Smith Lake–Discovery of Clear Creek Falls

Smith Lake real estate Mrs. Bea Kunz shared this link with me about the discovery of Clear Creek Falls. We thought it would be of interest to residents in the Smith Lake Area.        
Mr. Livingston and the Discovery of Clear Creek Falls in November 1812The following article was sent to me by Roy Randolph and copied from: Double Springs Centennial Commission, Couble Springs Scrapbook Centennial Day, July 23, 1983, City Hall, Double Springs, Alabama 35553, pp. 15-16by Fred M. Wilson (age 76 in 1945) as told to John Bennett Weaver in 1945. (Contributed by Sam Weaver) One of the early settlements was at Clear Creek Falls. One Fred M. Wilson of Double Springs, age 76, former County Surveyor and a State Surveyor, is a great, great grandson of Jesse Livingston, who was the son of Samuel Livingston, a Revolutionary soldier, born in 1757, in King and Queen County, Virginia. (See The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Winter, 1944, pp. 600 and 601). Three of Samuel Livingston’s sons settled in Winston County – Jesse, Joseph and William. Fred M. Wilson, in 1945, wrote the following historical sketch, to-wit: Jesse Livingston was the first known white man to discover Clear Creek Falls, and to settle there shortly thereafter. Jesse, the son of Samuel Livingston, was born in Virginia about 1784. When he was about 12 years old, he moved with his father to east Tennessee, where he grew to manhood. Jesse Livingston married in Tennessee about 1805 and lived there for a few years. He then moved to the south part of Morgan County, hear Eva, and near the north line of Cullman County. In the fall of 1812, being full of the pioneer spirit, he made up a party of three other men, one of whom was named Tyree. They came into what is now Winston County and camped at a bluff on the river near the Inman Ford. They rode horses; two horses to ride, taking turns, and one, a pack horse for food and camping outfit. The night was clear, crisp and cool. The stars were seen in great numbers, sparkling in the fathomless blue. They could hear some roaring in the distance in the west. They were amazed and astounded and stunned at what they heard. “What is that continuous roaring we hear?”, asked one of the group. “That is what I would like to know”, said another. “We may be nearing a wonderland”, said still another. “I have never heard anything like that roaring in all of my life. What can it be?”, he asked excitedly. “I’ll admit I don’t know what it is, but we will find out when daylight comes”, said Jesse Livingston, the leader of the group. And they did . . . They discovered Clear Creek Falls in the month of November, 1812. Jesse Livingston was much pleased. He had never dreamed of such beauty and grandeur as he beheld there. That roaring sound, day and night, continued as it had done for the ages. He wondered, “How long, how very long did it take this crystal stream to cut this ravine below the upper falls as deep as it is today?”, asked Jesse, “I wonder”.   Jesse Livingston made up his mind to return to the falls and make his home there. He did. After spending almost a day at Clear Creek Falls, the group traveled west into what is now southwest Winston, going near Lynn, Natural Bridge, north up the Byler ridge to a community settlement at or near what is now Haleyville. In this community, one of the group became gravely ill, and lived only a day or two. He was buried at South Haleyville. The other three returned home soon thereafter, grief-stricken. In the late summer of 1814, Jesse Livingston returned to Clear Creek Falls and erected a log cabin about 1/2 mile from the falls. “No other place is as near my heart as this one is”, said Jesse to a friend he brought with him. This stream of water, adorned by the evergreen hemlocks, cliffs and crags, hills and hollows, with two majestic falls of 38 feet and 42 feet, and only about 1/8 of a mile apart, the continuous roaring of this beautiful, clear stream appealed to Jesse Livingston to the extent that he called it “Grand Creek”. It was also in the early records designated as “Grand Creek”. Jesse Livingston brought his family there in the spring of 1815. He moved to Lawrence County a few years later and lived for a while, but returned to his log cabin home. Jesse Livingston’s daughter, Pheby, married Michael Bennett during the 1820’s. Michael and his wife, Pheby, settled near his father-in-law, Jesse Livingston, on what is known at present as Coon Creek. However, it was first known as Camp Creek because the Creek Indians had a large camp on this creek about one mile from the Clear Creek Falls – before the white man came. The Creek Indians also had a “burial ground” in about 100 feet of the lower falls, where there was a great number of rock – large and small – with which to cover the graves of their dead. Based upon early traditional stories, the idea was prevalent and quite a bit of proof to sustain it that the Indians worshipped this beautiful water falls; and, because they did, used the “burial ground” nearby. In the early days, the Creeks spent much time at and near the falls. Michael Bennett and Pheby reared an outstanding family; Jesse Bennett married, lived in Walker County, and fought in the Confederate Army, and was elected a County Commissioner. He was a music teacher. Among other early settlers in the Clear Creek Falls community were the Wilsons, originally from Virginia, who first came to northwest Alabama, migrating later to Lawrence County, and still later to Walker County, near Blackwater Creek, about eight miles south of the Clear Creek Falls. David M. Wilson married Michael Bennett’s oldest daughter, Mary, and from this union came several children. One of them was John M. Wilson, the father of Fred Wilson, the writer of this historical sketch of Clear Creek Falls. Hence, David M. Wilson was my grandfather; Michael Bennett, my great-grandfather; and Samuel Livingston, a Revolutionary soldier, was my great, great grandfather. Along about this time there came to the Clear Creek Falls community several other families, among whom were the Botelers, Ellises, Fettmans and Lamons. Jesse Livingston erected and put in operation at the upper falls the first grist mill, about 1828, that was ever built in the south part of what is now Winston County, and the second one in the county. Jesse Livingston quarried these mill rocks out of some quarry back east, and brought them to Clear Creek Falls on a sled drawn by two oxen. I have these mill rocks today. A greater part of the recital by Mr. Wilson is sustained by old records and traditional stories by others. barrainbowExcerpt from article “Falls City: A History of Development and Demise” – Written by: Elizabeth L. McCandless: The Clear Creek Falls had served Native Americans (Chickasaw and Cherokee tribes) for centuries as a gathering place, burial ground, and navigational landmark. Due to isolation, white settlers did not discover the falls until 1812. Jesse Livingston first encountered the falls on a trip into country recently acquired from the Chickasaw tribe. Livingston and his party traveled by horseback to reach the falls. Since the falls held a fascination for Livingston, he returned two years later to the area and built a cabin. Jesse Livingston’s mill may have been destroyed by flood. Livingston constructed the first grist mill in the area in 1828. The mill consisted of an overshot wheel, grindstones, and a log dam which routed water to the wheel. No structure covered the mill.
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