The John Smith House

Dr. Jim TumblinFountain City, Our Town Stories

John Smith (1795-1883) built an imposing handmade brick house on the Tazewell and Jacksboro Turnpike in 1839 in the distinctive Flemish Bond pattern. Simple but elegant woodwork highlighted the fireplaces in the parlor, the living room, the four bedrooms and the kitchen. The elegant doors in each room were “Christian doors” (the panels formed a cross and an open Bible).


Preservationist Harvey Broome, a Smith descendant, would later observe: “The parlor was used exclusively for courting, receiving the minister and for funerals. One of the bedrooms, the Blue Room, was especially furnished to accommodate their frequent guests who were traveling the busy turnpike. When company came, the folks living near would just bring in some meat from the smokehouse and put down some extra mattresses on the floor. They had wonderful times then.”

John Smith, a harness-maker by trade, was born on Feb. 2, 1795, in Culpepper County, Virginia. He was living in the Beaver Dam settlement but purchased his 474 acres for $1,000 from John Adair, his wife’s grandfather, on Dec. 2, 1820. He had married Mariah Christian (1802-1883) on Aug. 2, 1819. They farmed the land for many years and raised their nine children there.

Over the years the family made their mark in the community. They provided the land for the first grammar school in Fountain City, the predecessor to Smithwood Grammar School. They also provided land for their home church, Smithwood (formerly Adair’s Creek) Baptist, which has long been a bulwark in the community. Smithwood, the community in which they lived long and productive lives, was named for them.

James Harvey Smith (1840-1932). The great grandson of John Adair, Lt. Smith was a Civil War hero who occupied the Smith house until his death. (C.M. McClung Historical Collection No. 200-109-010)

James Harvey (1840-1932) was born the seventh of nine children of the John Smiths on Jan. 17, 1840, in the home on Tazewell Pike and Broadway in which he would live his entire 92 years. He would spend his youth working on his father’s farm and attending school in the community.

When the Civil War came, James Harvey enlisted in the 1st Tennessee Cavalry Regiment (USA) at Cumberland Gap (April 1, 1862). He originally was the first sergeant of Co. C, but was promoted to 2nd Lt. effective on July 28, 1864, and to 1st Lt. on Dec. 7 of that year at only 24 years of age.

Few units saw more action in the Western Theater of the Civil War than the 1st Tennessee Cavalry. For much of its service, the intrepid Colonel (later General) James P. Brownlow, youngest son of William G. “Parson” Brownlow, led the regiment. They were in action at Cumberland Gap, Tenn., in June 1862 and, by early 1863, were engaged in Middle Tennessee south of Nashville from Franklin and Triune to Shelbyville. They participated in the skirmishes leading to the Battle of Chickamauga near Chattanooga on Sept. 19-20, 1863, and then were detached northwest to fight at Winchester, McMinnville and Sparta.

In December 1863, the 1st Tennessee fought around Morristown, Tenn., against Longstreet’s retreating Confederates after the Battle of Fort Sanders. After their saber charge at Mossy Creek (Jefferson City) on Dec. 29, Col. McCook wrote in his report, “The gallant 1st Tennessee Cavalry, and their brave young commander, Lt. Col. Brownlow, added new laurels to their brilliant reputation by the splendid saber charge they made.”

During January 1864, the regiment was scouting and skirmishing in Cocke and Sevier counties and they then joined Sherman’s campaign to Atlanta. They fought at Resaca, Ga., on May 14-15, 1864. After frequent skirmishes south of Resaca, they were engaged at Lost Mountain on June 16 and at the Atlanta suburb of Newnan on July 31, 1864.

In September, after the arduous Atlanta campaign, they were assigned to intercept Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry south of Franklin. They continued to participate in Gen. George Thomas’ march toward Nashville from early September through Nov. 30, 1864, and then in the final assault on Nashville on Dec. 15-16 of that year.

From Jan. 27 through Feb. 10, 1865, they were assigned to reconnaissance as far south as Corinth, Miss., before returning to Nashville. Although Lee had surrendered to Grant at Appomattox on April 12, the regiment was not mustered out of the service until June 14, 1865.

The 1st Tennessee had marched over 13,000 miles, rendered distinguished service and buried their dead in seven different states. Of the total of 1,493 men enrolled in the regiment during the war, there were 333 lost through battle wounds or disease.

Upon his return from the war, James H. Smith married Margaret Ann Anderson on Feb. 7, 1867. James and Margaret had four daughters: Lucinda Adeline (Broome), Mary Christian, Sallie Douglas and Fannie Gertrude (Coile).

As his grandson Harvey Broome would write years later, James H. Smith demonstrated his skills on the farm. Broome said his grandfather could “… shoe a horse, cradle a field of wheat, make a pair of shoes, slaughter a pig, milk a cow, chop wood, grind a blade, grease a wagon, and handle a horse with certitude.”

In 1923, Kate White, a local historian, interviewed Smith. He reported that he helped his father to pull down the old fort and house of John Adair. They were among the last to see the venerable stockade that had protected and supplied so many pioneers traveling through East Tennessee to settle in Middle Tennessee.

Probably the most prominent person in Smithwood during his lifetime, James H. Smith was active in the First Tennessee Cavalry Association, in community affairs and in the Washington Presbyterian Church. He became a charter member of Shannondale Presbyterian Church when it was formed in 1886.

On Aug. 1, 1932, James Harvey Smith passed away in the house in which he had lived his entire 92 years, except for his three years in the service of his country. He was survived by three of his four daughters and three grandchildren, William S. Broome, Harvey B. Broome and Margaret Broome (Howes). His services were held in his home by the Rev. W.P. Stevenson. The prominent relatives and friends from the community who served as his pallbearers were Rogers Tillery, Robert S. McCampbell Sr., Shannon Anderson, Samuel Sanders, William S. Broome and Harvey B. Broome. His family burial plat is in Greenwood Cemetery.

The historic Smith mansion served descendants of the family until 1960 when it was demolished to make way for commercial development.

Jim Tumblin, retired optometrist and active historian, writes a monthly series called “Fountain City: Places That Made a Difference” for KnoxTNToday.com.

 

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