Thomas & James Gilliam | Gilliams of Virginia

Death of Thomas and James GILLIAM, said at the Hands of the Cherokee
Updated July 20, 2008

Background
President George Washington appointed as territorial governor William Blount, a prominent North Carolina politician with extensive holdings in western lands. Land grant acts passed in North Carolina created a booming market in Tennessee land before actual settlers had ever arrived. Land speculation was based upon cheaply amassing large amounts of western land, or claims to it, in hopes that increased immigration would raise the price of these lands. Most of Tennessee’s early political leaders—Blount, Sevier, Henderson, and Andrew Jackson, among others—were involved in land speculation, making it difficult sometimes to tell where public responsibility left off and private business began. The sale of public land was closely linked to Indian affairs, because settlers would not travel to the new land until it was safe and could not legally settle on lands until Indian title was extinguished. The business of the territorial government, therefore, centered on land and Indian relations.

Despite the government’s prohibition, settlers continually squatted on Indian land, which only increased the natives’ hostility. Indian warfare flared up in 1792, as Cherokee and Creek warriors bent on holding back the tide of white migration launched frequent attacks. The Cumberland settlements, in particular, were dangerously remote and exposed to Creek raiding parties, and by 1794 it seemed questionable whether these communities could withstand the Indian onslaught.



Overview
Thomas GILLIAM, the son of William GILLIAM and Mary Jarratt was born in Virginia on the 22 Oct 1750. About 1772 he married Winnifred George. The GILLIAMs were one of the earlier settlers of Tennessee. Thomas' brother, Devereaux GILLIAM, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War from NC. He built GILLIAM's Station at the mouth of the French Broad River in present-day Knox County, TN on an 800-acre NC grant for Revolutionary War service in 1786. Devereaux's Will, is dated 2 May 1809.

It appears at their own risk Thomas and his son, James, accompanied Devereaux to Tennessee.


The Treaty of Holston, 1791, states in ARTICLE VIII. “If any citizen of the United States, or other person not being an Indian, shall settle on any of the Cherokees’ lands, such person shall forfeit the protection of the United States, and the Cherokees may punish him or not, as they please.”

By 1793, the Cherokee and Creek rose against those settlements that were in violation of the Treaty of Holston. It is said Thomas and James died on the 25 May 1793 at the hands of the Cherokee. Their death is recorded in Senate communication dated 16 Dec 1793. (This communication appears below.)

It was also recorded in the Knoxville Gazette of June 1, 1793. [Son, James, is misidentified as John.]

On the 9th ultimo, a party of Indians fired upon four children at Johnston's Station near Nashville, wounded three, one of whom they scalped, and caught the fourth by the jacket, but he slipped it off and escaped.

On the 18th, ten horses were stolen by Indians from Pigeon, Jefferson County, they belonged to three poor men, who have not another left to draw their ploughts at this important season of the year.

Killed by Indians, on Saturday last, Thos. GILLUM, and his son John GILLUM, on Bull Run 18 miles from this place. The persons who buried them, judging from the sign, report the number of Indians to have been twelve, and trails of several other parties were discovered, making in the whole about 40. On the same day, upwards of twenty horses were stolen and tracked to Clinch River. The main camp of this maruding party is supposed to be in Cumberland mountain, in search of which the Governor has ordered out Capt. John Beard, of Knox County, with fifty mounted infantry. Many parties of the Creeks have lately repassed the Tennessee, at the lower Cherokee towns, on their way home from Cumberland and Kentucky, with many scalps and valuable horses.


It has been said that Thomas' widow, Winnifred, was Cherokee. This seems unlikely. Winnifred George was born about 1755 in Lancaster County, VA. She was the daughter of William George who was born about 1724, and his wife, Winifred. William George left Lancaster County about 1765-1769 and eventually settled in what is now Fincastle, Botetourt Co., VA. (Thomas GILLIAM is found in the 1785, Barnett's District, Botetourt County Tax lists).

William George is recorded in a 1784 tax list as residing near Fincastle. His widow, Winifred, is found in the 1787 tax list for Botetourt County, indicating William George had died sometime between the recording of the 1784 tax list and the 1787 tax list. No probate record has been found for him. It has been claimed that William George was killed by Indians. If this is true this places his daughter, Winnifred, in the sad position of having her father, first husband, and one of her sons killed by Indians.

Winnifred George later marries in Knox County, Basil Human. They had several children together.

It appears that after Thomas’ death had outstanding bonds. Others with outstanding bonds include Solomon George.

30 Jan 1794, Knoxville Gazette
Notice: I do hereby again notify the undernamed persons to attend at the court house, in Knoxville, at our county court, on the first Monday in February next, or the next succeeding court, with my obligations, in order to lift their grants, as I intend to leave this Territory, or I shall acknowledge their grants in court and sue for my bonds. Solomon George, Joseph Hines, Betie Graves, George Walker, Peter Lowrey, heirs of Thomas Gillen, Frederick Miller, William Walker, Robert Koile, Botetourt Co, Virginia, Joseph Cunningham, Tobias Tillmon, James Spencer.
Sig: Joseph Beaird.
Knoxville, Jan 25, 1794




1 Jun 1793, Knoxville Gazette
On the 9th ultimo, a party of Indians fired upon four children at Johnston's Station near Nashville, wounded three, one of whom they scalped, and caught the fourth by the jacket, but he slipped it off and escaped.
On the 18th, ten horses were stolen by Indians from Pigeon, Jefferson county, they belonged to three poor men, who have not another left to draw their ploughts at this important season of the year.
Killed by Indians, on Saturday last, Thos. Gillum, and his son John Gillum [sic], on Bull Run 18 miles from this place. The persons who buried them, judging from the sign, report the number of Indians to have been twelve, and trails of several other parties were discovered, making in the whole about 40. On the same day, upwards of twenty horses were stolen and tracked to Clinch River.
The main camp of this maruding party is supposed to be in Cumberland mountain, in search of which the Governor has ordered out Capt. John Beard, of Knox county, with fifty mounted infantry.
Many parties of the Creeks have lately repassed the Tennessee, at the lower Cherokee towns, on their way home from Cumberland and Kentucky, with many scalps and valuable horses.


16 Dec 1793
. . . In the morning of Saturday, the 25th instant, Thomas Gillum, and his son James Gillum were killed and scalped, by Indians in the Racoon valley, near clinch, eighteen miles from this place. The people who buried them, judging from the sign, report the number of Indians to be twelve. . . Two war clubs left by the mangled bodies of Gillum and his son, of a form unlike any remembered to have been seen among the Cherokee, induce me to believe that is was not Cherokees who killed them; but people in general are so prejudiced, that they believe every murder is committed by Cherokees, commit it who will.






Sources
  • The Creeks, Cherokees, and others. Communicated to the Senate, December 16, 1793. U.S. Congress. Senate American State Papers 07, Indian Affairs Vol. 1, 3rd Congress, 1st Session, Publication No. 41
  • Ramsay, James Gettys McGready. The Annals of Tennessee to the End of the Eighteenth Century, 1853.
  • Ward, Charles M. Numerous Postings on GenForum and Correspondences.