By DAN WHITTLE
SHORT MOUNTAIN: History lives here ... and at Bradyville and at Readyville.
John Smithson (called "Big John" by family and neighbors) was a Revolutionary War soldier. After the war, "Big John" settled on the biggest mountain in Middle Tennessee, to wit, Short Mountain.
A lot of history was born on that mountain and trickled down throughout the Great State of Tennessee.
It seems nothing small in stature ever occurred on Short Mountain, not even in its earliest history leading up to the formation of Cannon and DeKalb, the two counties the majestic mountain straddles and overlooks.
Big John is described as "a powerful man and was known to lift and carry a thousand pounds of iron," according to a treasurable book of history (History of Woodbury & Cannon County, Tenn.) loaned to the Cannon Courier by lifelong Cannon County resident Bobby Womack.
The book was researched and written by the late great historian Sterling Spurlock Brown and published in 1936 by the old Doak Printing Company in nearby Manchester, Tenn.
"I've been told this book is worth several hundred dollars, just in monetary value," Womack accounted. "But in terms of historical value, it's a priceless publication I wish every high school student in Middle Tennessee could read."
Big John Smithson had children named Dave, John, Hulda, (who married Wiley Estes), and Calvin Smithson, a soldier in the Mexican War as a mere boy and later in the War Between the States.
According to author Brown, Calvin Smithson served in the 4th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment.
"He married a Miss Kersey," the author confirmed.
The Kersey family name was to become a controversial name in Short Mountain's Civil War annals due to the exploits of young Confederate guerrilla fighter Pomp Kersey, whose remains are buried today on Short Mountain.
The Smithson family played a big role in formation of early formal schooling in the region.
Calvin and the former Miss Kersey's son, R.L. Smith, became a teacher in Woodbury. And after R.L. Smithson's death his son, Morgan, was also an educator.
Big John's son Dave fathered a son, Dave Jr., who was blind, but in spite of his handicap, became "a noted Christian preacher," the history book records.
Brown described Big John's family eventual impact on Short Mountain and points below throughout Cannon County.
"This Smithson family has always been a prosperous people, owning valuable lands in the county," the author/historian noted. "Andrew Smithson was one of the most liberal purchasers of Liberty Bonds in aid of World War I. They have never sought public office, but are staunch Democrats and take active interest in elections. He is a livestock dealer and is market for almost all of the section."
BRADYVILLE: W.W. Gray was born the son of Samuel Gray and wife Ellen Sagely.
"His father, Samuel, was of Scotch-Irish descent and one of the pioneer settlers of Tennessee," author Brown confirmed. "He (Samuel) was a man of sterling qualities and upright character."
Son Wiley was born near Bradyville on Dec. 30, 1843 and is credited as one of the first settlers of the Bradyville community, building the first home there in 1784.
As of 1936, the author noted: "That house, a rugged log house, still stands and has the unique reputation of having been in three states and four counties. When built the state was North Carolina, then changed to the State of Franklin, and later to Tennessee.
"Wiley W. Gray came into young manhood the first year of the Civil War (1861), enlisted in the Southern cause and served four years," Brown noted. "He was twice wounded, first at New Hope Church in Georgia and later at Noonan, Ga."
His biggest impact locally, however, came back in his native birth region.
"More than a century of his life was spent in public office ... (Cannon County) trustee, county court clerk, and clerk & master," Brown reported.
He spent many more years as an educator in Woodbury public schools.
READYVILLE: "Early settlers in and around Readyville were Elam McKnight, Robert "Major" Bryson, Harry Duggin, Pressley Duggin, Munford Peyton, Burt Cooper, William Patrick, Armstead Francis, John Coffey Leach, Billy Leach, George Alexander and Wiley Davenport," historian Brown traced back in time.
Many of those family names remain alive and well in present-day life of Rutherford and Cannon counties, that share the community of Readyville, the first community in Rutherford County to get electricity, even before Murfreesboro.
Charles Ready was another noted early Readyville settler, who built the first mill at Readyville which was later owned and operated by Spence Talley, George Brandon, (who settled there in 1803), John Martin and Joshua Barton.
The Readyville Mill provided the water power to produce the first electricity recorded in Cannon and Rutherford counties.