Franklin’s surveyor was patriot, soldier, friend to president Jackson

Robert Love, who lived from 1760 to 1845, is known locally as the man who established the original survey of the Town of Franklin.

Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer

Robert Love, who lived from 1760 to 1845 packed much into his 85 years. While he is known locally as the man who established the original survey of the Town of Franklin, he was much more – and some of his roles smack of irony when considered on the 21st century side of history. 

At age 15, Love, a Patriot who was against England’s continued rule as well as King George III’s mandate of taxation without representation, joined the Continental Army, whose commander-in-chief was George Washington. Although young, Love proved himself an adept soldier and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a lieutenant colonial. 

Long after the war, when he asked to receive a pension, his service and rank was questioned because of his young age. It was Andrew Jackson, a friend of Love’s, who ended up petitioning the pension board for due payments to Love. 

Interestingly, the genealogy site reports that it was in 1790 that Love won a horse race against Jackson, who eventually became the country’s seventh president, by getting Jackson’s jockey drunk. Love and Jackson began a shouting match and Love challenged Jackson to a duel. However, Jackson declined to duel and the two evidently re-established a friendship, since Jackson went to bat for Love regarding his unpaid Revolutionary War pension.

After the Revolution, and with his parents dead, Love first moved from his home in Augusta County, Va., to what was then Washington County, N.C., now part of Tennessee. One of his titles, in fact, is as a “frontiersman.” Love, like many men of that era, was interested in exploring the wilderness of the Western Carolina Mountains. 

In 1782, he married Mary Ann Dillard, the daughter of Col. Thomas Dillard of Virginia. Together they had 13 children. As a politician, Love first represented Washington County in the North Carolina Legislature in 1789, and then he moved to Buncombe County in 1792 and was elected to the State Senate of North Carolina.

Original survey of the Town of Franklin

Many aspects of Love’s character positioned him as the ideal person to establish the survey for the Town of Franklin: his history of leadership and politics; his nomination for Presidential Elector in 1816 in the first political convention held in North Carolina’s history; and, his wealth enabled him in 1809 to donate land in Haywood County for a courthouse, jail, and town square to form Mount Prospect, which was renamed Waynesville. 

A year after Franklin’s survey, Love helped to establish the final state boundary line between North Carolina and Tennessee.

Ironically, it was Love’s friend, then foe, then friend who, 10 years after his survey for the Town of Franklin, signed the 1830 Indian Removal Act. In the summer of 1838, President Jackson eventually ordered that thousands of rounded-up Cherokee prisoners travel the Great State Road, which was built to connect Franklin to Fort Butler in Murphy, N.C., before being marched 1,200 miles to Oklahoma on what became known as the Trail of Tears. 

What Love’s view was of Jackson’s decision is not documented; however, a Dec. 10, 1831, letter from Jackson to Love is housed in the Library of Congress. The salutation conveys the two men’s friendship. Jackson starts the letter with “My Dear Lv.” In the letter, although Jackson’s script is difficult to read, it appears that Jackson attempts to explain, and perhaps justify, his Indian Removal Act. 

On July 14, 1834, Love was kicked in the hip by a horse and was injured to the point of being crippled and needing crutches until his death in Waynesville, July 17, 1845. He was reportedly a man who was “loved by his friends and feared by his enemies.”