An American Family History

John Humphreys Smith

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.

Greene County, Tennessee developed from the Nolichucky settlement. It was formed in 1783 from part of the original Washington County, North Carolina.

John Humphreys Smith was born December 22, 1813 in Piney Flats, Sullivan County, Tennessee. His parents were John Smith and Catharine Humphreys. He was named for John Humphreys. His name on his tombstone is "John U. M. Smith."

While a young man he found work as a carpenter in Greene County, Tennessee and met his wife there.

He married Malinda Matthews about 1839. Malinda was the daughter of William and Elizabeth (Betsey) Matthews. Malinda was born about in 1814 in Tennessee. Malinda's mother married Jonathan Naff after Malinda's father died. Jonathan and Elizabeth lived with John and Malinda in their later years. John inherited the Naff plantation.

John and Malinda's children included:
Eli Smith (died young),
Elizabeth Catherine (Kate) Smith Ripley
(1840, married Demetrius B. Ripley),
King Henry Smith (1841),
George Washington Smith (1843, married Elizabeth Florence Cross),
Amanda J. Smith (1847, died young),
Margaret A. Smith Cash (1850, married Samuel Cash),
Elbert S. Smith (1851, married Sarah Catherine Smith, Martha Cole daughter of Amos Cole, Victoria J. Cross, Alice K. Cartright, and Lula May Cross Willen) and,
Sarah Adeline Smith Akard (1855, married Joseph Henry Akard).

At the time of the 1850 census, the household was living in Division 9 of Greene County, Tennessee. The household consisted of John age 38 who was a carpenter, Malinda age 38, Catharine age 11, Henry age 10, George W. age 8, Amanda age 3 and Margaret A who was 11 months.

In 1860 they were still in Greene county. The post office was Rheatown which was named for John Rhea. The household consisted of John age 46, Melinda age 46, Catharine age 21, Henry age 19, George age 17, Emanda S. age 13, Margart A. age 11, Elbert age 8, and Sarah, age 4.

They returned to Sullivan County after the Civil War because of the hostility in Greene County towards Confederate soldiers.

In 1870 they were in Blountville, Sullivan County. The household consisted of John and Malinda both 57, Henry age 30, Margaret age 18, Elbert age 17, and Sarah age 14.

Malinda died July 8, 1878 and John followed a month later on August 6, 1878. They both died of typhoid fever. They are buried together in Smith-Cross Cemetery with their daughter, Sarah Akard.

Deery Inn
The Deery Inn
Blountville, Tennessee

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.

Children of John Smith
and Catherine Humphries
  • MaryAnn Smith
  • George Washington Smith
  • Elizabeth (Bettie) Smith Deck
  • John Humphreys Smith
  • King Henry Smith
  • Polly Eliza Smith Webb
  • Prince David Smith.
  • Nancy Ann Cross Smith Massengill
  • Samuel Rhea Smith
  • Josiah Smith
  • William Hart Smith
  • Smith-Cross Cemetery is located near Piney Flats on private property at Boone Lake, Tennessee


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

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




    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 Massengills, Massengales and Variants, 1472-1931 by Samuel Evans Massengill, M.D. The King Printing Company, Bristol, Tennessee, 1931.

    John Humphreys Smith m. Malinda Mathews, a daughter of William Mathews and his wife Betsey. Lived in Greene County, Tenn., and after the Civil War had to take refuge in Sullivan County. On account of political troubles he lost a good farm in Greene County and was financially broken up.

    John Humphreys Smith's children were:
    George Washington (m. a Cross);
    Elbert, M., first a Smith, second a Cole, third a Cross; fourth a Cartwright, and fifth, Mrs. Lula Willen, a widow;
    Sarah (m. Henry Akard).

    p. 885 The following information was given by G. W. Smith to his son Homer H. Smith, Attorney, Blountville, Tenn., Nov. 8, 1914:

    Geo. W. Smith was a son of John Smith and Malinda (Matthews) Smith. Malinda Matthews was a daughter of William Matthews and Betsey (....) Matthews.

    Malinda Matthews (wife of John Smith, grandfather of H. H. Smith) was a daughter of William and Betsey Matthews. Eli Matthews was a brother of Malinda Mathews.

    Betsey Matthews, after the death of her husband, Wm. Matthews, married Jonathan Naff. She and her second husband had no children. But Jonathan Naff, by a former marriage, had a number of children, to wit: Jacob, Abe, Henry, John (who was a tailor), (Henry was a fine carpenter, and John Smith, grandfather of H. H. Smith was an apprentice under him).

    Jonathan and Betsey Naff lived at the time of their death with John and Malinda Smith in Greene County, Tenn., and they were buried at Limestone, Tenn.

    G. W. Smith is a highly respected citizen who lives in the eight civil district of Sullivan County. He is a farmer and served as a justice of the peace for many years.

    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.

    Typhoid fever is transmitted by the eating or drinking feces contaminated food or drink. Symptons include fever, profuse sweating, gastroenteritis and diarrhea.
    Typhomalarial fever has symptoms of malaria and typhoid fever.
    Typhus is a completely different disease and is spread by lice or fleas. The patient has fever, joint pain, cough and headache.

    Memoirs of George Washington Smith
    Geo. W. Smith, who was a son of John Smith and Malinda Smith (nee Matthews), was born in Greene County, Tenn., Oct. 24, 1843. His father was a native of Sullivan County, Tenn., being a son of John and Kate (Catharine) Smith (nee Humphreys), but being a carpenter and finding employment in Greene County, betook himself thither, where he met Miss Matthews, whom he married in said county.

    John Smith and his family resided in Greene County until after the close of the Civil War, when on account of the hostility shown toward Confederate soldiers there, his family removed to Sullivan County, and located (year 1865 or 66) about two miles east of White Store post office, in which locality they resided until their deaths in the year 1878. Both John and Malinda Smith died with typhoid fever. She died July 8, 1878, and he, Aug. 6, 1878.

    To John and Malinda Smith were born the following children:
    1. Kate [Smith], who married D. Ripley, and resided near Afton, Green County, Tenn., until her death, on ... day of ... 18... She was the mother of two children viz: Charles and Luther Ripley, who now reside near Afton, Greene County, Tenn.
    2. K. Henry Smith who lived for some years on Neosho River, Kans., at Hartford
    3. G. W. Smith, who at the close of the Civil War, married in Sullivan County, Tenn., in the year 1866 or 67, Elizabeth Cross, a daughter of Rev. Wm. K. Cross, and located in same county on the old 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.
    4. Elbert S. Smith who married Miss Kate Smith (1st time) and located, and now lives in the Eighth Civil District of Sullivan County, on the North side of Beaver Creek. The following children were born to this union; viz., Minnie (now dead), Nannie, Dee, Maggie, Robert, Lena, Willie and Luther.
    5. Margaret Smith, who married Samuel Cash (now dead), to whom were born three sons: Charles, Ota and Roy. She and her three sons now live in Greene County, Tenn.
    6. Sarah Smith, who intermarried with Henry Akard to whom were born the following children: Willie, Fanny (dead), Samuel, Bertie, Annis, Walter. Sarah Akard died in the year 1887 (Apr. 7).
    John and Malinda Smith also had a son Eli, oldest of all (died aged about 2 years), and daughter, Manda,...about 18 years.

    War Record of G. W. Smith
    He volunteered his services to the Confederacy, at the age of about 18 0r 19 years, having enlisted in W. W. Mullendore's company, which company was composed of men from Jefferson, Washington and Greene Counties. This Company belonged to Geo. McKenzie's Regiment. Toward the beginning of the war, this Regiment was known as "1st Tennessee," but after the reorganization, it was known as "5th Tennessee."

    G. W. Smith was in the cavalry. He was in many skirmishes in East Tennessee; in the second siege at Cumberland Gap; at the battle of Perryville, Ky.; was a courier in Kentucky campaign under Gen. Austin of South Carolina. He described the Kentucky Campaign as a very hard, starving one. He was captured within twelve miles of Greeneville, Tenn., by two companies--Kirk's of Greene County, and an Indiana Company. One Company was captured at the same time. Kirk's Company is aid to have been composed of wicked, cruel men, while the Indiana Company acted like gentlemen, and treated their prisoners with humanity One or two of the prisoners were shot by some of the Kirk Company--after they were in the hands of their captors. The father of Alex. Davis was so wounded.

    G. W. Smith was imprisoned for eleven months, at Camp Morton, Indianapolis, Ind., where he almost starved to death being so weak when discharged, he could scarcely walk unsupported.

    In Kentucky he was on a forced march when they went eight days and nights without time for rest or sleep. Feed was gotten to his horse's mouth by extending his hand around the mouth of his horse as they marched. At Frankfort, Ky., he carried a message across the bridge, and upon his return the floor of the bridge had been partly removed to prevent pursuit by the enemy. His horse's steps were perilous, but he re crossed in safety. His commanding officer told him not to be captured with an undelivered order; should this occur, to eat the message.

    In Kentucky Gen. John Morgan came to the camp a time or two and was seen by Geo. W. Smith. Morgan remained but an hour or so, and disappeared as unexpectedly as he had arrived.

    Children of G. W. and Elizabeth Smith
    C. E. Smith, Henry Homer Smith, Chas. F. Smith, Ida May Smith, Susan Essie Smith, Arthur C. Smith, Florence Smith, Belle Smith, Ollie Smith, and Miller Smith.


    The Holston River flows from Kingsport to Knoxville.
    map by Kmusser

    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.

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    ©Roberta Tuller 2023
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