Tennessee State Library and Archives
Tennessee Myths and Legends
The Heroine of Kaintuck, 1840, Illustration from The Crockett Almanac
Intro | Native Americans | Daniel Boone | Davy Crockett | Bell Witch | Ghosts | Myth-cellaneous | Casey Jones

Davy Crockett

Davy Crockett

Davy Crockett, undated,

Library Photograph Collection

 “Be sure you’re right. Then go ahead.”

In 1786, David Stern “Davy” Crockett, the celebrated frontiersman, politician and folk hero was born in a small cabin on the banks of the romantic Nolichucky River in what is now Greene County.  He detested the nickname Davy and all his life preferred to be called David.

Descriptions of Crockett vary, but it is generally thought that he was about 5 feet 8 inches high (tall for the period), with brown hair, blue eyes, and rosy cheeks. He was noted for his homespun humor, honesty, and skill as an entertaining public speaker.  Tall tales have grown up around Crockett’s backwoods exploits and we present some of them in this exhibit.

Crockett purportedly died March 6, 1836, at the Alamo during the Texas war for independence.  Because of a Mexican soldier’s diary, some scholars--including Michael Lofaro at the University of Tennessee--have questioned whether Crockett actually fell there. They allege that he and a few others survived the battle but were later executed by the Mexicans on the orders of Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Crockett apologists claim the Mexican journal is a fake.  Following the battle, Crockett assumed a super hero status of mythical proportion and has been the subject of movies, television shows, plays, and many books.


The Alamo, 1922,

Library Photograph Collection

Davy did not discourage the myths and legends that grew up around him—the taller the tales, the better.  The young Republic was eager for stories of common-folk heroes and Crockett filled the bill. His electioneering skills helped get him to Congress. After his death, the legends became more and more fantastical and they tapped into America’s obsession with Manifest Destiny.

Davy Crockett March Davy Crockett March  

Davy Crockett March, by George Loesch, 1874, Rose Music Collection
This eccentric image is of the “Davy” Americans came to love for his backwoods persona, the one that rode a lightning bolt and could wring the tail off Halley’s Comet. 

Clement, Disney, Parker and Ebsen Parker and Clement Parker with Clement Family  

Gov. Frank G. Clement, Walt Disney, Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen, 1954, Frank Goad Clement Papers
Hollywood stars Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen (later “Jed Clampett”) flank Walt Disney and Gov. Frank G. Clement while the governor holds Crockett’s musket “Ole Betsy.”  Though “Davy” never got a TV series of his own, Disney Studios produced five episodes of Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier between 1954 and 1955. 

Fess Parker and Gov. Frank G. Clement, 1954, Frank Goad Clement Papers

Fess Parker with the Clement family, 1954, Frank Goad Clement Papers
Fess Parker, star of Disney’s Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier, outdoors at the Executive Residence posing with Gov. Frank G. Clement and his young family.  Parker holds a replica of Davy’s signature
coonskin cap. 

The Ballad of Davy Crockett on boyscouttrail.com

Trademark Humor
David was known for his quick wit and soaring tales on the campaign trail and the people sent him to the House of Representatives twice.  Politically a populist, he spoke up for land squatters and opposed President Andrew Jackson’s plan for Indian removal.

Click here to read the Petition to form Crockett County, 1837, Record Group 60 - Legislative Petitions

Davy Crockett Land Record Davy Crockett Land Record  

Land Record signed by Davy Crockett, 1822, Record Group 50 - Early Tennessee Land Records 

The Crockett Almanac was a wildly popular magazine mass-produced between 1835 and 1856.  Most of the papers were published AFTER 1836, the year of Crockett’s death during the Texas War for Independence.

Crockett Almanac Crockett Almanac

The Crockett Almanac, 1839, Library Special Collection

The Crockett Almanac, 1842, Library Special Collection


Crockett Almanac Crockett Almanac Crockett Almanac  

Judy Finx Whipping a Catamount, 1839, Library Special Collection
Illustration from The Crockett Almanac.

The Skeleton of Zebulon Kitchen, 1839, Library Special Collection
Illustration from The Crockett Almanac.

The Heroine of Kaintuck, 1840, Library Special Collection
Illustration from The Crockett Almanac.