"John Sevier" on "Appalachian History"

I want to take a moment to thank Dave Tabler for his kind invitation to provide an edited excerpt from my book, John Sevier: Tennessee's First Hero, for his Appalachian History blog.

This excerpt touches on several of the broad themes expressed in the book, and I'm grateful for Dave's interest in sharing this story with his blog readers. Here's a taste of my article from the pages of "Appalachian History"...

   In an anecdote popularized by the nineteenth-century novelist James Gilmore, an old man reminisced about his youthful encounter with Tennessee governor John Sevier. Embellishing the old man’s memories with romantic prose, Gilmore wrote of the “unbounded affection and admiration” that this young boy held for the man known fondly by the frontier people as “Nolichucky Jack.” As Sevier arrived, the entire town gathered to greet him, and Gilmore recorded the old man’s recollection of the scene:

   "Soon Sevier came in sight, walking his horse, and followed by a cavalcade of gentlemen. Nobody cheered or shouted, but all pressed about him to get a look, a smile, a kindly word, or a nod of recognition from their beloved Governor. And these he had for all, and all of them he called by name; and this, it is said, he could do to every man and woman in the State, when they numbered more than a hundred thousand. The boy’s father had been a soldier under Sevier, and when the Governor came abreast of him he halted his horse, and took the man and his wife by the hand. Then reaching down, and placing his hand on the boy’s head, he said: “And who have we here? This is a little fellow I have not seen.” That he was noticed by so great a man made the boy inexpressibly proud and happy; but could this affable, unassuming gentleman be the demi-god of his young imagination? This was the thought that came to the boy, and he turned to his father saying, “Why, father, Chucky Jack is only a man!” But that was the wonder of the thing—how, being only a man, he had managed to capture the hearts of a whole people."

   Traditional stories like this helped build Sevier’s standing as a celebrated frontiersman, a revered military leader of the Revolutionary War, a respected and feared Indian fighter and an admired politician and founding father of the state of Tennessee. Pioneer, soldier, statesman: Sevier embodied all the patriotic qualities that his chroniclers hoped to impart to the public. Yet as Gilmore’s anecdote reminds us, Sevier remained “only a man,” and although he commanded a strong regional following, Sevier’s reputation never achieved national acclaim...

You can read the entire excerpt on Appalachian History HERE.

Gordon Belt is an information professional, archives advocate, public historian, and author of The History Press book, John Sevier: Tennessee's First Hero, which examines the life of Tennessee's first governor, John Sevier, through the lens of history and memory. On The Posterity Project, Gordon offers reflections on archives, public history, and memory from his home state of Tennessee.