DAR sets date to honor those buried at Mars Hill

Betty BeanKnox Scene, West Knoxville

What: Dedication of grave markers for veterans buried at Mars Hill Cemetery in West Knoxville. Sponsored by the Cavett Station Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the program will be conducted by historian Amy Mays Emert. The project has been funded by a NSDAR America 250! Grant.

Where: At the grave sites, located adjacent to the Cavett Station subdivision off Broome Road.

When: Saturday, April 8, 2023, 10 a.m., rain or shine. Refreshments will be provided. It would probably be a good idea to bring your own folding chair.

Most of us probably know a little something about Alexander Cavett, the brave settler who died defending his family when a massive Cherokee/Creek war party besieged his home shortly after dawn on September 25, 1793. Earlier story here.

Their intention was to attack James White’s fort at Knoxville, which was poorly defended but managed to bluff its would-be attackers by firing multiple volleys of cannon fire to give an exaggerated impression of their numbers. The ploy worked, but the Cavetts paid the price when the frustrated warriors, who had already bypassed Campbell Station on their march to the city, took out their frustration on the Cavett family’s small blockhouse.

Twelve others died with Alexander Cavett that morning, including all but one of his children, his mother-in law and the two militia members who had been dispatched by Col. John Sevier to help defend the blockhouse during this time of turmoil. The sole survivor of the massacre, Cavett’s youngest child, 5-year-old Alexander Cavett Jr., was kidnapped and carried off to Alabama by the warriors, only to be slain a few days later by the murderous Chief Doublehead in an act of brutality so shocking that his fellow tribesmen dubbed him “Baby Killer,” and whacked him at their earliest opportunity.

Everybody who has set out to study the last major massacre in Knox County (and there is a lot of history leading up to this terrible event – much of which does not reflect well on the white settlers), knows these basic facts, but we don’t know much about Alexander Cavett, who was 49 years old when he died that morning.

Historian/genealogist Amy Mays Emert, an active member of the Cavett Station Chapter of the DAR has set out to remedy that situation.

“He was found with seven bullets in his mouth, ready to fire. He was fighting with everything he’s got to defend his family, along with Francis Bowery and John Spurgeon, the Sullivan County militia members whom John Sevier had sent down to help defend the fort. But Alexander Cavett was doing brave and heroic things long before that day.”

Emert decided to learn more of his story and started digging.

“They didn’t keep a lot of records for militia, in those days, so I looked for proof of his, and his brother Moses’s service. I have researched the lives and military histories of the 12 known veterans buried in Mars Hill Cemetery. Several veterans were already marked (with headstones), but I wanted the military service of all of our veterans to be known, so I applied for and received headstones from the Veteran’s Administration for four of the veterans. Friends of Cavett Station purchased headstones for the other five veterans. These eight markers will honor nine of our veterans”

Emert was surprised to find that Cavett had been paid six shillings for his service as a spy for the Patriots on the Virginia frontier (Tennessee was not yet a state). Moses, who was not at the blockhouse that fateful morning, had served under John Sevier at King’s Mountain. He inherited the Cavett Station property and is buried at Mars Hill, too.

In addition to Alexander Cavett and his family, the remaining seven headstones will honor Revolutionary veterans Bowery and Spurgeon, War of 1812 veteran John Covington, Civil War veterans Thomas W. Parham, James A. Roberts, John M. Moore, Joseph A. Kidd, and Philippine-American veteran (and Joseph A. Kidd’s son) James M. Kidd.

Emert has found much more to the Cavett story that she will reveal at the dedication of the veterans‘ markers.

Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for KnoxTNToday.com.

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