P 3 3082 00527 701^ ^D COUNTY
Publication No. 1 5
THE JOHN WHITSETT CHIL0RI
(Alice And Kelley Ray)
Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37130
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2010 with funding from
Lyrasis Members and Sloan Foundation
RUTHERFORD COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
PUBLICATION NO. 15
Published by the
RUTHERFORD COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
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 $3.50 per copy.
All correspondence concerning additional copies,
contributions to future issues, and membership should be
Rutherford County Historical Society
Murf reesboro, Tennessee 37130
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Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37130
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IMPORTANT: Publication of queries in this column is free to all members
as space permits. Each query must appear on a full sheet of paper which
must be dated and include member's name and address. Please type if
possible. Queries should give as much pertinent data as possible, i.e.
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refer to RUTHERFORD COUNTY, TENNESSEE FAMILIES and immediate connections.
Address all correspondence relating to queries to the Society, P. 0.
Box 906, Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37130.
No 1 WILLIAM HENRY MARLIN b ca 180$ 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
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
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
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
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.
WH HHH H H H HH HH I
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
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
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
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)
Planters Farmers Business"
derived from combining those farmers who also listed
household members as occupied in commerce or manufacturing
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
% of actual
More than actual
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)
B. Age (in percentages)
C. Geographical location (in percentages)
Murf reesboro Rural Count y
D. Esquire recognition
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
Democrats, n = 177
Whigs , n = 95
% of leaders who
% of actual
% of actual
Land . Ownership
Democrats, n = 99
n = 57
% total owned
% total owned
Total % of leaders/
% total owned
Democrats, n = 99
Whigs , n = 57
B. Total Total % total
Value/ Value/ 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
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
Chart VI: 1835 State and Congressional Elections
U. S. Congress-
A. P. Maury
A. P. Gowen
(vote for 2)
W. C. Burris
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
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
U. S. 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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
Murf ree ' s
Bairf ield' s
Murf ree sboro
McKnight ■ s
Youree ' s
Cannon County Precincts
Alexander 1 s
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 &
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Wilker son's Crossroads
Murf ree' s
McKnight ' s
Tennison 1 s
Bushne 11 Creek
Cannon County Precincts
Alexander ' s
Brown 1 s
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
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
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
Democrat 861 37.9
Source: Nashville Union , May 17, 1841
ticket "was carried ... by upwards of one hundred majority.
Chart XIII: State Elections, 1841
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,
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Geographical Breakdown of Whig-
Democratic Strength in Ruther-
ford County, 1839-1840
(Based on precinct returns)
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
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.
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.
£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,
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 . ,
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,
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
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,
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
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
"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
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
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,..et 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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•* ; i 41
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