Upland Chronicles: Wears Valley settled in 1794 amidst tragedy

Oct. 12, 2013 @ 11:46 PM

The first European settlers known to explore the beautiful valley that is today called Wear’s Valley were Aaron Crowson and his close friend Peter Percefield. In 1794 they were scouting the valley on horseback when they were attacked by hostile Cherokee Indians. Both Crowson and Percefield were only 17-years-old at the time.

Percefield was killed in the in the attack and Crowson rode to Wear’s Fort located at the mouth of Walden’s Creek for help. Aaron then rode back to the valley with his older brother Richard, their father Will, and several other men to search for the Indians.

The entire valley was covered with dense forest and canebrakes. The men finally found the guilty Indians at the edge of a canebrake, just as it was getting dark. When the Indians started to attack Aaron Crowson fired one shot which killed one of the Cherokees. When the others in his party joined Crowson the Indians retreated onto the forest and disappeared into the darkness.

The following day, young Percefield was buried at the top of a hill about a half-mile from where he had been killed. They buried the Indian at the edge of the canebrake where he had died. The spot where Percefield was buried later became Crowson Cemetery.

Later that year Aaron Crowson received a land grant for the property, and he and his teenage bride, Jane Barnes, built the first cabin in the valley; the place became known as Crowson’s Cove.

The following spring, Col. Samuel Wear led a march against the Cherokee village of Tallassee to find the Indians involved in the raid. Additional troops were sent from Greeneville under the command of Col. Wear’s brother, Captain John Wear. Following the attack on Tallassee several militia continued to the Great Tellico Village where they located four of the Indians who had participated in the murder of Percefield. The militia executed those presumed guilty on the spot.

Sometime later the valley which included Crowson’s Cove began to be called Wear’s Valley in honor of Col. Samuel Wear (1753-1817), a veteran of the Revolutionary War, the Indian Wars and the War of 1812. He built Wear’s Fort at the entrance of the cove in what is now Pigeon Forge. The fort served to protect the early settlers from Indian attacks and house the local militia in Sevier County.

Col. Wear served in all governments up to and including the State of Tennessee. He served as a delegate, representative and clerk for the State of Franklin. When the move failed in the North Carolina legislature to organize the frontier west of the mountains into a separate state, Col. Wear along with General John Sevier began the move to establish the State of Franklin.

He served as commander of the Sevier County militia for William Blount under the Territory South of the Ohio established by Congress. Col. Wear and four other delegates to the Tennessee Constitutional Convention were appointed by John Sevier to draft a constitution to present to the delegates to establish the State of Tennessee.

The draft was written at the home of Col. Wear at the entrance of Wear’s Valley. Thomas Jefferson stated that of all the constitutions written and adopted by the new frontier states the Tennessee Constitution was the best written and most in line with the spirit of the United States Constitution.

Soon after the Crowson family moved to the cove; others followed. Early settlers in Wear’s Valley included a Revolutionary War veteran named William Headrick who arrived in 1821, and John Ogle, a War of 1812 veteran and son of the first settler of Gatlinburg. Another War of 1812 veteran, Peter Brickey arrived in 1808.

Brickey operated a large farm and distillery in the valley until his death in 1856.The log house he built shortly after his arrival still stands and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Like most other farms in the Wear’s Valley, the Brickey Farm was ravaged during the Civil War.

In December 1863 Union troops passed through the valley en route to dislodge the troops of Col. Will Thomas who were entrenched in Gatlinburg. William C. Pickens, a resident of Wear’s Valley, was one of the bridge-burners, a band of pro-Union guerillas who attempted to destroy several railroad bridges across East Tennessee in November 1861. Pickens led the failed attack on the Strawberry Plains Bridge and was badly wounded in the attack. Pro-Union newspaper editor William “Parson” Brownlow, wanted by Confederate authorities for complicity in the bridge burnings, hid out in Wear’s Valley at the home of Valentine Mattox in November 1861.

After the war, Alfred Line established a farm at the base of Roundtop Mountain, near the southern section of Wear’s Valley. Line Spring, a clear mountain spring which flows down from the slopes of Roundtop; gave its name to a recreational area that developed at the base of the mountain. In 1910, D. B. Lawson, the son of a circuit rider who had purchased the Line Farm, constructed the Line Springs Hotel. The hotel boosted the economy of Wear’s Valley by providing jobs and a market for local farmers.

Around 1800, Aaron Crowson and several other settlers erected a crude log church known as Bethlehem Church. The church was used by both Methodists and Baptists throughout most of the 19th century, with Baptist services being conducted by an elected pastor and Methodist services being conducted by circuit riders. Occasionally, both congregations would meet in a revival known as a “union meeting.” In 1886, both Baptists and Methodists constructed separate structures, although union meetings were still fairly common.

Since the first settlers arrived, the picturesque valley has played an integrate role in the culture and heritage of Sevier County. According to the 2010 Census, the population of the unincorporated area known as Wear’s Valley is 7,486. Adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the history and economy of the valley are intertwined with that of the Smokies.

Carroll McMahan is the special projects facilitator for the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce and serves as Sevier County Historian.

The Upland Chronicles series celebrates the heritage and past of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for future topics, would like to submit a column or have comments, please contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411 or email to cmcmahan@scoc.org; or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email to ron@ronraderproperties.com