Probably 20 years ago, I discovered that Jacob Dobkins (1751-1835) was my ancestor, and began researching in Claiborne County, Tennessee where his daughter, Jenny Dobkins lived with her husband, John Campbell.
In fact, two of Jacob’s daughters married Campbell men. His daughter Elizabeth married George Campbell, believed to be John’s brother, back in Hawkins County before the entire group moved to Claiborne. Jacob lived in Claiborne County in 1801 when the county was formed and he attended the first court session.
Jacob purchased 1400 acres for $100, land roughly a mile wide and about two and a half miles long. That’s a LOT of land. Of course, it was densely forested and no houses or other improvements had been made. Jacob immediately began parceling it out to his sons and sons-in-law, essentially assuring that most of his family would stay nearby.
In the research process, I met other Dobkins researchers, including Bill Nevils, a local historian, and genealogist. He too was descended from Jacob.
In 2006, cousin Daryl talked to Bill who told us he knew where Jacob Dobkins was buried.
Stopped us cold in our tracks. There was no marked grave. No known Dobkins Cemetery.
Cousin Daryl discovered more than that too. She made other calls and the owners in 2006 were family members who had VERY INTERESTING photos of the original cabin.
This very old photo from (probably) sometime in the early 1900s or possibly even late 1800s shows Jacob Dobkins’ homestead, fenced, with a secondary, larger building having been added to the left. Yet another building is shown in the distance and a structure to the rear as well. Notice the fieldstone chimney.
Yes, this is Jacob’s original cabin! Be still my heart.
How can I be sure? The deed work shows that in 1835, when Jacob died, his heirs quitclaimed his property to Betsy Campbell, his daughter who was married to George Campbell. From that point on, her son, Barney, his son Alexander, then his son Arthur lived in this home until Arthur died in 1969. The family had built a new home and retained the property.
Jacob’s cabin in the 1960s or 1970s, abandoned.
Jacob’s cabin lasted for at least another 150 years after his 1835 death before it was purchased, disassembled, and reassembled elsewhere – we think someplace in North Carolina (maybe) in some sort of reenactment or historical park. If you recognize this cabin, please let me know.
Daryl made contact with the lady who owned the farm in 2006:
I just had a lovely conversation with our cousin who owns the property and descends from Barney Campbell. Her family recently celebrated her birthday at the old farm and gave her a photo frame with digital family photos that include the old cabin.
She claims the farm has been in the family since about 1820, but she has never checked it out. Her nephew is the one interested in the family history. Her grandmother, Sally, died when she was about 10 and she heard the story of Barney many times growing up…Barney was a Dobkins, his mother was Elizabeth and he took the Campbell name when Elizabeth married George Campbell.
The original old house was 2 stories, living room & one bedroom on the main floor and 2 more bedrooms upstairs. The kitchen was detached from the original house. I quizzed her a bit, because there were not too many houses two stories in those woods in the late 1700s or early 1800s. She did not know how old the house was, or who the first occupants were. She assumed it was Barney.
The house was moved about 1970. All she remembers is that a man who owned a pottery company, factory or shop bought it. He took it apart and it was to be reassembled at his business in western NC. A cousin in Tazewell was building a house about the same time and he took the chimney/fireplace and connected it to his house. He has since died. She said the old house reminds her of one she saw in the Museum of the Appalachia brochure, the one near Norris Dam.
It’s worth noting that the founder of the Museum of the Appalachia began collecting in 1969, so the timing would be right. Maybe Jacob’s house is there. If so, it’s probably labeled as the Campbell home.
Here’s the cabin from a different view after it was abandoned, but before it was deconstructed.
And here, before it was abandoned, with the “wash” hanging on the line. It looks like a typical home here.
I should mention that this building does not appear, on the surface, to be the traditional log cabin, but is instead a plank or clapboard building. If Jacob did indeed own that sawmill, as was described in the 1819 deed from Jacob Dobkins to John Whitaker, this wouldn’t be too surprising. Regardless, this tells us that a mill was very close by sometime before 1819.
Another story says that this building incorporated the original structure, but was built by Barney Campbell, possibly in the 1830s.
According to family members:
There was a kitchen behind the former house which was converted into a loom house and the previous living quarters used as kitchen facilities when the new house was occupied. The kitchen and dining ell of the present old house is not as old as the living quarters but some of the material of the original house was incorporated into the ell which would indicate that part of the house may date back to 1800.
According to this, the original home was incorporated into the “new” house, a very common practice of that time. Frugal settlers wasted nothing and did not simply “move” to a new house. They added on.
A third story says that Barney built this cabin, but his first wife, then pregnant with twins, died before ever getting to live there. That would have put the origin of this building about 1838 or so. Jacob’s original cabin would have been more than 30 years old by then, and Barney had a passel of kids – something like 17 between both wives, not counting the twins that died when his first wife did! Yes, Barney definitely could have used more room.
But that story doesn’t quite make sense either – because nobody would intentionally build a log cabin and immediately cover it up with lap siding.
Do we have any evidence? Why yes, yes we do.
Aha – this photo of the cabin during disassembly clearly shows a chinked log cabin beneath the clapboard siding.
Here’s the rear during the deconstruction process. Look at those dovetailed logs. Indeed, this is the house that Jacob built from the trees he felled clearing the land. Later deeds also refer to this property as being where Jacob lived.
Barney’s grandson lived here until sometime in the 1960s, so this land never left the Dobkins/Campbell family.
Interestingly, we have Y DNA genetic evidence that conflicts with the story about Barney being adopted by George Campbell. Some of Barney’s descendants match the Y DNA of the Campbell line, and some do not. Given that at least one of Barney’s son’s lines matches the Campbell Y DNA, it’s unlikely that Barney was not George Campbell’s son! Not to mention that George was very generous with Barney.
Barney is of course a Dobkins on his mother’s side, so I’m not exactly sure how that original story was intended. It’s ironic that the family story includes an unknown father, but the DNA might disprove that, and prove that a Campbell male was indeed the father – exactly the opposite of what sometimes happens.
Obviously, we have absolutely NO IDEA what actually happened back in 1797 when Barney was born, or later with his descendants.
What I can say is that we could probably resolve this question if male Campbell men descended directly through all males from Barney through the following sons would do a Y DNA test.
Barney had the following sons through his first wife, Mary Brooks:
- Benjamin Campbell (1820-1882) married Eliza or Louisa Eastridge, born and died in Claiborne County, TN.
- George Campbell (c1821-1860s) married Nancy Eastridge, lived in Claiborne County and died during the Civil War.
- Andrew Campbell (c1826-?) married Louisa (Eliza) Campbell, lived in Claiborne County.
- John Campbell (c 1829-after 1900) married Mary Ann Chadwell, lived and died in Claiborne County.
- Toliver Campbell (1835-1899) married Sarah Lewis, lived and died in Claiborne County.
Barney had these sons through his second wife, Martha Jane “Jennie” Kesterson:
- David Campbell (c 1841-1919) married Missouri Williams, lived and died in Claiborne County.
- Arthur L. Campbell (born circa 1842)
- Newton J. Campbell (1845-1911) married Lucy Williams, lived and died in Claiborne County.
- Abraham Campbell (1850-1914) married Nancy Cornelia Williams, lived, and died in Claiborne County.
- Alexander Campbell (1853-1923) married Sarah “Sallie” Campbell, lived, and died in Claiborne County.
Come On – Let’s Visit Jacob!
Bill Nevils and his mother hosted us for a lovely lunch, but we could hardly wait to set out for the Dobkins land and cemetery, circled in red, above. The house was located near the building with the white roof, halfway between the main road and the cemetery.
Jacob is buried in the Campbell Family Cemetery at 230 A. L. Campbell Lane in Tazewell, although there is no reference to a cemetery on the deed back in the 1800s. Cemeteries were assumed back then and seldom mentioned. It’s still a private cemetery today.
I can’t tell you how much fun Daryl and I had that day. This chimney, at least that’s what I think it is, was probably for the outside kitchen. This chimney was not taken when the cabin was removed – probably because it was not attached to the house. We know that the chimney on the house was moved to Tazewell.
I can only imagine cooking outside in all types of weather, all seasons of the year. Well, actually, I can’t imagine that.
There’s another very early building too.
Look at the size of those logs. This is clearly a very early structure. Is this the building that was converted into the loom house? If so, then it was here when Jacob lived. It’s standing beside that chimney or stone column, whatever it is.
Behind these buildings and the modern-day house, we crossed through the working farm, drove through a gate, and across the field.
This is the same path that would have been followed when a “buryin'” needed to take place. The wagon with the coffin, pulled by horses or mules, would lead the procession of walking family members from the house where the family would have “kept watch” and prepared the body for burial. The wagon wheels would have squeaked under the load. The family knew this was Jacob’s last trip – that late fall day in 1835 – accompanied by a preacher.
Jacob had cleared the field where his funeral procession took place more than three decades earlier. We drove up to the cemetery 171 years after Jacob’s final journey.
Jacob Dobkins Cemetery, Known as the Campbell Cemetery
A fence surrounds the cemetery which is far to the rear of the property, near the Powell River. You didn’t want a cemetery too near a house, or the well for that matter.
Cousin Bill and me before entering this sacred ground. I’m so incredibly glad we made this visit when we did, because Father Bill, an Episcopal priest, has gone on now to meet Jacob. Bill spent years researching this family and I wish he would send a few answers!
A HUGE, massive tree grows in the center of the cemetery.
As we strolled in that direction, Bill told us that it’s believed that both Jacob and his wife are buried under that expansive tree.
That makes sense given that the newer graves radiate out towards the edges. Jacob assuredly wasn’t the first burial here, but he was likely one of the early ones. He would have established the cemetery after he bought the land, as need dictated.
Graves were marked only with rocks. Everyone who needed to know already knew who was buried where. They had stood graveside as the casket was lowered. Neighbors would have come over to help dig the graves and cover them after the service. Perhaps they were marked with a simple wooden cross at the time.
Looking around, we can see Wallen’s Ridge there in the distance.
John Campbell’s land, part of which was apparently originally owned by Jacob, lies across the ridge in this direction. Today’s there’s a cemetery behind Liberty Church, established in the 1850s, on John’s land, but I bet in that time, everyone in the family was simply buried here, in the Dobkins family cemetery. Jacob was the family patriarch.
The photo below connects with the one above at the mountain, looking back over the homeplace, providing a panorama vista of sorts.
Elisha Wallen, the Longhunter, claimed vast tracts of land and sold this farm to Jacob immediately after Claiborne County was formed.
Jane Dobkins Campbell who had married John lived across what is locally known as “Little Ridge.” It doesn’t look very little to me.
I’d wager she’s buried here too.
Jacob would have cleared these fields, tree by tree. Except for that one tree, of course. It was left to shelter those attending funerals. I can’t help but wonder if Jacob did that intentionally. Or maybe he simply started burying family members beneath its branches.
Standing beneath the tree, this is what I see.
I can only imagine the amount of labor that was invested in establishing a farm from the wilderness. By the time Jacob bought this land, he was 50 years old. He did have sons and sons-in-law, but they had their own farms to clear.
Jacob sold the land in the photo below to his son-in-law, George Campbell who was married to Elizabeth.
Even after clearing, Cedar trees aggressively try to reclaim the land for the forest.
You can see that this part of George’s land is very rocky. Impossible to plow after clearing, but reminds me so much of Scotland.
I can see Jacob Dobkins and Elisha Wallen, walking this land together before Jacob’s purchase, discussing the land, and probably so much more. Both men had faced incredible challenges in this new land and somehow survived.
Both had followed what would become the Wilderness Road, when it was wilderness and before it was a road. The only thing there when Jacob and Elisha first arrived was buffalo and Native people, angry at the incursion. Elisha’s first visit was about 1761, and Jacob’s was about 1779 when he arrived at Fort Harrod before the Revolutionary War.
This beautiful stream, Russell Creek, is only about 15 miles, less as the crow flies, from where Jacob traveled back in 1779 between his home in Shenandoah County and Fort Harrod. In 1779, this land was beyond the frontier line.
The area was much tamer 20 years later when Jacob bought this land from Elisha Wallen. Jacob’s service helped to tame the region, making it safe for settlers. Jacob switched from soldiering to homesteading. It’s ironic that Jacob survived the Revolutionary War battles, although bullets ripped through his clothes – but homesteading, which you think would be safer, broke his collarbone and shoulder, disabling him.
Did Jacob look across these ridges from Cumberland Gap and fall in love back in 1779? Did he tell his son-in-law, George about those adventures as they walked this land before Jacob sold him this portion?
Clearly, Jacob wasn’t just buying land for himself, but with the intention of purchasing enough land for his entire family, probably so that his sons and sons-in-law wouldn’t feel the need to “move on.” Best investment ever!
That’s probably the exact reason he sold his land on White Horn Creek near Bull’s Gap and moved everyone to Claiborne County where large tracts of land had become available. Opportunity was knocking.
Of course, Jacob was also establishing a family cemetery whether he initially meant to or not. Every family had one. I wonder if he thought about where would be a good location for a cemetery on his land or if he only thought about that when, due to necessity, they needed to bury someone. Would that first burial have been one of his grandchildren? I would bet so.
Cemeteries were often on higher land so that they didn’t flood and contaminate the water supply. Did Jacob choose this location because of this beautiful tree?
Did he decide that he’d like to be buried right here?
Cousin Bill, dwarfed, pondering beneath Jacob’s tree.
I can’t help but wonder if this tree was already old when Jacob bought this land more than 200 years before.
If only this tree could talk. What stories it would have to tell.
I think this is a maple tree. Medium growth rate for a maple tree is about a foot each year, so this tree must be ancient. Based on the photos, I’m guessing at least 300-400 years and maybe more.
Some gravestones are located beneath its sprawling branches. Bill told us that Jacob is supposed to be buried beneath this tree.
Most of the space beneath the tree consists of unmarked graves. Apparently, there are many, many unmarked graves.
Perhaps Jacob is resting right here in the shade. Surrounded by his children and grandchildren.
Some died in his lifetime. Jacob’s son Reuben died in 1823 at the age of 40.
More unmarked graves.
Many graves weren’t marked, except for field stones, if that, until in the 1900s. A gravestone was a luxury none could afford.
Some field stones remain, but others are clearly gone.
Barney Campbell’s son Benjamin is listed among the burials. Assuredly, Barney was buried here too following his death between 1853 and 1855, as are his parents who died about the same time, and grandparents who died twenty years earlier.
The day in May that we visited was stunningly beautiful with spring’s warmth not yet giving way to the oppressive summer heat.
Daryl, Bill, and I walked every inch of this cemetery, looking for any clue. Just being with Jacob and our family members for a short time.
I couldn’t help but glance over each fence and picture Jacob standing and doing the same. Of course, his split rail fences would have looked quite different.
Did Jacob go to the far side of his property each day and fell more trees?
Did he stand here pondering life’s unfairness when he buried family members?
I slowly turned in a circle to see what Jacob would have seen.
I can’t help but wonder how all of these people are connected to Jacob. Maybe some aren’t but many appear to have “married in” to the family. After a few generations, these Appalachian families are all related to each other one way or another.
Daryl and I, always the consummate genealogists, photographed gravestones.
This cemetery is not small. Many areas are entirely vacant, signifying unmarked graves. It looks like there are as many unmarked as marked, or maybe more.
While the old burials are near the middle, there are contemporary graves too.
Areas towards the fence had modern burials.
No matter where you look, the mountains are ever-present in the distance. Today, just as Jacob saw them two centuries ago.
By now, there are probably 8 or maybe 10 generations of family members all resting together here. Jacob would probably be quite pleased that his investment in a large amount of common land, enough to share with his sons and sons-in-law, paid such handsome dividends. Indeed, many stayed and continue to stay.
Of his own children, 5 lived out their lives in Claiborne County, two struck out for Texas, and one is uncertain.
Many of Jacob’s descendants still live in Claiborne County, Tennessee, and perhaps some still live on Jacob’s land.
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