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Early History Of Birthright, By Eli Hargrave, Undated
From the historical files of June E. Tuck, who does not validate or dispute any historical facts in the article. A special Thanks to Kay Ashcroft for her corrections. Please see the end of this article for corrections to the Birthright family data. Edited.
Birthright was named for Major Clayborn Edward Birthright of Virginia, son of Clayborn Birthright, Sr., a wealthy land owner and slave holder. His parents and only brother were taken by death while he was quite young, he being left alone at the age of 16 years. He handled this plantation admirably and soon proved himself a splendid businessman.
He was married to Lou D. Harris, native of Tennessee, and after a few years in disposing of his fatherís estate, he moved with his family to the state of Missouri where he served during the Civil War under Gen. Thomas, by whom he was made Major.
In 1867, he made an overland journey an overland journey in ox wagon to Texas and located in the northern part of Hopkins County. The weather was wet and cold and in the family was a very sick child, so they were very eager for a stopping place. The home of Judge W. L. Hoten (sic) was found for sale and was soon purchased by Mr. Birthright. The sick child died and was buried at Dennis Chapel, now Tira. This community was long known as Chapman Arm.
This Birthright family being gifted with industry and full of endeavor, put to work to aid in the building of a real home community. This home was located on a rolling prairie near the timbers of Morgan creek, a tributary to Sulphur River. Here, ten miles west of Sulphur Bluff, on the Clarksville and Old Tarrant Road, they erected a gin house with a grist mill for grinding corn, built a store for merchandise and Rolie, the youngest son, had a small building just across the road south from the main store building which he occupied a barber shop. This location was about one and a half miles from the present site of the village of Birthright and is now known as the Spaulding place.
The second son, Benjamin (Chick, as he was called) was the chief mill and gin man and operator of the farm in general. Well does the writer remember going to the mill at this place with his fatherís wagon and team of mules when he was quite a small boy. After a successful operation of this mill and gin for a number of years, Chick moved this machinery to Delta County where it was operated for some time.
Mrs. Birthright taught the first school, providing a room in her home for class work. Often the children would come and sit on the doorsteps and wait for their turn in the class. As soon as he could have time, Mr. Birthright, "Tack," as she called him, built a small log structure a short way east of the gin, near the little branch, to be used for school purposes, where Mr. Birthright, with the children, afterward occupied.
In 1876, this place secured a post office, with Major Birthright as the first postmaster. The post office was given the name of Birthright and so the official name for the burg has been down to the present writing, owner and operator "Aunt Lou," as she was familiarly called, was the chief business executive of both the store and post office. During the time she taught school, she did not receive public money, there fore, if she would receive a remuneration it must ve by private subscription, so she told the parents in case of scarcity of money that she would take produce, corn, potatoes, or even a calf, if they would bring it.
The Lone Star building was erected for school and church in about 1874, we think, with a Mr. Thomas, a crippled man, for first teacher. Prof. James H. Dinsmore was a pioneer and highly esteemed teacher at that place. The write taught the last school in this building in 1898 and 1899 when we had that cold February. We also labored with those good children in 1899 and 1900 in the building destroyed by the cyclone May 6, 1907. We are glad to express many fond recollections of those school hood days.
But back to Birthright. David B., the eldest son, along with his brother, Rolie, was a natural salesman, and soon D. B. was on the road for a shoe company in St. Louis for whom he did a immense business and won for himself and the firm many friends.
During these days of the old Birthright stand, Mr. Birthright bought a store at Sulphur Bluff where he was in business for a few years till he sold his interest to Charlie Posey. While at Sulphur Bluff he had his meals with Uncle Perry and Aunt Cassie Hargrave.
In 1884, Mr. Birthright came to failing health, so he sold his Birthright stock of goods to his son-in-law, Mr. John Cannon, who had married his eldest daughter, Cora. The second daughter, Jennie, had married Harmon Gregg, a young farmer and stock man of Sulphur Bluff.
A sketch of this family would be incomplete without mention of one Sam Barnet, a poor, homeless, blind man who came to their home and was taken in, sheltered, fed and cared for as one of the family. He was a very familiar character and will be quickly remembered by a number of friends of this family. He spent a number of years in the home of Harmon Gregg of whose family he was very fond. One of the Gregg boys would often lead him on the road to and from the store. Sam Gregg was named for him and has often led him.
Major Birthright moved to Sulphur Springs in 1884, where he entered the mercantile business with his son, David, and son-in-law, Jim Malone, who had married his daughter, Mattie. In 1887, Mrs. Birthright was taken by death and is buried at Dennis Chapel. This was the final resting place of two of her daughters, Cora and Jennie, they each having died at an early age.
After spending nearly 40 years in Hopkins County, with more than 20 years in Sulphur Springs, leading the life of a successful business man, a worthy citizen and a splendid gentleman, Major Birthright was called to his reward April 19, 1906, buried at the City Cemetery.
The youngest daughter, Carrie, is the only surviving member of this pioneer family. She lives on North Davis street, this city, with her daughter, Mrs. L. W. Caldwell, widow of the late Dr. Luther Weeks Caldwell, native of Tennessee and long time leading physician of Hopkins County.
David and his family returned to Birthright. Here he established a home with his wife, Miss Ruthie (Crisp), erected a commodious store building where he did a thriving business for a number of years with his brother, Rolie, as head clerk. I think at this time he purchased the business of Luther Gregg, a nephew, who was at this time postmaster, to be followed by Mr. Birthright in his place of business.
Since Mr. Birthright, Dr. Willie Bradford, Mr. Garrison, Mr. Flint, Gus Hargis, Ollie Martin and Ed Hargis, the present postmaster, and possibly others have served in this capacity. Lewis Kearney, the efficient mail-carrier for that office and community, deserves much commendation and I am sure has many thanks from his constituents, for the faithful service rendered during this long number of years which places him almost ready to be retired and still we hear no complaint.
Birthright has grown to be a thriving little village of splendid citizenship. Has a first class rural school, two churches, a mill and gin, hammer mill and garage with plenty of stores for accommodation of its worthy citizenry, and a book could be written on the lives of the noble pioneer families of the community.
So with kind thoughts and a friendly feeling, we wish you every one a very Merry Christmas. Eli Hargrave
Research done since this article was written has uncovered many errors in the information presented in this article concerning the Birthright family. The following is an attempt to correct these errors and is contributed by Kay Ashcroft, g-g granddaughter of Claiborne Edward Birthright.
Claiborne Edward Birthright was b. 24 May 1823 in VA, the son of Lemuel Birthright (b. ca 1780 VA, d. 26 Apr 1832 Rutherford Co., TN) and his wife, Mary S. (Polina) Black. He had 2 brothers, Richardson E. Birthright and Williamson J. Birthright, and 1 sister whose name is not known. After his father's death, Claiborne's mother and other family members migrated to Weakley Co., TN.
Claiborne Birthright did not administer his father's estate. He was only 9 years old at the time of his father's death. Lemuel Birthright's will is filed in Rutherford Co., TN along with an inventory of his property. His 4 children are mentioned in his will but are not named. However, Robert Moseley, Mary S. (Black) Birthright's brother-in-law, was appointed guardian of her minor children in Weakley Co., TN., in July 1835. Claiborne Birthright was named in the guardianship papers as a minor heir of Lemuel Birthright.
Claiborne Birthright's mother did not die when he was young. She, in fact, married after Lemuel Birthright's death, to a Benjamin Davis. That marriage did not last and was dissolved by divorce ca 1843. She was enumerated in Claiborne Birthright's household in the 1850 Weakley Co., TN census and also the 1860 Dunklin Co., MO census. She continued to live with him until her death ca 1860.
Claiborne Birthright served in the Missouri State Guard as Captain, commanding Co. B, First Regiment of Infantry, First Division in June 1861; as Major from 18 June 1861 until 4 Jan 1862; and is listed as Colonel on 6 Nov 1864.
Will of Lemuel Birthright m. 21 Apr 1831, pr. 25 Apr 1832
In the name of God, Amen. I, Lemuel Birthright of the co. of Rutherford and state of TN knowing the uncertainty of this mortal life and being of sound and perfect mind and judgment do make and publish this my Last Will and Testament in manner and form following.
Item. My will that my beloved wife Mary shall hold all my est. and effects during her lifetime provided the said Mary my w. should continue in her widowhood but should she marry it is my will that then all my effects and estate of whatsoever it may then consist shall be equally divided between my four children should they all at that time be living and should one or more of them die, it is my will that all my property with its increase be equally divided between those that are living reserving for Mary my w. 1/3 pt. of said estate.
Item. It is further my will that should my beloved w. Mary continue in her widowhood during her lifetime and hold together my est., it is my will that as each of my ch. arrives of age or marries that my est. then be valued and each one receive its equal pt. at valuation and should she my w. Mary marry as aforesaid that my property be then also divided at valuation equally to each of my heirs reserving as aforesaid to my w. Mary 1/3 pt. of said est. for use and benefit during her lifetime and at her decease be returned to my heirs then that may be living at thea time to be equally divided between them. I do now hereby appoint my sd. w. Mary my sole executrix of this my Last Will and Testament hereby revoking all former Wills and Testaments made by me.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 21st day of April 1831.
Lemuel Birthright Signed, published in the presence of: Elijah W. Staton
Acknowledged in the presence of: Montgomery C. Birthright, Jno. D. Black State of TN Rutherford Co. Court, February term 1832 testament of Lemuel Birthright decd., was proved in open Court at the above term by the oath of Jno. D. Black and Montgomery Birthright, subscribing witnesses thereto and ordered to be recorded. Recorded 26 Apr 1832 Jno. Laughlin
An inventory of the property belonging to the Estate of Lemuel Birthright, Deceased.
1 Negro man named Labiam, 1 Negro woman named Amy,1 Negro girl named Phebe, 1 Negro girl named Mary, 1 Negro boy named Hiram,1 Negro boy named Christopher, 1 Negro boy named Caswell, 1 Negro boy named Gabriel, 2 beds and 2 bedstead, 1 Bureau, 1 Table, 1 1/2 dozen setting chairs, 1 horse saddle and bridle, 1 shot gun, 1 Dutch oven, 1 Pot, 1 large iron kettle, 1 small _____, 2 pole axes, 4 breeding hogs, 1 set wedges, 3 augers, 4 chissels, 3 ____ and 2 stocks, 1 hand saw, 2 pr. ____ _____, 1 set cups and saucers, 2 peuter dozen plates, 1 set knives and forks, 1 set tea spoons, 1 set table _____, 1 teapot, 4 dishes, 2 salt sellers, 1 looking glass, 1 _____ plow, 1 _____, 1 washing tub, 1 pail, 1 can, 1 coffee pot, 7 head hogs, ____ calf
Polina Birthright, Administrator
Recorded 16 Nov 1832