Transcribed by Melody Carter
May 29, 1952
* CAL’S COLUMN *
We continue the publication of the old records. The next item is as follows: “Ordered that all the hands liable to work on public roads and living on the water of Mulherrin Creek work under John Kitchin.” Mulherrin Creek is a comparatively short stream that rises not far from the present New Middleton and flows generally northeastward into the Caney Fork River. The first record of the name, so far as the writer can recall, was in the “Life of Joe Bishop,” who writes about a terrible storm that overtook him while he was hunting on that stream approximately 160 years ago. It has been many years since we read that account and do not recall enough to give details. The writer has to admit sorrowfully that his memory is not what it once was. Moreover, the book referred to above was borrowed and the lender is now dead. We doubt if that one particular book has been preserved. Mulherrin, we believe was the name of a family of long ago.
It is quite interesting to note that by far the largest number of our creeks took their names from some family name, generally the discoverer of the stream or its first settler. Dixon’s Creek was named for Major Tilman Dixon. Peyton’s Creek took its name from the Peyton Brothers who lived at Castalian Springs in the long, long ago. Hogan’s Creek takes its name from a man named Hogan. Plunkett’s Creek received its name from a man named Plunkett, so we understand. Rawls’ Creek, which empties into Plunkett’s Creek, near the present Rock City, took its name from a man named Rawls, and we are quite sure that he was a brother of one of our great-great-grandmothers, Barbara Rawls, who married Jeremiah Gregory and came with him to Smith County, Tenn. in the autumn of 1791. Bledsoe’s Creek was named for a man named Bledsoe. Snow Creek, we understand, was named for a man named Snowe. It passes through the town of Elmwood and empties into Caney Fork. Johns’ Creek near Lafayette, was named for an early member of the family who appears to have been descended from Elias Johns, the first of the family of whom we can find any record. He married Esther Ballou, a sister of one of the writer’s great-great-grandfathers, Leonard Ballou.
But there are some exceptions to the names of creeks as being derived from their discoverers or earliest settlers. Big Goose Creek which rises almost in the “back door” of our home town of Lafayette is an exception. We do not know the origin of the name. We would guess that wild geese were to be seen in great numbers by the earliest explorers on the waters of the stream, whose east extremities rise at the head of Dry Fork, some eight miles east of Lafayette. Its most westerly point is in the vicinity of the present Fairview Baptist church near Eulia. This is a distance of about 20 miles in a direct line, from the head waters of Dry Fork. This stream is divided into the following parts: East Fork, on which Hillsdale is located; Middle Fork, on which Pleasant Valley Methodist church is located; and West Fork which rises in the vicinity of Willard and Templow and flows through Hartsville. If any reader of the Times can give us the exact origin of the name Goose Creek we shall be glad to publish same.
All streams that have the name, “Lick,” were so-called on account of a salt spring that wild animals visited to “lick” the salt waters. We recall the Lick Creek of Dixon’s Creek, Salt Lick, of Cumberland, Salt Lick of Barren, and Round Lick which empties into the Cumberland just above the present Rome. We are indeed sorry that practically all the salt springs are unknown today as to their exact location. Perhaps many of them ceased to flow, and others are forgotten in the mad rush of living in our world today.
The writer is pastor of a church located on the head waters of Lick Creek, but he has not been able to learn where the “lick” that gave the creek its name is or was located. He was formerly pastor of Gladdice Baptist church, located on Salt Lick of Cumberland. Also his first school was taught at Dean Hill, which is located on the extreme upper end of the same stream. But in all these more than 46 years he has known the stream, he has failed to locate the “lick” which gave name to the creek. We do know that there was once a small “lick” on the extreme upper end of Peyton’s Creek, not far from the Mima Gregory Hill.
We noticed some years ago that parties connected with the State Highway Department undertook to give, what they considered, the proper rendering of the name. Round Lick Creek, above referred to, was identified as “Round Lake” Creek, and so some other streams were changed from “lick” to “Lake.”
Defeated creek did not get its name from some man nor from a “lick.” It was named “Defeated Creek” on account of the defeat suffered there in February 1786, by the three Peyton Brothers, Frazer and Squire Grant.
Quite a number of “Spring Creeks” are to be found here in the hills of Middle Tennessee. A few may be mentioned. Spring Creek was the original name for the present Bowman’s Branch that empties into Peyton’s Creek a short distance southeast of the present Riddleton. It took its original name from the big spring that flows from the rocky hill across from the present home of Charlie Yancey. Spring Creek in Macon County was named for a big spring just a short distance north of Lafayette. The same is true, we presume, of all the creeks thus named. It somehow makes one sad to think of the generations that have visited these springs, that washed their clothing in such water, built their homes by such streams, and are now but memories, while the good, clear, sweet waters flow on undiminished and unchanged with the years. What a history these springs and streams could give if they were able to reveal all the events that have passed by them, or on their waters in the years that will come no more.
Long Creek, here in our own county, got its name from its great length, rising at or near the Gap of the Ridge and flowing generally northeastward into Barren River, or rather under a hill and then into Barren River. Long Hungry Creek, also in Macon County, is said to have gotten its name by reason of the fact that early surveyors on that stream were unable to find any game with which to satisfy their hunger and that they went so long without food that they named the stream, "Long Hungry Creek." Long Fork Creek, also in this county, flows into Salt Lick not far from the junction of the latter stream with Barren River, and was called Long Fork because it was the longest tributary to Salt Lick.
Scanty Branch of Dixon's Creek is said to have taken its name from an incident in pioneer days; Food was sometimes scarce in pioneer homes for the first or even the second year in the wilds of Middle Tennessee. A woman living on the waters of the present stream, which empties into Dixon's creek at or near Cato found that her supply of lard was exhausted. So she decided to go to a neighbor's home and borrow a supply of this shortening. On the way to the neighbor's home, she met the wife of the neighbor. There each revealed to the other that she was without lard and wanted to borrow from the other. On account of the shortage of lard or its scantiness, the stream was named "Scanty Branch."
Nickojack Branch of Peyton's Creek, on which we once taught school, as well as lived for two years, is obscure as to the origin of the name by which it is still called. Some understand that a Negro named Jack once lived on the stream which rises about 150 yards from Mace's Hill Baptist church, and flows about three miles into Peyton's Creek. From the Negro named Jack some think the stream took its name. Others are of the opinion that part of the men who fought in the Nickojack Expedition of 1794, against Chickamuga and Cherokee Indians might have lived on that stream now known as Nickojack Branch. Our own "guess" is that it took its name from the Nickojack Expedition which went against the Indians in September, 1794, and routed them from their strongholds, Nickojack and Running Water being the most important of their towns, which were located in the vicinity of the present Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga.
The Nickojack Branch of Peyton's Creek was settled just about this time, the first settlers on Peyton's Creek, of whom we have any record, our own Gregory ancestors, arriving in the next valley below Nickojack in the autumn of 1791. However, we are always subject to correction and will be glad to have any information as to the naming of the stream.
"Towtown Branch" is said to have taken its name from the fact that the early Methodist preachers through that section were to have part of their pay for preaching in "tow," which was the coarse or broken part of flax or hemp. These brethren took their tow from their homes which were on the stream that rises at the northeast side of Mace's Hill, flows eastward until joined by the Dickerson Branch and thence flows southeastward and empties into Peyton's Creek just above the present Mt. Tabor Baptist church. Thus "Towtown Branch" is said to have gotten its name.
Dog Branch is one of the streams that empties into Dixon's Creek, at or near the present Cato in Trousdale County. Dog Branch is said to have derived its name from an incident which is said to have occurred on the John P. Merryman farm, formerly owned by Bridgewater, and now owned, we believe, by a Mr. Cornwell. It is only about a half mile from the brick church house known as Dixon's Creek Baptist church. One morning the owner of the farm just referred to, went to his smokehouse to find part of his hams missing. There was no sign of the thief gaining entrance under the walls of the structure. But what was worse, the thief's dog had followed his master who in his haste to get out of the smokehouse and be on his way with his hams, had not noticed that he had closed the smokehouse door on the dog and left the animal behind. The owner of the missing hams recognized the dog as belonging to a man who lived on what has since been called "Dog Branch." The ham thief, when confronted by the owner of the missing hams, acknowledged that the dog was his and also admitted stealing the hams. We have never learned what was done to the man as punishment for his unlawful deed. But the stream has been called "Dog Branch" from that day to the present. However, when we were a boy, a man who worked with a wheat thresher, gave a different version. He stated that he had shortly before been with the threshing outfit and that the outfit was in operation on Dog Branch. He said he had never before seen so man dogs at a wheat threshing. He informed the writer that he personally counted 135 dogs at the wheat threshing. For this reason he supposed the stream was called "Dog Branch." But the first version is evidently the correct one.
After this very wide "detour" from the old records, we return to the item above referred to. We do not know who John Kitchin was. In fact we do not recall having ever met one member of the family.
"Court adjourns until Court in course, to meet at this place. Attest, Sampson Williams; Peter Turney, John Lancaster, Elmore Douglass, Esquires." Thus closed a four-day session of the Quarterly County Court and Court of Pleas of Smith County, Tennessee, for March 15, 16, 17, and 18, 1802.