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DeKalb County , Georgia

Family, Friends, and Neighbors

Religion

Economy and Agriculture

Slavery

Civil War

Smith Family Geography

Landlot map

Notes

 

 

This is part of a series of historic structure reports on the historic architecture of Georgia and the Southeast by Tommy H. Jones. It is posted here for educational purposes only and may not be used or reproduced for commercial purposes or without the express permission of the author.

 

 

 

 

The Piedmont was crisscrossed by a series of Native American trails, themselves often following ancient animal tracks, and the white pioneers frequently improved these into early roads, establishing routes that are, in many cases, still followed today. At Sand Town, Standing Peachtree, and the Shallow Ford were some of the most important river crossings in the upper Piedmont and several trails converged on these crossings in what would become western DeKalb County (and later part of Fulton County).

In 1813-14, log forts were hastily built at “the Standing Peachtree,” site of a Creek trading post on the Chattahoochee at the mouth of Peachtree Creek and at Hog Mountain in northeastern Gwinnett County to protect the frontier against the hostile Creeks, who had allied themselves with the British during the War of 1812. Connecting the forts was a road called, from the beginning, “Peachtree Road,” which generally followed the modern route of Peachtree Road from the northwest through DeKalb County and at Buckhead in Fulton County following the modern routes of Paces Ferry Road and Moores Mill Road to Standing Peachtree at the mouth of Peachtree Creek. A secondary trail ran south from Buckhead connecting to the Sandtown Trail in what is now downtown Atlanta. In the years after 1820, Peachtree Road with its connections to the river crossings on the upper Savannah in Franklin County was quite possibly the route that the Smiths followed as they made their way down the Piedmont into DeKalb County.

 

DeKalb County, Georgia

Like the area west of the Catawba River in the Carolinas in the eighteenth century, the region along the Chattahoochee River through the upper Piedmont, including what would become DeKalb County, was at the edge of the frontier and only sparsely inhabited in the early nineteenth century. The Chattahoochee was the boundary between the Cherokee and Creek lands, but it had few of the broad river bottoms that attracted the larger Indian settlements at Etowah, Ocmulgee, and other places. There were, however, Creek villages on the Chattahoochee at Standing Peachtree and at Buzzard’s Roost, later known as Sandtown. Smaller villages may have also been located along the larger streams, including one noted by Walter G. Cooper’s Official History of Fulton County between the forks of Peachtree Creek, very near where the Smiths later settled. The absence of large Indian settlements in the area accelerated white settlement of these lands and made squatters a particular problem even before the Creeks had made their formal cessions.[1]

In 1817, the Creeks ceded their claim to lands north of the Hightower Trail, the route of which approximated the present eastern boundary of DeKalb County, and the following year, the State organized Gwinnett, Hall, Walton, and Habersham counties out of that territory.[2] By the time the Fourth United States Census was taken in 1820, Gwinnett County already had a population of over 4,000, including a number of settlers who would soon pioneer DeKalb County. Meredith Collier, John Evans, Benjamin Plaster, Isham Medlock, and Tullie’s maternal great-grandfather Abraham Chandler were just a few of the pioneers who were pressing the frontier in Gwinnett County in 1820 and would soon move on to DeKalb County where their lives would intertwine with the Smiths.

In 1821, the Creek were again forced to cede land, this time giving up their claim to lands east of the Flint River and its headwaters, which advanced the frontier to approximately the present western boundaries of south Fulton and Fayette counties. Out of this 1821 cession were organized Fayette and Henry counties, a huge area that encompassed all or most of present-day Fulton, DeKalb, Fayette, Clayton, Henry, Butts, Spalding, Newton, and Rockdale counties. In December 1822, with several thousand pioneers already in residence, the state organized a new county from that original Henry County and called it DeKalb in honor of Revolutionary War hero Baron Johann De Kalb. Until 1854, DeKalb County also included the central portion of what is now Fulton County, including all of what is now the City of Atlanta.

 

Early Roads

By the summer of 1823, the Justices of the Inferior Court had laid out the county seat of Decatur on Land Lot 246 of the 15th District and a log courthouse was under construction.[3] When the Rev. Adiel Sherwood published the first edition of his famous Gazeteer of Georgia in 1827, he reported that Decatur “contains C. House, Jail, Academy, & 40 houses, stores, &c. Many bldgs are now erecting and it bids fair to be a large town.” The population of the county was 3,569; some of the Smith family were likely part of that number.

Named for Stephen Decatur, naval hero of the War of 1812, the county seat of DeKalb County was the destination for a number of new roads that were authorized in the early to mid-1820s. In May 1823, Meredith Collier, Charles Harris, Joel Pritchett, and Naman Hardman were appointed Commissioners “to view and designate the different routes on which roads are intended to pass.” The Shallowford Road, as it was generally called, was one of the first of these new county roads, connecting Decatur with Shallowford, an important Chatthoochee River crossing into the Cherokee country near present-day Roswell.

One of the first ferries in the county was established at Shallowford in 1824. Its proprietor, Jacob Brooks, ran the following ad for the new ferry in newspapers in Milledgeville, Augusta, Columbia, and Raleigh that year:

The subscriber has established a Ferry across this river at the place commonly known as the Shallowford in the upper part of DeKalb County. Travelers from the Carolinas to the Alabama, coming by way of Augusta, Madison, Rockbridge, etc., will find this much the nearest and best route. Bridges will be placed over the water courses beyond the ferry.[4]

The original route of Shallowford Road from Decatur followed generally the present route of Clairmont Road to Oak Grove Road to modern Shallowford Road.

Figure 1. A 19th-century Smith Family Geography for DeKalb and Fulton Counties. (T. Jones, 1997)

 

Another early road, authorized in 1825, was a road from Decatur to Standing Peachtree, nine miles west of Decatur. With the Shallowford crossing, the crossing near Standing Peachtree was one of the more important in the area and, likewise, was soon served by a ferry, operated by James McConnell Montgomery. It is difficult to trace the entire route of this road from Decatur to Standing Peachtree, but it left Shallowford Road north of Decatur and survives generally in the existing routes of North Decatur Road, Rock Springs Road and the small remnant called Montgomery Ferry Road that runs through Ansley Park. West of Peachtree Road, the present DeFoor’s Ferry Road, named for a subsequent ferry operator at Standing Peachtree, continues the historic route of Montgomery’s Ferry Road to the site of Standing Peachtree.[5]

Many other ferries came and went in the intense competition to provide the best route into the Cherokee Nation in the 1820s and 1830s. Hardy Pace’s ferry was one of the more important of these and the road to his ferry remains one of the area’s best-known thoroughfares. Paces’ ferry was located two or three miles upstream from Montgomery’s ferry and so stimulated not only creation of the modern West Paces Ferry Road itself but also a connecting road to Decatur. The original route to Pace’s ferry from Decatur was certainly in existence by 1835, branching off the original Montgomery Ferry road (now North Decatur Road) and, following the present routes of Haygood Road, Clifton Road, Briarcliff Road, and Shepherd’s Lane to Lavista Road, crossing Peachtree Creek somewhere near the present Lindbergh Drive bridge and from there northwest toward Buckhead.[6] The present Old Decatur Road south of Buckhead Avenue marks part of the original route of this early road.

Between these two early roads, Montgomery Ferry and Pace’s Ferry roads, lay the Land Lot 4, 17th District, Fulton County) that William R. Smith gave to Robert Hiram Smith in 1842 but that he may have actually purchased himself in the late 1820s. The land lot was subsequently sold to James Washington Smith, and parts of it remained in the Smith family into the twentieth century.

In March 1828, the Inferior Court authorized a road “from the three mile post leading from Decatur towards Peachtree to Peachtree at or near James Hooper’s on said Peachtree Road.” This was probably the genesis of the road that traversed the northeastern part of the farm that Tullie Smith's great-great-grandfather would establish in the 1840s. Described in 1833 as crossing Peachtree Creek “at Johnston’s mill,”[7] which lay in Land Lot 197, adjacent to the Smiths' Land Lot 157, the road was an important connection between Decatur and Cross Keys, which was in the vicinity of present-day Brookhaven. The historic route of this road generally followed that of the modern North Druid Hills Road north of LaVista to what is now Mt. Moriah Road. Now a dead-end, Mt. Moriah Road is a tiny, one-lane fragment of the old road to Johnston’s Mill. From there, the road approximated the route of modern Cliff Valley Way on the south side of I-85 and, on the north, Old Briarwood Road, Briarwood Road, and the last few blocks of North Druid Hills Road at Peachtree.

In July 1832, a road to James Power’s new ferry across the Chattahoochee was authorized by DeKalb County and, although the authorized segment simply connected the ferry with Mt. Vernon Highway, an extension of the Powers Ferry road to Decatur must have been in use about that time, if not before.[8] Powers Ferry Road, whose southern length was renamed North Druid Hills Road in the twentieth century, followed generally the modern routes of North Druid Hills Road west of Mt. Moriah Road to Roxboro Road, Wieuca Road, and the present Powers Ferry Road at Roswell Road. It was this road upon which the Tullie Smith house was built.

The route of the road through Land Lot 156 was not static and varied over the years. Aside from the citizens’ apparent lack of willingness to work on the roads, road building in DeKalb County was hampered by the topography which necessitated fording or bridging several major streams, especially Peachtree, Nancy, and Utoy creeks. Bridges tended to be rather short-lived in some cases, with the actual point of crossing shifting back and forth within a general area as each new bridge was constructed.

The early crossings of both forks of Peachtree Creek in the vicinity of the Smiths’ property changed several times, even before the Civil War, and are difficult to trace today. The earliest route of what is now North Druid Hills Road seems to have crossed the creek about two-tenths of a mile north of its modern crossing. By the 1840s, the route had been shifted south to its approximate location today. Later in the late nineteenth century, the route was shifted back to the north about two hundred yards after Guess’ mill, located just downstream, repeatedly flooded the old road. Highway improvements after World War II appear to have brought the road closer to what it had been when Robert H. Smith built his house in the 1840s.

It appears that the Powers Ferry Road bridge that Guess built in the 1830s was no longer in existence in the 1850s and, as a result, the road was not always open. In 1857, Robert H. Smith and others of his neighbors were appointed to review the roads in the area. Their report back to the Inferior Court complained about the state of Powers Ferry Road: “There is no trail and in fact cannot be as James Guess’ mill dam &c. has entirely stopped up the ford.”[9] The condition may not have been corrected until after the Civil War since maps made of the Atlanta campaign show Powers Ferry Road at a dead end at the Smith’s house.[10]

When the Smiths came to DeKalb County in the 1820s, travel was slow, difficult, mostly on foot, and over roads that were little more than footpaths through the wilderness. James Silk Buckingham described what was probably a typical condition when he wrote of a road in Hancock County in the eastern Georgia Piedmont in 1839. It was, he wrote,

 

the worst, being formed apparently by the mere removal of the requisite number of trees to open a path through the forest, and then left without any kind of labour being employed, either to make the road solid in the first instance, or to keep it in repair.[11]

While these roads were eventually improved to the point that they could be used as wagon roads, most of them remained in poor condition until at least the late nineteenth century. Nevertheless, the roads were extremely important in the antebellum South and not just as a means for transportation. To live on a well- traveled public road, or later a railroad line, was considered a great thing not only for convenience but also for the chance of social interaction, at least until fears of abolitionists in their midst made Southerners more wary of strangers in the 1850s. As John Stilgoe notes,

Southerners treated their roads as extensions of church, courthouse, and store, seeing in them the potential for excitement that northern city dwellers found in streets. Strangers, especially Europeans and “Yankees,” failed to understand the extraordinary importance of the road in southern culture because they searched for the towns or hamlets so uncommon south of Pennsylvania and ignored the roads and waterways that substituted for towns.[12]

For that reason, antebellum houses were almost always built within sight of the road, if not actually within a very few feet of it, and so it was with the Smith house. And while Powers Ferry Road was not always open, Johnston’s Mill Road and Durand or Williams Mill Road, after 1850, both of which passed through their farm, were important local roads even if they were not comparable to main thoroughfares such as Peachtree Road or the roads that led from Decatur to adjacent county seats.

 

Landscape

Progress was slow as the pioneers cleared their lands, first for a home site and then, as labor and circum-stances permitted, additional fields for planting. As elsewhere, the pioneers in DeKalb County of the 1820s and 1830s needed cleared land quickly upon which to plant crops. The most popular tech-nique for clearing was simply to girdle the bark of the tree and let it die in place. In spite of the hazards created by falling branches from the dead trees, and the general ugliness of the landscape that resulted, the technique was widespread, especially until sawmills and a higher demand for sawn lumber was created as the region became more settled.[13]

James Silk Buckhingham’s description of the countryside in Franklin County in northeast Georgia in 1838 could easily describe that in DeKalb County during the same period:

Our road lay, as usual, through the thickly-wooded forests, with which all parts of this country are covered, save the few cleared patches of cultivation that are seen at long and distant intervals. Instead of the endless pine-trees of the low-country, however, we had here a great variety of wood, and the roads being hilly . . . presented fine masses of vegetation in a great variety of shades of green. The population was so scanty, that for the first ten miles we did not see a single human being, though a flock of fine sheep, and a herd of long-bearded goats, were observed grazing without keepers, while hogs abounded in all parts of the woods, where they roam at large during the day, and return to their log-pens at night.[14]

It is difficult today to imagine the great forests that once covered virtually the entire Piedmont, since only a few scattered remnants, such as Fernbank Forest in DeKalb County, survive today. Though much of this was beginning to disappear by the 1850s, one traveler out of Macon in 1857 still noted that

[E]very step one takes, one is struck with the rough look of the whole face of civilization. The country is nowhere well cleared; towns and villages are few and far between, and even those which you see have an unfinished look. I have been traveling for the most part in sight of the primeval forest of the continent.”[15]

How quickly the Smiths cleared their land is not known, but the tax and census records never showed Robert Hiram Smith with more than one-fourth of his acreage “improved,” presumably meaning cleared of trees at least. Since they also did not raise a great number of livestock, except hogs, the Smith farm may have retained a substantial portion of its original tree cover until the Civil War.

 

Town vs. Country

As already noted, “Bill Arp” saw his “town upbringing” in Lawrenceville, Georgia, in the 1820s and 1830s as an important advantage in life. Decatur, like most county seats, attracted merchants, lawyers, and other professional people for the same reason that towns have always done so. William R. Smith, the dry goods merchant, and Nathaniel N. Smith, the doctor, were both living in Decatur in the 1820s and both appear to have lived in or near towns throughout most of the rest of their lives. Although both farmed and William always listed his occupation as “farmer,” neither Nathaniel nor William depended totally on agriculture for their livelihood. This no doubt contributed to their greater financial success relative to that of their younger brother Robert Hiram Smith, who seemed to have always depended on his farm for his livelihood.

Decatur was never a large town and, contrary to popular belief, did not prohibit the railroad from being built through town in the 1840s. In fact railroads almost always were built along the edge of existing towns (e.g., Madison, Covington) and it was only in towns like Atlanta, which grew up after the railroad was constructed, where the railroad ran through the center of town. The railroad no doubt benefited Decatur and provided its farmers easier access to outside markets than many counties enjoyed before the Civil War. Decatur was even able to support some small industry, most notably that of William Wadsworth, the Decatur tinsmith for whom Michael Steele peddled wares all across the state in the 1840s.[16]

Even before the Civil War, however, Decatur had been eclipsed by Atlanta. White’s Gazetteer of 1849 noted that Atlanta’s population “may be put down at 2,500, and this number is constantly augmenting.” The official census the next year stated the actual population at 2,572, while Decatur’s was only 744. Because of that growth, Fulton County was created out of the western half of DeKalb County in 1853, with Atlanta as county seat. Atlanta grew quickly through the 1850s; White stated in the 1855 edition of his Gazetteer that the population of Atlanta was “placed by none under 4,500 and still increasing.”

Because of its proximity to the railroads and Atlanta, Decatur was not a typically isolated rural county seat, although it certainly had many of those characteristics. Several businessmen and professionals in Decatur owned land and had professional interests in Atlanta, including William Ezzard, one of Atlanta’s early mayors. After the Civil War, while land values in the rest of the state plummeted, they remained stable in DeKalb County, an early indication of the impact that Atlanta’s astounding growth had on the farmers of DeKalb County, including the Smiths.

 

Family, Friends, and Neighbors

The upper Piedmont around Atlanta in the nineteenth century was a long way from the “moonlight and magnolia” myths of the twentieth century. As Charles Murphy Candler noted in his history of the county in the early 1920s:

The early settlers of DeKalb were plain people of English, Scotch and Irish descent, coming directly and indirectly from Virginia and the Carolinas. They were poor, not highly educated, generally industrious and temperate. They were small farmers, owning their homes, which were generally log cabins and owning few slaves, many of them none at all.[17]

The extent of the Smiths’ connections to family, friends, and neighbors can only be hinted at within the confines of this report. The early pioneers almost always traveled with siblings or cousins and, as indicated earlier, little is known about Robert Smith’s generation and his son Robert Hiram Smith’s generation remains only partially documented. In addition, the generation of Smiths, Colliers, Steeles, Walkers, Johnsons, Padens, Masons and others who grew to adulthood on the farms that their fathers’ had pioneered in the 1820s and 1830s frequently intermarried as did their children and grandchildren. When families and groups of families moved together and settled together, the relationships soon multiplied and expanded into confusion but a few of those relationships were so important to the Smiths that they should be mentioned here.

Figure 2. A map depicting the major streams and nineteenth-century roads traversing Robert Smith's four land lots around what is now the interesection of North Druid Hills Road, then known as Powers Ferry Road, and Briarcliff Road, then known as Durands Mill and later Williams Mill Road. (T. Jones, 1996)

 

In addition to the Smiths themselves, among the earliest pioneers in DeKalb County were many other of Tullie’s ancestors, including all of her mother’s grandparents. Their direct relationship with the Smiths stretches back to Mary Ann Mason’s friendship with Tullie’s great-grandmother Elizabeth Smith before the Civil War. Tullie’s great-grandfather Abraham Chandler (1780-1847) was born in Newberry County, South Carolina, in the midst of the Revolutionary War and presumably grew up there. In 1813, he married Mary Harris in Morgan County, Georgia, and by 1820 was in Gwinnett County. He probably moved soon after that into the new DeKalb County where he bought Land Lot 5, 17th Dist., on the Paces Ferry road from Decatur and immediately north of William R. Smith’s Land Lot #4. The 202-½ acres in the lot encompassed what are now the intersections of Cheshire Bridge Road and LaVista Road and Cheshire Bridge Road and I-85, west to Lindbergh Plaza. He built a house and operated what was probably a blacksmith shop, near the present intersection of LaVista and Cheshire Bridge.

By 1835, another road was in existence, branching off the old road at “Chandler’s shop” and probably the precursor for the modern Cheshire Bridge Road. A bridge over the North Fork Peachtree Creek was built there as well, perhaps by Chandler himself, but like so many others was probably cheaply built and not well-maintained. The DeKalb County Grand Jury at its September term in 1841 complained about “the bad state of the bridge across the Peach Tree Creek generally known as Chandler’s Bridge and recommend to the proper authorities to have the evil speedily remedied.”[18] By then, Chandler may have already moved to Cass County (now Bartow County), Georgia, where he died in 1847. His name lived on, however, as the DeKalb Grand Jury in 1848 again noted the bad repair of the bridge at “Chandler’s old place.”[19]

In 1832, in DeKalb County, Chandler’s daughter Mary Ann Amanda (1818-1894) married William Pinkney Mason (1800-1879), the oldest son of DeKalb pioneer William Mason (1776-1843) and his wife Hannah Caroline Hudson (d. 1840). William and some other of his Mason kin had moved from the Greenville District of South Carolina to DeKalb County before 1830, settling first near Stone Mountain.[20]

William Pinkney and Mary Ann Chandler Mason had at least six children, the youngest of which was Tullie’s mother, Mary Ella Mason (1858-1935). The Masons had a 600-acre farm about three miles north of Decatur on Shallowford Road near where Clairmont Road crosses the South Fork of Peachtree Creek at the Veterans Administration Hospital.[21] Modern-day Mason’s Mill Road and Mason’s Mill Park are reminders of this family and of the mill that William Pinkney Mason’s brother Ezekial operated there in the mid-1800s.

Of all of Tullie’s grandparents, only her grandmother Mason was alive when Tullie was born in 1886. Although the extent of their contact cannot now be documented, Tullie surely knew her and heard stories from the old woman of the early history of DeKalb County. The Masons are buried in the Decatur Cemetery, sharing a plot with Tullie’s parents.

Ezekial Mason, William Pinkney Mason’s brother, was also one of Decatur’s early pioneers. After teaching school in Morgan County in the early 1820s, Ezekial moved to Decatur in 1827 and bought a general store at the corner of McDonough and Sycamore streets. He was an active member of the Decatur Presbyterian Church and contributed “liberally” to the construction of the new brick church in 1846. According to Levi Willard, in his chronicle on early Decatur, Ezekial Mason “succeeded better than most in the village,” perhaps due to the “many old friends” from South Carolina that “patronized him.” He was also, it is said, one of the largest land-owners in the county, although the extent of his holdings has not been fully documented.[22] Two other brothers of William Pinkney and Ezekial Mason were also in DeKalb County at that time. Although nothing is known about Thomas Mason, his brother James married Mattie Sprayberry, whose family lived on what is now LaVista Road west of Briarcliff. They are buried at Peachtree Baptist Church.[23]

Besides these, several other important pioneering families were in DeKalb County before the Smiths arrived in the late 1820s, and their history would mingle with the Smiths throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Particularly interesting to the present story are those neighbors of the Smiths that settled along Peachtree Creek and its tributaries, including the Colliers, Johnsons, Plasters, Walkers, Steeles and Padens. They represented a group of people who could afford the rich bottom land of the creeks and who tended to own at least some slaves. They and their descendants would generally profit from the mere fact that Atlanta grew over their farms.

To the east of the Colliers, near where Piedmont Road now crosses Peachtree Creek, were the Plasters, probably the largest landowners in the area. Benjamin Plaster was born in Rowan County in the central Piedmont of North Carolina, in 1780. In 1802, he married Sarah “Sally” Sewell and, shortly afterwards, they moved to Franklin County in northeast Georgia. Several of their large family were born in the county and Plaster enlisted in the Georgia Militia there during the War of 1812. About the time DeKalb County was created, the Plasters moved from Franklin County and bought a large tract of land along what is now Piedmont Road on both sides of Peachtree Creek.[24] His will, dated 1836, is the oldest of record in DeKalb County and shows a farm of over 1,000 acres that included the present sites of Peachtree Hills, Peachtree Heights, the eastern part of Brookwood Hills, Armour Station, Lindbergh Plaza and a large part of the Rock Springs community.[25]

Others of the Smiths’ neighbors were the Johnsons, Archibald and Daniel. Archibald Johnson, born in Scotland in 1761, immigrated to the United States about 1775 and settled first in Iredell County, North Carolina. By the early 1790s, he had moved on to Elbert County, Georgia, where his son Daniel was born in 1800. By 1830, both were in DeKalb County where, in 1832, Daniel married Elizabeth Harris Chandler, another daughter of Abraham Chandler. According to one source, Daniel Johnson bought from the original land lottery winners five land lots southeast of the Plasters, encompassing most of what are now the Atlanta nieghborhoods of Johnson Estates and Morningside.[26] In 1838, he also sold Henry Irby the land lot from which Buckhead evolved. Daniel Johnson was one of the early members of Decatur Presbyterian Church and was an elder in the 1840s; with his neighbor James Washington Smith, he would also be one of the original elders of Rock Springs Presbyterian Church when it was organized after the Civil War.

Another elder in the Decatur church and neighbor of the Smiths was James Paden, one of county’s earliest settlers. In 1833, it was Paden who sold Hardy Ivy Land Lot 51, 14th District of DeKalb, and upon which Atlanta would begin to rise a decade later. Paden’s house, which was a landmark in the Civil War, stood at the northwest corner of what are now North Decatur and Clifton roads and his farm encompassed most of the present-day campus of Emory University. He and his son Thomas N. Paden were contemporaries of Robert Hiram Smith and, in the late nineteenth century, his grandchildren would marry Smith grandchildren.

Along Peachtree Creek just west and north of the Smiths’ Land Lot 156 were two of the many antebellum grist or corn mills that operated in DeKalb County. William Johnston’s mill, just north of the Smiths, was in operation by 1833 and apparently continued operating through the Civil War. He and his son Jackson F. Johnston witnessed Robert Smith, Sr.’s will in 1845.

Just to the west of Land Lot 156 was James Guess’ mill, the mill pond of which often made Powers Ferry Road impassable. Guess had come to DeKalb County from South Carolina, perhaps with a stay in Franklin County, in the 1820s, but he may not have begun operating a mill on Peachtree Creek until the 1840s. According to one source, John Guess and his wife Ona Shawnee, “an Indian princess,” were the first of the Guess family to come to DeKalb County, but there were three other Guess householdsheaded by William, Sophia, and Nathaniel—enumerated in the 1830 DeKalb County census. James Guess’ relationship to these families has not been proven but appears likely.[27] James’ son Francis L. Guess was county surveyor in the late nineteenth century and had a number of recorded land transactions with William Berry and Mary Ella Smith in the 1880s and 1890s.

The “neighborhood” for the Smiths and for any rural family might be considered as being any area within an hour’s walk of home. To them, walking to Decatur or the post offices at Clear Creek, Buckhead or Cross Keys would not have been a major event. In between those destinations and home, the Smiths would have probably considered themselves at least acquainted with most of the families over a consider-able area of DeKalb County.[28] As a result, there were many other people in the Smiths’ neighborhood who we do not know, including many of the families who owned small farms of a few dozen acres. There also must have been tenants and other of the landless poor whose lives were a good deal more difficult than that of the small farmer or the Smiths.

 

Religion

In his will in 1875, Robert Hiram Smith speaks first of the “religion that I have professed and I hereinby [sic] trust enjoyed for forty years,” an unusual variation on a declaration of faith that is fairly typical in wills. Remembering the discrepancies with the stated date of his marriage in the same document, this statement may indicate that Smith formally joined the church about 1828, probably at Brittain Presbyterian Church in Rutherford County. However, it should be noted that this was probably not a new conversion but rather a formal acceptance of a young person into the congregation.

From their origins in Rutherford County, North Carolina, the Smiths carried their Presbyterianism with them wherever they went. For several generations—at Brittain Presbyterian in Rutherford County, North Carolina (organized 1768), at Decatur Presbyterian in DeKalb County, Georgia (organized 1825), at La Grange Presbyterian in Troup County, Georgia (organized 1834), and at Rock Springs Presbyterian in Fulton County (organized 1868)—the Smiths remained consistently Presbyterian. If their relative wealth, at least in terms of land and often in terms of cash as well, set them apart from most of their neighbors, so too did their Presbyterianism. Of course, without letters or other such documentary evidence, there is little specific that can be said about their faith, but a sense of the kinds of differences that might be implied can, perhaps, be had by a brief comparison of the Presbyterian church with the Baptists and the Methodists.[29]

Although vastly outnumbered by Baptists and Methodists today, the Presbyterians played an extremely important role in the early settlement of the Carolinas and Georgia. A Calvinist cousin to the Dutch Reformed churches and the French Huguenots, the Presbyterian church originated as the Church or Kirk of Scotland by John Knox in the late 1550s. A hallmark of that church was its strong support of education, particularly that of its clergy. Before authorizing formation of a new congregation, the Presbyterians demanded an educated clergyman and insisted on a list of subscribers committed to the support of the minister and the church.

The Presbyterian's support of education had a tremendous influence on the Scotch-Irish in Ulster and continued to do so in America. Of the 207 permanent colleges founded in the United States before the Civil War, for example, forty-eight were organized by Presbyterians, thirty-four by Methodist, twenty-five by Baptist and twenty-one by Congregationalists. Recognizing that the Baptists and Methodists drew many of their number from the descendants of the Scotch-Irish, the impact of these people on the development of education in America was significant.[30] What role James Washington Smith played, if any, in the establishment of a school at Rock Springs in DeKalb County in the 1870s is not known, but it would certainly have been in character for him to have not only donated the land but perhaps built the building as well.[31]

Yet, the Presbyterians' refusal to relax educational requirements for their ministers severely limited the church's ability to meet the tremendous demand created by the constantly expanding American frontier, especially after the second “Great Awakening” that swept the county in the first quarter of the nineteenth century.[32] The emotional approach to religious worship that defined the era appealed to the Methodists and the Baptists in a way it did not to the more rigorous, intellectual approach of the Presbyterians. With the Presbyterians’ continued strict educational requirements for their clergy and demand for subscribers to the support of each new congregation, the religion-hungry pioneers of the upcountry inevitably turned to the Methodists and the Baptists, whose organizational requirements were far less strict.

With that, the Presbyterianism that had nurtured the Scotch-Irish for two and a half centuries began a long period of slow decline in the United States. While a few congregations managed to flourish, many more simply ceased to exist. When Levi Willard, for instance, joined the Decatur Presbyterian Church in 1826, it was noted that his letter of membership from his old church in Eatonton could not be gotten “as it [the church] had become nearly extinct.”[33] Even the congregation of the great Mt. Zion Presbyterian Church in Hancock County, which had been the center of a flourishing Presbyterian community in the early 1800s, sold their building to the Methodists and merged with the Sparta Presbyterian Church in the 1840s.

In a way, it is the Second Great Awakening and the Presbyterians' response to it that marked the birth of the “Bible Belt” of Baptist and Methodist congregations that we know today. In spite of poor training and even poorer pay, the Baptists and the Methodists were tremendously successful in evangelizing the South. By 1850, nearly 50% of Georgia’s churches were Baptist and another 43% were Methodist; only 5% were Presbyterians.

The Smiths were clearly in a minority in terms of religion and, by implication, other ways as well, but little can be said about the specifics and the depth of fervor of their faith. Still, the persistence of their membership in the Presbyterian church over several generations must mark a clear difference between them and many of those around them. Granted, it is not the difference between Catholic and Protestant or Gentile and Jew, yet, in subtle ways, it surely colored their lives to a significant extent. It is probable that the Smiths were early if not charter members of Decatur Presbyterian Church, but all of the early records of the church were lost in a fire in 1889 and the Smiths are not mentioned in the official history of the church. Willard does not mention them either, but he does note that James Paden was an elder of the church in 1830 as were his son Thomas and his neighbor Daniel Johnson in 1845.[34] As might be expected, it was the Decatur Presbyterian Church that, in the 1820s, organized the DeKalb Male Academy, one of the county’s first schools, but there is no documentation for which, if any, of the Smith family might have attended the academy. The church had a significant influence on the development of the county and, even one hundred years later, Decatur was still considered one of the state’s strongest Presbyterian communities.[35]

According to tradition, Robert Hiram Smith’s son James Washington Smith spearheaded organization of Rock Spring Presbyterian Church in 1870 “because he was tired of driving his buggy to Decatur for services.”[36] Elders from the Decatur church organized the congregation on November 13, 1870, in a one-room school house located near the intersection of what is now Rock Springs Road and Morningside Drive. James Washington Smith, who was one of the new congregation’s original elders, donated an acre on Plaster Bridge Road, now Piedmont Avenue, in the extreme southwest corner of Land Lot 50 for the new church.[37] The new building, which was frame, was dedicated December 13, 1871.

Although Robert H. Smith’s name does not appear in the list of charter members of Rock Spring Presbyterian Church, his wife’s does along with members of the Plaster, Head, Goodwin, Cheshire, Liddell, Bearse and Reeder families. Most of James Washington Smith’s children and many of his grandchildren, including Tullie Smith, were members as well, as were his sister and brother-in-law Michael and Martha Steele. The Steeles, Robert H. and Elizabeth Hawkins Smith, James Washington and Emily Wynne Smith, and most of their children are buried in the churchyard at Rock Spring. In the present building, which dates to 1923, are memorial stained glass windows dedicated to Tullie’s grandparents James Washington and Emily Wynne Smith and several of their children, including William Berry Smith, Tullie’s father. [38]

Several Baptist churches in the neighbor-hood would have been familiar to the Smiths, including Nancy Creek Primitive Baptist church on Peachtree Road, which was organized in 1824. Hardman Primitive Baptist church, organized in 1825, was originally located on Shallow-ford Road northeast of the Smiths.[39] John Johnson, William Towers, Dr. Chapman Powell, Benjamin Burdette, and John and Allen Hardman were a few of the Smiths’ neighbors who were members there. Finally, Peachtree Baptist church was organized in 1847 on Williams Mills Road, now Briarcliff Road, just south of the Smiths. William Pinckney Mason’s brother James was a member there, although most of the Masons continued to belong to Decatur Presbyterian.

The Methodists were the first to build churches in both Decatur (1823) and Atlanta (1847) and several rural churches followed. Prospect Church at Cross Keys, of which the Bellingers were members, and Sardis Church on Powers Ferry Road just north of its intersection with Roswell Road, to which Robert H. Smith’s daughter Luceller and her husband Wesley Collier belonged, were two of the early Methodist churches in the Smiths’ neighborhood. Another of Smith’s daughters, Adeline, also apparently joined the Methodist church; her husband, Robert O. Medlock, was on the building committee for construction of the Norcross Methodist Church in 1870.[40]

There were no African-American churches in DeKalb County until after the Civil War, although Owl Rock Methodist in what became Fulton County supported organization of the nearby Rocky Head congregation during the antebellum period. After the Civil War, a number of black congregations were founded, most of them Baptist or Methodist. In May 1884, the Mt. Moriah Baptist Church was organized and a building constructed on land sold for that purpose out of Robert H. Smith’s old farm.[41] The cemetery of that church is large although most of the graves are unmarked. Many if not most of the early members of this church, including Tom Johnson (1850-1914) whose grave is well-marked, were probably former slaves of the Smiths and their neighbors.

 

Economy and Agriculture

DeKalb County, like most of the rest of the state in the nineteenth century, had an economy that turned almost entirely on agriculture. Throughout most of the nineteenth century, DeKalb was rural and the vast majority of its residents were engaged in farming. The nature of farm production would change some-what, especially after the Civil War, as the extraordinary growth of Atlanta would begin to make its influence felt on DeKalb County. In the meantime, it seems clear that Robert Hiram Smith’s main occupation throughout his life was that of “farmer,” as he is consistently listed in the Federal census.

 

Planters and Farmers

DeKalb County is located in the upper Piedmont, what Stephen Hahn and others have described as the “upcountry” of Georgia. Here the hilly terrain necessitated smaller fields which were not conducive to the use of gang slave labor and, in addition, a relatively short growing season limited the potential for successful cotton production, at least before the advent of hardier hybrids in the mid-nineteenth century. For these reasons, the great cotton plantations of myth and lore never developed in the upper Piedmont, although here and there were the occasional large farmers working more than 500 improved acres with 30 to 100 slaves.[42]

Charles Howard Candler was correct, however, when he noted in his history of DeKalb County, published in the 1920s,

I do not suppose there was in the entire county a single land and slave owner, who because of the size of his holdings or farm operations, could have been called a planter, such as were known in the older East and Middle Georgia counties.”[43]

In fact there was one resident, Edward Taliaferro in south DeKalb, who had a plantation of more than 1,000 acres in 1860 but there were only eight others whose improved farm land exceeded 500 acres. By con-trast, there were thirty of these largest planters in Henry County, which adjoined DeKalb on the south, and sixty-nine in Newton County, which then included modern Rockdale County adjoining DeKalb to the east. In Morgan County, forty miles east of Decatur, there were 104 large planters while in Burke County on the coastal plain in southeast Georgia, that number jumped to 171.

The best agricultural land in the county was along the relatively flat, well-watered, valleys of the major creeks and rivers, particularly Peachtree, Nancy, and Utoy creeks and on the Chattahoochee and the South rivers. These were some of the first lands bought and put to the plow by the early settlers. White noted in 1849 that these “rich lands . . . have been known to produce 1000-1500 pounds of cotton per acre,” which was twice what could be expected from the “grey lands” elsewhere in the county.[44]

In addition, these creeks and their smaller tributaries like Clear Creek and Peavine Creek also provided sites for a number of grist mills which became landmarks in the nineteenth century landscape. The Smiths, Steeles, Chandlers, Colliers, Plasters, Walkers and Padens all owned farms that were traversed by Peachtree, Peavine, or Clear Creeks. Land Lot 4 and Land Lot 156, which William R. Smith gave to Robert Hiram Smith in the early 1840s, would have certainly been considered good farmland.

Although Robert Smith owned six land lots in DeKalb County in 1850, he claimed only 810 acres in the agricultural census that year, of which only 100 acres were listed as improved for cultivation.[45] If those figures are an accurate reflection of Smith’s farm, then he tilled a much lower percentage of his farm land than was the average statewide. In DeKalb County as a whole, about 30% of the farm acreage was listed as “improved”; barely 16% of Smith’s acreage was listed as being “improved.”[46]

In the 1860 agricultural census, Smith listed 150 improved acres or 22% of total acreage of 660. By that time, he had sold Land Lots 4 and 50 to his son, which probably accounts for the $2,000 reduction in the value of his real estate between 1850 and 1860. The actual acreage of his farm is difficult to calculate since the land-lot lines were irregularly drawn but he is presumed to have owned and farmed all of Land Lots 152, 153, 156 and, probably, 157 throughout the period. Robert Smith also bought and sold property elsewhere in the county which he may have rented, since no record other than his ownership of the land has been located.

The land along Peachtree Creek in LL 156 and along the branch that ran behind the house was probably some of the best of Smith’s fields, but the two landlots, #4 and #50, which fell in Fulton County after 1853, were also farmed, although to what extent is not known.  Robert H. Smith sold these two landlots to his son James Washington Smith in 1856, shortly before the latter married. When James sold part of Land Lot 4 to Jasper Newton Smith two years later, a survey indicated a peach orchard near the southeast corner of the land lot.[47] The land had been owned by the Smiths since at least the 1830s and Land Lot 4 consists almost entirely of bottom land along the South Fork of Peachtree Creek. It seems likely that these might have provided the Smiths, including Robert Hiram Smith, with some of their most productive lands.

While it did not have a large class of true “planters,” DeKalb County did have a large number of farmers who made up what Willard Range has called a “powerful, virile ‘middle class’ of farmers.” These families—and they should be thought of as families and not as individuals—generally had farms of from 100-500 acres of improved land and owned fewer than 30 slaves. There were approximately 19,000 of these farms across the state in 1860, representing about 30% of the state’s total number of farms.[48]

In DeKalb County in 1860, 634 heads of household listed their occupation as “farmer” although the census listed only 506 farms of three or more acres. Of those farms, only eight or less than 2% had over 500 acres of improved land.

About 42% claimed 100-500 acres of improved farm land, a category which included Robert H. Smith’s farm. The category also included some of the Colliers, the Plasters, the Steeles, the Medlocks, the Padens, and the Walkers. Another 31% of DeKalb County farmers claimed 50-100 acres of improved farm land while 20% more could claim only 20-50 acres.

In this last category were the many smaller farmers occupying the higher, generally less desirable ground away from the creeks. Solomon Goodwin, whose will Robert H. Smith witnessed in 1847 and who was probably more prosperous than most, is perhaps the best known of these in the vicinity of the Smiths. Although moved in the 1960s, his house still stands on Peachtree Road just south of North Druid Hills Road, not far from where it was originally built in the 1830s.[49]

In addition, perhaps 20% of DeKalb County farmers owned less than 3 acres or no land at all but, rather, worked out some variation of a tenancy arrangement either with family members or other farmers in the area. Mostly unrecorded, the lives of most of these farmers are probably the least understood of all but were certainly a good deal more difficult than those of the Smiths.[50]

Table 1:  Summary of selected population and agricultural statistics for Georgia, 1850-1870. (United States Census)

Selected Census Statistic

1850

1860

1870

1880

total population

906,185

1,057,286

1,184,109

1,542,180

black population (% of total)

42%

44%

46%

47%

number of farms

51,759

62,003

69,956

138,626

          total land in farms

22,821,379

26,650,490

23,647,941

26,043,282

         acres of improved land

6,378,479

8,062,758

6,831,856

8,204,704

         average size of farm

441

430

338

188

         national avg size of farm

203

199

153

134

dollar value of farms

95,753,445

157,072,803

94,599,468

111,910,540

dollar value of livestock

25,728,416

38,372,734

30,156,317

25,930,352

           mules and asses

57,379

101,069

87,426

132,078

           working oxen

73,286

74,487

54,332

50,026

           milk cows

334,223

299,688

231,310

315,073

           other cattle

690,019

631,707

412,261

544,812

           sheep

560,435

512,618

419,465

527,589

           swine

2,168,617

2,036,116

988,566

1,471,003

bushels of sweet potatoes

6,986,428

6,508,541

2,621,562

4,397,778

bushels of corn

30,080,099

30,776,293

17,646,459

23,292,018

bushels of oats

3,820,044

1,231,817

1,904,601

5,548,743

bales of cotton

499,091

946,227

846,947

1,289,560

pounds of wool

990,019

946,227

846,947

1,289,560

value of real estate

 

210,098,682

143,948,216

 

value of personal property

 

476,227,404

83,271,303

 

 

Corn, Cotton, and Hogs

During the antebellum period, DeKalb County generally followed the same trends that characterized agriculture elsewhere in the Piedmont and the state as production shifted increasingly to cotton (see Tables 1 and 2). Over the ten years between 1850 and 1860, there were significant declines in production of most crops, including sweet potatoes, corn, and oats, in part because of the availability of cheap grains from the Mid-West pouring into the South over the new railroads. As a result, it was possible to devote more and more land to the product- ion of cotton so that Georgia’s annual production rose from nearly 500,000 bales in 1850 to just over 700,000 in 1860.[51]

With the increasing use of chemical fertilizers after 1850, some of the limitations of worn-out land could be overcome. Soil exhaustion and erosion were already a serious problem in many parts of the older and even not-so-old cotton-growing regions of the state. In 1851, for instance, barely twenty-five years after the county’s founding, a Troup County planter wrote that “[w]e are awfully bad off up here, having nearly worn out one of the prettiest and most pleasant counties in the world.” He, like many others in the period, bemoaned the look of “some of our large plantations, when he looked out upon “the waving broom sedge, the barren hillsides, and the terrible big gullies.” In the upper Piedmont, the situation was not so dire, perhaps because of the preponderance of small farmers and the limitations of climate, soil, and topography on the wasteful, slave-dependent system that characterized most of the South’s large plantations.[52]

Table 2: Summary of selected population and agricultural statistic for DeKalb County, 1850-1870. (United States Census)

 

(incl. Fulton, 1860-1880)

1850

1860

1870

1880

total population

         DeKalb County only

14,328

22,233

    7,806

43,150

    10,014

63,634

    14,497

black population (% of total)

     DeKalb County only

2,294 (20%)

4,994 (22%)

2,008 (26%)

17,944 (42%)

2,662 (26%)

25,385 (40%)

4,543 (31%)

number of farms

1,019

1,289

1,906

2,992

     total land in farms

221,731

234,742

227,609

382,281

     acres of improved land

67,992

73,718

67,000

103,709

     average size of farm

     (acres improved)

217

(67)

182

(57)

119

(35)

128

(35)

dollar value of farms

1,119,181

1,653,251

2,161,768

2,930,858

dollar value of livestock

285,965

426,467

469,480

427,138

     mules and asses

519

891

1,382

2,341

     working oxen

1,173

1,354

1,028

383

     milk cows

2,500

2,471

2,670

3,682

     other cattle

4,146

4,308

2,758

4,013

     sheep

5,468

4,044

3,029

2,686

     swine

24,449

17,503

12,879

15,875

bushels of sweet potatoes

73,070

63,640

42,526

65,326

bushels of corn

432,435

345,887

291,091

448,118

bushels of oats

86,047

12,837

24,949

85,606

bales of cotton

2,397

2,054

2,575

12,293

pounds of wool

8,820

5,607

8,421

5,252

value of real estate (DeKalb only)

 

1,288,032

1,229,547

 

value of personal estate

 

2,070,093

411,456

 

Chemical fertilizers also allowed the growing season to be effectively shortened, thus allowing for increased cotton production in the upper Piedmont, including DeKalb County.[53] The county, too, produced significantly less corn, oats, and sweet potatoes in 1860 than it had in 1850, but the apparent failure of the cotton crop in Gwinnett, Henry, and DeKalb Counties that year illustrates the uncertainties of agriculture in general and cotton production in particular. Livestock production generally declined throughout the period as well, as cotton sapped more and more interest and resources. Cattle and milk cows declined by 100,000; hogs by 150,000 and sheep by 50,000.[54] Oxen increased only slightly as they were rapidly being replaced by mules as the draft animal of choice in the South.

Table 3: Selected statistics for Robert H. Smith, 1850-1870. (United States Census)

 

1850

1860

1870

dollar value of farm

6,000

4,050

 

dollar value of livestock

547

575

400

  mules/asses

0

0

0

  working oxen

4

2

0

  milk cows

6

6

4

  other cattle

12

8

2

  sheep

15

0

3

  swine

70

50

20

bushels of sweet potatoes

150

100

10

bushels of corn

1500

1200

400

bushels of oats

300

25

20

bales of cotton

3

0

0

pounds of wool

33

0

5

value of real estate

 

4,000

8,000

value of personal estate

 

12,200

4,650

 

In DeKalb County, sheep and swine production declined sharply while milk-cow production declined only slightly and other cattle actually increased. Robert H. Smith’s agricultural production appears to have generally followed these same trends and, in most respects, his crops and livestock mirrored that of his neighbors (see Table 3). Oddly, Smith never listed mules as part of his livestock, even after the Civil War when working oxen had been largely replaced by mules, but in most other respects his agricultural production seems to have been fairly typical. Unusual, perhaps, is the fact that Smith appears to have reduced his planting of cotton after 1850, indicating that he, unlike many of his neighbors, did not need to depend on the vagaries of “King Cotton” to earn his livelihood.

 

Entrepreneurs

Although the vast majority people in antebellum DeKalb County were engaged in agriculture in one way or another, there was also a number of entrepreneurs who at least supplemented their livelihood with other pursuits. Sawmills were one of the more popular enterprises. Peter Brown, a farmer and blacksmith in southwest DeKalb County, is reported to have moved from Franklin County with his father into the new DeKalb County in the winter of 1822. Sometime before his death in 1840, he is said to have established on Entrenchment Creek the county’s first sawmill. In addition, in 1844, Jonathan Norcross established a sawmill on Decatur Street, thought to be Atlanta’s first manufacturing enterprise.[55]

In addition to Robert Smith’s neighbors William Johnston and James Guess, both of whom operated grist mills on Peachtree Creek, one of the county’s most significant manufacturing enterprises was established along the South Fork of Peachtree Creek not far from the Smiths. Known first as Durand’s Mill after its operator Samuel A. Durand, the mill was located next to Isaac Steele’s farm near the present intersection of Clifton and Briarcliff Roads. Besides sawing lumber, a factory also produced furniture and the site was an important landmark in 1864. Operated after the Civil War by Frederick A. Williams and, later, J. F. Wallace, Williams or Wallace’s Mill was also an important landmark to the Smiths. The road to the mill was opened in the vicinity of the Smiths in 1850, the predecessor of modern day Briarcliff Road.

 

Slavery

Although James Oglethorpe had prohibited slavery when he founded the colony of Georgia in the 1730s, that part of his “noble experiment” was abandoned in 1750 and, by 1790, 35% of the state’s population was enslaved.[56]In spite of the state’s ban on importation of slaves in its new Constitution of 1798 and the Federal ban in 1808, illegal foreign trade continued until the eve of the Civil War. By the second quarter of the nineteenth century, however, the vast majority of the slave population was native-born.[57]

 

Typical Patterns

The slave population was not evenly distributed across Georgia, but was rather concentrated along the coast, in southwest Georgia, and in a “Black Belt” across middle Georgia. In those regions, where the soil, terrain, and climate lent themselves to large-scale cotton and rice production, the black slave population often outnumbered the white population by a significant percentage. Troup County, for instance, where Dr. Nathaniel Smith owned 16 slaves and held another 20 in trust for his children, showed a population that was 62% slave in 1860 while nearly three-fourths of the population of Liberty, McIntosh, and Glynn counties on the coast were enslaved in 1860.

In DeKalb and other counties in the upper Piedmont, there were significantly fewer slaves as a proportion of the population. Neither the climate nor the topography lent themselves to the development of large-scale cotton plantations worked by large numbers of slaves. In DeKalb County, barely 16% of the population in 1830 were slaves and only in 1850 did the proportion of slaves reach 20%. On the eve of the Civil War, DeKalb County had nearly 2,000 slaves, representing 26% of the total population. Though Fulton County and Atlanta had nearly 1,000 more slaves than DeKalb in 1860, that still represented an even lower percentage (20%) of the total population. In Cobb, Campbell, Fayette, and Clayton counties to the west and south, the figure ranged around 25%, while to the north in Milton County it was 15% and in Gwinnett 18%. Only to the south in Henry County, with a population 42% slave, and to the southeast in Newton County, with 46% slave, could the plantation belt be said to begin.[58]

Throughout the upper Piedmont region, two-thirds to three-fourths of the white families owned no slaves at all and, of those who did, perhaps half owned fewer than five. Only one slave owner in ten could be expected to own as many as twenty slaves.[59] In DeKalb County, nearly three-quarters of all households owned no slaves and, of those who did, nearly 60% owned fewer than five while only 20% owned more than ten. In the entire county, barely 5% of the actual slave-holders owned as many as twenty slaves. This contrasts sharply with Morgan County, for instance, and other plantation-belt counties where three-fourths of the households were slave-holders, with nearly one-third owning more than ten slaves.

Only a handful of DeKalb County farmers—those who could afford the purchase of extensive bottom land and numerous slaves—could have any pretensions to being “planters,” with the Birds and the Taliaferros in south DeKalb County probably being the largest. By 1850, John Bird had acquired several hundred acres of choice bottom land on the South River and owned at least forty-three slaves, making him probably the largest slave owner in DeKalb County at that time.[60] The next year, however, his son Elijah murdered his brother-in-law Dr. Nathaniel Hilburn and, although a pardon was ultimately granted by the Legislature, the legal costs bankrupted John Bird, forcing him to sell his plantation.[61]

Richard Taliaferro, who was in the county by 1830, also owned a plantation in south DeKalb County and, in 1850, owned twenty-seven slaves. By 1860, his son Edward, who would represent the county in the legislature of 1868, utilized the labor of twice that number of slaves on the Taliaferro plantation on the headwaters of the South River.

The largest slave owner in DeKalb or Fulton County in 1860 was Ephraim Ponder, who had only moved to Fulton County in the late 1850s. In 1860, he was enumerated with fifty-seven slaves but most of these were allowed to hire themselves out as mechanics, carpenters, and other skilled labor. The large house that he built on the Marietta Road, now Marietta Street near Means Street, was considered one of the area’s finest before its ruin during the siege of Atlanta in August 1864.[62]

Not many of Ponder’s slaves were engaged in agriculture nor were many others on similar plantations. As one advertisement stated, slaves could be had as “cooks (meat and pastry), washers and ironers, house servants, and seamstresses, blacksmiths, carpenters, field hands, shoemakers, plow boys and girls, body servants, waiters, drivers, and families.”[63] The slaves of Ponder and others competed directly with the white laborers and craftsmen in Atlanta, provoking a petition from two hundred white citizens in 1858 complaining about competition from “negro mechanics.” Even white professionals were not immune from this competition. In 1859, Atlanta’s white dentists complained to city council about a black dentist named Roderick D. Badger, an unusual example of the commercial competition that many whites feared.[64]

Control of a slave population was always a problem for the free population, especially when the slaves outnumbered the whites, as they did in the tidewater and many parts of the lower Piedmont. Nat Turner’s rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in August 1831, killed sixty whites and frightened the white population throughout the slave-holding states. Although DeKalb County did not have a great number of slaves, control of those that were in the county was a cause for special concern throughout the antebellum period.

As early as September 1837, a DeKalb County grand jury that included William Smith, Meredith Collier, James Paden, and Lochlin Johnson issued presentments that called for “a more rigid enforcement of the patrol law” that required passes for slaves, believing that “would produce salutary results in our slave population.” The grand jury also noted specifically their concern with conditions in the Town District, north of Decatur, an area that included Robert Smith’s farm. Apparently harboring of fugitive slaves was a concern since they recommended “especially to the Town Dist., to be vigilant in paying the proper attention to Houses occupied and controlled by slaves only.”[65]

In 1843, the grand jury again issued complaints, this time being “that slaves and free persons of Color are permitted to reside in the Town of Decatur contrary to law, and if the people of the Town and citizens of the County have not yet felt the injury resulting from such open violation of law, this jury believes it their duty to guard them against the future evils and damage of its continuance.”[66] Clearly fugitive slaves and threats of rebellion were perceived as a problem even in DeKalb County.

In spite of these concerns, outright rebellion and murder were rare, although other forms of resistance might be common. According to Franklin Garrett, a master was murdered by his slave only once in DeKalb County's history, when William Graham, a “notorious Negro trader” in Stone Mountain, was killed by one of his slaves. Whites murdering whites, however, was a bigger problem, making it clear that rebellious slaves were not the only threat to law and order in antebellum DeKalb County. In 1853, for instance, the Grand Jury, with James Paden as foreman, reported that “the perpetration of crimes are like the plagues sent upon Egypt. When one is removed from jail to be hanged or sent to the penitentiary [in Milledgeville], there is another ready to step in. Are these things to continue? Is the County of DeKalb to be pointed at from all parts of the State and elsewhere as the county famous for the commission of crimes?”[67]

Not surprisingly, the laws, even for minor offenses, were much harsher for blacks than for whites. The 1863 Code of the City of Atlanta, for instance, specified a twenty dollar fine for any white person caught “drumming” (i.e., soliciting business) at the railroad station. However, if the infraction involved “a person of color, he or she shall receive not exceeding thirty-nine lashes.” The punishment for blacks was the same for smoking in public or for walking with “a cane, club, or stick (unless blind or infirm).”[68] In addition, little leniency could be expected from the county courts. Of the four new judges in Fulton County Inferior Court in 1861, for instance, two were slave dealers and another was Edward Taliaferro, one of the largest slave holders in the county.[69]

 

The Smiths and Slavery

John Smith does not appear to have been a slave owner, but his son Robert Smith had acquired six by 1820, a number that increased to seventeen by the time he made his will in 1845.[70] By 1850, his sons Robert H., William R., and Nathaniel N. Smith owned fourteen, eighteen, and sixty-six slaves respectively. By 1860, Robert H. Smith had reduced his number of slaves to eleven, probably having given some to his children as they married and set up farms of their own in the 1850s.

While Robert Smith’s slave holdings were relatively small when compared to the plantation belt in the eastern and lower Piedmont, they nevertheless placed him in the top 20% of slave owners in DeKalb County, although just barely. This small group, representing only 5% of the total free white population, included a little over five dozen individuals, among them James Paden, Meredith Collier, Benjamin Plaster, Samuel Walker, Daniel Johnson, William Johnson, and Samuel House. Three-fourths of Robert Smith’s neighbors owned no slaves at all and most of the rest owned fewer than ten. These included Robert Smith’s sons Jasper Newton and James Washington, both of whom had acquired a few slaves by 1860. Of Robert Smith’s neighbors in the Town District, Benjamin Burdette and William Johnston, with nineteen slaves each, were the largest slave owners. Many more were like James Guess, who had acquired only a single slave by 1860.

As difficult as it is to put a face on Robert Smith and his family, the task of doing so with his slaves yields pitiful results. The names of thirteen of the seventeen slaves of Robert Smith are recorded in his will—Berry, Rachel, Jerry, Judy, Miles, William, Peggy, Adaline, Joseph, Ginney, Peter, Lewis and Winny—but that is all. Divided among his children, these slaves have not been accounted for in subsequent records.

The fourteen slaves listed for Robert H. Smith in the 1850 slave census appear to represent two families with six children under twelve. The original census manuscript entry is smudged but seems to indicate that Smith had two slave houses on his property. According to Robert Paden’s interview in 1970, “the Smiths brought three slaves with them from North Carolina. Aunt Gracie lived with them her entire life and looked after the elder Mrs. Smith.” The identity of this woman has not been determined but a careful search of the 1870 census might reveal her presence. Gracie was probably one of the five “old negros slaves [who] added to the charm” of Elizabeth Hawkins Smith’s ninety-third birthday reunion in 1900.[71]

In the 1870 census, two doors away from Robert H. Smith and probably living on his farm, is Caroline Smith, a black woman born about 1816 in North Carolina. She was probably living in one of the old slave houses or else in a newer tenant house on the Smith’s farm and might possibly be one of the children of “Ginny” that Robert Smith left his son in 1846. She is the only person in the 1870 census that can be readily identified as a possible ex-slave of the Smiths, and that only because of her surname.

In 1863, S. P. Richards, the noted Atlanta diarist, wrote that “I must make out descriptive lists of my darkies and record in my journal for future reference. It is said, and I think with truth, that when we come to a successful end to this war that negroes will command very high prices, as there will be so much demand for labor to raise cotton, and a great many will have been taken away by the Yankees.” Richard’s cynicism would not pay off, as he himself realized as early as December of that year when he wrote that he was “disgusted with negroes” and that he felt “inclined to sell what I have. I wish they were all back in Africa, or Yankee Land. To think too that this cruel war should be waged for them!”[72]

While many Southerners would probably have agreed with Richards and thought of their slaves only in terms of a piece of property and an investment, a benign paternalism was sometimes noted. As a Louisiana planter wrote upon the death of one of his slaves,

Now my heart is nearly broke. I have lost poor Leven, one of the most faithful black men ever lived. [H]e was truth and honesty, and without a fault that I ever discovered. He has overseed [sic] the plantation nearly three years, and done much better than any white man ever done here, and I lived a quiet life.”[73]

The bulk of Robert Smith Sr.’s will in 1845 is consumed in directives regarding his seventeen slaves as he divides them among his sons. His bequests include a statement of his “desire that each of my sons keep the afore mentioned Negroes in their families as long as they can.” While that may just be an indication of a belief in slaves as a good investment, Robert also gave his “old Negro woman Winny” her choice with which of his sons she would live and included the admonition that “they take care of her and treat her well during her life.” That Winny’s children or grandchildren might have been among those who celebrated Elizabeth Smith’s birthday in 1900 can only be suggested as a possibility. The fact that any ex-slaves at all were there is an indication of the complexities of the relationships between black and white southerners.

Clearly, the Smiths felt some sense of moral obligation to their slaves even if it might have been predicated on a belief in their basic inferiority as a race of human beings, a not-uncommon belief among his white contemporaries whether or not they owned slaves or believed in the abolition of slavery.[74] This sense of obligation was especially true in those small farmers who owned only a few slaves and where master and slave frequently worked side by side and whose material condition, at least in the case of the poorest farmers and their slaves, might differ little, in absolute terms, from one another.

 

 

The Civil War

Where the Smiths stood in terms of the great national debate over slavery and secession is not known. DeKalb County was known as a Union county and elected Union delegates to what became the secession convention in Milledgeville in January 1861. When the Legislature passed the ordinance of secession on January 18, 1861, by a vote of 208-89, DeKalb County’s only delegate present was Stone Mountain lawyer George K. Smith and he voted “no.” Whatever his misgivings, however, once the ordinance had passed, he, along with the other DeKalb delegate Peter Hoyle, signed it anyway and, presumably like most Georgians, rallied behind the new Confederacy.[75]

With the South’s firing on Fort Sumter and Georgia Governor Brown’s call for volunteers in April, civil war began. In both North and South, response was strong and, by October 1861, 25,000 Georgians were in the Confederate service.[76] Among these was the Smith’s youngest son, Jasper Newton Smith, who volunteered in Decatur in August, perhaps buoyed by the news of the Confederate army’s smashing victory at Bull Run less than two weeks earlier. Unmarried and one of the enthusiastic young men who volunteered for the duration of the war, Smith was enlisted as a private by Luther J. Glenn, who had gone to Missouri earlier that year as part of a Confederate delegation sent to solicit support from the non-secessionist border states.[77] Smith was an infantryman in Company “B” of “Cobb’s Legion,” which consisted of an infantry battalion of seven companies and a cavalry battalion of four companies.[78]

The Smith’s eldest son James Washington Smith was, according to family tradition, a colonel in the Confederate army.[79] A James W. Smith enlisted in Company F, 8th Regiment of the Georgia Volunteer Infantry, known as the “Atlanta Grays,” and was made second sergeant on May 22, 1861. The following October, he was elected 2nd lieutenant but resigned in late June 1862 and so presumably missed the unit’s fighting at Second Manassas in late August. It is likely but not certain that this Smith is James Washington Smith, who was then living in Fulton County on Cheshire Bridge Road and could have easily gone to Atlanta to volunteer.

As 1862 opened and it became clear that the war would not be short, the euphoria of 1861 must have soon worn off, especially as the casualty lists began to grow. One of these early casualties was Emily Smith’s brother James D. Wynne, who was killed in August 1862, probably at the Second Battle of Bull Run. Three weeks later, Robert S. Smith, the oldest son of Dr. Nathaniel Smith, was killed at Antietam Creek in one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.

It is not clear how or even if the other adult males of the Smith family served the Confederacy but it is more than likely that they did. When the “Joe Brown” census of adult males in each of the Georgia’s militia districts was taken in early 1864, neither Robert H. Smith nor his sons were listed in either DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, or Floyd County. Smith’s son-in-law Robert O. Medlock is thought to have been in Gwinnett County’s “home guard mounted cavalry” but the other members of Smith’s family remain a blank.[80] Whether they intentionally avoided the census, as many did who saw “a rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight,” or were actually serving in the military is not known but it is likely that further research would find other Smith relations who were in some sort of service to the Confederacy.

Much went unrecorded as the war dragged on, including the death of Robert Smith’s daughter Luceller Collier, who was barely thirty years old. The circumstances of her death and burial are not known, but she was probably buried at Sardis Methodist Church, where her husband, Wesley, and other members of the family are buried. She left Wesley at their house on Peachtree Road with four small children to see through a war that became more and more hopeless after the fall of Vicksburg in July 1863.[81] By October, Col. Lemuel P. Grant had nearly completed initial construction of a series of fortifications around Atlanta, fortifications that were constantly improved as Sherman began his slow progress toward Atlanta in 1864.

For people in the Atlanta area, Chickamauga, Ringgold, Dalton, and Resaca soon became more than just stops on the Western and Atlantic Railroad as the Confederate forces were slowly outflanked and outfought. After the long battle at Kennesaw Mountain in late June 1864, the Confederate forces retreated to the south bank of the Chattahoochee and, by then, everybody in Atlanta knew what was coming.

The Smiths were fortunate in not living in parts of Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Clayton counties that were turned into battlefields in July of 1864. The Hurts along the Georgia Railroad and the Ponders on the Marietta Road were two who were not so lucky and found their fine houses and plantations destroyed in the battle for control of Atlanta. Others, like Robert Smith’s neighbors James Paden and Samuel House, saw their houses commandeered by the invading Federal army, usually as officer’s headquarters.

Figure 3. Detail from Ruger’s “Map Illustrating the Fifth Epoch of the Atlanta Campaign,” with Robert Smith’s “house on the hill” indicated by arrow. (from Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies)

 

More likely, the Smiths saw what most of the farmers in the area saw and that was the loss of most of their livestock, fodder, and food to conscription by one or the other army. Whether or not they could protect their other personal possessions from the marauding troops, deserters, and common thieves who also plundered the countryside cannot be known. Their house and perhaps the barns and other buildings probably survived the war intact, however, since the only arson noted in the area was the Confederate’s torching of the bridge at Durand’s Mill.[82]

With the Confederate forces forming a defensive line on the south side of Peachtree Creek beyond Durand’s Mill, the Smiths lay in the path of the Federal forces as they circled Atlanta to the east toward Decatur and the Georgia Railroad. Crossing the Chattahoochee River at Heard’s Ferry on July 8, General Schofield’s Army of the Ohio was at Old Cross Keys and Samuel House’s plantation by the 17th and camped that night at Johnston’s mill. The next day, Stanley’s division was camping behind breastworks no more than a half mile west of the Smiths.[83]

Figure 4. “General Sherman’s Campaign Headquarters, near Decatur, July 19, 1864.” James Oliver Powell’s house on what is now Clairmont Road, showing Union soldiers on the grounds. All of the siding appears to have been stripped from one end of the house, most likely for firewood for the thousands of soldiers camped in the area. (Harper’s Weekly, 27 August 1864)

In addition, according to family tradition, the Smith’s house was used as regimental headquarters during that time.[84] By then, especially, the Smith’s farm must have been swarming with “Yankees” and one can only wonder at what they experienced in those terrible days. Like many others, they may have joined the thousands of refugees trying to get out of the way of war and hoping for the best as far as their property was concerned. If they were still in their house, they would have witnessed the effective destruction of their farm. Fences and small outbuildings that could be easily torn down furnished fuel for the thousands of campfires that would have dotted the countryside as the troops encamped. Certainly nothing edible would have been left, including livestock and that year’s crop of corn and sweet potatoes. From behind Federal lines, the Smiths, if they were at home, endured a long August as the siege guns pounded Atlanta into surrender, which finally came on September 2.

They were back home by November, however, when Atlanta finally went up in flames, an event that was remembered by Tullie’s mother and quoted in her obituary in 1935. Then five years old, Mary Ella Mason had walked with her mother the two and one-half miles from their house on Shallowford Road at Peachtree Creek to spend the night with the Smiths, bringing with them letters from the men away at war.

We were reading over the letters and some of them were very long letters, you may be sure, for the boys had not much chance to write. Suddenly, through a window, my mother saw a red flare in the sky, over toward Atlanta, six miles away. . . . Mother and I didn’t sleep much that night. We got up long before day, next morning, and started back home—we saw the moon set and the sun rise. But there was a sort of heavy cloud over every-thing, though the morning was bright. And there was smoke over Atlanta in the distance.[85]

The next months were hard for everyone. With the countryside “pretty well cleaned out,” in the words of Mary Gay, scavenging was a common activity, even for formerly prosperous citizens like Mrs. Gay. Although Tullie’s mother and grandmother did not walk to Madison, as Mary Gay did on two separate occasions, they did walk the six miles to Atlanta where they bought salt and assembled a wheelbarrow in which to trundle it back home.[86] Mrs. Mason also remembered taking “ragged blankets and other bits of material” that they scavenged from the camps and piecing them together into quilts to replace those looted from their house. Her brother came up from Wilcox County and helped plant winter wheat that offered at least the promise of bread in the spring.[87]

As bleak as their situation was, the Smiths and Masons still had their houses. Adeline Smith’s in-laws, the Medlocks, did not fare nearly so well, as evidenced by a letter that Sara Medlock wrote in 1866 in which she described the condition of their old farm along Clear Creek near what is now the intersection of Ponce de Leon Avenue and Monroe Drive. Their experience was common for those unfortunate families that found themselves in the path of warring armies.

We left home in July ‘64. We left our furniture. We took a few chairs and bedding, the best or the most of our clothes—our cattle we sold to the govern ment except three cows and calves. We have one cow and calf is all the stock except two mules. We lost our hogs and horses. We refugeed to Washington County, stayed there until November ‘65. The fighting was mostly from Peachtree Road around to Decatur. Our houses burned, our timber cut down on the home lot, our shade trees—pretty well all of our fruit trees. There has been thousands of pounds of lead picked up on our land. People supported their family picking up lead. They got 50 cents a pound before the surrender. The bombshells is plenty, many with the load in them.[88]

The situation was desperate for most during the winter of 1864 and 1865. As Mary Gay wrote, “Every larder was empty, and those with thousands and tens of thousands of dollars, were as poor as the poorest and as hungry, too.” She, like so many others, had invested “all we possessed except our home and land and negroes, in Confederate bonds,” which were all but worthless well before Appomattox.[89] It is doubtful that the Smiths were immune to those post-war hardships.

 

Notes

1.. Franklin Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, vol. 1, p. 23.

2. See Pat Bryant, Georgia Counties: Their Changing Boundaries (Georgia Dept. of Archives and History, 1983) for details on the evolution of Georgia’s 159 counties.

3. Charles Murphy Candler, “DeKalb County, Georgia, Centennial Celebration . . . Historical Address” (Decatur: DeKalb County Centennial Association, 1922), p. 3, 19.

4. Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, p. 43.

5. Garrett, p. 30; the Sandtown Road probably left Decatur via W. Ponce de Leon, not the Montgomery Ferry Road.

6. Garrett, p. 133.

7. Garrett, Vol. 1, p. 69.

8. Garrett, Vol. 1, p. 109.

9. DeKalb County Inferior Court Minute Book A, p. 584, November 1854.

10. Maj. George B. Davis, The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War (New York: 1978), Plate LX, #1.

11. Mills B. Lane, The Rambler in Georgia, p. 148.

12. John R. Stilgoe, Common Landscape of America, 1580-1845 (New Haven, 1982), p. 74.

13. Stilgoe, p. 172-174.

14. Lane, p. 172.

15. Lane, p. xxiii.

16. Clarke, p. 14.

17. Charles Murphey Candler, “Historical Address,” DeKalb County Centennial Celebration at Decatur, Georgia; November 9, 1922 (DeKalb County Centennial Association, 1923), p. 3.

18. Garrett, vol. 1, p. 133 & 180.

19. Garrett, p. 268. Also see Garrett’s “Necrology.”

20. If William and Ford Mason were brothers, and not cousins as seems likely, it is worth noting that their father is said to have lived in Virginia and was killed by a lightning bolt “while sitting near the chimney reading his Bible.”

21. See Mary Ella Mason Smith’s obituary, Atlanta Journal, October 15, 1935.

22. Levi Willard, “Early History of Decatur . . . ,” MSS at DeKalb Historical Society, p. 4 and 30.

23. See Franklin Garrett’s “Necrology.”

24. Sally Sewell Plaster’s half-brother William Sewell and his sons settled in the western part of the county and gave their name to Sewell Road, now Benjamin Mays Dr.

25. Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, vol. 1, p. 141-143; also Garrett’s “Necrology.”

26. This Daniel Johnson should not be confused with Daniel W. Johnson (1862-1935), son of John Geredine Johnson (1817-1883), whose family were pioneers in the Cross Keys district of Dekalb County. The two Johnson families were apparently not related although they were friends. Two of the existing roads in Druid Hills—Dan Johnson Road and Vilenah Lane—are named for Daniel W. Johnson and his wife Willie Vilenah Medlock, both of whom were cousins of Tullie Smith. Willie Vilenah’s name, like Tullie Vilenah’s name, honored their aunt Antoinette Vilenah Mason.

27. Clarke, p. 202.

28. Stilgoe, p. 82.

29. See Frank S. Mead, Handbook of Denominations (Nashville, 1980) for denominational descriptions and facts.

30. Leyburn, p. 320-321.

31. The precise location of the school has not been documented but it may have been across the street from the present church.

32. Leyburn, p. 282.

33. Caroline McKinney Clarke, The Story of Decatur (Wolfe Publishing, 1996), p. 2.

34. Willard, p. 10, 184.

35. Lucian Lamar Knight, Georgia’s Landmarks, Memorials, and Legends (Atlanta: Privately published, 1914), p. 704.

36. Springs were located on both sides of Piedmont Road at Rock Springs Road. However, since only one of them was located on the west side of the road, the church chose the singular name “Rock Spring” while the road and community take the plural “Rock Springs.”

37. The deed was not recorded or, apparently, even conveyed until Emily Smith did so in 1878. The church has a copy of that deed.

38. Emily Wynne Smith’s father, Thomas Wynne, was one of the founders of Liberty Baptist Church in Gwinnett County.

39. Garrett, Vol. I, p. 51-52.

40. McCabe, p. 342.

41. DeKalb Deed Book AA, p. 556; also see building cornerstone.

42. Steven Hahn, The Roots of Southern Populism (New York, 1983), p. 34. His excellent analysis of the significant differences between the upcountry, of which DeKalb County was a part, and the so-called plantation belt should be consulted by anyone interested in understanding the larger context in which the county developed during the nineteenth century.

43. Candler, p. 3.

44. George White, Statistics of the State of Georgia (Savannah: 1849), p. 205.

45. It should be remembered that all data for the census was provided by the individual.

46. In 1860, Smith listed 150 improved acres or 22% of total acreage. By that time, he had sold Land Lot # 4 and #50 to his son, which probably accounts for the $2,000 reduction in the value of his real estate between 1850 and 1860. The actual acreage of his farm is difficult to calculate since the land lot lines were irregularly drawn but he is presumed to have owned and farmed all of Land Lot 152, 153, 156 and, probably, 157 throughout the period. Robert Smith also bought and sold property elsewhere in the county which he may have rented, since no record other than his ownership of the land has been located.

47. Fulton Deed Book C, p. 512.

48. Willard Range, A Century of Georgia Agriculture, 1850-1950 (Athens, 1954), p. 11.

49. Garrett, Vol. 1, p. 102-103; Kurtz #115.

50. Hahn, p. 22-23.

51. All agricultural statistics in this section were taken from the Federally published census summaries.

52. James C. Bonner, A History of Georgia Agriculture, 1732-1860 (Athens, 1964), p. 64-65.

53. Numan Bartley, The Creation of Modern Georgia (Athens, GA, 1990), p. 40.

54.. Range, p. 18-19.

55. Garrett, Vol. 1, p. 176; Garrett’s “Necrology.”

56. Unless otherwise noted, all figures and statistics in this section were taken directly from the Federal census or extrapolated from it. The summaries for each census contain detail down to the county level which have proved most of the county-level statistics.

57. Only one slave, owned by James Paden, out of the 2,000 listed in the 1860 census of DeKalb County, was born in Africa. See also Robert William Fogel & Stanley L. Engerman, Time on the Cross: The Economics of Negro Slavery (Boston, 1974), p. 22-29.

58. Thomas W. Holder, The Atlas of Antebellum Agriculture (Athens, 1986), p. 84; statistical information compiled from Francis Walker, The Statistics of the Population of the United States: Ninth Census, vol. 1 (Washington, 1872).

59. Stephen Hahn, The Roots of Southern Populism (Oxford Press, 1983), p. 24-25.

60. Precise numbering of slaves can be difficult since ownership was often split between several family members although the slaves might all work the same land. Failure to accurately report slave ownership, either by the owner or the enumerator, complicates the issue. The original manuscript (on microfilm) of the slave schedule for DeKalb County in 1850 and 1860 and for Fulton County in 1860 is the source for most data on individual slave owners.

61. Garrett, vol. 1, p. 336-338.

62. Ibid., p. 513-515.

63. Ibid., p. 586.

64. Ibid., p. 453.

65. Ibid., p. 152.

66. Ibid., p. 201.

67. Ibid., p. 358.

68. Ibid., p. 553.

69. Ibid., p. 495.

70. The fact that neither Robert or William R. Smith is listed as owning slaves in 1840 may indicate that they, like others, sometimes distrusted the motives behind enumerating slaves. Most realized, however, that an undercount of the slave population would reduce the state’s Congressional apportionment since three-fifths of the slave population was counted toward the State’s aggregate population for apportionment purposes.

71. "Mrs. Elizabeth Smith,” Atlanta Journal, May 11, 1900.

72. Garrett, vol. 1, p. 557.

73. Fogel & Engerman, p. 77.

74. Fogel & Engerman, p. 216.

75. Garrett, vol. 1, p. 495.

76. Coleman, p. 188.

77. Cooper, p. 110.

78. See muster rolls for “Cobb’s Legion,” Georgia Department of Archives and History; fifteen muster roll cards on “Jasper N. Smith” provide some clues as to his movements. His Muster-In Roll Card is the only documentation for his birth in January 1836.

79. See letter to the editor from Mrs. Nancy Mason, a distant cousin of Tullie Smith, Atlanta Journal and Constitution Magazine, January 25, 1970.

80. McCabe, p. 342.

81. See Garrett, vol. 1, p. 564-565, for an interesting description of an incident endured by Wesley Collier and his family in February 1864. Note that Collier does not appear, as his brothers do and as he should if Garrett’s date is correct, in the “Joe Brown” census of that year. The story is also interesting for its description of the Collier’s house, which stood in what is now the 2100 block of Peachtree Road and which was probably much like Robert Hiram Smith’s house.

82 Garrett, vol. 1, p. 167.

83. Maj. George B. Davis, Leslie J. Perry, and Joseph W. Kirkley, The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War (New York, 1978 reprint of 1891 edition), Plate LXII.

84. See Atlanta Journal-Constitution Magazine, August 25, 1969, letter from Nancy Mason.

85. Atlanta Journal, October 29, 1935.

86. Salt was a necessity not only for seasoning but also for preserving quantities of meat and other food.

87. See Mary Gay’s Life in Dixie During the War and Mary Ella Mason’s obituary.

88. McCabe, p. 342.

89. Gay, p. 255.

 

 

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