James and Jemima McDonald Story
James and Jemima McDonald's Story


Sandra Nipper Ratledge

Way, way high up in the remote, rugged mountains of Hanging Dog in beautiful Cherokee County, North Carolina, my McDonald ancestors lived for decades. James Lewis McDonald, my maternal great-great-great-grandfather, was born August 11, 1821, in mountainous Macon County, North Carolina and died in Cherokee County, North Carolina on November 26, 1916. He was the third child and second son born to Anguish McDonald and wife Sarah "Sallie" Blythe of Macon County. They called him "Jim." His expressive eyes were brown; his hair, black; and complexion, dark. His frame was thin and wiry.

At only sixteen years of age, Jim enrolled in the US Army on April 30, 1838, for six months service, to assist with the Indian Removal. He joined the Third Regiment of North Carolina Militia, was mustered in on May 1, 1838, at Franklin, county seat of Macon County, and was assigned to Captain Thomas M. Angel's Company F under Colonel Lindsay. He served during what was known as the "Cherokee Disturbance of 1838."

During Jim's military duty, he became well-acquainted, no doubt, with John N. Deaton, Ensign in Company F. Perhaps, their comradery led him to the Deaton home in Macon County where he met John's daughter Jemima, whose name was commonly shortened to "Mima" or "Mimie." It is not known exactly how events worked out, but he wed Ensign Deaton's daughter following his return to Franklin.

On April 9, 1840, in Macon County, North Carolina, Jim and Jemima "Mima" Lavina Deaton were pronounced man and wife by J. H. McLoud. She was born December 17, 1822, to John N. Deaton and his first wife, Sarah McKinney, Macon County residents during the 1840s. After his wife's death, John Deaton married second to Sarah "Sally" Reid and moved to Union County, Georgia by 1850 and later to Towns County, Georgia. Although enumerated on the 1860 Cherokee County census as born in Yancy County, North Carolina, Mima was born in Buncombe County since Yancey County was not established until 1833, eleven years after her birth. However, her birthplace was probably in the confines of what would later be named Yancey.

Among the earliest post-Civil War court records is J. L. McDonald's commission on August 14, 1865, as Justice of the Peace for Cherokee County. As such, he was required to administer an amnesty oath to Hanging Dog and Beaver Dam residents. All were neighbors and acquaintances for he had lived there since his marriage except for two years spent in Georgia. Most of his adulthood was spent farming in Cherokee County where he moved sometime in the 1840s. There, he joined his oldest sibling Jonathan A. and wife Harriet (Davidson) McDonald, pioneer white settlers along Grape Creek in the mountainous western region of the state. Jonathan and his new bride had set up housekeeping soon after Cherokee County was formed in 1839 from lands formerly a part of Macon County. Jonathan is enumerated in 1840 on Cherokee County's first census.

All of Jim and Mima's ten children were born in Cherokee County except, Newton "Newt," DeKalb McDonald born in Morganton, Loudon County, Tennessee. Besides youngest child Newt who married Savannah H. Moreland, their children included the following in order of birth: Sarah Melissa McDonald, wife of James William Dockery and later Benjamin "Ben" W. Killian; Elizabeth Lourena "Lou" McDonald, wife of James "Jim" Mitchell Davis ; William Marion McDonald (never married) ; Martha Leoma McDonald, wife of William Riley Dockery; Mary Ann McDonald, wife of George Washington "Wash" Davis; Harriet Tabitha McDonald, wife of John Edward Graves; Jonathan "John" Kimsey McDonald who married Malinda Ian Sherrill; Alfred Cornelius McDonald who married Amanda "Mandy" Sherriff; and Jephthah Joab "Jep" McDonald who married Sarah Lourena "Raney" Roberts.

Their daughters Mary Ann and Elizabeth Lourena "Lou" McDonald married the Davis brothers, "Wash" and "Jim," sons of Reason and Sevilla Davis, also residents of Hanging Dog. Offspring of these two McDonald sisters and the two Davis brothers were double first cousins and remained close through their lives in spite of Wash and Mary Ann's move to Bell Town in Monroe County, Tennessee and later to Liberty Hill in McMinn County, Tennessee. Wash and Mary Ann (McDonald) Davis are my great-great-grandparents. Their daughter America "Merky" Sevilla Davis and her husband James Wesley "Bob" Hampton are my maternal great-grandparents; they resided at Liberty Hill in McMinn County down the road from Wash and Mary Ann (McDonald) Davis's home located at the juncture of Liberty Hill Road and Burger Branch.

J. L. McDonald was granted an Indian War survivor pension on August 28, 1893. That stipend became a great boon as age progressed and health deteriorated making him unable to earn a livelihood. Mima died on September 13, 1903, in Cherokee County, and he survived her by thirteen years, two months, and thirteen days. Together, they enjoyed a long marriage of more than fifty-seven years. They were memorialized in a portrait that hung in their home at Hanging Dog in Cherokee County for many years.

Beloved by grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Jim was regarded as a kind man even into old age. His great-granddaughter Mamie (Johnson) Stevens remembered him as "the sweetest old man." She recalled a time from her childhood many years earlier when her Great-grandpa McDonald saw her break the strings on her uncle's banjo but would not tell on her. Instead, he told her parents he did not know who did that. She had been so relieved and said he "saved her from getting a whippin'!"

Without doubt, Jim inherited longevity from his maternal grandfather, Jonathan Blythe, because he lived nine and a half decades. He died in the home of his daughter, Harriet Graves, at Grandview, Cherokee County, North Carolina where he resided from May 1914. When he became bedridden, Harriet, her husband John, and their son Robert Graves cared for him. Later, on December 13, 1916, John E. Graves of Grandview applied to Cherokee County, North Carolina Superior Court for reimbursement of his father-in-law's last expenses, i.e $5.00 for medicine, $120.00 for nursing and care, and $28.00 for undertaker's costs, a total of $153.00. Apparently, an application was admissible for an invalid ex-soldier. He was buried in the hallowed grounds of Hanging Dog Baptist Church Cemetery beside Mima's grave. Both old and newer tombstones mark their gravesite.

There was no attending physician's statement attached to John Graves's application for reimbursement because none was summoned. The death certificate stated "no physician in attendance" and cause of death "old age - worn out." The informant was J. S. Dockery of Murphy, North Carolina. In fact, Grandpa McDonald had lived ninety-five years. During that span, he witnessed our country engage in five wars and emerge victorious. Myriad were his experiences. Innumerable are his descendants.

Many, many thanks to Cousin Page (Pearson) Wester for help with researching the McDonald lines! Page is a cousin to both my husband and to me through different lines. She has been an invaluable help over these many years!

This site is dedicated to the memory of my parents, Tommy and Beulah (Cline) Nipper.

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Sandra Ratledge

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