Daniel Smith of Rock Castle

Daniel Smith was born October 29, 1748, in Stafford County, Virginia, to Henry and Sarah Crosby Smith. He grew up on a plantation in Virginia. He studied “physic” or medicine with Dr. Thomas Walker while living at the Walker home, Castle Hill, in
Albemarle County, Virginia.

He most likely acquired his education in other fields also such as surveying, law, and mathematics from Walker as well. After being licensed as a surveyor by the College of William and Mary. Smith took up that profession and began his work in 1770.

In 1773 Daniel married Sarah Michie. They had two children, their son, George, born in 1776, married Tabitha Donelson, oldest daughter of Captain John Donelson, III. Their daughter, Mary Ann (Polly) married Samuel Donelson, Rachel Jackson's brother.

In 1784, Daniel Smith completed surveying land boundaries in Middle Tennessee for the state of North Carolina. For his work he received a land grant of 3,140 acres in the Cumberland valley in Tennessee which at that time was a part of North Carolina.

To claim his land, he brought his family to Tennessee and began the construction of Rock Castle.

Much of the construction of the house was supervised by Sarah Smith as well as plantation management. The reason for this was that Daniel's surveying trips took a lot of time to complete and this was his occupation. Most of their married life, he had to be gone surveying.

In 1784, Smith was called upon to help survey the city of Nashville.

In 1785 he was one of nine trustees appointed for Davidson Academy, the first institution of higher learning in Nashville.

In 1793 Daniel Smith authored a pamphlet on the new Tennessee territory, which was followed by his map of the land west of the Cumberland Mountains and its many water courses. This map was widely published well into the nineteenth century.

In the middle 1790's, Samuel Donelson started courting the 13 year old Mary Smith. Samuel was the younger brother of Rachel Jackson, the wife of future President Andrew Jackson. Samuel and Polly were in love, so when he told Daniel Smith he wanted to marry Polly, her father forbid it. When Polly became 15, Daniel was threatening to send her to a young ladies finishing school. He had already paid money and was getting ready to send her off. That is when Polly, Samuel Donelson, and brother-in-law Andrew Jackson came up with a plan for Samuel and Polly to elope.

In the late spring of 1796, a tree was used to gain access to an upper bedroom where Mary stayed. Mary was ready and when they arrived, she climbed through the window and made her escape. They were married at Samuel's sister Rachel's house. Later Andrew Jackson came back to the Smiths home and told them what had happened.

Andrew was afraid of what the Smiths would do to him, but he felt it was his duty to inform them of their daughter's decision. It resulted in strained relations between all parties concerned. The tree was cut to the ground, but the differences were later resolved when Daniel was presented with his first grandson.

In addition to being a well-known surveyor of the North Carolina (now Tennessee) boundaries and of Davidson County, Daniel served as a Captain in the Revolutionary War, Brigadier General of the Mero District, Secretary of the Territory of the United States Southwest of the River Ohio, chairman of the committee to draft the constitution of Tennessee, United States Senator, and Indian treaty negotiator.

In 1798 he was appointed to serve Andrew Jackson’s remaining term in the United States Senate. He then ran for the Senate in 1805 and defeated the incumbent, William Cocke. He resigned from the senate in 1809 because of bad health and returned to Rock Castle.

Daniel Smith died in 1818 at his home. Sarah Smith died in 1831, and both are buried in the family cemetery on the grounds of Rock Castle.


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