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    Dec 2004
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    John Simon Masters was born in Virgnia on March 12, 1801. He was
    the youngest son of Hillery and Mary (Davies) Masters, and came to this
    section of Tennessee, then Jackson County, (now Overton) as an infant,
    soon after the turn of the century around the year 1803, when his parents
    crossed over the Cumberland Mountains and settled on a track of land near
    Roaring River, Northwest of the present community of Windel, on what was
    later known as the Hardy place. It is family tradition that Hillery
    Masters had secured a land grant from the State of North Carolina for
    640 acres of land for his services as a soldier in the Revolutionary War
    but no public records of his titles to this land have been found by the
    writer. Perhaps these deeds were recorded in Jackson County and the
    records destroyed when the Courthouse at Gainesboro burned.

    The era in the life of John S. Masters, 1801 - 1866, marks a very
    important and colorful period in the history of our state and nation.
    Overton County was established on September 11, 1806 by an Act of the
    General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, five years after he was born.
    This county was carved out of a section of the eastern part of Jackson
    County and a section of the state known as the Wilderness, or the Indian
    Reservation, until the Treaty of Tellico in 1805.

    John S. grew to manhood during an era when pioneer life and living
    was a reality and the ways of life and making a living required much toil,
    endurance and determination. He had all the qualities necessary to
    succeed in the new country. He grew to manhood during a period of our
    history when many changes were being made in our country and way of life.
    Many men who had received grants of land for their services in the
    Revolutionary War were coming in to claim titles to their land and
    establish homes in this large new country.

    There was much work to be done around the homes in the wilderness -
    homes were to be built, land cleared and fenced, the raising of a crop of
    corn and the caring for horses and cattle which were permitted to graze
    at large. The work around the Masters home followed after the general
    pattern in this section at that time.

    The amount of education he received and the schools he attended have
    not been determined. He no doubt attended the schools of his day which
    were in his reach, which probably were the subscription schools. He no
    doubt attended schools at Mt. Gilead and the Old Field school located a
    short distance west of Mt. Gilead.

    He no doubt attended the house raisings, the log rollings and other
    activities which mixed work and social life, when it was calculated that
    there would be plenty to eat and drink. Hunting was another sport that
    could not be overlooked. Although the buffalo and most of the bears had
    disappeared when he came along, there were deer, turkeys and many of the
    fur-bearing animals which had marketable pelts, and too, there was some
    good fishing in the creeks and rivers.

    Revival meetings were common in this section of the country when he
    was a young man, but if he took any part in religious worship we have no
    record or tradition of it.

    John S. Masters was married to Miss. Judith Barbara Riley on
    September 22, 1827, after he had passed his 26th birthday, and she had
    reached the age of 16 years. She was the beautiful and attractive
    daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Riley, who lived in the Flynns Lick
    community, on the Cumberland River in Jackson County, Tennessee. Henry
    Riley was a maker of hats which were noted for their long wear. A story
    has been told that he made a man a hat and agreed to accept one dollar
    down and one dollar a year as long as he wore the hat. After twelve
    years he brought the hat back to Riley, saying he was tired of wearing

    Judith Barbara (Riley) Masters was a woman noted for her industry
    and skills. Rearing a large family occupied all of her time and she was
    never idle. --Rearing children, carding, spinning, weaving and making
    clothes for a large family, cooking and keeping house. She was very
    dextrous when working with her hands and did some very fancy needlework
    and quilting. Joe Masters once said that he remembered hearing someone
    say that some of her patchwork and needlework was so good that bees
    would come and light on it, as it looked like flowers. In latter years
    she was forced to slow down on account of arthritis in her hands which
    so twisted her fingers that she was forced to give up sewing and

    Ridley Masters says that he remembers his grandmother Barbara and
    that when she became old and her hands crippled by arthritis, that she
    passed much time reading the Bible and that she read the "Good Book"
    through seven times. He stated that she sometimes would read all day,
    and that as a small boy he remembers standing by her rocking chair and
    listen to her read the scriptures.

    Ridley Masters states that his grandmother was a rather large woman
    and enjoyed good health on into old age and that after she was old that
    she would walk and go to see her daughters, Mrs. Malinda Gore and Mrs.
    Margaret Savage who lived in the Walnut Grove community about four miles

    John S. Masters did not believe in slavery, therefore he owned no
    slaves as did many of his neighbors, but he did have sons who could do a
    good job, so to this end he raised as much corn as he could for bread
    for the family and for the hogs, horses and cows.

    The early settlers who came into this wilderness area from East
    Tennessee and the Carolinas, brought with them not only their household
    and other movable property, but also their still, skills and tastes.
    After planting their crops and setting their orchards, they readied
    their stills for the making of brandy and whiskey which came as
    naturally with them as tanning hides, making soap, hewing logs, building
    houses and rearing large families.

    The pioneers of this section had many uses for good whiskey. It
    was served as a medicine and tonic. It loosened the tongues of
    politicians and a few of the preachers, it added to the enjoyment of
    weddings and tempered the sorrow at funerals. It was also found at
    log-rollings and house-raisings, and also used in lieu of cash in
    trading in general. Whiskey was to many people what tranquilizers,
    anesthetics and rubbing alcohol are today. It was good for colds,
    chills, fever and fatigue. It was used as a remedy for snakebites,
    for arthritis and to make camphor.

    The quality of corn whiskey made by John S. Masters was such that
    he could have a ready market for all that he could make in one still
    house, so he erected a second. A reference to one of his still houses
    is found in the deed of Hiram M. and Hannah (Gore) Allen to John
    Masters, 15 acres for $15.00, for the use of John S. Masters during the
    lifetime of Hannah Allen. During the age and in the area where John S.
    Masters lived and was distilling whiskey, cash was scarce and hard to
    come by, but John S. Masters managed to accumulate a small fortune,
    which in the end, it seems, failed to benefit him or his family.

    He made and sold much liquor and accumulated a sizable amount of
    cash in gold and silver. He loaned Joseph Goodbar, his brother-in-law,
    who married his sister Nancy Masters, the sum of $3,000 in cash, which
    Goodbar invested in the dry goods business just before the Civil War
    started and he was unable to repay the loan. Robert S. Masters stated
    to the writer that he remembers seeing his father with a large bucket
    full of gold and silver, which it was thought by members of the family
    that he buried during the war.

    The period during and just after the War Between the States were
    trying times for many. Bands of guerillas and bushwhackers, both
    Confederate and Federal, were operating back and forth across the
    country pillaging, robbing, stealing and killing. If a family had
    some money, which few did, it was not safe to keep it around the home,
    and there were no banks. So the safest place, many thought, to keep it
    was to bury it. He had buried the bucket of money once, and his son,
    John H. had found it while digging for worms for fish bait near the
    smoke house. He buried this bucket again one night while it was
    raining, and Robert S. the youngest son, stated that to his knowledge,
    his mother or any other member of the family ever found this money.

    John S. Masters became ill, almost suddenly, with pneumonia, and
    his condition became worse. He tried hard to tell his wife and family
    something, but in his condition they were not able to understand what
    he wanted to tell them. Many thought that he was trying to tell them
    where he had hidden his money, but he died without being able to make
    them understand and his wife, who lived about nineteen years longer,
    never knew.

    He died on Christmas Day, 1866. His body was laid to rest in the
    Masters family cemetery, not far from the home. In 1885 his wife was
    buried by his side. A period of one hundred and one years passed
    before a monument was placed to mark their graves. Money to purchase
    this monument was raised through the efforts of a grandson, Riley
    Masters, who secured donations from the descendants of this man who has
    become the paternal ancestor of a large and wonderful family in Overton
    County, Tennessee.



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