Tennessee Records Repository

Henderson Co. TN


Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith

Mr. Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith of Jackson has published seven genealogical miscellanies for Henderson County.  He wishes to share this information as widely as possible and has granted permission for these web pages to be created.  We thank Mr. Smith for his generosity.  Copyright, Jonathan K. T. Smith, 2001

(Page 77)

WILLIAM EATON is hardly more than a wisp out of the distant past but one thing about him is certain. He managed to get one of the longest listings of signatures of Henderson Countians on a personal petition in antebellum times.

In 1830, William Eaton was residing in Grainger County in east Tennessee, a man born in the 1770s, living alone, near a younger man named Daniel Eaton. (U.S. Census, 1830: Grainger County, Tenn., page 390) In mid-1831, then living in Lexington, Tennessee he petitioned the General Assembly of the state, then in session, to be effect that in 1829 he had been a resident of Grainger County; that he had been among the multitude of men permitted by the legislative act January 7, 1830 to "hawk and peddle" without procuring a regular license to do so, provided "that the goods or articles they sold or vend, shall be their own and not for the benefit of any other person." (ACTS OF TENNESSEE, 1829, Chapter 216, pages 176-177) He had signed a petition asking for this privilege in Grainger County September 22, 1829.

In his most recent petition Eaton represented himself as "old infirm and decrepid, insomuch as to render him wholly incapable of gaining a lively hood by dent of bodily labour. He wished to have the privilege of peddling especially in the Western District where he was then living, "of license to vend spiritous liquors" and other articles "to vend as articles of trade." Over 170 Henderson Countians signed his petition but the legislature ignored it. (Tennessee State Library and Archives: Petition 296-1831-2, Henderson County)

Among the signers of this petition were Joseph Blair, Jobn Harmon, William Christopher, Sr., Hugh Daugherty, Benjamin Phillips, Joseph Davis, Eli Teague, Asa Howell, John Kent, Isaac Ewell, Charles Allen, John T. Harmon, Thomas Greer, William Boatright, William Mayo, William Patton, John G. Douglas, Joel D. Blair, Stephen Snell, John Hobbs, Robert Allison, James Brady, Christopher Davis, Jessey Brett, Isaac Phillips, R. B. Jones, William Pratt, Marmaduke Spain, G. B. Andrews, Berry Givins, George Bowinan, Elisha Petty, Johnson Hillyard, Joseph I. Person and Benjamin Smith.

In the fall of 1835 Eaton petitioned the General Assembly for the same privilege he had sought before but it too failed. S. C. Pavatt, Representative on the Committee to consider such requests wrote on the petition, "The prayer of the petitioner ought not to be granted." (December 31, 1835) This doomed the petition and it was not brought before the Assembly. (Petition 60-1835)

Although Eaton did not received his vending privilege without license, it is certain he secured one from the county court of Henderson County. In 1836 he lived on a lot in Lexington, where he may have kept a saloon. (1836 tax list, Henderson County, Civil District 10, page 214) The lot was valued at $400 indicating a substantial if modest building stood on this lot.

Eaton was still living in 1840, now close to seventy, with two males, perhaps assistants, in his household. (U.S. Census, 1840, Henderson County, page 357)

Even though William Eaton has long turned to dust and almost all memory of him has faded there is on a yellowing petition in our state archives his bold signature which stands out as if to claim a place for himself "front and center."


(Page 89)

EATON ADDENDUM Referred from page 77.

Brenda Kirk Fiddler provided the present writer with an article published in the LEXINGTON REPUBLICAN, January 14, 1916 in which a man named John Thomas, born in 1826, reminisced about some of the Lexington landmarks of his youth. One of these landmarks was Billy Eaton's log building which stood on the southeast corner of the east side of the public square in Lexington which in 1916 was occupied by the Bank of Lexington, a building erected in 1912. Thomas recalled that Eaton served as county ranger. In a day when horses were of paramount importance, those that became separated from their owners, lost, minor officials called rangers were assigned to find them, to advertise in newspapers as to these animals that had been found with physical descriptions of them and where they had been found and by whom, hoping thereby to restore them to their owners.


Return to Table of Contents for A Genealogical Miscellany Henderson County Tennessee

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