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American Settlements and Migration

American Settlements and Migrations

Prior to his death in June 2018, Lloyd de Witt Bockstruck wrote the last of his eight books bearing either the Genealogical Publishing Company or Clearfield Company imprint, American Settlements and Migrations.  As the subtitle, A Primer for Genealogists and Family Historians, implies, this diminutive work (108 densely packed pages) provides a synopsis of the original settlement patterns and migration routes associated with each of the 50 states and the Canadian provinces of Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. In Mr. Bockstruck’s shorthand style, American Settlements and Migrations serves as a valuable introduction to colonization/settlement/migration for the beginner, and as a quick refresher for the more experienced genealogist. To illustrate the book’s format, we have reproduced the author’s section for Tennessee below.


Like Gaul, Tennessee is divided into three parts: East, Middle, and West. These divisions are natural geographic ones. East Tennessee is an upland, often mountainous area. Middle Tennessee consists of gentle foothills, limestone basins, and fertile grasslands. West Tennessee is a low loose soil plain. Tennessee is adjacent to eight other states, viz. Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, so it plays a major role in the westward migration. No other state has such a geographical asset.

After the French and Indian and Revolutionary wars, Tennessee and Kentucky were the two states that were the destinations for the westward movement of the population. The first settlers entered the area in 1769; they were from North Carolina and Virginia. William Bean and his Scots-Irish neighbors came from Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Their settlement was in East Tennessee in the Watauga River valley, and they banded together to form the Watauga Association in 1771. There were four settlements. One was north of the Holston River near Bristol. The river took its name from Stephen Holston of Virginia, who came there in 1758. The next was along the Watauga River near Elizabethton. The third was west of the Holstein River near Rogersville in Carter’s valley, and the fourth along the Nolichucky River near Erwin.  Some of the settlers located there because they had participated in the Regulator War in a rebellion against the last royal governor.

In 1776 North Carolina organized the aforementioned settlements as part of her westem territory as Washington County, North Carolina. Colonists uneasy about declaring themselves independent from England also sought refuge in Tennessee and as far away from the fighting as possible. The Washington County, North Carolina, court minutes reveal that the court spent much of its time on cases of persons charged with being Loyalists or of harboring Loyalists. Loyalists were imprisoned, and Tories had their property confiscated and were exiled. Still others were glad to be free from the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which prohibited settlement beyond the mountains. Central Tennessee was settled in 1779 with the founding of Nashville. Three hundred settlers made their way to French Lick on the Cumberland river. James Robertson led a group along the Wilderness Road to the Cumberland Gap. They traveled across Kentucky and then descended into the Sumner and Davidson County area. Others floated down the Tennessee river to Muscle Shoals and up the Ohio and Cumberland to the Red River, where Fort Nashborough was. The battle of Kings Mountain in 1780, the turning point of the war in the South, had a number of volunteers from Tennessee. In fact, all the American troops at King’s Mountain were militia. There were no Continental Army personnel present. There were 78 Americans killed and 62 wounded. The British lost 157, and another 153 were wounded. The Americans took 706 prisoners. Many patriots sought refuge in Tennessee following the taking of Charleston and the invasion of North Carolina by the British.

The settlers in East Tennessee kept the road open to Kentucky and assured that the settlements there would continue. George Rogers Clark’s conquest of the Illinois country made it possible.

The Nashville Road opened in 1788. The Old Walton Road opened in 1795. Both gave access to the Cumberland settlements in the most fertile part of the state. In two months in 1796, twenty-six thousand settlers crossed to Nashville.

In 1784 North Carolina ceded the area to the United States in order to secure federal protection for the area. The United States refused the offer, and the settlers organized the state of Franklin, named in honor of Benjamin Franklin whose support they hoped to enlist. It lasted but four years until North Carolina regained control in 1789. The Tar Heel State ceded the area again to the federal government, and it was organized as the Territory South of the River Ohio. Kentucky was on its northem border. In 1790 Tennessee had a population of 35,691. Tennessee grew more slowly than Kentucky and achieved statehood four years after Kentucky, in 1796, as the sixteenth state in the union. The capital was Knoxville.

North Carolina had introduced a bounty land system to encourage enlistments during the Revolutionary War and established a military reservation in the upper half of Middle Tennessee.

In 1798 the Cherokee Indians ceded land along the Clinch and Tennessee rivers. Other cessions followed. With the defeat of the Creek Indians at the battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814, Andrew Jackson negotiated with the Chickasaw to extend the boundary of the state from the west fork of the Tennessee river to the Mississippi river. In 1820 the rich, western third of the state between the west bank of the west fork of the Tennessee and the east bank of the Mississippi was opened for settlement. Memphis became the most important city between St. Louis and New Orleans.

During the Creek War of 1813 to 1814, Gov. William Blount called for three thousand five hundred volunteers. John Cocke led one of the two armies, and Andrew Jackson recruited another thousand men from West Tennessee. John Coffee had a cavalry force of thirteen hundred. The outcome of the war was that there would not be any Indian confederation.

After the Civil War, a hundred and four Welsh families from Pennsylvania migrated to Knoxville to work in the mining industry.