By Jonathan K. T. Smith
Copyright, Jonathan K. T. Smith, 1996

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July 1, 1793-August 21, 1852

            The August 25, 1831 issue of the RALEIGH REGISTER, Raleigh, North Carolina carried the marriage announcement, "At Williamsborough, Granville county, on the 2d inst., Col. Samuel Dickens of Madison county, Tennessee, to Miss Frances H. Burton, of the former place." This marriage was solemnized in the "mansion-house," being the former home of the bride's parents, which the family called "Montpelier" in what was then Granville County but subsequently became a part of Vance County. The bride was a member of the local patrician class and the groom was a widower, a man who had accumulated considerable wealth through estate, land dealings, principally in the western district of Tennessee.

            SAMUEL DICKINS (born in 1781) was a member of a prosperous, well-connected family; had served in the North Carolina House of Commons, 1813-1815; 1818; served briefly, December 2, 1816-Mar. 3, 1817, in the U.S. House of Representatives. He went out to Tennessee in 1820 to establish a homestead for his first wife, Jane (Vaughn) Dickins, a native of Mecklenburg County, Virginia and their several children, after which he moved them to their new home in Madison County in the Western District. (The latter county was established late in 1821 from that part of Stewart County which had embraced most of the territory west of the Tennessee River which had been recently acquired by purchase from the Chickasaw Indians.)

            Dickins "established himself as an efficient surveyor and locator of land in western Tennessee and in 1821 was appointed by Archibald D. Murphey and Joseph H. Bryan to locate and sell the Tennessee land claims of the University of North Carolina. His partner was Dr. Thomas Hunt; their firm, 'Hunt and Dickins' employed numerous young men to help with the work. Dickins was compensated for his services with the usual 16 2/3 percent of the value of the lands surveyed. For selling, collecting and paying, he received 6 percent and later 10 percent, all payable in land. In an 1823 meeting of the university's board of trustees it was noted that he had sold 25,000 acres of land, something over the amount specified. His actions were approved and commended and other sales were authorized from time to time." (DICTIONARY OF NORTH CAROLINA BIOGRAPHY, edited by William S. Powell, University of North Carolina Press, 1986, volume 2, pages 64-65, "Samuel Dickins")

            In a letter to Colonel William Polk, from Person County, North Carolina, dated March 23, 1820 (now in the Polk-Yeatman Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), Colonel Dickins wrote, "I intend to make Tennessee my home, will carry my family there as soon as I can procure a residence for them which I greatly fear cannot be done the present year." He expressed a willingness to undertake Colonel Polk's business in Tennessee (locating, surveying, perfecting, selling the colonel's land based on warrants) for an "adequate compensation," closing with a suggestion that they meet the next Monday and "on the next day I shall go on to Tennessee." For years he dealt with Colonel Polk's land interest in Tennessee and after his death, he continued the same service for the colonel's widow, Sarah Polk.

            Something of the acquisitive and opportunistic nature of Colonel Dickins may be revealed in the comment made, later published, by Memucan Hunt Howard, a nephew of the colonel's land-speculating partner, Dr. Thomas Hunt, who served in the Western District as a deputy-surveyor for the two men, in remarking about his uncle and other employer, "My employer /Dr.


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Hunt/ made in two years, and mainly from my labor and attention to his business, I suppose more than twenty thousand dollars, which he, brought up in ease and abundance and being of an extravagant and liberal disposition, soon got rid of . . .; his partner's /Dickins/ plan was to get all he could and keep all he got." ("Recollections of Memucan Hunt Howard," AMERICAN HISTORICAL MAGAZINE, volume 7, #1, 1902, page 57) Judging from the large estate Colonel Dickins left at his death, this was probably a fair assessment.

            Colonel Dickins developed a large plantation of about 2000 acres in north-central Madison County which includes what is today the village of Spring Creek, a settlement named for the stream that ran through his place and that of other neighboring settlers, itself a tributary of the Middle Fork of the Forked Deer River. He called his plantation Hazlewood on which he lived somewhat after the fashion of a manorial lord, with his slaves, numerous livestock and crops. His dwelling was probably a large hewn-log building, as even the most substantial houses were built in the early days of settlement; perhaps two-story but in any event, more convenient than the average log cabin homes of most people.

            After Colonel Dickins' first wife, Jane, died in December 1825, he had her body buried in a prepared graveyard at Hazlewood. In time, visiting back in North Carolina, he courted Miss Frances H. Burton, who was addressed by her conventional nickname, Fanny, at a time when she had lost both of her parents in death and she and her sister, Eliza, were residing at the Montpelier plantation adjacent the village known as Williamsboro in Granville County. She and her middle-aged suitor were married there and they soon went to live at Hazlewood in Tennessee. The Dickinses were fated not to have children although he had nine surviving children from his first marriage.

            At the age of fifty-eight, on January 14, 1839 Colonel Dickins drew up a long last will and testament, at Hazlewood, devising this homeplace to his beloved wife, Fanny, as long as she lived on it, including the services of an overseer; also to her the slaves he had received in his marriage with her; his carriage and four carriage horses, livestock, furniture and half of the growing crop at the time of his demise. "I further give and bequeath to my beloved wife Fanny all sum or sums due from her brother Horace H. /A./ Burton on judgments, bonds or otherwise and one half of the amount of the sale of Montpelier after deducting from the whole amount of sale the amount paid and to be paid to Mr. James Anderson for his interest. /This man married Eliza, a sister of Fanny Burton Dickins./ I also give and bequeath to my beloved wife in cash one hundred dollars which I direct my executor to pay to her immediately after my death and I also give and bequeath to my beloved wife yellow Rachel the mother of Gillis and Hannah the mother of Chestena." (Madison County Will Book 3, pages 214, 219)

            Colonel Dickins died July 22, 1840 and his will was probated August 3, 1840. (Madison County Court Minute Book 4, page 682) He was buried beside his first wife in the family graveyard, a one-fourth acre plot he had reserved in his will with a request that it be enclosed with a brick wall. Their remains lay buried there until their great-granddaughter, Martha Cinderella Dickins Smithwick (1858-1935) had their remains exhumed and reburied in lot 896 in the Chapel Hill section of Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee on November 17, 1914. Their slab tombstones were moved as well and placed over their new graves. (See top of next page.)

            Colonel Dickins' surviving children from his first marriage were Elizabeth Dickins Beloat; Martha L. Dickins Bugg; Ann V. Dickins Martin; Sarah Dickins Martin; Thomas Dickins; Robert F. Dickins; Samuel B. Dickins;


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to the memory of
Mrs. Jane Dickins
Daughter of
Thomas Vaughn, Esq.
Mecklenburg County,
Who under a long and painful
illness which she bore with calm
resignation departed this life
Dec. 3rd 1825
In the commencement of
the 42nd year of
her age.
She was enabled to contemplate
with composure her approaching
dissolution and let go her feeble
hold oh earth and time in the
full confidence of realizing
the unrounded goodness of an
atoning Saviour.
Blessed are the dead that die in the lord.

to the memory of
Samuel Dickins
in Person County, N. Car. 1783.
In Madison County, Tenn.
Just, upright & benevolent in all
his intercourse & dealings
with men
he walked humbly before
Practical believer
in the gospel plan of

Edmond H. V. Dickins; Mary Jane Dickins; all of whom received generous bequests, in lands and slaves, in their father's will. (IBID., pages 214-219) When their step-mother left Hazlewood they settled with her and agreed among themselves to sell the entire Hazlewood estate, some 2000 acres, to the sister, Martha L. and her husband, Dr. Joel Bugg, reserving the family burial ground, on July 22, 1841. (IBID., Deed Book 7, page 435) The Buggs, non-residents, sold the plantation a few years later to Dr. John C. Rogers and John L. Moore who developed the village of Spring Creek on a goodly portion of the Dickins land.

            When the census enumerator called at Hazlewood in the summer of 1840 he noted the household of Fanny Dickens, with a female, aged 40-50 years (herself) and a younger female, born between 1810-1820 who was probably her step-daughter, Mary Jane Dickins (who later married a Dr. Taylor of Memphis). (See, U.S. Census, 1840, Madison County, page 96) It wasn't long, however, before Fanny Dickins left Hazlewood to make her home in southeast Fayette County, Tennessee, near LaGrange, where several of her brothers lived. They were among the children of Colonel Robert Burton and his wife, Agatha (Williams) Burton, whose family record was written in their family bible, which was copied by a great-granddaughter, Mrs. A. L. Smith, and later published in Tyler's QUARTERLY HISTORICAL AND GENEALOGICAL MAGAZINE, volume 2, #1, 1920, pages 275-277:

From the Bible of Col. Robert Burton.


Robert Burton son of Hutchins Burton, born Oct 20th 1747
Agatha Williams daughter of John Williams born Oct 6th 1757

(Their children)

John Wms Burton born July 23rd 1776, Sunday 53 minutes before 1 o'clock A.M.
Hutchings Burton born Dec 9th 1777 Monday
Frank N. W. Burton born May 2nd 1779
Robert H. Burton born July 22nd 1781
Agnes Burton born April 11th 1783
Alfred M Burton born Sept 9th 1785
James M. Burton born Dec 31st 1786
Augustus Burton born Mar 31st 1789
Horsce A Burton born Feb 25th 1791
Fanny H Burton born July 1st 1793
Eliza W. Burton born Oct 1st 1795
John Wins Burton born Oct 31st 1798

Robert H. Burton son of James Burton & Prudence his wife born Mar 3rd 1811
Robert Augustus Burton son of Alfred M. Burton & Elizabeth his wife born May 15th 1812
Elizabeth Williams Burton daughter of Alfred M. Burton & Elizabeth his wife Nov 1st 1813
John Fullenwider son of Robert H & Polly his wife, April 1814
Mary Murfree Burton daughter of Frank N. W. Burton & Lavinia his wife, born Jan. 17th at 12 o'clock 1815
Francis Eliza Burton daughter of F. N. W. Burton & Lavinia his wife Sept 8th 1818 3 o'clock in the afternoon


John Wms Burton son of Robt & Agatha Burton departed this life Sept 18th 1793
Agnes Burton daughter of Robt & Agatha Burton departed this life Oct 16th 1796
Hutchings Burton son of Robt & Agatha Burton departed this life Mar 20th 1811
Robt Burton departed this life May 31st 1825
Augustus Burton son of Robt & Agatha Burton departed this life April 15th 1828
Agatha Burton died January 31st A.D. 1831


Robert Burton & Agatha Williams married Oct 12th 1775
Their son James M. Burton married to Prudence Robards daughter of James Robards Esq & Mary his wife July 12th 1809
Alfred M. Burton married Elizabeth Fullenwider, daughter of John Fullenwider & Elizabeth his wife June 4th 1811
James Burton married second time to Martha Johnson daughter of James Johnson & Jane his wife July 18th 1812
Robert H. Burton married to Polly Fullenwider sister of Alfred M. Burton's wife May 11th 1813
Prank N. W. Burton & Lavinia B. Murfree daughter of Coes Hardy Murfree & Sally his wife married Feb 23rd 1814
James M. Burton married 3rd time to Catherine Love daughter of Edward & Lucy Love August 1817
James M Burton married 4th time to Martha Gilbert June 22nd 1824
John W. Burton married to Susan P. Lyne daughter of Henry & Lucy Lyne Sept 22nd 1819
Horace A. Burton married to Margaret Williams daughter of William & Elizabeth Williams June 2nd 1825


            In the biographical sketch of Colonel Samuel Dickins in the DICTIONARY OF NORTH CAROLINA BIOGRAPHY, already quoted, it was remarked that his second wife was a sister of Governor Hutchins G. Burton of North Carolina, 1824-1827 (Page 65) and on that authority the present writer implied as much in the first run of his own publication, A GENEALOGICAL MISCELLANY II., MADISON COUNTY, TENNESSEE (Jackson, 1996), page 64, but his subsequent research revealed that this is an unfortunate error. She was a first cousin, not a sister to Governor Burton, who was a nephew of her father, Colonel Robert Burton and a son of John and Mary (Gordon)Burton. (DICTIONARY OF NORTH CAROLINA BIOGRAPHY, edited by William S. Powell, University of North Carolina, l979, volume l, page 285)

            Colonel Robert Burton (1747-1825) was a native of Mecklenburg County, Virginia, a son of Hutchings Burton and his wife, Tabitha (Minge)Burton;


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he moved to Granville County, North Carolina and "At the beginning of 85. the Revolution Burton became a lieutenant of Continental artillery; afterward he was quartermaster general of North Carolina with the rank of colonel. He served as a member of the council of state from 1783 to 1785; again during the period 1800-1807, and again in 1813-15. He was president of the council in 1807, 1813 and 1815. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1785 but not seated until 1786. "He was a planter and owned considerable land in North Carolina and several thousands of acres in Tennessee. (IBID., page 286)

            In his last will and testament, dated January 30, 1819, Colonel Robert Burton left one-half of Montpelier, the family plantation, several slaves, household furnishings, carriage and livestock to his widow, Agatha. To his several children he left land and slaves, except for his son, Frank Nash Williams Burton, whose maternal grandfather, John Williams, had left him a handsome patrimony. Several of his children were devised an interest in Montpelier, including his daughters, Fanny H. and Eliza W. Burton. In a codicil dated September 19, 1822 Colonel Burton left land heretofore devised to his son, John Williams Burton but revoked, tO his sons, Robert and Horace, for them to hold in trust for the family of John Williams Burton, not subject to his debts. He also willed slaves to a grandson, Robert Archibald Henry Burton, son of John W. Burton and Robert Edward Burton, son of James M. Burton. This will was probated in August 1825. (Granville County Will Book 10, pages 47-49)

            Agatha, widow of Colonel Robert Burton, was a daughter of John Williams (died 1799) of Granville County, who left a life-interest in his homeplace to his wife, Agnes and then it went to a grandson, Francis (Frank)Nash Williams Burton; his grandson, John Williams Burton, youngest son of his daughter, Agatha, wife of Robert Burton, was left the means to procure an education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Granville County Will Book 5, pages 16-21; will probated November 1799)

            Agatha (Williams) Burton executed her last will and testament, dated September 2, 1825 in which she left her interest in Montpelier, including the mansion and outhouses, to her daughters, Fanny H. and Eliza W., with a request that they allow their brother, Augustus, tO live there also as long as he chose to do so. (He died in 1828.) To her other children she bequeathed land, slaves and furniture. (IBID., Will Book 12, pages 103-104) This will was probated soon after her death at age 73 years, which demise occurred January 30, 1831 at Montpelier. (RALEIGH REGISTER, February 17, 1831)

            In the estate papers of Agatha Burton (North Carolina Archives: A. Burton's estate records, CR 044.508.23) in a petition to the county's magistrates dated May 1832, that of "Robert H., Alfred M. and Horace A. Burton respectfully sheweth unto your worships that their late mother Agatha Burton died . . . leaving a last will and testament which has been duly proven in this court, by which last will and testament after devising to her daughter Fanny H. who has since intermarried with Samuel Dickins and Eliza W. who has since intermarried with James Anderson, a certain portion of that tract or parcel of land whereon she resided before and at the time of her death, commonly called Montpelier, and the residue thereof to her sons Robert H., Alfred M., James M. and Augustus Burton, last of whom died before the testator, "the latter of whose interest fell to Horace A. Burton and James M. Burton had conveyed his interest to Horace also, who asked that this residue be apportioned to him.

            Fanny Burton Dickins' brothers, John W. and James M. Burton, lived near LaGrange in Fayette County. Shortly before February 1841 she moved to this location, purchasing several hundred acres there over the next several months in Civil District 13. (Fayette County Deed Books M, page 171; J, pages 276, 296) She purchased an additional 400 acres, off Wolf River,


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for $4000 late in 1851. (IBID., Deed Book R, page 335) There, in Fayette County, amid her kindred and acquaintances she lived until her death. The December 6, 1850 entry for her in the U.S. Census of that year (Fayette, page 713) gives her real estate valuation as $3600. She was given as aged 57 years. Residing with her were Martha Burton, age 52, Agatha Burton, age 27; Hugh Burton, age 15 years, perhaps the widow and children of her brother, James M. Burton.

            Fanny Burton Dickins died August 21, 1852 and a slab tombstone (now broken) was placed over her grave, inscribed, "In memory of Mrs. F. H. Dickins, who departed this life Aug. 21, 1852, Aged 59 years."

            Buried beside her, with a slab tombstone, also, is her brother, "James M. Burton, born in Granville Co., N.C. Died Aug. 21, 1846, aged 59 yrs, 7 ms, 22 ds." Nearby is their brother, "John W. Burton, Born in Granville County, N.C. Oct. 31, 1798. Died Jan. 30, 1860." These graves are in the LaGrange Cemetery about a mile north of the town on the LaGrange-Somerville Road.

            Fanny Burton Dickins left no will and her brother, John W. Burton, served as administrator of her estate, having posted a bond for $40,000 to do so, September 6, 1852. Among other activities associated with this responsibility was the sale of her personalty, December 14, 1853. (Fayette County Estate Book H, pages 368-369) Also, the management of her plantation operation during the next two years before her estate was finally settled in the chancery court; his final settlement was dated May 7, 1855. (IBID., page 363)

            The older chancery court records of Fayette County were destroyed when the courthouse burned in 1925, hence the particulars of the settlement of Fanny Burton Dickins' estate is vague. Several of her kindred appointed John W. Burton to represent them in her estate, including Robert Burton, Talladega Co., Ala., Henry W. Burton, Sarah L. Burton and Alfred F. H. Burton of Cherokee Co., Ala., children of their deceased father, Robert H. Burton, Fanny's brother, October 1856. (IBID., Deed Book U, page 1) Also, J. A. Burton, Cleveland Co., North Carolina appointed Henry W. Burton, Cherokee Co., Ala. to represent him in his sister's estate, January 1854. (IBID. Book T, page 333) Eliza and M. H. Adanis, York District, South Carolina, also appointed this man to represent their interest in the estate, April 1854. (IBID.)

            John W. Burton had hardly settled his sister's estate when he died, January 30, 1860 (tombstone date) of "inflammation" in Fayette County; in his will (dated March 1857) he bequeathed money to sons William H., John W. and Frank L. and at his wife, Susan's death, estate was to be divided among these sons and his daughters, Lucy F. Pulliam, Susan P. and Agatha Burton. He resided on his plantation called Cottage Home. (IBID., Will Book B, pages 106-107) A niece of Fanny's, Lucy F. Burton, wife of John J. Pulliam, is buried in the LaGrange Cemetery with a tombstone inscribed with her name, that of her husband and those of her parents and place of birth, Granville County, N.C., April 27, 1836. Death date: January 9, 1864; her only surviving child, John Norman Pulliam (Oct. 5, 1856-Jan. 28, 1859) having predeceased her.

            Fanny's brother, Frank Nash Williams Burton is buried in the old city cemetery of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with tombstone inscribed with his dates: May 2, 1779-June 6, 1843; his wife, Lavinia Murfree Burton, 1795-1881, is buried there. Their daughter, Mary M. Burton (Jan. 17, 1815-Jan. 9, 1858), married Dr. William Powell Godwin, June 20, 1836 and moved to Spring Creek; both are buried in the old Hazlewood/Spring Creek Cemetery. Another daughter, Lavinia E. Burton, married Joseph H. Stewart, in Rutherford County, June 4, 1850 and they too moved to Spring Creek; after his demise, she remarried, Dec. 21, 1852, to Duncan H. Selph. A son, John William Burton (1825-1883) served in the Tennessee House of Representatives, 1849-1851 as did another son, Hardy Murfree Burton (1818-1852), 1841-1843.


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