath breaking,” being the usual figure. We know of one instance, in which E R., the brother of the chief citizen, was fined *5; and we believe the records show that he immediately paid the money into court, thus confessing the offence, the justness of condemnation, and giving hope of amendment. Captain Rains, who was a little given to this mode of spicing and embellishing his conversation, always paid his fines “like a man” of honor and means. The continental paper with which such fines were often paid, became associated in the minds of thousands, with a peculiar phraseology in profanity. And we wish to record this fact that, years in advance of the living ministry, here the magistrates and leading pioneers condemned and punished by fines in a hundred instances, profanity and Sabbath breaking.

Now, we know that John Boyd got into one scrape-was indicted, and narrowly escaped for beginning a trade on the Sabbath ; and although the Red Heifer was publicly fed and milked six days a week, yet on the seventh she was allowed to slumber. Sometimes a little extra quantity was drawn on Saturday evenings, and “suckers” tarried long near the dug. And we must accept the report, (for what it is worth,) that there were some “thirsty souls,” who would take a Sabbath morning’s stroll, descend the bluff oto near the river’s brink, “on desperate deeds intent,” then clamber up the steps and enter, not through the door, but by some other way, and “get a drink!” The slim “proof vial,” and the neatly scraped buffalo horns were there, each by their leather string suspended, – and the “habitues” were not backward to help themselves, and “score the drinks,”-’twas honorable and honest. Some would drop the shilling in the “till,” then go their way in silence.

We have a long cherished reverence for the Sabbath ; we would not violate its sacredness or the laws of the State, but we cannot “tell our tale as others told it,” unless we take a peep into the distillery on that Lord’s day, ninth of January, 1783.

We do not feel ourselves under necessity of telling “who all were there,” as one little boy might have revealed the names. Modesty will not forbid our saying that Sam Martin was there. And he was not there, like Capt. Rain’s Buffalo Bull, – “in a gang by himself,” – some of the herd were there with him.

THe effects of a Sunday’s dissipation will appear on Monday.

As it was unlawful to trade on the Sabbath, there was often exhibited a ready mind to make up for “lost time” and “lost bar gains,” on the next secular day. It is certainly true, that in those “early times on the Cumberland,” there was very little drinking and carousing on the Sabbath, until non-resident troops marched into the settlements, “officially instructed to traverse the wood, discover, pursue and destroy every enemy.” The enemy introduced partly under such suspices, was one which has waged more relentless and protracted war upon human happiness and life,than the bloody one of fifteen years, 1780 to 1795, by the Indians. Whiskey was made a part of the soldiers’ rations-an army’s provision. The burden of the pack horse was a keg of whiskey, a keg of powder, and fifty pounds of lead. A marvelous little leak would sometimes be found to have so diminished the quantity and weight of the whiskey, that the lead must change sides to balance the powder ; and then the officers could only exclaim, “an enemy hath done thus!” Ah, no,-say rather an equal, a guide, an acquaintance-some of their own set and sort.

And so it sometimes happened at the Red Heifer. As the owner said, “mere liquor strangely leaked, than was sold at the spigot.” Liquor and small change were sometimes marvelously missing. He sat for hours with his cheek upon his open hand; and elbow on his knee, in watching, dozing condition, like the hare, with one eye open, whilst the other slept. It he detected and exposed any act of petty larceny-he never entered criminal prosecution.

The license to make whiskey includes other privileges-to hold in abeyance or at defiance, to some extent, some laws, both human and divine. And “where the carrion is, thither the buzzards will be gathered together,” and where they are thus attracted they may be expected to gloat and glut-and who should hinder Not he who prepared the feast.

THe time is passed, or not yet come, for the revelation of all that was done at the “Red Heifer;” but behind some old puncheons, was a sort of private apartment, a little cozy retreat, where “Old Sledge,” “Seven Up,” and “Dodge and the Devil,” were sometimes played, but not on Sunday, so far as we have been able to discover.

Who were ensconced there, we know not. Those may speculate and draw inferences, who will, as SAm Martin and his “hale fellows” drew liquor, experimented by “heads and tails,” and adjusted balances by “tickets on demand.” People of our day can never see the sights or undergo the trials of the Cumberland stationers in the last century. We like an epitome when it is a faithful and plain compilation,-we value the germ when we know that it contains the elements of richness, sweetness, glory and power. The rudiments of society and government were here in 1780, as well as in 1785 or 1859-and generations yet to come, will trace their virtues and their vices through the present to get earlier ages and ancestors.

THe first settlers here brought most of their vices with them, as they did their “plunder.” Their virtues and their vices may be traced now a-days without difficulty. “The good are very good,” but the bad-like Jeremiah’s figs-are too “naughty and evil” even to be thrown to the dogs.

And yet how strangely perverse is human nature-unwilling to part with old luggage and old vices! It was so in early days it is so in ours. Passably good men, in olden times and in modern had and have defects and vices.

John Boyd was a worthy man, but no saint. Sam Martin was a sinner, but no devil. Boyd came, as we have said, in good company, and arrived here 26th April 1780, having his habits, his truck and his family with him. But whence and how Sam Martin came, remains a question for querists, about which we feel disposed to give an answer like that which Governor Scott gave, after he had described the Elk with their horns branching out ten feet each way, bounding through the forests of Kentucky, where the trees were only five feet apart. “How they got through, was none of his business. It only concerned the Elk.” So we say of Sam Martin. How he got here, was his own look out. How and why he stayed here-how and why he left here, and when and how he came back, and then “went to his own place,” somewhat concerned others, and a little concerns our story. We presume that SAm was often questioned upon all these points, but how such a social, jolly, talkative fellow, could enshroud himself in so much mystery, was a marvel then, and cannot be fully exposed now. He was a wanderer, a rover, and yet by some strange ubiquitous power, could always be seen at the Red Heifer-so it was said. He often had the appearance of a Somnambulist, and yet saw every body and noticed everything, “with eyes wide open.” He claimed to be a watchful man, or to use his familiar word, was given to “watchfulness and repose.”

The Red Heifer was just the place at which these “wakeful” “drowsy” states of body, mind and soul could be indulged. There men did congregate in the morning to rule their hands, was their profiles, and “wet their whistles.” Thither they resorted at mid-day to gain an appetite for dinner, and thither they returned after enduring the heat and burden of the day, to put on a nightcap ; be ready, as Sam said, for the “night’s watching and repose.”

“Vigils and Rest!” Beautiful words in strange connections! Contradictory terms in close relation! Good old Latin and pure old Saxon-expressive of opposite states of body and mind-and tried by thousands in all ages, and perhaps with success equal to that acquired by John Boyd and Sam Martin.

Great men and nations have experimented thus, and so have “the lesser lights.”

The war for American Independence was ended. Watchings tolls and sufferings, had been wearisome and long continued. Washington had retired to his quiet home, hoping or longing for the otium cum dignitate. Lafayette was ready to sail across the Atlantic to La Belle France, where repose should ne’er again be found. Vigils and Rest! Are they to mortals,
Mortal foes?
Kings have found them so,
In their ascent to power-and-overthrow ;
While patriots and freemen bravely say,
Eternal vigilance we must pay,
For liberty and rest.
Oh where shall rest be found,
Rest for the weary soul?”

In vain would you make such inquiry, and search among the pioneers on Cumberland, from the night when the icy blasts of December, 1779, rushed down fiercely from the north, to the warm summer’s day ‘96, when the spicy breezes came up so gently from the South, that all nature sought repose. ‘Twas then,
The beasts for umbrade sought,
The wolf lay in the lair,
And man, the weary, sighed
For his slests.

The venerable parson Craighead used to give out his exhortation in times of danger,-
“Watch and fight and pray,
The battle ne’er give o’er,
Renew it boldly every day,
And help divine implore,-
Then enter into rest!”

“The said Hood,” or the impurtiable “Opossum,” of whom every historian of our early settlement has written, always contrued wisdom, prudence, safety, into simulated death-seting as he did-playing “possum.”

And that’s the way John Boyd did, and thought he’d catch Sam Martin.

And now, were we to indulge any further in episodes, and tell how the Spaniards and the Indians had watched and awaked “a certain Robertson, and the people whom he had secretly introduced upon the Cumberland,” lest he and they should enjoy a moment’s response ; and then allude to the opinion of the Governor of Virginia, who strangely supported that the emigrants in these new settlements were in a sort of paradisiacal condition- “reposing on a bed of roses;” we should become just as prosy as “King Boyd” and the “Oily Sam Martin” were in the long winded stories. But these obtruding incidents draw us away from the Red Heifer and our story. And when, in imagination, we are there, or called to leave, we seem to partake of the influence of the place and begin to “reel to and fro and stagger like a drunken man”

We must say that General Robertson did not visit the Red Heifer, though Mark did, at least on one occasion, about the day of our story, and the Court entered a fine of five pounds against him, for something he said and did, excited by that visit, and a taste of the “critter.”

General Robertson wished to kill that “critter,” and in the very next year procured the passage of “An act forbidding the distillation of corn, or grain raised in the District of Mero.”

But that old serpent was hard to kill. He was busy keeping up steam on Monday and Tuesday, January 10th and 11th, 1785.

John Boyd was there; Sam Martin was there; and so – as Sam Waller would say, were sundry other “individuals,” constituting the “Raw Whiskey Punch Association.”

In the club, there had been one topic introduced at all the meetings, since the discovery of John Sigvault’s cast of red-wine, and the excited litigation of 1784, about the ownership, and the qualities of that wonderful cask of wonderful wine. Everybody had heard of it. A few had tasted it; and they, (the favored few,) would always asseverate that no wine superior was ever made in Madeira, France or Spain. How it came here, and to whom of right, it did belong, were questions all could discuss, but none decide. They knew how America was discovered; they knew when and how teh Heugonots and Pilgrims landed on this continent. They knew when and how General Robertson and Colonel Donelson and parties arrived on Cumberland. But as to the cask of red wine and Sam Martin, every body was in the dark – perfectly mystified.

But Sam was here sure enough – was at the distillery. Yet Sam had never tasted a drop of that red wine from Kas Kas Kice. And of course, Sam never could admit that there was any mystery in the whole affair or that it was superior to any other wise.

“Pure juice of the grape!” Sam laughed at the idea; and if it was, muscadine and fox grapes would furnish just as rich juices and better too.

Little knowledge had they of adulteration of liquors. Sam Martin, however, had some pretensions to the apothecaries’ art, and was often experimenting at mixtures. Alcohol was never essential to all of his preparations, whether simple or compound. He insisted that King Boyd could make as good royal stuff as was ever tasted by Ferdinand and Isabella, Mero or Carondelet.

Although Sam’s name is mixed up in the proceedings in Court concerning that “cask of red wine,” how they managed to keep it wholly from his lips, excited wonder then, as it does our curiosity now. We presume that in all ages and communities, there are mysteries, marvelous things concealed, and never revealed; and we know no good reason why this concerning Sam Martin, may not be allowed to remain an enigma, a profound secret.

So now having arrived at this conclusion, we have no especial objection to that at which Sam arrived, that alcohol colored by burnt peaches, cherry-bark and blackberry juice, was “fit to set before a King,” – a suitable accompanyment for the “dainty dish,” – of “four and twenty black-birds,” so often sung in Nursery Tales. Some of the old ladies commended poke-juice as a very proper infusion, as it gave them an opportunity to poke fun at the whole affair and the sectors.

Well, “the truth of history” requires us to say, that by some means, always rather mysterious, Sam precured liquor wherewith to experiment. He desired always to keep liquor in his stomach, words on his lips, and money in his pocket. Sam’s Spanish milled dollar, his two silver shillings, with private marks or holes through them, often jingled in his fob, or were tossed in his hand. This constituted about the extent of his cash, but of his words there was “no end,” this fund never gave out, though he used it so lavishly.

We have long since said that Sam visited the “Red Heifer” He was there on Monday; he was there on Tuesday. A very super serviceable fellow, he was, and there was no getting rid of him. The many attentions in a small way, which he could bestow at the distillery, ad which the owner seemed generally very willing to receive, especially as he deemed them gratuitous, gave him the semblance of fixture. There is no doubt he was attached to the still house. He began to regard himself as Locum-tenens, near royalty and ownership.

By a very concise process of reasoning, he arrived at what might be regarded as a perfectly legitimate conclusion-that as his services were without charge, gratuitous, so should his compensation be, and both be determined by himself.

If he set by the “Run,” and punched the fires, it was a very small affair that he should occasionally drop the little long vial into the bung-hole, draw it out, and “chicker the liquor,” as he said, “to see the bead.”

He was a chemist, and a much better judge of liquors than John Boyd, and could not be “bluffed” by any delicate hints. He was not a man “given to change,” nor willing to lose his occupation, “at the suggestion of others.”
The sight of silver at the Bluffs in those days, “was good for sore eyes.” A shilling, to some persons “looked as large as a cart wheel,” and a four-pence ha’penny was worth one hundred and forty times its amount in State and Continental paper. Sam would never part with his keepsakes, he kept his two shillings “for seed,” and his dollar “for grandeur.”

The person who wraps himself in mystery, need not be surprised at suspicious and evil rumors. Boyd knew him as well as any other man, if not better. He knew he would taste the liquor, but he had never yet seen him fob any of the change which others paid for liquor; and yet the small change had sometimes disappeared in a mysterious manner, as did some of his liquor. He had heard the Oppossum, alias “the said Hood’s,” quotation of Scripture, that “his liquor went the same way with moats, through the mouth into the draught, – purging some of them almost to death.” But who would have suspected that any man’s stomach could be substituted for purse or pocket! That therein a sane man would slily store away small silver change-and find it, like “bread upon the waters, not many days after!”

Could Sam swallow liquor and throw it up at option? If he could not, one other person could. Was this other person Sam’s companion, Russell Gower? We are not bound to tell; but, whoever he was, he never lost any thing of value which he swallowed.

We know that Sam always had his special coins in his pocket or in his hand; he was never known to swallow those. In regard to these “keepsakes” he would say, “I’ll be an old man before I part with these; though you may have them when I am gone.”

But now, (like Sam,) let us return to the wonted resort, Monday, 10th January, 1785.

“Some how or some how else,” in the adjustment of some mysterious deallings, John Boyd on that day executed his seven promissory notes or tickets, on demand, (six of them for ten pounds and one for six,) payable to Sam Martin.

Thus far we are posted. That they had their inception in any dealings behind the puncheons, we think it best not to assert. Others may argue this point, in imagination, draw inferences, or draw liquor, when we have finished our story and copied parts of the records.

You will keep in mind that Sam Martin held the due bills, all of the same date, and all payable on demand, and dated 10th January, 1785. The next day, Tuesday, 11th, Sam was there as usual, with his “right bower,” Russell Gower. This Russell Gower was a poor young man, whose father and elder brother had been killed by the Indians in the latter part of the year 1780, at the Clover bottom defeat ; and if he fell into bad company and any bad habits, we wish you not to judge him too harshly.

Now it so happened that somebody-perhaps two little boys with bottles tied in old check cotton handkerchiefs, came to the Red Heifer and laid down the change for their bottles full of “red-eye.” The boys received the liquor, and were off to the “Log-rolling” on Richland creek. John Boyd left the money on the table or barrel’s head, and went to draw more liquor. As he stooped by the little stream, with his chin upon his palm, and his elbow on his knee-at “vigils and repose”-he saw Russell Gower put something in his mouth, or raise his hand as if in that act, and then he saw Sam Martin dip up water with the gourd and take a drink, and cough and strangle as if in trouble to wash something down. And then they went out, not saying a word. John Boyd came back — “his money was gone!”
“His chicken was gone!”

Now who stole the money? Who swallowed it ; who washed it down?

John Boyd thought and said that one of them took the money.

Russell did not chew tobacco. What then did he put in his mouth? Sam’s stomach abhorred water-why did he attempt to drink it? Both had something to do in the matter of the due bills, but they were payable to Sam. He held them. Was it but right, just, fair, honorable, that the abstraction of the precious silver should discharge those notes?

Boyd talked about it – talked in this way to persons who came to the Red Heifer.

Sam had mounted his horse and rode to the gathering on Richland. But the report was there before him: John Boyd accused Sam Martin and Russell Gower with the stealing of his money.

Now, “A Bee” is just the place for “chat and work.”

Liquor must be furnished for “A Bee.” At such gatherings the work is gratuitous. Every neighbor must lend a helping hand at “A Bee,” – and all were neighbors who received notice, directly or indirectly, whether near or far off. At such a neighborhood assemblage, ground was cleared, fences built, houses raised, and the day closed with a jollification. Women and children were sometimes there, -the women to help in preparation of the dinner, – the children to romp, burn the brush and “help-themselves,” “asking no bones” – or seizing such as they could, the instant their dads had vacated the benches.

At these gatherings old stories were repeated and listened to with interest; but new ones, domestic or public, were a delight to itching ears and tattling tongues.

Not long had Sam Martin been on the ground before John Boyd made his appearance, and had there to repeat the story. “He left the money on the table and went out to draw some liquor,-when he came back, his money was gone!”

To follow the report as it passed from one to another, and attempt to describe its growth, would be like following Sam Martin in his “winding way” before he arrived on the Cumberland, and in his “hunting, hutting, and herding,” when a quasi captive among the Creeks.
In all of Sam’s journeyings he had seen and heard marvels-he had endured trials, but never had he known any thing grow and spread like this report.

He had imagined the people of the whole earth converted into one monstrous long-lengthened and wide-stretched ear, with ten thousand little hands scratching it, because it itched; and ten thousand little bellows-mouths blowing into it, because it was feverish.

He had fancied the sight of a little manikin connecting at the foot of the mountain, struggling and laboring up and up, until he attained its summit, where he stood forth, mightier than Atlas himself, bearing up in the heavens, -but a monster, shouldering the very mountain and the globe on which he seemed to stand, – and there, in thundering tones, exclaiming, “Attention, the Universe!”

This report beat everything, and he would not submit to it; he would “avenge himself speedily.”

Therefore he institutes seven separated suits on the puncheon tickets-upon which Boyd prays an impariance, which was granted. Here were seven suits for sums in the aggregate _66.

But Sam neglected not another remedy which the law placed at the option of wounded honor. The offended and the offender did not then shoulder their old rust flint locks and meet in deadly conflict, with powder and ball. Sam and John had each signed the May Day Articles for quiet self government among the stationers.

We know not who was Sam’s lawyer. We would give ten pounds old continental currency to be informed. But besides the seven suits for debt, there followed another, the record whereof is follows: (page 14,) the first slander suit in Middle Tennessee:

“Davidson to wit: Sam Martin complains of Jno. Boyd, in custody, dc. For that whereas the said Boyd on or about the third of March, 1785, at Nashville, in this county, did then and there, spitfully and maliciously scandalize the sd Martin by speaking slanderous words of him: Which were as follows, to wit: “That he the sd John Boyd on the 11th day of Jan’y last past, laid some money on his table and went out to draw some liquor: and when he returned, it was gone” and said “there was no body there to have taken his money but the said Martin or Russell Gower: and, as they had taken his money,-they ought to have given him his notes again.” By which the sd Martin saith he is damaged to the value of One Thousand Pounds; and therefore he brings this suit, and so forth, dc.”

Now these parties were in a ‘pretty muss.’ John Boyd did not defend the suits on the due bills, on the ground of “puncheon dealings” – he was too kingly to do that, – would not stultify himself thus to expose the mysteries of the “Whisky Punch Association.”

The matters stood thus in abeyance, upon impariance, until the July Term of Court, when we find the following entry in regard to the suits:
“Referred to the decision of James Robertson, Elijah Robertson, and John Mulherrin, Esqrs.”

And now, if any one can tell me what that decision was-whether the Thousand Pounds were paid and the little notes cancelled,-whether Sam then buckled his silver spurs, and like another Knight-errant, bid farewell to Colonel Robertson, disappeared in the cane and woods towards Buffaloe Creek-willing to be captured by the Cherokees and passed on towards Tallahassee and the Spaniards-either to reveal to them the condition of the Cumberland settlers, or to discover, return and reveal to Colonel Robertson the preparations and purposes of the savages and Spaniards,-we leave unexplained, for Sam never returned to report. He had been among the savages before, and dreaded not to become their prisoner again.

He had returned in the summer of 1783, from the Creek nation, and from “all over creation down South,” after an absence of near twelve months, and he came in unusual style of elegance and equipment. He wore “an elegant suit of clothes,” his heels were enriched with “silver spurs,” he was “mounted on a dashing horse and led another valuable one by his side.”

Oh, he was now “a high lark” – associated with the notables, “bought things” of Lardner Clarke, merchant, and, instead of being sued as many others were, by this early merchant, and “retailer of skins and homespun,” he could even sne Lardner Clarke and King Boyd, – served them, as they served others, id cat, with writs for a few shillings.

But we must tell how Sam became a prisoner among the Creeks; for, although, in order of time, that preceded all the occurences to which we have referred, yet as he was ever reserved in regard to this portion of his mysterious life, and always mentioned it as one of the latest incidents, so must we.

And yet it is the very reason why we have now drawn out the story to such a length, or given it at all. For in our Sketch of Early Times on Cumberland we have called “Sam Martin a quarrelsome person, and said that when captured by the Creeks, the settlers regarded it as a good riddance.”

Now, we derived that opinion from too hasty a view and alight reflection, and from the notice which Judge Haywood furnished p. 122.

Ike Johnston was captured at the same time with Sam Martin, “upon White’s Creek.” In a short time Johnston escaped, and he reported that Sam was perfectly at home among the savages- a “hale-fellow among demi-devils.”

It was about one year thereafter when Sam re-appeared at the Bluff, “splendidly dressed, mounted upon a dashing charger, and with silver spurs” – and became for a time the wonder, the admiration,-”the exposure of all eyes, the observed of all observers.”

Where or how he had acquired these; how he had escaped robbery and murder, were questions added to the other questions of curiosity about this strange man.

He could talk of having a window in each breast,-he could talk incessantly and interminably-but there were some things which Sam kept to himself; among these were: when he bailed, what he saw and did when among the Creeks and Spaniards, what became of John Boyd’s small change, and of his own milled dollar, – and what became of himself after reference of his suits.

We have no doubt he communicated to General Robertson much that he kept hid from others. But we too must let him go.

Judge Haywood says that, “a short time before the attack upon and the abandonment of Kilgore’s station, (at Cross plains, or near Springfield, in Robertson county,) Sam Martin and Ike Johnston were returning to the Bluff-were were fired on. Sam was captured and carried to the Creek nation, where after residing ten or twelve months, he came home elegantly dressed with two valuable horses and silver spurs.

“As Martin was the ?rst and only man who had been profited by Indian captivity, and whithal bore but an indifferent character, it was whispered that he had agree with the Indians upon the time and place of attack to be made by them, and was a sharer in the plunder.” ‘

We presume that Sam never heard of these whispers, or could never find so responsible an author as he had for the “slanderous words spitefully and maliciously uttered,” about the money at the Red Heifer, otherwise there would have appeared another record, such as “Sam Martin versus the Town Pump,” for defamation. Damages _1,000

Note.-”Jan. 3, 1786. Ordered that Sam’l Barton and James Mulherrin. Esqrs., lay off a Prison Bounds of 10 acres including the Court House and Prison, where it now stands, with the little spring above Boyd’s Still House therein, and make Report thereof to the Clark of our Ct.”

The following record preserves alive the gist of another story of olden times on Cumberland:

“Octr. 2d, 1786. State vs. Bradley Grambel. On presentment of the Grand Jury, for Sabbath Breaking, -which charges he confesses; ‘That he had on the Sabbath brought in and sold some Venison.” Ord’d–yt he be fined5 5s.”

The next case upon these old Records is near of kin to our main narrative: and may be worthy of some further pursuit out in the cane brake where it occurred:

“The State vs. James Shaw and John Marney. Presentment for killing Thomas Hardeman’s Eull.” Bradley Grambel and James Fowler were sworn as witnesses, testified, dc. Defta acquitted.

Stock pedigree is a branch of science with which we are not familiar. It is one, however of much interest to the farmers and stock-raisers of Tennessee; and, whether any of the valuable cattle sometimes shown at our State and COunty Fairs, have the pure blood of the original importation of Rains, Dunbam and Hardeman, – or trace back to the “Buffaloe Bull” of Montgomery (“Patton Stock”) and Boyd’s “Red Heifer,” many engage attention at some other time.


When the season for distilling was over, the little “high-wines” cask was emptied and the gingle of money was heard therein. The little barrel was rolled and rolled until a number of silver shillings, and old Spanish Milled Dollar were rolled out!

That Spanish Milled Dollar and that shilling with a mark and hole through it, were recognized; they had been seen a hundred times in the hand of Sam Martin! What an obfuscating elucidation of mysteries!!



2 thoughts on “First Slander Suit in Middle Tennessee

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s