A few years ago my wife Evelyn and I were driving from Nashville to the Pigeon Forge area of Eastern Tennessee when suddenly I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a roadside sign proclaiming, “Davy Crockett’s Birthplace..40 miles ahead”.
My heart skipped a beat (or two) as I worked to maintain control of my vehicle while flying by the sign at interstate speeds!
“Evie”, I screamed with joy, “did you see that?”
“Did I see what?” she responded while looking up momentarily from her crossword puzzle.
“That sign” I answered excitedly. “Davy Crockett’s Birthplace is only 40 miles from here!”
How I had missed this in my pre-travel planning I will never know. However, at this point, there was absolutely no way I was going to miss the opportunity to visit the birthplace of my #1 most favorite American Hero!
Evie, aware of my childhood infatuation with this legendary pioneer, smiled and immediately began singing the “Ballad of Davy Crockett” made famous in the mid 1950”s by Walt Disney….
“Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free
Raised in the woods so’s he knew ev’ry tree, kilt him a b’ar when he was only three
Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!”
So, with an exhilarating sense of anticipation, we began following the subsequent signage pointing the way to the “mecca” of my childhood. It was not long, however, before my euphoric state began to fade as I grew more and more aware of a distinct absence of any mountains in the direction we were headed. As a matter of fact, from the moment we exited the interstate our gently curving road began a definite descent all the way down to the Nolichucky River and the riverside birthplace of my lifelong hero.
So much for: “Born on a mountain top in Tennessee”. You have got to be kidding. All these years Walt Disney had blatantly deceived me…..and millions of other fans! What a bummer.
It turns out that this artistic license on “ol’ Walt’s” behalf was the result of his instincts that the public in general would be much more receptive to the image of Davy Crockett as a rugged mountain man rather than as just a plain old pioneer frontiersman from the valley floor. Perhaps he made the correct choice given the immense success of the movies and television series that evolved.
(Please see below the autographed picture Fess Parker gave to me during his career as Disney’s “King of the Wild Frontier!”)
Once again, whether the correct approach or not, I personally wish that Walt Disney had not focused quite so much on the legends of the young rugged Davy Crockett but that he would have found a way to include more of the adult activities and contributions of this amazing and iconic individual.
Born in 1786, Davy was elected to the Tennessee state legislature in 1821. Four years later he won a seat in the United States Congress where he served initially until 1831. Loosing his seat primarily as a result of his strong opposition to President Andrew Jackson’s policies, he was able to regain it in the elections of 1833. Unfortunately his continued lack of support for the President in general and more specifically, Jackson’s “Indian Removal Act” led to his final defeat in the elections of 1835, although by a very narrow margin.
His frustration and anger over the loss of his Congressional seat coupled with serious marital problems at home directly fueled his decision to journey to Texas in support of the Texan’s fight for independence from Mexico. Ironically, one of his best known and final quotes was aimed directly at his opponents and seems to accurately reflect his mental state at the time.
“You can all go to hell…I will go to Texas!”
Unfortunately history shows that this was probably not his best decision. Ultimately Davy Crockett died along with Jim Bowie and William Travis at the Battle of the Alamo in March, 1836.
Now for the icing on the cake. Davy Crockett was a violinist!!! (Yeah…I know…too bad he wasn’t a VIOLIST!) Although apparently more of a fiddler than a serious violinist it does appear that he had some experience with classical music. Accounts from witnesses at the Battle of the Alamo describe Crockett’s efforts to build morale through his violin playing much in the same way violinist/band leader Wallace Henry Hartley did during the sinking of the Titanic.
Below you will see a picture of the violin believed to be owned and played by Davy Crockett just prior to his death at the Alamo in 1836. This violin is currently part of the permanent collection of the WITTE Museum in San Antonio, Texas.