About Rock Castle
The Smith Family
Daniel Smith was born in Stafford County, Virginia, to Henry and Sarah Crosby Smith. He grew up on a plantation in Virginia.
Daniel studied “physic” or medicine with Dr. Thomas Walker while living at the Walker home, Castle Hill, in Albemarle County, Virginia. He most likely acquired his learning in other fields such as surveying, law, and mathematics from Walker as well. After being licensed as a surveyor by the College of William and Mary, Smith took up that profession and began his work in 1770.
In 1773 Daniel married Sarah Michie. They had two children. Their son, George, married Tabitha Donelson, oldest daughter of Captain John Donelson, III. Their daughter, Mary Ann (Polly) married Samuel Donelson, Rachel Jackson’s brother. Although forbidden by her father, Polly’s marriage was the result of a very elaborate elopment plot carried out by her intended Samual Donelson and brother in law Andrew Jackson in the late spring of 1796. It resulted in strained relations between all parties concerned, but the differences were later resolved. Of her three sons from that marriage, Andrew Jackson Donelson served as private secretary for Andrew Jackson at the White House and Daniel Smith Donelson was a General in the Civil War.
Daniel Smith received a land grant from the State of North Carolina in payment for surveying land boundaries in Middle Tennessee, which he completed in 1784. To claim his land, he brought his family to this site and began construction of Rock Castle. Much of the construction supervision as well as plantation management was shouldered by Sarah since for most of their married life Daniel was gone for long periods on surveying trips.
Daniel Smith died in 1818 at his home. Sarah died in 1831, and both are buried in the family cemetery on the grounds of Rock Castle.
In addition to being a well-known surveyor of the North Carolina (now Tennessee) boundaries and of Davidson County, Daniel served as a Captain in the Revolutionary War, Brigadier General of the Mero District, Secretary of the Territory of the United States Southwest of the River Ohio, chairman of the committee to draft the constitution of Tennessee, United States Senator, and Indian treaty negotiator.
In 1793 Daniel Smith authored a pamphlet on the new Tennessee territory, which was followed by his map of the land west of the Cumberland Mountains and its many water courses. This map of the “Tennassee Government” was widely published well into the nineteenth century.
Smith was called upon in 1784 to help survey the city of Nashville. In 1785 he was one of nine trustees appointed for Davidson Academy, the first institution of higher learning in Nashville In 1798 he was appointed to serve Andrew Jackson’s remaining term in the United States Senate. He then ran for the Senate in 1805 and defeated the incumbant, William Cocke.