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Ancestor of the Month   

February, 2006               

                                     

Sophia Bosley

b.1789      d.13 Jul 1857

 

 

Sophia Bosley (1789-13 July 1857), wife of Thomas J. Ogle (1784-1862) would probably fit in just as well in the twenty-first century as she did in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth.  An examination of her life shows that she must have been a determined, strong, adaptable woman who could survive—and prevail—almost  anywhere.

 

Early Life

 

Born in MD in 1789, Sophia somehow ended up in SC.  No information on her family has been found so far.  There were Bosley families in the Edgefield-Abbeville-District 96 region of SC around the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and probably Sophia belonged to one of these groups who had migrated earlier from Maryland.  Apparently there are five major branches of Bosleys, and perhaps one day we will be able to place Sophia on her proper twig.

 

In 1803, Sophia was fourteen years old, and Thomas J. Ogle was nineteen. Something about her attracted Thomas’ eye—perhaps her distinctive red hair.  (In the 1980’s a relative pointed Sophia out to me on a family pedigree chart that Uncle Earl had made and told me that Sophia was known for her red hair.  Thus, even that far into the future, [almost two hundred years] Sophia’s hair was still known.  Could it be that our red-headed aunt has Sophia’s hair?)  Whatever the reason—beauty, personality, or red hair--there was an attraction between the couple.

 

Eighteen hundred three had been an eventful year for Thomas.  His grandfather died; his father died; he made a long trip with his family to Virginia to visit his grieving relatives, and now, in 1804, his mother wanted to take the family west to the wilderness of the East Tennessee mountains.  That would mean leaving Sophia.  We would probably not be too far from reality in guessing that his marriage proposal was one of the “O, come with me and be my love,” varieties. 

 

No matter how much she loved him, Sophia needed to have been brave, too. The trip would be long. She would be far from her family. There was danger from animals and unfriendly Indians.  Maybe Thomas pled his case for a long time or maybe Sophia agreed right away.  Whichever happened, the two were married, and off they trekked with the rest of the Ogle, Huskey, and McCarter clans to Tennessee.

 

Life in Tennessee

 

The group named the new area White Oak Flats after the flat lands along the river and the White Oaks that grew there.  It remained White Oak Flats until the Civil War era when it became Gatlinburg.

 

Sophia and Thomas had fourteen children, all born in Sevier County.  They were:  Easter (Years later Easter’s husband would be the first person buried in White Oak Flats), Martha, William T, Nancy (from whom we descended), Harkless T, Thomas T, Mary, Isaac T, Marriah, Eliza, Preston, Levi, Caleb, Sophia, and Elvira.  The fourteen children alone are enough to attest to Sophia’s strength and stamina.

 

 (A note about names:  There were so many Ogles and so many of them named their children the same names that for a number of years from the second generation on, the males took their fathers’ first initial as their own middle initial in order to avoid confusion.  Thus Isaac T. was “Isaac, son of Thomas.” Young men such as Preston, Levi, and Caleb did not need to follow the custom since their names were more unique in the family.  Also: Harkless, in its many spellings, is a corruption of Hercules).

 

Sophia’s Religious Life

 

Sophia was a farmer’s wife, but her husband fared well and acquired land from his father, from purchases, from a grant for his service in the  War of 1812 and the Indian wars, and even by seizing and occupying unclaimed land.  When Thomas donated the first land for the White Oak Flats church, Sophia may have been in the background.  She was a very religious woman and met weekly with a group of other women of the settlement to pray that God would send them a minister of their own and a church of their own. 

 

Sophia’s mother-in-law, Martha Jane Huskey Ogle (1760/64-1825/26), led a group of people who petitioned the Forks of the River Baptist Church in Sevierville to establish a branch of that church in Gatlinburg.  That fledgling church was formed in 1817, but no church building was built until 1855.   Sophia and Thomas were charter members of the original White Oak Flats church group, but Sophia still campaigned for a “real” church of their own.

 

One of the stories about Sophia’s steadfast drive for a minister and church is a little hard to believe.  The story says that for years she led prayer meetings with a group of women every week in a laurel grove.  The problem is not with the prayer meeting; I am sure she held those.  The problem is with those trees.  Years ago people in the Smokies called rhododendron laurel, and they called mountain laurel ivy.  Rhododendron and laurel both grow so thickly in the mountains that large patches are sometimes called slicks.  They are almost impossible to get through.  The rhododendron is usually taller than mountain laurel, but both are shrubs or bushes with branches going all the way to the ground.  Neither would be considered a tree.    I can’t remember ever hearing anyone speak of a "laurel grove” in the mountains.  I don’t think these women were sitting out under laurel of any kind having a prayer meeting.  Near them, maybe, but I’ll bet the shade came from something else.  I’ve written to the National Park Service to check out possible other laurel trees in the Smokies (i.e.:  European laurel), but have not heard from them yet.  (I suspect that this question is not their most pressing issue at this time.  I’ll let you know as soon as I hear.  Who knows…maybe the women did sit in a laurel grove.)

(In a telephone interview in July 2006, Tim Remailey of the National Park Service, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, agreed that sitting in a laurel grove was unlikely.  However, Remailey suggested that the group may have met in a rock outcropping surrounded by laurel.  Such outcroppings are beautiful places and are fairly common in the Smokies.)

 

Second part of the story.  (I believe this, but I don’t want to do so.) According to the book Sketches of Tennessee’s Pioneer Baptist Preachers, Sophia, her family, and her steadfast friends WALKED FOURTEEN MILES EACH SATURDAY AND SUNDAY from White Oak Flats to Sevierville where the Forks of the River church was located, carrying their shoes to keep them from getting muddy, and then WALKED FOURTEEN MILES back home again.  That’s fifty-six miles per weekend!  Perhaps they only walked those miles from 1804 until 1817, but that would still show that she was definitely a determined woman.

 

Sophia’s prayers were finally answered.  Her third son, William T, became a minister.  He was ordained at Bethel Church in Sevier County in 1836.  It had taken Sophia about 30 years of praying to get “their own minister.”  A few years later, Caleb, another of Sophia’s sons, became a minister, too.  She was also the great aunt of Richard Evans, a highly respected pioneer minister.  She may have influenced a number of other young relatives to enter the ministry, for a quick count of our assorted Ogle cousins reveals at least nineteen Ogle ministers during the nineteenth century.

 

End of Life

 

Sophia died 13 July 1857 at sixty-eight years of age.  She and her husband had been married over fifty years.    Thomas J. outlived his wife by five years, dying at age 78 in 1862.  They are buried in White Oak Flats Cemetery in Gatlinburg. 

 

Sophia was a strong, determined woman.  She was an early “western pioneer”; she endured hardships; she raised fourteen children; she shared a long marriage with her husband, and she made a pronounced effect on religion in the community.  She made a difference.

 

Sophia Bosley is Papaw’s great grandmother.  She is the mother of Nancy Ogle who is Marriah Reagan’s mother.  Marriah is Papaw’s mother. 

 

Line of Descent from Sophia Bosley to Rev. Eli McCarter

 

Sophia Bosley (1794-1857) + Thomas J. Ogle (1784-1862)

Nancy Ogle (1810-1844) + Daniel Wesley Reagan (1802-1892)

Marriah Reagan (1842-1923) + Thomas Hill McCarter (1846-1923)

Rev. Eli McCarter (1886-1955) + Mary Elizabeth Hatcher (1889-1969)

 

 Sources:

 

Burnett, J. J.  Sketches of Tennessee’s Pioneer Baptist Preachers.  Nashville, TN:  Press of Marshall and Bruce, Co., 1919.  pp.397-398

 

Greve, Jeanette.  The Story of Gatlinburg (New York: Vintage, 1931; reprint Nashville: Premium Press America, 2003).

 

Reagan, Donald B.  Smoky Mountain Clans.  Vol I  Knoxville, TN, 1983. pp. 154-156.

 

Smokykin.com htm.

 

 

 

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