* CAL’S COLUMN *
Perhaps some reader whose ancestor may be mentioned in these columns feels that the writer is endeavoring to throw off on those long dead or on living descendants, in writing some of the things that have happened in the long ago. Nothing is further from the truth than such an idea. We have no desire whatever to drag down any person, living or dead; but sometimes in giving facts of their lives, we may appear to have such a desire. We want to assure you that such is not true. We had in our last paper some thing about the life of our own great-great-grandfather, Bry Gregory, that might not have been to his credit. But surely no one would think that we want to throw off on “Old Daddy Bry,” or as he called himself, “Old Cuff.” We mean to give merely some of the highlights of the past and things that, we hope, will be of interest to our readers.
While we are writing of Bry, we might add that he was born in Chatham County, North Carolina, about 1762 or 1763, and that he entered the American Revolution at the age of 18 years, when he was a giant of a young man, weighing then 214 pounds. He left his home in Central North Carolina in 1791 and came to William Nixon Hollow, below Pleasant Shade. His wife’s given name was Elizabeth, but this is all we know of her. We are descended from this man through his daughter, Bettie who married her own cousin, Big Tom Gregory. Big Tom and his wife were the parents of 14 sons and daughters, 10 daughters and four sons. Our father’s mother, Sina Gregory, was one of the ten daughters. She married our namesake and grandfather, Stephen Calvin Gregory, her third cousin; and one of the ten children born to them was our own father, Thomas M. Gregory, known as Dopher Gregory. Big Tom and Bettie’s last surviving daughter, Aunt Jane Bennett, died only a few years ago. About 1914 we secured the names of the descendants of this pioneer couple, Big Tom and Bettie Gregory. They had 14 children, 142 grandchildren, 565 great-grandchildren, 775 great-great-grandchildren and 100 great-great-great-grandchildren and this made Aunt Jane the actual aunt of about 1,500 persons. Of the 142 grandchildren, all are now dead except nine. It has fallen to our lot to conduct funeral services for perhaps 40 or more of these grandchildren. Of the 14 sons and daughters, 13 married and reared families of their own. One son, Gabriel Gregory, went off to the Mexican War and died, being buried somewhere in Old Mexico. The 13 sons and daughters had an average of 11 children. Of these, there are now left only two groups, four of them being the daughters of Ambrose Gregory, one of the sons, and the other five being the son and four daughters of Aunt Jane Bennett.
Bry was pensioned as a soldier of the Revolutionary War perhaps about 1820, according to some old records in Nashville. His wife died before her husband who was thus alone in some measure. The old man about 1840 deeded to William Parkhurst, “to care for his during his natural lifetime,” the following property as is recorded at Carthage: “One mare and yearling colt, one sow and seven shoats, ten barrels of corn, all my notes and accounts, one log chain, six knives and forks, one patent clock, one writing desk, one weeding hoe, one sprouting hoe, one froe, one axe,” and perhaps a few other items. It has been many years since we read this old record and naturally part of it has slipped away from us. A few years after this deed was made by the old man, he was on a visit to a friend or relative, who lived in a little house that once sat on the side of Frog Branch of Nickojack Branch of Peyton’s Creek, just below the present home of Mrs. George Earps. A winter thunderstorm arose and lightning struck close to the house. Old Bry went to the door, raised his arm in defiance of the Almighty, ripped out a big oath, cursed God and called on Him to “Try Old Cuff a pop.” The words had hardly left the old man’s lips when lightning struck him and he fell into the yard. His shoes torn from his feet and the old man struck dead in a moment of time. It is needless to add that this dreadful end to a man 85 years of age had a very sobering effect on others who might have been inclined to trifle with the Almighty. He was buried in a cemetery at the present home of Robert Earps, about half a mile down the valley, but we have never been able to locate the grave for no monument marks the last resting place of this man who fought with his father, Thomas Gregory, and his brother, William Gregory in the early struggle of the United States to attain its independence from the mother country.
Our last article closed with the death of old Bry’s son, Ansil, a youth of 16 years, at the cave on Upper Peyton’s Creek. Pursuing our course down this stream, we note a number of other events. Only a few hundred yards from where young Gregory was killed by a falling tree. Another youth, Mordecai Gregory, was fatally injured by the accidental discharge of a shotgun in the hands of another youth. This occurred about 45 years ago. The youth who lost his life was the son of Mr. And Mrs. Peyton Gregory, who later moved to the vicinity of Lafayette, buying a farm near Brattontown. This youth’s life could have perhaps been saved in people then had known how to cord a leg to prevent bleeding to death. By the time a doctor arrived, the youth was too far gone to live. He was shot in the leg above the knee, the bone being broken and a large blood vessel or artery being severed. Peyton Gregory, the son of William H. Gregory, a brother of Bry Gregory.
A mile further down the creek from where young Gregory lost his life from the falling tree, another event of the long ago had its inception. Our good friends, Carse Smith, now lives on the old farm which during the Civil War, was occupied by Arch Jenkins, who married one of our distant relatives, a Miss McDuffee. Arch enlisted in the Federal Army and had come home sick and disabled. Before he had had time to regain his health, several of the guerrillas that were numerous at that time, came down off the high hill to the rear of the house. Their leader was Buck Smith, perhaps the most noted or shall we say? the most notorious, of all the guerrillas that infested North Middle Tennessee. He had entered the Southern Army at the tender age of 16 and had been discharged later when his correct age was ascertained. He had had enough of army life to make him like it and when he came home, he felt it was his duty to punish those whose sympathies were with the North or those who had enlisted in the United States Army. Consequently he was on the lookout for Jenkins. In spite of all Jenkins’ protests, Smith and his cohorts carried Jenkins away from his wife and children, who were never to see him alive again. A rope was placed about the neck of Jenkins and he was led from home on down Peyton’s Creek on foot while his tormentors were on their swift horses. Jenkins was led down by the present Pleasant Shade, thence to Graveltown, two miles further south, and there the party turned off the main stream and went up the “Bishop Hollow.” At the very head of this valley there lived a man named Knight. Here the party halted and Smith demanded that Mrs. Knight prepare a meal for him and his gang. She did this, finding time when the guerrillas were not looking to tell Jenkins he had better get away as she was sure that he was going to be killed. Jenkins encountered his danger and also added that he could not hope to escape as he was too sick to be able to escape by fleeing or running. After eating, Buck Smith and the remainder of the gang took Jenkins to the top of the hill above the old Knight place, and we have seen the old home a number of times, and then proceeded to slay Jenkins, whose only fault was that he had been in the Union Army. Smith made Jenkins mount a stump on the very top of the ridge that divides the waters of Peyton’s Creek from those of Defeated Creek. Then at the point of a gun, Jenkins was forced to crow like a rooster and was then shot off the stump by Smith, who left his body to lie where it fell, disdaining even to letting Jenkins’ family know of his fate.
Days later a man named West, who resided on the Defeated Creek side of the ridge, saw buzzards about the top of the hill and investigated, finding the bones of Jenkins, the flesh having been eaten away by the vultures. He managed to get word to Jenkins’ family, who went to the scene and identified him as the missing husband and father, identification being made by his shoes which had remained intact. The bones were gathered together and carried to the present Will Gregory Cemetery, near Sycamore Valley, this county where they laid him to rest. His wife was the former Miss Polly McDuffee. This man ruthlessly killed by Smith and his gang, was the father of: Betty, married a Thomason and went to Missouri; George, also went to Missouri: Calloway, who married an Austin; John, Gilbert and Norman Jenkins. Gilbert Jenkins died only a few years ago on Defeated Creek at a ripe old age. The above account of the death of his father was given the writer by Gilbert Jenkins in person.
Later we hope to tell some more of the life and deeds of Buck Smith and of his death, which occurred in February, 1865, on the waters of Goose Creek, and only a few weeks before the end of the Civil War.