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P 3 3082 00527 701^ ^D COUNTY 


Publication No. 1 5 


(Alice And Kelley Ray) 

Summer 1980 

Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37130 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

Lyrasis Members and Sloan Foundation 

Published by the 


President Mr. William Walkup 

Vice-President. Mr. Gene Sloan 

Recording Secretary Miss Louise Cawthon 

Corresponding Secretary & Treasurer-Mrs. Kelly Ray 
Publication Secretary Mr. Walter K. Hoover 

Directors Mrs. Dotty Patty 

Miss Aurelia Holden 
Dr. Ernest Hooper 

Publication No. 15 (Limited Edition-350 copies) is 
distributed to members of the Society. The annual member- 
ship dues is $7.00 (Family - $9.00) which includes the 
regular publications and the monthly NEWSLETTER to all 
members. Additional copies of Publication No. 15 may be 
obtained at $3.50 per copy. 

All correspondence concerning additional copies, 
contributions to future issues, and membership should be 
addressed to: 

Rutherford County Historical Society 

Box 906 

Murf reesboro, Tennessee 37130 



V /^ U £2£ SALE 


The Rutherford County Historical Society- 
Box 906 
Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37130 

Publications # 1, 2, 3, U, 5, 8 and 9 OUT OF PRINT 

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AVAILABLE FROM : William Walkup, 202 Ridley St, Smyrna, Tenn 37167 

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Vol. 1: Northwestern third of county and part of Wilson and 

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maps $10.00 + $ 1.00 postage 

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IMPORTANT: Publication of queries in this column is free to all members 
as space permits. Each query must appear on a full sheet of paper which 
must be dated and include member's name and address. Please type if 
possible. Queries should give as much pertinent data as possible, i.e. 
approximate/actual dates of birth, marriage, death, etc. Queries must 
refer to RUTHERFORD COUNTY, TENNESSEE FAMILIES and immediate connections. 
Address all correspondence relating to queries to the Society, P. 0. 
Box 906, Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37130. 

No 1 WILLIAM HENRY MARLIN b ca 180$ Rowan Co. N. C. & d after 1880 
Rutherford Co. Term.; (son of Margaret McCracken & Joseph 
Mar Lin); married 1st h July 1832 Lucinda Miller, (daughter 
of Elizabeth Prestridge & Isaac Miller). Had children, 
Isaac & Elinor Marlin. William married 2nd 29 Nov 1839 in 
Rutherford Co. by Edward Waller J. P. to Mary Rebecca Jacobs 
b ca 1816 TN & d, after 1880 in Rutherford Co. We believe M. 
Rebecca Jacobs to be the daughter of Greenberry Jacobs b July 
1778 Md. & his wife Sarah, listed age 58 b Va in 1850. In 
1870 Sarah Jacobs, listed age 90 b. Va. lives with William 
& Rebecca Marlin. We find no other elder Sarah Jacobs b. Va. 
in 1850 Term, census, except Greenberry's wife. William & 
Rebecca Marlin named a son Greenberry. Sarah Jacobs is not 
listed in Rutherford, Bedford or Coffee county census of 
i860. Is part of Rutherford county i860 census missing? 
Would like to learn Sarah's maiden name. Did Greenberry 
Jacobs die in Rutherford county, Tenn? Mrs. R. H. Johnson 
615 Webb St., Lafayette, La 70501 

No 2 In the book, Miller's of Millersburg , by J. B. Nicklin Jr., 
published 1923, there are some errors. Tenn. State Archives 
has a copy of this book. On page lltl it states Burrell Perry 
Johnson ( 1808-3 901) was married to Elisabeth Millnr, daughter- 
of Kate Claytor and James R. Miller. The wife of Burrell Perry 
Johnson was Elizabeth Blakely b. 19 Nov. 1812 TN d. 10 Mar. 
1892; buried Old Miller cemetery #100 near Christiana, TN. 
She was the daughter of Catherine Claytor (l79h-l86U) and 
James H. Blakely. (d. prior to 20 Feb. I83O Rutherford Co.) 
Though no marriage record was found for Burrell Perry Johnson 
and Elizabeth Blakely, on the back of B. P. Johnson's hand sr 
hewn marker is "Married Life 61 yrs 1 month." Subtracting 
this from Elizabeth's death shows they were married Feb 1831. 
Also see pages 21 & 2? of Miller book. James R. Miller, 
widower of Rebecca Johnston, married 2nd in 1831 Mrs. Katherine 
Blakely, nee Claytor, widowed daughter of Carter Claytor. 
Catherine's two daughters, Elizabeth & Nancy Blakely are listed 
as daughters of James R. Miller and his first wife. Catherine 
also had a son, William Rucker Blakely b. ca 1815. He married 
in Rutherford Co 6 Feb. 18U3 to Lucinda B.Jones. He is not 
listed in i860 census of Rutherford Co. Did he move west? 
Burrell Perry Johnson b. 2 Oct 1808 d. 8 Jan 1901 is listed 
son of Mary McMinn and Edward Johnson in the book, Miller's 
of Millersburg and also in the estate records of Edward dated 
Jan. & Feb. 1853. We are puzzled by other records naming one 

No 2 continued 

Burrell Perry Johnson as grandson of Burrell Perry and wife 
Esther. Deed of gift, Oct. l8lk Rutherford Co. Burrell Perry 
gives to grandsons, Burrel Perry Johnson and William Henry 
Johnson, to remain in Matthew Johnson hands, their father or 
his certain attorney until William comes to age 21. Delivered 
July 13, 1815 to Matthew Johnson. Burrell Perry d. 1851, 
wrote Will 21 Oct 18U0 of Rutherford Co. recorded Mar. 1852 
Davidson Co. He names same two grandsons. Does anyone know 
anything about another Burrell Perry Johnson b. prior to l8lU? 
Edward Johnson had a brother Matthew, said to have died I8l6. 
Could Edward have adopted his brother's son? 
Mrs. R. H. Johnson, 615 Webb St. Lafayette, La 70501 

No 3 DAVIS/MARTIN/McCLARY-McCLEARY : Am researching the Presb, 
minister Rev. Williams Cummins Davis born 16 Dec. 1760-died 
27 Sept. 1831 in S. C. Did he live or preach in Rutherford 
Co. Tenn? If so, whore? Did his wife Isabel (McCLARY-McCLEARY) 
die in Tenn? If so, when and where? His son, David (1798- 
1875) and wife Mary (MARTIN) Davis (I806-I889) left Rutherford 
County, Tenn, the 7th of October 1828 for Macon county, II. 
Mary (MARTIN) Davis's father Josiah (1757-17 Sept. 1835) and 
wife Mary (McCLARY-McCLEARY) (1765-1852) both died in Ruther- 
ford county, Tenn, and are buried in the Cannon cemetery, 
Smyrna, Tenn. Isabel Davis and Mary Martin are both daughters 
of Robert and Abigail (McDOWELL) McClary-McCleary. 
Gheri Hunter 2625 E. Olive, Decatur, P. 62526 

No U COOK, WILLIAM D. COOK (l825-190_) who married Margaret J. 

Hunter, daughter of Robert N. Hunter (1787-186U). Would like 
to know any of William's blood relatives — parents, siblings, 
cousins. Bill lived in the 5th district and was a blacksmith 
at Lamar on Spring Creek. Write Thomas L . Russell , 5019 
Colemont La., Huntsville , Ala., 3581 1 » 

A member of our society is a genealogist: Mrs. Lalia Lester 

1307 West Northfield Blvd. 
Murfreesboro, Tenn 37130 
PHONE: (615) 896-9089 


The Cover 

On the cover of Publication Number 15 is the Childress House, 
home of Mr. and Mrs. Kelly Ray at 225 North Academy Street in 
Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Mr. and Mrs. Ray are members of the Ruther- 
ford County Historical Society and Mrs. Ray is the corresponding 
secretary and treasurer. Another member of our society, Mr. James 
Matheny of the Murfreesboro Art and Frame Shop drew the cover from 
a photograph made by Mr. Bealer Smotherman. 

The house on the cover was placed on the National Register of 
Historic Places in December 1, 1979. 

The Childress House gained its name and place in the history of 
Murfreesboro by being the home of John W. Childress, brother of Sara 
Childress Polk. 

John W. Childress was a leading citizen of Murfreesboro, as his 
father Joel Childress had been before him. A native of Sumner County, 
Tennessee, his family moved to Murfreesboro in 1819. later he attended 
and was graduated from the University of North Carolina and was admitted 
to the Tennessee Bar. 

In 182U his sister, Sara married James K. Polk, who became the 
eleventh president of the United States. John Childress was elected 
attorney general pro tem in 1829. Twenty years later he moved to a 
farm on the Shelbyville Pike and lived and farmed there until the out- 
break of the Civil War. Besides operating his farm and practicing law, 
Childress served as director of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, 
director of the Bank of Tennessee (185U-1856), president of the Planter's 
Bank of Tennessee in Murfreesboro (1859-1861) and president of the First 
National Bank of Murfreesboro (18 72-1880). 

During the Civil War John W. Childress and his family took refuge 
in Griffin, Georgia. At this time a bit of history was being made due 
to the romance of his daughter, Betty and General John Calvin Brown, 
Commander of a regiment under Colonel J. B. Palmer. A military wedding 

was performed and upon Col. Brown's return at the end of the war, the 
family came back to Murfreesboro and found the Childress farm in shambles 
and moved to Nashville. Here Col Brown would later become governor 
of Tennessee. 

John W. Childress was elected circuit judge in the capitol city 
and formed a law partnership with Arthur and John Colyar. 

In 187U he purchased the brick house at 225 North Academy Street 
in Murfreesboro, now known as the Childress House. His sister, Sara, 
then the widow of the president, was living in Nashville and visited 
the house often. Her arrival for one of these visits was always the 
signal for social calls, parties and sumptuous meals. Mrs. Polk had 
been, as First Lady, one of the great hostesses of her day. She had 
entertained a great majority of the famous, including one of the most 
famous hostesses in the country, Dolly Madison, also a former First Lady. 

When John W. Childress purchased the two story brick house, it had 
already had several owners, being built in l81j7 by a contractor named 
Jim Fletcher for a Mr. Jim Bivins. Several houses built by Mr. Fletcher 
are still standing in Murfreesboro today. 

In 1856, Mr. Bivins sold the house to Jefferson Leatherman, a 
merchant, whose great grandson, Charles, is a merchant in Murfreesboro 
at the present time. Mr. Leatherman sold the house in 187U to John W. 
Childress and the Childress family owned it until 1900, even though 
John W. died in 1884, his widow and family continued to live there 
until it was purchased by P. R. Miller. Mr. Miller was an undertaker 
and furniture dealer. A larger door was opened in the old kitchen in 
back of the house and the hearse was kept there. Furniture was sold in 
part of the first floor while the family lived on the second floor. 

Barclay Rucker, circuit court clerk bought the house from Mr. Miller 
in 1920 and in 1927 the Thomas B. Newsom family purchased it and it has 


remained in the Newsom family since that time. Mr. and Mrs. Kelly Ray 
are the present owners, Mrs. Ray being the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. 

The Childress House, the residence of Major John Whitsett Childress, 
a man who played an important role in nineteenth century Tennessee business 
and government. Ha held important leadership positions in a railroad, 
three banks, operated a large farm, and was a successful attorney and 

Originally, the house was constructed in the Greek Revival style. 
The facade was altered in 187U-75 and colorans on the porches were re- 
placed with ornate gingerbread trim of the day. In 1913 a tornado 
damaged the house. The porches were repaired and the present clean 
lines and fluted pillars were used which reflect the influence of the 
Colonial Revival Movement at that time. 

The house is built with hand made brick, laid in stretcher bond 
on a cut and coursed limestone foundation. All interior woodwork and 
floors are yellow poplar while the window frames, lintels and sills are 
cedar. The walls are plastered directly onto the brick and the ceilings 
have wood laths. The stairway ascends in the center hall and was 
designed using the turned balusters and large newell post, found in 
most Greek Revival houses in this area; these elements are primarily 
walnut with some mahogany. 

The low gable roof is presently covered with tin shingles. These 
shingles were used in 1913 to replace the standing seam roof that was 
destroyed by a tornado. The standing seam roof remains on the porches 
and lower parts of the building. 

At the rear of the main house stands two one-story rooms with one 
chimney and one fireplace, these rooms were the original kitchjn and 
smokehouse. Also southwest of the house stands a one-story brick 


dependency, the precise use being uncertain, but it was probably 
used for storage of food or wine, since it contains a sunken, brick 
lined cavity. 

Plaques have been placed on the house by the Association for 
the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities and Murfree3boro Architect- 
ural and Zoning Society. In December 1979 the United States Depart- 
ment of Interior placed the house on the National Register of Historic 
Places. A bronze plaque denoting this has been placed on the building. 


The Rutherford County Historical Society appreciates the work 
of Jim Matheny, County Executive Ben Hall McFarlin, Gene Sloan, 
Bealer Smotherman, Mrs. Kelly Ray, Mrs. Ladelle Craddock, and the 
author Van West in preparing this publication for printing. 


The Evolution of a Whig Stronghold 
1835 - 1845 

Carroll Van West 

College of William and Mary 

Edwin A. Keeble in his Murfreesboro Central Monitor . 
September 6, 1834 

Mr. Bell must either be against a national bank or against 
General Jackson; there is no alternative, the President will 
admit him amongest the number of his friends, upon no other 

Governor Newton Cannon at Murfreesboro, April 11, 1839 

I used to think that General Jackson was a tyrant by nature 
and education. I have witnessed his movements on many 
occasions — seen his various plans of operations, but when he 
had his clans about him — and he always would have his clans, 
but no man in them to follow him, who would not be his tool 
and his slave. 

William R. Rucker to James K. Polk, April 10, 1840 

This county as you know seems to be in the peculiar keeping of 
the Whigs. They appear to be determined to do all they can 
to get a majority. 

James C. Jones at Murfreesboro, March 15, 1841 

. . .if I should be elected the Governor of Tennessee, and 
the Legislature should remove the seat of Government to any 
point in the state, I would not express a regret, no ask to 
remain a moment at Nashville, but would cheerfully pack up a 
bag and baggage and go alone with it. 

James K. Polk to Samuel H. Laughlin. October 19, 1842 

The central position of that County (Rutherford) makes it 
more important that we should preserve our strength there, 
than in any other County in the State. 

S. G. Heiskell. 1921 

We, in our day, think that we have had some hot politics, but 
if the historians who tell the political story of the days 
when the Whig party was to be reckoned with in the United 
States ...correctly state the facts, there can be no comparison 
between those days and ours: especially in Tennessee politics 
furor and turbulence that must have meant practical insanity 
characterized elections . . throughout the country. 


This study's purpose is to conduct a detailed and ex- 
haustive investigation into the formation of the Whig and 
Democratic parties of Rutherford County. one of the study's 
primary goals is to ascertain just how this single county 
reflected past conclusions about political activity in 
Tennessee during the Jacksonian period. But, the molding of 
political parties in Rutherford County is more than a mere 
scholastic enterprise. Here is a story that is often more 
fantastic than fiction — a tale of drama and excitement, of 
fist fights and murder, of swaggering bullies, public 
barbeques and "coon burials." In other words, the following 
saga deals with men actively forging their own political 
existence in a very partisan world. You might say this is a 
story of democracy in action. 

Cleavage within Tennessee's Democratic party began in 

1834 when "a combination of personal rivalries and antagonism 
to Van Buren served as a basis for partisan divisions." 
Institutionalized political parties, however, did not crystalize 
until 1840. Neither did the formation of national partisan 
organs begin at the best of times, for in 1835 a new state 
constitution had been ratified. Yet, until the mid-1830' s, 

"no party" politics, with the Democrats in control nationally, 
but seriously divided on state and local matters, was normal. 
Personalities, not party loyalty, usually commanded the voters' 
attention. Therefore, national electoral contests prior to 

1835 held little interest for Tennesseans. For example, in 
the 1832 Presidential campaign, voter participation was lower 

than thirty percent. Thus, the Old Hero's huge electoral 

majorities in the state did not translate into state political 

control as one might expect; instead 

Jackson had little or no control over politics 
in Tennessee, where nominal Jacksonians continued 
their intricate factional and personal contests. 
After 1832, with the prospect of Jackson's 
political retirement in view, the opportunity 
was provided for politicians to array themselves 
into opposing camps, ostensibly on the basis of 
national issues and the question of the succession 
to the presidency. 

What helped to amplify this split between the Jacksonians 
into a chasm from which separate and distinct parties appeared? 
Personal rivalries, the National Bank issue, the presidential 
question, and the candidacy of Hugh Lawson White have been the 
standard historical answer. Yet, since both factions still 
"protested their fidelity to Jackson and purported to differ 
only over the question of a successor," formal parties did not 
exist in Tennessee until after 1836. Nevertheless, the election 
of 1836 "was extremely influential in establishing lasting 
political loyalties in Tennessee. But the parties had yet to 
acquire distinctive platforms and regular machinery for making 
nominations and conducting campaigns.' 

These vital ingredients were not added until the president- 
ial campaign of 1840 when party conventions and committee 
organizations became common place. Nearly ninety percent of 
the electorate voted in 1840 — a signal that Tennessee politics 
"had at last been placed on a new basis, characterized by 
competition between two parties that defined themselves 
essentially in terms of their positions on national issues." 
The party alignments assumed in 1840 remained fairly stable 

until the dissolution of the Whig party in 1852. Few counties 
changed their loyalties and the Whigs won every presidential 
election until 1856 while the Democrats captured the state- 
house in 1839, 1845, and 1849. 

But did the political activity within Rutherford County 
match this broad interpretation of party formation in Tennessee 
during the antebellum period? In a number of instances, Old 
Rutherford was typical, but despite the consistent Democratic 
dominance of Middle Tennessee, the county became a Whig strong- 
hold. Even though James K. Polk had strong family and personal 
ties in Murf reesboro, he failed to carry the county in 1839 
and 1844; in fact, from 1835 to 1845 Rutherford did not vote 
Democratic in any gubernatorial or presidential campaign. Some 
county Democrats did capture state offices until 1839 and the 
party continued to fare well in local contests, especially 
those involving militia offices, but as the fourth decade 
of the nineteenth century opened, the Whigs were assuming 
political control of Rutherford County. 


In 1834 the population of Murfreesboro was 1,000 and 
according to the 1830 census the county numbered 26,134 
souls. The days of rapid population growth were over; in 
1840 the town had 1069 inhabitants and there were 24,280 

Rutherford citizens. Economically, the county survived by 

its agricultural output. Cotton and corn were the lifeblood 

of the area; yet one could find artisans and mechanics since 

Murfreesboro had two cotton factories and two gins. The 

county underwent considerable economic growth during the 

Jacksonian age. In 1834 there were ten stores in Murfreesboro, 

by 1840 there would be twenty. Murfreesboro also expanded 

its boundaries by fifty percent in 1837. That same year, the 

town's first grocery store along with a carriage manufacturing 

factory opened. Yet, Rutherford was overwhelmingly rural and 

agrarian. In 1840, 630 citizens were engaged in manufacturing 

or commerce and sixty-five professionals were in the county, 

but the occupation of over 7 500 men in Rutherford was agri- 


An accurate picture of the county's politicians can be 

obtained by undertaking a collective biography of the Whig and 

Democratic "party leaders" at the time of party formation in 


Rutherford. Democratic county leaders tended to be slightly 

older than their counterparts. They also lived more often in 
Rutherford's rural areas. indeed, only one-seventh of the 
Democrats lived in Murfreesboro while one-fourth of the Whig 
leadership lived in the town. Democratic claims, therefore, 
that their political support was strongest in the backcountry 
were not without some validity. But, overwhelmingly, Ruther- 
ford's partisans were rural-oriented. 

The social elite did not dominate the county's political 
hierarchy. Only one-fourth of the leaders were recognized as 
esquires. Neither did the professional and commercial classes 
control the parties. One-half of the Whigs and Democrats were 
farmers with seventeen percent of the Whigs and twelve percent 
of the Democrats were planters. Only one-fifth of the county' s 
partisans were engaged in professional or commercial enterprises. 
Overall, Whigs and Democrats proportionately shared the same 
occupations. But, the Whigs tended to be doctors, lawyers, 
and planters more than Democrats. 

A "party leader" has been defined as being either 1) 
party chairman 2) party secretary 3) party committeeman 4) 
party delegate 5) party nominee or 6) a correspondent with a 
major national political personality. This characteristic must 
have been exhibited from 1838 to 1843. According to these 
requirements, biographical information was located for 272 party 
leaders, 177 of this total being Democrats. Complete individual 
data was found for 138. Due to the destruction of evidence, 
the county tax list for 1849 has been utilized for the tables 
dealing with land onwership and land value. This tax list pro- 
vided a sample of 156, comprising ninety-nine Democrats and 
fifty-seven Whigs. For further explanation of the calculations, 
consult the tables I thru VII. 

Neither did experience in local government translate into 
party leadership. One-fourth of the Whigs and one-third of the 
Democrats held at least one local office with the Democrats being 
especially prominenet among the county's militia officers. 
Whig leaders, however, did have more experience in state 

Significant differences appeared between the parties when 
an economic profile of the leaders was made. Using the measure- 
ments of slave ownership and land value, Whigs were wealthier 
than Democrats, but according to the index of land ownership, 
little variation between the parties was found. 

Eighty- six percent of the Whigs owned slaves compared to 
sixty-nine percent of the Democrats. Furthermore, while only 
forty percent of the Democrats had more than five slaves, three- 
fifths of the Whigs owned five slaves or more. 

While the percentage of party leaders with land worth 
more than $1,000 was roughly equal, only one-fourth of the 
Democrats owned land valued above $5,000 compared to nearly 
one-half of the Whigs. Land holdings worth more than $10,000 
owned by the county's political leaders were concentrated in 
Whiggish hands. Thirty-five percent of the Whigs, compared to 
only seventeen percent of the Democrats, owned such valuable 

Yet, by comparing roughly equal state convention delegates 
from both parties, the picture of who were the Whigs and who 
were the Democrats in Rutherford County shifts somewhat. Whigs 
are decidely older and town-oriented than their opponents, but 
significant differences in wealth are not apparent. One- third 


of the Whig representatives held local offices, but over half 
of the Democrats had been involved in local government with 
thirty-five percent holding some sort of rank in the militia. 
The Democratic delegates were also much more commercial- 
oriented than their counterparts while the Whigs (over eighty- 
percent) tended to be agriculturalists. The occupational 
profile, therefore, is nearly opposite that of the county 
party leaders. 

This Democratic and Whig leadership lived in a politically 
active county, a Rutherford trait since the days Murfreesboro 
had served as the temporary state capital. The two strongest 
political personalities, aside from Jackson in Middle Tennessee 
James K. Polk and John Bell, both had valuable allies within the 
county. David Dickinson, the area's Congressman in 1834, was 
Bell's brother-in-law. John W. Childress, a prominent lawyer 
and former attorney general, was Polk's brother-in-law and Dr. 
William Rucker was married to one of Sarah Polk's sisters. 
Edwin A. Keeble, newspaper editor and attorney, and Henderson 
Yoakum, lawyer, were other important Democratic operatives in 
the county. Whigs would be able to rely on Charles Ready, a 
lawyer, and William Ledbetter, another attorney, as their 

In 1833-34, the Middle Tennessee Democracy was nearly torn 
asunder over the succession of the Speaker of the House of 
Representatives. The two combatants were Polk and Bell. When 
Felix Grundy delivered an August 1834 address in Murfreesboro 
attacking Bell, Rutherford County found itself in the middle of 
the bitter rivalry. Why the town was chosen as the first battle- 

ground is difficult to answer; yet, a fair conjecture is that 
while Murfreesboro was certainly not Nashville, it was close 
enough so that Bell could clearly appreciate the motives and 
warning of Grundy's speech. 

Arriving in Murfreesboro on August 6, Senator Grundy 
agreed to give a speech on the Bank controversy and his address 
disappointed no one since the county at this time was largely 
anti-bank. Reviewing the various facets of the question, 
Grundy gave the National Bank its own "funeral dirge." 
Praising a gold and silver currency, the Senator concluded 
that "we would enjoy in jingling (in) our pockets the money 
our fathers were accustomed to," but implied that John Bell 
did not support these principles. By identifying Bell as a 
pro- Bank man, Grundy hoped to hurt his political chances in 
Washington that fall. 

Answering Grundy's allegations, David Dickinson attested 
that both he and Bell were true Jacksonian Democrats, but his 
comments were ignored by the Polk faithful. "The lamest I 
ever heard from any man," John Childress told Polk, "The 

people received ( sic) it with no marks of approbation and 

seemed to be displeased that he had obtruded himself upon them. 

But during the night's volunteer toasting, the real fireworks 

began. Testimonials in honor of Polk, Jackson, Grundy, and 

White received loud cheers; however, the remainder of the state's 

Congressional delegation were not so saluted "Except for a 

toast to this amount, 'the Friends of the Administration, we 

, 13 
judge them by the company they keep." Since everyone knew 

that the allusion was veiled reference to Bell's escort to the 


speaker's chair after his election by John Quincy Adams, they 

"assented to the sentiment heartily 1' Naturally, the Bell 

faithful were upset by the events at Murf reesboro: 

After Grundy left here the whole hive (of Bell's 
friends) was in an uproar and battle lines were 
written, and messengers dispatched to head quarters 
at Nashville giving information of Mr. G movements. 
The Speaker and his friends could see nothing in the 
circumstance of Mr. G visit here, than an attempt at 
his distruction ( sic ) . 1 •> 

Throughout August and September, the columns of the 
Murfreesboro Central Monitor continued to ring with the Polk- 
Bell controversy. One Bellite reminded Grundy that on the 
question of a National Bank, the people of Rutherford County 

did not even need his "time and talents to keep us orthodox 

upon that subject." Editor Keeble answered curtly: "Mr. 

Bell must either be against a national bank or against General 

Jackson; there is no alternative, the President will admit him 

amongest ( sic ) the number of his friends, upon no other terms." 

What began earlier as an intra-party quarrel now threatened 

to split the state Democracy. John Bell came out swinging 

when he visited Murfreesboro to answer his critics. 

The Nashville Congressman arrived in the first week of 

October to see his in-laws; just when (and definitely not a 

coincidence) the county court was in session. Declining a 

public dinner, Bell did accept a resolution from his friends to 

speak at the courthouse on October 6. With "all his kinfolks 

and few ( sic ) friends assembled to grace his triumph" as a 

sarcastic partisan reported, Bell began what would become one 

of the most important speeches of his career. 


Reaffirming his devotion to Jacksonian principles, the 
Congressman said he followed principle before men. Arraigning 
those who maintained that he had endorsed the Bank by his 
silence during the last Congressional session as mere hypo- 
crites trying to push him into opposition, Bell claimed the 
support of the President and pledged to defend Jackson when 
necessary. As Bell began the last part of his speech he left 
this dependable ground and unable to control his temper, the 

Nashvillian uttered intemperate words which seriously threatened 

the already fragile unity of the Tennessee Democracy. 

The Speaker claimed that only his talent and influence 
had provided clear sailing for the President's measures- 
measures which he did not see the wisdom of, but supported 
out of party loyalty. Bell also boasted that the opposition 
had supported him against Polk in the Speakership race simply 
because he was the best man. Addressing the Bank issue, he 
promised, unless failure was eminent, to support Jackson's 
"experiment" of removing the federal deposits from the Bank of 
the United States. Construing the Constitution as granting 
Congress the power to establish a National Bank, the Congress- 
man admitted that the states could refuse to have Bank branches 
established within their boundaries. Although the majority 
of Rutherford countians believed the bank was unconstitutional. 
Bell continued his harrangue, rendering an even more drastic 
opinion on the hard-soft currency issue. Grundy desired a re- 
turn to the currency of the founding fathers. Bell, asserting 
that a gold and silver basis eliminating paper money would be 
a failure, disagreed , concluding that "the great clamor about 


such a circulating medium was a humbug , a trick by politicians" 

— a charge that directly touched Jackson. 

After listening to the Nashvillian ' s lecture, many 

Democrats left dumbfounded. One thought it "a most vehement 

& flaming tirade .... the most intemperate and ill advised 

defence I ever heard" and described the Speaker's temper as 

"bitter & revengeful" combined with "stomping, raving, and the 

most pugnacious thrashing & sawing with his hands and arms." 

Another reported that Bell had been "very excited" and soon 

became "very furious applying harsh and unbecoming epithets to 

those who had questioned the correctness of his course in 


Congress." According to William Brady, the speech was de- 
livered in a "refractory spirit" and was marked by a "bad temper 

and a weak manner" along with "the most consummate arrogance... 

and cringing servility." Concluding that Bell had made "an 

indiscriminate slaughter of all his enemies," Brady was so 

enraged about the speech that he immediately wrote Andrew 

tv 24 

Shocked by Bell's excesses was Daniel Graham of the county. 

"Did he not say Humbug of Jacksons metallic experiment? If not 

what idea did he apply Humbug to? If to the President's scheme, 

who can excuse the insolence?" he asked Polk. Indeed, Polk's 

cadre was upset — but neither was it well disposed toward Bell 

in the first place. However, this outrage was not mere partisan 

reaction for even Bell's friends considered the speech poor, 

and later historians have rendered the same verdict. 

Brady's report to Jackson further damaged Bell's standing 

among state Democrats. Brady wrote to explain the parts of the 


speech that were "variant from the truth." According to the 
former state representative, Bell asserted that only a few of 
the party faithful were opposed to him and that he could have 
been Speaker much earlier if his enemies had not plotted to 
destroy him. Jackson was not involved in the conspiracy, but 
had been ill served "by designing and intriguing individuals." 
Bell had described the gold and silver currency experiment as 
as " a Humbug " explaining that "he had never tricked the people 
with such fallacies." He did admit, however, that he was not 

for " the Bank or a Bank " until they were seen as necessary 

which in the Speaker's opinion, inferred Brady, would be soon 
enough. Bell had closed by asserting that he had heard no 
complaints about his silence during the Congressional debates; 
therefore, he felt he had offended no one by staying quiet. 27 

Brady's letter was not the only evidence Jackson had of 
Bell's recent "misbehavior." Disappointed that Polk had not 
been elected Speaker, the Presidnet had written Martin Van Buren 
in early August predicting that if Bell did not end his silence 
on the removal of the deposits, he would be damaged politically. 
On August 9, Bell, Major John Eaton, and Congressman Forester, 
Dickinson, and Peyton went to the Hermitage attempting to con- 
vince Jackson that Bell remained loyal, but the mission failed 
to reverse Bell's disfavor in Old Hickory's eyes. The Murfrees- 
boro speech and Brady's subsequent letter made up the President's 
mind. "Mr. Bell is incapable of the truth," he jotted on the 
back of Brady's communication: a reaction which seriously 
threatened Bell's career in the Democratic party. The Old Hero 
had little need for an untrustworthy lieutenant. 


Bell and his followers realized that a serious mistake 
had been made. The Speaker admitted to the President that he 
had been carried away by the heat of the political battle in 
Murf reesboro. Leaving for Natchez to allow temperatures to 
cool, he promised one old Democrat that he was still an 
administration man and pledged to prove his orthodoxy upon 
his return to Washington. ^ But the promised speech was never 
made; instead John Bell emerged at the head of a Hugh Lawson 
White for President movement. White, a United States Senator, 
was the only Tennessean to approach Jackson in popularity. 
Yet, the President had already indicated that the Democratic 
candidate was Martin Van Buren. The party faithful not only 
in Rutherford County but throughout Tennessee were either 
confused or unsure about which candidate to support. But the 
citizens of Rutherford had one other factor to consider: a 
vote for White would be a vote for Bell and against Polk. 
White-Bell and Van Buren-Polk — who would control the loyalties 
of Rutherford countians in the upcoming elections? 


Chart I: Comparison of Whig and Democrat Convention 
Delegates from Rutherford County 

1843 Democratic delegation, n = 34 
1841 Whig delegation , n = 29 

A. Occupation (in percentages) 






Farmers 1 
Planters Farmers Business" 





derived from combining those farmers who also listed 
household members as occupied in commerce or manufacturing 

B. Age 


(in percentages) 

under under over 
30 40 40 









C. Geographical location (in percentages) 
Murf reesboro rural county 







D. Esquire recognition (in percentages) 
Identified as an Esquire 



Sources: Nashville Union , Oct. 19, 1843: Murfreesboro Tennessee 
Telegraph , Feb. 6. 1841; The 1840 Census of Rutherford 
County . Tennessee (Murfreesboro. Tenn., 1974). 


Chart II: Comparison of Whig and Democratic Convention 
Delegates from Rutherford County 

1843 Democratic delegation, 
1841 Whig delegation , 

n = 34 
n = 29 

A. Slave Ownership 

(in percentages) 






More than 



% of actual 


% of 
More than actual 
20 owners 





Total Slaves % of County's slaves Avq. per Owner 




B. Local Of f iceholding (in percentages) 

Militia Justice of City 
Total Office Peace Official 






Sources: Nashville Union , Oct. 19, 1843: Murfreesboro 
Tennessee Telegraph , Feb. 6, 1841; The 1840 
Census of Rutherford County , Tennessee (Murfreesboro, 
Tenn. , 1974); "Mayors of Murfreesboro," Rutherford 
County Historical Society Publications , No 2 (1971), 
37; Rutherford County Marriage Records, 1838-1845: 
Nashville Union , March 14, 1842. 


Chart III: Comparison of Whig and Democrat "Party leaders" 
from Rutherford County 

Whigs , n = 95 
Democrats, n = 177 

A. Occupation (in percentages) 

Profession- Commerce/ 

Farmers Military 







Farmers ness 

51.6 5.3 

51.4 6.8 












B. Age (in percentages) 






C. Geographical location (in percentages) 

Murf reesboro Rural Count y 




D. Esquire recognition 




(in percentages) 

Identified as an Esquire 




Nashville Union , Sept. 5, 1838, Sept 20, 1839, 
Feb. 10. 1840, April 8, July 1, August 9, 1841, 
March 14, 1842, Feb. 3, Oct. 19. 1843, April 5, 
9, June 11, 1844; Nashville Whig, June 6, 1838. 
Sept. 4. 1839, Sept. 12, 1840, Dec. 27, 1842, 
Nashvilie Republican Banner , Jan. 18, 1839, 
Jan. 25, 1843, April 19, May 15, 1844; Murfrees- 
boro Tennessee Telegraph Feb. 6, 1841; The 1840 
Census of Rutherford County , Tennessee (Murfrees- 
boro, Tenn., 1974). 


Chart IV: Comparison of Whig and Democrat "Party leaders" 
from Rutherford County 

A. Office Holding 

State Local Militia Justice City 

Offices Offices Office of Peace Official 

Whigs 7.4 25.3 12.6 11.6 4.2 

Democrats 1.1 31.6 20.3 9.6 3.4 

Sources: Nashville Union . Sept. 5, 1838, Sept. 20, 1839, 
Feb. 10, 1840, April 8, July 1, August 9, 1841, 
March 14, 1842, Feb. 3, Oct. 19, 1843, April 5. 9, 
June 11, 1844: Nashville Whig , June 6, 1838, 
Sept. 4, 1839, Sept. 12, 1840, Dec. 27, 1842: 
Nashville Republican Banner , Jan. 18, 1839, 
Jan. 25, 1843, April 19, May 15, 1844: Murfrees- 
boro Tennessee Telegraph . Feb. 6, 1841: The 
1840 Census of Rutherford County . Tennessee 
(Murfreesboro, Tenn. , 1974). 

Chart V: Economic Profile: Whig and Democrat "Pary leaders' 
in Rutherford County 

Slave Ownership 

Democrats, n = 177 
Whigs , n = 95 



% of leaders who 
owned slaves 







than 5 


% of actual 


% of 
lation 1 







% of 

% of actual 


leader 2 
8. 2 




12. 7 

Land . Ownership 
Democrats, n = 99 



n = 57 




More than 
150 acres 


Total Acres 


% total owned 
by Democrats 
& Whigs 

More than 
500 acres 


Total acres 


% total owned 
by Whigs 

More than 
1000 acres 


Total % of leaders/ 
Acres popu- 
Whigs lation 

27,912 1.7 


% total owned 
by Democrats 




Land Value 

Democrats, n = 99 
Whigs , n = 57 




More than 
$ 1000 


More than 
$ 5000 


More than 



More than 


B. Total Total % total 

Value/ Value/ party 

County Party 

Whigs $490,179 15.9 

Democrats 5 3, 072, 761-$452. 498 14.7 

% total % of leaders, 
owned by population 



Computed by dividing the total number of leaders 
(n = 177 or n = 95) by the number of adult white males (3392! 

Computed by dividing the total number of slaves per 
party by the number of leaders in that party 

Computed by dividing the total number of slaves per 
party by the actual number of slaveowners in that party 

Sources: 1840 Census of Rutherford County , Tennessee 
(Murfreesboro. Tenn. . 1974): 1849 Tax List. 
Rutherford County. Tennessee. The 1849 tax 
list was the only one of this era to survive 
the ravages of time and its data were utilized 
only on the charts dealing with land ownership 
and land value, thus accounting for the smaller 
sample used in those calculations. 


II. m HE ELECTION OF 1836: The Grand Political Caravan 

and Eating Menagerie Comes 
to Town 

When the Tennessee Congressional caucus in late December 
1834 nominated Senator White for the presidency, the political 
union between Bell and White was made public. Bell believed 
that his feud with Polk had ended his career as a Jacksonian 
Democrat. Stripped of his patronage powers. Bell was prepared 
to switch his allegiance to a more profitable cause. So in 
becoming the acknowledged leader of the state opposition, the 
Nashville Congressman had one of two goals in mind: "to force 
the Jackson party to take up White as a candidate in 1836 rather 
than face a split in the party, or to form a new party in 
Tennessee with himself and White at its head." Just as 
personalities were destined to play a major role in Tennessee 
during the election of 1836, so rivalries and emotions, not 
political issues, were the dominant factors in Rutherford's 
campaign activity. Many countians did not recognize that they 
were participating in a political evolution, but today it "is 
evident that many citizens of the state who supported White in 
the struggle of 1836. were being transferred, without realizing 

■4- + 4- ..31 

it, to a new party. 

Just as soon as White's acceptance of the congressional 
caucus nomination became known, the presidential sweepstakes 
began in the county. Rumours were afloat by early February that 
Abram P. Maury planned to use the issue of White's candidacy 
to his advantage in the congressional contest against William 

Brady since the Senator's support seemed strong throughout 

Middle Tennessee. While Jackson was adamantly against Bell. 


the President's feelings seemed to mean little to the county. 
White's "consistent course and political doctrine" meant that 
in Murfreesboro an "unanimity of sentiment" for the Judge 
prevailed. 33 The Old Hero might be convinced that Bell planned 

"to destroy this administration and all it has accomplished," 

but Rutherford remained to be persuaded. As Bell told one 

of his colleagues, "Here the war will be better sustained on 

the side of Judge White than I supposed." Yet, those who 

supported Polk would not be easy victims, for they were ready 

to " war to the knife " during the upcoming elections. 

Bell's Nashville headquarters flooded the county with 

propaganda that implied that Polk was the only Tennessean 

out-of-step with administration policy. When this argument 

was swallowed by the people, the Van Buren Democrats were 

horrified. "They are not willing to be convinced that they 

have been imposed upon but obstinately persist in their errors," 

Dr. Rucker wrote in late April, "They are not willing to have 

it understood that they have been foolish." ■•The Grand 

Political Caravan and Eating Menagerie,'" (as the Van Burenites 

called the White candidacy) despite the error of the Charles 

Cassedy letter, gathered strength in the county. Once the 

exploits of Murfreesboro' s Edmund Rucker, who was charged with 

voting fraud at the 1835 Democratic National Convention, were 


exposed by the Whig press, their position became even stronger. 

In early June 1835, the White faction published the first 
number of the Murfreesboro Central Periscope , edited by Peter 
G. Warren. The paper stood for strict construction of the 
Constitution and its principles called for an end to monopolies y 


"especially Banking monopolies." The White organ also advocated 

the quick dispersal of the public lands and opposed any change 

in the electoral college. 

Suddenly, a serious outbreak of cholera spread throughout 
Murfreesboro to bring political activity to a standstill. The 
epidemic took the life of William Brady, the Democratic 
Congressional candidate, leaving a gap that could not be 
adequately filled. With only a month until the election, Robert 
Jetton was chosen as a replacement, but Brady's death signifi- 
cantly diminished the Democrats' chances of replacing Dickinson 
with a loyal administration man. The 1835 state election was 
an ominous sign for the county's Van Burenites. Before the 
next election, many difficult obstacles had to be overcome. 
Newton Cannon, the anti-Jackson candidate, carried the county in 
the governor's race by a two to one margin over William Carroll. 
Maury defeated Jetton within the county by over 200 votes, while 
the Van Buren and White factions divided the two legislative 

seats between Granville Crockett (Van Buren) and Charles Ready 

(White) . 


Chart VI: 1835 State and Congressional Elections 








% Votes 


N. Cannon 




W. Carroll 

Van Buren 







U. S. Congress- 

A. P. Maury 




R. Jetton 

Van Buren 



State Senate 

W. Ledbetter 




A. P. Gowen 








State House 

G. Crockett 

Van Buren 



(vote for 2) 

C. Ready 




W. C. Burris 




H. Norman 




R. Weakley 

Van Buren 











Source: Nashvi 

lie Republican 

Banner, Aug. 11, 


The Democrats were not distraught over their losses. Two 
weeks after the election the Democrats unveiled Keeble's newest 
paper, the Murfreesboro Monitor which declared that "we believe 

Mr. Van Buren to be the candidate of nearly the whole Republican 

party, and that therefore we, shall sustain his pretensions. 

Democratic party leaders throughout Middle Tennessee were 

pleased at Keeble's weekly, and Polk urged Francis P. Blair, the 

powerful editor of the Washington Globe - the Democratic party 

mouthpiece- to cooperate with Keeble because "He is a man of 

some talents, and with some encouragement will be ardent in our 

cause .... His paper is located in an important part of the 

state, and cannot fail to be useful to us." 43 Yet, support for 

White increasingly grew. Local Whigs would not even concede 

that they opposed Jackson's policies. Rather, they concurred 

with John Bell who alledged that "the most insidious artificies 

are constantly employed to induce Gen. Jackson to give the 


sanction of his great name and influence" to the Democrats. 

By the end of October, Democrats within the county were pessi- 
mistic once again. Keeble was forced to sell the Monitor to 
Peter Warren. According to John Childress, Keeble' s paper had 
failed because of Democratic apathy. "There is not a man in 
the county of our side," he told Polk, "that is the least 

active, and there are neighborhoods of wealthy Van Buren men 

where not a single copy of the Monitor was taken." 

But Democratic optimism returned with the new year. In a 

straw poll of the county grand jury, five supported Van Buren, 

four backed White, and three were undecided. Since the "Jurors 

were brought from all parts of the county without any regard 

to their politics," Democrats believed that "They may be con- 

sidered a fair sample of the whole county." A leading 

Democrat noticed that those who preferred Van Buren lived 

"remote from town & town influence." "In conversing with people 

about the Court House," he had discovered "that a large share 

of those living in the Hills at a distance from town are with 

us, and it needs but the exertions of some active influential 

men to give us a majority." (This observation agrees with the 

rural-urban split between the two parties summerized in Chart 

III.) Hopes were high and "if we had a talented leader in this 

county I should not fear the result." When the county learned 

that Polk had defeated Bell in the new Congress's Speakership 

race, Democrats were euphoric. "The news operated here like 

wormwood & gaul upon Colo. Bells friends & supporters," reported 

William Rucker. "Completely chop fallen" in appearance, "A 

Great many have admitted that it (Polk's election) is conclusive 


evidence of the utter hopelessness of Judge White's prospects 

of success .... and they are coming around to the support 

of Van Buren." The Democrats even believed that the time 

is right to ask for new federal patronage and Polk tried to 

obtain for Edwin Keeble the position of U. S. District Attorney 


for the Western District of Tennessee. 

Throughout the early months of 1836, Democratic chances 
were improving. Seemingly, "The People here are beginning to 
see things in their proper light" and with earlier Democratic 
blunders forgotten, only "a little exertion and some talents to 
explain matters" could enable Van Buren to carry Rutherford. 
The vast majority of the county was seen as Democratic in spirit. 
If they could be convinced that White could not win, "they will 
immediately leave their deluding leaders and come warmly in the 
support of a Democratic Candidate." " In April, the Van 
Burenites held their first political meeting in Murf reesboro . 
The about one hundred in attendance resolved, with a number 
abstaining, to support the "Magician." Yet, their speeches in 
support ignored Van Buren ' s own record; instead they asserted 
that a vote against Van Buren would be one against Jackson. 
Democrats obviously wanted the public to identify the contestants 
as Jackson and White. Only Old Hickory was a match for White 

and loyalty to Jackson became the Democrats' major political 


In late April Whigs from Rutherford and Williamson counties 
met in Murfreesboro to choose the district nominee for President- 
ial elector, Thomas Hardeman, a wealthy Williamson countian, 
was selected. Resoulutions expressing "the unshaken confidence 


of the meeting in the integrity of Judge White" were submitted 

and approved. White's formal campaign in Rutherford was 

enjoying an auspicious beginning. Despite the Democratic 

resurgence, the Whigs stayed in control. A White meeting in 

September planned a public dinner for early October and resolved 

that the county approved "his course, particularly during the 

last two sessions of Congress, and say to him emphatically, 

go on thou good and faithful servant." 

On October 7, Bell and White's combined talent gave 

Murfreesboro its biggest political event of the year — 700 to 

1000 partisans attended the dinner, "for the novelty of the 


business brought all parties together to hear the speeches." 

Balie Peyton, Bell, and White all addressed the crowd. The 
Judge spoke only on the surplus distribution bill while Bell 
and Peyton, in tough partisan addresses, abused the characters 
of Van Buren and Polk and tossed some barbs in the direction 
of the Hermitage. These proceedings were quite a sight for 
formerly "no-party" Rutherford. "The Caravan was with us on 
Friday last," said John Childress, "and in imitation of the 
manner of shewing ( sic ) wild Beasts, were fed in the presence 
of the Spectators." 

To Democrats, the dinner did not make the splash its 

sponsors had hoped. Some informed Polk that the Whig speeches 

left many "mortified at the abuse they gave you." The 

Democratic consensus was that Van Buren might carry the county 

and that the party should receive around 1000 votes in Ncv ember, 

Indeed, by October the contest was probably too close to call. 



Four days after the White public dinner, the district's Whigs 
met again in Murfreesboro and selected a new electoral nominee, 
Andrew J. Hoover of Rutherford County. This switch was 
probably undertaken so to insure that White would carry Ruther- 
ford. Cyj election day, the Democrats received their predicted 

totals, but their accuracy meant little since White carried 

the county with 1178 votes. 

Chart VII: 1836 Presidential Election 

Candidate Party Identification Votes % Votes 

White Whig 1178 53.9 

Van Buren Democrat 1008 46.1 

Source: Nashville Republican, Nov. 12, 1836 

White's easy victory in Rutherford, and the state in 
general, created a permanent division within the ranks of the 
state Democracy. The election was a stunning defeat for the 
Democrats and Andrew Jackson, disgusted with White, was beside 
himself. From the Hermitage, the denunciation came forth: "I 
now believe that Judge White has been acting the hypocrite in 
politics, all his life, and individually to me ... . There 
is no character I abhor more than the liar & hypocrite." But 

the Democrats could take solace in the fact that nationwide 

White's candidacy had little success. 

Although Hugh L. White carried the county convincingly, 
Rutherford was not without its strong Van Buren supporters. 
Throughout the state, White had an overwhelming edge in news- 
paper weeklies; however, Keeble's Central Monitor strongly 


supported Van Buren. In the 1835 Congressional elections, 
only four of the thirteen districts contained Van Burenites 
who contested the "White nominees": Rutherford's district 
was one of those four. Thus, the county was not transformed 
overnight by White's victory into - Whi^ strc Kjhold. 

But, the state Democratic leadership courted Rutherford 
in the opposition column. When Rutherf crd' s Democrats in- 
formed Polk of their desire for a Rutherford countian to run 
for Congress in 1837, the Columbian ruled out such a possi- 
bility because of the pro-White strength in the county. How- 
ever, the optimism of the county leaders remained undimmed. 
Those who voted for White, they were now convinced, had realised 
their mistake and were ready to return to the Democratic f old. J 

III. 1837-1838: "There is a complete political revolution 

in Rutherford. " 

For the next two years, Rutherford County remained fertile 
Whig territory. Contrary to Democratic hopes, those who voted 
for White in 1836 did not flock back to the Democrats, but 
despite their recent setbacks, the party anxiously awaited the 
1837 campaign. Robert Armstrong, the Nashville postmaster and 
close friend of Jackson, was the party gubernatorial nominee. 
However. Armstrong, who was also a close ally of John Bell, 
proved to be a poor candidate and hardly provided Rutherford's 
Democrats the needed drawing card to stage a comeback. Yet, the 
lack of a name candidate did not deter the Murf reesboro Weekly 
Times from giving the postmaster a warm reception: "Nothing 
short of a pure and patriotic devotion to the interest of the 


state . . . could have induced him to make such a sacrifice 

of his private interests." 

The first months of 1837, nevertheless, were politically 

dominated by continued repercussions from the late presidential 

contest. A newspaper war between the Monitor and one Van 

Burenite, John R. Laughlin. began as a vocal sparring match, 

but soon turned into a violent farce. After one particularly 

nasty exchange, William H. Sneed, the Monitor' s editor, set 

out to cane young Laughlin, "but Lachlin ( sic ) disarmed him, 

threw away his cane and dragged him by the hair into the mud 

& was about to beat him severly when he was pulled away from 

him by one of his enemies." This political brawl was neither 

the first nor last in the county and such spirit convinced state 

Democratic leaders that "Rutherford is herself again." Indeed, 

their possibilities for a resurgence were strong. In early 

February, Sneed 1 s Monitor folded and was replaced by the 

Democratic Weekly Times , edited by Stephen B. Jones, who was 

ready "to maintain and support correct political principles 

and the doctrines of sound morality." Murf reesboro' s Democrats 

only wanted the state leadership to work harder. "I do not 

think Mr. Grundy has sent documents to 100 men in this county 

within the last four years." Childress chided Polk, "We receive 

none from anyone else, and of course the people see but one 

side. Mr. Maury, Bell & others keep the P. 0. full." Grundy 

was warned that if he desired re-election, Rutherford should be 

canvassed: "He could if he would do us great service and by 


the bye it may be requisite for his own success." Yet, state 

leaders knew that, since the county had exhibited such strong 


Whig tendencies in 1836, Grundy could better spend his time 
in other parts of the state. 

Nevertheless, the state leadership was concerned about 
the political loyalty of Old Rutherford. Desiring detailed 
news about local political affairs, Polk wrote Dr. Rucker, 
"Our opponents are becoming more and more violent in their 

exertions to carry the elections in August, and thus transfer 

the State to the ranks of the opposition." 

That summer, the Democrats worked at a feverish pitch, 

trying to reverse the trend of 1836. Adopting new campaign 

rhetoric, the party threw out the strict construction and 

anti-bank attitudes of just a few months ago: "Col. Crockett, 

Ma j . Keeble & all the other candidates here declare themselves 

in favour of a Bank if the people desire it." Worries over 

the financial panic of 1837 that was sweeping the nation had 

reached Middle Tennessee. With only five weeks to the election, 

one Democrat reported to Polk: 

Politics is as unsettled in this County as the 
waves of the sea. The failure of the Banks to 
pay specie, although a Whig measure (has been 
blamed) ... to the measures of the last & the 
present administration of the general government 
and have induced a good many of our party to be- 
lieve it because, as they think, their pecuniary 
interests are affected by it ... . Our candi- 
dates are all now alarmed and have partially at 
least conceded the necessity of establishing some 
form of a Bank to 'regulate the currency 1 .... 
our merchants & those under their influence are all 
bitterly opposed to Crocket ( sic ) & in favor of 
Maury. 2 

The nationwide depres ton and Armstrong's poor political 

abilities seriously damaged the Democratic chances for victory. 

Not only should Newton Cannon carry the county easily in the 


gubernatorial race, Rucker concluded, but "The times have 

operated very much against our County elections for the 

legislature." Armstrong's candidacy was a disaster. "I 

have not heard a dozen persons speak of the election for Gov. 

It is impossible to stir up our friends upon that election," 

Childress told Polk and without an effective candidate, the 

party banner floundered. Abram P. Maury 1 s pamphlet, which 

circulated far and wide and attacked Jackson's removal of the 
deposits, his creation of "pet banks," the compromise tariff 
of 1832, and Van Buren ' s administration, significantly im- 
proved his chances for Congressional reelection against the 
popular Granville Crockett. In fact, James K. Polk was warned 

that "the possibility is that you may return to Washington 

alone instead of having a majority." 

But, the election of 1837 caused no major shifts in the 

county's political balance. While Cannon carried the county 

by a three to one majority and William Ledbetter defeated 

Edwin Keeble decisively in the State Senate contest, Granville 

Crockett defeated Maury by almost 400 votes in the county (yet, 

failed to unseat the incumbent when his campaign ran poorly in 

the district) and John D. Fletcher captured one of the state 

house seats for the Democrats. 


Chart VIII: 1837 State and Congressional Elections 






% Votes 












U. S. House 











State Senate 











State House 





















Source: Nashville Republican, Aug. 8. 1837 

For the rest of the year, the political fortunes of the 
Rutherford Democracy continued to be bleak. Cut of antagon- 
isms developed during the election, John B. Laughlin was 
murdered. Laughlin, a candidate for the State Assembly, was 
told that during the election Alfred Blair of Bedford County 
had toured the ccanty charging Laughlin with fraud and corrupt- 
ion. The young Democrat hunted down Blair, getting the best 
of the brawl that ensued. But at a horse race at Bradley' s 
track, a drunken Laughlin and Blair met again "and Blair sought 
an opportunity to avenge himself, got engaged in a combat and 

stabbed him in many places in the bowels & groin of which wounds 

he died on the eighth day." Local Democrats had little hope 

for Blair's prosecution--and none resulted. 

1838 was a busy off-year politically. Rutherford's 

electoral life was spiced by Polk' s announcement, at Murfreesboro 

in late August, of his entry in the 1839 gubernatorial contest. 

Also, while the county showed an increased zeal for banks, the 

Whigs began to consolidate their forces for the elections in 



Complacency marked the activities of the Democrats during 
the early months of 1838. "The friends of the Administration 
hereabouts," complained John Childress, "seem to be desponding 
and have come to the conclusion that we are certainly to be 

defeated at the end of Mr. Van Buren's first term unless the 

current now setting against us can be stayed." Even John 

Bell's triumphal tour of Whiggish New England failed to awake 

the Democrats, despite Andrew Jackson's prediction that his 

speeches there had "fully opened the eyes of the democracy in 

Tennessee. " 

Old Rutherford's Whigs, however, were very active. The 

Murfreesboro Tennessee Telegraph reprinted editorials blaming 

Jackson and Van Buren for the recent financial panic. Defending 

Bell's New England trip, the paper asserted that "Tennessee is 

a Whig State," and We are in favor of a National Bank , upon such 

principles, as will secure to the people a sound and uniform 

currency." The Congressman from Nashville was particularly 

the hero of the hour in the eyes of the county's Whigs. "This 

gentleman has had more party slang to contend with, than perhaps 

any other politician of the present day," the Telegraph editor 

reminded his readers, 

General Jackson but a few years ago visited the 
Yankee States, and had some attention paid to 
him .... Mr. Bell goes to the same States, 
mixes with the same ^people, all wrong, pollution, 
Federalism, barter intrigue, corruption, manage- 
ment, and the whole artillery of editorial vituper- 
ation is cast at him from the Globe down to the 
Weekly Times . Mr. Bell's unflinching patriotism 
and talents are of too high an order to be sullied 
by the slime and filth of such vulgar attacks. 


Affection for Henry Clay was also strong in Rutherford's 

Whiggish hearts and Bell and Clay's abilities, along with 

the necessity of a national bank, were the persistent issues 

raised by the Tennessee Telegraph . 

These hurrahs for Henry Clay finally awoke the slumbering 

Democrats. Believing that only James K. Polk could stop the 

Whigs from totally dominating state politics, they urged Polk 

to take over the party leadership and even offered their own 

meager aid. 84 "Should you wish, at any time, to lash them 

for their temerity and presumption," William S. Haynes of 

Murfreesboro promised Polk, "you have only to signify the 

sources from whence I can get the necessary correct information, 


in order to then having it done." 

Nevertheless, the Whigs had increased their popular 
support by favoring government- supported banks. When the State 
Bank of Tennessee was chartered, its Middle Tennessee branches 
were located in Nashville, Columbia, Shelbyville. and Clarks- 

ville not Murfreesboro. While the Whigs were probably incensed 

over the political damage such an omission could cause them, 
the town's citizens were outraged. Partisan wounds quickly 
healed as Murfreesboro' s perception that the legislature's 
action had been a deliberate move to weaken their chances of 
becoming the permanent state capital (a decision constitutionally 
mandated to be settled by 1843) grew in intensity. In a public 
meeting on June 4, attended by leading politicians from both 
parties, the town angrily resolved that the branch banks had 

been located "with clearly sectional and personal views: to the 

promotion of the few, to the injury of the many." But, state 


Democratic leaders understood that the branches' locations 
were designed to further promote Whig supremacy by helping 
to defeat James Polk (Columbia) and Cave Johnson (Clarksville) 
in next year's congressional elections. As Polk told Jackson, 

"the New State Bank is about to be converted into a political 

machine." Therefore, the failure to place a state bank 

in Murfreesboro indicated just how strong the Whig cause was 

in the county. State Whig leaders gambled that the absence 

of a bank would not hurt their Rutherford support. Just a few 

days after the emotional town meeting, the Telegraph reported 

that "We meet but few in any crowd, who are not warm supporters 

of Mr„ Clay. We would think almost three-fourths of our 

acquaintances are friendly to Mr. Clay. Nor are we surprised 

in the least." 

Democrats now pressed Polk to announce his candidacy in 

Murfreesboro. The Columbian was asked to accept a public 

dinner in his honor at Murfreesboro on August 30. As Dr. 

Rucker told the Speaker, the White followers of Rutherford 

"will not go for Clay; and this is an important time to make an 

exertion for their recovery to the Republican fold." Polk 

accepted. At Sand Spring, with over 2000 in attendance, the 
county most spectacular political dinner yet was held. How- 
ever, the usual fistacuffs must have been missing since one 
report^; said that "the strictest order was presented through- 
out the day. --Indeed, there was no necessity for restraint of 

any kind, for a more decorus assemblage never met upon an 

occasion of public festivity." 


Polk spoke for two hours, an effort his admirers con- 
sidered as "one of the most masterly expositions of the present 
state of parties" and as "emphatically a speech of public men 
and public measures. Never have we seen a more attentive 
audience. Perfect silence prevailed ..." Indeed, "the cool, 
close, argumentative style, the keen sarcastic expression of 
his features, and the melody of his voice, must be seen and 
heard to be properly appreciated." Reminding his audience of 
Henry Clay's "Corrupt Bargain" of 1825, Polk began his address 
by tying Clay to the Federalist party, particularly the policies 
of John Quincy Adams. Alledging that the Whigs were merely 
federalists in disguise, the Congressman asserted that their 
leaders believed in "a system of deliberate hypocracy, and a 

total abandonment of principle, disgusting to all honorable 

• * ,.92 
minds. " 

Turning to financial questions, Polk implored the people 

to look at England's trials with a national bank and blasted 

the entire notion of government- supported banks. Instead, the 

country needed the administration's proposed Independent 

Treasury since it would be "a bank, without any of the attributes 

or privileges of a bank." The Columbian then virulently defended 

the Democrats' budgetary proposals. "The expenditures of the 

Government have increased," he admitted, "but only in a 


corresponding ration with the growth of the country." 

Afterwards, the meeting adjourned while the crowd devoured 
the prepared feast: "Forty fat sheep, forty fine shoats, six 
beeves, 300 lbs. of fine ham. and bread and vegetables without 
limit. Nor was the generous juice of the grape, whiskey, and 


Old cognac, wanting to give life and animation to the scene." 
Toasts complimented the dinner. Former Governor William 
Carroll toasted the countians: "On no occasion ( sic ) had he 
ever found them wanting, unwilling to assume the post of 
danger, or to bear with fortitude their share of the privations 
of war." Some in the crowd urged him to be the party's 
gubernatorial nominee, but Carroll refused. Of course, Polk 
said yes to the same question and his acceptance received "such 
unanimous and universal shouts of deafening applause as we have 

never before witnessed on any similar occasion." The crowd 


left with big anticipations — Polk would redeem Tennessee! 

The Speaker of the House was also in high hopes. Writing 
Jackson, he reflected that "Judging from all I saw and heard, 

there is a complete political revolution in Rutherford, and so 

it will be all over the State, if proper exertions are used." 

But, Rutherford's Whigs moved quickly to counteract any gains 

the Democrats had made. Within days of Polk's announcement, 

plans were finalized for an even bigger Whig celebration in the 

county. Every major party leader was invited; William B. 

Campbell's attendance was solicited so to undermine the "various 

great and powerful influences" now at work in the county. 

With the date set for September 27, the local partisans pushed 

hard to outshine their opponents. 

The extravaganza began with a march to the speaker's 

podium, located just outside of Murfreesboro. Charles Ready, 

after his opening remarks, introduced the state's top Whigs: 

"Could the leaders of the power and authority party at Washington 

have witnessed the enthusiasm of public feeling (for them). . . 


it would startle them from the unholy dreams of usurped 


power." 98 The crowd of 2500 to 4000 proved that Rutherford 


is decidedly Whig ." Bell and Ephraim Foster's speeches 

received "the most respectful attention: particularly by 

the grey-headed fathers of the country „ . . . This shows that 

the true Whig spirit is up in the land.," 

U. S. Senator Foster concentrated on the Whigs' desire for 

a bank and after two hours, gave way to John Bell who spoke for 

the remainder of the day in "one of the most able and searching 

investigations into the measures" of Van Buren yet heard in 

Murf reesboro. The Nashville Congression "laid bare the 

corruption that lurks in the administration of the F EDERAL 

Government, disguised under the pretence of democracy." 

Quite naturally, the Democrats were enraged. According to 

Samuel H. Laughlin, a former Murfreesboro attorney, Foster 

"disgusted many" with "a long, ranting, funny, rididulous 

speech," and when Bell began his monologue 

the people, having dined, and having come from 
curiosity, began to drop off and go away in 
in scores, and before he was done, not more 
than enough were left to make a common militia 
muster . . . .The whole was a cold heartless 
affair and really. I have no doubt, strengthens 
our cause here.-"- 02 

The Weekly Times laughed at the proceedings: "Six and half 

mortal hours (of spesches) was too much for even Whig patience 

co endure." Of course, "the whigs tried hard to cut a great 

dash' snd "whenever the Master of the Ceremonies (Ready) 

thought either of the speakers said any thing smart . he winked 

at the Bass Drummer, who immediately gave two or three taps 

upon his sheep skin, the audience half opened their drowsy eyes, 


and closed them again with a yawn.' ,J - VJ Evidently, both parties 
perceived the upcoming elections as their decisive battle. °^ 

IV. 1839-1841: Democracy's Last Gasp 

The 1839 election was "the hardest political battle the 

state of Tennessee had yet seen." In Rutherford, optimism 

sprang eternal for the Democrats. Murf reesboro' s postmaster 

believed that the party's cause was "gaining ground daily." 

Democrats realized that the county could be carried by a razor- 
thin margin. "R e ady and Yoakum (candidates, State Senate) will 
have a hard race," thought Samuel Laughlin, "and the chances 

for Yoakum I think best. Childress and Gentry (candidates, 

Congress) will have it hip and thigh." Polk's opponent in 

the governor's race was the incumbent, Newton Cannon and James 

Smith and John D. Fletcher would contest the Whigs William Gooch 

and Henry Norman for the State House seats. 

The campaign "officially" opened in Murf reesboro on April 

11 when Polk and Cannon began their famed series of debates at 

the courthouse. Nearly 2000 people crammed the square that day 

and the courthouse was full of jealous partisans with "a great 

many, left out for want of room, were collected around the 

windows on the outside of the house." 

Polk spent most of his two and half hours, not on state 

issues, but on questions of national politics. Castigating 

the presidential hopes of Henry Ciay, Polk called the Kentuckian 

the "second Hamilton" and compared the Whig party to the Old 

Federalists. The Congressman next defended the policies of the 

administration and heartily endorsed Van Buren's sub-treasury 

proposal. 109 


However, according to the Whigs, Polk's antics did not 
bother Cannon. Instead, the Governor "triumphantly" overthrew 
his leading points. Cannon complained about Polk's negligence 
of state issues and pledged his support for continued state 
improvements. Asserting that "I have always been a Democrat," 
the Governor outlined his philosophy: that "the cheapest govern- 
ment is the best," that the press was "a valuable auxiliary in 
the cause of Republicanism," and that he never believed the 
Bank to be "a Federal Monster." Cannon felt that Polk's pride 
over his friendship with Jackson was misplaced; he should rather 
wish to be a free and independent man. Jackson had long ago 
"put his mark upon him" when the Governor, as a young man, had 
been a member of the jury that acquitted Patton Anderson in 
1813 and Cannon wore that mark proudly. He had never followed 
Old Hickory and considred anyone who did as a tool and a slave. 
With that heated remark, Cannon indicted most of the state's 
Whig leadership, particularly Bell and White. But he continued 
to attack Jackson, calling him a "Despot by nature and by 
education. " 

Polk then added a blistering rejoinder which "literally 

tore the Governor all in pieces." If Cannon's words were 

true, Polk insisted that the Whigs' beloved Judge White must 

also be a slave. Using the "power of ridicule with his 

argument until the roof rang again, " he sarcastically analyzed 

the Governor's effort 

and as peal succeeded peal of laughter, and shout 
re-echoed shout, the half dozen who had attempted 
to raise applause to the dull peroration of the 
Governor, were seen escaping with ludicrous haste, 
through the returning tide. It was a perfect 


demolition — and Democracy was triumphant. . . . 
His Excellency attmpted a rejoinder in vain; 
the assembly broke up and retired, and the 
last words heard from him above the hum and 
laughter of the receding crowd was, 'The removal 
of the deposites ( sic ) was without law and 
a lawless acti'H3 

Polk's victory rekindled "The fire of Republican liberty. . . 

in Rutherford — and it is spreading with the rapidity of 

lightning from one end of the county to the other." Whigs 

wished for a new candidate. "Our Gov. Cannon is too sluggish 

and self-sufficient," John Bell complained to Clay. 

The debate left Murfreesboro "in a considerable state of 
excitement" and when the Tennessee Telegraph began to slash 
at the characters of Polk and Edwin Keeble, emotionalism was 
transformed into violence. Keeble hunted down the Telegraph' s 
E. J. King "and chastised him most handsomely with a small 
hickory stick (or rather sword) and he did not offer the least 
resistance." Keeble, however, did not receive a challenge from 
King which convinced many that the Whig was a coward. 

Whig retaliation, however, was soon undertaken. Frustrated 
by their recent setbacks, the Whigs convinced the "town bully" 
to attack William Rucker, but "greatly to the surprise of every- 
one, the Dr. was in a fair way to give the fellow a sound 
drubbing when they were separated." John Childress told his 
sister that he understood that the county's candidates "are 
greatly excited and sometimes come near to blows. I presume this 

state of things will cease however when two or three of them are 

flogged." Obviously, the campaign had reached the stage 

of the absurd. Personalities eclipsed all issues, even that of 

Henry Clay and whether or not, in the words of John Bell, he 

was "the greatest man in America, and worthy of all trust. ' 


Democratic optimism was never higher than that summer. 
Henderson Yoakum conducted an effective campaign for the State 
Senate against that powerful county Whig, Charles Ready. Yoakum 
and Ready verbally dueled throughout Rutherford, but the 
Democrat invariably emerged the winner. Yoakum became a rally- 
ing point for the party faithful — and the target for Whig 


barbs. The Tenne ssee Telegraph demanded to know whether 

Yoakum had once " advise (d) and consent (ed) to the BURNING CF 
GENERAL JACKS CN in effigy?" and the Whig paper broadly hinted 
that " living witnesses " in Murfreesboro could support their 
allegation. But, the West Pointer replied that the charge was 

" Utterly false in every particular." The Telegraph then dropped 

the matter. 

Democratic hopes were further buoyed by the Whigs' inability 

to erase the stigma of Cannon's disastrous April appearance. By 

July, Democrats were predicting victory in the county and 

according to the official records, 

Chart IX: 1839 State and Congressional Elections 

Race Candidate Party Votes % Votes 

Governor Polk Democrat 17 49 51.6 

Cannon Whig 1643 48.4 

U. S. Congress W. Childress-Democrat 1704 51.0 

M. Gentry Whig 1639 49.0 

State Senate Yoakum Democrat 1693 51.2 

Ready Whig 1615 48.8 

State House J. Fletcher- Democrat 1698 25.7 

J. Smith Democrat 1666 25.2 

H. Norman Whig 1632 24.7 

W. Gooch Whig 1615 24.4 

Source: Nashville Whig , Aug. 5, 1839; Nashville Union , Aug 5, ;839 

their boasting was not hot air. The Democrats had defeated their 


opponents by one hundred votes or less and by this narrow mar>__,i, 

1 7\ 

the county, seemingly , had returned to the Democracy. 

Yet, newly discovered evidence proves that the Democrats 
did not carry the geographically-defined boundaries of the 
county. One must remember that in 1835, Cannon County had been 
carved out of the lower part of Rutherford and that Cannon re- 
mained, in election tabulations, a political district of Ruther- 
ford until after the 1840 election. According to a precinct 
by precinct tabulation of Polk's county vote, the Democrat lost 
the county by ninety-seven votes, but he "officially" carried 
Rutherford because the Cannon County precincts had given him a 
230 vote majority. No doubt, the Democrats of Cannon had given 
their Rutherford brothers the victory they had so long awaited. ^2 

And it was a lustily celebrated victory, one that cost the 
Whigs "more money and property than has been bet in the county 


for the last 10 years." Sam Houston of Texas was the guest 
of honor at a Murfreesboro dinner celebrating the election and 
before a crowd of 700, Houston praised the county for returning 
to the party fold. 124 

While the Democrats savored the outcome, Whigs were certain 
that the returns reflected voter corruption, fraud, and bribery. 
The elections had been fixed! Convinced that in Cannon "the 

most illegal votes were cast," the Whigs asserted that "At least 

frauds will be exposed which will astonish the world." The 

losses had shocked all Whigs. John Bell moaned to William 

Campbell, "I am done done , as a public man, unless we can have 

some better understanding with each other all agree to give the 


Chart X: Precinct Returns, 1839 Gubernatorial Race 

Precinct Polk Cannon % Polk % Cannon 






Burnet ' s 





Hart Spring 















Wilkerson's Crossroads 





Murf ree ' s 





Sulpher Spring 










Bairf ield' s 










Murf ree sboro 




















McKnight ■ s 





Fox Camp 





Tennison' s 










Bushnell Creek 










Youree ' s 





Big Spring 










Totals: Rutherford 

Cannon County Precincts 

Alexander 1 s 
Brown' s 



Totals: Cannon 



























Source: Nashville Whig , NO V . 6, 1840 

working men more assistance than we have heretofore had. A few 

of us have to bear the brunt all the time. . .." Bell reminded 

his colleague that the state leadership must have "a pretty full 

council and hear all that can be said and then make up our minds 


as to what we ought to do." 


Rutherford's Whigs decided on their course of action 
quickly. On August 24 meeting in Murf reesboro, chaired by 
David Dickinson, they resolved that "gross and alarming frauds 
have been committed upon the ballot box" in the recent election. 
So to eliminate such corruption, the Whigs pledged to appoint 
a three-man committee in each district so to ascertain "as 
far as possible the frauds that have been committed in the late 

election." They also called for all Whig counties to follow 

suit. The Democrats blasted this proposal and worked to 

convince the county folk that the Whig committees were "to be 

overseer of the people, and are to be selected from the wealthy 

with the view of operating by means of their money upon poor & 

1 28 
dependent persons." Indeed, the Whigs' committees were a 

tactical error and embarrassed their presidential campaign 

activity. A Democratic meeting promised "to resist a system 

of espionage , and party control to be established over the good 

people of this county." "The freemen of Rutherford county, 

are believed to be capable of managing their own political 

concerns without the aid, direction or control of the aforesaid 

committees of vigilance," the party further resolved. Soon 

thereafter, county Whigs dropped the committee idea completely. 

Yet, the Whigs continued to publicize the alledged voting 
frauds which had cost them the election. In the State Legis- 
lature, a resolution demanding a full investigation was intro- 
duced. Of course, Yoakum in the Senate, and Fletcher and Smith 
in the House described the resolution as a cheap Whig election- 
eering trick. Asserting that "he could not for a moment suppose 
the Whigs of Rutherford had ten times the honesty of the 


democrats," Yoakum argued that the Whigs were not interested 
in an investigation; rather, these charges "were to be filed 

away, without investigation, and to be referred to hereafter, 

as proof not to be controverted." No inquiry took place, 

but this sparring indicated that "the campaign of 1840 began 
immediately after the election of 1839." 

While the Weekly Times exhorted its readers to hurry the 
preparations for the Democratic State Convention in Nashville, 
the Whigs were also busy. Both parties, in the 1840 canvass, 
used monthly party meetings to organize political activities. 
But the well-laid plans of the Democrats were crushed when the 
county learned that the Democratic controlled legislature had 
failed to move the state capital to Murfreesboro, The contro- 
versy surrounding the permanent location of the capital dominated 

local politics, usually to the great advantage of the Whigs, 

until 1843. 

Following the legislature's decision to keep the capital 

in Nashville, Governor Polk told his brother-in-law not to blame 

the party because the decision was not partisan but due to local 

feelings. Realizing that the issue had brought about "so much 

feeling in your town," Polk regretted the outcome; yet he "was 

ready as a public officer, cheerfully to obey the will of the 

Legislature" if its decision could be reversed. Childress should 

tell Murfreesboro that the Democrats were not at fault; instead , 

it was the "whole Whig party who mainly defeated"the removal to 

Murfreesboro. But when The Democrats failed to move the 

capital to Murfreesboro, the Whigs were given a powerful 

advantage in local politics and they used it to its fullest. 


Whig propaganda was simple: Murfreesboro had been selected as 
the capital, but because Governor Polk would not move during 
the middle of the session, the removal was rescinded and the 


capital stayed in Nashville. 

Democrats attempted to counteract the sensible Whig 
"explanation" by denying that Polk and the legislature had 

neglected their friends. "Nothing can be more destitute of 

foundation in fact" than the Whigs' explanations. The 

Weekly Times charged that the Whigs were trying to manufacture 

political capital out of thin air: "The Banner would doubtless 

be glad to have the people of Rutherford believe that Gov. Polk 

was in favor of Nashville, and to have the people of Davidson 

believe that he was in favor of Nashville, and to have the 

people of Davidson believe that he was in favor of Murfrees- 

borough." But, as the countians increasingly accepted the 

Whig explanation, the future of the Whig party appeared brighter, 

more secure, and chances for victory in 1840 seemed certain. 

That spring the Whigs mounted a ceaseless offensive against 

their opponents. In early March, David Dickinson, the Whig 

presidential elector in the district, castigated William G. 

Childress, the Democratic nominee, at the courthouse over the 

capital removal and other national issues. Charging that 

Dickinson had invoked a "gag" law by speaking so late into the 

day, Childress, leaving in haste, refused to speak. The Whig 

1 39 
warhorse then proceeded to talk for another hour. Early 

the next month, Dickinson again "debated" Childress at the 

courthouse even though the Democrat had failed to appear. 

Democrats were upset by the proceedings. They believed that "the 


Thersites of the Federal Party" had " completely run the thing 
into the ground " by comparing Jackson's military exploits to 

Harrison's campaigns, and finding "that the former when com- 

pared with the latter dwindled into utter insignificance." 

A few days later, Gustavus A. Henry, Whig elector-at-large, 

spoke alone at Murf reesboro, Henry avoided the mistake of 

discussing Jackson disrespectfully, but did not spare the 

General's Democratic colleagues. He blasted Van Buren's 

financial policies. 141 The Whigs were not even worried about 

the rumoured vice presidential candidacy of Polk since that 

circumstance will make the war hotter here, but not more 

. ,,142 
doubtful or u ncertain . 

Not surprisingly, Democrats were very much concerned 
about the election. The Weekly Times ' circulation was dropping 
steadily, political activity was near a standstill. "Our friends 
have been very much disheartened on account of the numerous 
Whig speeches and the great confidence manifested by the Whigs 
at this place," William Rucker told his brother-in-law, "there 
has not been a single speech made by the Democratic Electoral 
candidates." Dr. Rucker reflected that "there is danger of de- 
laying too long to dissiminate the proper arguments among the 
great body of the people." But this leading Democrat wondered 
if the state leaders were as interested in the county as the 
Whigs. "This County," Rucker thought, "seems to be in the 
peculiar keeping of the Whigs — They appear to be determined to 
do all they can to get a majority." 143 During the early summer, 
the particular targets of the Tennessee Telegraph were the 
administration of Van Buren and the exploits of the "Electioneer- 


ing Governor," James K. Polk. 144 And there was little block- 
ing the Whigs' march. 

Attempting to rally the Democracy, Edwin Keeble spoke 
throughout the county. At Jefferson, the ex-editor met an 
opponent, William Sneed, who talked about Harrison's war record 
and Van Buren ' s poor currency policies. Keeble feigned surprise 
over Sneed 1 s high evaluation of General Harrison, then produced 
Sneed s November 1836 editorial in the old Monitor that attacked 
Harrison severely. The Democrat's evidence jarred the Whig 
who now "looked bad, his friends felt bad and those politically 
opposed to him felt sorry for him." The Democrats savored this 

minor victory, declaring that the "stern yeomanry are too proud 

to truckle at the feet of the Nashville aristocracy. 

As one student of the 1840 election has noted, politics 

that summer were, once again, intense, emotional, and at times, 


The political excitement ran so high in the summer 
that violence was predicted. The State was described 
as being alive with stump orators and one politician 
wrote: 'There never has been anything to compare 
with it, in the world before, of the kind. The 
very children are as deeply imbued with the party 
spirit as the grown people . . . I 146 

If possible, county politics also increased in intensity during 
the hot summer. 

Recognizing how ineffectual their campaign had been, 
Rutherford's Democrats turned for assistance to their tower of 
strength in 1839, Henderson Yoakum, who was selected in a June 
district meeting in Murfreesboro to replace William Childress 
as the Democratic electoral candidate. The State Senator 
quickly entered the field by engaging Dickinson at Millersburg. 


The Whig, his standard speech changing little, attacked the 
extravagance of Van Buren, the Sub-Treasury, and the state 
legislature's treatment of Hugh Lawson White. The former 
Congressman claimed "that the price of produce had fallen — 
the currency had become deranged, and the only safety could 
be found in a resort to a United States Bank." Yoakum demanded 
proof that the Bank's destruction had caused financial havoc. 
Remembering that when the Bank was removed, cotton prices had 
risen, he supported the Independent Treasury. The Senator also 
asked for a clarification of Harrison's policies, since as far 
as he knew, the Whig had no stand on the issues. A verbal 
slugfest broke forth as both men asserted that their opponent's 
nominee had no specific stands on the issues. If Harrison had 
no definite principles, Dickinson insisted, then he wanted to 
know what Van Buren supported. Yoakum promised to write Van 
Buren for an answer if Dickinson sent the same inquiry to 

Harrison. The answers both eventually received were political 

masterpieces: vague, general and uninf ormative. But this 

campaign of the correspondence enabled county Whigs, as Dickinson 

told Harrison, to put "down the charge that you were desirous 

of concealing your sentiments." 

Edwin Keeble's efforts to carry the county for Van Buren 

continued to inexhaustible. On June 20, he debated James C. 

Jones, a Lebanon Whig, at Buchanansville and "His battery of 

ridicule was most successfully played upon the Whigs extolled 

processions of banners, log cabins, hard cider, coon-skins, 

&c." At the courthouse two weeks later, Keeble faced the 


former State Senator, William Ledbetter. Ledbetter argued that 
Harrison was neither an abolitionist nor a federalist and he was 
not fuzzy on the issues. The Whig indicted Van Buren for "tinker- 
ing with the currency." Keeble rebutted that his opponent's 
conversion to Whig principles v;as political hypocracy, since he 
had voted against the National Bank for the removal of the 
deposits as State Senator in 1835. Despite Ledbetter' s denials, 
the Democrats once again claimed that Harrison was both a 
Federalist and an abolitionist. 

However, Keeble and Yoakum were unable to contest every 
Whig who crisscrossed the county. The Whigs' campaign never 
lacked momentum. Before "a great gathering" at Booth's Spring^ 
jones of Lebanon "showed conclusively that the charges against 

Harrison were false, and proved them false by the testimony of 

(the) monarchists themselves." The Tennessee Telegraph even 

alledged that "one of the Governor's objects is to set the 

country against the towns. This is one of the lowest steps in 

demagoguism" since Polk lived in Columbia. 

Democratic state leaders recognized that Old Rutherford was 

not particularly a party haven. And Felix Grundy, who had 

turned the tide in Rutherford six years earlier, was once again 

dispatched to Murfreesboro to meet an old nemesis, Balie Peyton. 

After announcing that he would return to Nashville as soon as 

his time was up, Grundy spoke on the standard party issues. 

Harrison, the Senator claimed, was an abolitionist, a federalist 

and insubordinate in the War of 1812. His address, however, 

did not arouse the crowd and as Grundy left, Peyton tried to 

draw him into a debate. 


I hope ... Mr. Grundy will stay and hear me. . . 
I hope Mr. Grundy will not be like the lame 
Captain. The lame Captain went out to fight 
the Indians, and coming upon them unexpectedly, 
■Boys," said he, 'there they are — they are very 
numerous — my own opinion is, they'll whip us — 
but said he, fight hard, — retreat in good order — 
as I'm a little lame, I'll go now — and away he 
went. ' 

Here a shout went up that rent the air and 
shook the hills. Mr. Peyton, after expressing 
the hope that the other Van Buren men present would 
not follow the example of their lame captain, pro- 
ceeded to address the audience, who remained until 
sundown, in a speech replete with sound argument, 
impassioned eloquence, rich humor and biting 
sarcasm. 155 

In the campaign's last months, the Whigs assumed the 
dominant role in county politics. When the news leaked out 
that the Democrats planned a barbeque, featuring Polk as 
speaker, at Weakley's Springs, the Jefferson "Tippecanoe 
Club" first demanded equal time for their speaker and then hoped 
to upstage the event with a similar celebration the next day. 
Polk was asked to speak, but the Governor turned down the 
opportunity. "Why then should he fear to meet John Bell , 
or any other champion of Republican Whig principles, in free 
discussion before the people," the Tennessee Telegraph wondered 
out loud, and then concluded: "Gov. Polk has the ability and 
ingenuity to speak well and argue well--but not to sustain his 
lame and halting cause, against a Whig speaker armed with 
truth." 156 

In the week prior to the Weakleys 1 Springs dinner, the 
Whigs agitated the Democrats with twin attacks by Spencer 
Jarnagin and E. J. Shields at various locations throughout 
Rutherford. Keeble and Shields debated before 130 at Readyville 


on the 12th of September and "The speeches of both gentlemen 
were marked with ability, and gave much satisfaction to the 
friends of the speakers respectively." Two days later, 
Jarnagin and Yoakum were paired in the seventh district. The 
major issue was Yoakum's role, while a State Senator, in 
forcing the resignation of Hugh L. White from the Senate. 
Jarnagin criticized his opponent for treating White "hyena- 
like and hunting him from the councils of the nation." Shields 
and Jarnagin both spoke the following day at Fosterville and 
that night at the courthouse, the latter harangued "a large 
audience of ladies and gentlemen — much to their edification 
and amusement." On September 16, the Whigs once again appeared 
together at Jefferson barbeque and Shields completed his tour 

by the stump by speaking "in his best style" at Mechanicsville 

and Murf reesboro. 

Despite these efforts at undermining the Weakley Springs' 

celebration, the barbeque was held as planned. The cream of 

the Democratic party leadership were in attendance: Jackson, 

Carroll, and Polk. Before the crowd of 2000, General Carroll 

severely censured Harrison's claims of military glory "and the 

wet eyes of many old soldiers around him gave evidence that they 

felt deeply what he said." 1 - 1 Colonel Craighead "cut log-cabins, 

coons, and the factions paraphernalia ( sic ) of whigism into 

shreds and tatters, with biting sarcasm and withering ridicule." 

After a dinner "of good shoat, mutton, ham &c," Henry Watterson 

"gave a thorough exposition of the infinite variety of devices 

resorted to by the opposition to prevent the people from thinking 

and deciding the questions at issue for themselves." Their 


confidence buoyed, Rutherford's Democrats left confident that 

1 59 
victory could be achieved. 

But that confidence was not matched by accomplishment: 

Harrison carried Rutherford County, officially, by 213 votes. 

And the Whigs were stunned by the magnitude of their victory. 

"We have at least 10,000 of a majority!" exclaimed John Bell. 

"Murfreesborough was very handsomely illuminated on Wednesday 

night last Nov. 18, the Telegraph reported, "in honor of the 

election of Tippecanoe and Tyler , tool " Along with these 

celebrations, the Whigs looked ahead to the upcoming state 

elections. After such a defeat, Bell did not believe Polk would 

run for re-election, but if he did, "we will have to beat him." 160 

According to the Nashville Congressman, Robert Caruthers, James 

C. Jones, Meredith Gentry, and David Dickinson would be the 

best candidates, but he admitted "the question to be 'who can 

do it with the greatest certainty.'" In Rutherford, Dickinson, 

of course, was the favorite. 


Chart XI: Precinct Ret 

urns, Preside 

ntial El 

ection of 



Van Buren 


% V.B. 







Hart Spring 





Burnet' s 















Wilker son's Crossroads 





Murf ree' s 





Sulpher Spring 










Bairf ields 










Murf reesboro 




















McKnight ' s 





Fox Camp 





Tennison 1 s 










Bushne 11 Creek 










Youree' s 





Big Spring 





Miller sburg 





Totals: Rutherford 





Cannon County Precincts 






Alexander ' s 





Brown 1 s 















Totals: Cannon 





Official County Vote: 





Source: Nashville Whig, 

Nov. 6, 1840 

At the Hermitage, Jackson was predicting that John Bell "will 
in two years be abandoned by all those in Tennessee who he has 
deluded." But the Old Hero was not the only Tennessean disturbed 


by the current Secretary of War- -and they were not all Demo- 
crats. Indeed, many delegates at the first state Whig convention 
at Murfreesboro were angry with the Nashvillian. Bell, despite 
earlier disclaimers, was attempting behind the scenes to secure 
the gubernatorial nomination for David Dickinson. Most delegates 
cared little for this bold push for influence which "eventually 

cause the other candidate to unite in a stop-Dickinson 


movement. " 

Maintaining unity was not the only problem the party faced 
in Murfreesboro. A meeting place had to be secured. After 
asking for the local Methodist church, they discovered that 
the minister was a Democrat who barred their entrance. But the 
Presbyterian church welcomed the Whigs even though Polk's 
mother-in-law, Mrs. Childress, said "she never would feel at 
home in her own church again," and braided her minister for 
allowing the Whigs to meet there. 163 

During the convention's first day, the Rutherford delegation 
realized the aminus held toward Dickinson and decided to with- 
draw his candidacy. Charles Ready read a letter from Dickinson 
asking the convention, in the interests of party unity, not to 
consider his name. With Bell's handpicked candidate removed, 
the convention nominated James "Lean Jimmy" Jones of Lebanon 
as the party's gubernatorial candidate. In light of their past 

devotion to the party, county Whigs had been given a bitter 

pill to swallow. 

Why was Dickinson's nomination so desired? First, the 
county ticket could easily ride to victory on Dickinson's coat- 
tails. Second, the combination of Dickinson and a Whig-controlled 


state assembly could guarantee that Murf reesboro would be made 
the permanent state capital. Third, Dickinson's elevation 
would mortify James K. Polk. Goals like these, so long in the 
minds of Whigs throughout the county, were not easily surrendered. 
Probably, Jones was selected as the nominee so to smooth the 
ruffled feelings left in Murfreesboro. The Lebanon legislator, 
known and liked in the county, would benefit the party ticket 
and the Rutherford Whigs could accept him as a compromise 
nominee. Furthermore, as Jones carefully guaranteed, he would 
not threaten Murf reesboro' s campaign to become the permanent 
state capital . 

On March 10, the Weekly Times boldly charged that Jones 
was chosen as the nominee because "he had given evidence of his 
pliancy in the last Legislature by opposing the removal of the 
seat of Government to Murf reesborough, and by sustaining, the 
measures and views of the Nashville clique.' Murfreesboro 
Democrats knew this claim was false, yet they also recognized 
that such a statement, uncontested by the Whigs, could only 
but help their cause. Thus, Jones' sudden visit to Murfreesboro, 
two weeks before the canvass was to officially open, was not 

surprising — his mission was to console the fears of his 


Alledging that his first speech was in Murfreesboro because 

David Dickinson had so patriotically withdrawn his nomination 

at the state convention, Jones stated that the forthcoming 

debates should be on state, not national, issues. But he then 

proceeded to endorse Harrison' s inaugural address as an accurate 

reflection of his principles. Favoring "a sound National Bank," 


Jones promised to keep the "status quo" in state internal 

improvement. But, to his audience, Jones left the most 

important pledge to the last: 

he promised all those who heard him that, if he 
should be elected the Governor of Tennessee, and 
the Legislature should remove the seat of Govern- 
ment to any point in the State, he would not ex- 
press a regret, nor ask to remain a moment at 
Nashville, but would cheerfully pack up a bag and 
baggage and go alone with it. 1*7 

With their fears soothed, the Whigs prepared for the struggle 

of 1841. 

The gubernatorial debates again opened in Murfreesboro in 

late March. The candidates awoke to one of those frequent 

curses of Murfreesboro during the spring — rain. Yet, the 

weather did not dicourage each nominee's partisans and a large 

crowd gathered at the courthouse. Taking the offensive, Jones 

charged that the Governor had been in public office too long 

and if he believed his party's principles, Polk should "rotate" 

out of office. Furthermore, Lean Jimmy believed that Polk's 

pride in his consistency was silly. "He said," attacking the 

Governor through an anecdote, "some witness had been examined 

in court and stated that a certain horse was seventeen feet 

high. 'Seventeen feet, 1 said the Judge? 'Did I say seventeen 

feet? Well, if I said it, I stick to it; he was seventeen feet 

u- u ,,.168 
high. ■ " 

Caught off-guard by his opponent's debating techniques, 

the Governor tried to discuss issues and not anecdotes, "but if 

his friend Jones went into that business he would tell what few 

ditties he could command, and when he got through he would 

borrow Jones' joke book. " Admitting that his opponent was a 


'promising young man," Polk reminded his audience that "as for 
his being Governor that's all a notion." But the State Democracy 

would soon painfully learn that young Jones' campaign certainly 

•was more than "a notion. 

The special elections to Congress interrupted the early 
summer months of the campaign. Thomas Hogan, editor of the 
Weekly Times , faced the incumbent Meredith Gentry. Despite the 
Democratic high hopes, Hogan was defeated decisively 2813 to 
1200 in the district and by 1413 to 861 in Rutherford. By mid- 
May, the Democrats knew the obvious — that a difficult road lay 
ahead. 170 But it was a road that the party bandwagon could 
never traverse. Using the state capital issue to full advantage, 
the Whigs gained a complete victory that fall. The entire Whig 

Chart XII: 1841 Congressional Elections 

Candidate Party Votes % Votes 

M. Gentry Whig 1413 62.1 

T. Hogan 

Democrat 861 37.9 

Source: Nashville Union , May 17, 1841 

ticket "was carried ... by upwards of one hundred majority. 

Chart XIII: State Elections, 1841 






% Votes 










State Senate 








48. 5 

State House 

H. Burton 




H. Norman 




J. Fletcher 




E. Keeble 




Source: Nashville Republican Banner, 

Aug. 7, 1841 


By the 1841 election the Cannon County districts were no 
longer available to boost the Democratic party past the Whigs. 
These votes were probably crucial. Evidence of political 
activity within the county by Democrats was slight, possibly 
because the 1840 election was considered as "the handwriting 
on the wall." Rutherford's Democracy had reached a nadir; even 

the new mayor of Murfreesboro was a Whig, George Sublett. In 

politics and principles, Rutherford was a Whig county. 

V. 1841 - 1845: Democratic Disintegration 

Democratic prestige in the county, despite the Whigs' 

failure to deliver the state capital to Murfreesboro, had 

significantly decreased by 1842. 173 When Martin Van Buren 

visited Tennessee in April and May, he did not, despite the 

pleadings of county Democrats, come to Murfreesboro. "He has 

many very warm friends here," Yoakum asserted, "If he (would) 

come and show that he is like other men — would have many more. 

Some very foolish prejudices might be removed by a visit from 

him." But state leaders probably felt that a visit would be a 

waste of the President's time. 1 That fall, the legislature 

undertook to gerrymander the state Congressional districts and 

the Democratic leadership was prepared to sacrifice Rutherford 

to the Whigs, placing it in a district with Wilson and Williamson. 

Yoakum begged Polk that the county be spared such a fate. 

If they put our county in a Whig Senatorial and 
Whig Congressional District you may readily see 
that we must fall — and I hope that the galantry 
with which we have fought, in times past, will 
win for us, at the hands of our friends, a better 
fate. And you can readily see also, that the fall 


of Rutherford, which has hitherto been the barrier 
against Nashville federalism, will open the way to 
the subversion of democracy in all the counties 
South & east. 175 

Evidently, the Columbian believed that Yoakum's argument had 

some merit. "I know the difficulties attending the subject," 

Polk told Samuel Laughlin, "but still hope that she (Rutherford) 

may be saved .... The Central position of that county makes 

it more important that we should preserve our strength there, 

17 6 
than in any other County in the state." Yet, this plea was 

ignored and the county was redistricted. A chargined Yoakum 

wrote Polk of the local party reaction: 

I have watched with some attention the course of 
some of our friends in the Legislature on the 
question of districts — and have come to the con- 
clusion that they were more particular to secure 
& guard their own particular interests than to 
provide for the general welfare. They have acted 
the part of Webster in the Ashburton treaty. In 
securing their own sections, they have left to 
the enemy other sections that justice, services 
rendered, and sound policy required should be 

But we love our country better than our own 
local advantages. We fight for the good doctrines 
still — they are our doctrines, we cherish them, 
and hope to live to see their triumph in every part 
of the country. 177 

As an additional problem, the county Democracy suffered 
from internal bickering. Angry over David Wendell's removal 
as Murfreesboro postmaster, Edwin Keeble could be seen in the 
town streets "denouncing all Democrats from Gen. Jackson on 
down to a district committee man and declares publicly to every- 

1 1 fl 

body, that he will never vote for another." While John 

Childress believed that "His leaving us will create no sensation,: 

the party could ill afford I lose such a valuable stump orator. 


The disabled Democrats, however, might have mounted a 
rally if they could exploit the issue of the permanent 
location of the state capital. "The seat of Government will be 

a serious question with us," Yoakum reminded Polk, "Yet we 

will not be foolish about it." A Murfreesboro subscriber 

to the Union simply said that the capital should not be in 

Nashville: "Ought not the Legislature to sit away from the abode 

of such contaminating influences?" he asked, the asserted that 

the Legislature must be "free from the money-corrupting and 

• , „1 8 1 
mob- controlling influences of a large commercial city." 

The best evidence of the county's seriousness toward this issue 

was that the Whigs and Democrats even considered forming a 

compromise 1843 ticket in order to have greater influence in 

the Assembly. 

The Democrats were the first to use the issue for political 

advantage. Polk was urged to come to Murfreesboro early that 

year because "a declaration for the location of the Seat of Gov. 

at some legible point near the centre of the territory and 

population" would not only please the Rutherford countians, but 

such a statement could be vague enough to satisfy other nearby 

1 go 

towns. David M. Currin, Democratic legislative candidate, 
published a broadside asserting that the only way Murfreesboro 
would receive the capital would be "at the hands of a Democratic 
Legislature , " but he reminded the people that even "if the 
democrats should have the ascendancy in that body, of what ad- 
vantage will it be to us, if WE are represented by Whigs? " 
Currin called for every citizen to " act together for the accomplish- 
ment of a common end , of equal importance to both Whigs and 




Yet, that winter the agitation for the capital remained a 

bipartisan effort. On February 9, the county's leading citizens, 

from Henderson Yoakum to William Lytle, resolved that Murfrees- 

boro be named the permanent capital. Stating that the capital 

had been originally moved from Murfreesboro in 1826 in order 

to save money and utilize the State Bank, these citizens 

asserted that "Seventeen years of experience have tested the 

truth or unsoundness of these reasons," and concluded that the 

original rationales were invalid. The bank had failed, the 

legislature met for longer sessions, and the costs of government 

were much higher. So, why not make Murfreesboro the permanent 

capital? They argued that a legislature's actions reflected 

the characteristics of the town where it met and insisted that 

If they (the citizens) of the town abound in 
wealth, extravagance, trade and speculation, 
the law-maker in mingling with them soon 
catches the tone, becomes social, desires to 
please, forgets his constituents, their economy 
and poverty, and votes for charters, appropri- 
ations and schemes utterly foreign to his views 
when he first took his seat. 

There, to rid the legislature of corruption and vice, the state 

I or 

capital had to be placed in Murfreesboro. 

Nevertheless, any bipartisanship effort soon disappeared 
once the Democrats continued to blast the Whigs for failing 
to change the capital site in the last Assembly. Playing a 
more cagey game, Rutherford's Whigs reminded the electorate 
late in the contest that Polk and the Democrats had moved the 
capital to Murfreesboro, then suddenly rescinded the order. Of 
course, Polk received full blame for the rescission. On 
August 1, the Union told its readers to ignore any reports 


tying Polk to the 1840 rescission because "The stories about 
his interfering with it in 1839-40 are utterly unfounded." But 
the Whig charges were probably the decisive factor in the margin 

of the Whig victory since their opponents were unable to counter- 

act the excitement the allegations had caused. 

However, more issues were involved in the campaign than 
just the seat of government. The "Immortal Thirteen", the up- 
coming Presidential contest, the viability of the National Bank, 
the national bankruptcy law and the tariff were just few of the 

■J g-7 

questions bandied about by local politicians. 

When the Whigs encountered some intra-party bickering over 
organization in the spring, the Democrats suddenly believed 
their opportunities for victory had increased — "And will not 
that be doing something." a surprised Yoakum exclaimed. But 
once the Whigs settled the division between the Ledbetter and 
Dickinson factions of the party by nominating Dickinson as the 

district's Congressional candidate, Democratic aspirations 

diminished. Dickinson's selection was well received by the 

state leadership and by the first of July, any factionalism 

among the Whigs had evaporated. "The Whigs here are as firm 

to their principles as the anvil to the beaten stroke, " a county 

Whig bragged, "I do not entertain a doubt but all candidates 

will come out ahead, without any difficulty." 

Governor Jones and James K. Polk closed the 1843 gubernatorial 

debates in Murfreesboro on July 31. Before an estimated 3000 

people, both candidates rehashed the same political issues they 

had debated at about ninety other locations. Evidently, Jones 

gave one of his better efforts while Polk lacked his usual 


passion "and he closed his talk manifestly dissatisfied 
himself." 191 Yet, even an overwhelming address by the ex- 
Governor would not have turned the tide in Murf reesboro. Again, 

the entire Whig ticket was elected. 

Chart XIV: State Gubernatorial Election, 1843 

Candidate Party Votes % Votes 

Jones Whig 1586 53.7 

Polk Democrat 1367 46.3 

Source: Nashville Republican Banner , Aug. 11, 1843 (No other 
election results could be uncovered.) 

At last, Whiggery appeared completely triumphant. But even as 

they celebrated, the Whigs carefully began plans to carry 

Tennessee for Henry Clay in 1844. In Rutherford, it seemed that, 

no matter who the Democratic nominee would be, the task would 

be simple. 

Democrats, downhearted but not out, immediately began to 
plan for the November state convention in Nashville. On October 
13, a Friday, they nominated their delegates and resolved that 
the campaign would be dedicated to measures, not men, and to 
the defeat of Henry Clay. While they hoped for a Van Buren- 
Polk national ticket, they announced their unqualified support 
for any nominee of the party. 194 

The 1844 canvass, no doubt, was "one of the most bitterly 
contested" in the state's history. 195 The Whigs were subjected 
to their severest test yet and both sides believed that 
victory in 1844 would seal the county's political allegiance. 

Yoakum, because the Democrats were better organized than 
ever before, had renewed confidence. In early March, the 


prominent attorney told Polk that Rutherford "has in her limits 
the inconquerable elements of democracy. These elements are now 
in a glow." 19 Democratic Associations abounded throughout the 
county and at a March meeting, the Star Spangled Banner was 
adopted as the party's banner. Samuel Rucker, "in an animated 

speech suggested the propriety of learning & singing the 

patriotic and national song which has that name." Signs 

that the party had healed its winter wounds were apparent the 

next month when Edwin Keeble headed the committee that presented 

the Banner. Chairman Yoakum gave the flag to David Currin, the 

Democratic seventh district electoral candidate and said, "Take 

this flag — let no dishonor soil its stripes, let no disunion dim 

its stars . . . and return it to us with victory perching upon 

its folds." Currin accepted the flag and then proceeded to 

speak against any national bank and argued that the Whigs' 

failures had vindicated Van Buren's former presidency. 200 

Disrupting the Democratic momentum, the Whigs held in 

mid-April their "most enthusiastic meeting" of the year at the 

courthouse. Charles Ready, president of the Rutherford Clay 

Club, as three speakers, William L. Murfree, a long-time town 

resident, William Henry Smith, editor of the Telegraph , and 

David D. Bell, son of John Bell, took turns blasting Jackson, 

Amos Kendall, and Martin Van Buren. 201 And the Democrats were 

crushed when Van Buren's letter opposing the Texas annexation 

became public. "The course of Mr. Van Buren has thrown us flat 

on our backs, " Yoakum so informed Polk, 

The leading democrats throught Rutherford. . .are 
calling upon me daily to know my views — I can 
tell them nothing, but to wait . I am satisfied 


that Mr. Van Buren will get few votes hereabouts 
and for no other cause than his late letter, 
making, as we conceive, concessions to the 
abolitionists. We are all true democrats, as I 
honestly believe, so also, are we friends to the 
South. 262 

Further agitating this Democratic dilemma was the large 
Whig rally in May. Never "under more auspicious circumstances 
than those which signalized the meeting," had a Whig campaign 
begun in Rutherford. Boasting of their dominance, party 

regulars cried out, "'As goes Rutherford so goes Tennessee.'" 


The Whigs had used the recent nominations of Clay and 

Frelinghuysen as an excuse to have a day-long celebration — and 

state leaders rushed in support. John Bell, introduced as "an 

old and well known acquaintance and friend.... who, in various 

distinguished positions, had battled nobly for the great cause 

to which they were devoted," reminded his audience that the 

Democratic and Whig struggle continued because "their doctrines 

and measures (are) incompatible with our prosperity, and safety, 

and the preservation of our institutions." Asserting that the 

corrupt bargain of 1824 never happened, Bell vindicated Clay's 

character and Frelinghuysen' s nomination. 

Before the "abundant and substantial Barbecue", some of 

the county clubs joined together on the podium to sing party 

songs. But, just "as they were closing their melodies 

the weight of those who had crowded upon the state proved too 

much for it, and down it came with a noisy crash." After the 

stage was repaired, Gustavus A. Henry produced "a splendid 

eulogy upon Henry Clay" while arguing that "the mischievous 

principles of modern democracy must be opposed." Like his 


colleague, Henry defended the tariff and the party's 

nominations. That night, county Whigs were entertained 

for two more hours by Robert Caruthers and Mr. MacLeod. They 

also passed a resolution supporting the annexation of Texas 

"whenever it can be done without violating our national faith, 

and endangering the union." 

The early hopes of the Democrats had evaporated. Their 

opponents managed to negate the corrupt bargain as a political 

issue and had increased the importance of the Texas question and 

the party resorted to virulent attacks on Henry Clay. But the 

news of Polk' s presidential nomination transformed the local 

Democrats into political animals. "The effect here and as 

far as I have heard, " Polk told his unofficial campaign manager, 

Cave Johnson, "has been to inspire a new spirit in our party. "^ 

On June 6, the Murfreesboro Democratic Association passed 
special resolutions seconding the nominations of Polk and Dallas. 
At last, local Democrats had a candidate who followed the county's 
sentiments on the annexation of Texas. Hooray for Polkl Hooray 
for Texas! cried the Democrats. 9 Later that month, the 
party held "one of those immense uprisings of the people which 
only take place they are resolved that their voice shall be 
heard and that the fabric of republican freedom shall be pre- 
served." A crowd of about 10,000 was harangued for nearly seven 
hours by such prominent Middle Tennesse Democrats as Hopkins 
Turney and A. 0. P. Nicholson and leading locals like Edwin 
Keeble and David Currin. The Whigs' pet raccon was captured, 
hanged, "placed in a fine walnut coffin ... and buried with 

all the honours of whiggery" so to symbolize the Democratic 



After Polk's nomination, county Whig leaders headed for 
the stump — and stayed there. David Dickinson was very active 
"defending the good old democratic conservative principles of 
the Whig party, and attacking, the destructive tenents and ex- 
posing the malversations in office of the Loco f oco party. " 
Dickinson pledged he would rather die than see Polk elected 

and obviously the county did not want him to give up the ghost 

because Henry Clay defeated Polk by 230 votes. 

Chart XV: 1844 Presidential Election 

Candidate Partv Votes 

Henry Clay Whig 1730 
James K. Polk Democrat 1500 

% Votes 


Source: Nashville Republican Banner, Nov. 11, 1844 

Polk»s decisive defeat in a county where he had many 
personal ties was stunning. Yet, if Clay had not carried 
Rutherford would have been the real surprise because the Demo- 
crats, for a decade, had been unable to match the Whig political 
machine. Thus, the Democrats remained the county's minority 
party until after the Civil War. Their party leader, Henderson 
Yoakum, was so disappointed that he left the state and sought 
his fortune in Texas. Even with the Columbian as President, 
county Democrats fared no better in the 1845 elections, as the 

Whig ticket once again swept Rutherford. No doubt, the center 

of Tennessee was a Whig stronghold. 


Chart XVI: 1845 Gubernatorial Election 

Candidate Party Votes % Votes 

Ephraim Foster Whig 1599 52.3 

Aaron Brown Democrat 1457 47.7 

Source: Jonesborough Whig and Independent Journal , 
September 10, 1845 


The story of the formation of two separate and distinct 
political parties in Rutherford County began with a rivalry be- 
tween two Middle Tennessee politicians, John Bell and James K. 
Polk, over the coveted position of Speaker of the House. The 
county provided these two men with their spouses and the resulting 
family connections, along with the rivals' joint decision to 
fight their first public battles on Rutherford podiums, drew 
the citizens of the county into a furious debate. The county 
Democracy split over the claims of these two rivals, with the 
pro-Bell faction emerging as the Whig party. 

By 1845 the Democrats were conguered and its leadership 
was scattered and fleeing for greener pastures. The Whigs in 
1844 had defeated Polk in his own backyard; their ascendancy 
and superiority was unchallenged. What factors led to one party 
dominance? National issues such as the National Bank, the 
presidential contests, and the annexation of Texas were hotly 
debated. But, these issues provided only the foundation for 
disputes. The divisive issues in county politics were more 
local in nature: the exploits of Edmund Rucker, the Polk-Bell 
rivalry, loyalty to Jackson, personality clashes, and particularly 


the permanent location of the state capital. The irrational 
behavior that often characterized the political life of Ruther- 
ford County was only produced when the local partisans could 
closely identify with the issues. 


Chart XVII: Voter Participation, Rutherford County Elections, 
1835 - 1845 1 

Year State % Nationwide % County 


55.2 71.8 



78 82.8 



74.9 95.2 


1 County turnout from 18 35-37 is based on General Assembly 
statistics placing the number of qualified voters in Ruther- 
ford County in 1837 at 3032. County turnout from 1839-45 is 
based on General Assembly statistics placing the number of 
qualified voters in 1839 at 3392. Therefore, in the elections 
after 1840, the actual turnout is probably lower than 

Sources: Brian G. Walton, "The Second Party System in Tennessee", 
East Tennessee Historical Society Publications , 
No 43 (1971), 19; Richard P. McCormick, "New 
Perspectives in Jacksonian Politics," American 
Historical Review , LXV (Jan., 1960), 289; 
Nashville Union , Jan. 1, 1840; Nashville 
Republican Banner , Aug. 11, 1835, Nov. 12, 1836, 
Aug. 8, 1837, Aug. 7, 1841, Aug. 11, 1843, Nov. 
11, 1844; Nashville Whig . Nov. 6, 1840; 
Jonesborough Whig & Independent Journal , Sept. 1, 














87 - 90 




85- 88 

Chart XVIII 



Geographical Breakdown of Whig- 
Democratic Strength in Ruther- 
ford County, 1839-1840 

(Based on precinct returns) 



7 3/68 


69/ 9 
7 4/14 





167/ 94 

95/ 4 



7 3/35 



1839: Votes for Cannon/Votes for Polk 

1840: Votes for Harrison/Votes for Van Buren 

Not located: Middleton precinct (14th district) 


1. Richard P. McCormick, The Second American Party 
System : Party Formation in the Jacksonian Era (Chapel 
Hill, 1966), 223. 

2 Ibid ,, 227 -28. 

3. Ibid ., 230. 

4. Ibid . 

5. Ibid., 235. 

6. Eastin Morris, The Tennessee Gazetteer (Nashville, 
1834), 107, 143044: Carlton C. Sims, ed. . The History 
of Rutherford. County (Murf reesboro, Tenn . . 1947), 32. 

7 . The Goodspeed Histories of Maury, Williamson , 
Rutherford , Wilson , Bedford , & Marshall Counties of 
Tennessee (Columbia, Tenn., 1971 1886), 816-17. 

8. Sims, Rutherford County . 39. 213: C. C. Henderson. 
The Story of Murfreesboro (Murf reesboro, Tenn. . 1929) 
102-3: Goodspeed History of Rutherford , 828: Nashville 
Union . March 3, 1839: "Murfreesboro Annexation Since 
1817," Murfreesboro Daily News Journal , Accent 
Magazine, 12-13. 

9. Henderson, Murfreesboro , 41: Herbert Weaver, et al., 
eds., Correspondence of James K. Polk (4 vols to date, 
Nashville, 1969 - ), II, 14n, 21n, 523n. 

10. Murfreesboro Central Monitor . Sept. 6, 1834: J°hn W. 
Childress to Polk, Aug. 19. 1834:' William Brady to Polk. 
Oct. 13, 1834, Robert M. Burton to Polk, Augs 27. 1834, 
Weaver, Polk Papers , II. 452. 525-26, 461-63. 

11. Murfreesboro Central Monitor . Sept. 6, 1834. 

12. William Brady to Polk, Oct. 13, 1334, Robert M. 
Burton to Polk, August 27, 1834, John W. Childress to 
Polk, Aug. 19. 1834, Weaver. Polk Papers , II. 525-27. 
461-62, 452. 

13. John W. Childress to Polk, Aug. 19, 1834, ibid . , 452. 

14. Ibid . 

15. William Brady to Polk. Oct. 13, 1834, ibid . . 525 

16. Murfreesboro Central Monitor . Sept. 6, 1834. 

17. Ibid. 


£8. Joseph H. Parks, John Bell of Tennessee (Baton 

Rouge, 1950), 76; Murfreesboro Central Monitor , Oct. 11, 
1834; John W. Childress to Polk, Oct. 7, 1834, William 
R. Rucker to Polk, Oct. 12, 1834, William Brady to 
Polk, Oct. 13, 1834, Weaver, Polk Papers , II, 518, 521, 

19 John W. Childress to Polk, Oct. 7, 1834, ibid. , 
517-18; Murfreesboro Central Monitor , Oct. 11, 1834. 

20. Murfreesboro Central Monitor , Oct. 11, 1834. 

21. William R. Rucker to Polk, Oct. 12, 1834, Weaver, 
Polk Papers , II, 522. 

22. John W. Childress to Polk, Oct. 7, 1834, ±h±d- j 

23. William Brady to Jackson, Oct. 7, 1834, Andrew 
Jackson Papers, University of Tennessee Library, 
Knoxville (Non-Print Department); William Brady to 
Polk, Oct. 13, 1834, Weaver, Polk Papers , II, 526. 

24. Ibid ., 527. 

25. Daniel Graham to Polk, ibid . , III, 8. 

26. William Brady to Polk, Oct. 13, Dec. 26, 1834, 
ibid . , II, 525-27, 606, Daniel Graham to Polk, Jan. 2, 
1835, ibid ., Ill,- 8, ibid . , II, 518 n; Charles G. 
Sellers, James K. Polk ; Jacksonian , 1795-1843 (Prince- 
ton, 1957), 249. 

27. William Brady to Jackson, Oct. 7, 1834, Jackson 

28. Note by Jackson in ibid . 

29. Weaver, Polk Papers, II, 518n; Alfred Balch to 
Jackson, Oct. 31>, 1834, Jackson Papers. 

30. Powell Moore, "The Revolt Against Jackson in 
Tennessee, 1835-1836," Journal of Southern History , 
II, (Aug. 1936), 339. 

31. Ibid ., 348. 

32. Daniel Graham to Polk, Jan. 29, 1835, Samuel G. 
Smith to Polk, Feb. 13, 1835, Weaver, Polk Papers , III, 
73, 82. 

33. Cave Johnson to Polk. Feb. 10, 1835, Samuel G. Smith 
to Polk, Feb. 13, 1835, ibid . , 93, 99-100. 


34. Jackson to Alfred Balch, Feb. 16, 1835, John S. 
Bassett, ed. , Correspondence of Andrew Jackson ( 6 
vols., Washington, 1931), V, 328. 

35. John Bell to Willie P. Mangum, March 19, 1835, Henry 
T. Shanks, ed. , The Papers of Willie Person Mangum 
(Raleigh, N. C, 1952), II, 324. 

36. Polk to Cave Johnson, April 19, 1835, Weaver, Polk 
Papers , III, 161. 

37. Nashville Republican , Nov. 11, 15, 1834; John W. 
Childress to Polk, Jan. 23, 1835, William R. Rucker to 
Polk, April 27, 1835, ibid ., 59-60, 168. 

38. Norman L. Parks, "The Career of John Bell as Congress- 
man from Tennessee, 1827-1841," Tennessee Historical 
Quarterly, I (Sept., 1942), 244. 

39. For the controversy surrounding Bell's letter of 
May 11, 1835 to Charles Cassedy, see Parks, Bell , 104; 
Sellers, Polk : Jacksonian , 282; Felix Grundy to Polk, 
June 25, 1835, Andrew Jackson to Polk, Aug. 13, 1835, 
Weaver, Polk Papers , III, 225, 251-52; for details on 
the Edmund Rucker scandal see Van West, "Trials and 
Tribulations of Murf reesboro' s Steam Doctor, " Murfreesboro 
Press , Sept. 28, 1978. 

40. Nashville Union , June 8, 1835. 

41. Ibid . , July 3, 1835; Nashville Republican , Aug. 11, 

42. Murfreesboro Monitor , Aug. 19, 1835. 

43. Samuel H. Laughlin to Polk, Aug. 21, 1835, Polk to 
Francis P. Blair, Oct. 3, 1835, Weaver, Polk Papers , III, 
271, 272n, 316-17. 

44. John Bell to E. H. Chaff in, et al . , Sept. 14, 1835, 
Nashville Republican , Sept. 22, 1835. 

45. John W. Childress to Polk, Nov. 2, 1835, Weaver, 
Polk Papers , III, 351. 

46. William R. Rucker to Polk, Nov. 20, 1835, ibid . , 

47. John W. Childress to Polk, Nov. 22, 1835, ibid ., 

48. William R. Rucker to Polk, Jan. 17, 1836, ibid . , 


49. John W. Childress to Polk, Jan. 26, 1836, Edwin A. 
Keeble to Polk, Jan. 27, 1836, ibid., 461-62. 

50. William R. Rucker to Polk, March 29, 1836, ibid . , 

51. Ibid ., 562. 

52. Nashville Republican , April 16, 1836. 

53. Ibid., April 26, 1836. 

54. William R. Rucker to Polk, June 15, 1836, Polk to 
A. J. Donelson, Sept. 3, 1836, Weaver, Polk Papers , III, 
665, 713; Nashville Republican , Sept. 29, 1836. 

55. William R. Rucker to Polk, Oct. 11, 1836, Weaver, 
Polk Papers, III, 760. 

56. John W. Childress to Polk, Oct. 10, 1836, ibid . , 

57. William R. Rucker to Polk, Oct. 11, 1836, ibid . , 
7 60. 

58. Ibid .; John W. Childress to Polk, Oct. 10, 1836, 
ibid ., 759. 

59. Nashville Republican, Oct. 11, Nov. 12, 1836. 

60. Jackson to H. M. Cryer, Nov. 13, 1836, "Unpublished 
Letters of Andrew Jackson, " American Historical Magazine , 
IV (July 1899) , 243. 

61. L. Paul Gresham, "The Public Career of Hugh Lawson 
White," Tennessee Historical Quarterly , III (Dec. 1944), 

62. Moore, "Revolt Against Jackson," 350; Sellers, Polk ; 
Jacksonian , 269, 274. 

63. Polk to William R. Rucker, Dec. 26, 1836, William R. 
Rucker to Polk, Jan. 2, 1837, Weaver, Polk Papers , III, 
804, IV, 6. 

64. Samuel H. Laughlin to Polk, Jan. 5, 1837, ibid . , IV, 
11; Nashville Union , May 23, 1837. 

65. William R. Rucker to Polk, Jan. 20, 1837, Weaver, 
Polk Papers , IV, 41. 

66. Samuel H. Laughlin to Polk, Feb. 15, 1837, ibid . , 61. 


67. Nashville Union , Feb. 11, 1837. 

68. John W. Childress to Polk, Feb. 17, 1837, Weaver, 
Polk Papers , Iv y 65. 

69. William R. Rucker to Polk, April 22, 1837, ibid . , 

70. Polk to William R. Rucker, June 15, 1837, ibid., 

71. John H. Dew to Polk, June 28, 1837, ibid., 164. 

72. William R. Rucker to Polk, June 30, 1837, ibid . , 

73. Ibid ., 166. 

74. John W. Childress to Polk, July 23, 1837, ibid ., 

7 5. Nashville Union, July 13, 1837; Daniel Graham to Polk, 
July 17, 1837, ibid ., 186. 

76. William R. Rucker to Polk, Aug. 4, 1837, ibid., 197. 

77. William R. Rucker to Polk, Sept. 20, 1837, David B. 
Molloy to Polk, Sept. 25, 1837, ibid . , 246, 252. 

78. William R. Rucker to Polk, Sept. 20, 1837, ibid . , 

79. John W. Childress to Polk, Dec. 30, 1837, ibid ., 

80. Ibid ., Jan. 14, 1838, ibid ., 331; "Letters from 
Jackson, Clay and Johnson," American Histori cal Magazine, 
V(April 1900), 139. 

81. Murfreesboro Tennessee Telegraph , March 14, 1838. 

82. Nashville Republican Banner , March 28, 1838. 

83. Ibid ., April 27, 1838. 

84. David B. Molloy to Polk, April 26, 1838, Weaver, 
Polk Papers, Iv, 430. 

85. William S. Haynes to Polk, May 9, 1838, ibid ., 441. 

86. Cave Johnson to Polk, June 1, 1838, ibid. , 468; 
Nashville Whig , June 1, 6, 1838; Nashville Republican 
Banner , June 6, 1838. 


87. Polk to Andrew Jackson, June 11, 1838, Weaver, 
Polk Papers , IV, 475. 

88. Nashville Whig , June 8, 1838. 

89. William S. Haynes to Polk, July 26, 1838, Polk 
to Moses Ridley, et al., Aug. 5, 1838, Weaver, Polk 
Papers . IV, 573, 521-22n. 

90. William R. Rucker to Polk, Aug. 9, 1838, ibid., 

91. Nashville Union , Sept. 3, 5, 1838. 

92. Ibid . 

93. Ibid . 

94. Ibid . 

95. Polk to Andrew Jackson, Sept. 2, 1838, Weaver, 
Polk Papers . IV, 537. 

96. William A. Lytle, George A. Sublett, et al. to 
William B. Campbell, Sept. 4, 1838, David Campbell 
Papers, Duke University Library (Microfilm: McClung 
Collection, Lawson McGhee Library, Knoxville.) 

97. Nashville Whig , Sept. 7, 1838; Nashville Republican 
Banner , Sept. 7, 1838. 

98. Ibid ., Oct. 11, 1838. 

99. Ibid. , Sept. 29, 1838. 

100. Nashville Whig , Sept. 28, 1838. 

101. Nashville Republican Banner , Oct. 11, 1838. 

102. Henry Wray, "Sojourn in Murf reesboro, " Rutherford 
County Historical Society Publications, No. 1 (1973), 
16-24; Samuel H. Laughlin to Polk, Sept. 27, 1838, 
Weaver, Polk Papers , IV, 567. 

103. Nashville Union , Oct. 5, 1838. 

104. Nashville Republican Banner , Nov. 16, 1838; William 
G. Childress to Polk, Nov. 2, 1838, John H. Dew to Polk, 
Nov. 13, 1838, John W. Chiidress to Polk, Dec. 12, 1838, 
William R. Rucker to Polk, Dec. 16, 1838, Weaver, Polk 
Papers . IV, 598, 607, 644, 658. 

105. Sellers, Polk: Jacksonian, 366 . 


106. Nashville Republican Banner , Jan. 18, Feb. 19, 1839; 
John W. Childress to Polk, Jan. 27, 1839, David B. Molloy 
to Polk, Feb. 8, 1839, James K. Polk Papers, University 
of Tennessee Library, Knoxville (Non-Print Department.) 

107. Samuel H. Laughlin to Polk, Feb. 15, 1839, Polk 

108. Nashville Union, April 15, 1839. 

109. Nashville Republican Banner , April 15, 1839. 

110. Ibid ., April 13, 1839. 

111. Ibid ., April 16, 1839; Nashville Union , April 12, 
15, 1839. 

112. Ibid ., April 15, 1839. 

113. Ibid ., April 12, 1839. 

114. Ibid ., April 15, 1839. 

115. John Bell to Henry Clay, May 21, 1839, Sellers, 
Polk: Jacksonian , 362-63. 

116. William R. Rucker to Polk, May 10, 1839, Polk 

117. John W. Childress to Sarah Polk, May 27, 1839, ibid. 

118. John Bell to Henry Clay, May 21, 1839, Sellers, 
Polk: Jacksonian , 371. 

119. Eugene Sloan, "Henderson King Yoakum," Rutherford 
County Historical Society Publications , No. 10 (1978), 46; 
Nashville Union , June 14, 1839; John W. Childress to 
Sarah Polk, June 15, 1839, Polk Papers. 

120. Nashville Union , June 19, 1839. 

121. Ibid ., July 5, 17, Aug. 5, 1839. 

122. Nashville Whig, Nov. 6, 1840; "Mayors of Murfrees- 
boro," Rutherford County Historucal Publications , 

No. 2 (1973), 37. 

123. Nashville Union , Aug. 5, 1839. 

124. Samuel H. Laughlin to Polk, Aug. 10, 1839, Polk 

125. Nashville Whig , Aug. 12, 1839. 


126 John Bell to William B. Campbell, Aug. 10, 1839, 
St. George Sioussat, ed., "Letters of John Bell to 
William B. Campbell, 1838-1857," Tennessee Historical 
Magazine , III (Sep. 1917), 202. 

127. Nashville Whig, Sept. 4, 1839. 

128. John W. Childress to Polk, Aug. 21, 1839, Polk 

129. Nashville Union , Sept. 4, 1839. 

130. Ibid ., Sept. 20, 1839. 

131. Ibid .. Oct. 9, 1839. 

132. Ibid .. Nov 20, 27, Dec. 2, 1839. 

133. Powell Moore, "James K. Polk and Tennessee Politics, 
1839-1841," East Tennessee Historical Society Publications , 
No. 9 (1937), 46. 

134. Nashville Union , Jan. 22, 29, Feb. 10, 1840; 
Nashville Republican Banner , Jan. 29, 1840. 

135. Polk to John W. Childress, Feb. 24, 1840, Polk 

136. Nashville Republican Banner , March 20, 1840 

137. Nashville Union . March 4, 1840. 

138. Ibid ., April 9, 1840. 

139. Nashville Republican Banner , March 6, 1840. 

140. Nashville Union . April 19, 1840. 

141. Ibid . 

142. E. H. Foster to W. B. Campbell, April 12, 1840, 
St. George Sioussat Collection, University of Tennessee 
Library, Knoxville. 

143. William R. Rucker to Polk, April 10, 1840, Polk 

144. Murfreesboro Tennessee Telegraph , May 2, 9, 16, 1840. 

145. Nashville Union , May 21, 28, 1840. 

146. Thomas B. Alexander, "The Presidential Campaign of 
1840 in Tennessee," Tennessee Historical Quarterly , I 
(Sept. 1942), 36. 


147. Nashville Union , June 4, 15, 1840. 

148. Ibid., Oct. 8, 1840; Nashville Republican Banner , 
Oct. 14, 1840. 

149. David W. Dickinson to W. H. Harrison, June 27, 1840, 
ibid . 

150. Nashville Union , June 25, 1840. 

151. Ibid ., Aug. 10, 1840. 

152. Nashville Republican Banner , July 11, 1840. 

153. Ibid ., Aug. 5, 1840. 

154. David B. Molloy to Polk, Aug. 21, 1840, Polk Papers; 
Nashville Whig , Aug. 26, 1840. 

155. Nashville Republican Banner , Aug. 22, 1840. 

156. G. W. Nance, et al . to Polk, Sept. 5, 1840, Polk 
Papers; Nashville Republican Banner , Sept. 11, 1840; 
Murfreesboro Tennessee Telegraph , Sept. 12, 1840. 

157. Nashville Republican Banner , Sept. 22, 1840. 

158. Jackson to Amos Kendall, Sept. 23, 1840, Jackson 
Papers; Murfreesboro Weekly Times , Sept. 19, 1840. 

159. Nashville Union , Sept. 17, 1840; Murfreesboro 
Weekly Times , Sept. 19, 1840; David B. Molloy to Polk, 
Sept. 23, 1840, Polk Papers. 

160. John Bell to T. A. R. Nelson, Nov. 8, 1840, T.A.R. 
Nelson Papers, McClung Collection, Lawson McGhee Library, 
Knoxville; Murfreesboro Tennessee Telegraph , Nov. 21, 1840. 

161. Bell to T. A. R. Nelson, Nov. 8, Dec. 21, 1840, 
Nelson Papers; Murfreesboro Tennessee Telegraph , 
Nov. 21, 1840. 

162. Jackson to Van Buren, March 4, 1841, Bassett, 
Correspondence of Jackson, VI, 92; Murfreesboro Tennessee 
Telegraph , Feb. 6, 1841; Sellers, Polk: Jacksonian , 430. 

163. Joanna Rucker to Polk, March 9, 1841, Polk Papers. 

164. Nashville Republican Banner, March 5-6, 1841; 
Nashville Union, March 8, 11, 1841; John W. Childress to 
Polk, March 15, 1841, Polk Papers. 

165. Ray G. Osborne, "Political Career of James C. J°nes, 
1840-1857," Tennessee Historical Quarterly , VII (1948), 204 


166. John W. Childress to Polk, March 15, 1841, Polk 
Papers; Polk to David Burford, Feb. 2, 1841, Polk MSS, 
Special Collections, University of Tennessee Library, 

167. Nashville Republican Banner , March 24, 1841. 

168. Nashville Union, March 29, 1841. 

169. Ibid ., March 29, April 1, 1841; Nashville 
Republican Banner , March 30, 1841. 

170. Nashville Union , April 8, May 13, 17, 1841; 
Nashville Republican Banner, May 10, 1841. 

171. William R. Rucker to Polk, July 14, 1841, Polk 
Papers; Nashville Union , Aug. 9, 1841; Nashville 
Republican Banner , Aug. 6, 1841. 

172. "Mayors of Murf reesboro, " 37. 

173. Nashville Union , Feb. 4, 1842. 

174. Henderson Yoakum to Polk, May 6, 1842, Granville 
S. Crockett to Polk, May 3, 1842, Polk Papers. 

175. Henderson Yoakum to Polk, Oct. 8, 1842, ibid . 

176. Polk to Laughlin, Oct. 19, 1842, Joseph H. Parks, 
ed. , "Letters of James K. Polk to Samuel H. Laughlin, 
1835-1844," East Tennessee Historical Society Publications , 
No. 18 (1946), 161. 

177. Henderson Yoakum to Polk, Dec. 22, 1842, Polk 

178. John W. Childress to Polk, Dec. 26, 1852, ibid . 

179. Ibid ., Dec. 29, 1842, ibid . 

180. Henderson Yoakum to Polk, Dec. 22, 1842, ibid . 

181. Nashville Union , Dec. 23, 1842. 

182. John W. Childress to Polk, Dec. 26, 1842, Polk Papers. 

183. Henderson Yoakum to Polk, Jan. 12, 1843, ibid . 

184. Nashville Republican Banner , Jan. 25, 1843. 

185. Nashville Union , Feb. 21, 1843. 

186. Ibid. , Aug. 1, 4, 1843; Henderson Yoakum to Polk, 
May 5, 1843, Polk Papers. 


187. Paul H. Bergeron, "The Election of 1843: A Whig 
Triumph in Tennessee," Tennessee Historical Quarterly , 
XXII (June 1963), 125-34; Murfreesboro Jef f ersonian , 
June 10, 1843; Nashville Union , May 30, Aug. 1, 1843. 

188. Henderson Yoakum to Polk, April 3, 1843, John W. 
Childress to Polk, April 3, 1843, Polk Papers; Nashville 
Republican Banner , April 5, 12, 1843; Nashville Union , 
April 14, 1843. 


Meredith P. Gentry to William B. Campbell, April 
3, 1843, St. Sioussat Collection. 

190. Nashville Republican -Banner , June 30, 1843. 

191. Nashville Whig , Aug. 3, 1843; Nashville Republican 
Banner , Aug. 2, 1843. 

192. Nashville Union . Aug. 8, 11, 1843; Nashville 
Republican Banner , Aug 7, 11, 1843. 

193. Thomas Williams to T. A. R. Nelson, Aug. 16, 26, 
1843, Nelson Papers. 

194. Nashville Union , Sept. 29, Oct. 19, 1843. 

195. Clara B. Washburn, "Some Aspects of the 1844 
Presidential Campaign in Tennessee," Tennessee Historical 
Quarterly , IV (March 1945), 58. 

196. Parks, Bell , 204. 

197. Nashville Union, Nov. 25, 1843. 

198. Henderson Yoakum to Polk, March 7, 1844, Polk Papers, 

199. John W. Childress to Polk, March 14, 1844, ibid . 

200. Nashville Union , April 2, 9, 1844. 

201. Nashville Republican Banner , April 19, 1844. 

202. Henderson Yoakum to Polk, May 13, 1844, Polk Papers. 

203. Nashville Republican Banner , May 15, 1844. 

204. Ibid. j , ibid., May 20, 1844. 

205. Ibid . 

206. Ibid ., May 15, 1844 

207. Nashville Whig, May 15, 1844; Nashville Republican 
Banner , May 27, 1844. 


208. Polk to Cave Johnson, June 8, 1844, St. George 
Sioussat, ed., "Letters of James K. Polk to Cave 
Johnson, 1838-1848," Tennessee Historical Magazine , 
I (Sept. 1915), 244. 

209. Nashville Union , June 11, 20, 1844. 

210. Ibid .. June 22, 1844. 

211. Nashville Republican Banner , Oct. 30, 1844; 
Nashville Union , Oct. 25, Nov. 12, 1844. 

212. Sloan, "Yoakum," 50; Nashville Republican Banner , 
Aug. 11, Sept. 29, 1845^ Henderson Yoakum to Polk, 
Nov. 6, 1844, Polk Papers; Sims, Rutherford County , 34. 


Mr West is currently a doctoral candidate at the College of 
William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. He previously received 
a B. A. degree from Middle Tennessee State University and a M. A. 
degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Mr. West has 
also written on Rutherford County history for the Accent Magazine 
of the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. 1976-1977. 

This study is a basic summary of his prospective Ph. D. dissert- 
ation. Any additional information that you know about would be greatly- 
appreciated by the author. If you have information or comments, 
please write Mr. West by way of the Department of History, College of 
William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va 23185. 



Rutherford County— Whig Stronghold 

Adams, Pres. John Quincy 10, 37 

American Historical Magazine 78, 79 

Alexander Voting Precinct U5,"56 

Alexander, Thomas B.- 82 

Armstrong, Robert— — 29, 31 

Armstrong Voting Precinct 1*5, 56 

Anderson, Patton 1*1 

Balch, Alfred 77 

Barfield Voting Precinct 1*5, 56 

Bassett, John S. 78 

Bell, David— 67 

Bell, John 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 21, 22, 27 

33,39, 1*2, hh, 55, 57, 67, 68 

71,81, 83, 85 

Bergeson, Paul H.- -85 

Big Springs Voting Precinct 1*5, 56 

Bipartisan Efforts 63, 61* 

Blair, Alfred 33 

Booth Springs Voting Precinct 1*5, 56 

Bradley's Track 33 

Brady, William- 12, 13, 51, 22, 75 

Brown, Aaron 71 

Brown Voting Precinct — — 1*5, 56 

Buchansville Voting Precinct 1*5, 56 

Burnett Voting Precinct 1*5, 56 

Burris, W. C. 21* 

Burford, David 8U 

Bushnell Voting Precinct 1*5, 56 

Burton, H. 60 

Campaign 181*1* 66, 67, 70 

Campaign 1839 1*3, 1*5 

Campaign 181*0 ■ 56 

Campaign 181*3 — (Gubernatorial) 66 

Campaign 181*1* 69, 70 

Campbell, David -80 

Campbell, William B. 38, 1*3, 80, 81, 82 

Cannon County U5> 56, 6l 

Cannon, Governor Newton 1, 21*, 1*0, 1*1, U2, 1*3 

Cassady, Charles 22, 77 

Caruthers, Robert L. 55, 69 

Carroll, William - -23, 21*, 38, 51* 

Chaffin, E. H. 77 

Childress, John W.- 8, 9, 25, 27, 30, 33, U0, U2, 

1*3, hi, U8, 62, 75, 77, 78, 79, 

80, 81, 81a 

Childress, Mrs. John 57 

Childress , William 80 

Clay, Henry 35, 36, 37, 1*0, 1*2, 66, 68, 70, 71 

Clay Club 6? 

Craighead , Colonel 6U 

Crockett, Granville 23, 21*, 31, 32 

Curris, David M. 63, 67, 69 

-2- Index Rutherford County «Whig Stronghold (1835-18U5) 89 

Dallas — 69 

Davidson County U8 

Delegates 18UU Convention— 1$ - 19 

Democratic Party -2, U et seq 71, 80 

Democratic Association 67,69 

Dickinson, David 8, 9, 13, U6, U8, 50, 51 

55, 57, 58, 65, 70, 83 

Eastin, Morris 75 

Eaton, Major John 13 

Election Returns 1839 k3, U5 

Election Returns 18U0 66 

Election Returns 18U1 60 

Election Returns Gubernatorial-l8U3 66 

Election Returns, Presidential, 18UU 70 

Federal Party 19 

Fletcher, John D. 32, U0, U3, U6, 60 

Foster, Sen. Ephraim H. 39, 71, 82 

Fosterville Voting Precinct U5, 56 

Fox Camp Voting Precinct U5, 56 

Frelinghuysen 68 

Geographic Voting --1839-18U0 7U 

Gentry, Meredith U0, U3, 55, 60, 85 

Graham, Daniel 12, 76, 79 

Gresham, L. Paul 78 

Gooch, William U0, U3 

Gowan, A. P. 2 U 

Grundy, Felix 5, 9, 11, 30, 52 

Hardeman, Thomas 26 

Hart Springs Voting Precinct U5, 56 

Harrison's Campaign U9, 50, 52, 53 

Haynes, William S. 35, 79 

Heiskell, S. G. 1 

Henderson, C. C. 75 

Henry, Gustavous A. U9, 68 

Hogan, Thomas 60 

Hoover, Andrew J.- 28 

Houston, Sam-- UU 

Humphreys- 2 

"Immortal Thirteen" — - 65 

Jackson, President Andrew 2, 12, 13, 25, 26, 28, U0, 

Ul, U9, 5U, 67, 77, 78, 80, 83 

Jackson Papers 76, 77, 80 

Jarnagin, Spencer 53, 5U 

Jefferson Voting Precinct 50, 5U, 56 

Jetton, Robert 23, 2U 

Johnson Cave 36, 69, 76, 77, 79, 86 

Jones, James C. 1, 51, 52, 55, 57, 58, 59, 60, 

63, 65, 83 

Jones, Stephen B. — 30 

Journal of Southern History 76 

-3- Index Rutherford County-Whig Stronghold (1835-18U5) 90 

Keeble, Edwin A. 1, 8, 10, 25, 26, 32, U2, 

50, 51, 53, 60, 62, 67, 69 

Kendall, Amos 67 

King, E. J. U2 

Lawson-McGhee Library, Knoxville 80, 83 

Laughlin, John B. 30, 33 

Laughlin, Samuel H. 39, U0, 62, 77, 78, 80, 81 

Lebanon " 58 

Loco Foco Party-- 70 

Lytle, William 6U, 80 

McKnight Voting Precinct 1*5, 56 

Mangura, Willie P. 77 

McCorraick, Richard 75 

McLeod 69 

McLung Collection 80, 83 

Maury, Abraham ■ 21, 23, 2k, 31, 32 

Mechanican8ville Voting Precinct kS, 56 

Methodist Church 65 

Middleton Voting Precinct U5, 56 

Millersburg Voting Precinct kS, kb, 50, 56 

Milton Voting Precinct kS, 56 

Molloy, David 8, 79, 81 

Monitor, Murfreesboro 10, 2k, 25, 28, 30, 50, 75, 77 

Moore, Powell 76, 78, 82 

Murfreesboro, 5, 9 et seq 6U 

Murfreesboro Voting Precinct kS, 56 

Murfree's Voting Precinct kS, 56 

Murfree, William L. 67 

Murfreesboro Press-- — 77, 83 

Nance, G. W . 83 

Nashville 63 Q o> or- 

Nashville Republican Banner 60, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 83, ok, »5 

Nashville Union 60, 77, 78, 8l, 82, 83, 8U, 85 

Nashville Whig 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 8U, 85 

Nelson, T. A. R. 83, 85 

Norman, Henry 2k, k0, U3, 69 

Nichols Voting Precinct U5, 56 

Osborne, Ray-- — 83 

Parks, Joseph H. 8U 

Parks, Norman L. 77 

Patton Voting Precinct k5, 56 

Periscope, Murfreesboro Central 22 

Presbyterian Church — 57 

Peyton, Congressman Billie 13, 27, 52 

Polk, Jakes K. 1, U, 8, 22, 31, 33, 35, 36, 37, 

U3, U7, 50, 52, 53, 5k, 58, 59, 60, 
61, 63, 6U, 65, 66, 69, 70, 75, 76, 
79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 8U 

Polk, Sarah 8, 81 

Polk Papers 76, 77, 79, 80, 8U 

-U- Index Rutherford County-Whig Stronghold (1835-181*5) 


Raleigh Voting Precinct 1*5, 56 

Ready, Charles * 8* 23, 2U, 38, 1*0, 1*3, 67 

Readyville Voting Precinct 1*5, 53, 56 

Rucker, Edmund 22, 77 

Rucker, Joanna 83 

Rucker, Samuel 67 

Rucker, William B. 1, 8, 22, 25, 1*2, 1*9, 76, 

77, 78, 81, 82, 81* 

Rutherford County 1*, 13, 21, 29 et seq. 79 

Rutherford County Historical Society — 80, 81, 86 

Salem Voting Precinct 1*5, 56 

Sanders Voting Precinct 1*5, 56 

Sand Springs 36 

Sellers, Charles G. 76, 78, 80 

Shands, Henry T. 77 

Shields, E. J. 7 

Sims, Carlton 75, 86 

Sioussat , St. George 82, 85 

Sloan, Eugene 81, 86 

Smith, James 1*0, 1*3, 1*6 

Smith, Samuel 0. 76 

Smith, William Henry 67 

Sneed, William H. 30, 50 

State Bank of Tennessee 35, 61* 

State Capital location 58, 61, 67, 71 

Star Spangled Banner 67 

Stewart and Seward 21* 

Sublett, George H. 6l, 80 

Sulpher Springs Voting Precinct 1*5, 56 

Tennessee Gazetteer— — — — 7^, 75 

Tennessee Historical Magazine— 82 

Tennison Voting Precinct 1*5, 56 

Texas Annexation— — 67, 70 

"Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too"- 55 

Trott 21* 

Turney, Hopkins 69 

United States Bank 51 

VanBuren, President Martin 2, 13, H*, 22, 25, 26, 28, h9, 

51, 61, 66, 67, 68, 83 

Wade, L. 33 

Warren, Peter G. 33 

Watterson, Henry 51* 

Washburn, Clara B.~ — 85 

Weaver, Herbert 75, 77 

Weakly Times 29, 30, 1*7, 1*8, U9, 58, 60 

Weakley Springs Voting Precinct 53 

West, Carrol Van Title Page 

-5- Index Rutherford County-Whig Stronghold (1835-181*5) 92 

Webster-Ashburton Treaty — — — 62 

Wendell, David 62 

Whig Party 2, 5, 6, 7, seq...68, 69, 70 

Whig "Election Committee" li6 

White, Hugh Lawson 3, U, 21, 22, 26, 27, 

28, 51, 5U, 78 
Wilkerson Cross Roads Voting Precinct- U5, 56 

Williams, Thomas 85 

Williams Voting Precinct kS, 56 

Williamson County-- 61 

Wilson County- — — 61 

Wray, Henry- — — — 6l 


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