I’ve been a history buff (or nut, whichever one prefers) since I was a little kid. I wanted to stop and read every roadside Tennessee historical marker and practically every family vacation included some kind of historical attraction for my benefit. My grandparents also tolerated my interests and did the same when I went places with them. And I always wanted to stop at the gift shop (there’s always one at the end of the tour) and buy a souvenir. Unlike other kids who wanted some kind of toy, I wanted a book. Usually it was one of those inexpensive ones that had pictures of the historic site and told the story behind it.
One of the first such books I remember getting was The Fabulous David Crockett: His Life and Times in Gibson County, Tenn. Including Tall Tales and Anecdotes of the Western Wilds. (What a title!) It was written by Ernest T. Thompson and published by the David Crockett Memorial Association in 1956. Mine was purchased sometime in the late 1970s at the David Crockett Home in Rutherford, Tennessee.
This 58-page paperback was somewhat dated by the time I read it, but still it introduced me to the famous frontiersman David (don’t call ’em Davy) Crockett, native Tennessean and defender of the Alamo. It was the real person, not the cartoon character created by Walt Disney who could grin down bears and other nonsense. The beginning explained how the Crockett home near the small town of Rutherford had been saved by a local banker, who bought it from a farmer for $25 before it was to be destroyed in 1934 . But it wasn’t until 1955 that the dismantled cabin was rebuilt with funds from a state grant.
The book went on to tell the life of the real David Crockett, from the mountains of East Tennessee through Middle Tennessee and onto West Tennessee, losing his last political campaign to Adam Huntsman, and leaving to seek better fortunes in Texas. It also included several illustrations taken from the Crockett Almanacs that were published during his lifetime and for many years afterward. The Fabulous David Crockett was a wonderful introduction to a colorful life. It also introduced me to Adam Huntsman, who opposed Crockett for re-election ton Congress in 1835.
Not too long ago, I read that Mr. Thompson currently lives at a nursing home in Humboldt, Tennessee. I’d sure like to meet him some day and thank him for helping spark my interest in Crockett and Tennessee history.