RCHS Publication 17, Spring 1981
Publication number 17 contains an article on the town of Jefferson while it was the county court seat, 1803-1811.
Robert Weakley was one of the founders of Jefferson and a portrait of him is a part of our cover. Some of Robert Weakley’s descendants still live In the Jefferson area.
Very little remains of this early town of Rutherford County. When Percy Priest Lake was built in 1966, the site was cleared of houses and allowed to return to a forested state. The town Robert Weakley and Thomas Bedford founded and expected to develop into a major town is now part of history.
Kevin Markuson’s work in researching and writing the early development of Jefferson is greatly appreciated. Our thanks also to Susan Daniel and Mary Wilgus for their research and writing articles for this publication.
With our modern world changing so fast before our eyes, it is important to preserve and keep alive the traditions and heritage of our ancestors. It is in this spirit of preservation of our heritage that the researching and writing of this short history has been done. It is also in this spirit that I offer this work to the people of Rutherford County; that they may more fully understand the life and times of the people that settled this land and thereby perpetuate a continuity with their past.
This history of Jefferson does not purport to be a complete, detailed history of the town. As more research is done, I am sure more facts concerning the town and events surrounding it will come to light. I have tried to cover, as thoroughly as possible, the ten years in which the town was formed and grew, up until the courts moved to Murfreesboro in 1813.
I would like to extend my most deep and heart felt gratitude to those persons who were so kind to open their homes, materials and memories to me, while I was researching this history. Ernest K. Johns, Everett Waller, Mr. and Mrs. Lee Victory, Mrs. Becky Spring, Mrs. Peyton Smith, Walter K. Hoover, Hatton Ward and Kathryn Barrett. I would like to extend a special note of gratitude to Dr. Ernest Hooper for all his instruction, guidance and inspiration that he gave me during the researching and writing of this history and to ray wife Cathy for her never failing moral support and interest.
THE FORMATION AND EARLY GROWTH OF THE TOWN OF JEFFERSON
The town of Jefferson was located within the forks of the Stones River. This land was part of an assignee land grant to Robert Weakley and Thomas Bedford from the state of North Carolina. The original grant reads, “by an act of our General Assembly entitled an act for the relief of the officers and soldiers in the Continental line and for and in consideration of the signal bravery and persevering zeal of James Pearl, a captain in the Continental line of said state …. Robert Weakley and Thomas Bedford were the assignees of James Pearl. This land grant is dated December 12, 1801 and was for 3,840 acres, that being the amount of land granted to a captain.
The town of Jefferson was laid out by Weakley and Bedford prior to June 1803, when these lands were still a part of Davidson County. A plat of the town was registered with th£ Davidson County Clerk according to early deeds for town lots. The town was laid out with a public square and 102 town lots.
Weakley and Bedford held the first sale of town lots on June 10 and 13, 1803 as many of the early deeds for town lots, registered with the Rutherford County Register, bear these dates. It is interesting to note that Weakley and Bedford gave town lots to certain individuals at this time. William Nash (a Justice of the Peace) and Joseph Herndon (County Trustee for Davidson County and soon to be County Clerk for Rutherford County) were given lots #20 and #81 respectively ” for and in consideration of the respect and friendship they (Weakley and Bedford) bear …” A total of 40 lots were sold on June 10 and 13, 1803.
Some of the first buyers were John Hill, James Sharpe, Alexander McCulloch and William Nash, soon to be prominent personages in the growing community of Jefferson.
During the summer of 1805, a growing movement for the formation of a separate county in the environs of Stones River was about to reach a climax. Petitions were sent by a number of citizens in Davidson and Williamson Counties requesting that a new county be laid off due to the vast extent of the counties and the hardships to the citizens in attending courts, general musters and elections in the towns of Nashville and Franklin. A petition of August 26, 1803 further requests that the navigation of Stones River be kept open from Cummins Mill (ed. Cummins Mill aka
Abbott’s Mill and Pierce’s/Pearce’s Mill, Walter Hill www.rutherfordtnhistory.org/the-story-of-walter-hill/) to the mouth of the river to carry produce to the market. The petition also requests that Captain Joseph Walton, James Sharpe, Robert Smyth, Captain William Doran, John Andrews, O.M. Benge and James Campbell be appointed commissioners to establish the place of the seat of justice. Petitioners included John Cummins, Travis Nash, Cader and Abner Dement and Samuel Wilson.
It is interesting to note that as early as 1802, settlers living south of the Cumberland settlements were desiring a separate county. This is evidenced by a petition, in the Tennessee State Library and Archives, to the General Assembly from citizens living on or near the Big Harpeth River, dated December 8, 1802. The land included within the bounds proposed by this petition would have included the present eastern portion of Williamson County and the present western portion of Rutherford County.
There were some opposing the creation of a new county in 1803. This is evidenced by a petition to the General Assembly from citizens of Davidson County requesting that a new county not be laid off for reasons of inconvenience if the request for a new county should be granted.
Rutherford County was formed by an act of the General Assembly, October 25, 1803, entitled, “An act to erect the counties of Davidson and Williamson into three separate and distinct counties.” Contained within this act, the courts were to meet on the first Monday in March, June, September and December. The first court was to be held at the home of Thomas Rucker and subsequent courts were to be held at different places until a courthouse was built. It was further declared that Rutherford be a part of Mero District for all military and civil purposes and that the sheriffs of Davidson and Williamson Counties be free to collect taxes that were due the date of the act. On November 7, 1803, the General Assembly passed ” A supplementary act to the act creating Rutherford County. William Nash, on the part of
Rutherford County, and Samuel Weakley, on the part of Davidson County, were appointed commissioners to run the line between Rutherford and Davidson Counties. They were to make out a plat, with the distances to the major water courses, and file this with the clerk of the county. The lines of the county were to be run by the “first of January next.” The several justices that fell into Rutherford County after the lines were run were appointed justices in Rutherford with the same powers as before.
Nashville, August 18, 1802
“During the last two weeks, the Indians have
stolen horses three different times from the
inhabitants on the waters of Stones River. In
the two first instances the horses have been
recovered but not in the last. Such depredations
as these it is not probable, will be submitted
to with impunity. They are supposed to be Creeks
Tennessee Gazette, August 18, 1802
After the sale of lots in June of 1803, there were only a few sales of lots in Jefferson by Weakley and Bedford in August and September. On New Year’s Eve 1803, Weakley and Bedford sold to Joseph Herndon 501 acres, lying on both sides of the West Fork of Stones River, situated not far from the town of Jefferson. This was to become the home of Joseph Herndon as evidenced by later court entries describing roads in the county. That same day, Weakley and Bedford also sold to Joseph Bowman 141 acres lying on the West Fork of Stones River. On this land, Joseph Bowman was authorized by the courts to build a mill in January 1808.
The court, according to the above mentioned act of the General Assembly, met for the first time at the home of Thomas Rucker, near where the Veteran’s Administration stands today. The first mention of holding court in Jefferson was in the adjournment of the first session, when it was recorded that the “court in course be held at the forks of Stones River at the junction of the main West and East forks.” In July, 1804, the county court met at the “courthouse” in Jefferson agreeable to the adjournment of the previous session. Court was also held in Jefferson in October 1804. It must be remembered that Jefferson at this time had not been chosen for the seat of justice for Rutherford County yet. However, Weakley and Bedford, without doubt, must have envisioned Jefferson to be the seat of justice. At this time, Jefferson was the only organized town in the county and its situation between the forks of the river made it a potential center for trade and commerce for the area.
These early references to a courthouse in Jefferson support the tradition that the early courts were held in the Lenoir house. This house stood on the north side of what was the old square. During demolition for the Percy Priest project, a two story log structure was uncovered that was incorporated into the house. Most likely, Weakley and Bedford donated this log building to the county for use as a courthouse in an attempt to have Jefferson selected as the county seat. Later, in 1806, the Commissioners of Jefferson would order the sale of this building when the new courthouse was finished.
On August 3, 1804, the General Assembly passed an act appointing commissioners to fix a place for the seat of justice for Rutherford County. John Hill, Fredrick Barfield, Mark Mitchell, Alexander McKnight and Peter Legrand were appointed commissioners to select a site “having special regard to good water.” It was further enacted that the commissioners acquire 40 acres of land for the erection of the public buildings, lay off a town to be named by them and sell lots at a public sale. A tax was also authorized to defray the expenses of a new courthouse that was to be built. With an organized town, containing several good springs and access byroad
or watercourse, established and growing within the forks of Stones River, Jefferson was a logical choice for the seat of justice. Unfortunately, no records are available today of the proceedings of the commissioners that would reveal to us any alternative sites they may have considered.
There was very little real estate activity in Jefferson during the year 1804, with just a few lots being transferred by the original buyers. Weakley and Bedford did not sell any lots in Jefferson, in 1804, according to present deed book records.
Although the county court had temporary facilities, in the log “courthouse”, apparently there were no facilities to hold prisoners. During the July session, of 1804, the sheriff, Samuel McBride, entered a protest to the court that there was no jail within the county to hold prisoners.
In the October session of court, Peter Legrand, John Hill, Mark Mitchell, Alexander McKnight and Fredrick Barfield came into Jefferson and gave bond and security for the office of commissioners to fix a place for the seat of justice. For some unknown reason, James Sharpe, the other Commissioner named in the act of the General Assembly did not give bond until January 10, 1805. On this same day, Alexander McKnight and Fredrick Barfield filed their resignations as commissioners with the County Clerk’s office. As the records of the proceedings of the commissioners are not known to be in existence today, the question of why they resigned is open to conjecture. It may have resulted from some dissension within the commission, or an inconvenience of the duties of the appointment to the above commissioners.
The court moved from Jefferson after the October session of 1804 and convened at Simon Miller’s house on the first Monday in January, 1805. The court met for the ensuing sessions, through January 1806, at the home of Nimrod Menifee, except for the July session which did go back to the log courthouse in Jefferson. Within the act creating Rutherford County, it was stipulated that the courts were to move from place to place until the seat of justice was chosen.
Ephram Waller’s house was located on the South side of the square. The main section of the house is said to have been constructed of logs, beneath the weatherboarding. This could have been one of the buildings built during the early years of the town.
The Bone house was built across the main street from the Lenoir house. This house is also said to have been built with logs and appears to be a double pen type.
ROBERT WEAKLEY SURVEYOR, LAND SPECULATOR AND POLITICIAN
Robert Weakley was born July 2, 1764 in Halifax County, Virginia. In 1781, at the age of 16, he was in the Continental Army and fought in the battles of Alamance and Guilford Courthouse.
On April 18, 1782, it is said that young Robert Weakley left his home in Halifax County with a horse, bridle and saddle and $1.75 and went to Rowan County, North Carolina to study surveying with General Griffith Rutherford for whom Rutherford County was named. During the winter of 1783-84 he came to the Cumberland settlements by way of the Cumberland Gap and the old wilderness road through Kentucky. He then set up residence on Whites Creek in Davidson County until moving to his estate in Nashville, “Lockland”, in 1800.
Robert Weakley married the daughter of General Mathew Locke, Jane Locke, of Saulsbury, North Carolina, in 1791. They had four children, Mary, Narcissa, Robert Locke and Jane Baird. His brother, Samuel Weakley, also lived in the Nashville area and worked with him as a chain carrier during early surveying work.
Robert Weakley’s fortune was made in land speculations and land surveying. He surveyed many of the early military land warrants throughout Middle Tennessee. He did much of the early survey work around the Duck and Elk rivers and in later years surveyed in the West Tennessee area. Robert Weakley accumulated massive land holdings through his surveying work and land grants.
Only assignee or purchase grants were ever issued to Robert Weakley. An assignee grant was issued if one purchased the right to the land from one who is entitled to it, but may not want the land (as in the case of the land grant #3390 to Weakley and Bedford – they bought the right for the land grant from James Pearl). Purchase grants were issued for so much per acre or 100 acres.
Robert Weakley owned 8,000 acres on the waters of Half Pone Creek and Sycamore Creek. He also owned land on the Cumberland, Red, Harpeth, Stones, Elk and Duck rivers and on Whites, McAdoo and Richland creeks.
Some of his surveying work in West Tennessee was in Obion, Tipton, Haywood and Shelby counties. From his earliest times in the Cumberland settlements, Robert Weakley stood out as a leader among his fellow settlers.
In the Draper Papers (Draper MSS 32-5-353), there is an account of Robert Weakley’s role in averting an abandonment of the Cumberland settlements in 1786. According to the Draper Papers, the settlers on the south side of the Cumberland had become very discouraged due to the continued depredations committed by the Indians during the winter of 1785-6. Hearing of the discouragement and the talk of abandoning the settlement, young Robert Weakley drew up a paper, for himself and other friends to sign, pledging themselves to “remain and protect the country”.
During the early spring of 1786, the settlers held a meeting at Robertson’s Station to decide their fate. According to the Draper Papers, several settlers spoke, “representing that from the depredations of the winter, and the loss of friends, that they had nothing to hope from raising a crop this coming season, and it was proposed that such as had horses to pack them and go to Illinois and such as had none to prepare large piroques and go by water.” Weakley asked Robertson permission to speak. “Weakley represented that although he was a young man, he felt a deep interest in the permanent occupation of the country; that if the people on the south side of the Cumberland broke up and abandoned the country, those on the north would certainly follow their example; that he and they had toiled and risked their lives for successive years in acquiring lands and now to abandon them, it would be extremely uncertain when they be resettled and hence after all their toils and sufferings they could little hope ever to realize anything for them. He then read the paper containing the proposition of himself and other young men and he pledged himself that they should remain as promised. Robertson arose with a cheerful and inspiring countenance and simply said, “Did you hear this? – Let’s all agree to stay.” “Agreed” was the unanimous response and it was everyone to his tent, oh Israel! Robertson’s station, which had become dilapidated was now repaired, the same of other stations, and the young men guarding, a good crop was raised in the country.”
Robert Weakley continued to be a leader in the area and became very involved in politics throughout his life. In July of 1788, he represented Davidson County on the commission to decide on the seat of government for North Carolina and that November, he was elected an Esquire for the county. Robert Weakley was a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1796 and of the Senate in 1799, 1803, 1807 and 1819. He was also a member of the U.S. House of Representatives at Washington, May 1809 – March 1811.
Robert Weakley also had an active role in the militia of the Cumberland settlements during his younger years. In 1791, he was the Brigade Inspector of the militia of Mero District, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1798, he was a Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of the Davidson County Militia.
THOMAS BEDFORD, A DREAM NEVER REALIZED
Thomas Bedford was “born sometime between 1754 and 1758, in Cumberland County, Virginia. At an early age, he moved with his family to Drakes Branch in Charlotte County, Virginia to live on lands inherited by his father, Thomas Bedford Sr. The Bedfords of Charlotte County, were one of the most wealthy and prominent families of that county with extensive land holdings in that part of the country.
Thomas Bedford took an active role in the Revolutionary War. He enlisted on February 5, 1776 as a private in John Brent’s Company, 4th Virginia Regiment. Records of Henry County, Virginia indicate that near the end of the war he was made a Lieutenant by the justices of that county. These records also indicate that he served in the last military campaign against Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown.
According to a family tradition, he personally outfitted a volunteer company and led them during a part of the conflict. Another tradition, concerning Thomas’ military career, holds that he refused a promotion in the army because he had promised the mothers of the young men, serving with him, that he would stay with them during the fighting and see them safely home when the war was over.
After the Revolution, Thomas Bedford represented Charlotte County in the Virginia Assembly. After a brief political career, he moved to the new settlements at Nashville, where he had accumulated extensive real estate holdings in the area (presumably for his military services in the Revolutionary War). He also owned more than 5,000 acres in Christian and Harrison Counties, Kentucky, receiving them as land grants for his military service.
Thomas Bedford was associated with a man named Maury, in Nashville, concerning some land holdings. Bedford left Nashville to return to Virginia to close his affairs there and left his lands for Maury to sell. When he returned to the Cumberland, he discovered that Maury had sold all of his real estate holdings in that area. Maury tried to persuade Thomas Bedford to join him in a new settlement to the soul of Nashville, but he refused. Instead, he joined in a partnership with Robert Weakley and undertook the joint founding of the town of Jefferson. He left the Nashville area and took up residence on the West Fork of Stones River. The partnership of Weakley and Bedford was formed sometime before 1801, as this is the date of the land grant that was issued to Weakley and Bedford. This land grant was the only holding of the partnership.
The earliest mention of Thomas Bedford in the Davidson County records is an entry in the County Court Minute Book 1783 – 1809, page 325, dated July 13, 1802. In this entry, a road is ordered to be laid off from Thomas Bedford’s home to Nashville one way, and Cripple Creek the other way.
Thomas Bedford was not able to see his dream of a town within the forks of Stones River come to a full fruition, for he died suddenly sometime in the summer or early fall of 1804, before Jefferson had officially been selected as the county seat of justice. On October 2, 1804, Ann Bedford, his widow, came into the Rutherford County court and relinquished her right of administration and nominated her eldest OR son, John R. Bedford, to administer the estate. In addition to being appointed administrator of the estate, John R. Bedford was also appointed, , by the court, guardian for his minor brothers and sister; Thomas, William, George, Nancy, Benjamin and Littleberry.
Thomas Bedford left no will and his estate and financial matters were in such shape that nearly all his holdings were lost through outstanding debts and law suits against his estate. The remaining portion of unsold land that was held by Weakley and Bedford was divided equally between Robert Weakley and the heirs of Thomas Bedford by a commission appointed by the County Court of Rutherford.
In 1807, when a new county was organized out of Rutherford, on the south side in the area of the Duck River, General Joseph Dixon proposed that the new county be named in honor of Thomas Bedford. Accordingly, the legislature followed this proposition.
JEFFERSON THE COUNTY SEAT OF JUSTICE
The commission must have selected Jefferson as the site for the county seat by April of 1805, for it was on April 4th that they levied a tax for the purpose of erecting the public buildings in the county as provided for in the act of the General Assembly. Although it appears that the town of Jefferson was chosen as the seat of justice in 1805, Robert Weakley did not deed the land to the commissioners of Jefferson until February 16, 1806. He deeded 40 acres of land on the south and east sides of the town, “for and in consideration of the regard he bears toward the said county of Rutherford.” This particular tract of land was one of the divisions of the unsold portion of the 3,840 acres that was owned by Weakley and Bedford, and was alloted to Robert Weakley after the death of Thomas Bedford. Referring to the Weakley map of Jefferson, Weakley donated the land contained in lots #103 through #162 which the commissioners had surveyed and laid off to be sold to help defray the cost of the new courthouse.
During the year 1805, the town of Jefferson must have been bustling with activity. Presumably, the new courthouse was being constructed on the square and wharves and warehouses were being erected by the river to handle the trade that was increasing with the growing population of the county. Most likely, other structures were also being built in Jefferson to accommodate the business needs of the community and surrounding area.
“Beginning at the Northeast corner of the said town of Jefferson a little above the head of a spring on the East Fork of Stones River on the North side of the main street of the public square running thence North thirty three degrees East one chain sixty five links to a stone in the bank of said East Fork of Stones River, thence up the East Fork with it’s meanders to a
and large ash in the original East boundary of a tract of three thousand eight hundred and forty acres belonging to Robert Weakley and Thomas Bedford dec’d. Thence with said boundary line South fifteen chains and eighty links to a red oak, thence West thirty seven chains to the West Fork of Stones River, thence down the said West Fork with it’s meanders to a stone due South of the now South West corner of said old town of Jefferson. Thence North to said corner six chains, thence East with the South boundary of said old town to the main South street of the same, thence up the West boundary of said street to the public square, thence around said square so as to include the whole to the Eastern boundary of the aforesaid street, thence down the same South to the aforesaid South boundary of said town, thence North with the East boundary of said town to the beginning….”
From the Seed, Robert Weakley to the Commissioners of Jefferson, Rutherford County Register, Deed Book E, p. 400
Norton Gum was appointed the overseer of the streets and public square in Jefferson, on July 2, 1805, with all the hands within the bounds of the town to work under him. He had also been licensed to keep an ordinary at his dwelling house, in the town of Jefferson. The Norton Gum ordinary was the first to be licensed in the town of Jefferson. Tradition holds that Mark Mitchell had the first ordinary within the town, but no evidence could be uncovered to support this.
During 1805, Wm. P. Anderson petitioned the court to build a mill, on the East Pork of Stones River, about 600 yards from the town of Jefferson. This site now is the picnic area of the East Fork access area. There was indeed a mill built here which in later years was known as the Ridley or Davis mill. A small portion of the mill dam can still be seen today.
It appears that the commissioners had a sale of town lots in Jefferson on December 26, 1805, as a number of deeds registered in Rutherford County for town lots bear this date. A total of 11 lots were sold that day. Robert Weakley, Samuel Bell and John Bell were among the purchasers 35 of lots.
The first election held in Rutherford County, with Jefferson as its political center, was held in 1805. On July 2, 1805, the court appointed James Sharpe, Samuel Wilson, Hugh Robinson, Constant Hardeman, Alexander McCulloch and Joseph Herndon as inspectors and judges of the next election. Jefferson was undoubtedly the polling place for the county.
By order of the commissioners to fix a place for the seat of justice, Wm. Quisenbury, a surveyor, determined the center of the county sometime in 1805. The county seat was usually centered so as not to put any part of the citizens at a disadvantage in attending courts, elections and general musters. On January 7, 1806 while court was being held at the Menifee house, Wm. Quisenbury was allowed eight dollars for his services.
In April of 1806, the court moved back to Jefferson, presumably to the newly constructed courthouse on the square. In Goodspeed History of Rutherford County , the courthouse is said to have been constructed of brick and measured roughly 40 feet by 40 feet. The cost is said to have been between two and three thousand dollars. A copy of the Weakley map of Jefferson, at the Sam Davis Home in Smyrna, describes the courthouse as built with brick and stone.
The town as well as the county was growing rapidly in these first years. On April 9, 1806, Thomas Mitchell , obtained a license to keep an ordinary at his dwelling house. The Mitchell ordinary was the second ordinary to be licensed for the town of Jefferson, the Norton Gum ordinary being the first. According to an article in the Nashville Tennessean, dated March 26, 1950, John Nash Read came into Jefferson and established another tavern on the square sometime in 1806. The Read tavern was said to have had stables across the east main street, which in later years was turned into a blacksmith’s shop after the tavern closed down.
The rates for ordinaries were set by the court in 1804 and were as follows:
– dinner 25 cents
– breakfast and supper 20 cents
– lodging 8 ”/3 cents
– corn or oats per gallon 8 1/3 cents
– stabling a horse for 24 hours with corn, fodder or oats 33 1/3 cents
– “good wiskey” 1/2 pint 12 1/2 cents
– peach brandy 12 1/2 cents
– French brandy, rum or wine 50 cents
As the town was growing and prospering, there was also an increase in violence and disturbances of the peace. There were three taverns in Jefferson at this time, and after a journey up the river from Nashville, they surely must have been a welcome sight to a thirsty riverman. No doubt, on different occasions, overindulgence of the spirits may have caused some brawls and other disturbances in the town of Jefferson. Throughout the county court minutes for 1806, there are numerous cases of assault and battery and trespassing. John Spence and William Gilliam were appointee the first patrollers for the town of Jefferson on April 17, 1806. Patrollers were also appointed for McCoy’s militia co., Capt. Wm. Searcy’s militia co. and Capt. Nimrod Jenkin’s militia co. out in the surrounding county.
In July of 1806, the county clerk, Joseph Herndon, and the sheriff of the county were provided space in the new courthouse. The court ordered that Joseph Herndon “have leave to appropriate the corner of the courthouse upon the upper floor at the head of the of the staircase for the purpose of an office so as not to interfere with a sufficient passage at the head of the staircase.” The court also ordered that ” the sheriff of this county have leave to make for his own use a closet under the staircase in the courthouse, in such a manner as he may think proper, not injuring said staircase.”
As the new courthouse must have been completed by now, with the county offices taking residence within, the court ordered the commissioners of the public buildings to put up for public sale the old courthouse in the town of Jefferson. Unfortunately, several deed books for the county are lost and it is impossible to trace this further. If a deed were to be located between John P. Lenoir and the commissioners, this would confirm the tradition that the first courts were held in the Lenoir house.
A jail for the county had been constructed of logs and was probably located on the north west corner of the square. Mr. Lee Victory, former owner of the Lenoir house prior to the Percy Priest Project, claims that the logs of his smokehouse were the logs used in the first jail for the county. He moved the structure from Jefferson to his present home, in Smyrna, during the dismantling of the town for the Percy Priest Project.”
In April of 1807, James Lewis deeded to the commissioners of Jefferson one half of lot #101 “for the benefit of the citizens and the public buildings use.’ He was paid 54 dollars for the half lot. It remains a mystery what the commissioners did with their half of lot #101. In referring to the Weakley map of Jefferson, Lot #101 was one lot away from the square on the northwest side. This would have been a logical choice for a public building, being in close proximity to the courthouse, but no records can be found today to pursue this further.
By the latter part of 1807, the commissioners’ tasks were completed and they were made allowances for their services and expenditures in fixing a place for the public buildings for the county. The court ordered James Sharpe 16 dollars, Constant Hardeman 8 dollars, John Hill 50 dollars, Mark Mitchell 50 dollars and Peter Legrand 75 dollars on October 5, 1807. Fredrick Barfield, one of the commissioners who resigned, was allowed 10 dollars for his services. Alexander McKnight, the other commissioner who resigned, was not appropriated any compensation for his services until the January session of 1808, when he was allowed 20 dollars.
In addition to the courthouse, jail and stocks, wharves, warehouses, taverns and houses in Jefferson, there was also a blacksmith’s shop in October 1807. On October 6, 1807, the court ordered certain individuals to lay out a road, “beginning at the mouth of the main street near the blacksmith’s shop” leading from Jefferson to Lebanon.” According to the map of Jefferson, this would have put the blacksmith’s shop down the hill from the courthouse near the riverfront.
There also may have been a government land office in Jefferson for a short time in 1806-7. In a move to settle the continued land disputes between Tennessee and North Carolina, the General Assembly of Tennessee, in 1806, passed an act entitled, “An act directing the division of the state into convenient districts, for the appointment of the principal surveyors thereof, and for ascertaining the bona fide claims against the same.” In section eight of this act, the locations for the district offices are as follows: the first district office at Nashville, the second district office at Jefferson, the third district office at Alexander’s, the fourth district office at Kingston, the fifth district office at Knoxville, the sixth district office at Jonesborough and the office for the territory south of the French Broad and Holston rivers at Sevierville. Rutherford County was within the bounds of the first district according to the boundary descriptions in the above act and an early surveyors map in the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The office for the second district may have been located at Jefferson because it was the closest organized town to the district ( the southern boundary between the first and second districts was roughly the. boundary between Rutherford and Bedford counties). When Bedford County was organized, in 1807, the land office may have been moved there, to Shelbyville, where it would have been in the same district that it was authorized for.
On November 7, 1807, the General Assembly passed an act entitled, “An act for the regulation of the town of Jefferson in Rutherford County.” According to this act, the sheriff was to hold an election at the courthouse in Jefferson in April of 1808 to elect five persons to act as commissioners of the town. Only those who were either inhabitants of the town or owned property in the town were allowed to participate as candidates or voters. The commissioners were empowered to regulate the town including calling on inhabitants who were; liable to work the roads, appointing an overseer of the streets, “prevent encroachments on the streets or burials on the public square” and appointing a surveyor to re survey the town, agreeable to the original plan, and designating the lots by stone cornerstones at each lot. They were also authorized to lay an annual tax on the town as follows:
Not exceeding $100 worth town property… 2 1/2 cents
White poll 12 1/2 cents
Each black poll 25 cents
Each stud horse 75 cents
The appraisement and collection of this tax was subject to all the rules and regulations of the state tax. Section VIII of this act stipulated that the monies collected through this tax were to be appropriated only for the benefit or improvement of the town and that the commissioners were not to receive any compensation for their services.
The town must have grown considerably by this time to require a town commission and a town tax for its proper upkeep. As the population of the county increased, the business and traffic in and through Jefferson must have increased proportionately. There was the river traffic, bringing goods up river from Nashville for sale or trade in and around Jefferson and when the court was in session, the town must have been busy with the Justices, witnesses, petitioners and jury members that came in for the court. In many of the early court cases, witnesses were allowed so much money for so many days attendance. This must have been to help defray the expense
of coming to Jefferson, possibly staying a night or two at one of the ordinaries. For many, it was a long trip into Jefferson on horseback or in a wagon.
The population of the county had grown, by the end of 1807, to the extent that the General Assembly authorized another place, in addition to Jefferson, for the next election to be held. This act specified that all persons living in the 2nd Battalion of the militia and those living east of the road from Cummins mill (ed. present day Walter Hill, located on the East Fork of Stones River) to William Kelton’s were to vote at the house of William Kelton. William Kelton lived at the Black Fox settlement. The sheriff was to carry the polls to the courthouse in Jefferson, to be added and included in the total poll of the county. It was also stipulated that “any person who votes at both places of the holding of the election, shall pay to any person who may sue for the same.”
The pattern of migration, into Rutherford County by these early settlers, was from the north by way of Jefferson and that vicinity. As settlers pushed further south and east in the county, they were at an increasing distance from Jefferson and consequently under more of a hardship to attend courts and elections there. As we shall see, in just a few short years, this will be a key factor in the seat of justice being removed from Jefferson.
In January of 1808, an order by the county court extended the area for which the overseer of the streets was responsible for in Jefferson, to the east bank of the West Fork at the low water mark. Norton Gum was still the overseer of the streets in Jefferson at this time. Apparently, the area mentioned must have come into disrepair, possibly from the traffic connected with the river trade. The log jail must have also fallen into a state of disrepair, about this time, for John Griffin was allowed 6 dollars and 16 3/4 cents for repairing the jail.
Again in 1809, a separate election was held at the Black Fox settlement in addition to the polling place at Jefferson. The inspectors and judges of this election for Governor and members of the legislature were Charles Ready, William Lofton, Robert Smith, Sr. and Ezeckial McCoy. They were to oversee the election at the Black Fox settlement as they were all inhabitants of the southern and eastern portions of the county. With polling places
elsewhere in the county, Jefferson was rapidly losing its importance
as the legal and judicial center for the county.
On April 7, 1809, Joel Dyer, a resident of Jefferson, was appointed overseer of the western boundary of the town to the low water mark on the West Fork with all the liable hands within the town to work under him. Later, in 1811, Joel Dyer was licensed to keep an ordinary at his house in Jefferson. According to Goodspeed History of Rutherford County, Joel Dyer moved his business to Murfreesboro in 1812.
The census for 1810 shows the total number of inhabitants in Jefferson to be 107, including heads of households, spouses, children and slaves. Joel Dyer had the largest household within the town with 11 males, 7 females and 9 slaves. As he was operating an ordinary at this time, it is possible that some of the males and females counted were boarders. He and George Simpson were the largest slaveholders in Jefferson, each having 9 slaves. The heads of households in the town of Jefferson were as follows: Joel Dyer,
James L. Armstrong, George Shall, Thomas Mitchell, Clement Read, George Simpson, George R. Nash, Thomas Johnson, James Sharpe, Neil B. Rose, WilliajTi D. Hill and Clarissa Boushane.
Again the jail had fallen into disrepair as John Griffin was allowed $3.45 for fixing the jail. On the previous day he, as sheriff of the county, protested about the “insufficiency of the jail” in Jefferson. During the same session of court, on January 2, 1810, Joseph Herndon resigned his position as the County Clerk, having served 6 years in that position.”
In January of 1811 new rates for taverns in Jefferson and those out in the county were established by the court. They were as follows:
– Breakfast and Supper 16 3/4 cents
– Dinner 25 cents
– Pint whiskey, peach brandy or gin 12 1/2 cents
– Each 24 hrs. horse kept in stables 57 1/2 cents
– Each person a bed 6 1/4 cents
– 1/2 pint rum, wine or French brandy 25 cents