Transcribed by Janette West Grimes
May 8, 1952
* Cal's Column *
We again take up the old records of the County Court and Court of Pleas, of Smith County. The time is Wednesday, March 17, 1802, a little more than 150 years ago, and the place of meeting in the home of the late William Saunders, near the present Dixon Springs. The items from the records are enclosed in quotations marks.
"Wednesday, March 17, 1802. Members present: Elmore Douglass, William Kavanaugh and Charles Kavanaugh." Here we learn that three men could transact business. Each of these men lived on the south side of Smith County, so far as we have been able to learn. Just where Squires Peter Turney, James Hibbets, William H. Gregory, Tilman Dixon, and other members were, we do not know.
"Deed, 366 acres, Josiah Redditt, to Peter Turney, proven by the oath of James Bellow, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto." We have no idea as to who Josiah Redditt was, although there were members of the family living in Smith County in the time of the writer's childhood. James Bellow was James Ballou, we are quite sure. We have an idea that the land lay somewhere on the waters of Dixon's Creek, as we know that both Ballou and Turney lived there.
"Deed from M. Phillips to James Bellow, 640 acres, proven by the oath of Peter Turney, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto." Only one new name, that of M. Phillips, apprears in this item. Ballou's name is again misspelled. James Ballou was a brotheer of Leonard Ballou, our great-great-grandfather, who came from Bottetourt County, Virginia and "took up" a square mile of 640 acres of land near the present Dixon's Creek Baptist church. A brother-in-law of the Ballous, Elias Johns, "took up" a tract of 640 acres near the lands owned by the two brothers. It would appear that Ballou, if he "took up goverment land" as did so many of the earliest settlers, evidently purchased another square mile of land. We have not one idea as to who M. Phillips was.
"Deed, six acres, John Fisher to Dempsey Kennedy. Ordered to be registered." We have no idea as to who either party was.
"Ordered that William Saunders be allowed letters of Administration on the estate of Bennett Rogers, deceased, who came into Court, gave security and qualified according to law." In our comment above we inferred that William Saunders had recently died from the opening item of the Court which read as follows: "At a Court opened and held at the late dwelling house of William Saunders," our comment being that we supposed this meant that William Saunders had lately died. Now we do not know how to reconcile these apparent contradictions. We would suppose that it was very probable the William Saunders, at whose late residence the Court was being held, must have had a son by the same name. Perhaps some reader can enlighten us on this point. Please feel free to give us any facts bearing on this item. As to who Bennett Rogers was, we have not the least idea.
"Ordered that John L. Martin, late Sheriff of Smith County, be allowed eight dollars for his exofficio service from the last to the present term." This signified that he was being allowed eight dollars to pay for services outside ( ? ) limits of the office of Sheriff. Eight dollars seems a small price to pay for such services but eight dollars would have bought then 25 or 30 acres of land and it covered with fine timber. We recently found an old record which stated: "Obadiah Gregory bought 50 acres of land on Wartrace Creek for $20.00," which was only 40 cents an acre. This was in 1805 and land was even cheaper in 1802. Obadiah Gregory was the grandfather of the late Obadiah Langford, who died some years ago on Defeated Creek. We would like to have the connection between Sheriff Martin and William Martin, who was an early Dixon Springs settler and one of the charter members of Dixon's Creek Baptist church.
"Ordered that Charles F. Mabias be allowed the sum of one dollar for his exofficio services for summoning the Venire to the Superior Court for the last term." Charles F. Mabias lived at the present home of Johnson B. Gregory, on the extreme upper end of Lick Creek of Dixon's Creek.
"Ordered that Leonard Fight be appointed overseer of the road leading from the head of Walker's Creek to Lancaster's Mill, and that all the hands that worked on said road in the same bounds, by order of the Wilson County Court, also work on same." Leonard Fight would today be known as Leonard Fite. Just why the spelling of so many names has changed in less than two centuries of time, we do not know. We do know that changing the spelling of names causes much confusion to those who scores of years later, try to trace the line of family descent. Of course, one has a right, so far as that is concerned, to spell his name anyway he wants to. But we think we ought to perpetuate old family names intact through the years and even centuries. Here we have the name, "Fight," and we are quite sure that its correct spelling is F-i-t-e. Here in our own county of Macon, some changes have been made in spelling of surnames. The name, "Cassetty," is one of the oldest in our knowledge, having been borne by people of Irish descent for perhaps a thousand years, back into the dim and distant past. Within the past 25 years, some few have changed the name to "Casady." How is the tracer of family history to know, for instance, that John Casady is the son of William Cassetty? At least we suggest that Court record of the change of the spelling from C-a-s-s-e-t-t-t to C-a-s-a-d-y and the reasons therefor be made.
Of course we are not trying to force any person to spell his name in a way that does not suit the individual, but I am trying to preserve the old, time-honored names which makes it much easier to trace family history than the changing of such names for no apparent reason.
The same holds in this country for the Herald family. This name is spelled Harrell, Herell, Harold, Hereld and perhaps in other ways. But it is one and the same family. So also is the name Parkhurst, and we are sure that the name is at least a thousand years old in England. Parkes, as a substitute for Parkhurst, is, so we understand, comparatively new. We are quite sure that nobody had any cause for being ashamed of the old name or names. If the wearers of the older form were grand rascals and you are ashamed for people to know that you have the name borne by those who have disgraced it, then perhaps you might have some cause to wish to change it. However, there is no old name whose wearers have always been all that they should have been. There have been black sheep in every family and there are dead limbs on every family tree. Now we are not hinting in the least that such a reason as that just given ever prevailed in any family that changed the spelling of the name. On the other hand, we urge that the old family name, borne by geneerations of honest, honorable men be retained. This will enable the historian of the future, the genealogist and other researchers to do their work in a far better way, and at the same time keep alive the good names of our ancestors. We do not mean to be critical in our attitude, but we do love to keep alive old, honorable and upright names worn by the generations in the past, who would feel ashamed that a later generation discarded the old and respected name that they wore. Surely they deserve something better than having their name discarded as something unwanted.
But there is another feature to this thing of changing the spelling of your name. In the past the name of your family was spelled in a certain way, and the census taker wrote it as you gave it in. Suppose when you reach the age of 65, you want an old age pension, and you are unable to establish your age or cannot obtain a birth certificate, or the old family Bible has been burned with your birth record in it, what are you going to do to establish the date of your birth ? You will have to apply to the Census Bureau at Washington, D. C., which, for a fee of $3.00, will look into your census record and help you to establish your age. Suppose that since the first census following your birth the spelling of your family name has been changed, and you may be sure that the Census Bureau will not make any change in its records, then what will happen ? You will be unable to establish the date of your birth and you will be denied an old-age pension. So it will be better to keep the old spelling of the family name from every standpoint, sentimental as well as financial.
The Leonard Fight above referred to and because of the spelling of his name, we wrote the rather long "spiel" above, was appointed overseer of the road leading from the head of Walker's Creek to Lancaster's Mill. Walker's Creek rises just east of the present Alexandria and flows in a somewhat easterly direction and empties into Smith's Fork Creek.
"Ordered that Richard Lancaster be appointed overseer of the road leading from Lancaster's Mill to the Caney Fork River, and that the same hands that worked by order of the Wilson Court and in the same bounds, work on same." We do not know who Richard Lancaster was, but presume that he was the ancestor of the present Lancasters about or near the town of Lancaster in Smith County. His work lay to the north of Lancaster's Mill and on to the Caney Fork River, but we have no idea as to where his road approached the river. It appears from this item, as well as from the one before it, that some sort of a joint plan had been put into effect by the Smith and Wilson County Courts for work on certain roads.
"Brittain vs. Christian, dep. for the plaintiff, Devan ( ? ) Kentucky, 30 days." We suppose this meant that in some sort of suit brought by a man named Brittain against a man names Christian, the testimony of a man, supposed to have been named Devan, who lived in Kentucky, was to be taken, with a time limit of 30 days. We know nothing of either of the parties, but Richard Brittain then lived about five miles south of the present Lafayette.
"Ordered that William Saunders, William Gregory and John Jamison be appointed a jury to view, mark and lay off and determine whether the road leading from Dixon Springs to Caney Fork can be turned so as to go above or below Robert Bowman's Mill, and make report thereof to our ensuing Court." Here we find William Saunders very much alive and not dead as we had previously inferred, as above noted. William Gregory was Squire Bill Gregory, a brother of our great-great-grandfather, Bry Gregory. We do not know who John Jamison was. The item appears somewhat jumbled. As to the road going above or below Bowman's Mill, it is quite evident that it had to do one or the other. And, moreover, there was then and had been for a few years a road leading from Dixon Springs to Carthage by way of the present Riddleton, near which Bowman's Mill was located. Robert Bowman's Mill was just below the big spring in the lower part of Riddleton, and the stream then flowing from that spring, and joined by some other waters, was known as Spring Creek. We would judge that the appointment of this committee was to learn if it were feasible to make a road above the mill which was located, if we are rightly informed, only about 200 yards from the spring. We may learn later from the old records just what the committee reported. However, the road at the present is shortly below the ancient location of Bowman's Mill.
"Robert Dugan's stock mark, an under and over bit in each ear, and stock brand, the letter E. ordered to be recorded." Most farmers of that day and time were content to record their stock mark, but men with many horses and cattle, all of which had to roam through the woods and forests of a century and half ago, had also an brand for their horses, mules and cows. Hogs and sheep were marked about their ears. We would judge from this that Elmore Douglass was a man of property for his day and time.
"Zadoc B. Thackston's stock mark, two overkeels and two crops, one in each ear, ordered to be recorded." We presume that the meaning of the above language was that an overkeel and a crop off each ear, was intended. Zadoc is a Bible name and is found in 2 Sam. 8:17, being the son of Ahitub and also was a priest of David's time. The name in Hebrew means just and righteous. Readers will note that Bible names were very common in Middle Tennessee 150 years ago. We have no information as to who Zadoc Thackston was, but presume that his descendants still live in the Elmwood section of Smith County.
On this point we might add that most of Smith County's early settlers were very strict in their religious beliefs, esteeming a man to be a very bad character whose religion did not make him walk uprightly. How very much we do need such sentiments today. The first church established in the county was Dixon's Creek Baptist church, which was organized on March 8, 1800, near the mouth of Dixon's Creek in the home of one Captain Grant Allen. This church later moved to about the mouth of the present Scanty Branch of Dixon's Creek, at Cato, and later erected a brick house of worship about a mile below Cato where they have since met. This is the mother church of North Middle Tennessee. From it have gone out the following churches: Hogan's Creek, in 1810; Knob Spring, in 1814; East Fork of Goose Creek, now Hillsdale, in 1817; lettered off a whole church about 1835 to move or migrate to Missouri; lettered off members to form a church at Stubblefield's meeting house, and we may add that we have not been able to learn where this church was located. We have contacted a number of members of the Stubblefield family, and have learned nothing. Later, in 1846, another group went out from the church and formed Shady Grove church, which is now extinct. Still later in 1891, Good Will church was formed, largely of members from Dixon's Creek. In 1917, this old church furnished numerous members for the new church at Mace's Hill. In 1921 a large number of the constituent members of the church at Old Hopewell were from Dixon's Creek. In 1949 the old church furnished a number of the charter members of East Main Street Baptist church in Hartsville; and still later, last spring, the old church furnished a number of members to go into the formation of Enon Chapel Baptist church.
From this old church have gone out, directly and indirectly, 50 local congregations of Baptists, besides those in Missouri, of whom we know nothing. The church is still numerically the largest country congregation we know of in Middle Tennessee, with about 500 members. It is our desire to publish the old records of this church if we ever have time and opportunity.Most of the records have been kept and they form a very interesting and accurate account of the religious life of the past 150 years in North Middle Tennessee, particularly among Baptists.