Ancestor of the Month
The purpose of these articles on our ancestors has been to recognize and acknowledge ancestors we might not otherwise
have identified because, in most cases, their names are something other than McCarter.
McCarter ancestors named McCarter are fairly easy to recognize. Nevertheless,
since this month calls attention to Gatlinburg, perhaps it is fitting that we should spotlight a McCarter McCarter
James McCarter is the progenitor of most if not all the Sevier County, TN McCarters. His life is almost devoid of historical information when compared to many of our other ancestors. In addition to the general lack of information, what information there might have
been was probably destroyed in the Sevier County courthouse fire of 1854. We
are, however, able to glean and surmise some of the events of his life.
James is reckoned to be the son of William McCarter of Abbeville County, SC. and an unknown wife. At this time the relationship between James and William still has not been proven. William was the son of Moses and Catren (Evans?) McCarter of York County, PA. He was born 27 Jan 1758 and moved with his family to Hawfields, NC and then to York
County, SC. William married his first wife there, around the beginning of the Revolutionary War in 1776, and they had six
children. Apparently only two of the children survived: Joseph (1780-5 Nov 1864) and our James.
Mother and Stepmother
In c1790, when James was about eight or nine years old, his mother died. Family
tradition says that she was killed by Indians. A mother’s death, especially
a violent one, would, of course, be traumatic for a young boy. Very shortly after his first wife died or was killed, William remarried. His new wife was Isabella Carson. At
that time William was about 33 and Isabella was about 26-31. We do not know Isabella’s
reaction to her ready-made family. Hopefully she embraced the motherless boys
as her own. Perhaps, on the other hand, she considered them in the way. Whatever the case, William and his new wife shortly thereafter began their own family,
This meant an age difference of nine years existed between the new baby and James. Possibly
there were some conflicts. William and Isabella went on to have nine children
of their own; thus, with James and Joseph, that made a family of eleven children.
Since there is no historical indication of any dissension in the family, we can surmise that Isabella was indeed a loving
mother to James and Joseph
The highlighted paragraphs above and below are incorrect. Our William did NOT marry
a second time. The William McCarter who married Isabella Carson was the son of Abraham McCarter, not Moses
When James was about eighteen years old, he married Rebecca Ogle, (1782-c1880) daughter of William (Old Billy)(1751-1803)
and Martha Jane Huskey Ogle (1756-1825/26). By this time there were two younger brothers and a younger sister at James’
father’s house (See note
above)James was probably
more than ready to be on his own. The year was about 1800, and a time of much upheaval was to about occur in the family.
The Lure of Land Ownership
Veterans of the Revolutionary War were often given tracts of land for their service. Family tradition says that William Ogle went to TN to scout out his land.
(It is interesting to note that some sources say “most” of the heads of household in early White Oak Flats
[now Gatlinburg, TN] were Revolutionary veterans who came there because of land grants.) While he was there, William cleared
an area, cut and notched logs for a cabin, and came home with tales of the “Land of Paradise” that he had found. He wanted to take his family there.
No doubt James and Rebecca were intrigued by these stories. By
1803 they had two sons, William and Isaac. Their family was growing, and they
needed to look to the future.
Land west of the mountains was inexpensive or even free. In
some cases people could take over a piece of land and claim it for their own if there were no other claimants. Land had always been a way of accumulating wealth, and to James and Rebecca’s eyes, moving across
the mountains probably seemed the logical thing to do. It might be too difficult
on their own, but if they went with Rebecca’s family, they would more likely be safe.
Unfortunately, William Ogle’s dreams to take his family to TN were destroyed when he succumbed to
a typhoid epidemic that swept South Carolina in 1803. In his will, William left
Rebecca some livestock, furniture, and other items. He also left his “beloved
grandson William” a sow. Grandson Isaac was not named in the will because
he probably had not been born when his grandfather had made out the document.
Also during1803, James and Rebecca learned from a letter to her mother that her maternal grandfather,
Thomas Ogle, had also died that year. Martha Jane took her family to Virginia
to pay a bereavement call on her in-laws. She returned home by way of Grainger
Co., TN where she visited Hercules Ogle, her brother-in-law.
When she returned to South Carolina, Martha Jane had determined to continue with her husband’s plans
and take her family to TN. James and Rebecca were probably delighted since they
wanted to take their family, too. Soon Martha Jane’s brother, Peter Huskey,
and his extended family signed on. Finally a total of forty-two documented people
agreed to make up the wagon train across the mountains. They sold their lands
and prepared to go.
James and Rebecca knew that they must have help both on the trip and after they arrived. They would have to build a cabin, plant crops, guard against hostile Indians, and face all sorts of hardships. James turned at once to his brother Joseph who also agreed to go along and help. I have no proof for this next statement, but I believe James also convinced
his Uncle Moses McCarter, Jr. to accompany them on the trip. My reasons are these: 1) James and Rebecca needed help. They
had an infant and a toddler and James and Joseph would be hard pressed to do all that was required to build a house and farm. 2) Moses, Jr. ended up in TN, and what a good way this traveling party would be to
get there. 3) Moses, Jr. was drafted for the Sevier Co. militia in the War of
1812, so he had to have been living there for a while, where better than with James and Rebecca?
(A descendant of James brother Joseph has informed us that according to records in a family Bible,
Joseph ran away from home when he was about sixteen years old and went to Jefferson County, TN. He did wind up in Sevier
Co., TN and is buried there in the Proffit Cemetery.)
In any event, the McCarters, Huskeys, and Ogles set
out for the Smoky Mountains in
1804. They had livestock, household belongings, food supplies, tools, and must
have made a grand but cumbersome spectacle.
After arriving at Billy Ogle’s cleared area at the mouth of what was later named Baskins Creek,
James, Joseph (and maybe Moses, Jr.), and the Huskey men helped Martha Jane and her family get a cabin built, and then they
James and Rebecca moved to a wilderness region to the Northeast.
They probably split away from the Huskey families when the combined group reached Roaring Fork Creek. They followed Roaring Fork Creek to Dudley Creek to Horse Branch Creek before stopping to settle on Big
Ridge where they would build their home and farm. The Huskeys probably continued
to follow the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River to Walden’s Creek where they settled.
Life was hard. There were no towns close by. Their nearest neighbor, Rebecca’s mother, lived at least six miles away. They were on their own. They had to build their own house,
plant crops, see to the animals they had brought with them, and in general, survive.
Rebecca was heavily burdened. In addition to her other “women’s
work,” she also had an infant and a toddler to watch over and soon another baby was on the way.
McCarter Life Continues
In 1805, the year after James and Rebecca built their cabin, a new son, John, arrived. The next baby died, but he was followed by Joseph, Thomas, James, Jr. and Jeremiah, all of whom survived. Seven healthy boys were an asset on a farm.
James’ brother, Joseph, was a wanderer of sorts. After he helped James and Rebecca settle into their
new home (if he did), he moved from Sevier Co and lived in Jefferson, Knox, and Monroe counties before returning to
Sevier. During this time he was married twice and had children with each of his
wives. He died in 1864 and is buried in Sevier Co.
In 1812 James’ Uncle Moses, Jr. was drafted for the War of 1812.
He may have still lived with James and Rebecca at that time (if he ever did), or he may have established a place of
his own. It is likely he had moved to Sevierville, the closest town, since it
would have had more social life and economic opportunities than a single house in the wilderness. In any event, he served as a militia man in a company under Captain Porter in a regiment commanded by an
illegible name in General William Carroll’s division of Tennessee Drafted Militia.
He served from 10 Nov 1814 to10 Nov 1815. After the war he lived in Jefferson
County, TN He died sometime after 1827.
In the meantime, James and Rebecca continued to eke out a living in the area that would come to be known
as Cartertown. James died at around 33 to 35 years of age. Even in those long ago times, that is a relatively young age. Learning
his cause of death would be interesting. He may have been involved in an accident at that young age, or he may have simply
worked himself to death trying to survive or trying to improve the future for his children.
There is some mystery about the date of his death as well. Tradition says
that he died after the birth of his youngest son. His youngest son, Jeremiah,
was born 3 Mar 1815. Considering that “a little after” could mean
anything from a few days to a couple of years, we may never know his actual date of death.
Some old sources say that James was killed during the Mexican War. A quick
look at the dates shows this would be impossible. It is possible, however, that
he might have been killed in the War of 1812 since that war was still going on after the birth of Jeremiah, but so far nothing
has been found to substantiate this possibility. Tradition says that James was
buried in the Cartertown Cemetery, and if that is correct, then he was not killed in the War of 1812.
Rebecca married again in 1818. Her new husband was Middleton Whaley, and she and Middleton had three children
James McCarter lived a short but
active life. He may never have achieved fame, but in one way he achieved greatness: All of us who claim McCarter heritage with roots in Sevier Co. owe our existence to
Reagan, Donald B. Smoky Mountain Clans, Vol. II and III, 1983
McCarter Family Charts and Traditions
Dodgen, Rel. “The Story of Early Gatlinburg: A talk by Rellie Dodgen at the Gatlinburg Rotary Club, May 22, 1959": Gatlinburg
(TN) Press, (Thursday, Jan 28,1971), n.p.
Jeanette. The Story of Gatlinburg (New York: Vintage, 1931; reprint Nashville: Premium Press America, 2003).
“Introduction to Gatlinburg History”. Gatlinburg Dept. of Tourism.htm.