The Burgin-Crockett Connection

Born on a mountain top in Tennessee,
Greenest state in the land of the free
Raised in the woods, so's he know ev'ry tree
Kilt him a b'ar when he was only three
Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier...

Davy Crockett King of the Wild FrontierMost of us are familiar with the Ballad of Davy Crockett and the fact that he was born in Tennessee. Well, even though Crockett was born over here in Limestone, Tennessee and spent all but the last year of his life in Tennessee, he made many friends over in North Carolina. Among these many friends were Merritt and Alleny Burgin, sons of Pioneer Ben. Each had served in BOTH houses of the North Carolina State Legislature and Crockett was pretty deeply involved in politics himself.

Alleny Burgin was a North Carolina State Representative (1824-1834) and State Senator (1842-43). There were those who were convinced that the reason he was not re-elected was because he so strongly opposed the law that forbade teaching the Negroes to read and write - even though he, himself was a slave owner.

During this same time frame, Davy Crockett was a big-time politician over in Tennessee. He had served as a State Representative (1821-1823) and as a U.S. Congressman (1827-1835) during which time he was running back and forth to North Carolina. After Davy's first wife, Polly Finley Crockett died he met and married a widow named Elizabeth Patton. Elizabeth was the daughter of Robert Patton, a neighbor of the Burgin family and Crockett lost no time in becoming friends with the Burgins. His keen and quick wit and backwoodsman persona, made a lasting impression on everyone.

The History of Western North Carolina, by John Preston Arthur (Chapter XIV Duels) tells us that Crockett was also present at the infamous Vance-Carson Duel, at which Alleny Burgin was designated "Second" for Samuel P. Carson. Carson was defending his honor and reputation against Robert Brank Vance, who had flung insult after insult at Carson during their political debate in September, 1827. The debate ended with Vance calling Carson a coward. The role that Crockett played in this historical drama is not recorded..

Abner Burgin, another of Pioneer Ben's sons, married Margaret Patton, the sister of Davy Crockett's second wife and moved to Lawrence County, Tennessee around 1818. They are listed in the first Federal Census for that county in 1820.

Abner moved his family, Crockett's family, and the families of Robert Patton's other daughters further west, in the fall of 1822. They settled on a 1000-acre land grant that had been given to Robert Patton (his father in-law). This land area would include Gibson and Weakley Counties.

In 1823, three counties were established by the Tennessee State Legislature. This was done at the request of Crockett who sponsered the legislation. They were Dyer, Gibson and Weakley. Abner's land straddled the Gibson and Weakley County line. Abner, who by this time had assumed the office of Magistrate, along with Luke Briggs drew up the county boundaries.

In 1830, Abner was still in Weakley County (1830 Weakly County Census) and at the recommendation of Davey Crockett, was one of 10 men commissioned as Justices for the first court in Gibson County, by the then Governor, William Carroll. Abner also served as a member of the first Grand Jury.

By 1835 more than 20,000 Americans had migrated to Texas seeking a place to settle and David Crockett, ever looking for new frontiers to conquer, was a prime candidate to assist in the settlement. "I have made up my mind to go to Texas. I start anew upon my own hook, and God grant that it may be strong enough to support the weight that may be hung upon it."

On November 1, 1835, with his brother in-law Abner Burgin, William Patton and Lindsey K. Tinkle, Davy set out to the West, as he wrote on the eve of his departure, "to explore the Texes well before I return." At this point he had no intention of joining the fight for Texas independence.

The foursome reached Memphis the first evening and, in company with some friends congregated in the bar of the Union Hotel for a farewell drinking party, Crockett offered his now famous remark: "Since you have chosen to elect a man with a timber toe to succeed me, you may all go to hell and I will go to Texas."

They set off the next day. Their route was down the Mississippi River to the Arkansas and then up that river to Little Rock; overland to Fulton, Arkansas, and up the Red River along the northern boundary of Texas; across the Red River, through Clarksville, to Nacogdoches and San Augustine; and on to San Antonio. At San Augustine the party divided. Burgin and Tinkle went home -- supposedly over an "oath of allegiance" they would be required to sign.

Crockett and Patton signed the "oath of allegiance", but only after Crockett had insisted upon the insertion of the word "Republican" in the document. They thus swore their allegiance to the "Provisional Government of Texas or any future Republican Government that may be hereafter declared." Crockett had balked at the possibility that he would be obliged to support some future government that might prove despotic.

Less than six months later, however, Crockett and a few of his fellow Tennesseans were among the 139 defenders who sacrificed their lives at The Battle of the Alamo in the interest of Texas independence. Crockett left behind a wife, children, mother and siblings to take his place in American history. His son John Wesley Crockett, later won two terms in Congress, the same seat his father had held.

Abner Burgin fell ill shortly after returning from Texas and is said to have died in 1837, or there-a-bouts. He was buried in the Old Bluff Cementery (now plowed over) overlooking the Obion River in Gibson County. His wife Margaret and son Benjamin Franklin were listed in the 1840 and 1850 censuses for Gibson County. Margaret died sometime between 1850 and 1860 and was also buried in the Old Bluff Cemetery.