Transcribed by Pat Cummings
September 27, 1951
* CAL’S COLUMN *
This week, part of the column will be devoted to information given us by others, who are interested in the early history of Smith County. We are in receipt of the following letter from Mrs. R.D. Brooks, of Carthage. *
Sept. 13, 1951
In regard to John Douglas, juryman of early Smith County Courts, the following is from a will dated November 9, 1805:
Smith County, State of Tennessee
In the name of God, Amen. I, John Douglas, of the county and state aforesaid, being of perfect and sound mind and memory, though weak in body and calling to mind the mortality of my body, and that it is appointed for all men to die, and, whereas, it has pleased God to bless me with some ‘useably’ property, I do hereby dispose of it in the following manner:
First of all, I give and bequeath my soul to Almighty God, who gave it, my body and me to the dust, to be buried in a decent manner at the discretion of my executors; nothing doubting but I shall receive the same at the day of judgment.
Item. I give and bequeath to my well-beloved wife, Hannah Douglas, all my property, whatever stock, kitchen furniture, and the furniture of my dwelling house and the land whereon I now live. Cattle and horses to remain her property during her widowhood. At my wife’s death or marriage, she is to collect all my out-standing debts and to convert same to her own use except what will pay all my just debts.
Item. I give and bequeath to Thomas Armstrong fifty acres of land whereon he now lives, to be applied to the use and maintaining of two of Martin Douglas’ children, while they stay with them.
Item. I give and bequeath to my daughter, Jean McMurry the sum of $20.00, which she is to receive at the discretion of my wife, her mother.
Item. I leave to my daughter, Mary Day, the sum of $20.00 to be paid at the discretion of her mother.
Item. I leave to my daughter, Sarah Hargis, the sum of $20.00 to be paid her at the discretion of her mother.
Item. I leave and bequeath to the heirs of Martha Douglas, deceased, the sum of $20.00, to be equally divided among them at the discretion of my wife. Also to allow the land whereon Joseph Leck now lives to be sold as soon as profitable and the money arising from the sale of such lands to be equally divided among the surviving heirs of Martha Douglas, deceased, as they come of age, as a debt due them from me.
Item. I allow my land which is between my brother-in-law, John Armstrong, and myself, on Wolf Muddy and Black River, to be equally divided among my children and their heirs, including the heirs of Martha Douglas.
Item. I allow my land warrant now in Christian office, to be conducted at the discretion of my wife.
I give and bequeath to my little granddaughter, Hannah Hargis, the cattle she already has. Also I give and bequeath to my granddaughter, Hannah Douglas, a cow and calf, to be given her at the discretion of her grandmother.
Item. I give and bequeath to Jacob Stone, a cow and calf.
I also appoint my well-beloved wife, Hannah Douglas; Jacob Lake and Charles McMurry to be my executors to this my last will and testament.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal, this the 9th day of November, 1805. Signed in the presence of: B. Douglas, John Stafford, John Reed.
Remarks: The daughter, Mary Douglas, married Phillip Day and lived on the upper part of Lick Creek, now in Trousdale County. Their children were: Thomas B. Day, named supposedly for Thomas B. Douglas; John Day, named for his grandfather; Henry L. Day, Franklin B. Day; and Phillip T. Day, Jr. The last-named was said to have lived near Hillsdale, and was known as Phil Day. His daughters were: Jane Murphy, Behathom Carman. Mary Wilson, Frances Ellis, Elizabeth Ellis and Sarah Day.
In regard to another juryman, Vincent Ridley, the following is taken from the will of William Martin:
To my son, Wilson Y., I give the west end of the tract of land I now live on, to be laid out in the following manner, this is, to say; Beginning at a planted rock where I once had a still house, the southeast corner of a tract of 320 acres I bought of Vincent Ridley. Thence east a short distance to a small creek, called Black Creek or Day Branch*, down that stream to its mouth, where it enters into Dixon’s Creek, thence some three or four poles up the north bank of Dixon’s Creek to an elm and box elder, marked W.Y. and N.D.M. Thence south 54 ˝ degrees, East to a honey locust marked W.M. with an axe, at a bluff of rocks at the place where we have long been in the habit of feeding hogs. Same course through the southwest corner of my apple orchard to a limbertwig apple tree, marked W.G.M. Same course to intersect the north boundary of a tract of land I sold to John Wiseman, with that line west and to the north boundary of Samuel McMurry tract, thence with his pine (line) and excluding a lot deeded for the meeting house, then ce go back to the beginning, as above. From said beginning go north with Ridley line as aforesaid to a stake in my orchard, then south 35 degrees west, coming to said Black Creek, ‘poising” between two bushes immediately before reaching the creek, one on the south side marked W.Y.M. and one on the north side marked S.Y., continue same course so as to just include the fence by oat field, so called, which divides from part of my plantation formerly occupied by Thomas Y. Young. Continue same course to the tip, of the ridge lying toward Elias Johns’, thence northwesterly and among the meanders of that ridge and the summit, hugging the cove, of which the head waters of the branch running through the plantation of said Johns, issues, so as to intersect the west boundary of said tract bought of Ridley, as above. Thence south with my line to the line of Samuel McMurry, before referred to, comprising all that part of the land I now live on, including within, the foregoing bounds, with its appurtenances, to him, the said Wilson Y., his heirs and assigns. But in as much as by way of convenience to him in laying off this lot of land, it is of more* value there. I can well afford to give him in land and as the said W.Y. holds my notes to the amount of four and five hundred dollars, more or less, mostly for services rewarded. My intentions and will is that the whole of these notes be discounted and surrendered in conditions of the extra value of this lot of land given to him. Should he, though, be indisposed to this arrangement, my will is that he be held impassable (?) to my estate for the amount of eight hundred dollars in consideration of said extra portion as referred to. And I also give unto my son, Wilson Y., my desk and the possession of all my papers and manuscripts, except a brief sketch of my ancestry and that of my own life, the latter not finished, though perhaps I may yet complete it. This I give to my son, Joseph.
Remarks: (By Mrs. Brooks).*
In regard to Colonel Martin’s early home place, in the early eighteen hundreds, it was located in front of the present Cato where Mrs. W.S. Oldham lived for a number of years, and also adjoined the Cornwell place, just below.
Mrs. R. D. Brooks
We have read with interest the two wills, one of John Douglas and the other of Col. William Martin. The old records are faded and very hard to read, and perhaps part of the wording has been incorrect, for there are some expressions that do not make sense. In the Douglas will, the expression, “Useably” property,” is supped to have meant usable property. The expression, “my body and me,” sounds rather unusual. “At my wife’s death or marriage, she is to collect all my out-standing debts and to convert same to her own use, except what will pay my own just debts, “ perhaps meant his out-standing accounts or notes due him. But how his wife ‘at her death” could have then gone about collecting his accounts, we confess we do not know.
We wonder what connection existed between this man, John Douglas, and Thomas B. Douglas, who married a Miss Gregory, the daughter of Thomas Gregory, and the sister of Bry, Abraham, Squire William H., and Harden Gregory. If any reader knows, please communicate with the writer of this column. Thomas B. Douglas was living on February 22, 1827, when the final settlement of the estate of his father-in-law, Thomas Gregory, was made. It cannot be presumed that he was a son of John Douglas, for he was not named in the will.
It appears that Hannah Douglas was, prior to her marriage, an Armstrong, a sister of Thomas Armstrong. The two children of Martin Douglas, who stayed with the Armstrongs, are not identified further. It is presumed that Martin Douglas was the son of John Douglas, and that the son preceded his father in death, and that perhaps he had children other than the two who were staying with Thomas Armstrong. We wonder if it could be possible in copying the old records, if Mrs. Brooks made a mistake in the name she gave as Martha Douglas. Could it have been Martin Douglas in each instance? If it was Martha Douglas, whom did she marry?
The item, “I allow the land which is between my brother-in-law, John Armstrong, and myself, on Wolf Muddy and Black River to be equally divided among my children and their heirs including the heirs of Martha Douglas,” needs some explaining. Where there was a stream known as Wolf Muddy, and where is or was Black River?
The item, “I allow my land warrant now in Christian office, to be conducted at the discretion of my wife," is far from clear. What is a land warrant in Christian office? We confess that we never heard of such a statement before. Any light on this matter will be appreciated.
Who B. Douglas, one of the witnesses to the will, was, we do not know. John Stafford and John Reed are also unknown to the writer of this column. Who Jacob Stone was does not appear. What his relationship to the testator was we do not know.
In the will of Col. Martin are several matters that do not appear clear at this day and time, separated by more than 100 years from Col. Martins’s writing of his will. As to Vincent Riddle seems to have owned land that lay on the west side of Dixon’s Creek, not far from the present brick church house. Elias John’s land lay in that section, for he once lived at the present Charlie Brooks place. “Black Creek Day Branch” are unknown to this writer, but its waters empty into Dixon’s Creek not far from the present Cato. It could have been the name of the stream that comes down out of the present “Possum Hollow,” which empties into Dixon’s Creek only a short distance from the brick church house above referred to. The famous “Limbertwig Apple was known even in that day and time, more than a century ago. The land mentioned as having been sold to John Wiseman lay somewhere below the present Cato and perhaps not far from the church house. This man was pastor of Dixon’s Creek church from 1811 till 1846, but we suppose there is no way of determining exactly where the land he bought from William Martin lay, There are several expressions that are meaningless in the will as it appears, but we presume that the discoloration of the ink and paper, and some of the poor penmanship of keepers of the records have caused some errors in copying. If any expression is known to be in error, we would be glad to make the needed correction.
We surely wish we had the sketch of his life and of his ancestry referred to as being willed to his son, Joseph. We presume that both have long since disappeared from the earth. Col. William Martin was one of the most noted citizens of his day and his character is above reproach and shines with a luster undimmed by the years.
We thank Mrs.Brooks for the letter and for her copying the two wills.
We are informed that the John Hargis mentioned recently in one of our articles, was the ancestor of the present Mrs. Lois Parker, of Lafayette. We hope to have more light on this in a short time. We wonder if the Hargis family mentioned in the will of John Douglas could have been that of John Hargis. Any information on this point will be appreciated.
(*) In the Book a note stating R.D. Brooks wrote the letter not Mrs. R.D. Brooks
(*) Day Branch was a typo it should read Dog Branch