THE MUTTONBLUFF


This article and pictures  by Tom Dickerson

Comments or Questions CLICK HERE


MUTTONBLUFF - BARBECUE ROCKS

 

The Muttonbluff is an historical part of Smith County located on the border between Smith and Trousdale Counties about two miles northwest of Pleasant Shade. It sits in the saddle of a relatively remote and narrow piece of terrain at an elevation of about 910 feet. The Muttonbluff is an outcropping of limestone rocks composed of a number of large boulders with the largest grouping being six to eight feet high. Located at the Muttonbluff is the Muttonbluff Spring that emerges from the ground at an elevation of about 880 feet. For a spring to exist so near to the top of a hillside is unusual. It does not produce great quantities of water and may cease to flow during times of dry weather. However, during normal weather conditions, the spring produces sufficient water to supply a small number of both humans and horses.


MUTTONBLUFF AREA MAP
Click Above Map for full size View

The Muttonbluff (coordinates of 36-23-52N, 85-58-54W) is located on the common boundary of Smith and Trousdale counties about two miles northwest of Pleasant Shade. Of course, during the Civil War, all this area was in Smith County. The Muttonbluff rests on a narrow saddle or gap at an elevation of about 910 feet. To the west lies the Massey Hollow leading to Dixon Creek and the Cato Community while to the east is Little Peyton’s Creek and the Pleasant Shade area. I suppose this location may have had some strategic value to the Confederate guerrilla gangs who used this site because the terrain allowed easy access to either of the above locations.

 

For the past 140 years, the Muttonbluff has been a well-known landmark of the Pleasant Shade area. It received its name during the Civil War from an infamous group of young men who operated out of the area as Confederate guerrillas or bushwhackers and / or just plain outlaws. The bushwhackers used the area as a hideout or rendezvous point in the course of carrying out their raids. These men would steal sheep and roast them on a spit between two boulders while they were hiding or planning their next action. This is how the “Muttonbluff” received its name. Due to its location and terrain, the Muttonbluff provided easy access west to the Dixon Creek or east to the Peyton’s Creek areas of Smith County. During the time of the Civil War, all the area around the Muttonbluff was in Smith County, as this part of Trousdale County would not be formed from Smith County until 1870.

 

The Muttonbluff was a favorite squirrel hunting grounds as late as the 1950s.  When young boys of the area were informed that they were going to be taken hunting at the Muttonbluff, they knew they were in for a “first class” hunt.

 

 Some of the men responsible for “putting the Muttonbluff on the map” were William J. (Buck) Smith, E. L. Williams, Vitt Hogg, Jack Curlee, a Mr. Calhoun and perhaps others. Captain Ellis Harper, another Confederate guerrilla, is also reputed to have used the Muttonbluff but he may not have been connected with Buck Smith. Buck Smith, the boy guerrilla, (my first cousin thrice-removed through my Smith relatives) was the most infamous of the entire group. He was born about 1845, the son of Alfred D. and Elizabeth Beasley Smith. Alfred was the son of Archie and Elizabeth Piper Smith and they perhaps resided on the Smith Branch near Monoville. Elizabeth Beasley was the daughter of Braddock and Sarah Ferguson Beasley. The late Carmack Key (Smith County historian) once gave me a copy of a handwritten statement from “The Republican” dated Friday, July 15, 1842, Carthage, TN, Vol. 1, # 29 that provided the following reference and poem regarding the wedding of Alfred and Elizabeth Beasley Smith.

 

“Married, on Peyton’s Creek, on the 7th inst., by the Rev. Daniel Smith, Mr. Alfred D. Smith to Miss Elizabeth Beasley.

      

         May heaven smile in its rich grace

         Strew their path with sacred peace

         Fill their cup with earthly joys

         And their arms with girls and boys.”

 

Alfred and Elizabeth (Betsy) did indeed have children. Alfred, however, apparently died as a young man in about 1850. He and Betsy were the parents of Julia A., William J. (Buck), Jesse M. and Alfred H. Smith. Alfred and Betsy lived in the Graveltown Community south of Pleasant Shade. Alfred’s brother, William A. (Hairy Bill) Smith, is pictured on this website.

 

Regarding some of the other above-mentioned men of Muttonbluff fame, Vitt Hogg or Vitsy (from the 1860 Smith County Census), was 22, a constable and born in TN. His father and mother were Leonidas and Eliza Hogg. They lived in the Defeated Creek section of Smith County and were merchants. (The present Hoggtown on Defeated Creek may have been named in their honor.) Jackson Curlee (perhaps Jack) in 1860 was 30 years of age, born in KY, married to Susan and had five children. They lived in the Pleasant Shade area. The only Calhoun I could find in the 1860 Smith County Census who may have been about the right age to be part of the Buck Smith group was Sidney Calhoun. He was 17 years old and lived near Nickojack Branch southwest of Pleasant Shade. It is unknown whether all of these men were in Buck Smith’s gang but their names have been associated with the Muttonbluff. E. L. Williams and Vitt Hogg were members of Buck’s gang but I could find no census information about E. L. Williams.

 

Below is a story about Buck Smith published in the “Trousdale County History” book, 1991. The article was written by the late R. D. Brooks, a well known Baptist minister, historian and businessman from Carthage. He was Buck’s first cousin once-removed. Nancy M. Hunt located this article and submitted it for inclusion in this write-up. Nancy is the great-great granddaughter of Isham and Susan Day Beasley who are part of this story.

 

”In 1861, the Confederate Army began mustering by issuing a call to young and old alike to join.  Buck (Smith), being a boy of about 17, joined under the leadership of General Zollicoffer and went to Cumberland Gap where the Confederates were defeated on January 16, 1862.  Some more battles were fought and in April, came the battle of Shiloh, in which General Sidney Johnston was killed.

Following the battle of Shiloh, a new commander for the South, General Braxton Bragg, issued an order to streamline the southern army.  Every soldier under 18 or over 45 was to be disqualified and sent home. Buck Smith (being less than 18) was no longer a confederate soldier; he was sent home.

Buck's first cousin, Jesse Beasley[1] , the son of his uncle Calvin [2] , had enlisted in the Confederate Army, but after returning from the battle at Cumberland Gap, switched over to the U.S. 5th Calvary.  Buck began harassing both his uncle Calvin and cousin Jesse.

 

In September 1862, Buck reenlisted in the Confederate Army. He was hired by a Mr. Cardwell to substitute for him and was paid the “going” rate of $300 for this service. It is unclear how long Buck stayed in the Confederate Army during his second tour as a substitute.

 

When Buck was 18 or 19 years of age, he collected himself a “guerrilla gang" made up of individuals from Defeated Creek, Peyton's Creek, Dixon Creek, and Goose Creek. His gang included the above-mentioned Vitt Hogg, E. L. Williams and others. It was perhaps during the years of 1863 and 1864 that he received most of his notoriety. Vitromer (nicknamed Vitt or Vic) Hogg enlisted in the Confederate Army on September 1, 1862, the same day Buck had enlisted as a substitute for Mr. Cardwell. Vitt was soon captured by the Union Army and sent to a prison camp in Ohio but was later exchanged. It is after this time that it is assumed that Vitt became a member of Buck’s gang.

 

Buck was known to be quite a horseman and maintained a fast steed as demonstrated by a story regarding a chase by Union soldiers. The soldiers were in “hot pursuit” and gaining on Buck as they were ascending a hill. To allow his horse to breathe a little more freely, Buck cut the girdle of his saddle giving his horse a little edge over the advancing soldiers and he got away. His horse was reputed to have been a small buckskin (yellowish-gray) mare that was quick and fast.

 

Susan Day[3] was a friend of Buck's. When Buck would be traveling (northwest) from the Dixon Creek community over to Goose Creek, he had to pass Susan Day's father's house to cross the hill.  Susan Day's brother, William Day, had died in the war, having been captured at the battle of Fort Donelson, put on a boat, and sent to a Yankee prison in Illinois.  William Day died of pneumonia on March 25, 1862, at Camp Butler, Illinois.  The death of William left his sister Susan, age 24, bitter against the Yankees.  She sided with Buck.  She would saddle her horse and ride over on Goose Creek to warn Buck and his gang when U.S. soldiers were camped near her home.

The night before Buck and E. L. Williams were killed by Yankee troops in the hollow[4] on Goose Creek, they had stayed in the blacksmith's shop on Dog Branch[5] of Dixon Creek where Buck's uncle Isham Beasley lived. (As of 1857, Isham and, perhaps at the same time, Jesse Beasley, Buck’s uncles, had moved from the Graveltown Community to Dog Branch. Both Isham and Jesse were Confederate sympathizers.) The reason they stayed in the shop was that if Yankee soldiers called at Isham's home, they would have an opportunity to escape from the shop.  The troops did not come that night but came the next morning to Isham Beasley's house asking if he had seen Buck. At first he told them "no", but as they started to ride away, he called them back and told them "yes", that Buck Smith and E. L. Williams had stayed the night in the blacksmith's shop.  The troops rode away in search of the two boys, and Susan Day saw them pass her home on the road leading over the hill to Goose Creek.  The Yankee troops were tracking them.  Susan told that the leading soldier was leaning forward on his horse looking for the tracks as they rode along.

Susan Day sent a 12-year-old boy (James McClanahan) to warn Buck.  She sent the young boy on a short cut over the hill that was shorter than the route the Yankees were taking.  The Yankees arrived before the boy could get there to warn Buck and E. L.  They were eating breakfast at a woman's table when for some reason, she rose to look out the door.  She turned to Buck and said "Blue coats are coming!"  Buck and E. L. ran from the house toward the spring.  Shots rang out and E. L. was hit in the heel; Buck stopped to help his friend and both were killed (February 1865).

Isham Beasley sent a wagon over on Goose Creek and had Buck's body brought back to his home on Dog Branch. The funeral was held at Isham Beasley's home and was attended by Buck's mother[6] . The story goes that Betsy Smith (Buck's mother) saw her son's blanket on one of the Yankee soldier's horse and that she took Buck's blanket off the horse.  The crowd fearfully looked on; expecting any minute that Betsy would be shot, but she was not harmed. Another story is that after Buck was killed, Union soldiers rode through Hartsville with Buck’s hat high on a long stick for all to see.

 

Buck Smith was buried in the family cemetery (now the Jesse Beasley Cemetery) on Dog Branch near the home of where his uncle Isham lived in 1865.

Go To Jesse Beasley Cemetery Pictures

Although a number of people were killed by Buck Smith, only one particular case has been recorded in this history. Archie Jenkins[7], who lived north of Pleasant Shade[8] , was taken from his home by Buck. The bushwhackers placed a rope around his neck and led him through Pleasant Shade, on their way to Graveltown. They turned east, going up the Wilmore Hollow to the home of a Knight woman, whom they commanded to cook them a meal.  The woman, at every opportunity, while preparing the food, urged Jenkins to try to escape, telling him that they would surely kill him.  When they had finished eating, Buck and his gang led Jenkins east of Graveltown to the top of the hill where, it is reported, that Buck commanded him to get up on a stump and crow like a rooster.  Buck then shot Jenkins off the stump, rode away, and left the body lying.  Sometime later, as Jenkins' body began to decompose, a man on the east side of the hill noticed buzzards circling.  Upon going to investigate, he discovered the partially eaten body of Archie Jenkins.  His crime?  Jenkins was a Yankee.”

 

By 1867, both the first and second wives of Isham Beasley had died leaving him with a number of motherless children. In June of 1867, Isham was married to Susan Day, the young lady who sided with Buck. (This seems like an unusual union seeing that Isham was indirectly, but perhaps reluctantly, responsible for Buck’s death. Just how they rectified their differences is unknown. Anyway, they later became the parents of a number of children of their own.)

 

In addition to the killing of Archie Jenkins, Calvin Gregory relates in the Cal’s Column Article of September 5, 1946 Buck's killing of a Mr. Donoho on Toetown Branch Road a few hundred yards west of its junction with Little Creek Road in Pleasant Shade. Also noted by Cal in his June 9, 1949 article is perhaps Buck’s killing of a Union soldier also in Pleasant Shade. Another Cal’s Column Article on the Muttonbluff and Buck Smith is included in the article of June 21, 1956 .  

 


TROUSDALE COUNTY MAP
Click Above Map for full size View

Pictured is a part of a map of Trousdale County containing the extreme northeast section. The northern boundary is Macon County while Smith County is the boundary to the east and south. The Muttonbluff, the Jesse Beasley Cemetery containing Buck Smith’s grave, the Isham and Susan Day Beasley Cemetery and the McClanahan Hollow where Buck Smith and E. L. Williams were killed are noted.

Go To Page 2 and More Pictures of Mutton Bluff



Footnotes:

[1] A picture of the Jesse and Nancy Dickerson Beasley family is included in “Photos of past families” on

   this website.

Go Jesse Beasley Family Pictures

[2] Buck had stated that he was going to kill his uncle Calvin because of his siding with the North. A picture

  of Calvin and Susan Gregory Beasley may also be seen on this website.

Go To Calvin And Susan Gregory Beasley Pictures

[3]  Susan Day, daughter of John and Margaret Day, later married Isham Beasley, Buck’s uncle. Susan’s and

   Isham’s picture may be viewed on this website.

Go To Isham And Susan Day Beasley Pictures

[4] McClanahan Hollow (from “Cemeteries of Trousdale County, Tennessee”, 1996).

[5] Cato Community of Trousdale County.

[6] Elizabeth (Betsy) Beasley Smith was a sister of Isham, Jesse and Calvin Beasley.

[7] See Calvin Gregory’s account of this story in the March 17, 1949 article on this website.

Go To March 17, 1949 Article

[8] Jenkins lived south of and near to the present Sycamore Valley Baptist Church on Big Peyton’s Creek in

   Macon County.

"