June 21, 1956


Transcribed by Elsie Sampson




“Muttonbluff Spring”


          Fifty-five years ago, when the writer was a small 10-year-old boy, his father, Thomas Morgan Gregory, familiarly known as “Dopher” Gregory, and we confess we do not know just how he got the nickname, used to be a great hunter.  He disdained the shotguns of that day and time, declaring there was no marksmanship involved in hunting with a shotgun.  He was the “finest” shot with an old cap and ball rifle we ever knew.  He seldom shot a squirrel except through the head, saying that the head had but little meat and that there was less waste in shooting a squirrel through the head.  We recall that two years earlier than the event we are about to relate, our father, “Pappie” to the writer and his two brothers and seven sisters, went out to try to shoot a hawk on a high hill about 1 1/2 miles N. of our little country home.  A neighbor boy went along with our father.  This boy of 1899, now about 66 years old, told the writer of that “hawk shooting” visit to the high hill which is on “Scanty Branch,” in front of the present home of Mrs. Rom Evetts.  After watching for hours, the hawk refused to alight at the nest in a high tree on the south slope of the high hill.  Finally “Pappie” came to the conclusion that the hawk was not going to alight at the nest.  Raising that long and trusty rifle, he fired at the oncoming hawk while the big fowl was in full flight.  At the crack of the rifle, the bird began to somersault through the air down, down toward the floor of the valley, hundreds of feet below the nest.  Finally the hawk came to the ground, dead and shot through its body by our Father, who lived perhaps a hundred years too late.  He would have been a pioneer had he lived a century earlier.


          Two years after the “hawk” episode our “Pappie” announced to his first-born, the writer, that he was going on a hunting trip to that section of the dividing ridge between the waters of Peyton’s Creek and Dixon’s Creek, known as the “Muttonbluff Spring.”  This name caught our fancy and we wanted to know what this meant.  Our father informed the 10-year-old son that he might accompany his “Pappie” that day to the scene of the “Muttonbluff Spring.”  This was a great trip to the boy who was possessed even then of a lot of curiosity as to how things and places received this name or that or the other.  “Pappie” did not say, “accompany,” but he said, “You can go with me.”


          We set out early, to climb Mace’s Hill, just above our father’s little home, go through the “Gap” and then into another valley about half a mile northeast of our boyhood home.  Then we climbed another ridge, the one that lay between the waters of Peyton’s Creek and Dixon’s Creek.  We walked carefully along the pathway that lay on top of the dividing ridge going steadily northward above the Morgan Gregory home, the Jim Dillehay home and other homes on the upper end of the Dickerson Branch.  Next we gazed down into the John Dillehay Hollow and then we came to the Ben Gregory farm, on which the “Muttonbluff Spring” was located 55 years ago. 


          We reached the vicinity of the spring, to find a number of bluffs on both sides of the spring.  There were some bluffs that perhaps served as a sort of breastworks for men to hide behind and take shots at approaching enemies.  The spring itself was only a few feet from the top of the dividing ridge, and sent its waters eastward toward Peyton’s Creek.  In the summer time or dry weather, the stream dwindled and got smaller and smaller until it finally disappeared from sight.  In rainy weather the stream came out down by the old Walton McDonald home, about three and a half miles northwest of Pleasant Shade.


          To the northward the path around the top of the dividing ridge continued until it came to a sort of break or gap just above the present Ebenezer Baptist church.  To the southwest the ridge was described as above set out, starting within about 100 yards of the old Ambrose Gregory home, and something less than a half mile from the writer’s childhood home.   It is about three miles from the starting point northward to the “Muttonbluff Spring.”


          The name “Muttonbluff Springs,” is said to have been originated during the Civil War by certain Southern guerrillas, who used the spring as their source of water for themselves and their horses.  Among the guerrillas who are said to have used the location for a sort of rendezvous we are informed that the most noted was Buck Smith,.  Others using the same place as a sort of “hideout” during the Civil War days are said to have been:  Vitt Hogg, Jack Curlee, El Williams, a man named Calhoun and perhaps Ellis Harper.  The origin of the name of the spring that still flows on is said to have been on account of the guerrillas’ stealing sheep, carrying them to the spring and there barbequing them over hot embers or coals until the mutton was cooked sufficiently.  This is the story we received first from our “Pappie.”


          We recall another incident connected with that first visit of ours to the “Muttonbluff Spring.”  This had to do with the large number of names that had been carved on the many beech trees near the spring.  We recall that the names were numerous and some of them were of men whom we had never heard.  The dates were 1861, 1862, and 1863.  We do not recall any dates as late as 1864 when the cause of the Confederacy was waning and the Northern armies were becoming stronger by the month.


          We visited the old spring on June 12th, just a week ago.  The old high hills are in many respects as they were in 1901 when we first saw the “Muttonbluff.”  We drove our car to the home of the late Tilford Gregory, parked it there, climbed the high hill by his spring which he has piped to the vicinity of his house, and a little later stood on the dividing ridge and gazed down into the Dickerson Hollow.  From the top of the ridge, we turned north and soon came to the old spring, our first trip to this place in 42 years.  We were accompanied by our friend and brother, Oakley Cook.  We spent some time looking over the scenes of more than two score years ago.


          As we said, the old spring was located in our boyhood days on the farm of the late Ben Hawkins Gregory, a first cousin of our father, Tilford was a son of Ben Hawkins Gregory and his wife, the former Clemency Massey, who has been dead only a comparatively short time.  Her other son, Marshall Gregory, now lives in the old Gregory home.  This farm or part of it was once the property of Johnson Anderson, who was born in Virginia in 1798.  The older Anderson married Dililah Gregory, a sister of one of our great-grandfathers, Major Gregory.  Dililah was the only daughter of our great-great-grandfather, Jeremiah Gregory.  But just why any parents wanted to name their daughter for the “old gal” that betrayed Samson in the Bible, we confess we do not know.  Our people called her “Dillie,” but the census record has her name spelled “Dilila.”  We may be doing this distant relative of ours an injustice in referring to her as Dililah, but we want to be perfectly fair to her.  Dillie and Johnson and their son, Burton, resided on the Ben Gregory farm over 106 years ago.  Dililah was born in North Carolina in 1792, being six years older than her husband who was born in 1798.  Their children, so far as we have them listed, were:  Lee, Burton, born in 1830; Gort Anderson, married a Glasgow; Bill or William Anderson; and Jim Anderson killed on Defeated Creek by his wife, who used an axe on her husband.  Gort Anderson was the father of: Tilda, married Jim Dickerson; Polly Ann, no additional information;  Em Anderson, no additional informaion; and Brice Anderson.  Lee Anderson, son of Johnson and Dilila Anderson, had two sons, Taylor and Jeff Anderson.  Sons of Taylor Anderson were:  Bud Anderson, Bill Anderson, Sam Anderson and Lum Anderson.


          Mrs. Matilda Anderson Dickerson was the wife of the late James Dickerson, born in 1849 and a star route mail carrier by the home of the writer in his early boyhood days.  Jim Dickerson was the father of a number of sons and daughters, who still live.  Jim Dickerson was one of the smartest men we ever knew.  One of his grandsons, Dewey Dickerson, married our youngest sister, Grace.


          But to return to our trip last week to the “Muttonbluff Spring.”  We lived in the year 1914 only about a mile and a quarter from the spring, on the farm of Hudson Ellis Porter.  We were teaching school that year at Kittrell’s school house, on Little Peyton’s Creek, about a mile northwest of Pleasant Shade.  The school has been abandoned because of the loss of students and because of the consolidation of certain schools.


          But to come back to my visit of 42 years ago to the “Muttonbluff.”  My father had borrowed my horse and rubber-tired buggy for a brief time.  I had told him that Mai, my wife, and I would walk to our father’s home and bring the horse and buggy home.  We left our little home that Saturday morning in the spring of 1914 and climbed to the top of the big hill to the southwest of where the writer then lived.  We had then one child, our son, Lawrence, who was then about 17 months old.  I carried him in my arms up the big, long hill and led the way, the wife of our youth being quite active and strong, following as we went toward our old home a distance of approximately five miles.  Our wife, who had never before traveled that wilderness pathway, was jolly and lively as we walked along without a care in the world.  We were young then and did not tire easily.  As the writer led the way, he referred to the events of Civil War days and pointed out the many inscriptions then to be seen on beech trees near the spring.  We believe we paused at the spring long enough to get a good drink of cold water.  We continued “around the ridge” until we came to the head of the George Oldham Hollow where we descended into the valley, down which we went till we reached Scanty Branch, which we crossed and then climbed the dividing ridge between Scanty Branch and the Young Branch, on which we were born on July 8, 1891 and where our old childhood home then stood and where it stands today.  We reached our home, only slightly tired from our walk of about five miles and carrying a “youngen” of nearly a year and a half of age.  Our numerous sisters were expecting their oldest brother and little family, one of them, our sister, Anna, now dead, running to the top of the hill above the old home and seizing our son and bearing him triumphantly toward the place that had been home in our childhood.


          Since the above was written, we are of the opinion that we were in error in the statement above that we had not been back to the “Muttonbluff” since 1914.  It now appears that our good preacher friend, Elder F. W. Lambert, and the writer some years ago, paid a visit to the spring one afternoon, following our going home with one of the brethren for “dinner,” which is the mid-day meal for dwellers among the hills.


          We hope a little later to continue this story and give some account of Buck Smith, his various escapades and his death at the early age of 20 years; of El Williams and others who “hid out” around the “Muttonbluff,” nearly a hundred years ago.