Transcribed by Timothy R. Meador, Jr.
* CAL’S COLUMN *
We resume the publication of the old records of the County Court and Court of Pleas of Smith County, for Monday, Dec. 22, 1802. The next item follows: “Deed, 50 acres, John Sedgley to Henry Dancer, proven by the oath of Daniel Burford, a subscribing witness thereto. Ordered to be registered.” We presume that this land transaction took place somewhere on the waters of Dixon’s Creek, as Daniel Burford lived in the vicinity of Dixon Springs in the early part of the 19th century. We have no information as to John Sedgley, but Henry Dancer’s name has frequently appeared in the old records of the Court. It may be added that so far as we can learn there is no family now in Smith County of either name, Sedgley, Dancer or Burford.
“Bill of sail, Jonas Dancer, Sr., to Jonas Dancer, Jr., proven by the oath of Daniel Burford, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto, and ordered to be recorded.” The word “sail” is incorrectly spelled. It should have been “Sale.” We notice that the Clerk of the County Court 150 years ago, almost invariably spelled the word, “Sail” instead of “Sale.” We do not know who Jonas Dancer was, but presume that he was a brother of Henry Dancer, named in the item above. We suppose the above transaction took place on Dixon’s Creek, but this is only a surmise.
“Bill of Sail, Jonas Dancer to Thomas Shoate and Manuel Hunter, proven by the oath of Daniel Burford, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto." Daniel Burford was a Baptist minister and was the first pastor of Dixon’s Creek Baptist church. He was also Register of Smith County in the long ago. We recently searched the old records of the church to find that he was paid only about ‘14.00 for two years’ preaching. During his pastorate there, one of the brethren brought a charge against the pastor accusing him of not paying a debt of $150 due said brother, who also accused the pastor of selling a stallion on which the lending brother had a mortgage. The pastor made his acknowledgments and asked forgiveness, which was granted by the church. Just how that they thought their pastor could pay any debts and live on only $7.00 per year is beyond the writer. Afterward he was elected as Register of Smith County for a number of years and kept the records of his county, deeds, mortgages and other papers, with credit to himself and the county. He made a living by serving his county and preaching largely for nothing. We have no knowledge of Thomas Shoate or Manuel Hunter.
“Deed of gift, James Dancer to Henry Dancer, to children, proven by oath of Daniel Burford, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto.” We would suppose that James Dancer was the father of Henry Dancer and perhaps also of Jonas Dancer, but this is only a surmise.
Ordered that the following hands work under Daniel Alexander, overseer of the road; viz. Elisha Oglesby, James Oglesby, Hugh Stephenson, Josiah Howell, Joel Holland, John Kennedy, Joseph Sullivan, Owen Sullivan, Isaac Sullivan, Thomas Larrimore, Thomas Wimbs (Weems), John Nichols, Richard Barver (Boquen), Peter Startuck.” This road, we suppose, ran up Middle Fork of Goose Creek to the Gap of the Ridge and then down Long Creek to the Kentucky-Tennessee line, as the Oglesbys lived in that distant day and time on the waters of Middle Fork of Big Goose Creek. The Sullivans, in part at least, lived just west of the Gap of the Ridge, where Ellis Jones now lives. Daniel Alexander is believed to have lived on big Goose Creek. Joel Holland is believed to have been the father of the wife of Noah Jenkins, who lived on Long Creek as early as 1805. Our present wife is the great-great-granddaughter of Noah Jenkins and the Holland woman. We do not known where a Josiah Howell lived a century and a half ago. Thomas Weems, we are almost certain, was an early resident on upper Long Creek. Richard Baver of Boquen, is another “unknown,” his name perhaps being in error as the writing is not clear. Peter Startuck is another of whom we know not one thing. In fact this, to the writer, is a brand new name.
“Deed, 100 acres, Henry W. Lawson to John Shaver, proven by the oath of Godfrey Shaver, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto. Let it be registered.” We mentioned the fact that Elder C. B. Massey, a Baptist minister living at Pleasant Shade and now nearly 87 years of age, was the grandson of Mrs. Fannie Shaver Massey, wife of Pleasant Massey, a pioneer settler at Pleasant Shade. We are of the opinion that John Shaver and Godfrey Shaver were relatives of hers. Henry Lawson’s place of residence is now unknown to the writer.
“Court adjourns until tomorrow nine o’clock..” Thus closed the first day of the work of the Court of December, 1802. All the parties mentioned in the old records have long since “gone the way of all the earth.” They were some four or five generations removed form us who live today.
“Court met according to adjournment. Members present (to-wit) James Gwin, Elmore Douglass, James Draper and Nathaniel Brittain.” We believe that we made an error in copying in that we think we recently gave the date for the opening of Court as Wednesday, Dec. 22, 1802. This should have been Monday, and not Wednesday.
“The last will and testament of John Payne, deceased, was exhibited in Open Court, the execution whereof Peter Turney, Esquire, proved by his oath, who also swore that he saw Thomas Farris subscribe the same with himself as a witness. Also a memorandum on note on back of the said will. Peter Hudspeth, the subscribing came into Court and proved the execution thereof, and the said Peter Turner and Edm. Farris qualified as executors aforesaid.” This item from the old records is not clear on some points at least. The statement about the memorandum on note, perhaps should read, “Also a memorandum or note.” Just how Peter Hudspeth proved the execution of a will before the appointment of executors of the will, we confess we do not know. Anyway John Payne was dead and his estate was being administered by Peter Turney and Edmond Farris.
“Ordered that Reuben Hall be bound to Joel Dyer until he arrive at age of 21, he being now about six years old; and the said Joel Dyer came into Court and entered into an Indenture with the Chairman of the Court, and also agreed to learn him, the said blacksmith’s (trade) and to have him learned to read, write and cypher as far as the rule of three, and give him a set of blacksmith’s tools when he becomes free.” Here is a very interesting item about how children were bound to others at even the tender age of six years. We have no idea as to who Reuben Hall was, but presume that his father and mother were both dead. We are sure that Joel Dyer was a relative of the present Joel Dyer who lives in the Long Hungry Creek section of Macon County. He is most probably a great-grandson of the Joel Dyer, who was to care for Reuben Hall more than 150 years ago. The present Joel Dyer is more than 80 years of age. Joel Dyer of 1802 lived on Peyton’s Creek below the present town of Pleasant Shade, somewhere about the village of Graveltown. He erected the first mill of which we have any record on that stream. He was commonly called Big Joel Dyer, he having a son, commonly called Little Joel Dyer. It was once quite common to refer to the senior member of a family as “Big” and the junior member as “Little.” The indenture into which Joel Dyer entered was a bond for his fulfilling his contract to teach his ward, if we may so call one in the position of Reuben Hall, blacksmithing, reading, writing and to cipher to the rule of three. The word, “learn” means here “teach.” The rule of three was used in arithmetic in finding a fourth term in proportion when three were given. It perhaps is not used nearly as much as it formerly was. We recall that our grandfather was once present when a teacher’s examination was in progress somewhere about 1850 when his brother-in-law was trying to become a teacher. On the test, the brother-in-law was required to give the number of the letters in the alphabet. This he was unable to do until our grandfather whispered to him, “Twenty-six.” So a man who knew enough about ciphering to reach the “Rule of Three” was pretty well educated according to the standards of 150 years ago. The word “Cypher” is incorrectly spelled in the above quotation, although it was now and then spelled as give in the quotation. In other words it was not the common spelling of the word.
“Ordered that Valentine Bailiff be bound to Andrew Greer until he arrived at the age of 21 years, being now about 16 years of age; and the said Andrew Greer came into Court and entered into an Indenture with the Chairman of the said Court. Greer agrees to release said Bailiff at the age of 21 years, with 66 and 2/3 dollars, a good saddle and bridle, freedom clothes and a good English education.”
We don’t have the faintest idea as to who Valentine Bailiff was, although Andrew Greer lived 150 years ago near the mouth of Middle Fork of Big Goose Creek. There is still a hill in that section known as the “Greer Hill,” supposedly named for Andrew Greer. At the age of 21 Bailiff was to be set free with $66 2/3 dollars, a good saddle and bridle, freedom clothes and a good English education. We know what all these things mean except “freedom clothes.” We have sought to find its meaning and have failed. It had something to do with his being set free we are sure. But we have no idea as to what sort or kind of clothing is meant.
“Ordered that Margaret Hall be bound to Issac Johns until she arrives at the age of 18 years, being now about nine years of age. The said Johns came into Court and entered into Indenture with the Chairman of the Court of Smith County.” We do not know if Margaret Hall was a sister of the Reuben Hall, mentioned as being bound to Joel Dyer in another item above referred to. But our guess is that they were brother and sister. Issac Johns is believed to have been a brother of Elias Johns who married Esther Ballou about the year 1800. Esther Ballous was a sister of one of the writer’s great-great-grandfathers, Leonard Ballou. Esther was born in 1776, and her husband was four years younger than she was. They lived across the creek from the Dixon’s Creek brick church house. They reared a large family of sons and daughters, part of whom left Tennessee about 1835 for the Oregon country, going by oxcart and in wagons pulled by horses.
Elias Johns was the head of a family in Smith County, Tenn. In 1820, consisting of : Males, one under 10, two form 10 to 16, one from 16 to 18, one from 18 to 26, and one from 26 to 45, himself we are sure. Females, four under 10, one from 16 to 26; and one form 26 to 45, Mrs. Elias Johns, no doubt. They also owned one slave in 1820. Benjamin Johns and his wife were apparently old people without any children at home in the census of 1820. Each was over 45 years of age and they owned six slaves. One other Johns, Jesse by name, is listed as the head of a family in 1820 in Smith County. He apparently married a young woman when he was not far from middle age. In his family we have: Three males under 10, one from 10 to 16, and one about 45, Jesse Johns, we are sure. His females were: one from 10 to 16, and one from 26 to 45, Mrs. Johns, were would suppose. There is no record of Isaac Johns in the county in the year 1820.
There is a stream rising about a quarter mile west of Lafayette which is called Johns’ Creek, a tributary of Long Creek, but we have no idea as to what Johns gave his name to the stream which runs through the village of Brattontown. Although there are several Johns families living in Macon County, there is, so far as we are informed, not one left in Smith County.
“Ordered that John Jenkins be overseer of that part of the road where Henry Huddleston was late overseer; and that the same hands work under him as were liable to work under the late overseer, with the addition of Francis Capps and William Richards.” We wonder if this could have been a brother of the Noah Jenkins, above mentioned. We know that Noah’s father was William Jenkins, who died in the present Smith County as an old man in the year 1807, leaving his wife, Nancy, as the administratrix of his estate. It is well known that Roderick Jenkins was a brother of Noah. There is also indication that Roderick and Noah had two brothers, John and Jacob Jenkins. And this leads us to wonder if the John Jenkins referred to in the record of the Court was not the same man. We do not at this time recall where Henry Huddleston was overseer, but we might locate this road with a little additional investigation. This might help us locate the general vicinity of the home of Jenkins.
We plan to continue the publication of the old records from time to time. If any readers have no interest in them, others do and we will not feel badly if you pass by the old records completely. We desire to strive to keep alive some record of the people and places of 150 years ago.