Hosted by USGenNet

History of Tennessee:
Lewis County


To the Lewis Co, TN Goodspeed's History Page Index

"From the earliest time to the present; together with a historical and a biographical sketch of from twenty-five to thirty counties of East Tennessee, besides a valuable fund of notes, original observations, reminiscences, etc, etc."   
Nashville, TN: The Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1887
Reprinted 1990 by Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, TN 37377  
Lewis County, situated on the Highland Rim, is bounded north by Hickman, east by Maury, south by Lawrence and Wayne, and west by Perry.  It contains about 325 square miles, or 208,000 acres of land, only a small portion of which is under cultivation.  The county is located on a plateau ,higher than the adjoining counties, and is drained from the center outward toward nearly all points of the compass, by Buffalo and Big Swan Creeks and their tributaries.  Bordering the calleys, the lands lied in ridges, and the soil is flinty and sterile, and in many places underlaid with slate.
These ridges are covered with a dense growth of red and white oak, chestnut, poplar, etc.  The soil of the valleys is alluvial, and equally productive with other bottom lands, being well adapted to the growing of corn, wheat, oats, peanuts, and grass.  This class of lands compose a very small portion of the area of the county, and are about the only lands under cultivation.  Passing from the valleys over the ridges, we come to the "barrens," which are flat and open and lightly covered with scrubby oaks.  The soil of the barrens is thin and naturally sterile, but large portions of it have a good foundation, and could be made productive by proper fertilization.  Other portions of the barrens, and also of the ridges, are so leachy that they will not hold fertilizing matter, and consequently can not be made productive.  However all portions of the high lands, so far as they have been tested, are especially well adapted t the raising of all kinds of fruit.  Thee is a strip of barrens about three miles wide, extending through the county from southeast to the northwest.  Iron ore abounds in great quantities in the ridges, especially in the southern part of the county.  About two-thirds of all the lands in the county are charged with iron ore, the greater portion, however, being confined to the hilly and rolling lands.  There are many excellent springs of freestone water, and some of mineral.  The elevation of the county is so great, and the fall of the streams so rapid, that it is a remarkably healthy location.     
The first settlement in the county was made on Big Swan Creek about 1806-10, by John Sharp and his sons) William, Edward, Nehemiah, Samuel and Joshua), Elijah, Samuel and James Mayfield, all from Kentucky;  James Rhoads and Bryson B. Venable, from South Carolina;  Ambrose Blackburn, from Georgia;  Daniel Garrett, Larkin Hensley and his brothers (William, Samuel and James), Edward Dycus, John Johnson, John Clayton, the Kirkseys, the Condors and Benjamin Lankford, all form North Carolina.  Mr. Dobbins was proprietor of "Grinder's Stand" on the "Natchez Trace" near where it crosses Little Swan Creek ,and about two and a half miles west of Newberg.  William Johnson, Daniel Sims and Young Simmons were among the first settlers on Pond Creek.  John McClish, a half-breed Indian, lived on a reservation in 1812-1815, and kept a "stand" on the Natchez Trace, where it crosses the Big Buffalo Creek.  The Natchez Trace was opened by Gen. Jackson and his army, on their way from Nashville to New Orleans, during the War of 1812.  The stands above referred to were places where travelers were entertained.
The early settlements were made along the streams, and to the present day have been mostly confined thereto.  But very little of the upland has been brought into cultivation.  By keeping away from the streams and valleys, one may now travel for hours without seeing a human habitation.  Deer, wild turkeys, wild cats and venomous snakes well abound in the extensive forests. 
The first water mills built in the territory composing Lewis County was Tom's Mill, on Cathey's Creek, and the Widow Cavitt's mill, on Swan Creek, both being built about the year 1812, but which was completed first we are unable to say positively.  An iron forge was built on Buffalo Creek, at the crossing of the Natchez Trace, and operated in an early day.  It was afterward moved to the site of the Napier Furnace, which stands on Chief Creek, about nine miles south of Newberg.  The Napier Furnace was erected in 1834, by Napier and Catron.  Mr. Catron died over forty years ago, and the Napiers have owned the property ever since.  The furnace has been operated part of the time by the proprietors and part of the time by lessees.  since 1880 its operation had been suspended.  When operated it required about twenty-five hands, and produced about ten tons of pig iron per day.
The Rockdale Cotton Factory was erected on Big Bigby Creek by Skipwith and Nightengale about the year 1825.  It manufactured cotton yarn only, and about twenty-five persons, mostly women, were employed to run it.  It suspended operations during the late civil war, and has not been run since.  There are now no manufacturing establishments in the county, except a few saw and grist-mills, and a barrel factory at Carpenter's Station.
Lewis County was created by an act of the General Assembly of the State, passed December 23, 1843, providing that a new county should be formed out of fractions from Maury, Lawrence, Wayne and Hickman Counties, and that it be named Lewis County, in honor of Merriwether Lewis*, who accompanied Gen. Clarke in his famous overland route to Oregon Territory in 1803-06.
The act defined the boundary line of the county, and appointed John Akin and Albert G. Cooper, of Maury County; Shadrack Morris and James Voss, of Lawrence; James Gullet and David Voorhies, of Wayne; Hugh B. Venable and Johns Clayton, of Hickman;  to employ a competent surveyor to make the necessary surveys, to hold election in each fraction, to select and purchase a site of the county seat, to lay out a town with a public square, to sell the lots on a credit of twelve months, and to appropriate the funds arising from the sale of said lots to the erection of county buildings.  Elections were accordingly held in the fractions of the old counties, and a majority of the electors thereof voted in favor of the new county.  The commissioners then proceeded and organized the county as further provided in the act of creation.  The county was divided into eight civil districts, and the first county election held in 1844, when the following officers were elected ,to whit: David C. Mitchell, chairman county court;  Josiah K. Strayhom, clerk of county court;  Hugh B. Venable, trustee;  and Alexander King, register.  The magistrates elected were John Clayton, Redding Reeves, Drury D. Goodman, William Hines, James F. Hensley, David C. Mitchell, John Akin, Gideon G. Carter, Kincheon Carter, John S.  Layton, George Nixon, John W. Killpatrick,C. Y.  Hudson, Griffith Cathey, John M. Sharp and James G. Shaw.
The first courts were held, as provided in the act, at the house of John Blackburn, on Swan Creek ,which is about four miles east of the present site of Newberg.  Here, on the lands of said Blackburn, the first county seat was located in 1846, and named Gordon for Powhattan Gordon of Columbia.  The place never grew much, having only a log court house, one store and the dwelling of Mr. Blackburn.  Nothing of the place now remains except the aforesaid dwelling in which the courts were first held.  A resurvey of the boundary of Lewis County was made, and the line moved farther from the county seats of the old counties.  In 1848 the county seat was changed from Gordon to its present site, and located in the woods, on the dividing ridge between Big and Little Swan Creeks.  It was donated on a fifty acre tract donated by Hugh B. Venable and Robert O. Smith, and took its name from the fact that it was the last named burg in the State, and consequently a "New-burg."  It is about two and one-half miles east of the Lewis monument, in a broken and healthy section, where the water is excellent.
The first court house was a log building erected at Gordon, and afterward moved to Newberg.  It was torn down in 1857, and the present one was erected at a cost of $1,500. It is a two-story frame building, 40x40 feet, with the court-room on the first floor and the county offices on the second.  a log jail, 20x40 feet, was erected at Newburg, but there has not been a prisoner incarcerated therein since the late war, and for several years last past the authorities, in their annual report, have said "no jail."  The paupers are supported by appropriations made by the county court, there being no "poor asylum" in the county.
The annual receipts from taxation, and otherwise, are about $12,500, and the expenses of the county about the same.  The indebtedness of the county is about $500.  The tax-duplicate for 1886 shows 161,387 acres of land assessed at $217,188, and personal property at $4,500, making the total assessment of taxable property in the county $221,688, and the total tax charges thereon $2,689.61.
The Nashville and Florence Railroad passes through the eastern part of the county, and has one station within the county at Carpenter.   The survey of the Nashville and Tuscaloosa Narrow-guage Railroad passes from north to south through the center of the county, and about two and one-half miles west of Newberg. 
The county court clerks have been Joseph Strayhorn, 1844-48; C. Y. Hudson, 1848-52; William H. Flanigan, 1852-56; John S. Hunter, six months in 1856; William H. Flanigan, 1856 to civil war;  John Hale, 1865-66;  Samuel V. Perkins, 1866-70;  W. C. Dabbs, 1870-82;  J. W. Stockard, 1882-86.
The county trustees have been Hugh B. Venable, 1844-48; William Sharp, 1848-54; Richard Downey, 1854-58; James Lindsley, 1858-60; Milton D. Brown, 1860-62; Rev. John Hensley and others, 1865-70; George W. Hunt, 1870-74; Redden Reeves, 1874-76;  Paris Cooper, 1876-82;  R. W. Grimes, 1882-86.
The county registers have been Alexander King, 1844-48;  John W. Ricketts, 1848-52;  J.H.S. Anderson, 1852-56; A. G. Cooper, 1856-60; John Holmes, 1865-72;  J.W. Stockard, 1872-78; J. W. Haley, 1878-82; S. L. Massey, 1882-1886.
The circuit court clerks have been R. M. Cooper, 1844-56; Rickard Downey, 1856-60;  Wm. H. Napier and W. T. Brown, 1860-70; Richard Downey, 1870-1874; James Craig, 1874-77; Richard Downey, 187-82; S. Q. Weatherly, 1882-86.
The county sheriffs have been A. P. Buckner, 1844-47; N. B. Akin, 1847-52; Alex. King, two months in 1852; Andrew Johnston, 1852-56; Thos. S. Easley, 1856-58; Samuel A. Whitesides 1858-60; Green B. Dean, 1860-61; Thos. T. Christian, 1861-65; Milton D. Brown, 1865-70; A. F. Goodman, 1870-72; Allen J. Noles, 1872-78; John Carroll, 1878-84; J. W. Christian, 1884-86.  William H. Flanigan served as chancery court clerk, 1871-86.
The attorneys-at-law of the county are John H. Vandiveer, at Hohenwald; J. W. M. Frain, in the western part, and F. A.  Plummer, near Palestine.  
The first term of county court was held early in 1844, at the house of John Blackburn, at Gordon.  And the court continued to hold its regular sessions at the places provided for holding the courts, until December, 1861, when it suspended its sessions through the war period, and until June, 1865,  since which time it has held its regular sessions.  The first term of circuit court was begun and held at the house of the said Blackburn on Monday, March 25, 1844;  Edmund Dillahunty, judge presiding, and Robert M. Cooper, clerk, and Nathaniel Baxter, attorney-general.  The business of this court was also suspended during the war period.  The first term of chancery court was begun and held on Monday, April 24, 1871, at Newburg, with Hon. George H. Nixon, as chancellor, and William H. Flanigan, clerk and master.  By an act of the General Assembly, passed January 31, 1844, Lewis County was attached to the chancery district of Maury County.  But the citizens of Lewis were allowed to file their bills, either at Columbia or in the chancery court at Lawrenceburg.  Consequently, all business in chancery for Lewis County, was conducted in those counties until the Lewis County chancery court was organized. 
The first dwelling house in the town of Newburg was erected by William H. Flanigan, who kept the first hotel.  The post office was established in 1848, and Mr. Flanigan was the first postmaster.  James Patton, the first merchant, opened his store in 1849, and John H. Cooper taught the first school the same year.  Dr. John Bowman was the first physician, and located in 1853; John L. Miller, the first attorney, located in 1850.  Newburg was incorporated in 1852.  The charter of incorporation has since been abolished.  The town had its greatest prosperity in 1854055, when it contained four stores, two saloons, two hotels and several mechanics shops.  It began to decline before the war, during which, at one time, it was wholly deserted.  It now contains the court house, one store, the post office, one school house, one hotel, five dwellings, and a population of about thirty souls.  It has neither lawyer, doctor nor preacher.  Hohenwald has two stores and a post office.  Voorhies, one store and post office. Nutt, two stores and post office.  Carpenter's Station, one store, saw mill and barrel factory.  Palestine, on Swan Creek, six miles northeast of Newburg, was established in 1835, and had its prosperity about 1860, when it contained a post office, store, grocery, school, church and about a dozen dwellings, and fifty inhabitants.  It now contains only one store, a church and a few dwellings.
"About a mile north of the Lewis monument, on the old Natchez Trace, and on the east bank of Little Swan Creek, is where Gen. William Carroll disbanded his troops on his return from New Orleans in 1815.  An eye witness states that he made  then a farewell address, and bid them adieu, crying like a child."  The following veterans of the Mexican war are now residing in the county:  Abel T. Hensley, Samuel L. Tarrant, A/. W. Weatherly, and William C. Story.  In the late civil war the county furnished three companies for the Confederate Army, as follows: Company H, Third Tennessee Infantry, Capts. Samuel L. Tarrant and R. T. Cooper (the latter was killed in Raymond, Miss.); Company C, Forty-eighth Tennessee Infantry, commanded by Capt. Samuel Whiteside, and Company H, Ninth Tennessee Cavalry, commanded by Capt. Thomas H. Beatty.  It is claimed that with these companies, and the individuals who joined organizations outside (the county furnished in the aggregate for the Confederate Army, about 400 men), a number equal to its voting population.  The farmers of this county suffered considerably during the war, by the loss of property seized by foragers.
Education in Lewis County has been very much neglected.  To show the condition of the schools is given an synopsis of the report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the year ending June 30, 1885.  Scholastic population- white, male, 353; white, female, 364; colored, male, 71; colored, female, 72; total, 860.  Number of pupils enrolled- white male, 160;   white, female, 200; colored, male, 30; colored, female, 16; total, 406.  This shows that less than one half of the scholastic population of the county attend the schools.  The number of schools taught and the number of teachers employed, 14; teacher's average monthly wages, $22; average number of days taught in the year, 80; amount of school funds received during the year, $1,760.75; amount expended, $1.031.98; balance on hand, $728.77.
The first church established in the county was the Ebenezer, at Palestine, established about the year 1824, with Rev. James Tarrant as pastor.  The Cumberland Presbyterian erected the first church at Newburg, in 1849, Rev. William Walker being the first pastor thereof.  The Methodists, Cumberland Presbyterians and Christians are the leading religious denominations in the county, and have their churches at different points throughout the same.
[NOTE.-Acknowledgements are due to the Tennessee Historical Society for a portion of the foregoing facts pertaining to Lewis County.]

Lewis County

Z. V. Dabbs, a prominent old citizen, residing at Newburg, Lewis Co., Tenn., and a native of the same county was born April 8, 1827, son of John and Winphra Dabbs, who were born in North Carolina and emigrated to Tennessee at an early date, locating to Lewis County. they were married about 1823, and became the parents of the following ten children:   William P. Dabbs, Paten G. Dabbs, Z. V. Dabbs, Willis C. Dabbs, Matilda C. Dabbs, Mary J. Dabbs, John C. Dabbs, Richard I. Dabbs, Alsey C. Dabbs, and Winphra E. Dabbs.  The father died in 1856, and the mother in 1865.  Our subject is the third child born to their union.  He was educated in the common schools of Lewis County, and from boyhood until 1877, was engaged in tilling the soil.  Owing to failing health at that time, he was compelled to give up farm life, and has since been acting as deputy for the county officials.  He has been magistrate of Lewis County for many years, and was first elected to the office in 1849.  He has been fairly successful, and is regarded as a prosperous and industrious man.  In 1847 he married Lucinda Grinder, daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Grinder, who were natives of North Carolina, and early settlers of Lewis County, Tenn.  Mr. and Mrs. Dabbs are the parents of four children: John R. Dabbs, William C. Dabbs, Mary E. Dabbs, and Admira C. Dabbs.  Mr. Dabbs is a Democrat, and the family are members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Samuel L. Massey, recorder of Lewis County, Tenn., and merchant of Newburg, was born in Lawrence County October 12, 1845.  His parents, Dr. Richard and Levisa Massey, were married in Lawrence County about 1832, and became the parents of five sons and four daughters: Newton A. Massey, Jasper D. Massey, Nancy A. Massey, Mary A. Massey, Richard A. Massey, Levisa Massey, William G. Massey, Aramatta L. Massey, and Samuel L Massey.  Richard Massey, Sr. was a prominent physician for over sixty years in Lawrence County.  He died September 25, 1884, and his wife August 22, 1880.  Our subject attended the common schools of Lawrence County, and the greater part of his life was spent on a farm.  In 1880 he came to Newburg and engaged in the grocery and general merchandise business, where he still remains.  In 1882 he was elected county recorder of Lewis County.  He has been a very successful business man, and is considered one of the first citizens of the county.  He is a Democrat, and in 1867 was married to Emily F. Craig, a daughter of James and Malissa Craig, of Lawrence County.  Mr. Massey and wife are members in good standing of the Methodist Episcopal Church South.
James W. Stockard, county court clerk of Lewis County, Tenn., was born in Maury County, Tenn., on the 11th of February, 1819, and is the son of Richard and Elizabeth Stockard, born respectively in North Carolina and Tennessee.  They were married about 1812, and had born to their union six daughters and four sons:  Eleanor Stockard, John J Stockard., James W. Stockard, Elizabeth D. Stockard, Amanda E. Stockard, Margaret Stockard, Catherine M. Stockard, Richard V. Stockard, Sarah A. Stockard, and Samuel M Stockard.  The father died in 1850, and the mother in 1833.  James w. was their third child, and was educated in the common schools of Maury County.  In 1851 he moved to Lewis County, where he purchased land and farmed until 1880.  He at that time was elected county court clerk of Lewis County, and has since held the office.  In 1844 Mary S. Jennings, daughter of George and Ann Jennings, of Maury County, became his wife.  She died June 21, 1854, leaving the following children: John R. Stockard, Samuel J. Stockard, William J. Stockard, Beatrice E. Stockard, and George H Stockard.  January 2, 1855, Mr. Stockard married Ursely, widow of William Wilson and daughter of Felta Biffle, of Wayne County.  Mr. and Mrs. Stockard became parents of three sons: Silas M. Stockard,  Joseph A. Stockard,  and Thomas V Stockard.  This wife died February 4, 1861,  and December 17, 1865, Mr. Stockard married Parmelia A. Davidson, widow of Jesse Davidson and daughter of William and Mary Cody.  Our subject and wife are members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and politically he is a Democrat.

Back to Lewis Co, TN Home Page

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Please come back and visit us again!

This page was created on December 26, 2000
and was last updated on  Friday, July 06, 2018.

This page is 2000 by Cheryl Zelek.

FastCounter by bCentral