Transcribed By Pamela Vick
February 8, 1951
* CAL’S COLUMN *
We continue with our reporting of the old records of the Quarterly Court of Smith County. Next item is as follows: “Tuesday, September 16, 1800. Court met according to adjournment, the following members being present (to wit) Garrett Fitzgerald, Moses Fisk and James Hibbetts, Esquires.” Readers will recall that this session was held in the home of Michael Murphy, which was located at the present Pleasant Shade. Here we learn that only three Magistrates were present. We have not yet found just how many members were required to form or constitute a quorum. Three of the early “Esquires” did proceed with the business.
“The Court then proceeded to business, and ordered that James Gwin, James Hibbetts, and Major Andrew Greer be appointed Commissioners to take the depositions of the said James Gwinn, Sampson Williams and Joel Echols, to establish the claim of Josiah Howell to 888 acres of land on the ridge between the head of Goose Creek and Barren River.” We do not recall the name of James Gwin appearing previous to this item but we may be mistaken. Who he was we do not know, nor do we know the place of his residence. Major Andrew Greer is another “newcomer” in the records, and here again we confess our lack of knowledge. Joel Echols is another whose name appears here for the first time in the records. We presume he was the ancestor of the rather few members of the family that are living today. The name is spelled in various ways, some spelling it Eckles and others Eskle. Where the Howell land lay could not have been further east than Union Camp and further west than the present Eulia. So we would judge it to have occupied some part of the Highland Rim in the vicinity of Lafayette.
“Ordered that James Ballou be appointed Overseer of the road leading from the top of the ridge between Peyton’s Creek and Dixon Creek, to the ford of Dixon’s Creek near his home by way of the new road, and that all Colo. Martin’s hands, Captain Turney’s and his own work under said overseer, and that all the balances of the hands living above said new road on the waters of Dixon’s Creek, to work under John Hargis, who is appointed Overseer from said ford of Dixon’s Creek, near Captain Ballou’s, to the top of the ridge of Mungle’s Gap.” Here we have a rather lengthy item, which is of interest to the writer at least. The top of the ridge between Peyton’s Creek and Dixon’s Creek was only about a mile from our father’s old home. Near this “top” now stands Mare’s Hill Baptist church, of which the writer has been pastor for more than 30 years. The road led right by our birthplace. Evidently there was some new road on that part near Dixon’s Creek. The best we have been able to learn the road crossed Dixon’s Creek about two hundred yards below the present Dixon’s Creek Baptist church, whose brick house of worship occupies a tract of land of five acres of land donated by Colo. Martin mentioned in the item. Just where Colo. Martin then lived is not clear to the writer, but it is presumed that he lived then near the present Cato. Later he owned the Turney farm, now the property of Bud Garrett. Ballou lived at the crossing or ford, which means that he must have lived at that time on the farm owned 50 years ago by Charlie Brooks. However, Elias Johns, a brother-in-law of Ballou, lived there at a slightly later date, so it appears. Leonard Ballou, a brother of James, lived on the farm that has the old brick dwelling house on it, located a half mile northwest of the ford at James Ballou’s home.
Where John Ballou lived is not known, but it is presumed that he must have lived on that part of Dixon’s Creek that lies above Cato. He was overseer of the road that then led over the rough, rocky hill, near which Dick Campbell, who died a few years ago, lived for many years. This road lead on across upper Lick Creek by the present Good Will Baptist church, of which the writer is also pastor, and thence through Mungle’s Gap. Who John Hargis was, or whether he was the ancestor of the rather numerous Hargis family of Macon and Smith Counties today is not known.
While on the subject of road overseers, we recall our earliest “conception” of the word. We were positive our father and others called the overseer, the “old seer,” and this is what we thought the word was for the first few years of our life. We do not think we had recalled this childish idea of ours about the word for the past 40 years until we began to write up this item. One thing that an overseer 50 years ago or more had to have was a watch, to see when to begin work and when to close. And only a few had watches 50 to 60 years ago.
“Ordered that Peter Turney’s stock mark be recorded: viz: A swallow fork in the left ear and an under half crop and a small bit in the right.” Each grower of hogs and sheep to be certain that someone else did not have his stock mark, tried to use an original way of marking these animals that ran at large in the heavy woods through Smith County 150 years ago. As we have already stated in this article, Turney lived on the waters of the east fork of Dixon’s Creek where William Martin later lived and where Bud Garrett resides at present. His home was a great stopping place for early travelers. John Sevier once spent a night in the Turney home, so we once read in one of the Nashville dailies. Sevier and perhaps one other man had come through Cumberland Gap, thence to Fort Blount, thence over the present Mace’s Hill, spent the night a mile and a half west of Mace’s Hill in the Turney home, proceeded westward along the Fort Blount Road, through Mungle’s Gap, had to swim their horses over Big Goose Creek which was on a rampage and then proceeded on their way to Nashville.
“Deed 123 acres, George Gordon and John Sevier to Philemon Higgins, acknowledged by Gordon and Strother, as attorneys for Sevier. Ordered to be recorded.” Perhaps the old records in the office of the register at Carthage might show where this land lay, but we confess we have no knowledge along this line. Philemon Higgins is another “newcomer” to the pages of the old records.
“Ordered that William Saunders be allowed to build a saw and grist mill on Dixon’s Creek, about 200 yards below the blue spring, under the following restrictions: (to wit) the Dam not to be more than 12 feet high, and the water to be drawn off by the 15th of June in each year.” Here we have another item of interest. The blue spring on Dixon’s Creek was between Dixon Springs and the river. William Saunders was a resident of that community and was one of the leading citizens. His proposal to build a saw and a grist mill showed that sawing of lumber had been developed as far back as the year 1800. However, for many years afterward, most of the sawing of lumber was done by hand with an old-fashioned method of placing the log on a scaffold or high support, and then having one sawyer to take the top position and the other the bottom. One stood on the ground and the other on the scaffold. The fellow on the top had the harder job in a way, for he had to pull the long, heavy saw upward. The other fellow had a “down-hill pull,” but he had the position of getting his eyes full of saw dust. This was a slow, long-drawn-out process of cutting joists, sleepers and other parts of a house or barn, but people were not then in the rush of today and time was not considered lost if work was persued in a leisurely manner. A 12-foot dam was not capable of developing much power. The drawing off of the water by the 15th of June allowed the water in the adjoining low ground to leave the rich soil in time for a late corn crop. How long the water was to remain drawn off is not stated. We wish we had additional information on this, the first mill ever erected on Dixon’s Creek.
“Court adjourned till tomorrow ten o’clock.” So reads the last item recorded on the second day of the meeting in September 1800, in the home of Michael Murphy at the present Pleasant Shade.
“Peyton’s Creek, Wednesday, September 17, 1800. Court met according to adjournment, the following members being present: viz: Tilman Dixon, Moses Fisk, Peter Turney, and James Hibbetts, Esquires.” One more member of the Court arrived for the last day of the session, as just three were present on the day before.
“Court then proceeded to business, and ordered that James Draper be appointed overseer of said road lately ‘layed’ off from Salt Lick Creek to the Kentucky line, as far as Tandy Witcher’s. Also that James Simpson is appointed overseer of said road from Witcher’s to said (State) line, and that the hands living on Salt Lick, Defeated Creek and Wartrace Creek, to work under Draper, and that all hands living on Jenning’s Creek, as low as William Kelton’s and George Thomason’s, including them and their hands, to work under said overseer, also those on the ridge convenient to said road.” Here we have a rather lengthy item, dealing with some matters that appear self-evident. Salt Lick was the present Salt Lick of Cumberland, across whose lower end ran the old Fort Blount Road. This is evident from the fact that hands were recruited for work on the road from Salt Lick, Defeated Creek and Wartrace Creek. Wartrace is the next creek east of Salt Lick, and Defeated Creek is the first creek west of Salt Lick. Now we do not know positively the route that had been laid off, but we feel quite sure that it ran right up to Salt Lick to Dean Hill, thence up that high hill to the dividing ridge between the waters of the three creeks above named, to the present Willette, and thence to the present Red Boiling Springs, where, we are quite sure, Tandy Witcher lived. Jenning’s Creek rises just to the east of the route, beginning at the present Willette. Where James Draper lived is not set forth, but we have reason to believe that he made his home on Jenning’s Creek. How far down on that stream lived William Kelton and George Thomason, we have at present no way of knowing. The fact that those “on the ridge convenient to said road,” were also to work on the road shows that part of the route used by that road lay on the Highland Rim. The fact that James Simpson was overseer from Tandy Witcher’s to the Kentucky line indicates that he resided somewhere north of the present Red Boiling Springs, but we have as yet no direct proof of this.
“Ordered that Amos Lacy be allowed to resign his commission as Constable.” No comment.
“Bill of ‘Sail’, Anne Smith to Sampson Williams, was proven by the oath of Garrett Fitzgerald, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto. Ordered to be recorded.” One thing appears to the careful reader of the old, old records, and that is that women were hardly given any place in the affairs of government. In fact the names of only a dozen women appear in the records for the first two years, and in every instance in a minor role. Who Annie Smith was is not known. Probably she was a resident of the present Clay County since Garrett Fitzgerald evidently lived in that section, and he was a witness to the bill of sale. Readers will note that the Clerk of the Court, Sampson Williams, spelled the word, “Sail.” Just what was involved in the Bill of Sale is not known.
“Ordered that James Dobbins be allowed to retail Spirituous (Liquors) at the customary rates within this county until next Court.” No comment.
“Ordered that James Dobbins, John Steel, William Stalcup and Uriah Anderson be allowed a permit to sell Spirituous Liquors within this county at the customary rates of tavern keepers in this county until next Court.” No comment.
“Ordered that Robert Hill be appointed Overseer of the road leading from the ‘Nothen’ boundary of this State to the head of Mitchell’s Creek, and that all the hands work under said Overseer, adjoining thereto, to cut out and work on the same, and that Jacob Bowen be appointed Overseer, from the head of Mitchell’s Creek to Captain Copeland’s and that the hands adjacent thereto, open and work on the same under said Overseer.” Here we have an item in which the grammar is not very good, but we presume the average reader will understand. We suppose Mitchell’s Creek is in the present Cay or Pickett County. Where Captain Copeland lived is not known, although there are members of both the Hill family and the Copeland family residing in that general vicinity.
“Ordered that William Sullivan, Sr., be appointed Overseer of the road leading from Sullivan’s Ferry to forks of said road, to where it meets Walton Road, and that all the hands living on Martin, Indian and Hurrican Creeks work under said Overseer on said road.” By the fact that there was a William Sullivan, Sr., we are quite sure that there was a younger man of the same name. This family lived in the early history of Smith County in what is now Sullivan’s Bend. The old Walton Road ran along the top of the high ridge occupied in part at the time by Chestnut Mound. Martin’s Creek and the other two streams are in the general vicinity of the present Chestnut Mound.
“Ordered that John McDaniel, Nathaniel Evins, John Morgan, Stephen Copeland and Simon Huddleston be appointed to view, mark and lay off a road leading from Mr. Blackburn’s to Robert Elliot’s on the ’nothen’ boundary of the State, where the road out by Capt. Gordon’s intersects it.” Here we have another item about which we know next to nothing. Mr. Blackburn, as we have already sought to show, probably lived on the lower end of the present Roaring River or on a branch of that stream, one of which is called Blackburn’s Fork. The road to be laid off evidently ran northward from some point in the present Jackson County. Whether Captain Copeland and Stephen Copeland were one and the same person does not yet appear from the records. It is not supposed that Captain Gordon and the George Gordon were one and the same man, for Captain Gordon, according to the above item, lived somewhere near the Kentucky-Tennessee line in what is now most probably Clay County, and George Gordon was an attorney who, in partnership with John Sevier, was a dealer in land. However, it was once reported to the writer that John Sevier once owned large areas of the present Pickett County. All this might mean that Captain Gordon and George Gordon were one and the same. If any reader knows the facts in this point, please communicate with me. Robert Elliott is another of whom we know absolutely nothing. Nathaniel Evins is another “unknown” to the writer. John Morgan is another of whom we know nothing. However, one of our great-great-great-grandmothers was Judy Morgan, who became the wife of John Gregory, in North Carolina about 1775, and who came with her children to Smith County about 150 years ago lives. We have a brother, Thomas Morgan Gregory. We have been told we are related to General John Morgan, of the Southern Army. So our curiosity is aroused as to who this John Morgan was. Moreover, this is the first mention of the name, Morgan, that we have found in the perusal of the old records. Any light by any reader will be appreciated.
(To be continued)