Transcribed by M. Carter
Nov. 2, 1950
* CAL’S COLUMN *
The next item in the old records, made on Wednesday, December 18, 1799, is as follows: “Robert Cotton was appointed Constable, came into Court and gave bond in the sum of five hundred dollars, with William Alexander and Lawrence Cotton, his securities, and took the necessary oath of office.” We have no record of Robert Cotton, but suppose he probably lived in the vicinity of Dixon Springs since William Alexander was one of the earliest settlers in that area. We judge Lawrence Cotton to have been a brother of Robert Cotton, but this is only a guess.
“Edmund Jennings” stock mark recorded, a crop off the right ear, and an underbit in the left ear.” Readers will wonder why stock marks were recorded. At that time a century and a half ago, livestock roved through the forests with but few fences in most places. Without the stock mark there was no way of definitely identifying livestock. Stock marks were used on hogs and sheep, and brands on cattle and horses. A crop off the right ear meant the cutting off of the tip of the ear. An underbit was a part cut from the lower part of the ear.
On motion of Major Dixon and Peter Turney to discontinue the roads leading from Dixon Springs to Mungle’s Gap, whereupon the Court determined to keep them open and appointed overseers,” reads the next item. From this we will learn that men had their differences of opinion. Just why Major Dixon, who lived only about three miles from Mungle’s did not want the roads maintained, we have no way of knowing. Peter Turney lived on the present Bud Garrett farm on the Young Branch of Dixon’s Creek, and the old Fort Blount trail or road ran in front of his house, crossed Dixon’s Creek just below the present brick church house, thence over the hill by the home of the late Dick Campbell, thence to Lick Creek, and then by the present Good Will church house, and then through the Gap, a quarter or half mile further on. Why Turney wanted the roads closed, we have no way of knowing, The Gap, so far as we have been able to learn, has continuously had a road leading through it for more than 150 years. At present the black-topped Cato-Hartsville highway passes through the Gap.
The next item is rather lengthy. “Ordered that Frederick Debo(w) be appointed overseer of the road leading from Dixon Springs to Mungle’s Gap, and that John Shelton be appointed overseer of the road leading from the said Turney’s by Dixon Springs to the Sumner Line, along the old road; and that Major Tilman Dixon and Captain Turney be appointed to divide the hands and give lists to the overseer of the old road, and to be allowed toward the other two each eight hands, or that proportion, should there be less hands liable to work on said roads.” We have no way of knowing just now who Frederick DeBow was, but we are informed that a man DeBow once lived about a half mile northwest of the Gap, at the place now occupied by Wakefield Oglesby. There is an old cemetery on the farm with stones bearing the names of some of the members of the DeBow family. But we have not as yet been able to establish this as the old home place of the Frederick DeBow above mentioned. Mention has already been made of John Shelton.
“Ordered that William Cochran be appointed overseer of the road leading from Dixon Springs to Robert Bowman’s, the hands who usually work on said road to work as usual, except those allotted to Capt. Sounders,” reads the next item. We have no knowledge of who William Cochran was, but we judge that he resided somewhere between the present Dixon Springs and Riddleton, since the road for which he was appointed leads from one place to the other. The Robert Bowman mentioned is supposed to have been the one whom Bowman’s Branch at the outskirts of Riddleton, was named. He was a substantial farmer and landowner and was an elderly man in 1799 as we are to judge from the fact that he died a short time later at an advanced age. Bill Bowman, carrier on Riddleton, Route one and Grady Bowman, Hartsville barber, are descendants of this Robert Bowman if information reaching us is correct.
The next item is: “Ordered that William Walton be appointed overseer of the road leading from Peyton’s Creek to Walton’s Ferry that all the hands living below Thomas Clark’s on Peyton’s Creek, and all the men living within the bend of the River, to work on said road.” Walton, it will be recalled, lived at the present Carthage. Thomas Clark’s home on Peyton’s Creek is another of those “lost items.” A passing idea of ours is that he once lived at the present Pleasant Shade but we do not have any proof.
“Ordered that William Walton be appointed overseer of the road leading from the mouth of Caney Fork River, to the head of Snow Creek, and that his own hands together with all those living above said Fork and below Sullivan’s Ferry to the head of Snow Creek, to work on said road” is the reading of the last item of business transacted by the first County Court of Smith County. Thus, William Walton was overseer on two roads, one leading west from his ferry at the present Carthage, and the other leading east up Snow Creek by way of the present Elmwood. Sullivan’s Ferry, we presume, was named for the same man who gave name to Sullivan’s Bend, which is up the Cumberland above the Caney Fork and on the southeast side of the Cumberland. We do not know for whom Snow Creek or Snowe Creek was named. If any reader knows, your information will be greatly appreciated.
“Court then adjourned until the third Monday in March next Teste. Sampson Williams, Garrett Fitgerald, William Alexander, James Gwinn.” This is the reading of the last notation in the old records for December, 1799. This shows that the Court had dwindled down to only three Magistrates after three days of work. Little did those men of 150 years ago realize the importance of their efforts in the establishment of roads and the other work done by that pioneer Court.
DIXON SPRINGS, March 17, 1800: “Court met according to adjournment when the following gentlemen were present (To Wit) William Walton, Thomas Harmond, James Hibbetts and Peter Turney, Esquires.” So reads the opening item of the record of the second Quarterly Court of Smith County, Tenn. Other members of the Court were either delayed or unable to attend.
Nine days before this meeting of the Quarterly Court and about a mile and a half southwest of the meeting place of the Court, Dixon’s Creek Baptist church was formed. The old records correspond as to the day of the week. The church was organized on Saturday before the second Lord’s Day in March 1800, or March 8, 1800. Court met on Monday, March 17, 1800. So Saturday, March 8, 1800 was just nine days before the meeting of the Court. Many names in the old Court records are also to be found in the early records of this church, which has continued to the present, being now made up of more than 500 members. This old church has preserved practically all its records for a century and a half and they form one of the most interesting accounts of early church life in Tennessee that are still available to the reading public or !!to historians.
“The Court then proceeded to business and ordered that John Shelton be allowed to keep an ordinary at his house, also that David Cochran be allowed to keep an ordinary at his own house and that they be rated agreeable to an order of the last Court,” reads the first item of business transacted by the Quarterly County Court of Smith County in March, 1800. An ordinary was a place where meals were served, not on orders, but simply placed on tables and the public paying for the privilege of such partaking thereof. The word is rather obsolete at this time, but is still to be found in some dictionaries.
As to the rates allowed by the Court to those permitted to have an ordinary, we have been unable to find any except those allowed to keepers of taverns. We suppose then that tavern keepers and ordinary keepers were rated exactly alike. In other words we suppose that the Clerk might have used the words, tavern and ordinary, interchangeably.
Mention of John Shelton has been made two or three times already, but we might add that we infer that he lived somewhere between Lick Creek and the Sumner County line. James Ballou married a Shelton, probably a daughter or sister of John. David Cochran was most probably a brother of William Cochran mentioned earlier in this article, but we have not the least idea as to where his house was located. Information from any reader on any point connected with this narrative will be greatly appreciated. Any correction will be gladly made. We wish to be as accurate as possible.
“Deed, William Saunders to David Cochran, acknowledged,” reads the next item. But there is no statement as to where the land was, what price was paid, or the acreage.
“Charles Hudspeth, Esquire, appeared, qualified and took his seat.” This new member of the Court represented another old family name that has disappeared from the records of Smith County. So far as we ever knew, there have been no Huds!!peths in Smith County for more than 100 years. Just what section he represented or what District he was from is not now known. In fact we have not as yet found in the old records a single district such as we now have in all our counties.
“Ordered that Martha Aceff (Acuff) and John Aceff (Acuff) be allowed to administer on the estate of Keen Acuff, deceased, they having made bond and given security, and took the oath of office of Administrators, and also returned an inventory into this Court,” So reads the next item. We believe this to have been the very first appointment of administrators in the entire history of Smith County. Whether Martha (was the daugh)ter* of Keen Acuff is not revealed. Moreover, there is nothing to indicate the relationship of John Acuff to the deceased.
*(There was a partial sentence between “Martha” and “ter” that made no sense. This is the actual sentence, starting with “Whether”: Whether Martha this point, our assistance will be ter of Keen Acuff is not revealed.)
“ Ordered that the late order of this Court be rescinded, appointing John Shelton overseer of the road leading from the Sumner line, and that the said John Shelton be re-appointed as overseer from the Sumner County line to Dixon’s Lick Creek, and that Silas Jernigan be appointed overseer of the road leading from Lick Creek to Turney’s,” the latter place being on the present Young Branch of Dixon’s Creek.
“Ordered that the Grand Jury be impaneled and sworn when the following gentlemen were elected and sworn: Viz.: Grant Allen, foreman; Willis Haney, John Barkley, Andrew Greer, Leonard Ballou, James Bradley, James Draper, Willeroy Pair (or Pate), Anthony Samuel, James Ballou, William Kelton, Daniel Mungle, John Crosswhite, Thomas Jamison, and Nathaniel Ridley,” in a previous article. This leaves only one man, Willis Haney, not previously mentioned or commented upon. We have mentioned William Haney, but we do not know if the name could have been given to the same man, with a misspelling of the name causing what appears to be two persons. However, William and Willis were both common names then as they are now. If any reader can enlighten us on this point, your assistance will be appreciated. Were William and Willis Haney two persons or were they one and the same man?
“Ordered that Amos Lacy be appointed to ‘wate” on the Grand Jury.” Such is the next item. How many, many men have served as members of the Smith County Grand Jury in the long gone years, we do not know. Our own father, Thomas M. (Dopher) Gregory once served in this capacity.
“Ordered that Tandy Wither (Witcher) be appointed Constable who was accordingly elected and gave security, according to law.” Mention was made some time ago of Tandy Witcher’s buying a smooth-bore gun at the sale of the personal property of William Jenkins in 1807. We judge this to have been the same man and also that he was probably the ancestor of the numerous Witchers of present Macon County at a much later date. His name as given above, was misspelled, being written Wither. We wonder if the old people did not sometimes call members of the Witcher family Withers.
(To be continued)