December 20, 1951


Transcribed by Janette West Grimes




   We resume the publication of the old records of the Quarterly Court and Court of Pleas of Smith County, which included most of the present Macon County in the year 1801, which is the time of the meeting of the Court of which we are going to try to write. We give the actual record in quotation marks, followed by our own comments. The opening is as follows:


   "Dixon Springs, Tennessee, December 21st, 1801. Court met according to adjournment. Members present [viz] Tilman Dixon, Peter Turney, James Hibbetts, Esquires." The place was in the home of Tilman Dixon, which is still standing, about a half mile west of Dixon Springs, one of the oldest and most historic dwelling houses still standing in Middle Tennessee. It was erected perhaps as early as 1788. The three members present for the opening part of the three-day session were Tilman Dixon, Peter Turney and James Hibbets. Peter Turney resided on the present Young Branch, about two miles above Dixon Springs, on which stream the writer was born and where he grew to manhood. The old Turney farm is now owned by Bud Garrett. The fine old Southern home that stood on the farm prior to the Civil War has been destroyed by fire. The old spring flows on as in the years long gone by. To the northeast of the spring for a distance of nearly two miles is a long series of sink holes and caves, into part of which Cal went as a youth. Streams drained into part of these sink holes and caves, making the old spring very muddy after every hard rain.


   James Hibbetts resided in the vicinity of the present Hillsdale. The road leading from Hillsdale to Cato goes through Hibbetts' Gap, at the head of Pumpkin Branch. We judge that the Gap or crossing of the dividing ridge between Big Goose Creek and Dixon's Creek was named for James Hibbetts.


   Only three members of the Court were present for the opening, and we have wondered how many were required to constitute a quorum. The session lasted three full days and other Magistrates came to later sessions.


   "Bill of  'sail,' Samuel Young to James Hibbetts proven by the oath of Robert Johnson, one of the subscribing witnesses." We note the word, "sail," was used incorrectly. It would have been "sale." Who Samuel Young was, we do not know, but presume that he was a relative of the late Sam M. Young, one of the leading citizens of Dixon Springs for 50 years or more, and who died only a few years ago. His daughter, Mrs. Rhea E. Garrett, has a wonderful memory and can tell many, many things about the history of many of Smith County, and the history of many of its leading families. We do not know who Robert Johnson was, but one of the Ballou women, a daughter of Leonard Ballou, our own great-great-great-grandfather, married a Johnson, but we do not know his name. Just what was involved in the bill of "sail," we do not know as the record does not reveal same.


   "Deed, 65 acres, John Brevard to James Hibbetts acknowledged and ordered to be registered." John Brevard lived in that day and time near the mouth of Pumpkin Branch, and was a leading citizen. The Brevard burial ground is on a little rise not far from where Pumpkin Branch road enters Highway No.10. We are not sure, but we believe that Hibbetts lived on the present Pumpkin Branch. The Brevard family moved to West Tennessee about 1820 and descendants of John Brevard are still to be found about Union City. A daughter, Polyxenia Brevard, died at about 40 years of age and is buried in the family plot. This family was of French extraction.


   "Bill of  'sail,' James Hibbetts to John Brevard, acknowledged and ordered to be recorded," reads the next item. Here we find the same word incorrectly spelled, but we do not mean to "throw off" on any person. Those pioneers had not the hundredth part of the opportunity to secure an education that the people of today have. Yet with their very limited opportunities, many of them were well informed and had a fair education.


   "Ordered that Samuel Carothers, Grant Allen, William Moore, William Stalcup and James Gibson be appointed to view, mark and lay off a Road from Bank's Ferry to the mouth of the East Fork of Goose Creek, and report same to our next Court." The Samuel Carothers here mentioned was the Samuel Caruthers quite often referred to by various writers to the Times. He resided, so we believe, about the place where the two streams, East Fork and Middle Fork of Goose Creek join, which is just above the present Linville's shop. Bank's Ferry, of course, was on the Cumberland. We would judge that it was near the mouth of Dixon's Creek, and that the road to be laid off extended down the river from the ferry and thence up Big Goose Creek to the juncture of the two streams mentioned above. Grant Allen lived near the mouth of Dixon's Creek, and John Shelton is thought to have resided not far from the present highway crossing of Goose Creek, not far east of Hartsville. Generally men were chosen for such work as laying off roads, who resided in the vicinity of the work to be done. However, if any reader has knowledge of this road, and that we are in error, we shall be glad to have a correction. We presume that Bank's Frery was owned by Richard Banks, a charter member of Dixon's Creek Baptist church. His wife was Kerenhappuch Banks, the given name having been that one of the daughters of Job. This is the only instance of the use of this name that the writer knows.


   "Be it remembered that on the 21st day of December, 1801, by virtue of a commission from his Excellency, Archibald Roane, Esquire, of the State of Tennessee, bearing the date of the 14th day of November, 1801, James Roberts, James Draper, William Gregory, Nathaniel Brittain, John Patterson, Elmore Douglas, Charles Kavanaugh, Sr., Arthur Hogan, James Looney and Thomas Smith, duly commissioned as Justices of the Peace in and for the County of Smith, came into Court and took the necessary oaths and the oath of office and took their seats accordingly." Here we find the appointment of ten additional Magistrates. We do not know anything as to James Roberts except that we presume him to have been an early ancestor or relative of the ancestors of the present Roberts family in Tennessee, including former Governor A. H. Roberts. James Draper is believed to have lived on the present Jennings' Creek in what is now Jackson County. William Gregory was a brother of the writer's great-great-grandfather, Bry Gregory, and was the ancestor of our own citizen, Fred D. Gregory, former County Court Clerk of this county. William Gregory was known as Squire Bill Gregory, and this appointment by Governor Roane was the first information we had as to why he was called Squire Bill. This man lived on Peyton's Creek in the present Nixon Hollow and died there in 1852. He is buried in a little cemetery at the back side of a narrow bottom near which the old Gregory home stood. William Gregory was a soldier of the American Revolution and was the first Gregory to come to Smith County or what later became Smith County. It was known as Sumner County at the time William H. Gregory arrived in the autumn of 1791, Smith County having been formed eight years later. He is said to have married Martha Bledsoe adn to have been the father of a large number of sons and daughters. His descendants today number hundreds and hundreds of persons in a dozen or more States. He was given a military funeral or burial, with a salute fired over his grave. He is also said to have been the first man buried on Peyton's Creek in a store-bought suit of clothing, others before him having been buried in winding sheets. He was a substantial farmer, a leading citizen of the county and a man of considerable means for his day and time. In addition to Bry, he had the following brothers: Abraham, Harden and Thomas Gregory. One of his sisters married Thomas B. Douglas and anothe married Isaac George. They were the sons and daughters of Thomas Gregory, born in Chatham County, North Carolina, about 1725. Thomas Gregory and his sons, Bry and Squire William H. Gregory, were all soldiers in the American Revolution.


   Later we will try to give the names of the children of William H. Gregory, as well as the grandchildren of this pioneer couple.


   Nathaniel Brittain resided, the best we can learn, about the present Meadorville, four miles south of Lafayette. He was a man of considerable property and was a lover of fine horses, which characteristic still runs in the family, W. C. Brittain, of Hendersonville, one of our subscribers, being a direct descendant of Nathaniel Brittain and a great lover of fine horses.


   John Patterson is thought to have been an early settler on Goose Creek, reference to him having already been made in this Column. He is believed to have been the same John Patterson mentioned in the old records as Blacksmith John Patterson.


   Elmore Douglas is a stranger to Cal, but we are quite sure that he was a relative of the Thomas B. Douglas who married a sister of the William Gregory above mentioned. Charles Kavanaugh, Sr., is a "newcomer" to the old records and our knowledge of him is "nil."


   Arthur Hogan is the man for whom we presume that Hogan's Creek, near Carthage, was named. He was a wealthy land owner and had many slaves. John Loonet is thought to have resided just east of the present Lafayette, not far from where the "Dark Hollow" drops down from the Highland Rim, some two miles east of Lafayette. Thomas Smith is another of whom we know nothing.


   We would like to remind our readers that we are striving to keep alive the location of places and the names of those mentioned in the old records of the long ago. If we are in error on any point, we want to be corrected and will appreciate any information that will give more light on this section a century and a half ago. No person can "know it all," and Cal confesses that he is very limited in his knowledge and ability. So he asks for correction of any blunders or errors he makes in the matter of the old records.


   "Deed, 60 acres, Henry Tooley to John White, proven by the oath of John Bearkley [Barkley], one of the subscribing witnesses." Henry Tooley was for some 20 years a leading citizen of the county, and a resident of the region just south of Riddleton. He had left the county by 1820, as there was no man of the name of Tooley living  in the county in the census of 1820. Our fellow citizen, Burford Tooley, one of our business men, is believed to be a direct descendant of Henry Tooley, who was a member of the County Court of Smith County for a number of years. We have no information as to the John White of 150 years ago mentioned in the item above given. John Bearkley or Barkey is another of whom we know nothing whatever.


   "Grand Jury drawn, and John Chambers appointed foreman. Edmond Jennings, William Penny, David Venters, Josiah Payne, Joel Dyer, John Sedgley, Daniel Hammock, Daniel Alexander, Jeffrey Sitton, William Simpson, Patrick Donoho, Michael Murphy, George Thomason." Edmond Jennings was the man for whom Jennings' Creek in Jackson County was named. He resided near the mouth of that stream and operated a ferry there, and also a tavern. We recently published an article by Judge Webb Allen relative to Edmond Jennings.


   The John Chambers, foreman, is another of whom we know nothing, but presume that he was the ancestor of the Chambers family now living in Smith County. William Penny, Josiah Payne, John Sedgley and William Simpson are unknown to Cal. David Venters is the same man that a year earlier had applied for a permit to construct a dam across Big Goose Creek and construct a mill there, "at the blue spring," about whom we wrote some time ago. He is believed to have a descendant living at Portland, a Mr. Venters. There is also to be found in the old records the name, "Ventress," and we are of the opinion that the names, "Venters" and "Ventress," are one and the same.


   Joel Dyer lived on Peyton's Creek where he built the first water mill some time prior to his appointment for jury service above mentioned. The fact that the name, "Joel," is still preserved in the present Dyer family in Macon County leads the writer to believe that our Macon County Dyers are descended from Joel Dyer of 150 years ago.


   Daniel Hammock, we believe, was a relative and possibly, the ancestor of Wilse Hammock, prominent Hartsville attorney for many years. Miss Mayne Hammock, of the Bank of Hartsville, is a member of the family.


   Daniel Alexander is presumed to have been one of the first Alexanders at Dixon Springs. Jeffrey Sitton is presumed to have been a brother of the Joseph Sitton, who was on trial for months in Dixon's Creek Baptist church on a charge of "selling unmerchantable beef" from a crippled heifer. The old records from which we are copying give his name as Sitton, and so do the church records; but the copy on record at Nashville in the State Library gives his name as Sutton, which we are sure, is incorrect. In the "unmerchantable beef" case, we have the first real church trial in the old records of the church mentioned above. The matter dragged over months of time. Finally Sitton made some acknowledgements, but some of the Parker members were not satisfied with his "confession," and refused to fellowship him in some measure. The matter finally got into such a stage that a church council, composed of representatives from a number of other churches, had to be called in. In their decision they recommended that Sitton's acknowledgements be received and that those who would not accept the admissions of the party who had plead guilty and asked for forgiveness, that they be called "on the carpet" for contempt of church. This recommendation was accepted by the church and some of those who refused to fellowship Sitton were later expelled from the church.


   Patrick Donoho, we suppose, to have been the ancestor of the Donohos of Hartsville at a later date. Michael Murphy was one of the early Pleasant Shade citizens. Francis Ridley was an early settler, but we do not recall at the present his place of residence. George Thomason is believed to have been the ancestor of our own John B. McDuffee, who is now almost 93 years of age and whose mother was Martha Thomason.


   George Thomason, at the time of the making of the old record, resided somewhere on Jennings' Creek from the best information available to the writer. John B. McDuffee is one of our most remarkable men, and resides at Hillsdale. He is still as straight as the average man of 50, drives his own car, mounts a horse as easily as most men 50 years younger than he. He has a fine memory and has helped Cal quite a lot in his research work into the history of the families of this section. We plan to publish a list of his ancestors and their offspring at an early date.


   "Court adjourns until tomorrow nine o'clock." Thus ends that session of the opening day of Court, Monday, December 21, 1801, which will be exactly 150 years ago on Friday of this week.


                                                                        [ To be continued ]