John Bryson Nesmith


Written by Benton Nesmith


John B. Nesmith was born Dec. 25, 1812, in Roane County, TN. He was the 6th child of ten children born to Alexander Nesmith and Jennie Martin. He had eight half brothers and sisters born of his fatherís 2nd wife, Nancy Roberts. He moved from Roane County, TN to the Danville, Morgan County, area in 1825 not long after his father married Nancy.

John married Elizabeth Stephenson on June 9, 1835, at Somerville, the then county seat of Morgan County, AL. He resided in the Danville area. He was a Justice of the Peace for Morgan County, as was his father, and performed several marriages in Morgan County. He and Elizabeth had ten children born in Morgan, Walker, and Hancock Counties between 1836 and 1856.

He and Elizabeth moved to the Houston area in early 1851. The Governor appointed the first Probate Judge for the newly formed Hancock County. John became the first elected Probate Judge and served in that office from 2 June to 25 March 1852. He later owned and operated a grist mill in the Crane Hill area where he apparently lived. This area was later in Cullman County after Cullman County was formed.

Hancock County was changed to Winston County on 22 Jan. 1858. The Governor appointed a commission to supervise an election and to vote on one of two chosen locations for the county seat. Johnís brother-in-law, Thomas J. Harvel, who resided at Houston, was a member of that commission. Houston was chosen. John was a Justice of the Peace in Winston County on 28 April 1859.

John B. Nesmith, along with his second child, and oldest son, William Alexander, enlisted in the Union Army at Huntsville on 21 July 1862. He was a member of Company A, First Alabama Infantry Volunteers, later part of the First Regiment Middle Tennessee Cavalry Volunteers. He died of diarrhea and pneumonia at Nashville 27 December 1862, age 50, and is buried in the National Cemetery at Nashville. His son survived the War and was detailed for body guard duty at Rome, GA when General Sherman was marching through Georgia.

Although many people seem to be unaware of it, approximately 2,500 men from the Winston, Lawrence, Walker, and Cullman County area served in the Union Army. The same is true of many from the east Tennessee area where he was born. John had brothers and nephews who served in the Confederate Army. He had nephews and spouses of nieces who served in the Union Army. And he had one nephew from Walker County who served a year in the Confederate Army, deserted, and joined the Union Army.

John Nesmithís grandson, John A. Nesmith, served as the postmaster for Haleyville from 1888 to 1882 during the presidency of Benjamin Harrison. And, his great grandson, William J. Nesmith, served as mayor of Cullman for 20 years during the period of 1948-1972. Johnís family gave name to the Nesmith Community on the Winston-Cullman County line on U.S. Highway 278.


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