“Be sure you’re right. Then go ahead.”
In 1786, David Stern “Davy” Crockett, the celebrated frontiersman, politician and folk hero was born in a small cabin on the banks of the romantic Nolichucky River in what is now Greene County. He detested the nickname Davy and all his life preferred to be called David.
Descriptions of Crockett vary, but it is generally thought that he was about 5 feet 8 inches high (tall for the period), with brown hair, blue eyes, and rosy cheeks. He was noted for his homespun humor, honesty, and skill as an entertaining public speaker. Tall tales have grown up around Crockett’s backwoods exploits and we present some of them in this exhibit.
Crockett purportedly died March 6, 1836, at the Alamo during the Texas war for independence. Because of a Mexican soldier’s diary, some scholars--including Michael Lofaro at the University of Tennessee--have questioned whether Crockett actually fell there. They allege that he and a few others survived the battle but were later executed by the Mexicans on the orders of Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Crockett apologists claim the Mexican journal is a fake. Following the battle, Crockett assumed a super hero status of mythical proportion and has been the subject of movies, television shows, plays, and many books.
Davy did not discourage the myths and legends that grew up around him—the taller the tales, the better. The young Republic was eager for stories of common-folk heroes and Crockett filled the bill. His electioneering skills helped get him to Congress. After his death, the legends became more and more fantastical and they tapped into America’s obsession with Manifest Destiny.
Davy Crockett March, by George Loesch, 1874, Rose Music Collection
David was known for his quick wit and soaring tales on the campaign trail and the people sent him to the House of Representatives twice. Politically a populist, he spoke up for land squatters and opposed President Andrew Jackson’s plan for Indian removal.
Land Record signed by Davy Crockett, 1822, Record Group 50 - Early Tennessee Land Records
The Crockett Almanac was a wildly popular magazine mass-produced between 1835 and 1856. Most of the papers were published AFTER 1836, the year of Crockett’s death during the Texas War for Independence.
The Crockett Almanac, 1839, Library Special Collection
|The Crockett Almanac, 1842, Library Special Collection|