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EXCHANGE




Quarterly Publication of the His

torical and Philosophical

Society of Ohio



Vol. VIII, 1913, Nos. 2 & 3
April-June July-September



Documents Relating to Zachariah Cox



Edited by

ISAAC JOSLIN COX

Associate Professor of History,
University of Cincinnati



Assisted by

REGINALD C. McGRANE

Assistant in History, University
of Wisconsin



CINCINNATI, OHIO
PRESS OF JENNINGS AND GRAHAM



TABLE OF CONTENTS.



PAGE.

FOREWORD, 31

REPRINT OF THE Cox PAMPHLET:

TITLE PAGE, 37

PREFACE, 38

AN ESTIMATE OF COMMERCIAL ADVANTAGES, ETC., - - - - 39

PRINCIPLES OF A COMMERCIAL SYSTEM, ETC., 47
STATEMENTS OF FACTS, ... ...51

OTHER DOCUMENTS RELATING TO ZACHARIAH Cox:

I. (PLAN OF OPERATIONS), 92

II. JAMES ROBERTSON TO JOHN SEVIER, APRIL 15, 1797, 95

III. JOHN SEVIER TO ZACHARIAH Cox, AUGUST 20, 1797, - - 96

IV. ZACHARIAH Cox TO JOHN SEVIER, AUGUST 31, 1797, 97
V. JOHN SEVIER TO ZACHARIAH Cox, NOVEMBER 25, 1797, - 99

VI. JOHN SEVIER TO JOHN MCNAIRY, DECEMBER 8, 1797, - 99

VII. JOHN SEVIER TO MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, JANUARY 22, 1798, 100

VIII. JOHN SEVIER TO M. ANDERSON, MARCH 28, 1798, - - 101

IX. JOHN SEVIER TO JAMES MCHENRY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1798, - 102

X. DEPOSITION OF ROBERT PRIOR, JANUARY 12, 1799, - - 103

XI. DEPOSITION OF MARTIN H. WICKLIFF, AUGUST 9, 1798, - 106

XII. THOMAS BUTLER TO JOHN SEVIER, MARCH 11, 1799, 111

XIII. JOHN MCNAIRY TO JOHN SEVIER, APRIL 22, 1799, - 112

XIV. THOMAS SWAINE TO MESSRS. SMITH & FINDLAY, APRIL

11, 1798, - 113



FOREWORD.



Zachariah Cox was a prominent figure in the territorial history
of the Old Southwest, between 1785 and 1803 and for a few
months achieved a notoriety almost national. The qualities
that brought him to the attention of the executives of Mississippi
and Tennessee, of our army officers and department of war, and
of the Spanish officials in Louisiana, as well, were typical of his
time and section. He was land hungry, but so were most of his
contemporaries, including the more prominent of his opponents.
While most of the latter tried to conceal or minimize their spec-
ulations, Cox was determined to realize his to the uttermost.
He was ready to override all rights of the Indians, but so were
nearly all the frontiersmen of Tennessee and Georgia. Cox
planned his encroachments on a more extensive scale than they
dared affect. His enemies charged him with meditating a fili-
bustering project against the Spaniards and even attempted to
connect him with Blount's Conspiracy. There is no evidence
for the latter charge, and while he confesses a desire to explore
Spanish territory west of the Mississippi, he is no worse in this
respect than his traducer Wilkinson, or Vice President Jefferson.
Cox, like their protege Nolan, proposed to do his exploration in
person rather than by proxy, and although he conducted an
armed party with him he did not propose to proceed before he
had obtained definite permission from the Spanish authorities.
This was more than Nolan and his mentors contemplated.

It is evident from the succeeding pages that Zachariah Cox
proposed something more than mere land speculation, despolia-
tion of the Indians, or filibustering against the Spaniards, pop-
ular as all of these pursuits were in the closing dqcade of the
eighteenth century. He aspired to develop a commercial route
between the Tennessee and Mobile that should rival the Mis-
sissippi. According to the data presented below this plan was
entirely feasible as long as human muscle furnished the chief
motive power on inland waters. It is true he disregarded the
combined opposition of Indian and Spaniard that largely closed

31



this route for nearly twenty years longer. By the time Wilkin-
son had occupied Mobile and Jackson had broken the power of
the Creeks; the steamboat was at hand to render his proposed
route for traffic by stream and portage of less value than one
entirely by water. So no such emporium as he dreamed of ever
developed in the vicinity of Muscle Shoals. But with the limited
agencies of transportation then at hand, his proposal marks him
as a daring commercial pioneer rather than a temporizing specu-
lator, while his tables of rates and distances afford interesting
data for interior commercial routes.

The antecedents of Mr. Cox are unknown, his literary re-
mains scant and scrappy, and his impress upon contemporary
or descendant in the region of his operations, equally fleeting.
Yet his plans and methods are so varied and so typical that it
seems worth while to republish the most significant documents
that illustrate them.

We know that Zachariah Cox was a native of Georgia. He
is first mentioned in 1785, when he became involved in a project
to found a settlement at the bend of the Tennessee River. Pos-
sibly this scheme was part of the general plan to extend Georgia's
claim over the western territory that was exemplified in the
attempt to organize Bourbon County in the Natchez District,
then under Spanish control. In that year the assembly of
Georgia passed an act to organize a county on the Tennessee
and Cox was sent out by one of the projectors, Colonel Hampton,
to explore the region. The project failed because of Indian op-
position, but it is probable that Cox at this time saw the com-
mercial advantages of a settlement at this point 1 .

Five years later Cox again appeared in connection with this
region, this time as promoter rather than subordinate. He was
the head of one of the three corporations that received from the
state of Georgia, what were popularly known as the "Yazoo
Land Grants." These grants, as later re-enacted, formed the
most malodorous, but not necessarily the worst, of our early
landgrabs. On December 21, 1789, he and his associates, form-
ing the Tennessee Company, were granted some three and a
half million acres, for which they agreed to pay $46,875. Their
purchase was located in the great bend of the Tennessee River,
and comprised several of the northern counties of the present

'See p. 46 and Hay wood, W. Civil and Political History of Tennessee, p. 159.

32



state of Alabama. By a later enactment of January 12, 1790,
the grantees were required to forbear from attacking the Indians
within this grant and to relieve the state of all expense in main-
taining peace with them. The grantees made two small pay-
ments, after which the legislature refused to receive others 2 .

The proprietors of the Tennessee Company, among whom
was John Sevier, lost little time in hastening the work of coloni-
zation. On September 2, 1790, they advertised that "the com-
pany would embark from the confluence of the Holston and
French Broad rivers, on the 10th of January next." They pro-
posed to settle some 480,000 acres on the south side of the Ten-
nessee. As an inducement they offered "to every family a bounty
of five hundred acres each and to every single man, half a
bounty." 3 The settlers on the Cumberland welcomed the pros-
pect of this new establishment, hoping that it would act as a
barrier against the inroads of the savages, and everything por-
tended the success of the undertaking. But the Indians and the
Federal government proved insurmountable barriers in the path
of Cox and his followers.

An advance party of eighteen proceeded down the Tennessee
and erected a block house on an island at the Muscle Shoals.
Soon after their arrival a band of savages visited them, and by
threatening to put them to death, caused them to abandon the
newly constructed work, which they promptly burned. In the
meantime Secretary Knox had informed the President of the
project and opposed it on the ground that it would arouse the
Indians. Washington thereupon issued a proclamation against
this and similar undertakings, in virtue of which the Secretary
directed Governor Blount to stop the expedition. The latter
accordingly despatched an officer after the company to inform
its promoters of the President's proclamation and to warn them
that if they did not return the Indians would be "at liberty to
act towards them as they might think proper, without offense
to the government of the United States;" and that even if the
Indians should permit them to settle at Muscle Shoals, the
United States would government not 4 .

2 Putnam, History of Middle Tennessee, p. 331; Amer. State Papers,
Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 114; Haskins, in Papers of the Am. Hist' I Ass'n,
Vol. V, pp. 79, 80.

Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 115.
'Haywood, p. 252.

33



This threat deterred Cox from a second attempt that year.
At the next term of the superior court for the Washington Dis-
trict, he and his men were twice indicted, but the grand jury
refused to bring in a true bill in either case. Haywood asserts
that many of the jurors were already trespassers upon the Cher-
okee lands and so naturally would not be very hard on a fellow
pioneer. At any rate the affair aroused little attention, although
in 1792 the Cherokees again protested against a settlement at
Muscle Shoals by the Tennessee Company and Secretary Knox
proposed a military post at the mouth of Bear's Creek (or
Ockochappo) to prevent future aggressions of this sort. 5 Cox's
failure in these attempts, as in later instances, was thus largely
due to the desire of the Federal Government to protect the
Indian lands from encroachment. This policy and the contrary
attitude displayed by most settlers in Tennessee, particularly in
the eastern portion, constitute the two chief factors in his later
career.

A second series of Yazoo grants by the Georgia legislature
was the signal for his next move. On January 24, 1795, that
body chartered the Tennessee Land Company with a capital of
$60,000. Zachariah Cox and Matthias Maher were its chief
promoters and the limits of their grant, together with their plan
for its disposal, are given in this publication. 6 It was popularly
believed that the legislators had a pecuniary interest in the
company, and this may account for the prompt subscription to
the greater part of the shares issued.

An attempt to forestall the opposition of the federal author-
ities may be seen in Cox's petition to Congress for a loan to
assist in carrying on intercourse with the Indian tribes. 7 At
the same time Governor Blount promised to break up the
projected settlement in the bend of the Tennessee, if it should
be made. 8 In the following December, however, the Legislature
of the new state voiced the sentiment of their constituents in a
memorial to Congress against extending the boundary between
the Cherokee and national territory. 9 The new commonwealth

^Indian Affairs, Vol. I, pp. 173, 245.
"See p. 92.

7 Annals 4th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 822; Am. State Paps., Pub. Lands, Vol. I,
pp. 129, 130, 881.

8 Haywood, pp. 455, 456.
'Annals 5th Cong., 2nd Sess., p. 672.

34






was taking a characteristic frontier attitude against any positive
delimitation of Indian country, and its new executive, John
Sevier, might be expected to regard with greater favor the
schemes of his former associate, Zachariah Cox. Meanwhile
the latter had met with partial success in the establishment of
a supplementary settlement at Smithland, on the Ohio, between
the Tennessee and the Cumberland. 10 To initiate his larger
establishment in the bend of the Tennessee he professed a
willingness to await federal consent.

The few months after the founding of Smithland constitute
the most significant part of Cox's career. From this point we
shall let the following pages tell the story, albeit in a haphazard
manner. The organization of his force at Smithland, the clan-
destine passage by Ft. Massac, the visit to New Madrid, the
arrest at Natchez, the escape to New Orleans, and the return
to Tennessee, are narrated by Cox and by his friends and enemies
in confusing detail, from which it is difficult to draw any definite
conclusion as to his purposes. Like most of his fellow frontiers-
men he adopted lawless methods to carry them out, whatever
they were. But certainly the two depositions upon which Gov-
ernor Sargent relied to make out a case against him fail to sub-
stantiate his main accusations. On the other hand Cox's own
story and the accompanying testimony is entirely too favorable
to himself to be convincing. By combining the two we may
infer that Cox was trying, with a pioneer's disregard of Indian
and Spanish rights or of federal opposition, to develop lands to
which he had a legal, if not moral, claim.

In carrying out this purpose and his accompanying commer-
cial projects, Cox proposed to consult only the physical factors
involved and to disregard entirely conventional lines or inter-
national obligations. Yet the Spaniards treated him better than
his fellow-countrymen. It is the forbearance exercised by the
suspicious Gayoso de Lemos, when Cox came to him as a fugi-
tive, that constitutes the strongest point in the latter's favor.
If he had really been a filibusterer, he would have met the fate
of Philip Nolan or William A. Bowles. So we may relieve him
of that charge and exhibit him in what doubtless is his true
character a land-grabbing pioneer, unscrupulous in his methods
and unfortunate in the opposition he incurred.

10 Consult the following pages, passim.

35



A word with reference to the following documents may not
be out of place. The first consists of a seventy-page pamphlet
published by Cox himself. The name of Charles Thurston ap-
pears on its triple-headed title page, but there is nothing to show
how it came into possession of the Historical and Philosophical
Society. The copy lacks covers and is somewhat marred. It
measures some four by seven inches. After diligent inquiry we
have come to the conclusion that the only other copy extant is
that in the Library of Congress. Professor C. H. Haskins, of
Harvard, in his monograph on the "Yazoo Land Grants," seems
to be the only one who has recently made use of it. Even
though it affords only a partial view of contemporary affairs it
merits wider attention, and this is the justification for the
present reprint. The original paging of the pamphlet is in-
serted in brackets in the text.

While preparing the copy for the press the editor learned
through Professor St. George L. Sioussat, that there was some
additional material relating to Zachariah Cox in the Tennessee
Department of Archives and History, in the Letter Book of
Governor John Sevier and related manuscripts. Professor
Sioussat courteously arranged with Mr. Robert T. Quarles, Jr.,
the Assistant Director, to copy these documents for us, and they
are herewith reprinted. It is needless to say that this adds
much to the value of the publication and places the Society
greatly in debt to these gentlemen. We are also indebted to the
Library of Congress for information to supplement our mutilated
title page and to Dr. Rueben G. Thwaites and others for biblio-
graphic hints. Miss L. Belle Hamlin, the Librarian of the
Society, has been very helpful in preparing the copy for the
press, while the members of the Board have graciously con-
sented to a publication much beyond the usual size. May the
editor be pardoned for adding that there is no immediate family
interest in the task he assumed. As the regular index of the
QUARTERLY will accompany Volume IX, none will be given
with this number. , I. J. C.

"Papers of the Am. Hist'l Ass'n, Vol. V, p. 79, et seq.



36



AN ESTIMATE

OF

COMMERCIAL ADVANTAGES

BY WAY OF THE

MISSISSIPPI AND MOBILE RIVERS,

TO THE

WESTERN COUNTRY.



PRINCIPLES

OF A

COMMERCIAL SYSTEM;

AND THE

Commencement and Progress

OF A

SETTLEMENT

ON THE

OHIO RIVER

TO

Facilitate the Same;

WITH A

STATEMENT OF FACTS.



NASHVILLE : PRINTED BY J. MCLAUGHLIN

M,DCC.XCIX

37



PREFACE.



The unfriendly reports that have been industriously circu-
lated, by certain malevolent characters, respecting a settlement
lately established at the mouth of Cumberland on the Ohio
river: and the late military abuses, offered to my friends and
self, on our late route down the Mississippi, has induced me to
submit the following pages to the impartial circle of my fellow
citizens: and to my friends in particular: As a justice due them:
and as a duty I owe myself, it becomes me now to declare most
solemnly, that no part of my proceedings, negociations, or cor-
respondence, has ever been intended, or designed, directly or
indirectly, to be inimical to my country: the constitution or
laws of it: to prove this my assertion: should it be necessary:
hundreds of citizens equally as respectable as any in the western
country will appear, who have been, and still are, intimately
acquainted with my intentions, and objects.

I further defy any man, or men on earth with truth to say
that any part of my transactions, negociations, or correspond-
ence, ever was, or can possibly with propriety, be construed in-
imical to the true interest of my country; the constitution or
laws of it: but to the contrary, as much as any man on earth, I
have ever respected & reverenced them. If upon impartial in-
vestigation I am wrong (it is not wilful) I wish to be convinced
of it: if in the right, a legal remedy, so as to prevent a future
evil of the same nature: is all I ask: I am content to bear my
losses with fortitude: it is beyond human reach to repair the
injury.

ZACHARIAH Cox.



38



An ESTIMATE of commercial advantages, by way of the
Mississippi and Mobile; into various parts of Western North
America. From a Pamphlet published by the author at Knox-
ville, in the year JJ^7; No. XV, Page 98, corrected from late
observation, and experience.

The Mobile Bay, is situate between the latitude of 30 degrees
20 minutes and 31 d. 10m. North; and between the longitude of
87 degrees 35 minutes, and 87 degrees 55 minutes West from
the meridian of London; it makes an excellent and safe harbour;
the inlet is formed by Dauphin Island on the west and a penin-
sula, or point of land extending from the main on the east;
through which may be carried three fathom water into the Bay.

Into this Bay falls Tombigby River, descending from N.
N. W. and Allabamma River descending from N. E. and although
intersected with Islands, sea vessels can pass up the former to
latitude 31 deg. 30 minutes, being the North point of the flowing
tide. Into Tombigby falls Sipseys River descending from
N. N. E. which as well as Tombigby, is navigable for boats of
fifty tons burthen, as high as the latitude of 33 deg. 45 min.
from the two last points to the main river Tennessee, is about
fifty five miles, and to the nearest navigable branches of Ten-
nessee (extending from the lower and upper end of the Muscle
Shoals) about thirty-five miles: the country between the two
points is level and well calculated for carriage.

From the head of Mobile Bay to the head navigation of Tom-
bigby and Sipseys river is about three hundred miles by water.
A boat of twenty-five tons burthen, can pass and repass in
thirty days [4] with the assistance of ten hands, at one dollar
per day each, is 300 dollars.

The distance from the head navigation of Mo-
bile waters to the nearest navigable branches of
Tennessee river, being but thirty five miles: a ton
weight carried to and from the two points, will cost
about 20 dollars; 25 tons weight, will amount to 500 dollars.

39



X

Total expence on the carriage of 25 tons, from
the most Southern navigable branches of Ten-
nessee to Mobile bay 500 dollars.

From Knoxville on Holstein river to the head
navigation of the South streams of Tennessee,
nearest Mobile Bay by water, is about 350 miles:
time of passage to and from the two points, with a
boat of 25 tons burthen, will be about 33 days,
with the assistance of ten hands, at one dollar per
day each, is 330 dollars.

Total expence on 25 tons weight from Mobile
bay to Knoxville and back again 1,330 dollars.



W

From Philadelphia to Knoxville is computed
to be 750 miles; carriage of 25 tons weight, to and
from the two points, will cost the sum of 10,714 dollars.

[5] In favor of the Mobile commerce on every
25 tons weight to Knoxville 9,384 doll.

From Nashville on Cumberland river, to the
head navigation of the South streams of Ten-
nessee, nearest Mobile Bay, is about 460 miles, by
water ; time of passage to and from said ports with
a boat of 25 tons burthen, will be about 45 days;
with the assistance of ten hands, at one dollar per
day each, is 450 dollars.

From Mobile Bay to the nearest navigable
waters of Tennessee river as per letter X 800 dollars.

Total expence on 25 tons weight from Mobile
Bay to Nashville 1,250 dolls.

Y

From the nearest atlantic ports to Pittsburgh,
is about 300 miles; the carriage of 25 tons weight
to and from the two points, will cost 5,000 dolls.

From Pittsburgh to Nashville on Cumberland
by water; estimated to be about 1,300 miles; a
boat of 25 tons burthen, will pass to and from the
said ports in about 130 days; with the assistance
of ten hands at one dollar per day each, is 1,300 dolls.

40



R

Total expence on 25 tons weight, from the
atlantic port to Nashville 6,300 dolls.

[6] In favor of the Mobile commerce on every
25 tons burthen to Nashville 5,050 dolls.

From the Rapids of Ohio river, to the head
navigation of the South streams of Tennessee,
nearest Mobile Bay, is about 670 miles by water;
time of passage to and from said ports, with a
boat of 25 tons burthen, will be about 66 days;
with the assistance of ten hands, at one dollar per
day each, is 660 dollars.

To the navigable branches of Tennessee, as
per letter X 800 dollars.

Total expence on 25 tons weight, from Mobile
Bay, to the falls of Ohio, and back again, is 1,460 dolls.

S

From the falls of Ohio, to Pittsburgh, is about
700 miles time of passing to and from the said
ports, with a boat of 25 tons burthen, will be
about 70 days with the assistance of ten hands,
at one dollar per day each, is 700 dollars.

To Pittsburgh as per letter Y 5,000 dolls.

Total expence on 25 tons weight from the near-
est atlantic ports, to the falls of Ohio and back, 5,700 dolls.

In favor of the Mobile commerce 4,340 dolls.

V

From the mouth of Mississippi, to the mouth
of Ohio by water; is computed to be about 1,000
miles [7] time of passage to and from said ports,
with a boat of 25 tons burthen, will be about 100
days with the assistance of 20 hands, at one
dollar per day each, is 2,000 dolls.

From the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi,
to the head navigation of the South streams of
Tennessee river, nearest Mobile Bay, is about 300
miles, time of passage to and from said points,
will be about 30 days; with the assistance of 10
hands, at one dollar per day, is 300 dollars.

41



From Mobile Bay, to the nearest navigable
waters of Tennessee, as per letter X 800 dollars.

Total expence on 25 tons weight, from Mobile
Bay to the mouth of Ohio and back again. 1,100 dolls.

In favor of the Mobile commerce; owing to
the turbulency, of the Mississippi current 900 dollars.

From the mouth of Ohio river to Knoxville,
in the State of Tennessee, is about 650 miles
time of passing to and from the said ports, with
a boat of 25 tons burthen, will be about sixty five
days; with the assistance of ten hands at one
dollar per day each, is 650 dollars.

From the mouth of Mississippi, as per letter V 2,000 dolsl.

Total expence from the mouth of Mississippi,
to Knoxville, on 25 [8] tons weight, is 2,650 dolls.

Expences on 25 tons weight, from Philadelphia
to Knoxville, as per letter W 10,714 dols.

In favor of the Mississippi commerce, on 25
tons weight 8,064 dolls.

From the mouth of Ohio river, to Nashville on
Cumberland, in the State of Tennessee, is about
250 miles time of passing to and from the said
ports, with a boat of 25 tons burthen, will be
about 25 days; with the assistance of 10 hands at
one dollar per day, is 250 dollars.

To the mouth of the Mississippi, as per letter V 2,000 dolls.

Total expence, on 25 tons weight, from the
mouth of Mississippi to Nashville, is 2,250 dolls.

From Phila. to Nashville as per letter R 6,300 dolls.

In favor of the Mississippi commerce on every
25 tons weight. 4,050 dolls.

From the mouth of Ohio river, to the rapids,
is about 475 miles time of passage to and from
said ports, with a boat of 25 tons burthen, will be
about 47 days; with the assistance of ten hands,
at one dollar per day each, is 470 dolls.

To the mouth of Mississippi, as per letter V 2,000 dolls.

Total expence from the mouth of Mississippi,
to the rapids of Ohio and back again, will be 2,470 dolls.

42



[9] From Philadelphia, to the rapids of Ohio,


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Online LibraryIsaac Joslin CoxDocuments relating to Zachariah Cox; → online text (page 1 of 9)