Transcribed by Kathleen Hastings Whitlock
February 22, 1951
“Fort Blount, Monday, December 15, 1800. Court met according to adjournment, the following members being present: to wit: Garrett Fitzgerald, Charles Hudspeth, Thomas Harmond and Peter Turner, Esquires.” Thus reads the opening item of the beginning of the second year’s record of the Quarterly County Court of Smith County, Tenn. The first Court was held in December, 1799, in the home of Tilman Dixon at Dixon Springs. This, the fifth term, met at Fort Blount, on the east bank of the Cumberland, near the present ferry at the upper end of smith’s Bend of Cumberland River and not far above the mouth of Salt Lick Creek. Readers should remember that at the time of this meeting, Tennessee was only four years old as a State, that John Adams was president, that George Washington had been dead for a year and one day. In our present Macon County, only six years had passed from the first settlement which was made on White Oak Creek by Thomas Driver, who had come from Virginia with his wife and two children on a horse, with a second horse bearing perhaps all their earthly possessions except the two horses, and the axe and gun that Driver had carried. Driver was “heading for Kentucky,” but missed the State line by a half mile. In 1800 practically all of Middle Tennessee was covered with virgin forests and the infant State of Tennessee had hardly shed its “swaddling clothes.”
The next item: “The Court then proceded to business, and the Venire being called, the following gentlemen were elected as Grand Jurors: Viz: James Roberts, John Jenkins, Charles McCleenan, Pleasant Kearby, William Marchbanks, Edward Pate, William Anderson, Charles Carter, Christopher Bullar, Stephin Pate, Esom Graves, Jacob Jenkins, Willeroy Pate, John Fitzgerald and John Anderson, James Roberts being appointed foreman of the said Grand Jury. Henry Huddleston was appointed to attend them.” We believe that we have offered comment on all these men and refrain from further “surmising” at this time. However, we wonder why the Court did nothing the first day except to organize. But we recall that these people lived in a day and time when the hurry and rush of modern life did not exist, and we believe they were happier and more healthy than we of today, who rush through life, hurrying, struggling, and wear out all too soon and fill early and untimely graves.
“Tuedsay, December 16, 1800. Court met according to adjournment, the following gentlemen being present: Charles Hudspeth, Thomas Harmond, James Hibbetts.” Here we learn that Garrett Fitzgerald, who had shown up the first day, was not on hand for the opening of the second day, and neither was Peter Turney. It was not a great distance from the place of meeting to where we feel sure Fitzgerald lived, somewhere in the present Clay County; and neither was it very far from the meeting place to the home of Peter Turney. James Hibbetts had come in time for the opening of the second day of Court. He resided on the waters of Goose Creek, about eight miles south of the present Lafayette.
“On motion of Peter Turney, by his attorney. Ordered that the Sheriff be directed to summon a Jury on the premises of a disputed tract of land claimed by the said Peter Turney and Willie White, “Caveators;” and Armistead Stubblefield. “Cavitee,” agreeable to a certificate of William White, Secretary of the State of North Carolina, in the words following (to wit) State of North Carolina, William White, Secretary of the State, to the Worshipful, the Justices of Smith County Greetings—Whereas his Excellency, the Governor, hath certified to me, that on the complaint of Peter Turney and Armistead Stubblefield on oath, he has suspended the execution of a Grant to Willie Cherry for six hundred forty acres of land in your said County on the east side of a small creek, called Spring Creek, running East and North for complement, so as to include Boyd’s improvement. Military Warrant, No. 3,116, Entered 19 day of May 1800, and directed me to certify to the suspension of the Execution of the grant to you, the said Justices, to the end that the controversy be determined according to law. “I, therefore, hereby certify the Execution of the said Grant to the said Willie Cherry for the said land, accordingly. Given under my hand at Raleigh, the 18th of September, 1800. Will White, Secretary.” Here we have a rather long item, and one that has some features which we do not understand. The word “caeators,” comes from the word, caveat,” which means in law: A formal notification to a court or ministerial officer, warning him against taking some particular step until the notifier is heard.” In this case we find that Peter Turney and Willie White were the “caveators” and Armistead Stubblefield was the “Caviee.” The writer has looked in vain for “cavitee” in the dictionary, but it may be a correct use of the term. Just where the land in question is was not clear. Spring Creek is a name given to numerous streams that started from some large spring, as Spring Creek, just north of Lafayette; Spring Creek in Wilson County; and perhaps others. Willie Cherry was doubtless a soldier of the Continental line, or Revolutionary War. Whether he was a relative or ancestor of the Cherry family of this and Clay County, we do not know. Armistead Stubblefield is believed to have been the ancestor of the Stubblefield family, of this and Trousdale County, but this has not been definitely established. Any information by readers will be appreciated.
“Ordered that Samuel Huff, Sr., be allowed Letters of Administration to administer on the estate of John Lee, who gave bond and security, and qualified according to law.” Thus reads the next item in the old records. We believe this is the first mention of the Huff family, which is not a numerous family in North Middle Tennessee, although we have the names of some present-day members. John Lee is another unknown. This, we believe, is the second action of the Court in appointing some party to settle an estate. The first was that of a Mr. Sanderson, with a Mr. Jones as Executor. It may be added at this point that there is no record at Carthage of the settlement of either estate as to the heirs, etc., the first will on record there having been probated in 1804. It should also be stated that the settlement of estates gives the most reliable of information as to a man’s children of heirs.
“Ordered that Henry McKinney, James Dobbins, William Stalcup, Sr., John Steel, Michael Osborne and Uriah Anderson be allowed permits severally to retail “Spirituous Liquors” at each of their dwelling houses until next Court, they complying with the Court rates.” No comment.
“Silas Jernigan took the oath of Deputy Sheriff, and also the oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the State of Tennessee.” We mentioned that Silas Jernigan was probably the ancestor of the Uncle John Jernigan, of Springfield, and Elder Jernigan, church of Christ minister, of Portland, but this has not been confirmed.
“Ordered that John Reid be appointed overseer of the road leading from Mungle’s Gap to the Smner County line, and that Peter Turney be appointed to furnish a list of hands, etc.” Mungle’s Gap is about four miles east of Hartsville; and the Sumner County line of that day and time is said to have been just east of the present Hartsville. This gave Reid less than four miles of road to keep in passable condition. John Reid is a newcomer to the old records, but the name is spelled just as the Reid family of this section still spell it.
“Ordered that John Steel be appointed overseer of the road leading from Fort Blount to the top of the Ridge at the head of Flynn’s Creek, and that all the hands subject to work under the late overseer of said road to work under said overseer.” So reads the next item. This section is not hard to locate or identify. We have not a word of information as to who John Steel was. We also wonder if the expression, “the late overseer,” meant that the previous overseer had died. It is the writer’s view that the words signified merely tha Steel was succeeding a recent overseer.
“Ordered that Samuel Carrothers be appointed overseer of the road leading from Mungle’s Gap to the ford of the East Fork on Goose Creek and that David Keilough be appointed overseer of the same from the ford to the far side of the first canebreak on the Ridge. And Aaron Hart be appointed overseer of the road leading from the last-mentioned place to the Maple Slashes opposite John Fisher’s and that Andrew Greer be appointed overseer of the left hand fork of said road from Richard Brittain’s and that James Hibbetts, Esquire, furnish the said overseers with a list of hands.” Here we have a rather lengthy item, part of which is not clear as to the locations mentioned. Samuel Carrothers would today be called Samuel Caruthers and evidently lived somewhere on the East Fork of Goose Creek in the vicinity of Hillsdale. Mungle’s Gap is about a mile from the main stream of Big Goose Creek and is easily identified. Carrothers was to be overseer to the ford of the East Fork of Goose Creek. Just where that ford was is unknown, as bridges have long since taken the places of fords. Judging as best we may, we would suggest the idea that it was most probably about the present Meadorville. But this is a suggestion only. David Keilough was appointed to oversee the same road from the far side, or north side, of the first canebreak on the Ridge. We know where the Ridge or Highland Rim is. In fact Lafayette is right on the Ridge. If Keilough was overseer of the road leading up what is now called the Sullivan Branch and thence up the Ferguson Hill to the Ridge, we would judge that the first canebreak must have been very near or where the present Lafayette now stands.
This forces us to “go back” on one of our former views, that David Keilough most probably resided on the present Jenning’s Creek. Generally an overseer resided near or on the particular stretch of road for which he was overseer. This would place David Keilough as living between the present Lafayette and Meadorville. Aaron Hart is mentioned as the overseer from the canebreak to the Maple Slashes. Evidently this was a road that ran right through the present county seat of Macon, which did not come into existence until forty years or more after the events recorded in the old records in 1800. From the north side of the canebreak to the Maple Slashes, we presume, would have led right through Lafaeytte, as we infer that the Maple Slashes were most probably about two miles north of Lafayette and the community is known today as Maple Grove. This would give us the name of another early settler in the vicinity of Lafayette, Aaron Hart.
Andrew Greer’s appointment as overseer of the left hand fork of said road seems to indicate that he was in charge of that road now leading up the Brtton Branch by the B. N. Glover farm and on to the Ridge by the old Winding Stairs Road. If this view is correct, Andrew Greer was another very early settler in the vicinity of Lafayete. We have another name mentioned in this item, and that is the name of Richard Brittain. If our view of the roads is correct, Richard Brittain lived in 1800 on part of what is now called the Meador farm at the place called Madorville. We know that Richard Brittain was a charter member of Dixon’s Creek Baptist church which had been formed about nine months before the above-mentioned session of the Court was held. We also know that he was haled before the church on a charge of “lending his mare to run in a course race,” and made his acknowledgments. Now it is possible that we are wrong in our views about the roads leading from the ford of the East Fork of Goose Creek, but we have given what we believe to be the most logical solution of the question as to where these various roads or sections of road began and ended.
If we judge that the ford mentioned was lower down the East Fork of Goose Creek, we would have to place it about the mouth of the Middle Fork of Goose Creek, which would give Samuel Carrothers the task of overseeing a road only about a mile and a quarter in length. If any reader can give us additional light, it will be appreciated.
“Court adjourned until tomorrow nine o’clock.” Thus closes the second day’s work at old Fort Blount.
“Wednesday, December 17, 1800. Court met according to adjournment, the following gentlemen being present: viz: Garrett Fitzgerald, James Hibbetts, Peter Turney, Esquires.” Garrett Fitzgerald was absent on Tuesday, according to the record, but he got back in time for Wednesday’s session. Peter Turney also returned the third day, while Thomas Harmond and Charles Hudspeth were absent.
“Ordered that James Jones, who was bound to this term on the complaint of Phoebe Snodgrass for begetting a child on her body be re-bound for the maintenance of the said child, that he be bound to pay the said Phoebe Snodgrass the sum of twenty-five dollars to defray the expenses of her lying in and maintaining her child until it is one year old: and sixteen to pay the said Phoebe Snodgrass and two third dollars annually until the child is three years old; and that he give sufficient security for complying with the above order. When Uriah Anderson and William Robertson came into Court and acknowledged themselves his securities for complying with the above order.” We know nothing whatever of who Phoebe Snodgrass was nor of James Jones, the father of her child. But we are inclined to feel that this was a very small allowance for the woman’s “lying in,” and the care of her infant for a year. Then $16 and 2/3 dollars a year for two years was a very small amount for a child’s support. However, it will be remembered that money was a very scarce commodity indeed in that day and time. Land could be bought for 25 to 40 cents and acre. So this ugly episode in the life of Jones cost him perhaps the equivalent of 75 acres of land. We have no idea where Jones lived but presume he and the Snodgrass woman must have lived in the same section. The Uriah Anderson who helped Robertson to secure and guarantee the order of the Court owned land about a mile above Dixon Springs.
(To be continued)