Hamilton County Pioneers - the Wallings

Sunday, November 30, 2008 - by John Wilson

The ridge stretching north from Signal Mountain has long been known as Walling's or Walden's Ridge. But debate continues on how it got its name.

Many authorities believe the name can be traced to Elisha Walling (or Wallen), who was
one of the “Long Hunters” who ventured into the unexplored frontier in the area that became Tennessee and Kentucky. According to a book on the Walling/Walden family, Elisha Walling was born about 1732, probably in Prince George's County, Md. His parents were Elisha and Mary Blevins Walling. Among those at Monocosie Hundred in Prince George's County in 1733 were “James Blavin, Daniel Blavin, John Cox, James Walling, Elisha Walling, William Walling, Peter Cox and Brewer Cox.”

The Wallings had made their way to Virginia by 1745, settling on Smith River in Lunenburg County. In the early 1770s, some of the Wallings, including the younger Elisha, moved to the section that became Montgomery County. It was then part of Botetourt County. Their neighbors included Dauswell and William Rogers, whose
families moved on down into Tennessee and whose descendants were Hamilton County
pioneers. Elisha Walling Sr. took the oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1777. He was the only Walling then listed in Henry County, Va.

Elisha Walling Jr. in 1782 entered 200 acres on the north side of New River on Rocky Creek, and his brother, Joseph, was granted 400 acres on the east side of New River below the mouth of Meadow Creek. The Long Hunter received his first North Carolina land grant in the section that became Tennessee in 1787, and he and his wife, Catherine Blevins, later headed for the frontier. Arriving in October 1793, they settled 18 miles above the future site of Knoxville on 461 acres on the north side of the Holston River.
Elisha Walling eventually acquired 5,730 acres, and the homeplace grew to 640 acres. It was at the foot of Cumberland Mountain and included a luxuriant forest of white oak, ash, black walnut and pines. A large sinking spring rose up into a glade near their “dwelling house,”' and there was a second spring three-quarters of a mile away.

Walling had apparently purchased his land from earnings he had made in the fur trade in
his Long Hunting days. He had organized about 20 Long Hunters in 1761, and they made plans to venture past Cumberland Gap. Few people had dared to enter this territory because of the danger from unfriendly Indians. The Walling group in 1761 hunted for several months in Powell's Valley and along the Clinch and Powell rivers in the future Upper East Tennessee. They did not come near the Walden's Ridge of Hamilton
County, but did explore a section of the later Claiborne County near Tazewell where a ridge was given the name Wallen's Ridge. In 1763, Walling and the Long Hunters traveled along the Cumberland River and began trapping in a fertile valley in the future Kentucky. They located a buffalo salt lick and followed a stream they called Stinking Creek as far as the Roaring Fork - a frequent gathering place for the Indians.
The hunters carried their rich cache of furs and hides back to North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania, where they would earn as much as $1,700 per season - a handsome amount for the time period.

Major John Redd met Elisha Walling in 1774. He said he was “some 40 years of age and had been a Long Hunter for many years. He was about 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed about 180 pounds, and was regarded as a very honest man.” Elisha Walling was living at Washington County, Mo., when he died in 1814.

Other accounts speak of a John Walling who is said to have led an expedition to the vicinity of the later Hamilton County in pursuit of Indians. Goodspeed's History of Tennessee reports: “In the early part of the century John Walling, with a posse of men, among whom were a Mr. Warren and a Mr. Green, came from Virginia to what is
now Hamilton County in pursuit of Indians who had captured and carried away as prisoners two white women. The posse overtook the Indians and recaptured the women on what is now generally called Walden's Ridge, but which is sometimes named, as originally, Walling's Ridge. Mr. Walling and his posse, after the recapture of the
women, built a kind of fort on this ridge, which they occupied for some days until, supposing the Indians had become reconciled to the loss of their captives, they returned home and restored the women to their friends. The Indians, however, followed and killed Mr. Walling while he was plowing in his field. From this circumstance, the ridge was named originally Walling's Ridge.”

Judge Lewis Shepherd also referred to the John Walling account in a newspaper article in 1881. He said John Walling organized a party of 12 men after a young woman had been captured by Indians, and they were able to recapture the maiden. Saying the settlers were “alarmed and incensed,” he said Walling then headed a party of 50 men that went into the Sequatchie Valley to punish the Indians. He said on their way home they noticed a fork in the mountains and one branch of the fork was called “Walling's Ridge.”

To further confuse the matter, Taylor Walden, a former Chattanooga resident, claimed in a 1927 newspaper article that the ridge was named for one of his ancestors, a Virginia militia officer named Daniel Walden. He said Daniel Walden led a small expedition to Nickajack around 1800 to negotiate with the Chickamauga Indians on the release of some prisoners. When leaving Sequatchie Valley, they camped at the foot of the mountain later called Walden's Ridge. Taylor Walden said his ancestor told his companions he had become so attached to the mountain that he planned to sell his property in Virginia and move there. He said he did so and brought several families with him. However, a
search of early land records does not turn up any Waldens - or Wallings - on Walden's
Ridge.

Most of the Wallings in Tennessee before the Civil War were in White County. But Judge Shepherd reported a Daniel Walden in 1849 applied with the Tennessee Legislature to build a turnpike road across Walden's Ridge. An Elisha Wallen was married to Mary Elizabeth Wallen in Hamilton County in 1860. Joseph T. Walling
married Eliza C. Hagan in Hamilton County in 1862.


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