C.D. Smith's "Brief History"
Part II: A Brief History of Macon County, NC
by the Rev. C.D. Smith
After the land sale in September 1820, at which a large part of the surveyed land was disposed of to the highest bidders, the Tennessee Valley was settled quite rapidly, but it was not until the spring of 1829 that a county government was organized. During this interim all the legal business of this entire territory west from the Tuckaseige river to the Tusquittee and Valley River chain of mountains was transacted by the county authorities of Haywood county and in the Superior Court for said county.
Whipped for hog-stealing
I remember distinctly the case of a man living within the territory of the present Smith's Bridge township who was tried and convicted in the Superior court for Haywood county for hog stealing, and for this crime received twenty-nine lashes at the public whipping post in the town of Waynesville. This is the only case of the kind that ever happened in the territory of Macon County.
During this interim the late Col. Joab I. Moore, who resided near Franklin, held for four years the position of Deputy Sheriff under Col. James McKee, who was at that time Sheriff of Haywood County. Col. Moore did all the business pertaining to that office in the new territory, and was regarded as a very efficient and faithful officer.
This transition covering the formative period of our first population finally crystallized into the elements for self county government. Hence at the session of the General Assembly for 1828-29 an act was passed to create a new county and the name of Macon was given it in honor of Nathaniel Macon, who was a pure statesman and a perfect specimen of an old time American patriot and gentleman.
First County Court
The law creating the county appointed thirty-three leading citizens to be qualified and to serve as the first Board of Magistrates. I here quote the minutes showing the organization of the county: "Minutes of a Court for Macon County, Held for Said County on the 4th Monday in March, 1829, Agreeable to an Act of the General Assembly Made and Provided for Said County." "Present and organizing said county, from the county of Haywood, Wm. Deaver, Esqr., who appointed Joshua Roberts to administer the oath to the following Justices of the Peace for said county, to-wit: Aaron Pinson, Saul Smith, Jesse R. Siler, John Howard, Jacob Siler, John Moore, John Cook, Enos Shields, Jonathan Phillips, Bynum W. Bell, Benjamin S. Brittain, Joseph Welch, Michael Wikle, Thomas Rogers, Wm. F. McKee, Andrew Cathey, George Dickey, Edward L. Poindexter, Irad S. Hightower, James Buchanan, Wm. Tathem, Wm. H. Bryson, Matthew Patterson, Barak Norton, Wm. Wilson, Thos. Love, Jr., Mark Coleman, Hugh Gibbs, Asaph Enloe, Robert Huggins, John Wild, Henry Dryman and Jefferson Bryson, who, after taking the said oath agreeable to law, proceeded to appoint a clerk for said county. After balloting for said appointment, it appeared to the satisfaction of the court that Nathan B. Hyatt was duly elected clerk."
The court having thus been duly organized, consisting of thirty-three magistrates, they proceeded, by ballot, to elect all the county officers - the election continuing from day to day. John Dobson, father of our countryman, Capt. J.W. Dobson, was elected first County Register, Bynum W. Bell first Sheriff, Montraville Patton first County Solicitor, Jacob Siler first County Surveyor, Michael Wikle first County Trustee, Nathan Smith first Coroner, Robert Huggins first County Ranger and James K. Gray first Standard Keeper. James Poteet was the first constable appointed by the new court.
Of that first Board of Magistrates I knew nearly all personally. Something over sixty-two years have passed away since that first Board of Magistrates was organized into a court. Of the whole number there is but one now living, the venerable William H. Bryson who resides in Jackson County.
Taken as a body, for general intelligence, integrity of character and fortitude and fidelity in the administration of law coming within their jurisdiction, they suffer nothing in comparison with the best County Boards of Magistrates within the State at the present writing. For public spirit and patriotic labor in the direction of county development and in building and keeping in repair public roads for public comfort and convenience, they have not had their equal in the county for the last half century. If we take the Scriptural axiom as true that the "tree is known by its fruit" then the deterioration of our public roads does not place the present population in an enviable light when compared with the population of Macon County fifty years ago. This comparison stands out with special prominence when we consider the present unaccountable disinclination of our population to render even a day's labor on repairs to say nothing of the more needed improvements on our public roads.
To tell a plain historic truth in plain language, our fathers, from patriotic motives and with a sense of public and personal comfort and convenience, and prompted by county pride, built our county roads, and the present generation is too trifling to keep them up.
Building the Tennessee River Road
As an illustration of the spirit of the men who first settled Macon County, it was agreed that the county should build a road leading from Franklin down the Tennessee River to the mouth of the Tuckaseige River to connect with a turn pike for which Joseph Welch had a charter to the Tennessee State line. Accordingly the court appointed a jury to lay off and mark the way for said road commencing at the junction of the Tennessee and Tuckaseige rivers and to divide it into lots as near equal as their limited means would enable them to do.
The jury, laid and marked off into seven lots, No. 1, commencing at the Tuckaseige Ford and No. 7 terminating not far from the Shallow Ford on the Tennessee river. There was some sort of lottery in assigning this work to the respective captains' militia companies. I suppose there was drawing of straws or perhaps numbers on slips of paper. The record reads on the appointment of the respective overseers: "This lot falls to Capt. Love's company" etc. etc. to the end of the chapter. It seems that there were six militia companies at that time in the county. It may be well to mention here the overseers of the respective lots, and the Captain's company assigned to each lot, as the building of this road furnishes an interesting and instructive chapter in the history of Macon County. Henry Addington No. 1, Capt. Love's company; Lot No. 2, Robert Johnson, Capt. Johnson's company; Lot No. 3, Benjamin S. Brittain, Capt. McKee's company; Lot No. 4, Jacob Palmer, Capt. Smith's company - now Smith's Bridge Township; lot No. 5, Joshua Ammons, Capt. George's company. Lot No. 6 being regarded as a very hard lot was divided into three sections with Jesse R. Siler, Joseph Welch and James Whitaker as the overseers of the respective sections with special hands assigned them. Lot No. 7 had Wm. Bryson as overseer. This lot fell to Capt. Wilson's company. This lot terminated some where about the Shallow Ford, the road from Franklin having been somewhat worked out to that point.
The foregoing lots were worked out by respective companies - the hands forming themselves into masses, taking wagons to haul their provisions, tools, camp-fixtures, etc.
The Smith's Bridge company had the lot which lay between the 18 and 19 mile-posts. The mess consisting of my brothers and some neighbors took me along as cook and camp-boy. There I saw the men taking rock from the river with the water breast deep to aid in building wharves. They remained until the work was finished. This work was done without compensation and for the public good. It illustrates the sort of stuff of which our fathers were made - the spirit of patriotism that prompted a noble race of men to sacrifice and work for their country's good. This work done they returned home feeling that they had rendered a service that was to benefit their county and their posterity.
The overseers of the roads generally, of that time, were of the best men in the county. That first Board of Magistrates did not believe in any class distinction in their demands for public service. I find in the records of that first court an order appointing Joshua Roberts, the most prominent member of our local bar, the overseer of one of our roads. This record set me to thinking. There is a whole lot of lawyers in Western Carolina, who are not the peers of Joshua Roberts for respectability and legal attainments who might be utilized by our county authorities by making road overseers of them and thereby causing them to render some good, honest service to their country. It would be at least a healthy exercise and may be it would bring the rebellious spirit of our young American patriots against road duty to proper terms. At all events it might prevent the boastful young men of the present time from fighting their overseers when they demand reasonable and legal service of them. Try it, Esquires, and let us see if there is any blood of our noble sires in the present generation - any pride of character - any love of the general brotherhood which binds together the people of a county and without which its good name and prosperity cannot long continue.