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SUBMITTED BY:  James R. Phillips, SCV Post 2093

Josiah Blackwell Sams

Josiah is my Great-Great-Grandfather.
Born 1/27/1829, Died 8/13/1908
Father – James Brown Sams, Mother – Mary Hickman
11 children – 6 boys, 5 girls
Married – Rebecca Emaline Murray
Sams Gap (where NC and Tenn. Meet on 1-26) named after Josiah Sams

Born and lived as a young boy in Forks of Ivy area. While a young boy – family decides to move to California via covered wagon.In the Flag Pond, Tenn. area an axle broke on the wagon and family decided to homestead in the Flag Pond area.
Josiah owned a saw mill in Flag Pond.
He owned some enslaved individuals and built a school and church for them.
He is rumored to have maintained a half-way house for Confederate spies.

One evening someone rode to Josiah’s house and told him that Major George Kirk’s mounted infantry was riding up the holler. Apparently, it was Kirk’s raiders. Josiah rode his horse to the half-way house he is said to have maintained for Confederate spies and told its residents who was coming and to scatter. Josiah didn’t get away from the house and was inside when the Union soldiers arrived. The Yankees questioned Josiah about the whereabouts of the rebels, but Josiah would not provide information. The Unionists then hung Josiah on a plum tree, but they let him down just before he expired. However, he still would not provide any information, so they hung him again, At that point, Union officers rode up, found out what was going on, then ordered two men to kill Josiah by hanging. The lead officer left two soldiers to carry out their order while the rest of the soldiers rode off looking for the rebs that had been in the half-way house. The Union soldiers proceeded to hang Josiah again, but a young girl who worked for Josiah’s family ran over and jumped up towards Josiah, grabbing the rope used to hang Josiah. With the weight of both individuals holding the rope down, the soldiers couldn’t pull them both up off the ground, so they let the rope go and rode away.

Sometime later, the young girl confronted Josiah and told him that he owed her something for saving his life. Josiah responded that he didn’t deal with women. However, the next day the workers from Josiah’s saw mill showed up at the girl’s residence with lumber and proceeded to build her a new house.

From that point on, Josiah wore a beard that was under his chin and around his neck. My sons and I always wondered why he wore his beard around his neck and nowhere else on his face: It was a very strange-looking beard. Finally, we figured out why he wore his beard like he did: It apparently was because he had scars around his neck where the hanging rope had burned and ripped the skin. Josiah was only trying to hide his scars.

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