Transcribed by Kathleen Hastings Whitlock
November 8, 1951
We resume this “Colyum” again this week, with a continuation of the old records of the Quarterly Court and Court of Pleas of Smith County, of which most of Macon was originally a part. The time is Wednesday, Sept. 23, 1801, and the place of the meeting is in the home of Tilman Dixon just below Dixon Springs in Smith County. The last item we gave was one about the names of those to be called for “Venire Facias” service. The next item is as Follows:
“Ordered that Jonas Dancer be allowed to retail whiskey at 12 ½ cents per half pint, for three months, he complying, with the requisitions of the law in such case made and provided.” Who Jonas Dancer was we do not know. Neither do we know if 12 ½ cents per half pint was a cheap price for whiskey, as we have never bought or sold or drunk one drop of whiskey. The word, “requisitions,” we suppose, is permissible here, although in this day and time, we would perhaps say “requirements” instead of “requisitions,” as above set out. If any reader of the paper knows who Jonas Dancer was, we shall be glad to publish any information relative to him. The name is no longer to be found in Smith County, so far as the writer can recall.
“On motion of Samuel Donelson, Esquire, to have the fihe and double tax remitted on 500 acres of land, the property of Stephen Pettus, the Court decided that the said motion should lie over until next Court for consideration.” Samuel Donelson was a lawyer in the early history of Smith County. We have no knowledge of Samuel Petus. We do note from this old record and also from church records of a hundred and fifty years ago that matters requiring thought and consideration and things about which those concerned did not know what course to pursue, that almost invariably they were carried over. This permitted time for further thought and often resulted in the adjusting of matters that might have caused a wide breach if they had not been carried over. We believe that today many of our problems ought to wait or be carried over until mature thought can be given them.
“Archibald Sloan’s mark, a half-crop in the left ear and a slit and underbit in the right, (ordered to be recorded).” Archibald Sloan was one of the county’s earliest settlers, and we are quite sure that he settled in the present Pleasant Shade section. There is at this time an Archibald Sloan, a prominent farmer living in that part of Smith County. Just what relation he was to Patrick Sloan we do not know. Another older member of the family was Jason Sloan. The latter part of the item was left out of the record and we have placed it in parenthesis to complete the sentence and sense of the statement of the record.
“Vincent Ridley’s stock mark, a half-crop in each ear, ordered to be recorded.” We do not know who Vincent Ridley was; and, if there is a member of the family now living in Smith County, we have no knowledge of him or her.
“Ordered that John Hargis be allowed to retail whiskey at 12 ½ cents per half pint, he complying with the requisitions of law in such case made and provided.” We are under the impression that John Hargis lived on the waters of the present Dixon’s Creek about or above the present Cato. We know nothing of his descendants.
The next item is not exactly clear. It is as follows: “Ordered the following report be received; Benjamin Shepherd, 640 acres a little below the mouth of Obed’s River on south side; Benj. Shepherd, 640 acres on the lick Creek; Nancy Shepherd, 640 acres on the West fork of Roaring River. Do 640 Do. Do 640’ on eastern branch of Roaring River, near the head, beginning at the beech and buckeye. Entered 18th of November 1792 John L. Martin.” Who Benjamin Shepherd was we have not the least idea. We suppose Nancy Shepherd was a relative of Benjamin Shepherd, but this is guess work. We wonder if this Benjamin Shepherd could have been the ancestor of Tom T. Shepherd, formerly of Pleasant Shade. This last named Shepherd has numerous descendants in Smith County today. He married a daughter of Henry and Kate Gregory Mitchell. Kate Gregory was a sister of our grandmother, Sina Gregory. We are not sure, but we believe her to have been the oldest daughter of “Big Tom” and Bettie Gregory, who were the parents of of 14 children, four sons, James, Gabriel, Ambrose and Robert Hawkins Gregory; and ten daughters, Mrs. Kate Mitchell, Mrs. Sallie Gregory, Mrs. Bettie Gregory, Mrs. Tisha Beal, Mrs. Lou Beal, Mrs. Jane Bennett, Mrs. Susan Beasley (Sookie); Mrs. Polly Shoulders, and Mrs. Amanda Gregory. All this large number of sons and daughters married except Gabriel, who died in the Mexican War. The 13 brothers and sisters became the parents of 142 sons and daughters, of which number only eight are now living. Our own father, Thomas Morgan Gregory (“Dopher”,) was one of this number. About 35 years ago we made a count of the descendants of “Big Tom” and Bettie Gregory and the number of children were 14, grandchildren; 142 great-grandchildren, 565 great-great-great-grandchildren, 100. At that time one of the 14 children of this pioneer couple was living, Aunt Jane Bennett, who was the actual aunt of 1,500 persons.
But to come back to the item in the the old records, we may add that the land of Benjamin Shepherd referred to above was just below the mouth of Obed’s River. Celina was evidently the very ground on which the present Celina, Clay County, now stands. Nancy Shepherd’s 640 acres of land were on the west fork of Roaring River. The only fork of Roaring River that could be called West Fork, so far as our information extends is now known as “Blackburn’s Fork” of Roaring River. This stream enters the Cumberland just above the present Gainesboro. Just what the “Do’s” used two or three times meant, we suppose they stood for the word, “Ditto,” and were used instead of spelling out the names of the owners. One point in this old record indicates that land was “taken up” or entered on Roaring River and Obed’s River as early as 1792. We presume that this land had not had taxes paid on it and that John L. Martin was an officer who made the report.
The tract of land on what we believe to have been the present Blackburn’s Fork and entered the name of Nancy shepherd, we think, was not far from the present Gainesboro. The first stream entering Roaring River on the south side, as one ascends from the mouth, is Morrison’s Creek, and next comes Blackburn’s Fork, a large creek perhaps about 20 miles long and on which a mill once stood not far from the mouth of the stream. The east branch, also referred to in the above item, was that part that rises in Overton County on the Highland Birth, or perhaps a little more accurately, the lower reaches of the Cumberland Plateau. The stream leaves the uplands for the Central Basin, dropping down from the “Ridge” in rapids that produced a sound like a roar, and from which, it is supposed, the river took its early name.
“Ordered that Sampson Williams be appointed to ‘compleat’ the survey of the disputed claim between Sevier and Gordon, and Alexander Suite and others, and report same to our ensuing Court.” Sampson Williams was clerk of the Court and he was not a champion speller as is evident by the work, “Compleat.” The Sevier referred to was John Sevier, first Governor of Tennessee. Gordon was his partner in land deals, of which the two men made many. Alexander Suite was living on the land claimed by the firm of Sevier and Gordon. We do not know where this disputed land lay. We presume that Alexander Suite was the father of W. N. Suite, later to become a well known Baptist minister in north Middle Tennessee.
“Ordered that sundry lands reported by Sheriff, the owner of which has no personal property within this county, be certified to the printer for the State for publication, being as follows (to-wit) James Comyns (Cummings?), 1,920 acres in three tracts of 640 acres each; James Moore’s heirs, 1,000 acres—reported lands John and James Bonner, 640 acres of land on the Ridge between Cumberland River and Barren River, 3, 292 acres, 738 acres, 229 acres and 640 acres. John Armstrong Heirs, 3, 840, north side of Cumberland; Joshua Hadley, 700 acres on Peyton’s Creek; Joshua Davis, 1,230 acres in two tracts, 640 acres on waters of Roaring River. Signed John L. Martin.” Here is another item that is not clear in some respects. James Comyns, we suppose to mean James Cummings “Reported lands viz:/ John and James Bonner, 640 acres on the Ridge between Cumberland River and Barren River evidently referred to land lying between the present Gap of the Ridge and the east boundary of Smith County which was then at the “Indian Boundary,” somewhere to the west of Cumberland Mountains. We have a few members of the Bonner family still in this section. Mrs. William Norman, of R. 1, Lafayette, was a Miss Bonner prior to her marriage. She is a probably descended from John or James Bonner. The next groups or figures are out of order, for there is no name given as to whom they were assessed, or who their owners were.
The John Armstrong lands were on the Cumberland not very far from Dixon Springs; Joshua Hadley’s land on Peyton’s Creek is another “unknown location” to Cal. There are no Hadleys in Smith County at present so far as we can recall. We have no idea who Joshua Davis was. We know that Leon Matthews, retired teacher of Carthage, Tennessee, is descended from the Davis family and that his ancestors were relatives of Jefferson Davis, president of the short-lived Southern Confederacy. We also know that there are many members of the Davis family still living in Smith County. We do not know if they are descendants of Joshua Davis. The ancestor of the present Davis family in Smith County, according to our very limited records, was Nick Davis, who is said to have married a daughter of Isham Beasley and his wife, Polly Andrews Beasley. Their children were: Candace, married first to John Gregory; and, after his death, married Hiram Cothern. Dillie Davis, married Little Bill Gregory, a brother of Cal’s great-great-grandfather, Jeremiah Gregory; and also a brother of John Gregory; Nannie Davis, married Peter Grissom; a son who became the father of Billie Davis, married a Taylor; and a daughter, Nellie; Alfred Davis; and one other who married a Richards.
The Billie Davis, above-referred to, and also a grandson of Nick Davis, was the father of Elder Rugus Davis, a Baptist minister and a soldier of the Civil War. He baptized the writer on Oct. 3, 1909. Davis was baptized by Elder E. B. Haynie. Haynie was baptized by John Wiseman in 1819. John Wiseman was baptized by Thomas Durham, Durham by John Waller. Waller by James Reed in 1767; James Reed by Shubal Stearns in 1756; and Stearns by Wait Palmer in 1751, into the fellowship of North Stonington Baptist church, North Stonington, Conn.
Alfred Davis, son of Nick Davis, was the father of Nelson Davis, married Judy Oldham, daughter of George Oldham; and Mabe Davis. Nelson Davis and his wife, the former Judy Oldham, were the parents of: Willis Davis, married a Bowman; Celia, married Jabe Gregory, son of the Little Bill above referred to; and Emily Davis, married Ned Gregory, son of Little Bill Gregory. Willis Davis and his wife, the former Miss Bowman, were the parents of Judy, married a Nunally; Sallie Ann, married Cullom Ballou, Cal’s great-uncle; Nelson, married a Pendarvis; Bethel, former sheriff of Smith County and still living at Riddleton; Betsy, married a White; Tennie married Henry Morris; and Mary, married Chap Bridgewater.
“Court adjourned until Court in course, to meet at this place, and Sampson Williams.” This is the last item for the Court that met in September 1801. We confess that we do not understand how the Court could have met at Dixon Springs, and then adjourned to meet “at this place and Sampson Williams!” Perhaps we may know when we read the next chapter or installment of the old records.
If readers enjoy the old records with now and then some family history interjected, let us know. Your approval will help us to carry on. We wish to preserve all we can of the early history of Smith County, which means that of a large part of Macon County also; and to keep alive the remembrance of where events took place in the lo9ng ago and also to help keep alive the lines of descent of many of our people of this present day. Write us if you think our efforts along these lines are worthwhile. We do not do this to seek any praise, but we do not want to print and publish to the world a lot of things that are completely without merit and worthless.