Samuel Barton

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Colonel Samuel Barton (May 1749-January 1810) was a pioneer and Patriot of the American Revolution (1775–1783) but is remembered more for the exploration and settlement of what was to become Nashville, Tennessee.

Early life

Little is known of his early youth. Family tradition holds that Samuel, born in Virginia, was left bound as an apprentice while his father returned to England for business only to be lost at sea. Recent y-DNA testing of a male descendant of Samuel Barton has shown that this branch of Barton’s are part of a lineage whose earliest known member in America was Lewis Barton of Maryland.


Barton may have first explored the Cumberland region as a teenager with the Scraggins Party of 1765. This is supported by the fact that biographical sources put him in Nashville “…when there were but four families residing in the place, and when it was necessary to take every precaution to guard against the Indians”. Regardless of the chronology, it is evident that he vacillated between his native Virginia and the wilds of Tennessee. In 1774 he fought as a ranger against Indians in Lord Dunmore’s War.

Revolutionary War

With the onset of the American Revolution he mustered in Virginia in June 1775. He served as Sergeant in Morgan's Rifles of the 7th Virginia Regiment, the acclaimed snipers. As an explorer, hunter and frontiersman, Barton proved an ideal soldier. Botetourt County, Virginia court records log his marriage to Martha Robertson on March 10, 1778. With the advantages of military training and leadership he returned to Tennessee and contributed to the settling and development of Fort Nashborough, what was to become Nashville.


As a testament to the American faith in written law, Barton, General James Robertson and other prominent men of the area drafted and signed the Cumberland Compact in May 1780. This document served as constitution until Tennessee became the 16th state of the Union in 1796. In 1846, historian Albigence Waldo Putnam found the original document in a trunk that had belonged to Barton. The settlement was governed by the “Tribunal of Notables”, Barton being one of the twelve. In April 1781, a few days before the “Battle of the Bluffs” he suffered a shot in the wrist defending pioneers from Indians.

On January 7, 1783, a second Cumberland Compact was created and signed by Barton and nine other founders. Upon the creation of Davidson County in April of that year, Barton was appointed as Justice of the Peace and Judge of the County Court. In October 1783 he was elected as Court Entry-Taker and was sworn in as 2nd Major of the Militia. In 1784 Samuel Barton was designated as one of the five Directors as well as Treasurer of the fledgling city. He was later selected as a Colonel of the Militia.

Later life

In 1798, not yet 50 years of age, Samuel Barton resigned from civic life and moved his large family to what would the next year become Wilson County, Tennessee. For the last 12 years of his life he farmed his extensive land holdings, having been granted more than 1000 acres. His large plantation was on Jenning’s Fork of Round Lick Creek. He took up the vocation of surveying and appraising land. His burial site is unknown.


  • Jane Barton-married-1st John Bradley, Jr., 2nd William Woodward
  • Margaret Barton-married-Joseph Love Wilson
  • Elizabeth Barton-married-Thomas Dooley
  • Samuel Barton, Jr.-killed-War of 1812
  • Stephen Barton-married-Eleanor Baird
  • Joseph Barton-married-unknown
  • Gabriel Barton-married-Jane Johnson


  • Partow, Thomas E., Revolutionary Soldiers in Wilson County, Tennessee 1982
  • Ramsey, MD, J.G.M., The Annals of Tennessee, 1926, Kingsport Press
  • Ray, Worth, Tennessee Cousins, 1980 Genealogical Publishing Co.,Inc
  • Merritt, Dixon, The History of Wilson County, 1961 Benson Printing
  • Three Pioneer Tennessee Documents, 1964, Tennessee Historical Commission
  • Fulcher,Richard Carlton, 1770-1790 Census of The Cumberland Settlements, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.
  • Ferrell, Burta, 1979, Samuel Barton Patriot and Pioneer, TN ST Archives
  • East Tennessee Historical Society,First Families of Tennessee:A Register of early Settlers and their Present-Day Descendants, 2000, Ambrose Printing