Judge J. P. SMITH, chancellor of the first chancery division of Tennessee, was born in Johnson County, March 30, 1846, the son of A. D. and Mary (Powell) SMITH, the former born in Wilkes County, N. C., in 1808, the son of Caleb SMITH, a native of North Carolina. Eleven brothers, including the father of the latter, were with Gen Gates in the Revolution, and two were killed. Caleb married Elizabeth DOREN, a daughter of Robert DOREN, of Ireland, and afterward, in 1810, a pioneer of Tennessee. The marriage occurred in North Carolina. He was an iron bar manufacturer and farmer, and died before our subject was born. The father was a sheriff of Carter County about 1830, and in 1835 became sheriff of Johnson County, after which he became circuit clerk, until 1856. He was a lawyer, and engaged in active practice until 1863, when Gen. Burnaide authorized him and John K. MILLER, as lieutenant-colonel and colonel, to organize the Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry, but he died in November, 1863, before the organization was completed. The mother was born near Washington City, Va., February 27, 1816, the daughter of John POWELL, a sea captain, who died while his daughter was a child. She came to her relatives in East Tennessee, and in 1832 was married.
Our subject, the sixth of eight children, grew up in Johnson County until his seventeenth year, attending James Keys’ private school at Taylorsville. He then joined Company B, Fourth Union Tennessee Infantry, at Nashville, scouting through the Confederate lines to Kentucky. In October 1864, he became second lieutenant; and was mustered out August 2, 1865, at Nashville. He then entered a claim office in Knoxville, and continued until November, 1867, when he began law, and assisted in the clerk’s and master’s office at Elizabethton. He was admitted to the bar in October, 1869, and in 1870 began practice in Johnson County, where he resided until December, 1880, and then became assistant United States attorney for the eastern district of Tennessee. On July 8, 1885, he resigned and moved to Carter County, and in 1886 became chancellor of the first chancery division. He was married in February, 1867, to Mary A., a daughter of William CRAIG, born July 2, 1846. Two of their nine children are deceased. He and his wife are Presbyterians.
Transcribed by Kris L. Martin
Source: Goodspeed Publishing Co. History of Tennessee from the Earliest Time to the Present: Together with an Historical and a Biographical Sketch of from Twenty-Five to Thirty Counties of East Tennessee. Chicago: Goodspeed, 1887.