McCool’s Tavern, Memphis, 1835


Colonel Davy Crockett, recently defeated in his bid for a fourth term in the Congress of the United States, returned to one of his favorite hunting grounds–the taverns of Memphis–on November 1, 1835. He was accompanied by his teenage nephew William Patton, his brother-in-law Abner Burgin and friend Lindsy Tinkle. ‘These companions,’ Crockett had written on October 31 before departing his home, ‘will make our company–we will go through Arkinsaw and I want to explore the Texas well before I return.’

By evening a large crowd had attached itself to Crockett, and a grand farewell tour of all of the Bluff City’s finest taverns was proposed. In the company of old friends and political allies such as Memphis Mayor Marcus Winchester, Gus Young and C.D. McLean, he made his way from the Union Hotel on Front Street to Hart’s Saloon on Market Street, the crowd growing larger and rowdier along the way. After Crockett had to intercede to prevent a fight between Hart’s bartender and Gus Young over the eternal question of cash or credit on drink purchases, Crockett’s party decided to stagger on to McCool’s Saloon next door. The happy crowd hoisted Crockett onto their shoulders, depositing him on Neil McCool’s bar counter and demanding a speech.

‘My friends,’ the colonel declared, ‘I suppose you all are aware that I was recently a candidate for Congress. I told the voters that if they would elect me I would serve them to the best of my ability; but if they did not, they might go to hell, and I would go to Texas. I am on my way now!’

The crowd shouted in delight–that is, all save the fastidious barkeeper, Neil McCool. The sight of Crockett in muddy boots atop his freshly oil-clothed counter was too much. In a rage, he lashed out with a club. Crockett had jumped down by then, and McCool managed only to fall over the counter into the arms of a dozen half-drunken revelers. Amid many oaths he ordered everyone out.


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