By Jonathan K. T. Smith
Copyright, Jonathan K. T. Smith, 1996

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Chancery Court Records

The Chancery Court was the court of equity, rendering decrees that provided what was just by law in cases involving estates, businesses and divorces. Cases were heard before a chancery judge and the paperwork was handled by the clerk and master. Often cases were referred to chancery directly from the county quarterly court or from the county circuit court. Appeals from decisions in these courts could be and sometimes were carried on to the state Supreme Court.

The principle records kept in the Chancery Court in the nineteenth century were: (1) MINUTE BOOKS in which the actual transactions based on the court decisions were described; even though a majority of cases seem to have dealt with estate matters, sparse genealogical data appear in these minutes. There are even instances in which matters regarding orphaned children are void of the names of their parents. (2) ENROLLMENT BOOKS in which the lawyers' briefs regarding their clients' claims before the court were recorded. These are often full of information valuable to genealogists because details are given that are deleted in the minute books. (3) RULE DOCKETS in which were recorded, after the fashion of a general outline, important facts about cases, such as dates when cases were filed with the court, names of lawyers and contesting parties (complainants and defendants), the process used, names of bondsmen, and rules (dates of specific acts taken). (4) ORIGINAL PAPERS, kept in packets, containing the primary papers generated by cases; very valuable for genealogists because of the wealth of detail given for the benefit of the court towards rendering decisions, details deleted in most of the other three records. The Madison County minute books are extant as are the rule dockets and evidently most of the original case packets but the enrollment books are reportedly missing, having been long ago disposed of. One known such enrollment book, 1872-1874, is kept in the Tennessee Room collection, Jackson-Madison County Library. This is an unfortunate loss because much information of interest to genealogists and local historians will be unavailable except in the original papers which are sometimes also missing.

The genealogical data from the Madison County Chancery Court minutes up to the Civil War have been ably abstracted and appear in volume two of the book, TENNESSEE TIDBITS, by Marjorie H. Fischer and Ruth B. Burns (Vista, Calif., 1988).


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Madison County Chancery Court Minute Book 3

JOHN C. M. GARLAND, adm. of JOHN H. VINCENT v SARAH A. VINCENT and THOMAS S. VINCENT. February 21, 1867. John A. Vincent died on or about Dec. 27, 1865 leaving a will probated January 3, 1866. Sarah A. Vincent, named as executrix in the will, refused to serve and at her request the county court appointed John C. M. Garland to serve as estate administrator. Considerable debts in estate; land to be sold towards meeting these obligations.

CHARLES D. McLEAN v JOSEPH MOSBY and OTHERS. February 21, 1867. Isabella C. McClellan died October 1857, leaving by will a portion of her estate to relatives of her deceased husband, John D. McClellan. The Supreme Court ordered in 1861 that the interests of her family and her late husband's family be "equal in value." Value of the estate was $76,823; each family's due value cited as $38,411.

MARY A. CHITMAN v FRED CHITMAN. February 21, 1867. This couple were married in 1854; husband abandoned his wife in 1856 and refused to live with her thereafter. She was granted a divorce from him.

JOEL S. WALKER and others v W. E. EPPES and others. February 22, 1867. Martha B. Eppes died in Buckingham County, Virginia in 1863; estate heavily indebted.

AMBROSE R. REID and wife, FANNIE, ELIZA RAWLINGS v JOHN M. GILLESPIE and Others. August 23, 1867. John A. Tyson died August 7. 1865, intestate. Leroy C. Gillespie was appointed administrator of his estate. The deceased had four brothers, 3 of them, Edwin, William and Archibald, died without leaving children; the fourth brother, James B. Tyson died leaving 4 children: Williarr Edwin, Fannie, Lydia. The deceased had four sisters, Lydia, wife of John R. Alston, who had died without children; Mary Jane, wife of Leroy C. Gillespie who had died leaving 2 children (John M. and Leroy C.); Eliza who married a Rawlings and was deceased; Fannie, wife of Ambrose R. Reid. The estate was to be divided among these living heirs.

ANNE H. SCURLOCK, adm. of T. P. SCURLOCK v JOSEPH W. SCURLOCK and others. August 14, 1868. T. P. Scurlock died May 20, 1867 leaving a will in which Anne H. Scurlock, widow, was sole executrix, qualifying as such Aug. 1867. Scurlock left several tracts of land, furniture, law books and accounts (these valued at $8,295 but "most of them are doubtful or insolvent"). To pay debts, land was to be sold, allowing widow her dower out of the homeplace in Jackson.

JAMES K. STEPHENS, adm. of SARAH J. ELROD v J. B. CARUTHERS, adm. of H. W. McCORRY, August 15, 1868. Sarah J. Elrod died single and intestate, 1862 and J. K. Stephens qualified as administrator of her estate. Henry McCorry died about 1862 and J. B. Caruthers qualified as administrator of his estate. McCorry had been guardian of Sarah J. Elrod, 1851 to about the year 1860. Court ordered $906.19 in McCorry's estate be provided as part of Sarah J. Elrod's estate.

JOHN L. H. TOMLIN v POLLY READ and others. August 17, 1868. John Read died June 23, 1865, intestate, leaving widow Polly who was due a dower interest in his estate and half-sisters and brothers and children of same were also his heirs.


Madison County Chancery Court Minute Book 4



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10-12 continued.
180 acres near Cotton Grove, bounded on the south "by old Cotton Grove tract . . . being the same land on which said John & Mildred Woolfolk resided at the time of their death" was acquired by Henry Kirby through purchase (highest bidder). Clerk and master was to pay purchase money to heirs of William McDonald, $2805.

GEORGE D. ELLIS v MARY ELLIS. 1869. Mary Ellis deserted her husband, George D. Ellis more than two years previously and refused to return to live with him. He was granted a divorce from her.

SARAH H. BETHSHARES and J. B. WOOD v J. A. BETHSHARES. March 21, 1870. Jeremiah P. Haughton died July 1859, Madison County, leaving a widow, Martha, who died in 1864 and children: George W. Haughton, L. B. Haughton, Amanda F. Haughton Wood, Martha B. Haughton Love, Sarah H. Haughton Bethshares, along with children of a deceased son, A. J. Haughton.

Page 297.
Sarah H. Bethshares had $3379.65 from estate of her father, J. P. Haughton; her brother, L. B. Haughton, made trustee of same for her.

L. SAVAGE v G. W. SAVAGE and others. October 24, 1870. Greenberry Daniel had died in Hardeman Co., Tenn., January 1867; left several tracts of land in Madison County which were to be sold through the court.

ROBERT VANTREESE v DAVID LACEY and others. July 1, 1871. James W. Hayley died in 1825 leaving widow, Hannah and children J. W. and Martha J. Hayley. In distribution of estate, Martha J. was allotted 2 tracts of land. She later married William Vantreese (about 1842) and died in November 1846, leaving two children, James H. Vantreese and Robert Vantreese. Of these, James H. died intestate, June 1862, without wife or children. William Vantreese had sold this property to George R. Scott in 1853 but this was illegal so that the court now ordered the land returned to Robert Vantreese.

HARRIET PRIEST v THOMAS PRIEST. October 26, 1870. The court granted this couple a legal "separation" for two years; neither was to marry anyone else during this period.

MARY JANE HUBBARD v LULA P. HUBBARD and others. October 25, 1870. Benjamin H. Hubbard executed his will April 29, 1853 and died the same year. He left widow, Mary Jane Hubbard and children: Samuel R. Hubbard, Mollie E., wife of Frank J. Wise; Alice, wife of John Jay Lane; Nannie B., wife of Thomas C. Salter; Lula P. Hubbard; Benjamin H. Hubbard. The land of B. H. Hubbard, Sr. was to be sold.


Madison County Chancery Court Minute Book 5

GIDEON HICKS, adm. of H. L. HARDING v REUBEN H. EPPERSON and J. A. HARDING. Oct. 25, 1871. G. L. Harding had died in Oct. 1867; had been in a mercantile business in Mason's Grove with R. H. Epperson.

MARGARET W. ROWSEY by guardian HIRAM JOHNSON v ELIZABETH STONE and WILLIAM STONE. November 11, 1871. John W. Rowsey, father of Margaret W. Rowsey, had died in 1862 leaving her and his widow, Elizabeth who later married William Stone.

PARALEE WHEELER v JOHN LESTER. November 25, 1871. Alexander Lester had wanted his wife Susannah and John M. Lester to serve as executors of his will. Susannah died in 1866. Court appointed J. M. Lester sole executor.

GEORGE P. GOODRTCH v JAMES M. EXUM, adm. of THOMAS E. DEBERRY and THOMAS M. GREER. June 21, 1872. William Goodrich, father of George P. Goodrich, died in 1859 leaving a will of which J. L. H. Tomlin had been named as executor, but he refused to serve and in March 1859 Thomas E. Deberry had been name administrator but he had not made a report to the court regarding the estate.


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JOHN C. ASKEW v JULIA P. WOOLFOLK, MILDRED WOOLFOLK and others. June 24, 1872. John Woolfolk died in 1863 leaving a will in which his property was left to his widow, Mildred (Milly). John R. Woolfolk, as agent of Milly, took charge of the estate but never rendered an inventory of the estate. Milly Woolfolk executed her will in 1866, of which John R. Woolfolk was to serve as executor. She soon died and although he was executor of her estate he failed to render any account as such to the county court. He died in Oct. 1867. The clerk and master was ordered to investigate the case and report to next term of court. In Minute Book 6, page 246, December 8, 1873, this case was dismissed at request of the complainant.

CHARLES W. DAVIS and wife v W. S. CARSON and others. June 25, 1872. David C. Ewing died March 1858 leaving a widow Violet S. who later married Charles W. Davis. Widow was to have dower from his lands.

E. A. TAYLOR and others v SAMUEL MERIWETHER and others. July 5, 1872. Samuel Meriwether died (date not given) leaving widow, Louisa and children: Paralee Taylor, Caroline T. Taylor, E. F. Cunningham, David J. Meriwether, Frank Meriwether, Sarah Ella Meriwether (who died unmarried); Joseph M. Meriwether (who died unmarried); James G. Meriwether, John T. Meriwether. Land to be sold and proceeds to be divided as provided by the court. Page 342. It appeared also that Elizabeth Boyd, wife of B. P. Boyd, was a child of Caroline T. Taylor, deceased, one of Samuel Meriwether's children.

PYLES and SIMMONDS, executors of Wm. B. MARSHALL v DAVID HALLUM, CAROLINE HALLEBURTON and others. December 18, 1872. William B. Marshall died August 1862 leaving a will which was probated. Addison Pyles and Cyrus Simmonds were appointed executors of the will. Nancy Hallum, W. B. Marshall's sister, had 9 children: Albert G., Felix G., Fernando, William D., Morris J., Louise, wife of ___ McCalep; Caroline, Elizabeth and Lucinda Nowell. Felix G., Fernando, Morris J. and Elizabeth had died before their uncle. Caroline Thomas (a niece) had died leaving 8 children (Morris J., Sarah D., David M., Nancy S., Michie, Luke, William and Robert).

FRANCIS E. STATON v B. F. YOUNG, exec. and others. December 19, 1872. Susan M. Staton inherited from Francis Hopkins of Edgecombe Co., N.C. a deed of gift limiting it to her and at her death to her children and if she had no children, to whomever she bequeathed it to. She died without children but heirs to her estate were C. B. Mayo, R. C. Mayo and Martha Givens and they received $600 from the estate after costs were deducted.


Madison County Chancery Court Minute Book 6

B. C. SPRINGFIELD v ALICE TOTTEN and others. December 2, 1873. Alice Totten had died in Madison Co.; legatees were Caroline Shepard, wife of Thomas Shepard and her children Robert Bailey Shepard, Fannie Shepard, Alice Totten Shepard. John L. H. Tomlin was appointed their guardian.

MARY D. PEPPERS and others v MARTHA L. BROWN. June 23, 1874. Mary Ward conveyed a deed in trust to Hervy Brown, Dec. 15, 1860, from which she drew annual interest. She died in 1863. According to her wishes at her death, the interest on this trust would go to Sally Ann Peppers but she too died, in 1861, leaving children: William S., Robert W., Napoleon (died about 1869), Priestly (died about 1869), Mary D.


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Madison County Chancery Court Minute Book 7

SARAH FARMER v HATFIELD FARMER. November 6, 1874. This couple, black, were legally married in 1874 but Hatfield had left Sarah "and took up with one Milly Whitesides with whom he has been living in a state of adultery." With evidence at hand, court allowed Sarah Farmer a divorce from this husband.

JESSE GRAY, exec. and CATHERINE MOORING, exec. of WYATT MOORING and others v SARAH A. REPLOGLE and others. November 11, 1874. On Feb. 18, 1857 Wyatt Mooring sold to Benjamin Replogle 50 acres in Civil District 12 of Madison County, with a lien on the property. Both men were now deceased. Replogle's children were Mary E. C., Lucy Ann and Benjamin Replogle.

ELIZABETH BURTON v ABEL W. HOARD and others. November 13, 1874. Ed Willis was deceased; heirs were Elizabeth Burton, Sarah Blevins, Lucy J., wife of Dorsey B. Thomas; Mary A. Lewis, wife of William Lewis; Abel Wood, May Willis Hubbard, Robert Hubbard, Anna Hubbard, John E. Hoard and Abel W. Hoard.


Madison County Chancery Court Minute Book 8

JAMES S. EDWARDS, adm. of J. B. GORDON v JOSEPHINE GORDON and others. January 1876. J. B. Gordon died April 21, 1873 leaving his widow, Josephine and an only child, Edna Gordon, and this child had died, leaving only the widow as heir.

FANNY TINER and others v THOMAS B. FENNER. February 3, 1876. William Fenner, Fannie Fenner, Dixie Fenner, surviving children of Richard Fenner, dec'd. were entitled by their father in an undivided of tract of land which the late Mrs. Lucy M. Fenner died owning. Their mother was Fannie Fenner. Mrs. Lucy M. Fenner died February 1862; Thomas B. Fenner was adm. of her estate.

RODERT HURT v O. T. BROWN and others. February 4, 1876. W. H. Hunt died Dec. 17, 1873 leaving a will of which Robert Hunt was executor. His widow later married B. C. Brown.

ANNIE BEASLEY v FRANK BEASLEY. July 14, 1876. This couple were married in 1872; since about February 1876 Frank had so abused Annie that she thought it "unsafe and improper for her to cohabit with him or be under his control." Annie was granted a divorce from Frank.

JOHN D. ASKEW and others v Heirs of JOHN L. MOORE. January 29, 1877. Same relationships given in this instance as stipulated in Chancery Enrollment Book, 1872-1874, pages 536-539, for which see genealogical abstract, this publication.

ALLEN DEBERRY and others v J. R. CHAPPELL. January 31, 1876. Heirs, children and grandchildren, of William Robinson were: Malinda B., wife of H. W. Shelton; Dicey Ann, wife of Robert E. Prewett; Ann Thomas Prewett; Elizabeth B., wife of W. C. McCaslin; John C. Robinson; Thomas L. Robinson; Elizabeth Robinson; Emma, wife of S. J. Cobb; John J. Prewett; G. Robinson.

J. J. BIRDSONG, adm. of J. N. Watt v THOMAS F. WATT and others. Feb. 2, 1877. J. N. Watt died January 1872, intestate. J. J. Birdsong qualified as adm. of his estate, March 1872. Heirs were Thomas F. Watt, S. M. Watt, Mrs. W. C. Spencer, T. J. Watt, John Watt, Burton Watt.

HOLLAND and WILBON and others v ELIZABETH P. HUTCHERSON and others. July 4, 1877. W. C. Hutcherson died Dec. 1865, leaving widow, Elizabeth P., who dissented from his will. She was due dower in estate but the court refused her a year's support from the estate.


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