Hon. J. M. Gilbert, Sr., was born in Hancock County, Ga., June 17, 1800, and is the only surviving member of a family of four sons and five daughters born to Benjamin and Amelia (McKenzie) Gilbert, both of whom were of Virginia, where they were married, and directly after moved to Georgia and raised their family there, and followed farming until 1811, then moved to Livingston County, Ky., continuing farming until 1826, then moved to Weakley County, Tenn., where they died.
Our subject remained with his parents until he was twenty years old, and was appointed constable at the early age of nineteen, and at twenty was appointed deputy sheriff of same county. October 9, 1821, he married Frances W. Busey, of Kentucky; they followed farming there until 1823, when they moved to Carroll County, locating near the present site of McKenzie. The whole county at that time was barrens, covered with wild grass, there being then but very few families in the county. He began farming, and was one of the pioneer farmers of the county. About 1834 he, with several others, made the old Paris and Huntingdon road. He built the first house on the present site of McKenzie, but the town did not commence building until many years afterward. Mr. Gilbert knows of but three men living who were in Weakley, Carroll and Henry Counties at the time he came. They are William Hamilton, Reuben Edmonson, and Tilman Johnson, all of Weakley County. He was engaged in the commission business at Memphis in 1867-69, and during the same time was engaged in the mercantile business in Weakley County. The town of McKenzie began to build in 1857, at the building of the Louisville Railroad.
Mr. Gilbert was coroner of Henry County about 1876. Although temporarily out of the county a few months at a time, he has made his permanent home in Carroll County since first settling there. From his marriage with Miss Busey he had four sons and five daughters, five of the latter and two of the former are now living; their mother died July 4, 1867, and in 1870 Mr. Gilbert married Mrs. Louisa Dumas who is still living. In 1885 Mr. Gilbert was elected mayor of McKenzie, and still fills the office. During the first of the war he was employed by the Confederate Government to furnish labor and provender until the evacuation of Columbus. He then went to Texas, where he remained until the close of the war. He is a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, also of the F. & A. M., of which he is Knight Templar, and has filled all of the prominent state offices of the fraternity.
Transcribed by David Donahue
Source: History of Tennessee from the Earliest Time to the Present: Together with an Historical and a Biographical Sketch of Carroll, Henry and Benton Counties, Besides a Valuable Fund of Notes, Original Observations, Reminiscences, Etc., Etc. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1978.