DeKalb County Tennessee
Part of the American History and Genealogy Project



Smithville, DeKalb County, Tennessee

The country adjacent to Smithville was settled by a most worthy class of people, second to none in any part of the county. Old names that come to mind are:

Giles Driver
Jesse Allen
Martin Phillips
Tobe Martin
Britton Johnson
Allan Johnson
James Lockhart
John Wooldridge
J. C. Kennedy
P. G. Magness
Zach Lafever
D. League
Henry Cameron
Bernard Richardson
Samuel Chandler
Elijah Chambers
Edward Hooper
William Adcock
Luke McDowell
John Maynard
The Whaleys

When the county was organized at Bernard Richardson's in March, 1838, a committee, composed of Joseph Clarke, Thomas Allen, Joseph Banks, Watson Cantrell, and Thomas Durham, was appointed to select a site for the seat of justice and erect a courthouse and jail. James Dearman, one of the middle-aged men of Smithville, thinks the center of the county was found to be a mile north of the present Smithville; but as Bernard Richardson had donated fifty acres of land for the town, it was located thereon. But Rev. W. P. Banks, grandson of one of the commissioners, writes under date of April 27, 1914: "My grandfather was the first trustee of the county and one of the men who located the county seat. It was first selected two miles south of the present town on the McMinnville road; but when on digging a well (the mound of dirt is there now plainly visible) the commissioners failed to get water they accepted the proposition of Mr. Richardson, provided they should find water for the public well. Grandfather was a leading spirit in all this."

The first name selected in the original bill for the seat of justice was Macon, but by amendment it was changed to Smithville in honor of Samuel G. Smith, one of the Secretaries of State, who died in 1835. Ke held this office from 1832 to his death.

The first courthouse was soon erected. Prior to 1844 it was replaced by a two-story brick building, costing about $6,000, while the log jail was replaced by a brick structure, costing something like $2,500. Subsequent to 1890 the present courthouse was erected. It may not be out of place to chronicle the fact here that on August 28, 1890, when new county buildings were seen to be needed, an election was held to change the county seat. A site was offered by C. W. L. Hale on his farm, about halfway between Dowelltown and Liberty. Much excitement prevailed, the election resulting in a majority for no removal.

The following Lawyers have been residents of the county at various times. If all are not included, it is not an intentional omission, but an oversight:

M. M. Brien
J. J. Ford
A. M. Savage
J. H. Savage
W. W. Wade Sr.
W. W. Wade Jr.
John B. Robinson
Ralph Robinson
Solon Robinson
Joseph Clarke
J. W. Clarke
Robert Cantrell
William B. Stokes
James A. Nesmith
Robert C. Nesmith
T. M. Wade
B. M. Webb
Boone Trapp
R. M. Magness
W. G. Crowley
M. A. Crowley
B. M. Cantrell
J. W. Overall
Alfred Smith
B. G. Adcock
P. T. Shore
Alvin Avent
Will T. Hale
Dan O. Williams
J. W. Botts
John Gothard
H. A. Bratten
W. D. G. Games
R. B. Anderson
I. C. Stone
M. D. Smallman
S. H. Collins
Richard Saunders
J J. Foster
B. T. R. Foster
J. B. Foster
W. B. Staley
T. J. Bradford
Pallas Smith
White Turney
W. B. Corley
M. M. Brien Jr.
J. M. Allen
Albert McClellan
R. W. Turner
Joseph H. Blackburn
Caleb Davis
J. W. Parker
Eli Evans
D. M. Robinson
L. N. Savage
Thomas Fisher
Jr. J. A. Drake
J. E. Drake
P. C. Crowley
William O'Conner
J. B. Crowley
R. L. Cantrell
Brown Davis
Dixie W. Floyd
Practicing in the county in 1814
T. W. Wade
Alvin Avant
J. E. Drake
R. L. Turner
P. C. Crowley
E. G. Lawson
D. M. Robinson
J. B. Robinson
J. A. Gothard
Dixie W. Floyd
Brown Davis, Smithville
W. B. Corley, Dowelltown
James W. Parker, Alexandria
H. A. Bratten, Liberty
Occupied the bench while Residents of the County
M. M. Brien
Robert Cantrell
M. D. Smallman
W. G. Crowley
W. W. Wade, Jr.
Thomas Fisher
John Fite

The act to incorporate Smithville was passed December 4, 1843. The boundaries were as follows:

"Beginning at the dwelling house of E, M. North, including the saw mill; thence to the southwest corner of the plan of the town; thence east with the line of the said town plan to the northwest corner of the lot of land which AI. M. Brien purchased from John C. Cannady; thence with the lines of the same so as to include it in the town plan; thence a direct line to the stage road so as to include the dwelling house of P. M. Wade; thence north to Fall Creek; thence up the said creek to the chalybeate spring; thence a direct line, including the dwelling house of W. W. Wade, to the northeast corner of the original town plan; thence to the beginning." As in other towns of the county, the corporation was abolished soon after the four-mile law was enacted to secure the statute's educational benefits.

Among the first merchants were Willis W. Wade, P. M. Wade, and Samuel Chandler. Then came W. P. Harvey, P. G. Magness, J. M. Allen, W. H. Magness, J. L. Dearman, George Beckwith, J. Y. Stewart, S. B. Whaley, and Elijah Whaley. Still later the following were business men: R. B. West, Isaiah White, G. R. Smith & Son, Black & Bond, Smith Bros., T. B. Potter, S. D. Blankenship, J. L. Colvert, Hooper & Bro., D. S. Harrison, F. Z, Webb, A. L. Foster, and E. J. Evans. Business is carried on today by the following individuals and firms: W. H. H. Bond, general merchant and undertaker, in business 40 years; F. Z. Webb, druggist, 34; H. E. Mason, druggist, 10; Conger Bros., gentlemen's furnishing goods, 11; H. E. Staley & Son, dry goods and shoes, 25; J. C. Foster ware, lo; J. C. Bond & Bro., groceries; Fred Robinson, groceries; Potter, Love & Hays, ladies' dress goods and millinery; W. L. Taylor & Co., general store and freight transferers; J. E. Foster, groceries ; G. S. Davis, groceries; H. Calhoun, groceries; Burton & Jennings, groceries; James Burch, general store ; Young & Conger, groceries and produce ; Cash Hardware Company, W. F. Hooper manager; James Dearman, hotel and livery stable; A. H. Lane, livery stable; Mrs. E. M. Bailiff, hotel; Mrs. T. W. Wade, hotel; E. J. Evans & Son, spokes, also millers; Sam McGuire, barber; Mart Talley (colored), barber; Lafayette Pack, C. Shaw, C. H. Vickers, and George Summers, blacksmiths; Lee Magness and Thomas Beckwith, photographers.

Early Physicians

G. W. Eastham
Charles Schurer
J. C. Buckley
E. Tubb
J. C. Cox
P. C Shields
J. S. Harrison
J. J. and Isaac Gowan
Dr. Evans, Dr. Barnes
Ben Cantrell, herbiest
M. L. Wilson
James Womack
J. Z. Webb
J. S. Fletcher
T. W. Eaton
A. Avant

W. W. Parker
W. R. Parker
M. L. Wilson
L. D. Allen
C. A. Loring
T. J. Potter

Dentists, J. T. Bell and E. H. Conger.

The Smithville brass band of twenty-one pieces, J. K. Shields leader, has a well-merited reputation throughout DeKalb and surrounding counties.

A number of tanyards have been sunk in that section from an early day. Among the first were Tom Roe's, on Snow's Hill, and Henry Gray's, in town. J. L. Colvert, W. H. Magness, and D. T. Harrison were & Bro., grocery and hardware, 15; Mrs. W. R. Smith, millinery and dress goods, 20; S. C. Tyree, dry goods and notions, 15; W. H. Smith & Co., hard-formerly in this business. D. T. and J. B, Harrison established a tobacco factory in 1879, and for years did a good business, as did the Mack Shores factory.

The town has been noted for its excellent schools, though no record was kept of the old field variety. Fulton Academy drew attention to the county seat a score of years before the War between the States. It was incorporated January 17, 1838, with these as trustees: Thomas Durham, Moses Pedigo, Samuel Allen, Martin Philips, and Bernard Richardson. For further references to this subject see the chapter on educational matters.

List of Smithville Postmasters

J. Y. Stewart
George Beckwith,
"Big Jim" Williams
George Bing
Felix Patterson
Robert Black
Ralph Robinson
J. S. Dunlap
S. P. W. Maxwell
E. K. Atwell
Dick Goodson
J. H. Christian
C. W. Moore, (present)

Like Alexandria and Liberty, Smithville has two banks, the Farmers and Traders' (J. B. Moore, Cashier) and the People's. The latter was organized in 1903 with a capital of $15,000, with R. B. West, President, and J. E. Drake, Cashier. Its resources in 1914 were about $75,000. Present officers: W. H. Davis, President; F. M. Love, Cashier; W. L. Davis, Assistant Cashier.

Mention of the most noted Smithville taverns is given in the chapter on "Stagecoach and Tavern Days." It is thought that the earliest tavern keeper was Dr. G. W. Eastham. Then there were Bernard Richardson and James Erwin. Dave James was tavern keeper from 1850 to 1860, and Mack Shores in 1861-62. Tyree's Hotel has long been a favorite hostelry, as have the Dearman House and Bailiff House. A correspondent writes that many years ago there was a village adjacent to Smithville, a suburb, "just down the hill, across the creek and in the direction of Sparta," called Chalk Hill, and that Jack Frazier kept a tavern there. Six miles from Smithville is a popular summer resort called Seven Springs, J. T. Odum, proprietor.

Pearl-hunting in Caney Fork has been carried on for some years, pearls bringing from $500 to $1,800 having been found. John Windham, of Smithville was one of the most successful dealers. S. L. Fitts, of Temperance Hall, is also a successful dealer. There are no stories to tell of the old-time modes of punishment of criminals. Before Smithville was thought of, whipping, branding, pillorying, and cutting off the ears of criminals were abolished, in 1829 as to whites and in 183 1 as to Negroes.

Relative to the early transportation of freight, Mr. Dearman writes: "The produce from Sligo Ferry, on the Caney Fork River, was carried to Nashville in flatboats, and merchandise which the people needed was brought back on these boats. The boats were pushed up the Cumberland and Caney Fork, and it often required a week or two to reach Sligo. J. L. Dearman, who served as sheriff of the county three terms and twenty years as a magistrate, Levi Bozarth. William Bozarth, David James, Nat Parker, Dave Koger, the Phillipses, and the Dildines are some of the men who made runs down the river and back. While the work was hard, the men were hardy and won their way."

Through the kindness of Mr. Tal Allen, now an honored citizen of Nashville, this list of papers that have been published in the town since the war is furnished: The Highland Sun, A. Max Ford; the Journal, A. C. Carnes; the Index, W. D. Carnes; the Watchman and Critic, Dozier and Kelly; and the Review, Frank Wallace, later Eugene Hendon.

W. D. G. and W. B. Carnes were at one time connected with the Index, and M. L. Fletcher was once a Smithville publisher.

The following necrological note by a correspondent shows the sad changes that have taken place in the population in the last generation: "The following early citizens of Smithville are dead: W. G. Crowley, Chancellor for many years; Bernard Richardson, who donated the site of Smithville to the county; Jack Kennedy, Mexican War veteran and register for thirty years; J. T. Hollis, who served as County and Circuit Court Clerk and Clerk and Master; Mr. Dillard. druggist; Joe Stewart, sheriff and old-time slave trader; J. L. Dearman, sheriff, magistrate, and merchant; 'Sporting Ike' Hays; G. R. Smith, merchant and magistrate for twenty years; T. B. Potter, Confederate soldier, merchant, and banker; W. C. Potter, merchant and banker; Dave James, tavern keeper; Mack Shores, tavern keeper; O. B. Staley, merchant; J. B. Atwell, register for ten years ; J. M. Allen, magistrate for thirty years and twice representative; J. L. Colvert, merchant; S. D. Blankenship, merchant; T. N. Christian, Circuit Court Clerk for sixteen years; T. W. Shields, Circuit Court Clerk for twelve years; Rev. J. M. Kidwell; Z. P. Lee, County Court Clerk for eight years."

But time, tide, and progress await no man. Smithville is today a pretty and thriving town of about one thousand inhabitants. "The turnpike from the town to Snow's Hill," writes a correspondent, "resembles an urban avenue, new houses all along where thirty years ago none were to be seen. From Smithville to Sparta you are never out of sight of new residences and barns. People from the Caney Fork River and hill country have been buying the land and moving to it. Even a dweller of the western section, the Basin, admits this fact: 'I am not sure but the flat woods show more thrift to-day than any other part of the county.' Smithville has a flour mill, a spoke and handle factory, two banks, a paper, churches, and several general stores. The buildings are all comparatively new, only three or four of those built forty years ago standing; while every road leading out from one to eight miles is macadamized. Perhaps much of its prosperity is due to the enterprise of the farmers who have recently bought the lands surrounding and the awakened energy of the descendants of the pioneers," Smithville is a charming and prosperous inland town and growing. Its distance from Nashville is sixty-seven miles.

DeKalb County | Tennessee

Source: History of DeKalb County, Tennessee. By Will T. Hale, Nashville, Tennessee, Paul Hunter, Publisher, 1915.


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