Fugitive, Fighter, and Founder – Frederick Stump (Part 2)

Description Frederick Stump

Description in a local paper of Frederick Stump and John Ironcutter after their rescue by the “Paxton Boys” from the Carlisle, Pennsylvania jail where they were held after being arrested for the murder of several Indian natives in the area.

Frederick Stump was on the run.  Tagged as an “Indian killer” and a fugitive in Pennsylvania, he eventually made his way down through the colonies to Georgia.  There he settled with his family in the back-country on the Savannah River north of Augusta, once again building a home, a grist and saw mill and establishing a prosperous farm.

Not long after moving to the area, talk of revolution was in the air.  But Stump wanted no part of it.  He signed his name to a document that declared he and other colonists were not in alliance with the disgruntled citizens who met in Savannah in August of 1774.  Stump and other colonists felt the meeting was dishonoring to the British King, Lords and Commons and they wanted to make sure the British knew they had no part in it.  Stump didn’t want to jeopardize the protection the British provided him against the Creek and Cherokee tribes in the region.

But as the years of revolution wore on, Frederick Stump eventually found himself against the King and on the side of the patriots.  In the South Carolina and Georgia areas, the British began enlisting the support of Creek and Cherokee tribes against the colonists. Therefore Stump took up arms against the British and likely fought in the Battle of Kettle Creek in February of 1779 in which the Americans were victorious, and in the Battle of Brier Creek in March of 1779 in which the British routed the patriots and took many of them captive. Legend says that as the Americans were retreating from one of the battles Frederick Stump came upon a group of British officers playing cards.  In his audacious manner he killed five of the officers. Stump was captured.  He was then sent to the British fortress prison in St. Augustine, Florida where his life was taking yet another turn — again, not in a positive direction.Castillo de San Marcos 2

castillo de san marcosStump spent four months in the Castillo de San Marcos, the Spanish-built coquina-stone fortress.  The British had gained control of it from the Spanish in 1763 and were using it as a prison for revolutionary fighters. Legend says that the reason Stump only spent four months in the impenetrable prison was that he bribed the jailer with ten guineas — gold British coins equivalent to about $2000 today.

After his escape, he made his way through hostile back-country to his home in Georgia.  Upon his arrival he found that the British had burned his grist and saw mills and had confiscated his property with his 20 slaves.  In addition to this horror, the British had a bounty on his head, dead or alive.  Once again, his life in shambles, Frederick Stump, 55, set out with his family for a better life…somewhere.

Heading north toward the Appalachians he joined with one of several groups heading to the frontier of Kentucky and middle Tennessee (then part of western North Carolina).  He came alongside Amos Eaton’s group who followed a week behind the famed founders of Nashville, James Robertson and John Donelson. These teams led settlers from the Watauga settlement in North Carolina to the French Lick area of middle Tennessee — Robertson over land and Donelson by way of a water route.

In November of 1779, the Robertson party consisting of men, boys and animals left the Watauga settlement and headed west. The Donelson Party would follow later by boat with the women, children, and other men. The Robertson Party reached French Lick on Christmas Day 1779.  The Eaton party along with several other groups from the south and east arrived around January 1, 1780. They all made their way to French Lick during one of the coldest winters on record.  It was so cold that they were able to cross the Cumberland River easily from bank to bank due to it being completely frozen.

Frederick Stump, Amos Eaton and the others in his party built a “station” or fort for protection. They would settle on the northeast side of the river and Robertson’s party settled where Nashville, TN now stands on the west side of the Cumberland. The Donelson party had much trouble on their journey.  They would eventually make it to French Lick by February of 1780.

Frederick Stump House

Frederick Stump’s log cabin home across Whites .  Creek and south of his tavern on Buena Vista Pike. This log home was built c. 1780.

After surviving the terrible winter and trying to build homes while under attack by native American tribes, that spring in May, the settlers officially founded Fort Nashborough and its government by signing of the Cumberland Compact. Frederick Stump was one of 100 signers of the document.

Frederick Stump Historical Marker Nashville, TN

Historical marker near Frederick Stump’s  tavern north of Nashville, Tennessee on Buena Vista Pike

He would rebuild his life once more and become financially successful one more time through farming, running a inn and tavern in his large log home, and by distilling and selling whiskey.  In fact he was the first to begin distilling whiskey in the region. In October of 1792, his distillery was burned by one of the area tribes, but by 1795 he was producing up to 600 gallons of whiskey a year.

His wife Ann who faithfully followed him through all of his ups and downs was herself an astute business woman.  I am sure that he gained much more in his life due to her strength and wisdom.

There are many more tales to tell of Frederick Stump — most I am sure are based in fact, but they have taken on a legendary feel. One story tells of his close call with a tomahawk; another of his son being killed by native Americans. It was also said that even though he would offer his tavern for use by local Christian congregations on Sundays and some week days, only to the Moravians did he serve free dinners.

He knew Andrew Jackson, but thought Jackson was an upstart. Still Stump served under his command as a captain in the Tennessee Volunteer Riflemen and Cavalry in the war of 1812 — when Stump was 90 years old.

One of the best stories of all is that at age 93, after his wife of many years had passed on, he married again…to Catherine Gingery — the 25 year-old bar maid who worked in his tavern.

Frederick Stump died at age 99 after living a full and adventurous life. The log home that he built on White’s Creek north of Nashville still stands.  Over 230 years-old it is a monument to his determination, bold and incorrigible nature, and enterprising spirit.

Frederick Stump and Ann Snavely Stump are my fifth great-grandparents.