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Davy Crockett's Arrival in Memphis

John Gadsby Chapman, Oil on Canvas
Art Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Davy Crockett, folk hero, West Tennessee Congressman, bear-hunter, and martyr of the Alamo, had a colorful reputation, which he enjoyed and promoted.

And his first entry into Memphis was a fitting addition to his legend. Along with being an Indian Scout, frontiersmen, farmer, and politician, Crockett was an entrepreneur.

One of his commercial projects involved taking a group of laborers into the wilderness, where they manufactured 30,000 barrel staves and built two flatboats to take the cargo down-river for sale. They were okay on the Obion River, but the Mighty Mississippi was beyond the skill of the inexperienced crew.

The boats, which were lashed together, turned sideways in the river's fierce current. Crockett became trapped below deck when water rushed into the hatch, blocking the only exit.

His only hope was to squeeze through a small hole in the side of the cabin. He got wedged-in and yelled for his men to pull him out. They succeeded in getting him out, but his clothes came off in the process.

Finally the boats smashed into some submerged trees, and Davy Crockett emerged from the river at Memphis cold and completely naked, but mighty happy to be alive.

To learn more about all of our regions history, visit the Pink Palace Family of Museums.

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