Transcribed By Pamela Vick
December 21, 1950
* CAL’S COLUMN *
We resume our report of the old records of the early Court of Smith County. The next item is: “Ordered that Benjamin ________ be appointed as Constable, who came into Court and gave securities according to law, and took the necessary oaths.” This man’s last name is not known.
“William Marchbank’s stock mark, both ears cropped and a slit in the right ear, ordered to be recorded.” Here we have another name that is new in the old records. We have not the least idea who William Marchbanks was or where he lived. His stock mark is very well understood, meaning that the tip of each ear was cut off, and that a slit was also made in the right ear. In our early day and time our own father, Thomas M. Gregory, familiarly known to acquaintances as Dopher Gregory, used as his stock mark a slit in the left ear.
“Ordered that a jury be appointed to view, mark and lay off a road from where Russell’s Path crosses the river, near the mouth, to the nearest settlement on Obed’s River. That Charles Hudspeth, John Overturf, Samuel Doneley, and Sampson Williams view the same and make a report thereof to our ensuing Court.” Here we have another item that is far from clear. First, we haven’t the slightest idea as to where “Russell’s Path” was, or the man for whom it was named. The name of the river, near the mouth of which Russell’s Path crossed the stream, is not given, but we suppose that it was most probably Obed’s River, although the record does not say so in so many words. However, we are quite sure that part of the jury appointed lived at least in the vicinity of the mouth of Obed’s River. This would indicate the probability of the suggestion that it was Obed’s River.
“Ordered that Joel Dyer be allowed to build a mill on Peyton’s Creek on his own land,” reads the last item of business considered or transacted by the Court on Monday, June 16, 1900. There is another place in which Joel Dyer, Jr. is referred to. We have some curiosity as to whether this Joel Dyer who wanted to build a mill, was the Joel Dyer, Jr., referred to earlier in the records. We do not know positively where the Dyer mill was located, but there is a tradition that it was built just below the present Graveltown, about two miles south of Pleasant Shade. However, we do know this to be a fact. That there are some stones in the bed of the creek, or were in other years, that appear to have been placed there as part of a dam for holding back the water in order to operate a mill. The only kind of mill, except some hand mills, then known, were water mills. Moreover the operation of any except a water mill, which had to use a stream, would not have required the action of the County Court. A steam mill was unknown, and a gasoline engine-powered mill was unheard of until more than a hundred years after Joel Dyer was given a permit to operate a mill.
Joel Dyer was evidently the ancestor of the Dyer family of Macon and Trousdale Counties of today. We still have here in Macon County one man by the same name. He does not know much of his ancestry, and not as far back as 150 years ago. Elder John J. Dyer was one of our Baptist ministers of other years. He was born in Smith County on September 30, 1855, the son of Samuel and Elizabeth Dyer, but we do not know who Samuel Dyer’s father was. The family is of Irish extraction.
“Court then adjourned until tomorrow morning, ten o’clock,” closes the record for, that third Monday in June, seven score and ten years ago.
Tuesday, June 17, 1800
“Court met according to adjournment, the following Gentlemen being present: (Viz) Garrett Fitzgerald, Tillman Dixon, James Hibbetts, Charles Hudspeth and Peter Turney, Esquires.” So reads the opening item. We believe that we have already referred to the fact that Tillman Dixon lived just below the present Dixon Springs, and who entertained the Court in his own home, which is still standing. Garrett Fitzgerald is supposed to have lived somewhere in the vicinity of the present Celina, and so did Charles Hudspeth, from the best information now available to the writer. James Hibbetts lived in the vicinity of the present Hillsdale, and Peter Turney lived on the Young Branch of Dixon’s Creek, about a mile and a half northeast of Dixon Springs, the farm now being owned by Bud Garrett. Cal was born about a mile and a half above the old Turney home. Evidently part of the Magistrates spent the nights in the home of Dixon, at being an impossibility for Fitzgerald and Hudspeth to ride to and from the place of the meeting of the Court each day. Also it is probable that Hibbetts spent the nights of the Court with Dixon, although he could have ridden horseback to his home in a matter of two hours or more. Horseback traveling and on foot, or by wagon or on the river then constituted the only ways of travel. Buggies were unheard of, and there were no highways or what we today call a road. But it was considered an insult not to ask a friend to “stay all night” in pioneer homes. So we would guess that Tillman Dixon and his fellow members of the Court spent the nights in the Dixon home.
“Ordered that William Martin, George Strother and Robert Looney be appointed as inspectors to the election of field officers.” Here we are again stumped, for we do not know what a field officer in that day and time was. We would suppose that an inspector to an election would be one to watch an election to see that it was carried out legally and correctly, but we do not know. Any information will be appreciated.
“Ordered that James Dobbins be allowed a permit to sell Spirituous Liquors until next Court, also that he be forever exempted hereafter from paying a poll tax.” Here we find another reference to “Jeems” Dobbins. Where he lived we do not know, but suppose he was most probably a resident of the Peyton’s Creek section. It was not considered any disgrace then to sell liquor nor to drink it. Even ministers of the Gospel drank a “social glass” in most instances. When the preacher arrived in a home at that distant day and time, the host would set out the “jug” and glasses and the minister would drink a glass. But as early as 1840 it was beginning to be considered wrong for a minister to take even a social drink. We base our idea on this point on an episode that occurred at Dixon’s Creek Baptist church about 1840. The pastor then was Elder John Wiseman. One of the brethren of Dixon’s Creek church, which is located only a about two miles from the old Dixon home, stated that he had “smelt liquor on Brother Wiseman’s breath.” Whereupon certain loyal brethren decided that Brother ________ was talking about their pastor. He was soon placed under a charge and his trial set. When it became evident that the church was about to excommunicate the member for lying on the pastor, the old minister, who was then about 60 years of age, arose and said: “Brethren, the brother is correct in his charge that he smelled liquor on my breath at the time stated by him. On that day as I was on my way to church here, I did stop in Hartsville and take a drank.” Whereupon, it was moved to drop the charges against the “offending brother” and to let bygones be bygones. But no charge was preferred against Elder Wiseman who held membership in the Dixon’s Creek congregation. Elder Wiseman was an able man, but customs then were not what they are today and no disgrace was attached to a drink of liquor even by a preacher.
Just why James Dobbins should be “forever hereafter exempted from paying a poll tax,” is not set forth. But we see from this that the poll tax is a rather old sort of means of raising revenue for government, even if some think it is wrong.
“Deed, 450 acres, John Sevier and George Gordon to John McDaniel, acknowledged by Gordon and proven by oath of John McDaniel as to Sevier, ordered to be registered.” Here we have a reference to the first Governor of Tennessee, John Sevier, but we do not have much knowledge as to where this tract of land lay. George Gordon, we presume to have been the man for whom Gordonsville, a few miles south of Carthage, was named, or for one of George Gordon’s descendants. We know that John Sevier used to travel the old Fort Blount Road and that he and another man put up at Turney’s one night more than 150 years ago. This record we have somewhere, but do not recall exactly where it is. The two men came through Cumberland Gap, to Fort Blount, thence over the old Fort Blount road, which ran right in the front of Cal’s childhood home, on to Turney’s. The next day they had to swim their horses over big Goose Creek, which lies just east of the present Hartsville, and which heads, in part, at the south side of our town of Lafayette. While on the subject of the old Fort Blount Road, we might add that Andrew Jackson was also a frequent traveler on this same pioneer trail or trace. He also made it a custom to stop over with a man who lived then on the site of the present Wade Smith home, some 75 yards northeast of the crossing of Toetown Branch, and about a mile west of Pleasant Shade. We wish somebody could give us a reasonably full list of those who traveled this road in the early days.
“Deed, 200 acres, John Sevier and George Gordon to George Smith, acknowledged by Gordon and proven by the oath of John McDaniel as to Sevier. Ordered to be registered.” Here we have another new name, that of Gordon Smith, but we do not know who he was or where his land lay. We do know that Elder Malcolm Smith settled in Smith County and on the waters of Peyton’s Creek four years before Smith County was formed, that he was from Chatham County North Carolina. From whence Cal’s ancestors came to Peyton’s Creek, the first of the number in the fall of 1791 and others during that decade. Elder Malcolm Smith was a Baptist preacher and was the ancestor of a long line of ministers of the same faith. But we do not know who George Smith was. Reader, can you enlighten us on this point?
“Ordered that all strays brought to the Court be put in a stray pen to be “shewn” to them by Major Dixon, and there be kept agreeable to law.” Here we have record of some interest. In that day and time, there were hundreds of thousands of acres of heavily timbered lands in Smith County. In these forests livestock were permitted to run at large, generally bearing the registered stockmark of their owners. But sometimes they strayed to the lands of others and it was necessary to have one specially appointed to round up stray livestock, such as hogs, cows, and horses. So then just below the present Dixon’s Springs 150 years ago was the place for the gathering of all stray animals that could be rounded up. We know that some livestock like cows and horses, attempted to return to their former homes in the older colonies or States, thus leading to the possibility of straying far from home and perhaps being claimed by others. We are informed that “Teenie,” a cow brought to what is now Macon County by the Freeman family, and kept here for months, attempted to return to Virginia and did make the journey successfully. If our information is correct, she failed to be on hand one morning at milking time. She did not return during the day. And weeks later the family here in Middle Tennessee received a letter from their Virginia relatives stating that “Old Teenie” had arrived there on a certain date. This date was exactly ten days form the time she departed from her Tennessee home. Thus the old cow, “without chart or compass,” had gone through successfully a journey of hundreds of miles, including the swimming of the Cumberland, and had evidently gone straight back to her former home, as the time consumed was too short for her to have deviated much from the route by which she had been brought to Tennessee. Moreover, there was not much time left for grazing, or she would not have made the journey in ten days.
While on the subject of stray livestock, we may add that in our adjoining county of Clay in the early days, straying livestock is said to have led to a bloody feud in which several persons lost their lives.
“Major Tillman Dixon’s stock mark, a slit in each ear, ordered to be recorded.” Here we have a record for a man’s waiting for quite a time after he arrived in the Cumberland Country before he had his stock mark recorded. Just why we do not know, but we suppose it was just carelessness, as Major Dixon had been in the Dixon Springs section since 1792.
“Deed, Frances Cypert, Sr., to Francis Cypert, Jr., proven by the oath of William Allen, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto. Ordered to be recorded.” Here we find mention of another new name, that of Cypert. But this is all the record we have of the family which has long since disappeared from this part of Tennessee. One thing here appears, which is that a family used a lot of the same given names. Cal’s grandfather was Stephen Calvin Gregory. The grandfather had an uncle, Stephen Gregory. Our own son is Leonard Calvin Gregory, and we have a grandson, Thomas Calvin Gregory; and a nephew, Hobart Calvin Gregory. This is one of the means used to trace family history, the use of the same given names in many, many instances. In our search through the records for the Ballou family, from which we are descended on our mother’s side, we found in a printed history of the family, 14 Leonard Ballou’s. We knew Leonard Ballou, former Dry Fork citizen, and we have given one of our boys the same name. Thus certain names run in certain family history. In the Dyer family, as above given, the name, Joel, as very familiar. Caleb is a name given to the Fuqua family that runs far back, as is Moses.
“Letter of attorney, Thomas Harris to Charles Harris, proven by the oath of Ephraim Davidson, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto. Ordered to be recorded.” Here we have a record of what we would now call a “power of attorney,” enabling one to sign certain legal papers for another party, with full force of law as if the maker or signer of such papers were himself present and acting in his own behalf directly. Who Thomas Harris or Charles Harris was, we do not know. But there are numerous Harris’s in the southeast corner of the present Smith County.
“Ordered that Grant Allen, Basil Shaw, William Walton and William Saunders be appointed to take the testimony of Uriah Anderson, Charles Carter and John Rains, to establish the claim of Elmore Douglas to a tract of land on Dixon’s Creek, beginning at Williams Camp, runs up the east fork for Compliment.” So reads the last item we shall strive to consider at the present time. We do not understand quite all we would like to about the above item. Grant Allen lived at the mouth of Dixon’s Creek, and the old church still on that stream was formed in his dwelling house on March 8, 1800. Basil Shaw was the county’s first Ranger, William Walton was the first permanent settler perhaps in Smith County; and William Saunders was an early Dixon Springs settler. Uriah Anderson, the first of the family of whom we have any record in the county, is another “unknown” to the writer. However, Cal’s great-great aunt, Dillie Gregory, long years ago became the wife of Johnson Anderson. Charles Carter is, we believe, the first of this family mentioned in the old records, and the same may also be said of John Rains. Elmore Douglas is another we have not been able to identify. However, Thomas B. Douglas had before this time married a daughter of our great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Gregory, this woman being a sister of old Bry. If Elmore Douglas was related to Thomas B. Douglas, we do not know it. This same woman had a sister who married Isaac George.
But the land in dispute appears to have been located at the mouth of the Young Branch of Dixon’s Creek, for its early name was “East Fork of Dixon’s Creek.” Here the writer was born in 1891. Williams’ Camp is “unknown” to us, but we do know that between the present home of Elder J. E. McDonald and the mouth of the Young Branch, there use to be an old-fashioned “Camp Meeting” ground. Since the land in dispute “runs up the east for compliment,” we are quite sure the area is that now embraced in part at least by the farm of Tom Phillips, formerly known as the Dave Merryman place. Here we have the first reference to that particular stream on which our early life was spent.
The word, “compliment,” means complement or completion.