M-R Goodspeed's
Biographical Sketches of
Dekalb County, Tennessee

John M. Mason, a well known farmer of the Fifteenth District, was born October 22, 1819, in North Carolina, and came to Smith (now Dekalb) County in 1827. He was the seventh of thirteen children born to Wiley and Nancy (Bensy) Mason. The father was born January 31, 1785, in Virginia. He served in the war of 1812, and was mustered out at the close of the war at Norfolk, Va. He moved to Caswell County, N. C., and from there to Smith County in 1827. He was a man of considerable intelligence, well versed in the Bible, in which he took a deep interest. He was also thoroughly posted on all political subjects. His death occurred in 1840. His father was a native of Whales. Mrs. Nancy Mason was born October 4, 1783, and died in North Carolina. Our subject had but limited educational advantages until after his majority. He attended the common schools of the county. He worked as an overseer and manager for several years. He then farmed on rented land until he was able to purchase forty-two acres near Riddleton, Smith County. From time to time he has added to his place, and now owns 400 acres, well cultivated and improved, and a house and lot in Smithville. For nine years he has been magistrate, and trustee of the Earl Academy two years. From 1859 to 1880 he was engaged in the tanning business, also in general merchandising, always meeting with success. He is a life-long Democrat; cast his first presidential vote for Martin Van Buren. In 1849 he married miss Eliza, the youngest of six children of Nicholas and Sarah (Compton) Smith. Mrs. Mason was born September 4, 1833, in Wilson County. This union resulted in the birth of Mary E. afterward Mrs. James Turner (deceased); Robert Wiley and Adelia (deceased). Mr. and Mrs. Mason are respected and earnest members of the Missionary Baptist Church.

R. C. Nesmith, attorney at law of Smithville, was born in Dekalb County in 1837, a son of William A. and Elizabeth M. (McDowell) Nesmith. The father is of Scotch- Irish descent, born in 1799, in York District, South Carolina. In 1809 with his father, William Nesmith, immigrated to Blount County, E. Tenn. A year later they went to northern Alabama, where for a number of years they lived among the Cherokee Indians. In 1824 he came to Dekalb County, and three years later married. He settled in the Nineteenth district , where he engaged in wagon making and farming. There were but two wagons in the county when he settled there. He has lived in various portions of the county, but for past few years has made his home in Smithville. From 1859 to 1862 he was county tax collector. He is the oldest living man in the county, and until the last seven years was unusually vigorous and active. He is rather eccentric, witty and humorous. He is now quite feeble. His wife was born in Wilson County in1803, and died April, 1885. She was the mother of eleven children, of whom nine are living, our subject being the seventh. He attended the common schools but a short time. At the age of seventeen he began teaching, continuing four sessions. In 1862 he enlisted in Company G, Forty-fifth Tennessee Infantry. He was engaged in the battle of Murfreesboro, was captured and made prisoner of war. He was retained at Camp Douglas three months, then exchanged at City Point and rejoined his command at Tullahoma. In August, 1863, he returned home. After the war he farmed. In January, 1867, he began the study of law. under direction of his brother J. A., and April of the same year was admitted to the bar. In partnership with the above mentioned he began to practice. In 1870 he became a partner of Judge Robert Cantrell, now of Lebanon; the firm existed two years and changed to Nesmith & Smallman, who is now Judge M. D. Smallman, of McMinnville; the past two years he has had no partner. He is one of Dekalb County's most talented and eminent lawyers, and has a fine chancery practice. He is a stanch Democrat, and a Master Mason. In 1865 he married Miss Mary J., daughter of James and Mary McDearmon, who was born in Wilson County in 1839. Mrs. Nesmith is an earnest and active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church South.

W. W. Patterson, one of the leading business men of Alexandria, was born in Smith County in 1843, the second of eight children of Samuel F. and Catherine (Smith) Patterson. The father was of Scotch-Irish descent, born in Wilson County in 1801, and the son of Samuel Patterson, a native of Ireland who immigrated to America at about the age of sixteen. He settled in Wilson County, where he married and spent the remainder of his life as a tiller of the soil. Samuel F. was first married to Miss Lucy Waters, by whom he had two children, one living. His second union was with Mrs Compton, nee Coe; to them one child was born. About 1835 he wedded the mother of our subject, who was born in Wilson County about 1812, and died in 1876. In 1832 Mr. Patterson moved to Smith County, where he was a prosperous farmer. He served several years as constable and magistrate. He died in 1884. Both were members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Six of their children are living. Our subject was educated in the country schools. In 1861 at the age of seventeen he entered the Confederate Army, Company F, Twenty-fourth Tennessee Infantry. He took part in the battle of Shiloh, and was the only one of nine guards who escaped uninjured . After twelve months' faithful service he was discharged on account of ill health. In 1863 he married Miss J. E., daughter of Willis and Martha Dowell, of Smith County, where Mrs. Patterson was born in 1844. Of their five children, one son died in infancy, and one son and three daughters are now living: Etta J., wife of R. M. Bone, Postmaster at Alexandria, Nora, Mattie C. and Robert W. With the exception of one year spent in Arkansas, our subject remained with his father until 1875. He then located at his present place of residence. The farm contains 250 acres of cultivated and improves land, pleasantly situated near Alexandria. He has for several years been engaged in mercantile business; four years ago became interested in a drug house, the firm name being R. M. Bone & Co. Mr. Patterson is a man of enterprise and ability, to which the accumulation of most of his possessions are due. He is a charitable and worth citizen and an ardent Democrat, casting his first presidential vote for H. Greeley in 1872. He is a Mason. Himself and family, with the exception of one child, are consistent members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

S. B. Prichard, a respected agriculturist of the Nineteenth District, was born in Wilson County in 1820. He is the third of eight children of Benjamin and Mary A. (Campbell) Prichard. The father was born April 16, 1792, in Virginia and came to the portion of Tennessee now known as Dekalb County in 1808. He was in Col. James Tubb's regiment, under command of Gen. Jackson, at New Orleans. His death was caused by rheumatism, which he contracted during the war. The exposure was very great. He made his way home from New Orleans on foot, his only provisions until he reached the first settlement being one quart of parched meal; after that was consumed he happened to come across a squirrel, which he brought down with his gun. He and his companion endured all sorts of hardships and privations. He died August 3, 1872. His grandfather Prichard came from England to Virginia at an early day. Mrs. Mary (Campbell) Prichard was born March 10, 1796, in Wilson County, and died December 5, 1867. Her grandfather was a native of Ireland; he settled in Wilson County not far from Statesville when the country was an unbroken canebrake. He ran away from Ireland, agreeing to let the captain hire him out, when he reached America, to pay his passage, and accordingly he was engaged by a Mr. Campbell. The young Irishman had never seen a negro. One evening he was sent to a room by himself; soon afterward a colored female servant was sent in with a small bellows to start the fire and scare the boy. With many grimaces and gestures she began her work. The lad, thinking she was his satanic majesty in female form, seized the bellows and dealt her a severe blow on the head. He died about 1826, and Mr. Prichard's father died in 1830, both of whom our subject remembers. S. B. Prichard received a somewhat limited education in Wilson and Dekalb Counties. July 10, 1845, he married Miss Matilda Robinson, who died December 31, 1876. They had six children: Columbus, James, Thomas J., Jorden Lee, Nancy J. (now Mrs Fite). March 5, 1878, he married Miss Malissa Ann Dunnaway, who was born August 4, 1845. Three children have blessed this union: Lucretia Eller, Lucinda Della, and Martha Jane. Mr Prichard commenced life with no capital, but by energy and good management, has accumulated considerable means and property. He first worked at the carpenter trade, and was soon able to buy his present place of residence. His farm consists of 225 acres, all productive and cultivated, located on Dismal Branch, eleven miles from Smithville and seven miles southeast of Alexandria. He was a Whig, but since the war has been a Democrat. For many years he has been an earnest member of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, having professed religion when only fourteen years of age.

James T. Quarels was born in Wilson County in 1836, the fourth of seven children of William and Eliza (Hopkins) Quarels, both of whom were natives of Virginia, where they were married about 1835. They came to Tennessee, locating in Wilson County, where the remainder of their lives was spent in farming. The father died about 1844, the mother in 1881, both esteemed members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Our subject was educated in the country schools of his native county. About his twentieth year he married a native of Dekalb County, Miss Caroline, daughter of Jonathan and Priscilla Doss, who died about a year and a half after the marriage. In 1860 Mr. Quarels married his sister-in-law, Miss Darthula, by whom he had six children. Those living are Nora (wife of T. C. Peck, of Wilson County), James D., Zora, and Maud. In 1861 Mr. Quarels entered the Confederate Army under command of Capt. Bass, and served about one year, when he was discharged on account of disability, and returned home. In 1863 he again enlisted under Capt. Reese. He was engaged in the battles of Murfreesboro and Briston; after six months' service he again went home. In 1864 he sold his property in Wilson County and purchased a portion of his present farm in Dekalb County, where he moved. The farm now contains over 100 acres of cultivated and improved land. He has always been an industrious man; Had it not been for misfortunes through generosity, he would be worth more than double his present possessions. He is a firm Democrat, and cast his first presidential vote for John C. Breckinridge. He has been a Mason twenty years. His wife is an earnest member of the Missionary Baptist Church.

Hon. John B. Robinson, attorney at law of Smithville, is a native of Dekalb County; was born in 1835. His parents were Alexander and Rachel (Barnes) Robinson. The father was of English descent, born in Cumberland County, Va., about 1804. He came to Tednnessee in 1824, locating in Smith (now Dekalb) County. Two years later he settled in the Fourth District. He taught school several sessions and then married. He was surveyor of the county a number of years. He owned 150 acres of fine land at the time of his death in 1867. His wife was born in Dekalb County, in 1804. Her parents, George and Bridget Barnes, were among the pioneers, settling in the county before 1800. Mr. and Mrs. Robinson had nine children, six of whom are living, our subject being the fourth. He was educated in the common schools. There were no public schools and his parents were unable to send him to college. After he attained his majority he began teaching, which he followed for several years. The last sessions he was in Illinois. In 1855 he commenced the study of law on his own responsibility, but advising with Judge Robert Cantrell, now of Lebanon. In 1858 he was admitted to the bar. When the war broke out he became one of the boys in blue. In June, 1862, he enlisted in Company I, Sixty-ninth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, for ninety days. After serving his time he returned home. He went to Jefferson County, Ill., at Mt. Vernon, and returned to Smithville in 1864. After the restoration of peace he resumed his practice and in 1867 was elected attorney-general of the circuit of Tennessee, and served two and a half years. At two different periods T. W. Wade was his partner; for twelve months he was with Nesmith. For twenty years our subject has been one of the leading and most prominent lawyers in the county. His honor has never once been questioned. His forte is in chancery practice. He is a Republican; previous to the war he was a Whig, casting his first presidential vote for Millard Fillmore, in 1856. He belongs to the I. O. O. F. Lodge, No. 217, Pure Fountain, of Smithville. In February, 1869, he married Miss Julia, daughter of H. B. and Julia G. McDonald, of Smith County, where Mrs Robinson was born in 1849. Their union was blessed with six children: Mary, Alice, Harry, John, David, and William Loyd Garrett. Mrs. Robinson is an earnest member of the Methodist Episcopal Church South.

J. E. Robinson, a farmer living near Temperance Hall, was born October 31, 1832, in Smith (now Dekalb) County. He is the fifth of seven children of John and Eliza (Harris) Robinson. The father was born about 1799, near Nashville, and was brought when an infant, by his father, to the farm where his son now resides. The country at that time was an unbroken canebrake, and infested by many Indians, who were treacherous and troublesome. There were also great quantities of wild animals, the bears often coming about the place which Stephen Robinson purchased. He was one of the most extensive stock raisers in the country, especially blooded horses. Our subject was educated in the common schools of Dekalb County, and attended one session of Irwin College, Warren County. December 14, 1854, he married Miss Margaret E., daughter of Nicholas and Sarah (Compton) Smith. Mrs. Robinson was born November 8, 1831. Their union resulted in the birth of nine children: Charley E., John Morgan, Sallie E. (Now Mrs. Martin), Willie, Sidney, Mattie. Those deceased are Lillie Dale, Lizzie and Henrietta. Mr. Robinson, at the time of his marriage, was in such close pecuniary circumstances that he had to borrow the money with which the license was bought. He farmed on rented land and finally purchased. He accumulated considerable property, but it was mostly destroyed by the war, with the exception of a house and lot near Temperance Hall. A few years since he inherited some property from his wife, and by hard work he has become the owner of 254 acres, all of which is well cultivated and improved. He was trustee of his church about six years, and superintendent of the Sunday School. He was a Whig, but since the war has gone with the Democratic party. He has given his children good educational advantages, and is deeply interested in all school matters, and the advancement of all beneficial enterprises. He is a liberal contributor to religious and charitable institutions. Four of his children belong to the Methodist Episcopal Church South and Mrs Robinson to the Missionary Baptist.

Return to Goodspeed's History of Dekalb County