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by J. A. Sharp

Old Fort Wear was located on the West Fork of Little Pigeon River near the mouth of Wa1den's Creek. Fort "Weare" Game Park, situated about one mile south of the site of the original Fort, has identified itself with the early history of Sevier County and Tennessee by this reconstruction of a typical frontier landmark.

Very few white people inhabited this region, South of the French Broad River, when Colonel Samuel Wear of Augusta County, Virginia, about 1783, staked out a fertile homestead, here at the foothills of the beautiful and majestic Great Smoky Mountains. His log blockhouse became Wear's Fort, and protected the Wear family and their neighbors from the Cherokee Indians who had not relinquished title to this section of Tennessee.

Just thirty miles southwest of Wear's Fort on the Little Tennessee River were the towns of the Overhill Cherokee, and this Fort was directly on the branch of the Great Indian War Path from Virginia that deviated from the main War Path on the French Broad and quoting Tennessee's historian, Ramsey, "went up the west fork of Little Pigeon and crossed some small mountains... to the Overhill villages of the Cherokee."

On June 19, 1793, Wear's Fort was attacked by a major Cherokee force, and the "Knoxville Gazette," Tennessee's first newspaper, reported the destruction of growing corn, the theft and killing of horses, cows and hogs, as well as the partial destruction of "Wear's Mill" and theft of meal from the mill. Territorial militiamen overtook these Indians, and killed two and wounded one, captured the horses and meal and three of the Indians' guns, but retreated when nine of their own number were wounded.

Sixty dissatisfied and angry Sevier County settlers now met, probably at Wear's Fort, and chose Colonel Wear as commander. Not withstanding the United States Government's prohibition of the use of such volunteers against the Indians, Colonel Wear and these defiant frontiersmen followed the War Path into Cherokee country.

Here on the bank of the Little Tennessee near the village of Tallassee, a large party of Cherokee were fired upon by Colonel Wear's men and fifteen warriors and one squaw were killed in the water as they attempted to escape. Four squaws were captured and brought back to the Fort; they were held here to exchange with the Indians for stolen property. This ended the Tallassee campaign, one of the major Indian expeditions of this period.

Lesser Indian raids on the Sevier County frontier continued until about 1800, and Wear's Fort was often the refuge for settlers. Colonel Wear himself was held in such high esteem that he served his County for twenty-seven years as County Court Clerk. This long tenure was under three separate governments; first, he was County Court Clerk for four years under the State of Franklin; second, to years under the Southwest Territory; and third, twenty-one years under the State of Tennessee.

And if tradition is reliable, Sevierville, the new county seat, might well have been located near Wear's Fort instead of the "Forks of Little Pigeon," because Colonel Wear is said to have offered part of his estate to the new town's commissioners in 1795, but a compromise placed Sevierville at its present site in the "Forks."

Colonel Wear's part in the birth of the infant Tennessee was no less important than his services to Sevier County. He was a close associate and friend of John Sevier, and was a captain under the latter at King's Mountain. He supported the Sevier party during the State of Franklin movement, and helped form this short-lived State in Jonesboro in 1784.

Also, he helped make the much criticized Franklin Treaty of Coyatee with the Cherokee in 1786.

He served as Sevier County's representative to the legislature of the Southwest Territory in 1794, and helped draft Tennessee's first constitution at Knoxville in 1796. His last service was as colonel of a regiment of Sevier County men in the War of 1812. Colonel Wear's political and military career ended with his death in 1817, and he was buried in the family plot near the site of the old Fort where his descendents erected an inscribed marker several years ago.

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