Benton County Tennessee
Early Settlers Biographies
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On December 28, 1809, Josiah Turner Flourance was born. He was the first
child born to William Flourance and Martha Pleasant. He was born on the
Jordon Creek property in Caswell County, North Carolina. Josiah recieved a
better than average education at the Caswell Academy, where he recieved a
certificate to practice law. On December 8, 1831, he married Avis Lavena
Simmons. She was born on March 8, 1808 in Caswell County, North Carolina,
and was the daughter of George Washington Simmons and Ann Barton.
Their first child, George William Flourance was born in Caswell County
in 1832. On November 1, 1833, Josiah bought and unspecified amount of land
from the estate of George Walker, deceased. Later on, they moved to
Ashville, in Buncombe County, North Carolina. It was here where their
daughter, Martha Ann, was born in 1834.
During this period of time, the country was in a depression. Many
people were going out West where the was prospects of land and fortunes to
be made. In the spring of 1834, Josiah packed up the family on an ox cart.
They joined a wagon train with cousins and friends and started out for
Texas. When they left North Carolina, their young daughter was just about
two months old. Her brother, William was about eighteen months old at the
time. They also brought along their faithful servant, Milly, who was a
wedding gift from Avis' parents. They journeyed over the Great Smokey
Mountains, mostly by day. At night they would stop to camp. One of the
adults would always have to remain on guard while the children and others
could sleep. They went along to Old Marlboro, near Vale,
Tennessee. After crossing over the mountains, many people became sick, and
some even died. Josiah's son, George William, took seriously ill with what
was called the Bloody Flux (what is called today as colitis). George was
near death when they reached Tennessee. Their servant, Milly, had even
picked out his burial place on a hill there in Carroll County. But George
William began to recover, and the family remained in Carroll County for
several months. As the wagon train headed on West, Josiah decided to remain
The family first settled in Carroll County. They lived in Carroll
County for two years, and had a daughter there in 1836. Her name was
Margaretta (Margaret) Elizabeth Florence. After reaching Tennessee, this
line all went to the spelling of the surname to 'Florence.' Benton County,
in West Tennessee was formed on November 24, 1835. So in March of 1836,
Josiah Turner Flourance-Florence moved the family to Benton County. They
settled in an area known as the Pleasant Valley Community. Josiah entered
or homesteaded a tract of land on the lower end of Ebenezer Road. This land
is located about four miles North of the town called Camden, which is
presently the Benton County Seat.
In 1836, Camden did not exist, but was a little pioneer village called
Tranquility. This was in an area called the Rushing Settlement. When Josiah
settled on the 100 acre tract of land in 1836, he not only built a home,
but also a school near his residence. His education enabled him to teach
school for more than thirty years. He was a pioneer professor of Benton
County. All of the public schools were held in log meeting houses scattered
throughout the community.
There were two schools in Benton
County in 1842. Josiah was what was called a subscription teacher. Each
parent paid the teacher a tuition for the schooling of their children. The
school term was usually four months. The schools were in session during the
months when the children were not needed in the fields planting and
harvesting crops. On August 1, 1842, Josiah's school commenced, having a
term of 52 days. At 70 cents a day, the cost of this school was $36.40 for
the term. In this school, there were 33 males and 24 females taught.
Josiah's school was located in the 5th Civil District in
In 1852, Josiah was elected as Chairman of the Benton County Court.
That office is the equivalent to the present office of County Judge.Each
Chairman was elected for a term of one year. Josiah served the following
years as Chaiman: 1852, 1858, 1862, 1864-1866, 1875-1876. He was also a
Court Forman and Benton County Magistrate (Justice of the Peace).
The latter part of Josiah's life was devoted to agricultrial pursuits.
Josiah was a Mason. In September of 1853, he was a member of the Masonic
Order, Camden Lodge 179. Josiah Turner Florence died on December 7, 1881.
Avis Lavena, his wife, was believed to be raised by an Uncle. Her
parents had a large family, and her Uncle was a man with money. They felt
he could do more for her than they could. Avis is also thought to be one
fourth Cherokee Indian. Avis died on Febuary 7, 1896. Josiah and Avis are
buried at Rushing's Creek Missionary Baptist Churchyard in Benton County,
They Had the following children:
1. George William Florence was born on September 16, 1832 in Caswell
County, North Carolina. He never married, and died on January 22,1909. He
is buried at Lexington City Cemetery, in Henderson County, Tennessee.
2. Martha Ann Florence was born on March 3,1834 in Buncombe County, North
Carolina. When her father, Josiah, settled in Benton County, his land entry
was just South of a two hundered acre entry granted to a William F. Beasly.
This was in 1832, under the Provision of the Homestead Law in Tennessee.
Martha Ann met and married James Calvin Beasly on Febuary 7, 1858 in Benton
County. James Calvin Beasly was born circa 1836 in the town of Humphreys,
Tennessee. His parents were Barney F. Beasly and Francis McGill, and was
the grandson of William F. Beasly. James Calvin Beasly died on October 12,
when he was shot to death by a neibor in a dispute over the neighbor's cattle
getting loose and grazing on James' property. Martha Ann, pregnant with
twins, dragged her dying husband into the house. She miscarried both
children as a result. James C. Beasly was buried in the family cemetery on
October 15, 1868. The twins are buried in tiny caskets above their father
in the same grave. The Beasly family burial ground contains about 28 graves
in a small, unkept cemetery surrounded by a barbed wire fence. Martha Ann
on the family farm and raised their five other children by herself.
Her parents, Josiah and Avis, lived just down the road a piece. her
boys all attended school at Josiah's. the 1870 Census showed a Margarett
Beasley, age 35, keeping house, can't read or write. Martha Ann died at the
home of her son, John Thomas Beasley on Febuary 10, 1933. She was 98 years
of age, three weeks before her 99th birthday. She is buried at Rushing's
Creek Missionary Baptist Churchyard in Benton County, Tennessee.
3. Margaretta (Margaret) Elizabeth Florence was born on January 14, 1836
in Carroll County, Tennessee. She married Joel Lee (or Linus) Frazier on
December 18, 1862 in Benton County. Joel L. Frazier served during the Civil
War, Company E, 5th Regiment, Tennessee Infantry, C.S.A. He recieved a hip
wound at the Battle of Shiloh. He was a tobacco farmer by trade. Joel
Frazier was born on December 9, 1835, and died on August 12, 1928. Margaret
died on March 25, 1924. They are both buried at Rushing's Creek Churchyard
in Benton County.
4. Jacob Browning Florence was born on December 23, 1838 in Benton County,
Tennessee. He was named after Josiah's friend and neibor, Jacob Browning,
an old local preacher. Our Jacob Browning Florence was well educated and
was a Phycian in Benton County for several years. Although he was known as
"Doctor" Florence, Jacob never had a medical degree, but his study and
knowlege of medicine was widely sought by many who had aches and pains in
Benton County. Vital Records show that Jacob was still delivering babies
around the County in 1909 and 1910. Jacob Browning Florence married Cynthia
Jane Greer in Benton County on October 16, 1862 in Benton County, in the
area called Rocky Ridge. She was the daughter of Hezikah Greer.
Jacob served the Confederacy during the Civil War. He enlisted on May
20, 1861 at Paris, Tennessee. He was a part of Company E, 5th Tennessee
Jacob Browning Florence served as a member of Camp 1014, of the United
Confederate Veterans. He was also a Delegate to the Populist State
Convention of Nashville, Tennessee (this information is out of a paper
dated, April 20, 1900).
Jacob died on September 30, 1911 of heart failure.
Cynthia Jane died on March 9, 1914. Jacob and Cynthia are buried
together at Rushing's Creek Missionary Baptist Churchyard in Benton County.
5. Mary Frances Florence was born on Febuary 23, 1841 in Benton County.
She was never married, and lived with her brother, John Washington Florence
all of her life. She died on July 6, 1893, and is buried in Rushing's Creek
Churchyard in Benton County.
Her obituary appeared in the Camden Chronicle on July 28, 1893;
"After a very short illness Miss Mary Florence, who resided about five
miles north of Camden, died suddenly Thursday of last week. She was about
forty-eight years of age, and a most estimable woman, who was widely known
and beloved throughout the community for her charitable disposition and
gracious manner. she was a sister of Mr. George Florence, now a prominant
merchant at Lexington, who was present at her funeral."
6. John Washington Florence was born on January 9, 1844 in Benton
County. He enlisted his sevice during the Civil War. He joined the war in
1864 in the 48th Tennessee Regiment and was later transferred to Company A,
55th Regiment, Tennessee Infantry, about a month later. He was wounded in
the Battle of Atlanta, Georgia. He was shot in the right leg, badly
fracturing the bone, which resulted in Gangrene. John was not discharged,
but remained in the hospital until the end of the war. He was parolled in
Macon, Georgia. He never lost the leg, but kept a severe limp for the rest
of his life. John Washington Florence never married, and lived on the old
homeplace. His two unmarried sisters, Sarah Clay and Mary Frances, resided
with him. John Washington Florence died on May 21, 1919 of Neuralgia of the
heart, at the age of 75 years. He is buried at Rushing's Creek churchyard
there in Benton County, next to his sister, Sarah.
7. Mallisa Jane Florence was born to Josiah and Avis on July 24, 1846.
She was wed to David Sylvester Cuff on October 13, 1868 in Benton County.
David S. Cuff was born on June 21, 1840, and was the son of David Cuff and
Elizabeth Bell. David Sylvester Cuff died on September 20, 1891. The
following is his death notice from the Camden Chronicle, dated: September
Cuff: " On Sunday morning, the 20th instant, at his late residence,
4-1/2 miles east from Camden, Mr. D.S. Cuff, of consumption. Mr. Cuff was
about fifty-three years of age and was a sucessful farmer and useful
citizen, enjoying the friendship of many. He had an attack of La Grippe
about a year ago which brought on consumption. His remains were interred at
the family burial grounds Sunday. His wife and several children survive
Malissa Jane died on September 15, 1931. She is buried beside her
husband on their old farmland off Pafford's Branch of Beaverdam Creek, just
off Flatwoods road.
8. Sarah Clay Florence was born on December 11, 1849. For several years
it was believed she never married. But a marriage bond was located in
Benton County. It shows that on October 26, 1913, she married John Allen
Corbitt, who was born on November15, 1863. He was the son of Jacob Smith
Corbitt and Ruth Josephine Doherty. Sarah was age 62 or 63 at the time of
her marriage. It has been handed down to me she married late in life and
only stayed with him less than six months, and left him to return home to
live with her brother John Washington Florence. John Corbitt died on
December 28, 1938. John was first married to Lola Mary Presson on November
22, 1885. Sarah Clay Florence died on July 18, 1929, and is buried next to
her brother John in Rushing's Creek Churchyard in Benton County.
9. James Lewis Florence was the last child born to Josiah and Avis. He
was born on March 21, 1855. In 1879, he married Mollie Teague of Lexington,
Tennessee. They had only one child. James Lewis died at the age of 26, on
December 14, 1881. Just a few days after the death of his father, Josiah.
He is buried at Lexington City Cemetery, Henderson County, Tennessee.
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