Rebecca Crockett gave birth to David in a tiny cabin in upper East Tennessee on August 17, 1776. David was the fifth of nine children brought into a rough and unforgiving American frontier. Many European immigrants landing in America altered their last names, and the Crocketts were no exception. Originally, the name Crockett was pronounced and spelled Crocketagne descendants of Huguenots that immigrated from France to England, Ireland, and finally America.
David's father, John Crockett, was born in Maryland in 1754. He moved with his family to Virginia, North Carolina, and finally settled in Tennessee (at that time, East Tennessee was still considered to be North Carolina, or the Watauga area). John, and two of David's uncles, William and Robert Crockett, entered the service to fight in the War of Independence at the Battle of Kings Mountain.
During their sons absence, Davy's grandparents, David Crockett Sr. and Elizabeth, were murdered by Creek and Cherokee Indians. All of David's uncles also were slain, except for Joseph and James, and one aunt, who was brutally scalped, but survived. Joseph and James were taken captive by the Creek Indians.
By the age of 12, illiterate David "Davy" Crockett was already doing men's work. On a cattle drive to Front Royal, Virginia, he was forced to work past his contract with the drive. So one night during a snowstorm, he escaped. Ultimately, he ran away from home in 1799, where he found various places to work as a laborer. By the age of 13, Davy was driving cattle again, this time to Baltimore, Maryland, where he stayed until he was 15.
Davy always did what needed to be done to survive. At times, he asked permission to borrow his boss's rifle to hunt big and small game for the outfit. He enjoyed shooting so much that he purchased his own gun, plus an old horse. Already a superb marksman, Davy began to enter local shooting contests and usually won. Because Davy was such a likeable person, his employer arranged for him to attend a nearby school for six months.
Upon his return home to Tennessee, Davy found that his father had become deep in debt. That obligated Davy to work a year for John's creditor, Colonel Daniel Kennedy.
Marriage and homesteading
David Crockett and Mary Polly Finley were married on August 12, 1806, then they migrated to better hunting grounds in Lincoln County, Tennessee, near the head of Mulberry Fork. There Mary gave birth to their two sons, John Wesley Crockett and William Finley Crockett, in 1809 and 1810.
In 1811, Crockett took his family to the south side of Mulberry Creek, near Lynchburg. He built a log cabin where they lived for the following two years. The Crocketts then moved to Franklin County in 1813, owing to a depletion of wild game. The new settlement in Franklin County was named "Kentuck." Davy and his family lived there on Beans Creek until the War of 1812 came to an end.
On August 30, 1812, Creek Indians mounted an offensive at Fort Mimms, and many volunteers were needed to defend the area. Among thousands of others, Davy Crockett volunteered, and was quickly assigned to Captain Jones Mounted Volunteers. Crockett's first assignment was to conduct reconnaissance from Beatty Springs, across the Tennessee River, and into the Creek nation.
After safely returning, Crockett and another 800 volunteers fought in such battles as Talledega, Fort Strother, and the Florida Expedition. He and his fellow volunteers also became involved in various conflicts with the "Red Coats" (British).
Following the war in 1815, Davy Crockett returned to Franklin County with his honorable discharge, to find his wife extremely ill. She died shortly following his return. A year later, Davy married the widow Elizabeth Patton. The reconstituted Crockett family lived off the land with Elizabeth's two children and his two boys at "Kentuck" until 1817, when they built another homestead in newly formed Lawrence County.
Crockett the politician
The Treaty of 1816, signed in Lawrence County with the Chicasaw Indians, officially found its way into Tennessee history. With a local government becoming established in 1818, David Crockett was more than willing to assist in the county's layout. In 1819 Crockett proposed Lawrenceburg as the county seat because its central location connected with Andrew Jackson's Military Road.
Because of Crockett's initiative, he became one of the first commissioners and justices of peace in the county, and eventually was chosen by his peers as the commander (lt. colonel) of the 57th Regiment of Militia.
In 1821, Crockett was elected to the state legislature. Following his term in office, Crockett returned to his family to find that a flood had devastated everything. The Crocketts were forced to move, and they built another homestead in Gibson County in 1822. In 1823, Crockett once again ran for the legislature against Dr. W.E. Butler. With his likeable and colorful personality, Crockett won by a landslide. He then introduced a bill to officially establish Gibson County, Tennessee.
Crockett's quick wit and entertaining stories of survival gained him the respect of fellow citizens and politicians. In fact, while he was at a conference in Philadelphia, Crockett was awarded a handsome long rifle (named "Betsy"), which included a gold engraving on the barrel: "Presented to the Honorable David Crockett of Tennessee by the young men of Philadelphia." Also, those young men of Philadelphia had inscribed in silver letters near the sight: "Go Ahead."
The frontiersman ran for the U.S. Congress in 1826, and emerged victorious, thanks in part to his views on "squatters' rights." As an American pioneer, he felt obligated to allow newly arriving settlers a chance to make a go of it in their new surroundings. His views paid off.
Crockett was becoming such a popular figure and not just in Tennessee that the election process appeared to be a stepping stone to higher office. However, all of that changed when the people of Crockett's district began to learn about his contempt of Andrew Jackson for his unfair treatment of Tennessee troops during the Creek Indian War.
Davy Crockett won the congressional seat in the 1827 election. However, given his deepening dislike for the popular Jackson, Crockett's constituents opted not to reelect their "people's friend" in the 1833 election. On October 31, 1835, leaving his downward spiraling political career behind him, Crockett headed out west with ambitions of helping to liberate Texas from Mexico.
Crockett arrived in Nacogdoches, Texas, just after the new year in 1836. By January 14, Crockett, already a popular frontiersman, was easily making new friends, including 65 volunteers who signed an oath to serve the Provisional Government of Texas. Crockett and the other volunteers were awarded more than 4,500 acres of Texas land as payment for their six-month volunteer sign-up. On January 9, 1836, Crockett sent a note to a daughter back home in Tennessee. Part of the letter stated, "I would rather be in my present situation than to be elected to a seat in Congress for life."
Crockett's participation in the Alamo lasted from February 23 to March 6, 1836. A mere 180 to 250 Texas fighters were outnumbered by General Antonio Lopez Santa Anna's elite army of 2,000. Ultimately, the major Mexican offensive on March 6, became a tragedy for Davy and his fellow freedom fighters, which ended in death for every Texas soldier - only a few citizen fighters were able to escape and tell their story. The slaughter came at a costly price for Santa Anna's army. Davy Crockett and his men managed to kill many of the initial invading Mexican army before losing the fort.
Folklore has it that David "Davy" Crockett's body was cremated following his death at the Alamo. His son, John Wesley Crockett, took his father's ashes and scattered them at a special site in San Antonia de Bexar.
---- Selected Quotes ----
Quotes by Davy Crockett.
Regarding Defeat in the Election of 1830 I would rather be beaten and be a man than to be elected and be a little puppy dog. I have always supported measures and principles and not men. I have acted fearless and independent and I never will regret my course. I would rather be politically buried than to be hypocritically immortalized.