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Ashviille Citizen Times  

by Rob Neufeld, Visiting Our Past
published May 6, 2006 12:15 am

Examining pioneer history is like collecting pottery shards in a creek. It's hard to assemble whole objects. For instance, the settlers of Haywood County came from all directions, inspired by various promotions and stamped by different backgrounds.

Gen. Griffith Rutherford led nearly 3,000 men across the Ford of the Pigeon (present-day Canton) to a camp near Mount Prospect (Waynesville) in 1776 to prepare them for a scorched-earth mission.

The Cherokee, newly allied with the British, were attacking American families who had settled east Tennessee after the French and Indian War; and they had to be vanquished.

Among Rutherford's militiamen were Robert Love, son of landed aristocracy from Virginia, and Jacob Shook, son of a German immigrant.

They were two of the earliest property owners in Haywood County, and they must have viewed their future landholdings with intensified awe while traveling with Rutherford.

Between the periodic destruction of 36 villages (involving some slaughter, according to a few accounts), the troops marched long distances through autumnal woodlands and fields of abundant corn. The corn, the basis of Cherokee civilization, and the gift of Selu, went up in flames before the avengers' torches.

It had been corn paradise in Haywood County and Tennessee, the setting for what would become hog paradise and the building of the era's superhighways, livestock turnpikes.

No wonder that Jacob Shook, decades after his traumatic experience with the Cherokee - after he had built a house with hand-sawn timber and hand-forged nails; and after he'd played host to Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury - experienced a conversion in a cornfield.

The Rev. T.F. Glenn wrote of Shook, "Whilst under conviction for sin, he went into the cornfield to plow. He prayed, and he wept as he worked. Finally, the burden of sin was lifted, and his soul was flooded with joy. He ... shouted all over the field."

The Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutsch), whose families found their way to Canton and Dutch Cove, were a mystical and devout, land-loving bunch. They were only one element.

There were other elements, including gentry. Robert Love, the founder of Waynesville and Haywood County's largest resident landholder in the early 1800s, could trace his lineage back to William the Conqueror. "Love" is an Anglicized version of the name "Wolf," changed to "Luiff" in Scotland, to which the family had migrated.

When you think of Robert Love, think of George Washington: surveyor, speculator, soldier, gentleman farmer, slave owner, horseman and dandy.

"As a very wealthy and influential man," a Love genealogist writes, "he had worn a powdered wig on formal occasions in his earlier years, and he maintained his old-fashioned attire, except for the wig, after fashions changed, wearing a blue swallow-tail and knee britches with silver knee buckles and silk stockings."

Haywood County in 1810 was a place where the most common store-bought items were saddles, lead, cotton cards, steel and flint. Knee buckles were a rarity.

Rob Neufeld writes the weekly local history feature, “Visiting Our Past,” for the Citizen-Times, and may be reached at RNeufeld@charter.net or 768-2665.

Rob Neufeld writes the weekly local history feature, "Visiting Our Past," for the Citizen-Times, and may be reached at RNeufeld@charter.net or 768-2665