By Mike Steely
Two early Knox County settlers will be memorialized with monuments Saturday at Mars Hill Cemetery, the site of the old Cavett Station and Blockhouse. Moses Cavett, who fought in the Battle of Kings Mountain in the Revolutionary War, and Agnes Cavett, his wife, will be remembered.
The 11 a.m. ceremonies, held by the Sons of the American Revolution, honor not only those two settlers but also the Cavett family, many of whom were massacred by Chickamauga War Chief Doublehead following an attack in 1793. The Overmountain Victory Trail Association and the Daughters of the American Revolution are also sponsors.
The Mars Hill Cemetery, located on Broome Road just east of West Gallaher View Road, probably began in 1792 with the burial of Susannah Cavitt who was interred on the hill above the Alexander Cavett fortified cabin, or blockhouse. The following year the Chickamauga Cherokee, unable to attack the Federal Garrison in what is Knoxville, laid siege to the Cavett settlement with about 1,000 warriors.
The war party, including the notorious Chief Doublehead sent Chief Bob Benge and Chief John Watts to negotiate with those inside the cabin. Benge, the red-headed son of a white trader and the sister of Doublehead, spoke very good English and promised the settlers that if they surrendered their lives would be spared. Chief Doublehead, the uncle of both Benge and Watts, had recently lost a brother in a battle with white settlers, was outraged at his loss.
Upon surrender the settlers were slaughter by Doublehead and his warriors to the horror of the other Cherokee present. The vengeful chief reportedly grabbed a white baby, who was being saved from the slaughter by anther warrior, and bashed the child’s head against a tree.
The Chickamauga Cherokee nicknamed Doublehead “Baby Killer” and, years later, would assassinate him for his many deeds and for illegally selling tribal land.
Among those settlers known to be killed were Alexander Cavett, several family members, and two militiamen: John Spurgeon and Francis Bowry.
Chief Benge, whose passion for capturing and not killing white settlers, would be killed a few years later in an ambush by Virginia militia as he escorted two captive women through the mountain near Big Stone Gap, Va.
Moses Cavett, Alexander’s brother, acquired the 640 acres and his daughter, Nancy, married Joseph Lones (Lonas). The Cavett land remained in the procession of Cavett descendants for more than 227 years.
Moses died in 1802 and Agnes died in 1820. What was to become known as the Mars Hill Cemetery apparently contains the remains of those massacred and generations of descendants. A survey with ground penetrating radar has located many graves there outside the bounds of the known graveyard.
In 1921 the Sons of the American Revolution placed a monument at the blockhouse site to the Cavett family. A grandson of Chief Benge and a Cavett descendant, Kincer Fox, attended that event.
Descendants of the Cavett family will attend and possibly descendants of Chief Benge, according to Cindy Johnson, Secretary of the West Hills Community Association.
The nearby subdivision recalls the history of the family and event with the streets named “Alexander Cavett” and “Doublehead.”
Recently the homeowners around the cemetery rallied against a planned subdivision next to the cemetery. Dr. Charles Faulkner’s “Massacre at Cavett Station” details the event, this history of the family, and findings of archeological surveys there.
The Sons of the American Revolution in Tennessee has 21 Chapters and, from July 7th through the 13th, the national organization meets in for convention Knoxville.