There is a lot of information on the world-wide-web regarding my ancestor, William Bean. His is a fascinating story of pioneering strength. He was the husband of Lydia Russell, I mentioned her in my blog, Native American Heritage. You can read of her capture by the Cherokee and her freedom by Nanyehi (Cherokee: “One who goes about”), known in English as Nancy Ward. It is rumored that Lydia’s nephew, Lewis (Louis) Russell, son of George, married (or had relations with) a Cherokee which produced descendants. But, I digress…
William was born 09 Dec 1721 in St. Stephens Parish, Northumberland, Virginia and was baptized there.
He married Lydia Russell in 1744. Before leaving Virginia, William was a captain in the Virginia Militia and our Revolutionary War Veteran. Before settling in Tennessee, he settled in Pittsylvania (Danville) County, Virginia.
They were the first “white” settlers in Tennessee. Some say the first “European-American settlers”. William was of Scottish descent and Lydia was of English descent.
William was a longhunter. He was also friends with fellow longhunter, Daniel Boone.
Daniel Boone Longhunter with a dead deer
Longhunters were explorers and hunters in the 1760s who went on expeditions for about six months into the wilderness of the American frontier. As was William Bean and his friend, Daniel Boone. They may have met by being agents for Richard Henderson, a land speculator who later played an important role in the early settlement of Tennessee.
In 1769, Bean moved his family (5 to 8 children at the time) from Virginia to Tennessee. There they cleared land and built a cabin close to the junction of Boone’s Creek (just above the mouth of the creek) and the Watauga River, near what is today Johnson City, Tennessee. Bean camped here with Boone and was familiar with the country. He liked the secluded part of the land where he built his cabin. It was hidden from the river by high rock formations and thick overgrowth. The creek provided plenty of water from springs. The cabin was concealed from Indians who might pass by on the river, and the mouth of the creek was marked by a large waterfall, which kept boats from entering the creek. The spot around Bean’s cabin came to be known as the Watauga settlement.
William and Lydia were now the first permanent white settlers in Tennessee. Their son, Russell, was to the first white child born in Tennessee. Most of William’s siblings joined him as did Lydia’s brothers, George and John Russell. You can read more about this area, the Bean’s, and the Russell’s, as well as the settlement at The Overmountain Men by Pat Aldermen.
William is said to have been “a man of parts”, having been a substantial landowner in Pittsylvania County. Members of the Bean family were prominent in civil and military affairs in the Watauga Valley for many years. The colony was outside of any governmental control so they founded the Watauga Association . William served in the Revolutionary War from 1776 to 1780 as a Captain in the Watauga Riflemen. At the Battle of Kings Mountain, it is rumored that Captain Bean and his men scattered a band of Tories and hanged nine of them.
Source: Notable Southern Families, Volume 2
William Bean was one of the first patentees of the land leased from the Indians by Charles Robertson as trustee for the settlers and later secured by treaty. His name is found to the petition for annexation to North Carolina, which is in the archives at Raleigh, and was received by messenger August 22, 1776.
At the end of the Revolutionary War, William Bean was granted 3000 acres of land for his outstanding service. He decided on a piece of land in what is now Grainger County Tennessee.
William Bean was also a businessman, he built Bean Station at a significant crossroads. William built the Bean Tavern, outside of the fort, which was the largest tavern between Washington D. C. and New Orleans. Travelers coming from all over stopped there on their excursions. It was a very busy crossroads for the surrounding settlements in East Tennessee.
Interesting Note: Abraham Lincoln’s mother was a waitress at the Bean Station Tavern for a time. And, Davey Crockett traveled there as well.
This is a wonderful video of the history of Bean Station. It is only 7:49 minutes long, but packed with information! I highly recommend viewing it.
To read more, visit Grainger TN History
Source: Notable Southern Families, Volume 2
Like Daniel Boone, his old friend and companion, Captain Bean “did not like to be crowded”. He had helped blaze the Boone trail and watched emigrants settle upon the Watauga and Holston until they numbered perhaps a thousand people, then he began to look around for a home with more latitude, and where game was more plentiful. It is a family tradition that he selected the site of Bean station because of the gap in the mountain, and because of the sulphur springs, and salt licks, which latter attracted deer and other game.
Captain Bean erected Bean Station about the year 1778. Since he had grandchildren at this date, he could no longer be considered a young man, but as this is the year of his activities against the Tories it will be seen that he was still very active in frontier military affairs. The fort is said to have been strongly built and well defended, when occasion necessitated, by the few families who settled in its proximity.
The number of years that pioneer families lived in fear and suffered the atrocities from the Indians is shown by the massacre of Jane Bean, a daughter of Captain William Bean, twenty-one years after the family had moved to Bean Station.
Jane Bean had gone to a nearby spring for the purpose of doing a washing when Indians hidden in a cedar thicket jumped out, killed and scalped her. The grave may yet be seen in the rear of a barn near the public road, and is marked with a rough stone bearing the inscription, “Jane Bean, Nov. 12, 1799,” now on the place of Mr. Ethelbert Williams, once part of the estate of the Cobbs at Tate.
The only remaining daughter of Captain Bean of whom we have record is Sarah, who became the wife of John Bowen, brother of the brave Lieutenant Reece Bowen, whose death is so graphically described by Mr. Draper in “Kings Mountain and It’s Heroes”.
There are many interesting traditions extant in this branch of the family of the early days at Bean Station.
The story goes that “on the day preceding the marriage of Sarah Bean, when all plans had been made for the celebration, John Bowen was called away to assist in quelling an Indian uprising, and the wedding had to be postponed”. Two weeks later, however, the wedding took place and after the culmination of the ceremony the groom took his bride to his cabin five miles distant from the station.
The honeymoon was spent in continuous trepidation and fear of the Indians, who at this particular time either through real or imaginary grievances against encroachments and broken faith of the settlers, were stealing into every settlement, massacring and plundering.
In the early morning Sarah Bowen would take her pail, and while her husband stood guard in the doorway with his gun, hasten to the spring for water.
One night Sarah and John Bowen were awakened by a stealthy and suggestive tapping outside the door. They arose, armed themselves with hatchet and gun and awaited the moment of attack.
Moments and hours passed and nothing more alarming transpired than the same suggestive Tap! Tap! Tap!
With dawn, the mystery of the delayed attack was solved. While dipping candles on the doorstep, Mrs. Bowen had spilled some of the tallow, which had attracted a gander one of several that Mrs. William Bean had brought her daughter the same day that she might collect feathers for a new feather tick!
When Indian danger threatened and Mr. Bowen was off on duty, one of Sarah Bean’s brothers would hasten for her, forcing her to jump astride the horse behind him, a feat shocking to the modesty, but necessary in the emergency, and dash away with her to the protection of the fort.
From David Crockett: The Lion of the West
By Michael Wallis
One of Crockett’s good friends was old Major Russell’s son, George, the namesake of his uncle Captain George Russell, who followed his brother-in-law, William Bean, to Tennessee in 1770 and was promptly killed by Indians while on a hunting trip near his home at German Creek.
Both Lydia (Ancestor #: A132561) and William (Ancestor #: A008045), as well as Bean Station are listed in the DAR Genealogical Research Database.
William died four months after he made his will on 06 Jan 1782.
His descendants are many and all over the country. Descendants lived in Tennessee, Virginia, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, Louisiana, and elsewhere.
As always, please do let me know if you see any discrepancies or errors. Thanks for reading!