Transcribed by Bob Morrow
July 2, 1953
* CAL'S COLUMN *
The next item of business in the Court of September, 1802, is as follows: “Ordered that John Gordon, Esquire, be appointed Overseer of the above road, from the above-mentioned ford over the Caney Fork to its intersection with Walton’s Road, and that the hands living in Snow Creek settlement, together with the hands excepted above, work on same.”
This refers to work on the road between Caney Fork River and the Walton’s Road, which ran along the top of the Ridge in the present Chestnut Mound section and came off the Ridge at the head of Snow Creek. The hands excepted can be learned from the last item which we gave in last week’s paper. For the sake of those who have misplaced their paper for last week, we may add that they were the hands of Thomas Smith, Enos Herell and the two Pierces.
The Snow Creek settlement above mentioned was the present Elmwood, according to our information. The very first settler of whom we have any record in the Elmwood section is said to have been a man named Oldham, who built cabins in that part of Smith County as early as 1801. They were called Oldham’s cabins, but we do not know the given name of the man who built them. The Oldhams of Macon, Smith and other counties, however, are descended from George Oldham, and his wife, Celia Sutherland Oldham, who arrived in 1805 from Virginia and established a home on the present site of the Herbert F. Sloan home on Peyton’s Creek.
“Ordered that Willis Jones be appointed Overseer of the road leading from Richard Bank’s Ferry to the house of William Kavanaugh, Esquire, as far as its intersection with the road leading from Walton’s Ferry to the Big Spring, and that all the hands on the east side of the road to the Cumberland, including the hands of Richard Banks, work on same.”
We admit that we do not understand this item. Willis Jones, we suppose, was a member of the same Jones family as Will Jones, late resident of Dixon Springs, whom we met first in the years long gone by. He was also a merchant at Dixon Springs for a number of years. Richard Banks was a prominent early settler of the Dixon Springs section. He and his wife, Kerenhappuch Banks, were among the charter members of Dixon’s Creek Baptist church. His wife’s name is frequently mentioned in the old records on file at Carthage. The keepers of the records of more than 140 years ago, as well as they who copied them at later dates, frequently misspelled the name, Kerenhappuch, which is from the Bible, being the name of the third daughter of Job. Who she was prior to her marriage to Richard Banks, we do not know. We are quite sure that the first ex-slave we ever met, Bob Banks, had as a slave, belonged to a descendant of Richard Banks. Bob Banks lived down the valley about a quarter of a mile below our early home. We recall many events connected with the old ex-slave. When the writer began his preaching efforts in 1913, we lived on the site of the old Banks home.
Richard Banks lived in the long ago on the south side of the Cumberland, not far from the present Cedar Bluff. Willie Jones is believed to have married a daughter or a granddaughter of Banks. Thomas Banks, a son of Richard and Kerenhappuch, was clerk of Dixon Creek’s Baptist church for a number of years. One of the daughters, Sallie Banks, married first to Garland McAlister, and later married Daniel Hawkins Burford, son of Elder Daniel Burford, first pastor of Dixon’s Creek Baptist church.
The road evidently led south-eastward from the Ferry through that section lying northwest of the present Rome. The road leading from Walton’s Ferry, located at or near the mouth of the Caney Fork, came down on the south side of the Cumberland, opposite the present Carthage. We do not know where the Big Spring is or was. If any reader can enlighten us on this point, your help will be appreciated. William Kavanaugh resided in the vicinity of the present New Middleton.
“Ordered that Court adjourn until Court in course. Charles Kavanaugh, Chairman.” Thus closes the record of the work of the Court for September, 1802.
“At a Court opened and held for the county of Smith on Monday, the 20th day of December, 1802. Members present: Peter Turney, James Hibbetts, William Kavanauth, Esquires.” Mention has already been made concerning Turney and Kavanaugh. Hibbetts is believed to have lived on the present Pumpkin Branch, the gap at the head of that stream and leading to Dog Branch of Dixon’s Creek, still being known as Hibbetts’ Gap.
Only three members of the Court were present that December day, nearly 151 years ago. We are still wondering how many members of the Court had to be present to form a quorum.
“Thomas Wright came into Court and resigned his appointment as Constable.” The Wright family was among the earlier settlers in the Smith County of 150 years ago. One of them, Robert Wright, was a Revolutionary soldier who is buried near Brattontown, about two miles west of Lafayette. Robert Wright, the soldier above mentioned, was born in Virginia in 1759, and died in Smith County, Tenn., in 1831. Robert has long been a given name in the family, as has Green.
In the Smith County census of 1820 the following Wrights were listed as heads of families: Joseph Wright: One male under 10, two males 10 to 16, and one above 45, no doubt himself; and one female 10 to 16, one 16 to 26, and one above 45, Mrs. Joseph Wright, we judge.
Thompson Wright: One male 18 to 26, himself; and two females under 10, one from 10 to 16, perhaps his sister; and one 16 to 26, perhaps Mrs. Wright.
Green Wright: One male under 10, and one over 45, presumed to have been Green himself; and females, four under 10, and one from 16 to 26, and also 11 slaves. We are not able to identify the members of the family except that Green was the head of the family, and was 45 years old or older. In the family were five children under 10. If he was the father of these five, one son and four daughters, and their mother is listed. We suppose, as being between 16 and 26, he married a much younger person than he was. He was well-to-do for that day and time, owning 11 Negro slaves. He is supposed to have lived at the present Booker Wilburn home on upper Dixon’s Creek. If we are in error on any point in this account of the Wright family, we will be glad to publish any needed correction.
Elizabeth Wright: One male under 10, and one over 45; and one female 16 to 26, one 26 to 45; and 13 slaves. We would judge Elizabeth Wright to have been a widow from this record, but we wonder who the male in the family who was over 45 years of age, could have been. She was, we suppose between 26 and 45. She was also quite wealthy, owning 13 Negro slaves and no doubt hundreds of acres of land.
Nancy Wright: One male from 10 to 16, and from 16 to 18, four from 18 to 26, one male 26 to 45 years of age; and two females from 10 to 16, and one from 16 to 26. The family owned three slaves. We wonder if it could be possible that the name, “Nancy,” could have been applied to a man. Sometimes we find women’s given names applied to men. We know of men today called Gladys, Maude, Ethel, and other feminine names. If Nancy was a widow then she was in the age group from 16 to 26, and could not have been the mother of the four males between 18 and 26. We are left in doubt as to the various relationships in the family. This family appears to have been quite well off.
George Wright: One male under 10, and one from 26 to 45; and one female under 10 and one from 16 to 26. It appears from this record that Mr. and Mrs. George Wright were young folks with a boy and a girl under 10 years of age.
Robert Wright: One male under 10; and one over 45, himself perhaps; and one female from 18 to 45. Ten slaves belonged to Robert Wright. We would judge this to be the Robert Wright buried near Lafayette in the year 1831. This family was well-to-do in that year of 1820. These are all the heads of families listed in the Smith County census for 1820. Later we may give those listed in 1830 and perhaps in 1840.
“Ordered that Daniel Alexander be appointed Constable, who came into Court and gave security and sualified according to law.”
Daniel Alexander in 1820 had the following members of his family: Two males under 10, two from 10 to 16, one from 16 to 18, three between 19 and 26, and one over 45, perhaps himself; and one female between 16 and 26, and one over 45, supposedly Mrs. Alexander. Two slaves were reported in the same census. We suppose that the Daniel Alexander was a relative of the numerous Alexander family of a later day in the Dixon Springs section . James, James A., Reuben, Richard, Daniel, and this might have been the one appointed as Constable 18 years earlier; and Josiah Alexander, were heads of Alexander families in Smith County in 1820.
“William L. Alexander exhibited his stock mark, being two swallow forks and an underkeel in the right ear. Ordered to be registered.” Perhaps this Alexander in 1820 was dead or else had removed from Smith County. Anyway he is not listed in the census of 1820.
“William Martin came into Court and resigned his appointment as Overseer of the road, and Godfrey Fowler is appointed in his place, with the same hands to work under him as were liable to work under the late Overseer.” We do not recall where William Martin was Overseer. But he resided at the present Cato. Godfrey Fowler lived in the same section.
“Ordered that the report of the jury who were appointed to view, and mark off the road leading from Michael Murphey’s to Daniel Witcher’s be received, which is the way said Witcher moved his family.” Now here is an item that is not quite clear after 151 years have passed. Michael Murphy lived at or near the present Pleasant Shade. So this would be the starting point for the road. Daniel Witcher lived on Long Fork Creek in Macon County, not far above the present bridge on that stream on which Highway 52 crosses the creek. The old Witcher home later became the Dr. Smith farm, located something like a half-mile above the bridge. Now we do not know which way Witcher had moved his family to their new home. There could have been only two ways possible from the Murphy place at Pleasant Shade, one of them being up the present Boston Branch to the Boston Hill, just above what is today called the Lon Jenkins place, to the top of the Ridge, thence to the present Russell Hill, and north to the present Gibbs’ Cross Roads and thence west to the upper part of Long Fork Creek in the vicinity of the present Union Camp, thence down the creek to the Witcher home or location. But this is hardly feasible in view of the fact that a road was laid off prior to this time from Michael Murphy’s to the present Gibbs’ Cross Roads. So we are almost forced to the conclusion that the new road starting at Michael Murphey’s at the present Pleasant Shade, led up what is called Big Peyton’s Creek, up this stream by the mouth of Little Peyton’s Creek, thence by the spring near which our great-great-grandfather, Leonard Ballou, built his home six years later, thence by the present Sycamore Valley to the Mima Gregory Hill, up this hill to the top of the Highland Rim, where the waters of Long Fork begin, and down same to the Witcher home. If this surmising is correct, this was the first road loading up Payton’s Creek to its extreme upper end. The hill did not get its name till after 1827 when Ambrose Gregory, Bry’s son, died, leaving his wife, the former Miss Jemima Willis, to rear the large family of children. She lived near the foot of this high hill; and reared her large family. Since Jemima Gregory lived near this hill, it became an easy matter to refer to the hill as the “Mima Gregory Hill,” which it is called today.
It was on this stream, upper Payton’s Creek, that some of the earliest Gregorys settled. Here Bry Gregory lived as far back as 1814 when his 16-year-old son, Ansil, was killed about a mile and a quarter down the stream from its extreme upper end, at the place later called Cave Point. He was engaged in helping some makers of gunpowder for use in the War of 1812. These powder makers were using saltpeter from the cave, boiling it down and getting it into form for use in powder making. When a large dead tree was felled for wood to heat the mixture, young Gregory was struck by the tree and instantly killed. His father, Bry Gregory, another of the writer’s great-great-grandfathers, on learning of his son’s death, took his mule and his ground sled and went to the place. As he lifted the form of his dead son on to the sled, he ripped out an oath, saying: “Now, d—n, you I guess you won’t run away again.” This is the same man who 33 years later, was killed by lightning when he cursed the Almighty and called on Him to “try old Cuff a pop.”
On this same upper Payton’s Creek, about two and a half miles southeast of the Mima Gregory Hill, the Gregory reunion is scheduled to meet on Sunday August 16, 1953. To this gathering are invited all the living Gregorys, far and near, and those related to them, either by blood or marriage: We might add that any who wish to attend, whether related or not, are invited. Bring your lunch and spent the day at Sycamore Valley Baptist church, located ten miles southeast of Lafayette, or come by way of Pleasant Shade, driving four miles north of that place.