A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett

by David Crockett

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How would you characterize Davy Crockett's experiences as a son, husband, and father?

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Davy Crockett (1786-1836) is an American frontiersman who achieved the status of folk hero for his exploits as a hunter, soldier, and politician in the early nineteenth century. There is not much literary focus on his family life, and the recordation of his adventures is largely filled with myth and hyperbole, but in his autobiography entitled, “Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, of the State of Tennessee” published in 1834, he attempts to clear up some of his reputation with historical accuracy. The narrative includes some indications of his family relationships:

A publication has been made to the world, which has done me much injustice . . . It is certain that the writer of the book alluded to has gathered up many imperfect scraps of information concerning me, as in parts of his work there is some little semblance of truth.

In “Narrative,” Crockett begins by shedding light on his family background and confirming the marital relationship of his parents:

My father's name was John Crockett, and he was of Irish descent. He was either born in Ireland or on a passage from that country to America across the Atlantic. He was by profession a farmer, and spent the early part of his life in the state of Pennsylvania. The name of my mother was Rebecca Hawkins. She was an American woman, born in the state of Maryland, between York and Baltimore. It is likely I may have heard where they were married, but if so, I have forgotten. It is, however, certain that they were, or else the public would never have been troubled with the history of David Crockett, their son.

The author explains that he had five brothers and three sisters and his grandparents were “murdered” by the Creeks. His descriptions of his family line and their experiences in the New World lend insight into the significance Crockett accords family life.

Marriage is important to Crockett. He describes how he makes an initial attempt to wed, but is turned away. He suffers

a sickness of the heart, and all the tender parts, produced by disappointed love.

The author’s disappointment does not last long. He marries Mary Finely and becomes a farmer. This is his first conception of becoming a family man. However, frontier farming proved unrewarding, and he relocated his family to Tennessee.

Another indication of Crockett’s commitment to the institution of marriage occurs when his first wife, Mary, dies. Afterwards, he quickly marries Elizabeth Patton. The main difficulty with the author’s family life surrounds his military career. In lieu of farming, he is frequently away on military campaigns for long periods of time. Because of military duties, he does not have the opportunity to spend adequate time with his sons. Nevertheless, influenced by their father, Crockett’s sons become successful. One son, John Wesley Crockett, becomes a Congressman in the same district once represented by his father.

Davy Crockett clearly cares about his children, but acknowledges his shortcomings in an honest passage in “Narrative”:

I was left with three children; the two oldest were sons, the youngest a daughter, and, at that time, a mere infant. It appeared to me, at that moment, that my situation was the worst in the world. I couldn't bear the thought of scattering my children, and so I got my youngest brother, who was also married, and his family to live with me. They took as good care of my children as they well could, but yet it wasn't all like the care of a mother. And though their company was to me in every respect like that of a brother and sister, yet it fell far short of being like that of a wife. So I came to the conclusion it wouldn't do, but that I must have another wife.

While history records the author’s biography as though he were a folk hero for his military exploits, he humbly expresses his feelings that the honor might not be deserved. This sense of humility is seen through his family history on the frontier.

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