Joseph Hawkins “Joe” Sevier

Joseph Hawkins “Joe” Sevier

Augusta County, Virginia, USA
Death 18 Jul 1826 (aged 63)
Overton County, Tennessee, USA
Burial Overton County, Tennessee, USA
Memorial ID 204587979 · View Source
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This is a drawing of what Joseph Sevier may have look like based on his families portraits, but is not an actual painting of Joseph Sevier,

Joseph Sevier was the oldest son of the Governor of Tennessee, John Sevier. He was born on March 17, 1763 in Virginia to John Sevier and Sarah Marlin Hawkins. At the age of 10 he made the run out west to what became Tennessee with his family in 1773. In 1775 the family moved to the Watauga River settlement, where they often had to seek safety at the nearby Fort from Indian raids and the Revolutionary War.

Joseph's father was a leader at the Fort responsible for protecting the settlements that were around it. During his fathers frequent absence, his mother ran the family trading business, defended their home, and often commanded his father's post when he was away.

When Joseph was 13 the Cherokee attacked the Fort where his father was stationed and the siege was drawn out over several weeks. The only colonists that were killed were two boys about Joseph's age that were captured outside the Fort gathering wood to fix a roof. One of the boys, James Cooper, tried to flee into the river but was overtaken by a warrior. The other boy, Samuel Moore was captured, tortured, and burned alive at the stake. Beloved Woman of the Cherokee, Nancy Ward, tried to warn John Sevier before the attack, and he wrote a letter on July 11, 1776, to the Officers of Fincastle, Virginia at Fort Lee
“Dear Gentlemen,
Isaac Thomas, Wm. Falling, Jarot Williams and one more, have this moment come in by making their escape from the Indians, and say six hundred Indians and British were to start for this fort, and they intend to drive the country all the way up to New River before they return. --------Lieutenant, John Sevier.”

Pres. Theodore Roosevelt provided this account of the attack on Fort Watauga in his book called, "The Winning of the West." At sunrise, the women were outside of the fort milking the cows, when a large group of naked, painted, and screaming like women, Cherokee warriors, under Chief Old Abraham, began chasing and firing at them. The screams alerted the men inside the fort, who quickly manned the walls and began firing on the Cherokee, which gave the women time to enter the fort, as the men made haste to secure the gates.

Suddenly Catherine Sherrill found herself locked outside the walls of the fort, as Lieutenant John Sevier was able to shoot most of her pursuers through a knot-hole. Determined to scale the fort wall, as a shower of arrows and lead balls were fired around her, the Patriot, John Sevier stretched forth his hand and shouted, "Jump for me Kate". Bonnie Kate threw her bonnet over the pickets as she reached the stockade, then she "leaped like a deer", as the strong arm of John Sevier pulled her over the wall, then she was caught in his arms on the other side. According to Roosevelt that is how Joseph's father became known as the Hero of Watauga.

According to the Tennessee historian, Dr. Draper, Joseph's uncles, Volentine and Robert Sevier were original "Long Hunters" with Daniel Boone who also lived in the nearby settlement. The Long Hunters were the first Frontiersmen to pass beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains into the unknown wilderness of Tennessee. James Sevier told the historian Dr. Draper that he and his older brother Joseph "joined their father often in the Mountains when they were just lads."

Joseph Sevier was there at the Sycamore Shoals in Tennessee when his father was involved in the largest land purchase in American history. On March 17, 1775, the Translyvania Company, led by Richard Henderson of North Carolina, purchased from the Cherokee over 20 million acres of land, which included all the lands of the Cumberland River watershed and extending to the Kentucky River. This land transaction was much larger than the Louisiana Purchase. Twelve-hundred Indians were recorded as spending weeks in counsel at Sycamore Shoals prior to the signing of the deed, including Chief Oconastota. Sevier is listed on the document as a witness.

Before his 17th birthday, Joseph's mother died during an Indian raid on Fort Nolichucky. According to their daughter, Mary Anne Sevier, the men slipped out of the fort before midnight and dug her grave. To show their respect, all of the children stood together in the forest during a terrible lightening storm, as their mother was buried. Her grave was leveled over and covered with leaves so the Indians couldn't desecrate it. To this day Sarah's grave has never been found.

Later that same year, Joseph joined his father when the Overmountain Men assembled for the campaign against the British Major Ferguson which resulted in the Battle at King's Mountain. After hearing that a Sevier had been mortally wounded, Joseph, was the last man to stop firing, disobeying the order to cease fire as he cried out, "They have killed my father! They have killed my father!" Joseph only quit firing after his father arrived at his side. John Sevier picked up the field glasses that had been worn by Major Patrick Ferguson and gave them to his son James who was also there. Many years later, his grandson donated the glasses to the Historical Society of Tennessee.

Major Albert Finely France added that "After the battle at Kings Mountain in 1780, Mary, her mother, and other settlers who lived close by came to give aid to the wounded in any way that they could. It was there that Mary met romance in the young Joseph Sevier, who had distinguished himself in the battle. His uncle, Robert Sevier had been wounded and was carried to the home of Mary's father, John Finely."

Clan Finely stated that Joseph Sevier married at the age of nineteen, to Mary Finely, on January 11, 1782 in Lincoln County, North Carolina, and one year later they had their first son, John Finely Sevier.
Mary Finely was born on January 25, 1763, in Lincoln County, North Carolina, and was the daughter of John Finely and Anne Miller.
Joseph Sevier and Mary Finely had two sons:
(1) John Finley Sevier, January 22, 1783 - 1858 Johnson Co., Tenn.
He married twice, 1) Polly W. Brown 2) Susannah G. Rector on Oct 6, 1853
(2) Richard Cunningham Sevier, October 10, 1785 - ?
He married Elizabeth Lowrey Pack. She was the niece of Elizabeth Lowrey, and the daughter of John Lowrey and Ga-na-lu-gi aka Janet Lucy McLemore. Richard C. Sevier was living on the Grand River, Salina, Oklahoma in the 1830's and 40's.

It is not known when his wife, Mary died, but letters state that Joseph was living in the Cherokee Nation, soon after his second son was born. After she died Joseph became the lover of Elizabeth Lowrey. Betsy was described as a stately, aristocratic woman, and the granddaughter of Oconastota, who was a very tall man with large bones that was of extraordinary physical strength. Soon after their two daughters were born, Betsy left Joseph and married Major John Walker, and they had a son John "Jack" Walker that became a chief. After Mary Finely-Sevier died (before 1788) her two young sons were raised among the Cherokee. Their youngest son, Richard Sevier married the niece of Betsy Lowrey, who was about 13 years younger than her lover, Joseph.

Joseph Sevier and Elizabeth "Betsey" Lowrey's girls;
1) +Eliza Lowrey Sevier, 1796 - 1838
2) Mary Margaret Sevier, b. Oct. 8, 1799 - 1861

At 30 years-old, Joseph Sevier was not above engaging in some gambling. He filed a complaint at the Knox County, Tennessee court on January 22, 1793 by his attorney, Alexander Outlaw, who wrote,
"Joseph Sevier complains that Hugh Dunlap, some time in the month of August 1792, at the house of John Woods, in the county of Knox, in the town of Knoxville, did agree to play fives at Woods' five alley, in the following manor. Joseph Sevier and his brother Richard Sevier against Judge Chislom and William McKilborne, on credit, at several dollars a game.

Until Judge Chislom and McNamee won about twelve pounds from Sevier. Joseph Sevier brought forth a horse to the value of twenty pounds and paid the twelve pounds that he owed. Then Sevier staked the remaining eight pounds on one game, which Judge Chislom and McNamee won. Joseph Sevier gave up the horse with honor, and after a few hours, Dunlap demanded the twelve pounds and bet Sevier one-hundred pounds that he still owed him the twelve pounds, which was left to be determined by Robert Yancy, Captain Christey, and Ananias McCoy, who gave the bet against Dunlap, and in favor of Sevier.

Dunlap, contrary to law and equity in that case, refused to pay the one-hundred pounds or return the twenty pound horse, and still does refuse to, though often requested by Sevier to do so. Joseph Sevier asks for his damages of $100, on which he brings this suit.
---A. Outlaw, Esquire"
Then Hugh Dunlap snuck onto Joseph Sevier's property and stole the horse as the following complaint explains. Attorney William Cocke writes,
"Joseph Sevier, complains of Hugh Dunlap having trespassed on his property in 1793. Joseph Sevier was in the possession of a certain black horse, of his own proper goods and chattels, of the value of one-hundred pounds, and being so in the possession of, lost the horse out of his hands and possession, which the horse afterwards came into the hands and possession of Hugh Dunlap.
Hugh Dunlap, knowing well, the horse to be the property of Joseph Sevier, has not delivered the horse, although Mr. Sevier has often required him to. Instead Mr. Dunlap converted the horse to his own use, whereby Joseph Sevier declares that he is greatly injured and damaged of five hundred pounds, and thereupon he brings this suit.
---William Cocke, Esquire"

Brigadier General Joseph Martin wrote a letter that stated in April of 1788 he had set off to the Cherokee Nation, which he found in great confusion. Many Cherokee had left and others were preparing to move, when Martin prevailed upon them to stay and plant their corn. After ten days of consulting with them, the Cherokee agreed to stay and Martin remained with them until they had finished planting.

Like in all common clan warfare, the Cherokee attacked a local settlement, then the settlers attacked the Cherokee village. Chief Hanging Maw got mad about that and went to tattle on the settlers to Brig. Gen. Martin and Joseph Sevier. After some talk about the incident Hanging Maw accused Martin of "having been gentling them" and he took both Martin and Sevier prisoner. The two were held captive until the settlers were willing to come and apologize to Hanging Maw, and with that the matter was peacefully resolved.

Joseph was a trader of goods and merchandise and he lived with the Cherokee. Governor William Blount, signer of the Constitution, and close friend of Joseph wrote a letter dated January 2, 1792, stating that "the Governor had granted the trading license to Joe Sevier as extensively as he wished."
April 9, 1793, Gov Blount wrote,
"On April 4th, Joseph Sevier, whom I have employed as a spy in the Cherokee Nation, in which he generally resides, arrived from Chota with a message from Chief John Watts, who was with Chief Hanging Maw, and wished to visit me at Knoxville, but if he could not come in safety, he would be glad to meet me elsewhere...."

Six months earlier Joseph Sevier had been warned by his brother-in-law, Rising Fawn aka George Lowrey of a threat made against Sevier. Lowry sent a letter delivered to Knoxville on October 5, 1792, by John Christian. Lowrey wrote;
"The mountains near you have many Indians in them for war. Take care of your people. Don't let them go out by twos or even threes, even to their fields. The Lower Towns are all rogues and savages, and so are the Creeks. Make haste to come and destroy them. Come by Hiwassee, and I will find you provisions as you pass. Ta-leh-ti-ske was here the other day from the Lower Towns, saying that he had thrown away his war talks and was now for peace. Don't you believe him. He is still for war, and means to raise a party and join his brother, "the Bench". His other brother, called "the Tail", passed by here yesterday, with three other Cherokee of Will's Towns, and five Creeks, declaring that they were going to kill Joe Sevier. Take care of them---they will do some mischief before they return.
A number of Shawnees have already settled on the Big Tennessee River at the mouth of the creek, and many more are coming. Those who have arrived have many good blankets, strouds, and other goods. Where they got them I do not know, but they must have destroyed many people to get them either by water or by land."

February 1, 1793, Joseph Sevier wrote a letter to his close friend, Gov. Blount, stating
"Sir, I received your letter by Mr. Walles, where you informed me to stay in the town until they brought Captain Handley, which I shall do, and likewise will try my best to learn all that is going on in the Cherokee Nation. I have heard that (?) Carey has sent for hands but I have not heard whether he has received them or not , although there is no stir in this place at this time. I desire some linsey for trade in the Cherokee Nation, if Mr. Gammon and yourself can send it to me, as I would greatly appreciate it. I can receive the cattle when James Havron returns, as I have sent him to you, and you will much oblige your friend and faithful servant.
----Joseph Sevier"

A few months later, Governor Blount wrote to Joseph Seviers father, Governor John Sevier of Tennessee, on June 2, 1793, stating
"Your son, Joseph, is setting out with a good quantity of linsey, and other artifacts for trade, in the Cherokee Nation."

William Blount often sent Joseph Sevier personally to deliver letters to his father Gov John Sevier,.
Two that were dated January 9, and February 9, 1794, opened with, "By your son, Joseph, I send you some of the most interesting papers that I have received."

April 15, 1794, Gov. Blount sent a letter to General James Robertson which stated,
"Yesterday, John McKee and Joseph Sevier, arrived in Knoxville from Seneca. Joseph Sevier came through the Upper Cherokees, and the substance of the information received from them, is that a great majority of the Cherokees, except the Lower Towns, are sincerely disposed for peace. The Lower Towns as of yet gave no reason to believe that they are more disposed for peace, or less for war. The recent injuries received at the hands of the Indians are charged to Chief Doublehead and his party of about one-hundred, who have been out since early February, and small parties of Creeks.
On the 18th, McGee and Sevier will enter the Cherokee Nation with letters to the chiefs and instructions to assure the Cherokee that the United States are disposed to meet their overtures of peace and to be vigilant and active in bringing about the completion of a desirable end."

Chief Little Turkey wrote to General John Sevier about his son Joseph on August 25, 1796;
"Sent Joseph Sevier to get the negro slaves belonging to his people and bring them to this place."
The Cherokee owned many negro slaves and they often used them to work the Cherokee plantations. They did not consider it to be wrong to steal slaves whenever possible, then work them on their own lands.

Governor John Sevier wrote a letter to Chief John Watts regarding his oldest son Joseph Sevier, on January 20, 1798.
"Brother, My son, Joseph has once again gone into your nation. I have never been afraid to let him go among your people, as I do not believe that any of them would do him any injury. Neither did I hate your people, or wish to do them any harm when at peace. Otherwise, I would not have allowed him to go and live among you.
I hope that you will not allow my son to be used ill by any person, whether they are red or white. You are a free people and are not slaves. You and your head men are the rulers of your own country and lands, If my son should receive any injury or hurt in your country you may depend that my heart will become crooked and cross, which I never wish to be the case, but I wish to live in friendship and peace, so long as I remain alive.
My son has always been a friend to your people. I should think that it is very strange and very hard if your men and warriors were to see him abused in your country.
----John Sevier"

Col. George W. Sevier related a conversation that his father Gen Sevier had with Chief John Watts, who was a Cherokee chief during the Indian wars of the 1790's. John Watts was on a visit to General John Sevier, when the subject of old wars came up.
Gen Sevier stated, "You know that I always advised your people toward peace, and see how much better off we are now with peace."

Watts replied, "Yes. And I was always for peace and never went to war except when urged to it by the Nation."

Gen Sevier continued, "I have seen you run away in various battles, like a fine fellow."

"Yes" said Watts, "Seeing my people fall and that you had gotten the start, I did run, to save my people so that we may fight you again, and we always did fight you again."

General Sevier said, "You never made me run."

Watts acknowledged, "No I never did. Never could I catch you in an ambuscade, but I have often whipped your captains and made them run, and had some of them as my prisoners."

"Yes. That's true" acknowledged General Sevier.

Joseph Sevier died July 18, 1826 in Overton County, Tennessee at the young age of 63.
The actual burial place of Joe Sevier was likely under a large tree near his home.
As far as I know his grave is not known but he deserves a memorial to his memory.



  • Created by: Stephanie Gamage
  • Added: 10 Nov 2019
  • Find A Grave Memorial 204587979
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Joseph Hawkins “Joe” Sevier (17 Mar 1763–18 Jul 1826), Find A Grave Memorial no. 204587979, citing Antioch Cemetery, Overton County, Tennessee, USA ; Maintained by Stephanie Gamage (contributor 50146655) .