William Bean

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William Bean
William Bean Cabin Placque.jpg
Tennessee Historical Commission marker placed near the William Bean Cabin site in present-day Johnson City
William Bean Jr.

(1721-12-09)December 9, 1721
DiedMay 1782 (aged 60)
OccupationLonghunter, soldier, pioneer, politician
Known forbeing the reported first permanent European-American settler, and founding the first permanent European-American settlement of Tennessee[1]
TitleCommissioner, Watauga Association[2]
Term1772-April 1775
PredecessorOffice established
SuccessorOffice dissolved
Lydia Russell
(m. 1744; died 1788)
  • William Bean Sr. (father)
  • Margaret Hatton Bean (mother)

William R. Bean Jr. (December 9, 1721-May 1782) was an American pioneer, longhunter, and Commissioner of the Watauga Association. He is accepted by historians as the first permanent European American settler of Tennessee.[3]


William Bean was born December 9, 1721 in St. Stephens Parish, Northumberland County, Virginia of William Bean Sr. and Margaret Hatton Bean.[4] In 1744, Bean would marry Lydia Russell of Northumberland County (b. September 29, 1726).[5] William was of Scottish descent, and Lydia was of English descent.[6]

Settlement in the Watauga Association[edit]

In 1762, Bean would set camp close to the junction of Boone's Creek and the Watauga River, near present-day Johnson City during a longhunting excursion with fellow pioneers and friends Daniel Boone and Richard Callaway, on behalf of Richard Henderson, a land surveyor who played an important role in the early settlement of Tennessee.[7][8] In 1769, He would construct a cabin at this site and relocate his family. Shortly after the cabin's completion, Lydia Bean would give birth to a son, Russell Bean, who would be historically accepted as the first European-American born in present-day Tennessee.[9] The Bean family would encounter aggressive confrontations with the inhabiting Cherokee tribes, and would find distaste in the growing popularity of the Watauga Association. Nevertheless, William Bean would pursue a career in politics and be elected as a commissioner of the Watauga Association in 1772, serving a crucial role in the absorption of the settlement into the state of North Carolina by 1775.[2]

American Revolution and establishment of Bean Station[edit]

The view of the German Creek valley as seen from Clinch Mountain

In 1775, William Bean would collaborate with Daniel Boone on a new longhunting excursion, as Bean wanted to move west with the Watauga Association gaining popularity, and Boone was wanting to expand his Wilderness Road southward towards the Great Indian Warpath. The duo would cross the gap on top of Clinch Mountain after traversing the Powell and Clinch rivers in present-day Claiborne and Grainger counties in Tennessee. After surveying the valley below, Bean and Boone would descend the southward slope of Clinch Mountain and set camp along the German Creek tributary of the Holston River and the Great Indian Warpath. Finding appreciation for the vast wildlife, timber, fertile soil, and access to navigable waters, Bean would choose this site as the permanent site of his new home and to establish a community with Boone planning to extend the Wilderness Road to the campsite location.[10]

During the Revolutionary War, Bean would serve as a captain for the Virginia militia, and would be awarded over 3,000 acres in the German Creek valley where he surveyed and camped at previously with Boone in 1776. In the same year, Bean would construct a four-room cabin with the assistance of his sons. The cabin served as his family's home, and as an inn for prospective settlers, fur traders, and longhunters, named Bean Station, establishing the first reportedly permanent settled community in present-day Tennessee.[1]

In 1780, Bean would serve in his position of captain in the Battle of Kings Mountain.[2]

Death and legacy[edit]

In May 1782, Bean would die of unknown causes at the age of 60 in his cabin at Bean Station.[2]

Bean’s settlement of Bean Station would grow substantially following his death in 1782. By 1787, Bean’s sons would construct a fort, blacksmiths shop, and a trading outpost at the community’s crossroads of the Wilderness Road and the Great Indian Warpath.[10][11]

Bean Station would emerge as a important stopover, due to its strategic location on the crossroads of present day U.S. Route 25E and U.S. Route 11W, between Washington, D.C. and New Orleans for early travelers through Tennessee into the 18th century.[12][13]

The town and cabin established by Bean would be lost following the flooding of the Holston River valley for the construction of the Cherokee Dam by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1942. Bean Station would unofficially relocate to the new crossroads of US 25E and US 11W, and incorporated into a town in 1996.[14]


  1. ^ a b Clouse, Allie (May 27, 2021). "From Davy to Dolly: 225 years (and more) of Tennessee's storied history". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Tuller, Roberta (2020). "William Bean". An American Family History. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  3. ^ Lambert, A.J. "WILLIAM BEAN, REV'L WAR" (PDF). Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  4. ^ "William Bean". Find a Grave. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  5. ^ Larry Kraus. "Children of William Bean (c 1700 – 1780) | William Bean I Genealogy". larkcom.us. Retrieved May 14, 2015.
  6. ^ Grady, J.A. (1973). William Bean, Pioneer of Tennessee, and His Descendants. Grady. Retrieved May 14, 2015.
  7. ^ Ramsey, The Annals of Tennessee, 66-69.
  8. ^ Hamer, Tennessee: A History, 64.
  9. ^ "William Bean's Cabin - 1A5 | Tennessee Historical sign". waymarking.com. Retrieved May 14, 2015.
  10. ^ a b Coffey, Ken (October 19, 2012). "The First Family of Tennessee". Grainger County Historic Society. Thomas Daugherty. Archived from the original on March 20, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2020.
  11. ^ Barksdale, Kevin (July 11, 2014). The Lost State of Franklin: America's First Secession (E-book). University Press of Kentucky. p. 19. ISBN 9780813150093. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
  12. ^ Brown, Fred (2005). Marking Time (Paperback). University of Tennessee Press. pp. 99–101. ISBN 9781572333307. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
  13. ^ Lane, Ida M. (December 1, 1929). "Once The Teeming Crossroads Of The Wilderness, Bean Station Now Lapsed Into Village Peace". Knoxville News Sentinel. p. 23. Retrieved November 7, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  14. ^ Coffey, Ken. "History of Bean Station". Town of Bean Station. Archived from the original on July 24, 2015. Retrieved July 23, 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • Carolyn Sakowski; Touring the East Tennessee Backroads; J.F. Blair, pub.; Winston-Salem, N.C.; 1993; pp. 86–87.