Murfreesboro Mayors: 26-30

February 1, 2019, A Series by Barry Lamb

Palmer, Joseph Benjamin was born on November 1, 1825 in Rutherford County to William H. and Mildred Johns Palmer. The mother died when Palmer was a child and he was raised by his maternal grandparents, Joseph B. and Elizabeth Vaughan Johns, who came to Tennessee from Halifax County, Virginia in 1801. He attended Murfreesboro’s Union University and then read law under Hardy Murfree Burton before being admitted to the Rutherford County Bar in 1848. He served in the lower house of the Tennessee State Legislature from 1849-1853 and as mayor of Murfreesboro from 1856-1859. He married Ophelia Burrus, daughter of Lafayette and Eliza Ready Burrus, on February 14, 1854 in Murfreesboro, and to that union one son was born, future Murfreesboro Mayor Horace Edward Palmer. When the Civil War commenced, Palmer organized an infantry company which later became Company C, 18th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, CSA, and was elected its captain. He was elected colonel of the 18th Tennessee Infantry Regiment when it was mustered into Confederate service in August 1861 and served in that capacity until November 15, 1864, when he was promoted to brigadier general. He had led the brigade that his regiment was in while still a colonel. He was wounded in the Battles of Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, and Bentonville and was in command of all of the Tennessee troops at the surrender of the Army of Tennessee in North Carolina in April 1865. Our subject resumed his law practice in Murfreesboro after the war. His first wife had died in 1856 and he was married a second time on June 10, 1869 to Mrs. Margaret Ballentine Mason, widow of William Taylor Mason of Pulaski, Tennessee. That marriage was without issue. His former residence on East Main Street in Murfreesboro is still a landmark today and is one of the most handsome homes on that thoroughfare. Mayor Palmer died there on November 4, 1890 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Burton, John Williams was born on April 18, 1825 in Murfreesboro to Frank Nash Williams Burton and his wife, Lavinia Murfree Burton of the Uxor Hill plantation of Murfreesboro. His paternal grandparents were Robert and Agatha Williams Burton of Granville County, North Carolina. His maternal grandparents were Revolutionary War Colonel Hardy Murfree and his wife, Sallie Brickell Murfree, who came to Williamson County, Tennessee from Hertford County, North Carolina in 1807. He was married to Mary Agnes Frierson, daughter of Edmund and Ann Frierson of Shelbyville, Tennessee, on November 24, 1852 in Shelbyville. The following children were born to them: Lavinia, Mayor Ervin F. Burton, and Ann H. Burton Bonner. Mr. Burton was an attorney in Murfreesboro before the war and served as mayor of the town from 1860-1861. When the Civil War commenced, he enlisted in Company D, 11th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, CSA, and served as a private. Mayor Burton resumed his legal career in Murfreesboro after the war and represented Rutherford County in the Tennessee Constitutional Convention of 1870. He died on November 16, 1883 in Murfreesboro and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Miller, Alfred was born on November 24, 1796 at Guilford Court House, North Carolina to David and Hannah Wright Miller. His maternal grandparents were Isaac and Rebecca Thompson Wright, who came to Rutherford County from Guilford County, North Carolina before 1803. Our subject came to Rutherford County in 1811 with his mother and step father, Abram Statler, his father having died when he was very young. He learned the hat making trade from his step father and plied that trade in Murfreesboro for many years. On August 12, 1839, he took Narcissa Caroline Bradford as his bride, she being a daughter of Ira and Elizabeth Sampson Bradford of Sumner County, Tennessee. Being a conspicuous figure for four decades on the board of aldermen, he served in that office from 1835-1842, 1844, 1848, 1853, and from 1857-1862. When Mayor Burton resigned to enlist in the Confederate army, Mr. Miller was elected mayor to complete the unexpired term of Mayor Burton for the remainder of that year. He and his wife were the parents of eleven children: Laura Miller Betty, Charles, Stephen H., Elizabeth Miller Jones, Mary Eliza, Alfred, Ira D., William, Narcissa Car-oline, and Isaac A. Miller. Mayor Miller died on June 24, 1867 and is buried on the grounds of his now extinct antebellum home, “Haven of Rest”, just south of Murfreesboro.

Dromgoole, John Easter was born on December 28, 1805 in Brunswick County, Virginia, to Thomas Coke and Mary Hall Dromgoole. He first came to Murfreesboro in 1826, staying there briefly before returning home. He married Lucy Blanch, daughter of Colonel Ezekiel Alfred and Mildred Cook Blanch of Brunswick County, on December 12, 1828 before coming back to Murfreesboro permanently in 1831. His wife died in 1836 and he took her sister, Rebecca Mildred Blanch, as his second wife on August 12, 1839. He and his first wife were the parents of John E., George C., and Susan Frances Dromgoole Mooney. The children by his second wife were Helen E. Dromgoole Evans, Maria Louise Dromgoole Beard, Sally L., Lauretta, Will Allen, and Isabella Dromgoole Kendall. He and his wives were members of the Murfreesboro Methodist Church. The subject of this sketch owned a successful farm near Barfield during the 1840s and 1850s before moving to Murfreesboro, where he worked as a bookkeeper. He was elected mayor of Murfreesboro in 1862, having previously served the town as alderman and treasurer in 1860 and 1861. Union troops took over the town in March 1862, overseeing the affairs of the town. Union authorities forced Dromgoole out and installed James Monroe Tompkins as mayor in May of that year. Mayor Dromgoole would never serve the town in public office again but did represent Rutherford County at the Tennessee Constitutional Convention in 1870. During his later years, he spent much of his time in Dresden, Tennessee living with his daughter, Susan Mooney. He died at Mayfield, Kentucky on November 21, 1897 and is buried in Sunset Cemetery in Dresden, Tennessee.

Tompkins, James Monroe was born on October 13, 1807 in Fluvanna County, Virginia to William and Sarah Shores Tompkins of that county. On October 25, 1827 he was married to Kitty Gaines Rucker, daughter of Robert and Sallie Gaines Rucker of Orange County, Virginia. He moved his family to Rutherford County from Albemarle County, Virginia in September 1831 and settled there about four miles northwest of Murfreesbo-ro. Probably the most versatile public servant in Murfreesboro-Rutherford County history, he served as county surveyor from 1837-1841, sheriff from 1846-1852, and chancery court clerk and master from 1864-1870. He also represented Rutherford County in the Tennessee State House of Representatives from 1855-1856. In December 1859, he sold his farm, “Cherry Flat”, and moved to Murfreesboro. He and his wife became members of the Murfreesboro Methodist Episcopal Church and were the parents of seven children: Sarah M. Tompkins Singleton, Benjamin C., William R., Robert T., James E., George T., and Albert G. Tompkins. Becoming involved in Murfreesboro public service, he was elected alderman in 1862, serving in that capacity until he was installed as mayor of the town by Union authorities in May of that year. The length of service as mayor is unknown. Mayor Tompkins died in Murfreesboro on June 3, 1870 while in office as chancery court clerk and master. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

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