Sometime after 1805 and before 1808, Matthew’s parents left Gates County, North Carolina and moved west to Smith County, Tennessee to the Dismal Creek area of that county. The first official record that I have found so far, for his father, James Parker, states that James Parker bought two sows and some pigs at an estate sale on Dismal Creek in 1813. Tennessee was still pretty much a wilderness area at this time and so Matthew would have learned all the basics of living on the frontier, things such as hunting, fishing, farming, blacksmithing, etc., basically everything you would need to know to stay alive and feed your family, because there wasn’t a neighborhood market to go to. The following map shows Smith County, Tennessee today and circled in purple is approximately the area where the Dismal Creek and Smith Fork area was that the Parker family lived in and which became part of DeKalb County in about 1837. The next map shows where these counties are located in the state of Tennessee.
Matthew’s known siblings were the following: Lewis/Louis Parker, 1799-1848, married Elizabeth Yeargin; Ephraim Parker, 1803-1837; Elizabeth Parker, 1805-1882, married Jonathan Fuson; William Parker, 1807-after 1860, married to Clarissa; Lemuel Parker, 1811-before 1870, married Catherine and John Parker, 1816-after 1880, married Sarah Claybarn.
Matthew married fairly young in about 1819 when he was 18 years old, approximately. He married a young woman named Cynthia or Catherine Ross, according to different descendants. Unfortunately, although Smith County is not a burned county and was formed in 1799, marriage records do not start until 1838. Cynthia or Catherine Ross, was my 4th great-grandmother and was born about 1799, maybe in Tennessee and died before 1838, probably in Smith County, Tennessee.
Matthew and Cynthia became the parents of at least eight known children, the last of these being twins and that maybe when Cynthia died, but like I said I know hardly anything about her so I can’t say with any certainty. These eight children were: James Parker, 1820-after 1846, he went to Texas and may have fought in the Mexican War according to family stories; Eliza Ann Parker, 1822-1917, married Volentine Floyd in 1840, these were my 3rd great-grandparents and they came to Crittenden County, Kentucky in 1873 and this is the county I was born in; Nancy Ann Parker, 1824-after 1870, married Robert Sandlin; Louis Jordan Parker, 1826-1895, married Marilda Warford; William Smith ’Whig’ Parker, 1828-1903, married Mary Ann Midgett, he may have fought in the Mexican War according to family stories with his brother James and he also fought for the South during the Civil War, although according to family stories he sympathized with the North on the issue of slavery; Elizabeth A. Parker, 1830-1904, never married and she helped her brother, William, raise his two children after his wife, Mary died; Jasper Jackson Parker, 1832-1909, he married 3 times first to Mary Elizabeth Willoughby, then to her sister, Martha Amanda Willoughby and finally to Eliza Jane Talley and his twin was Newton Carroll Parker, 1832-1863, married Louisa Midgett, sister to his brother William’s wife. Newton and his family went to Illinois with his father, where he joined up and fought in the Union Army during the Civil War and died of yellow jaundice and river complaint, on board the steamer "West Wind" between Vicksburg, Mississippi and Helena, Arkansas on the way to the army hospital in Helena, Arkansas according to his pension files.
Sometime after 1832 and before 1840, Matthew next married Levertious Sarah Spence. Her maiden name has been given as Spence, Spencher, Virch, Felton and McCernen. Also Bert ? (no last name), Forcus (as the first name) Felton & Sarah Spencher. All of these different names were given on her children's marriage or death records throughout the years, so I just used the two first names and last name that were used the most often in records talking about her. So far I have not located a marriage record for Matthew and her, so I don’t know what name was listed at that time, but if they were married before 1838 in Smith County, Tennessee I may never find one.
Matthew and Levertious became the parents of at least nine known children and these were: Matthew Parker, Jr. 1842-after 1850; John M. Parker, 1845-after 1880, married Susan F. Chapman; Sarah Parker, 1847-1918, married William Carroll Morris; Mary Jane Parker, 1849-1925, married Charles Harvey and John Yates; Aletha Parker, 1852-before 1920, married N. S. Richeson and a Mr. McDonald; Elvira Lydia Parker, 1854-1933, married Andrew J. Durfee then his brother Lewis Durfee; Ephraim Parker, 1856-after 1860; Zachary/Zachariah Taylor Parker, 1858-1936, married Emily Jane Baker; Julia Carolyn Parker, 1862-1945, married Reuben Baker in 1877, then they were divorced and she married her nephew William Parker in 1879, then they were divorced and she remarried Reuben Baker again in 1885. I don't know if she and Reuben were divorced again are not, but in about 1909 she married John William Baker.
So as you can see Matthew became the father of at least 17 known children. Three of these children may have died as young children, but this would still leave at least 14 children to feed and clothe. How families did that back then I do not know, Matthew wasn’t a wealthy man. Maybe that is why at least two of his sons may have gone off to Texas and ended up possibly fighting in the Mexican War.
According to another descendant, Matthew Parker grew up in the Dismal Creek/Smith Fork area which became part of DeKalb County in 1837. He was elected the first local Magistrate or Justice of the Peace for the First Civil District of the new county of DeKalb when it was formed and served for at least eleven years. He would have been responsible for handling minor civil and administrative affairs, administering oaths and performing marriages in his district. His name appears regularly on the marriage records up to 1849. Because Matthew sympathized with the north on the question of slavery, he and his second wife and children moved to Southern Illinois, probably around the spring or summer of 1861, since their last child was born there in January of 1862. Matthew’s wife, Levertious, died possibly in child birth with their last child and was buried there in either Gallatin or Saline County, Illinois. The following map shows the counties in Illinois circled in red where Matthew and his family lived.
The war ended in April of 1865, and sometime after that Matthew and the children headed back to Tennessee by boat, but somewhere along the way he contracted smallpox and he and the children were put off the boat. Matthew died in about 1866 and some stories says he died in Cairo, Illinois and yet another account says he was put off the boat and died somewhere in Kentucky and the children were sent back to Illinois. Either way these young children were left by themselves with no father or mother to care for them. The baby, Julia, was only about 4 and the older of the second set of children was about 22 years old, if he was still living that is. The next two girls were married in 1865 and 1866 so maybe this is who the younger children were living with, after being sent back to Illinois.
I don’t know a lot about this ancestor of mine, Matthew Parker, but he left a lot of descendants all across this great country of ours, I know of some today in Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Florida, Ohio, Colorado and Washington. No matter how much or how little we know about an ancestor, if we know them at all even if it is just their name, we are remembering them and the sacrifices they made for us to be here today.