Nathan Smith: Earliest Smith Ancestor “Gone to Georgia” and Beyond

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is Earliest.  To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index


My mother’s paternal line are Smiths — the most common surname in the United States. Researching Smiths can be challenging, but I’ve traced my line to the mid-1700s. The earliest Smith ancestor I’ve proven is my 6x-great-grandfather Nathan Smith.

Nathan Smith was likely born in the late 1720s or early 1730s in North Carolina.¹ His wife was Ann,² and they were probably married before 1751 — the birth year of their oldest known son Everett, from whom I descend.³

Nathan spent most of his adult life in Cumberland County, North Carolina. He received a land grant from Governor William Tryon on December 22, 1768, for 200 acres along Richland Creek in Cumberland County.⁴ He and Ann deeded this land to Levi Pennington on July 20, 1771.⁵ On July 8, 1774, Nathan received a deed for 200 acres from James Ritter for another property in Cumberland County.⁶ Nathan also appears on the Cumberland County tax lists for the years 1777 – 1780 and 1783.⁷ Nathan’s land was located in the area that became Moore County in 1784.

Nathan appears in the 1790 U.S. census for Moore County in a household of two adults: one male and one female, most likely indicating himself and wife Ann.⁸ By this date, their children were grown and had established families of their own. Sometime after 1790, Nathan left North Carolina and joined the “Gone to Georgia” movement. He headed to Franklin County, Georgia, and formed the Nathan Smith Settlement with sons Nicholas and Stephen, their families, as well as daughter Sarah, wife of Owen Carpenter, and their family.⁹ Many others joined their settlement, but it’s unknown if Nathan’s wife Ann was still living when they migrated.

Georgia was an appealing destination for settlers in the 1790s. Between 1780 and 1786, the state of Georgia had passed laws giving free headright land grants to emigrants.¹⁰ Land was granted according to the the number of “heads” — man, wife, children, and slaves — in a family, and ranged from 200 acres for a bachelor, to a maximum of 1,000 acres per family.¹¹ Unfortunately, the land grant system was not well-regulated, and dishonest speculators forged multiple applications and amassed huge land holdings.¹² These speculators then sold land yet to be surveyed to unsuspecting settlers, including land that was outside the boundary of Georgia’s territory and on Cherokee lands.¹³ I have been unable to find a land warrant from the state of Georgia to “my” Nathan Smith (there were at least two other men with the same name in Georgia at the time) so I suspect the Nathan Smith Settlement may have been established on land purchased from one of these speculators.

The Cherokee complained to the United States government about this encroachment on their lands. The land was surveyed, and the Nathan Smith Settlement, along with several other communities, was determined to be on Cherokee lands. Settlers sent a petition to the governor of Georgia requesting his assistance:¹⁴

13th September 1798
His Excellence James Jackson, Gov. of Georgia.

We are induced from the peculiarity of our situations as Frontier citizens of Jackson & Franklin Counties to address your Excellency and implore your interposition in our favor. – We beg leave to represent that we hold titles derived from Grants issued by the State of Georgia for Lands which have proven to lie beyond the temporary boundary line, lately extended under the Superintendence of Colo. Hawkins, Agent of Indian affairs for the United States; that these lands, which we have honestly paid for, which we have been at great Labour and expence to improve and on which (exposed to savage depredations for Several years) we have hazarded the lives of ourselves and our families, we are now forbidden to occupy. – Thus after exhausting all our resources in the purchase & improvement of Lands, we are now told that we must abandon these homes, destitute (as we are) of the means of providing others for our families.

The lands we hold were granted between the years 1783 & 1788 which we need not remark to your excellency was anterior to the Treaty concluded to New York.- We think it proper also to observe that evident inaccuracies have been commited in running of the line from the Currawhee Mountain to the source of the Appalachee, by which that line has been thrown much further in upon the inhabitants than it would have gone if it had been carried direct from one of these points to the other.

We pray that your excellency will have the goodness to signify to us by letter addressed to Capt. John Little to the care of  Daniel Beall Esq. At Franklin Court House, or in any other way that your Excellency may deem proper and expedient, your opinion.

If your excellency has the power of affording us relief we count with great confidence on receiving it.  If your Excellency has not that power, we beg that you will represent our situation to the next Ligislature and implore for us that redress which your excellency may think our cases entitled to.

We have the honor to be with profound respect,
Your Excellencies Most Obedt Servts, 

(Signed)

Philip Thomas, John Thomas, Wm. Thomas, Philip Thomas Jr., Abednego Downing, Geo. Waters, Levi Taylor, James Huit, Solomon Huitt, Wm. Alexander Tansey, Jesse Austin, Tho. Barnard, Lucas LeCroy, Thomas Lean, Equila McKrakin, James McKrakin, Holcom, Geo. Hopper, Wm. Weatherspoons, Hugh Hartgrove, Nathaniel Wofford, Richard Burkes, Benjamin Wofford, Richard Lay, Nicholas Smith, Nathan SmithO(w)en CarpenterJames Minnerd, Nicholas Nuton, Stephen Smith, [an illegible signature of the original document], Lewes Dickeson, Joseph Halcom, Jno. Parker, John Ratley, Thomas Warren, Robert Shipley, John Shipley, Nathaniel Shipley, William Little, Joseph Dunnegame, Ande Dunnegane, E. Dunnegame, Moses Terell, Jno. Little.

Anna Belle Little Tabor, ed., History of Franklin County, Georgia (Carnesville, Georgia : Franklin County Historical Society, 1986), 107-110.

The solution to this dispute was the Four Mile Purchase of 1804. In exchange for $5,000 of goods and merchandise and annual payments of $1,000, the Cherokee agreed to cede a strip of land four miles wide and about 23 miles long to the United States in a treaty signed at Tellico, Tennessee, in October 1804.¹⁵ This strip of land encompassed most of the white encroachment and was known as Wofford’s Settlement after principal owner Col. William Wofford.¹⁶ However, the Nathan Smith Settlement was outside the Four Mile Purchase, meaning Nathan, his family, and their neighbors were out of luck. They lost their property and the improvements made to it.

Wofford’s Settlement (highlighted) in Franklin County, Georgia, 1818
The Four Mile Purchase of 1804 roughly encompasses the rectangular area around Wofford.

“David Rumsey Map Collection,” image, David Rumsey Cartography Associates (http://www.davidrumsey.com/rumsey/download.pl?image=/D5005/4874000.sid : accessed 23 Jun 2019), “Map of the State of Georgia,” published 1818, Eleazer Early publisher, Daniel Sturges, author.

Col. Wofford prepared a list of settlers in 1804, comparing the inhabitants in 1798 to those present at the time of the Four Mile Purchase. His enumeration of the Nathan Smith Settlement is as follows:¹⁷

Old settlers in Nathan Smith’s settlement, before the line was run.

1 Nathan Smith
2 James Minyard
3 Michael Oliver
4 Stephen Smith
5 Nicholas Smith
6 Owen Carpenter
7 John Parker
8 Thomas Warren
9 Joseph Halcom
10 Charles Warren
11 William Thornton
12 Johnson McKinney
13 Lewis Dickinson

Here appears to be in the interim as aforesaid an increase of seventeen families. But the circumstances relative to those settler would be as proportionable as that of any settlement.

Settlers old and new

1 Nathan Smith
2 Isham Smith
3 John Smith
4 Adam Shuffield
5 James Keyes
6 Joseph Shelton
7 Samuel Spencer
8 William Spencer
9 Richard Jacks
10 John Huitt
11 Jacob Hollingsworth
12 Moses Alred
13 James Brown
14 Temple Carpenter
15 Thomas Warren
16 John Warren
17 James Hamilton
18 Owen Carpenter
19 Jame Minyard
20 Nimrod House
21 James Alred
22 Thomas Bullen
23 William Newton
24 _____ Snow
25 Asa Walker
26 Morgan Guest
27 William Smith
28 Averett Smith
29 George Morgan
30 Reuben Warren

“1804 Franklin Co., GA,” Georgia Genealogist, 10 (Spring 1972).

This list provides important information about Nathan Smith and his family. Sometime between February 1, 1798, and 1804, Stephen and Nicholas left the settlement. Also between these dates, Nathan’s sons Isham, William, and Everett — recorded as “Averett” — and another possible relative, John Smith, moved to the settlement.

However, it seems the Nathan Smith settlers did not wait for the treaty to comply with orders to vacate the land. In a letter dated September 3, 1804, Major Thomas Bell of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, South Carolina Militia, reported the condition of settlement to Brigadier General Buckner Harris:¹⁸

In pursuance of the orders I received from you on the 1st instant to examine & report the state of the settlements within the Indian Boundary between the Currahee Mountain & the Appalachee.

I procceeded to the settlements nearest to the course of my route from Jefferson – I found that the people had complied with the orders recd from you referred to in my orders except in the following instances viz

Mr. Isham Smith informed me that his wife was in a state of health so critical that she could not be moved without endangering her life.

Mr. Smith had demolished all his buildings except one where Mrs. Smith was sick & he appeared perfectly willing to comply with the order aforesaid.

Morgan Jackson, The Wallace Family of Moore County, NC (https://moorecountywallaces.com/histories/1804%20Isham%20Smith.pdf : accessed 23 Jun 2019), “1804 letter mentioning Isham Smith and wife as the last settlers remaining in what was known as the Nathan Smith Settlement.”

At this point in the records, it becomes difficult for me to separate “my” Nathan Smith from another man of the same name in Franklin County, married to a woman named Nancy, who owned land along the Hudson Fork of Broad River. I have no other records that are definitely my ancestor Nathan Smith beyond the 1804 list. It may be possible the Hudson Fork Nathan is the same man as my ancestor, but I haven’t found a marriage record for him and Nancy. These uncertainties call for a future, more in-depth research project.

Nathan’s sons Everett and Isham, along with many others who lived in the Nathan Smith Settlement eventually moved to Lawrence County, Mississippi. Other Nathan Smith researchers believe Nathan died around 1810 in Franklin County, Georgia.¹⁹


¹Approximate birth date range calculated from likely age at time of first child Everett’s birth. Everett’s birth year from grave marker:

Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/20895292/a-smit : accessed 23 Jun 2019), memorial 20895292, Averitt Smith (1751-1822), Everett Smith Cemetery, Lincoln County, Mississippi.

²Ann signed with Nathan on the July 20, 1771 deed to Levi Pennington, indicating they were married:

Rassie Everton Wicker, comp., Miscellaneous Ancient Records of Moore County, N.C. (Aberdeen, North Carolin : Moore County Historical Association, 1971), 67.

³Approximate marriage date calculated from birth of first child Everett. Everett’s birth year from grave marker:

Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/20895292/a-smit : accessed 23 Jun 2019), memorial 20895292, Averitt Smith (1751-1822), Everett Smith Cemetery, Lincoln County, Mississippi.

⁴Cumberland County, North Carolina, Book 20: 383, grant no. 390, “Nathan Smith: 200 Acres Cumberland on Richland,” 22 Dec 1768; digital image, State Archives of North Carolina, NC Land Grant Images and Data ( http://www.nclandgrants.com/grant/?mars=12.14.51.851&qid=463200&rn=1 : accessed 23 Jun 2019).

⁵Rassie Everton Wicker, comp., Miscellaneous Ancient Records of Moore County, N.C. (Aberdeen, North Carolin : Moore County Historical Association, 1971), 67.

⁶Rassie Everton Wicker, comp., Miscellaneous Ancient Records of Moore County, N.C. (Aberdeen, North Carolin : Moore County Historical Association, 1971), 72-73.

⁷North Carolina, Cumberland County, List of Taxables, 1777-1870, 1783, 1787; all years read for entries relating to Nathan Smith; images, “List of Taxables 1777-1793.” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/348380 : accessed 23 Jun 2019).

⁸1790 U.S. census, Moore County, North Carolina, p. 156 (penned), col. 1, line 1; Nathan Smith; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/5058/4440913_00433/182569 : accessed 23 Jun 2019); citing NARA microfilm M637, roll 7.

⁹Alex M. Hiltz, “Georgia Bounty Land Grants,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 38:4 (December 1954).

¹⁰Ibid.

¹¹Ibid.

¹²Ibid.

¹³Ibid.

¹⁴Anna Belle Little Tabor, ed., History of Franklin County, Georgia (Carnesville, Georgia : Franklin County Historical Society, 1986), 107-110.

¹⁵Farris W. Cadle, Georgia Land Surveying History and Law (Athens, Georgia : University of Georgia Press, 1991), 84-85.

¹⁶Ibid.

¹⁷”1804 Franklin Co., GA,” Georgia Genealogist, 10 (Spring 1972).

¹⁸Morgan Jackson, The Wallace Family of Moore County, NC (https://moorecountywallaces.com/histories/1804%20Isham%20Smith.pdf : accessed 23 Jun 2019), “1804 letter mentioning Isham Smith and wife as the last settlers remaining in what was known as the Nathan Smith Settlement.”

¹⁹Morgan Jackson, The Wallace Family of Moore County, NC (https://moorecountywallaces.com/getperson.php?personID=I34513&tree=wallace : accessed 23 Jun 2019), “Nathan Smith.”

Charles E. Lewis, Genealogy Webpage for Charles E. Lewis (http://lewis-genealogy.org/genealogy/History/GTG.htm : accessed 23 Jun 2019), “Gone to Georgia: The Nathan Smith Settlement of Franklin County, Georgia c. 1795.”

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