By Mary Hardin McCown
U.S.D., 1812, Tennessee
On the right hand side of the highway, leading from Gray’s Station to Fordtown, and due south of the south fork of the Holston River in Washington County, Tennessee, nestles a quaint old frame house with a massive old chimney built of limestone blocks, this was the homestead of Micajah Hodges, a soldier in the War of 1812. This old house was originally built of hand-hewn logs. Two stories and attic high, it consisted of two lower and two upper rooms with a hall running the entire length of the house between the two rooms. The ceilings below were beamed with hand-hewn rafters. A narrow porch is across the rear of the house with two steps leading down to the path to the spring at the lower end of the broad yard. In later years, as the family of Micajah increased, he built another side of the house and a porch all around two sides. The road in front of the house going from Fordtown to Spurgeon’s Ford was abandoned and the new road was to one side so the front became the back and vice versa. In later years the log house was converted with clipboards, and today, the massive old limestone rock chimney alone proclaims it is a centenarian.
Micajah Hodges was born Sept. 1, 1795, and was reared in the “Fork Counrty” lying between the fork made by the Watauga and Holston rivers, at Hall’s Fork, Washington County, Tennessee. His parents were of Irish descent. On Jan. 28, 1818, he was married to Elizabeth Gray (born Feb. 4, 1789), of Scotch parentage. Their first home was a small house on his father’s land. Soon after their marriage, he bought the site of the present plantation, which was then practically all in virgin forest. There was a small clearing and upon this spot he built his log home.
This house was the scene of much life in the ensuring years, for to Micajah and Elizabeth were born fourteen children, the oldest, Robert, born in 1819, and in line, Isable, Abby Jane, William W., Nancy, Sary, Mahlon Mead, Emily, Mary, Elizabeth Minerva, John Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Edna, and Orlena Josephine, in 1840. Micajah evidently was most patriotic when he gave to two of his sons the names of both the discoverer and the father of our country. Another noteworthy fact is that his will (on record in the Washington County Courthouse) mentions all except three of his children as living at time of his death in 1881, at the good old age of 85 years and 10 months.
When war was declared against England in 1812, Micajah was only sixteen or seventeen years of age, yet he responded to the call to arms. He served as a private in Capt. James Landen’s Co., 4thRegiment (Bayless) East Tenn. Militia. His service commenced Nov. 13, 1814, and ended May 18, 1815. Several of his neighbors were his comrades. Some of those he talked of in later years were James Fitzgerald, Abram Gregg, Benjamin Darry and his own brother Howell Hodges. He loved to talk of their experiences during the days he was with the army in Mississippi, and in Mobile. It must have stirred his children’s and grandchildren’s hearts to hear him tell how once, for nine days, he lived upon one pint of shelled, parched corn and the sustenance obtained from the inside of pine bark, peeled with a small hatchet he carried with him all through his service. This small hatchet is a prized possession of the wife of his son, John Christopher Columbus, who was the last of his children to die. In after years, Micajah loved to tell of the duels fought by Andrew Jackson, and he remembered that Jackson fought two at Jonesboro – one with Waightstill Avery, and another with a man whose name was forgotten.
He wished his children to have educational advantages which he had not had. Although he signed his will with “X,” his mark, he told that he literally blazed the trail through the woods from his plantation to Douglas’ Shed several miles distant, the site of the nearest school.
Having settled in the new house in the still newer country, the problem arose of meeting the payments on the farm of 200 acres and also meeting the needs of his growing family. He operated boats down the Holston River as far as Knoxville, to transport the wheat of the surrounding farmers, as well as his own. Once during a severe storm a tree was blown across the boat, striking Hodges and a companion, Martin Kitzmiller. The third man on board managed to land the boat, and dragging the two unconscious men ashore, he went for help. Upon his return, Kitzmiller was pronounced dead, but Hodges, who had been lying with the rain failing on his face, had revived. In this accident, he suffered a fractured skull and a broken hip, which made him lame. He had the other leg broken a short time after, so that for the last 40 years of his life he went on crutches.
Continued next week.