Ann Robertson Johnston Cockrill

Ann Robertson Cockrill was the only woman among the early Cumberland settlers to receive a land grant in her own name. In 1784 the North Carolina legislature awarded this honor for her contribution to the “advance guard of civilization.”

Born in Wake County, Virginia, Ann Robertson moved to the Watauga settlement. In July 1776, when Fort Caswell, near the present site of Elizabethton, came under Indian attack, she mobilized the women to pass caldrons of boiling water to her position overlooking the palisades. Although she sustained several injuries, Robertson continued at her post until the Indians retreated.

When her husband, a justice of the peace in the Washington District of East Tennessee, was killed in an accident, she and her three small daughters joined Colonel John Donelson and a group of pioneers including her sister-in-law Charlotte Robertson in the migration to the Cumberland settlements. During the journey by flatboat, she taught the children, according to tradition, by making small wooden boxes, filling them with river sand, and drawing letters and numbers in the sand.

When the flotilla reached the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers, the flatboats had to navigate against the rain-swollen current to reach the mouth of the Cumberland. Some members decided to turn south to Natchez, Mississippi. Ann Robertson took a man's place as the pilot and steered the boat near the bank so the remaining men could pole upstream.

In the fall of 1784 Robertson married John Cockrill, and they had eight children. They established a home at Cockrill Springs at the present site of Centennial Park, where today there is a monument to her memory. She is buried in the Nashville City Cemetery.

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Ann Robertson Johnston Cockrill
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
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  • Access Date June 13, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018