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A Rich Heritage

by

Harley Hampton

 
 
 
 
 
Since I am the last surviving member of the Jonathan Charles Hampton family with roots remaining in Clay County, North Carolina, I have been asked to write an account of this pioneer family. J. Charles Hampton and his wife, Lillie, moved to the foot of the Shewbird Mountain at the head of the creek and the end of the road in 1849. This was about two and one half miles from Fort Hembree, the post office at that time.

Young J. Charles had been appointed as Deputy Sheriff and recruiting officer for the army in the eastern end of Cherokee County. This was twelve years before Clay County of Hayesville came into existence. I believe, looking in retrospect close to one hundred fifty years, that the smartest thing my grandfather ever did was to choose his good wife, Lillie Hannah Montieth, who had returned from Moravian Missionary School in Eastern North Carolina. They became engaged, but when he asked for Lillie's hand in marriage, he was told that no way would her parents consent for their daughter to move to the plantation on Little Brasstown where slaves were kept!

Thus, J. Charles Hampton gave up a life of comparative ease and purchased 120 acres of land in the Matheson Cove at the foot of Shewbird Mountain. I have a copy of the deed, dated 1848. A duplicate may be seen in Clay County Historical Building. The record shows that Grandfather paid $240 or $2 per acre. It also shows that Mr. Sanders, who originally purchased the land from the government had paid only $1 per acre or $120 for it. After clearing some of the land and building a nice log cabin with separate kitchen and fencing it, it doubled in value; however, I have never felt that my grandfather was overcharged!

War was not a threat after the compromise of 1850. J. Charles Hampton became an inactive reserve officer, stock raiser, blacksmith, and wagon maker. Grandmother Lillie was a teacher, a practical nurse, and a competent midwife.

When the War between the States broke out, my grandmother had three children, Alexander, twelve, Melissa, ten, and James six years old. Grandpa was called to active duty, but he didn't go to Canada. He went to a Virginia training camp near Bristol to meet the invading army of General Sherman in his attempted march to the sea. Up to this time, men with small children were not called, and Charles was promised a furlough by the end of the year when his fourth child was to be born. This furlough was not to be. He will always be thirty-two. He gave his life to protect his country against the atrocities, rape, and murder of an invading army. I love him as much as if he had been General Grant's right-hand man.

His fourth child was born January 15, a boy named Jonathan Charles Hampton for his father. This boy was my father. Many older natives of Clay County may recall "Uncle Charlie" who passed away in 1938 at the age of seventy-five. He has a record in the courthouse of jury duty and a record of being a member of the school board.

It is not my intention to eulogize either my father or my grandfather. No words of mine can either add or subtract from the life they lived. There are no words either for the high esteem that I hold for my widowed late grandmother. She raised four children, receiving the "huge" sum of twenty dollars a year as a pension. This benefit was eventually raised to fifty dollars a year. With the help of her growing children, she was able to make a living and educate her family. Two of her children were school teachers and one was a preacher.

One crowning joy of Grandmother's life was her granddaughter and namesake, who was known in Cherokee and Clay Counties as "Miss Lillie" Hampton Auberry. "Miss Lillie" Auberry passed away in January of 1979 at the age of eighty years. You see, this area had a "Miss Lillie" even before there was a Hayesville or Clay County.

I have met men in Masonic circles who, upon learning my name is Hampton, would ask, "Do you know Lillie Hampton Auberry?" When I told them she was my sister, they would shake my hand again, and say, "She was the best teacher I ever had."

Sister Lillie was Grandma's constant companion until she was eighty years old, when Grandma Lillie passed away. Grandma gave sister Lillie a good start in her "Learning." She could read, write, and spell when she started to school. She practically had the Blue Book Speller memorized. Before she was seventeen, she had a certificate to teach school. Back then, they didn't ask if you were a graduate fo higher learning. They gave you a test, and then a certificate if you passed.

Mr. Kline McClure has told me many times that "Miss Lillie" gave him a good start in the first grade. Many others will have pleasant memories of "Miss Lillie" when they read this report.

I heard Dr. Sullivan tell my sister Lillie, "You will have a big order to live up to the example of your grandmother Lillie. She was, no doubt, as fine a person as I have ever known. When she was the midwife, things were always in order when I arrived." Grandma would deliver a baby for two dollars, often taking her pay in dried fruit or some other commodity her family could use.

It is a faithful saying, "In order to have a friend, you must be a friend." This story has led me to believe that Grandpa was a good man to know. When a break came in the training of soldiers near Bristol, he would work for a fellow officer on his farm nearby as a blacksmith. Grandpa bought two pigs of a rare breed from England from this farmer friend, but he never got to go home and take his rare Pole and China pigs with him. He told his friend much about his family and Cherokee County. In order to aid Grandpa's widow, this friend crated the pigs, brought them by railroad to Cleveland, Tennessee, and then by wagon to Murphy where he was picked up and taken to Grandma's house.

The late Bob Cherry told me that those pigs were a great help to Grandmother. He said that you could buy an ordinary forty-pound pig for less than a dollar, but Grandma had a waiting list at five dollars each for this breeding stock. He also said he and his brohter Jim had bought more than 150 cured hams and shoulders out of Grandmother's smokehouse. When they ran a wagon to cities in Georgia, they would bring her a barrel of lamp oil and a good supply of matches. Matches, at that time, were a penny a piece -- no one cent a box. Many people had to borrow fire in those days. The dense forest of giant oaks and chestnut trees supplied ample food for the hogs and helped more than the government did in raising four children. This incident in the life of a pioneer family proves that God will work things out for those who honor him.

My Great-grampa allowed his wife and this missionary girl to teach Indians, whites, and blacks both boys and girls to read and write. In slave days, this was a "no, no." The policy was, "Keep the slaves dumb, and they will serve you better and are less likely to run away on the underground railway." They did escape. When the war was over, Great-grampa's wife had passed away, his horses were stolen, and his children had moved and established homes of their own. Miss Lillie, his daughter-in-law, was a widow with four children. The black boys, that she taught to sing "Jesus Loves Me" and to read, came back, brought others, and asked to be tenants on Great-grampa's farm. He even had more workers than before the war. They saw that he lacked for nothing and even took his name. Sometimes they walked from Little Brasstown to the Matheson Cove to visit "Miss Lillie" and get tracts, little books of the gospel, and Bible stories which she had received from John and Charles Wesley.

When I read in my Bible about the Celestial City, I imagine I hear my father, mother, and grandparents talking about their descendants. Grandma would say, "Well, Charlie, I feel I did the very best I could with the four fine children you left me. Our descendants have now scattered to more than a dozen states, even as far as the North Pole in Alaska. With very few exceptions, they have all been very fine citizens."

My mother would say, "I am happy to be a part of this Christian family. Look Grandma, you have a big, friendly grandson right here where Grandpa had to leave you."

This grandson, after finishing college and seminary, was called to be pastor of Truett Memorial Baptist Church in Hayesville -- the Reverend Charles Jones. His mother was a Hampton and a member of our clan. Of an estimated three hundred descendants of this missionary girl, this example has been repeated many times by those who have given their lives in full-time service in the Lord's work.

This rich heritage of this pioneer family has meant much in my own life, and I trust it will mean much to all who read this account. May we all be humble in facing the challenge that is set before us.

Harley Hampton
Hayesville, North Carolina

This site is dedicated to the memory of my parents, Tommy and Beulah (Cline) Nipper.

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