yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee


Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith

Mr. Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith of Jackson has published seven genealogical miscellanies for Henderson County.  He wishes to share this information as widely as possible and has granted permission for these web pages to be created.  We thank Mr. Smith for his generosity.  Copyright, Jonathan K. T. Smith, 2001

MILLS DARDEN, native of Northampton County, North Carolina, one of the largest men of whom there is reliable record, was one off the few children of John and Mary Darden. Shortly after his father's demise, Mills Darden qualified as administrator of his estate (Dec. 5, 1820); his signature on his administrator's bond:

The inventory and sale of John Darden's estate was filed with the Carolina court in March 1821. There is a POA from Mills Darden, Henderson County, Tennessee, to D. A. Barnes, to represent him in the estate of his deceased mother, Mary Darden who died in Northampton County in 1844.

The foremost genealogical authority on the descendancy of Mills Darden, Laura Waddle, formerly of Lexington, compiled numerous notes on the subject, from which the present writer was able to delineate his children.

Milis Darden and his first wife, Mary Jenkins Dardin had children:

l. LOUISA M. DARDEN (Oct. 14, 1822-April 20, 1891), wife of Clement W. Strickland. Dallas Co., Mo.

2. MARTHA J. DARDEN (May 15, 1824-Jan. 28, 1875), wife of William H. Parrott. Jackson Co., Ark.

3. EASTER ELIZABETH DARDEN (May 10, 1827-June 29, 1898), married James W. H. Knowles, May 10, 1856. Henderson Co., Tenn. Called EASTER not Esther in 1858 WEST TENN. WHIG, Jackson.

4. GEORGE W. DARDEN (1830-July 22, 1864); sergeant in Company G, 6th Tenn. Inf., CSA; killed in battle near Atlanta, Georgia; unmarried.

5. FRANCIS MARION (Frank) DARDEN (c1834-____, 15, 1873), narried Lucinda Carver; served in Wilson's 21st Cavalry, CSA; towards end of his life moved to Jackson Co., Ark.

6. ADONIRAM JUDSON DARDEN (May 28, 1837-Nov. 30, l910), served in Co. I, 27th Tenn. Inf., CSA; married twice: Mary Ann Webb and Nancy Cox. Henderson Co., Tenn.

Mills Darden first settled in Madison Co., Tenn., then lived awhile in Giles Co., Tenn., before moving to Henderson County in the late 1830s. A. J. Darden's pension record has his sworn statement that he was born in Giles Co. in May 1837. His mother's tombstone in Henderson Co. has her death occurring in February 1837, which is certainly in error, more likely having died in February 1839. Her tombstone was placed, apparently, at the same time as Mills Darden's, hence the year of her death may have been "misremembered." Mills Darden had remarried by the time of the 1840 census, Judging from the age of an older female in his household. The Dardens were living in Madison Co., Tenn. at the time of the 1830 census and he bought land there late in 1831 (deed registered in 1833). Mills Darden and his second wife, Termisha/Tamesia N. Cooper (with 1/8 Indian ancestry), had children:

l. VIRGINIA DARDEN, born about 1841; married Louis H. Norfleet, March 3, 1858 in Mississippi.

2. MARY DARDEN (Now. 13, 1844-Dec. 30, 1914); married Henry Anderson Wadley, February 1863, Gibson Co., Tenn. (Her death certificate gives her birth year as 1841 but various censuses consistently indicate that she was born in 1844 not in 1841.)

3. MILLS NEWSOM DARDEN, born 1849; d. s. p. by 1865; living at the time of the 1860 census.

4. TENNESSEE (Tennie) V. DARDEN (June 9, 1853-June 1, 1873); unmarried.

(The 1840 census would indicate that Mills and Mary Darden had another son, born between 1825-1830, who appears to have died young, unaccounted for by tradition or fragmentary public records.)


Note: When Mills Darden moved into Henderson County he first settled in Civil District 6; moved from farm into Lexington where he kept a tavern located about the middle of the south side of the square (THE LEXINGTON PROGRESS, March 10, 1933) where he was living in October 1850 (census), as an innkeeper; at his death he left 414 acres, of which his wife had her dower (115 acres), CD 6, having sold 23 acres which he had cultivated, for years, shortly before his death. See, WEST TENNESSEE WHIG, Jackson, Tenn., January 8, 1858.



born Oct. 7, 1799
Died Jan. 23, 1857
Aged 57 years, 3 mo's.,and 16 days

Tombstone at Darden's grave, in back yard of Joe Dunivan, on Mills Darden Cemetery Road,
about 6. 5 miles SW of Lexington.


January 8, 1858


TERMISHA DARDEN, widow of Miles DARDEN, dec'd., et. al.
vs GEORGE DARDEN, et. al.

In pursuance of the Interlocutory decree, pronounced in the above entitled cause, at the December term, 1857, of the County Court of Henderson County, Tenn., I will expose to public sale, on the 13th day of February, next, at the Court House door, in Lexington, Tenn., to the highest and best bidder, the following named slaves, ____ (folded), Boss, Ben, Emeline and Francis.

Terms of Sale — Twenty-five dollars cash down on each slave. The balance on a credit until the 25th day of December, 1858. Bond and security will be required for the purchase and a lien retained until the purchase money is all paid.

Jesse Taylor,
Clerk & Master

Penn, Sol. /solicitor; lawyer/


August 27, 1875


The Largest Man in the World

We find the following in an old scrapbook without date. Probably some of our readers know something about him.

"The funeral services of Mr. Miles Darden, who died at his residence in Henderson county, was preached on the fourth Sunday in June, 5 miles southwest of Lexington, Tenn. The masonic fraternity were in attendance, in full regalia, on the occasion.

The deceased was beyond all question the largest man in the world. His girth was 7 feet 6 inches — two inches higher than Porter, the celebrated Kentucky giant. His weight was a fraction over 1000 pounds! It took over a hundred feet of plank to make is coffin; he measured around the waist 6 feet, 4 inches." West Tennessee Journal.

The above is true in the main; his name was Mills, instead of Miles, and died January 27th 1857. Several of his children still reside in the county, also his, widow.

His weight was never known, as he never permitted himself to be weighed, but was guessed to be about 1000 pounds and many of the citizens of this town and county have seen him pull an ox anywhere he desired which would use all its power against him. The tailor here, Mr. Pinkaton, says it took 10 yards of cloth to make a coat for him. His mode of traveling in the latter part of his life was in a wagon as nothing else could stand his weight.

Mr. Wm. Brooks, who sold the funeral material, we learn that 16 yards of 4-4 cambric was used for the winding sheet; 17 yards of 34 flannel for lining coffin; three pounds of nails were used in making the coffin; 44-yards of ribbon were used for trimming and 4 boxes of tacks in fastening the lining and covering.

The carpenters, Messrs Threadgill and Gilliken, used 156 feet of lumber in making the coffin. In all probability he was larger than Daniel Lambert who only-weighed about 800 pounds.

Friends Rivers, you can toll your readers such a-man did exist in Henderson county and that many are now living who have sees this monstrously large man.


N. Y., 1892, volume 2, page 77:


DARDEN, Miles, giant, b. in North Carolina is 1798; d. in Henderson county, Tenn., 28 Jun., 1857. He wits seven feet six inches in height, and at his death weighed more than one thousand pounds. Until 1838 he was active, energetic, and able to labor, but from that time was obliged to remain at home, or be moved about in a wagon. In 1850 it required thirteen and is halt yards of cloth, one yard wide, to make him as coat. His coffin was eight feet long, thirty-five inches deep, thirty-two inches across the breast, eighteen across tie bead, and fourteen across the feet.


The present writer was told on several occasions by his grandmother, Joe Henry Moffitt Smith (1895-1986), that her father, Joseph Henry Moffitt (1854-1928), raised at Sand Ridge, familiar with the old tales of the county, told her that it was told by the oldtimers of his day, those who had known Mills Darden, that when asked his name, Darden would say, "My name is Dar-deeeeen", with emphasis on the last syllable. Moffitt's niece, Marietta Pearson, married Darden's grandson, W. L. (Monk)Darden.

Research by Laura Waddle, formerly of Lexington, with documentation reveals that Mills Darden was a native of Northampton Co., North Carolina. Her file about him is located in the Tennessee Room, Henderson County Library in Lexington.


Snapshots of the original, marble tombstones of' Mills and Mary Darden, destroyed
in 1973; replaced in 1976. Courtesy of W. L. Barry and Brenda K. Fiddler.


(A 19th century newspaper piece from the CARROLL COUNTY DEMOCRAT)


When it comes to large men, the Democrat is able to put MILES /MILLS/ DARDEN, who lived in Henderson County against any of them. He was born in Northampton County, North Carolina, November /Oct. / 7, 1799; was married to Mary Jenkins in 1820. By this marriage he had seven children and by his second marriage four children. He moved from North Carolina to West Tennessee in 1829 and died six miles west of Lexington in 1857. He was 7 feet 6 inches high and in 1845 weighed over 1000 pounds. In 1850 it required 13½ yards of cloth one yard wide to make him a coat. His coffin was 8 feet long, 35 inches deep, 32 inches across the breast, 13 inches across the head and 14 inches across the feet. It took 214 yards of black velvet to cover it. His hat measured 27 inches around the crown and is now in possession of the State Historical society at Nashville. He was a Mason and belonged to the Baptist Church.


March 31, 1866



. . . Now we published, in 1857, the death of Miles /Mills/ Darden, a citizen of Henderson, an adjoining county, in this State. We mentioned his weight at the time of his death which was so enormous that the figures excited less of wonder than derision.

. . . Miles Darden was beyond all question, the largest man in the world, at least since the days when there were giants in the land. His height was seven feet and six inches. . . . He measure around the wait six feet and four inches and it took. 100 feet of plant to make his coffin. He was 55 years old when he died, full of humor and possessed of fine sense, though very sensitive on the subject of his corpulency. We knew /W. W. Gates/ fifteen years before his death. He then weighed only 1400 lbs. but continued to increase as he became older.


"Mills" was a family name in the Darden family of Va. and N.C. See, DARDEN FAMILY HISTORY by N. J. Darden, Washington, D.C., 1953.


See also Mills Darden and Descendants of Mills Darden by Laura Waddle.


Other works by Jonathan K. T. Smith can be found at the Madison County Records Repository at TNGenWeb.

Return to Table of Contents for A Genealogical Miscellany Henderson County Tennessee

volume I · volume II · volume III · volume IV · volume V · volume VI · volume VII

top · home · yesterday's · families · schools · links · what's new · memorial · about

This site was created by David Donahue and Brenda Kirk Fiddler.
This site is currently maintained by Jerry L. Butler
Copyright © 2004 - 2010, All rights reserved