Aug 21, 2016

In Search of my Southern Smith Connection

Downtown Morristown

My nephew and I drove for hours to reach a small city in Northeast Tennessee called Morristown located in the county of Hamblen. I was hoping to find where my great-great grandfather was buried in 1906 and any other information that I could find. His name was Pleasant Thomas Smith, a Civil War vet. 

Downtown Morristown

We traveled up and down hilly streets to reach the only library in town. I carried my two large binders inside that contained all of the information that I have on the Smiths. The library was small, so very small.  I asked if they had any newspapers on the microfiche from 1884 and beyond. There was some juicy information on a relative that involved a barn burning, jail, and a divorce that I wanted more information on. They placed me at a table in front of a reader and I began my search.  I looked through every date that I could muster but didn't come up with anything. It was then that one of the librarians suggested that I go to the archives at the courthouse.  I gathered my things and off we went. 

Morristown, upper level

The archives were located in the basement, which meant that I had to carry my binders down a flight of stairs and I was not looking forward to the descent. Once inside, I was greeted by two elderly women who were ready to research.  I was pelted with questions on dates, names, and locations. After a little while it was suggested that I go to the next county for research because we couldn't find anything on my ancestors.  Even though my great-great grandfather married his second wife in Hamblen County, they lived in Jefferson County before the county boundary changed. 


Morristown upper level with my nephew

Instead of going to Jefferson County that day we walked around downtown Morristown. Main Street was lined with flags and hanging flowers. There is an upper level with shops all along the top.  I have never seen anything like this before and I thought it was awesome. 

The next day we headed to Jefferson County to a little city called Dandridge (the second oldest city in Tennessee, Jonesboro is the first). I was here once before many years ago. There was a country restaurant in the heart of the city was all that I remembered. Today it is out of business. I did visit an old plantation house that was on a back road somewhere but was not feeling that adventurous on this trip. We repeated our steps from the previous day. But this time was more productive.


Dandridge

I met a man who has been researching the Smith line from the county and he was due to arrive early in the afternoon. Timing was perfect in this instance. His name was Ray, a soft spoken southerner with gray hair, smiling eyes, and a firm handshake ( I always judge a man's character based on his handshake). A retired professor who loves genealogy is someone that I was looking for. There was a large folder in the archives for the Smith's. I looked through the folder and found land records that I hadn't seen before. I was thrilled. At least I was going home with more than one piece of paper. We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses.    


Barn in New Market, Tennessee

Sadly, Tennessee didn't begin recording deaths until 1914. I came home with some information that I didn't have before with hopes of eventually finding my great-great grandfathers grave.  I am determined to find him and say that I haven't forgotten you or your life.  Pleasant deserves at least that much from me.