‘Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier’…. Remember the Walt Disney picture? We all know those famous words to the song, ‘The Ballad of Davy Crockett, but do we know much about the man? We know that he was an American hero, and that the town of Crockett was named for him, but what else do we know?
Most of us know that he is referred to as “the bravest of them all”. He has become a favorite state hero as well as a national hero. The song tells us that he was born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, but what was he doing camped out in a small settlement that we call Crockett today? Well, he was on his way to defend the Alamo.
Davy came into this country via El Camino Real and loved the area that would later become Huston County. He wrote his daughter that, “Texas is the garden spot of the world”. It was a cool time of the year when Davy rode into the little settlement. The countryside was full of blackberries, dew berries, mulberries, and wild plums. Everyone could count on hickory nuts, walnuts, pecans and acorns. Wild turkey, hogs, deer, squirrels, dove and quail were abundant. He was impressed with the new foliage on trees which told of changing seasons.
But more exciting for Davy was the chance to renew old friends who had also come from Tennessee. Elijah and his father Andy Gossett, Sam Houston, and Davy Crockett had all served under Andrew Jackson during an uprising of the Creek Indians.
It was the Gossetts who would eventually donate the land for the town that would be called Crockett. They named the town after their courageous friend Davy Crockett. Davy’s original campsite is marked with a state marker in downtown Crockett.
Yes, Davy was born on a mountaintop in Limestone County in Tennessee. He had 5 brothers and 3 sisters. He had a reputation as a troublemaker. He often ran off into the woods to play with the wild animals and ignored his mother’s call for meals. His father often had to punish or chastise him for not answering his mother’s call or not coming home when called. The woods were still full of Indians, and he worried his parents constantly. His father John Crockett ran a tavern, but there were not many travelers.
When Davy was 12, a man by the name of Mr. Siler came through town. He was driving a large herd to his home in Natural Bridge, Virginia about 400 miles away and asked if Davy could make the trip to help him. Davy’s parents finally decided to let him go, probably because they thought it would help support the family. Davy was only given six dollars for the entire trip, but he did learn to shoot straight.
When young Davy returned home, he continued to help support his family. He finally met a beautiful young girl of seventeen. She turned down his marriage proposal saying that she would marry another, because Davy could not read or write.
Davy, the early troublemaker, had always disobeyed his parents when they tried to make him go to school. Now he decided that education was important, and he went to work for a mill owner who taught him to read and write.
Soon, Davy met a girl they called Polly and fell in love. They married in August 1806. When Polly died, he married a widow named Elizabeth Patton and with the children from both sides created a very large family.
Davy’s legend grew. He was known for his honesty and dependability. He was known for his hunting skills and his sharp shooting. They say that he actually killed 105 bears in one year. He served two terms in the United States Congress but lost the third race. Although he had served under Andrew Jackson in the war against the Creek Indians, he did not support Jackson when he became President of the United States, because President Jackson wanted the Indians to give up all of their lands. This did not set well with Jackson’s supporters and led to the loss of the third race.
In February 1836, after having camped in our ‘Crockett’, Davy Crockett, along with 145 other men, fought and lost the Battle of the Alamo against Santa Anna and his army of 2,000. Davy fought bravely and died with courage with his gun ‘Betsy’ at his side.
I love it when performers or acts performing at the Piney Woods Fine Arts Center are presented with a token coon skin hat to remember their time in Houston County. When you think of the town of Crockett, think of the man behind the name. Remember the King of the Wild Frontier… God bless you.