Letter from Hilliard B. Smith
to his Son Robert

This is a 1920 letter from Hilliard B. Smith to his son Robert Augustus Smith describing the ancestry of the Smith family which came to Giles County from Spartanburg, South Carolina, with the Basil Compton family in 1819.

Dear Son,

    As I told you in my letter, that I very regretted not having informed myself more thororughly concerning my ancestry, these memorials will necessarily be imperfect. My parents, Franklin Smith and Elizabeth Beardin were both nothing of their antecedents except my mothers father was named Benjamin.

    Grandfather Smith died when father was very young and father never talked about him so I do not know his given name. Neither do I know Grandmother Smith's given named. She had three children by Grandfather Smith: Father, Barbara and an aunt whose name I do not know. Barbara married a man whose name was Isaac Compton. Grandmother Smith married a second time. Her husband named Moore, by whom she had several children. I remember thae name of only two: Simeon and Ailsey. Mr. Moore, according to Father's account, was a hard customer. He was very craving, worked hard and required all about him to do the same. One instance will suffice: He ran a still and after work in the field all day he would take Father and run the still all night. On one occasion it was fodder pulling time. After tying fodder until about ten o'clock they went to the still. Mr. Moore generously gave father the first run, inteingin to take charge at midnight. So Mr. Moorelay down to sleep but father was to tgired, fagged out, and sleepy that Mr. Moore got very little start on him. They both had an all night sleep. Mr. Moore waked up first in the morning. The still was puffing like a steam engine; he jumped up and called out, "jux! jux! the whole run's spoiled! Father said that was one time Jimmy didn't even scold him.

    But the worst of the case was that Mr. Moore undertook to carry out the old English regime of making the firstborn a gentleman and the children slaves. Of course Father's primogeniture went for nothing. So Simeon was sent ot school and the rest were compelled to toil to support him.

    Father stood it until he was nineteen years old; then he left and came to Tenn. I do not know which to Tenn. first. Father or Mother, but I think Mother came first; for when Father came, he went ot one of Mothers uncles to learn the gunsmith trade. He was familiarly known as Pleas Bearden.

    Father was a fine mechanic, as all my brothers were, especially William and John. I had less mechanical skill than the others. I suppose it was because I had less patience.

    My oldest brother, William Rufus was born on Blue Creek. He educated himself privately, studied medicine and became a practicing physician. You have seen his daughter Emma.

    My brother Benjamin Franklin was also born on Blue Creek. You have seen him. These three went to a teacher whose name was Hankins. He was rightly named.

    Sister Emily was born on Blue Creek. She married Daric Marion Caldwell. They were unfortunate int heir children; for they mostly died young. Those that lived to be married, soon died, they and their children. She has one gradson, is 89 years old and is almost helpless.

    The birthplace of my brother was also Blue Creek. He married Mariah Downing. You saw his son and daughter when they were here. He learned the silversmith trade and was a very fine workman. He educated himeself; was graduated from Due West College, Spartanburg District, S. C. He spent his life as a teacher and was a success. I suppose as he taught about 30 years in the same community.

    I too was born on Blue Creek, April 7, 1836. When I was about one year old. Father moved up into Marshall County and bought a tract of land from Alfred Bearden, 200 acres for $800, where he lived until he died in 1863 at the age of 58, mother having preceded him by five years. All the rest of my brothers and sisters were born there: Americus DeLafayette, who died at the age of 14; Enoch Harrison, who now lives in Berryville, Arkansas; Elizabeth, who died at the age of 18 days; Robert Bruce, who died in Dallas County, Texas; an unnamed baby which lived only four days; Alfred Winn, who died some four years ago; and Nancy Helen, who lives near Abilene.

    I went to three private schools taught by Miss Elvira Tatum, James Young and Kezehia Roberts. My public were John Bauchman, John Blair, one of Willis Shaw's uncles, Mr. Harper and Joe Davidson, who taught us to sing geography.

    At age 20, Father gave me a mule colt which I sold for $50. I used the money in going to school for five months to Coleman L. Randolph. Board was six dollars a month and tuition two dollars and fify cents. Int he falll of 1856 I made a contract with Calvin Robinson to assist him in his academy for the next ten months. He gave me board and tuition and I gave him one fourth of my time.

    In the fall of 1857 I taught a three-month public school. In 1858 James Marshall Brown and I taught a ten-month public school, during which time I came very near dying of typhoid fever.

    In the fall of 1860, I came to Texas in company with Walter Hedgepeth. It took us six weeks to made the trip from Marshall Co. Tenn. to Waxahatchie, Ellis County, Texas but we whiled away the long t rip very pleasantly.

    I lived in Waxahatchie during the winter. In the spring of 1861 Texas seceded from the Union. I went to Hill County and taught school at Covington until a call was made for volunteers. I joined the army. I boarded with D. T. Lawrence and considered his house my home during the war. I need not write of the war: the same horrors are common to all wars.

    In the fall of 1865 I went to Dallas County where I taught ten months. Then I went to Ellis County where I taught five months.

    I jined the conference in 1868. My first work was the San Gabriel Circuit in 1869. My next was Ft. Worth. I don't know that I should tell it, but there was a local preacher who had a house full of girls. He went to the Weatherford Conference specially to have me appointed to the Ft. Worth Circuit. I was not there long before he was against me tooth and toe-nail. He did me all the harm he could. I have always thought he turned against me because I would not court his girls. I had two reasons for my conduct; first, in those days I carefully avoided all semblance of familiarity with girls; secondly, they were a household of ignoramuses.

    In 1871 I was on the Walnut Creek Circuit in Parker County where your Ma and I were married on the 10th of August, 1871. Reverend Augustus A. Cornett performed the ceremony. So if we live to the 10th of next August, it wil be the fiftieth anniversary of our married life.

    We were on the Peoria Circuit in 1872, and on the Stephenville Circuit in 1873. That fall I located and went to make a living as the Circuit paid me $36.00 during the year.

    We had nothing byut one horse and a few clothes. I gave the horse for a set of house logs, bought a lot on credit and built on it. I then went ot work carpentering. I built the first Methodist church in Stephenville and the first Methodist church in Dublin.

    I do not know of any incident that would likely be of interest. I worked hard and lived economically until I paid for my lot and improved on it. I kept up preaching and was a standby for the young preachers who camet o Stephenville. My house was headquarters for the itinerancy and also for a number of countryment who made it convenient to call about dinner time when they were in town. I soon found I cound not made ends meet and feed the county; so one way or another I gave them to understand I was not running a free boarding house.

    We came very near losing Cora. There was only one man who stood by me and said she should not die-Doctor May.

    We moved to Dublin in 1883 where I bought a lot and improved it. I set out one Monday morning to buy me a tract of land. I sold my place in Dublin, came to Stephenville, sold my place here, bought my land and got back to Dublin Friday. You know the rest.

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Submitted by: Richard Smith.

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