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Ria Vista and Central Community (Carter County) 

Source: The Watauga Spinnerette, Elizabethton, Tennessee, July 1951


Transcribed by Angella Perry Graybeal (comments of transcriber)

     Ria Vista and Central Communities are among the oldest communities in the state.

The first settlement was made in Ria Vista about 1770 when Matthew Talbott settled near the mouth of Gap Creek. About the same time, Joshua Houghton, Ralph Humphreys, James Taylor and John Reneau settled near Talbott. During the same period Andrew Taylor, Jr., Baptist McNabb, John Williams and Solomon Hendricks settled in the Central Community.

Matthew Talbott was a pioneer Baptist minister from Bedford County, Virginia, where he was also prominent in the local government. It was in his house that the first revival meeting was held in the state of Tennessee. This was about the year 1775 when Reverends John and Rene Chastain came through here and stopped for a few days to preach. They were on their way to South Carolina from Virginia. They later became renowned in South Carolina as pioneer Baptists and church founders.

    An attempt was made to organize a church during the revival and the organization was set up but the infant church could not survive the ravages of the Revolutionary War which soon broke out. In the last years of the Revolution the faithful few joined themselves together under the leadership of Rev. Jonathan Mulkey and founded the Sinking Creek Baptist Church.

    After the Revolution Matthew Talbott moved to Georgia and sold his "plantation" to Josiah Clark. Matthew Talbott, Jr., became Governor of Georgia.

    It was on the Talbott land that the Watauga Fort was built before the Revolution. Here the Cherokees besieged the hardy settlers in 1775 and massacred several families who did not reach the safety of the fort. It was in this fort that the celebrated John Sevier met his future wife, Bonnie Kate Sherrill.

     During the siege it was difficult for the settlers to obtain enough water to drink since the spring or creek was outside the fort. At dawn, or a little before, the women crept outside the stockade to carry water from the nearby source while the men mounted the walls and covered them with rifles from possible Indian attack.

     It was during such routine on one occasion that Catharine Sherrill wandered too far from the fort and was discovered and pursued by the Indians. She fled toward the stockade with the nimble savages close on her heels and as she dashed in the clearing, she was terrified to see the gates were already closed! It was very fortunate for Catharine that the valiant John Sevier was on the alert and with one arm he reached down and grasped her wrists to pull her over the wall while shooting the Indians who had pursued her to the walls of the fort. It was in this manner that John Sevier and Catharine Sherrill were somewhat informally introduced.

     Apparently, this made quite an impression on John Sevier for he soon married "Bonnie Kate." Having married while in his teens, John Sevier already had a family, but his first wife had met an early death in the toils and dangers of the frontier.

The Watauga Fort (in Carter County, TN) was a rude but very substantial stockade made of rough and hewn logs. The plan was simple as it incorporated two rows of log cabins within a square wall made of heavy logs planted vertically into the ground.

     It was near this fort that the mountaineers voluntarily gathered to join with Evan Shelby, Jonathan Tipton, John Sevier and others to march to King's Mountain at which place they thoroughly defeated the British Army and killed the British General Ferguson. This was in October of 1780. It was here that the Rev. Samuel Doak, pioneer Presbyterian minister, had preached his immortal sermon entitled "Gideon and the Sword of the Lord" as an invocation in behalf of the frontiersmen who were soon on their way to meet the British.

     It was during the siege that little Sammy Moore was captured by the Indians. Samuel Moore had left the fort with another youthful companion, presumably to find some old timber to cover a hut. When they reached Gap Creek, near its mouth, they were fired upon by the Indians. Young James Cooper, Moore's companion, dived into the creek hoping to swim into deep water and avoid the fire but he was in shallow water and was killed.

     The Indians took little Sammy captive and after some deliberation among the braves they decided to kill him. They tied him to a tree and stuck his body full of splinters and built a fire around him and thus he was inhumanely cremated.

During the Revolution, Joshua Houghton died leaving his estate to his sons, Thomas, Joshua Jr. and Richard. Thomas Houghton was a justice in the local court. It was Thomas Houghton who inherited Green Hill Plantation which included what is now Elizabethton. After the Revolution Thomas Houghton sold out to Col. John Tipton from Shenandoah County, Virginia. Houghton and his brothers, and Ralph Humphreys and Matthew Talbott, and their families moved to Georgia. About the same time James Taylor moved to South Carolina.

     About 1808, John Reneau died and his son, Charles Reneau, inherited his farm which he sold to Nathaniel Taylor.

Josiah Clark died about 1802 and his sons, James and Thomas Clark, inherited his farm. Thomas Clark had married the oldest daughter of Reverend James Edens, his neighbor. James Clark, son of Thomas Clark, married a daughter of Absolem Moore, another neighbor. Absolem was a brother of Samuel Moore who was killed by the Indians.

     Andrew Taylor moved to Happy Valley from his first home in what is now Johnson County during the Revolution. His son, Andrew Taylor, Jr married a daughter of Baptist McNabb and settled in Central Community (Carter County). Nathaniel Taylor, half brother of Andrew Jr., settled at the mouth of Buffalo Creek. He married a daughter of Col. James Patton, wealthy land speculator of southwest Virginia.

     Nathaniel Taylor became the first sheriff of Carter County in 1796 and later served in the Tennessee Assembly, representing his district. He served under Gen. Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812. He was commissioned Major General and was placed in charge of the fortifications at Mobile, Alabama, when Jackson left for New Orleans where he defeated Gen. Pakenham in January 1815.

     General Nathaniel Taylor was a man of parts and acquired property and wealth. He began construction of his mansion which he named "Rotherwood" in the year 1816 but he died before it was completed. His estate consisted of more that 40 slaves, thousands of acres of land in Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and the Iron Works at Embreeville and Roan's Creek. His family became somewhat noted. His sons, James P. and Alfred W. Taylor, were attorneys. In 1836, the county seat of Johnson County was named Taylorsville in honor of the Attorney General James P. Taylor, who had recently died.

General Alfred E. Jackson of the Confederate Army of Tennessee married a daughter of Gen. Nathaniel Taylor. A daughter married a son of Col. Robert Love, and another daughter married William R. Dulaney, a son of the old pioneer doctor of Sullivan County, Elkanah Dulaney. Gen. Jacob Tipton, a son of Capt. Jacob Tipton for whom Tipton County, Tennessee, was named, married a daughter of Gen. Taylor.

     Rev. Nathaniel G. Taylor, the father of "Bob and Alf Taylor," was a son of James P. Taylor. Thus, though marriage and politics, the Taylor family became one of the noted families of Tennessee.

Alfred Love, a descendent of Thomas D. Love, a son of Col. Robert Love, and Thomas D. Love's wife who was a daughter of Gen. Nathaniel Taylor. Monte Clark is a descendent of James Clark, son of Thomas Clark and son- in- law of Absolem Moore.

     About 1798, Rev. Jonathan Buck moved from North Carolina to Central Community. Here he reared a large family. Rev. Valentine Bowers and Col. William N. Bowers married daughters of Rev. Buck.

      Solomon Hendrix was a Revolutionary soldier in Maryland and early settler in Central. He was married but had no children. At his death, he willed his property to his brother, John Hendrix and family. John Hendrix was also a Revolutionary soldier and he lived in Range Community(Carter County). His son, Solomon Hendrix, inherited part of his uncle Solomon's land and settled in Central.

     Jesse Humphreys was another early settler and owned slaves. He and his wife were childless and he died leaving her a widow, but very well provided for. After his death, considerable litigation was started by some of his brothers who claimed his estate, but the widow won the case. Jesse Humphreys was among the first to emancipate his slaves. He made provision for their freedom in his will.

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