A Kerchief and a Corncob Pipe
A Kerchief and a Corncob Pipe


Sandra Nipper Ratledge

What is known of our Scottish roots? The McDonald line has been traced to an ancestor born in the eighteenth century, between 1774 and 1784, named Anguish McDonald. Sometimes, his name is spelled Anguis McDaniel or McDonnell, and he is said to have been a native of either Scotland or Ireland. However, the surname derivation is Scottish in origin and probably stems from the age-old McDonald Clan. It is believed he died in the United States about 1828; however, very few facts are known about the obscure history of this man.

About 1815 just after the last war with England, he wed Sarah "Sally" Blythe, born about 1800 in Buncombe County, North Carolina to Jonathan and Annie Blythe, pioneers in the southwestern section of the state. Afterwards, Anguish and Sarah resided primarily in Franklin, county seat of Macon County, North Carolina where at least three of their five children were born. His widow remained there until about 1864 when she joined her two elder sons, Jonathan and James Lewis McDonald, who were then residents of Hanging Dog, Cherokee County, North Carolina. More data has been found about Sarah than about Anguish since she lived well into the nineteenth century when more written records were required by the government.

The oldest of their five children was born April 28, 1816, in Habersham County, Georgia and named Jonathan in honor of her father. Twenty-two years later, he married Harriet M. Davidson on October 7, 1838. Soon after Cherokee County was formed in 1839 from Macon County, Jonathan and his new wife joined pioneer white settlers near Grape Creek in the mountainous western region of the state. There Harriet died on July 29, 1856, following childbirth. He later remarried Catherine "Catie" (Taylor) Panther, Felix Panther's widow. Although he had no offspring by Catie, Jonathan fathered seven in his first marriage. An account of this line is preserved in Our Heritage the People of Cherokee County, North Carolina.

When Tennessee fell to an occupying Union Army, Jonathan joined Company H of the Third Tennessee Mounted Infantry Regiment, USA. An account of these terrifying times and Catie's bravery in fending off the bushwhackers with her iron skillet can be found in another of my websites called 3rd Tennessee Mounted Infantry Regiment, USA. As our nation was divided, so were its families. His youngest brother, Jephthah Marion McDonald, had enlisted as a private in Company A of the 29th North Carolina Regiment in the Confederacy.

Jephthah, or "Bud" as he had been nicknamed by his siblings, fought in the Battle of Chickamauga, a virtual bloodbath in Georgia. There he was captured and then transferred to a dreadful Union prison campsite called Camp Douglas in Illinois. While in the tight confines and with only latrine ditches for sanitation, he contracted smallpox and died on December 13, 1864. He was buried in the Confederate section of Oakwoods Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois. He was probably dumped with other corpses en masse and buried. Countless scores of prisoners died of smallpox or perished from the various raging epidemics. He was believed to have been unmarried and left no known descendants in his brief thirty-four years.

The only daughter of Anguish and Sarah was born second on August 29, 1819 and named Sarah to honor her mother. She, too, was later given the pet name "Sally." Residing in the remote mountains along Hanging Dog Creek in Cherokee County, Sally McDonald reared her own family of seven youngsters, five girls and two boys. She was their sole means of support, yet she brought six to adulthood. Although no marriage records have been found, Harley McLoud is said to be the father of the older daughters. Sarah used the McLoud surname for some time as did these girls while the younger four chilren used McDonald as their last name. Along with their mother, all six are interred at Hanging Dog Baptist Church Cemetery. There Sally's tombstone still stands with its epitath bearing witness to her lifetime of struggles. It is inscribed, "I fought the good fight/ Thou keep the faith."

Anguish and Sarah's third and middle child was born in Macon County, North Carolina on August 11, 1821, and named James Lewis McDonald. He was later nicknamed "Jim." On April 30, 1838, at only sixteen years of age, Jim enrolled in the US Army to assist with the Indian Removal. He joined the Third Regiment of North Carolina Militia, was mustered in on May 1, 1838, and was asssigned to Captain Thomas M. Angel's Company F. During his military service, he became well-acquainted with John N. Deaton, an ensign for Company F. 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, he and Jemima "Mima" Lavina Deaton were pronounced man and wife by J. H. McLoud. She was the daughter of John N. Deaton and his first wife, Sarah McKinney. Jim and Mima enjoyed a long marriage of more than fifty-seven years, and they were memorialized in a portrait that hung in their home at Hanging Dog for many years. Jim inherited the longevity of his grandfather, Jonathan Blythe, and lived ninety-five years. He died in the home of his daughter, Harriet Graves, at Grandview, Cherokee County, North Carolina. His death certificate stated cause of death as "old age - worn out." I have written an account of their lives called "The James and Jemima McDonald Story." They were my maternal great-great-great-grandparents.

The fourth child born to Anguish and Sarah was David William McDonald, my paternal great-great-great-grandfather. He was born in Franklin, Macon County, North Carolina on November 15, 1825, and nicknamed "Bill." He also enlisted with the US military; and since all four sons were military men, it seems likely that their father Anguish McDonald may also have served in the military. At twenty-one years of age on July 27, 1846, Bill enlisted at Franklin, North Carolina as a private in Captain William T. Sherman's Company D of the Third Regiment US Artillery under Commander William Gates in the War with Mexico. Information about his military experience and how he met his wife, Rachel Mariah McNeil, can be found in a story called, "Bonnie Lass by the Well." An account of his interment was written by his great-great-great-great-grandson Shane Ratledge and called, "The Corpse That Grew a Beard." Other stories about his adventures and descendants will be accessible from his family group record.

Decades after her death, descendants fondly remembered Sarah (Blythe) McDonald as always wearing a kerchief about her head and smoking a corncob pipe. Over the years, these simple items became as symbolic of her as any trademark. Now, although no known photograph of her remains, a kerchief and a corncob pipe help descendants to picture her. Just imagine her sitting on the front porch and stringing beans into a wooden trencher on her lap. What stories she may have shared as she pulled strings and snapped the green beans! In her eighties, she lived alone in an old log cabin on Blackwell Mountain about five miles north of Murphy. Hanging Dog Road winds up this mountain. Although she loved her pipe and thoroughly enjoyed tobacco, it eventually resulted in her death in 1887. According to a great-granddaughter Willie (McDonald) Johnson formerly of Hanging Dog, fire in the pipe set her house ablaze. It was Sarah's misfortune that the fire resulted in her own death. Yet, she had lived a very long and interesting life of about eighty-seven years and survived the calamitous Civil War. With great saddness, her loved ones are believed to have buried her in the consecrated grounds of Hanging Dog Baptist Church, about a half mile from where her log cabin had once stood. However, no engraved tombstone can be found to memorialize her.

by Sandra (Nipper) Ratledge, great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Anguish and Sarah (Blythe) McDonald

This story is based on personal research into available records and on information from cousins and researchers Marjorie McDonald, Page Wester, and Bill Allen. Their help is most gratefully acknowledged.

©1999--present year by Sandra N. Ratledge. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any reproduction or inclusion of this website's contents in publication whether online or in print is prohibited. Do NOT copy photographs and upload on Find a Grave or any other internet websites, blogs, attach to family trees, or print in publications. Do NOT copy stories, articles, documents, sketches, anecdotes, letters, obituaries, content data, etc. and attach to family trees or upload on other websites of any kind.

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

Sandra Ratledge

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