Transcribed By Bob Morrow
May 15, 1952
* CAL'S COLUMN *
We continue with the old court records, the time being Wednesday, March 17, 1802.
“Hesekiah's stock mark is a swallow fork in the right, and a crop off the left ear. Ordered to be recorded.” In this item the name of the party registered his stock mark was left off by the Clerk by oversight.
“James Bradley's mark is a crop and a slit in each ear; and a brand with the figure 3 and letter b. Ordered to be recorded.” No comment.
“John Sitton's stock mark is a crop and a corner slit in the right ear, and a swallow fork and undebit in the left; and a brand is a Roman JS. Ordered to be recorded.” John Sitton, we suppose was a relative of the Joseph Sitton, who was an early member of Dixon's Creek Baptist church, and the man who sold the meat of a crippled heifer for eating purposes. He was charged by one of the brethern with “Selling unmerchantable beef,” and was given a hearing. After running through months of time, Sitton made some acknowlegments which were received by the church at large, but one or two Parker members were not satisfied with his acknowledgments, and continued to agitate the matter until finally a big church council had to be called in to effect a settlement, which resulted in the objectors’ expulsion from the church. There was another Sitton back there in the early part of the 19th century, Geoffrey Sitton, supposedly a brother of Joseph Sitton. There is now not one member of the family left in Smith *County, nor in any surrounding counties, so far as we can recall.
Quite a lot of names of early Smith County settlers have entirely disappeared from the county. One of these was the Cheatham family, who once lived on the waters of Defeated Creek, the stream at the rear of the Philander Sutton home, being known till today as “Cheatham Branch.” Cheatham lived on this stream, and was one of the first four families to settle on Defeated Creek. This occurred some time after Feb., 1786, for on this date the stream was discovered and given the name of “Defeated Creek,” because of the defeat of the five men who were *there as members of a surveying party that had come up from Bledsoe’s Lick, now known as Castalian Springs. For the benefit of most of our readers who do not know about this episode the following account is given from an old history: “In February, 1786, John Peyton, (father of the late Honorable Bailie Peyton); Ephraim Peyton his twin brother; Thomas Peyton, another brother; Squire Grant and John Frazer were out hunting and surveying. They encamped on an island in Defeated Creek, near where Captain C. N. West now (1887) resided. On Sunday night they sat up late playing cards, when they were attacked by the Indians. Four of the five were wounded--all except Ephraim Peyton. They separated and fled, leaving horses and instruments behind. The Indian party was commanded by Hanging Maw. All made their escape and survived. The next year John Peyton sent word to Hanging Maw to return the stolen horses, to which the chief replied: “that the horses were his, that he (Peyton)_had run away like a coward and left them; and as for his land stealer, the compass he had broken that against a tree.”
We once talked with an old, old man who had lived not so many years removed from the event that took place on Defeated Creek that February night 166 years ago. He gave quite a lot of additional information. He stated that the group had come up Cumberland River on the north side of the stream and reached the present Defeated Creek late in the day. They had killed a large amount of game which they brought to their camp which was made just above the present big spring in lower Difficult. The mill of the late G. F. M. Russell was only a few feet from where the party is said to have camped. The hillside to the west is only about 75 yards distant. To the east it is perhaps 150 yards away. The hunting and surveying party had a big fire going and were sitting around the blazing chunks of wood. Their dogs had begun to “act up” early in the evening, running frequently into the heavy forests all around and barking furiously. The hunters could hear sticks breaking and snapping and supposed that wild animals, hungry for fresh meat the hunters had killed, were prowling near the camp. Suddenly at ten o’clock in the night a large number of rifle shots rang out, and four of the five men felt a bullet hit them. One of the men, with great presence of mind, jumped to his feet, seized a large heavy wet blanket and threw it over the fire, thus cutting out the light by which the attackers would shoot again. Muzzle-loaders of that day and time required some little time for reloaded. In this brief interval, the hunters, knowing themselves to be badly outnumbered from the number of shots they had heard, broke from the camp, each one to look out for himself. Neither of the four men struck by the bullets was seriously hurt, one being shot through the calf of the leg, one through the forearm, and the other two with even less wounds. They fled from the scene, going to the west toward Castalian Springs, which lay about 25 miles westward. Not far from the place where the party had been attacked, one of the number fell down a bluff and dislocated an ankle. He picked up a stock and hobbled along as best he could, and made good time, considering the fact that his ankle was in bad condition. But then the reader will understand the “prompting cause” to make all possible speed was a group of 60 Indians, hot on the trail. So without compass and, we sjuppose, guided only by the stars, the five men fled over the big hills between Defeated Creek and the next to the west which is Peyton’s Creek. Then we would judge that they went up the present Nickojack Branch of Peyton’s Creek; to Mace’s Hill, right down by the place where the writer discovered America” 105 years later; thence to the present Dixon Springs and on to the present Hartsville, and from that place, to Castalian Springs.
The first of the number arrived at the stockade at Bledsoe’s Lick, now called Castalian Springs, “run to death,” and declaring that the other four members of the party had perished at the hands of the Indians. Not long after this, a second arrived and reported the other three as being killed. Still later, a third man arrived and reported the other two as having been killed. Later a fourth arrived and reported the fifth man as killed by the Indians. This fifth man was the one who had sustained a dislocated ankle not far from the scene of the attack. He had managed to make good time in spite of his injured ankle. When near the present Hartsville in the darkness of the long February night, he fell down another bluff and threw his ankle back in place. He reached Castalian Springs four hours after the first arrival, so the old man told the writer long ago.
This episode proved the contention of many persons that the average white man was equal in nearly every respect to about two Indians. Here we have an attack made by 60 Cherokee Indians on five men far from help and in the midst of a wilderness, and yet all five escaped. We once thought that an Indian was the superior of the average white man, but we have undergone a great change of opinion along this line. They were not the average of the white man in strength, ingenuity, bravery, or the ability to cope with whatever situation arose.
From this event Defeated Creek took its name. Difficult a town on the stream, is said to have gotten its name after the following order: A post office was about to be established at the present Difficult, called for many years Williams’ Cross Roads. A name for the office was to be suggested to the postal authorities at Washington. When the suggested name arrived in Washington, the parties in charge of the establishing of a new postoffice undertook to read the suggested name, which was Defeated. But the writing was said to have been so poor and the Washington postal authorities had such a hard time or so much difficulty in making out the name, that it was finally decided to call the post office, “Difficult,” by which name it has since been called. Later a post office was established lower down on the creek and the new office was called “Defeated.” It was later superseded by rural routes out of Carthage, Difficult and Pleasant Shade.
But to return to the early families on Defeated Creek, we have noted that one of the first was Cheatham. Another was the Shockley family, which lived 150 years ago in the present Kemp Hollow of Defeated Creek. Not one member of the family lives today in all that section. Finley Shockley lives near Lafayette, but we do not know if he is descended from the Defeated Creek Shockley of a century and a half ago.
Another of the first five families on Defeated Creek was that of the McNutts. Just where they lived on that stream we do not know. But we know that the family has long since left Smith County. The name of the fourth family is not recalled.
The fifth family to settle on that creek was that of James Sutton, who was a soldier of the Revolution. He was a very large man, his vest being large enough to button around two average-sized men. We have seen the big vest and know about its size from our own observation. He settle on a tract of land now part of the old Lon Knight farm, and built a house toward the creek from the present Knight home.
The sixth family is believed to have been named Williams, as the present Difficult was known for years as Williams Cross Roads. Then one of the old cemeteries in that section is located on the hill above Difficult and is still called the Williams burial ground.
Roderick Jenkins, who has been frequently mentioned in these articles, was the owner of land at the extreme upper end of the creek, near the present Russell Hill, which is on the Highland Rim. He and his father and mother and brothers came to Tennessee from Buncombe County, North Carolina, as far back as 150 years ago. We find Noah Jenkins, a brother of Roderick, on Long Creek as early as 1805. We find that William Jenkins, the old man, died in 1807, and that his wife, Nancy Jenkins, was appointed to wind up his estate.
But we return now to the Court records. “James Doherty vs. Hezekiah O’Neal, ordered in this case that the deposition of Assalo Hipper be taken at the house of William Donelson, Esquire, de bene esse to be read in evidence in this case. Notice served or acknowledged by plaintiff, and deposition to be taken first of June next.” This item contains three new names, Doherty, O’Neal and Hipper. Assalo, as a given name, is certainly a new one to the editor. The expression, “de benne esse,” means: “Of well being; of formal sufficiency for the time; conditionally; provisionally.” It is a Latin expression.
“Thomas Wallace vs. Danial Zimmerman. De Po is to issure to take the deposition of Charles Carr in the State of Kentucky, at the house of James Morrision or Henry Clay, to be taken at the insistence of the Plaintiff, with 30 days’ notice given the defendant’s attorney which shall be considered legal notice to the Defendant.” Thomas Wallace and Zimmerman are both unknown to the writer. Whether the Henry Clay referred to was the great statesman, we do not know, but suppose he is the man referred to. Clay was born April 12, 1777, and at the time of the above events, he was 25 years of age.
“Willis Jones’ stock mark is an under slope in the right ear, and a half crop in the left. Ordered to be recorded.” Willis Jones was one of the earliest member of his family in Middle Tennessee, and is thought to have been a brother of old Leonard Jones, who was the ancestor of the Jones family in the Difficult and Russell Hill sections.
“Richard Banks’ stock mark, an underkeel in the right, and an overkeel in the left ear, ordered to be recorded.” Richard Banks was one of the charter members of Dixon’s Creek church and lived somewhere in the vicinity of Dixon Springs. His wife, if we remember correctly, was named Kerenhappuch, we suppose for one of the daughter of Job. The name is found in Job 42:14, and meant in the Hebrew language, “horn of paint.” This is the only person we ever read of in modern times who bore the name, “Kerenhappuch.” In our boyhood we knew an old darky, Bob Banks, who we are sure, had been a slave belonging to some relative of Richard Banks at the time the slaves were set free.
“Ordered that a public road be established from Dr. Mabias’s (home) to Dixon’s Still House, as Doctor Mabias is willing to open same at his expense.” Here we have a rather unusual item. It is not supposed that Dr. Mabias, who was the county’s first coroner and who lived in that day and time on the extreme upper end of Lick Creek of Dixon’s Creek, where Johnson Gregory now resides, merely wanted a road to get to the still house. It is supposed that he wanted an outlet and that the still house was on some other road at a point where the Mabias road would join same. We would judge that this new road was to be built right down Lick Creek virtually from the head of that stream to the road leading from the present Hartsville to Dixon Springs, which would bring it to the farm of Dixon which was located on both sides of the present Walton Road, between Hartsville and Dixon Springs. We would judge that Tilman Dixon’s still house must have been located about where the present bridge spans Lick Creek about a quarter of a mile west of the old Dixon house.
“Ordered that Armistead Moore, William Hankins, Harris Bradford, Jones Bishop, Josept Bishop, William Thompson, Daniel Burford, Jr., and Moses Evarts be appointed a jury to view, mark and lay off a road from Richard Banks’ Ferry the nearest and best way to Fall Creek, and these to view and to return to the old road leading from Bishop’s Ferry up Round Lick Creek and to intersect a new road at the most convenient place, at or near William Kavanaugh’s.” Most of these men, we would judge, were from the south side of the Cumberland and below Carthage. We would judge that Richard Banks’ Ferry was to the southwest of Dixon Springs, that Bishop’s Ferry was at the mouth of Round Lick Creek, just above the present Rome; but we do not know where Fall Creek was, although there is a creek of that name in the present Wilson County. Kavanaugh lived, the best we can judge from the old records, between the present Wilson-Smith County line and Gordonsville, perhaps not far from the present New Middleton. Daniel Burford, Jr., was most likely the son of the old minister, Elder Daniel Burford, the first pastor of Dixon’s Creek Baptist church, and late Register of Smith County.
“Samuel Evit’s stock mark is two slits in the right ear and a slit and underbit in the left. Exhibited to be recorded.” This is the first mention of this family that we can recall in the old records. A little later they were called Avitts. The name is now spelled Evetts by most of the family, but some spell it Evitts. Sam is still a given name of the family.
“Court adjourns at this time.” Thus ends three days of the meeting of the Court in March, 1802.
For part of the information about Defeated Creek, we are indebeted to Bennie A. Sutton, who is a great-great-grandson of the large man, James Sutton. We extend our sincere thanks to our friend, Mr. Sutton.
(To be continued)
added letter “C” in the word “County.”
changed “three” to “there”