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 in Tennessee.

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 Benton County.

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, Tennessee.

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, 1868 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 stayed 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 Regiment, Infantry. 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 25, 1891;

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 him."

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.

Submitted by Dan Florence

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