Life of Daniel Wesley Reagan


Daniel Wesley Reagan was a forceful man who was well liked and revered by his neighbors.   He was the son of Richard Reagan (1769-1829), also a strong man who was public spirited and well respected.  Richard, like many pioneer White Oak Flats men, was a jack-of-all-trades:  miller, blacksmith, post master, justice of the peace, and religious leader.    He and his family had first lived in Emert’s Cove, (Pittman Center), and Daniel Wesley was born there. His mother was Julia Ann Shultz (1775-1846), daughter of Dr. Martin Shultz.  Of German descent, Julia Ann spoke English and German and preferred a German Bible.
Marriages On 30 Jan 1830, Daniel Wesley married Nancy Ogle  (24 Aug 1810-18 Feb 1844), daughter of Thomas J. and Sophia Bosley Ogle. When they married, Daniel was twenty-eight years old and Nancy was twenty.  The couple had nine children:  Richard Reason (Uncle Dick), Robert (who died as an infant), Ephraim (Uncle Ephraim), Martha (Aunt Polly), Elizabeth Margaret, Julia Ann, Sophia, Daniel Wesley Stephen (Uncle Wes), and Marriah. Nancy died 18 Feb 1844, leaving Daniel Wesley with six children under ten and the two older boys at ages eleven and fourteen.  That same year Daniel married Sarah “Sally” Whaley, daughter of Rebecca Ogle McCarter Whaley and Middleton Whaley.  Sally was brave to take on the responsibility of nine children. At that time she was twenty-five years old and Daniel was forty-two.  Though he was almost twenty years older than she, Daniel was considered quite a catch since he was a landowner and well respected in the community.  Daniel Wesley and Sally had five children of their own:  Mary (Polly), Sarah (Aunt Sally), William Brownlow, Rebecca (who died as an infant), and Charles Clemson.   Pre-Civil War Era  Before the Civil War, the “right” side to be on in Sevier County and in much of the mountain area was “no” side.  Most of the people were neutral.  In Sevier County those who did choose sides were overwhelmingly Union. Daniel Wesley was in that last group.  Tradition has it that when the vote came for succession, there was only one vote in favor in the whole county.  People quickly narrowed that one vote down to Radford Gatlin, the outspoken eccentric Gatlinburg storekeeper who had once been postmaster of the town and had given the town its name by virtue of his office.   Gatlin was run out of town after the vote, but strangely the town kept the name he had given it.  Civil War When the Civil War finally came, Reagan was too old to enlist, but he encouraged three of his sons to enlist, and he, himself, trained soldiers in the Flats and in Bird’s Creek.  He called his exercises with the soldiers “mustering.”  He was also appointed official food distributor for the county during the war.  Since he was a known Union sympathizer, he expected to be captured by Confederate forces, so he hid the food supplies in safe places around the county and took his youngest son, seven-year-old Charles, to where each batch was hidden.  If he were to be captured, Daniel Wesley placed the responsibility for distributing the food to the needy on the shoulders of the young boy.  (Note:  One source mentioned that Reagans were known as short, dark men.  The army descriptions of Richard, Ephraim, and West listed them as  5’9″, 5’7″, and 5’9″ respectively.  All were described as having “dark hair.”  The same source said Reagans were good musicians and could sing and play fiddles and guitars well.  I was unable to verify this musical talent.)  Accomplishments Like his father Richard, Daniel was quite skillful at many tasks.  He was a farmer and blacksmith and built the first wagon made in White Oak Flats.   He reportedly made the wheels out of ”one piece of split white oak.”  He donated the land for the first community cemetery and provided a five-sided building for use as a church, school, and voting place.  For a time he was postmaster for the settlement as were two of his sons.   Anecdote Once one of Daniel’s daughters was whipped by schoolteacher William Trentham for spitting in a classmate’s schoolbook.  Daniel was so furious he locked the schoolhouse and took the key and said that no more schools of that kind would be allowed where he lived.  Since Daniel had donated the land for the school in the 1830’s, he felt he had the right to close it down.  Several days later he relented and reopened the school. Family Tragedies Like all families, Daniel Wesley’s had its share of sadness.  Son Robert died when he was only five months old.  Richard, Ephraim, and Wes were all soldiers during the war.  Wes spent two weeks at a hospital in Washington, DC to recover before returning to active duty.  Daniel’s brother David enlisted in the Union army as “Jim Reagan” to take the place of his son, Jim, whom people said “lacked the nerve to go.”  Unfortunately, David was killed in the war.  Daniel’s son Brownlow was killed in a freak accident in the mountains.  As he was hopping rocks in the river, his pistol fell out of his pocket, hit a rock and went off.  The bullet struck Brownlow, killing him.  Rebecca Reagan died at only nine months of age.  Land Acquisition Even before he was married, Daniel was interested in acquiring land and at one time owned over six thousand acres.  He would later distribute this land to his children.  This desire for land may be another trait he picked up from his father.  Not only did Daniel Wesley own lots of land and farms, it became his practice to move to the new farms or homes when he bought them.  After his death his second wife, Sally, said she wanted to stay in one spot for the rest of her life because she was so tired of moving.  She got her wish.  She moved into the home of her stepdaughter, Marriah Reagan McCarter and her son-in-law Thomas Hill McCarter (Papaw’s parents).  She lived with them on their farm for eight years until she died 05 Dec 1901.   Marriah had been only two years old when her own mother died, and Sarah was really the only mother she had ever known.  A Long Life, Well Lived
Daniel Wesley Reagan lived a long, prosperous life.  He was well loved by his family and the community.  When he died on 25 Jan 1892, he was ninety years old.
probably because of Gatlin’s extensive claim in the area and the Courthouse fire. This 1859 grant was for 600 acres up both sides of the river from Baskins Creek to the Two Mile Branch. In May 1866, he added another 640 acres to this holding. There are also grants for 1,000, 600, and 4,000 acres on Roaring Fork granted in 1839, 1868 and 1872. Most of this land was divided among his children – no will has been found. Daniel moved around and lived on several of his farms – his wife said after his death that she wanted to spend the rest of her years in one spot, she was so tired of moving. She spent her remaining years with her stepdaughter and her husband, Mariah and Thomas H. McCarter.
Daniel was a blacksmith as well as a farmer. Tradition says he built the first wagon in the settlement, making the wheels of one piece of split white oak. His son, Charles C. Reagan, built the first wagon that crossed the Smokies. Although no record has been found to verify it, Daniel probably served as a Justice of Peace. He did keep the community post office. When the settlement officially became Gatlinburg and the post office was established, Daniel and Joel Conner received the contract to carry the mail from Sevierville to Casher’s Valley, South Carolina. Daniel’s sons, Richard R. and Ephraim Reagan, served as postmaster in the village.
Definitely a Union man but too old to go to service during the Civil War, Daniel served as ‘muster’ officer and drilled the men of the village out in the ‘Flats’. He also served the community as food distributor. Because of his activities and his three oldest sons being in the Union army, he often had to hide out in the mountains to escape the Confederates. The youngest son, Charles C., often told of his father taking him to the woods and showing him the meat and food supplies he had hidden. Daniel didn’t think the Rebels would bother the women and children and if he did have to hide out, then Charles must see that food was brought in for the people as it was needed—a big responsibility for a seven year old boy.
A civic minded man, Daniel furnished the meeting house for the village–the five sided building used for the school, church and ‘voting place’. According to one of the land grants, this was located at the ‘mouth of the lane’, now Reagan Lane, near the old River Road. Although he furnished the meeting place for the Baptist Church for many years, Daniel was not found on the membership roll of the church and did not give the land for the present building site, as has been stated by many sources.
Daniel Wesley Reagan did give the land for the oldest part of the White Oak Flats Cemetery (Gatlinburg Cemetery) to the community. This was originally a family plot on the farm of his father, Richard Reagan. The first burial there was a child of Daniel Milsaps, the first school teacher in Gatlinburg.
Daniel and his last wife Sarah are buried in the White Oak Flats Cemetery.
Source: ‘Smoky Mountain Clans’, Donald B. Reagan, 1978, p 6a, 15-16. ‘Smoky Mountain Clans, Volume 2’, Donald B. Reagan, 1983, p 51. ‘Smoky Mountain Clans, Volume 3’, Donald B. Reagan, 1983, p 45. ‘The Book of Ragan/Reagan’, Donald B. Reagan, 1993, p 37. ‘In the Shadow of the Smokies’, Smoky Mountain Historical Society, 1993, p 577.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s