yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee


Gen. Marcus J. Wright


The County occupied by Indians-Western District-County of Hardin-Hardships of Early Settlers-
Organization of County-Captain s of companies commissioned as Justices of the Peace-
The first County Court and first Chairman-The laying off of the Town of Purdy-W. S. Wisdom,
Benjamin Wright, John Chambers, Col. John Purdy-First Circuit Court. Judge Joshua Haskell,
Maclin Cross, Clerk-Names of early Inhabitants-Emigrants-Stores-Building of Court-House-
The first Census and Population-Names of Early Settlers in all parts of the County-
Names of all County Officers-Members of the General Assembly-John V. Wright.

Note.-I am indebted to Hon. James Warren, one of the old and most highly esteemed citizens of McNairy county, for the following graphic sketch.

The lands now embraced in McNairy county, prior to the year 1819, were occupied by the Chickasaw Indians, it being a part of the territory then known as the Western District. At this date the Indian titles were extinguished and the county of Hardin established, which embraced the territory now covered by McNairy county, and a few daring adventurers began to make their appearance west of the beautiful Tennessee river, for the purpose of making settlements, and with brave hearts and strong arms began to fell the large monarchs of an almost unbroken forest, erect log cabins, and clear small patches of ground for cultivation in corn for bread; but so little was done in this direction the first year that the settlers, few in number and far apart, were compelled to cross the river and go into Middle Tennessee for corn to make the bread. There were but few cattle and hogs, not enough for meat; but the supply was not scant, as game was in abundance, consisting of bear, deer, turkey and smaller game. The names of the first settlers are unknown.

On the 8th day of October, 1823, the General Assembly of the State passed an Act providing for the organization of McNairy county, taking its name from Judge John McNairy, of Nashville. In 1824 the county was organized. Certain men of good character wore recommended to the Governor by captains of companies, who were commissioned as Justices of the Peace, who constituted the county Court. (The records of the county Court having been destroyed it is now impossible to get their names.) All the county officers were elected by the county Court. The first Court was held in a log house erected for the purpose on what is now known as the A. V. Murry farm, about four miles south and west of Purdy, the present county site. The first chairman of the county Court was Pressly Christian; Joseph Barrett, clerk, and Henry Wilson, sheriff. The Court was held at this place until about 1825, when the present site was selected and permanently located, and in March, 1825, a sale of town lots was held, Benjamin Wright being the surveyor and Wm. S. Wisdom the auctioneer. On the 4th day of August, 1825, John Yount conveyed to Geo. M. Barnett, A. V. Murry, W. S. Wisdom, Robert Rankin, and Thompson M. Prine, commissioners, 50 acres of land for the location of the county site. John Chambers is said to have originally entered the land on which the town is situated, the fees being paid with money derived from the sale of cheese made by his wife, and hauled to Nashville, a distance of about 150 miles. The town was named in honor of John Purdy, who was a citizen of Henderson county. Another court-house was now built at Purdy of logs, 18 x 20 feet, with clapboard roof and doors and puncheon floor, and although there was but little crime then, a jail was built of about the same material as the court-house.

The first Circuit Court held in the county was presided over by Judge Joshua Haskell; Maclin Cross, clerk. Purdy now began to assume the appearance of a town.

The following named persons constituted the first inhabitants:

Joseph Barnett, Wm. S. Wisdom, T. Prince, John T. Burtwell, George Burtwell, S. D. Pace, William Ruleman, Henry S. Wilson, Steadman, Nat. Griffith, Benjamin Jones, Benjamin Wright and Maclin Cross, who erected log cabins with' clapboard roofs and doors, puncheon floors, and stick and dirt chimneys.

The county now began to receive quite a number of immigrants, a large majority of whom were originally from North Carolina.

Hugh Kirby, born December, 1821, and died 4th January, 1870, is said to have been the first white man born in the county.

The first store in the county was owned and operated by John Chambers and Nat. Griffith as partners, their best and principal customers being Indians, who exchanged furs and hides for goods, which were again hauled to Nashville and exchanged for other goods, money being very scarce in the county.

A brick court-house was built in 1830, James Reed being the contractor and Henry Kirkland the builder. The lumber used in its construction was sawed by hand with a whip-saw and bought at from 75 cents to $1.25 per hundred.

The first census was taken in 1830, and showed the population to be 5,316 whites and 381 colored; a total of 5,697.

From the time of my arrival in the county, February, 1827, until 1832, my acquaintance outside of my immediate neighborhood was quite limited, the population increasing rapidly.

The following named persons were among the most prominent citizens in the east part of the county: Beck, Erwin, Gilchrist, Jones, Kerr, Suttrell, McKinzie, Sanders, Veal and Wilson.

Southeast part of the county Atkins, Burks, Braden, Block, Cunningham, Donald, Dameron, Ealum, Forris, Michie, Sharp, Stubblefield, and Wardlow.

South part of the county : John N. Barnhill, Chambers, Grahain, Hooker Hamm, Houston, Huggins, Littlejohn, Prather, Ramers, Springer, Boatman, Darby, Jeans, Forsyth, Henderson, Horn, McCullough, Meeks, Rains, Rotin, and Simpson.

Southwest part of the county : Derryburry, Flowers, Ferguson, Gooch, Kirk, Lock, McGuin, Null, and Young

West part of the county: Bradshaw, Dillon, Hornbuckle, Kernodle, Laughlin, Lockman, McIntire, Moore, Robertson, Saunders, Stovall, Turner, Weatherly, and Wilson.

Northwest part of the county: Clayton, Cobb, Clemons, Floyd, Garner, Hurst, Jackson, Merchuson, Maness, Rowsey, Raukin, Smith, Shoffield, Stewart, Burkhead, Bryant, Cason, Deaton, Estes, Hodges, Johnson, Muse, McIntire, O'Neal, Randolph, Womble, Wade, and Weaver.

North part of the county: Beard, Bullinger, Fowler, Hallis, Ingraham, Jones, Kirby, Lawrence, McHolstead, Plunk, Putman, Patterson, Robinson, Robbins, Sipes, Smith, Sells, Sedford, Walch, and Ward.

Northeast part of the county: Blackshear, Basinger, Combs, Carroll, Cochran, Cox, Hardin, Kemp, Landreth, Merrill, Massengill, Phillips, Parish, Riggs, Stanley, Sewell, Scott, Swain, Anderson, Bishiop, Clark, Finley, Morrow, Oldham, Pitts, Smith, Shelton, and Tidwell.

Central or about Purdy: Adams, Barnes, Brooks, Bell, Beaty, Crump, Devault, Denny, Hill, Harwell, Jopling, Kincaid, Murry, McAlpin, Maggil, McAlpin, Sweat, Suratt, Tatum, Walker, Whorton, and Carter.


1st. Henry S. Wilson, 1824-28
2d. Laney Moore, 1828-32
3d. Wiley B. Terry, 1832-36
4th. James Boyd, 1836-38
5th. James Warren, 1838-44
6th. N. C. Riggs, 1844-50
7th. Andrew McKee, 1850-56
8th. Wm. D. Jopling, 1856-62
  War and no Offices.
9th. Samuel Lewis (was killed by a negro riot, and Jas. H. Mitchell filled out the time), 1865-68
10th. James L. W. Boatman, 1868-70
11th. Wm. D. Jopling, 1870-76
12th. J. Randolph Stovall, 1876-82

County Court Clerks.

1st. Joseph Barnett, 1824-28
2d. Benjamin Jones,1828-32
3d. Wm. S. Wisdom, 1832-36
4th. John R. Adams, 1836-44
5th. Aaron A. Saunders, 1844-56
6th. Joseph Walker, 1856-64
7th. R. M. Thompson, 1866-70
8th. Calvin Shull, 1870-78
9th. Job Bell, 1878-82

Circuit Court Clerks.

1st. Maclin Cross, 1824-36
2d. Peter E. Shull (elected but died before being qualified, and Larry Moore served out his time by appointment of the County Court), 1836-40
3d. Lindsey Saunders, 1840-48
4th. A. J. Kincaid, 1848-52
5th. Lindsey Saunders, 1852-56
6th. Milton H. Johnson, 1856-64
7th. D. N. Huddleston, 1865-70
8th. George E. Meeks (who died before his time expired, and G. M. Moore filled his time to the next regular election in 1876), 1870-76
9th. Wm. D. Jopling, 1876-78
10th. Theodore F. Dolby, 1878-82

Register of Deeds.

1st. William Murry and A. V. Murry, from1824-36
2d. A. W. Murry, 1836-40
3d. R. S. Harwell, 1845-44
4th. A. M. McKee, 1814-48
5th Benjamin Wright, 1848-60
6th. Alfred Moore (who died before his term expired, and time filled out by Asa Bell), 1860-64
7th. George M. Moore, 1866-70
8th. Edwin R. Turner, 1870-78
9th. James H. Curry, 1878-82

County Surveyors.


1st. Benjamin Wright
2d. Thomas H. Bell
3.d John M. Bell
4th. Fielding Hurst

5th. Clint. H. Moore.
6th. Miles Moore.
7th. F. Hurst.
8th. R. W. Michie.

Record of Surveyors destroyed, so that dates can not be had.

Members of the Lower Branch of Legislature.

lst. John M. Johnson from 1835-3?
2d. Wm. H. Beaves, 18373~
3d. John M. Johnson, 1839-41
4th. Msthew A. Trice, 184li45
5th. James Warren, 1845-49
6th. John H. Meeks, 1 840-53
7th. Wm. F. Brown, 1853-55
8th. John B. Smith, 1855-57
9th. John W. Estes, 1857-59
10th. J. L. Morphis, 3859-61
13th. Wm. D. Jopling, 1861-63
12th. Stanford L. Warren, 1865-67
13th. Eljah J. Hodges, 1867-69
14th. S. L. Warren, 1869-70
15th. Robert. S. Houston, 1870-72
16th. B. Manley Tilman, l872-74
17th. Dr. James Mitchell, 1874-76
18th. B. M. Tillirnan, 1876-78
19th. AnsonW. Stovall, 1878-80
20th. James Warren, 1880-82

State Senators.


1st. Orvil L. Meeks, before the war.
2d. John Aldredge, since, two terms.

3d. S. L. Warren, since, two terms.
4th. B. M. Tillman, present incumbent.

Member of Congress.

John V. Wright, a citizen of this county, served two terms in the Federal Congress,
and two in the Confederate Congress.

County Trustees.

lst. Robert M. Owens.
2d. Reuben Hill, John Whorton.
3d. David McKinzie.
4th. Jacob Lawrence.
5th. John A. Moore.
6th. David Horn.
7th. J. A. Miller, present incumbent.
Some of these officers have held more than one term.

The first goods over sold in Purdy were furnished by John Chambers and sold by Nathaniel Griffith, consisting of but few articles, such as tin cups and cotton handkerchiefs, &c.

The second stock was furnished by R. I. Chester and sold by W. S. Wisdom.

And then came: John T. Burtwell. H. B. Mitchell. Garret & Kirkland. Reuben Moore. John Brooks. Moore & Tally. Wisdom & Shull. I. P. Young. Miller, Moore & Wisdom. Terry & Wisdom. Maclin Cross. Cross & Moore. Kincaid & Harwell. A. B. McLaughlin. Charley Teas. L. Saunders & Bro. A. A. Saunders. Hall & Bro. Wisdom & Walsh. Harwell & Shull.

In the county: Little Hatches. Samuel Lewis. Leon Gay.

North part of county: Josiah Wamble. W. J. Anderson.

At Adamsville: Shelby, Dunn & Hogers. C. H. Dorion. Combs & Stratton.

South part of county: Benj. Saunders. Josiah Jeanes. L. Huggins.

At Camden: F. P. Duke.

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