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Mary Bledsoe ~ Kentucky


One of the earliest pioneers of the colonial history of Kentucky. In 1758, Colonel Burd, of the British Army, established Fort Chissel, in Wythe County, Virginia, to protect the frontiers, and advancing into what is now Sullivan County, Tennessee, built a fort near Long Island on the Holston. There was not then a single white man living in the borders of Tennessee. At irregular intervals from 1765 to 1769, pioneer parties came from Virginia and North Carolina, forming settlements and stations. The country was one vast wilderness, its only inhabitants being buffaloes and all kinds of wild game, with the savage Indians making frequent raids, but the newcomers were not daunted by the situation, and here erected cabins, and constructed stockade forts against the attacks by the Indians. In 1769, at Fort Chissel, we find two Bledsoe brothers. Englishmen by birth. They soon pushed farther on into the valley of the Holston.

This portion of the county, now Sullivan County, was supposed to be, at that time, within the limits of Virginia. The Bledsoes with the Shelbys settled themselves here in this mountainous region. They suffered the severest privation and the greatest hardships in exploring the regions and establishing their little homes. During the first year not more than fifty families crossed the mountains, but others afterward came until the little settlement swelled to hundreds, and during the Revolutionary struggle, that region became the refuge of many patriots, driven by British invasion from Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, some of their best families seeking homes there.

Colonel Anthony Burd, an excellent surveyor, was appointed clerk to the commissioners who ran the line dividing Virginia and North Carolina. In June, 1776, he was chosen to command the militia of the county to repel the invasions and attacks of the savages and defend the frontier. The battle of Long Island, fought a few miles below Bledsoe Station, was one of the earliest and hardest fought battles in the history of Tennessee in those times.

In 1779, Sullivan County was recognized as a part of North Carolina, and Anthony Bledsoe was appointed Colonel, and Isaac Shelby Lieutenant-Colonel of its military forces. Colonel Isaac Shelby, of whom we have spoken heretofore as the surveyor employed by the Henderson-Hart Company, and who was betrothed to Miss Susan Hart, a celebrated belle of Kentucky, was the Lieutenant-Colonel chosen to aid Bledsoe in these military operations. Colonel Ferguson of the British army was at that time giving the settlement great trouble, sweeping the country near the frontier, gathering in all the loyalists under his standard. When the troops went out against the British under Colonel Ferguson, it was necessary that one of the colonial officers remain behind to protect the inhabitants against the Indians, and as Shelby had no family, he was chosen to lead the forces, and Bledsoe to remain and protect the people against the Indians.

Shelby took command of the gallant mountaineers, and gave battle at King's Mountain, on the 7th of October, 1780, considered one of the greatest victories of the frontier army. Colonel Bledsoe, with his brother and kinsman, was almost incessantly engaged with the Indians in his laborious efforts to subdue the forests and convert the wilds into fields of plenty.

Mary Bledsoe, the Colonel's wife, was a remarkable woman, filled with knowledge and noted for independence of thought and action, of remarkable courage and never hesitating to expose herself to the greatest dangers. At the dose of 1779, Colonel Bledsoe and his brothers crossed the Cumberland Mountains and were so delighted with the beautiful country and the delightful climate that, on their return, they induced their friends and neighbors, of east Tennessee, to seek new homes in the Cumberland Valley. Although Colonel Bledsoe did not remove his own family there for three years, he was the originator of the first expedition which established the first colony in that part of the country. The labors of Colonel Bledsoe and his brother were indefatigable in protecting this little colony, and Mrs. Bledsoe was always a constant and able assistant to her husband.

On the night of the 20th of July, 1788, their home was attacked by Indians, and Colonel Anthony Bledsoe was killed. This sad loss was followed by the death of both of her sons at the hands of the Indians, her brother-in-law, a cousin, as well as many friends and earnest supporters of her husband in his work. Bereft of every male relative, almost, and her devoted friends, Mrs. Bledsoe was obliged to undertake the care and education of her little family and the charge of her husband's estate. Her mind was one of almost masculine strength, and she discharged these duties with remarkable ability. Her death came in 1808, but her life of privation, hardship, and Christian courage has placed her among the pioneer mothers and distinguished women of America.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.


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