Transcribed by Timothy R. Meador, Jr.


April 10, 1952





        We continue the publication of the old records of the Quarterly Court and Court of Pleas of Smith County. The time is Tuesday, March 16, 1802, and the place is the home of the late William Saunders in the vicinity of Dixon Springs, which is located on the highway between Hartsville and Carthage. The various items directly from the old records are in quotation marks and we resume where we left off a few weeks ago.


        “Deed, 360 acres, Thomas Stokes to Bolling Felts, proven by the oath of Stephen Robertson, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto, and ordered to be registered.” Here we have three names of whom we know nothing. Thomas Stokes and Bolling Felts, so far as we can recall, have no members of their families left in the present Smith County. Robertson is the name of a family still quite numerous, and it is possible that he was a relative of James Robertson, of early Tennessee fame.


        We have here in Macon County members of two groups, one of whom spells their family name, “Robinson,” and the other, “Robertson.” If any reader has any information on either of the three men, send it in and we will try to get it in the paper.


        “Ordered that Elias Johns be allowed to keep a ferry at the upper end of the first bluff below the mouth of Peyton’s Creek, and that he be rated as follows: (vix) for each man and horse, 12 ½ cents; for each single man or horse, 6 ¼ cents; for each pack horse, 12 ½ cents; for each head of horned cattle, 6 ¼ cents; for all other stock, two cents; who came into Court and gave security accordingly.” Here have an item of more than passing interest. Elias Johns had lived for some years prior to this time near the Brooks place on Dixon’s Creek about 400 yards below Dixon’s Creek Baptist church. Here the old Fort Blount Road crossed Dixon’s Creek. Near the crossing lived Captain James Ballou, presumably in the pioneer house on whose site the present Charlie Brooks home is located. Further up the stream and to the northwest, in what is now called the “Possum Hollow,” lived a brother of James Ballou, Leonard Ballou, one of our great-great-grandfathers, who, in 1808, moved to Peyton’s Creek. Elias Johns marries Esther Ballou, a sister of James and Leonard.


        Peyton’s Creek rises at the Highland Rim a few miles east of Lafayette and flows into the Cumberland just south of the present Riddleton, a distance of perhaps 20 miles from its source. The bluff is still to be seen below the mouth of Peyton’s Creek, and it is now in a somewhat remote part of Smith County and is seldom visited. Here Elias Johns had his ferry and was allowed to charge 6 ¼ cents for a “single” man or horse. Of course this meant one man and had no reference to whether he was married or unmarried. Pack horses were usually heavily laden and rated a higher charge than a horse merely carrying a saddle. Horned cattle were “meaner” to carry over the river than the “muley” sort, so the charge for the kind that had horns was more than three times as much as for the “hornless” variety. We wish we had a history of the events that transpired at this ferry. It was near this place that a young man named Nixon drowned while trying to save a hen from drowning in the Cumberland. He was engaged in loading a flat boat more than a century ago when a hen in a coop escaped and flew into the river. Young Nixon, a brother of the late James Nixon, rowed out to save the fowl and fell into the river and drowned. We recall that Miss Eliza Ballard, who lived to be more than a hundred years old, at the age of 101 years, told this writer about 30 years ago why she never married.


        We asked her if she desired to live much longer. She replied, “No, no I wish to go on.”  “Why do you have no desire to live?” was the next question.  “Is it because the folks with whom you stay are not good to you?” was our next inquiry,” and her reply was plaintive and that of a lonely soul. She said, “All my brothers and sisters are dead. My father and mother have been gone for years and years. All my playmates have left me, and every schoolmate of mine has been away for a long, long time. My sweetheart drowned 80 years ago, and I am anxious to go on and join those that I knew in my younger days, in a better world.” We regret that we did not ask the name of that sweetheart that drowned, but inquiry indicated that young Nixon was the man whom she planned to marry and to whom she had been loyal and faithful through the long, long years. She died two years after the above conversation, and the writer held her funeral, the service being at the family graveyard on the extreme upper end of the Sloan Branch of Peyton’s Creek, and then the poor, withered and frail body was laid to rest beneath a large weeping willow tree which her own hands had planted about 75 years earlier.



        We are quite sure that many, many events occurred at the ferry which will never be recalled. How long Elias Johns remained with the ferry is not known. A large number of his descendants left Smith County in 1835 for the Oregon Country, traveling in covered wagons and going through the present Utah. One of the number, a little boy of six, died on the journey through Utah and was buried in a lone grave on the banks of the Bear River, which rises in Idaho, in the Uinta Mountains, and flows in a winding course some 450 miles to the Great Salt Lake. We have no record of the deaths of Elias Johns and his wife, Esther Ballou Johns, nor do we have the least idea as to where they are buried.


        “Ordered that a tract of land, said to be reported, of 428 acres, lying on the middle fork of the East Fork of Goose Creek, in the name of John and James Bonner, be remitted on paying the usual tax and incidental costs.” Here is an item which concerns land very near Lafayette. We would judge that the “middle fork of the East Fork of Goose Creek,” was that section now known as the Sullivan Branch, which rises about a mile south of Lafayette, near the present home of Lloyd Hargis, and joins Dry Fork, near the present home of Jesse Ford. John and James Bonner are unknown to the writer, although the name is still borne by some Tennesseans. Mrs. W. M. Norman, of near Lafayette, was a Miss Bonner prior to her marriage.


        “Deed, 103 acres, Joshua Hadley to James Dobbins, proven by the oath of Micham Smith, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto.” We believe, but are not sure, that Hadley lived on Peyton’s Creek, not far from the present Monoville. We do not known who James Dobbins was, but he was evidently a man of some distinction. One of the sons of Squire William H. Gregory, a brother of Bry, was named James Dobbins, but we are not prepared to say that he was named for the James Dobbins to whom Joshua Hadley sold the tract of land. There is another point in this item, about which we offer a little comment, and that is the witness, Micham Smith. We wonder if this could have been Malcolm Smith, who was a Baptist minister in Smith County at that time. We recall that some of the older people referred to him as if his name were spelled “Macom.” Any information on this point will be appreciated.


        “Deed, 100 acres, Joshua Hadley to Hugh McKinnis, proven by the oath of Micham Smith, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto, and ordered to be registered.” Here we have two of the same parties mentioned in the preceding article. The other was Hugh McKinnis. We have no record of Hugh McKinnis, although there was a John McKinnis who married one of the writer’s great-great-aunts, Miss Elaine Gregory, commonly called Laine Gregory, the daughter of Bry Gregory, this event occurred about 140 years ago. John might have been the son of Hugh McKinnis.


        “Ordered that a public road be viewed, marked and ‘layed’ off from Dixon Springs (by) the nearest and best way, crossing Cumberland River at the upper end of the bluff below the mouth of Peyton’s Creek, (continuing) on the south side of the river, to intersect the road leading to Smith’s Fork at the most convenient place; and that Edmund Jennings, Thomas Jameson, Elias Johns, Thomas Gossett and Lewis MacFarland view the same and make a report to our next Court.” Here we have an item that is not quite clear. To start at Dixon Springs and then go to the lower end or mouth of Peyton’s Creek, does not make sense when we know that there was already a road leading from the present Carthage to Dixon Springs and that it crossed Peyton’s Creek between the present Riddleton and Carthage at a point not more than two or three miles from the mouth of Peyton’s Creek. According to our “lights,” the order should have read, “starting at the most convenient place on the road leading from Carthage to Dixon Springs and crossing the river at the Elias Johns Ferry, and etc.” Just how far southward from the Cumberland the new road had to be “viewed, marked and laid off,” to intersect with the Smith’s Fork Road does not appear. Smith’s Fork rises south of the present Alexandria, flows through Liberty, and empties into the Caney Fork River not a great distance below Liberty. Perhaps the new road was marked out by way of Hogan’s Creek, thence to the present New Middleton and on toward Alexandria, but this is a mere conjecture. Edmund Jennings is supposed to have lived at the time at the mouth of Jennings’ Creek, and was many miles from the place of his labors. We have no knowledge of Thomas Jameson nor of Thomas Gossett. We are made to wonder if Lewis MacFarland was not a relative of the Dr. MacFarland who now operates a hospital at Lebanon.


        “Deed, 320 acres, William Holliday to Willeroy Pate, proven by the oath of Landy Shoemake, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto.” We suppose that William Holliday was the ancestor or a relative of the Holladays of Smith County at this time, with a slight variation in the spelling. Willeroy Pate is supposed to have lived on the present Salt Lick, and to have been a relative of H. T. Pate, who is now one of the oldest citizens of that section. Landy Shoemake is wholly unknown to the writer.


        “Ordered that William Richards, Moses Ashbrooks, William Walton, Charles McClennen, Charles Mundine, William Holliday and William Sullivan mark and lay off a road from Capt. Pait’s (Pate’s) on the Fort Blount Road to Bowman’s Mill on Spring Creek, and that they report same to our next Court.” We have no information as to William Richards or Moses Ashbrooks. We suppose Charles McClennen was Charles McClellan. “Captain Pate on the Fort Blount Road” is supposed to have meant that Pate lived on that pioneer road or trail or trace. It began at Fort Blount in the present Jackson County and extended westward by way of the present Difficult, Pleasant Shade, Good Will and on into Robertson County. Captain Pate is supposed to have lived on the road somewhere between Difficult and Fort Blount. Bowman’s Mill on Spring Creek was located just east of the present Riddleton, the stream now called Bowman’s Branch, being called 150 years ago, Spring Creek.


(To be continued.)


Transcriber Note:

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