Tag Archives: clements

Book shedding new light on TN history

From “History Bill” Carey:
Paul Clements spent 11 years researching first-person accounts of the early settlements of Middle Tennessee. He assembled every available account of events such as the journey of the Donelson Party, the Battle of the Bluffs, the Nickajack Expedition and countless other events between 1775 and 1800. He recently published many of these in the book “Chronicles of the Cumberland Settlements.” This amazing 800-page volume sheds new light on the early history of Nashville and proves that many of the stories we have heard only tell part of the story.
Carey’s Q and A session with Clements is HERE.
And Carey has a piece in the City Paper. An excerpt from that:
A native of Nashville who doesn’t even have a degree in history, Clements just moved the understanding of Nashville’s early history forward one very large step. He did this the old-fashioned way — by staring at microfilm for more than a decade in places such as the Metro Nashville Archives and the Tennessee State Library and Archives.
“I’m in awe of what Paul has done,” said John Egerton, Southern historian and the author of Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South. “The very idea that such a thing could happen at this stage is astonishing.
“The only way it could have happened is because of a guy like Paul.”
You see, in the 1840s, a man named Lyman Draper interviewed many of the people who were here when present-day Davidson and Sumner counties consisted of nothing more than a series of forts and homesteads. Draper conducted these interviews intending to write a long book about the history of the American frontier.
Draper never wrote the book, but he wrote transcripts of the interviews. In some cases, the notebooks containing these interviews had never been translated from his mid-19thcentury handwriting — until Clements did it.
Furthermore, about 75 pages of handwritten notes written by someone who interviewed Edward Swanson in the 1820s were discovered in a West Tennessee home in the 1980s. This was a remarkable discovery. Swanson, you see, was one of Middle Tennessee’s earliest settlers; he came to the “French Lick,” as Nashville was once known, before the Donelson Party got here. Swanson’s notebooks were detailed, containing accounts of events such as the Battle of the Bluffs, and descriptions of the fort that used to be in present-day downtown Nashville.