District 3








The History of Hickman County, Tennessee (1900)

by W. Jerome D. Spence and David L. Spence

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The 3rd District is bounded on the north by the 13th District; on the east, by Maury County; on the south, by the 14th District; and on the west, by the 15th District.  It includes that portion of Hickman County on the south side of Duck River and north of the 14th District, extending from the Maury County line to Buck Branch.  A small portion of the district is on the north side of Duck River near Gordon's Ferry.  The section of country surrounding the quiet village of Shady Grove was the scene of some of the most important events of the pioneer days, a number of which are described at greater length in a previous chapter.  Somewhere near Gordon's Ferry and the "Duck River licks," situated on Lick Creek, was the fight with the Indians in May, 1780.  Over the line in Maury County were located Gen. Nathaniel Greene's 25,000 acres of land, laid off by Shelby, Bledsoe, and Tatum in 1783.  Through the adjoining districts, the 13th and 15th, ran the Continental Line of 1784.  Through these districts ran also the old Chickasaw Trace, or path, which was, prior to the opening of the Natchez Trace, the road from Nashville to Natchez and the Chickasaw country.  It was over a portion of this trace that the Coldwater Expedition went 1787 to avenge the death of Mark Robertson, who had been killed on Robertson's Creek, in the 15th district, up which the trace ran.  It was over this trace that the desperately daring band of scouts under Capt. "Jack" (John) Gordon and Capt. John "Golong" Rains marched often over a hundred years ago.  It was over this trace that, in 1795, the old Col. Casper Mansker went with a detachment of men from Nashville to the assistance of the Chickasaws, who were sorely pressed by the Creeks.  In January of this year the Chickasaws, who were in the main friendly toward the whites, had come upon a body of Creeks on Duck River, somewhere in this vicinity, and had taken five scalps.  These were sent to Nashville, with the explanation that the Creeks at the time of the attack were on their way to attack the whites.  A war ensued, and the Chickasaws called for assistance, which was furnished under the leadership of the veteran, Mansker.  Piomingo, of the Chickasaws, in his appeal for help, stated that if it did not soon arrive, "You shall soon hear that I died like a man."

The most prominent of the early settlers of this section was Capt. John Gordon, remembered by a few old citizens of the county as "Old Capt. Jack Gordon."  He had a reputation as a fighter from Nashville to New Orleans.  Here, as early as 1804, he, in partnership with General Colbert, one of the famous Chickasaw chiefs of that name, had a trading post.  He did not bring his family here until two or three years later.  At this time he kept a tavern in Nashville, on the west side of Market street, near the Public Square.  At this trading post Thomas H. Benton, "Old Bullion," afterwards United States Senator from Missouri, was a clerk.  He also taught school on Duck River somewhere in this section.  John Gordon had married Dollie Cross, sister of Richard Cross, and prior to 1805 Gordon and Cross located on the north side of the river near Gordon's Ferry, which was then established, Gordon and the Indian, Colbert, running it in partnership.  Up to this time the whites had no legal treaty right to any lands within the present limits of Hickman County.  This territory belonged to the Chickasaws.  It was also claimed by the Cherokees, who alleged that they had assisted in the expulsion of the Shawnees.  They made this claim the excuse for their numerous inroads into Tennessee.  The most persistent of the Indians in their attacks upon the whites were the Creeks, who never even attempted to excuse themselves by claiming any of this territory.  The reservation by North Carolina of lands for her soldiers, the southern boundary of which was marked by the Line of 1784, included much of Hickman County, but it must be understood that North Carolina obtained her title from England at the close of the Revolutionary War.  England had obtained her title from the Six Nations by the treaty of Stanwix in 1768.  The Six Nations held by the right of conquest, and after this relinquishment to the whites the Southern Indians reasserted their claims.  Adventurous surveyors, holding military warrants, made locations in Hickman County after the running of the Line of 1784; but few, if any, attempts were made to settle upon these lands prior to the treaties of 1805, which will be referred to in the following pages.  From this it will be seen that the running of the Continental Line of 1784, locally known as the Military Line, had no connection with any treaty with the Indians.  Captain Gordon, in running the trading post in connection with the Chickasaw chief, General Colbert, had only a trader's rights in this territory, but it enabled him to make a good selection of lands, which he soon afterward occupied.  Local tradition says he had permanently settled here before 1805.  If so, it was because his business connections with the influential Colbert family made him safe from molestation.

In 1801 a treaty was made at the Chickasaw Bluffs which gave permission to the United States to lay out and cut a wagon road between Nashville and Natchez.  The Chickasaws were to be paid $700 for furnishing guides and other assistance.  This work was commenced immediately under the direction of United States troops commanded by Capt. Robert Butler and Lieut. E. Pendleton Gaines.  This trace came by the way of Kinderhook, Maury County, crossed Duck River at Gordon's Ferry, passed between the head of Dunlap Creek and Jackson's Branch on the east, ran along the ridge between Cathey's Creek, of Maury and Lewis Counties, and Swan Creek, of Hickman County, crossing the latter creek at the point known as Johnson's Stand, below the Kittrell place.  It was on this trace at Griner's Stand, in Lewis County, that Meriwether Lewis met his death.  While this trace was being opened, Benjamin Smith, uncle of the late Daniel Smith, lived at Kinderhook, as did also Squire Kearsey, father of Rev. John Kearsey, who at one time lived in the 8th District.  Squire Kearsey is said to have been the original of the following time-honored story:  While magistrate, application was made to him for a search warrant for a broadax.  A careful perusal of his well-worn form book failed to discover a form for a search warrant for a broadax, the nearest approach being a form in which a turkey hen was mentioned.  This form was accordingly copied, and the applicant was instructed by His Honor to take it along and "keep an eye out for the broadax."

John Willey, who afterwards lived in the 15th District, was one of the party that opened the Natchez Trace, known locally as the "Notchy" Trace.  Some time was spent in digging the banks of the river at the mouth of Fatty Bread Branch, on the north side, and the banks on the south side near where Joseph Bond now lives.  While this was being done the party camped at the large spring at the foot of the hill where Samuel Cochran now lives.  This spring in on Dunlap Creek, and directly on the trace one mile west of where it crosses Duck River near Gordon's Ferry.  The spring in one and half miles south of Shady Grove, and was well suited for a place of encampment.  The party remained here for several weeks, after which the camp was moved to Swan Creek in what is now the 12th District.

On July 23, 1805, a treaty was concluded between the Chickasaws and James Robertson and Silas Dinsmore, representing the United States, by which the Indians ceded land in Tennessee to the whites.  A portion of the boundary agreed upon was as follows:  "Up the main channel of the Tennessee River to the mouth of the Duck River; thence up the left bank of Duck River to the road leading from Nashville to Natchez; thence along said road to the ridge dividing the waters running into Duck River from those running into Buffalo River."  On October 25 of this year the Cherokees, by treaty, relinquished all claims to lands north of Duck River, and in the following January Sour Mash, Turtle at Home, John Jolly, Red Bird, and other Cherokee chiefs ceded to the United States all lands north of the Tennessee River.  These treaties placed the dangerous Cherokees far to the south and made Duck River throughout the county, and the Natchez Trace at one corner, the boundary between the whites and comparatively peaceable and honorable Chickasaws.  This date marks the commencement of the permanent settlement of Hickman County on the north side of the river.  The permanent settlement of that section of the county lying south of Duck River followed the treaty of October 19, 1818, by which the Chickasaws relinquished all claims to Tennessee soil.  Isaac Shelby and Andrew Jackson represented the United States.  One of the considerations was that the United States pay Capt. John Gordon $1,115 due him from the Chickasaws.  This was probably the amount of the bad debts left on his old trading-post books.  The forty-five Tennesseans who had in 1795 gone to assist the Chickasaws against the Creeks, referred to above, were paid $2,000 by the United States.  Maj. James Colbert had, while on a visit to Baltimore two years before this, lost $1,089 at a theater.  This was refunded by the government, and as to whether the gallant Chickasaw, Colbert, was at the time of the loss overcome by force of numbers or by that enemy of his race, John Barleycorn, is left to the imagination of the reader.  That accomplished villain and prince of traitors, William McGillivray, received $150, as did also Iskarweuttaba and Immartoibarmicco.  Despite the superior length of their names, Hopoyeabaummer, Immauklusharhopoyea, and Hopoyeabaummer, Jr., received only $100 each.  These were some of the minor considerations, the terms of the treaty being in general unusually favorable to the Chickasaws.

Following the treaties of 1805 and 1806 came the congressional reservation line, described in an Act of Congress, approved April 18, 1806.  As this line is in local tradition confused with the line established between the whites and Indians, the events leading up to its establishment are here referred to.  The location of the 3rd District of Hickman County makes it a place par excellence for the illustrating of the confusion attending the perfecting of titles to land in Tennessee from 1796 to 1806.  North Carolina, relying upon the title obtained from the Six Nations, in matters of legislation studiously ignored the claims of the Chickasaws and Cherokees.  This is made evident by the erection in 1777 of Washington County, N. C., which embraced all of the present State of Tennessee.  At the time of the cession of this territory to the United States in December, 1789, there were unperfected titles to lands in Tennessee founded on military service in the Revolutionary War; on entries in John Armstrong's office; on service in Evans' battalion; on services rendered in laying off the military reservation -- that is, running the lines of 1783 and 1784; on grants to particular persons, like that to General Greene; and on settlements made on public lands -- preemption rights.  By the terms of the Act of cession North Carolina retained the right to perfect these titles.  After the admission of Tennessee into the Union, this State declined to recognize the right of North Carolina to perfect these titles, and the opening of entry taker's offices bade fair to cover the State with a new series of entries.  The matter was happily arranged as between the two States by North Carolina's transferring to Tennessee the right to issue warrants to be laid in the military reservation.  This was assented to by the United States, with the additional conditions set out in the Act providing for the "Congressional Reservation Line."  The line is described as follows:  Beginning at the place where the eastern or main branch of Elk River intersects the boundary of the State; thence due north to the northern or main branch of Duck River; thence down the waters of Duck River to the military boundary line; thence with said line west to the Tennessee River; thence down the Tennessee to the northern boundary of the State."  Tennessee surrendered all her right to the land south and west of this line, the United States in turn surrendering her right to the land north and east of it.  So the United States, while recognizing the Chickasaws' title to the land as far north as Duck River, also recognized Tennessee's title to the land as far south as the Military Line, or Line of 1784.  The general belief that the Military Line was the true boundary between the whites and Chickasaws, and Duck River the recognized boundary, is, therefore, erroneous.  Tennessee could perfect titles as far south of Duck River as the Military Line; but the well-founded fear that the Chickasaws would enforce with the tomahawk that treaty which made Duck River the boundary prevented any attempts at permanent settlements on the south side prior to 1818.  Possible exceptions to this general rule are to be found in the 3rd District.  Here the Chickasaw line turned to the south along the Natchez Trace, and the settler who encroached upon this corner of the reservation risked not as much as he who encroached farther down the river.  Here were doubtless made permanent settlements on the south side of the river and on the Indian side of the trace.  The early settler on the north or east side of the river, like Capt. John Gordon, obtained his title from North Carolina through Tennessee; the early settler on the opposite bank of the river and on the east side of the trace obtained his title from the United States; the early settlers on this side of the river and on the west side of the trace was a "squatter."

Immediately after the treaty of 1805 a man named McIntosh commenced a "clearing" on the place where the late Joseph Bond lived.  Tradition says that this was the first "clearing" in the county.  A detachment of soldiers patrolled the trace after the treaty in order to restrain the "squatters," which term, as applied to some of the most daring of the early settlers of the county, is certainly used here in no offensive sense.  On the ridge, near where Samuel G. Baker's residence now is, there had been erected a round-pole schoolhouse.  The teacher was George Peery, Hickman County's first surveyor, who afterwards became one of the most prominent pioneers of the 12th District.  He owned land on the other side of the river, near the Gordon place.  One day his school was interrupted by the sound of horses' feet, and a troop of government rangers turned out of the trace and rode up to the schoolhouse.  He was told that the house was on the Indian side, and, after ordering him and his pupils out, the building was torn down.  He was ordered to rebuild on the other side or not at all.  The house was not rebuilt, and this ended the school.  While the party at work on the trace were encamped at the spring at the Cochran place, they cleared away much of the cane and underbrush around the spring.  Later, John Pruett, in looking for a desirable place to settle, fixed upon this on account of the good spring and surrounding partial clearing.  He accordingly erected a dwelling house on one side of the trace, and a corncrib and stables on the other.   As the party which had encamped here had partially opened up land on either side of the trace, he naturally did this.  In addition to this, he fenced land on both sides.  The government rangers, on one of their tours, told him to remove his crib and stables from Indian territory.  He replied with great emphasis and some profanity that he would build wherever he pleased.  The rangers at once set fire to his buildings and fences on the Indian side, and told him that if he rebuilt on that side they would the next time destroy the buildings on both sides.  Robert Dunlap, from whom Dunlap Creek took its name, settled at this spring in 1810. 

Capt. John Gordon was a man whose prominence has given him a place in Tennessee history, and he is certainly entitled to a prominent place in a history of the county in which he lived during his latter days, and with the early settlement and development of which he and his family had much to do.  Captain Gordon was born in Virginia, and tradition says, was a descendant of Pocahontas, as was also his wife, Dollie Cross, whom he married in Davidson County.  He came to Nashville between 1780 and 1790, and died in Hickman County prior to 1823, as Judge Haywood, writing at this time said: "Captain Gordon was a brave and active officer, distinguished through life for a never-failing presence of mind, as well as for the purest integrity and independence of principle.  He had much energy, both of mind and body, and was in all, or nearly all, the expeditions from Tennessee which were carried on against the Indians or other enemies of the country, and in all of them was conspicuous for these qualities.  He now sleeps with the men of other times, but his repose is guarded by the affectionate recollections of all who knew him."  One of his expeditions against the Indians, not already mentioned, started from Nashville on June 11, 1794.  He followed a party of Indians, who had killed Mrs. Gear, nearly a hundred miles before he overtook them.  Later in this year he was out with the Nickajack Expedition, which resulted in the destruction of the upper Cherokee towns.  Before crossing the Tennessee River, Colonel Orr, who was the nominal commander of this expedition, called a council of war, in which were Colonel Mansker, John Rains, John Gordon, and other veteran Indian fighters.  Captain Gordon was among the first to swim the river on this September morning before daylight, and he stood on the bank and counted the whites as they reached the bank and fell into line preparatory to making the attack.  In this expedition were Joseph Brown and William and Gideon Pillow, ancestors of prominent Maury County families.  Gordon's future commander, Andrew Jackson, served as a private in this expedition.  In 1796 he was a justice of the peace in Davidson County, and was Nashville's first postmaster, serving from April 1, 1796, to October 1, 1797.  Following this came his trading-post venture near what is now Gordon's Ferry, and his removal to Hickman County, which became his home.  Here he evidently hoped to end in peace an eventful life, satisfying his love for adventure by an occasional trip to New Orleans on a flatboat.  Before he came to Duck River he had made at least one trip to New Orleans.  He had a loaded flatboat tied up at Nashville.  He and one of his negroes, while attempting to fasten it more securely, allowed it to drift from its moorings and out into the current of the Cumberland River.  They had provisions already on board and, without attempting to again bring it to shore, these two set out for New Orleans, a thousand miles away.  They reached this point after a voyage of many days, and when, as was the custom, an offer was made to assist them in landing, Gordon replied; "Ned and I have brought this boat from Nashville, and I think we are able to land it."  And they were.

Whatever may have been his dreams of peace, they were rudely interrupted in September, 1813, by the news of the horrible massacre at Fort Mimms, Alabama, of five hundred whites by Creek Indians.  He was now advanced in age, and nearly a score of years had passed since he had last heard the vengeful crack of a Tennessee rifle followed by the death cry of a savage; yet the feelings of indignation with which he heard the horrible news rolled back the tide of the years, and the hero of 1794 became the hero of 1813.  His ancestors in old Scotland never rallied around the bearer of the cross of fire with more alacrity than did "Old Captain Jack" Gordon answer the call to arms.  He reported for duty and was made captain of a company of scouts, or spies, which rendered such service in the war which followed that the name of Gordon became inseparably linked with those of Jackson, Carroll, and Coffee.   On November 16, 1813, after the battles of Tallushatchee and Talladega, the troops, worn out by fatigue and weakened by lack of food, demanded that General Jackson lead them back home.  He was on the point of acceding to this demand and abandoning Fort Strother, when, thinking how much the desertion of the fort would encourage the Indians, he declared that he would remain at the post if only two men would bear him company.  Captain Gordon was the first to volunteer, and, moved by his example, over a hundred agreed to remain.  Later, when Jackson's command was reduced by desertion in the face of the enemy to about 800 men, Gordon's spy company was "faithful among the faithless found."  At Enotachopco Creek, on December 24, 1813, when the Indians made a spirited and unexpected attack upon the rear guard, Captain Gordon, who had command of the advance guard, recrossed the creek and assisted in changing what bade fair to be a disastrous defeat into complete victory.  Referring to this affair, one historian calls him "the famous spy captain of Duck River, Gordon;" another refers to him as "Capt. John Gordon, an old pioneer hero."  In August, 1814, after a treaty had been concluded with the Creeks, Gordon was called upon to perform one of the most hazardous duties of his whole career.  Clayton, referring to this, says: "General Jackson, being anxious to make sure of the fruits of his important victories, now sought to make the Spanish Governor of Pensacola a party, as it were, to the treaty with the Indians, so as to hold him to a stricter responsibility for his future conduct.  But to reach him it was necessary for the bearer of his messages to traverse a long stretch of tropical wilderness, unmarked by road or path, and rendered doubly difficult of penetration by reason of numerous swamps, lagoons, and rivers.  The bearer of the dispatches was Capt. John Gordon, who, with a single companion, undertook the dangerous and seemingly desperate mission.  At the end of the first day's journey the companion of Captain Gordon became so much appalled by the prospects ahead that the Captain drove him back and continued his mission alone.  After many difficulties and dangers from hostile Creeks, he reached Pensacola.  On his arrival he was surrounded by a large body of Indians, and it was only by the greatest presence of mind that escaped instant death and reached the protection of the commandant.  His mission being ended, he returned as he came, and reached General Jackson in safety."  The information obtained by Gordon resulted in General Jackson's marching against Pensacola, attacking it, and bringing the Spaniards to terms.  As to whether Gordon participated in the fights around New Orleans, we do not know, but later in the 1815 we find him engaged in operating a cotton gin, which was located on Dunlap Creek between Duck River and Shady Grove.  Eight years later Judge Haywood refers to him as one who is no more.

Captain Gordon's brother-in-law, Richard Cross, was a very wealthy man.  On his land in what is now South Nashville was the first race course in the vicinity of Nashville.  Here General Jackson ran some of his noted horses.  Cross owned the valuable lands on the Natchez Trace adjoining the Gordon place.  He dying without issue, these lands were inherited by the children of his sister, Mrs. Gordon.  These children were Bolling, Powhattan, Fielding, Andrew, Richard, John, Mary, Dollie, and Louisa.

At Gordon's old ferry Duck River is now spanned by a good bridge, built by the counties of Maury and Hickman at a cost of $10,000.  Fatty Bread Branch, which flows into Duck River here, is for a short distance near it mouth the line between Maury and Hickman Counties.  The large, white house among the cedars on the hill near by was the residence of Maj. Bolling Gordon, who for years was, politically, Hickman County's most prominent citizen.  The large number of surrounding buildings were the quarters of his numerous slaves.  All of these buildings show plainly the marks left upon them by time in his flight.  The brown brick building with the severely straight walls which stands in the valley south of Bolling Gordon's old residence was the home of Capt. John Gordon.  This much-dilapidated and out-of-date building was for years the most elegant home in Hickman County.  Here lived the most aristocratic family of the county.  The name of Gordon, once so prominent in the county, is now no longer to be found here, and it is doubtful if even a relative can be found in the county.  The old home is almost in ruins, and where once was grandeur, gloom now is.  And the waters of the near-by branch with the peculiar name seem to murmur:

Men may come and men may go,

But I go on forever.


Bolling Gordon married Mary Watkins, of Virginia.  He was a member of the General Assembly of the State from 1828 to 1836, sometimes as Senator, sometimes as a member of the Lower House.  He was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1834, and also of the Constitutional Convention of 1870, being one of the few men of the State who enjoyed the distinction of being a member of two constitutional conventions.  When the convention convened at Nashville on January 10, 1870, Bolling Gordon, on motion of A. O. P. Nicholson, was made temporary president of the convention.  Major Gordon, on taking the chair, referred to the fact that he was the only one present who had been a member of the other convention, which had met "almost on this identical spot thirty-five years ago."  He referred to some of those with whom he was then associated, naming the venerable Blount, the upright Walton, and the brilliant Francis B. Fogg.  In closing, he said: "May I not invoke this convention, in which I see so many gray heads and so many distinguished men, to aid in making a constitutional government which shall answer all the ends designed?  May I not invoke you to discharge all the duties of the occasion with credit to yourselves and with benefit to the State?"  Later, when the president of the convention, John C. Brown, was absent, Major Gordon was, upon motion of John F. House, again called to the chair.  During the convention he served with distinction as a member of the Committee on Elections.  As chairman of the Committee on Common Schools, he left his impress upon that portion of the Constitution providing for Tennessee's present public school system.  Major Gordon died about 1880.


On September 24, 1835, in the brown brick building above referenced to as the home of John Gordon, Louisa Pocahontas Gordon was married to Felix K. Zollicoffer, who, while leading a Confederate brigade, was killed at the battle of Mill Springs, Ky., on September 19, 1862.  Zollicoffer, who was a Whig, edited the old Nashville Banner, was Comptroller of Tennessee, and was at one time a member of Congress.  No braver man ever wore either the blue or the gray.


Powhattan Gordon married Caroline Coleman of Maury County, who was a sister of William and Rufus Coleman.  Rufus Coleman was the best fiddler to be found in Hickman County in the early days.  He clerked for William Coleman and Powhattan Gordon, who, about 1830, had a store near where the late Joseph Bond lived.  this store was on the Dr. Greenfield Smith place, and was situated on the south bank of Duck River near the old ferry landing.  Dr. Smith, who was cousin of Dr. Greenfield, of Greenfield's Bend, lived here in 1825.  He afterwards lived on Lick Creek.  He was one of the colony which had come from Maryland to Tennessee.  The Colemans probably also came to Tennessee with this colony.  They were, at least, related to some of its members, the Tylers.  Near Gordon & Coleman's store Ben Wilson, of Leatherwood, sold whiskey; and just above, on the lands of George Church, were two race courses, one a half mile in length, the other a mile.  This section bore the suggestive name of "Pluck-'em-in," and was the scene of many a revel in the 1820's and 1830's.  In 1825 John Skipper had a stillhouse on Jackson's Branch.  Richard Smith was probably the first to sell whisky in the village of Shady Grove, but this was long after the notorious "Pluck-'em-in" had gone out of existence.  George Grimes had a saloon at Shady Grove in 1854.  The laws were not then so stringent, and men, while under the influence of whisky, seemed to have less of the brute in their nature than has the average drunken man of the present day.  Men did not then fill up on mean whisky in order to prepare themselves to make murderous assaults upon their fellow-men as they do in this day of higher civilization.


During the existence of "Pluck-'em-in," one of its frequenters was Robert White, a note gambler.  One day there came to George Church's race course a stranger riding an ugly, "slab-sided," bobtailed bay horse, with mane roached, like a mule.  The stranger was shabbily dressed, and the questions he asked about the horses and horse racing showed him to be entirely unfamiliar with the sport then in progress.  He drank some and was very anxious to buy cattle, of which he was in search.  He learned that there would be in a few days a big horse race on Josiah Shipp's tack near Centerville.  By going there he could see cattle owners from al over the county, and, in addition to this, he was told that he could see a very lively horse race.  For this latter he did not care, but, although and additional twenty miles' ride would be rather hard on his horse, he concluded to go on to Centerville in order to buy cattle, of which he was in great need.  He went to Centerville the night before the day on which the races were to be run.  The net morning he was one of the large crowd at the track; but by the demon, Drink, the quiet, inoffensive cattle buyer had been transformed into a swaggering drunkard, who wanted to bet on the race money which his appearance showed he could ill afford to lose.  His condition was such that he could scarcely walk, and his faculties were so overclouded that he did not care which horse he backed.  He just wanted to bet.  He had seen other people bet at Church's track, and, so he said, he had as much money as anybody.  His own old horse was hitched near by, and, mounting it, he, continuing his boasting, announced that it could beat anything on the ground.  Remonstrances were in vain, and he, continuing to wave his money, soon found takers.  He was, in race-course parlance, "an easy thing," and soon there was a mad rush for his money.  Having come for the purpose of buying cattle, he had money to cover all money offered him, and, in addition to this, was soon betting money against watches, pistols, overcoats, etc.  When the horses lined up for the start, some of the more observant noticed that the stranger seemed to have become strangely sober in a short time.  When three-fourths of the track had been gone over and the stranger and his horse were still well up in the bunch, it was remembered that nobody had seen him take a drink.  When the stranger's horse won with ease, beating Griner's horse, the pride of Hickman County, it gradually dawned upon those who had bet with the stranger that they had been victimized.  The stranger was Shilo True, the trickiest trickster of them all, and the missionary work that he did that day produced lasting good.  Many saw the error of their way and never bet again.  Many who that day bet with the professional gambler, Shilo True,  afterwards became the most prominent citizens of the county.  Two of his converts were Emmons Church and his father Abram Church, who riding back to Shady Grove without their overcoats, agreed that they would gamble no more.  For years, whenever people saw the appearance of fraud, a cheat, or a swindle, or when they wanted to halloo, "Enough!" they simply said, "Shilo!" and were understood.


On the old "Pluck-'em-in" grounds lived the late Joseph McRea Bond, a progressive and well-to-do farmer, who was born in Maury County on February 14, 1833.  He came to the 11th District, near Aetna, in September, 1851, but soon afterwards removed to the 14th District, where he was for many years a magistrate.  He came to the 3rd District a few years ago, and until his death owned this valuable land along the Natchez Trace.  It was here that McIntosh felled the first timber in the county preparatory to making a clearing.  The first corn raised in the county, however, was on the place now owned by Thomas Field, in the 7th District, where the cane was cut away and corn raised in 1806. 


From 1813 to 1815 many troops passed over the Natchez Trace going to and returning from the South.  Jackson's army in the Creek War, in the operations against Pensacola, and in the fights around New Orleans, was composed of Tennessee militia.  His soldiers, who are entitled to the name solely on account of their fighting qualities, were unused to military service and seemed to be controlled by the idea that they could serve until they became tired, then quit.  It was Jackson's ability to hold enough of these together to win every fight in which he engaged that showed he was a great general.  During these two years squads of neighbors would form, go and attach themselves to some command in Jackson's army, serve until they became hungry and tired, and then return home.  The prospects of an immediate fight would more nearly serve to keep them  together than any army regulations.  So the general statement to be found in local tradition that General Jackson marched his army over the "Notchy" Trace to New Orleans is misleading.  At the time the British fleet bore down on New Orleans, Jackson was at Pensacola.  Coffee was also there, and marched his men through to New Orleans.  Carroll, who had the immediate command of the 2,500 Tennessee hunters who practically fought and won the final battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, carried his men to New Orleans by boats, starting at Nashville on November 19, 1814.  In January, 1813, Coffee, with 650 cavalrymen, had gone over the trace to Natchez.  However, the larger portion, if not all the Tennessee portion, of Jackson's army returned from New Orleans by way of Natchez, and over the Natchez Trace to Nashville.  It is said that the soldiers from this section of the State were discharged on the Natchez Trace near where the Lewis monument now stands, the parting between General Carroll and his soldiers being an affecting scene.  So, while Jackson's army did not in a body go over the trace to the New Orleans, it returned this way, and during the Creek War many straggling detachments went and returned this way.  A story of the return trip from New Orleans was told to the late Daniel Smith by William Grimmitt, who lived on Smith's land on Dunlap Creek, and is yet remembered by many citizens of the 3rd District.  Grimmitt, in connection with the story, pointed out a hollow tree on a hillside near the trace.  Grimmitt, when he enlisted, lived in Dickson County.  On the return from New Orleans in the spring of 1815, a former neighbor of his became seriously sick before they came to the Tennessee River, and he was detailed to drop out of ranks and care for his sick friend.  Owing to the sick man's condition, they traveled very slowly.  Other Dickson County soldiers, reaching home, told Grimmitt's father that his son was in company with the sick man somewhere on the Natchez Trace this side of the Tennessee River.  The father proceeded to find the trace and follow its path it in search of his son.  When Grimmitt and his sick companion were near the tree pointed out, a rain came up, and his companion sought shelter in this hollow tree and remained until the rain ceased.  They then continued on their journey, but, after crossing Duck River, the sick soldier became much worse, and lying down by the side of the trace, soon expired.  Securing assistance, the body was carried to the Dr. Long place, now known as the Rufe Puckett place.  Jack Charter, of Leatherwood, made the coffin.  Charter was the father of Cave Charter, a well-informed citizen of the 13th District.  The dead soldier was buried on the Long place, and soon after friends or relatives came from Dickson County and placed a rock wall around his grave.  On the day of the burial Grimmitt's father arrived with horses, and they returned together to Dickson County.  This is the story of the rock-walled grave of the unknown soldier on the Rufe Puckett place.  Grimmitt, while he lived in Hickman County, drew a pension as a soldier of the War of 1812, and a part of his pension money was used to pay his burial expenses.  He was buried in the old Presbyterian churchyard on Cathey's Creek in Maury County.  Soon, perhaps, his grave, too, will be marked "Unknown," as no stone with epitaph marks the last resting place of this old soldier of the War of 1812.

He has fought his last fight,

He sleeps his last sleep;

No sound can awake him

To glory again.


From the late Daniel Smith much information was obtained concerning the history of the 3rd District.  His father, George Smith, was born in Georgia in 1779, and came to Nashville in 1797.  From Nashville he went to Dickson County.  He came to Hickman County in 1825 and settled on the lands owned by the late Joseph Bond, locating within two hundred yards of Gordon's Ferry.  Here he and several members of his family are buried.  Near McConnico's Church, on South Harpeth, he married Nellie Baker, daughter of Absalom Baker.  She was born in Virginia in 1794.  Their children were: Daniel, James, Benjamin, George, Lindsey, Collins, Catherine, Mary, Rebecca, and Emeline.


Daniel Dansby Smith was born on Jones' Creek in Dickson County, on May 13, 1813.  He died on Dunlap Creek in 1898.  The names of his children are: R.J., J. H., Erastus, Daniel L., George E., Francis, and Ellen.  R. J. Smith was killed during the Civil War by Federals near Charlotte.  After the 13th District was detached from this, about 1848, Daniel Smith was elected constable of the 3rd District.  The election was held at Shady Grove, which then became the polling place, and there was a general fight on the day of the election.  Later he was one of this district's magistrates for six years, and in 1862 was elected sheriff, receiving every vote cast in this district, save one.


Prior to the adoption of the Constitution of 1834 justices of the peace were elected by the Legislature, the basis being not more than two for each militia company in the county, with the exception of the one which embraced the county town; for this one, not more than three.  In 1834 civil districts were first established, they becoming the basis of representation as they are now.  After this the justices of the peace were elected by the people.  Previous to this the people sometimes made their selections, communicating their wishes to their Representatives.  This was done here in 1827, when Samuel A. Baker and Granville M. Johnson were selected as the choice of this section.  The selection was made by the friends of the several candidates lining up by the side of their choice.  The men in the several lines were then counted and the result declared by tellers.  For some time after 1834 the larger portion, if not all, of the present 3rd, 13th, and 15th Districts were in one civil district.  The voting place was at the place where William McEwen now lives, William Weems living there then.  Johnson lived on Leatherwood Creek.  Baker was the father of John Baker, the first sheriff of the county after the Civil War.  He was a magistrate from 1827 to the time of his death in 1862.  He was succeeded by James Nelson Bingham, who served 18 years.  Bingham was born on March 24, 1808, in North Carolina, and died on January 16, 1876.  He married Rebecca Smith, a sister of Daniel Smith.  She was born in Dickson County on December 13, 1811, and died on April 15, 1885.  James N. Bingham was a son of Robert Bingham, and came to Hickman County in 1830.  The first constable of the district was John H. Davis, who was not related to the surveyor, John Davis.  He lived at the George Mayberry place, north of Gordon's Ferry.  He could neither read nor write, and the magistrates did his writing for him.  He was, however, a faithful officer.  Josiah S. Wheat, son of Wyley Wheat, was born on March 7, 1840.  He was constable of this district for twelve years, and was deputy sheriff under Sheriff John V. Stephenson.  Phil. Hoover, of this district, was at one time a deputy sheriff, and William J. McEwen made one of the most popular and efficient sheriffs the county ever had.


Shady Grove, situated on Dunlap Creek one mile from Duck River, was given it's name by Henry (Harry) Nichols, who was the first merchant here.  The name is still an appropriate one.  Shady Grove is noted for its churches and schools.  The Christian Church has a membership of 125, and the Methodist Church has a membership of about 50.  In the upper story of the Methodist Church is the lodge room of Trinity Lodge, No. 501, F. and A. M.  This lodge was organized in 1871, and was for years the only working lodge in the county.  John R. Bates was its first Worshipful Master.  In 1897 some of the officers were:  George McGahee, W. M.; J. R. Bates, S. W.; G. W. Atkisson, J. W.; P. P. Anderson, Treasurer; D. W. Flowers, S. D.


From 1800 to 1805 was the time of the "Great Revival" an era of great religious excitement throughout Southern Kentucky and Northern Tennessee.  It was during this time that "the jerks" prevailed and camp meetings originated.  Barton Warren Stone was pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Bourbon County, Ky., and, hearing of "the jerks" or "epidemic epilepsy" which prevailed at the camp meetings which were now becoming numerous, he attended one.  This hitherto staid Presbyterian was so impressed with what he saw that he wrote a book describing it.  A writer, referring to this says; "Elder Stone has been described as a man of respectable bearing, of spotless character and childlike simplicity, and easily attracted to the strange and marvelous.  His judgment was somewhat under the dominion of his imagination."  A further extract from the same author is given with comment; "About the same time (1804) other sects sprang up, known by the respective names of 'Stoneites,' or 'New Lights;' 'Marshallites,' 'Schismatics,' etc.  By these 'heresies' the Synod of Kentucky lost eight members.  The 'Stoneites,' or 'New Lights,' were a body formed mainly through the efforts of Elder Stone after he had decided to abandon Presbyterianism altogether.  This new body was called by its adherents the 'Christian Church,' while by outsiders it was called by the name 'New Lights.'  They held many of the views which afterwards characterized the Campbell reformation, especially the famous dogma of 'baptism for the remission of sins,' and Elder Stone intimates in his book pretty plainly that in adopting it the 'Disciples of Christ' or 'Campbellites,' as the followers of Alexander Campbell were originally called, had stolen his thunder.  When the Campbell reformation reached Kentucky, Elders Stone and Purviance united with the reformers, and thus the Southern branch of the old 'Christian Church' disappeared.  Since the name 'Disciples,' or 'Campbellites,' has been exchanged for the old name, the 'Christian Church.' "  Without discussing the appropriateness or inappropriateness of any of these names, the simple statement is here made that this church has for nearly 80 years been one of the leading churches in this section of the county, and from its starting point here has spread to nearly every other neighborhood in the county.  Here near Shady Grove, at what is known as "The Stand," this church was first established in Hickman County about 1820, and here was held their last camp meeting in 1834.  In addition to its being the first in the county, it was among the first in the State.  Barton W. Stone preached here during the twenties, and the celebrated Tolbert Fanning preached here at a later date.  Nathaniel Kellum, William Nicks, and John Hooten, of this church, preached here as early as 1825.  John Hooten was son of Elijah Hooten, who, as a soldier in the American army, was present at the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.  He came from Virginia to Tennessee about 1811.  He was one of ten children and was the father of eleven.  He married Mary Reeves.  His son, William R. Hooten, was also a preacher, having been ordained in this district in 1829.  John Hooten had but one eye, and could not read or write.  However, he is said to have been a good preacher, and his memory was so good that he gave out his songs correctly, quoted his texts correctly, and told where they could be found.  He died in Marshall County at the age of 75.  William Nicks was the father of seventeen children, one of whom is the venerable Elder John Nicks, the well-known preacher, who now lives in the 1st District.  John Nicks was born in the 3rd District on April 2, 1829.  Another Nicks who preached at "The Stand," at a later date, however, was Absalom Doak Nicks, Jr., son of Absalom Doak Nicks, Sr.  Absalom Nicks, Sr., was a brother of William Nicks, and was born in North Carolina on March 6, 1794, and died in Arkansas in 1848.  He married Hester Perry, who was born in South Carolina on October 8, 1788, and died at Williamsport, Maury County, in July, 1858.  Absalom Nicks, Jr., was born on Mill Creek, in the 5th District, on July 19, 1826.  In 1845 he married Margaret Blocker, who was born near Williamsport on July 10, 1829.  His chances for obtaining an education were limited, but by home study he stored his active and retentive mind with much valuable information.  He was close student of the Bible, and it is said that while at work in his blacksmith shop he had this first of all books so placed that he could read while at work.  He moved to Dickson County, and there made a record of which any man might feel proud.  At the close of the Civil War, when it became necessary to reorganize the State government, Governor Brownlow, in appointing Representatives from the disloyal counties, appointed Nicks, a conservative Union man, to represent Dickson County.  He accepted the appointment, which came without solicitation; but when he entered into the discharge of his duties, he voted as he pleased and according to his ideas of justice and honesty.  This did not meet with the approval of his partisan associates, and they preferred charges of disloyalty against him and declared his seat vacant.  The elective franchise having been restored to the people of Dickson County, they elected him to fill the vacancy.  He so satisfied his people that he was tendered a re-election.  This he declined.  He now lives in the 4th District of Hickman County.


The first Methodist to preach at "The Stand" was Arthur Sherrod, who preached here as early as 1825.  He was from Leiper's Creek, and had been a captain of militia before he commenced to preach.  While the Presbyterian Church, weakened by the secession of the followers of Elder Stone and others, was finally rent asunder by the effects of the "Great Revival," the Methodist Church gained greatly by this religious awakening.  In Tennessee, in 1796, there were 799 white Methodists and 77 colored; in 1803 there were 3,560 whites and 248 colored.  Phelan tells the story of the advent of Methodism into Hickman County when he says: "Other denominations have followed in the wake of civilization; the Methodist circuit riders led it."   The one church in Tennessee which neither gained nor lost by the "Great Revival" was the Baptist Church.  Its members kept the even tenor of their way, looking upon their neighbors who had "the jerks" with feelings in which were blended pity and contempt.  Occasionally at a camp meeting a Baptist spectator would feel an attack of "the jerks" coming on, but by the exercise of will power he generally warded it off.  As early as 1809 John Gill lived at the place where the late Daniel Smith last lived.  The house in which Gill lived is still used as a residence.  Here at an early date preached George Nixon, grandfather of the late Chancellor George H. Nixon.  He was a Methodist, and Mrs. was a member of this church.  They having no church house at that time, services were held at the homes of the members.  Mrs. Gill was an aunt of Richard A. Smith, of the 13th District.  A church was built on Dunlap Creek just below the Samuel Cochran place, but this was destroyed by a hurricane in 1830.  In 1839 Wyley Ledbetter, father of Rev. Henry S. Ledbetter, of the 6th District, preached at the home of Nehemiah Nichols.  About the same time the funeral of Mrs. Weems was preached at the William McEwen place by Rev. ____ Erwin.  The Mormons have no organized church in the county, but in this district there are about 30 members of this church.  When an elder preaches here, it is at the residence of some member.  As to the doctrines of this church or their practices in Utah, we know nothing, but, as citizens of Hickman County, the Mormons of the 3rd District are hospitable and industrious.


At Shady Grove is located the finest, best, and most conveniently arranged school building in the county.  It has many modern conveniences, and was erected at a cost of $2,000.  Here in recent years have taught Professors Salmon, Parrish, Carraway, and Marshall.  About 1887 Elder R. W. Norwood, of the Christian Church, taught school at Shady Grove.  Elsewhere an account is given of the closing of George Peery's pioneer school by government rangers.  The first permanent schoolhouse in this section was built out on the ridge toward Buck Branch about 1820.  It was an imposing structure for those days.  It was built on government land, and was built of hewn logs.  The seats were made of split logs, made smoother by a broadax.  The legs were long wooden pegs driven into auger holes in the half logs.  A writing desk was made by boring holes in the wall and driving long wooden pegs into these holes.  On the pegs was placed a plank or board.  Writing was done with goose-quill pens made with a penknife by the teacher or some his "large scholars."  Gold pens and steel pens were not then in existence.  A good goose-quill pen would last well when proper care was taken with it, and did as well as a steel pen or a gold pen of the present day.  Some of those who taught here were Nicholas P. Simms, John C. Kelley, James Winns, Dr. Joseph Shields, _______ Branch, William Dickey, Samuel Baker, William Willey, and William Leiper.  Simms was a Methodist preacher, and came here from Williamsport.  Shields was an Irishman, and was educated at Edinburgh College.  He was a fine mathematician and rigid disciplinarian.  In punishing his pupils he used papaw bark, which he kept at the schoolhouse for the additional purpose of bottoming chairs at recess.  He taught school at Columbia before coming here in 1831.  Willey was the adopted son of John Willey, who helped to cut out the Natchez Trace, and who lived at the big spring on Dunlap Creek where Cochran now lives.  John Willey was the father-in-law of Craig Anderson.  William Leiper was a brother of the late Green D. Leiper, of the 10th District, and married Amanda Nicks.


Beyond this schoolhouse from Shady Grove lived Archibald Ray, the father of Hal, "Hy," and "Dick," Ray.  It was Ray who remarked, after the seventh baptism of Capt. "Lam" Kelley; "Next time we baptize 'Lam' we'll use warm tar, so that it will stick or make him stick."  Hal Ray was killed by a negro at the Jewell place.  In 1858, about three-fourths of a mile from Shady Grove on Buck Branch, William Brinkle stabbed and killed Elijah Deaton at the home of Deaton's daughter, who was a widow.  Brinkle was never arrested.  He, at the breaking out of the Civil War, enlisted in the Confederate Army, and after the close of the war he did not return to the county.  In 1865 or 1866, at Henry G. Nichols' store in Shady Grove, Griff. Nichols stabbed and killed Artin Hassell.   In 1897 Winfred Cotton, an old and respected citizen of Shady Grove, committed suicide.


Dr. Greenfield Smith was the pioneer physician of this section.  Here at an early date was Dr. McPhail, who was a brother-in-law of John W. Whitfield, a man long prominent in the military and political affairs of the county.  From 1830 to 1840, and for many years afterwards, Dr. Samuel B. Moore, of Centerville, was the family physician of many citizens of this district.  Dr. John Reed was located here in 1847.  Dr. D. B. Cliffe, of Franklin, was at one time a physician here.  In 1897 the physicians of Shady Grove were Dr. Q. A. Dean and Dr. Charles Walters.  Dr. Quintin Abel Dean was born in Centerville on March 23, 1847.  He is a son of Ransom Dean, who came from Kentucky to what is now the 11th District prior to 1820, and for years lived with Squire Kimmins, of Beaverdam.  In 1846 Ransom Dean went to Mexico as color bearer of Capt. John W. Whitfield's company.


In 1825 William Savage and Gilbert Nichols occupied lands on Dunlap Creek.  In order to perfect their titles they were later forced to pay twelve and a half cents per acre for their land.  The locations were made by a friend of Nichols, James Dobbins, a surveyor and land speculator.  Elijah Emmons had located here, but, being unable to pay the required number of cents per acre, Dobbins paid it and took the land.  Dobbins was the locator of other lands on Dunlap Creek, but the most valuable were the lands around Shady Grove, which he located for John Pruett, of Virginia.  The land upon which Shady Grove now stands, and some lying on the present road from the village to the bridge at the site of Gordon's Ferry, was located for Johnson and James Miller.  Gilbert Nichols was born in Maryland in 1768, and married Ellen Charter, of Pennsylvania.  He came to Tennessee in 1819, and in 1825 settled at the place where his son Christopher Nichols, now lives.  This house, which is still a good one, was built in 1823 by Nimrod McIntosh, who was the champion rail splitter of that section.  Christopher Nichols was born in Bedford County, Va., on September 10, 1812, and came with his father to this district.  He married Prudence Manerva Nicks, one of the seventeen children of William Nicks.  She was born on Mill Creek on December 1, 1816, and is the mother of nine children.  James Miller, who located here about 1810, was the father of Simpson, Francis, and James Miller.  The latter two are citizens of Shady Grove, and have had much to do with the building of this thriving little village.


On a portion of the original Miller tract of land now lives John Minor Anderson, who was born on March 17, 1848.  He has been county surveyor since 1883, previous to which he taught school.  He is a son of "Big Dick" Anderson.  "Kettle Dick" Anderson, brother of Robert Anderson, who was the first settler of Anderson's Bend, was his maternal grandfather.  David Anderson, who lived in Bedford County, was a brother of Robert and "Kettle Dick" Anderson, and was the father of "Big Dick" Anderson.  The children of "Kettle Dick" Anderson, who lived in Maury County in the Kettle Bend of Duck River, were: John, who married Mary, daughter of John Gill, of Dunlap Creek; David, Henry; Craig, who married a daughter of John Willey; and Mary, or Polly, who married John Y. Smith, father of Richard A. Smith.  After Smith's death she married her cousin, "Big Dick" Anderson, the father of John M. and David Henry Anderson.  David H. Anderson was born on June 5, 1841.  He has in his possession a powder gourd raised in North Carolina in 1773.  It will hold about a pound of powder.  It was brought to Tennessee by "Kettle Dick" Anderson, and was inherited by his nephew and son-in-law, "Big Dick" Anderson, at whose death it became the property of his son, David H. Anderson.  The pioneer brothers, Richard and Robert, belonged to different political parties.  Richard ("Kettle Dick") was a Whig, and Robert was a Democrat.


In 1836 Simpson Miller had a wood shop where Shady Grove now is.  He had a turning lathe, and made for the people of the surrounding country many bedsteads, bureaus, sugar chests, cupboards, sideboards, spinning wheels, reels, etc.  Henry G. Nichols, the first merchant, commenced to sell good here about 1844. Nichols was deputy under Sheriff W. H. Carothers.  In 1849 a man named Pruett had a shoe shop here.  A few years ago T. B. Walker, now of Whitfield, and J. B. Walker, now cashier of the Centerville Bank, were merchants here.  In 1897 the merchants here were J. D. Evans and J. H. Houser.  D. H. Anderson had here at the same time a shoe, saddle, and harness shop;  John Leek, a saddle and harness shop; and John Thornton and D. Chamberlain, blacksmith shops.


As early as 1815 Joel Pugh had located at the Grimes place, near Shady Grove.  He was born in Kentucky, and came to Mill Creek in 1810.  Here George Pugh was born on May 12, 1812.  Other children were Sally (born on September 15, 1815), who married Henry Cummins; Jane (born on March 30, 1818) who married Joseph Webb, of the 7th District; John W. (born on April 11, 1820); and Mary Melissa (born on May 12, 1825), who married M. H. Puckett, who was at one time County Court Clerk of this county.  Henry Cummins was at one time a deputy sheriff, and was the father of Samuel and John Cummins, two of the county's substantial citizens.  Samuel Cummins is now one of the magistrates of the 3rd District, and says what he thinks, and thinks what he says.  The other magistrate is James Grimes, who is also a descendant of one of the pioneers of the 3rd District.  Joel Pugh was a millwright and wood-workman, and cleared about the first land west of Shady Grove.  Some of his early neighbors were: John Grimes, Samuel Montgomery; George Gannt, a lawyer; and George Harvill, and uncle of the late Elder Y. J. Harvill.  Evans Shelby lived at the B. B. Bates place, near Buck Branch.


On the Natchez Trace, between Pruett's Spring and Duck River, Samuel Alderson Baker located in 1816.  He was born in Virginia on June 16, 1792.  His wife was Frances Walker, who was also born in Virginia.  He located where his son, Samuel Giles Baker, now lives.  Samuel G. Baker was born here on June 25, 1833.  He is the owner of his father's lands, through which the Natchez Trace runs.  Samuel A. Baker located 160 acres here, and afterwards bought 240 acres more.  The sons of Samuel Alderson Baker were: John (born in 1823), who was sheriff of Hickman County immediately after the Civil War; Thomas, William, Samuel G., and James P.  Alice, the wife of George Church, was his daughter.



Chapter VI

The History of Hickman County, Tennessee (1900)

by W. Jerome D. Spence and David L. Spence


Note:  For photos of the Gordon Family mentioned in this chapter click here ---->  The Gordon Family Photos




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