Early Settlers of Upper Sumner Co. TN

Some Early Settlers of Upper Sumner County, Tennessee
The Hobdy, Cotton, Durham, Gillespie, Perdue, Absher, Mattox, Cochran and Mayes Families

Compiled by
Lee Alton Absher, M.D.

Knoxville, Tennessee
© Copyright 1966
Reprinted with permission

The Durham Family

We are indebted to the author's cousin, the late attorney and state senator J. Thomas Durham, of Gallatin, Tennessee, for the following information as related to Miss Rebekah Senter of Nashville, Tennessee.

The word Durham is Scotch. Durham England was, before the War of the Roses, Durham Scotland, when England subjugated and annexed Durham Shire, we have been told by a grandmother, who was born in 1796 in Westmoreland County, Virginia, three brothers by the name of Duncan, rather than accept English subjugation, left Scotland, emigrated to America and adopted the name of their beloved city of Durham. One of the brothers settled in what is now Virginia, one in what is now North Carolina and one in Pennsylvania. Our great grandfather, William Durham, a descendant of the brother who settled 1809, in which year he purchased a large tract of land in this (Sumner) County on which is now located Mount Vernon Church. He died and is buried in Mount Vernon Church Cemetery. He had a large family of sons, one of whom was our grandfather. William Durham who possessed to a great extent Scotch characteristics, was a frugal and industrious man and died leaving quite a large estate, of both real and personal property. He was a consistent church man and gave to the Methodist Church the land on which Mount Vernon Church is now located. He was the father of seven sons.

William Durham and family came to Sumner County about 1809. The record shows that he purchased "300 acres for $425.00, dated 26 October 1809, on the waters of Drakes Creek of Barren River."

William Durham was a son of William Durham, Sr. of Warren County, North Carolina. William Sr. was evidently a soldier of the Revolution, since we have copies of Revolutionary pay voucher to William Durham of Warren County, North Carolina. The elder William's Will dated August 1, 1783, names his son William as executor. The following is an exact copy of his Will.

Warren County Wills 1780-1825. Volume II, Page 35, Folio 2. Department of Archives and History, Raleigh. STATE OF N. CAROLINA
In the name of God Amen. This first day of August one thousand, seven hundred & eighty three, I, William Durham, of the County of Warren, being at this time weak of body, but of sound mind and disposing memory. Thanks be to Almighty God for the same, but call to mind it being appointed for man to die to ordain this my last will & testament, first resigning Soul to him who first gave it to me and as for my mortal body I desire may be committed to the Earth and buried in a Christian like manner at the discretion of my Executors here after mentioned as to my worldly estate the blessed Lord has been pleased to bestow upon me. I give and desire in manner and form following first that all my just debts be honorable paid and my funeral expenses discharged.

I will and desire that all my estate of every kind whatsoever maybe equally divided amongst all my children.

I desire that my two negroes Harrah and Sarah be appraised by three good respectable freeholders at twelve months credit to be chosen by my Exectors for that purpose upon the same being appraised that the said two negroes may choose their master or mistress of any of children upon such one they make choice to pay unto each of my other children their proportion with them or give bond of security to them for their proportion payable in twelve months.

Having sold Ezekal Marshall one certain tract or parcel of land adjoining the land of my son William Durham; Mollham Merrick and having not conveyed the same to him. The said Marshall having not paid up the purchase money and in order to do equal right and justice to him the said Marshall that upon him the said Marshall paying up the purchase money or given his bond to my exors according to our said contract that is to pay six pounds, three shilling, Virginia money next Christmas & six pounds Virginia money the Christmas following. Then in that case I do authorize my Executors to execute a deed for the conveyance of the same in fee simple to him the said Ezekal Marshall.

I do nominate and appoint my son William Durham and son-in-law, Dudley Hale my whole and sole Executors of this my last Will and Testament utterly disannulling all other Wills made by me.
Signed, Sealed and Delivered
In presence of -)- Wm Durham (seal)
Sterling Harwell Jurat
Frankey (her X mark) Durham

Warren County August Court 1793
This last Will and Testament of William Durham deceased was proved by the oaths of Sterling Harwell and ordered to be recorded and the above named executors qualified. W. Duke Johnson, Clerk. William Durham's Will 1 August 1793.

The William Durham who came to Sumner County, Tennessee had the following sons: James, Thomas, Jonathan, William, Goulesbury and Ben. All of these six brothers were in the War of 1812, Ben being a Colonel under Andrew Jackson. This is from record files of Sen. J. Tom Durham, deceased of Gallatin, Tennessee.

War of 1812 Bounty Lands and Pension Application, James Durham, Lydia, 39 U.S. Infantry, in National Archives.

James Durham, Sumner County, Tennessee, applied for bounty lands under the Act of 28 Sept. 1850, on 31 March 1852, when 68 years old, declared he served in the War of 1812 from 13 Dec 1813 to 12 Dec 1814, as Pvt., in company of Capt. John Jones, 39 U. C. Infantry, under Col. Walker, enlisted in Sumner County, Tenn., and was discharged at Fort Montgomery.

A. G. Sarver, J. P. cerified 5 April 1852, said county and state.

Discharge certificate in file: Montgomery, M Territory, 12 Dec 1814, Jas. Durham, Pvt., Capt. Jones' Co., 39 U. S. Inf., signed Wm Walker, Col. 39 Inftry Commanding.

James Durham was admitted to Bounty Land Warrant No. 21596 for 160 acres under Act of 28 Sept 1850.

Lydia Durham, 9 April 1878, before W. T. Lafferty, Deputy Clerk, Sumner County, Tenn., declared she was the widow of James Durham, who served 60 days as above described; her maiden name was Lydia Gillespie; she married in Sumner County, Tenn., 18 July 1820, and her husband James Durham died 3 Sept. 1856; she was still his widow and applied for a pension under the Act of March 1878; appointed Thos. Barry, Gallatin, Tenn., P. O. New Roe, Allen County, Ky., her attorney; she stated she resided just over the state line in Kentucky from Sumner County, Tenn., P. O. New Roe, Allen County, Ky.; she was married by John Rutherford, J. P., and all present at the wedding are now deceased; she is 81 years old; has no Bible record of marriage or age. She signed: Lyda Durham, her mark X.
E. Duffer and J. W. Durham attested.

W. T. Lafferty, Deputy Clerk of Jesse Cage, Clerk, Cumner County, Tenn., certified; Jesse Cage also certified.

Ed Duffer and J. W. Durham deposed they were aquainted with both James Durham and his wife Lyda for 40 years; knew of service of James Durham in the War of 1812 and that he died 3 Sept. 1856; both real and personal estate of James Durham descended to Lyda his wife and their children (children not named).

Copy of marriage bond certified on reverse by W. T. Lafferty, Deputy clerk and Jesse Cage, Clerk of Sumner County, Tenn. (no date)

James Durham and George McGuire - bonded to Joseph McMinn,

Governor of Tennessee, for intended marriage of James Durham and Lydia Gillespie. Bond dated 14 July 1820.

Adjutant General's Office reported 21 Sept 1878 and 23 Sept 1878, that Recruiting Return, Nashville, 26 Dec. 1812 showed James Durham, 5 feet 11 1/4 inches tall, age 30 years, born in Warren County, N. C., and enlisted by Capt. Jno. Jones; on recruiting return of Nashville 25 Dec. 1813, James Durham enlisted 39 U. S. Inf., 13 Dec. 1813, Capt. John Jones, no record of his service, no personal description; "Record of Capt. Jones' company for time alleged is not on file".

Little Absher, 6 November 1878, 56 years old, declared before O. H. Foster, Clerk of the Court, Sumner County, Tenn., that he was the son-in-law of James Durham, soldier in the War of 1812, and John W. Durham, 44 years old declared that he was the son of James Durham. John W. Durham declared his father, James Durham, showed him a wound he had received during the War of 1812. Both declared that James Durham and wife Lydia always reputed to be husband and wife, and that Lydia Durham a joint distributee with "ourshelves" in the estate of Jas. Durham and dower assigned to her in his land; she was still after James Durham died 3 Sept 1856.

Lydia Durham, 11 April 1879, before A. B. Dinning, J. P., declared she was 82 years old, resident of Sumner County, Tenn., widow of James Durham, deceased, who served 12 months in the War of 1812, gave description of her husband at enlistment as 30 years old, farmer, born in N.C., 6 feet tall, blue eyes and fair complexion; that she was married at the residence of George (page 21) McQuaire (?), Sumner County, Tenn., on 18 July 1820, by John Rutherford, Esq., J. P., that neither were ever married before (underlining supplied); that husband died at his residence in Tenn., on 3 Sept 1856; they had always lived in Sumner County, Tenn., since the war. She signed "Liddia Durham."

She appointed Thomas Barry Gallatin, Tenn., her attorney; her post office is New Roe, Allen County, Ky.; she lives 20 miles from Gallatin, Tenn. Philip Mabry and Williamson Hull attested.

Lydia Durham, Sumner County, Tenn., 5 June 1879, declared that the correct way to spell her given name is "Lydia" as spelled in the Bible.

A. D. Dinning, J. P. attested.

Lydia Durham was allowed a pension on widow's certificate No. 25146; her application widow's original 17566.


Thomas Durham, a son of William, was born in North Carolina May 13, 1791. He came to Sumner County, Tennessee, with his parents and evidently settled near Mount Vernon Church. He married Mary West, born October 1, 1799. They are both buried in the Mount Vernon Church Cemetery, which was built around the old family cemetery.


James, Durham, the author's great grandfather, was born in Warren County, North Carolina, March 10, 1786. He died September 5, 1856. He came to Sumner County, Tennessee with his father in 1809. He married Lydia Gillespie, July 14, 1820. They were married by John Rutherford, J. P. at the home of George McGuire. Lydia was born September 18, 1796 in North Carolina, according to the census records and died in Sumner County, Tennessee April 14, 1880. Both James and Lydia Durham are buried in the Durham cemetery on the old Durham farm, near Mount Olive Church.

James and Lydia Durham began housekeeping on their farm on the Sulfur Fork of Drakes Creek of Sumner County in 1820. This farm bordered on the Allen County, Kentucky line and contained about 346 acres. It probably was the original farm William Durham purchased on the "waters of Drakes Creek of Barren River" in 1809.

James and Lydia had the following children: Mahala, Isaac W., John W., George Jasper, Matilda M., Lydia and Polly.

Mahala Durham was born on the Durham farm of Sumner County, Tennessee, January 13, 1828 and died September 12, 1916, in Portland, Tennessee. She married Lytle Absher at her home, August 13, 1846. They were married by Freeman Senter, M.G. A photostatic copy of their marriage certificate is included in this manuscript.

Isaac N. Durham married Elizabeth Snow. John W. Durham married Martha Denning. They did not have any children. Polly Ann Durham married Jim Graves. Matilda M. Durham married Henry David Snow. Lydia Durham married Granville Denning.

George Jasper Durham, born October 30, 1835, died July 17, 1920, married Margret Jayne Hinton, born June 9, 1840, died March 18, 1911. they purchased the original James Durham farm, October 29, 1877 and lived here until they died. They were both buried in the old Durham cemetery, located on this farm.

George and Jayne Durham had the following children: John W., J. Thomas, Julia, Edward and Newton. John W. Durham married Cora Bickerstaff. J. Thomas Durham married Lillie Link. Julia Durham married Jim Griffin. Edward Durham married Minnie Lands. Newton Durham married Flossie Graves.

In about 1915 John Durham and George J. Durham visited their sister, Mahala Durham Absher, at the author's boyhood home in Portland, Tennessee. They were all elderly people at that time. Both the men, John and George Durham, had long flowing beards, the latter being snow white. Grandmother Mahala Absher, who was then 88 years of age, was a small woman and was somewhat stooped and crippled, due to the infirmities of rheumatism.

Uncle John Durham then lived near Franklin, Kentucky, about ten miles from his original home. Uncle George Durham lived on the original James Durham home place, in the 13th Civil District of Sumner County, Tennessee. Grandmother, Mahala Durham Absher, lived with the author's parents, Lytle A. and Ella Perdue Absher, at Portland, Tennessee.

I. N. Durham & others heirs deed to G. J. Durham this deed of Conveyance made and entered into this the 24 day of September 1860 between Little Abshear & Martha T. Abshear his wife of William County Illinois & H. D. Snow & Malinda M. Snow his wife of the county of All & State of Kentucky James M. Durham, Dilly Durham his wife Polly Ann Gant of the County of Sumner & State of Tennessee Isaac N. Durham and G. J. Denning & Liddy J. F. Denning his wife John W. Durham & George J. Durham of the County of Sumner and State of Tennessee of the second part.

Witnesseth that for the sum of Eight hundred Dollars in hand paid the party of the first part hath sold unto the party of the second part the following tract of land the tract which the said J. W. & G. J. Durham now has the other two tracks joining thereto Beginning at a bush on the State line running thence S 100 poles to a Dogwood then South 71 poles to a small white oak M. Denning and Rite Border corner thence with Braders line E. 312 poles to a sugar tree another poplar James Angles corner thence with his line N 148 poles to 3 white oaks on the State line thence with said line to the Beginning Containing three hundred & forty six acres be it the same Moore or less.

To have and to hold the same a purrtenances thereunto belonging and the said J. W. Durham and G. J. Durham their heirs and assignes forever and the said party of the first part Being heirs of James Durham Decd warrant the Rights and title J. W. and G. J. Durham lands with General warranties. In witness of all of which the said parties of the first part hath hereunto set their hands the Date and year above written.
Polly Ann Graves
I. N. Durham
J. M. Durham (his X mark)
H. D. Snow (his X mark)
M. Snow (her X mark)
Little Abshear
Mahala T. Abshear (her X mark)
G. J. Denning
Liddy J. F. Denning
M. M. Snow (her X mark)
Witness for by M.M. Snow by us in the 21st day of March 1877
A. B. Denning
Maderson Denning

State of Tennessee
Sumner County
To A. B. Denning Exqr you are hereby authorized to take the examination of Mahaly Abshear and Lidy Denning privately and apart from their husbands Relative to the free execution of the foregoing instrument and the same so taken to certify under your hand and seal Witness my hand at office this the 4 day of May 1875 Jesse Cage Clerk<

State of Tennessee
Sumner County
Mahala Absher wife of Little Absher and Lidy Denning wife of Granville Denning having personally appeared before me and having by virtue of the authority in me vested been examined privately and apart from their husbands and they having acknowledged the due Execution of the within deed by them freely voluntarily and understandingly without Compulsion or Constraint by their said husbands and for the purposes therein Expressed the same is therefore Certified Witness my hand and seal this 13th day of Nov 1875. A. B. Denning J. P. Sumner County, Tennessee

State of Tennessee
Sumner County
Personally appeared before me Jesse Cage Clerk of the County court of said County Maderson Denning and Wm A. Cline subscribing witnesses to the attached instrument who being first sworn depose and say they are acquainted with Polly A. Graves, I. N. Durham, J. M. Durham, H. D. Snow, Little Absher, G. J. Denning and bargainors and that they acknowledged the Execution of the attached instrument in their presence to be their act and deed on the day it bears date of the purposes therein contained Witness my hand at office this 29th Oct 1877 Jesse Cage Clerk

State of Tennessee
Sumner County
Personally appeared before me Jesse Cage Clerk of the County Court of said County A. B. Denning and Maderson Denning subscribing witnesses to the foregoing instrument who being first sworn depose and say they are acquainted with M. M. Snow the bargainor and that she acknowledged the execution of the foregoing instrument in their presence on the 21st day of March 1877 to be her act and deed on the day she Resigned the same for the purposes therein contained. Witness my hand at office this 29th day of October 1877. Jesse Cage Clerk
Recd for Registration 29 Oct 1877 at 12 O'Clock PM
Registered and Examined the same day Recd R. O. Hallum Regr S. Coty

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