24 - David Haston Cut Tails Off a Neighbor's Horned Cows

Some of us Haston boys have been known for mischief.  Just ask people who knew us while we were growing up.  For example, out of a class of 212, the principal’s daughter I were voted “Most Mischievous” in my senior year of high school.  I had worked hard to earn that honor.  After all, David Haston was my GGG Grandfather.  And you ought to hear some of my father’s tales of mischief.  

I (double-dog) dare you to post some of your mischievous stories in our Facebook Group! 

At age 20, David cut the tails off his neighbor’s cows and ended up in Knox County, TN court.

Have you ever had a cantankerous neighbor–one that everybody seemed to have trouble with? Nathaniel Hays (a Revolutionary War veteran) appears to have been that kind of person.

In 1797, there was no Lake Loudon below Knoxville. So the river (“Holston” at that time) was lower than now and in low-water seasons there were numerous islands up and down the river. But there was one island, very near where the Hastons lived, that was quite large (see the map image). This may have been the scene of “the crime.”

From the court records, here’s the re-enactment (best I can tell) of the mischievous deed that got David in trouble:

  1. Nathaniel Hays had horned cattle that grazed on the island.
  2. The fence that was supposed to keep the cows in their place was low and “not good” and the cows were not contained properly.
  3. Apparently, the cows got out (perhaps often) and created some kind of problem for the Daniel Haston family.
  4. So David cut the tails off of two of Mr. Hays’s horned cows. That will show him!
  5. Mr. Hays went across the river (December 18, 1797) and filed a complaint with James White, founder of Knoxville and a Justice of the Peace for Knox County.
  6. David was arrested and brought to court on April 11, 1798.
  7. Some witnesses were summoned to testify against David, including some Roddy children (siblings of David’s future wife, Margaret/Peggy Roddy).
  8. Some of the witnesses testified that they saw the bleeding cows and David was there at the scene.
  9. David was found “guilty” and fined $5.00.  Joseph was found “not guilty.”

Who was Nathaniel Hays? He was granted land in Middle Tennessee because of his Revolutionary War service. He was temporarily living in Knox County until the Indian attacks ceased. Finally, in about 1804 or so he took up his Middle Tennessee land – it was adjacent to where Andrew Jackson lived. On June 7, 1809, Nathaniel Hays exchanged his land with Andrew Jackson’s land and Hays’s original tract became the site of Jackson’s home place – The Hermitage. 

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