Mary Dodson, the wife of Raleigh Dodson is only mentioned two times by name. I’m just grateful that both times, the name was the same. Now, this doesn’t assure us that Raleigh wasn’t married twice, to two Mary’s, but we don’t have any evidence to suggest that.
Assuming that Mary was about Raleigh’s age, she would have been born about 1730. Calculating the births of Mary’s children from known events in their lives, Mary’s oldest child’s birth would have been about 1751 or 1752. Mary would have been roughly 21 or 22 at the time, so a marriage in 1750 or so would be suggested.
Raleigh’s parents were still living near Farnham Parish Church in Richmond County until 1756, so it’s reasonable that Raleigh married a young lady from the neighborhood. They probably courted in the neighborhood and flirted in church when they were supposed to be listening to the sermon. Maybe Raleigh stole a kiss out by the barn before he asked Mary’s father for her hand in marriage.
The North Farnham Parish Church Register of Births were extracted and published in the William and Mary College Quarterly, Volume 13, pages 139 and 180. They have also been reproduced online here.
Various daughters named Mary born in the timeframe to possibly be Raleigh’s wife include:
- Mary, daughter of James and Ann Thornton, born March 14, 1722-23
- Mary Tarpley, daughter of William and Mary Tarpley, born Dec. 7, 1723
- Mary, daughter of Moore and Margaret Fauntleroy, born February 28, 1725
- Mary Beckwith, daughter of Marmaduke and Eliza Beckwith, born June 12, 1727.
- Mary, daughter of James and Mary Tarpley born October 30, 1740 (implying that the child born in 1723 died)
The Mary born in 1740 is too late if Mary married Raleigh in roughly 1750. There aren’t any people in Mary’s offspring or grandchildren named Moore, Fauntleroy, Tarpley, Marmaduke, Beckwith, Elizabeth, Eliza or Thornton. Mary has a daughter named Margaret, grandson named William, but no son, William. It sure would make attempting to identify a family easier if some of these unusual names were found among her children.
Of course, even if Raleigh and Mary were married in the North Farnham Parish Church, that doesn’t mean Mary was born there. It goes without saying that the relevant records are missing.
If Raleigh and Mary were married in 1750 or 1751, their first child, a daughter, whose first name is unknown but married a Shelton was probably born about 1752.
In 1756, their first known son, Raleigh was born, probably someplace near North Farnham Parish Church.
Daughter Margaret, known as Peggy, would have been born about 1758 or 1759, either in Richmond County or perhaps Prince William.
Mary and Raleigh may have been living in Prince William County between 1759 and 1761 when Raleigh is mentioned in a lawsuit, but only once.
Mary’s sons, Oliver and Lazarus were both born around 1760, and they seemed to be close for their entire lives. Lazarus conveyed land to Oliver’s children after Oliver’s death in 1819. These men could both have been born in Prince William County.
By about 1763, Mary and Raleigh may have moved on to live near the Broad Run Baptist Church in Fauquier County, Virginia, founded as a dissenting church in 1762. Several of the Dodson families, including Raleigh’s brothers who went on to settle in Halifax and Pittsylvania Counties in Virginia, border counties to Caswell County, North Carolina were dismissed from Broad Run, many together, in 1766.
The move to the Virginia/North Carolina border region in 1766 wasn’t trivial, with at least 5 children ranging in age from toddler to about 14. It was about 300 miles and probably took about 30 days in a wagon. It’s very likely that a group of family members traveled together. The children probably thought it was a great adventure!
Raleigh is found witnessing documents in 1766 in Halifax County, Virginia, so they apparently settled there for at least some time.
On 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 were Hugh Kelly, Henry Hicks and Henry Willis.
Why Mary and Raleigh bought land on Country Line Creek instead of in Halifax or Pittsylvania County, VA, with the rest of the Dodson clan, escapes me. The land along Country Line was particularly difficult. Even 100 years later, the 1860 census taker commented that the land along Country Line Creek was extremely rough.
The map above shows Mary and Raleigh’s journey from North Farnham Parish, to Broad Run Baptist Church, to Halifax County, Virginia, and on to Country Line Creek.
Caswell County, NC was created from Orange County in 1777 and Raleigh’s land fell into Caswell. Orange County, North Carolina records need to be checked for Raleigh between 1768 and 1777.
Daughter Nelly was probably born sometime in 1768, or perhaps a bit earlier. She could have been born on Country Line Creek or perhaps someplace in either Halifax or Pittsylvania County in Virginia.
The Caswell County tax list for 1777 shows Raleigh assessed for property worth #172 in the Richmond District.
By about 1772, son James had arrived to join the family and would have been born in Caswell County.
Beginning in 1776, the beginning of the Revolutionary War was bearing down on Caswell County. Local militia units were in place. All able-bodied men were required to participate. Raleigh would have been 46 years old, and we know that he did eventually serve in the war after moving to the western frontier, the part of North Carolina that eventually became Hawkins County, Tennessee.
On April 22, 1776, the Orange County militia unit that would become the Caswell County unit was formed and in late 1776, was headed out on the Cherokee Expedition. For some reason, the unit was recalled – some say due to lack of wagons and pack horses. It could have been during this time that Raleigh first saw the Holston River, if they got that far, and the land where he would eventually settle. Or perhaps he simply heard about the opportunities for plentiful cheap land in this wild western part of North Carolina.
On July 5, 1778, Raleigh and his wife Mary sold their 50 acres of land on the south side of Country Line Creek to Clement Gann (the land being purchased of John Robinson) and evidently packed up a wagon and moved to what would eventually become Hawkins County, TN. Fifty acres wasn’t much to farm and land grants for significantly more were available on the western frontier. Raleigh proved to be an astute businessman.
The move to the Holston River from the Piedmont in 1778 was different from the move in 1766. Mary was 12 years older, to begin with. The 7 known children were now ages 6 to about 26. The oldest daughter had probably already married a Shelton, had children and already passed away.
What we do know about the married daughter is that she had 2 daughters by Mr. Shelton, Mary and Nancy, and Mary was old enough to witness Raleigh’s will in 1793. That suggests that Mary was of age in 1793, so born in 1772, or earlier, which indicates that probably both Mary and Nancy were along with their grandparents in 1778 when they moved to the western frontier.
Mary’s unnamed daughter had likely already passed away back someplace on Country Line Creek, given that she only had two children. Mary would have stood at her daughter’s grave, her arms around those two granddaughters, who probably reminded Mary every time she looked at them of the daughter she lost.
It must have been very hard for Mary to leave the graves of her children behind, and she surely did that, at least once.
The trip west would have taken more than a month and crossed mountain ranges. This was a much different trip that through the winding gently sloping foothills of the Piedmont. Wagons didn’t have brakes in those days, the inclines were steep and the trip itself was risky, and that’s without the threat of Indians. Once the mountains begin, around Martinsville, just west of Caswell County, they never end.
This particular area, called Lover’s Leap, for obvious reasons, is the “best” way to get from Caswell County to the west. I have driven this many times in a Jeep, and I always PRAY that there is no logging truck behind me with brake trouble, no one coming the other way with a death wish, because there is no place to go except “over” and no logging truck in front of me that loses its load. It’s a beautiful vista but a frightening journey. Every time. And that’s in a modern vehicle WITH brakes.
By 1778, we know that Mary and Raleigh were settled on the Holston River on Dodson Creek, where they would live for the rest of their lives.
They did not purchase land that was already cleared, but applied for land grants. That meant of course, that Mary, Raleigh and all of the children helped fell trees, build a cabin and prepare the ground for at least a garden that first year. In the photo above, I’m standing on Raleigh and Mary’s land, peering out through the overgrowth at the Holston. It probably looked a lot the same then, except perhaps denser.
In the photo below, taken from across the Holston River on the north side, looking south, Raleigh’s land where he lived is located to the immediate right of the TVA plant smokestacks. Raleigh also owned the land where the TVA plant is located, but gave that land to his daughter Nellie and son-in-law, John Saunders.
The next photo is standing on the north side of the Holston, looking across onto Dodson land.
Raleigh patented land in Sullivan and then Hawkins County, at least 300 acres and purchased even more along beautiful Dodson Creek where it intersected with the Holston River. While the county names varied on Raleigh’s land grants, it was the county lines that moved, not the people. Raleigh and Mary settled on beautiful Dodson Creek, below, which still carries their name today.
Raleigh and Mary would have built a cabin when they arrived, much like the cabins of other pioneers in the area and set up housekeeping. Raleigh began his ferry business back and forth across the Holston, and farmed.
Michael Roark was Raleigh’s neighbor on Dodson Creek. This old photo of Michael’s cabin, built sometime after 1792, may have looked something like where Raleigh and Mary lived. Mary, I’m sure was quite familiar with Michael’s family and was probably close to Michael’s wife, Letitia Grigsby whose family also lived further up on Dodson Creek. They may have delivered each other’s children and assisted when ill. Near neighbor women had to depend upon themselves because they had no one else on the frontier.
Raleigh Sr. was a successful surveyor, a ferryman operating ferrys across Dodson Ford on the Holston River, and worked as a stone turner in the local mill. It goes without saying that Raleigh farmed, fished and hunted. Everyone did, and Raleigh traded his corn, rye and wheat on account at the mill. Two items he traded for were a hank of silk and calamanco, a glossy woolen cloth.
Mary’s life may have been much more robust on the frontier than it was back in Caswell County, at least after the Revolutionary War was over. It appears that there was more money available and more opportunity. However, all was not rosey, because as the war clouds loomed, so did the soldiers.
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.
This field lay between Dodson Ford on the Holston and the Dodson home. It’s likely where the soldiers camped, as it was flat and had access to water from Dodson Creek, behind the tree row. It would have been the perfect gathering point and muster ground.
Would the soldiers be successful? What would the Cherokee do? Dodson’s Ford was located on the old Warrior Path. Would the Cherokee traverse the path, if they lost, killing every white person they could find? And what about the Shawnee who were known to attack? Would they take advantage of the situation, knowing the men in the settlement were absent?
Was Raleigh at home, or did he accompany Col. Campbell? How about Mary’s son, Lazarus? Was Toliver old enough to go too, or did he stay home perhaps? Mary had to be concerned when Lazarus was camped with the Indians in the winter of 1781/1782. And why was Lazarus camped with the Cherokee before going “down to the Nation?” The Revolutionary War was a time of great turmoil and anxiety on the frontier.
Raleigh and Lazarus both served from North Carolina in the Revolutionary War. This part of Tennessee was still part of North Carolina at that time. We know Raleigh was discharged in 1783, so he served from the Holston River, not from Caswell County. Raleigh’s son, Lazarus served in the unit with him. Both of their pay rosters were found in the North Carolina State archives.
Was Mary a patriot or a loyalist? Patriots supported battling with the Indians and separating from England. Obviously, the Patriots eventually won. Loyalists supported remaining with England and supported the Indians, albeit mostly because the Indians were willing to fight the onslaught of settlers invading their lands. Clearly Raleigh and Lazarus were Patriots, fighting for the cause. May be Mary just wanted the fighting and killing to stop, or maybe she felt strongly one way or the other. Did Mary have a mind of her own or did she simply adopt Raleigh’s viewpoint as women of that time were expected to do?
Not long after that, in 1784, some of the residents in the part of North Carolina where Mary and Raleigh lived decided to form the rogue State of Franklin.
However, not everyone who lived there participated in the secession, nor agreed in practice or concept, so people living in that area in essence had two competing governments at the same time and no one really knew quite what to do. Emotions ran very high and assuredly, everyone had an opinion. Was there never to be peace?
In 1786, Raleigh, Lazarus and Toliver all three signed a petition for the formation of a new county to be taken from Sullivan. This new county was initially named Spencer County in the State of Franklin but would eventually become Hawkins County. The verbiage in the petition provides a bit of perspective on the political climate, trials and tribulations faced by these hearty pioneers on the frontier.
To the Honorable the General Assembly of N. Carolina —-
We your petitioners, the inhabitants of Sullivan County, humbly sheweth that we have ever been disposed to have true allegiance to the Sate of N. Carolina being well attached to her government and revere her constitution, therefore we pray you to extend to us the benefits of civil law and continue us under your protection and relieve us from those intestine broiles that are aggitated among us by wicked and designing men, who are perverting your law and seducing your good citizens to withdraw their allegaiance from your government. As we view ourselves unequal to the task of supporting a separate government and are freely desirious of being continued under yours until such times that we may be separated with ease of convenience with your assistance and approbation. Should you at any time hereafter think it expedient to make a cession of any part of your vacant western territory for the payment of the National debt or other imports, agreeable to the requisitions of Congress, we pray you to continue your sovereignty and jurisdiction over us until such times that we may by our virtur, wisdom, experience, numbers and wealth inabled to conduct the affairs of government with credit and convenience to ourselves, to the honour of the parent state who gave their assent to our seperation, added strength to the union and gave ease to her people. We also pray you to take into consideration that indigeanes of our present circumstances and render to us every ease and indulgence that you in your wisdom and goodness may think consistent with the welfare and interest of your good citizens in general — and as sensitive measures have been used with those who have abused your powers and usurped your authority, we hope you will with the same spirit of uniminity consider the grievances of those who ever strove to support them — as our inclinations lead us to consult the welfare of our country and will enjoin us to defind our rights by a cheerful and stedy obedience to government and as the citizen depends on the wisdom and goodness of government. We cannot doubt your prudence and leade to promote them. We also humbly conceive that when the precepts and powers of government are abused her Sovereignty and jurisdiction discarded, her public credit must sink and the private interest of the citizen can share no other fate, therefore that peace and tranquility may be restored, public credit and private interest revive. We pray you to inforce your laws and exert the powers of government with a feeling sense of our sufferings. We supplicate you to whom the powers of government are given and beg your paternal interposition — and Whereas numbers among us look upon themselves to be considerabley injured by the precipitation and injurious proceedings of the Nominal Courts of the supposed State of Franklin. Many suits of law have commenced and judgment awarded against ___ _____. Seased and unlawfully sold to the greate prejudice of many your good citizens, we therefore pray you extricate us from every species of injustice there by devised against us as we have _____ of Society bound ourselves to the obedience of your laws. By them we expect to be protected in our rights. We also beg leniency, recommend to your mature consideration the vast extend of the County of Sullivan, which must undoubtedly render many inconveniences to the inhabitants thereof and for our eased convenience divide sd counties into two separate and distince counties as follows: (To Witt) Beginning where the boundery line between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of No Carolina crosses the North Fork of Holestons River, thence down Sd fork to its junction with Main Holeston, thence cross said River due South to the topp of dividing Ridge that divides the waters of French Broad River and Holeston River to French Broad River thence down Sd French Broad to its junction with Holeston, thence down Holeston to its junction with the River Tinisee and thence down the same to the Such Whare Sd River runs through Cumberland Mountain, thence along the topp of the mountain to the afforesaid boundary line and thence along the same to the begn and
We your petitioners as in duty bound shall ever pray —- <followed by list of signatures>
However, the war and political turmoil wasn’t the only challenge facing Mary.
It also appears from the Amis Store account books that Raleigh bought a lot, LOT of whiskey between 1782 and 1790. Mary might have had a husband with a drinking problem. If he had a drinking problem from 1782 to 1790, he likely had the same love of whiskey his entire adult life. Perhaps this explains why we find no church records.
It’s also possible that Raleigh bought whiskey to resell to his ferry clients.
Raleigh seems to have still been actively engaged in his ferry business in September of 1792 and expected to remain so. 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
These two pilings from the old bridge crossed the Holston River either at or near the same location as Dodson Ford.
This is the closest location to the River of Dodson Ford Road on the south side of the Holston. You can see the piling part way across the river and the landing on the north side. The wires follow the same right of way.
Sometime between September of 1792 and July of 1793, it became clear to Raleigh that his days were numbered, and it would have been clear to Mary too. Raleigh at 63 wasn’t old by today’s standards, but well beyond the average life expectancy of 37 at that time. Mary would have sensed that her life was about to change in unknown ways, and probably not for the better. Widowed women often became dependent on their family for everything since they generally did not have the ability to farm for themselves and often owned nothing of their own.
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)
Raleigh wrote his will on July 20, 1793 leaving his land to his son, Raleigh Jr. The date of probate is not known, but indications are that he was still 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 joint patent with Thomas Jackson referred to in Raleigh Dodson’s will, which land he left to his son James.
Raleigh left everything to his wife in a life estate, which meant she couldn’t sell it, but she could use it for income for the balance of her life, and after that, the life estate went to whomever Raleigh left it to. Raleigh did not name Mary by name in the will, but an 1806 deed provides that information.
By the time Raleigh wrote his will in 1793, we know for sure that one adult daughter who had married a Shelton had already died, probably several years previously.
Between the time Raleigh wrote his will and 1795, another daughter, Peggy, who was married to James Menasco died as well, leaving two children.
Mary endured a lot of grief in a short time. You expect that you may one day lose your spouse, but you never expect to lose your children, especially not adult children. Granted, at that time, death associated with childbirth claimed many women, but losing a husband and an adult daughter within a few months of each other is a heavy burden.
Mary would have been about 63 or so at this time, no spring chicken herself. I’m sure that any of Mary’s children could have taken daughter Peggy Dodson Menasco’s two children to raise, but I have to wonder if Mary raised them? That might have been considered a good fit, given that their father moved to Georgia and Raleigh had died. It’s unclear whether the children went with James or not. If so, that would have been additional grief in 1795 for Mary. She would clearly have known that she would likely never see those children again, watching, waving and sobbing as the wagon disappeared into the distance, headed south.
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)
I believe this is the last record we have of Mary Dodson. She would have been about 76 years old in 1806. Given Mary’s age, she would have had no choice except to quitclaim the land if Raleigh Jr. wanted to sell? How would she have lived, farmed and supported herself without Raleigh Jr.? After that, we don’t know if Mary and Raleigh Jr. simply continued to live there, if they moved, or if Mary lived with a different child after Raleigh sold the land.
Raleigh sells additional land in December 1808 without Mary’s quitclaim, which could have been after Mary died and he was preparing to leave the area. The 1810 census does not exist for Tennessee and 1820 does not exist for Hawkins County.
Giles County, Tennessee, Court records show that a 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, from Hawkins County, may have gone with her son Raleigh Jr. to Alabama and then to Giles and Williamson Counties, TN. Jackson County, Alabama was not a destination location until the Cherokee there ceded their land in 1819. The Cherokee did, however, cede land in Giles County in 1806.
There is one Rolla Dotson on the list of Intruders on Choctaw land in Giles County in 1809 and Raleigh Dodson is shown on the Giles County tax list in 1812. I am doubtful that the Mary in Giles County in 1815, widow, appointed as administrator of the estate of Raleigh Dodson, is the wife of Raleigh who died circa 1793/1794 in Hawkins County. Mary would have been about 85 years old in 1815, and if she were still living, it’s difficult to believe a court would appoint an 85 year old women as administrator of any estate. I believe these two families have been conflated because of similar names. It is certainly possible that the Raleigh in Giles County was Mary’s son.
I suspect that Mary Dodson, wife of Hawkins County Raleigh Dodson, is buried right beside Raleigh, probably in the Saunders Cemetery on what was then called Dodson Ford Road, overlooking the Holston River where Mary spent the last 30 years of her life. I don’t think she would have wanted to be buried anyplace else.
Raleigh and Mary’s Children
Raleigh and Mary had several children, and were it not for Raleigh’s will, we’d have to do a lot of speculating. Children as named in Raleigh’s will:
- Grandchildren Mary and Nancy Shelton
- Rawleigh Dodson Jr
- Peggy Manafee (Margaret Dodson Manasco)
- Lazarus Dodson
- Toliver (Oliver) Dodson
- Nelly, wife of John Saunders
- James Dodson
Elisha, shown below, is not mentioned in Raleigh’s will. This means that if Elisha is Raleigh’s son, Raleigh would have already taken care of Elisha’s inheritance and that Elisha did not own Raleigh any debts, or at least none that he mentioned or forgave.
- Elisha Dodson (speculative)
Daughter Dodson (Shelton) – In Raleigh Dodson’s 1793 will, he makes bequests to his grandchildren Mary and Nancy Shelton, but no further information is given. Mary Shelton witnesses Raleigh’s will. If Mary was of age when she witnessed the will, and her mother was 20 when she was born, that would put Raleigh’s daughter’s birth 41 years earlier, minimally, or 1752 or earlier. There is no Shelton listed on the 1786 petition to form Hawkins County (although some names are illegible) and there is no Shelton on the Amis Store accounts beginning in 1782. This would suggest that Mary and Raleigh raised these girls, because Mary Shelton clearly had to be in close physical proximity to witness Raleigh’s will – likely tearfully standing beside her grandfather’s bedside as he slowly wrote the words with a quill pen that she would then witness that she had seen him write.
The Dodson family has many interactions with the Shelton family in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
Raleigh Dodson Jr. received in Raleigh’s will the plantation (after Mary’s death) on which Raleigh Sr. lived along with another abutting piece of land and other livestock and household goods.
Raleigh Jr. was born about 1756 in Virginia and Silas Lucas believes he died June 3, 1836 in Williamson Co., TN. The Raleigh in Williamson County wrote his will Nov 26, 1828 and it was probated in October 1836. He married as her second husband Margaret Peggy Dodson, daughter of Elisha Dodson and widow of Fortunatus Dodson.
Reverend Lucas tells us that Raleigh Jr. is on the tax lists of Pittsylvania Co., VA. which begins in 1782. He purchased a tract of land there on April 16, 1798 from David Dodson. Raleigh and wife, Peggy, sold this tract on April 15, 1806 which is about the time they permanently left VA. I am not convinced that the Raleigh married to Peggy is the same individual as Raleigh’s son, Raleigh, whose wife’s name in the Hawkins County deeds is referenced as Sarah.
The biggest fly in that ointment is the fact that Raleigh Dodson, on January 29th, 1806 sold to James Breeden land in Hawkins County which was proven by Raleigh in February 1806 in Court. In February 1806, Raleigh, “of Hawkins County” bought land as well. It’s very unlikely that he and his wife returned to Pittsylvania County to sell his land in April of 1806. He would have sold it before he left because the journey over the mountains in a wagon was treacherous enough once. If he had not sold his land before he left, he would have appointed a power of attorney to sell his land.
Some researchers believe that Raleigh left Hawkins County after selling his father’s land in 1806 and wound up in Giles County, Tennessee, where he is on the list of Intruders on Choctaw land in 1809, on the tax list in 1812 and where one Mary Dodson, widow, was appointed administrator of the estate of Raleigh Dodson in September of 1815.
However, Raleigh sells additional land in Hawkins County in both November and December 1808, and there is a Raleigh Dodson on the Hawkins County 1809 tax list.
We don’t know what happens to Mary’s son, Raleigh Dodson. It’s possible that he was the Raleigh who died in 1815 in Giles County or in 1836 in Williamson County, or perhaps he is simply unaccounted for. There are no later records for him in Hawkins County after he sells his land.
Peggy, short for Margaret, was born before 1759 and apparently died sometime between when Raleigh wrote his will in 1793 and in 1795 when James Menasco sold his plantation and moved to Augusta, Georgia. James remarried and died in 1803 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, leaving a will that mentioned his two children from Margarita Dotson as Juan, age 23 and Elinda, age 20. John, born about 1779, settled in Giles County, Tennessee and was living there in 1809 as an intruder on Cherokee land. Elinda may also have remained in Tennessee and eventually married.
Lazarus Dodson, my ancestor, was born about 1760 in Virginia, married Jane and lived beside his father on Dodson Creek and the Holston River until after Raleigh passed away. In 1797, Lazarus moved a few miles south, near Bull’s Gap, and by 1800, was living in Claiborne County, just beneath the Cumberland Gap. He apparently went to Alabama in 1819 or 1820. His children are referenced in deeds in McMinn County in 1826, Lazarus being noted as deceased. You can read Lazarus’s story here.
Oliver (Toliver) Dodson settled in Anderson County, TN after selling his land in Hawkins County, from Anderson County, in 1805. He was alive in 1806, but deceased by Oct. 16, 1819 when his brother Lazarus conveys land to his 5 children.
Oct. 16, 1819 – Lazarous Dodson of Claiborne Co. to William Dodson, Moses Stout, Willie Mullins, Henry Guttry, and Prudence Dodson, all of Anderson Co., for $1, 100 acres in Anderson Co. on Cane Creek by entry made by Lazarous Dodson, certificate #31 on Jan. 22, 1812, including the improvements where Oliver Dodson formerly lived. Wit Elijah Jones, Jesse Dodson, John Cooper, John Lewalen. Proved Jan. session 1820.
The date of Tolliver’s birth is not known, but he would have been born prior to 1765 given that he was of age to sign the 1786 Hawkins County petition. If he is by chance the “Schier Dodson son of Roby Dodson taken into the care of the Broad Creek church, then he was born before 1763, possibly in Fauquier Co., Va. His name eventually evolved to Oliver by which he was known in adulthood. Oliver died by 1819, probably in Anderson Co., TN. The name of his wife is unknown.
On April 16, 1784 Tolapher Dotson entered for 5000 acres of Elk River for which a warrant was issued on Feb. 19, 1787. He assigned the warrant to David Ross.
This transactions puts Oliver’s birth in 1763 or earlier.
Oliver first lived on Honeycutt’s Creek on the south side of Holston River in Hawkins County on a tract of land given him by Raleigh. He sold this land in 1805 after he had moved to Anderson County. (Hawkins deed 4-135). He purchased land in 1803, 265 acres in Anderson County from John Rhea and John Adair (Anderson deed A-61). In 1806 he was on the tax list of Anderson County and was appointed to a road jury in the same year. In 1819, Lazarus Dodson of Claiborne Co., assigned to the “heirs of Oliver Dodson” a tract in Anderson Co. which had been patented by Lazarus, but on which Oliver Dodson formerly lived. Anderson deed E-135. This Lazarus is not the father of Oliver, because Lazarus’s son, Oliver, was born in 1794 and died in 1875 in McMinn County.
The names of Oliver’s children have been gleaned from the deed records of Anderson Co., TN.
It would be presumed from this list of grantees that Oliver’s daughters were married to Willie Mulllins, Henry Guttry and Moses Stout. We know little about Oliver’s four daughters.
- Margaret Dodson married April 24, 1813 in Knox Co. TN to Moses Stout
- Prudence Dodson evidently never married and was living in Calloway County, Kentucky in 1819
- Daughter Dodson married Henry Guttry (Guthry, Guthrie) who lived in Claiborne Co. TN at one time
- Daughter Dodson married Wylie or Willie Mullins
Oliver’s son, William Dodson, was born June 10, 1793 in Hawkins Co., TN and died May 11 or 12, 1872 in Jackson Co., Alabama, from tombstone and newspaper accounts of his death. William and wife Mary are both buried in the Dodson Cemetery located at Lim Rock, Alabama.
William Dodson and his sisters inherited 100 acres in Anderson Co., TN located on Cane Creek near the town of Clinton from their father, Toliver. In 1822, William deeded his one fifth share to Michael Spesart. At the time, William Dodson was a resident of Decatur Co., AL, which is now an extinct county, existing only between Dec. 1821 and Dec. 1825. William Dodson served as a justice of the peace in Decatur County being appointed Sept 7, 1824. Earlier he had held this post in Jackson County being commissioned on Aug 4, 1820. The 1830 census of Jackson County indicates that William and Mary Dodson had 1 son born 1810-1815 and 3 daughters born between 1820-1825 and 1 born between 1815-1820.
When land became available for patenting in Jackson County, William was granted several tracts between 1831 and 1837. His land lay in Township 4 south range 4 east. He also purchased land in 1831 from Woody Shelton and wife Sarah Shelton. The town of Dodsonville, no longer in existence, was named for him.
Eleanor (Nelly) Dodson married John Isaac Saunders/Sanders and was probably born prior to 1768. They lived on Dodson’s Creek on land given them by Raleigh in deeds 2-80 and 6-139.
This land stretches from the mouth of Dodson Creek in the upper left hand corner of this satellite image today, including the land on the right of the creek. This encompasses everything from the Holston River across the yellow areas which includes the original Sanders homestead on Sanders Road, up Dru Haynes Road to include the farm in the lower right hand corner, still owned by Raleigh’s and Nellie’s descendant today.
Silas Lucas reports that John Sanders was a Revolutionary War soldier, although I have been unable to confirm his service. It’s possible John may have served with Lazarus and Raleigh, and if so, finding his records could be very enlightening. Nellie and John had 3 known children.
- George Nathan Saunders born April 20, 1788, died January 1873 and married on April 7, 1805 in Hawkins County to Mary Grantham
- James Saunders died in childhood
- Tabitha Saunders married a Mr. Chestnut
The dates of Nelly’s son’s birth puts Nelly’s birth at 1768 or earlier. I don’t know where Nelly met or married John Isaac Saunders, but there are many Saunders found in both Orange and Caswell County, NC. We don’t know when Nelly died, but she may not have lived long after Raleigh’s death if she only had 3 children.
If this is the case, then Mary suffered yet another loss in the same time span.
It’s likely that Nellie and John are both buried in the Sanders Cemetery on the old Dodson Ford Road as well.
James Dodson was apparently one of the younger sons of Raleigh, though little is known of him. He was apparently born before 1772 because Raleigh does not mention that he is a minor when he wrote his will in 1793. Silas Lucas indicated that James appears to have been living in Hawkins County for a number of years and suggests that he left after 1830. I find nothing referencing James between 1797 and the late 1820s when an entirely new generation of Dodson men were becoming established.
The land referenced in Raleigh’s will to be inherited by James was on Dodson’s Creek, the sales taking place in 1790 and 1794. The 1799 tax list of Grainger County has a James Dodson taxed for 640 acres in Capt. David Shelton’s district.
Reverend Lucas provides information about possible James Dodsons in nearby counties, but Mary’s son James cannot be positively identified and there is nothing known about his descendants.
There is no Elisha Dodson mentioned in Raleigh’s will, but Elisha appears very early in Hawkins County, owning land adjacent both Lazarus and Raleigh and having an account at the Amis store by 1783, meaning if he is Raleigh and Mary’s son, he would have been one of the older children, born in 1762 or earlier. Elisha would be too old to be the son of either Lazarus or Toliver. There is no evidence to prove that Elisha is Raleigh’s son, but given that he arrives concurrently with Raleigh and his sons and lives in the family grouping, this possibility needs to be considered. If Elisha is not the son of Raleigh and Mary, who is he?
The Silent Babies
The children documented above are the children who lived until either 1793 or were mentioned in Raleigh’s will. These children were born between approximately 1752 and 1772, over a period of roughly 20 years. If Mary was born about 1730, or so, they would have bracketed the time from her marriage to the end of her child-bearing years. However, this leaves several slots in the family vacant, which means those babies were born in the following locations and died sometime before adulthood or 1793 when Raleigh wrote his will, whichever came first.
1754 – Probably North Farnham Parish
1764 – Possibly Fauquier County, Virginia
1766 – Probably Halifax County, Virginia
1770 –Country Line Creek in Caswell County, NC
There could have been additional children. Mary buried at least 4 children who never reached adulthood, if not more. In addition, Mary buried her Shelton daughter, daughter Peggy and possibly, daughter Nellie.
Hawkins County Stragglers and Confusers
In 1838, Raleigh Dodson is mentioned in the chancery court records of Hawkins County as a Deputy Sheriff in a suit between George W. Brown and others vs Margaret Surguine and others. Jack Goins, the Hawkins County archivist found this and graciously sent it my way. It motivated me to see if this later Raleigh is a descendant of Mary and Raleigh Dodson who settled on Dodson Creek.
In this case, in 1838, Judge Williams fined a group for contempt of court for objecting to the Judge’s decision by taking land from a widow. Margaret Surgoine, widow of James Surgoine founder of the town of Surgoinsville, Tn.
It is ordered by the court that Raleigh Dodson the deputy sheriff of this county in attendance on the court be fined $2.50 for a contempt of this court in not keeping silence in the court room and that execution issue therefore.
Ordered by the court that Thomas Whiteside, John Easley, William M. Cocke, and Archibald Greene be each fined in the sum of $2.50 for a contempt of the court and that execution issue for the same.
This doesn’t seem to have hurt Raleigh’s career, because in 1850, Raleigh, age 46, is deposed and said that he levied an execution of a negro girl of Ellis Riggs to satisfy a Judgement in favor of Cisby Austin. He was still clearly acting in the capacity of a sheriff.
This Raleigh seems to be an interesting character.
In 1834, Raleigh receives a trust deed from Valentine Wolf for land on Clinch Mountain that included a grist mill and two stills and tubs belonging to the distillery.
And one last Raleigh entry, just to confuse things. In 1843 Raleigh sells land to a William Williams, but in the sale of the land, on which Raleigh lives, we see that Raleigh’s neighbors are Mastin Moore and various Stubblefield’s, which tells me this land was near the Hawkins/Grainger County line. Mastin is the brother of my ancestor Nancy Moore who was married to John R. Estes and living in Claiborne County at the time. The Stubblefield family traveled with the Moore line and married in, although downstream of my ancestor.
So, just who is this Deputy Sheriff Raleigh? Let’s see what we can determine by process of elimination.
We know that two of Mary and Raleigh’s sons moved away, Lazarus and Oliver, and through their estates, we have a list of their children. Son Raleigh certainly appears to have moved away about 1809. The fourth and youngest son, James, is found in the records in 1797 selling land, but not afterwards, suggesting that he too probably left.
Mary and Raleigh Sr.’s son, Raleigh Jr. disappears from Hawkins County records not long after 1808 when he sells his father’s land, although there is a Raleigh Dodson on the 1809 tax list.
The name Raleigh does not reappear in Hawkins County until 1810 in Thomas Dodson’s will as an underage child, and then in 1827 when Willis Amis sells Raleigh Dodson land. The 1827 Raleigh is the son of Thomas Dodson based on a deed in 1829 where 4 people, including Raleigh and his mother Jamima and brothers Elisha and James sell land purchased by Thomas Dodson on Cedar Creek.
No later than 1792, there is a Thomas Dodson in Hawkins County who owns land at the same time Raleigh Sr. does. Thomas lived on the north side of the Holston River at the mouth of Blair’s Branch. In 1798 Thomas also bought land called “James King’s improvement” lying opposite the mouth of Tate Creek. In 1800, Thomas bought land on the waters of Cedar Creek.
Thomas is likely Raleigh Sr.’s brother or his first cousin. In Thomas’s undated will (Lucas indicates this was before 1810) he lists wife Jamina, children James, Sarah, Elisha and youngest son Rolly. Also mentions that if “Thomas Robinson and John Robinson lives with his wife Jamima and behaves orderly and well” they are to have a horse and saddle when they arrive at age of 21. Executors Jamina Dodson, James Johnson and Samuel Riggs. Witnesses James Dodson, Richard Hellson (Hittson?) and Richard Robertson (Will book 1- page 149)
In 1810, William Dodson, son of Thomas, dies, apparently with assets and without heirs. William’s father, Thomas, winds up with William’s estate. Thomas who has already “relinquished all my own personal estate to my children” distributes William’s assets among his children, listing his heirs as William Johnson, James Johnson, Stephen Johnson, Jesse Dodson, Samuel Dodson, Rhoda Hitson, Thomas Dodson’s descendants – except for one lot in Pulaski County, KY. Proved in Court November 1811 (Deed book 6-475)
This suggests there are two separate Thomas Dodsons that are elderly or infirm at the same time in Hawkins County – one who made a will and one who did not and distributed his son, William’s assets through the deed. These men and these lands were all north of the Holston.
This leaves 2 unidentified Dodson men functioning in the Dodson Creek group, owning land on Dodson Creek.
There is a John Dodson by 1801 that is an adult and is functioning in the group on Dodson Creek south of the Holston, buying and selling land. He is likely the son of Elisha because we know he isn’t the son of Lazarus or Oliver and he is too young to be the son of James. He could also be the son of Raleigh Jr. He dies in 1838 owning land on Dodson Creek as indicated in his will. (Will book 1- page 152)
There is also a William Dodson functioning in 1797 in the Dodson Creek group. He has to belong to either Elisha or Raleigh Jr. If Raleigh Jr. was born in 1756, he could have married by 1776, and could have had a son, barely of age, in 1797. If Mary and Raleigh Sr.’s son is the Raleigh that died in 1836 in Williamson County, his only sons named in his will are Bird and Presley. If Reverend Lucas is right and Raleigh Jr. left Pittsylvania County in 1806, then neither John nor William can be his sons and that only leaves Elisha Dodson as their possible father. Unfortunately, we have absolutely no idea what happened to Elisha other than his property lines are still referenced in the 1806 deed.
One last land grant proves quite interesting. In 1834 the State of Tennessee granted to Elisha Dodson land on the north side of the Holston, adjoining James Johnson and others, beginning on the north bank of the river below Dodson’s Ferry landing. This tells us two things. First, Elisha’s land abuts the land of James Johnson, mentioned in the will of Thomas Dodson as probably his grandson. So this tells us that Thomas Dodson’s land was not far from Raleigh Dodson on the other side of the Holston River. A generation later, Elisha, Thomas’s son, is patenting familiar land, directly across the River from Raleigh’s original land half a century earlier.
From all of this, we gather than the deputy sheriff Raleigh is the son of Thomas, who is probably the nephew of our Raleigh Sr. So Deputy Sheriff Raleigh is not a descendant of Raleigh Sr., but likely his great-nephew, named for him in 1804, 10 years after Raleigh Sr.’s death.
All of Mary’s children would have received her mitochondrial DNA, inherited from her mother, but only her daughters would have passed it on.
Men don’t pass their mother’s mitochondrial DNA on to the next generation. Only females do.
Mary only had three daughters, Nellie, Peggy and the daughter who married the Shelton.
Nellie’s only known daughter, Tabitha, married a Chestnut. Hawkins County deeds might reveal his name if Chestnut deeds were read individually. In 1850, there is a Tabitha Chestnut, age 67, married to Henry Chestnut living in Monroe County, Tennessee. We don’t know if this is the correct Tabitha Chestnut, or not.
Mary’s daughter that married the Shelton had two daughters, Mary and Nancy. Unfortunately, we don’t know any more about Mary or Nancy either.
Mary’s last daughter, Peggy, who married James Menasco, had one daughter, Elinda, born about 1782.
We’re striking out here, because nothing is known of Elinda either.
Hopefully, in time, descendants of these daughters, through all females to the current generation which can be male, will appear.
At this point, mitochondrial DNA is our only hope for finding a match and possibly, Mary’s family. I know it’s a long shot, but it’s all we have, short of that miracle Bible on e-Bay or undiscovered records in some courthouse basement.
When I think of Mary, I think of her raising children, burying some, working in the fields with Raleigh and being a hostess to weary travelers who needed rest. Her life must have been difficult on Country Line Creek, and it makes me wonder why they bought that land instead of land in Pittsylvania or Halifax County, VA where the rest of the Dodson clan settled.
The combination of a small plot of land, rough terrain and the Revolutionary War may have made Mary glad to leave – although the frontier must have been frightening in a different sort of way.
I know that Mary made her own fabric, because Raleigh’s will left both a cotton and linen wheel to Mary Shelton, his granddaughter, clearly named for Mary, along with half the cards, and the other wheel and the other half the cards to the other granddaughter, Nancy Shelton. I don’t know, but I strongly suspect that Mary raised these girls after their mother’s death and they learned spinning from Mary.
When a man died at that time, all of the property, except for the wife’s clothes, were considered his – so he would have bequeathed Mary’s items when he died. Mary owned nothing in her own right. Obviously spinning wheels and cards were considered valuable.
Pioneer women didn’t just make their clothes, they carded the wool, cotton or flax, spun it into thread, died it and wove it into cloth, then made clothes for the entire family. Contemporary cards are shown below.
The carding process disentangles, cleans and intermixes the fibers to produce a rolag or tuft of fiber suitable for the next step, which is spinning, shown with the cards, above. Personally, I think this looks a lot like what I get when I brush the cats and dogs, and I think I’ve missed a golden opportunity now for decades.
This woman at her spinning wheel may have looked something like Mary Dodson as she spun.
A modern spinner spinning thread from rolag. You can see the cards on the table
Mary probably spun and wove since she was a child at her mother’s knee, and was surely quite proficient. If you weren’t, your children went naked! Mary’s cherished spinning wheel was probably one of the few things that she brought in the very limited space of the wagon when she and Raleigh made the trip from Caswell County to the Holston River.
Every inch of cloth was valuable and absolutely nothing was wasted. After the clothes became worn, they were either remade into something for a smaller person, or the salvageable pieces were recycled into a quilt – along with scraps leftover from making the clothes.
In March of 1787, Raleigh brought Mary a surprise, or at least I’m assuming it was a surprise. A hank of silk. I’m amazed that the Amis Store even had silk, but they did because Raleigh bought that, along with his typical whiskey. Maybe these two purchases are related.
A hank isn’t very much silk, as demonstrated above, but I’m sure, absolutely positive that Mary was thrilled. This may have been the first silk she ever touched. Were her hands rough from work and snaggedon the threads? Did she work the silk into a woven design of some sort? What did she make? Oh, how I’d love to know!
Did Mary order this from the store, or did Raleigh bring it home as a loving surprise, maybe for her birthday? Had Mary suffered a loss and Raleigh was trying to offer comfort? Or, was Raleigh in a heap o’ trouble and brought this home as a peace offering.
The only other similar item was just over a year later when Raleigh bought 3 yards of calamanco, a thin glossy woolen fabric. Some calamanco had stripes, but other types were solid colors and was used in quilting. This fabric was often died vivid red or blue. I couldn’t find a copyright free image to include, but you can see examples here.
Mary would have been about 57 years old. Was she having trouble weaving, or was this perhaps a lovely gift for the pioneer woman, a touch of luxury on Dodson Creek?
I can see Mary lovingly smoothing the beautiful red or blue calamanco as she spread it out in the sunshine to decide how she was going to use the luscious fabric, probably with granddaughters Mary and Nancy excitedly looking on. I can see Mary weaving the soft, shiny silk into some beautiful heirloom, perhaps for those granddaughters.
I will leave Mary here, on a lovely day on the Holston River alongside bubbling Dodson Creek, in the sunshine with her granddaughters and her calamanco, joyfully planning something lovely together. This is how I want to remember Mary.
Much of the information about the early Dodson lines, including Raleigh and Elizabeth’s children, 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.