Geographically speaking Rutherford County occupies the exact center of the
State, and almost the exact center of Middle Tennessee. Few if any
vertical sections of any great depth have been made, and it is believed no
record has been kept. The county embraces an area of over 500 square
miles, the outcrop being blue limestone and shales. It is what geologists
term lower Silurian. It is probable that the depth of this formation
extends from 500 to 1,000 feet with occasional thin strata of other
The soil of this county is exceedingly fertile, being either of a black or
brownish red color; the latter color is doubtless due to the iron oxides
contained in it. Although there are many places where the ground is
apparently covered with Stone, yet by careful husbandry there are few
places that cannot be made to yield a rich harvest to the careful and
industrious husbandman. Fields that have been cultivated for nearly a
century, and are apparently worn out by the cultivation of corn and
cotton, are soon reclaimed by a few years growth of red clover, or by
seeding in the blue-grass, make excellent grazing lands.
The native growth
of timber embraces almost every kind grown in the temperate climate. The
native trees that are valuable in the markets are oak, hickory, walnut,
poplar and cedar, vast quantities of the latter being shipped to all
parts of the county, and until within the last few decades was almost the
exclusive article of produce for the market, and it is still more largely
cultivated than any other one thing, yet large quantities of wheat and
corn are raised. The production of these three articles is almost
marvelous in some instances with a suitable season. The intelligent farmer
has learned the necessity of a rotation in crops for the improvement of
the land and to guard against over production in some articles and the
necessary consequences - dull prices for that article. His crops are now
more varied, more wheat and corn and pasture lands. This brings about a
necessity for more stock, and such is now seen. The county is now largely
engaged in breeding fine horses, cattle and sheep. These are bringing rich
rewards to those so engaged. Large quantities of rye, oats, barley,
tobacco, potatoes, hay, peas, pans, wool, butter and cheese are also
produced. The product of the orchard and garden embraces everything from
the smallest and sweetest berry to the finest apple. The quantity is only
limited by the effort of the producer.
The east fork of Stone River enters
this county near Readyville in the eastern part of the county and flows
almost in a northwest direction through its entire course. It forms a part
of the boundary line between Districts No. 17 and 19; from 19 it receives
Andrew and McKnight Creeks as tributaries. At the corners of Districts No.
17, 19 and 22, it received Cripple Creek (named from an accident befalling
a man while crossing it) as a tributary; this with its branches rises
mainly in District No. 22. Stones River passes through the central part of
District No. 22, and near the western part received Cave Creek from the
south and Bradley Creek from the north. The last named with Stones River
forms the boundary line between Districts Nos. 22 and 15. Near the central
part of District No. 21 it receives Bushman Creek. Stones River then forms
the boundary line between Districts No. 15 and 5 on the north, and
Districts Nos. 22, 21, 9 and 6 on the south, where it unites with the west
fork of Stones River.
The west fork enters this county near the southeastern part of the county,
and forms a part of the boundary between Districts Nos. 21 and 25; at the
northern extremity of District No. 25 it receives the waters of Long
Creek, which is the boundary line between District No. 25 on the east and
Districts Nos. 20 and 11 on the west. The main stream forms the boundary
between Districts Nos. 18 and 11; near the center of District No. 11 it
receives the waters of Lytle Creek, and near the center of District No. 11
it receives a tributary of its own name. The head waters of the last named
is called Dry Fork. West fork passes through Districts Nos. 13 and 9; near
Florence Station it receives the waters of Armstrong Creek, the two
branches, east and west fork, unit, and form one stream near Jefferson.
The river passes out of the county in a northwest direction; from the
south on the boundary of Districts No. 6 and 2 it receives Stewart Creek.
Stones River was discovered and explored as far as Jefferson by Gen. Uriah
Stone and four men in 1794. It was for Stone that the river was named.
Other streams in the county were named in honor of prominent families.
Previous to 1780 the Indians held undisputed sway in the county. The old
trace leading from Nashville to Chattanooga is yet to be seen. Along this
route the Choctaws, Chickasaws, and particularly the Cherokees, held
undisputed sway from time immemorial. Soldiers sent out by Gen. Robertson
went as far as Black Fox Camp Spring in 1793. In 1794 Orrs expedition,
sent out by Gen. Robertson, followed the trace by way of Murfreesboro, and
September 7, 1794, camped near Black Foxs Spring. This expedition
extended as far as Nickajack, where the Indians were defeated. Few Indian
troubles occurred after that time. The first settlers in the county were
mainly from Virginia and North Carolina. Those coming from Virginia came
mainly by water by way of the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers; those coming
from North Carolina over the mountains on pack-horses. The parent State,
North Carolina, as an inducement to have the lands on the Cumberland
settled up, offered 640 acres to each head of a family who would live upon
the land; hence the large number of 640-acre grants.
Samuel Wilson, grandfather of Col. Jetton, is said to have visited the
vicinity of Jefferson as early as 1788-89, and marked out lands. He soon
after returned with his family and settled at Wilson Shoals on Stones
River. He has the honor of having planted the first corn within the forks
of Stones River; also of having killed the last elk in the county, near
Murfree Spring. He left a large and respectable family and died in 1827,
and was buried with the honors of war near where the United States
Cemetery now is. Thomas Nelson, Thomas Howell and William Adkinson settled
near Stewart Creek. Col. Robert Weakley and Robert Bedford each owned
grants at the confluence of the east and west forks of Stones River. These
lands were taken up previous to 1800. It was largely through the influence
of these two men that the first seat of justice was located at Jefferson.
William Nash, who, with Col. Weakley, surveyed the line separating
Rutherford from Davidson, is said to have owned the first store in the
county. It was he who administered the oath of office to the justices of
the first county court. Nimrod Menifee settled the land now marked by the
United States Cemetery. The place is marked by two historic events, one
the opening of the second year of the county courts, and the other,
fifty-seven years later, within a few days, the opening of the second
year of the war and with it one of the bloodiest battles of modern times.
Robert Overall settled near Overall Creek, to which his name was given.
His family has been prominent in the history of the county since its
Another early settler in that vicinity was Capt. Richard Ransom, who came
from North Carolina in 1810 and settled near the head of Overall Creek.
Rev. James Bowman was another settler in that vicinity, and was one of the
early ministers of the Presbyterian Church. Each of the last was the head
of a large family. Charles Ready settled near Readyville, to which his
name was given. He settled in the county about 1800, and was one of the
seven justices that constituted the first court in Rutherford County; also
he was one of the seven commissioners to select a new county seat,
appointed by the General Assembly in October, 1811. Of all these he was
last to die. Thomas Rucker, another one of the seven justices, lived
between Murfreesboro and Jefferson; his place came in one vote of being
made the county seat, instead of Murfreesboro. Richard Sanders and family
came from North Carolina about 1806, and settled on Stones River, in the
neighborhood called Raleigh. In the same vicinity were the Floyds,
Brashears, Wights and Goodloes. Murfreesboro marks the settlement of Capt.
The great natural feature of this county caused more good mills to be
erected at an early day than was the case in other places. A few
tread-mills were established in the county, but the vast majority of the
mills were propelled by water-power. Thomas Rucker built a mill on his
place called the Cave Mill in 1799. Louis Anthonys mill was built on
Stones River, adjoining Henry Gilhams place, in 1804. Cummings and
smith mills each existed at the beginning of 1804. John M. Tilford built
a grist and saw-mill on the west fork of Stones River, near the Salem
Pike, in 1814-15; a distillery was added to this later. Samuel Tilford
built a mill on the east fork in 1815. David Dickman built a mill on the
west fork in 1809, and in the same year James Rucker built a cotton-gin,
the first in the county. Rates then were fixed by law as follows: Dinner,
25 cents; supper and breakfast, 20 cents each; lodging, 8-1/8 cents;
horse, with corn or oats and fodder, 33-1/8 cents; oats, per gallon,
8-1/8 cents; whisky, one-half pint, 12½ cents; peach brandy, one-half
pint, 12-1/8 cents; French brandy, rum or wine, one-half pint, 50 cents.
The following kept ordinaries previous to 1820: William Mitchell, William
Nash, Harvey Pope, Charles OFlynn, Hugh Good, James Hill, William
Hansbrough, W. R. Hearn, Thomas Mayfield, Peter Williams, William Rather
and T. Goodrich.
It is claimed that William Nash started the first trade-store in the
county. This was near Jefferson about 1803. The usual stock in trade
consisted of few articles of dry goods, some groceries, a little powder
and lead and the inevitable barrel of whisky. Money being scarce a system
of exchange was instituted. Large ox hides were rated at about $4;
inferior ones proportionately less; wolf scalps, at $2.50 each, receivable
for taxes; deer skins, 50 cents; deer saddles, 50 cents per pair; coon
skins, 25 cents each. These, with other produce, were sent to New Orleans
by flat-boat, a journey requiring a month
or more to complete. Dollars were frequently cut into halves or quarters
and given for change, hence two bits, four bits,
etc. Food consisted
solely of the product of the farm and forest. A little corn was raised,
and either eaten as hominy or made into an
indifferent meal, and then into bread. Turkey, deer and elk
abounded; hogs were allowed to run at large, and when wanted
were hunted sown and shot; clothing was made of the coarsest
homespun. A maid dressed after the fashion of the day looked as
lovely to her rustic lover, though dressed in a homely garb, with
cheeks aglow with health, as does now the belle of fashion, in her
silks and jewels, to her gay suitor.
Articles of household furniture were simple and plain. Gourds and cows
horns were dressed, and, with a handle adjusted, were used for drinking
vessels. Stills were as
numerous as the mills, and the whisky barrel as common as the meal
tub. Instead of the social glass of the more refined society, they
were simply asked to take a horn, i.e., a drink; hence the origin of
the expression take a horn. Dr. Thomas Norman was born on
the night following the completion of the survey of the county, which
had been assigned to William Nash and Col. Robert Weakley,
consequently he as the first child born in Rutherford County.
Black Fox Camp Spring was a marked place during the Indian troubles.
There is a beautiful tradition of the celebrated Black Fox, who, when
he was overpowered by his enemies, rather than fall into their hands,
leaped into the spring with his arms and sank from sight. The story
would have been incomplete had he not come to light again, and the
tradition that buried him brought him out alive at Murfree Spring.
About three miles from Murfreesboro is the old Bradley race
track, which was a famous resort for sportsmen since 1820. Col.
Robert Smith was a prominent figure in those races. Betting, card
playing, and the usual accompaniment were common at those races.
Near this old race track is the old Indian dance ground, which is a
circular track dug out of the earth and rock. Neither history nor
tradition tells of its origin.
As the law now is, counties having a population of between 7,000
and 10,000 must be divided into 7 civil district; those between
10,000 and 15,000 into 12 districts; those between 15,000 and
20,000 into 15 districts; those having from 20,000 to 25,000 into 17
districts; those having from 25,000 to 30,000 into 20 districts, and
those above 30,000 have 25 districts. These are numbered by the
ordinal numbers. Previous to the constitutional convention in 1834
the districts were named from prominent families, as Sanders,
Ready, May and Murphy Districts. The first divisions were
made in 1804. The county was then divided into three divisions.
Thomas Rucker, John Howell and Thomas Mitchell were
ordered to make the divisions. The first was made by a line along the
west fork of Stones River to the most westerly branch to the Indian
trace; thence along the trace to the Wilson County line; thence
along the county line to Smiths mill; thence on a line to
Cummings mill; thence to the place of beginning. The second
contained all west of the river to the western boundary. The third all
north of the road leading from Smiths and Cummings mill and
east of Stones River. James Rucker, James Howell and
William Lytle were appointed cotton inspectors, each for his own
warehouse or district. Tobacco inspectors were appointed after the
manner of cotton inspectors. Polls were listed and taxes assessed in
the various parts of the county by the justices of the respective
districts. The heads of families, when not over age, were enrolled
into militia companies, and they were listed by companies. The first
of this kind was in 1805, when Justice John Hill listed Capt. John
Smiths company; William Nash listed Capt. Samuel
McBrides company; W. W. Searsey, W. W. Searseys
company; William Lytle, Capt. John Johns company; William
Smith, Capt. O. M. Benges company, and Charles Ready,
Capt. Alexander McKnignts company. These companies varied
with the population. In 1806 the captains of companies were as
follows: Capts. Alex McKnignt, Peter Noe, R. Ready, Henry
Mccoy, Nimrod Junkins, William Robinson, Thomas
Yardley, W. M. Searsey, W. A. Sublett, Samuel
McBride and John Smith. The districts mentioned above have
been subject to many changes since 1834, as well as before that
time, this depending upon the whims and conveniences of the
people. The county court every few years makes a slight change in
these, so many having been made that it would be too tedious to
follow all. The usual price paid for listing up to 1834 was $20 to
each lister. In 1818 the captains of companies were Webb,
Miller, Doaks, Ganaway, Sublett, Morris, Cook,
Fox, Thomas, Robertson, Gilfins, Todd, Welton,
Moore, Haley, Hubbel, Carson, Patton
McKnignt, Thomas Harris, Elliott and A. Harris. In
1821 the number had increased to twenty-three companies, and in
1824 to twenty-six. The number increased yearly till 1833, when the
number had reached thirty-six companies. They were as follows:
Capts. McGregor, Stevens, Saunders, Clement,
Finney, Ridley, Ferguson, Blair, Traylor,
Murphy, Harris, Barlow, Mclean, Norman,
Parrish, Blanton, Hicks, Lillard, Edwards,
Osborn, Thomas, Mather, Smith, Bird, Ivy, Hale,
Newman, Rowland, Hoover, Robertson, Fowler,
Knox, Prewitt, Yourie, Barnett and Brown. From
this time on the respect and enforcement of the militia laws gradually
grew into neglect.
This county was organized by an act of the
General Assembly then in session at Knoxville, October 25, 1803,
but the courts for the county were not organized till January 3, 1804.
The county was named in honor of Gen. Rutherford, of North
Carolina, who was known in the Revolutionary war, and also in
contests with the Indians within the confines of this county. It will not
seem strange that the county should have been named in honor of a
North Carolinian, when it is remembered that previous to 1796,
Tennessee was a part of that territory. Rutherford County was
formerly included in Davidson and Williamson Counties. The dividing
line was on the extreme height of the ridge between Mill Creek and
Stones River; thence southwardly to the eastern boundary of
Williamson; thence with the line of Williamson to the southern
boundary of the State; thence with the State line east to the corner of
Wilson County; thence with the Wilson County line north to the
corner of Wilson; thence with the line of Wilson 6½ degrees west
to the southwest corner of Wilson; thence a direct course to the
mouth of Sugg Creek; thence a direct line to the place of beginning;
that the county so laid off on the east and southeast of the waters of
Stones River, etc., be known and distinguished by the name of
The same act that created the county also ordered the
county board (justices) to meet in March, June, September and
December annually. Rutherford County was declared a part of Metro
District. By an act, November 7, 1803, Samuel Weakley and
William Nash were appointed to fix the boundary line between
Davidson and Rutherford Counties. By an act, August 3, 1804, John
Hill, Frederick Barfield, Mark Mitchell, Alexander
McBright and Peter Legrand were appointed to select a
central site for a seat of justice for the new county. They were to
receive by purchase or donation forty acres of land upon which they
were to erect or cause to be erected a court house, prison and
stocks; to lay out a town to be named by the commissioners; lots
were to be sold at auction to the highest bidder; lots were to be
advertised in the Tennessee Gazette
, and the proceeds of the sale
to be used in the building of the court house, jail and stocks. On
December 3, 1807, Bedford County was cut off from Rutherford,
thus reducing the latter to the constitutional limits. Minor changes
were made in 1815, 1837, 1843, 1844, 1848, 1851, 1852, 1854,
1856, 1860, 1867, 1868, 1870, 1871, 1877, 1879 and 1883.
The above named board selected a site within the forks of Stones
River for a county seat. The town was regularly laid out having about
150 town lots and a Public Square on which was erected a good
brick court house which stood till 1835. The town was named
Jefferson. The following prison bounds were established: Beginning
at the junction of the east and west fork of Stones River running up
the west fork of said river at low water mark to the first cross street;
thence south to the south boundary of Main Street; thence east with
said boundary so as to include the Public Square to a post ten poles
below Mitchells ordinary on the south boundary of said street;
thence north to the low water mark of the east fork of Stone River;
thence down the same to the place of beginning. Norton Green
was appointed overseer of the streets and Public Square. The
following were among the first purchasers of lots in Jefferson: Peter
Cook, Theophilus Cannon, Joseph Bennett, William
Carlisle, Harrison Gilliam, John Bell, Samuel Bell,
Daniel Ferguson, J. A. Lewis, George Douglas, Robert
Weakley, William Howell, Tomas Stone, H. H. Harris,
Norton Green and Mark Mitchell, who kept the first ordinary
in the place. The rich farming lands surrounding Jefferson and river
transportation gave it a prospect of becoming an important
commercial emporium at no distant day. Some very distinguished
men attended court at Jefferson, among whom were Felix
Grundy and Thomas H. Benton. Dissatisfaction arose as to
the location of Jefferson as a seat of justice; a most central location
October 17, 1811, the Legislature appointed Charles
Ready, Hugh Robinson, Hans Hamilton, James
Armstrong, Owen Edwards, Jesse Brashears and
John Thompson commissioners to select a permanent seat of
justice for the county. They were directed to have due regard to
good water and a central location. Sixty acres of land were to be
procured by purchase or donation. A struggle was made to secure
the seat. Readyville Ruckers place, Black Fox Spring and Capt.
William Lytles place were offered. The commissioners visited the
various places mentioned. Charles Ready prepared a sumptuous
dinner, the Rev. Henderson delivered an address, toasts were
drank and strong efforts were made to have Ruckers place
chosen. The commissioners were also entertained by Lytle, where
the vote was taken on his proposition to donate sixty acres of land
south of Murfree Spring Branch to the commissioners. The vote
stood Robinson, Hamilton, Edwards and Thompson
- four in favor of Lytles offer. The opposition led by Ready had
Armstrong, Brashears and Ready - three votes in favor
of Ruckers place. Such was their chagrin at their defeat that they
refused to sign the deeds to the lots sold.
All of the original deeds simply bear the names of Hugh Robinson, Hans
Hamilton, John Thompson and Owen Edwards. The only reserve made
in the deed was a mutual understanding that Lytle should have one
lot redeeded to him. This was accordingly done and the
commissioners gave the lot on the southeast corner of the Square.
The land now in the hands of the commissioners was a part of the
lands originally entered by William Lytle and Archibald Lytle.
The sale of lots was advertised in the Knoxville and Nashville
to begin on June 12, 1812. The lots sold at auction and
were disposed of rapidly. George Smith received Lots 12 and 15
for $116.25. Other purchasers were Daniel Dickinson, William
Lytle, Samuel Wilson, Henry Tratt, Robert Jetton, John
M. Tilford, Wilson Kerr, Bennett Smith, James
Henderson, Blackman Coleman, Fred Barfield,
Hezekiah Cartwright, William Bowen, Hugh
Montgomery and Abe Thompson. The commissioners as
soon as a site was fixed were to effect the removal of records to the
to the new site. Two acres of ground near the center of the seat were to
be reserved, on which were to be built a court house and stocks, and
another lot near was for a jail. The proceeds of the sale of lots were
for the erection of the buildings above mentioned. The act of
January, 1812, ordered the commissioners to report to the county
court; also allowed the commissioners pay for services rendered,
and ordered the records removed. By an act of November 15,
amending an act of October 17, 1811, the name of the new county
seat was changed from Cannonsburg to Murfreesborough. An act
of October 15, 1813, made Joel Childress, Joel Dyer, J. M.
Telford, Abram Thompson, Alex Carmichael, B.
Ganaway and Blackman Coleman commissioners of
Murfreesboro. This act was repealed in September, 1813, and
seven others were elected by the people. An act of November 5,
1813, ordered elections to be held at Murfreesboro instead of Black
Fox Camp; they were also to be held at Readyville and at James
The first court house built in the county was at Jefferson. This house
was built in 1804-05. It was of brick and was built at a cost of
between $2,000 and $3,000, and stood till 1835 or 1836, when it
was sold. It was erected by the commissioners of Jefferson - Peter
Legrand, Mark Mitchell, John Hill, Alex M. Wright,
Fred Barfield and James Sharp. In 1812 a new court house
was erected on the present site of the court house on the Public
Square in Murfreesboro. This seems to have been a very indifferent
house, as in March, 1818, the court appointed Bennett Small,
John Hoover and John Edwards commissioners to repair the
same. For this purpose a tax of 12½ cents on each 100 acres of
land, 25 cents on each house and lot, 25 cents on each stud horse,
25 cents on each black poll, 12½ cents on each White poll, and
$10 on each billiard table was levied. This house was burned in
1822, and a call session in August of 1822 granted premiums for a
new levy of taxes for the purpose of building a new house.
On September 11, 1822, the trustees, Robert McCombs, J. S.
Jetton, Henry Goodloe, Jacob Wright, David Abbott,
Sol Beasley, John Smith, John Dickson, Alex McEwen,
O. N. Crocket, Benjamin Johnston, John Edwards,
Jacob Wright, John Alexander and J. Williams levied a
tax of 37½ cents on each 100 acres of land, 75 cents on each
town lot, 25 cents on each free poll, 50 cents on each black poll,
twice the season for each stallion, $10 on each four-wheel pleasure
carriage, $5 for each two-wheel carriage and $10 for each ordinary
where liquors were sold. They were ordered to pledge the taxes thus
levied for the years 1823, 1824 and 1825, after deducting costs of
collection to the Nashville Branch Bank of Murfreesboro for the
purpose of raising $6,000 for the erection of a new court house. In
case the money was not furnished by the bank the commissioners
had power to procure it on the most advantageous terms elsewhere.
The money was accordingly raised and a brick building erected in
due course of time. This house stood until the present substantial
structure was erected, in 1859. The present building was erected at
a cost of about $50,000. The committee which was appointed to
inquire into the propriety of building a new court house was
appointed January 3, 1859, and was composed of V. D. Cowan,
F. Henry, W. R. Lytle, George Smith and E. A. Keeble.
The committee reported that a new court house was necessary, and
the court made the old committee a building committee with enlarged
powers. The present fence around the court house as erected in
1867, at a cost of nearly $4,000, and the court house was furnished
with gas in 1874.
The first prison bonds have already been
described. There were four persons imprisoned for debt. Stocks
were also built at Jefferson, where persons were bound hand and
foot for lighter offenses.
A whipping post was also erected on the
corner of the Square for the punishment of graver offenses. Samuel
McBride, the sheriff, demanded of the court a suitable jail for
prisoners in his possession. A temporary jail was erected at the
organization of the court, but he was now accommodated with a
better one. On moving the county seat to Murfreesboro a new jail
was built by the commissioners of Murfreesboro on College Street,
a little north of the present jail. This building was of brick, two
stories high and was erected by Mr. Dickson. This building was used as
a jail till 1852, when it was sold to William Spence for $700. On
October 4, 1850, Mr. J. Lidsey, W. H. Helms, B. Clayton,
J. E. Dromgoole, N. W. Carter and John Burke were
appointed to a committee to investigate the needs of the county in
regard to the jail. The committee reported the old jail unfitted for
repairs and that a new one was necessary. The contract for the new
jail, on the present site, was let to Thomas J. Bulgett September
11, 1852. The total cost of the building was $7,984, with some
unfinished work on the outside.
Previous to the passage of the acts
of 1826-27 by the General Assembly, the poor, whom we always
have with us, were kept at private houses and allowances were
made by the court for their care under the head of a poor woman
or a pauper. On November 17, 1828, the board of justices
appointed John Fetcher, Rob Miller, James C. Mitchell,
Thomas Powell and H. D. Jameson, as commissioners to
select and locate an institution for the poor. The sheriff, U. S.
Cummins, was ordered to give notice of such action. February,
1829, they reported that they had decided to purchase 100 acres of
land within eight miles of Murfreesboro. It had been decided to
purchase a farm of 100 acres of land and to build a brick house, and
the commissioners accordingly levied a tax on land and on White and
black polls for that purpose. On August 17, 1829, the
commissioners purchased 100 acres of land where John
Alexander (deceased) lived for $400, and in their report stated
that it would not be necessary to rebuild as $100 worth of repairs
would give ample accommodations. The report of the commissioners
was received and met the approval of a majority of the justices. The
farm lay on Cripple Creek, within seven miles of Murfreesboro.
The Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway was completed
from Nashville to Murfreesboro in 1851. A large subsidy in the form
of stock was voted by the State, and large sums were given by
private citizens. Among those most influential in building the road,
outside of the county, were Gov. James C. Jones, Col. V. K.
Stevenson and the distinguished Robert Y. Hayne, of South
Carolina. So eager were the people for the road that they seemed to
vie with each other as to who should donate most liberally toward
the road. The first passenger coach over the road from Nashville
arrived on the 4th of July, 1851. Flowers and festoons decorated the
little city, and a dinner and speeches commemorated the great event.
A new world of business was opened up - a communication
between the manufacturing cities of the North and the rich fields and
seaboard cities of the South. The road extends through the county a
distance of nearly thirty miles, entering near the northwest corner of
the county at Lavergne and passing out near the southeast part of the
county at Fosterville. This road is one of the best and most profitable
thoroughfares of the country.
The first turnpike in the county was the
Nashville, Murfreesboro & Shelbyville Pike. The charter was
granted in 1831, and the work was immediately begun. The State
gave aid to the amount of one-half, and the remainder was soon
furnished by individuals. Commissioners were appointed and the
road was surveyed and ready for work in a short time. John and
James Holmes, two energetic and somewhat eccentric Irishmen,
obtained the contract for ten miles of the road toward Nashville.
Ground was broken July 4, 1832. Feasting, toasting and speech
making were indulged in on account of the great event. They were
wined and dined and lauded over their enterprise. Subsequently
these contractors completed five miles more of the road toward
Shelbyville. The road was completed and gates erected and ready
for business in 1842. The report of the pike superintendent for 1885
shows an old balance, gate receipts, etc., to the amount of
$10,315.50, disbursed on repairs and dividend $8,208.60, leaving a
balance on hand of $2,106.90 and the road in good condition. The
Cumberland & Stones River Pike was chartered by the Legislature
in 1836, and work soon after begun. Thomas Buckley
contracted for the first three and one-half miles from Murfreesboro
for $1,800, one-half payable in bonds. After many difficulties this
road was completed and is now one of the best in the county. The
Murfreesboro & Manchester Pike was chartered about the same
time as the latter, the State giving aid in each case; the receipts for
this road for the last year were $2,408.50, no report of expenditures
of the road are at hand. The Woodbury Pike was chartered in 1851.
The receipts for this road for the year ending January, 1886, were
$3,087.70; expenditure, $3,511.21, being an excess of $423.51.
The Wilkerson Cross Roads Pike show receipts of $936.90;
disbursements of $1,054.63, being an excess of $117.73. This road
was chartered in 1858 and built by the Wilkerson Turnpike
Company. The road is reported in good condition. The
Murfreesboro & Salem Road is reported in good condition with
receipts at $1,767, and expenditures the same. The superintendents
report shows the Eaglesville & Salem Road to be in good condition,
the receipts for the year being $1,233.34; disbursements $1,019.50,
leaving a balance of $213.84. The receipts for the Eagleville,
Unionville & Shelbyville Pike were $1,086.75; expenditures for
repairs, $649.82 with a balance of $436.93. The Murfreesboro,
Liberty via Lascassas Road receipts were $1,633.10; the
expenditures $1,809.74, being an excess of $165.64. The
Murfreesboro & Bradyville gave receipts of $1,793.18, and called
for $1,560.78 expenditures, with a surplus of $232.50. The receipts
of the Jefferson & Lascassas Road were $1,208.71; expenditure not
given. The Murfreesboro & Liberty Road via Halls Hill, received at
its gates $1,088.40 and disbursed $900, the remaining surplus still to
be used in repairs. From the above it will be seen that the county is
well supplied with pikes. It is doubtful if any county in the State can
boast of as many and as good pikes or more efficient and
The Rutherford County Medical Society was organized in
Murfreesboro, June 1, 1852, with the following membership: Drs. B.
W. Avent, S. B. Robison, J. W. Richardson, M.
Ransom, B. H. Bilbro, B.S. Wendel, J. J. Abernathy,
W. T. Baskette, L. W. Knignt, T. C. Black, W. C.
Martin, R. J. Powell, G. W. Burk, and H. H. Clayton.
The following were chosen for officers for the first year: J. W.
Richardson, president; J. E. Wendel, vice-president; E. D.
Wheeler, recording secretary; S. B. Robison, corresponding
secretary, and B. W. Avent, treasurer. The object of the society
was the discussion of the theory and practice of medicine and the
collateral sciences. The code of ethics of the American Medical
Association was adopted for the government of the society. The
regular meetings are on the first Thursdays of May and November of
each year. The following essays and reports have been read before
the Society and nearly all published in the Nashville Journal of
Medicine and Surgery
: In 1852, Cholera Infantum, by W. T.
Baskette; Statistics of Fifty Cases of Typhoid Fever, by S. H.
Wood; A Case of Amaurosis, by H. H. Clayton. In 1853,
Paratitis followed by Meningitis, by L. W. Knignt; Sanitation by
S. B. Robison; Reports of Cases of Dysentery, by B. H.
Bilbro; Congestion of the Brain, by R. W. Wendel. In 1857,
Croup, by L. M. Mason. In 1858, Intersusception of the
Bowels, by R. S. Wendel; Veratrum Viride by T. S. Smith;
Acute Mania Treated by Chloroform, by B. W. Avent, Case of
Puerperal Fever, by M. L. Ransom. In 1859, A Case of Spinal
Abcess, by J. B. Murfree. In 1859, Syphilis, by L. M.
Wasson; Abortion among Negroes, by J. H. MORGAN;
Blood-letting, by J. B. Murfree. In 1867, Indications for
Stimulants, by J. W. Richardson. In 1868, Cholera Infantum,
by S. B. Robison. In 1872, Syphilis, by J. B. Murfree. In
1874, Quinia Sulphatis, by H. H. Clayton. In 1877, Dysentery,
by W. E. Yourie; Cholera Infantum, by P. C. Coleman;
Embolism, and Thrombosis, by G. D Crosthwait; Diphtheria,
by T. D Miller; Cholera Infantum, by John H. White;
Diphtheria, by R. N. Knox; Stricture of the Urethra, by H. J.
Warmuth; Erysipelas, by William Freeman; Ostititis, by M.
B. Murfree; Malaria, by J. H. Dickson; Brights Disease, by
G. W. Overall, and Tuberculosis, by R. N. Knox; the two
latter in 1878. Dysentery, by M. H. Bonner; Cholera Infantum,
by A. W. Manire in 1884. Puerperal Fever, by W. E. Yourie.
The following are the officers for 1886: William Whitsen,
president: J. J. Rucker, vice-president; M. H. Bonner,
corresponding secretary; J. B. Murfree, secretary and treasurer.
Other members: M. Ransom, H. H. Clayton, R. S.
Wendel, J. F. Rucker, R. B. Haines, J. E. Manson, T. J.
Elam, B. M. White, T. J. Bennet, J. H. White, J. F.
Byrn, M. E. Neeley, J. M. Dill, W. E. Yourie, R. N.
Knox, L. D. Miller, R. W. Reed, A. W. Manire, A. P.
Mccullough, William Freeman, W. C. Martin, J. W.
Davis, H. J. Warmuth, J. N. Bridges, ___ Dyke, S. N.
Crosthwait, H. Yeargan, S. D. Crosthwait, W.
Hoover, W. H. Lytle, W. D. Robison, J. H. Dickson.
The Tennessee Central Agricultural and Mechanical Association
purchased excellent grounds in 1868, and erected suitable buildings
for the association and held several semi-annual fairs, at which there
were fine displays of live-stock, products of the field, orchard and
garden; also exhibits of the mechanical and fine arts. From some
unknown cause the enterprise was not a financial success, and for a
number of years the county was without a fair. In 1884 the
Rutherford Fair Association purchased the grounds and buildings of
the Tennessee Central Fair Association for $5,000. The grounds lie
on the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railroad and the
Shelbyville Turnpike Road, one mile south of Murfreesboro, and
embrace thirty acres of land. The track is one-half mile in length and
sixty feet wide, and within is the show ring which is encircled by the
amphitheater. The first fair under the present management began
September 24, 1884, and continued in session four days. The
officers at that time were Col. N. C. Collier, president; James A.
Moore, first vice-president, and Frank Avent, recording
secretary. So successful was the management that a dividend of 10
per cent was declared the first year. Still greater was the success of
1885, as a dividend of 15 per cent was declared, leaving a reserve
dividend of 6 per cent still on hand. The association pointed with
pride to its almost marvelous success since its organization. All the
departments usually represented at fairs were well represented at the
last, besides one in equestrianism for ladies. The officers for 1885
were Col. N. C. Collier, president, Col. John S. Gooch, Col.
W. D. Robison and A. W. Blackman, vice-presidents;
Frank Avent, permanent secretary; John E. Richardson,
recording secretary, and A. M. Overall, treasurer. The
Tennessee State Trotting Horse Breeders Association held its first
meeting on the grounds of the Rutherford County Fair Association.
Several of the leading members of the County Association are also
members of the State Association.
The market house building, though distinctly a part of the town, is
mentioned here as it was used for public purposes. The building
stood on the north side of the Square, near the public well. It was
built by the first town commissioners in 1815. It was simply a shed
20 x 40 feet, standing on brick pillars and divided into stalls. January
1, 1830, Jonathan Huggins secured the contract for enlarging and
improving the building. This was the common place of auction sales
by constables, sheriff, etc., of negroes and other property. The
building was destroyed during the war.
The following are the county
officers: Sheriffs - Samuel McBride, 1804-06; O. H. Benze,
1806-13; U. S. Cummins, 1813-34; G. S. Crockett,
1834-36; William P. Watkins, 1836-42; William B. Lillard,
1842-48; J. M. Tompkins, 1848-52; A. M. McKnignt,
1852-56; W. N. Mason, 1856-60 * * ; A. Jones, 1865-67; G.
S. Webb, 1867-70; Ed Arnold, 1870-76; Richard Ransom,
1876-82; Benjamin Baley, 1882-86. County court clerks -
Joseph Herndon, 1804-13; Blackman Coleman, 1813-24;
John R. Mclaughlin, 1824-34; R. S. Morris, 1834-44; John
Woods, 1844-56; John Jones, 1856-60; J. D. Wilson,
1865-70; J. O. Oslin, 1870-78; W. D. Robison, 1878-86.
Registers - William Mitchell, 1804; * * ; John Spence,
1819-23; M. G. Reeves, 1824-36; John Woods, 1836-44; A.
T. Reeves, 1844-54; G. W. Holden, 1854-58; B. F.
Wharton, 1858-70; Hardy Murphy, 1870-78; J. B.
Jetton, 1878-86. Circuit court clerks - Wilham Ledbetter,
1819-34; Richard Ledbetter, 1834-36; Samuel H. Hodge,
1836-46; D. D. Wendel, 1846-61 (on the organization in 1846
D. D. Wendel was made both circuit and criminal court clerk,
which he held till the war); M. L. Fletcher, 1864-70; J. B
Fowler, 1870-78; Peyton Randolph, 1878-86. Chancellors
- L. M. Bramblett, 1836-42; B. L. Ridley, 1842-62; J. P.
Steele, 1864-72; A. S. Marks, 1872-78; J. W. Burton,
1878-83, Ed Hancock, 1883-86. Chancery clerks - White
Jetton, 1836-40; G. S. Crocket, 1841-42; G. D.
Crosthwait, 1842-48; D. D. Wendel, 1848-62; Peyton
Randolph, 1864-86. Chairmen - William Vincent; Silas
Reed; John Fletcher, 1848; Joseph Lindsey, 1848-68;
John Woods, 1868-86. Postmasters at Murfreesboro - Joel
Childress, 1812-17; David Wendel, 1817-39; D B.
Mallory, 1839-52; E. B. Mclean, 1852-56; J. M.
Leatherman, 1856-60; W. R. Butler, 1860-62; William
Burt, 1864; George Booker, ---; J. W. Wilson, 1871-85;
Frank White, 1886.
First District - A. H. Smith, T. H.
Carter; Second - N. W. Mason, J. S. Gooch; Third - H. H.
T. Carter, H. Gregory; Fourth - H. W. Hall, L. A.
Rogers; Fifth - W. A. Rushing, A. M. Jones; Sixth - J. L.
Barber, H. H. Macon; Seventh - G. W. Smith, J. L.
Anderson; Eighth - R. S. Brown, J. T. Wilson; Ninth - Z.
T. Dismukes, J. E. Stockard; Tenth - G. W. Burns,
W.W. Lamb; Eleventh - J. S. Webb, W. M. Rucker; Twelfth -
C.A. Hill, W. L. Leathers; Thirteenth - J. T. McKinley, M.
M. Henry, A. G. Tompkins; Fourteenth - W. C.
Westbrook, A. W. Leathers; Fifteenth - J. S. Allen,
William Hunt; Sixteenth - W. S. Rhodes, Samuel Vaught;
Seventeenth - D. M. McKnignt, W. G. Malthis; Eighteenth -
John Woods, W. J. Knox; Nineteenth - P. M. Puryear, B.
R. Bivens; Twentieth - M. S. Lynch, J. D. Gilmore;
Twenty-first - E. B. Fathera, B. T. Johnson; Twenty-second
- W. A. Jones, J. T. BROWN; Twenty-third - F. A.McKnignt,
C. A. McKnob; Twenty-fourth - John Gum, A. F. Summers;
Twenty-fifth - G. C. Dromgoole, J. H. White.
From official information it is learned that the railroad business
alone at Murfreesboro amounts to $30,000 in passenger traffic and
$50,000 annually in freight, with about $5,000 additional at
Lavergne, Florence, Christiana and Fosterville. Of 10,000 or
12,000 bales of cotton raised in the county 6,000 or 7,000 are
shipped by rail, and in addition there are shipped 1,000 car loads of
cedar lumber, 200 of hogs, 100 of horses and mules, 50 of cattle,
100 of wheat, 200 car loads of other grains and 500 car loads of
The first court in Rutherford County met at the
house of Thomas Rucker January 3, 1804, this being the first
Monday. The commissioners of the peace were Col. John
Thompson, Peter Legrand, Thomas Rucker, John
Howell, Charles Ready and John Hill, to whom the oath of
office was administered by William Nash, till this time a resident of
Davidson County. The first act of the court as the appointment of
Samuel McBride, sheriff, who gave bond in the sum of $12,000,
and Joseph Herndon was made clerk. William Mitchell was
appointed register; John Howell, ranger, and Joseph Boyer,
John Anthony, W. Ramsey and William Martin,
constables. Thomas Overton and John H. Bowen were
admitted as attorneys. The sheriff returned the first grand jury as
follows: Alex McCulloch, foreman; Henry David, George
Ransom, J. M. Wright, Sr., Joe Nichols, Samuel
Campbell, Daniel Williams, William Felton, Samuel
Wilson, Thomas Nelson, James Whitsett, J. Clark,
James Lindsey, William Gammel, John Smith, John
Kimbro, Simon Miller, Mark Mitchell, John Sullivan,
Robert Smith, C. Harmon, Tomas Mitchell, James
McGabah, James Hill and James Oliphant. At the close of
the first quarter session the court adjourned to meet in April at the
forks of Stones River. At this court Bennett H. Henderson was
admitted as an attorney, and Parry W. Humphreys was made
solicitor for the county. The court continued to meet at the forks of
Stones River (Jefferson) till January, 1805, when the first session of
that year was held at the house of Simon Miller, situated about
five miles north of Murfreesboro. At this court there were present
the Worshipful Tomas Rucker, John Howell, John Hill
and Thomas Thompson. This court appointed Robert T. N.
Smith, revenue collector, who reported forty-six bodies of land
subject to double taxation from failure to report the same for
taxation; these bodies of land varied in size from 100 to 3,000 acres.
The July term of court again met at the forks of Stone River in 1805.
The court fined C. Dement $1 for contemptuous behavior of
court, also the first ad quad damnum
suit was tried. This suit was
brought by Henry Gilliam against Lewis Anthony, who had
erected a mill-dam on Stones River, but twelve good and lawful
men said that Gilliam was entitled to no damage. Pending the
erection of the courthouse at Jefferson, which had been selected as a
county seat, the court met from this time till April, 1806, at Nimrod
Menifees, near the National Cemetery; while at Menifees
Rucker, Thompson and Ready held court. This court
allowed Samuel McBride $40 for services as sheriff, Herndon
$50 as clerk, and Bowen $30 as solicitor for 1804. In April,
1806, court again met at Jefferson in the court house. John M.
Taylor and Eli Talbot were admitted as counsellors at law at
this term, and Parry W. Humphreys was made solicitor for the
county at a salary of $30 per annum.
On his resignation, in 1805,
Peter Brooker was appointed to fill the same office. The court
allowed Joseph Henson the privilege of building a grist-mill on the
east fork of Stones River. James Hamilton was fined by this
court for beating E. Grady. John H. Bowen was made a
solicitor for the year 1808. Abel Russel was fined $50 for
slandering William Hamilton, and Peter Legrand got $10 for
an assault upon Peter Anderson. Thomas Rucker received a
$600-judgment against Co. Edward Bradford for false
imprisonment. The case grew out of some supposed misdemeanor
on the part of Rucker at a militia drill, in which he incurred the
displeasure of Bradford, who ordered Ruckers neck placed
between two rails of a fence and he was kept there to await the
pleasure of the Colonel. On his release he brought suit against
Bradford for false imprisonment with the above judgment. Soon
after both became members of the Baptist Church, and as brothers
the debt was forgiven. William Bowen was fined $5 for an assault
upon Bird Hurst, and Samuel Rogers $92 for a like offense
against William Collier, and in a counter suit Collier received
a judgment of $275 against Rogers for slander. David
Ferguson was assessed 25 cents for slandering J. P. H.
Lemon, and the court, that it might not be too severe on
Ferguson, divided costs between plaintiff and defendant. Henry
Davis was fined 6¼ cents for beating John Thompson
contrary to the form and statutes made and provided. William
Edwards was assessed $7 for a like assault upon John
Barker. In the court at Jefferson, William B. Robinson,
Henry Minor and Thomas H. Benton were admitted to the
bar. The latter is said to have pleaded his first case at Jefferson. He
was at this time a resident of Franklin, Williamson County. He
represented Rutherford and Williamson in the State Senate in 1809.
His record as a statesman and senator from Missouri for thirty years
is well known.
In 1807 Felix Grundy was admitted as an
attorney. He was a noted criminal lawyer, and was well known in
political circles. He was a member of the Legislature while at this
place, and was for many years a United States senator from this
State. Bennet Smith was made cotton inspector in 1807, and in
1808 he became solicitor for the county, which position he held for a
number of years. He is said to have been a man somewhat eccentric
in his ways, a man of strong likes and bitter dislikes. He was a
lawyer, farmer and financier.
The development of the county
demanded a higher court. By an act of the Legislature Rutherford
was made a part of the Fourth Judicial District, and the Hon.
Thomas Stuart, nicknames old sorrel, was qualified for the
position as judge January 2, 1810; John Coffee was made clerk,
and Alfred Balch, solicitor-general. Each held his commission
from Gov. Willie Blount. Each of the above became well known
in the county. The first grand jury impaneled by the circuit court
consisted of J. L. Armstrong, foreman; John Hill, John
Smith, Joe Morton, James McKnignt, L. Davis, John
Wallace, A. McCulloch, John N. Reed, E. B. Mccoy,
Joseph Barton, Charles Ready and Peter Legrand. The
first regular jury was composed of Hans Hamilton, John
Sharp, Allen Hill, Joseph Dickson, Thomas Hubbard, J.
L. Jetton, James Whitsett, J. Rucker, Rob McComb,
George Brandon, William Nash and Daniel Marshall. It
was in this court that case wherein -- was plaintiff and -- defendant,
the point in dispute being a hide taken to the tan-yard, the amount
involved at the time being about $2.50. It was continued in court
till cost amounted in all to about $3,000. At the first quarter
sessions in 1813, Ezekiel McCoy, Daniel Bowman, J. S.
Jetton, Fred Barfield and S. Jetton, Worshipful Justices
Esquires were present.
A negro named Jess was found guilty of house breaking on the
property of E. Ward, and was sentenced to execution September
3, 1813. He was sent to Nashville to await the day of execution.
This was duly carried out at the appointed time. According to the
superstition of the time, bits of the hangmans rope were in great
demand as a talisman against many ills that human flesh was heir to.
The October term of court allowed Mathew McClanahan $29
for his services on the above occasion, and William Neugent,
James Miller and William Knignt were each allowed $2 as
guards for the prisoner; and Samuel Williams, A. Miller and
James Lowell were each allowed 50 cents as witness fees.
As a reminder of old times Samuel Richardson was allowed $8 for
wolf scalps, and Joseph Welton $3 for one scalp. At the
October term of 1813 to facilitate business the justices were divided
into four divisions as follows: The first year was composed of
William Nash, Moses Bellah, Solomon Beesley, George
Weton, J. S. Jetton, Thomas Berry, David Allen, John
Tutton, James Whiteside, John Edwards, J. D. Irwin,
James Gillespie and William Lock; the second, Fred
Barfield, Robert Bedford, Hugh Robinson, William
Mankin, A. M. Erwin, J. Millford, Thomas Hoover, J.
Smith, J. L. Ambrose, W. H. Davis, Owen Edwards, T.
A. Cannon; the third, John Hill, John Henderson, Thomas
Nash, John Miller, Sam Campbell, Henry Goodloe,
John Dickson, Rob Wannick, E. B. Mccoy, George
Simpson, Rob McCombs and James McKnignt; the fourth,
W. W. Searsey, Abe Johns, H. M. Henderson, Jacob
Knignt, John Barter, L. Davis, Dan Bowman, G. W.
Banton, H. Hamilton, W. Edwards, J. S. Jetton and
James Sharp. In a suit of the State against Samuel Wilson for
an offense against its dignity, Wilson was fined the sum of 1 cent.
Thomas Wilson was arraigned for petit larceny, whereupon
Thomas threw himself upon the country and the attorney prosecuting
did the like; then came a jury of good and lawful men as follows:
Mathew Hirst, William Stokes, John Johns, Larken
Johnston, Samuel Kilbro, James Devore, James
Cantheron, John Williams, John Hill, Thomas Harris
and Samuel Mallery, who, being tried on their oaths, said the
defendant was guilty, and affixed his punishment at ten days in the
common jail, and that he should be taken to the Public Square and
there receive one lash upon the bare back. The gaol not being
considered safe he was taken to Nashville for imprisonment.
Blackman Coleman was allowed $40 for taking the tax list and
Bennet Smith $50 as solicitor for 1813. In 1814 Daniel
Sullivan was fined $5 for failing to obey a scire facias
, also $5
for gaming, and Joseph Young received $5 for contempt of court.
John Lowery and J. W. Peak received $1 each for forfeiture of
recognizance. James Caruthers was allowed $29.75 for taking
Thomas Wilson to the Nashville gaol. A. Sharp was fined
$245 for seduction, and William Blair $250 for a like offense.
October 15, 1815, Alexander Patterson was fined $10 for
petit larceny, and in addition received ten lashes upon the bare back
at the shipping post on the Public Square, and was sent to jail till the
fine was paid. John Foss, V. Robertson, Thomas
Noelard, Elizabeth Balle and M. Martin, by throwing
themselves upon the grace and mercy of the court were each fined
1 cent. In 1818 M. Battin was placed in the scales of justice and
was found wanting to the extent of 6¼ cents for neglect of duty as
overseer of the road. P. Wilson and N. T. Perkins were each
given nominal fines for tilts at vi et armis
. James Maxwell was
indicted to the murder of Caleb Hewett, and was fined, but was
released on taking the insolvent debtors oath.
At the June term of
court in 1818 it was ordered, first, that witnesses shall be questioned
by one lawyer on a side only; second, that questions for continuance
shall be argued by one attorney alone on a side; third, sheriffs shall
have jurymen ready for those accused; fourth, no motion on appeals
should be heard unless made. In 1813 the court ordered B.
Coleman to have a county seal made, which was executed by
Benjamin Liddon, for which the court allowed $10.
In 1819 a
man named Thurman was tried for horse stealing and found
guilty, and according to the law and custom of the time was
condemned to be executed. The day was set and the time arrived.
The prisoner was seated on his own coffin and driven in a cart to the
place of execution, near where Soules College now stands. People
thronged the place, the Rev. Dr. Henderson delivered the
funeral sermon, and pointed out the evils of a sinful life; the hands
were pinioned, and the sheriff, U. S. Cummins, was about
adjusting the noose when Daniel Graham, secretary of state,
appeared and stayed the proceedings by reading to the Sheriff a
reprieve for the prisoner who was remanded to jail.
In 1821 began a
series of suits between the Nashville Branch Bank and Benjamin
Tratt, et al
, which continued in court several years. In 1824 John
BISHOP was arraigned for petit larceny, and the jury, Simpson
Harris, Hugh Porter, James Covington, George
Moore, William North, D. M. Jarnett, William Bynum,
W. Anderson, W. Maury, A. Blackman and E. Wood,
found him guilty and fixed his punishment at ten days in jail and five
lashes upon the bare back. This observation may not be out of place
here: At this time there was no penitentiary in the State.
Punishment was inflicted by standing in stocks, by the whipping-post,
the branding-iron, imprisonment in jail and sometimes by clipping the
ear. Persons were made infamous by branding the mark indicating the
crime of the guilty one, as T for thief, M for murder. These
punishments were not inflicted as marks of brutality by the court, but
were looked upon as marks of justice inflicted, and while the lash was
being applied to the quivering muscles and the scathing branding-iron
to the quivering flesh, the court could cooly proceed with business.
In 1823 R. E Green was fined $5 for assault and battery; David
Thompson, 1 cent, official negligence as road overseer; Henry Bedford and
William Leech each got 1 cent for riot. In 1831 Spencer Hazlett was fined
$5 for assault and battery; W. Featherston, $5, and P. Featherston 1 cent,
for similar offenses. R. Ramsey was fined $2 and three months in jail for
malicious mischief. S. R. McLaughlin turned into the treasury $800 as
back taxes for 1823-24. In 1833 H.D. Thompson, William McKey, Samuel
Patterson and Joseph Cheatham were each fined $5 for presentments for
gaming. Besides those already mentioned, the following attorneys had been
admitted to the bar: Thomas Overton, F. H. Johns, Jesse Wheaton, B. H.
Henderson, R. S. Caruthers, Rob Hawkins, R. M. Bute, H. C. Whiteside, D.
W. Dickman, E. A. Keeble and Alfred Johns. The most of these men became
well-known attorneys. Malicious mischief, affrays, extortion were common
offenses at this time. Twelve good and lawful men ordered the sheriff to
inflict a punishment of twenty lashes upon the bare back of Isaiah Lester
for petit larceny. On January 15, 1827, the death of Judge John Haywood
was ordered spread upon record, and each member of the bar as requested to
wear crape upon the left arm for a period of thirty days.
John W. Childress was appointed attorney-general, pro tem
., for the year 1827.
Indictments for riot were found against Samuel Green, Samuel Wilson, Moses
Baum and Thomas Baum, and a fine of $10 was assessed against each, while
William Hicks and Thomas Alexander were each fined nominal sums for
keeping tippling houses. Again in 1827-28, punishments by whipping were
inflicted - one of thirty lashes upon Henry Adams, and one of five lashes
and three days imprisonment upon Willis Cooper. In 1829 a case as tried
in the Rutherford Circuit Court, known as the Harding Case, brought from
Maury County on a change of venue. This was something of a family quarrel,
in which two parties were killed, and a father and son were tried as
accessories to the crime alleged to have been committed by two
sons who had fled the country. The prominence of the families made
the case an exciting one. After an exciting trial of some time the
defendants were acquitted.
A further division of the labors of the
county court was made in 1836 by the establishment of the chancery
court. Judge L. M. Bramblet was elected first chancellor. He
served with credit to himself and the county from 1836 to 1842.
Bramblet was succeeded on the bench as chancellor, in 1842,
by Judge B. L. Ridley, who served with credit and marked ability
till the court was suspended by the war. Judge Ridley was a man
of moral as well as personal courage, and when the war came up he
entered the service. After the close of the war he resumed the
practice of law, which he continued till his death. In 1838 a negro
names Charles was arrested for rape. The evidence was wholly
circumstantial but seemed pretty clear, and on the strength he was
tried, convicted and executed. There was a strong suspicion at the
time that he as not the guilty party. Later a negro was executed in
Mississippi for a similar crime, and while under sentence of death
owned upto the crime in Rutherford for which Charles was hanged.
subdivision in matters of litigation was made by the establishment of a
criminal court. This was done in 1846. The district of this court
included Davidson and Rutherford Counties -
being the same as now. The Hon. William K. Turner, of
Nashville, was made judge of this court. He held the office from the
formation of the court until the court was discontinued on account of
the war. Judge Turner is described as a man firm, earnest, clear,
prompt and sound in his decisions, but plain and easy in manner.
In 1848 Sarah, a slave, was executed by order of the court. This was
done by the sheriff, J. M. Thompson, for which the court allowed him the
sum of $12.50; other allowances, for grave, coffin and gallows, amounted
to a total of $26.25. A destruction of all the circuit and criminal court
records during the war renders a detailed
account of the transactions of these courts impossible.
court was partially reorganized in June, 1864, while under control of
the military authorities. But little work was done by this court. The
criminal court was reorganized at the July term, 1864; the Hon. T.
N. Frazier was made judge and M. L. Fletcher, clerk.
Owing to the occupation of the court house for other purposes, the
court first met in the Odd Fellows hall, but afterward moved to the
Masonic hall. The results of the war brought a new feature into the
courts, i.e.: State vs. ___ ___ col., Hog Stealing, etc. The chancery
court was reorganized at this time; Judge, J. P. Steele, presiding, with
J. M. Tompkins, clerk and master. On the death of the Hon. Charles Ready,
who had been prominent before the public for fifty-three years, the entire
bar attended his funeral in a body. J. M. Avent and W. H. Washington were
appointed a committee to report the memorial of his death to the criminal
court; Gen. J. B. Palmer, E. H. Ewing and ___ Burton, to the supreme
court; H. P. Keeble and B. L. Rielley, to the county court; J. L. Cannon
and G. S. Ridley, to the circuit court; J. D. Richardson and J. M.
Childress, to the chancery court.
A personal mention of each member of the bar or judge on the
bench will not be made; but be this said, the Rutherford County
Courts, in all their branches, have been characterized, from the
beginning to the present, by men of culture, ability and refinement.
The highest judicial seat nor the presidential chair have not been too
high to be reached either by her native or adopted sons. Neither the
halls of Congress or the judicial ermine have ever been disgraced by one
of her children.
Many of the old Revolutionary soldiers settled in Rutherford County
after the admission of Tennessee into the Union, on grants from
the State of North Carolina. Among them may be mentioned the
Gilbraiths, Grants, Halls, Hills, Murfrees, Hubbards,
Joneses, Rutledges and others. Many of them became pensioners after the
passage of the act of Congress, of 1832, for their relief. In the Creek
war of 1812-14, related elsewhere, a large number of troops went from
Rutherford County, although it is believed no regularly organized company
was sent. Col. Henderson, who is accredited to this county, was killed in
a skirmish near the city of New Orleans. In the second Seminole war, which
broke out in 1836, Rutherford County furnished two companies, Capt.
Yoakums and Robert Jettons. These men enlisted under the call for 2,500
men to serve for six months. These men were attached to the Second
Regiment, which was organized at Fayetteville, about June 16, 1836, by
electing William Trousdale,
colonel; J. C. Guild, lieutenant-colonel; Joseph Meadows, first
major; William Washington, second major. These two regiments were formed
into a brigade, of which Robert Armstrong was elected brigadier-general.
The troops left Fayetteville, the place of rendezvous, on July 4, and
proceeded direct to Columbus, Ga. The history of this expedition is given
under the second Seminole war. In 1846, on the outbreak of the Mexican
war, great numbers offered their services to the State and Government. Two
political companies from Rutherford tendered their services at once, the
one commanded by Capt. Mitchell, called the Spring Blues, and the other by
Capt. Childress. The latter only was accepted. These men were not accepted
till the second call, and consequently did not see very active service.
The sentiment of Rutherford was strongly opposed to secession or
separation till the climax of the political issues was reached, when the
people slowly yielded, and in time became earnest supporters of the
Confederate Government. The first regiment raised in this county for
the Confederate service was the Second Tennessee Infantry. The
regiment was composed of ten companies, averaging 120 men each;
two of these companies, A and F, were from Rutherford County.
The captains of Company A were S. N. White, John A. Butler, Thomas G.
Butler and James T. C. McKnignt. The captains of company F were Thomas D.
White, W D. Robinson and William H. Newman. At its first organization
William B. Bate was chosen colonel; David L. Goodall, lieutenant-colonel;
William R. Doak, major. The regiment was organized at Nashville, May 5,
and was ordered to Virginia. It was mustered into the Confederate service
May 12, at Lynchburg, by Gen. E. Kirby Smith. The field and staff officers
were W. B. Bate and W. D. Robinson, colonels; D. L. Goodall and John A.
Butler, lieutenant-colonels; William R. Doak, major; T. J. Kennedy and
Alexander Erskine, surgeons; J. H. Erskine and T. L. B. Brown, assistant
Cross and G. T. Henderson, chaplains; M. W. Cluskey and W. H. Rhea,
quartermasters; W. T. Driver and W. J. Hale, adjutants. The complete
account of this regiment is given in the State history.
The credit of
raising the Eighteenth Regiment is due largely to Gen. J. B. Palmer, of
Murfreesboro. At the outbreak of hostilities Maj. Palmer, as he as then
called, was engaged in the practice of law at Murfreesboro, and was a man
very much opposed to secession, a doctrine which he opposed with all his
force and logic. He said, however, if the worst came to the worst he was
with his native State. The determination of Maj. Palmer to volunteer led a
vast number of his neighbors and companions to enlist with him. The
following companies were raised, principally in Rutherford County: Maj.
Palmers own company, B G. Woods company and B. F. Webbs company. The
history of this regiment is best told in the language of Gen. Palmer
himself. The regiment was organized on the 11th of June, 1861, at Camp
Trousdale, Tennessee, by the election of J. B. Palmer colonel, A G.
Carden, lieutenant-colonel, S W. Davis, major. It contained ten
companies, commanded respectively by Capt. M. R. Rushing, J. W.
Roscoe, William R. Butler, H. J. St. John, G. H. Lowe, B. F. Webb, J. B.
Matthews, B. G. Woods, A. G. Carden and W. J. Grayson. Col. Palmers staff
consisted of R. P. Crockett, quartermaster, with rank of captain; Thomas
Wood, commissary, with same rank; Dr. John Patterson, surgeon; J. W.
Gowan, assistant surgeon; James W. Roscoe, adjutant, with the rank of
first lieutenant; James S. Baxter, sergeant-major.
The first battle in which the regiment participated was at Fort
Donelson, where after much suffering, hard and gallant fighting, it, with
the garrison and army under command of Gen. Floyd, was captured on
February 16, 1862. Col. Palmer and other field officers were imprisoned at
Fort Warren, Boston, Harbor. The staff and company officers were confined
at Johnsons Island, Lake Erie, and the privates at Camp Douglas,
Illinois. All the men and officers were exchanged in September, 1862, when
the regiment was reorganized by an act of the Confederate Congress. J. B.
Palmer was again elected colonel; W B. Butler, lieutenant-colonel; W. H.
Joyner, major; John W. Douglas, adjutant. This reorganization took place
September 26, 1862, at Jackson, Miss. This regiment from the beginning to
the close of the war belonged to the famous command known at part of the
time as Browns, and subsequently as Palmers brigade; by its latter name
it was surrendered at Goldsboro, N. C., May 2, 1865, on the terms agreed
upon by Gens. Joe E. Johnston and William T. Sherman. As a regiment, it
was commanded by its first colonel,
Palmer, till his promotion to the rank of brigadier-general in 1864. The
Eighteenth participated in the great battles of Fort Donelson,
Murfreesboro (Stones River), Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain and Missionary
Ridge. It participated in all the engagements in the Atlanta campaign. It
made the campaign into Tennessee after the fall of Atlanta, doing active
service at all points. After the defeat of Gen. John B. Hood before
Nashville, this was one of the regiments of Palmers brigade which, with
other choice troops, covered Hoods retreat from Middle Tennessee across
the Tennessee River. This rear guard was under Maj.-Gen. Walthall, the
ranking officer, and consisted of his own division and brigades of Gens.
Palmer and Featherston and some cavalry forces. After this Palmers
brigade was ordered to
North Carolina under Gen. Johnston, under whose direction the
battle of Bentonville, in that State, was fought. In this fight Palmers
brigade was made the directing column, and it distinguished itself so
highly as to be handsomely complimented by Gen. Stevenson, the division
commander, in a general order. This was the last fight of the
Eighteenth. The regiment was discharged in May, 1865, which closed its
arduous and brilliant career of patriotic duty and service for a period of
a little more than four memorable years. At the battle of Murfreesboro
Gen. Palmer, then colonel, was wounded three times; in the celebrated
Breckinridge fight on January 2, 1863. He received a Mini-ball through the
calf of the leg, one through the shoulder, and a shell wound on the right
knee, thought he did not leave the field till the
close of the engagement, and then brought off his regiment in good
order. He was next severely wounded at Chickamauga, from which
he has never recovered. He was also slightly wounded at Jonesboro
and at Bentonville.