An Historical Sketch of
Wilson County, Tennessee,
From Its First Settlement to the Present Time
by James Vaulx Drake
For noncommercial use only.
following sketch has been prepared for the information and
gratification of Wilson countians, whether at home or abroad, and
such others as may take an interest in the history of our county.
The subject of which it treats is one that should engage the
attention of all.
One of the chief distinctions between a civilized and a savage people consists in a record -- the one being known by a written history, the other by a tradition. The people of Wilson County are not savages, they are a moral, intelligent, patriotic, and industrious people, and as such have a history. So far as I know, it has never been written.
have no written history of the State extending down to a later
date than the beginning of the present century, if we except what
is incidentally given in the reports of the state geologist and
of the Bureau of Agriculture, Statistics and Mines. This
imperfect sketch is intended to supply in some degree the
deficiency, so far as Wilson county is concerned.
I have endeavored to group such facts and reminiscences concerning the discovery, early settlement, establishment, organization, and development of our county as will give the reader an outline of its history. The names of more than three hundred early settlers as well as the first magistrates and county officials have been included. Also sketches of Lebanon, and the villages and hamlets of Wilson. Paragraph notices of some of the more prominent men of our county have been given, as well as of Wilson countians who have gone abroad and attained local or state distinction. I have given also, in chronological order, the names of our circuit judges, chancellors, attorneys general, clerks, clerks and masters, trustees, registers, state senators, representatives, and sheriffs, from 1799 to 1880.
My sources of information are county records, senate and house journals of the legislature, "Resources of Tennessee" and sundry old gentlemen and ladies of the county, to each and all of whom I hereby tender my thanks. I am indebted also for kindly assistance in looking over the records to John S. Carter, Jordan Stokes, Jr. John Perkins and S. G. Stratton, the courteous and efficient clerk of the circuit court. My thanks are due likewise to John C. Farr, Esq., for sundry kind offices.
Notwithstanding its many imperfections, I trust this sketch may meet the approval and generous indulgence of those for whom it is written; and if it shall afford them half the interest in reading it that the author has had in writing it, he will have been amply rewarded for his effort. This is his contribution to the general history of his native state.
Lebanon, April 14, 1879 J. V. Drake
A HISTORICAL SKETCH OF WILSON COUNTY
"The Cumberland County" - Part of North Carolina - Ceded to the United States - Territorial Government - State of Tennessee - Her Governors - Wilson County Established - Boundaries - Area - Topography and Streams - Timber and Rocks - First Settlers - Beginnings of Civilized Life - County Organized - First Magistrates and Other Officials - The Courts - Land and Soils - Products of the Soil - Live Stock - Population - Public Roads - The Schools - Churches - Mills - County seat Founded - Beginnings, Growth and Present Status - Villages and Hamlets - Public Men - Judges - Clerks of the Circuit Court - Attorneys - General - Chancellors - Clerks and Masters - Clerks of County Court - Trustees - Registers - Senators - Representatives - Sheriffs - 1788-1880.
of the discovery and settlement of "The Cumberland Country",
of which the territory embraced within Wilson county was a part,
is, so far as the white or European race is concerned, involved
in no mythological fiction. No fabulous stories are told of some
adventurous founder of a colony in the wilderness, whose exploits
and achievements are unwarranted by reason, and without the range
of probability. On the contrary, the discovery and settlement of
these western solitudes by our forefathers are of such recent
date, and attested by so much concurrent testimony, both written
and traditional, as to place the authenticity of their general
history beyond controversy or cavil.
With respect to the uncivilized tribes, called savages, or Indians, found hereupon the discovery of the country by our ancestors, and whose origin is yet perhaps problematical with the ethnologist, we have nothing to say, only so far as they may incidentally be mentioned in connection with the discovery, settlement, and progress of the white people. And of that pre-historic race, known as the Mound Builders, which preceded the Indians, and of which they knew nothing, and of which we have no knowledge, except as we gather it from the remains of their skeletons, mounds, fortifications, and other artificial works, existing in the Mississippi Valley and elsewhere on the continent, it is not our province further to speak. They were here long anterior to our knowledge of the New World, and belong to the pre-historic age. We shall, therefore, in our sketch of the county, begin with its settlement by our ancestors, the hardy pioneers of the wilderness, whose stout hearts and strong arms expelled the marauding savage and wild beasts of the land; whose enterprise and industry opened out the highways of the community, felled the forests and made the virgin soil to teem with harvests of plenty; and whose lives of toil, hardship, privations and dangers, display a moral and physical heroism worthy of any country and of any age. Although no monumental pile may rise toward heaven to commemorate their heroic deeds, no local bard sing their praises, still they shall not be forgotten; their names and memories will live and be cherished.
"When marble moulders, and when records fail."
noblest monument is the great state their wisdom and valor helped
to establish their greatest praise, the gratitude of their
posterity, who perpetuate so noble a heritage.
It may not be amiss to remark just here that the whole territory embraced within the limits of the state of Tennessee was originally the western division of North Carolina, and at one time constituted Washington county of that state. This was divided and subdivided until no less than seven counties had been established, namely, Washington, Sullivan, Green and Hawkins, which lie east of the Cumberland Mountain, and Davidson, Sumner and Tennessee counties, west of it, when North Carolina ceded her western territory to the United States. It was accepted by act of congress, approved April 2, 1790, by President Washington. It was then erected into the Territory of the United States, South of the Ohio river, of which William Blount was appointed governor. Thus it continued until it was admitted into the Union as the state of Tennessee, June 1, 1796, Gen. John Sevier having been elected her first governor. His successors in office are as follows: Archibald Roane, Willie Blount, Joseph McMinn, William Carroll, Sam Houston, William Hall, Newton Cannon, James K. Polk, James C. Jones, Aaron V. Brown, Neil S. Brown, William Trousdale, William B. Campbell, Andrew Johnson, Isham G. Harris, William G. Brownlow, D. W. C. Senter, John C. Brown, James D. Porter, and the present incumbent, Albert S. Marks, making twenty-one in all.
of Wilson, the nineteenth in the order of organization, was
established by act of the General Assembly of Tennessee, passed
at Knoxville, October 26, 1799, and named in honor of Major David
Wilson, a Pennsylvanian by birth but a citizen of North Carolina
by choice. He served through the Revolutionary war with
distinction, and finally settled in Sumner county, where he
possessed a large body of land, granted him for his military
services. He was one of the first magistrates of Sumner county,
was twice elected a member of the legislature, and once speaker
of the house of representatives. Wilson county, which lies a
little north of the center of the state, was formed out of that
part of Sumner lying south of the Cumberland, and was originally
much larger than it is now, being bounded then as follows: "Beginning
upon the south bank of Cumberland river, at low water mark, as
the mouth of Drake's Lick branch, the north-eastern corner of
Davidson county, to the Cherokee boundary; and with said boundary
to the Caney Fork; and down the Caney Fork, with its meanders, to
the mouth thereof; thence down the meanders of the Cumberland
river, by the south bank, to the beginning."
It has since been very much diminished by the formation of new counties out of its territory to the east, south-east and south, and is bounded now as follows: On the west by Davidson; on the north by Sumner, from which it is separated by Cumberland river; on the north-east and east by Trousdale, Smith and DeKalb; on the southeast by Cannon; and on the south by Rutherford county; and has an area of 578 square miles, or about 370,000 acres, according to a survey made in 1868 by Gen. Alexander P. Stewart.
Topography and Streams
of the county in the main is rolling, modified by numerous
valleys, where it is sometimes level, but mostly undulating; and
by a number of ridges, hills and knobs, in the central, eastern
and south-eastern parts, where it is often abrupt and precipitous.
Its average elevation above the level of the sea lies between
five and six hundred feet.
Jennings' Knob, which is situated six miles south-east from Lebanon, is the highest elevation in the county, being 1,221 feet above the level of the sea, as measured by Professor A. H. Buchanan.
Wilson is supplied with an abundance of excellent, living water, chiefly blue limestone, though there is found here and there sulphur, chalybeate, and other mineral waters. Besides springs and wells, which abound all over the county, and the Cumberland, which washes its northern border a distance in a direct line of about twenty-five miles, the county has the following important creeks: Cedar, Spring, Barton's, Spencer's, and Cedar Lick, which, with their tributaries, lie wholly within its limits, and run in a north-westerly direction into the Cumberland; Stoner's, Suggs', Hurricane and Fall Creeks, which have their sources and greater parts of their valleys in this county, and, flowing in a westerly direction, ultimately discharge their waters into Stone's river; Smith's Fork and Round Lick, with Spring and Fall creeks, have their sources near each other in a group of hills, in the south-eastern division of the county, the former flowing in a northerly course to the Cumberland, and the latter in a north-easterly direction to the Caney Fork; Sinking creek, the head springs of which flow from the Pilot Knob and Lindsay Martin hill, both the property now of James H. Hancock, runs in a south-westerly and westerly direction to a sink, a little south of Gladeville, where it disappears -- hence its name; and Pond Lick creek, which begins at the Robin Shannon spring, now the property of Jesse L. Moore, runs in a south-westerly course into Sinking creek, near the point of its subsidence. All these streams and their tributaries have desirable valleys, with greater or less bodies of rich and productive lands, furnishing a great number of beautiful farms, and some excellent sites for mills and other machinery propelled by water-power.
Timber and Rocks
County has also an ample supply of forest timber, consisting of
several kinds and species including a number of trees invaluable
for building and cabinet purposes. They are the white, red, post,
chinquapin, water and other species of the oak, white and blue
ask; red or cork and slippery elm; sugar birdseye, swamp and
white or silver maple; black walnut, yellow poplar, red cedar,
chestnut, wild cherry, buckeye, red mulberry, beech, sycamore,
cotton wood, hackberry, linn, sassafras, box elder, dogwood, iron
wood, red and black haw, hornbeam, holly red bud, persimmon and
branch willow, with a number of creepers, chief among which is
the grapevine. Yellow poplar is pretty much confined to the hill
country and the valley of the Cumberland; the chestnut, to a few
hills and ridges; the cedar, chiefly to the rolling lands of the
west, south and southwestern parts; while the rest are
distributed more or less all over the country.
Originally the county was covered with an almost unbroken forest, there being no prairies or barrens, only a few rocky glades, here and there, among the dense cedar-brakes; but more than half of its area has been cleared of the timber for purposes of cultivation and pasturage, leaving, according to the census of 1870, about 152,000 acres of woodland. The poplar cedar, walnut and cherry being in great demand by the mill men for conversion into lumber for the carpenter and cabinet workman, may, in some localities, begin to show signs of deficiency, but with proper husbandry enough yet remains to answer all practical purposes for an indefinite period.
The county has likewise an abundance of rocks, much of it suitable for building materials, consisting of several varieties of the blue limestone, sandstone, and perhaps other rocks. In a few localities sandstone has quarried of good grit and made into grindstones. Besides the above, there is, on some of the higher hills and ridges to the south-east a stratum of black shales or slate, mistaken by the inexperienced for stone coal. It is not suitable for roofing purposes. We have no iron, lead, or other ores, in quantities sufficient for mining purposes. Nor have we any marble, granite or coal.
This was the goodly land that attracted our forefathers from beyond the mountains. Through some adventureous traveller or daring hunter, they heard of the beautiful hills and verdant valleys, its plenteous game-and grand forests, its rich soil and bright waters, and straightway they determined to come and possess it.
"Westward the course of empire takes its way"
The first settlers of this county were emigrants chiefly from North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina and East Tennessee, with a few from Georgia, Maryland and perhaps other States. For much of our information in the respect, we are indebted to a number of the old citizens, surviving children of pioneers, and to whom we hereby make our acknowledgments. Among these are Levi Holloway, James Clemmons, Mrs. Martha Ozment, Mrs. Byrd Smith, Joseph Williams, Edward G. Jacobs, Turner Waters, John T. Goodall, John Palmer, John Perkins, Paulding Anderson, Mrs. Edward Freeman, Tom Alexander, Stephen Woodrum, Lindsay Martin, and John F. Doak, a staunch old Democrat, whose regard for fine horses is only excelled by his admiration for President Jackson, Polk and Johnson, and whose great ambition is to die as he has lived sober and solvent!
best information we have been able to obtain, the first permanent
settlement in the county was made about the year 1794, on the
north end of Hickory Ridge, near a bold spring, the head of
Spencer's creek, about five miles west from the site of Lebanon,
by John B. Walker, John Harpole and others whose names are not
remembered. Prior to this, the wild beasts and the still wilder
savages, had held the territory now constituting our county in
almost undisturbed away. It is true, Edmund Jennings, who gave
his name to the highest knob in the county; Tom Spencer, for whom
one of our creeks was named; and Joe Bishop, a noted pioneer of
Smith county and other hunters from Sumner and Davidson counties,
had traversed its forests in pursuit of the buffalo, or to rescue
captive women and children from the Indians. But it was not until
now that a cabin was built, the cane and timber cleared away, and
the soil made tributary to the wants of man. How many persons
constituted this primary community, what all their names were,
what their joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, privations and
hardships, and all the thrilling events of their border life, we
have no means of knowing; they have passed away, leaving no
The next settlement, it is thought, was made on the waters of Spring creek, about eight miles south from the site of Lebanon, about the year 1796, by John Foster, John Doak, David McGathey, Alexander Braden, and the Donnell families. It was known as the "Donnell Settlement," they having numerical ascendency. Indeed, there was, and is yet, an extensive relationship of this name, several members bearing the same of several given or Christian names, as William, Thomas and Robert. It was sometimes doubtful as to which individual was meant, even when addressed by the full name. To avoid the confusion prenomens, or nicknames, were conferred by common consent. Thus they had Captain Billy, Poplar Billy, Cedar Billy and Sugar Billy; Long Tommy, Short Tommy, Tiptoe Tommy, Big Robin, Little Robin, and Uncle Robin, with a number of Georges, Johns, James', Samuels, Calvins, Etc., This Family has furnished no less then seven ministers of the gospel.
Much about the same time, if not before, settlements were made on Barton's Creek, on Smith's Fork, on Cedar Lick, on Stoner's Creek, and perhaps in other localities. We present here the names of a goodly number of the pioneers of Wilson, designating their places of settlement, or neighborhoods, by the creeks on or near which they are located. Doubtless, a few worthy names have been overlooked, but we do not know them, and have done the best we could. They are as follows: ON BARTONS' CREEK - Charles Blaylock, Elijah Trewitt, Levi Holloway, Henry Shannon, Snowdon Hickman, William Eddings, Thomas Moss, Eleazer Provine, Byrd Wall, Williard Thomas, Samuel Wilson Sherrill, George Swingler, Zephaniah Neal, John Goldston, Benjamin Eskew, John Lane, Jeremiah Still, John K. Wynn, George Wynn, Thomas Sypert, Benjamin Winford, William Peace, Jas. Mayes, John Cage, Alexander Chance, Josiah Martin, Henry Reed, William Elkins, Neddy Jacobs, John Impson, John Alcorn, Frank Anderson, Thomas Conyers, and others;
ON SPRING CREEK - James Cannon, Solomon Marshall, James Chappell, Walter Carrouth, Martin Talley, George Alexander, Joseph Moxley, Hugh Marrs, Bartlett Graves, Spencer Talley, John Forbus, William Bartlett, William Sherrill, John Stembridge, Josiah Smith, Alligood Wollard, Thomas Williams, Purnel Hearn, John Jones, Josiah Jones, John Walsh, Samuel Elliot, Samuel Mottley, Richard Hankins, Arthur Hankins, Gregory Johnson, William Steele, Henry Chandler, Arthur Dew, Daniel Cherry, Adam Harpole, Sampson Harpole, and others including "the Donnell Settlement";
ON CEDAR CREEK - Hugh Roane, John Provine, Alexander Aston, Samuel Calhoun, Perry G. Taylor, John L. Davis, Matthew Figures, David Billings, Irwin Tomlinson, Joseph Trout, Hooker Reeves, Lewis Chambers, Matthew Cartwright, William Harris, Andrew Swan, Wm. Wilson, Joseph Wier, James Wier, Thomas Brevard, Robin Johnson, Henry Jackson, and others;
ON SPENCER'S CREEK - John B. Walker, John Harpole, William Harris, William White, Brittain Drake, Lewis Kirby, William Gray, Joel Echols, Robert Mitchell, Thos. R. Mitchell, Phillip Koonce, James McFarland, Moore Stevenson, Mrs. Bettie Echols and family, Jerre Hendricks, Richard Drake, and others;
ON CEDAR LICK CREEK - Theophilus Bass, Clem Jennings, John Everett, Reuben Searcy, Joshua Kelly, James Everett, John Gleaves, Jas. H. Davis, Thomas Davis, Howell Wren, William Ross, Edmund Vaughan, Harmon Hays, George Smith, Daniel Spicer, and others;
ON CUMBERLAND RIVER - Elijan Moore, William Saunders, Caleb Taylor, Bartholomew Brett, William Johnson, Josiah Woods, William T. Cole, Joseph Kirkpatrick, Henry Davis, James Tipton, Thomas Ray, Reuben Slaughter, Daniel Glenn, James A. Hunter, Ransom King, Henry Jackson, Ephraim Beasley, Sterling Tarpley, Charles Lock, William Petway and others;
ON STONER'S LICK CREEK - Blake Rutland, Zebulon Baird, John G. Graves, Benjamin Graves, Thomas Watson, Joseph Watson, John Wilson, John Williamson, Henry Thompson, Thomas Gleaves, Ezekiel Cloyd, Anderson Tate, Jacob Woodrum, Ezekiel Clampet, Andrew Wilson, James Cothron, David Kendall, and others;
ON SUGG'S CREEK - Benjamin Hooker, Aquilla Suggs, William Warnick, William Rice, Benjamin Dobson, Hugh Gwynn, Jenkin Sullivan, John Roach, James Hannah, Hugh Telford, Green Barr, Peter Devault, John Curry, Thomas Drennon, Joseph Hamilton, Joseph Castlemen, and others;
ON POND'S LICK CREEK - Robin Shannon, John Ozment, Lee Harralson, John Spinks, John Rice, and others;
ON SINKING CREEK - Thompson Clemmons, William Bacchus, David Fields, Lewis Merritt, Frank Ricketts, Fletcher Sullivan, James Richmond, Robert Jarmon, John Winsett, Jesse Sullivan, William Parsley, and a little later, John Billingaley, Seldon Baird, Dawson Hancock, Jonathan Ozment, and others;
ON HURRICANE CREEK - William Teague, John Bibson, William Hudson, Nicholas Quesenbury, Charles Warren, Jacob Bennett, Elisha Bond, Robert Edwards, John Edwards, Bradford Howard, George Cummings, John Merritt, Joseph Stacy, Frank Young, Henry Mosier, Charles Cummings, John Wollen, Absalom Knight, Thomas Miles, Peter Leath, Gideon Harrison, and others;
ON FALL CREEK - William Warren, Samuel Copeland, Joseph Williams, Jacob Jennings, William Allison, Hardy Penuel, Joseph Sharp, Sampson Smith, Frank Puckett, James Quarles, Roger Quarles, Matthew Sims, Shadrac Smith, James Smith, Charles Smith, Aaron Edwards, John Edwards, Hugh Cummings, Isaac Winston, Williams Worthan, Burrell Patterson, Absalom Lasater, John Alsup, Lard Sellars, Joseph Carson, Charles Gillem, Arthur Harris, Walter Clopton, Richard Hudson, William Smith, Henry Williams, John Donnell, Adney Donnell, and William Lester, who was four times married and who had by his several wives thirty-four children;
ON SMITH'S FORK - Dennis Kelly, John Kelly, David Ireland, John Adams, David Wasson, John Armstrong, Isaac Witherspoon, Robert Bumpass, John Allen, Richard Craddock, Edward Pickett, Elisha Hodge, Thomas Flood, James McAdoo, Samuel McAdoo, Abner Bone, Thomas Bone, William Richards, George L. Smith, Samuel Stewart, William Beagle, James Johnson, John Knox, William Knox, John Ward, Solomon George, Reason Byrne, James Godfrey, Henry Payne. James Thompson, James Thomas, Thomas Word, James Ayers. Wm. Jennings, Charles Rich, Abner Alexander, William Oakley and James Williams, who was the Seventh Sheriff of the county, and who had in succession three wives, by whom he had twenty-seven children.
ON ROUND LICK - Including Jenning's Fork - John W. Peyton, John Phillips, Benjamin Phillips, Edward G. Jacobs, Samuel Patterson, John Green, Samuel Barton, Alexander Beard, Jordan Bass, Solomon Bass, John Lawrence, John Taylor, James Taylor, Evan Tracy, David Beard, Joseph Barbee, John Barbee, Shelah Waters, David Young, George Clark, James Shelton, William Neal, Joshua Taylor, Issac Grandstaff, Daniel Smith, Jacob Vantrease, Duncan Johnson, Joseph Foust, James Hill, Joseph Carlin, John Patton, George Hearn, John Bradley, Wm. New Robert, Branch James Edwards, William Howard, John White, Edmund Jennings, Thomas Byles, Williarn Palmer, Park Gooddall, Jerre Brown, Thomas B. Reese, James Rather, John Swan, James Scoby, James Hobbs, James Newby, John Caplinger, and perhaps others.
We have given above more than three hundred names of the early settlers of the county. They all have passed away, but most of them have left a posterity to perpetuate their names. Many of these are doubtless quite familiar to our readers.
First Mills, School, Church, Cotton Gin, Etc.
water mill erected in the county was built, it is thought, by
Thomas Conyer, on Barton's Creek, about three miles north of west
from the site of Lebanon, about the year 1796. And the first
licensed water saw and grist mill was built by Matthew Figures,
on Cedar creek, about seven miles north east from the site of
Lebanon, in 1798.
The first horse mill in the county was built in "the Donnell Settlement," eight miles south of the site of Lebanon, near Doak's Cross Roads about the 1798. The miller was a stout youth by the name of Robert Donnell; since well known to the public as Rev. Robert Donnell, a prominent minister of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Before the erection of these and other mills in the territory now embraced within our county, the early settlers had to go to mills in Sumner or Davidson, or convert their corn into meal by the use of the mortar and pestle. Many of the young people never saw any meal, made in this way, but some of the old people now living have not only seen such meal, but helped make it.
The first school taught in the county, as we are informed, was by Benjamin Alexander, in "the Donnell Settlement" about the year 1801. For first High School, see further on in this sketch.
The first church house built in the county, was erected by the Old School Presbyterians near the site of Shop-Spring, on the Sparta Pike, about the year 1799, and the Rev. Samuel Donnell was the first pastor. It was about his time that a disturbance arose in this branch of the church upon the two items of fatality and classical education, which resulted in the formation of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, February 4, 1810.
The first cotton grown west of the Cumberland mountain was in Clover Bottom, in a field to the right hand of the bridge across Stone's river, where the Nashville and Lebanon pike crosses that stream, by John Donelson, afterward father-in-law-of Andrew Jackson, about the year 1789-'90. Its cultivation for home consumption seems to have spread rapidly, for in 1802 there were no less than four gins already built in Wilson County: One by George Alexander, in the neighborhood of old Center Hill; other by John B. Walker, on Hickory Ridge; and the others by Moses Echols and Daniel Trigg, in other sections of the county. These had no presses attached. The first press built, where cotton was "bagged," not baled, for transportation was on the John B. Walker farm, on Hickory Ridge, about the year 1805. It was grown there to some considerable extent, and became a staple product, as it did in some localities in the county just after the termination of the late civil war.
The oldest house in the county, so that we have been able to learn, was built by Samuel Wilson Sherrill, on Barton's Creek, near where the Lebanon and Tucker's Gap crosses that stream, two and a half miles south of west from Lebanon. It was built in 1797-98, of hewn cedar logs, the door shutters being made of split boards, and smoothed with the drawing knife, and nailed together with wrought nails made by hands. It is still in use, the door shutters being now eighty-two years old, and strong and serviceable if not handsome. The next oldest is one of the buildings occupied by John F. Doak, built by his paternal grandfather in 1800. It is of hewn yellow poplar logs, and is now in an excellent state of preservation. Its present occupant has had it weatherboarded, and otherwise renovated, to make it harmonize with more recent improvements. It is said by some that the old McClain house is the oldest in the county; but I do not know with certainty.
We have tried to ascertain the names of the first couple married in Wilson, but failed. We have endeavored also to find out the name of the first white child born in the county but did not succeed. We have been told, however, who was the first white male child born here, but we doubt the correctness of the statement, as it will drive us to the alternative, either that all the women of the county were barren for five or six years, or that all the children born within the same periods were girls! One of the "oldest inhabitants," and one who is well posted, too, says that Josiah S. McClain, well known as the clerk of the county court for a period of more than forty years, was the first white male child "to put in his appearance" in what is now Wilson county having been born January 1, 1799. This was before the county was established, and strictly speaking he was born in Sumner county. Nevertheless, we speak of many things as having occurred in Wilson, before its legal existence. The county has now a population of 3,261 inhabitants.
Organization of the County
The first county court, or court of pleas and
quarter sessions with probate powers, was organized and held at
the house of Capt. John Harpole, on Hickory Ridge, about five
miles west of the site of Lebanon, on Monday, December 23, 1799.
The house stood near the large spring on the John B. Walker farm,
more recently known as the Dr. Thomas Norman place, and now the
property of Col. James Hamilton. The following named gentlemen
were the commissioned magistrates, to-wit: Charles Kavanaugh,
John Alcorn, John Lancaster, Elmore Douglas, John Doak, Matthew
Figures, Henry Ross, William Gray, Andrew Donelson and William
McClain. Charles Kavanaugh was elected chairman; Robert Foster,
clerk; Samuel Roseborough, Sheriff, John Alcorn, register; John W.
Peyton, trustee; William Gray, ranger; Henry Ross, coroner; and
William Quesenberry, surveyor. Benjamin Seawell, Esq., was
elected the county solicitor.
John C. Hambleton was the first attorney admitted to the bar of Wilson County, Dec. 24, 1799. He heads the long list of a bar distinguished for its ability. Among the prominent men who began the practice of law at this bar, we may mention Harry L. Douglass, Samuel Houston, George Samuel and William Yerger, Robert M. Burton, John S. Brien, Jordan Stokes, William L. Martin, Robert Hatton and Edward I. Golladay.
Of the visiting attorneys were Andrew Jackson, Felix Grundy and Ephraim H. Foster of Davidson; John J. White, John H. Bowen and William Hadley, of Sumner; Samuel Anderson and Charles Ready of Rutherford; and more recently, Col. John Head and Col. Jo C. Guild of Gallatin.
The court held its sessions at the house of Captian Harpole until March term, 1802 when it adjourned to meet at the house of Henry Turney, on Barton's Creek, about three miles south-west from the present county seat. Here it adjourned its sittings until December term, 1802, when it adjourned to meet at the house of Edward Mitchell in Lebanon, which had that year been located and established by the commissioners as the permanent capital of the county.
established under the Constitution of 1796 were at first two,
besides the magistrates', namely, the court of pleas and quarter
sessions for each county, and the superior or district courts.
The former had a more extended jurisdiction than the present
county court. In addition to probate and other county matters, it
had jurisdiction of civil and criminal causes with trial by jury.
The latter was the court of highest resort until 1810, when the
court of errors and appeals was established. The judges of this
higher court were of equal grade until 1831, when Judge Catron
was elected the first chief justice of the state.
Under the Constitution of 1834, the judicial system was re-organized, and besides the magistrates' courts, county courts, circuit courts, chancery courts, and the Supreme Court of Tennessee were established. The number of judges constituting this latter court has varied from time to time, but it consists now of five, one of whom is chief justice.
The first circuit court was held in this county on the first Monday in September, 1810, and the Hon. Thomas Stuart was the first judge to preside; H. L. Douglass, clerk; and Alfred Bach, Esq., solicitor general.
The first chancery court was held here on the 25th day of July, 1836, the honorable L. M. Bramlitt being chancellor, and John H. Dew, Esq., clerk and master.
The county is divided into 25 civil districts, and has 51 magistrates, two to each district, except that of Lebanon, which has three, and 26 constables.
Land and Soils
surface of the county embraces, as before stated, about 370,000
acres, about 165,000 acres of which is in cultivation. The rest
is wood and pasture land, except old, worn-out fields which are
not numerous and a few glades and rocky points on some of the
hills and ridges.
About three-fourths of the county is enclosed, generally by good fences, some of stone, but much the greater proportion of cedar.
The soils may be divided into four classes, as follows:
1. The river and creek bottoms, which are alluvial and of great fertility, producing nearly everything grown by the farmers of the county.
2. A dark soil, peculiar to the cedar flats, the least desirable of any we have, and subject to drought, being usually near the rock.
3. That found on the hills, ridges and plateaus of the north-western and middle portion of the county, and the slopes of the hills of the eastern and south-eastern parts, is a sandy, mulatto-colored soil; it has been called the CORN soil, though it produces wheat, cotton, tobacco, potatoes, etc., well. It is excellent for apples, peaches, grapes, and other fruits.
4. That found in the valleys and lower parts of the county, outside of the bottoms, which is also a mulatto soil, but is more compact and clayey. It has been denominated the WHEAT soil, and does not fall much behind the last named, giving ample returns to the farmer. The lands vary in price from $7.50 to $75 per acre, depending upon soil, timber, locality and improvements.
Placing the average price at $15 per acre, the farms of Wilson are worth, in the aggregate, $5,550,000. On account of the decline in the prices of lands since the census report of 1870, we have deducted one fourth of the cash value as therein given for our county. We presume a like decline has attended every other county in the state.
Wilson ranks as the sixth county. Those outranking her in this respect are, in the order of greatest value, Bedford, Davidson, Maury, Rutherford, and Shelby. Wilson is credited in its census report for 1870 with 3,059 farms, ranging in size from three to nearly one thousand acres each. They are mostly occupied by their owners, very few entire farms being rented. Land rents on the shares, from one-third to one half the crop; in money, from $1 to $5 per acre, according to quality of soil.
Products of the Soil
The products of the soil, as given in the census reports for 1870 were as follows: Corn, 1,173,201 bushels; barley, 11,355 bushels; wheat, 241,715 bushels; oats, 151,067 bushels; rye, 3,189 bushels; sweet potatoes, 33,362 bushels; irish potatoes, 25,945 bushels; clover seed, 1,117 bushels; grass seed, 932 bushels; hay, 5,850 tons; cotton, 1,205 bales; tobacco, 332,901 pounds; sorghum molasses,, 47,794 gallons. Also orchard products, value, $24,660; produce of market gardens, $11,740; forest products, $9,668 (not less now than $175,000); home manufactures, $45,909, being in the aggregate about $255,237.
The livestock, according to the same authority, were as follows: horses, 9,682 head; mules and asses, 4,150 head; milch cows, 5,185 head; working oxen, 584 head; other cattle, 7,399 head; sheep, 24,023 head; and hogs, 48,708 head, with a multitude of domestic fowls. Estimated value of livestock, $1,919,019.
The population by the census report of 1870, was as follows: white, 18,544: colored, 7,331; male, 12,898; female, 12,983; Indians, 6; total, 25,881; scholastic, 8,062; voting, 5,332.
property, as given by the assessment of 1878, was as follows:
Real, 354,580 acres; value, $3,982,858; personal, less $1,000
exemptions, $982,818; aggregate, $4,965,676. This shows a decline
since the census report of 1870, owing to the stringency of the
times. Poll tax on 4,164 polls, $4,164.
According to the census report of 1870. Wilson county took the lead in the production of wheat, sorghum molasses, butter, and in rearing horses, over all other counties in the state. It stood second in the growth of barley, grass, and clover seed, and in raising hogs, and third best in mules and asses, and animals for slaughter, the value of the latter being, in 1870, $622,714.
Roads and Railroads
is traversed by a number of good roads, most of them being
turnpikes. Eleven of these pikes, radiate from Lebanon, besides
three or four others which lie in other sections of the county.
There is a number of common dirt roads, most of them being in
rather bad condition, especially in the winter season.
All these roads connect Lebanon directly or indirectly with the villages and other points of interest in the county, as well as with the towns and villages in the adjoining counties.
Besides the turnpike, which runs from Lebanon to Nashville, the Tennessee and Pacific railroad is completed from the latter to the former place, furnishing ample facilities for speedy transportation of passengers and freight from one to the other.
It is hoped this road will, in the near future, be extended on to Knoxville, thus giving a direct all rail route from the present to the first capital of the state, without having to make a circuitous trip through two other states to accomplish the end. Besides the railroad facilities, Cumberland river furnishes steamboat navigation half the year. Hunter's Point and other landings are shipping points in this county.
Schools and Colleges
county has become rather noted for its schools. Besides many
common subscription and free schools, it has a number of
excellent high schools, both male and female, and university of
no little celebrity.
Professor George M. McWhirter, assisted by two daughters, established the first high school in the county, called Campbell's Academy, in 1810-1812, about six miles west from Lebanon on Hickory Ridge, and near the old Nashville road.
It was a popular school for a number of years, many of the older citizens of this and adjoining counties having received their academic education within its halls. It was subsequently transferred to Lebanon, where it was the principal male school for a number of years, Prof. Miron Kilborn, Rev. Thos. C. Anderson and S. C. Anderson, having been at different times among its teachers. It was finally merged in the Preparatory Department of Cumberland university.
The next school of high grade was the Abbey Female Institute, established under the direction of Miss Harriet Abbey and her sister, Mrs. Kilborn, about 1830-35, in Lebanon. Many of the matrons of the county will remember this school as the place where, when young, they spent many happy hours at school.
About the year 1842-44, Princeton College, Ky., under the direction of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, was moved to Lebanon, and its name changed to Cumberland university, of which Rev. F. R. Cossitt, D. D. was the first president. It has been in successful operation ever since, excepting a suspension during the late civil war, and has been one of the most celebrated institutions of learning in the state.
It has its preparatory and academical departments, its engineering, telegraphic, theological and law schools, with a faculty distinguished for its ability. Of its able teachers, now of the faculty, we may mention Rev. Thomas C. Anderson, D. D. for a long time its president; the late N. Lawrence Lindsley, L. L. D., once professor of languages; Gen. A. P. Stewart, at one time professor of mathematics; the late Judge Nathan Green, whose opinions, delivered while a member of the supreme court, are quoted as high authority by the legal profession everywhere, and who was, for several years professor in the law school; and the late Judge Abraham Caruthers, "the best common law lawyer in the state," the founder of the law school, and for more than a dozen years one of its professors. Its alumni are well represented at the bar and upon the bench; in the pulpit and in both state and national councils, as well as in the fields of journalism, education, and other departments of human enterprise.
Among other schools of excellence at Lebanon and elsewhere in the county, Greenwood Seminary, a popular school for young ladies, deserves especial notice. It was founded by the late Professor N. Lawrence Lindsley, LL.D., a courteous and accomplished gentleman and scholar, in 1850, on his beautiful estate four miles south-east from Lebanon, and counts its patrons from a number of western and southern states. Since the death of Mr. Lindsley, in 1868, the school has been conducted with, if possible, increased popularity by his estimable and accomplished widow, Mrs. Julia M. Lindsley, assisted by a corps of able teachers.
Wilson county is justly proud of her schools.
Churches, Mills, Etc.
Methodists, Baptists, Cumberland Presbyterians, and Christians
are numerically the principal religious denominations of the
county. They have many churches, or houses of worship, located
here and there over the county, nearly all of them neat and
comfortable, and some beautiful, especially in Lebanon and the
villages. The advantages of the pulpit and the Sunday school are
extended to all.
There are many mills, saw mills and grist mills, propelled by water and steam, in the county. Every neighborhood has one or more of each, thus furnishing the people with ample facilities for obtaining meal, flour and lumber. Several of these manufacture flour for export, especially that at Lebanon, owned and operated by J. A. Lester & Co. Flour made at these mills commands the highest price, not only in this state, but in New York and other markets. This mill also supplies a home market for the sale of wheat to the farmers of Wilson and other counties.
The Fair Grounds of the Wilson County Agricultural and Mechanical association, located at Lebanon, reflect no little credit upon the association, and the county. The grounds enclosed embrace about 20 acres, with well appointed improvements for purposes of comfort and exposition. There is a large covered amphitheatre, a complete circle, with open court within, making a delightful promenade, as well as furnishing an ample number of seats for the spectators. A floral hall and other buildings are attached. The association was organized about the year 1852, and except a suspension during the late civil war, has held its annual fairs ever since.
The county has also its home for the poor, or asylum for the unfortunate and improvident, consisting of a farm and improvements, managed by a superintendent. The beneficiaries are but few.
the county seat, was founded in 1802. It is situated on the east
branch of Barton's creek, six miles south from Cumberland river,
about six miles north of the present geographical center of the
county, and thirty miles east from Nashville, with which it is
connected by the Tennessee & Pacific railroad.
The commissioners - Christopher Cooper, Alanson Trigg, Matthew Figures, John Harpole and John Doak - assisted by William Quesenbury, the county surveyor, sought to locate the town near the center of the county, but after examining several localities decided to locate it where they did on account of the big spring.
When Christopher Cooper saw this large, beautiful stream, he exclaimed, "Here Is the place!" And so it was.
The abundance of excellent water determined the location, and the cedar groves by which the spring was then surrounded suggested the name of the town. Lebanon was located on a small tract of land bought of James Meneis, the town laid off and the lots sold, August 16, 1802 at public auction. It was not a place of great expectations, as choice lots sold for only thirteen dollars each.
The first settler on what is now the town tract was Neddy Jacobs, in 1800. He lived at first in a log cabin with a dirt floor. After the town was established he built another with a puncheon floor; but Mrs. Jacobs didn't like the change at all; said she had never had any peace since they had moved into the new house. It was putting on too much style to suit her notions of propriety.
John Impson built the first house after the town was laid off. It stood north of the spring. Thomas Impson, Edward Mitchell, Edmund Crutcher, and others built also.
William Allen, an Irishman, was the first merchant to open a store in Lebanon, in 1803. His clerk was Jo Johnson, who subsequently became his partner, and finally bought him out. The first physicians were Drs. John Tulloch and Samuel Hogg. Edward Mitchell was the first hotel keeper, in 1803. The first school teacher was an Irishman by the name of John Trotter, about 1805. The first postmaster was John Alcorn, and the first mayor of Lebanon was Edmund Crutcher, the town having been incorporated in 1807. The first church erected in Lebanon was by the Methodists, about the year 1812, and Rev. German Baker was the first pastor. Previous to this, preaching had been held in private houses or in the courthouse.
The first courthouse was built in 1803, of cedar. Some say it was a framed house, others say it was built of logs. All are agreed that it was a small affair. It was succeeded by the brick courthouse, which stood in the center of the public square, and which was built by William Seawell in 1810-11. Many of the people remember it, with its hipped roof, small doors and smaller windows. It was the temple of justice for nearly forty years. In 1848, the present courthouse was built, and the old one pulled down and moved away. This last courthouse is large and well constructed, furnishing ample accommodation for the courts, the clerks, sheriff and other county officials.
The county has had three jails, one wooden and two brick. The first was built of logs, in 1803. The second was of brick, and stood on the west side of the square, near the creek. The third and present jail is also of brick, built on a flat rock, and is regarded as safe, few prisoners having escaped from it.
Dr. Henry Shelby built the first brick dwelling in Lebanon, about 1812. The next was built by Joseph Johnson not long thereafter. Mr. Johnson brought the first piano to Lebanon in 1815. It cost $300 and was something new to the "backwoods" people of Wilson. When the Misses Johnson would play upon it, the town and country people who might happen to be within hearing, would collect about the window, charmed with the music. People thought old Joe Johnson was extravagant and putting on airs! People will talk. Some said his children would be ruined!
The first newspaper published in Lebanon was by Ford & Womack, in 1818, but it was soon discontinued. It was called the Lebanon Gazette. In 1842 the Banner of Peace, edited by Dr. F. R. Cossitt, in the interest of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, was published at Lebanon, and so continued until it was removed to Nashville, about 1851. Besides these, the Chronicle, the Packet, the Free Press, Cumberland University Magazine, the Herald and perhaps others have been published at Lebanon.
Lebanon has grown steadily, though slowly, notwithstanding it has been visited now and then by an epidemic, or an occasional fire. Besides a number of private residences, two large cotton factories, Cumberland university, and two blocks of business houses on the public square, have all been consumed by fire. The town has now six dry goods stores, three drug and book stores, 10 family groceries, two hardware stores, two furniture stores, one hat and shoe store, one merchant tailor, two millinery shops, three restaurants, five saloons, one bakery and confectionary, 2 saddle and harness shops, three tin and stove shops, two jewelry shops, two tobacco and cigar shops, three carriage and wagon shops, three blacksmith shops, two carpenter shops, two undertakers, three barber shops, one marble yard, one pork packing establishment, two flouring mills, one saw mill, a market house, a fine depot building, four hotels, four livery stables, two cooper shops, two free schools - one white and one colored - three private schools, one university, six churches - Methodist, Cumberland Presbyterian, Baptist and Christian, and two colored - Methodist and Baptist, two printing establishments and two newspapers, two national banks, a Masonic hall, Odd Fellows hall, 1 cotton factory, two dentists, six physicians, 20 lawyers, 10 preachers - six white and four colored, a number of beautiful residences and about 2,500 inhabitants, of which about 500 are colored.
Villages and Hamlets
a post-village, 18 miles south-east from Lebanon, on Smith's Fork
creek, was established about the year 1812, on the land of
William Bumpass, and named for Statesville, North Carolina. It
was originally called Maryville, in compliments to Mrs. Bumpass,
whose given name was Mary, but upon the establishment of the post-office
there being already one by this name in the state, it was changed
to Statesville. It is situated among the hills, the soil being
rich and productive, the health good, and the water excellent.
Statesville was a prosperous village, reaching its greatest
prosperity about the year 1835. It had then seven stores, sundry
mechanic shops, and other evidences of a thrifty place. But it
has since declined, having, after a lapse of more than 40 years,
only four stores, four blacksmith shops, one saddle and harness
shop, one boot and shoe shop, one wood shop, a tanyard, hotel,
schoolhouse, two churches - Methodist and Cumberland Presbyterian,
a steam saw mill, a water grist mill, Masonic and Odd Fellows
halls, three physicians, one preacher, and about 150 inhabitants,
of which about 30 are colored.
Statesville, although old and little, shows some signs of returning prosperity, and is now the center of a considerable local trade. It is situated in the midst of a moral, industrious, well-to-do and hospitable people.
CAINSVILLE, a post hamlet, 18 miles nearly south from Lebanon, was established in 1829, in a healthy and fertile section of the hill country, on the land of George I. Cain, for whom it was named. It is situated on the Statesville and Murfreesboro pike, about one mile south of Fall creek, and was in its earlier days a flourishing village, having a number of stores, sundry mechanic shops, and other evidences of prosperity. But since it has declined, having now but three stores, some mechanic shops, two churches - Methodist and Cumberland Presbyterian, a school, two physicians, and about 75 inhabitants, of which 15 are colored.
Cainsville is situated in a fine agricultural district, in a moral, intelligent, prosperous and hospitable community, and has a trade of local importance.
GLADESVILLE, a post-village on the Statesville and Nashville road, 12 miles south-west from Lebanon, was established in 1852, on the land of Benjamin Hooker Jr. John Bland was appointed the first postmaster. It is situated in an undulating and moderately healthy section, though the village proper is located on a rocky glade, from which it takes its name. It is old enough to have grown larger, but it didn't. It has but two stores, one saddle and harness shop, one wagon shop, a cabinet shop, two blacksmith shops, a school house, Methodist church, Masonic and Odd Fellows halls, one physician, and about 40 inhabitants, of which a half-dozen are colored. Gladesville is situated in the midst of a moral, industrious and clever people.
Mt. Juliet, a post-office and station on the Tennessee and Pacific railroad, 14 miles west from Lebanon, was established on the land of Newton Cloyd in 1870, and named for old Mt. Juliet, which was situated about a half mile south of the depot. Old Mt. Juliet was located in 1835, on the old Lebanon and Nashville road, on the land of John J. Crudoup, about a half mile west from the "old Eagle Tavern," which was well known to the traveling public in days gone by. A little later, the stage road was changed, so as to run by Fountain of Health, when old Mt. Juliet declined. The new Mt. Juliet was established as above stated. It is but a very small place, having only two stores, a blacksmith shop, school house, Cumberland Presbyterian (Cloyd's) church, Masonic and Odd Fellows hall, cotton gin, a Methodist church, colored, and about 100 inhabitants, including the "colored addition" on the north, of which about half are colored.
GREEN HILL, a post hamlet, on the Lebanon and Nashville turnpike, 15 miles west from the former, was established on the land of Hugh Robinson, about the year 1837, and took its name from the green grove by which it was then surrounded. The first improvement made upon the site was by John Donelson, about the year 1806. Col. Donelson fixed his summer residence here for a time, the locality being regarded as more healthy than his home on the Cumberland. It is a broken, though fertile and healthy section of the county, and the people intelligent, enterprising and hospitable. Though small in population, Green Hill has been from the first a place of local importance. Its most prosperous days were before the era of railroads, when the mails and passengers were conveyed by stage coaches, and when it was an important stand midway between Lebanon and Nashville. It has now but one store, a blacksmith shop, one wood shop, a steam cotton gin, school house, one church used by all denominations, one physician, and about 100 inhabitants, of which about 35 are colored.
LA GUARDO, a post village on the road from Leeville to Wood's ferry on the Cumberland, 12 miles north-west from Lebanon, was established about the year 1835-36 on the land of Col. Turner Vaughan, who suggested the name of the place. It is situated in the valley of the Cumberland, about two miles south from that river, in an undulating, healthy and very fertile section of the county, and it is noted for its good schools, the sobriety, intelligence, refinement and hospitality of its inhabitants. It was more prosperous before the late civil war than at present, having now but four stores, a blacksmith shop, school house, Masonic hall, five churches - Baptist, Cumberland Presbyterian and Christian, and two colored - Methodist and Baptist, a steam saw mill, one physician, one preacher, and about 100 inhabitants, of which about 20 are colored.
LEEVILLE, (Stringtown, or Kelley's Church) a post hamlet and station on the Tennessee and Pacific railroad, six miles west from Lebanon, was established in 1871, on the land of Rev. D. C. Kelley, and named for Gen. Robert E. Lee, grandson of Martha Washington. It is situated just west of Hickory Ridge, in the valley of Cedar Lick creek, in a healthy and fertile section, and has one store, some mechanic shops, a school house, two churches - Methodist and Baptist, one physician, and about 75 inhabitants.
TAYLORSVILLE (Austin P.O.) a post village on Cedar creek, 7 miles north-east from Lebanon, was established in 1836-40, on the lands of John N. Taylor and Philander Davis, and named for the former, at the suggestion of Gen. Paulding Anderson, its first merchant. It is situated in a healthy, fertile and well-to-do section of the county, and has now two stores, a blacksmith shop, school house, Masonic hall, Union church, a water mill, one physician, and about 70 inhabitants, of which 15 are colored.
SAULSBERRY - a very little, old village on the Lebanon and Trousdale Ferry road, 10 miles from the former, being familiarly called Saul; hence Saulsberry. It is situated on Dry Branch of Round Lick creek, in a healthy, broken and much worn section, the denuded rocks, many gullies and old sedge fields looking much as if the people ought to sell out and go to Texas. Saulsberry was once a big little place, having a number of stores, mechanic shops, and other evidences of prosperity. Its most prosperous period was in 1858-9-60, but the civil war put an end to its prosperity, and it has not yet revived. It has now but one store, one blacksmith shop, one wood shop, a school house, Methodist church, and a population of about 60 inhabitants. Saulsberry has no post office, but the people receive and forward their mails through the offices at Commerce and Tuckers Cross Roads.
COMMERCE, a post village, about 13 miles nearly east from Lebanon, was established about the year 1822, on the land of Joshua Taylor, who suggested its name on account of the brisk trade which sprang up there at an early day. It is situated on a rocky prominence, on the western margin of Round Lick Creek valley, and although more than a half century old, it has grown but little, having been exlipsed for a time by Saulsberry. It has now but one store, two blacksmith shops, one wood shop, one shoe shop, a steam saw and grist mills, school house, Cumberland Presbyterian church, Odd Fellows hall, two physicians, two preachers, and about 60 inhabitants.
WATERTOWN - a post hamlet, on the Lebanon and Sparta turnpike. 13 miles east from the former place, was established in 1858, and named for Wilson Turner Waters, on whose land it was built. It is located in the rich and beautiful valley of Round Lick creek, just below the junction of the three forks, in one of the most prosperous and substantial communities in the county. It has but one store, one blacksmith shop, one wood shop, one steam saw and grist mill, one physician, and about 40 inhabitants, of which about half a dozen are colored.
CHERRY VALLEY - a post hamlet on the Sparta pike, 10 miles south-east from Lebanon was established in 1848, on the land of Wilson T. Cartwright, who suggested the change to Cherry from Pleasant Valley, its original name, when applying for the post office. It is situated in the pleasant valley of west fork of Round Lick creek, and has two stores, two blacksmith and other mechanic shops, a Methodist church, Masonic hall, school house, two physicians, and about 25 inhabitants.
SHOP SPRINGS, a post hamlet, on the Sparta pike, seven miles south-east from Lebanon, was established in 1850, on the land of Thomas Waters, who suggested the name upon application for the post office. It is pleasantly situated in the fertile and delightful valley of Spring creek, in the midst of an excellent community, and has two stores, two blacksmith shops, one wagon shop, one cooper shop, a wood carding factory, school house, two physicians, and about 75 inhabitants, of which not more than a dozen are colored.
Besides these villages, we may mention the following post offices in the county: Bellwood, 10 miles north-east from Lebanon; Tucker's Cross Roads, six miles east; Henderson's Cross Roads, 12 miles east of south; Green Vale, 16 miles south east; Oak Grove, 16 miles southwest; Baird's Mills, 8 miles west of south; Rural Hill, 15 miles nearly south west; Beckwith (Curd's Station) nine miles west; and Silver Springs, 10 miles west from Lebanon, on the Nashville pike, are all places of more or less local importance, each having, besides the post office, one or more stores, mechanic shops, etc.
county has not been remiss in furnishing her quota of public men,
whether in the civil or military service of the country. Among
the more prominent we may mention the Hon. James C. Jones,
governor of the state from 1841 to 1845, and United States
senator from 1852 to 1858. He was a fine stump speaker, and for
awhile the idol of the Whig party of Tennessee. His opponent for
the first named was Gov. James Knox Polk, subsequently President
of the United States.
As representatives in the congress of the United States we note, in the order of their election, the Hon. Samuel Hogg, Hon. Robert L. Caruthers,. Hon. Robert Hatton, Hon. William B. Campbell, Hon. Edward I. Golladay, and Hon. Haywood Y. Riddle.
Of the organic law makers, Hon. Robert M. Burton and Hon. Burchett Douglass were the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1834; Hon. William H. Williamson and Hon. Samuel G. Shepherd, to that of 1870. Wilson county, not being established at the time, had no delegates to the convention which formed the state in 1796.
Hon. Robert L. Caruthers was, for a number of years, one of the judges of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, a position which he worthily adorned, not only on account of his varied learning in the law, but because of his moral worth and his courteous and dignified bearing with the bench, the bar and the people.
Ed. R. Pennebaker was comptroller of the state treasury from 1870 to 1872; and Jesse G. Frazier, Esq. was clerk of the supreme court for several years.
Hon. Robert E. Thompson received the largest popular vote for representative to the general assembly ever obtained by any one for that position in the county; and his son, Lillard Thompson, Esq., received, in 1878, the largest popular vote for attorney-general ever polled for anyone in this judicial district.
Gen. Alexander P. Stewart, for a number of years professor of mathematics in Cumberland university, rose step by step to be lieutenant general in the army of the Confederate States.
Hon. Robert Hatton started out as captain in 1861, was soon after elected colonel of the Seventh Tennessee Regiment, and fell a brigadier general at Seven Pines, April 31, 1862.
Major John K. Howard, of the same regiment, and afterward colonel, was mortally wounded and died near Richmond, Va., in 1862.
Of Wilson countians in the struggle for Texas independence we may mention Mayor James S. Lester, who followed Gen. Sam Houston and the Lone Star banner until the final victory at San Jacinto in 1836. He was subsequently a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, member of the Texas congress, and since her admission in to the Union, a member of the state legislature. He is a son of William Lester, a pioneer of Wilson, one of the 34 children heretofore mentioned, and brother of Henry D. Lester, at one time sheriff of Wilson county.
In the Mexican war of 1846-7, Col. Jack Hays, a native of Wilson county, commanded a regiment of rangers on the western frontier of Texas, and resides now at Oakland, California.
Besides the Yergers, Golladays and Topps, who have made reputations beyond the limits of Tennessee, we may note briefly the following Wilson countians who have gone abroad and attained to positions of trust and honor; Jesse J. Finley, Esq., who removed to Florida in 1837 and subsequently became a judge of the supreme court of that state; Hickerson Barksdale, Esq., who moved to Texas and became a judge of the District court at Dallas; Wilson L. Andrews, Esq., who located at McKinney, and became also a judge of the district court, -- Lindsay, who migrated to Texas a few years since and became a judge of the district court at Gainsville; Edward B. Pickett, a prominent lawyer of the Liberty bar, who has been once or twice speaker of the house of representatives, and is now one of the prospective governors of Texas. There were also Edwin B. Tarver, Esq., a gifted orator, and at one time attorney general of the state, and Robert Green, Esq., one of the profoundest lawyers of the bar of his age, so regarded by judges of the supreme court, both natives. We may also mention Charles Frazier, who moved to Texas before the late civil war, and soon after became judge of the Marshall district court. Paine P. Prim, who went to Oregon in 1850, was subsequently elected judge of a court, and is now chief justice of that state. Samuel C. Roane went to the Territory of Arkansas at an early day, was appointed governor, and subsequently a judge of the supreme court of that state. John S. Roane, a brother of the above named, migrated to Arkansas in 1836, was a colonel in the Mexican war and subsequently governor of his adopted state. W. W. Vaughan moved to West Tennessee some years since, was elected to congress since the late war, president of a railroad, and would have received the nomination of the Democratic party of his district for congress in 1878, had he lived a few weeks longer. M. L. Bell, who located at Pine Bluff in 1848, was a prominent candidate for United States senator in 1878.
Besides these, we may mention also Jos. W. Carter, who became a member of the McMinnville bar some years before the late war, was elected attorney general of his district, and subsequently represented Franklin county in the legislature. James P. Scott, Edwin Chambers, and Jack May Martin, all moved to Texas and have been members of her legislature. Many other Wilson countians have gone to other states and filled positions of trust and honor, but whose names I have not time to collect. It would be a pleasure to mention them here had I definite knowledge of them. I had almost forgotten to mention John McHenry, who went to Louisiana about the year 1835, became a prominent lawyer, and subsequently judge of one of her courts. He resides now in San Francisco, California, having acquired an easy competence. There was Dr. William P. Smith also, who went to Texas in 1835, and became surgeon-general of the army of Texas commanded by Gen. Sam Houston. He was a genial gentleman. Rev. Dr. D. C. Kelley, a missionary of the M. E. Church to China, and now pastor of the McKendree church at Nashville, is a native of Wilson county. He is quite a prominent member of his church, and bids fair to become a member of the College of Bishops. And last, but not least, we may add that the biggest man in Texas, W. B. Trice, who attained to the weight of four hundred and fifty pounds, not much behind Daniel Lambert, of London, is a native of Wilson county. He went there with only twenty dollars in his pocket, driving a wagon to pay his way. He worked at first for twelve dollars per month, chopped wood, drove oxen, milked cows, then played constable, shaved notes, made brick, built houses, and then became a merchant; finally he engaged in farming and banking, and now owns not only an excellent well improved, and well stocked farm, but is also president of the First National Bank of Waco. So much for luck, pluck and grip. The way is still open to others. Pitch in, young men, and try for your fortunes. Trice is worth only about a hundred thousand, but that makes friends. Success "makes the man, the want of it the fellow" with the bulk of mankind.
Judges of the Circuit Court
Since the establishment of the districts or circuits, in 1810, the following named judges have presided at the Lebanon bar; the last three beng citizens of Wilson county; Thomas Stuart, J. C. Mitchell, Samuel Anderson, Hugh L. Davidson, Henry Cooper, John W. Phillips, William H. Williamson, and Robert Cantrell, whose term expires in 1886.
Clerks of the Circuit Court
The clerks for the same period are as follows: Harry L. Douglass, Samuel C. Roane, Henry Shelby, John S. Topp, Samuel Yerger, William L. Martin, John W. White, Harris H. Simmons, James H. Britton, Calvin W. Jackson, Plummer W. Harris, Joseph T. Manson, William M. McCorkle, and Samuel G. Stratton, whose term expires in 1882.
The following is the list of Attorneys General, those marked with the dagger (+) being citizens of Wilson County, to wit: Alfred Balch, William R. Hess, Samuel H. Laughlin, Samuel Yerger+, Robert L. Caruthers+, Thomas C. Whiteside, Hugh L. Davidson, William L. Martin+, James E. Scudder, B. M. Tillman, James M. Brien, Horace Rice+, James F. Stokes+, Moses W. McKnight and Lillard Thompson+, whose term expires in 1886.
The chancellors who have presided over the chancery court, from its establishment in 1836 to the present time are as follows, Chancellor being the only resident of our county: Lunsford M. Bramlitt, Bromfield L. Ridley, John P. Steele, Charles G. Smith, Horace H. Lurton, Benjamin J. Tarver and George E. Seay, whose term expires in 1886.
Clerks and Masters
The clerks and masters of the chancery court at Lebanon, from 1836 to the present time, are as follows: John H. Dew, James B. Rutland, John K. Howard, Jordan E. White, Orville Green, Haywood Y. Riddle, and Rufus P. McClain, now in office.
Clerks of the County Court
The names of the Clerks of the county court from its organization, December 23, 1799 to the present time, as follows: Robert Foster, J. C. Henderson, John Alcorn,+ John Stone, Josiah S. McClain,+ Rufus P. McClain and Jesse F. Coe, whose term expires in 1882.
+ These held office, the first for more than 25
years, and the second for more than 40 years.
+ Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey, in his excellent work entitled "The Annals of Tennessee" states that William McClain was for a long time clerk of our county court, and that his son, Josiah S. McClain, was then (1852) clerk of said court. Dr. Ramsey, usually so terse, graphic and reliable, has fallen into an error here, as William McClain never was clerk of the county or any other court in Wilson. His son, as stated above, was clerk more than 40 years. In the next edition of his valuable work, Dr. Ramsey will doubtless make the necessary correction. (end of footnote).
The following is the list of trustees of the county from 1799 to the present time, so far as I have been able to collect them: John W. Peyton, James Stuart, Edmund Crutcher, David C. Hibbitts, John Shorter, D. B. Moore, J. W. Edwards, J. T. Lane, Nathan Oakley, and L. N. M. Cook, whose term expires in 1880.
The following are the registers of the county from 1799 to the present time: John Alcorn, Henry Ross, James Foster, Thomas Edwards, Alfred H. Foster, Giles H. Glenn, Robert M. Holman, Allen W. Vick, and John F. Tarpley, whose term expires in 1882.
The following lists of senators and representatives may not be exactly correct, as some of the senate and house journals are missing, even in the office of the secretary of state. Nor is there a complete set of the Acts of the General Assembly in the State labrary; and if I have omitted any names it is because I could not find them in the imperfect records of the state.
Hon. John H. Dew, 1809-1811; John K. Wynn (two terms) 1811-1815; William Seawell, 1815-1817; 0. G. Finley, 1817-1819; William Steele (three terms) 1821-1827; George I. Cain, 1827-1829; Joseph Johnson, 1829-1831; Burchett Douglass (Speaker) 1831-1833; Benjamin T. Mottley (two terms) 1833-1837; Paulding Anderson (1837-1839) Benjamin T. Mottley, 1839-1840; Thomas J. Munford, 1840-1841; Benjamin T. Mottley, 1841-1843; William L. Martin, 1843, 1845; John Muirhead (two terms) 1845-1849; James Hamilton, 1849, 1851; Paulding Anderson, 1851, 1853; Jordan Stokes, 1859-1861; Z. W. Frazer, 1865-1867; Faver Cason, 1869, 1871; James Hamilton, 1873, 1875; Robert E. Thompson, 1877-1879;
Hon John Hawkins, 1809-1811 (Hawkins is scratched out and the name of Joseph Johnson handwritten in); Robert Edwards, 1811, 1815; Harry I. Douglass, 1815-1817; Robert Edwards, 1817-1819; William Steele, 1817-1819; Robert Edwards, 1819-1821; Burchett Douglass, 1821-1825; John Williamson, 1825-1827; Robert M. Burton, 1827-1829; Burchett Douglass, 1829-1831; John G. Dew, 1831-1835; Robert L. Caruthers, 1835-1837; John Hall, 1835-1837; C. W. Cummings, 1837-1839; James C. Jones, 1839-1841; Miles McCorkle 1841- 1843; John Muirhead, 1841-1843; Thomas K. Roach, 1843-1845; James Hamilton, 1843-1845; Henry S. Frazer, 1845-1847; Edwin Chambers, 1845-1847; Erastus S. Smith, 1847-1849; T. W. Davis, 1847-1849; Erastus S. Smith, 1949-1851; John W. Burton, 1849-1851; Jordan Stokes (Speaker) 1851-1853; Robert E. Thompson, 1851-1855; T. C. Martin, 1855-1857; Robert Hatton, 1855-1857; John T. Gleaves, 1857-1859; Ed. I. Golladay, 1857-1859; Z. W. Frazer, 1857-1859; John R. Davis, 1859-1861; William L. Martin, 1859-1861; William L. Waters, 1865-1867; W. H. Grinimett, 1865-1867; Faver Cason, 1867-1869; Wilson L. Waters, 1867-1869; Giles H. Glenn, 1869-1871; A. W. Cox, 1869-1871; Andrew B. Martin, 1871-1873; Samuel G. Shepherd, 1871-1873; Lee Head, 1873-1875; S. S. Preston, 1873-1875; Lee Head, 1875-1877; R. P. McClain, 1875-1877; James F. Stokes, 1877-1878; John T. Gleaves, 1878-1879; H. L. Pickett, 1879-1881.
Sheriffs of Wilson County (1799-1880)
1. Samuel Roseborough, two years, 1799-1802; 2. William Wilson, three months, 1802; 3. Nathaniel Perry, two years, 1802-1804; 4. George Hallum, one year, 1804-1805; 5. John V. Tulloch, one year, 1804-1805; 6. Thomas Bradley, 13 years, 1806-1819; 7. James Williams, two years, 1819-1821; 8. Thomas Bradley, four years, 1821-1825; 9. John Hearn, six years, 1825-1831; 10. Paulding Anderson, five years, 1831, 1836; 11. Benjamin S. Mabry, three years, 1836-1839; 12. Wilborn R. Winter, one year, 1839-1840; 13. Henry D. Lester, four years, 1840-1844; 14. John C. Lash, three years, 1844-1847; 15. Robert Hallum, one year, 1847-1848; 16. John C. Crittenden, six years, 1848-1854; 17. Jonathan Etherly, five years, 1854-1859; 18. Nathan W. McCullough, 1859-1866; 19. William E. Foust, four years, 1866-1870; 20. Andrew McGregor, four years, 1970-1874; 21. David W. Granstaff, two years, 1874-1876; 22. William P. Bandy, four years, 1876-1880.
Transcribed 1999 by Greg A. Tomerlin
For noncommercial use only.