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The Smiths in North Carolina

The Smiths in Georgia

Robert Hiram Smith and Elizabeth Hawkins

Notes

 

 

This is part of a series of historic structure reports on the historic architecture of Georgia and the Southeast by Tommy H. Jones. It is posted here for educational purposes only and may not be used or reproduced for commercial purposes or without the express permission of the author.

 

 

 

The first sure records concerning Tullie Smith’s family date to the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Beyond that, the general turmoil of passing generations, courthouse fires, revolution, and civil war have left little with which to reconstruct a family's history although a beginning can be made in knowing that the Smiths were part of the great migration of Scotch-Irish that pioneered the backcountry of the Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia in the eighteenth century.

The particulars of the immigration of Tullie’s ancestors to America have not been documented. Charles H. "Bill Arp” Smith, the noted Southern author and humorist (but no known relation to Tullie Smith’s family), recognized the problem facing many family researchers, especially if the name being searched is “Smith.” In 1892, in an address entitled “The Georgia Cracker,” Smith told the Fourth Congress of the Scotch-Irish Society of America gathered at Atlanta, “There is but one trouble about anybody and everybody being Scotch-Irishmen, and that is the broken links.” Even his own grandfather Smith “never could trace his ancestry further back than the Revolution and so I cannot tell whether I am lineally descended from the Smiths of England or Scotland.” Nevertheless, he said, “I am content with having descended from some of the Smiths who were detailed in old Norman times to do the fighting and smite the enemy,” adding that “in latter days they became the smiters of iron and other metals, and were called blacksmiths, goldsmiths, silversmiths, gunsmiths, locksmiths, and many other smiths, including John.”[1]

 

The Scotch-Irish

Tullie’s ancestors could have been, and perhaps some were, among the English colonists who settled the eastern seaboard from the Carolinas to New England in the seventeenth century and whose descendants moved south and west in the eighteenth century. Most likely, however, most of her ancestors were part of the flood of Scotch-Irish immigrants who settled western Pennsylvania and the southern Piedmont in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Certainly, the community in Rutherford County, North Carolina, that founded Brittain Presbyterian Church, where many Smith ancestors are buried, consisted primarily of Scotch-Irish settlers from Pennsylvania and Virginia. The preponderance of evidence suggests that Tullie's ancestors were among those earliest settlers.[2]

The Scotch-Irish were typically Presbyterian, although many turned to the Baptists and Methodists in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Smiths, too, were Presbyterian and carried their Presbyterianism with them wherever they went. Through generations at Brittain Presbyterian Church in Rutherford County, North Carolina (organized 1768); at Decatur in DeKalb County, Georgia (organized 1825); at La Grange in Troup County, Georgia (organized 1834); and at Rock Springs in Fulton County, Georgia (organized 1868), the Smiths remained consistently Presbyterian. If their relative wealth, at least in terms of land and often in terms of cash as well, set them apart from many of their neighbors in nineteenth-century Georgia, so too did the denomination of their churches.

 

Ulster

One of the four provinces of Ireland, Ulster was the site of the earliest human settlement of the island and the site of the last refuge of the Gaelic Irish in their centuries-long struggle against the English crown. The vicious Nine Years' War, ending with the Flight of the Earls in 1601, finally brought all of Ireland under English control and left much of Ulster in ruins and depopulated. To fill the void and rebuild, King James I issued the “Great Charter” establishing his “plantation at Ulster” in April 1604, and by 1611, the Crown had granted 81,000 acres on condition that the grantee bring "forty-eight able men of the age of eighteen or upwards, being born in England or the inward parts of Scotland" for each 2,000 acres received.[3]

Figure 1. A 1991 map of Northern Ireland, which includes six of the nine counties of Ulster, illustrating the centuries-old religious divide that began with King James' plantation in the first decade of the seventeenth century. (Wikipedia)

The colony, many from the Scottish Lowlands and the Borders, with a few English farmers, Londoners, and native Irish, prospered and, by 1640, had attracted upwards of 100,000 immigrants to Ulster. Nearly all of the Scots were Presbyterian and many of the English immigrants were Puritan—all Calvinist and with a strongly individualistic tradition behind them. Even French Huguenots, also Calvinist, immigrated after 1685 and were quickly absorbed into the Presbyterian Church.

Ultimately, the colony proved too competitive for some interests and the government began to place restrictions on exports from Ulster in 1663. In addition, by the end of the seventeenth century, large numbers of the land leases were coming up for renewal and, in an effort to recoup some of their losses from the Glorious Revolution of 1688, landlords were demanding much higher rents to renew the leases. That began cycles of "rack-renting" whereby rents were raised dramatically each time the lease was renewed.

Finally, drought and famine in the early 1700s made conditions ripe for the “Great Migration” that began in 1717 with the first of five great waves of Protestant emigration from Ulster to America. Over the next 70 years, as many as 250,000 emigrated to America.[4] Archbishop William King described the situation in 1719 just after the first emigrants left for America:

The truth of the case is this: after the Revolution [of 1688-89], most of the Kingdom was laid waste, & abundance of the people destroyed by the war; the landlords therefore were glad to get tenants at any rate, & set their lands at very easy rents; they invited abundance of people to come over here, especially from Scotland, & they have lived here very happily ever since; but now their leases are expired, & they [are] obliged not only to give what was paid before the Revolution, but in most places double & in many places treble, so that it is impossible for people to live or subsist on their farms.[5]

Most references to "Irish" in eighteenth-century America refered to these Protestant immigrants from Ulster. By the mid-nineteenth century, when famine drove hundreds of thousands of Catholic Irish to America, the descendants of the Ulster Protestnats that immigrated before the Revolution were calling themselves Scotch-Irish.

 

Colonial America

For the vast majority of these immigrants, the destination was one of the Delaware River ports—Philadelphia, Chester, or New Castle. From there, they and the German Protestants, who were immigrating from Holland around the same time, quickly settled the rich Susquehannah River valley, but the Scotch-Irish were "not succeeding so well . . . as the more frugal and industrious Germans,” noted one contemporary observer. As a result, the Scotch-Irish frequently “sell their lands in that province to the [Germans], and take up new ground in the remote counties in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina."[6]

Figure 2. Fry and Jefferson's map of Virginia and Maryland, "with part of Pensilvania [sic], New Jersey, and North Carolina" in 1751. This is the first map to denote the "Great Wagon Road," showing its route from Philadelphia down the Valley of Virginia to its then terminus in the North Carolina piedmont. (Library of Congress)

By the 1730s, the Great Wagon Road was the route taken by most of the Scotch-Irish in their search for a new home. Crossing the Potomac at Williamsport, Maryland, where it was sometimes possible to ford the river, the road passed down the Valley of Virginia, through Winchester and Staunton, where so many Scotch-Irish had settled by 1739 that the area was called the Irish Tract. Leaving the Valley with the Staunton River, the road ran south toward Salisbury, North Carolina, and on to Camden, South Carolina, where it initially terminated. But well before the Revolution, there were major branches to the road, one running along the Fall Line from Charlotte to Augusta and another from Salisbury, North Carolina, across the upper Piedmont into the Ninety-Six District in western South Carolina.

Leapfrogging over earlier settlements, the Scotch-Irish pushed further and further into the wilderness. From Pennsylvania to Georgia, it was usually the Scotch-Irish who lived closest to the frontier, wherever it was, blazing the way for those who followed. In contrast to the Germans, who may have been more likely to settle in one place, the Ulster immigrants seemed always restless and ready to move. As one commentator noted, they “seem to have had a psychological repugnance to making permanent homes until they had moved several times.” Thus, long before the valleys of western Pennsylvania were fully settled, many of the Scotch-Irish who had settled there had, “for one reason or another—or for no reason at all, so far as observers could perceive—moved on down the Great Valley of Virginia, and thence into the Carolinas.”[7]

The winter of 1739-1740 was particularly bitter in Ulster and precipitated another wave of emigrants, many of whom completed settlement of the Shenandoah Valley and began their conquest, as it were, of the Carolina Piedmont. By 1753, there were, perhaps, fifteen thousand settlers, “for the most part Irish Protestants and Germans, and daily increasing,” according to Matthew Rowan, President of the North Carolina State Council.[8] Tullie Smith’s third-great-grandfather John Smith might easily have been a part of that number. Within a generation, these people would spread their settlements in every direction across the Carolina Piedmont and into eastern Georgia so that, by the time of the American Revolution, perhaps one American in ten was of Scotch-Irish descent.

During the Revolution, the Scotch-Irish formed the backbone of the colonial forces in the South. They had led the Regulator movement in North Carolina in the 1760s, culminating in one of the first skirmishes in the war when they battled Royal forces at Alamance in May 1771. And, in May 1775, it was the Scotch-Irish of Mecklenberg County, North Carolina, who made the first colonial declaration of independence from the Crown.[9]

Figure 3. Detail from Mouzon's map of North and South Carolina, published in 1775, annotated with arrow indicating the approximate area on the upper reaches of the First Broad River where Tullie's ancestor John Smith began buying property in 1776. (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

Colonial successes at Kings Mountain in October 1780, where Tullie’s 3rd-great-grandfather William Roberson was wounded, and at Cowpens in January 1781, and in many other battles and skirmishes on the southern frontier owed much to the efforts of the Scotch-Irish. [10] In them were found few of the conflicting interests that made Tories out of many of their more comfortable Anglican neighbors.

 

North Carolina

The westernmost branch of the Great Wagon Road ran generally southwestward from Salisbury, North Carolina, and by the 1750s, provided the white settlers a ready route to the foothills of the Blue Ridge in western South Carolina. With the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, the Catawbas and other Native American tribes of the Carolina Piedmont were driven on to “reserves” or exterminated entirely as the white “frontier” expanded relentlessly. In the western Carolinas, settlement was made easier by the fact that the land appeared to the European settlers largely uninhabited west of the Catawba River. Only much further south and west, near the upper reaches of the Savannah and Tennessee Rivers, were the several towns of the Cherokee.

Into this perceived void rushed the land-hungry pioneers, some recent Scotch-Irish immigrants, but also many earlier settlers, including some of Tullie’s ancestors, from western Pennsylvania and the Shenandoah Valley who sought to escape the Indian depredations that were ravaging the countryside there.[11] A few were of English heritage from Virginia and the eastern part of North Carolina, seeking to improve on the already deteriorating land there or younger sons of planters who by the tradition of primogeniture were left to seek their fortune as they might.

The first land grants west of the Catawba River were made in 1754, but the turmoil of the French and Indian War delayed real settlement until the mid-1760s. When Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, was organized in 1762, it encompassed an area from Charlotte to the Blue Ridge as well as much disputed territory in South Carolina. By 1769, the area was so thickly populated that the royal governor of North Carolina, William Tryon, organized a large area of what is now western North and South Carolina as Tryon County.

The disputed state boundary west of the Catawba was settled in 1772 and, in 1779, Lincoln County was organized out of the astern part of colonial Tryon County and Rutherford County out of the western part; the name of the royal governor was eliminated entirely. The 1780s were a period of tremendous growth in Rutherford County, especially after the end of the Revolution. The first permanent white settlement west of the Blue Ridge was established in 1785 and, by 1791, the area, which included Asheville, had become so heavily settled that a new county, Buncombe, was created.[12] The names of some of Tullie’s ancestors are found in the early records of both Rutherford and Buncombe Counties as are those of some other families who later pioneered DeKalb County, Georgia, including Willis, Suttles, and Medlock.

 

Figure 4. Four generations of Tullie Smith’s ancestors. (T. Jones, 1997)

 

The Smiths in North Carolina

John Smith and William Roberson, two of Tullie’s third-great-grandfathers, are her earliest recorded ancestors. Both appear in the early records of Rutherford County and Buncombe County. They likely were among the settlers in Rutherford County in the 1760s, and Robert Smith was probably born in the county about 1765. Until after the Revolution, the mountains of western North Carolina were the very edge of the white frontier.

John Smith was a relatively large land-owner for the area but as new lands to the south and west were opened after the Revolution, all of his children except one left North Carolina. Two went to Kentucky, another to Indiana, and two disappeared from the record entirely. John’s son Robert Smith married Elizabeth Roberson in 1789 and they raised a large family before her death in 1825. Subsequently, Robert moved to Georgia, where he appears to have remarried, and with two of his sons, William and Nathaniel, was one of DeKalb County’s early pioneers.

All of Robert and Elizabeth’s children grew to adulthood in North Carolina and the youngest son, Robert Hiram Smith, remained in North Carolina until the mid-1840s. The Smiths were prosperous enough that Nathaniel could be educated as a doctor and it may very well have been family money that provided William and the other sons with the “nest egg” that formed the foundation of their own personal success.

 

John Smith

For a genealogist, the name “John Smith” is a nightmare. The combination of the most common surname with the most common given name in a culture where all names are simple and are repeated generation after generation, as they often were, makes it unusual perhaps that Tullie’s lineage has been proven to her gr-gr-gr-grandfather John Smith, even if the details of his life remain of the barest sort.[13]

He was born before 1750, perhaps as early as 1740. His birthplace has not been recorded nor has the name of his wife with whom he had at least eight children.[14] Her maiden name may have been Black, which would account for the name of one of their grandsons, John Black Smith, who died in 1794. Black is also a name which appears in proximity to the Smiths in several documents, including the First Federal Census in 1790. John Smith and his family must have been in Rutherford County at least by the early 1770s, and he was certainly their when the Patriot militia marched through the county in 1780 on their way to defeating Tory militia at King’s Mountain, a few miles to the southeast.

Rutherford County deed records document John Smith’s several purchases of land in apparently adjoining parcels along the First Broad River in eastern Rutherford County between 1776 and 1785. Two of the four parcels were originally patented in the late 1760s and one in the 1770s; the last was patented to John Smith himself in 1783. Rutherford County deeds also record John Smith’s sale of one of the parcels to Robert Smith, “planter” and possibly his brother.[15]

In 1782, John Smith was listed on the tax rolls as owning 1,050 acres of land, eleven horses, and twenty-three cattle. Like the vast majority of his neighbors at that time, he had no slaves and indeed it appears that he never owned any. Slave ownership was not the norm either in western North Carolina or in the upper piedmont of South Carolina and Georgia. Even after the boom in cotton production created a corresponding demand for slaves after 1800, the smaller farmers here and in other areas of the upper piedmont were always less likely to own slaves than the larger planters in the lower piedmont and the coastal plain. Yet his ownership of over 1,000 acres made him one of the county’s largest land-owners, establishing a family tradition that his son and grandsons would build upon in Georgia.[16]

Figure 5. Detail from Price and Strother's map of North Carolina, 1808, showing Rutherford County and surrounding counties in the western part of the state. (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

 

The First Federal Census, in 1790, showed a national population of just under four million; it also provided one of the first reliable “snapshots” of the Smith family. Rutherford County was enumerated in fourteen “companies,” each representing convenient groupings of anywhere from 50 to 145 households. The total population of the county was 7,811, which included 609 slaves. The “Fifth Company,” where the Smiths were counted and which appears to have encompassed the First Broad River and its tributaries, counted 100 heads of household. Within these households were 97 “free white males of 16 years and upwards,” 139 males under 16, and 235 “free white females” of all ages. There were also 22 slaves listed in the “Fifth Company” census, a significantly lower proportion than for the county as a whole.[17]

Figure 6. Detail from 1790 Federal Census of Rutherford County, North Carolina.

In the 1790 census, John Smith is listed as head of a household of six, including himself. These included one other white male over 16 and one under 16, probably his sons—John and James—but possibly older family members or even boarders. Sons Robert, William, and Hugh must have already married and were also enumerated as being heads of household in the Fifth Company of Rutherford County. No age is given for the two white females but they may have been John Smith’s wife and one of his three daughters, perhaps Elizabeth.[18] Margaret appears to have already married a “Walburt”, perhaps one of the Wolberts [sic] listed in the Ninth Company in that census. The other daughter, whose name has been lost, married “Tom Miller” and may be listed with “Thom. Miller” in the census of neighboring Lincoln County.[19]

In 1800, John Smith and what were probably most of his children, including Robert Smith, appear in the census of Rutherford or neighboring Buncombe County. By 1810, the family may have already begun to disperse since Hugh Smith no longer appears in the Rutherford County census that year.

John Smith died in the spring of 1814. In his will, which was signed on March 7 and filed for probate on April 6, Smith directed the sale of “all my property that is the land I now occupy and my stock of hogs and cattle and all personal property.” The proceeds of the sale were “to be returned for the use of my beloved wife in her lifetime” and, after her death, “to be equally divided amongst all my children.” The single specific bequest was to his grandson Nathaniel Newton Smith, to whom he gave fifty dollars with the stipulation that it be taken “from his father’s part” of the estate.[20] He named as executor his “worthy friend James Smith,” who may have been his brother. The will was witnessed by William Smith, perhaps another brother, and James McFarland, member of a family that was numerous in the Smith’s neighborhood.[21]

John Smith’s family remains poorly documented, illustrating a pattern that is repeated over and over as one researches those who pushed the American frontier steadily westward in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Scotch-Irish penchant for moving coupled with the poor communication of the period insured that families, once separated, could rather quickly lose contact with one another.

In 1798, the South Carolina State Road was begun as a joint venture with Tennessee, which had entered the Union two years earlier. Built through the French Broad River valley along the western side of Rutherford County, it provided a convenient gateway into Tennessee, Kentucky, and the rapidly expanding frontier of the old Northwest Territories north of the Ohio River. Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and ongoing displacement of the Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw in the early 1800s, the pull of “the West” was irresistible and the Smiths, like many of their neighbors, moved on again.[22]

In 1859, in the course of trying to settle the estate of the widow of John Smith’s son “Major” James Smith, an attempt was made to locate the children of John Smith.[23] By that time, all were dead and descendants of only two of them—those of Robert, “who died in Georgia,” and those of one of his sisters, who were in Indiana—could be located. Major Smith himself apparently left no living children. Of sons Hugh, John, and William, it was noted that “two of these dec’d. in Kentucky” and that the other “has not been heard from for many years” and, in any case, had not “applied for any part of the Estate.”

As for the heirs of Elizabeth and Margaret, the documents state simply that “names and residence of all [are] unknown.” The court concluded that it was “impossible to say to whom and in what proportions the proceeds [of Major Smith’s estate] should rightfully be paid.”[24] Clearly, then, the Smiths continued the “Great Migration” that had started from Ulster a hundred years before and that helped settle not only the Piedmont of the Carolinas and Georgia but, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, also the rich farming land west of the mountains in Tennessee, Kentucky, and the old Northwest Territories

 

Robert Smith and Elizabeth Roberson

Of John’s son Robert, Tullie’s great-great-grandfather, we know a little more than his father, although again neither the exact date nor location of his birth. It was probably about 1765, perhaps about the time John Smith was moving his young family into Rutherford County.[25]

On 16 October 1789, Robert Smith married Elizabeth Roberson in Rutherford County.[26] She was the daughter of William Roberson, one of Rutherford County’s pioneers in the 1760s. Early members of Brittain Presbyterian Church, which was organized in 1768, the Robersons lived near the church and gave their name to one of the creeks in that area. William Roberson fought with the Patriots at King’s Mountain in 1780, a battle that was a major turning point in the war and that helped set the stage for Yorktown. Badly wounded, he was carried back to his home in Rutherford County on a cowhide stretcher that his descendants are said to have preserved. He died in 1803, leaving a will that named his wife, Jonathan Hampton, and his son-in-law Robert Smith as executors.[27]

Robert and Elizabeth Smith’s first child was born in 1790, just in time to appear in the census of that year.[28] He was named John Black Smith, in whose honor we do not know, although the Blacks, like the Robersons, were early pioneers in Rutherford County and neighbors of John Smith’s along the First Broad River.

Their second son, William R. Smith, was born about 1791. It is quite likely that his middle name was Roberson, in honor of his maternal grandfather. The Smith’s third son, James M. Smith, was born about 1795, followed by Nathaniel Newton Smith in 1799. Their fifth and final child was also a boy, born in 1802 and named Robert Hiram Smith.

Robert and Elizabeth Smith may have set up housekeeping near his father’s farm.[29] He along with Hugh and William Smith, who are likely his brothers, are all listed in the 1790 census of the Fifth Company of Rutherford County near the elder John Smith at his farm on the upper reaches of the First Broad River. Perhaps as early as 1794, when William Roberson sold some of his property along the Second Broad River, or after Roberson’s death in 1803, Robert Smith and his family acquired part of his father-in-law’s old property on Roberson’s Creek, southeast of Brittain Church, and moved there.[30]

Figure 7. Detail from 1810 Federal Census of Rutherford County, North Carolina.

 

The Smiths may have been living there when their eldest son, John Black Smith, died in August 1804. He was buried at Brittain Church, where his grandfather William Roberson had been buried the previous year. By then, the Smiths must have gained a certain amount of prosperity for Robert is listed in the 1810 census as owning five slaves. Although there were over a half million slaves in North Carolina in 1810, Rutherford County itself had less than 1,000 and most of the farmers there still did not own slaves. Smith was also enumerated with a loom, an item that was quite common in many households of the period. Homespun fabric was so important that the 1810 census inquired into the “quantity of yards of homespun annually made in the family” and requested its valuation. The Smiths made no listing of quantities or valuation, perhaps because all that was produced was for the family’s own consumption.

Considering the relative prosperity of the Smiths, at least in terms of slaves and land, it is interesting to note how their son Nathaniel’s childhood in Rutherford County in the early nineteenth century was characterized in later years. When he died in 1868, Nathaniel’s obituary stated that he was “born poor” and that “the only college to which his worthy father felt himself able to send his son was the old field school. He could only bequest young Nat with good principles, good habits, and prepare him to earn his living by the sweat of his brow.”[31] While that was all probably true relative to the wealth and status that Nathaniel later acquired, it overlooks the relative affluence of the Smiths when compared to most of their neighbors in the early nineteenth century.

“Old field schools” formed the beginnings of public education in the United States. Often located on worn-out fields, they were generally privately supported within the community, members of which would often donate the land, build the building, hire the teacher, and generally bear the expense of running the school. Students were typically those whose parents could afford to support the school, although many counties had poor school funds to support a few indigent scholars.[32] Although the old field school provided only an elementary education, that alone conferred an advantage that was recognized by Charles H. “Bill Arp” Smith who once said that “but for my town raising [in Lawrenceville, Georgia] and old field school education, I too would have made a very respectable cracker.”[33]

Whatever the limitations of education on the southern frontier, Robert Smith could both read and write, something his father apparently could not do.[34] He owned a number of books and, in fact, mentions them at three different points in his will. Sadly, the titles of the books were never inventoried but they did include “two large dictionaries.” Clearly, Robert Smith went well beyond the requirements of simple literacy and may have been unusually well-educated for that place and time.

In January 1816, two years after his father signed his own will, Robert Smith himself made a will of sorts, one of the strangest documents to surface in connection with the Smiths. Stating that “finding my business calls me to the Western Country,” he gave his property to his wife and sons, in whom he had “full confidence” that they would “secure this property with which it has pleased God to bless me.” He also ordered his wife “to deliver up to me upon receipt” of the will his “horse, bridle, [and] wearing clothes” as well as “one half the money we have on hand.” Robert Smith was probably then a man in his fifties or even early sixties and a will would have been in order. This document is not a will, however, but does suggest that a permanent separation was anticipated.[35]

The object of Robert’s journey in 1816 is not known, but he may have traveled to Tennessee or Alabama. The War of 1812 had ended in December 1814, and cessions by the Creek opened up large tracts of land in both states to public sale in 1816. Whatever his business or his intent in conveying his estate to his wife and sons, Robert was back in Rutherford County and listed with what is apparently the rest of his family in the 1820 census.

In 1820-21, Nathaniel attended Greeneville College (now Tusculum College) in Greeneville, Tennessee, where he served terms as president and treasurer of the Dialectic Adelphic Literary Society. His withdrawal from the Society in 1821 is recorded in their minutes but there is no record to indicate whether or not he graduated. According to his obituary, he received his medical degree “in Kentucky and Philadelphia”; a more recent source states that Smith received his degree from the medical college of Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky.[36]

By 1820, Robert and Elizabeth Smith’s four surviving children were all grown and away from home, if not yet married. With six slaves, he was probably still farming on Roberson’s Creek that year.[37] By late 1821, however, Robert had moved across the Blue Ridge to Buncombe County, North Carolina, probably southeast of Asheville. In December, as a resident of Buncombe County, he conveyed his farm on Roberson’s creek, which included a part of William Roberson’s old estate, to his sons William and Nathaniel, both of them then young men in their twenties.[38]

Robert’s wife Elizabeth is reported to have died in 1825 and been buried at Brittain Church, but a deed is recorded in Rutherford County that gives Robert Smith’s place of residence as Gwinnett County, Georgia, in August 1824.[39] In addition, there is a record of Robert Smith’s marriage to Rachel Anderson in Hall County in 1823. It is not at all certain that these Robert Smiths are all the same person but, if they are, then either he and Elizabeth divorced or her death date is recorded incorrectly. In addition, while we know from subsequent DeKalb County records that Robert’s second wife was indeed named Rachel, it should be noted that there were two Robert Smiths in Hall County at the same time, leaving open the possibility of confusion of the two.[40] Most likely, Elizabeth Smith died shortly after 1820 and her widowed husband moved to Georgia, where he remarried in 1823.

 

“Twenty-niners, Cherokees and Gold”

The Smiths in Rutherford County were on the leading edge of the western frontier of white settlement in the late eighteenth century and they would be so in DeKalb County in the early nineteenth century. Daniel Boone blazed the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky in 1775, opening a major route of settlement into the rich lands of the Ohio River valley. In 1792, Kentucky became the first new state admitted to the Union, followed by Tennessee in 1796. Within a generation, most of the continent east of the Mississippi and south of the Great Lakes had been at least partially settled, organized, and admitted to the Union as states.

By the time Missouri was joined the Union in 1821, most of the rich river valleys of the Tennessee, the Ohio, and the Mississippi had been pioneered, surveyed, platted, and organized into states. In the Piedmont uplands and the mountains of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, however, where the land did not lend itself as well to cultivation, the native Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, and other tribes were allowed to remain for a time as white settlement surged westward around them.

Figure 8. Map illustrating the removal of the Southeastern Indians from their lands in the 1820s and 1830s. (Wikipedia)

They did not coexist easily with the settlers, who often squatted on their land and ultimately drove them from it. A series of wars with the native inhabitants continued in the southeast into the 1830s. The Creek, who were the remnants of the earlier southeastern tribes that had been decimated by disease and war with the Spanish in the sixteenth century, did not make their final cession in Georgia until 1825 and then only moved west into Alabama. Not until the Cherokee were removed along with the remaining Creek in the infamous “Trail of Tears” in 1838 was all of north Georgia open to white settlement.

In 1829, gold was discovered in what was then Hall County, now Lumpkin County, in north Georgia. That event, more than any other, precipitated removal of the Native Americans from Georgia. Other significant gold deposits had already been discovered from Virginia to Alabama in the middle 1820s but the gold rush of “Twenty-Niners” in north Georgia was unprecedented and would not be matched till the huge gold strikes that sent legions of “Forty-Niners” to California twenty years later.

Although the Georgia Gold Rush occurred after the Smiths were already in Georgia, the first sure records of them in Georgia are from around that time. It is worth noting that gold had been discovered in Rutherford County as early as 1814 and that, by the late 1820s, numerous mines were in operation. An eyewitness recalled that:

“[i]n the sections in the northern part of Rutherford and adjoining communities in McDowell and Burke that are so pitted with holes left by the miners of so long ago that it is dangerous to walk in that region at night, [there] is the last bivouac of many a gallant soul that sought to find the pot of gold at the rainbow’s end.”[41]

A successful mine was not, however, the only way to profit from the lust for gold. According to one county historian, “during the ‘boom’ period of gold mining in Rutherford and adjoining counties, any land, showing even the slightest particles of gold, was sold or leased at a fancy price.”[42] Perhaps, for the Smiths, the sure profit to be made from selling their land made more sense than the potential riches from gold. Many of the miners in Rutherford County moved on to Georgia after 1829. In fact, one of the first discoveries of gold in Georgia was reported to have been by a slave from Rutherford County. Having just returned with his owner from the gold fields there, the slave had noticed the similarities between the gold-bearing soils of Rutherford County and those of the Nacoochee Valley in northeast Georgia and, upon testing, confirmed the presence of gold in Georgia.[43]

The first mines were established in Hall County (now Lumpkin County), Georgia, in the summer of 1829. This area proved to have the richest mines, but additional gold deposits continued to be discovered as far away as Villa Rica in Carroll County in 1830. That same year the Philadelphia mint received $212,000 from Georgia gold fields, a figure that exceeded $500,000 by the end of 1832. Three years later, Congress authorized a branch of the United States Mint in Dahlonega, which operated until the Civil War.

What followed the discovery of gold in 1829 was known, even at the time, as the “Great Intrusion,” with prospectors acting “more like crazy men than anything else” flooding into the Cherokee Nation northwest of the Chattahoochee River.[44] Georgia refused to abide by the U. S. Supreme Court’s decision in Worcester vs. Georgia (1832) affirmeing the integrity of the Cherokee Nation, and began distribution of the Cherokee “Gold Lands” north-west of the Chattahoochee by lottery in 1832 and 1833.[45]

Figure 9. Detail from Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge's map of Georgia, 1833. (Library of Congress)

 

Gold was even discovered in DeKalb County “in the vicinity of Rock Bridge” and on Nancy’s Creek, although little if any gold was ever actually mined in the county.[46] High hopes for easy fortunes also precipitated the short-lived Decatur Gold Mining Company, organized in 1830 to speculate in the new discoveries in Carroll County. There must have been few Georgians or Carolinians who escaped entirely the effects of “gold fever" in the early 1830s.[47] Certainly, the Smiths were a part of the early settlement of the last of the ceded lands in north Georgia in the 1820s and 1830s and participated in the turmoil of that era, even if gold mining was not their primary interest.

 

The Smiths in Georgia

Organized in 1822, DeKalb County was at the very edge of the white man’s “frontier” until the press of settlers over-ran the Cherokee Nation after 1829. As John Smith had helped settle old Tryon County, North Carolina, in the 1760s and 1770s, so his son Robert and grandsons William and Nathaniel helped settle DeKalb County, Georgia, in the 1820s and 1830s. The hardships were not the same, no doubt, as each generation had built on the successes of the last, and the family had moved a good deal beyond their illiterate pioneer roots. Dr. Nathaniel Smith practiced medicine in Decatur from about 1827 until he moved to La Grange, Georgia, around 1835. His first wife died in 1842 but he soon remarried, this time to a wealthy widow who contributed to the prosperity that he already enjoyed from a lucrative medical practice.

William R. Smith, the eldest of the Smith brothers, was an early and quite successful merchant in Decatur, where he lived from about 1827 until the mid-1840s. He owned extensive property in DeKalb County, including four contiguous land lots located on what is now N. Druid Hills Road, in which his father and step-mother had a life estate and which would be the site of the Tullie Smith House.[48]

The precise extent of the Smith family’s real-estate transactions can, unfortunately, no longer be documented since nearly all of DeKalb County’s early records were lost when the courthouse burned in 1842. They were large landowners, that much is certain. By the 1850s, Robert Hiram Smith owned at least six land lots encompassing over 1200 acres along the north and south forks of Peachtree Creek, some six miles northeast of Atlanta.

Figure 10. Detail from Morse and Breese's map of Georgia, 1842, made about the time that Robert Smith was building what would become known as the Tullie Smith House in DeKalb County. This map shows, incorrectly, the railroads converging on Decatur; in fact they converged on Atlanta, then known as Marthasville and not even shown on this map. (Author's Collection)

 

Dr. Nathaniel Newton Smith

Although Nathaniel Smith left the fewest traces in the public records of DeKalb County, he was certainly there by 1827, and probably lived in Decatur for a few years in the late 1820s and early 1830s.[49] Levi Willard, writing in 1879, reports that Dr. Smith bought the house “formerly owned by John Simpson and used as a tavern and boarding house, and lived in it for some years.”[50] This probably sat on the two town lots that Smith sold to William Ezzard in May 1842. Ezzard would later move to Atlanta and become that city’s mayor.[51]

Weaver’s twentieth-century history of DeKalb County doctors also places Nathaniel in DeKalb in the late 1820s when he noted that Dr. Smith had failed to appear at the 1827-28 session of the Board of Physicians in DeKalb County. The source of Weaver’s information is not known but he states that “the following year,” probably 1829, Dr. Nathaniel N. Smith did appear and got his “permanent license.”[52] He was probably in DeKalb County at least through January 1834 when his name was included on a list of potential grand jurors.[53]

Figure 11. Detail from 1860 Federal Census schedules for Troup County, Georgia, annotated with a red arrow to locate Dr. Nathaniel Smith.

Although he and his older brother William both owned property in Decatur, only William’s name appears in the 1830 census. Both of them were unmarried (William’s first wife was probably dead by that time) and the two men may have been sharing a household when the census was taken. Nathaniel may even have been living with his father, although because he was a doctor, residence in Decatur with his brother seems more likely.

Around 1835, Dr. Smith moved to LaGrange where he married a young widow, Alelujah B. Womack Rogers, whose first husband, Henry Rogers, a locally prominent builder, had died the year before. She brought her own wealth to the marriage, including ten slaves, and was one of three Womack sisters who married men who would be important figures in the history of LaGrange.[54] Their first child, Robert S. Smith, was followed by three sisters—Wiley, Anne and Aley—but the last birth, in October 1842, may have been difficult and Alelujah Womack Smith died a month later. With an infant and three other young children, Dr. Smith soon remarried, this time to Eliza S. McBride. Their marriage record has not been located but she may have been related to the large McBride family in Fayette County one of whom may have been the same Andrew McBride who was the original fortunate drawer in the 1820s for Land Lot 156 in DeKalb County, the land lot that would be the home lot for the Smith farm as it developed in the 1830s and 1840s.

Dr. Smith lived in LaGrange on Smith Street, which was posthumously named for him in 1889. Located on the northern edge of the original town limits, his was “a large two story home situated on 100 acres of beautiful grounds,” according to a local historian. He may have had other property as well since he was a relatively large slave holder. By 1860, he had sixteen slaves and held another twenty “in trust for minors,” presumably his children. He had amassed a significant fortune of $44,000 in personal property, much of which was probably the value of his slaves, and $8,000 in real estate.

His son Robert, by then a young man of 24, was a merchant in LaGrange and had $4,000 in personal property of his own.[55] When Dr. Nathaniel Smith died in December 1868, the local newspaper stated that he “had gained for himself the reputation of being an eminently learned and skillful physician [and] commanded an extensive practice.” It also noted that he had “accumulated a handsome independence—not to say fortune.”[56]

 

William R. “Long Billy” Smith

Of all the Smith brothers, William R. Smith appears to have come closest to true “planter” status, with numerous slaves and hundreds of acres in cultivation. By the time he died in 1865, he owned over 600 acres along the Etowah River just east of downtown Rome. Called “Long Billy” by some for the fact that he wore his long hair tied back in a pig-tail, Smith was a prominent figure in the early history of both Decatur and Rome.[57]

Levi Willard, writing in 1879, stated that William Smith came to Decatur in 1826, probably along with his brother Nathaniel.[58] Their mother had died in December 1825 and the brothers may have taken that occasion to follow their father to Georgia. If so, William appears to have left his wife and young son in North Carolina, where the latter died in 1828. Although he probably intended to send for them, his wife may also have died by then since no women appear in his household in either the 1830 or 1840 census of DeKalb County.[59]

William must have been a man of some means even in the early 1830s. Willard credits him with being one of Decatur’s early dry goods merchants and, incidentally, the only one who would not sell whisky.[60] He also operated a store in Rome for a number of years and, considering the typical importance of merchants as a source of credit for a great many people throughout the nineteenth century, his occupation could have certainly formed the basis for a fortune. Minute Book A of the DeKalb County Inferior Court, the only county records that were not burned in 1842, documents several suits brought by Smith between 1831 and 1844 to recover money owed him.[61] This perhaps confirms Willard’s statement that “at one time . . . DeKalb County people owed him forty-four thousand dollars.”

Willard also makes note of the fact that Smith’s “rule for shaving notes was to cut them into two equal parts and take one-half. He tried to come as near to the rule as possible.”[62] There was a common practice of cutting bank notes in half for security in mailing. One half would be mailed and when receipt was confirmed, the other half was then mailed, with the two halves taped back together at the other end. It would appear, however, that Willard is making a small pun, since “shaving notes” is also a term for purchase of promissory notes at a discount rate that is greater than the law allows. The Inferior Court suits are probably over promissory notes that Smith purchased at a discount and then sued in court to recover the full amounts, which ranged from less than $100 to as much as $750. If Willard is right, Smith must have made a lot of money in DeKalb County in the 1830s and 1840s.

DeKalb County was not his only interest: Smith was one of those who intruded on the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation in the 1830s. Cherokee land was surveyed and a lottery held in 1832 and, in February 1833, William R. Smith bought Land Lot 273 in the 3rd Section of the newly-created Floyd County.[63] The following summer he bought Land Lot 254 in the same district and less than a mile east of the first, both lots being near the confluence of the Etowah and Oostanaula Rivers.[64]

Figure 11. View of Rome, Georgia, in 1864. (Vanishing Georgia Collection)

That same year, 1834, another William Smith, called “Black Bill” for his swarthy complexion, owned Land Lot 245, which was just a short walk from either of William R. Smith’s lots. It was “Black Bill” Smith who helped found the city of Rome that year and upon whose land the town was initially established. William R. Smith, who also bought large amounts of property near Rome and in other parts of Floyd County, was one of the county’s largest landowners by 1860 and participated in significant ways in the growth of Rome.

The new town was, according to one source, “overrun by vigilance committees, outlaws, land speculators and unruly Indians” in the 1830s and Smith may have preferred residence in the more settled environment of Decatur until the early 1840s.[65] By then, he had probably also begun farming since his property on the east side of Rome contained some of the richest river bottom lands in north Georgia. By 1850, Smith owned over two thousand acres in Floyd County, three hundred of which he listed as being improved farm land.

Besides his mercantile and farming interests, Smith was the first president of the Rome Railroad, which was organized in 1839 as the Memphis Branch Railroad and Steamboat Company of Georgia. By 1845, as the predominance of railroads over steamboat traffic became clear, the company was re-organized as the Rome Railroad and built a railroad from Rome to the Western and Atlantic Railroad at Kingston, a link that made possible much of Rome’s subsequent development.[66] Smith is also credited with early bridge-building in Rome, including a bridge over the Etowah River at a point where he may have already been operating a ferry.[67]

Figure 12. Detail from 1860 Federal Census schedules for Floyd County, Georgia, annotated with a red arrow to locate William R. Smith.

William R. Smith was a man of substantial means by the early 1840s, when he began selling his property in DeKalb County and relocated to Rome. He may have remarried by that time, too, to Anne Perkins, the widowed daughter of “Mr. Patton of Asheville,” according to Willard. In January 1842, “in consideration of the natural love and affection” he held for his brother, William gave Robert Hiram Smith, who was still living in North Carolina, all of Land Lot 4 on the South Fork of Peachtree Creek, some of the best land of the several hundred acres that he owned in DeKalb County.[68] Then in May 1843, again for “natural love and affection,” he deeded more than 800 acres in four land lots on the North Fork of Peachtree Creek in DeKalb County—land lots 152, 153, 156, and 157—to Robert Hiram Smith while giving his father and step-mother a life estate in the property.[69] In August, he sold his two town lots in Decatur, a good indication of the time of his move to Rome.[70] William R. Smith did not sever all of his ties to Decatur, however, and continued to buy and sell property there into the 1860s.[71]

By 1850, William R. Smith must have been living in Rome, although he cannot be located anywhere in that census. His eighteen slaves are listed in the 1850 slave census of Floyd County, a sharp increase from the three slaves that he listed in the 1840 DeKalb County census.[72] Also listed in the 1850 census is William’s stepson, James P. Perkins, head of a household that included William’s twenty-three year old nephew James Washington Smith, who would be Tullie Smith's grandfather.[73] It is not clear if William R. Smith ever had other children besides the one buried at Brittain Church. If he did, their names are lacking and it seems likely that he, in fact, did not have any more children. This might explain his gift of property to his step-son’s young daughter in 1858 and the fact that no Smiths were listed in the sale of his estate after the Civil War.

In 1860, William R. Smith was nearly seventy years old, living alone with his wife, Anne Perkins Smith, who was herself sixty-five years old. He had increased his land holdings in Floyd County to nearly three thousand acres (only a fraction of which was improved for farming) that was worth $100,000 and still had nineteen slaves, who probably accounted for the bulk of his $72,000 in personal wealth.[74] William R. Smith had certainly made a success of his business and farming career and was, in 1860, part of a relatively small number of Georgians who profited in a big way from the ruin of the Cherokee Nation.

 

Robert Smith Sr.

As noted earlier, documentation for the marriages of Tullie’s great-great-grandfather Robert Smith Sr. is somewhat confusing. There is less confusion about his being in Gwinnett County in 1824. A deed is recorded in Rutherford County in which Robert Smith of “Gwinnett County” conveys property in the vicinity of his old homestead on Roberson’s Creek in Rutherford County, North Carolina, to his son James M. Smith.[75]

Because of the destruction by fire of Gwinnett County records, as in DeKalb County, there is no way to know how well-settled Robert was in Gwinnett County. Perhaps the “John Shambly old place,” which was located in the vicinity of Sweetwater Church on Pleasant Hill Road a mile or so east of Norcross and which Robert Hiram Smith left his widow in 1876, was inherited from his father but that has not been proven. Most likely Robert Smith knew people in Hall and/or Gwinnett Counties since the early settlers so typically did not move alone. With so many Smiths to choose from, however, the quest for Smith relatives can only be somewhat narrowed by a focus on those that came from North Carolina.

Unfortunately, unless a person lived to be included in the 1850 census, the place of birth is not always known. A well-known clan of Smiths was established early in DeKalb County near Ben Hill (present-day Fulton County), where they were associated with the Suttles and Baker families. The Suttles at Ben Hill are probably the same family that were listed with Robert Smith in the 1790 census of Rutherford County but that can only suggest the possibility that the Rev. John M. Smith in Ben Hill might have been related to Robert Smith.[76]

The Smiths at Stone Mountain, most notably George K. Smith, seem to have had something more than a casual relationship with the Robert Smith family, including purchase of items from Robert Smith’s estate when he died.[77] However, those of the Stone Mountain Smiths who appear in the census were from South and not North Carolina, although the vagaries of the state boundaries in the western Carolinas may obscure a clue to a closer connection between the two families.

Finally, Charles H. “Bill Arp” Smith, who was born in Lawrenceville in 1824, was the executor of William R. Smith’s will in Rome in 1865, and there is the possibility that the two men were cousins or other more distant kin.[78] At the same time, however, it should be noted that both George K. Smith and Charles H. Smith were noted lawyers, which alone may have been the basis of their relationship with Robert Smith’s family, with the family names being only coincidental.

The earliest documentation for Robert Smith’s being in DeKalb County is in the census of 1830 when he is listed with a single female who is probably his second wife, Rachel. There is also in the household a male between the ages of 20 and 30, possibly Nathaniel Smith, who would turn thirty years old in December of that year. Robert Smith had with him five slaves, perhaps in two families, whom he had probably brought with him from North Carolina. It is not clear where he was living in 1830 although his location in the census schedule is very near Loughlin Johnson, a noted pioneer in DeKalb County whose plantation near Panthersville in south DeKalb was, according to Franklin Garrett, the county’s “finest.”[79] If the relative position in the census list is an indicator of close neighbors, and that is not always the case, then Robert may not yet have been living on Peachtree Creek northwest of Decatur in 1830.

Again the possibility of confusion arises with the census. A Rachel Smith of the approximate age of Robert’s wife is listed in 1830 next to Isaac Steele. Steele’s farm lay in Land Lot 107 and 108 just southwest of the Smith’s land on Peachtree Creek, although it is not known exactly when he moved to that location. The only male in Rachel’s household is 10-15 years old but there are four girls under the age of 20. Her identity is not known and, since there is a female in Robert’s household who is the right age to be his wife, this Rachel Smith only contributes to the uncertainty about Robert Smith’s marriages, travels, and early history in DeKalb County.[80]

The first reasonably certain documentation for Robert Smith Sr.’s residence on Peachtree Creek dates to 4 June 1833, when the Inferior Court of DeKalb County ordered a review of “the two roads, one crossing Peachtree Creek at Robert Smith’s and the other crossing said creek at Johnston’s Mill and report to the Inferior Court on which road a bridge would be of most public utility.”[82] By this time, Robert Smith was certainly living on Land Lot 156, although there is no way to know exactly where on the lot. Johnston’s Mill was located in the southwest corner of Land Lot 197 and the road referred to in the Inferior Court Minutes can be identified in the present routes of Mt. Moriah Church Road, Cliff Valley Way and old Briarwood Road. The road on which Robert Smith was living in 1833 has been generally accepted as being the old Power’s Ferry Road (now North Druid Hills Road), but the evolution of the historic road pattern in the area was such that the Peachtree Creek crossing for this road and the approaches to that crossing varied considerably during the nineteenth century. It also suggests that the road on which the Tullie Smith House was built was not the same road on which Robert Smith lived, although both had the same destination, i.e., Powers Ferry.

Shallowford Road, which ran from Decatur to the Shallow Ford on the Chattahoochee River near present-day Roswell, was one of the first roads laid out in DeKalb County in 1824. Other roads were soon marked out from Decatur to the several ferries that developed all along the river. James Power opened his ferry half way between Shallow Ford and Standing Peachtree about 1832, and a road was soon laid out from Decatur in that direction.

Three miles north of Decatur, the road to Powers Ferry branched to the northwest off the Shallowford Road at what is now the intersection of Clairmont and LaVista Roads.[83] Near what is now Mt. Moriah Church and within the Smiths’ four land lots, the road branched again, with one route running northeasterly, crossing Peachtree Creek at Johnston’s Mill (just south of the present Briarwood Road crossing), and another continuing in a more westerly direction and crossing the creek in the Smith’s Land Lot 156 below Johnston’s Mill. The 1927 topographical survey of the area may show traces of this earliest route to Power’s Ferry which was the road on which Robert Smith probably lived. Ultimately, the road by Robert Smith’s became the main road to Powers Ferry although the point of its actual crossing of Peachtree Creek and the approaching roads to the crossing had been moved further south by the 1840s. The road bore the name Power’s Ferry until the middle of the twentieth century and remains in use today although parts of it have been renamed Roxboro and Wieuca Roads.

Figure 13. Detail from 1840 Federal Census schedules for DeKalb County, Georgia, annotated with a red arrow to locate Robert Smith Sr.

Robert Smith is listed in the 1840 DeKalb County census, almost certainly living on Land Lot 156. The household consisted of himself, his wife, and a boy ten to fifteen years old. No doubt this is William Benjamin Smith, second son of Robert Hiram Smith, who had come down from Rutherford County to take care of his aging grandparents.[84] Although the census does not list Robert Smith with any slaves, he owned several, although he probably had already divided them among his children, even if he had not yet given them formal title.[85]

By 1843, Nathaniel had been living in La Grange for eight years and Robert’s eldest son, William, was making preparations to move to Rome, if he had not already done so. Robert Smith was now in his late seventies and, although his young grandson William Benjamin was there, his other sons James and Robert Hiram Smith, were still living in North Carolina. The family must have already been discussing Robert’s move to DeKalb County when, on 14 May 1843, William R. Smith gave his father and stepmother a life estate in the farm that they had probably been living on for at least ten years. Title included the four land lots on Powers Ferry Road “lying on the Big Peachtree Creek and now known to be the Farm on which Robert Smith now lives, together with and singular the houses and improvements.” At their death, the property would pass to Robert H. Smith, making this the third time that Robert Hiram Smith had benefited from the generosity of his oldest brother.[86]

Unfortunately, Rachel Smith died not long after that, exactly when is not known. Surprisingly perhaps, in January 1845, Robert Smith, who was then nearly 80 years old, married for a third time. His bride was 32-year-old Lucinda Jett, who was probably the daughter of Stephen Jett, an early pioneer in DeKalb County whose family gave its name to Jett Road in northwest Atlanta.[87]

By the fall of 1845, if not before, Robert Smith was in failing health and, in November, proceeded to make out his will. Since William had only given him a life estate in the farm, Robert’s will dealt only with personal property. To his “beloved wife Lucinda,” he willed three hundred dollars in cash, his carriage, “the horse I usually turned to the land” along with a saddle and bridle, a cow and a calf, a sow and its pigs, a loom, and a life estate in “the youngest child of Rachel (my Negro woman) known by the name of Berry.”[88]

Robert also divided his household furniture which included four “beds and furniture” between his four sons, each of whom was named. The bulk of his will, however, dealt with disposition of his seventeen slaves, which he carefully divided among his sons with the admonition that “I desire that each of my sons keep the aforementioned Negroes in their families as long as they can.” He also gave “my old Negro Winny permission to live with either of my sons whom she may select & I enjoin upon such son that he take care of her & treat her well during her life.”

Robert probably died in April 1846; his sons applied for probate of the estate on 8 May 1846. Robert Smith’s grave has been lost but it was perhaps in the Decatur Cemetery, since Rock Spring Church, where his son Robert Hiram is buried, had not yet been founded. It is possible, too, that he followed the more typical pattern for rural Georgians and was buried in a family cemetery near his house. It seems unlikely, however, given the continuity of land ownership, that a family cemetery on the property would have been totally forgotten by subsequent generations.

In May 1846, his neighbors and friends Isaac Steele, John N. Bellinger, John M. Ridling, and Jackson H. Johnson took the customary inventory and appraisal of Robert’s estate. Included “on the property of the deceased” were $391.761 in cash and over $300 in promissory notes from neighbors and others. Five bedsteads and furniture were inventoried along with a “lot of books,” trunks, and a wide variety of other household furniture and other items.

The inventory included only eleven slaves, indicating perhaps that he had already given seven of those listed in his will to his sons before his death. Smith’s will directed that the remainder of his property not specifically distributed in the will be sold and the proceeds divided between his sons. On June 25, 1846, an auction was held of these items, which included most of the contents of Robert Smith’s house, his livestock and supplies, and a wide variety of farm tools and other implements. Along with Robert Smith’s last father-in-law, Stephen Jett, Smith’s neighbors Meredith Collier, James Guess, Samuel House, John Bellinger, James W. Reeve, and Sterling Goodwin also bought items from the estate.

It was Robert Smith’s oldest son, William R. Smith, who bought more than any other, including most of the farm tools and equipment, yearlings, and sows, two hundred pounds of which were already bacon. He also purchased most of the contents of the kitchen, including the cast-iron cooking pots and skillets, cups, plates, 10 split-bottom chairs, and a painted cupboard.[89] None of the other brothers are recorded as buying anything from the estate that day and, although William may have been buying for himself, it is also possible that he was buying with the intent of distribution among the family.

William R. Smith’s deed of the property to his father in 1843 was formally recorded in July 1846 but final settlement of the estate, as might be expected, took somewhat longer.[90] One of the final entries in the annual returns for Robert Smith’s estate was in March 1849 when $286 was received from the estate of Robert’s brother James Smith, who had recently died in Cleveland County, North Carolina.[91] Apparently the last of John Smith’s sons, Major James Smith left no children but named his nephew Robert H. Smith executor of his estate.[92]

 

Robert Hiram Smith and Elizabeth Hawkins

Robert and Elizabeth Roberson Smith’s youngest son and Tullie’s great-grandfather, Robert Hiram Smith, was born on 1 August 1802, in Rutherford County, North Carolina.[93] Beyond the simple fact that he grew up in Rutherford County, absolutely no other details about his childhood are known. On three separate occasions, William R. Smith gave his youngest brother Robert Hiram Smith substantial amounts of property. Part of the reason for this generosity may have been that, as the youngest brother in a family with no sisters, he took the responsibility of caring for Elizabeth Roberson Smith after his father moved to Georgia and until she died in 1825. Whatever the circumstances of his parents’ marriage, their youngest son apparently remained close with both of his parents since William Benjamin Smith, Robert Hiram’s second son, moved to Georgia as a teen-ager around 1840 to care for his aging grandfather and step-grandmother.

The same year that his mother died, 1825, young Robert married Elizabeth Hawkins.[94] The daughter of Benjamin Hawkins of Buncombe County, she may have met Robert through his father’s previously mentioned move to Buncombe County in the early 1820s. By that time, Robert Sr. had already moved to Georgia and, by 1827, William and Nathaniel Smith were in DeKalb County, Georgia. So, on the Fourth of July in 1827, Robert’s brothers gave him their father’s old place on Roberson’s Creek in Rutherford County, the consideration being but $55 and “natural love and affection.”[95]

Robert Hiram and Elizabeth Hawkins Smith had probably been living on Roberson’s Creek since their marriage and it was probably there that their first child was born four days after the deed was made. Named James Washington Smith, this child was the first of six children that would be born to the Smiths: William Benjamin in 1829, Martha Lucinda in 1830, Luceller Minerva in 1831, Adeline Elizabeth in 1833, and Jasper Newton in 1836.[96]

By 1840, Robert H. Smith may already have been considering a move to Georgia. His son William Benjamin was staying with his grandparents in DeKalb County and, with the railroads coming through, Georgia may have looked more promising than the still-relatively isolated hills of western North Carolina. In January 1842, William R. Smith again gave his brother property, this time Land Lot 4, 17th District of DeKalb County (now Fulton County), perhaps as an enticement to move to Georgia.[97] That land lot was bisected by the South Fork of Peachtree Creek and would have been considered some of the county’s prime farm land. Portions of this land lot, which encompasses land south and east of Cheshire Bridge Road and through which Lenox Road was cut between Highland Avenue and Cheshire Bridge Road about 1914, was still owned by Smith descendants, including Tullie’s mother, up to World War II.

Figure 14. Detail from 1850 Federal Census schedules for DeKalb County, Georgia, annotated with a red arrow to locate Elizabeth and Robert Hiram Smith and their son Jasper.

There is no record of how Robert and the rest of the family viewed their father’s late marriage, but by the spring of 1845, he must have been making plans to leave North Carolina. In late March, he paid Tillman Harrison $200 for Land Lot 50 in DeKalb County, directly west of the land lot that William had given him three years earlier. While this lot did not contain the quality of farmland found in Land Lot 4, it did encompass the intersection of two important roads, the Montgomery Ferry Road and Plaster’s Bridge Road.[98] There is no documentation for any improvements made to either of these land lots prior to this time, even though William R. Smith may have owned Land Lot 4 for ten years or more. Farming of that lot seems likely to have occurred, however, given the richness of the land. Neither lot was really far removed from Land Lot 156, which was less than two miles away via Briarcliff, Sheridan, and Cheshire Bridge, all of which follow routes that were probably in use by the 1840s.

Then, in July 1845, Smith sold the old homestead on Roberson’s Creek in Rutherford County where he had spent much of his life. He got $2,000 for the 600-acre tract and was almost certainly in DeKalb County by November.[99] He must have built his new house, now known as the Tullie Smith House, about that time.

When they moved to DeKalb County, Robert Hiram and Elizabeth Hawkins Smith were middle-aged parents of six children. The oldest, James Washington, was nineteen; the youngest, Jasper Newton, was ten. Although it would not have been out of the ordinary for such a large family to occupy what, by modern standards, was a small house, it is likely that the entire family occupied the house for only a short period of time. At least by 1850, only the two youngest children, Adeline Elizabeth and Jasper Newton, remained as the older children married and moved away from home.

 

Luceller Smith and Wesley Collier

In October 1847, Luceller Minerva Smith, the Smiths eldest daughter, then barely sixteen years old, married Wesley Grey Collier (1824-1906), son of one of the Smiths’ neighbors further down Peachtree Creek in what would become Fulton County. Wesley’s parents, Meredith Collier and Elizabeth Grey, had been born in Randolph County, North Carolina, in the central Piedmont, in the 1780s. Following their marriage in 1806, they had moved into Jackson County, Georgia, and, after 1818, into Gwinnett County. From there, the Colliers had moved to DeKalb County, perhaps even before its formal organization in 1822, and settled along Peachtree and Clear Creeks in Land Lot 105, 17th District.[100] In marrying Wesley Collier, Luceller united the Smiths with one of the area’s most prominent pioneer families and one that was typically large. Meredith and Elizabeth Collier had fourteen children before his death in 1863. They and their descendants appear repeatedly through the annals of local history. Meredith Collier operated the Clear Creek post office during its brief tenure in the 1830s out of his own house near that creek.

Figure 15. Detail from 1860 Federal Census schedules for Fulton County, Georgia, annotated with a red arrow to locate Luceller Smith and Wesley Grey Collier.

Three of Meredith’s sons—George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Wesley Grey—bought additional property along Peachtree Road so that, by the time of the Civil War, Colliers owned most of the frontage along Peachtree Road from present-day Fifteenth Street to West Wesley Road and beyond. In addition to owning most of the land lots on which Ansley Park and Sherwood Forest would be developed, George Washington Collier was Atlanta’s first postmaster and bought property at Five Points as early as 1845. As the city grew, he made considerable profits from the sale and development of real estate in the last half of the nineteenth century, although, as was typical, it would be his descendants in the twentieth century who would reap the real fortunes.

Like the Smiths and the vast majority of his neighbors, Wesley Collier’s principal occupation was farming, although he is listed as being a “gunman” in the 1850 census.[101] The Collier’s farm consisted of over six hundred acres that fronted the west side of Peachtree Road for a mile and a quarter north of Peachtree Creek and included all of Land Lot 111 north of the creek as well as Land Lot 112 and 113. When Habersham Road was laid out in the early twentieth century, it bisected the old Collier; West Wesley Road, which follows the land lot line between Land Lot 112 and 113, was named in honor of Wesley Collier. The Colliers’ house stood on the west side of Peachtree Road north of Muscogee Avenue and near the center of their large farm.[102]

 

Martha Smith and Michael Steele

In January 1850, two more of Robert and Elizabeth Smith’s children, Martha Lucinda and William Benjamin, married. The first was Martha, who married Michael Steele (1821-1907), the son of another notable DeKalb County pioneer Isaac Steele. The elder Steele, who was born about 1786 in the Pendleton District of upstate South Carolina, moved to DeKalb County in the late 1820s where he settled on Land Lot 107 and Land Lot 108 south of what is now Lavista Road between Briarcliff and Cheshire Bridge Roads. Although the exact location of their dwelling is not known, Isaac and his wife Cynthia had ten children, three of whom died very young and were buried in the family cemetery near where the railroad now crosses Cheshire Bridge Road.[103] They were among the Smiths closest neighbors and, as with the Colliers, it is not surprising that their children married one another.

Figure 16. Detail from 1860 Federal Census schedules for DeKalb County, Georgia, annotated with a red arrow to locate Martha Smith and Michael Steele.

 

 

Figure 17. Detail from 1860 Federal Census schedules for Cherokee County, Alabama, annotated with a red arrow to locate William B. and Ava Paty Smith.

A week after Martha’s marriage, Robert Hiram Smith bought the east half of Land Lot 101, 18th District, of DeKalb County, and sold it to Michael Steele. Located about three miles east of the Smiths, the Steele farm lay along the South Fork of Peachtree Creek northwest of the Lawrenceville Road and just southwest of today’s North DeKalb Mall. The property included an additional ten acres off Land Lot 62, which adjoined Land Lot 101 to the south and which may already have had a house on it. In 1854, Robert Smith sold his son-in-law the west half of Land Lot 101 and the following year Steele bought the north half of Land Lot 102 as well.

Although he is always listed in the census as being a farmer, Michael Steele is reported to have begun his working career with William Wadsworth, the Decatur tinsmith, about 1841. For the next six years, he drove a “two-horse wagon” over the state, selling tinware from Wadsworth’s shop.[104] He is also reported to have been a carpenter and to have operated one of the county’s many steam-powered sawmills of the 1850s.[105] Martha and Michael Steele’s house, now known as the Steele-Cobb House and located at 2632 Fox Hills Drive in Decatur, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in spite of being heavily damaged by fire in the early 1960s.[106]

 

William B Smith and Ava Paty

Two weeks after Martha’s marriage, on 24 January 1850, Wesley Collier’s brother Edwin, justice of the peace, performed the wedding of the Smith’s second-born son, William Benjamin, who had was the first of his siblings to move to DeKalb County when he came to stay with his grandparents in the early 1840s. His bride was Ava E. “Patey,” as the name is listed in DeKalb County marriage records. Ava, quite possibly, was a daughter of the William Paty that is listed next to Robert Smith in the 1830 census.[107] By the 1850s, the Patys no longer appear in the census in DeKalb County, except for two teen-aged girls, Nancy and Georgia Ann Paty, who were recorded in the 1850 census with John N. Bellinger, the well-known lawyer who had helped appraise Robert Smith’s estate in 1846.[108] At the same time, however, the newlyweds William Benjamin and Ava Paty Smith are living next door to Bellinger in the Buckhead District, lending some support to the idea that, by the time of her marriage, both of Ava’s parents were dead and the girls with Bellinger were her sisters.[109] William and Ava Smith, unlike the rest of Robert Hiram Smith’s children, did not remain in DeKalb County long. Two sons, George Pierce and William R., were born to the couple by 1853 and they appear to have moved to Cherokee County, Alabama, shortly after that. They were certainly there by the time their third child, Missouri, was born in 1858 or 1859.[110]

With William Benjamin’s marriage, Robert and Elizabeth Smith were probably left with only their two youngest children, teenagers Adeline and Jasper, at home. Their oldest son, James Washington, was already grown but not yet married in 1850 and was working as a clerk and, perhaps, reading law with his uncle William in Rome, Georgia. He was living with his uncle’s step-son James P. Perkins.[111]

Figure 18. Detail from 1870 Federal Census schedules for Gwinnett County, Georgia, annotated with a red arrow to locate Adaline Smith and Robert Medlock.

 

Adeline Smith and Robert O. Medlock

On 31 July 1856, Adeline Elizabeth, the Smith’s youngest daughter, married Robert O. Medlock, quite likely in a ceremony in her parents’ home. He was the son of John Williams Medlock, whose father, Isham Medlock, had been one of those pioneers in Gwinnett County in 1818. John Medlock and his wife Sarah Jemison Ware had moved their young family into DeKalb County in the 1840s and settled on Land Lot 48, 17th District, of what would become Fulton County. Medlock, while mainly a farmer, also owned a store at 22 Peachtree Street that was operated by his nephew.[112] The Medlocks’ house, where he and his wife Sarah Jemison Ware raised a family of thirteen children, stood near the present intersection of Ponce de Leon Avenue and Monroe Drive and was near the center of their 202½-acre farm.[113] The farm itself, which lay along the upper reaches of Clear Creek, included the present sites of City Hall East, Grady High School, Ponce Square, and much of the eastern side of Midtown. In 1868, during the course of railroad construction near the southeastern corner of what had been the Medlock farm, two springs were discovered on the land of his neighbor Richard Todd. These springs would soon gain local fame as “Ponce de Leon Springs” and give rise to one the city’s most important thoroughfares, Ponce de Leon Avenue.[114]

Robert and Adeline Medlock did not settle near either of their parents but moved instead back to Gwinnett County where others of his Medlock relatives were still living. They lived on what is now Holcomb Bridge Road about two miles west of Norcross but apparently owned more than one farm along the Chattahoochee River, land which his sons grew up to farm as well. One of Robert and Adeline Medlock’s sons, William Oliver, also operated Medlock’s Ferry and the present Medlock Bridge Road honors the family name. Many of the Medlock family, including Adeline and Robert, are buried in the Kirkland family cemetery on Holcomb Bridge Road.[115]

 

James Washington Smith

Born in 1827, about the time his uncles were moving to DeKalb County, the Smith’s eldest child and Tullie’s great-grandfather, James Washington Smith, was the last to marry. In 1850, as noted earlier, he was working as a clerk in Rome, Georgia, probably in his uncle’s “Continental Shop,” but it is not known how long he continued there. Considering the Smith family’s other educational attainments and his father’s resources, it would not be surprising for James Washington Smith to have received some sort of higher education, although none has been documented. His occupational listing as “clerk” in the 1850 census may mean that he was reading law, although again that cannot be substantiated. He must have been successful in whatever he was doing since he seems to have acquired substantial property more quickly than most young men.

Figure 19. Detail from 1860 Federal Census schedules for Fulton County, Georgia, annotated with a red arrow to locate James Washington Smith and his young family.

By 1856, if not before, James was back in DeKalb County. He was probably already making plans to marry when, in September 1856, he paid his father $3,000 for Land Lots 4 and 50 just across the county line in newly created Fulton County.[116]

On 8 January 1857, the anniversary of his sister’s marriage in 1850, James Washington Smith married Emily Harriet Wynne, probably at her mother’s house in Gwinnett County. Her father, Thomas Wynne, who had died in 1838, was born in Virginia and came with his father, Matthew Wynne, to Greenville County, South Carolina, before the War of 1812.[118] There he married Mary Prince Benson, with whom he had seven children before moving to Gwinnett County. He bought land in what is now Lilburn, not far from the Smith’s property on Pleasant Hill Road.[119] The house that he built there, perhaps beginning in the 1820s, still stands on Wynne-Russell Drive in Lilburn. After their move, they had seven more children, including their tenth child, Emily Harriet, who was born 2 September 1830.[120]

On 2 December 1857, James and Emily Smith’s first child was born. Named William Berry Smith, he was the first of seven children born to the couple. They are thought to have lived in a log house on Cheshire Bridge Road just west of the South Fork Peachtree Creek.[117] It is possible that a house was there as early as the 1830s, since both land lots were traversed by an early road and James' uncle William may have owned Land Lot 4 as early as the 1820s. For unknown reasons in the 1860 Federal Census, the Smiths were enumerated in the household of Elizabeth Ballinger Plaster, widow of a son of the old pioneer Benjamin Plaster. Listed as a farmer in the 1860 census and sometimes going by his middle name, James Washington Smith bought additional property in the vicinity of Cheshire Bridge Road and elsewhere in Fulton County over the next fifteen years, including 80 acres in Land Lot 5 and 25 acres in Land Lot 8, both to the north of his farm in Land Lot 4.[121]

 

Jasper Newton Smith

The Smiths’ youngest son, Jasper Newton Smith, apparently never married and remained at home with his parents until beginning his own career as a farmer when he was in his early twenties. In October 1857, he paid Isaac Steele $2,250 for Land Lot 107 and sixty acres off the south side of Land Lot 108, just southeast of his father’s farm.122 Steele, who had bought the property in the 1820s and been an early neighbor of Robert Smith, was moving on to Mississippi, probably following some of his children who were seeking more and better land on which to start their own farms. About the same time, Jasper’s older brother William Benjamin was also pulling up stakes in DeKalb County and moving to northern Alabama, illustrating something of the push for fresh lands that continued to drive settlement westward throughout the nineteenth century.

Figure 20. Detail from 1850 Federal Census schedules for DeKalb County, Georgia, annotated with a red arrow to locate Elizabeth and Robert Hiram Smith, above, and their son Jasper, below.

Jasper’s new farm lay between his father’s farm on Powers Ferry Road and his brother James’ farm on Cheshire Bridge Road and spanned between the Paces Ferry road from Decatur (now part of LaVista Road) and Peachtree Creek just west of Durand’s Mill, which was located near where Briarcliff Road now crosses the South Fork of Peachtree Creek. He probably moved into Steele’s old house, the exact location of which has not been documented, and continued to cultivate his fields and, perhaps, make his own improvements. In January of 1858, Jasper bought 25 acres in the southeast corner of his brother James’ Land Lot 4, which included at least part of a peach orchard. Probably planted on the hillside above the creek, the orchard is one indication that Land Lot 4 may already have been improved before James and Jasper Smith began working it in the late 1850s.[123]

By 1860, Robert Hiram and Elizabeth Smith had seen all of their children grown and, if not married, supporting themselves. They now occupied the house alone, except for one Eliza Kenada, a middle-aged white woman about whom nothing is known. The farm was in full operation, even though production was down somewhat from 1850, and they still owned eleven slaves. For them and the rest of the South, however, the world was about to be turned upside down.

 

 

Notes

1. Scotch-Irish Society of America, Proceedings and Addresses of the Fourth Congress at Atlanta, April 28 to May 1, 1892 (Nashville: Methodist Episcopal Church South, 1892), p. 126.

2. Roy Brooks, Bridges to The Past (Forrest City, NC, 1976), vol. 1, 171.

3. See James G. Leyburn, The Scotch Irish: A Social History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1962) for most of the supporting material on the Scotch-Irish. See also F. A. Sondley, A History of Buncombe County, North Carolina (Spartanburg: The Reprint Company, 1977) for the Scotch-Irish in North Carolina.

4. Leyburn, p. 183.

5. Leyburn, p. 162.

6 Joe A. Morley, The Way We Lived in North Carolina (UNC Press, 2006), excerpts accessed on line at <http://uncpress.unc.edu/browse/book_detail?title_id=1264> on 20 March 2009.

7. Leyburn, p. 199.

8. Leyburn, p. 215. Note that in the eighteenth century, the Ulster immigrants were rarely distinguished from other Irish immigrants. Not until the late nineteenth century did the term” Scotch-Irish” come into widespread use.

9. Sondley, p. 370-371.

10. Brooks, p. 172.

11. Brooks, p. 171.

12. Benjamin Hawkins, Tullie’s great-great-grandfather, thus, appears in the 1790 census of Rutherford County but is found in Buncombe County in 1800, without having moved. In 1845, the eastern part of Rutherford, including most of the watershed of the First Broad River, was incorporated with the western part of Lincoln County to form the new Cleveland County.

13. Rutherford Co., NC, Will Book C, p. 12, records John Smith’s will; Will Book C, p. 36, records the will of his son Robert Smith; tombstones at Rock Springs Presbyterian Church in Fulton Co., GA, prove Tullie’s ancestry to Rutherford Co., NC.

14. The age range given for John Smith in the 1790 and 1800 census is approximate. The 1830 and 1840 censuses put his son Robert’s birth at 1760-1770, and John Smith would likely have been at least twenty at that time. In addition, his death date of 1814 makes a much earlier birth date less likely, although it is certainly possible that he died a very old man.

15. Rutherford County Record of Deeds, Book A-D, pp. 22, 241, 426, & 479.

16. Smith’s property was in the northeastern part of present-day Rutherford County and in northwestern Cleveland County,

17. Heads of Families. . . 1790, North Carolina (Athens, Ga: Iberian Publishing Company, Bicentennial Edition, 1990), p. 9.

18. Ibid., p. 117.

19. The names of John Smith’s children are shown in documents related to the death of James Smith’s widow in the 1850s. The precise citation for these documents was not recorded in 1990 but photocopies of the originals were retrieved. They apparently were found in the Cleveland County estate records.

20. This bequest should probably be seen as a mark of favor for Nathaniel rather than any personal rebuke of Robert.

21. Rutherford County Will Book C, p. 12.

22. Note that James Medlock appears in the 1790 census of Rutherford County, North Carolina, as do Willis, Suttles, Hildebrand and other names significant to the early settlement of DeKalb and Fulton counties in Georgia.

23. Major Smith’s land in what is now northwestern Cleveland County, NC, had probably been part of his father’s several hundred acres on the headwaters of the First Broad River.

24. See Cleveland County probate records cited above.

25. His marriage in 1789 is recorded, suggesting that he was at least 19 or 20, a relatively early date for marriage at that time. The census implies a birth date between 1760-1770.

26. Brent Holcomb, Marriages of Rutherford County, North Carolina, 1779-1868 (Baltimore, 1986), p. 138.

27. Brooks, p. 171-2.

28. Heads of Families—North Carolina, Fifth Company, Morgan District, Rutherford County, p. 117.

29. Robert Smith Paden’s statement (as transcribed from his oral interview in 1970) that Robert Smith was “from Black Mountain which is beyond Asheville” suggests that Smith may have moved again, although Black Mountain is has never been part of Rutherford County, which all sources give as Robert Smith’s residence before moving to Georgia.

30. Rutherford Deed Book 35, p. 101.

31. Glenda Major, Paid in Kind, (LaGrange, 1989), pp. 6-8.

32. Numan V. Bartley, The Creation of Modern Georgia (University of Georgia Press, 1990), pp. 26-27.

33. Scotch-Irish Society, p. 132.

34. The assumption of illiteracy is based only upon the lack of a signature on his will.

35. Further research into Rutherford County records would, no doubt, shed additional light on the Smith family’s early history. Particularly important would be a thorough search of the records in the Rutherford and Buncombe county courthouses, Brittain Presbyterian Church, and the Old Tryon County Historical Society in Forrest City, North Carolina.

36. Calvin Weaver, “One Hundred Years of Medicine in DeKalb County,” (unpublished MSS at DeKalb Historical Society, 1952), p. 71.

37. 1820 Rutherford Co. Census, p. 368.

38. Rutherford County, Deed Book 35, p. 101.

39. Rutherford County Deed Book 39-40, p. 219.

40. DeKalb Deed Book L, p. 40.

41. Clarence Griffin, History of Old Tryon and Rutherford Counties (Asheville, 1937), p. 204.

42. Griffin, p. 206.

43. Williams, p. 21. Williams also attributes another of the early gold discoveries in Hall County to an African-American.

44. David Williams, The Georgia Gold Rush (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993), p. 25.

45. Williams, p. 28.

46. White, Statistics of Georgia (Savannah: 1849), p. 206.

47. Levi Willard, “Early History of Decatur Written Many Years Ago,” typescript copy of articles from DeKalb New Era, September-December 1920, DeKalb Historical Society, p. 25-26.

48. In 1803, Georgia adopted a system of land districts and land lots that was used to survey ceded Indian lands. Land lots were generally around 200 acres, except in those areas northwest of the Chattahoochee River where “gold lots” of forty acres were surveyed.

49. Rutherford Deed Book 37, p. 79, gives DeKalb County as the residence of William R. and Nathaniel N. Smith in July 1827.

50. Willard, p. 30.

51. DeKalb Deed Book H, p. 102 & 157.

52. Calvin Weaver, One Hundred Years of Medicine in DeKalb County (unpublished MSS at DeKalb Historical Society), p. 71.

53. DeKalb County Inferior Court, Minute Book A, p. 118.

54. Family Tree Publications, Troup County, Georgia, and Her People, Vol. 2, #1 (LaGrange: Family Tree Publications, 1982), p. 8.

55. 1850 Troup Co. census, #2-69; 1860 Troup Co. census.

56. Major, pp. 6-7; for birth and death dates see Johnson, Memories in Marble, p. 38.

57. George M. Battey, A History of Rome and Floyd County (Atlanta, 1922), p. 104; Levi Willard also mentions the nickname, although not its origin.

58. Levi Willard, “Early History of Decatur,” p. 28.

59. DeKalb County Census, 1830, p. 28; 1840, p. 43.

60. Willard, p. 28.

61. DeKalb Inferior Court, Minute Book A, p. 92-93, 110, 117, 301.

62. Willard, p. 28-29.

63. Floyd Deed Book A, p. 191.

64. Floyd Deed Book A, p. 320-322.

65. Phinizy Spalding, Georgia: The WPA Guide to Its Towns and Countryside (University of South Carolina, 1990 reissue of 1940 edition.), p. 444; DeKalb Deed Book L, p. 40, and Book H, p. 201 probably record Smith’s departure from the county.

66. Battey, p. 147; Aycock, p. 64. Battey’s story about a locomotive named the “William R. Smith” being involved in the “Great Locomotive Chase” of 1862 is apocryphal, according to other sources.

67. Roger Aycock, All Roads Lead to Rome (Rome, 1981), p. 52-53.

68. DeKalb Deed Book L, p. 40.

69. Deed Book H, p. 437.

70. DeKalb Deed Book H, p. 589.

71. DeKalb Deed Book L, p. 475; Book P, pp. 206, 219-220.

72. 1850 Floyd County Slave Census, Subdivision #30; 1840 DeKalb County census, p. 28.

73. 1850 Floyd County Census, Rome District, #486. Floyd Deed Book P, p. 154, names Perkins as William R. Smith’s step-son.

74. 1860 Floyd County census, Rome District, p. 81, dwelling #535.

75. Rutherford County Deed Book 39-40, p. 219

76. Garrett, p. 171; 1850 DeKalb County census, Stone’s District, #105.

77. 1850 DeKalb County census, Stone Mountain District, # 39.

78. Kenneth Coleman and Charles Gurr, Dictionary of Georgia Biography, vol. 2, pp. 894-895.

79. Garrett, Vol. 1, p. 57.

80. 1830 DeKalb County census, Robert Smith, p. 26; Rachel Smith, Isaac Steele, et.al., p. 62.

81. Willard, p. 19; also see Battey, p. 15, and Rebecca Latimer Felton, Country Life in Georgia, both of whom commented on this event.

82. DeKalb Inferior Court, Minute Book A, p. 115.

83. Modern-day Clairmont Road south of LaVista and Oak Grove Road mark the historic route of the Shallowford Road to Decatur.

84. In his will, Robert Smith leaves a bequest to William Benjamin, conditional on the boy’s continuing to live with him until his death.

85. Robert Smith’s will names his slaves.

86. DeKalb Deed Book L, p. 40-41.

87. DeKalb County Marriages, 1840-1848, #125.

88. Robert’s will was not indexed or recorded in the DeKalb County will books, although its existence is mentioned in other indexed and recorded documents related to the settlement of his estate. Mary Gene Elliot discovered the will filed in miscellaneous papers of the DeKalb County Probate Court.

89. DeKalb Inventory and Appraisals, Book A, p. 45 & 95.

90. Deeds were often executed between two parties and witnessed without the document being formally recorded at the county courthouse until much later, sometimes many years later. Although easier to challenge until formally recorded, deeds were considered in force from the moment they were signed and witnessed.

91. Cleveland County had been created out of the eastern side of Rutherford County in the early 1840s and included part of the First Broad River watershed. It is possible that he was still living on part of John Smith’s old lands from the 1780s.

92. Ibid., p. 294.

93. Robert Hiram Smith’s grave stone at Rock Spring Church gives the date and place of his birth.

94. No marriage record has been located but Elizabeth Hawkins’ Smith obituary states that they were married in 1825. Robert Hiram Smith’s will in 1875 implies a marriage date of 1832 but that cannot be right since their first child was born in 1827. Most likely, the will was drafted some years earlier and the discrepancy in the dates was overlooked when the will was finally signed and witnessed in 1875.

95. Rutherford Deed Book 37, p.79.

96. Names of Robert’s children are proved through his will and various deed records. The graves of James Washington and Martha Lucinda have been located; Adeline’s tombstone does not contain exact dates; and Jasper Newton’s birth date is extrapolated from his muster-in roll card, which gave his age in August 1861 as “25.7" years, suggesting a birth date of January 1836. The Federal census consistently shows all of Robert Hiram Smith’s children having been born in North Carolina.

97. DeKalb Deed Book H, p. 437.

98. DeKalb Deed Book H p. 524.

99. The deed for Land Lot 50 was recorded in DeKalb County on November 25, 1845.

100. See Dwight A. Collier, The Chinaberry Tree Colliers, unpublished mss at Atlanta History Center Library. Another version of this work indicates that the celebrated George Washington Collier House is not the same house that Meredith Collier built in the 1820s but rather a newer house that George built about 1850. A personal inspection in December 1996 by the present writer of the existing house at 1649 Lady Marion Lane in Sherwood Forest supports this conclusion.

101. It is not known what was meant by the listing as “gunman.” It could mean that he manufactured guns or that he was a “hired gun.”

102. Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, vol. 2, p. 563; obituary of Wesley G. Collier, Atlanta Constitution, 2 March 1906, p. 5.

103. Garrett, Vol. 1, p. 133; Garrett “Necrology.”

104. Hudgins, p. 16.

105. Carl T. Hudgins, “Mills and Other DeKalb County Industries and Their Owners,” DeKalb Historical Society, p. 9; also Levi Willard, p. .

106. DeKalb Deed Book O, pp. 92-93; plat of Michael Steel estate in Plat Book 3-I, p. 325

107. Many names were spelled phonetically so that Paty could quite easily be recorded as “Baty” or “Batey,” both of which are in the 1850 DeKalb County census near the Smiths. In some cases, too, different branches of the same family, with varying degrees of literacy, might evolve totally different spellings of the same name, as happened with the local Eidson family, one branch of which now spells its name “Hitson” and another “Itson.” Thus, the David Baty, born in North Carolina in the 1770s, who is recorded near Robert Hiram Smith in the 1850 census, may have been a relative of Ava as well.

108. According to Garrett, Bellinger married Meredith Collier’s daughter Sarah, owned property east of what is now Lindbergh Plaza, and served several terms as Justice of the Inferior Court in the 1830s and 1840s.

109. DeKalb County, 1850 census, #70, Buckhead District.

110. Cherokee Co., AL, 1860 census, p. 39, #271.

111. 1850 Floyd County Census #486, Rome District.

112. Atlanta City Directory, 1870.

113. For more detail on the Medlocks, see Alice S. McCabe, Gwinnett County Families, 1818-1968 (Gwinnett Historical Society, 1988), p. 341-344; DeKalb County, 1850 census, Atlanta District, #410.

114. Garrett, vol. I, p. 881-883.

115. McCabe, p. 342.

116. Fulton Deed Book C, p. 391.

117. Andrew Sparks, “Oldest House Comes to Town,” Atlanta Journal and Constitution Magazine, November 9, 1969, p. 22.

118. Thomas Wynne was born Sussex Co., VA. Elisha Winn, whose house is now operated by the Gwinnett Historical Society as a house museum, was born in Lunenberg Co., VA, just east of Sussex Co. The different spellings of the same phonetics (as in Eidson/Hitson/Itson noted above), may obscure a relationship between the two families.

119. The house Thomas Wynne built is still standing in Lilburn and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

120. Alice McCabe, editor, Gwinnett County Families, 1818-1968 (Gwinnett Historical Society, 1988), p. 557-560. See 1850 census, Gwinnett County, Berkshire District, #98.

121. 1860 census, Fulton Co., p. 193, #1270-1373.

122. DeKalb Deed Book O, p. 284.

123. Fulton Deed Book C, p. 512.

 

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