Decatur Co Tennessee

"Tennessee Trails"

By R.C. Stegall - The News Leader July 11, 2007

Bear Creek, located at the western city limits of Parsons, is one of the oldest communities in Decatur County. The Bear Creek Church, dating back to 1842, three years before Decatur County was organized, is believed to be the oldest Missionary Baptist Church in Decatur County. The cemetery with more than 500 known graves is the second largest cemetery in the County. The community received its name from a nearby creek of the same name.

In 1819 the Tennessee Legislature created the first three counties that encompassed land west of the Tennessee River. One of these, Perry County, included most of what is today Decatur County. Early settlers, moving from Virginia and North Carolina, crossed the Tennessee River into the western part of Perry County in search for land and a place to settle. One area that caught early attention was near a small creek flowing south from springs and a drain basin to a large stream known today as Beech River. Noting the large number of bears living in the cane thickets along the creek banks these early settlers appropriately named their little settlement and the nearby creek, "Bear Creek." The bears long ago disappeared from the cane tickets along the little creek but the community and church and cemetery on the hill above the creek still proudly bear the name chosen by those early settlers, nearby two senturies ago. Many of us today in search of our "roots" find names of ancestors inscribed on the tombstones at Bear Creek cemetery.

David Crockett is celebrated American frontier hero. He was a controversial national celebrity in his own lifetime. He was elevated to hero status after his death at the Alamo on March 6, 1836. The image of the famous Tennessee frontiersman that prevails in the imaginations of most American today is that fashioned by Walt Disney 50 years ago and expanded during the ensuing Crockett craze. That image is mostly wrong and ceertainly incomplete. He wa snot born on a mountain top in Tennesse but along the banks of the Nolichucky River in North Carolina or the State of Franklin, take your choice. He was born August 17, 1786 ten years before there was a State of Tennessee.

Among many other things, Crockett was a bear hunter, a marksman, a scout and a volunteer soldier. A bit of undocumented history connects him to the Bear Creek area. Mr. Olen Houston told me a story passed on through his family from the earliest settlers that David Crockett hunted bears in the cane thickets of Bear Creek. The story was that Crockett camped in the area below today's Highway 412 crossing about where the Buckner Branch joins Bear Creek. This story is feasible because in her book, History of Decatur County, by Lillye Younger, she mentions that David Crockett was a visitor to Perryville in its early history. As a boy I spent many a day fishing in Bear Creek. Who knows, I may have stepped where Crockett walked more than 100 years before me.

The Decatur County Historical Society wants your stories, pictures and artifacts to preserve for future generations to enjoy. You may have heard old stories that have been passed down from parents, grandparents of others. Write it down and it, us along with old pictures, etc. to Decatur County Historical Society, P.O. Box 700, Decatureville TN 38329 or to R.C. Stegall, 114 Gracelyn Dr. Jackson TN 38305.