David Ralston

Prior to the War of Independence, David Ralston left two children in Ireland and came to Pennsylvania where he married Mary Reid and started another family. Their first child, Alexander, was born in Pennsylvania in 1779.  Mary's father, Alexander, obtained land near Bardstown, Kentucky, in 1782. David and Mary probably moved with them to Kentucky. Before 1787 he was farming on White's Creek in Davidson County, Tennessee. His son, Alexander, wrote his half-brother in Ireland, Robert, and encouraged him to come to Tennessee.  Robert never emigrated, but his son Andrew came in 1820.

David Ralston's large second family spread over Middle and West Tennessee and Iowa.  The Eagleville Ralstons are descended from David's grandson Andrew. The “Raulston” family in East Tennessee is not directly kin, but y-DNA has shown this family and David descended from a common ancestor. Many Giles County Ralstons are descended from David Ralston.

Cabin and Land

David Ralston was an early settler in the Cumberland Settlements of North Carolina (now Davidson County, Tennessee), acquiring land and building a log house on a branch of White’s Creek in the mid 1780’s.  This cabin is referenced in at least two publications:

A Past Remembered-A Collection of Antebellum Houses in Davidson County by Paul Clements - Clearview Press 1987

“For well over a century the wilderness was only occupied by occasional parties of hunters, but on December 24, 1779, a group of settlers made camp beside White's Creek, which flowed into the Cumberland River eighteen miles downstream from the place known as the French Lick.  A wide expanse of flat, forest-covered land surrounded White's Creek where it joined the river and reached several miles upstream before the creek separated into several tributaries, and the land narrowed into a series of valleys.  In 1790, near the head of a valley which lay some eleven miles from the mouth of White's Creek, a 200 acre tract of largely tillable land was granted by the state of North Carolina to David Ralston, who, within a short time of receiving his grant, built a log house just to the east of the tributary.

“David Ralston had probably been born in Ireland around 1741, and after his apparent journey to America, he served against the British during the Revolutionary War.  Ralston, who may have been married and perhaps widowed in the early part of his life, evidently left some children behind when he made his presumed departure from Ireland.  He married within a few years of his arrival in the Cumberland Settlements in the mid-1780s, and his sons, Alexander and James, had been born by the time he received the land on the headwaters of White's Creek.  Other sons and a daughter were born in the log house beside the creek during the 1790s, and when William, the last of the Ralston children, was born around 1802, the house was still crowded with older children.  The main Ralston residence consisted of a single log pen one and a half stories high with a hall and parlor downstairs and a bedroom upstairs, but there was a second structure a few feet away which featured additional sleeping quarters as well as an attached kitchen.  Ralston's older sons grew up and left home, and by 1820, as he approached eighty years of age, his wife died and only his three youngest children remained at home.  In the summer of 1831, a month before his death at the age of ninety, Ralston deeded his land to his only daughter and to his youngest son, William, who probably lived in the house into the middle 1830s.  The elder Ralston's will, which had been written years earlier, made bequests to seven sons and a daughter who lived in the region, and also provided money for two children in Ireland, who may have been born there and remained behind when their father came to America.  William Ralston apparently left the farm in the upper valley of White’s Creek by the late 1830s, by which time John Cummings and his family had come to Tennessee from Kentucky.”

"It Is A Goodly Land" A History of the Mansker's Station Goodlettsville Area by Deborah Kelley Henderson - J.C. Garrett 1982

“The Ralston family were early settlers in Davidson County.  David Ralston was listed as a taxpayer in the 1787 tax records of Davidson County.  Ralston, an assignee of Martin Armstrong, an officer of the Continental Line, purchased a two-hundred acre land grant on White's Creek Pike from the State of North Carolina. Here he built a small one and one-half story hand hued log cabin out of poplar and beech trees and placed a sturdy stone chimney on the east side of the house. Many of the logs are twelve to thirteen inches wide and one log measures twenty-one feet long.”

Because of these publications, the exact location of the cabin was learned (5321 Lickton Pike, Goodletsville), as well as a good idea as to the location of the original 200 acres he purchased.


Ralston Cabin as shown in Henderson’s Book (1982)


“The creek flowed down from the upper valley, passing the clearing where a log house stood surrounded by forest. The creek ran past as the man who worked the woodlands into fields grew old, and as the boys who splashed in its waters gradually became toiling men who plowed, planted, and harvested along its banks. The creek swept by as, beyond the facing ridge, the land around a wilderness spring was transformed into a summer retreat and a school, and its waters continued to move unceasingly past as family replaced family, and as generation after generation lived in the modest but enduring house.” - Paul Clements about the Ralston cabin

After David’s death, his son William sold the 200 acres of land in the Twenty-second District of Davidson County to John Cummings for $1500 in 1841, including the log home.   Another connection to the Cummings family is that John Cummings’ son William married David Ralston, Jr.’s daughter Mary A. F. Ralston in 1850.  After their marriage, William and Mary Cummings moved to Dyer County, West Tennessee.  (One might presume, but only so, that this was due to Mary’s uncle Alexander being in the neighboring Weakley County.) 

The remaining Cummings family continued to occupy the original cabin until recent years.  The 1871 map of Davidson County shows the cabin marked as “J. Cummings” (just under “MT. AIRY SPRINGS”). 


The cabin still stands and is occupied to this day.

Ralston Cabin (2013)


Registered Sept 12th 1832   

State of North Carolina NO.1332. To all to whom these presents shall come (?Greeting). Know ye that we pursuant to an act of our General Assembly entitled an act for the relief of the officers and soldiers of the continental line and for other purposes and in consideration of the services of Martin Armstrong surveyor of the lands allotted the officers and soldiers of the line have given as granted and by theses presents do give and grant unto David Ralston assignee of said Armstrong a tract of land containing two hundred acres lying and being in the County of Davidson the north side of Cumberland river on a branch of White's creek. Beginning at a hackberry and running east one hundred and sixty eight poles and a half to a black oak then south one hundred ninety poles to a dogwood and poplar then west one hundred and sixty eight poles and a half to a stake then north one hundred and ninety poles to the beginning, as by the plat here unto annexed doth appear together with all woods, waters, mines minerals, hereditaments and appurtenances to the said land belonging appertaining. To hold to the said David Ralston his heirs and assigns forever yielding and paying to us such sums of money yearly or otherwise as our General Assembly from time to time may direct provided always that the said David Ralston shalt cause this grant to be registered in the Register's office of one said County of Davison within twelve months from the date hereof otherwise the same shall be void and of none effect. In testimony whereof we have caused these our letters to be made patent (norie) great seal to be hereunto affixed. Witness Alexander Martin esquire our governor captain general and commander in chief at Fayette the 16th day of No v the xvth year of our independence & in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred & ninety By his excelly's com. ??? Alex. Mart??? Plotted by a scale of one hundred poles to the inch.

State of North Carolina Davidson County   I have surveyed for David Ralston assee of Joseph Martin assee of Thomas Malloy assee of Martin Armstrong two hundred acres of land part of said Armstrong's services as surveyor to the Officers and soldiers of the Continental line of this state. Located September 8th 1787, lying on the north side of Cumberland river on a branch of White's creek July 18th 1788. John Motherall, Alexander Reid C.C. Dan'l James D. S. state of Tennessee Davidson County Set. As clerk of the County court of said County I have received the state tax on this grant. Henry Erving.

 This is a sketch of David Ralston’s plat (190 X 168 ½ poles) shown on his deed.  Note the creek flowing across the property.



With knowing the location of his cabin and property still owned by the Cummings family, it was possible to make an informed guess as to the original property line by overlaying the dimensions of David’s property on to a modern property map.  The yellow area is the dimensions of David’s property per his deed.  Some of the area is still owned by members of the Cummings family.  Note that boundaries of the highlighted area almost exactly correspond to existing property lines on three sides.  The creek flowing across the property is now known as Cummings Branch.


The following map of northern Davidson County shows this location in yellow.  The cabin is located approximately where the “C” is in “Cummings”

And just to put the property in perspective, following is a map of the Cumberland Settlements.  Although the map is not to scale and has many inaccuracies, David’s cabin and property would have been approximately where the “K” is in “KILGORE’S”.  (Kilgore’s Station was actually much further north than shown.) David was located about 6 miles west of Mansker’s and 6 miles north of Stump’s.  There were other stations and forts not shown that existed at various times during this period, but the exact locations are not known.  (See “St” and “Ma” in red on previous map for Stump’s and Mansker’s locations on a modern map.)


There were numerous Indian conflicts during this time period.  It is not known if David or his family had clashes with Indians, but many settlers in the same vicinity were killed, scalped or burned out.  The following is an excerpt from a letter written by the settlers to George Washington on November 30, 1789:

“In this situation, we continued at this place Subject to all the hardships and inconvenances naturally attending the Settling a wild uncultivated Country, with the additional disadvantage of constant depredations from our Savage Neighbours, who have afforded us little, or no respite, for about ten Years, from all the terrifying calamities of a Savage War, until the Year 1786, when at the constant pressing Solicitations of the Inhabitants the General Assembly of the State Summoned so much humanity as to afford their distressed Supplicants a small Batallion Consisting of two hundred men properly officered, for two Years at the expiration whereof they were disbanded and Your Petitioners left as before without any other dependance than their own strength and determined resolution to support their little growing Settlement<.> those fiew troops, however advantagious to the Settlement were far from being able to remove all the disadvantages the Settlers laboured under on account of the ennemy or preventing many valuable Citizens from being killed at their habitations on the frontiers and Since the expiration of their time, the list has been dailey encreasing So that the number killed Since the first day of January 1788 (from an exact Register that has been kept) Amount to 54 Persons who have been barbarously murdered while at their domestic employment without the most distant prospect of any further assistance from the legislative body of the State than overtures to the Indians for a Treaty of peace and amity…”

The following is a quote from Ramsey's Annals of Tennessee to the End of the Eighteenth Century (1853) – one of numerous examples:

“On Monday, the 8th of October [1792], William Stuart was killed about six miles from Nashville, on the north side of Cumberland. On the night of the same day, the Indians burnt Stump’s distillery, on White’s Creek, on the north side of Cumberland; On the 9th of October, a party of Indians went to Sycamore Creek, eighteen miles from Nashville, and burnt the house of James Frazier, Mr. Riley and of Major Coffield, a large quantity of corn, and shot down a number of hogs. They then proceeded to Bushy Creek of Red River, where they burnt the house of Obadiah Roberts, and took off a number of horses; they were followed by a party of whites, who killed one of the Indians and regained the horses.”

Jury Duty

Early in 1789, a young lawyer appeared in the courts of Davidson County, at that time still a part of North Carolina. On July 7 of that year a trial was held with a George Meldrum, Plaintiff, against a Lardner Clark, Defendant.  The young lawyer was the council for Mr. Meldrum.  David Ralston sat on the jury for this trial, the jury finding in favor of the plaintiff. The young lawyer’s name was Andrew Jackson.

minute book - andrew jackson

Note that Frederick Stump was also on this jury.  Colonel Frederick Stump was a neighbor of David Ralston (about 6 miles away).  On the map of the Cumberland Settlements, Stump’s home and business is shown on the map as a block house called “Stump’s Distillery”.  The Frederick Stump Tavern-Inn is now a historic home in Nashville. It was built by Stump who arrived at White's Creek on Christmas Day 1779, and is a signer of the Cumberland Compact, along with his son Jacob Stump who was killed by Indians in 1780. 


David Ralston 1741–1831

+Unknown 1st Wife Ireland

Isabell Ralston Bef. 1775–

Robert Ralston Bef. 1775–

+Mary Reid 1757–Bef. 1815

Alexander Ralston (Maj) 1779–1861

James Reid Ralston 1781–1853

Samuel Ralston 1785–

John Shelby Ralston 1787–1865

George Ralston 1790–1838

Catherine Ralston 1793–1868

David Ralston Jr. 1798–1875

William Ralston (Rev) 1801–1870

David’s parents are unknown.  David’s grandson, Andrew, married a woman (Loveagh Wauchop) who was from Ardstraw Parish, County Tyrone, so it is assumed David lived close to there.   y-DNA has shown that David is closely related to other “Ralstons” who originated in Ireland.  These families are named Ralston, Roulston, Raulston, Rolston, or Rollston.  It is thought that this family came to Ireland from either Scotland or England, but this is yet to be determined; however, y-DNA of Ralstons known to be from Scotland are of a different haplogroup and all spelt “Ralston”.


David died in 1831 at the age of 90.  At the time of his death, David’s household consisted of himself, his son William (29), his daughter Catherine (38), an unknown woman in her twenties, a female slave (Hannah) and a young boy, possibly Hannah’s son.  David’s first will bequeathed his house and property to be divided amongst all his children (by Mary Reid), but right before his death he changed the will and left the land and property to Catherine and William.

David Ralston deceased Will – Recorded November 30, 1831

In the name of God amen. I David Ralston of the County of Davidson and State of Tennessee being in common health and of sound mind and memory blessed be God Almighty for the same do make and publish this my last will and testament in manner and form following (that is to say)

Item first I have given to my eldest sons Alexander Ralston and James Ralston each a good saddle horse about five years old about five feet high and saddle and bridle and bed. I have also given to my son Samuel Ralston a horse inferior to the others for which I allow him to be paid thirty dollars in trade and a bed also.

Item 2nd I will and bequeath to my sons John Ralston, George Ralston, David Ralston and William Ralston each of them when they come to the age of twenty one years a good horse about five years old about five feet high and saddle and bridle and bed.

Item 3rd. I will and bequeath to my daughter Catherine Ralston a good horse about five years old about five feet high a bridle and saddle and bed and bedclothes such as I have when she arrives at the age of eighteen.  I will also that my stock of horses, cattle, sheep, hogs and geese be all kept together and all my household and kitchen furniture and farming utensils be all kept together except so much as will be necessarily taken to make each legatees fortune when they come of age and may be necessary to school the two youngest boys David and William and the necessary support of the plantation and stock. I also will and bequeath that my two youngest sons David and William be schooled as well as the others of my children generally are.  I also will and bequeath that my negro woman Hannah be given to my daughter Catherine so soon as William comes of age or at my death to have her by clothing David and William till they come of age. I will and bequeath that my children that is not of age be kept on the plantation until they come of age.

I will and bequeath that my executors make out of the estate six hundred dollars and send it to my daughter and son that is in Ireland Robert Ralston and Isabel Ralston and to keep it at interest so as to increase as well as they can. 

I also will and bequeath that when my youngest son William arrives at the age of twenty one years old and him and all the rest get their portions as before named that the two hundred acres of land I live on and all my stock of every kind and all my household and kitchen furniture and farming utensils and every other article and species of property belonging to my estate that has not been heretofore named shall be equally divided amongst all my children except Catherine & the two in Ireland and for the better execution of this my last will and Testament

I hereby appoint my sons James Ralston and John Ralston my executors hereby revoking all other wills by me made. In witness whereof I have herewith set my hand and affixed my seal this 13th day of January 1815  Signed Sealed and delivered in presence of us S. Shannon, John Motheral, John C. Baker, Joseph Motheral

David Ralston

State of Tennessee Davidson County Court October Sessions 1831

A paper writing purporting to be the last will and Testament of David Ralston deceased was produced in open court for probate and proven thus: Samuel Shannon and Joseph Motheral two of the subscribing witnesses to said paper being duly sworn depose and say that they became such in the presence of the said David desc. and at his request and in presence of each other and that they verily believe he was in his right mind at the time of executing said paper. Ordered that said paper writing be admitted to court as such will of David.  Whereupon James Ralston one of the executors named in said will came into court and gave bond in the sum of five hundred dollars with David Ralston and Samuel Shannon his sureties for his faithful discharge of the trust reposed in them & Qualified according to Law Ordered that he have letters Testamentary granted to him.  Recorded November 30th 1831.

David Ralston Dec. Inventory & Sale   Recorded September first 1832

A true inventory and amount of sale of the property of David Ralston dec.

1 oven To Wm. Ralston


1 kettle Wm. Ralston


1 small oven     


1 pot   James C. Wheeler


1 large pot  Wm. Ralston 

62 ½

2 pr hooks  Wm. Ralston


1 brier scythe       


1 mattock  Wm. Ralston


1 mowing scythe    

.12 ½

1 cutting box  Andrew Dorris


1 harrow  David Ralston


1 log chain   David Ralston


1 foot adze         

.31 ¼

1 spider Anderson Dorris

.43 ¾

1 handsaw  Wm. Robertson 


1 shovel  Wm. Robertson

12 ½

1 hammer & drawing knife  John Wingo

.43 ¾



1 pr. Steelyards  John S. Galbreath  




1 cotton Wheel  Joseph Kent 

.62 ½

1 churn  Wm Ralston


1 half bushel  Wm. Ralston  

.12 ½

1 flax wheel Joseph Kent


1 can  Wm Ralston       

.12 ½   

1 pr. Sheep shears  Wm. Ralston

.12 ½

1 lot augurs & chisels  John Beasley 

.56 ¼ 

1 piggin  Anderson Dorris

.12 ½

1 Keg  Wm Ralston       


1 coffeemill Wm. Ralston


1 large keg Wm. Ralston    

.06 ¼    

2 pr. Breeching Anderson Dorris

.18 ¾

1 stay chain Wm. Newling   

.31 ¼    

1 flax hackle John Butterworth


1 loom Katharine Ralston   


2 pot racks  Wm. Ralston


2 iron wedges Joseph Kent   

.81 ¼    

1 lot old pewter John S. Galbreath


3 basons  Katharine Ralston 


1 lot cupboard ware Wm Ralston


1 table  Wm. Ralston     


1 table Wm. Ralston


3 ?eap hooks Wm. Ralston   

.37 ½    

1 candlestand  Wm. Ralston


1 lot books  Wm. Ralston   

.81 ¼    

1 bookcase  Wm. Ralston

.87 ½

1 arm chair  Wm. Ralston   


6  arm chair Wm. Ralston


1 cupboard  Wm. Ralston    


1 check reel Wm. Ralston

68 ¾

1 looking glass Wm. Ralston 

.12 ½   

1 bedstead & clothing Anderson Dorris


1 bedstead & clothing Lemuel Williams 


1 bedstead and clothing Daniel Buie


1 Chest  Wm Ralston    

1.37 ½   

1 pr cart wheels  Wm Williams


1 pr fire irons & flat iron Wm Ralston


1 lot hogs  Wm. Ralston


1 sow and pigs  Wm. Ralston 


1 small steer  John Wingow



A list of notes due said estate

One given by Alexander Ralston for 50.00      One given by George Ralston for 157.60

One given by William Perkins for 73.86     One given by William Perkins for 61.67 ½

Also one given by same for 47.45       The last three named notes are all doubtful

One given by Stump & Cox insolvent 288.12        One given by John Glenn for 3.26 ¼

Not known where he lives

James Ralston executor   

State of Tennessee Davidson County court April Session 1832.  The foregoing Inventory and account of the sale of the estate of David Ralston decd was returned into court by James Ralston administrator on his estate and ordered to be recorded.

Registered December 24, 1832

Know all men by these presents that I, David Ralston, Senior, of the County of Davidson and state of Tennessee on this the twentieth day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty one have given and granted and by these presents do give and grant in the exercise of parental affection unto my beloved son and daughter William Ralston and Catharine Ralston of State and County aforesaid the tract of land on which I now live, containing two hundred acres, lying and being in the County of Davidson, on the North side of the Cumberland  river on a branch of Whites Creek. Beginning at a Hackberry and running East one hundred & sixty eight poles and a half to a black Oak, thence South one hundred and ninety poles to a dogwood and poplar, thence West one hundred and sixty eight poles and a half to a stake, thence North one hundred and ninety poles to the beginning, which land I reserve in possession during the remaining period of my life, thenceforth to be held with all the rights, profits, emoluments,  hereditaments and appurtenances of in and to the same belonging or in anyway appertaining to the only proper use and behoof of the said William Ralston & Catharine Ralston their heirs and assigns forever. In witness whereof I the said David Ralston, senior, have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal the day and year above written.    David Ralston

Signed, Sealed & delivered in presence of Eneas Walker, John Beasley, Alfred Fryer

State of Tennessee, Davidson County court. July Sessions 1831. This deed of gift and conveyance from David Ralston Sen, to William Ralston and Catharine Ralston was proved in open court to be the act and deed of the said David Ralston, Sen. By the oath of Eneas Walker one of the subscribing witnesses thereto and ordered to be so certified. Test Henry Ewing Clerk of said court.  State of Tennessee, Davidson County court October Sessions 1831.  This deed of gift and conveyance from David Ralston Sen, to William and Catharine Ralston was proved in open court to be the act and deed of the said David Ralston Senior.