Goodspeed’s History of Macon County (1882)

 Goodspeed Publishing Company
Nashville, TN. 1887

Transcribed by Timothy R. Meador, Jr.

The county of Macon, in Middle Tennessee, is bounded, north by the State of Kentucky; east by Clay and Jackson Counties; south by Smith and Trousdale, and west by Sumner. It contains about 300 square miles, nearly all of which is on the Highland Rim. The ridge of the Rim passes nearly east and west through the center of the county, south of which the lands are drained by Goose Creek, Dixon Creek, Peyton Creek and other streams which flow into the Cumberland River. North of the ridge the lands are drained by Long Fork, Salt Lick, White Oak and Long Creeks, which flow into the Big Barren River in Kentucky. The surface of the county is very uneven and hilly. The soil of the valleys is rich and productive, while that of the uplands is mostly thin and less productive. The timber of the highlands consists of poplar, oak, hickory and chestnut, and on the hillsides are found beech, sugar, walnut, poplar, hickory, oak and sweet gum. There are many mineral springs in the county, the most noted of which are the Red Boiling Springs, situated about twelve miles east of La Fayette, and the Red Sulphur Spring at La Fayette, and Epperson Springs in the western part of the county. These springs are all noted for the medicinal qualities of their waters, and all are visited during the hot season by invalids and pleasure seekers. The Red Boiling Springs, and the farm of nearly 200 acres on which they are located, have recently been purchased by Mr. James F. O. Shaughnessy for $15,000 cash. This gentleman intends to erect suitable buildings and fit the place for a great summer resort.

The settlement of the territory composing the county began about the year 1787, one hundred years ago, when the country was a wilderness inhabited only by Indians and wild animals. No traditions of the early settlers have been handed down to posterity; their names only remain, prominent among which are Patrick and Alexander Ferguson; William, Robert and Thomas Bratton; Vincent and Sherwood Willis, Moses Rhoads, Wm. Holland, Joseph Cartwright, John Sitton, Wm. Chamberlain, Eason Howell, W. K. Carr, Wm. Hunter, Wm. Claiborne, Joseph Jenkins, Joel Blankenship, Jackson Crowder, Bennett Wright and Samuel Morrison. Most of the early settlers came from Virginia and Carolinas. Grains, vegetables and tobacco have been the products of the soil ever since the first settlement. But the great staple crop for the market has always been tobacco, the other products having only been raised for home consumption. In an early day the tobacco was hauled to the Cumberland River and then shipped on floats to New Orleans, where it was sold. Since the building of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad the farmers of Macon County have hauled their tobacco to markets on its line, and much has been sold to home dealers who have had to market it in the same manner. Live stock has also been raised extensively for the market. And until recently the loom and spinning wheel has been found in almost every house, and nearly all the clothing used by the citizens was of domestic manufacture. But the loom and spinning wheel are disappearing and more foreign cloth is being used. According to the United States census for 1880 the production of the county were as follows: Indian corn, 436,804 bushels; oats, 34,581 bushels; rye, 1,338 bushels; wheat, 31,495 bushels; hay, 768 tons; Irish potatoes, 10,098 bushels; sweet potatoes, 18,295 bushels; tobacco, 893,592 pounds. Live stock and its productions: horses, 2,356; mules and asses, 891; cattle, 4,843; sheep, 6,031; hogs, 15,866; wool, 13, 716 pounds; butter, 110,906 pounds. The population of Macon County in 1860 was white, 6,244; colored, 1,046. In 1880 it was white, 8,429; colored, 890; thus showing an increase of the white population and a decrease of the colored. Macon is truly an inland county, having had no means of transportation other than by wagons, nearer than the Cumberland River and the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.

The county of Macon was organized in accordance with an act of the General Assembly of the State passed January 18, 1842, which provided that a new county should be established, to be known and distinguished by the name of Macon, to be composed of parts of the counties of Smith and Sumner: “Beginning at a white oak, the northeast corner of Smith County and northwest corner of Jackson County, on the Kentucky line; running thence south with said line, fourteen miles and 260 perches to a stake in Neal Carver’s field, on Wartrace Creek; thence west crossing the head of Defeated Creek, near John Carter’s and Peyton Creek, below Joseph Cocker’s , and the east fork of Goose Creek, north of Brevard’s, and the middle fork of Goose Creek, north of Mungle’s, and the west fork below Sloans’, thence to a mulberry tree, near Richard Hickerson’s farm, making twenty-three miles and three-quarters; thence north running east of said Hickerson’s farm, fourteen miles and 260 perches to a large white oak west of Big Tramell Creek on the Kentucky line; thence east with said line to the beginning.” The act also provided that the courts should be held at the house of William Dunn, and at other points to which they might adjourn, until the seat of justice should be located and a suitable house erected for that purpose, and that the county court at its first term should appoint some suitable person to open and hold elections in each civil district in said county on the first Saturday of March, 1842, to elect county officers, and that the justices of the peace of the old districts should constitute the county court until others were elected; that the citizens of the county should vote for governor and congressmen with the old counties until a reapportionment of congressional districts should be made. And by further provision of the act, Britton Holland, Wm. Dunn, Samuel Sullivan, Eason Howell and Jefferson Short were appointed commissioners to hold elections on the last Saturday of March, 1842, at four of the most public places in the county, for the purpose of selecting a suitable site for the county seat. Said commissioners were empowered to purchase a sufficient quantity of land upon which to lay off a town and name it, and to sell the lost and apply the proceeds to the payment of the land, and to defray the expense of erecting public buildings. The act also provided that Bennett Wright, Alex. Ferguson, Edward Glover and Jefferson Bratton should subdivide the county into seven civil districts, in each of which a justice of the peace and constable should be elected, and that the county should form one regiment of militia to be attached to the Ninth Brigade.

In accordance with the forgoing act, the first bench of justices of the peace for Macon County, consisting of Edward Bradley, John Henderson, Patrick Ferguson, Thomas Dodson, L. D. Hargass, James Patterson, John Claiborne and Taylor G. Gillum, met on the 7th of February, 1842, at the house of William Dunn, and organized the first county court by electing Patrick Ferguson, chairman, and Esson Howell, sheriff pro tempore. Jacob S. Johnson was then appointed to open and hold elections in each civil district in the county on the first Saturday of March following to elect county officers. Before this election took place the county was subdivided into seven civil districts by the commissioners appointed for that purpose, and the election precincts established respectively at the houses of John B. Johnson, Moses Meador, John Vance, Meadowville, William Weaver, Henry Davis and John Wakefield. The elections were held at the time and places aforesaid, and the following officers were elected, to wit: Anderson Bratton, William Roberson, Charles Simmons, Haylum Pursley, Taylor G. Gillum, Jefferson B. Short, Ichabod Young, Jacob S. Johnson, Lewis Meador, William Roarke, James J. York, James Patterson and John Henderson as justices of the peace; Thomas A. Williams, clerk; King Kerley, sheriff; William Weaver, register, and Daniel O. Pursley, trustee; Thomas A. Meador, George White, Edward Barbee, Ensley Wilmore, B. Y. Turner, Bennett Wright and James G. Slone, constables. These officers all qualified and assumed the duties of their respective offices at the April term, 1842, of the county court, which was then composed of the new justices of the peace. At this term Willard Blackmore was appointed county surveyor, and Daniel Claiborne coroner. Overseers of public highways were then appointed. The commissioners appointed to hold elections of the last Saturday of March, 1842, to enable the people to decide upon the site for the seat of justice, put in nomination for such site the places of John B. Johnson and William Holland. A majority of the votes cast at said election were in favor of the former place. Accordingly the commissioners purchased of John B. Johnson, for the sum of $500, a tract of land containing twenty-eight acres, more or less, on the dividing ridge between the Cumberland and Big Barren Rivers, and on the waters of White Creek, and procured a deed for the same, dated May 26, 1842. The town was immediately laid out, containing the public square, the streets, and seventy-five lots, and named La Fayette. The job of clearing the timber from the public square and streets was let to Gilbra Seegraves for $98, and at the June term, 1843, of the county court, the work was reported completed. Prior to July, 1842, the courts were held at the house of William Dunn, and from that date until February, 1843, they were held at La Fayette, in a small log house furnished by Britton Holland, and after that date at the house of Thomas A. Williams until the courthouse was completed.

The first courthouse was a two-story brick building forty feet square, with the court room on the first floor, and a large jury room and two offices on the second. It was erected on the public square in the year 1844 at a cost of about $4,000, and stood until March 10, 1860, when it was consumed by fire. The contract for the brick work of the present courthouse was let to Robert Allen, and the wood work to Charles Carter. The walls of the building were erected in 1861, and the work was then suspended on account of the civil war until 1866, when it was completed, the total cost being about $10,000. It is a plain, substantial two-story brick building, 40×52 feet, with hall and stairs, and four offices on the first floor, and the court room and two jury rooms on the second. The first jail was a hewed log house, fifteen feet square, and was erected in 1843, in the northeast part of the town. In 1876 the county purchased from J. W. Johnson for $200, a new jail site containing one acre in the south part of the town. The same year the present jail was erected thereon by Charles Carter & Brother at a cost of $2,800. The building consists of the jail and jailer’s residence combined. The jail is made of hewed logs, and the residence is a frame structure. In 1845 the county purchased from Joel Driver, for $510, a farm containing about forty acres on White Oak Creek, and six miles from La Fayette. This was fitted up as a home for the poor, and used as such until 1858, when the present county poor-farm was purchased from W. D. Coley for the sum of $760. The farm contains 100 acres, and is located one and a half miles east of La Fayette. The poor asylum consists of good and ample buildings, where the paupers, averaging from six to eight in number, find a comfortable home.  The wants of a number of poor persons outside of the asylum are supplied by appropriations made by the county court.

The following is a list of county officers with date of their services: County court clerks—Thomas A. Williams, 1842-46; Jefferson B. Short, 1846-58; George L. Walton, 1858-74; T. J. Gregory, the present incumbent, continuously since 1874. Sheriffs—King Kerley, 1842-46; Bennett Wright, 1846-50; William K. Carr, 1850-54; Charles J. Bratton, 1854-58; Nathaniel M. Claiborne, 1858-64; William T. Gregory, 1864-70; John R. Holland, 1870-72; John P. Tuck, 1872-76; James W. McDonald, 1876-80; W. T. Gray, 1880-84; W. L. Tuck, 1884-86; and re-elected. Registers—William Weaver, 1842-46; Andrew Simmons, 1846-50; George L. Walton, 1850-58; James H. Brockett, 1858-66; E. G. Cartwright, 1866-70; John B. Carver, 1870-74; E. G. Cartwright, 1874-86 and re-elected. Trustees—Daniel O. Pursley, 1842-48; Moses Burnly, 1848-50; C. J. Street, 1850-54; Daniel O. Pursley, 1854-56; M. B. Johnson, 1856-60; Wash. M. White, 1860-64; Eason Howell, 1864-66; William L. Buie, 1866-70; J. W. Stinson, 1870-72; James M. Chamberlain, 1872-76; George L. Walton, 1876-80; Jesse West, 1880-86; M. B. Freeman, 1886. Circuit court clerks—Silas Pinkney, 1842-46; Elijah Gillenwater, 1846-50; P. A. Wilkinson, 1850-68; James A. Rhoads, 1868-70; M. N. Alexander, 1870-74; James M. Marshall, 1874-82; V. M. Whitley, 1882-86; W. J. Gray, 1886. Clerks and Masters of chancery court—A. J. Wade, 1845-47; Daniel D. Claiborne, 1847-55; John Claiborne, 1855-61; E. G. Price, 1861-62; * * * James H. Brockett, 1865-67; H. S. Young, 1867-82; J. W. Eaton, 1882-86; H. C. Claiborne, 1886.

The taxable property of Macon County, as shown by the tax duplicate for 1886, consists of sixty town lots valued at $11,640, and 181,452 acres of land valued at $792,750, and personal property valued at $63,745, making a total of $868,135; and the number of taxable polls is 1,391. The total amount of taxes charged thereon is $13,670.10. The county is entirely out of debt and her warrants are redeemed at par upon presentation.

At the completion of the organization of the county the county court was composed of thirteen magistrates, but since then the county has been redistricted, and changed form seven to twelve districts, and the number of magistrates increased to twenty-six. J. C. Marshall is the present chairman of the court. The first term of the circuit court was begun and held at the house of William Dunn, on the first Monday of May, 1842, with Judge Abraham Caruthers presiding. He continued as judge of the court until 1847, and his successors in that office have been as follows, to wit: William B. Campbell, 1847-51; Alvan Cullom, 1851-52; John L. Goodall, 1852-58; S. M. Fite, 1858-61; * * * Andrew McClain, 1865-69; S. M. Fite, 1869-75; N. W. McConnell, 1875-86; John A. Fite, 1886, elected. During the war period no business was transacted in this court form November, 1861, to March, 1865. The first term of the chancery court of Macon County was begun and held in La Fayette on the fourth Monday of March, 1844, with the Hon. Bloomfield L. Ridley as chancellor, presiding. He continued to preside until 1860, and his successors in that office have been as follows, to wit: Josephus C. Guild, 1860-61; * * * James O. Shackelford, 1865-66; Thomas Barry, 1866-67; James F. Lauch, 1867-69; Charles G. Smith, 1869-70; W. W. Goodpaster, 1870-73; W. G. Crowley, 1873-86; W. W. Wade, 1886, elected. On account of the civil war this court suspended business form August, 1861, to August 1865. The resident members and attorneys of the bar of La Fayette are I. L. Roark, M. N. Alexander, John S. Wootten, Avery Harlin and V. M. Whitley.

In regard to the participation of the citizens of Macon County in the wars of the country, it is claimed that nearly one-half of the company known as the “Polk Guards,” commanded by Capt. Robert A. Bennett, and which served through the Mexican war, was enlisted in this county.

At the approach of the civil war the people of the county were about equally divided politically, and the dividing ridge through the center of the county seemed to divide them geographically—those on the north being in favor of the “stars and stripes” and those on the south being in favor of the “stars and bars.” Owing to the early occupancy of the territory by the Federal Armies, only one company was raised in the county for the Confederate Army, and that was Capt. John M. Uhle’s Company C, of the Twenty-fourth Regiment Tennessee Confederate Infantry. Over 200 men belonged to this company from the first to last during the war. Many individuals went out of the county and joined other Confederate commands. It is estimated that about 500 men of the county served in the Confederate Armies and a like number in the Federal—there being four companies raised in the county for the latter. They were commanded respectively by Capts. Bonham, M. B. Freeman, Green Meador and Bennett Cooper. Being outside the line of the passing armies, the citizens of the county did not suffer much from the depredations of the soldiers.

The town of LaFayette, the origin of which has already been given, is situated on the dividing ridge near the center of the county, and owing to its location in a rural district, far from lines of transportation, it has only attained the size of a small village, with about 400 inhabitants. Marshall & Mansfield and Samuel Sullivan were its first merchants. During the civil war the business of the town was mostly suspended. It now contains the following business houses: Walton & Haley, general store; W. L. Chamberlain, same; M. L. Kirby & Co., drugs; Freeman & Wakefield, groceries and hardware; two hotels, the Foust House and Johnson’s Hotel; two livery stables; two manufacturing establishments, known as the LaFayette Ax Handle Company, and the Turner, Day & Woolsworth Manufacturing Company. The latter manufactures ax handles and other handles in general. There is also W. L. Chamberlain’s combined steam saw and grist-mill and wool-carding machine. The town also contains six church societies—four white and two colored, and three church edifices, two belonging to the white and one to the colored people. The Baptist Church edifice was erected soon after the town was laid out, and the societies of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Methodist Church South hold their services in the Baptist Church. The society of the Church of Christ was organized in LaFayette June 19, 1869, by the labor of Isaac T. Reneau, evangelist, and the church edifice was erected in 1873. The colored people have two religious societies in the town—Methodist and Baptist—and they worship in the same house. The town also contains the Macon Male Academy, a school which is well sustained, and is open to both sexes, and a colored free school. Also LaFayette Lodge, No. 149, F. & A. M., which was chartered in 1848, and now has about sixty members. Also LaFayette Chapter, No. 96, R. A. M., with about twenty-five members. Stores, post offices, churches and schoolhouses are scattered throughout the county to suit the convenience of the people.

The following statistics taken from the last published report of the State superintendent of public instruction will serve to show the condition of the public free schools. Scholastic population: White—male, 1,743; female, 1,845; total, 3,388. Colored—male, 164; female, 154; total, 318. Number of teachers employed: White—male, 43; female, 8. Colored—male, 3; female, 1; total, 55, the number of schools being the same. Total amount of money expended during the year, $5,835.85.

The Baptists and Methodists were the pioneer religious denominations of the county, and the churches of the county at present, named in order of their numerical strength, are Missionary Baptist, Methodist, Christian, Primitive Baptist, and general Baptist. LaFayette is connected by telephone with Hartsville, Carthage and Gallatin, and has daily communication with these towns by way of the stage line of Messrs. Day & Allen.

Transcriber Note: Transcribed December 2000 for the TNGenWeb Project for Macon County

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