The Shannon Family
of East Tennessee
Melinda Shannon Freels
Copyright November 2001
Revised April 2002
This family of Dalriadic origin is descended from a Scottish clan of great antiquity. The name "Shannon" or “Seanchaidh” pronounced “shan-a-chie” is found in the early census roll of the great Kings of Scotland. It’s literal translation means “the tradition-bearer or story teller”. Common spelling variations of the name were "Aschennan", "Shennan", and "Shennane". These variations sometimes changed even between father and son, causing much confusion in research. Also contributing to the confusion is that the name "Shannon" is frequently linked with the Irish surnames "Shanahan" of county Clare and "Sheenan" of county Tyrone and their derivatives, and additionally with the great River Shannon in Ireland. However, the Shannon's of southwest Scotland and Northern Ireland were descended from the Dalridan race of the Hebrides Islands.
The Shannon surname emerged in the Scottish territory of Kintyre. The earliest known ancestor is the ancient highlander Chieftan Gilquhongill Aschennan who held huge estates on the west coast of Scotland. Other notables of the clan include Cuthbert Ashennane of Park who was succeeded by Robert Ashennane of Dunlop. Typical of many ancient highland clans, the Shannon family has still not officially been recognized as a clan by the Lord Lyon of Scotland. However, the most ancient grant of a coat of arms found was Red with a gold diagonal stripe. The Crest was a black dog. Due to the ancient conflict between Edinburgh and the highlanders, Many Scottish families migrated to Ulster in Northern Ireland in the 1500's. However, conditions there were not much better, so many left Ireland for America on the so called "coffin" ships, often under terms of indenture.
The Legend of the Four Brothers
The first known Shannons to emigrate from Scotland to Ireland were John Shannon I, born 1571 in Scotland, and his son John Shannon II born 1601 in Scotland. Both died in Ireland. Robert Shannon, son of John II, was born in 1630 in Muenster, Ireland and it is known that he was a successful merchant. Our branch of the Shannon family is descended in America through his son Robert II, born 1667 and who, according to family legend, immigrated with his three brothers Thomas, William and Andrew sometime around 1717.
This legend was perpetuated by an early Shannon researcher who first found the four Shannon “brothers”, and who sent his info to the LDS library, even though he wasn’t satisfied with the results and conclusions. He was getting old, and was afraid he’d die and his research would be lost if he didn’t submit it. Louise Dedmon and Dexal Shannon were later researchers who built on that original work, and pretty much accepted the 4 brothers story. However, if one examines the facts as known, Thomas was from Ulster, in the south, and Robert, supposedly the father, was a merchant in Muenster, in the North. The four are supposed to be brothers, and supposed to be sons of Robert, who was son of John who was son of John elder; the two Johns were born in Scotland and went to Ireland, where Robert was born and married and fathered his family. All four Shannons in Pennsylvania used the old Scots/Irish naming conventions. First born sons are named after the father’s father, second born after the mother’s father, third born after their own father, etc. Neither William nor Thomas has any Roberts in their family. The four Shannons were of an age to be brothers, and in a fairly limited geographic region. They may have been related. Often in those days relationships were named more loosely. Especially among the Celts, who fostered as a way of life, i.e., a man would send his son off to live and work with a distant relative: a brother, cousin or uncle—who would care for them as their own. A “cousin” might have actually been an uncle, inlay, or other relationship. There is a chance Robert and maybe Andrew were brothers and at least Robert’s father was named Robert. However, if Thomas and William are related, it was probably as uncle, nephew, or as cousins.
All four “brothers” settled in Chester Co. PA in an area referred to as W. Conestoga Township, which later became present day Lancaster Co. Although I have not been able to prove it, I suspect the four brothers/cousins sailed on The Friend’s Goodwill, which left Larne for Boston in 1717. Having been given an extensive tract of land by William Penn, many of the immigrant Scots-Irish families, including our Shannons, first settled in Pennsylvania in what is now Lancaster County. The year of settlement is not known, but in 1717, no Shannons are listed as living there while the tax records of 1725 show Thomas Shannon listed as an inhabitant. Many of the Scots Irish migrated south in the late 1700's, into Virginia and the Carolinas, and then through the Cumberland Gap into Tennessee. An excellent book detailing this migration is The Scots-Irish in the Hills of Tennessee by Billy Kennedy.
The ancestors of my direct line appear in bold print.
John b. 1571 in Scotland
John II b. 1601 in Scotland d. in Ireland
3rd Generation - Son of John II
1. Robert, Sr. b. 1630 Muenster, Ireland d. 1724 in Ireland
Notes: He was married to a woman named Annal and was a merchant.
4th Generation - Children of Robert, Sr. (The Four “Brothers”)
1. Robert, Jr. b. 1667 Muenster, Ireland. d. 7/15/1747 in Norrington, PA
Notes: Buried at St. Jame's PE cemetery. Will filed in Sadsbury Township, Lancaster PA.
2. Andrew b.1673
3. William b. 1682 + Mary Hall
4. Thomas b. 1686 in Ulster, N. Ireland + Eigness aka Agnes Reid
Notes: Thomas and Agnes’ son Samuel and his wife Jean Reid had 11 children and settled in the Nashville area. Their descendents are still in the middle TN area.
5th Generation - Children of Robert, Jr.
1. John b.1714 d. 3/18/1771
2. James b. 1716
3. Agness b. 1717
6th Generation - Children of John
5. William b. either 9/5 or 10/5/1756, in Chester Co. PANotes: Married to Catherine last name unknown. Served in American Revolution. In 1782, William Shannon was listed on the tax records of Greenbrier County in Virginia. William and Catherine recorded a deed for 395 acres of land on Turkey Creek in Greenbrier County in 1787. The William Shannon farm lay between Turkey Creek and Dropping Lick Creek about five miles south of the present town of Union in what is now Monroe County, West Virginia. William and Catherine were on this place at the time of the original United States Census of 1783. William came to Anderson Co. TN sometime before 1795 along with the Scarboro family. An interesting personal sidenote: William Shannon and Edward Freels (my husband's ancestor) were neighbors in the area of present day Oak Ridge known as Scarboro, near the entrance to the old Carbide Park. (Freels Bend area.) Then sometime later, William moved to present day Grainger County, where he was living when he applied for his Revolutionary War Pension in July of 1833. On July 1834, he was placed on pension roll at 77 years of age w/annual allowance of $20.00. Pension file: 308116. By 1840, William was back in Anderson County, living somewhere near present day Norris. William was the father of 10 children, including the youngest, my G-G-G-G Grandfather Andrew, who was born in 1785.7th Generation - Children of WilliamNotes: (Courtesy of Anne Dougherty ) According to a book entitled “Tennesseans in the War of 1812,” four of William Shannon’s sons - Charles, John, James and Andrew, fought in the War of 1812 with the East Tennessee Militia. Charles and Andrew, under Colonel Edwin Booth’s command, and John, under Colonel William Johnson’s command, spent the war primarily in Mobile, Alabama defending the port against British attack. John’s unit was a draft unit so he apparently did not go as willingly as Charles and Andrew. This draft unit was used primarily for road building and guard duty, definitely less prestigious. James’ unit, under the command of Colonel Samuel Bunch, was the only unit to see heavy fighting, joining Andrew Jackson for the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814. Unfortunately, James’ records note that he deserted, but doesn’t say whether this was before or after the battle. There is no record that James was punished for this action, so he may simply have gone home.1. Charles b.1780 d. 6/8/1852Notes: Married Prudence Scarborough (1780-1806) One source says she was the daughter of James and Amelia Scarborough who owned a mill in Tennessee near the Clinch River close to where William and Catherine moved to from Virginia. Another source says she was the daughter of William and Mahala “Milly” Wood Scarbrough.2. William, Jr.
6. Susanna aka Susan J. (1780 -1870)
Notes: Married John Scarbrough (1777-1831), the brother of Prudence and James Grantzer
7. Janetta aka Jane (11/30/1777 - 3/20/1872.
Notes: Married to James Grantzer Scarbrough (11/5/1775 – 4/20/1864), brother of Prudence and John.
9. Henry b. @1781) also settled in TN
10. Andrew b. @1785 + Elizabeth ?Notes: According to Goodspeeds History of Tennessee, Andrew was in Morgan County by 1815 and was one of its earliest settlers. Andrew appears on 1816 Roane Co. Tax List - as Roane Co. then included all of the present day Morgan Co.
8th Generation – Children of Andrew
2. Sarilda b. 1832 (?)Notes: (Courtesy of Anne Dougherty) Sarilda married late and until then lived with her sisters, Rebecca and Mahalia, first with her nephew Wiley and then when Wiley apparently went to war, they moved in with Preston. The women also cared for Wiley's daughters, Charlotte and Tabitha. (Did Wiley's wife Rebecca die?) By 1870, Rebecca and Mahalia (now in their 50's) moved back in with Wiley. Sometime before 1862, Sarilda married Francis Crawford, a farmer/justice of the peace who apparently spent a great deal of time marrying the numerous Crawfords and Shannons. For example, he married Preston to his second wife, Susan Oliver, on October 14, 1867. (Other sources say Preston’s second wife was Adeline Wiatte, but Susan Oliver is probably correct.) There is a little cemetery known as the Crawford-Shannon cemetery near Oak Ridge. The only two occupants are F.(E.?) A. Crawford and P.R. Shannon. Both headstones are marked "Co. E, 3rd Tenn. Inf." The F.A. Crawford grave may possibly be that of the Justice of the Peace who married Sarilda. Francis certainly followed the Shannons around a great deal, following them into battle, marrying their sister, and living next to Preston, but why he would be buried away from Sarilda is unknown. Sarilda's grave is not located in any of the cemeteries of the nearby churches, but she may have simply been buried on the homeplace, which is now under water. The cemetery is located on Walker Branch Road, east of the Experimental Gas-Cooled Reactor building on the shore of Melton Hill Lake. Sarilda had five children: Andrew, b. 1862, Mary Rebecca b. 1864, Emma b. 1867, Samuel b.1870 and Belle b. 1872. After Sarilda's death, Francis, Sam, Emma and Belle shared the family home. Andrew drops out of sight and Rebecca married Thomas Pritchard/Pritchett. Belle drops out of the picture around 1900; it is unknown if she married or died. Emma never married and died in her 40's from heart failure associated with rheumatic fever. Sam also never married, and helped Thomas with the Pritchard farm, eventually moving in with Rebecca and Thomas in later years. Some time in his 40's, Sam popped up with an "adopted" son, Homer. Family rumor says Homer's mother was a Cherokee who deposited the baby with Sam and went back to the mountains. Homer eventually inherited Sarilda's and Frances' homestead from Sam, but never married. Rebecca had seven girls and one son. She died in 1918 from a kidney infection.
3. James b. @1810 TN, d. 11/20/1850 in Morgan Co.Notes: In 1830, James married Mary Hamby, born 1808 to John & Edy Webb Hamby who were early settlers on the Emory River near Little Creek and Edmonds Branch. James and Mary lived near Laurel Branch which was also known as Shannon Creek.4. Wesley b.@1814+ Susan Davis
5. Mahalia b.@1815
6. Rebecca b.@1818
7. Preston W. b. 1823 d. 3/1/1888
Notes: Preston married 1. Elizabeth Wiatte (daughter of Margaret Scarbrough and the widow of James Wiatte (Wyatt). His second wife was either Susan Oliver or Elizabeth’s sister, Adeline Wiatte. Preston is buried in Scarboro Cemetery, Oak Ridge. They were the parents of David Milford (b. 6/5/1850 d. 8/24/1909)
8. Wright b.@1826
9th Generation - Children of James
1. Elmyra aka Mira b. 8/5/1831 d.6/14/1902Notes: Married John Llewellyn.
2. John b. 4/5/1833 d. 12/9/1902Notes: John was a colonel in the Union Army and commanded the 1st US Colored Heavy Artillery regiment mustered out of Knoxville. There is a note on John Shannon concerning his court martial while commanding the 1st US Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment. Apparently, while patrolling the banks of the French Broad River, John was ordered to split his men into two parties, one traveling east, the other remaining in Tennessee. Colonel Shannon refused, believing that such action would mean suicide to both diminished groups, and kept his men together. The court martial apparently was held post haste, after which he was acquitted of all charges. After the speedy trial, John returned to his troops on the French Broad where they waited patiently for all the fuss to be over, and the troop rejoined the war efforts. After the war, John married Clarissa Rich. Their children were Mary L, Nancy, Elizabeth, James W., Sabert R., Wright, Riley, John aka Frank , and Eldridge.3. Eldridge (b. 1835 d. 6/20/17) + Eliza
Notes: They lived in Scott County. Their children were Orlena, Minerva J., William R., James, Mary, Julia, Parthena, Nancy E., and John. Eldridge, Eliza and James are buried in Lone Mountain Cemetery near Robbins in Scott County.
4. Andrew M. (b. 1837 d.5/16/1895) + Charity HembreeNotes: Their children were Serelda B., Mary J., Elizabeth E., Edna C., James R., Charity C., and Joseph P.
5. Edy (b. 1839)
6. William Riley b. 1842 d.?Notes: Riley enrolled in the Union Army on July 21, 1862 at Huntsville. He first served in Company C of the 7th Regiment TN Infantry, later transferring to Company E of the 11th TN Calvary which was later absorbed into Company H of the 9th TN Calvary. According to family legend, Riley was the flag bearer and twice had his horse shot out from under him but he never dropped the U.S. flag. Riley returned to Morgan County and on 9/16/1869, he married Pernina Jane McCartt. Pernina was born on 3/21/1853 to James Madison McCartt, (a Methodist circuit minister and the son of Robert McCartt Sr. and Hannah Peters McCartt) and his wife Nancy Lewallen, (daughter of William L. and Nancy Wallace Lewellen) Riley and Pernina had four children: Hezikiah (1871-1953), Rebecca Belle (1873-1910), Jennie C. (1877 - ?), and Houk (1886 - ?). Pernina died on 12/2/1896 at the age of 43 and is buried in the McCartt Family Cemetery in Gobey. I know very little about the marriage of my G-G-Grandparents, but I believe they lived near the Brimstone River. Also from the little bit I have learned, it seems that there may have been a falling out between Riley and Hezikiah, while the son was still a young man. Over what is unknown, but I find it strange that Hezikiah never spoke about his father to his children. According to a news article written about the Morgan County Civil War veterans, Hezikiah stated in an interview that his father fought for the South, which was not true. However, during the early part of the 20th Century, it was much more glorious to talk about fighting for the Confederacy. With that notion, Hezikiah may have reinvented his father’s war service and that may have caused a rift between father and son. Additionally, the youngest child of Hezikiah and Texas, my great Uncle Glenn Shannon, tells me that he never met his grandfather Riley and never heard any mention of him. However, the biggest family mystery is whatever became of Riley! He and young Houk seem to vanish sometime shortly after 1903! Another interesting piece of information is that Houk’s youngest daughter Jane, presently living in California, also remembers nothing of her grandfather Riley. Although I have obtained Riley’s request for pension dated 11/13/1903, Record # 516830, I have not found anything after that year. The last known location of Riley, according to the Pension request, was near the old Melrose Post Office. No death and burial information has been found on Riley, but it is thought that he may be buried in the unmarked grave next to his wife. It has been suggested that he married again - to Mary Davis, daughter of Nelson Davis, but I have reached a brick wall at this point.7. James (b. 1844 d. 1864)Notes: James also served in the Union Army, 2nd Infantry Regiment. (Spelled “Shanan” on the muster rolls.) He was captured at the Battle of Rogersville on 11/6/1863 and died in captivity on 3/1/1864 at Belle Isle Prison in Richmond, VA.8. Preston Right (b. 1845 d. 1924) + Charlotte Temple McCartt
Notes: Their children were James Madison, Marley Belle, Annie Louise, Millard Fillmore, Minor A., Oliver Kingsley, and Edith.
9. Mary aka Polly (b. 1848)
10. Rebecca (b. 1850) + W.J. England
10th Generation: Children of William RileyNotes: According to the will of James Madison McCartt, father of Pernina Jane, Hezikiah and Houk divided the entire estate of J.M. McCartt except for $10 to be divided between Rebecca Belle Shannon Human and Jennie C. Shannon Miller.
1. Hezikiah C. (4/2/1871-12/25/53)Notes: Hezikiah married Texas McCartt (3/31/1876-6/23/1960) his 2nd cousin on 8/12/1894. Texas was born in Port Arthur, TX, the first of three children of Preston and Louisa McCartt. She had a younger sister, Margaret and a younger brother, Asbury. The ancestors of the McCartt family moved to Texas when the west was young, and began to invest in the great oil fields of Texas and Oklahoma. Hezikiah and Texas were married for 59 years and are both buried in Wartburg Cemetery. All eleven children, including two sets of twins, were born and raised on the old Colonel Davis Farm in Flatfork, where the Brushy Mountain Honor Farm is located now.2. Rebecca Belle (9/1/1873 –9/1910) + 1. J.H. Human 2. T. Manacure Hamby
Notes: Children were Janie Mae, Johnie, Lanie Lee, Dewey, and Lonnie
3. Virginia C. “Jennie” ( b. 2/25/1877) + 1. J.H. Hamby 2. Charley Miller
4. Leroy Houk (b. 12/29/1886 d. 11/4/1934 in Bethany,OK) married Matilda Hall on 5/12/1906.Notes: Matilda was born in 1884 and was the daughter of Garrett Hall. Houk and Matilda’s children were Bessie, Bernice (died at age 6), Boyd, and Jane. After Houk died, Matilda moved back to Morgan County and in 1940, she purchased a 600 acre farm on Gobey Road near Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. Matilda died on 6/4/1947 and is buried in Elizabeth Cemetery.11th Generation: Children of Hezikiah and Texas
Notes: All eleven children, including two sets of twins, were born and raised on the old Colonel Davis Farm in Flatfork, where the Brushy Mountain Honor Farm is located now. At one time, there were five sons of the family working on the same train, and it was called the “Shannon Train” or ‘The Brotherhood” by the other trainsman. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a mysterious curse on the brothers, as all were killed or maimed in accidents.1. William B. b. 9/16/1895 d. 4/12/40 from injuries sustained in a train accident
2. Lee Henderson b. 7/10/1897 d. 4/4/22.Notes: Lee was married to Lillian Myrtle Brasel (10/16/99-2/13/97). He was killed in a train accident near Stearns, KY shortly after his son, Robert Lee was born. He is buried in Brasel cemetery near Wartburg. Lillian remarried Jack Wilson in 1927 and moved to Rockwood. They moved to Fountain City, now north Knoxville in 1943.3. Louise b. 8/10/1899 d.1/28/81
4. Charles H. b.12/22/ 1901 d. 12/31/1927Notes: Also killed in train accident.
5. Lige >Twins b. 4/6/1905 d. 1982
6. Houk > d. 1978
7. Georgia Ann > Twins b. 6/16/1907 d. 1996
8. Maggie Esther > d. 1992
9. Clifford "Bum" b. 9/27/1910 d.1/31/85
10. Elmer K. b.3/29/1913 d.6/4/1946
Notes: Killed in a car accident.
11. Glenn H. b. 5/25/16
Notes: Lost arm in train accident. Glenn was a schoolteacher for many years.
Presently living with his wife Lillian in Kingston, TN.
12th Generation: Only child of Lee Henderson
1. Robert Lee Shannon, Jr. “Bob” – My fatherNotes: Although named as “Jr.”, his given name was actually different from that of his father’s. Robert Lee Shannon, Jr. was born in Danville, Ky. on 1/25/22. After his father was killed in a railroad accident when he was 3 months hold, his mother, Lillian Brasel Shannon, returned to her home in Morgan County, TN. They lived there with Ben Brasel until Lillian remarried Jack Wilson in 1929. The family then moved to Rockwood, TN where they lived until 1943.13th Generation: Children of Robert Lee Shannon, Jr. “Bob”
Robert (Bob) joined the Naval Reserve in 1942 while attending Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, TN and was commissioned ensign in the U.S. Navy in early 1944. He was promoted to Lieutenant JG in 1945 after 14 months in the South Pacific, serving at Guam and Iwo Jima as Deck Officer and Navigator of the USS Canotia.
The Canotia departed Pearl Harbor in early February 1945, arriving at Eniwetok where she reported for duty with the 5th Fleet. She sailed to Iwo Jima as bitter action raged ashore. After the Japanese surrender, the Canotia cruised the small islands of the western Carolines searching for American and Allied ex-prisoners of war, or Japanese soldiers.
In 1946, Bob joined the Atomic Energy Commission, the predecessor to the Department of Energy. He held a Naval Reserve commission as Lt. Commander, and was recalled by the Navy in 1951. He remained on active duty until 1952. During that time he was assigned to the Test Activities Branch of the Division of Military Application in the AEC’s Washington headquarters. For his weapons test work while in Washington, he received a special commendation by Gordon Dean, then Chairman of the AEC. While in the Naval Reserve, he also served as the commanding officer of the Knoxville Naval Reserve.
In 1959, R.L. Shannon became the head of the Department of Energy’s Technical Information Center in Oak Ridge, TN. During the 1970’s, he also served as the American Liaison Officer for the International Atomic Energy Agency. He was respected as an “internationally known energy information expert” and a “pioneer in technical information” . He was a recipient of the AEC’s Sustained Superior Performance Award and the Tennessee Technological University Distinguished Alumni Award. He was a Rotarian, a talented musician, and a gardener. At the time of his unexpected death on April 22, 1978, he had been with the federal government for more than 32 years.
1. Robert Lee, III b. 7/17/45
2. Melinda Ellen b. 6/14/58 in Knoxville + Gregory Allen Freels b. 3/18/56
Notes: Daughter Laura Morgan Freels b. 7/6/92
3. Rebecca Paige b. 6/3/60
4. John Walker b. 9/26/63
Shannon Genealogy and History by Sheila Shannon Lawson http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Hills/5600
Descendants of John Shannon
Dexall Shannon’s Family History by Dexall Shannon @
Note: Many great Shannon Links from this site!
Scarbrough’s Home Page and Genealogy
The Scots-Irish in the Hills of TN by Billy Kennedy
By the Dawn’s Early Light: Ulster Emigration to Freedom and the New World in the 18th Century by Ronnie Hanna
History of Lancaster County by Dr. Frederick Klein
Goodspeed’s History of Tennessee/Morgan County
The Morgan County Heritage Book
Tenneseans in the Civil War, Volume I by the Civil War Centennial Commission of TN
Tennesseans in the Revolutionary War/Grainger County by the TNGENWeb Project
Bible records of my grandmother, Lillian Brasel Shannon Wilson
Miscellaneous records and files from the Morgan County Library
This history is dedicated to the memory of my father, Bob Shannon and also to my daughter, Laura Morgan. Many thanks to my fellow Shannon Researchers, Cousins and Genealogists:
· Sharon McCartt Cates - Rockwood, TN
· Morgan Davidson - Wartburg, TN
· Anne Dougherty - Fairview, TN
· Esther Shannon Girouard - Tempe, AZ
· Larry Keith - McAlester, Oklahoma
· Caroline King - Knoxville, TN
· Ginny Scherer – Columbia, MO
· Mr. and Mrs.Glenn Shannon - Kingston, TN
· Fleming and Jane Shannon Parmer – Sun City, California
· Madalyn Shannon Long - Bethany, OK
· Richard Shannon - University of TX
Return to Shannon Family Photo Album
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