By ROBERT D. BUSH
No one knows for sure when the first settlers arrived along the Upper Brawley Creek.
Stories of so-called adventurers living in the middle Tennessee country even before the area known as “The Territory South of the River Ohio” are commonplace. Actual documentary evidence for early occupation of the area is rare to non-existent.
Season after season, for generations untold, various tribal bands gathered to hunt and trade on the waters of Brawley’s creek, the Carson fork branch being noted, traveling along a time-worn footpath that ran along the edge of the highland rim. Today we might remember it as parts of the old Hollow Springs Road that runs along the edge of the rim to a place called “Shey-bo-gan.” Dr. Robert Mason in the 1984 book, “History of Cannon County, Tennessee,” states the word was pronounced locally as Shebog’gy.
Sheybogy was located along the same rim where the headsprings of the Horse Spring Creek flows into the valley floors of what early settlers named Carson Fork. A well-worn footpath descended to the base of the hollow.
What became known in Cannon County folklore as the “Shey-bo-gan trail” was a part, in times long passed, of a network of ancient hunting trails and footpaths along the upper east fork of Stones River long before Cannon County was formed. Sheybogan connected with the old Nickajack to the south along the Coffee county line near the “Hollow Springs” to another trail that ran toward Warren County.
A trail also went north from the Sheybogan, staying close to the edge of the rim, in the direction of the Short Mountains. Skirting what is geographically known as the Highland Rim Escarpment, the trail ran nearby “Iconium-Bluewing” where another footpath descended down rocky slops on old Hills creek. Other footpaths descended off the rim near what settlers later called “Shinebone” or Elledge Hollow (Mason, 1984).
In ancient times, tribal bands hunted all along these headsprings that cascaded into the valley floors of a complex drainage system, flowing eventually into the east fork of Stones River. It was a river system striving with wild game _ a hunters’ paradise.
For untold centuries long before Europeans ever were aware of these places, native Americans gathered and camped in the valleys and headsprings of this river system, traveling along familiar networks of ancient footpaths. And, when there, became places for get-togethers, family reunions and renewal of old friendships. They traded their choice hides and furs along with stone tools. Marriage ceremonies were sometimes performed bonding tribal bands together. Some would bring rare stones from the distant mountains of East Tennessee for trade along with forest medicines and herbs. Was it a center of early com-merce?
Were these people also paying homage to the ancient forests that helped to sustain them _ for it was from the forests their food, shelter, medicines and clothing were derived? No doubt conflicts developed. Could these trails be described as warpaths?
When backwoodsmen ventured into these valleys, ridges and hollows they found no permanent villages or towns. What they did find was evidence of a transit people who camped here off and on over the centuries, hunting wild game.
Another unusual story of a piece-mill nature, speaks of a family or party of “settler-adventurers,” traveling this old footpath from the “Short Mountains”, along the “Bluewing,” that led to Sheboygan, then turning south, either to the area of the old McMahan community or the Carson Fork area. Details of this story, legend or fact, has become lost in the annuals of time.
One could gather many meanings from the word Sheybogan. Some even have their own notion about it remembered by family members in our own county.
Was it the name of an ancient warrior chief who once guided bands of people into these valleys? It may have only been a name the Europeans gave to a place to describe an ancient footpath?
For the most part, however, it was the name of a way to ancient gathering places where an abundance of wild game and water could be found.