Micajah Thomas Legacy – Early Nash County


Submitted by:  Margaret Strickland

Posted:  30 April 2010

Copyright: Margaret Strickland

(click on photo to enlarge)

Micajah Thomas’s legacy to the little community known as Nash Court House began on April Fools Day in 1778. He owned all of the land where Nashville, NC, the county seat of Nash County, was later built. Micajah Thomas held court in his home on April 1, and was known as the first Clerk of Court.

This story begins with what transpired after he wrote his will in 1788. Micajah had been married 5 June 1776 to Elizabeth Crawford of Surry County, VA. He left his natural daughter, Mary Crawford Thomas, “all my land on the north side of Roanoak River in Northampton County ” [NC]. His second marriage was on 7 June 1778 to Anne Hawkins, daughter of Philemon Hawkins of Bute Co., NC. The couple had two children that died after living only a few months. Anne died 12 March 1781 in Nash Co. at the age of 26. It was after this that Micajah took as his companion Ann Jackson by whom he had three daughters: twin girls, Margaret and Mourning, aged 3 at the time of his death in the fall of 1788, and Temperance, only 1 year old.  Ann had four base born children by another man. The history of these four children is not known.

Wealthy Landowner

Micajah was one of the wealthiest land owners in the Western half of Edgecombe Co. in 1777 when Nash County was cut from this area. He also owned 5,000 acres in Tennessee. He requested in his will that his executors finish the house in the old field he was building for his companion, Ann Jackson, and his three daughters. Ann was to receive “as many servants and other necessaries as will be sufficient for the support of herself and children. … I further desire and direct that my said friends [NATHAN BODDIE, WILLIAM BODDIE, BENJAMIN HAWKINS and SHADRACK RUTLAND] may see that my said daughters have good education and brought up in a genteel manner at their discretion as to the manner and form.” The three girls were left plantations between 3,000 and 5,000 acres apiece.

This saga does not end here. Nashville was not chartered until 1815. It is unfortunate that Micajah Thomas did not have the opportunity to see the little community grow. But like all things in politics, nothing moves rapidly. There were complaints from the nearby residents to the General Assembly that all this land owned by one family would never be broken up into town lots. The General Assembly appointed two committees to check into those complaints. The first committee needed to establish if the town of Nashville should remain where it now stood or be removed to a new area to include 50 lots. The second committee was given the authority to mark off and sell lots to the highest bidders on credit for nine months. It seems that all of the original complaints to the General Assembly were unfounded. The original site was never moved and on the ninth day of April 1816 John Alston and wife Margaret Thomas Jackson Alston deeded the necessary 50 acres to the Nash County Commissioners. This property had been left to Margaret by her father, Micajah Thomas. Individual sale of lots did not begin until 2 April 1820. Later the Thomas House is referred to in deeds as “the old dwelling.”

Ann Jackson

William Arrington was appointed by the court as guardian for Thomas’s daughters, Margaret Thomas Jackson, Mourning Thomas Jackson and Temperance Thomas Jackson. He evidently moved in with their mother, Ann Jackson, as her companion, because they conceived a daughter, Mary. In February of 1792, Ann Jackson became Mrs. William Arrington. The couple had other children.

When did Ann Jackson Arrington leave this scene? No one knows exactly. We do know that Ann and William Arrington sold a piece of property to James Alston in 1803. Sometime after this date William married Mary (Battle). He died in the fall of 1812.

William Arrington said that “my daughter Mary being born not in wedlock and that my dying without a will she would not heir with my other children, it is my will and desire that she my daughter Mary should heir with the rest of my children, as tho she had been born in wedlock,” witnessed by Wood Tucker, Philemon Bennett, and John H. Harrison.

Thomas House

The Thomas House later became the Carolina Hotel. It would have had many tales to tell if the walls could talk. There were 10 bedrooms. Keep in mind there was no central heat, neither running water nor electricity. The only light was from the oil lamps used along with washstands in each room. A carriage was sent to meet the passenger train. People were summoned to dinner by the clanging of the dinner bell. In 1936, after 76 years, the Carolina Hotel was no longer functioning. It was moved to the back of Elm Street, boarded up, and later destroyed.

If you walked down Elm Street in Nashville, NC today, would you hear echoes from the past: the excitement of little children running through the halls of the old Thomas House; the clanging of the old dinner bell in the Carolina Hotel; conversations between Micajah Thomas and Ann Jackson? Would you be able to answer the questions: What happened to Ann Jackson? Where was she buried? Where were Micajah, his wife Anne Hawkins Thomas and his sister Bathsheba buried? Micajah Thomas’s legacy to the little community of Nash Court House lives on and the saga continues until answers are found.

(References: Micajah Thomas Will [Nash Co. NC Wbk I, pgs 50 thru 53]; Internet genealogy of Anne Cotton & John Thomas of Bertie Precinct, NC; Nash Co NC Dbk 9, pages 313 & 314; Nashville Graphic, Nashville, NC, April 29, 1999; Nash County North Carolina Court Minutes, Vol IV & Vol VII by Timothy W. Rackley; “I’m Thinking,” by an Old Reporter, Rocky Mount, NC Evening Telegram, Nov. 4, 1955, Sept. 27, 1956, Nov. 25, 1957, Nov. 27, 1957; Rocky Mount, NC Evening Telegram, July 25, 1968)