Can I tell you a secret? I’ve been dreading and putting off writing this article because I’ve gathered information on Raleigh for so long, it’s in so many places and it’s not the least bit organized. I hate messes like this, and Raleigh, truthfully, was a mess.
And even more discouraging, Raleigh wasn’t always a mess.
I had transcribed close to 200 pages in a MSWord document over 3 or 4 weeks while visiting Tennessee during multiple trips. Notes made in courthouses during the day were transcribed at night on my laptop in hotel rooms.
I swear, I thought I transferred those files to my desktop at home – but I obviously did not – because after my laptop was stolen, those transcribed pages were no more. Now, the saving grace, if there is one, is that I printed parts of those transcriptions which were in the files with some of the notes – and I made copies of some of the deeds at courthouses. And if you’re wondering if I threw the original notes away after I transcribed them – yes – for the most part. So, every time I have an anti-packrat moment and tell myself it’s OK to throw something away – I think of situations like this.
After that, for me, to even think about Raleigh was to feel very discouraged. I can’t go back and recover much of what was lost. Thankfully, I still have the most important parts and I think I’ve been able to reconstruct most everything relevant – although it felt like it took forever and it was far from joyful. But now it’s done and Raleigh’s life is in order – or as much order as I can give him more than 220 years after he departed this life. Now that I think of it, it’s pretty amazing that we can reconstruct any of someone’s life nearly 300 years after their birth – as they traipsed across frontiers.
The bad part about doing original research is that you have to sort through a lot of chaff to find any wheat – and I’m reasonably confident that it’s just the chaff that is missing – because thankfully it was the wheat that I printed to use the following day when I returned to the courthouse.
And the answer to the next question you’re about to ask is yes, I do carry a printer (and also a scanner) with me when I travel. Most courthouses won’t allow scanners or photography of the books, but you just never know what else you’ll run across in other locations.
We have the bookends of Raleigh’s life pretty well documented – birth and death. The problem is that I wasn’t happy with that, and I had to go to Hawkins County and try to find his land. And while it should have been relatively easy, scattered records, burned records and quirky turns made the task much more difficult than I expected. Truthfully, with Dodson Creek, Dodson Ford, Dodson Creek Church and Dodson Creek Cemetery, how tough could this be – really? The answer is, much more difficult than I anticipated.
It doesn’t help any that many of Hawkins County’s records burned in the Civil War, including marriage records and wills. After the war ended, some of the wills were re-transcribed from the original wills that survived, but of course there are no probate dates or other information. And not all wills survived. Enough to make a genealogist tear their hair out.
In the First Families of Tennessee, Rawleigh Dodson is recorded as born in 1730, died circa 1794 in Hawkins Co., TN, married Mary unknown, settled in Sullivan County in 1786 and the proof of such settlement is a land grant. Now, why couldn’t I just enter this into my genealogy program and leave well enough alone?
Because, I’m me and I just can’t. There is so much more to our ancestors than their birth and death dates – and I had to get to know Raleigh. I wanted to unravel his life, walk in his footsteps and on his land.
Come along with me and we’ll visit Dodson Ford – and it’s not a car dealership either! But first, we visit North Farnham Parish in Richmond County, Virginia and travel with Raleigh along the way.
In the Beginning…
The North Farnham Parish Register records Rawleigh’s birth. Michelle Goad extracted the information, as follows:
Born, Dodson, Rawleigh, son of George and Margaret Dodson, 18 January 1730.
The North Farnham Parish Episcopal Church as it stands today is believed to have been built about 1737. It has been restored, although it was used as a stable during the Civil War.
Raleigh probably watched this church being built. Maybe he even helped carry tools to the workers. A 7 year old boy would have probably thought that was fun. Maybe they let Raleigh pound a few nails too.
The church is located in Farnham, Virginia, in Richmond County on North Farnham Church Road (County Route 692) at its intersection with Cedar Grove Road (County Route 602) about 5 miles from the Rappahannock River.
Raleigh’s parents surely lived someplace in the satellite image below.
This area was settled quite early, being on a neck of land between the Potomac River, the Rappahannock River and the Chesapeake Bay, northeast of Richmond. Maryland lies across the Potomac. This part of Virginia is flat and relatively unremarkable, sporting salt and pepper fields and woods.
Given that the parish register included dates preceding 1737, the current building was obviously not the first church building.
Raleigh lived near this location for his entire childhood and perhaps part of his adult life.
In 1739, Raleigh’s father, George, was left “150 acres of land whereon this said George Dodson is now living” in the will of George’s father, Thomas Dodson. This land is described as being “at the mouth of William Everett’s spring branch adjoining William Forrister and the Rowling? Branch,” when George and Margaret Dodson of North Farnham Parish sold the land in 1756 to William Forrester.
This also tells us that Raleigh knew his grandfather, and probably quite well, given that they lived on his land. Raleigh would have been about 9 when his grandfather died. A hard lesson for a young boy about life and death.
Raleigh’s marriage record has not been located, but it’s likely that he married someone who lived near his family in Richmond County, probably sometime around 1754 or 1755.
There is one piece of evidence that suggests Raleigh was living in Prince William County, VA around 1759 to 1761. There is a court case, Raleigh Dodson vs John Webb in trespass with the notation that the defendant has a special parlance granted him. Prince William order book 1759-61, p 241.
You can see, on the 1755 map above that Prince William County in the upper left to the left of the big A isn’t far from Richmond County on the “neck” in the lower right between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. A more contemporary map from FamilySearch is shown below.
Raleigh may have attended the Broad Run Baptist Church in Fauquier County, formed from the southern portion of Prince William County in 1759, when a person whose name has been interpreted as “Roby” Dodson had an infant taken into the care of the church on October 9, 1763. The infants name, interpreted as “Shier” could be a misread of Toliver or Oliver. At any rate, we hear no more of “Roby” and “Shier,” and if Roby was Raleigh, we hear no more of him either.
The path from Richmond County to Broad Run, about 100 miles in a wagon, was only an interim stopover for the Dodson families.
Many of the Dodsons who found their way to Halifax County, Virginia were dismissed from Broad Run between 1763 and 1766.
The Broad Run Church, above, was founded as a Baptist church in 1762, which meant it was a church of dissenters. At that time in Virginia, the Anglican church was the only legal church, meaning the only church recognized by law, and membership was mandatory.
Many Dodsons are found in the Broad Run Baptist Church records, but Raleigh is absent. He would have been required by law to attend the Anglican church, but that doesn’t mean he attended or participated. He might have preferred to pay the fine.
Raleigh’s next appearance would be in Halifax County, Virginia. This trip was about twice as far, and through some rough mountains near Lynchburg, although they may have chosen the route through Farmville instead.
In 1766, Raughley Dodson and Lazarus, probably his brother, witnessed a deed from Joseph Terry to Thomas Dodson for land on the second fork of Birches Creek, Halifax County, VA Deed book 6-363. This Thomas or his son Thomas, the records are unclear, would thereafter be known as “Second Fork Thomas.”
Raleigh also had a brother Thomas. The Reverend Silas Lucas identifies Second Fork Thomas as Thomas, the son of Thomas Dodson who married Elizabeth Rose, who was the brother to Raleigh’s father, George. Therefore, if this is accurate, Second Fork Thomas, born about 1730, would have been Raleigh’s first cousin, not his brother or his uncle. However, I’m not convinced that the records for Raleigh’s brother, whom nothing is known about, and Raleigh’s uncle Thomas, and Raleigh’s first cousin Thomas haven’t been conflated, especially given that “Second Fork Thomas,” according to Lucas, didn’t die until 1816 in Hawkins County, TN.
Thomas Dodson, thought to be “Second Fork Thomas” eventually lived near Raleigh on the north side of the Holston River in Hawkins County. It’s unclear what happened to Raleigh’s brother, Thomas, although he could certainly be the Thomas in Hawkins County. The Dodson family is incredibly difficult to sort accurately.
Today, the original Dodson Ordinary in Halifax County is a historic site called Carter’s Tavern, located on the main road from South Boston to Danville across the road from Arbor Church, shown on the map below.
The Dodson Ordinary has a rich and vibrant history of being a stage coach stop and sporting the ghost of a man killed in the building. The original proprietor, Joseph Dodson, was born in 1724 to Thomas Dodson and Elizabeth Rose. This would mean that Joseph was Raleigh’s first cousin.
Joseph arrived in Halifax County in 1766, along with several other Dodson men, probably including Raleigh, and purchased the land on Toby Creek that would become the Dodson Ordinary.
Joseph Dodson died in 1773, leaving the plantation to his wife and son, Joseph. The same year Joseph died, he sold land, along with “Second Fork Thomas,” in Halifax County.
Restoration work within the Tavern revealed the name of Thomas Dodson etched in the fireplace stone mortar, along with a date of 1767. Given that Joseph bought the land in 1766, it makes sense that in 1767, he would be building a house. We’ll never know whether the etcher was Raleigh’s brother Thomas, or Joseph’s brother Thomas, or Joseph’s son Thomas, who would have been about 20 in 1766. I’m betting on Joseph’s son!
Raleigh assuredly knew Joseph well and probably visited the Dodson Ordinary many times as the Ordinary was a regional location of commerce and a stage coach stop, along with a tavern, of course. Judging from later records, Raleigh probably never met a drop of whisky that he didn’t like, and business transactions in that day were often agreed upon in taverns which were social gathering places for men! I suspect liquor greased a lot of business deals.
Across the road from Dodson’s Ordinary, the view is spectacular to the north, across the area of Birches Creek, called the “Top of the World” by local people. On a clear day, you can see the Peaks of Otter, about 70 miles distant as the crow flies.
Directly across the road from Dodson’s Ordinary and east a few hundred feet, local legend tells us that a revival was held under a bush where the Arbor Church is located today.
We find the following information about Arbor Church:
The Arbor Church congregation is one of the oldest congregations in Halifax County. In the Spring of 1785 William Dodson, a missionary Baptist preacher held a revival under a bush arbor near Carter’s Tavern. As a result of that revival Arbor Baptist Church was organized with 35 charter members and Mr. Dodson as the first preacher. Mr. Samuel Dodson, owner of Carter’s Tavern donated a triangular lot of about 2 acres on which a log building was erected. The base of the triangle bordered River Road with the apex at a rock spring down the hill. Mr. Dodson said he gave the land that way so that the church would have a continuous supply of water.
In the picture, below, you can see the edge of Dodson’s Ordinary, later named Carter’s Tavern, on the right, and the church is the white building behind the trees on the left.
Many of the Dodson family members who relocated to Halifax County had been members of Broad Run Church in Fauquier County, including the Reverend Lazarus Dodson, Raleigh’s brother, who was living in this area by 1767 and founded the Little Sandy Creek Church on the Dan River, which runs near the Virginia/North Carolina border.
The southwestern portion of Halifax County and the southeastern portion of Pittsylvania County became the center of Dodson family life in Virginia. These counties bordered Caswell County, NC on the south, and the Dodsons spilled over into Caswell as well.
Raleigh Buys Land on Country Line Creek
In the winter of 1768, Raleigh bought into the American dream – land.
February 19, 1768, John Roberson and wife Margaret of Orange County, NC sold to Rolley Dodson of said county for 16# Virginia money 50 acres on the east side of the Country Line Creek. Witnesses Hugh Kelly, Henry Hicks and Henry Willis. (Orange County Deed book 2-160)
Caswell County, NC was created from Orange County in 1777 and Raleigh’s land fell into Caswell. The Orange County, North Carolina Court of Pleas and Quarter Session records need to be checked for Raleigh between 1768 and 1777.
The Caswell County tax list for 1777 shows that Raleigh Dotson was assessed 172# for property in the Richmond District.
Raleigh and his wife Mary sold their 50 acres of land on the south side of Country Line Creek on July 5, 1778 to Clement Gann (being purchased of John Robinson) and evidently moved to Hawkins County, TN about this time.
Given that Raleigh’s deed says on the south side, I’d wager that his land was where Country Line runs east to west, as opposed to the area where it runs more north to south.
We don’t know where on Country Line Creek Raleigh lived, but this is where NC62 crosses Country Line, just south of Yanceyville today. You can’t actually see the creek, but you can pull off and fish, apparently.
This area is very heavily wooded. The 1860 census taker added notes about Caswell County, and he describes Caswell County as rolling and hilly as the streams are approached. He then says, “The roughest areas are those along Country Line Creek.” Raleigh probably lived along the portion of Country Line Creek shown below.
In 1777, the heads of household had to take an oath of allegiance to support the Colony of Virginia against the crown. Raleigh and Lazarus Dodson’s oaths were recorded in Pittsylvania county. Oaths taken by George Carter included Elisha Dodson, George Dodson (possibly Raleigh’s father), Lazarus Dodson, Rolly Dodson, Thomas Dodson, George Hardy Jr., Joshua Hardy, William Hardy, Charles Lewis and John Lewis. A Lewis family researcher says this looks like the “Mine Branch” Lewis family and then using Roger Dodson’s survey book, we can determine that the location of George Carter’s land was south of Mine Branch near Double Creek in Pittsylvania County.
There is no way to tell if this is our Raleigh and his son Lazarus, but given that our Raleigh is living in Caswell County in North Carolina, this is likely not our Raleigh or his son, Lazarus who would have been about 17. This is more likely Raleigh’s brother, the Reverend Lazarus Dodson, who did indeed live in Pittsylvania County. The Rev. Elias Dodson names one “Rolly” as the son of Rev. Lazarus, which makes more sense than our Raleigh who was living in NC swearing an oath of this type in Virginia.
Raleigh obviously left for what would become east Tennessee sometime between July of 1778 when he sold his Caswell County land, and May of 1779 when Rawley Dodson and Dodson’s Creek are both mentioned in Washington County land warrant 1382.
After Raleigh had left Caswell, the name of Rawley Dodson shows up there once again in matters pertaining to the estate of John Moore, Jr. (1786-1791). A list of accounts included the name of Rawley Dodson in Caswell Co., will book C, June court 1792.
The area where Raleigh settled in present day east Tennessee was originally the Washington District, then Sullivan County, North Carolina, then in 1784 the highly political and volatile rogue State of Franklin, then in 1786 Hawkins County, North Carolina, then in 1790 the Territory South of the Ohio River which then became Hawkins County, Tennessee in 1796 when Tennessee became a state. Raleigh lived in all of these places without moving an inch. The boundaries moved around him, and not without a great deal of drama either. Raleigh must have been in a constant state of emotional upheaval!
On the 1796 map above, Washington County is shown as land south of the Holston, with Hawkins County just across the river. Hawkins C.H. means Hawkins Courthouse, which is today’s Rogersville.
Elijah Chissum had a ferry across the Holton River and Dodson Ford crossed just beneath Hawkins Courthouse too.
From the book Tennessee Land Warrants, Vol 4 Part 1:
Page 60 – 407 (291) March 10, 1780 Elijah Chisum enters 100 acres on the left fork of Dodson’s Creek, border begins at a bent below the first row of nobs and runs down the creek. Warrant issued on June 18, 1780 by John Adair and the warrant was assigned August 16, 1788 by Elijah Chusum to John Cox (Thomas King, witness) 100 acres surveyed June 12, 1787 by Rawleigh Dodson, James Bunch and Reason Kartin, chain carriers, grant 527 issued Nov. 26, 1789
The above warrant tells us that Raleigh was a surveyor. Another grant tells is that Elijah Chism’s line bordered Evans’ line, a neighbor of Raleigh.
From the book Valid and Invalid North Carolina Warrants in Tennessee by Dr. A. B. Pruitt:
Page 48 – Washington County warrant 1382 to Rowley Dotson for 150 acres on Dotson’s Creek and joins tract where said Dotson lives, warrant issued May 21, 1779 and warrant issued October, 24, 1779 by John Carter, Book 28, page 121
The entry book for John and Landon Carter, entry takers for “Washington Co., NC, now Tennessee,” shows a warrant, 1783, dated May 21, 1779, directing the surveyor of Sullivan County to “lay off for William Payne 150 acres on the Holston River adjoining a tract of land known as the ‘burnt cabin’”. This land was surveyed on April 28, 1787 for Rawleigh Dodson by Rawl Dodson, deputy surveyor.
Did Raleigh survey his own land, or was Rawl Dodson, in this case, Raleigh Jr.? It’s interesting that his nickname may have been Rawl.
The State of NC issued grants to Raleigh Dodson for two tracts of 150 acres, both apparently entered before Hawkins County was created in 1786; grant #1481 for 150 acres on the left fork of Dodson’s creek and #1489 for 150 acres on the south side of Holston River. Dodson’s Creek, no doubt named by or for Raleigh Dodson, is a branch of the Holston River on the south side of the river and nearly opposite the town of Rogersville. Dodson’s Ford was located near the mouth of Dodson’s Creek where the Indians’ Great War Path and Trading Path crossed the Holston River.
“Dodson Ford -1780” is marked on this historic map, courtesy of the Hawkins County Archives.
The location of Dodson Ford was at one time was marked by a Tennessee Historical marker, although the marker was reportedly hit and then stolen years ago and never replaced. The land around Dodson’s Ford is some of the most beautiful in east Tennessee.
Above, the Dodson land looking south from across the Holston River. This is one of my favorite photos, because it conveys the flavor of the land and I think, the spirit of the frontiersmen, and women, who first settled these rolling hills along the river.
Looking upstream towards Dodson Ford from the mouth of Honeycutt Creek on the Holston River. The Ford was about the location of the pillar on the right bank of the river in the distance.
Raleigh’s 1789 land grant, above, is for 150 acres in Hawkins County on the south side of the Holston on Dodson’s Creek on the left fork above Evans line. Beginning on a beech tree running thence:
- West 110 poles to a white oak (1815 feet)
- Then north 220 poles to a pine (3630 feet
- Then east 110 poles to a stake (1815)
- Then south 221 poles to the beginning (3646.50 feet)
This was granted at Fayetteville, NC on November 26, 1789.
Another grant was entered by both Lazarus and Raleigh, both granted the same day, November 26, 1789. (Click to enlarge.)
Raleigh’s grant reads, “150 acres in Sullivan County on the south side of Holston River lying between Dodson’s Creek and a former entry including a spring at the head of Dodson’s creek, beginning on Lazarus Dodson’s line,” then metes and bounds, as follows:
- Pine running thence along the same south 40 degrees east 100 poles to a hickory (1650 feet)
- Then south126 poles to a post oak (2079 feet)
- West 186 poles to a stake then (3069 feet)
- North 35 east 236 poles to the beginning (3894 feet)
Lazarus’s grant reads as follows:
300 acres in Sullivan on the south side of Holston lying on both sides of Dodson’s Creek beginning on a red oak,
- Then with a conditional line between John Sanders and said Dodson running thence along the same south 65 degrees west 240 poles to a poplar and black gum (3960 feet)
- South 50 poles to a white oak (825 feet)
- Rawley Dodson’s line
- Thence along same south 40 east 140 poles to a white oak thence (2310 feet)
- East 140 poles to a stake then (2310 feet)
- North 200 poles to the beginning (3300 feet)
Raleigh’s deed, as it turns out, becomes quite important later in the story, as this is the land that Raleigh actually lived on and leaves to his son, Raleigh. Raleigh Sr.’s son, Lazarus, lived right next door. Father and son filed for and obtained their land at the same time.
Interestingly, the last sentence says “the said Rawley Dodson shall cause this grant to be registered in the registers office of said Sullivan County within 12 months from the date hereof otherwise the same shall be void and of no effect.”
So the grant was only the first step. If you didn’t register the deed, the grant didn’t matter.
Page 124-798 (681) – Rolly Dotson enters 300 acres on the south side of Holston River and on both sides of Dotson’s Creek, border, begins on Dodson’s line on a branch at a white oak marked D, runs along said Dodson’s line and up the branch. Duplicate warrant issued Sept., 28, 1792.
I’d love to find that tree with a “D.”
Between Raleigh and Lazarus’s main grants, they owned 600 acres, just under a mile by a mile square on the west side of Dodson’s Creek. That doesn’t count Raleigh’s 1791 purchase of the Honeycutt land, which was an additional 163 acres. Lazarus’s land actually crossed Dodson Creek and abutted John Sanders land, on the east side.
On the map below, the blue arrows approximate Raleigh’s grant, and the red includes the approximate land that Lazarus and Raleigh held together. After Raleigh bought the Honeycutt land, those red arrows on the left would have moved over by Honeycutt Creek on the Holston. A one mile by one mile square of land is 640 acres and one Pole is 5.5 yards or 16.5 feet.There are 5,280 feet in a linear mile.
We know that Raleigh’s land included Dodson Ford which was the extension of the present day Old Persia Road/Tennessee 66 where it merged with Old Tennessee 70. The old highway marker for Dodson Ford used to be located at this intersection.
So, Where was Dodson Ford?
We can pretty well place where Dodson Ford was located.
You can’t see the old road today on the satellite image, but you can see the old bridge just the other side of where Old Tennessee 70 intersects with Trail of the Lonesome Pine.
A local man told me that the old bridge there was built where Dodson Ford used to cross. The only part of the old bridge you can see today is the pilings near the south bank and in the river. Arnott’s Island is the teardrop shaped island to the right of the old bridge.
Old Tennessee 66 was Old Persia Road which intersected with Old Tennessee 70 and Crossed the Holston where it ended, at Dodson’s Ford. What we don’t know for sure is exactly where Dodson Ford was located, but we do know approximately, within a few hundred feet.
Based on what we know about our Raleigh’s deeds and the neighbor’s deeds, we now know that Raleigh Dodson and Lazarus owned land primarily west of Dodson Creek, top red arrow shown on the map below, including Dodson Ford which crossed the Holston River.
George Kite owned the land where the Kite Cemetery is located today and is also where Evan’s station was located, probably at the intersection of what is today Dodson Creek coming from the east and Louderback Creek on the south, marked by the bottom red arrow on the map above. Of course, George Kite sold part of his land to Louderback, which is how that Creek obtained its name. The old Kite house is very near the Kite Cemetery, which is the green square just below the Kite arrow.
On the satellite image below, you can see the location of the mouth of Dodson Creek, to the far right, Arnott’s Island, the bend in old Tennessee 70 where the Sanders Cemetery is located, marked by the red arrow a the bottom. the scars from the old road that led to the old bridge across the Holston, likely where Dodson Ford was as well, are marked by the two arrows at left.
The location of the Ford itself was likely very close to where the old 66/70 bridge across the Holston was eventually built, which has now been torn down and dismantled, except for the bases.
We could call these the ghost sentinels of Dodson Ford – remnants of the past, standing watch today.
The TVA Authority land acquisition map from 1943 shows the old bridge over the Holston at this location labeled Tennessee 66 and Tennessee 70, confirming that Old 66 was indeed Old Persia Road.
And it would make sense that the bridge over the Holston, whenever it was built, was built at or near where the old Dodson’s Ford used to be located. After all, the Ford was located at the easiest place to cross the river.
I wish someone had told me that there WAS a TVA land acquisition map when I first started trying to piece Raleigh’s land history together, because it would have been a LOT easier to work backwards through contemporary deeds than trying to work forward from land grants.
We Interrupt Raleigh’s Life to Bring you the Revolutionary War
In October, 1780, the forces under Col. Arthur Campbell gathered at Dodson’s Ford before going downriver to the attack on the Overhill Cherokee towns of Chota, Talequah, Tallassee, and others.
Both Lazarus and his father, Raleigh Dodson served in the Revolutionary War.
Their Revolutionary War service is documented in “North Carolina Revolutionary Army Accounts, Index to Soldiers residing in Washington and Sullivan County, 1781-1783.
Both Raleigh and Lazarus Dodson are listed.
After finding this tantalizing nugget, I contacted the NC Archives and eventually, visited, in order to obtain the original records.
According to pay records found in the NC Archives, in Raleigh, NC, Lazarus Dodson served in the Revolutionary War in August of 1783. That is likely the date of his discharge, so he may have served earlier in the year.
In 1783, an Act authorizing the opening of a land office for the redemption of specie and other certificates was passed, and all soldiers holding specie or certificates were enabled to redeem them by taking land in exchange, at a rate fixed by the state of North Carolina.
Believe it or not, there were two holes punched in this document, reflecting how it has been stored.
Raleigh and Lazarus Dodson both served in the Revolution and are both found in the Morgan district which includes the land that would become East Tennessee.
A second Rolley Dotson is found in the Hillsboro district (auditors Mebane and Nichols), which is the area of NC below Halifax/Pittsylvania in VA. We know that our Raleigh was in East Tennessee prior to this time, but that this part of Tennessee was still North Carolina.
The auditors and their corresponding districts found in the archives helped define which Raleigh was which.
We don’t know exactly who Lazarus and Raleigh served under, nor what they did when they were in service. I wonder if they joined Col. Campbell on the march against the Cherokee in 1780/81, or if they fought at King’s Mountain in October of 1780, as did many men from this area. Unfortunately, there is no roster for either event, but they are the most likely campaigns for men from Hawkins County to have participated in. Colonel Arthur Campbell was involved in both, camped at Dodson Ford in late 1780 on his way destroy the Cherokee towns and was probably related to Charles Campbell, Raleigh’s neighbor on Dodson Creek.
Raleigh’s Life Resumes in Hawkins County After the Revolutionary War
In 1786, Raleigh signed the petition seeking the formation of Hawkins County along with his sons, Lazarus and Toliver. I have the original petition from the North Carolina State Archives, but unfortunately, all three men’s names are signed in the same handwriting and spelled as “Rolley Dotson, Lazaras Dotson” and “Tollover Dotson.” At least we know how Rolley was pronounced, given the phonetic spelling of his name.
Raleigh is mentioned in numerous land warrants, nearly all of which were issued in the Dodson’s Creek area and subsequently assigned or sold to others. I have limited the information here to the land Raleigh actually kept, because that is the most informative to us about Raleigh’s life.
In June 1791, Raleigh purchased a tract of 163 acres at a sheriff’s sale, formerly the John Honeycutt property, which adjoined the property of Elisha and Lazarus Dodson and included Honeycutt Creek.
June 6, 1791 – Thomas Berry sheriff of Hawkins County, to Rawley Dodson for 111#, 163 acres in Hawkins County on the south side of the Holston River including two plantations beginning on the river bank, Elisha Dodson’s line, Lazerus Dodson’s line, being a tract of land sold by execution the property of John Honeycutt. Registered July 5, 1799 Liber E – 194
In December of 1808, Raleigh’s son, Raleigh, conveys Raleigh’s grant land to James Breeden, then Breeden sells the land to Daniel Seyster:
We know both Breeden and Seyster lived in the immediate area, because in 1801, a deed from James Breeden to Daniel Seyster described that land as being on Dodson Creek near Evans Station adjoining lands of George Kite, Breeden and Dodson’s line.
Stations were called such at that time because they were generally fortified homes in which other residents could take shelter, and of course, defend, in case of Indian attack. This tells us that one of the early stations was indeed on Dodson Creek, and near the Kite land. At least one old Kite home still stands, or did in 2009, within view of the Kite Cemetery.
The Kite Cemetery includes the progenitor, George Kite’s grave and overlooks both the old Kite home and Dodson Creek.
This cemetery is named the Kite Cemetery, because George Kite is buried here, along with many of his family members, but there are also many unmarked graves. The cemetery could have been in use before 1796 when George Kite arrived on the scene. In fact, it may have originally been the Evans Cemetery. Early pioneers had to be buried someplace.
The photo below shows the old Kite home.
George Kite was the original Kite settler in Hawkins County, arriving about 1796.
Dodson Creek runs in front of the Kite Cemetery, in the field across the road.
You can see the old Kite house in the distance below, across the roof of the newer home.
In 1796, in deed book 1, page 196, George Kite purchased 600 acres from George Kiger (later written as Kizer and Kiser) on the south side of the Holston on Dodson Creek, formerly Honeycutt Creek, including Evans station.
In 1812, George Kite sells to Thomas Haynes half of the 200 acre tract from NC to John Gransby granted on November 27,1762 and that John Evans conveyed to Kite. So we know that the Kite land is the original Evans Station land. Eventually, Thomas Haynes’ descendants include Dru Haynes, after whom Dru Haynes Road is named today, running along the east side of Dodson Creek.
In 1813, George Kight Sr. sells 200 acres to Henry Louderback described as lying on both sides of the west fork of Dodson Creek on Evans old line on the southeast side of the creek. Today’s Louderback Creek was originally known as Dodson Creek.
An 1826 deed refers to the heirs of Daniel Cyster, deceased. One John Dodson obtained a grant that bordered Cyster’s land and refers to Mark Mitchell’s land grant.
In 1806, Raleigh Jr. sells his father’s land.
January 29, 1806 – Rawleigh Dodson to James Breeden, both of Hawkins County for $500, 150 acres in Hawkins County on the south side of Holston, Lazarus Dodson’s line (refers to the original grant 537, dated Nov. 26, 1781 and registered in Hawkins County March 2, 1793), witness Richard Mitchell, Thomas Murrell.
To all whom these presents…I, Mary Dodson, widow and relict of Rawleigh Dodson decd do for a valuable consideration relinquish and quit claim my right, title…to the before described tract of land this <blank> day of 1806. Witness Thomas Murrell, William (x) Jeffer, Rawleigh Dodson ack Feb 1806 and proved by William Jeffer and Raleigh Dodson registered August 20, 1806.
And then in deed book 6, page 139:
April 2, 1806 – James Breeden having bought of Raleigh Dodson a tract where on said Dodson now lives on the south side Holston River, 150 acres beginning in old line of Lazarus Dodson acd February 24 last by Dodson and Sarah Dodson in Hawkins court to said Breeden with John Saunders hereby assigns his interest in said land under a bond for $6000. Witness Mark Goldsberry, Co? Foster
John Saunders signs off because this is Raleigh’s original land and John is married to Raleigh’s daughter.
August 20, 1806, transaction date January 29, 1806 – James Breeden from Raleigh Dodson 4-154 for $500 grant 537, 150 acres, original grant lines – Begin at Lazarus Dodson’s line run along same, east 100 poles to hickory, south 126 poles.
December 2, 1808 – Raleigh Dodson to James Breeden, for 150 pounds, the land lying below Dodson’s Ford on the south side of Holston beginning on the river bank at an elm and white walnut sprout on Elisha Dodson’s line, then with said line south 10 east 140 poles to a dogwood sapling and white oak on Lazarus Dodson’s line then north 70 east to Dodson’s Creek then north 94 poles to a white oak on the bank of the river then down the meandering of the river to the beginning. Warranty and defending….as far as they may not interfere with the land of John Saunders and William Lawson…tract of land conveyed to my father at sheriff’s sale and I the said Raleigh Dodson having the said land devised to me do make over and convey my said right…”
Even though this deed is dated in December, it is submitted at the November Court and witnessed by A. Campbell and Thomas Jackson and ordered to be recorded.
The January 1806 deed is very important, because it is the actual land Raleigh lived on, according to his will. This deed tells us that Raleigh actually lived west of Dodson Creek, on the Holston, which makes sense when piecing the deeds of others in the neighborhood together. We also know that Dodson Ford was on the west side of Dodson Creek, near but apparently not at the mouth of Dodson Creek, because the deeds never refer to the mouth of the creek. This meshes with the 1808 land description.
Charles Campbell and Michael Roark lived in-between Raleigh Dodson and George Kite on Dodson Creek.. I would love to know exactly where. There are three nice branches which would have been spring fed to the west of Dodson Creek and those branches are likely where Charles Campbell and Michael Roark lived.
One of those branches has this old bridge over Dodson Creek, leading to the field where the spring branch would be. I suspect that Charles Campbell lived here.
Charles Campbell’s granddaughter married Raleigh Dodson’s grandson a generation later in Claiborne County. Relationships forged between families on Dodson Creek lasted for generations, even as those families continued the ever-westward migratory movement to new locations.
Raleigh seems to have still been actively engaged in his business in September of 1792. Published in the Knoxville Gazette, which was published in Rogersville in its early years, I found an ad for R. Dodson, dated Sept. 8, 1792 stating:
The public are hereby informed that there is a FLAT kept at Dodson’s Ford on Holston where constant attendance will be given to convey passengers across the river. R. Dodson, Sept. 6, 1792
Clearly sometime between September of 1792 and July of 1793, it became clear to Raleigh that his days were numbered. Thank goodness he had a will, because we would have been quite lost without this record.
Source: Hawkins County Wills: Page 145
In the Name of God, Amen. I, Rawleigh Dodson Sr. being in an infirm state of health but of sound mind and considering that I may shortly leave this life, I have thought it necessary to make this my last Will & Testament, revoking all former wills by me made, and in the first place I resign myself to the disposal of my Creator hoping for mercy & forgiveness. In respect of my Earthly affairs, To my wife I leave and bequeath my whole Estate real & personal to her use during her natural life, after which I leave to my son Rawleigh Dodson the plantation on which I now live with all the appurtenances, also one other piece of land joining, butted and bounded as appears by the patent in my name, also all my working tools, horses, except a motherless colt, three cows with their calves, one feather bed with the furniture, half the pewter, and one half pot mettal, also what hay I may have remaining. To my grandchildren Mary and Nancy Shelton, the remainder of my cattle equally divided, also the remainder of the pewter and pot mettal to be equally divided between them, and to Mary Shelton one bed and furniture, also the motherless colt, one cotton and one linen wheel and half the cards, the other wheel & cards to Nancy. There is a bond due me of fifteen pounds from Henry Rowan to be collected and my debts paid out of it. Peggey Manafee my eldest daughter having by her husband obtained credit for sixty pounds for which I have his note, I hereby direct my Executor to give up said note. My sons Lazarus and Tolliver I have done a Fatherly part by and hereby acquit them of all demands that I may have against them. My daughter Nelly the wife of John Saunders I consider I have done enough for, having given her husband the land he now lives on. My son James to whom I have (already) given several things, I now bequeath my claim on Thos. Jackson for share of some land to be obtained by a warrant by me given to said Jackson to be laid on the halves provided said warrant obtains a title for land. Warrant was for 300 acres. I also appoint my son Lazarus and my neighbor Rodham Kenner my Executors and do authorize and direct them to put this my said Will & Testament into effect. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal This 20th day of July A.D. 1793._Rawleigh x Dodson (seal) (his mark) _Test. Thos. Jackson Rodham Kenner Mary x Shelton (her mark)
Typically wills are recorded in the clerk’s will book when they are produced by the family for probate, after the individual has died. The original will is transcribed into the book, and the original document is generally returned to the family – the official copy being the one on the clerk’s book. However, for some reason, the clerk retained Raleigh’s actual will in Hawkins County, and the Keith Mencasco, a descendant obtained it from the Hawkins County Archives. When Keith graciously offered to send me a copy, I accepted of course, but what I expected to receive was a copy of the clerk’s entry book, not a hand written document with original signatures. Of course, by this time, Raleigh, now in his 60s and possibly ill couldn’t write his name, if he ever could.
However, knowing that he held this actual document, read it, then signed it in front of his family warms my heart. Thank you so much Keith.
It’s this outer part of the will document, folded and labeled as Raleigh’s that confirms that this is his original will, not from the clerk’s book. This document is 225 years old and has managed to escape the ravages of time, floods, fires and wars.
Raleigh wrote his will on July 20, 1793. The date of probate is not known, but indications are that he was alive in Nov. 1794 when he and his son James sold tracts of 40 and 110 acres to Robert Brown (Hawkins deeds 2-328 and 2-329). This land may have involved the join patent with Thomas Jackson referred to in Raleigh Dodson’s will, the land he left to his son James.
Raleigh’s will, above, was recopied into the will book after the Hawkins County courthouse burned in the Civil War. How the actual document escapes the flames is nothing short of a miracle. The name Menasco was apparently misspelled or misinterpreted as Manafee. An easy mistake to make, given that there were Manafee families in the county in the 1860s, and James Menasco had left in 1795 for Georgia after his wife died, so the name Menasco was unfamiliar in the county in the late 1860s.
Raleigh’s Wife, Mary
Raleigh Dodson does not name his wife in his will, but left to her his whole estate both real and personal during her lifetime “after which I leave to my son Rawleigh the plantation on which I now live and another piece adjoining”. The adjoining land was that obtained from the sheriff in 1791. Raleigh Dodson Jr, sold his father’s patent land to James Breeden on January 29, 1806 and we find the following as well:
‘I, Mary Dodson, widow and relict of Raleigh Dodson, decd, relinquish and quit claim my right, title and interest to this land.” (Hawkins deed 4-154)
Giles County, Tennessee, Court records show that Mary Dodson, widow, was appointed administrator of the estate of Raleigh Dodson on September 7, 1815.
It has been speculated that the widow, Mary Dodson, may have gone with her son Raleigh Jr. to Alabama and then to Giles and Williamson Counties, TN. There is one Raleigh Dodson on the Giles County tax list in 1812. Given that the court record says, “Mary Dodson, widow,” implying that she is the widow of Raleigh, whose estate she is being appointed administrator of, I am extremely doubtful that this is our Mary, widow of Raleigh who died in approximately 1794 in Hawkins County. Raleigh’s estate had been resolved for years by 1815 and there was no need to appoint an administrator in Giles County. Furthermore, our Raleigh’s wife Mary would have been 85 or 86 by this time, a very unlikely candidate to be an estate administrator.
The Amis Store Ledger
In 1775, the grandparents of Davy Crockett settled in the Watauga colony in the area in what is today Rogersville near the spring that today bears their name. After an Indian attack and massacre, the remaining Crocketts sold the property to a Huguenot named Colonel Thomas Amis.
In 1780/1781, Colonel Amis built a fort at Big Creek, on the outskirts of the present-day Rogersville which was then in Sullivan County, NC.
That same year, about three and one-half miles above downtown Rogersville, Amis erected a fortress-like stone house around which he built a palisade for protection against Indian attack. This is known as the Amis Stone House, shown below and here.
The next year, Amis opened a store; erected a blacksmith shop; and built a distillery. Amis also eventually established a sawmill and a gristmill. From the beginning, Amis kept a house of entertainment which was also a stagecoach stop, a place for travelers to rest and spend the night as well as locals to gather. Of course, it was a tavern too.
Built as a defensive garrison in addition to a trading post, the upper part of the house originally had rifleports instead of windows. This speaks to the environment on the Holston in 1780 and 1781, when Raleigh Dodson and Thomas Amis began doing business.
Year’s later, Amis’ daughter Mary recalled that she frequently wakened to hear Indians grinding their knives and tomahawks on her father’s grindstone.
The view from Amis House is beautiful and is the vista Raleigh would have seen, overlooking Big Creek Valley.
By Brian Stansberry – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41895021
Thomas Amis also kept an account ledger book which is, thankfully, still in existence. This is one of the only documents that shows who lived in this area in the early years.
Raleigh Dodson had an account with Amis. The record book begins in 1782 with Raleigh’s account, as follows:
- Oct 12, 1782 – to balance in settlement
- November 20, 1782 – laying grubbin ghoe
- April 8, 1783 – beating out plows
- April 24, 1783 – 1 fish gigg, laying bar plow and coulter, 1.5 lb iron and mending gigg, sharpening plow, making Dutch plow
- December – work on picks
- January 3, 1784 – 1 gallon whisky
- April 26, 1784 – whisky
- Half Gallon whisky to Shelton
- September 4, 1785 – balle in settlements
- February 28, 1786 – half cow, 5 quarts whisky
- December 24, 1786 – 1 gal whisky
- January 20, 1787 – 1 pint whisky, half pint whisky
- Undated – 3 pints whisky, half pint whisky
- February 7, 1787 – 3 pints whisky
- February 14, 1787 – half gallon whisky
- March 8, 1787 – 1 quart whisky, 1 hank silk, to season mare, half pint whisky
- May 5, 1788 – half pint whisky, 3 yards calamanco (a thin glossy woolen fabric often with stripes or checkered designs – you can see several examples here)
- May 6, 1788 – 1 stock trist
- 2 ballads(?)
- July 10, 1788 – 1 pint whisky, sharpening plow
- Sept 29, 1788 – 2 half pints whisky
- October 28, 1788 – half pint whisky
- November 5, 1788 – half pint whisky
- March 24, 1789 – half pint fun (rum?)
- April 12, 1789 – 1 quart whisky, half pint whisky, 1 quart whisky
- July 5, 1789 – 1 gallon whisky
- September 10, 1789 – 1 quart whiskey and jug
- July 4, 1789 – 3 pints whisky
Mr. Rawly Dotson Credit
- By Mabice (havice?)
- By 1 skin
- By 1 grindstone
- By bale charged in new acct
- By 24.25 bushels corn
- By 2 days work
- March 28 – by 22 bushels corn
- May 21 – By 2 days work
- May 22 – by 5 bushels corn from W. Bell
- October 10 – by 3 days work dressing the mill
- June 4 – by dressing mill
- 10.6 carried to page 105
To balance brought forward from folio
- June 22 – 4 gallon whisky, 1.25 gallons whisky
- August 4 – 1 bottle and whisky
- Sept. 3 – 1 quart whisky
- Sept 24 – half gallon whisky
- Sept 25 – to shoeing horse for son James
- Oct. 6 – making bar plow and finding iron, pinting (pointing) coulter, 3 quarts whisky from Sanders, half pint whisky, half pint whisky, three half pints whisky
1789 – Mr. Rawly Dotson credit
- Aug. 14 – by cash
- October 10 – by 2 bushels rye, by 206.5 pounds beef
- Oct. 22 – by 1 peck wheat brought by William Payne Jr.
- Oct 23 – by 10.5 bushels rye
- Carried to folio 6 – 18.4
Mr. Rawly Dotson debit
1789 balance brought forward from folio
- Nov. 4 – half pint whisky, 3 pints whisky, half pint whisky, half pint whisky
- Nov. 9 – half pint whisky
- Dec. 4 – making 33 nails and finding iron
- Dec. 24 – 2 gallons whisky
- Jan 18 – half pint whisky, to ball in settlements, 2 half pints whisky, 2 pints whisky
- Jan. 22 – to 15 paid for hackle, to one gander
- April 23 – to able in whiskey
1789 – Mr. Rawly Dotson credit
- Nov. 4 – by dressing mill, by 1 bushel rye
- Nov. 9 – by one grindstone
- Dec. 24 – by 2.25 bushel corn
- January 18– by 1 deerskin, by credit ammisted from 65 folio, by balee to charged to new acct
- Jan. 22 – by 253 lb. port
- 10.4 carried to folio
There are also much more abbreviated accounts for Talifero and Elisha in 1783 and Oliver and Lazarus in 1794. Raleigh does not name a son, Elisha, in his will, but I would not be at all surprised to discover that Elisha had simply been omitted because his father had already seen to his inheritance and Elisha didn’t owe his father any debts.
Raleigh’s account tells the story of a farmer, and one who was probably very glad to have a resource to sharpen his plow blades, work on his picks and shoe his son’s horses. I do wonder if the Shelton mentioned was the father of Raleigh’s granddaughters mentioned in his will. It’s too bad there is no first name with Shelton. A recheck of the Amis store accounts doesn’t show any Sheltons on the list of creditors.
Raleigh was also apparently a fisherman, judging by the fact that his fish gigg had to be mended which probably meant that he hit a rock when spearfishing. Anyone carrying a fish gigg was in danger of being mistaken for the devil himself. Some giggs looked like pitchforks, and some looked more like barbed rakes. The photo below is from a museum and may well have looked similar to Raleigh’s gigg.
By Charlez k – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 2.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7439566
Obviously, the Dodson family diet was varied with beef, wild game and fish.
It might appear that Raleigh drank a lot of whiskey. I really do have to wonder if he had what would be termed today, “a drinking problem.” However, given his ferry business, it’s also conceivable that Raleigh was selling whiskey, by the shot probably, to clients. If he was a smart man, and one must presume he was simply to survive on the frontier, he would also have offered food and lodging to guests who needed to cross the river, along with livery service, taking care of and stabling their horses for the night.
So Raleigh’s whiskey may not have been all for himself…or maybe it was.
It seems that Raleigh traded “dressing the mill” for some of his purchases.
What is “Dressing the Mill”?
A mill used for grinding corn and grain must be dressed, usually once a year by a millstone “dresser.” The stones ground themselves flat with usage, and the dresser would separate the upper and lower stones, and carve furrows in the stones in a prescribed pattern. These furrows or grooves helped to direct the corn or other grain into and through the millstones.
The furrow design is shown below.
By Stevegray at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=728078
Dressing was often done in the dead of winter, or when the mill was otherwise closed to safeguard the secrets of crafting the mill. This would also be the time when farmers like Raleigh would be less busy in the fields, so had time to dress the millstones.
The metal tools used to carve the furrows would often become imbedded in the mill dresser’s forearms. Itinerant dressers would travel the countryside looking for temporary work, and the miller would ask the dresser to “show your mettle” which means rolling up his sleeves and showing his forearms to see if they looked slightly blue from an accumulation of iron splinters. Of course, having these splinters didn’t mean you were a good dresser, only that you had some experience.
The photo below shows a contemporary stone dresser.
By Rasbak – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4492066
You can see a short video here.
So, in addition to being a land speculator, a ferryman, a surveyor, a farmer and a fisherman, Raleigh was also a stone dresser.
Religion, or Lack Thereof
We don’t know anything about Raleigh’s religious beliefs, except that he was not a tee-totaller. However, there is evidence of religious activity on the frontier, in churches in Hawkins County, and Raleigh is conspicuously absent – just as he is from the Broad Run Baptist Church .
The County Line Church in Hawkins County was constituted as “North on Holston” in March 1792 and while there are many Dodsons in evidence, Raleigh isn’t among them. This church may have been too distant, being located on the north side of the Holston on the county line border between Hawkins and Grainger Counties.
However, the Big Creek meeting house that first met in June 1790 was held in what I believe was the location of the Amis Store.
Regardless, the “South Holston” appears in the Holston Association minutes in August of 1791 and included Jesse Dodson, William Murphy and George Evans as messengers. In October 1792, there is a reference to Deader Creek Church whose messengers were the same William Murphy and George Evans as listed with Holston River, and I strongly suspect that “Deader Creek” is actually Dodson Creek – George Evans being the George Evans of Evan’s Station.
Of course, just because Raleigh didn’t take a leadership role as a messenger to the association didn’t mean he wasn’t a church member. We do know that at least one of Raleigh’s son’s, Lazarus, took a leadership role in the Gap Creek Baptist Church in Claiborne County by 1805.
Raleigh’s brother, Lazarus, was a Baptist minister in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, as well.
Where is Raleigh Buried?
The good news, and bad news, is that there are few cemeteries in this area. The Dodson Creek Cemetery, which was the location I initially suspected, is too far east and wasn’t established until 1831. The deed is hanging on the cemetery fence, and the establishment date is on the stone, so obviously a lot of people ask.
After working the deeds both forwards and backwards, in summary, I’ve found the following information about Raleigh’s land. Remember, in the beginning when I told you Raleigh was messy – well, this is it!
- Raleigh died in roughly 1794, leaving his home tract (presumed to be 150 acres and not the 300 acres total) and adjoining tract (or 163 acres) to son Raleigh.
- Son Raleigh sold Raleigh’s original land to James Breeden on January 29, 1806, with Raleigh’s wife releasing her dower rights.
- In 1816, James Breeden sold to James Saunders 120 acres of land on Dodson Creek.
- In 1818, James Breeden sold 200 acres, 2 tracts of land to Samuel Smith, below Dodson Ford, abutting both Elisha Dodson and Lazarus Dodson’s lines.
Unfortunately, neither of these Breeden deeds match the 150 acres that Raleigh Dodson owned, but in the end, it doesn’t matter, because of what eventually happens.
- James Sanders is the father of John Ross Sanders, born in 1815, and who inherited the land that his father James owned. John Ross Sanders is buried in the Sanders Cemetery, located at the bend in Dodson Ford Road (today Old Tennessee 70) directly “above” the Dodson Ford and where the old bridge was located. The location of the cemetery is shown below, in green.
- In 1844, James Sanders sold 184 acres to John R. Sanders at the mouth of Dodson Creek adjacent land of Peter Smith and others. John Ross Sanders dies in 1861 and is buried on his land. His widow, Martha sells the land in 1874 to her daughter, Lucy, and son-in-law, James H. Vance, who are also buried in the Sanders Cemetery.
- In 1818, Samuel Smith sold 160 acres on Dodson Creek to Henry Chesnutt described as below a large spring running into the creek, the road from Dodson Ford to Campbell (although Campbell is not clear) along said road to Smith’s meadow, across the bottom field, the Holston river below the mouth of Dodson Creek.
- In 1819, Henry Chessnut sold to John A. McKinney 160 acres at Dodson’s Ford, west ?, south Dodson Creek leads from Dodson Ford to Knoxville, heirs of Samuel Smith, black walnut below mouth of Dodson Creek.
Unfortunately, this Chesnutt sale makes tracking Raleigh’s land even more difficult, because Lazarus sold his land adjoining Raleigh’s and John Sanders to James Chesnutt, so the Chesnutt family is deeply interwoven into this area.
- In 1855, Charles A. McKinney and John Netherland, executors of the estate of John A. McKinney, sold to John Reynolds for $750 the land on the south side of Holston on the waters of Dodson creek adjoining land of John Reynolds, Peter Smith and others, begin at a black oak, west on the bank of Dodson Creek below the spring S46W134 poles to oak on bank line then with line 40W154p to road leading from Dodson’s Ford to Knoxville then with said road NE112P along said road to upper end meadow owned by John Reynolds at end of ditch made by John McKinney then on ditch north across bottom to walnut to bank of sluice then across sluice and NW to lower end of island at sycamores then up river to upper point of island then across sluice to SE course to mouth of Dodson creek, to then to the beginning, 163 acres – including the island immediately below Dodson’s Ford, half of which the said John Reynolds now owns.
This 163 acres is probably the same 163 acres that Raleigh purchased in 1791, adjoining his original land grant tract. Below Dodson’s Ford would have meant downriver. Dodson Ford would have been on Raleigh’s original land grant, not the land he bought in 1791.
Chili Sanders said that some of the islands washed away years ago in a flood. If these islands still exist today, they would include Arnott’s island and it would put Dodson’s Ford above Arnott’s Island, at the mouth of Dodson Creek – which is not mentioned in Raleigh’s deeds. So it’s likely that Dodson’s Ford was actually just below Arnott’s Island today – and those other islands indeed washed away.
- A clue to where John Reynolds obtained his land is found in this 1835 deed from James Smith wherein he deeds the land his father Samuel Smith died with, on the Holston River between Honeycutt Creek and Dodson creek – only the land of the heirs of Joshua Smith below and John A. McKInney above, and others, about 290 acres, half part James Smith is entitled to until death of his mother and then entitled to half of all land, which would be 109 acres all of which I sell my interest in.
- In 1841, John Reynold sells some land to John Leonard and in 1855, John Leonard sells land to Valentine D. Arnott adjoining Peter Smith’s land, Isaac Louderback and others.
The land along Dodson Creek became unbelievably divided and convoluted. Many deeds don’t include the number of acres which makes identifying the land, unless there are metes and bounds that can be matches to earlier deeds, nearly impossible. Samuel Smith died and his heirs had intermarried with the Chesnutts, Sanders, Reynolds and other local families. People lost their land. Land became divided between heirs. Heirs bought other heirs land. Divorces and remarriages happened. In at least one case, a deed was ordered to be recorded, and never way. And of course, the courthouse burned during the Civil War. Other than all of that, the land was easy to track.
However, eventually, the land coalesces once again. By 1943, the Arnott and Bradshaw families owns all of this land in question. As it turns out, the Arnott family sold the land to the Bradshaws, so all of this land at one time belonged to the Arnott family.
- In a 1936 deed from J. F. Arnott to R. M. Bradshaw, the road crossing the bridge is referred to as 66 and 70 and the road from Rogersville to Greenville (70) and the road from Rogersville to Bulls Gap (66). It also refers to a deed from Hugh Chesnut and wife.
- On December 26, 1889, Hugh Chesnutt and wife sold to W. D and J. F. Arnott 109.75 acres adjoining the land of John R. Sanders…Dodson’s Creek…Dru Haynes corner, stake in Dodson’s Ford road…tract from R. H. Reynolds to Hiloh Chesnut.
- 1884 deeds from Hugh Chesnut and wife refer to one third undivided interest in land on Dodson Ford Road.
- In 1895, Hugh Chesnutt and wife Hilary, W. H. Reynolds and wife Lucy, John R. Sanders, Nola Sanders and Mary Wolsey Smith share in three tracts of land – one of which is the John Ross Sanders land, the second appears to be on Dodson Creek but further north, near the Kites and D.L. Haynes and the third is their interest in the estate of John R. Sanders, decd.
Eventually, all of these people would sell to the Arnott family, according to the 1943 map.
It’s telling that in 1850, John Ross Sanders neighbor is Valentine Arnott.
Therefore, all pointers suggest, strongly, that the John Ross Sanders cemetery is also where his father, James Sanders who reportedly died in 1863 is buried as well.
If indeed this is the land owned by Raleigh Dodson, it’s also likely where he is buried too. Family cemeteries didn’t tend to disappear entirely, they tended to enlarge and were sometimes “renamed” to reflect the surname of the next family that owned the land.
The John Sanders property is located on the east side of Dodson Creek on Sanders Road, shown above. The original home is gone now, but there does not appear to be a cemetery on that land either, so John Sanders and Nellie are probably buried in the Sanders Cemetery on Old Tennessee 70 – the little green spot at left.
The Sanders cemetery is also located on the only readily available high ground. The land on the north side of the road, formerly called Dodson Ford Road, between the railroad and the Holston River is too low and floods. No family would bury someone where their grave would flood.
The only other reasonable possibility would be the Kite Cemetery, which is significantly further south, or possibly a now lost cemetery.
My bet is that not only is Raleigh buried in the Sanders Cemetery, but he lived on this land as well. He would assuredly have lived as close as he could to Dodson Ford, with quick access to the Holston, but far enough away that his home didn’t flood. The Sanders Cemetery and surrounding land fits the bill exactly.
When I visited Hawkins County in August 2009, it was beastly hot, but Chili Sanders, a local firefighter and also a descendant of Raleigh Dodson, was kind enough to take me up to the Sanders Cemetery early one Sunday morning, while the temperature was only in the 80s, before it got hot.
FindAgrave has mislabeled the Sanders Cemetery as the Reynolds Cemetery and shows no internments, which is incorrect on both counts.
However, cemetery information obtained at the Hawkins County archives shows the Sanders Cemetery, #158, correctly and with directions. “Take Highway 70 south from Rogersville, turn left after crossing the Hugh B. Day Bridge. Cemetery is located on hill to the right after the railroad crossing.” That’s exactly right.
When I visited in 2009, the cemetery was almost impenetrable, and were it not for Chili knowing exactly where to go and how to get in, finding and accessing this cemetery would have been nearly impossible. Ok, scratch nearly.
This is the entrance and this is partway up the “hill” at the bend in Old Tennessee 70 just east of the railroad track. We climbed the fence and hiked up the hill. Chili assured me he had the property owner’s permission, and believe me, I prayed that he did and they didn’t forget. Thankfully, everyone knows Chili, so long as they didn’t shoot first. Overgrown cemeteries on private property in remote mountain locations in Appalachia are not someplace you really want to be discovered by unhappy property owners.
The earliest marked burial is John Ross Sanders who died in 1861.
This grave is probably marked because John’s wife, Martha, didn’t pass away until 1911. She outlived John by 50 years and two months and remarried to a Smith.
Chili Sanders standing above the grave of James H. Vance born February 5, 1807 and died in 1884. James was the son-in-law of John Ross Sanders and married to John’s daughter, Lucy. I look at Chili and wonder if he looks anything like Raleigh Dodson.
There are very few gravestones, but the cemetery itself is not small.
There are many unmarked graves beneath the vegetation. You can see and feel them, meaning the sunken ground, and sometimes see the fieldstones peeking through the vegetation.
I tripped over a few fieldstones buried in the underbrush which were in all probability, gravestones, and felt awful. I wonder if that was Raleigh trying to get my attention. “Hey, I’m here!!!”
Thank goodness there were no snakes.
Some portions of the cemetery were simply inaccessible.
I would very much like to set a Revolutionary War stone for Raleigh in this location, near Dodson’s Ford, on land he assuredly owned. It pains my heart that Raleigh doesn’t have a gravestone.
Raleigh had several children, and were it not for his will, we’d have to do a lot of speculating. Children as named in Raleigh’s will:
- Rawleigh Dodson Jr
- Grandchildren Mary and Nancy Shelton
- Nelly, wife of John Saunders
- James Dodson
- Peggy Manafee (Margaret Dodson Manasco)
- Lazarus Dodson
- Toliver (Oliver) Dodson
Elisha is not named in Raleigh’s will, and is entirely speculative, based on the fact that he appeared with Raleigh and his children and owned land adjacent to both Lazarus and Raleigh. If Elisha is Raleigh’s son, Raleigh had obviously already provided for him, and he owned Raleigh no debts to be forgiven.
- Elisha Dodson (speculative)
If Elisha wasn’t Raleigh’s son, who was he?
You can read more about Raleigh’s children in Raleigh’s wife Mary’s article.
One of the traits that seems to be inherited by Dodson descendants is the love of genealogy. Perhaps the fact that the Reverend Silas Lucas devoted so many years to Dodson research, so it’s relatively easy to track your lines has something to do with the popularity of Dodson family genealogy.
There also seems to be a disproportionate number of Dodson autosomal DNA matches as well. I’m not sure if this is because the early Dodson’s were very prolific, producing a large number of descendants today, or if the Dodson DNA is particularly hearty (nah), or if the fact that the Dodson Lucas genealogy legacy produces a lot of trees, enabling people to connect their trees after DNA connects their genes. Probably the result of the first and third options.
At Ancestry.com, I have 387 DNA matches with whom I share a common ancestor is a tree. Of those, 11 descend from George Dodson and Margaret Dagord through 5 separate sons. Thirteen DNA matches descend from George’s parents, Thomas Dodson and Dorothy Durham through 5 separate sons. Two descend directly from Raleigh through son, Toliver and son James. I’m not counting my direct cousins through my own line.
That’s 7% of my matches from the Dodson line alone, which is a bit high, considering that I have 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents and Raleigh is one generation beyond that at my GGGGG-grandfather.
I think this is proof positive that a well-researched genealogy, in print, in one form or another, has a HUGE effect on the number of DNA-plus-tree matches you’ll receive on that line. It’s also evidence of why accurate research is so important. Otherwise, everyone will put erroneous information into all their trees, and then will believe that because they match so many other people with the same trees, that they must all be correct and DNA confirms the genealogy.
That’s isn’t the case.
Ancestry matches your DNA and then, if you have a common ancestor identified in both your trees, even if they are erroneous in the same way, displays your common ancestor for you to view. So just be wary of common mistakes and assuming that a DNA match validates genealogy as written. It doesn’t. You can both simply be wrong in the same way – and this most often happens when people copy trees without individually scrutinizing and verifying information and documentation.
It’s fun to see how you connect to common ancestors.
Raleigh led an incredible life. He lived in 3 states plus the wild State of Franklin and the Territory South of the Ohio. He lived on and helped forge at least two frontiers. When Raleigh moved to the Holston River in what would become Hawkins County, he was approaching the half-century mark, and in addition to homesteading, he would yet fight in the Revolutionary War.
Raleigh was clearly a multi-talented jack-of-all-trades; a skilled ferryman, a land surveyor and a stone dresser, in addition to being a hunter, fisherman and a farmer. Of course, everyone on the frontier was a farmer, or you didn’t eat.
In addition to those skills, Raleigh was a Patriot and served in the Revolutionary War. When Raleigh was discharged in 1783, he was certainly not a young man at age 53. He served with his son, Lazarus. Lazarus and Raleigh were apparently very close. Not only did they serve in the war together, they also applied for side-by-side land grants and lived on the Holston River between Honeycutt Creek and Dodson Creek together until after Raleigh passed away, probably in 1794.
Raleigh apparently did not apply for land as payment for his Revolutionary War service, but his son, Lazarus did. Raleigh appeared to be quite savvy and didn’t seem like a man to leave much laying on the table in terms of what was due to him, so I wonder if there are transactions yet to be found, or he sold his Revolutionary War land claim before it was registered in his name.
A decade after his discharge, Raleigh was writing his will in Hawkins County on Dodson Creek where he and his son, James, made a final land sale in 1794.
Sometime after that, Raleigh passed away and his son, Raleigh, and his wife, Mary, lived on his land for the next dozen years, when the scene fades to black in 1808.
Today, Raleigh’s descendants still live along Dodson Creek – Chili Sanders being descended through daughter Nellie who married John Saunders/Sanders.
Chili was gracious enough during my visits to invite me to visit his home and allowed me to photograph his land – the same land that John Saunders owned which was obtained from Raleigh. So this was originally Raleigh’s land. If you look closely, you can see turkeys in the distance, at the bottom of the hill, across the fence line. Raleigh probably looked out and saw turkeys too, and deer, and bobcat, and fox and wolves. Raleigh would have thought this was his lucky day! “Hey Mary, turkey for dinner!”
This land wouldn’t have been cleared when Raleigh settled here, but Raleigh and his sons and son-in-laws, and their descendants for generations have cleared the land and forged a life from what was once unbroken wilderness – along Raleigh’s namesake Dodson Creek.
Indeed, Raleigh “showed us his mettle.”
Much of the information about the early Dodson lines, specifically prior to Raleigh, comes from the wonderful two volume set written by the Reverend Silas Lucas, published originally in 1988, titled The Dodson (Dotson) Family of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia – A History and Genealogy of Their Descendants.
I am extremely grateful to Reverend Lucas for the thousands of hours and years he spent compiling not just genealogical information, but searching through county records in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and more. His work from his first publication in 1958 to his two-volume set 30 years later in 1988 stands as a model of what can and should be done for each colonial family – especially given that they were known to move from state to state without leaving any type of “forwarding address” for genealogists seeking them a few hundred years later. Without his books, Dodson researchers would be greatly hindered, if not entirely lost, today.
In August 2017, Doug Jenkins, another researcher provided me with the following research, probably shedding light on Raleigh’s granddaughter Mary Shelton:
Internet researchers – with no source data – claim that James Chesnutt’s wife was Mary Dodson. I doubt that because James Chesnutt wasn’t in the right place at the right time to have married a Dodson. However, the name Raleigh does become in regular usage in the 3rd generation of Hawkins Co Chesnutts. I think the name entered the family through the marriage of Hugh Chesnutt to Mary Shelton about 1800. That is likely the Mary Shelton named as a grand daughter in Raleigh’s Will. In 1850, a William Shelton left a Will in Hawkins County, Tennessee naming his sister, Polly Chesnutt, among other heirs. I think the family is enumerated in 1850 in the Dodson Ford area and Mary Chesnutt (widow of Hugh) is enumerated with her son William Chesnutt. Also in the household is a William “Chesnutt”, but that must be William Shelton b. 1785 in Virginia mistakenly called Chesnutt by the census taker. By reading his Will, it would appear that William Shelton was an old bachelor. This is consistent with the 1840 census data also, because there were 2 males born in the 1770’s in Hugh Chesnutt’s household.
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