21. May 2013 · Comments Off on BAXTER, Nathaniel · Categories: Biographies · Tags: , , , , ,

NATHANIEL BAXTER. Nathaniel Baxter, Sr., the father of the subject of this review, was born at Charlotte, in Dickson county, Tennessee; attended the public schools and afterward completed a course in law at Jackson College in Columbia, this state. There he entered upon a successful professional career and was called to public office, being elected attorney general for his district, comprising Maury, Giles and Marshall counties. For six years he served in that capacity and in 1849 established his home in Nashville, building up a large practice in the capital city. Soon after locating here he was elected circuit judge and presided over that court until the outbreak of the Civil war. He was in sympathy with the Union cause and an old-line whig in his political views, afterward becoming an adherent of the democratic party. After the close of the war he served for a term of eight years on the judicial bench and attained a foremost position in his profession, being recognized as one of the most talented members of the Tennessee bar. He and his wife were earnest and faithful members of the Methodist Episcopal church, South, in which she was particularly active. Mrs. Baxter was born near Columbia, and her father, John R. Jones, was a native of North Carolina. Following his graduation from Chappell Hill College he came to Tennessee and became one of the largest and most successful planters in Marshall county. He gradually added to his holdings until he became the owner of an immense estate and previous to the war had between one hundred and fifty and two hundred slaves. To Nathaniel and Mary L. (Jones) Baxter were born six children, all of whom passed away previous to the demise of their son Nathaniel with the exception of a daughter, Mary L., who married Dr. Crouse, of Memphis, Tennessee.

Nathaniel Baxter, Jr., attended a private school in his home locality near Nashville, receiving his instruction from a Mr. Campbell, who was a very capable educator. In the fall of 1861, when but fourteen years of age, he enlisted as a private in the Confederate army and served until General Johnston surrendered his troops in North Carolina, winning promotion to the rank of first lieutenant in Freeman’s Battery of Artillery. He was twice wounded, first in an engagement near Macon, Georgia, and afterward at Chickamauga, but neither injury proved of a serious nature. He was captured near Franklin, Tennessee, and sent to a Federal prison at Fort Delaware, where he was confined for six months.

After receiving his discharge from the service Colonel Baxter returned to Nashville and began the study of law under his father, being admitted to the bar in 1867. For two or three years he successfully followed his profession, his associates in practice being his brother Edward and his father, and soon afterward he was appointed clerk and master in the chancery court at Nashville, serving in that capacity for six years. He next turned his attention to the field of finance and at the close of a year the bank with which he was connected was merged with the First National Bank of Nashville. He was elected president of the new organization and continued at its head for about nine years, also acting as clerk of the supreme court while filling that office. His interests broadened with the demands of the times until not only Nashville and the state but also the entire south benefited by his labors, which were manifestly resultant. His most important work was in connection with the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railway Company and of this large corporation he was president for fourteen years, carrying the company through two of the worst panics ever experienced in the United States. He was a man of unusual business acumen and executive force, and his labors found culmination in the development of an undertaking of mammoth proportions. It was while he was controlling the destiny of this company that the work of manufacturing steel rails was inaugurated, a mill being erected at Birmingham, Alabama, and in their plant was produced the first steel ever manufactured in the south. Mr. Baxter remained at the head of this vast organization until 1902, when he resigned, having accomplished work of great value and importance in promoting industrial interests of the south. He had the power of concentration, which enabled him to give his entire thought to the matter in hand, and he thus brought to bear all of his force and power in the accomplishment of his purpose.

Recognition of Mr. Baxter’s worth and ability on the part of his fellow citizens led to his selection for public office and in 1910 he was chosen to represent his district in the state senate, of which he was speaker during that session. Indorsement of his first term’s services secured for him re-election to that office in 1912 and he became one of the most influential members of the upper house, being instrumental in securing the passage of much beneficial legislation, while he was never known to support an unworthy cause.

In 1868 Colonel Baxter married Miss Laura Lavender, of Memphis, Tennessee, whose ready sympathy and keen interest in all of his business enterprises were ever an incentive to renewed effort on his part. They became the parents of four children, but lost two sons who died in infancy. There were also two daughters in the family: Nannie, who married Robert F. Jackson, a well known attorney of Nashville; and Laura, the wife of Robert F. Maddox, of Atlanta, Georgia.

In religious faith Colonel Baxter was a Methodist and, like his father, he gave his political allegiance to the democratic party. During his later years his attention was mainly given to the development and improvement of a fine farm of twenty-four hundred acres, of which eighteen hundred acres were under cultivation, the property being situated about six miles from Nashville. He believed in doing, not seeming; in actions, not words, and his life history is a notable illustration of brilliant achievement through individual effort. He was highly honored in his city and state and the respect which was accorded him was well deserved, for his record was an unblemished one, and he set before others an example of high purpose nobly achieved. (Tennessee, The Volunteer State, 1769-1923, Vol. 2, John Trotwood Moore and Austin P. Foster, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1923, pp. 786-8)

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