The First Five Mayors of Murfreesboro

March 1, 2019, A Series by Barry Lamb

Haskell, Joshua was born, according to an unverified source on April 9, 1786 in Providence, Rhode Island. He came to Davidson County, Tennessee before 1811 as he appears on a tax list there during that year. It is believed that he came to Rutherford County by 1816, as he was married to Nancy Ready, daughter of Charles and Mary Palmer Ready, around that period of time. Haskell became Murfreesboro’s first mayor, elected in January 1818, but served for only a brief stint as he resigned in July of that year.

Professionally, he was an attorney, having practiced in Fayetteville and Nashville before coming to Murfreesboro. He was one of the directors of the Murfreesboro Tennessee Bank, established in 1818. Haskell moved his family to Jackson, Tennessee in 1822 after receiving as appointment as circuit judge of that district. His son, William Turner Haskell, became a member of the Tennessee State House of Representatives, representing Madison County and earned the sobriquet, “The Silver Tongued Orator”, due to his superior speaking abilities. Murfreesboro’s first mayor died at Jackson, Tennessee on November 23, 1839.

Wendel, David was born on January 14, 1785, possibly in Winchester, Virginia, to Christopher and Susanna Deaderick Wendel, who later moved from Winchester County, Virginia to Davidson County, Tennessee in the early 1800s. Our subject was living in the area of Jefferson County, Tennessee by 1806, as he married Sarah Hale Neilson, daughter of Hugh Douglas and Sarah Hale Neilson, there on March 18, 1806. He appears on a Hawkins County, Tennessee tax list in 1809 and is believed to have moved to the old town of Jefferson in Rutherford County soon after, where he became proprietor of a mercantile business. He moved to Murfreesboro in 1817 and replaced Mayor Haskell as the town’s second mayor in July 1818 and served in that capacity until April 1819, when he resigned that post. He also served as alderman in 1829. For many years Wendel served as Murfreesboro’s first postmaster, from the commencement of that office in 1819 until his resignation in 1838. He and his wife were the parents of twelve children: Susan J. Wendel Yandell, wife of Alderman Dr. Lunsford P. Yandell, John, Matilda, David D., Dr. James E., Thomas N., William H., Sarah, Dr. Robert S., Samuel P., Benjamin F., and Margaretta Wendel. Murfreesboro lost its second mayor with his death on October 8, 1840. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Laughlin, Samuel Hervey was born on May 1, 1796 in Washington County, Virginia to John L. and Sarah Dunkin Laughlin, who later removed to Warren County, Tennessee. He read law with one, Major McCampbell, and soon after obtained a law license and moved to Murfreesboro around September 1815 to begin his practice there. He met, and soon after married, Mary Clark Bass, daughter of James A. and Temperance Jordan Bass, on October 24, 1816. Our subject replaced David Wendel as Murfreesboro’s third mayor in April 1819, as a result of the latter’s resignation at that time, and finished out that year as mayor. He also served as alderman during the first months of 1819 and also in 1820 and from 1826-1828. He was of the Methodist persuasion and was one of the trustees appointed to build a church building in Murfreesboro in 1823. Laughlin moved his family to Nashville in 1832 where he became editor of the “National Banner and “Daily Advertiser”. He was also the founder and editor of the “Nashville Union” at its beginning in 1835. He moved back to Warren County in 1837 and represented that county and surrounding counties in the Tennessee State Senate from 1839-1845. Laughlin was appointed recorder of the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1845 by President James K. Polk. He had lost his wife to death in 1840 and they were the parents of five children: Samuel Houston, Ellen, Andrew Jackson, Isabella, and Mary Virginia. Mayor Laughlin died in Washington D. C. on May 5, 1850 and is buried there in Congressional Cemetery.

Purdy, Robert was born on May 17, 1757 in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania to James and Martha McConnell Purdy of that county. The Purdy family was of Irish ancestry. The subject of this sketch came to Rutherford County before 1814 and settled on land inherited by his wife, Elizabeth Phillips Purdy, sister of Judge Joseph Phillips of Rutherford County. They were children of Philip and Susannah Phillips who had moved to the area which became Rutherford County before 1797. Robert Purdy was owner and proprietor of an inn and tavern on the west side of the public square in Murfreesboro during the town’s early days. He was known as General Purdy, having previously been an army officer in the past and was described as being liberally hospitable. He became the fourth mayor of Murfreesboro in January 1820 and served the full year term. He and his wife were the parents of William P. and Martha Purdy. He left Murfreesboro around 1827 to become marshal of the district of West Tennessee. Mayor Purdy died in Nashville on March 23, 1831.

Holmes, Dr. Henry was born circa 1782 in Connecticut. It is unknown where he received his medical degree. He came to Murfreesboro before 1816 as sources indicate that he had set up a medical practice at that place by that time. He was elected mayor of Murfreesboro in January 1821 and served his full term at that post. Holmes was married to Sarah Brown circa 1823, a daughter of Bedford and Sarah Brown of Georgia. He and his wife were early members of the Murfreesboro Methodist Episcopal Church, organized in 1821, and built a grand two story brick home on the southeast corner of Sevier and Spring Streets. His wife died in 1840 and is buried in Murfreesboro’s Old City Cemetery. The doctor moved to Mississippi after her death and was reportedly living there in 1845. No further information was able to be obtained by this writer concerning the life of Dr. Holmes.

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