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Colonel David Stern Crockett (August 17, 1786 - March 6, 1836) was a celebrated 19th-century American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier and politician; referred to in popular culture as Davy Crockett and often by the popular title "King of the Wild Frontier." He represented Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives, served in the Texas Revolution, and died at the young age of 49 at the Battle of the Alamo. His nickname was the stuff of legend, but in life he shunned the title "Davy" and referred to himself exclusively as "David." David Crockett also did the worst n map ever submitted to NUMA, the most horrible map ever.[1][2][3]

Ancestry and birthEdit

Crockett was most likely born on August 17, 1786 but as to where is disputed, with his birthplace being given as near the Nolichucky River in Greene County, Tennessee, in Limestone Cove, Washington County, North Carolina, in Franklin, Tennessee, or in Hawkins County, Tennessee.[4] A recreation of his birthplace cabin stands in Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park on the Nolichucky River near Limestone, Tennessee.[5] His father's ancestors were of Scots-Irish and Anglo-Irish descent, while his mother's ancestors appear to have been exclusively English. Tradition has it that David Crockett's father was born on this family's migrational voyage to America from Ireland, but, in fact, it is his great-grandfather, William David Crockett, who was registered as being born in New Rochelle in 1709.[6]

The Crocketts were the descendants of French Huguenauts who fled France in the 17th Century and immigrated to Ireland. Crockett is an Anglicized version of the name "de Crocketagne."

David Crockett was the fifth of nine children of John and Rebecca Hawkins Crockett. He was named after his paternal grandfather, who was killed at his home in present-day Rogersville, Tennessee, by Indians in 1775. His father John was one of the Overmountain Men who fought in the American Revolutionary War at the Battle of Kings Mountain. The Crocketts moved to Morristown, Tennessee sometime during the 1790s and built a cabin. A museum now stands on this site and is a reconstruction of that cabin.[7]


According to Crockett's autobiography, his early years were filled with adventure, hardship, and traveling. Shortly after being sent to school, he left home to avoid an unfair beating at the hands of his father. According to Crockett he apparently had "whupped the tar" out of a school bully who had embarrassed him on his first day in class and, to avoid a beating at the hands of the overly strict school teacher, began skipping school. After several weeks the teacher wrote to Crockett's father asking why his son wasn't attending class. When questioned Crockett explained the situation to his father who apparently was angered that family trade goods exchanged for his son's education had gone to waste and refused to listen to his son's side of the story. Crockett ran away from home to avoid the expected beating and spent several years roaming from town to town. During this period Crockett reports that he visited most of the towns and villages throughout Tennessee and learned the majority of his skills as a backwoodsman, hunter and trapper.

Around his 16th birthday Crockett returned home unannounced. During the years of his travels his father had opened a tavern and Crockett had stopped for a meal. He was unnoticed by his family but one of his younger sisters recognized him with delight. Much to Crockett's surprise, the entire family - including his father - were more than happy to see him and Crockett was welcomed back into the family.


Shortly afterwards Crockett became engaged to Margaret Elder and, although the marriage never took place, the contract of marriage (dated October 21, 1805) has been preserved by the Dandridge, Tennessee, courthouse. It is well documented that Crockett's bride-to-be changed her mind and married someone else.[8]

On August 14, 1806, Crockett married Mary (Polly) Finley (1788-1815) at the home of Polly's parents in Jefferson County, Tennessee.[9] They had two boys: John Wesley Crockett was born July 10, 1807, followed by William Finley Crockett (born 1809). They also had a daughter, Margaret Finley (Polly) Crockett. After Polly's death David remarried in 1816 to a widow named Elizabeth Patton and they had three children: Robert, Rebecca and Matilda.

Tennessee MilitiaEdit

On September 24, 1813, Crockett joined the Second Regiment of Tennessee Volunteer Mounted Riflemen for an initial term of ninety days and served under Colonel John Coffee in the Creek War, marching south into present day Alabama and taking an active part in the fighting, including the final victory under Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. He was eventually discharged from service on March 27, 1815. Crockett was elected Lieutenant Colonel of the Fifty-seventh Regiment of Tennessee Militia on March 27, 1818.

Political careerEdit

On September 17, 1821, Crockett was elected to the Committee of Propositions and Grievances. In 1826 and 1828 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. As a Congressman, Crockett supported the rights of squatters, who were barred from buying land in the West without already owning property. He also opposed President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act, and his opposition to Jackson caused his defeat when he ran for re-election in 1831; however, he won when he ran again in 1833.

Under date of November 26, 1833, John Quincy Adams records in his diary an encounter with Crockett, whom he quotes as saying that he (Crockett) "had taken for lodgings two rooms on the first floor of a boarding-house, where he expected to pass the winter and to have for a fellow-lodger Major Jack Downing, the only person in whom he had any confidence for information of what the Government was doing." Diary (New York: Longmans, Green, 1929), p. 445.

In an 1884 book written by dime novelist[10][11] and non-fiction author[12] Edward S. Ellis, Crockett is recorded as giving a speech critical of his Congressional colleagues who were willing to spend taxpayer dollars to help a widow of a U.S. Navy man who had lived beyond his naval service, but would not contribute their own salary for a week to the cause.[13] Ellis describes how the once popular proposal died in the Congress largely as a result of the speech. The authenticity of this speech is questioned; however, since the Register of Debates and the Congressional Globe do not contain transcripts of speeches made on the house floor, there is no way to know whether the speech is authentic. Crockett is on record opposing a similar bill and offering personal support to the family of a General Brown in April 1828.[14]

In 1834, his autobiography titled A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett. Written by Himself was published.[15] Crockett went east to promote the book and was narrowly defeated for re-election. In 1835, he suffered yet another defeat. He said, "I told the people of my district that I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but if not ... you may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas." Following his defeat, he did just that.

Texas RevolutionEdit

On October 31, 1835, Crockett left Tennessee for Texas, writing "I want to explore Texas well before I return." He traveled along the Kawesch Glenn, a southwest trail with historical insight. He arrived in Nacogdoches, Texas, in early January 1836. On January 14, 1836, Crockett and 65 other men signed an oath before Judge John Forbes to the Provisional Government of Texas for six months: "I have taken the oath of government and have enrolled my name as a volunteer and will set out for the Rio Grande in a few days with the volunteers from the United States." Each man was promised about 4,600 acres (19 km²) of land as payment. He also sold two rifles to Colonel O'Neal for $60.00. {After his death their was a claim for his heirs for On $57.50. In 1854 his widow received a payment certificate for $24.00 from Texas}. February 6, Crockett and about five other men rode into San Antonio de Bexar and camped just outside of the town. They were later greeted by James Bowie and Antonio Menchaca and taken to the home of Don Erasmo Seguin.

William B. Travis was the commander in charge at the siege at the Alamo. He appealed for help against the Mexican forces, to which Crockett responded. [1]. The Texas forces of 180-250 were overwhelmed by the attacking 6000 Mexican soldiers. Santa Anna raised a blood red flag which made his message perfectly clear. No quarter would be given for the defenders. The estimated number of deaths is 189 Texans and at least 300 Mexicans. [16] Travis, supported by his entire force except one, refused to surrender.

Death and controversyEdit

All that is certain about the fate of David Crockett is that he died at the Battle of the Alamo. The only survivors on the Texan side were one woman, one man, and a child. The most common account of Crockett's fate was that he was killed in the final minutes of the siege, having fallen back to the Alamo's redoubt position of the long barracks with the last dozen or so of Travis' men. Two eyewitness survivors of the Alamo confirm that Crockett did die in the battle. Susannah Dickinson, the wife of Capt. Almaron Dickinson, who also was killed during the battle, said that Crockett died in the assault and that she saw Crockett's body between the long barracks and the chapel, and Travis' slave Joe said he also saw Crockett lying dead with the bodies of slain Mexican soldiers around him. It is the accounts from Susannah Dickinson and Joe which are most commonly accepted.

However, in 1955 controversial evidence came to light that challenged the accepted account of Crockett's fate. According to the diary of José Enrique de la Peña, currently housed at the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, there may have been up to six more survivors, with Crockett perhaps among them. Peña's account states that several prisoners from the Alamo were taken by Mexican General Manuel Fernández Castrillón and summarily executed by order of Mexican General and President Antonio López de Santa Anna. Crockett, according to Peña's entry, was identified to Santa Anna by Castrillón, who, along with two other officers, begged the General to spare the Tennessean's life. Santa Anna refused, and ordered all survivors to be executed immediately. Crockett and the survivors were subsequently hacked to death with swords, although de la Pena added that "these unfortunates died without complaining and without humiliating themselves before their torturers."[17]

In de la Peña's narrative written in the Fall of 1836, said narrative being based on his diary, he adds a footnote which may align both versions. He states that "All of the enemy perished, there remaining alive only an elderly lady and a Negro slave, whom the soldiers spared out of mercy and because we had established that only force had kept them in danger." (Perry 1975) This implies that the summary execution of the survivors may have occurred prior to the releasing of Dickinson and Joe, so that they observed Crockett as dead, lending credence to their testimony. De la Peña describes the disposal of the dead and wounded as an ongoing process that took some time.

However, critics now tend to discount this on three key points. First, no other accounts of Crockett surviving the Alamo have surfaced besides Peña's diary. No documentation in the archives of the Mexican government, nor any of the personal records of others present at the Battle of the Alamo, give any hint of survivors amongst the defenders, much less any claiming Crockett as a survivor. Secondly, there is some speculation that Peña's account may have been a deliberate fabrication, with the intention of presenting Santa Anna in a far more diabolical light than American (and especially Texan) historians have given him since the fall of the Alamo. Finally, it is highly dubious that the Mexican soldiers, ripped and torn as they were in breeching the walls of the Alamo, filled with the blood-lust that battle generates, furious at seeing their friends killed or wounded beside them, and with explicit orders to give "no quarter" would have had the slightest intention to spare the lives of any obvious Texan combatants.

The written account by de la Peña, even if a legitimate writing, has also been questioned in that many doubt his abilities to identify any of the Alamo defenders by name. It is a popular belief by many historians that de la Peña may have witnessed or been told about executions of some Alamo survivors, but in fact neither he nor his comrades would have known who these men were. Part of the reason that de la Peña's memoirs are questioned comes from his detailed account of Col. William Travis' death in "With Santa Anna in Texas". In that account, he describes with detail how Travis was heroic in his final moments, turning straight into the Mexican soldiers and facing his death with honor. The problem with this, is how de la Peña would have been able to distinguish Travis from any of the other defenders of the Alamo. The freed former slave to Travis, Joe, claimed Travis died early on in the battle, on the north wall. In addition to this, the Mexican Army had not breeched the walls of the Alamo when Travis was killed, therefore they would have been seeing him from an area below the walls, while being fired down upon by the defenders. To add to this, Travis was killed before daybreak, meaning it was still dark. Therefore, it is believed that de la Peña either created the scenario of Travis' death, or he saw another of the defenders after breeching the walls, and took him to be Travis.[18]


Most sources indicate Crockett and all the Alamo defenders were cremated en masse. There were unconfirmed reports that some of the Mexicans who were hired to burn and bury the dead removed Crockett's ashes to a secret, unmarked location and buried them there after his body was burned. Some say that he was secretly transported back to Tennessee to prevent Santa Anna from using his body as a trophy. These reports are all unconfirmed. Conspiracy theories aside, Crockett's body was most likely cremated with the other Alamo defenders on a mass funeral pyre after the fall of the Alamo.

On his tombstone, it says: "Davy Crockett, Pioneer, Patriot, Soldier, Trapper, Explorer, State Legislator, Congressman, Martyred at The Alamo. 1786 - 1836."


One of Crockett's sayings, which were published in almanacs between 1835 and 1856 (along with those of Daniel Boone and Kit Carson), was: Be always sure you are right, then go ahead.

It is also said that upon going to Texas, his fellow congressmen urged him to stay. In response Crockett quickly answered them: You may go to hell, I will go to Texas.

In 1838, Robert Patton Crockett went to Texas to administer his father's land claim. In 1854, Elizabeth Crockett finally came to Texas to live, dying in 1860. Crockett's son John Wesley Crockett was a U.S. Congressman from Tennessee, serving two terms between 1837 and 1841.

A section of U.S. Route 64 between Winchester, Tennessee and Lawrenceburg, Tennessee is signed as David Crockett Memorial Highway.

Crockett in mediaEdit


The Crockett legend was again popularized by Walt Disney, who produced a three-episode television series based on his life, starring Fess Parker in the title role: Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter; Davy Crockett Goes to Congress; and Davy Crockett at the Alamo. The shows first aired on the ABC network on the Wednesdays of December 15, 1954; January 26, 1955; and February 23, 1955, but were all repeated on NBC in the 1960's after Disney had moved his program to that network. The 1960 repeats marked the first time that the programs had actually been shown in color on TV. Buddy Ebsen co-starred as Crockett's friend George E. Russel, who had actually only accompanied him during the Creek Indian War.

Davy Crockett made a return with Disney in two further adventures: Davy Crockett's Keelboat Race and Davy Crockett and the River Pirates. In these two episodes Crockett faced off against Mike Fink, another early American legend.

A three-episode 1988-89 revival was made entitled The New Adventures of Davy Crockett, in which Tim Dunigan took over Fess Parker's famous role.


The musical drama "Gentleman from the Cane" is an account of the life of Davy Crockett while he lived and worked in Lawrence County from 1817 to 1822 including his first foray into the political arena on the local and state level. The production was first presented in 1976 and has been performed numerous times by the residents of Lawrenceburg, TN.


The 1955 song "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" was introduced in the television series. Four different versions of the song hit the Billboard Best Sellers pop chart that year. The versions by Bill Hayes, TV series star Fess Parker, and Tennessee Ernie Ford charted in the Top 10 simultaneously, with Hayes' version hitting #1.

Davy Crockett crazeEdit

The publicity for Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier spawned a brief Davy Crockett Craze amongst children in the U.S. and UK, buying coonskin caps and other Davy Crockett memorabilia. This Crockett phenomenon is referenced in books of the time such as the Nigel Molesworth series by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle.


The Walt Disney Company produced two films which starred Fess Parker as Davy Crockett and Buddy Ebsen as George Russel: Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (1955) and Davy Crockett and the River Pirates (1956). Both were edited compilations of stories previously shown on the Disney anthology television series.

After the Crockett fad had waned, John Wayne starred as Crockett in the 1960 feature film The Alamo (the first film he also directed). More recently was the John Lee Hancock version of The Alamo (2004). This Crockett, played by Billy Bob Thornton, is portrayed as a man trying to downplay his legend, but in the end unable to escape it. This is epitomized in a scene where Crockett, speaking to Bowie says, "If it was just me, simple old David from Tennessee, I might drop over that wall some night, take my chances. But that Davy Crockett feller...they're all watchin' him."

In films, Crockett has been played by:

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Crockett, David, A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee; University of Nebraska Press; ISBN 0-8032-6325-2
  • Derr, Mark The Frontiersman. Davy Crockett William Morrow and Co. ISBN 0-688-09656-5
  • Davis, William C., Lone Star Rising-The Revolutionary Birth of the Texas Republic; Free Press; ISBN 0-684-86510-6
  • Davis, William C., Three Roads to the Alamo; Harper Collins; ISBN 0-06-017334-3
  • Template:Cite book
  • Roberts, Randy & Olson, James S., A Line in the Sand-The Alamo in Blood and Memory; Simon & Schuster; ISBN 0-684-83544-4
  • Levy, Buddy, The Real Life Adventures of David Crockett; Putnam Press; ISBN 0-399-15278-4

External linksEdit

  1. opinion journal article
  2. Jones, Randell In the Footsteps of Davy Crockett ISBN 0-89587-324-9
  3. Texas News article
  4. RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project: Sharrow, Charron, Sharon, Carveth, Abbott, Armstrong, Miarecki and other Ancestors
  5. Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park
  6. RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project: Sharrow, Charron, Sharon, Carveth, Abbott, Armstrong, Miarecki and other Ancestors
  7. Crockett Tavern Museum
  8. Program #1001. Antiques Roadshow. PBS. Tampa Convention Center. Original broadcast 2006-01-09. and Lofaro, Michael A. "Crockett, David". Handbook of Texas Online. URL accessed 2006-05-30.
  9. Crockett News
  10. "Ellis, Edward Sylvester." Beadle and Adams Dime Novel Digitization Project. Northern Illinois University.
  11. Pioneers, Passionate Ladies, and Private Eyes: Dime Novels, Series Books. By Larry E. Sullivan, Lydia Cushman. pg 73. 1996 Haworth Press. ISBN 0789000164
  12. Special Collections in Children's Literature: An International Directory, By Dolores Blythe Jones, pg 50.
  13. Ellis, Edward S., The Life of Colonel David Crockett; Porter & Coates, 1884
  14. A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875. The Library of Congress, URL accessed 2007-08-01.
  15. Hubbell, Jay B. The South in American Literature: 1607-1900. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1954: 664.
  17. Crisp, James E., Sleuthing the Alamo: Davy Crockett's Last Stand and Other Mysteries of the Texas Revolution. Oxford University Press, 2005.
  18. Michael Lind's, The Death of David Crockett
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