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Todds of Carson Fork, Rutherford and Cannon Counties, Tennessee
Early History

Northern Ireland Landscape | Todds of Carson's Fork

The Todds of Carson Fork have an ancient and proud heritage, substantiated by genetic studies as being descendants of the most ancient of Northern Ireland inhabitants. And a hardy lot were these Todds of Carson Fork, having descended down through history from the ancient Gaelic tribe of Dal Riata who settled first in County Antrim, Ireland - or Scotia as the Romans called it in those days - on the far northeastern coast of the island. But restless natures eventually pushed the Dal Riata across the twelve-mile stretch that separated Scotia from the land that was then called Alba at the north end of Britain, and by 500 AD, the Dal Riata had gained supremacy over the native Picts, the land becoming Scotia Minor, resulting in another Gaelic race in history, but this one was distinctly Scottish. Years later, descendants of these same Scots were replanted, once again in Ireland, by England. Unfortunately for the English monarchy, these "Other Irish" were born through resistance to the yoke of Rome and hardened through centuries of warfare that spurred defiance; these Ulster Scots were a  people who refused to bend a knee or bow a head to anyone but their God, never taking to the yoke of oppression. And when these "Other Irish" began to see their hard-won economic success in Northern Ireland undermined by British rules and taxation, their religious freedoms persecuted, and their property rights impinged, these Scots-Irish started the first great Celtic migration out of Ireland, sailing away from their Northern Irish shores beginning early 1700s, to test the New World's promise as well as its receptivity to their religion and their cultural ways. They traveled in tiny, crowded, disease-ridden two-mast ships that sailed from the ports of Londonderry, Belfast, Newry, Larne and Portrush, arduous ocean voyages taking an average of two months to cross the treacherous Atlantic. After 1715, the migrations assumed a powerful dynamic, the relocation of virtually an entire people, the great majority of them Presbyterians, growing in intensity and concentrating almost exclusively on the mountainous roads southward from central Pennsylvania Colony to the Georgia Colony border. To this New World, these Scots-Irish brought their ethic, forged by centuries, of "loyalty being earned"; and any army that tried to subjugate them or any government that betrayed them would meet the time-honored maxim of the defenders of Derry: "No Surrender."


This Celtic migration of Ulster Scots to the New World did not cease until the beginning of the American Revolution in 1776, and who better to fight for American independence than these Scots-Irish, a people formed from the bottom up and with an ingrained willingness to fight for independence on behalf of strong men who properly led them.

"Call this war by whatever name you may,

only call it not an American rebellion;

it is nothing more or less than a Scotch Irish Presbyterian rebellion."

- a Hessian officer, writing home during the War of the American Revolution


A century of turmoil in the beautiful but tormented hills and waterlines of Ulster made these a people of fighters and farmers, these two callings inseparable in their history and in their culture. Their blood and traditions shaped by centuries in Scotland then hardened and sentimentalized by Ireland, these Scots-Irish fled Ireland for a new beginning, eventually opening new paths through North Carolina and Virginia through Kentucky to eastern Tennessee and on to middle Tennessee. The world they inherited was harsh and unforgiving. No towns were platted out to await their arrival. No schools had been built to welcome their children. The threat of Cherokee and Shawnee war parties would be the reality that filled their long nights in the dark woods behind the log walls of their fresh-built cabins. And no government other than that which they agreed upon among themselves would control their daily interactions. These are the realities that yielded such greats in history as Andrew Jackson of Belfast roots, Davy Crockett whose ancestors fought at the Siege of Derry, Sam Houston whose small ancestral farm stood in the shadows of the centuries-old Ballyfoley Forest, "Stonewall" Jackson whose heritage was County Derry, Ulysses S. Grant whose ancestral roots were deep in the soil of County Tyrone, and so many more down through history, all Northern Irish, all from Scots-Irish heritage.

This Scots-Irish heritage served well the Todds of Carson Fork, Rutherford County, Tennessee. As stated in the Pioneers Creed: "The faint of heart never started, the weak perished along the way, only the brave and strong prevailed." These Todds, brave and strong, from known roots in 1700s North Carolina, cut a path west to live in Tennessee in the early 1800s, settling in the mid-part of the state (Rutherford County, in an area decades later to become Cannon County), and on Carson Fork (a branch of East Fork of Stones River), in the area shown on the map below to be south of East Fork of Stone River, east of Brawleys Fork and west of Hollis Creek (map).

Cannon County Tennessee Map | Todds of Carson's Fork

This is the land of the Todds of Carson Fork, the land they loved, where they set down new roots, where they lived, thrived, married and provided for their families, watching those families grow to the next generation and the generations beyond.

The earliest pioneer to settle in the Carson Fork area of Rutherford County was James Todd born 1788 in North Carolina. James is first noted in history in a Rutherford County 1811 tax list, and by 1826, he had purchased in Rutherford 100 acres on Horse Spring Fork of Stones River, shown in this 1862 map

1862 Rutherford County Tennese map

as a branch of Carson Fork which forks from Bradley' Fork (later named Brawleys Fork) and near the town of Bradleyville (later named Bradeyville and now called Bradyville). The name of Horse Springs Fork evolved to Haws Spring Fork as show on this (map) (interactive map). In the book, Tennessee and Tennesseans, authors Will Thomas Hale and Dixon Lanier Merritt wrote in 1913, "Among the pioneers - who, it is thought, came largely to East Tennessee from North Carolina and Virginia and then crossed the mountains into Middle Tennessee - were (among others) James Todd" (pp 777, 778), and in Austin P. Foster's Counties of Tennessee, "Among the early pioneers were: (among others) James Todd."


Another of the Todds of Carson Fork pioneers was William Todd born 1793 in North Carolina and coming to live in the Carson Fork area by 1815, when he is first noted in Rutherford County with his purchase of land on the East Fork of Stones River. Sterling Spurlock Brown, in his 1936 History of Woodbury and Cannon County Tennessee, stated, "Those settling along Haws Spring Fork, a tributary of Carson's Fork were: (among others) Billie Todd." William is enumerated near James in the 1820 Rutherford census.


Though Y-DNA proves a familial relationship between James Todd (1788 - ) and William Todd (1793 - ), for lack of an original historical document, the exact relationship between the two is yet unknown. 


Decades after the early 1800s arrival and settlement of James Todd and William Todd along Horse Springs (Haws Springs) Fork, in Rutherford County, a new country was carved from an eastern portion of Rutherford County (as well as from portions of Wilson and Warren Counties), and on January 31, 1836, Cannon County was formed, thus placing the Todds of Carson Fork in the newly established Cannon County, a county that lies almost exactly in the center of Tennessee. The county adjoins Rutherford on the west, Wilson and Smith on the north, Warren on the east and Coffee on the south. More than half of Cannon County lies in the Central Basin with its valuable farm lands, soil rich, loamy, easily worked and highly productive. Bluegrass grows spontaneously and luxuriantly, furnishing rich pasturage and fields for crops of corn, wheat, hay, clover, tobacco and the grasses, and timber of oak, ash, poplar, walnut, hickory, chestnut, gum, maple, beech, buckeye, cherry and elm. Stones River traverses the county and is the principal water source for the county.

According to Cannon County History of Tennessee, page 1 & 2, by Goodspeed Publishing 1887: "Early settlers were chiefly North Carolinians, who, however, came here from East Tennessee, to which section they had previously immigrated in quest of homes, but pushed on over the mountains as Middle Tennessee opened up for settlement. Among the settlers living here in 1836, when Cannon County was organized, were (among others) Jesse ToddJames Todd".


Jesse Todd, noted in the paragraph above, though not one of the Todds of Carson Fork, did have early landholdings in Rutherford County and later purchased land in Cannon County. Jesse was born 1770 - 1780, and his name first appears in Rutherford on an 1813 tax list, where he is shown to own 40 acres there. In 1814, Jesse acquired 86 acres on Owl Creek, a branch of the Middle Fork of the East Fork of Stones River, (Middle Fork of East Fork of Stones River is shown on this 1822 map),

1814 Tennessee map

followed a decade later by his purchase of another Rutherford land parcel, dated 1824, of 50 acres adjoining Hugh Bradley's property on Dry Creek of the East Fork of Stones River. Jesse is enumerated in the Rutherford census in 1820 near Edmund Todd, and again in Rutherford in 1830. In 1840, 66 acres of land were purchased by Jesse in Cannon County on the East Fork of Stones River. That same year, Jesse is enumerated in the 1840 Cannon census, near M.F. Todd. Jesse is further mentioned, along with Pinkney Todd, in Sterling Spurlock Brown's  History of Woodbury and Cannon County Tennessee, as a member of one of the first churches in the part of Rutherford that later became Cannon, The Curlee Church. Calvin Curlee's meeting-house was a log house built between 1815 and 1820, established by Curlee after breaking with the Baptists of Brawleys Fork. The church continues (now Curlee Church of Christ) in Curlee, in its original location west of Brawleys Fork. Because Jesse had landholdings on a branch of the Middle Fork of East Fork, with a Bradley as his neighbor and was a member of a church built west of Bradleys Fork (now Brawleys Fork), every indicator points to his living between the old Bradleyville (now Bradyville) and the Big Springs area near the Rutherford and Cannon county line.

map of Bradyville, Big Springs, Curlee Church of Christ, Tennessee

With all, and as little, as is known about Jesse Todd, original historical documents have yet to substantiate if he was related to other Todds mentioned above (Edmund Todd, M.F. Todd or Pinkney Todd) or other Todds in Tennessee.

Relevant to Carson Fork history is the history of Rutherford County, where one of the first schools was located about seven miles west of Woodbury, as early as 1810 to 1812.


Early small water-powered mills were operating in the area as early as 1812, flour mills, corn mills and saw mills. A mill could be found upon almost every creek in the area.

In 1836, after establishment of the new Cannon County, the Cannon Circuit Court was organized at McBroom's tavern in Woodbury, and by 1838, the county proudly boasted a courthouse and jail; early sheriffs included A. F. Todd, who served for five years, from 1865-1870.


The nearest communities to the Todds of Carson Fork included Burt, Brady's Rock and Bradyville, northeast to Woodbury, and northwest to Readyville. Today, all but Woodbury are considered ghost towns: "Sadly, ... the towns below are but a memory ... none truly exist; only a church or perhaps an old barn bearing a store's name on the side. With most of these past towns, the only clue you might have as to their prior location is in the name of a church or more likely a cemetery. There are only two towns in Cannon County today: Auburntown and Woodbury."


Burt is a hamlet on Carson Fork and Horse Spring Fork in the southwestern part of the county, about 8 miles from Woodbury and three miles northeast of Bradyville. Until recently, it had a general store and a school. It was named for Burton McFerrin, who at one time ran a store there.

Brady's Rock is on the east side of Carson Fork, about one mile east of Burt, on a farm. During the Civil War, both Union and Rebel troops used the rock as a camp ground from time to time. It was named for a wandering preacher named Brady who preached there the first Christian Church sermon in the county. The rock has nearly disappeared under dirt and overgrowth.


Bradyville is a village 11 miles southwest of Woodbury. In 1806, Rutherford County built a road from Cripple Creek up the East Fork of Stones River to Hugh P. Brawleys mill on the Indian boundary line. Somewhat later, it had another mill run by Slias Patton and a school. By the middle 1800's, the village and it's environs had 6 blacksmiths, 4 merchants, a wheelwright, two millers, and one of the largest schools in the county. The village saw considerable activity during the Civil War, being one of the strategic points in the Confederate line of defense while the Confederate army was encamped at Tullahoma in 1863. Skirmishes were fought there on February 16, March 1 and June 24 in 1863.

Readyville is on Stones River, six miles west of Woodbury, on the Rutherford/Cannon County line. It was, in succession, on the Stones River Road (built in 1806), the Old Stage Road (built in 1811), the Murfreesboro Woodbury Turnpike (built in the 1850s) and U.S. 70 South (built in 1923-24). It is probably the oldest village in the county, antedating Woodbury, being settled as early as 1802.  Charles Ready built a gristmill on the riverbank across from his house. In 1829, he built a large colonial brick house, and the house and his gristmill are still standing.

Woodbury was originally called Danville but was renamed Woodbury soon after Cannon County was authorized in 1836. It is located on the south side of Stones River near the center of Cannon County. U.S. Highway 70 South runs directly through Woodbury. In 1886, the population of Woodbury had grown to about 600 people and remained nearly constant until about 1940. Since then it has increased to 2,000+. It has one radio station and a weekly newspaper, The Cannon Carrier.

As stated in text above, the early 1800s Rutherford County settlers whose properties decades later were cut from Rutherford County and included in the newly formed Cannon County, Todd pioneers (James Todd, William Todd, Jesse Todd and A. F. Todd), have yet to have an exact one-to-another familial relationship documented by original historical documents. Only James Todd and William Todd are documented pioneers of the Carson Fork area.

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