Transcribed by Dora L. Tomes


July 19, 1951




      This week we are going to leave off the publishing of the old County Court records for the time being.  Instead, we are going to give the readers a list of the items sold that belonged to a pioneer family in Smith County.  The record was copied from the original account as set forth at Carthage.


      “An inventory of the sale of the perishable Property of the Estate of Nathaniel Brittain, deceased:”  Nathaniel Brittain is believed to have been the father of Richard and Abraham Brittain, early settlers in Smith County.  The old Brittain home is believed to have been near the present Meadorville.  Richard Brittain is the ancestor of W. C. Brittain, prominent stockman and farmer of Hendersonville, and who is one of our subscribers.  The sale account follows:


      “Widow Brittain, different articles, $10.00.”  We are quite sure that the “Widow Brittain” meant the wife of the dead man, or Mrs. Nathaniel Brittain.  She is referred to several times in the account of the sale.  What the “different articles” were is not revealed.  She also purchased one trunk and a looking glass, in addition to the “different articles.”


      “William Smith, one plow, $2.60.”  Who William Smith was we do not know, but presume that he was the ancestor of part of the Smiths who live today in Macon County and elsewhere.  What kind of plow he bought is not revealed.  It was most likely the old-fashioned “bull tongue” plow, and do we know anything about plowing with such a “critter!”  This was before the day of the plow with a mold board, and we are quite sure that we have given the proper identification.


      “Brice Martin, stretchers, $1.60.”  We suppose Brice Martin* was a relative of William Martin who lived on Dixon’s Creek which lies east of the stream on which the Brittains lived.  However, any information as to Brice Martin will be appreciated.  What kind of stretchers he bought is not set forth.


      “James Hibbetts, cutting knife $2.12 1/2.”  What a hard time bookkeepers would have today if we had fractions of cents as they did 150 years ago.  Hibbetts lived on the waters of Goose Creek some miles south of Lafayette, and was a member of the early Quarterly Court of Smith County.  New readers should be informed that up to 1842 practically all the present Macon County, except the extreme west end, was in Smith County.  The “cutting knife” is not further identified, but perhaps it was the old-fashioned knife used for cutting feed, such as oats in the bundle into small parts.  It was one of these old-fashioned knives that cut off the fingers of our father’s sister, Leticia, in her very early life, about four score years ago.


      “Jeremiah Taylor, two clevices, $1.25.”  We suppose, but do not know, that Jeremiah Taylor was the man for whom the present Taylor Branch, located just above Hillsdale and on the east side of Goose Creek, was named.  Clevices were very useful in early days and were made of iron bent into a bow and with holes in either end of the bow, and a pin to go through the holes.  We recall many clevices on our father’s little hill farm 50 years ago and more.  They were made in a blacksmith shop in the long ago.  As to Jeremiah Taylor living on the present Taylor Branch, we cannot be certain.  But since the sale of the property of Nathaniel Brittain took place only a short distance from the Taylor Branch, and since it is presumed that most of those who made purchases in the sale resided in the general vicinity of the sale, we are “presuming” that Jeremiah Taylor was the man for whom Taylor Branch was most probably called.


     “Edward Hatchett, one hand-saw, $2.30.”  The name “Hatchett,” is another “newcomer” to the old records.  It is thought that perhaps it was a misspelling of our common name of Hackett of today.


     “Adam Sanders, one iron wedge, 80 cents.”  Adam Sanders was most probably the ancestor of the Sanders family of Macon and surrounding counties, but we do not know this absolutely.  An iron wedge today costs more than the 80 cents of 1806, when the above sale was held.  Wedges cost from about a dollar to approximately $1.50. Young readers will not know to what use iron wedges were put in the long ago.  They were used to split logs, and to hold open the cut in a log made by a saw to prevent the “pinching” of the saw.  Many expressions about the iron wedge, common 50 years ago, are hardly known today to many children.  Among them were: “As cold as an iron wedge.”  “As heavy as an iron wedge,” generally referring to something heavy carried in the he pocket.  We recall another expression of long ago that is hardly used today:  “As dull as a froe.”


      “Abraham Brittain, one curry comb, 40 cents.”  We had no idea that curry combs were 150 years old or older, but we thought they were of comparatively late origin.  Lovers of horses used the curry comb and brush with a lot of vigor and zeal in the years gone by.  The Brittain family seems to have been a lover of good or fine horses from the earliest of its Tennessee existence even down till today.  The W. C. Brittain, above referred to , is a great lover of horses.  He got quite a “kick” out of our report published some months ago that his ancestor, Richard Brittain, had been “churched” by Dixon’s Creek Baptist church about the year 1800 for “lending his mare to run in a course race,” for which he made his acknowledgments and was restored to fellowship.  In the latter part of the record of the sale of 1806, we note that seven head of horses were sold at high prices for that day in time. Later in this story of that sale we will give the buyers and prices paid.  The love of fine horses indeed did “run in the family.”


     “Richard Brittain, one hame, $1.75.”  Hames 145 years ago were made by and from ash wood and would be counted crude as of today.  The writer has seen several pairs of old, hand-made hames, gear that fitted into the collar and on the hames were the hooks into which the trace chains were fastened.  The Richard Brittain who bought the hame, was the one who lent his horse to run in a race. He was the son, we feel sure, of the man whose property was being sold.


      “William Smith, one chain, 65 cents.”  This was the same Smith referred to above.  The chain, we presume, was either a trace chain or a log chain.


      “George Reece, one axe, $2.70.”  George Reece is one of whom we know absolutely nothing.  The price of the axe was in line with the prices of today.  However, an axe then was of far greater use than today.  In fact one is reminded of the tremendous value of the axe by recalling the axe head that was lost by one in Bible days, and which was made to float by a miracle.


      “King Carr, one single tree, 51 cents.”  King Carr, we suppose, was the founder of the Carr family in the present Macon County, but we do not know this.  A single tree is that piece of equipment on which a horse or mule pulls.  Every farm boy, we are sure, knows what a single tree is.  It is sometimes called a swingle tree, and is also known as a whiffle tree.  Then the single tree is known by some as a whipple tree.


     “Abraham Brittain, one back-band, 61 cents.”  As a boy our father made his backbands from burlap bags, then called grass sacks.  We could buy them then at the stores, but it was a lot cheaper to make them than to buy them.  Of course the “boughten” sort would outlast the homemade kind.  We have no way of knowing what kind of backband was bought by Abraham Brittain.  In later years many backbans have been made of leather.


     “Abraham Brittain, one hackle $2.70.”  This is the same Abraham Brittain above mentiond. A hackle is a comb for dressing flax and other raw materials.  It was sometimes called a hatchel.  We now nothing of the matter of price, whether $2.70 was high or low for price.


     “James Simpson one pair of  hames and traces. $4.33 1/3.”  We have no information as to James Simpson, where he lived and who his descendants were.  We suppose a “pair of hames and traces” needs no comment.


      “King Carr, one open ring hook, 36 cents.”  This man has already been mentioned.  The open ring hook is said to have been a piece of iron or steel, sharpened at one end so that it could be driven into the end of a log, and the other end was made in the form of a ring, with part of it still left open, into which the log chain was placed, to “snake” or drag logs.  It was generally used with oxen.


      “Widow Britttain, one hoe 80 cents.” No comment.


      “Richard Brittain, one saddle, $6.62 1/2.”  This further confirms what had been said above.  That the Brittains loved good horses and enjoyed riding.


      “Widow Brittain, one wheel, $1.50.”  This refers to a spinning wheel, we are sure.  Bicycles were unknown in that day and time more than seven score years ago.


      “James Finch, one iron pot, $5.91.”  We have no knowledge of James Finch.  The iron pot was what we would now call a kettle.  They were very high in that day and time, and the price paid indicates that bids of only one cent were used in the bidding for the various articles being sold.


     “James Nowling, one dish and five plates. $4.00.”  This seems a very high price for a broken set, even with an extra dish.  James Nowling is another of whom we have no knowledge.


     “Gusty Gunter, one halter chain, $1.31.”  We are not at all sure that we have the name correct, but this was the best we could do to decipher the old, faded record.  We never heard the name itself in Smith County, but we have read of Guntersville, Ala.


      “James Osborne, one flat iron, $1.10.  Osborne is another of whom we know nothing. The flat iron at $1.10 seems to be in line with the other pries paid.


      “Widow Brittain, one “jugg, “ $1.33 1/3.  The widow is the one referred to above.  The old record spells the word as given above, “jugg,” and we are writing it up in the same way.  The price paid seems to be very high.  It is suggested that it might have contained some of the “home cheer” of that distant day and time.


      “David Gurley, one pair of dog irons, $7.50.”  Gurley is one of whom we have no further knowledge.  The dog irons of 1806 would be the andirons of today.  But many folks still call them “dog irons.”  This price seems unusually high.


      “William Smith, one dictionary, $4.90.”  Here we have proof that some folks wanted to know what words meant. The price indicated that it must have been a very good dictionary, or else very scarce and bringing a good price.


      “Widow Brittain, one bed and furniture, $10.12 1/2.”  A bed and furniture meant all that went to make a complete bed, bedstead, cords, straw tick, feather bed, pillows, sheets and perhaps some cover.


      “Widow Brittain, one bedstead, $1.25.”  This seems to have been a very low price for the handmade bedstead of that day.  It was perhaps of cherry and would bring a nice sum today as an antique.


                                                                               (To be continued)


Transcriber Note:


        *There was a Note added by R. D. Brooks that appeared in the Book “ Cal’s Column” as follows:


         Brice Martin, born 1770, died December 30, 1856 was a brother of Col. William Martin who was born November 26, 1765 and died November 4, 1846.