Harber’s History Lesson: Buchanan family fought hard to make a home on frontier

Susan Harber, The Daily News Journal, April 10, 2016

Early settlers entangled with Indians in Rutherford County in an unending manner.  No one envisaged the perils of daily living in a hostile territory more thoroughly than the Buchanan pioneers, who were immigrants from Northern Ireland.  The first property in LaVergne was deeded to Samuel Buchanan in 1788 along Hurricane Creek.  His 400-acre tract along this extent is near the present day Rutherford-Davidson County line.  Post office records indicate the area identified as Buchanansville in January 1837 and later named LaVergne in 1852.  Even though the threat of Indian attacks was too powerful to settle frontier land, the attempt was forged time and time again by fearless settlers.

James and Jane Trimble Buchanan, originally of Harrisburg, Pa., had three sons: John, Alexander and Samuel, who was the youngest.  Two daughters included Nancy and Jane. Nancy wed William Mulheron, and Jane married James Todd.  Nancy is documented for her extreme bravery at the Cumberland River Fort in Nashville.  When the fortress was invaded in 1781, Nancy assisted in melting the pewter plates and dishes and molding them into bullets, carrying them hot in her apron to the men fighting.

Patriarch James Buchanan was a restless wanderer and instilled high adventure into his family.  He was killed as an old man by Indians in 1792, as he sat in his cabin on Mill Creek near Buchanan Station.

Brothers Samuel and Major John Buchanan helped settle French Lick, as well as the area of LaVergne in the 1780s.  Records indicate Sam signed a deed transfer in 1784 and was a juror in 1789.  He was killed in 1793 by Indians a mile below Buchanan Fort on Mill Creek.  He was plowing when ambushed and barricaded from the fort while just a mile away for rescue.  Sam attempted escape by running into a cave and jumping off a bluff 10 feet.  He then struck a rock and fell into the creek dislocating his knee with 12 Indians near behind.  He was killed and scalped with his body left to decay in the water.  Samuel left behind a grieving widow, Rebecca. Ten years after 

Samuel’s death, Rutherford County was chartered, and the County Court commenced in 1804.  Due to Samuel’s unwavering bravery to establish a home in a hostile territory, the county moved forward to greater heights.

James Buchanan’s second son, Alexander, was tragically killed by Indians in 1781 in an attack at Fort Nashboro in the “Battle of the Bluff” with his brother John by his side.  John Buchanan had now painstakingly lost his father, James, and two brothers, Sam and Alexander, to Indian attacks. John’s brother-in-law James Mulheron was also killed by Indians at Buchanan Station while guarding the fort.  Nonetheless, John lived a long life to age 73 and was a fearless Indian fighter.  In September 1792, 400 Creek and Cherokee Indians attacked the Buchanan Fort against 17 frontiersmen.  In the end, only one man in the fort lost his life.  The battle for survival was intense; yet, John persevered to survive and thrive in the end.  With two marriages to Margaret Kennedy and Sally Ridley, John had 14 children.  His great-grandson, John Price Buchanan, was Rutherford County’s only elected Tennessee governor (1890).

The Buchanan family was extraordinary and courageous to the end with continual embroilment with Native Americans.  Their mission was to establish a permanent home for their family and live in no fear.  Yet, two brothers and a father were killed to settle this unchartered and unrestrained territory in Middle Tennessee.  A high price was paid in the late 18th century so that we could live in this same land today with peace and freedom.

Contact Susan Harber at [email protected].

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