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Author Topic: Bean Family- Tennessee Riflemakers  (Read 6449 times)
Sequatchie Rifle
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« on: March 24, 2011, 03:21:41 PM »

I found this while going through some old papers and thought I'd share it with those of you who are interested in the bean Family and their connectiion to early "Tennessee" rifles.

Bean Family- Tennessee Riflemakers
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BEAN, William, the first white settler west of the Alleghenies. He was a companion of Daniel Boone in his visit to Kentucky in 1760, and returned in 1768 and settled with his family on Boone's creek, a small tributary of the Watauga.

William Beans descendant was one of the first gun smiths in Kentucky and Tennessee and made really long barrel rifles in a cave near Tullahoma TN, but the German Yeager rifles brought to this country by German settlers were the first rifles used here and many historians think the Yeager rifle was made longer to burn our poor powder completely. The Beck and other Lancaster and York county Penn. rifles were the rifles that have survived to today. Thus historians see them as the first true Ky. Longrifles as they were named for the place they were to be used not where they were made. The southern rifles were most likely destroyed during the War Between the States or were used till they were recycled for their steel.
A few selections from published works that mention members of the Bean/Been/Beene family or describe events that members of the family were involved in:
Alderman, Pat. The Overmountain Men, Battle of King's Mountain, Cumberland Decade, State of Franklin, Southwest Territory, Original Copyright 1970, Reprinted with Index 1986 by the Overmountain Press, Johnson City, Tennessee.

There are many references to William Bean, spelled Bean and Been, and other members of his family in this book.

Page 13

"William Bean was acquainted with military training of the time and held a Captain's rank in the Virginia Militia. He was a born leader and a man of means. His name appears frequently in the organization and affairs of the Watauga Association and Washington County. Many relatives and friends from Virginia soon settled around Bean. Among them were John and George Russell, brothers of Mrs. Bean, William, Jr., and John Bean, William's sons and others."
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Armstrong, Zella. Notable Southern Families, Copyright 1922 by the author.

This is a good read, but there are some factual mistakes, probably due to the fact that there are several lines of early Bean families whose relationships to each other are undetermined. Also, the author states that Lydia Russell's father was James Russell. Other researchers believe her father was William Russell. However, the gist of her chapter on the Beans is consistent with other accounts. It is believed that she was correct in saying that the John Bean who was a delegate from Washington County was the brother of William Bean, the pioneer, and not his son by the same name.

p 10 (The Bean Chapter covers pages 7-15).

"Serving under Captain William Bean in the expedition that pursued Captain Grimes was his brother, John Bean, a man of education, and a delegate to the convention of Franklin from Washington County, and also Captain Bean's son, George Bean, and Edmond Bean, probably a son of John Bean.
The Beans were all famous as riflemen, and history chronicles more than one instance of their marksmanship."


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Arnow, Harriette Simpson. Seedtime on the Cumberland, The Macmillan Co, New York, 1960. This is a very detailed, heavily footnoted work, but it is still highly readable and very enjoyable.

p 180

The author says that the Cherokee Indians and their leader Attakullakulla may not have known right away when, "...in 1769, a white man came and built a cabin further down the Holston than any man had yet dared settle, for the cabin, on Boone's Creek about one hundred yards from its junction with the Watauga River, was in a cunning place above a creek fall where it could not be easily attacked, and so situated that Indians passing on the nearby trail would never see it." (The author cites Ramsey's, The Annals of Tennessee for this reference about Bean's cabin).
"The builder was William Bean, one of a race of hard-working, self-respecting borderers of Pittsylvania in southwestern Virginia from which so many Long Hunters and land viewers came. Soon, there gathered about him, relatives, former neighbors, and also several families from western North Carolina."

There is a family tradition that the cabin was first built as a hunting cabin by William's brother, John Been. When John brought his family to this area later, he built another cabin, nearby.

p. 190

The author is describing a treaty being made with the Cherokee and the celebrations and speeches that accompanied the talks..."William Bean, the first settler in what was to be Tennessee, may have been somewhere around listening as his home was just up the river; behind him in the Bean family was a long history of migrations, first into Pennsylvania, then down the Valley of Virginia and into southwestern Virginia, and at last across the divide and into the Holston Country and down. East Tennessee was a hard and bloody land until 1795, yet by 1826 a young Bean was on the Sabine River in Texas."


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Bobrick, Benson. Angel in the Whirlwind, The Triumph of the American Revolution (Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1997). The author uses a massive amount of primary sources and somehow puts it together to create a very readable and informative book.

This book does not mention any of our Bean men by name, but it is a good read about the American Revolution. Sycamore Shoals is where William Bean's cabin was, where he brought his family to live in 1769. His brother, John Been, built another cabin nearby...

p 425

The author is describing events leading up to the Battle of King's Mountain in October of 1780: "On the morning of September 25, some 840 stalwart and patriotic 'over-mountain men,' as they were called--among the wildest of the frontiersmen --assembled under their partisan leaders at Sycamore Shoals. Their horses were decked out in red-and-yellow trappings 'of almost barbaric splendor' and the men themselves in hunting shirts of blue linen gaily decorated with tassels and fringe. Each man carried a blanket or knapsack on his back, a skillet fastened to the pommel of his saddle, and a buckskin shoulder pouch filled with parched corn. In addition to hunting knives, they carried the long Deckard rifle of the Kentucky frontier. Thus lightly encumbered, they could travel up to forty miles a day, and march and fight, it was said, for forty-eight hours without food or rest."

p 426

"After marching and riding all night through a drenching rain, the patriot forces came up to where Ferguson was ensconced at about three in the afternoon of October 7. They had traveled for thirty-six hours without rest, and some had gone without food for two days. Nevertheless, they paused only long enough to strap their blankets to their saddles and tether their horses among the trees. 'Every man threw four or five balls in his mouth,' recalled one young rifleman, James Collins, 'to be in readiness to reload quick.'"


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Crabb, Martha L. Over the Mountain, A Narrative History of the Bean, Selman, and Germany Families, (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, 1990).

p 150

"All able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 50 were required by law to serve (in the militia) and to attend muster 'armed and equipped as the law directs.' The minimum age of service had risen from 16 during the late 1700s to 18 at the beginning of the 1800s. Officers were elected by popular vote, and positions were keenly sought as a vote of confidence and esteem. At the Franklin County muster on July 23, 1810, Robert Been, then 46 years old, was commissioned captain of the 32nd Regiment of the Tennessee Militia, and since that date has been known as Captain Robert."


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Dixon, Max. The Wataugans, Original Copyright 1976 by the Tennessee American Revolution Bicentennial Commission. Reprinted with Index 1989, Copyright by the Overmountain Press, Johnson City, Tennessee.

The author profiles four of the founding fathers of the Watauga Association. The birth and death dates given for William Bean are not the usually cited dates of 1721-1782.

p 13 The Wataugans...the founding fathers

"William Bean (1716-1811) Plantation owner from Southside, Virginia, of Scotch descent. Farmer, trader, and soldier (captain at King's Mountain), Bean was the first settler of record in the Watauga valley in 1769. No mere 'first settler,' William Bean was a man of substance and a true colonizer. His family, relatives, and friends constituted the downstream 'other half' of the Watauga settlements."


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Draper, Lyman C. LL.D., King's Mountain and Its Heroes, History of the Battle of King's Mountain, October 7th, 1780, and the Events Which Led To It, Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1967 (Of course, this is a reprint; the work was originally printed during the 1800's, because it is quoted by others who wrote in 1889 or before). This is the ultimate source of information about the Battle of King's Mountain. Every book that even mentions this battle quotes Lyman C. Draper.

p 108

"It was unfortunate for the enemy, that, in this desperate contest, one Captain was killed, and five out of seven of the surviving officers of their Provincial corps were wounded. Besides Innes, shot down by Smith, another Watauga rifleman, Robert Beene, wounded Major Fraser, who was seen to reel from his horse."
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Hudgins, Dennis Ray, Editor. Cavaliers and Pioneers, Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents...Volume Five, Virginia Genealogical Society

p 320

"WILLIAM BEEN, 354 acs. Brunswick Co, on N side of Dan Riv., Beg. on the Riv. below the double Creeks; 1 Oct 1747, p 215, ?1.S15."
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Kegley, F. B. Kegley's Virginia Frontier, The Beginning of The Southwest, The Roanoke of Colonial Days, 1740-1783, published by The Southwest Virginia Historical Society, Roanoke, Virginia, U.S.A., 1938.

p 90-91

"Only a few names appear in the land records for this region as early as 1742, but in determining the location of the residences of the men enrolled in Capt. George Robinson's Company of Militia of that date we find that all of them lived south of James River, a part on the branches of the James and the rest on the "Roan Oak." We have here, then, the vanguard of the western migration at that period.
1742. Among these first men we find George Robinson, the captain of the company; James Rentfroe, a sergeant; Daniel Maughnahan, Mark Coal, Peter Renfroe, Henry Stiles, John Askins, James Coal, Bryan Cuff, Simon Acres, John Meason, William Acres, Tasker Tosh, Henry Brown, Samuel Brown, James Burk, Mark Evins, William Bean, Samuel Martin, Peter Kinder, Stephen Evins, Stephen Ranfro (Rentfroe), William Bradshaw, John Coal, William Craven, Nicholas Horseford." (This passage cited another work, Chalkley's Abstracts, Volume 2, page 509, from Draper Mss).
"At Daniel Monahan's sale held on December 13, 1744, there were present many individuals not mentioned in earlier records:--James Price, Charles Ewing, John Thomas, William Armstrong, William Carson, William Mills, Methusalem Griffith, Tobias Bright, Archibald Grimes, Daniel Creely, George Barber, John McFall, William March, Jasper Terry, Joseph Love, William Terry, James Davis." (This passage cites Chalkley's Abstracts, Volume 3, page 9, Sale bill).


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Nicklin, Jr., John Bailey, compiler. The Millers of Millersburg and Their Descendants Press of Brandon Printing Company, Nashville, Tennessee. Copyright 1923 by John Bailey Nicklin, Jr.

p 349 Letter from S. H. Beene, November 3, 1922

"As to my father's father, I have a very faint recollection of seeing him when I was a small boy, about the year 1850, I should say, perhaps. His name was William (Billy). He must have had brothers, for my father had cousins by the name of Beene. His father, my great grandfather, was brother to Captain Billy Beene who is given in the history of the state as having been the first permanent settler in the state. His name was John.
I recollect my father saying that in North Carolina, where they came from, they had three brothers, William, John, and Bob, but that Bob went north, and they never heard of him anymore.
Back of that he knew nothing. In describing them, he said they were tall, well formed, athletic men, with rather florid complexions, and blue eyes. He used to tell about two of them (brothers) who went to an Indian ball game to play with them, but were excluded because, to put them both on one side, would cut off all chance for the other, and it was against Indian rule to play brothers against each other."

However, since the Patriots who participated in the Battle of King's Mountain from the Watauga had the Bean brothers making their Tennessee Longrifles in the middle of the settlement, plus participating in the battle, itself, it is logical to conclude that the rifles used by the Wataugans were Bean rifles. Jesse Bean, one of the brothers, moved on to Middle Tennessee and was the first settler in the area that became Franklin County, Tennessee. It would be safe to say that the majority of the rifles used by the soldiers from Franklin and surrounding counties in the War of 1812 were Bean Longrifles.
The participants in the battle from North Carolina were probably using the rifles made by the Kennedy brothers, David and Alexander Kennedy in Moore County, North Carolina. Both Jesse Bean and David Kennedy's rifles are collector’s items today.
The father of Colonel David Crockett, during one of his many moves, lived on adjoining land with Jesse Bean, at one time, and when David Crockett moved to Franklin County, around 1812, he settle near Jesse Bean. I believe most of the rifles David Crockett owned, except for Old Betsy, were Bean Rifles.
The Beans, Kennedys, and Crockett’s are found in the early records of Chester and Lancaster Counties in Pennsylvania where the Yaeger (Hunt) Rifles were first introduced into America.
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WElliott
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« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2011, 08:34:15 PM »

Bill,
Thank you for posting all that information.  The Beans were a fascinating family who served this country well (and built some wonderful rifles).
Wayne
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Wayne Elliott
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« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2011, 10:18:59 PM »

Thanks Wayne!  I picked up an old Tennessee rifle last fall in Franklin County, Tennessee.  Jesse Bean was the first white man to settle in the County.  He was later followed by the like of David Crockett.  I bought the rifle less than two miles from where Jesse Bean had his shop.  The man I got it from said he didn't know who made it, but that he did know it was made near where he lived.  It had been in the family for a long time.  That led me to do a little research on the Bean Family.  There is also a Bean Creek in Marion County which is the adjacent county.
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« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2011, 08:38:48 AM »

William Bean is one of the most enigmatic figures of the eastern frontier - so much has been written about him and the family but so much remains clouded in mystery when you really try to pin down who/what/when/where.  There are many anecdotal references to him in books, including statements that he was a gunmaker, but when you look hard for real evidence - period references, etc. it has remained very elusive.  This is one of the big riddles in the origins of the classic east Tennessee/ "Bean" style rifle - who was the first Bean family gunmaker to work in Tennessee, where did they learn from, and what did those first Bean family guns look like?    

There is good evidence that Russell Bean was working and making rifles in the area by the late 18th century.  And to my knowledge no evidence that he went and learned gunsmithing somewhere back farther east has been found, so it looks like he learned right there in East Tennessee.    Whether or not he learned from a previous generation of Beans, is something many of us would love to know.  

A few more fun things about the Beans.  The early settlers in the area had to tread a fine line between constant threat of attack, and interaction with the Cherokees.  The Cherokees themselves were divided with regard to how to handle the encroachment of the white settlers, many being of mixed blood through decades of interaction and marriage with traders working out of the Carolinas and Georgia.  William Bean's wife Lydia was captured by the Cherokees and was saved from execution by the intervention of the influential Nancy Ward, Beloved Woman of the Cherokees.  Disagreement over her fate was one of the chain of events (along with the Sycamore Shoals Treaty and other issues regarding how to handle relations with the white settlers) that lead to Dragging Canoe's movement to the Chattanooga area forming the combative "Chickamauga"  faction of the Cherokees, which fought a more or less constant war with the settlers until the mid 1790s.  According to legends, Lydia Bean taught the Cherokees how to make butter and cheese (using dairy from two of the Bean family cows that were either taken, or given by the Beans as a gift for sparing her life), and how to weave on a loom.  

One more interesting thing about the Beans is the connection to the Bulls.  The Bull family bought their land from the Beans in the late 1780s.  After his arrival in Tennessee, John Bull married Fetna Bean (Russell's sister).  

Guy

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Ken G
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« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2011, 07:28:57 PM »

Bill,
Great information.  I can't believe I missed it when you posted. 
Thanks,
Ken
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« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2011, 12:19:52 PM »

One more thought - I have always had a hard time believing that William Bean sneaked into upper East Tennessee and squatted on Cherokee land in the late 1760s within a stone's throw of the Warrior's Path, without them being aware.  This is just pure speculation on my part, but I suspect he was there by permission of at least some of the Cherokee, perhaps involved in the hide trade or providing beneficial services to them - blacksmithing, gunsmithing, etc. like the Carters and Jacob Brown nearby. 

Many young Scots worked the back-country native trade in the Southeast out of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia - particularly among the Cherokees and Creeks - and become very comfortable living among, and were accepted by, the local tribes - to the point that by the time of the Revolution there was a sizable population with mixed Native American/Scot heritage.  Robert Benge, James Vann, John Watts, Alexander McGillivary, MacIntosh, Mennawa - just to name a few.  Throw into this mix longhunters, land speculators, and lots of former Regulators seeking refuge in the back country after Tryon cracked down on them in 1771, and upper East Tennessee presents a really interesting picture on the eve of the Revolution.

Guy
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« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2011, 09:04:34 AM »

If anyone has any questions about the beans I would be happy to add some information. If you are a bean I can point you to resources that are detailed.  These guys are my family and I have spent a good deal of time tracking the history. There are several interesting stories that float about.

One that is fairly interesting is that Russell, Williams's son, was in an all day fight with Andrew Jackson when Jackson tried to arrest Russell for throwing his wife out for having a bastard child while he was gone for a year plus on a trading trip. He had thrown her child out after cutting its earlobes off to mark it as a bastard and threw it out the door.  They were a rough group to survive those times. 

William is my 6th great grandfather and he came here and landed in SC in 1746 from Ireland where he had lived for 7 years after being run out of Scotland.   The Beans were Highland Scots and had a castle on Loch Ness.

Lots of history.   

Judge Roy Bean of the Texas hanging fame is of the same line.  Roy's brother Joshua was also the first mayor of San Diego.

The stories of William twist and turn because there were several with William names and the stories commingle.

Robert Bean
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« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2011, 09:34:04 AM »

Bean,  This thread makes great reading.  Thanks for sharing.
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Johan (Yock), John, William and Lincoln Shreckengost. Father, son, grandson and great grandson.  4 Generations of gunsmiths in Pennsylvania.
Hurricane ( of Virginia)
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« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2011, 10:14:44 AM »

Thread added to the ALR Library.
Hurricane
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Jim B ( no, another one)
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« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2011, 10:15:38 AM »

Great info on the settlement of E Tenn.  My fathers' family is from the area and I'd heard rumors and 'stories' of wild exploits of many of our ancestors, but some of this info makes those stories seem a bit more plausible.  It was still a rough and tumble area not long ago.  
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« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2011, 11:21:50 AM »

Are there rifle pictures to go with this?
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Johan (Yock), John, William and Lincoln Shreckengost. Father, son, grandson and great grandson.  4 Generations of gunsmiths in Pennsylvania.
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« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2011, 10:50:53 AM »

Here are a couple of links to some posts on Art and Jan's Contemporay Makers Blog Spot.  These show some of the work of Baxter Bean, perhaps the most famous of the Bean gunmakers - his work is considered to be an archetype of the style many view as the classic upper east Tennessee mountain rifle.

(Maybe Wayne, Ken or somoene can confirm for me - I believe the double lid box rifle shown on the table in photos 4-6 of the last link is attributed to or signed by Baxter Bean, but I am not positive.)  The rifle below it is by Edward Reid.  These are two of the fines East Tennessee rifles I know of. Don't miss the etra box in the toe of the double lid Bean and the cool variation of the banana box with captured lid on the Reid rifle.

http://contemporarymakers.blogspot.com/2010/04/save-date.html

http://contemporarymakers.blogspot.com/2010/05/baxter-bean-pistols.html

http://contemporarymakers.blogspot.com/2010/04/tennessee-kentucky-rifle-show-photos_27.html

Can't recall the exact dates, but I believe Baxter was born between 1790 and 1800 and was murdered in Nashville in the early 1750s(?).  Thus he would have been already the third generation of Beans in East Tennessee, being the grandson of William and son of Russell.

These pieces all probably fall into the period between the 1820s through 1840s. Makes one wonder what his father Russell's rifles made in the late 1700s looked like.


Guy
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WElliott
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« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2011, 11:50:33 AM »

Guy, you are correct that most folks who have examined the triple-box rifle believe it to be by the Bean family, probably Baxter.  Baxter was killed, I believe, in the 1840s. 
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Wayne Elliott
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