Reedy Creek Settlement and the Pendleton Patent
by W. Dale Carter, copyright 2005, Kingsport, TN

In 1748 Thomas Walker and others as a group explored the western waters as far west as the mouth of Reedy Creek in Sullivan County Tennessee to view desirable locations of land that could be claimed under the authority granted to James Patton for settlement of land on the waters of the Holston and Clinch rivers. In the Walker party was John Buchanan a son in law of James Patton. It is not known if Edmund Pendleton traveled with Walker and Buchanan. The Goldman brothers who at that time lived with their father on the waters of the New River most likely acted as guides to the Walker party (1).

The Walker party no doubt selected the most desirable land and blazed trees as corners to define the boundaries of land for future surveys. In 1749/50 John Buchanan again visited the waters of the Holston River, and began to survey the claims of members of the 1748 party. One of the surveys made by Buchanan on 6 April 1750 was the claim of Edmund Pendleton. The land was located on both sides of reedy creek the lower end being near the mouth of Ready Creek and extending up the waters of the creek some ten miles. The patent states that it contains 3000 acres. The most significant feature of the Pendleton claim was the cascading north fork of Reedy Creek known today as Boozy Creek. Land claims that contained streams with the potential for waterpower or mill sites were very desirable and the metes and bounds of the Pendleton survey extended up the waters of the North Fork of Reedy Creek approximately one mile from where it flowed into Reedy Creek.

A settlement was made on the waters of the North Fork of Reedy Creek sometime before 1774. An account of the massacre of the John Roberts family in the fall of 1774 is well documented. Land records also show that a man by the name of King had built a mill on the creek. A North Carolina land grant clearly points out the location of the mill (2). On 4 November 1779 James Roberts, Heir of John Roberts, deceased, entered a claim for 100 acres on the North Fork of Ready Creek including the improvements where John Roberts formerly lived. The entry was located about one half mile above King’s mill. A plot of the James Roberts survey was placed on a modern USGS map and it was determined that King’s mill was located on the Pendleton Patent near the Salem church on Boozy Creek. King made a poor choice in locating his mill as it was located within the bounds of the Pendleton patent therefore he was unable to obtain a legal title to his mill seat. The mill was still in existence in 1792 (3). A notice in the newspaper the Knoxville Gazette, 19 May 1792 (4), shows that James Gaines, agent of Edmund Pendleton put on record that anyone living on the bounds of his patent must vacate their homes and remove all their possessions. A month later 16 June 1792 he began to advertise the land for sale. When the owners failed to vacate, he ran a third notice in September announcing that the previous residents would now have to become his tenants or suffer legal consequences. 

Pendleton had other problems with his patent but by crafty legal maneuvering he was able to legally get a North Carolina land grant for his Virginia patent issued by the colony of Virginia in 1756. William Tatham, a prominent resident of Washington County Tennessee, entered claims with the state of North Carolina lying within the boundary of Pendleton’s patent and land grants were issued by the North Carolina land office to Tatham. When James Gaines ran his ads in the Knoxville Gazette notifying residents living on Pendleton’s land to evacuate the premises, Tatham immediately ran an ad in the same newspaper (5). He writes: “An advertisement in the Knoxville Gazette, signed by James Gaines, as agent for Edmund Pendleton, and offering certain lands on Reedy Creek for sale obliges me in justice to the public to notify, that on reference to the register’s office of this county, they will find patents from North Carolina covering these lands duly negotiated in the name of myself, Spruce McCoy and William R Davie …”. Tatham goes on to say “And as to my giving up or paying the most trifling considerations for Mr. Pendleton’s claim, I assure him he has nothing to expect from me, so long as money and credit will support the justice of my own which I am determined to uphold against his or any other man’s.” Apparently Tatham lost his claims to his land grants as all of the land lying within the bounds of the Pendleton Patent was sold by Pendleton or his agents.

All court records of Sullivan County were destroyed when the court house was burned during the civil war and I have been unable to locate any court records relating to this controversy.

During the time period between the early 1770s and 1792 a thriving community was developed in the area around King’s mill which included a small fort and a gun powder mill. Arthur Campbell in a letter written to William Preston 13 October 1774 writes: "Also 7 men from Captain Crocket's Company, which I have directed as low as Kings Mill where Lieutenant. (Gilbert) Christian is stationed; which place I am obliged to make use of as a store house, from whence the flour is packed to Blackmores, by the way of Mockison Gap". This letter tells us Campbell was using a building near King’s mill as a storehouse to store flour for the settlers at Fort Blackmore who at that time were under siege by the Indians. The flour was transported by pack horses.

A description of the fort at King’s mill can be found in the John Anderson MMS (6).
“The next morning us and neighbor William started and went to a fort called King's Fort, very near where the said Roberts was killed. There we continued for some weeks. The fort was very strong and well stockaded and strong gates.”

Reference to a powder mill located at King’s Mill can be found in a letter written by John Williams of Boonesborough, Kentucky, to the proprietors of the Transylvania Company, 3 January 1776. The settlement at Boonesborough was running low on gun powder and Williams writes; “If any powder can possibly be procured it would certainly be advisable to do it; if not, some person who can manufacture the materials we have on the way for the purpose of making powder, most part of those are at the block house, or at least within two or three miles of there.” Williams is surely referring to King’s Mill as it is located about 5 miles east of the Anderson blockhouse.

When Richard Henderson convened his treaty with the Indians at Fort Watauga in April, 1775 he left Fort Watauga bound for Louisa (Kentucky) with wagons and traveled the Watauga road to John Shelby’s fort. (He kept a written record of his journey.) He then traveled the road to Major Bledsoe’s home located on the Island road. From there he crossed over to the Reedy Creek road and proceeded to Mr. Callaway’s at the King’s mill settlement. In his journal he writes “Saturday the 25th came to Mr. Callaways, Sunday the 26th staid there, Monday the 27th completed in storing away goods, Tuesday the 28th set off for Louisa”. This entry in his journal implies Henderson purchased essential supplies at King’s mill and loaded them on his wagons. Most likely these supplies consisted of flour, salt, gun powder and ingredients for making gun powder.

The Kings Mill settlement on Reedy Creek was an important source of supplies to the local settlers and early travelers to Kentucky via the Kentucky road. When Fort Patrick Henry was built in September 1776 at the head of Long Island on the site of the old Fort Robinson, Kings Mill lost some of its importance as a storehouse for essential goods as the center of militia activity was shifted to Fort Patrick Henry. However it remained important to individuals traveling the Kentucky road. This came to an abrupt halt in 1792 when James Gaines, acting as an agent for Emund Pendleton, ran an ad in the Knoxville Gazette notifying the inhabitants at Kings Mill on Reedy Creek that they were illegally living on the Pendleton land patent and they must immediately vacate their homes with their possessions.

Shortly after 1792 the little pioneer settlement established around King’s mill ceased to exist as Edmund Pendleton began selling off tracts of his old land patent. The first tract sold was to Samuel Moore, 13 December, 1794 recorded in Sullivan County Deed Book 3, page 96. Within about fifteen years all of the land lying within the boundaries of the Pendleton patent had been sold to various individuals.


Pendleton Patent

The Pendleton Patent has long been an enigma. Historians and land surveyors have struggled for over 250 years with the boundaries of the old survey made by John Buchanan on 6 April 1750. If one assumes that Buchanan followed standard surveying practices of the time the area of the survey is calculated to containing approximately 3000 acres the same acreage as noted in the text of the patent recorded in the Virginia land office patent book. However if one attempts to place a plot of the survey on a modern USGS map serious problems arise. The survey points do not match identifiable points on a modern map. Something is terribly wrong! To solve the problem I set out to plot all the surveys made of the distribution of the patent as various tracts were sold off by Pendleton and his agents. I was able to identify 23 deeds that lay within the boundaries of the old patent survey. The plots of the deeds were fitted together and the outline of the composite had the general shape of the patent survey plot. To my surprise the area of the composite was near twice the area of the patent survey. The grand total acreage of the 23 deeds was approximately 5900 acres. In other words the sum of the parts equals twice the whole.

It is obvious that the Buchanan survey of the Pendleton Patent has serious problems. The survey bearings appear to be reasonably correct but the distances are incorrect. How can this be? Did Buchanan use a measuring device other than the standard sixteen and one half foot pole which was the standard used by all certified surveyors of that time? He may have or he may have manipulated the “metes and bounds” of the survey to adjust the acreage of the tract. The Thomas Walker “Wolf Hill” patent, located at Abingdon, Virginia, and surveyed by Buchanan has the identical problem. Walker was also a surveyor and studied mathematic at William and Mary College. He was very knowledgeable in the mathematics of surveying and would have known if one wishes to decrease the acreage of a survey in half simply divide all the distances of the survey by the square root of 2 (1.414).The survey point descriptions would remain the same and the survey bearings would also remain unchanged. I contend someone devised a plan to defraud the crown. It would have been near impossible to detect the plan.

This is pure speculation on my part but the fact remains the acreage of the survey of Buchanan based on the blazed corners of the claim is twice that reported in the patent.

Jacob Goldman a German Lutheran was in the Back Creek area of the German settlements of New River, Virginia very early. He "had been in the settlement from the beginning…was associated with the Harmans near New River, but afterwards entered land with Dr. Walker on a south branck of North Fork of Holston." Kegley's Virginia Frontier, page 128. In 1745 his son, John Goldman, had been in the area long enough to gain the knowledge to be employed as pilot for an expedition led by John Buchanan for Colonel James Patton. Jacob Goldman received payment for his two sons to act as chain carriers for five months for a survey party in 1745”.


North Carolina Land Grant File 288
Knoxville Gazette, 16 June 1792, McClung Library files
ibid, 19 May 1792
ibid, August 1792
John Anderson MMS, private papers