Murfreesboro Mayors

May 8, 2020, A Series by Barry Lamb

Murfree, Dr. James Brickell was born in Murfreesboro on September 16, 1835. He graduated from Union University in 1854 and was soon after engaged in mercantile pursuits in Murfreesboro. He left Murfreesboro for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1857 to attend Jefferson Medical College and received his medical degree there in 1859. He then returned to Murfreesboro to begin his medical practice. When the Civil War commenced, he enlisted in the Rutherford Rifles as an original member on April 23, 1861 as a private. In June of that year, he was ordered to Knoxville, Tennessee and was assigned the duty of assistant surgeon there and received his commission as assistant surgeon on September 11, 1861. On January 14, 1862, while on furlough from the army, he married Ada Juliet Talley, daughter of Peter Coleman Talley and his wife, Jane Ready Donoho Talley, of Readyville. Murfree was appointed surgeon on December 1, 1862 to rank from August 20, 1862, and continued in that capacity until the war’s end. In the fall of 1864, he was on surgical duty in Virginia and by March 1865 was stationed at Hood Hospital in Bristol, Tennessee. After the war, Dr. Murfree returned home to resume his medical practice and continued in that profession until his death in 1912. He was one of the most loved and respected physicians in Murfreesboro at that time. He was also active as a public official for a time, serving as city alderman in 1873 and as mayor of Murfreesboro from 1874-1875. He and his wife were the parents of: Hardy, Talley, Jane R. Murfree Nance, Ada J. Murfree Huggins, Dr. James B., Fannie D. Murfree Ordway, Libbie M., Mary R., and Councilman Dr. Matthias B. Murfree. Mayor Murfree died in Murfreesboro on April 24, 1912 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Kerr, William Henry Harrison was born in 1840 in the Fox Camp (18th) district of Rutherford County to Wilson Hugh Kerr and Mary Ann Edwards Kerr. His paternal grandparents were Wilson and Rachel Wilson Kerr, who settled near Old Jefferson before 1810. He worked as a store clerk in Murfreesboro before the war. Being involved in the Confederate cause, he enlisted in Company F, 4th (Starnes’) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, CSA on October 10, 1862 in Murfreesboro as a private. He fought in the Battles of Parker’s Crossroads and Franklin, but by May 1863, he had been discharged due to an illness. Our subject married Alice Elizabeth Jenkins, daughter of Hiram Jenkins Jr. and Nancy Puckett Jenkins, in 1866. One son, Harry J. Kerr, was born to that union. Mr. Kerr worked as a farmer in the 9th dist of Rutherford County after the war. His wife died in 1871 and he moved to Murfreesboro and opened a grocery and liquor business on the town square. He served as city alderman from 1874-1875 and was elected mayor of Murfreesboro in 1876. His second marriage was to Elizabeth Jordan Wilson, daughter of Dr. Thomas Jordan Wilson and Sarah Boyd Wilson of the Allisona community of Williamson County on May 14, 1884 at Allisona. There were five children born to this marriage: Harry W., Nevins, Elizabeth, Katherine Kerr Riggs, and Boyd W. Kerr. Mayor Kerr died at his home at 406 North Academy Street in Murfreesboro on January 18, 1906. His final resting place is unknown, but he was likely laid to rest in Evergreen Cemetery, where his second wife lies in repose.

Clayton, Dr. Henry H. was born on December 27, 1826 in the Flemings (21st) district of Rutherford County to Benjamin and Lockey Quarles Clayton, who came to Rutherford County from Kentucky around 1815. His maternal grandparents were Roger and Mary Johns Trigg Quarles, early settlers of Wilson County. Our subject graduated from the University of Tennessee Medical School in 1849 and set up a medical practice in Murfreesboro before the war. He married Maria Louise Helm, daughter of Judge John B. Helm and Jane Maria Pope Helm of Kentucky, in June 1849. Their marriage produced five children: John B., Jennie M., Mary, Henry H., and William L. Clayton. Joining the Confederate cause in September 1861, he was elected captain of Company I, 45th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, CSA, and served in that capacity until June 4, 1862 when he was commissioned surgeon of the 45th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. He worked as a surgeon in the field and in hospitals until the end of the war. He continued his medical practice in Murfreesboro following the war. Dr. Henry Clayton’s wife died in 1873 and his second marriage was to Mrs. Harriet Holt Keeble, widow of Colonel Richard H. Keeble of the 23rd Tennessee Infantry Regiment, CSA, on June 24, 1874 in Rutherford County. This marriage was without issue. Dr. Clayton was elected mayor of Murfreesboro in 1877, serving one year as mayor of the town. He had never served in public office before that time. Mayor Clayton died on August 11, 1888 in Murfreesboro and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Collier, Newton Cannon was born near the Murfreesboro battlefield in 1831. He was an older brother of Ingram Blanks Collier III, and since his ancestry was given in the sketch of his brother, it will not be repeated here. Our subject married Joanna Rowe of Madison County, Alabama on June 11, 1857 in Madison Co. The marriage was without issue. He owned and operated a grocery business with his brother, Jesse A. Collier in Murfreesboro before the war. He enlisted in the Confederate army on October 10, 1862 in Murfreesboro as a private in Company F, 4th (Starnes’) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, CSA. He was described as being 5 feet, 11 inches in height, with brown hair, blue eyes, and a fair complexion. He served with the company until after the Battle of Nashville and surrendered to Union au-thorities in Nashville on February 24, 1865, took the oath of allegiance to the Union three days later and was released. He served in the commissary department for a period of time while serving in the army. Collier resumed his occupation as a merchant in Murfreesboro after the war and was in business there for many years. He was elected mayor of Murfreesboro in 1878 and served until the end of 1879. Mayor Collier died in Murfreesboro on February 5, 1915 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery

Clayton, James H. was born on March 7, 1833 in the Flemings (21st) district of Rutherford County. His ancestry was given in the sketch of his brother, Dr. Henry H. Clayton, and will not appear here. Our subject moved to Murfreesboro in 1852 and became a clerk in a local store and later became a partner with Rufus Jetton in a hat and shoe business before the war. Joining the Confederate war effort, he enlisted in 1st Company F, 23rd Tennessee Infantry Regiment, CSA, on October 1, 1861 at Bowling Green, Kentucky as a private. He was soon after appointed assistant quartermaster sergeant, later attaining the rank of captain then major in the quartermaster dept of the army. He was with the army until the surrender in 1865. He married Hadassah Cowan on October 29, 1868 in Bedford County, Tennessee. They were the parents of eight children: Emma, James H. Jr., Margaret Clayton Luck, John, Robert, Virginia, George, and Elizabeth Clayton. He became partners with Asbury M. Overall in a grocery and dry goods business on the Murfreesboro square during the 1870s. He served as mayor of Murfreesboro from 1880-1881 and as alderman from 1888-1891. Mayor Clayton died on January 3, 1913 in Murfreesboro and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Burton, Ervin F. was born on June 21, 1855 in Murfreesboro to former mayor John Williams Burton and his wife, Mary Agnes Frierson Burton. He followed the footsteps of his father and became a Murfreesboro attorney. He was elected mayor of Murfreesboro in 1882 and served two terms, serving from 1882-1883. On January 26, 1886, our subject took to wed his first cousin, Bettie Vick Selph, daughter of Professor Duncan H. and Lavinia Burton Selph. To this union were born Lilly, Mary Burton Havens, John, Sallie Burton McClellan, George, Lavinia M. Burton Winter, and Jackson N. Burton. Mayor Burton moved his family to Oklahoma around 1893. He died on July 10, 1906 and is buried in Highland Cemetery in Lawton, Oklahoma.

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