The Legacy of Absalom Stonecipher

Before I get into my narrative, I want to state that the spelling of the names involved was selected by me and may not be agreed upon by all.  The name Absalom has at least three spellings in the various documents I viewed.  I chose the Biblical spelling, although he was not the son of a king.  The spelling of Stonecipher is probably the most widely used version, and I do not have the time or inclination to list the multiple variations of that surname.  My third great Grandmother was a Stonecipher.  But, on to the story of Absalom.

Absalom was the son of Henricus and Catherine Cawl Stonecipher and was born in 1769 in what is now Greene County, Tennessee.  His father was born in Siegen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Deutschland/Germany.  As with most frontier families, they cultivated as much land as they could and produced mainly grain crops.  But they also had to rely on wild berries, grapes, and nuts.  Hunting and trapping animals for food was also a necessity.  The collision of two of these means of obtaining foods is the crux of the most popular story involving Absalom.  The year was 1793, and Absalom was about twenty five years of age, and Tennessee was not even a state.  He was out in a thicket some distance from home picking wild grapes which were ripe and plump in the fall.  Grapes were used for juice, jellies and jams, home made wine, and for medicinal purposes.  They also made a welcome addition to a diet of corn bread and sweet milk at every meal.  Unknown to Absalom, a neighbor, Joseph Hawkins, an uncle of David Crockett, was in the same woods hunting deer to supplement his family’s meal.  Hawkins, noticing movement in the thicket, thought he was seeing a deer going for the grapes and raised his long rifle and shot.  Instead of hearing a deer drop, he heard a human yell.  He rushed over and found Stonecipher shot in the abdominal area.  He got his horse and loaded Absalom across it and carried him back to the closest home, that of Samuel Humbard.  Once there, Absalom was carried inside and laid out close to the fireplace, and his wound was superficially cleaned.  Then, Joseph sent for his brother-in-law, John Crockett, who lived close by and knew how to deal with gun shot wounds.

It wasn’t long before John Crockett showed up at the Humbard cabin with his seven year old son David.  He examined the area of the wound and decided that the ball from the long rifle had passed entirely through the abdomen without causing damage to any internal organs.  John Crockett removed the ram rod from his rifle, wrapped it with a silk handkerchief, and pushed the rod all the way through the wound.  He then twisted the handkerchief round and round and pulled it through the wound, thus cleansing any debris from the gun shot.  Over the next few months Sarah Humbard, Samuel’s daughter, nursed young Absalom back to health.

david crockett's words

These are the words of David Crockett in “King of the Wild Frontier: An Autobiography of Davy Crockett”

I want to make it plain that I am not trying to sell a book, but I am a history junkie and have found a book by Michael Wallis that details this story of Absalom and the wild grapes extremely well.  The book is David Crockett the Lion of the West and is a well written history of David Crockett.

Apparently Sarah was a good nurse, and Absalom survived the shooting.  The two also developed feelings for each other and were married on March 10, 1796.  The couple had a total of six children, but Samuel Jacob, born in 1796, and Elizabeth, born in 1799, are the two who will be talked about here.

By the early 1820s, Absalom Stonecipher and his son Samuel were in business together manufacturing gunpowder at a location near Babbs Mill in Greene County.  By this time the Crockett family had moved away from the Greene County area.  John Crockett was operating a tavern on the stage road between Knoxville, Tennessee and Abingdon, Virginia.  The property they once owned was now in the possession of George Gillespie.  On January 25, 1824, Samuel Stonecipher purchased the land along the Nolichucky River, where David Crockett had been born, from Gillespie.  On September 30, 1825, Samuel married Jane Marsh, and they moved onto the old Crockett place.  Using logs from the cabin John Crockett had built, Samuel put together a cabin that would serve as an adequate home for his family for many years.  According to the Greene County Tax Books, between the years 1840 and 1867, Samuel had acquired a total of 217 acres.  Absalom Stonecipher passed away on November 6, 1861.  In the year 1867, Samuel Jacob Stonecipher also passed away.  The property he owned was passed on to his children.

stonecipher cabin

This photograph was taken by Paul A. Moore of the Tennessee Department of Conservation

The land once belonging to John Crockett was passed down through the Stonecipher family for several generations, when in 1955 a little more than three acres was sold to the Davy Crockett Birthplace Association.  Then in 1968 the remainder of the property was sold to the Unaka Company with the intent to build a state park.  In 1973, the park was deeded over to the state of Tennessee as Davy Crockett Birthplace State Historic Park.  It now has the name David Crockett Birthplace State Park, and would not exist except for the Stonecipher family.  In 1968 logs from Samuel’s cabin were used to build a replica of the Crockett cabin where David Crockett, well known in both Tennessee and Texas history, was born.

crockett replica cabin

A replica of David Crockett’s home when he was born, built from some of the original logs obtained from the Stonecipher cabin.

nolichucky river

The Nolichucky River that flows passed the David Crockett Birthplace State Park near Limestone, Tennessee

david crockett

David Crockett. More legend is known about him than fact. Immortalized by Walt Disney as Davy.

Now I will proceed on to the last short chapter to this narrative.  Absalom Stonecipher’s daughter Elizabeth married Joseph Bruner.  There is a record of a business venture that Joseph and Elizabeth’s brother Samuel entered into in 1844.  They were attempting to dig for salt, but the venture apparently failed.  One of the children of Joseph and Elizabeth was John Hamilton Brunner.  He was born to the couple on March 12, 1825 in Greene County, Tennessee.  He received his education in what was then referred to as “common schools”.  He then attended Tusculum College and graduated from there in September of 1847 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, a Master of Arts degree, and a Doctor of Divinity degree.  In his younger years, he taught school, preached, served as a postmaster, was Commissioner of Education.  He served as the President of Hiwassee College for thirty three years and was also the Minister of Education at the college.  He wrote at least two books “Sunday Evening Talks with Young Folks” and “Union of the Churches”.  Both books are considered to be of historical significance and have been reissued, digitally enhanced but in their original format, and are available online for purchase through a well known source.  Again, I am not trying to sell any books, just getting the information out there.  Dr. John Hamilton Brunner passed away in Madisonville, Monroe County, Tennessee on February 18, 1914 and was buried in Buckner Memorial Cemetery on the grounds of his beloved Hiwassee College.

If you take nothing else from this little narrative, just realize there is some longevity in this branch of the Stonecipher family.

I understand that subsequent generations of the family after Absalom began to spell the name Stonecypher, and I mean no disrespect by using the one spelling.  If you have more information or have comments, I would love to hear from you.  You can reach me concerning this post or any others at justicecw8@gmail.com.  Family history is the most important history.

Until next time, I’ll see you on down the road.

Uncle Thereisno Justice

Sources

Samuel Smith, Historical Backgrounds and Archaeological Testing of the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Historical Area

Wikipedia, David Crockett Birthplace State Park

Genealogy Trails History Group, Greene County, Tennessee, biographies

Wikimedia Commons, picture of David Crockett

Ancestry.com, picture of Samuel Stonecipher cabin and David Crockett quote

Michael Wallis, David Crockett The Lion of the West

 

 

 

 

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