March 7, 2022, by Local Historian Susan Harber
Esquire Alfred Clinton Blackman, namesake for Blackman community, was born in 1790 in Clinton, North Carolina (Sampson County) to James and Elizabeth Cates Blackman. Alfred’s grandparents Stephen and Ann Snell were also from North Carolina. His uncles John and Bennett Blackman migrated to Tennessee around 1800 and were extensive landholders in Davidson, Williamson, and Maury counties. Alfred arrived to Rutherford County with his parents in the spring of 1808. His father James settled on a 2,600 acre tract initially known as Wilkinsons Crossroads in the 7th District; and the family became pioneer settlers in the western part of our county.
Alfred, a handsome young man, was 18 years old when he arrived to Rutherford County. He married Elizabeth Crawford, daughter of Rutherford County native Lazarus Crawford, in 1811. Their children included Raiford, Hillary, Temperance, Sara Jane, Lazarus, James, William, Ollen, Benjamin, and Julia Ann. The son of daughter Julia Ann (Hillary Howse) served as Mayor of Nashville from 1909-1915 and 1924-1938.
In 1811, Alfred and Elizabeth were converted to the Church of Christ by preacher Barton Stone of Kentucky and dedicated the rest of their lives to religion. Alfred established the first Church of Christ in Rutherford County in 1812 that met on the banks of Overall Creek in his community. Later, East Main Church of Christ merged with this early congregation. Alfred was a trustee and elder of East Main in 1860. He paid for the lot upon which East Main Church of Christ in Murfreesboro stands today.
Alfred and sons grew an enormous quantity of cotton on their large plantation. He was ahead of his time as an early farmer using the cotton gin and creating an innovative business village. As years passed, he acquired much land in his immediate area of broad and fertile fields. Alfred established a blacksmith shop in the southeast quadrant of the crossroads before the Civil War called ‘Blackman’s Shop’. The iron gate at this shop was later positioned within the Blackman Cemetery and was handcrafted by a slave blacksmith. All local farm equipment was repaired at this shop, and custom work was contracted from the public. A post office, doctor’s office, school, store, and two churches would follow in later years.
My favorite story with this family is one of ‘lost gold.’ Alfred was 71 years old when the Civil War began in 1861. Both Alfred and Elizabeth had accumulated a large quantity of gold coins that would need to be hidden from coming Federal troops. They considered the graveyard nearby as a hiding place but felt this would be too conspicuous. Fearful their wealth would be confiscated, Alfred carefully stored the trove of gold riches in a bin of sweet potatoes in the basement of a slave cabin on his property. During the night, attentive slaves found the gold, silently loaded their belongings and new treasure, and departed with Alfred’s mule cart never to be seen again.
The war ravaged Alfred’s home, while the farm was heavily foraged by Yankees. Nearby neighbors Bateys, Beesleys and Alfred’s son Raiford Blackman had equal destruction and suffered incredibly. Raiford, age 42, and his wife Ann Rideout, age 20, never fully recovered from the Civil War. They were reduced to poverty and lived in a slave cabin after the damage inflicted. The Civil War skirmish at Wilkinsons Crossroads on December 29 and 30, 1862 is a battle we study today in our history books. The devastation that befell this community was bitter, harsh, and insufferable.
As time moved on, Alfred erected a cemetery 100 yards behind his home. He requested the cemetery to be built on a high place. He paid a contractor $500 to build a rock wall to enclose this resting berth for his family. Rocks were hand hewn and pulled to the location by oxen. The wall was four feet high and one foot thick. Alfred, Elizabeth, his mother, and most of his children are buried there. Alfred died in 1872 at age 82. He had amassed 1000 acres of land in a community to be identified as Blackman years after his passing. One can only surmise he would be so proud of the Blackman schools and prosperity linked to his name in a modern day.