An American Family History

John Smith and Catharine Humphreys


Piney Flats, Sullivan County, Tennessee

The Holston River flows from Kingsport to Knoxville.
map by Kmusser
East Tennessee is part of Appalachia. At the end of the French and Indian War, colonists began drifting into the area. In 1769, they first settled along the Watauga River. During the Revolution, the Overmountain Men defeated British loyalists at the Battle of Kings Mountain. The State of Franklin was formed in the 1780s, but never admitted to the Union.

Tennessee was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1796. It was initially part of North Carolina.

During the Civil war many citizens of East Tennessee opposed secession, but the area was under Confederate control from 1861 to 1863. Some citizens engaged in guerrilla warfare against state authorities and joined the Union army, while others were loyal to the confederacy. It was a heartbreaking case of neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother.

Deery Inn
The Deery Inn
Blountville, Tennessee

John Smith and Catharine Humphreys married on Sepember 4, 1808 in Sullivan County, Tennessee.

The Smith homestead,

where John and Kate ("Granny") Smith, the grandparents of Geo. W. Smith, at one time resided, being hard by the old Devault school house, and about two miles S.W. from the mouth of Beaver Creek, on the south side of Holston River.

Their family Bible handed down through the David Smith family recorded the births of their children. They were Lutherans.

Mary Ann Smith was born January 10, 1809. Mary Ann died young.

George Washington Smith was born March 26, 1810.

Elizabeth (Bettie) Smith Deck was born June 21, 1812.

John appeared in the 1812 tax list of Sullivan County.

John Humphreys Smith was born December 22, 1813.

King Henry Smith was born November 17, 1815.

Polly Eliza Smith Webb was born October 10, 1817.

Prince David Smith was born June 6, 1819.

Nancy Ann Cross Smith Massengil was born December 7, 1820.

Samuel Rhea Smith was born December 13, 1822.

Josiah Smith (Sy, Scy) was born August 8, 1825.

William Hart Smith was born April 12, 1827. William died young.

John died on March 10 1829, leaving Catharine to raise the children herself.

In 1830 Catherine appeared as head of household in the census of Sullivan County, Tennessee. The household consisted of:

a woman between 40 and 49-Catharine
a man between 20 and 29- George age 20
two boys between 15 and 19- John age 17 and Henry age 15
two boys and a girl between 10 and 14-Polly age 13, David age 11
two boys and a girl between 5 and 9-Nancy age 9, Sam age 8
two boys under 5- Josiah age 4 and William age 3

In August, 1830, Catherine's father, David Humphreys said that he lived with her in Sullivan County.

Polly married James Webb about 1836. John Humphreys Smith married Malinda Matthews about 1839.

In 1837 Catherine was listed in the Sullivan County tax list. She had 72 acres that was worth $210.

The family was still in Sullivan in 1840. The household consisted of

a woman between 50 and 59-Catharine
a man between 30 and 39-George
a woman and two men between 20 and 29-David age 21, Polly age 23, Henry age 25 or John 27
a girl and a boy between 15 and 19-Sam age 18 and Nancy age 19
a boy between 10 and 14-Josiah age 14

Nancy Ann married John Massengill about 1840. Henry married in 1841 and located in Greene County, Tennessee. David married Julia Powell in 1842 and Samuel married Martha Cross about the same time. They moved to Missouri. Elizabeth married Simon Deck about 1845.

In 1847 Josiah enlisted in the Mexican War. Nancy died in 1849. Polly died before the 1850 census.

At the time of the 1850 census, Catherine was living with the Simon Deck family. John and Henry were in Greene County, Josiah was in Meigs County.

During the Civil War, Josiah was in the 5th Regiment of the Tennessee Volunteers. The Massengill boys, Felty and John, were both Confederate soldiers. Felty died in 1862 of fever before the battle of Shiloh. Henry was on the side of the Union.

In 1860, 1870, and 1880 Catherine lived with the Deck family in Blountville. They also raised Dr. John D. Masengill whose son said

This was during the period of Reconstruction when the South was prostrated on account of the Civil War, and he held in grateful remembrace the help his grandmother, Catherine Smith gave him during this formative period of his life. Catherine Smith's husband, John Smith, had been a soldier under General Jackson in the War of 1812, and the small pension she received on account of his service furnished her a little money when there was scarcely any at all in the country.

Catherine died on July 3, 1881. She was buried with her husband in the Smith-Cross Cemetery in Sullivan County.


Sullivan County is in far northeast corner of Tennessee between North Carolina and Virginia and was originally part of those states. It was formed in 1779 when it was divided from Washington County.

Smith-Cross Cemetery is located near Piney Flats on private property at Boone Lake, Tennessee


There were two Beaver Creeks in early Washington County, Virginia. One (also called Shallow Creek) flowed through Bristol and emptied into the South Fork of the Holston River in Tennessee. The other was a south branch of the North Fork of the Holston River in current Smyth County.

In the War of 1812 (1812-1815) the United States declared war on England because of trade restrictions, impressment, and British support for Indian attacks. They signed the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814 after reaching a stalemate.

The Confederate States of America (CSA), also known as the Confederacy, was a government set up by southern states during the Civil War. The states who left the Union were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

The American folk hero, David "Davy" Crockett (1786 – 1836), grew up in East Tennessee.

In the Civil War (1861 to 1865) eleven Southern states seceded from the U.S. and formed the Confederate States of America.




The rod or perch or pole is a surveyor's tool equal to 5 1⁄2 yards.

Sullivan County, Tennessee Deeds
Jacob Emert to John Smith
Deed Book 6, p. 279:
Jacob Emert to John Smith
Transcribed by Robert Keyes Feb 8, 2005
Source: LDS FHL film #972707

This Indenture Made this twentyeth day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand Eight hundred and twelve [1812] between Jacob Emert [Emmert] Senr of the County of Sullivan & State of Tennessee of the one part and John Smith Carpenter of the county and state of aforesaid of the other Part

Witnesseth that the said Jacob Emert hath for and in Consideration of the sum of five Hundred Dollars to me in hand paid by the said John Smith the Receipt hereby is acknowledged hath Bargaind and sold unto the aforesaid Smith a certain tract or parcel of Land lying and being in the county and state above mentioned containing by estimation two Hundred and Seventy eight acre

Bounded as follows

  • Begining at a Black oak and White on Samuel Smiths Line
  • then alon George Emert [Emmert] Jun line South fifty eight Degrees West one hundred and thirty six poles to his Corner Pine then with said line South Twenty two poles
  • to John WertMillers Corner Pine
  • then on said Millers Line South Eighty three West one hundred and forty eight poles
  • to his corner pine on George Emert Snr line then on his line north thirty one east one hundred poles to his Corner White oak
  • then on his line North eighty seven West Eighty poles to two white oaks then north forty East sixty six poles Frames corner Elm ????
  • then on his line north thirty eight poles to his corner pine
  • then West forty two poles to a Chesnut tree then north thirty two East forty eight poles to a corner White oak
  • then north Eighty Six West forty eight poles to a poplar
  • thence north thirty four poles to a stake then on or near John Scotts line East Eighty eight poles
  • to Said Scotts Corner White oak and Black oak
  • then on or near Samuel Smiths line South forty west Eighty poles to his corner stake then straight on said Smith line to the Begining

together with all Woods Water mines minerals headitements & appurtenances to the said Land Belonging or Appertaining to hold to the John Smith his hiers and assighns forever in testimoney

Whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this Day and year above written Sighned Seald and Delverd in Prescence of
Benjamin Web
George Wolfred
Jacob Emert
(seal) State of Tennessee Sullivan County at august Session 1812 the Execution of the within deed was acknowledged in open Court by Jacob Emert party thereto let it be
Registered Test
Matw Rhea Clk
Sullvn Cty 17th Febry 1813

Seals were used to authenticate documents and men were expected to have a personal die. Records in deed books are copies and signatures are usually in the clerk’s handwriting. The clerk drew a circle around the word “seal” to indicate that the original document was sealed.

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©Roberta Tuller 2023
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