Transcribed by Brenda H. Wills
January 31, 1957
* CAL’S COLUMN *
January 18, 1957
Mrs. R. F. Hamilton,
315 Sevidge Street,
Dear Mrs. Hamilton:
Your letter of January 14th came to me in due time and has been read with interest. I wish I could supply you with the information you desire concerning the place of birth of my great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Gregory, but I do not know where he was born. His will was probated in 1827, showing that he had died about this time. My great-great-grandfather, Bry Gregory, in some records, Bray Gregory and others, Barry Gregory, died in 1847 in Smith County, Tenn., my native county and the county in which the first Gregory settlement in Middle Tennessee was made in 1791 by William H. Gregory, commonly called Squire Bill Gregory. My great-grandfather, Big Tom Gregory, was born in Virginia, so one of his daughters, my great-aunt Jane Gregory, once reported to me “Cal, did you know that my pap was born in old ‘Firginia?’” I informed her that that was my information. In her story of her father, Big Tom Gregory she added: “My Pap was born in old ‘Firginia’ and grew to be a man there. He fell in love with a gal in old ‘Firginia’ and she went back on him after the wedding day was set. It hurt my pap so badly that he left old ‘Firginia’ and came to his Uncle Bry’s on Nickjack Branch of Peyton’s Creek, (about 20 miles southeast of Lafayette); that his Uncle Bry had a black-eyed gal named Betty (his own cousin), that they began courting and married ‘right off the reel,’ and after that they did nothing but quarrel and fuss and raise children.” These were the very words of Big Tom’s own daughter, our own great-aunt, a younger sister of our grandmother, Sina Gregory, who married her third cousin, Stephen Calvin Gregory, for whom the writer was named. Stephen Calvin Gregory was born in Smith County, Tenn., on October 30, 1827, the son of Major Gregory and his second wife, the former Miss Kate Boston, from whom we inherited a “handsome” Roman nose. My great-great-grandfather on the Gregory side were “Big Tom’s” father, Thomas Gregory, the son of Thomas Gregory, a soldier of the American Revolution. Major Gregory’s father was Jeremiah Gregory, who was born in North Carolina in 1766, and died Nov. 1 or 2, 1856 at his home on the waters of Nickojack Branch of Peyton’s Creek, on the very site of the present home of Henry Taylor. Jeremiah Gregory was the son of John Gregory, a brother of the father of Bry and his brother William H. Gregory. The place of the birth of Jeremiah Gregory is shown to have been North Carolina in the census of Smith County for 1850. Moreover, Jeremiah, who lived on Nickojack Branch in the year 1811 when the earthquake that formed Reelfoot Lake in West Tennessee, caused huge rocks to roll down the steep slopes of Nickojack Branch and other parts of Middle Tennessee took place and poor old Jerry, as he was called, saw the rocks rolling down from the hillsides and also saw logs rolling down the slopes. The 45 year-old Jerry started back to North Carolina, a distance of perhaps 800 miles to Pittsboro, the county seat of Jerry’s county of birth. Jerry married the former Miss Barbara Rawls. Jerry’s parents were John Gregory and his wife, Judy Morgan Gregory. We have recently learned that Judy Morgan was a relative of General John Morgan, the Confederate leader in Tennessee during the Civil War.
The census of Smith County for 1850 listed William Gregory as a citizen of Smith County, born in 1764 in Virginia. His brother, Bry, died in 1847 and so we have no official records as to where he was born. His wife’s given name was Elizabeth, but we do not know who she was before marriage.
We believe that Mrs. Hamilton is a descendant of Bry Gregory through his son, Tapley Gregory, but we have not had time to prowl through the older records to learn if this is correct. If it is not, Mrs. Hamilton can write us and we will make further investigation.
As to writing to Washington, I am sure that some of the old records of the Revolutionary War can furnish some light on the subject. From the old war records I learned a number of years ago that Bry, his brother, William H. and father, Thomas Gregory, were soldiers of the Revolutionary War. I still have the old records somewhere but lack of time prevents my looking them up in time for this article.
As to “Big Tom” and his wife, Betty Bry Gregory, had 14 children, all of whom had fairly good minds even though their parents were first cousins. The sons were James I. Gregory, married Miss Alethia Oldham; Ambrose Gregory, married a Cleveland and later a Coons, one of his daughters having died last week and whose funeral the writer held, Mrs. Hattie Phillips; Bob Gregory, whose real name was Robert Hawkins Gregory, who married a distant cousin, Miss Mary Gregory; and Gabriel Gregory, who volunteered for service in the American Army that fought in Mexico, and who sickened and died in the country south of our southern boundary. The daughters were: Kate Gregory, married a Mitchell; Susan commonly called “Sookie” Gregory, who married Calvin Beasley, a son of Bradock Beasley, son of Isham Beasley, who married a Andrews; Sarah Gregory, commonly called Sallie Gregory, married her third cousin, Thomas Gregory, a half-brother of our grandfather, Calvin Gregory; Polly Gregory, married her cousin, Lincoln Shoulders; Amanda Gregory, married her first cousin, Gion Gregory, Sina Gregory, our own grandmother, who married Calvin Gregory, our grandfather and her own third cousin; Tisha Gregory, married a Beal; Lou Gregory also married a Beal; Betty Gregory, married her third cousin, commonly known as Dink Gregory, a full brother to our grandfather, Stephen Calvin Gregory; and Jane Gregory, above referred to as to her father, “Big Tom” having been born in Virginia. She married first a Shoulders and later George W. Bennett. About 45 years ago we made a count of the grandchildren of “Big Tom” and Betty Gregory and other offspring. They then had 142 grandchildren, 565 great-grandchildren, 775 great-great-grandchildren and 100 great-great-great-grandchildren. It is our guess that the number is probably a total of 3,000 persons at this time. It is the most numerous family that we have ever met. At the time, our great-aunt Jane was the actual aunt of approximately 1,500 persons. However, she has been dead many years, but was then the last surviving one of the 14 original children of “Big Tom” and Betty. “Big Tom’s” mother was the former Miss Phoebe Hawkins, who married Thomas Gregory in Virginia in 1787. The numerous Hawkins of Middle Tennessee are all related, including the former Governor, Alvin Hawkins, who was governor in 1881 and 1882.
We hope to have any additional family history possessed by Mrs. Hamilton when it is convenient for her to supply us with the needed information which threatens to become lost unless it is put into print. We may add that for a number of years we have supplied the Tennessee State Library with two copies of our paper each week.
With very best wishes, we are sincerely
Your distant cousin,