Davy Crockett Biography

David “Davy” Crockett, the son of John and Rebecca Crockett, was born on August 17, 1786, in East Tennessee. He was the fifth of nine children. Crockett’s father put him to work driving cattle to Virginia when he was twelve years old. After running away from home to escape a beating from his father, Crockett traveled throughout Virginia. He decided that his lack of education limited his marriage possibilities, so he learned to read, to write a little, and to “cypher,” or add and subtract.

In 1806 Crockett married Mary Finely and became a farmer. Frontier farming proved unrewarding, and in 1813 he decided to move his family to Franklin County, Tennessee.

Davy Crockett.

Political career

On September 17, 1821, Crockett was elected to the Committee of Propositions and Grievances. From 1821–1824 he served as a member of the Tennessee state legislature. In 1826 and 1828, Crockett was elected to the United States House of Representatives. As a congressman, Crockett supported the rights of squatters, who were barred from buying land in the west without already owning property. He also opposed President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, and his opposition to Jackson caused his defeat when he ran for re-election in 1830; however, he won again when he ran in 1832. Crockett was a staunch advocate against wasteful government spending. In his speech entitled “Not Yours to Give,” he was critical of his congressional colleagues who were willing to spend taxpayer dollars to help a widow of a U.S. Navy man, but were unwilling to contribute one week of their own salary to the cause. He described the spending as “unconstitutional” and the once popular proposal died in the Congress largely as a result of the speech:

Mr. Speaker—I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him. Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.

In 1834, Crockett’s book titled A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett was published. Crockett went east to promote the book and was narrowly defeated for re-election. In 1835 he was again defeated for re-election, saying, “I told the people of my district that I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but if not . you may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.” And he did just that, joining the Texas Revolution.

Entering Politics

Crockett’s exploits endeared him to many of the people back home and he was able to launch a political career. He first served in the Tennessee House of Representatives for a single term from 1821 to 1823. Crockett had long eyed a seat in Congress; he ran for Congress in 1825 but lost. He ran again the next year as a supporter of Andrew Jackson and was able to secure the election. At the time, future president Andrew Jackson was considered a folk hero by many in his native Tennessee due to his exploits in the War of 1812 and his time in the United States Senate. Crockett wanted badly to associate himself with the popular man. However, after Crockett won election, he and Jackson had a falling out and the young Congressman became a member of the Anti-Jacksonian Party. Most notably, Crockett became the only Congressman from Tennessee to vote against Jackson’s efforts to remove the Cherokee from Georgia.

It was during this time that Crockett’s status as a legendary frontiersman began, as he began to campaign on his adventures on the frontier. During his final term in Congress he published an autobiography which became popular throughout the nation. In one colorful account, Crockett claimed to have shot over 105 bear in a single year during his time in the wilderness. Later authors would expand on the accounts that Crockett wrote about, expanding his image as a frontiersman. Here, people read stories of Crockett being able to ‘grin the bark off of a tree’ or that he killed his first bear at the ripe age of three year old.

Despite his growing legend, Crockett’s political career was checkered. He was defeated for reelection, only to run again and regain his seat. He was defeated a final time in 1835. Following his defeat, he was said to have stated ‘I told the people of my district that I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but if not, they might go to hell, and I would go to Texas.’

Davy Crockett

Davy Crockett

Davy Crockett’s Long-Lasting Legacy

After Crockett’s death, stories of his courageous, adventurous life spread like wildfire. His reputation as a patriotic American hero with a rifle and coonskin cap was represented in novels, plays, comic books, and more.

A TV series about Crockett released by Walt Disney in 1954 introduced the famous Davy Crockett song, “ Ballad of Davy Crockett .” At the height of the series, frontier-themed toys were selling off the shelves, including Davy Crockett hats which, according to the Smithsonian , were selling at a rate of 5,000 per day!

In 1960, the famous movie, The Alamo , starring John Wayne, would sweep the nation and further glorify his name as “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.”

Today, there are several parks named after Davy Crockett, including the Davy Crockett National Forest in Texas and the David Crockett State Park in Tennessee.

Selected EDSITEment Websites

Books

  • Kellog, Steven. Mike Fink. Paperback (May 1998) William Morrow & Company. Reading level: Young audiences.
  • Kellog, Steven. Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett: A Tall Tale. Paperback (August 1999) William Morrow & Company. Reading level: Young audiences.
  • Santrey, Laurence. Davy Crockett. Troll, 1983. Reading level: Young audiences.
  • Stoutenberg, Adrien. American Tall Tales. Paperback, 112 pages (October 1976) Puffin Books; ISBN: 0140309284. Reading level: Young adult.

Book on Cassette

Moore, John Trotwood. “Hearts of Hickory: A Story of Andrew Jackson and the War of 1812.” From The Library of Congress’s “Talking Book Topics,” a newsletter of books on cassette (RC 44089). Read by Jack Fox / 3 cassettes. Audience: Adult.

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