Transcribed by Janette West Grimes


March 6, 1952




   The time is Monday, March 15, 1802, and the place is near Dixon Springs, and the record is that of the court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions for Smith County. The next item is as follows: "Deed, 360 acres Robert Fenner to John Burris, proven by the oath of James Blackburn, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto." We have no information as to Robert Fenner. We have no direct information as to John Burris. However, the name is still borne by a number of Jackson Countians, and we would judge that the land was located in what is now that county. James Blackburn was a witness and we believed that he once lived on the present Blackburn's Fork of Roaring River which empties into the Cumberland just above Gainesboro.


   We do have a brief sketch of the Burris family, but do not find John mentioned therein. The sketch follows: Martin Burris, married Jane Azling, and by her had the following children: Brice Burris, never married and died in the Civil War; Joe Burris, married Ann Oldham, the daughter of William Oldham, the son of George Oldham. Later Joe Burris married Maggie Roark; Susan Burris, married Charles E. Goad; Jake Burris, married a White, and also lost his life in the Civil War; George Burris, also lost his life in the battle of Nashville as did his brother, Jake Burris, and like George Burris, he never married; Jim Burris, never married; and Martha, married W. C. ( Bill ) Earps. Joe Burris and his wife, Ann Oldham, were the parents of two children, Eleanor, married Peter Wilburn, son of Ben Wilburn, son of Obed Wilburn; and Rowens, married Tom Grant. By the second wife, Mrs. Maggie Roark Burris, he had one daughter, Lucy, now the wife of W. A. McCloud of near Westmoreland (?). Jake Burris had one child, Jake Burris Jr., who married Sallie Gregory, daughter of Dink and Betty Gregory, uncle and aunt of the writer's father, Thomas M. Gregory. Jake Burris Jr., had three children, Brice, who is still living; and Mary, married Henry Jenkins, son of Haywood Jenkins; and Lou Vernia, who married the writer's first cousin, Wesley Gregory. We believe that Lou Vernia is still living, somewhere in Indiana. Martha, who married Bill Earps, was the mother of Jane, married an Anderson; and Lucy, married Sam Davis. Martin Burris, whose name is at the top of this list, was perhaps a son of the John Burris referred to in the old Court record, but this is a conjecture only. Martin Burris's mother was a Miss Martin prior to her marriage to the father of Martin who was named for his mother's family. She was first cousin of Wilson Martin, whose daughter, Nannie, married Howard Young, father of the late Sam M. Young, a leading citizen of Dixon Springs for many years and a man of distinction in Smith County and the State.


   But to return once more to the old records, we record the next: "Ordered that the resignation of John L. Martin, Esquire, as Sheriff, be received, he having rendered same in open Court; and that Silas Jernigan Esquire, be appointed as Sheriff pro tem." We are quite sure that this John L. Martin was a member of the same family of Martins referred to in the preceding paragraph.


   "Ordered that William Martin be allowed to enter into bond and security for his service as survey or of the county of Smith, who produced his Commission from the Governor, bearing date of the 27th of November, 1801; and took the following oath: "I William Martin, do swear that I will well and truly perform all the duties of County Surveyor in the county of Smith, to the best of my knowledge and belief, and that I will take only lawful fees. So help me God, and His saints."Signed, William Martin, ___?, Sampson Williams." Here we have a rather lengthy item and one of more than passing interest. William Martin, as has been related in this Column, was a noted man in the early history of Smith County. He was born in Orange County, Virginia, Nov. 26, 1765. He was the son of General Joseph Martin, one of the first to explore Powell's Valley, in southwest Virginia and East Tennessee. William Martin was brought up to know the hardships and dangers of early life in Virginia; and, at the early age of 15 years, was in his first campaign against the Indians. He fought under General William Campbell at the Battle of King's Mountain. He came to Middle Tennessee in 1787, and remained two years. He aided in the cutting of the Walton Road. Martin's Creek in the adjoining county of Jackson, took its name for William Martin. If readers want additional information about Colonel Martin, we might add some things to the brief account above given.


   In taking the above oath, we note an unusual ending to that vow-- "So help me God, and His Saints." This appears to have been flavored slightly with the Catholic idea of praying to the saints or invoking their help.


   "Court adjourns until tomorrow nine o'clock." Thus closed the work of that March day 150 years ago.


   "Tuesday, March 16, 1802. Court met according to adjournment. Members present ( viz ) Elmore Douglas, William Kavanaugh and John Lancaster, Esquires." We are still "in the dark" as to how many "Esquires" were required to form a quorum. Here we have only three present for the second day of Court.


   "Deed, 500 acres, Hugh Stephenson to Thomas Harrison, proven by the oath of John Wilson, one of the subscribing witnesses." We have no record of either of these men. We do recall that on the trip from Virginia, one of the men on the flotilla of boats making the trip down the Tennessee River to the Ohio and thence up the Cumberland to the present Nashville, was named Harrison, that he was lost in East Tennessee for perhaps a day or two, and how that a small cannon was fired to let him know the direction in which to find his fellow voyagers in that wilderness of about 175 years ago, how that the flotilla proceeded on down the river without Harrison who was supposed to have been left behind, perhaps the victim of Indians. Some time later those on the front boat saw a man standing by the river, above Knoxville, and soon found that the lost man had found his way to the river in time to be picked up by those who had given him up for dead or lost permanently. Whether this man Harrison was related to the land deal witness, we do not know.


   "Deed, 500 acres, Thomas Harrison and Thomas Huchinson to John Wilson, proven by the oath of William Huchison, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto, and ordered to be registered." We suppose that this is the same Thomas Harrison mentioned in the previous item of business.


   "Ordered that John Morris, charged by Polly Payne, with begetting a bastard child on her body, be bound-in recognizance in the sum of three hundred dollars. Whereupon the said John Morris came into Court and acknowledged himself indebted to the Justices of the County Court of Smith County; and their successors in office in the ssaid sum of three hundred dollars, with William Hayne and Charles McMurrey, his securities, to be void on condition that the aforesaid John Morris doth keep the said county indemnified as to the maintenance of the said child and perform such othe orders as the said Court may from time to time, make concerning the same, and the said William Hayne and Charles McMurrey came into Court and acknowledged themselves bound for the said John Morris's performance of the above recognizance." Here we have another unfortunate event recorded. We have no desire to expose any person. We do not know who John Morris was, and we do not wish to know. Neither do we know who Polly Payne  was. William Hayne, we suppose, was a member of the present Haynie family of Smith County. We suppose Charles McMurrey was an ancestor of the McMurreys of Trousdale County at a later date.


   "Ordered that John Morris and Polly Payne be fined twenty-five dollars each, proclamation money, for the crime of fornication, and costs, which was immediately paid into Court." Here we learn that the offenders were promptly charged with their crime and fined accordingly. Proclamation money, we suppose, was not specie, but paper money proclaimed to be good for debts and fines. However, we are not positive that we are correct. Any information will be appreciated.


   "Deed, 260 acres, Richard Banks to George Bradley, acknowledged in open Court and ordered to be registered." Richard Banks was one of the very first members of Dixon's Creek Baptist church, and we suppose lived some where in the vicinity of the church. George Bradley is supposed to have been an early member of the Bradley family which still lives in Smith County.


   "Ordered that Lee Sullivan be allowed to qualify as a Justice of the Peace, who came into Court and took the necessary oath and the oath of office and took his seat accordingly." We wonder if Lee Sullivan was not a relative of the present Sullivan family in Macon County. Any light that any reader can shed on this will be appreciated. We know that there were Sullivans in the present Sullivan's Bend at a very early date, as well as in the present Macon Couny.


   "James W. Wright's stock mark, a half crop out of the underside of the left ear, and a slit in the right, ordered to be recorded." We do not have any specific information as to James W. Wright, but presume that he was the ancestor of the numerous Wrights who lived later on Dixon's Creek and in the vicinity of Dixon Springs.


   "Deed, 365 acres, William Saunders to James Fedlock, proven by the oath of John Wilson and William Huchinson, the subscribing witnesses thereto. Ordered to be registered." We have no information as to either of these parties.


   "Deed, 150 acres, Lee Sullivan to William _____ , acknowledged." This item appears to be incomplete, and we offer no further comment.


   "Nathaniel Ridley's stock mark, a crop off the right ear, and a crop and slit in the left, ordered to be recorded." No comment.


   "Ordered that John Martin pay instantly to Polly Payne, the sum of ten dollars for the maintenance of a child begotten by said Morris on the body of the said, Polly Payne, and that he remain in custody of the Sheriff until ( this is ) paid." Here we have an additional item about the sin committed by John Martin and Polly Payne. We presume that "pay instantly" meant at once, with any delay. It appears that this expression is not used very much in modern times.


   "Ordered that the inventory account of the sales of the estate of the late John Lee, deceased ( be) returned into Court, and ordered to be filed of record." We have no information as to who John Lee was, although the Lee family has been known in Smith County for perhaps 150 years or longer. The late Abe Lee died only a few weeks ago, a native of the Good Will section of what was once Smith County.


                                                                  ( To be continued )