By Jonathan K. T. Smith
Copyright, Jonathan K. T. Smith, 1992


(Page 24)

WHIG-TRIBUNE, Jackson, Dec. 23, 1871:

An Old Graveyard

About four years ago Messrs. Ramsey & Ferguson purchased a lot from Dr. W. F. Still, in the western suburbs of the city and established upon it a brick yard. For several months past they have been digging up human skeletons, evidencing a fact hitherto unknown to them, that their brick yard had been a burying ground. One of the skeletons dug up had on spurs, the make of a half a century ago and about the skull of another was found 140 well preserved tortoise shell combs; about ten or twelve skeletons in all being exhumed by the workmen. These facts coming to our knowledge, we interviewed several of our oldest citizens, with but little satisfaction as to who was buried in this almost forgotten spot, or when it was first used as a resting place for the dead. However, from an interview with Mrs. Jessie D. Russell, a daughter of Maj. Charles Sevier, one of the first settlers, we learned the following interesting facts. The graveyard, mentioned was established about the year 1821 before the incorporation of the town of Jackson and some thirty or forty persons were buried there. When the town was incorporated many of the bodies were removed to the present city cemetery, yet several were left behind in their rude resting place with only rail pens to mark their graves. Among them Mrs. Russell remembers Col. Gibson, a distinguished officer in the war of 1812, under Gen. Jackson, who was buried with military honors, and Mrs. Shannon, the wife of Thomas Shannon, the first sheriff of this county. These were, doubtless, the skeletons which excited special attention as mentioned before and accounted for the spurs and the combs. It is strange that this ancient burying ground, where sleep the bones of many of the pioneers of this now prosperous country, should have ceased to exist even in the traditions of the city. Our authorities it seems to us, should have handed the fact down from one Board to another, and either removed the dead or protected their remains. There is something sad in the fact of these old settlers bones being disturbed by the rude spade and handled by the careless hands of workmen after a sleep of fifty years.


WHIG-TRIBUNE, Jackson, Feb. 3, 1872

Messrs. Editors:

        In a late number of your paper saw a notice of some human bones being dug up in the western part of your growing city. In the first settlement of the country there was a neighbourhood graveyard on the Shannon tract of land and with common consent those living in and around Jackson, buried their friends at that place. Mrs. Shannon (who was a daughter of Nathan Ewing of Nashville), died in Jackson and was no doubt, buried in that graveyard. She was a very accomplished woman and the wife of the first sheriff of Madison county. Soon after Jackson was incorporated the Mayor and Aldermen procured the present site for a graveyard, the old one not being eligible, nor could the land be procured for that purpose. So soon as the new graveyard was secured, the citizens then living in and around Jackson removed their dead from the old to the new graveyard. No doubt a number were left because there were no surviving friends to attend to their removal; no one at that time supposing that your growing city would ever extend its limits to the Shannon branch, near the present foundry. I would not be surprised that in the next ten or fifteen years your present graveyard to be surrounded by stately mansions and business houses and be the centre of a large portion of the business of your city.
        I have been requested by several old setters to point out the place where Col. Thomas Williamson, who commanded a regiment of volunteers from Davidson county, was buried. I answer, he was buried at Denmark. Col. Samuel Taylor was buried in the new graveyard at Jackson. Col. Robert H. Dyer, who commanded a regiment from Rutherford county, was buried on his farm, ten miles north of Jackson. As to Col. Thomas Gibson, who was Lieutenant Colonel in Col. Dyer's regiment, and who settled two and a half miles north of Jackson, and adjoining the farm of Col. W. H. Stephens, Dr. Helson I. Hess, who was the first practicing physician in Madison county, in speaking about Col. Gibson said, "I knew him better than any other man in Madison county. I was the sargeant of Col. Dyer's regiment. Col. Gibson was his Lt. Colonel. Col. Gibson and myself were messmates. We slept side by side, eat out of the same plate. I loved him as my father: He was a good man, a good soldier. I waited on him in his last illness; I saw him die; I closed his eyes; L dressed him. I helped bury him with military honors. He was buried on his farm two and a half miles northwest of Jackson." I have the testimony of John Tidwell, Elijah Jones and Sugars McLemore, all of whom concur with Dr. Hess as to the place where the gallant soldier now sleeps and will not awake until Christ will call the old soldier home. I felt it my duty to give this notice of those old soldiers, all four of them under command of Gen. Andrew Jackson, on the 23d of December, 1814 and on the 8th of January, 1815, did their duty as officers and soldiers, they met the flower of British army.
        As to the spun spoken of in your paper it is very probable that it was that of a stranger who was found dead between Jackson and the Forked Deer, supposed to have frozen to death. He was buried just as he was found, and no doubt the spur was upon his heel when buried. He was doubtless buried in the old graveyard and having no relatives, his remains were left, with others, in the good graveyard.

H. B.Mason
Mason's Grove, Jan. 24, '72


(Page 25)

WHIG-TRIBUNE, Jackson, May 4, 1872:

"The Burial of Col. Gibson"

        Some controversy having sprung up in regard to the place of burial of Col. Gibson, one of the pioneers of this county, our venerable fellow citizen, Mr. Jesse Russell, at the request of Alderman B. J. Sneed, of this city, has written the following, as his recollection of the affair. Mr. Sneed recently met a grandson of Col. Gibson on the train and the gentleman finding Mr. Sneed was of this city, made some inquiry about the burial place of his grandfather. Here is Mr. Russell's letter:
        Jackson, May 2nd, 1872
        Having been requested to state the circumstances attending the burial of Col. Gibson in this place, and anything connected therewith, to the best of my recollection, after a period of nearly half a century, I will state that I moved to this place the 1st of January, 1823, being then twenty years of age. Col. Gibson then lived about three miles north of town and died shortly after I case here. I had no personal acquaintance with him, as he seldom visited town in fact he died, I think in the summer of 1823. When the news of his death was announced, there being several soldiers living here, of the war of 1812, they determined to bury him with the honors of war. I volunteered as one to make up the company. We went out what is now Market Street and waited until the hearse bearing his corpse arrived, and we fell in behind. His horse was next to the hearse, having on saddle and bridle, with holsters and pistols, his boots in the stirrups with spurs upon them, and some kind of garment perhaps an overcoat tied on behind the saddle. The horse was led by some person. His remains were conveyed to a burying ground northwest of town. I think the first settlers were buried there before the town was laid off. We fired our guns over the grave. I do not recollect whether his spurs were buried with him or not. Two or three years afterwards the citizens thinking it not a suitable place for a burying ground, selected another, southwest of town, and several had their friends removed thereto. Whether the remains of Col. Gibson were removed, I do not recollect, if I ever knew. After changing owners several times, the first graveyard was used as a brickyard and several bones were dug up and deposited in the present cemetery. Col. Gibson's friends may have had his remains removed, but, as before stated, I do not recollect. If they did not, his remains now repose in the present cemetery among others and could not be distinguished. I have made inquiries, but can learn nothing about his remains more than I have stated from my personal knowledge.

Jesse Russell Sr.


Jesse Russell remembered as an old man that he had participated in the burial of "Colonel Gibson." As the latter was buried in the old cemetery off what is now Johnson St. in Jackson, and as the remains that had not been exhumed and reburied elsewhere, were moved to Riverside Cemetery in the winter of 1871-1872 which would have included the remains of Col. (John H.) Gibson, it is probable that whatever these remains were, they lie yet in an unmarked grave on the south slope of Riverside Cemetery.

Russell's wife, Nancy, had died late in 1872, but in the WHIG-TRIBUNE, Jackson, Dec. 23, 1871, she is quoted as having "remembered Colonel Gibson, a distinguished officer in the war of 1812, under Gen. Jackson, who was buried with military honors" in the old Johnson Street cemetery. She was a daughter of Captain Chas. Sevier, early settler of Madison Co.

Although Jesse Russell's memories may have been imperfect about the occasion of Colonel Gibson's death and burial, near Jackson, in 1823, he was an eyewitness and a participant in the man's burial. No one arose, at least in print, after Russell's published statement, to contest his statement regarding Gibson.

Mr. Jack D. Wood of Jackson found record of the ACTS of Tennessee, 1823, Chapter lll, of an act passed October 21, 1823, creating GIBSON COUNTY. TENNESSEE, "in honor of and to perpetuate the memory of Col. John H. Gibson. . . ." The more reliable histories of this county state that Colonel JOHN H. Gibson is the man for whom the county was named. This is proven by legislative record.

John H. Gibson, who lived in Bedford Co., Tenn. as a young man, served well in the War of 1812. His military demeanor at the Battle of New Orleans especially earned him commendation from his fellow soldiers and citizens.

John H. Gibson is said to have had a brother, Thomas Gibson and perhaps he did. There is no public record. known to me, that such a man ever lived in Madison County. In the county's first deed book, page 187, John H. Gibson of Madison Co., made disposition of land regarding his wife, Ann, May 22, 1823 (which was recorded Jan. 1824).


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