The Heritage of Daniel Haston


Legends & Stories of White County, TN
By Coral Williams

            It has been established, in this study, that White County was not formed by act of the Legislature until September 12, 1806.

            It has been shown that eight of the seventeen legends that deal with place-names commemorate some particular person. It cannot be definitely stated, in every case, just what the character thus honored had accomplished to deserve the courtesy thrust upon him. No even tradition explains why White County should have been named in honor of John White, an early pioneer an settler in the county. The Calf Killer River was named in honor of the Indian chief found in the little valley. The remaining seven legends of places dealt with in the chapter are descriptive of the locality. It is recognized that the name of every locality in the county could not be considered in the study of this type, but the names around which tradition yet clings are typical of the names found there. Milk Sick Mountain and Rock House furnish excellent example of the descriptive place-names.

            It has been found that the Indian roved, and even inhabited the section of the territory now known as White County, two nations living side by side in the county with little friction, and that they amalgamated to the extent that even today traces of Cherokee blood may be found in the white inhabitants of the county. The greatest endowment from the Indians to the early settlers was the four main trails which led through the county, also, the four minor trails which led into one of the more important trails within the county boundaries. The whites traveled these trails going farther west. We learn much of the Indians’ customs and manner of life from the many graves and burying grounds discovered by the early settlers. The Indian was always buried with a large number of trinkets, such as beads, pots, or vases.

            It has been established that the settlements in White County are among the oldest in the state. Sparta as the county seat became a enter of wisdom and learning. Before 1887, there were thirteen noted schools in the country, besides the small community schools maintained by each locality. The Cumberland Mountain school became popular to the people in the adjoining counties and in other states.

            There were three leading denominations, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Church of Christ, in this county. It has been shown that the Circuit, County, and Supreme Courts were established in 1807, but that Chancery Court was not held I the county until 1842. According to this investigation, nine newspapers have been established and maintained in Sparta. The early papers printed there were among the leading papers in the Cumberland Mountain section. Only two papers are now published there.

            Chapter IV deals with the traditions that have been handed down by about sixteen noted settlers and leaders in White County. It has been shown that many of the leaders of the state were residents of White County and in not a few instances these men entered into the official functions of the state. John Catron was appointed Supreme Court Judge by Andrew Jackson, and he became famous for his wise decisions while there.

            General George G. Dibrell became one of the important cavalry leaders during the war between the states. After the war he, also, displayed remarkable skill as a statesman and citizen. Ferguson and Beatty, two leaders of bushwhackers, turned the eyes of the nation upon their bloody warfare, centered in the county. Both leaders displayed exceptional and extraordinary ingenuity as leaders of men. At the close of the war, Ferguson was arrested and charged with twenty-three murders, but during his long trial his followers stood faithfully by him.

            Of the thirty-eight legends treated in Chapter V, seventeen deal with the raids and murders of these two rival bands of bushwhackers. It is a difficult task to separate the deeds of the bushwhackers from those of the regular army, for the opposite side is invariably spoken of as the bushwhacker gang. Facts presented in this chapter make it evident that White County was the center of the bushwhacking raiding. The legends reveal the bitter hatred that existed between friend and friend. There are fifteen stories that deal with the activities of the regular army. The remaining six found in the chapter treat incidents that relate to individual citizens.

            In a very definite way it has been shown that White County played a very eventful and important part in settlement of the new country and that she has retained the place of honor due her as a result of the work of the early settlers.

Thanks to Dona Terry for her work as the word processor on this project.  (November 2002)