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Saturday, August 11, 2018

1st Sgt. George Jordan, Medal of Honor recipient 1848-1904, Company K, 9th United States Cavalry Buffalo Soldier

George Jordan was born and enslaved in Williamson County, Tennessee in November of 1848. When he was about 18 years old, on Christmas Day 1866, shortly after he gained his emancipation, he joined the United States Army in Nashville. He enlisted in the 38th Infantry Regiment but by January 1870 he transferred to the 9th Cavalry’s K Troop, where he served for the next twenty-six years. 
George Jordan's enlistment records
The 9th Cavalry was part of the “Buffalo Soldiers” who fought Native Americans in the Indian Wars the western US states. 

Jordan and his comrades in the K Troop were sent initially to West Texas. 
In this portion of his military records you can see that Jordan and some of his comrades from K Troop have been sent "Patrolling and guarding [the] country" at the Rio Grande River, August 1873
For eight years they patrolled from the Rio Grande River and into the Chihuahuan Desert. Jordan was promoted to corporal in 1874 and sergeant in 1879. Later the unit transferred to southern New Mexico, Colorado and southeastern Arizona for 12 more years. 
9th Cavalry - George Jordan is identified in the front row, with his legs crossed

This portion of Jordan's military record shows him present at Fort Garland, Colorado in July, 1879

Corporal in the 9th Cavalry in the snow near Denver, Colorado - this gives an example of what Sgt. Jordan might have worn and the way his horse might have been equipped

Defending Fort Tularosa from Victorio.  On May 14, 1880, Jordan led a group of twenty-five men in successfully defending Fort Tularosa, New Mexico from about 100 Apache warriors led by Victorio. Late in the day of May 13, 1880, Jordan learned that Victorio was planning an attack on a small community near the abandoned post of Fort Tularosa. He rallied his 25 men - who had just completed a grueling day-long march in the Mogollon Mountains - to march all night across mountains to reach the women and children at Tularosa. Under Jordan's direction, the Buffalo Soldiers erected a stockade and guard posts, and sheltered the settlers inside. At dusk Victorio attacked but Jordan and his men managed to hold them off. Victorio then tried to stampede the settler's animals so Jordan sent ten men out to turn them away and they were able to drive off the Apaches without losing a single man or animal. 

According to Frank Schubert's book Black Valor: Buffalo Soldiers and the Medal of Honor, 1870-1898, Jordan said, “The whole action was short but exciting while it lasted and after it was all over the townspeople congratulated us for having repulsed a band of more than 100 [attackers].” Sgt. Jordan’s commander recommended him for the Medal of Honor. However, he would have to wait for his recognition.
This gives an example of what Sgt. Jordan and his comrades would have worn and looked like.

Preventing an Ambush by Nana at Carrizo Canyon.  By next year, the Apache leader Victorio had died and Nana took over leadership of the warriors.  Nana engaged the Buffalo soldiers in seven battles in Carrizo Canyon, New Mexico.  On August 12th, 1881, Capt. Charles Parker with a small group of soldiers were following Nana and his warriors when they were ambushed in the Canyon by 40 or more Apache warriors.  He ordered Jordan to take a small detachment of men, get to higher ground and fire down on the Apaches to allow the soldiers to escape. It was a fierce battle, with both sides suffering casualties. Jordan's small group was attacked for hours but was able to hold their position and allow the troops in the canyon to retreat. In his report of the incident Capt. Parker described Sgt. Jordan's actions this way: he “stubbornly held his ground in an extremely exposed position and gallantly forced back a much superior number of the enemy, preventing them from surrounding the command.” 

9th Cavalry near Wounded Knee, South Dakota - this gives an example of what the K Troop's camp might have looked like

Birds eye view of 9th Cavalry going to camp from drill, Pine Ridge, AG?, South Dakota - This gives an example of what Sgt. Jordan's camps might have looked like

Awarded the Medal of Honor and Certificate of Merit. In 1890 Jordan was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Tularosa and a Certificate of Merit for his valor at Carrizo Canyon. Sergeant Jordan is the only soldier from Williamson County to have ever been awarded the Medal of Honor and is believed to be the only African American soldier from Tennessee to ever be awarded this honor.

Photo courtesy of Ed Hooper

Retirement and Death.  By the time of his retirement in 1896 at Fort Robinson, Nebraska Jordan had served ten years as first sergeant of a troop renowned for its performance against the Apache and Sioux. Jordan moved with other Buffalo Soldier veterans to nearby Crawford, Nebraska 
where he was a successful landowner. Diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 1904 Jordan was denied admission to the Fort Robinson hospital because of the color of his skin. He "died for the want of proper attention" in Crawford on October 25 1904. 

Sergeant Jordan was buried with full military honors at Fort Robinson, Nebraska on October 29, 1904. His permanent gravesite is at Fort McPherson National Cemetery in Maxwell, Nebraska. 

Jordan Elementary School Named for George Jordan.  On August 10, 2018 - almost 137 years to the day of his bravery at Carrizo Canyon - Jordan Elementary School in Williamson County opened its doors.  The school was named in honor of George Jordan's incredible life and legacy.  

Medal of Honor to be Displayed at the Smithsonian.  In the fall of 2018, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture received Jordan's Medal of Honor and plan to display it.

Photo courtesy of Ed Hooper

Photo courtesy of Ed Hooper

Born enslaved in Williamson County, once he gained his freedom, and immediately upon attaining full citizenship, he volunteered to fight for his country by joining the US Army.  His bravery in defending women and children in peril, and his ambushed comrades demonstrates the incredible courage and strength of character he possessed.  Williamson County is proud to call him one of our native sons.

The Lynching of Calvin Beatty 1860-1878

On today's date - August 11, 1878, 18-year-old Calvin Beatty died of the result of wounds received in a lynchng. His death was just one in a sad string of extrajudicial killings in which a local mob took justice into its own hands. Over the 25 year period from 1868 through the early 1890s at least 11 men were murdered in Williamson County by lynching:
  • July and August 1868: six men died in a series of retaliatory murders:
    • July 18, 1868 William Guthrie was lynched by the KKK, by shooting near the Douglass church (the site of today's Henpeck Market on Lewisburg Pike
    • July 19, 1868 Jeremiah Ezell was shot in an ambush in retaliation for the killing of William Guthrie
    • Soon after, two men were murdered by hanging in retaliation for the murder of Jeremiah Ezell (one was hung from a locust tree at Widow Bostick's Everbright home on Carter's Creek Pike and the other was hung in "Maney's front lawn" - the home known today as Jasmine Grove in the Myles Manor neighborhood.)
    • August 17, 1868, Samuel A. Bierfield was shot on Main Street in downtown Franklin in retaliation for the death of Jeremiah Ezell
    • August 17, 1868 Lawrence Bowman was shot on Main Street in downtown Franklin apparently in retaliation for the death of Jeremiah Ezell
  • March 1877, Jim Walker was taken from the courthouse by “masked men” and hung “about a mile from town”.
  • August 1878 Calvin Beatty was lynched by hanging from a hickory tree & shot
  • October 1878 John Thomas was lynched by hanging
  • August 10, 1888 Amos Miller was lynched by hanging by the KKK from the courthouse railing
  • April 30, 1891 Jim Taylor lynched from the Murfreesboro Bridge by today's Pinkerton Park in Franklin
This ugly period in America's history, in Franklin and Williamson County's history and in our collective history must not be forgotten. To learn more, visit The National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

In this case, Calvin Beatty was accused of attempting to rape the six-year old daughter of "prominent citizen" Daniel Crisman on Friday, August 3, 1877. He was arrested the next day and taken to Franklin where he was jailed. The jailer was concerned that Beatty might be lynched, so for several nights he keep the jail guarded. However, according to newspaper accounts, when all was quiet for several days, "his suspicions were lulled", and the guards were dismissed at eleven o’clock on the night of Monday, August 6th. Evidently, the two dismissed guards promised to send two guards in their place but that does not seem to have happened. An hour afterward - at midnight (which seems to be the favored hour for the KKK) a mob appeared.  According to a newspaper account:
"The "tramp of one hundred and fifty horses were heard, and then came a knock upon the jailer’s door.
“Who's there?” Asked the jailer. 
“Friend.” Was softly responded. 
“What do you want,” asked the jailer. 
“We have come for Calvin Beatty, and we intend to have him. We don’t want to frighten you nor harm you; we are aware of your position and respect it. Just quietly give us the keys and stay in your room. “ 
“You can’t get any keys, I will die before I give them up,” said the jailer. 
“Knock down the door,” said the man in an undertone, and it was done. 
Three men rushed into the hall through the breach, when the jailer and his wife met them, she exclaiming, “Oh gentlemen, just consider what a terrible thing you are doing before going any further." 
Said they: “Madame, we took the whole matter into consideration before leaving home and our minds are made up now.” They then passed into the jail, knocked off the lock to Beatty’s cell, told Beatty he was wanted, and pushed him along out the door and took him away.
Beatty described what happened next: “Where they rushed me outside of the jail they put me on a horse behind a man and rode rapidly away."

According to reports, "They asked him if he raped the child, and he replied that he saw her, but never touched her. The mob sneeringly cried that he was a damned liar, and laughed and joked."

When they came to a tree Beatty reported that one member of the mob said, 

“Here’s a good place; let us hang him here.” 
But they all said, “It is too bushy here; let’s go further.” 
So they rode on until the man who had me said: “Here, fellows, let’s hang this d—-d n*****; I don’t want him to ride behind me all night; I am getting d—d tired of him.” 
So they stopped at a hickory tree, when one of them climbed it and threw a rope over the limb and placed the noose around my neck; the man in the tree then fetched it a jerk and it choked me mighty bad; 
the moon was down and it was very dark; between fifty and sixty were around me; 
got my right hand out of the rope to which my left was tied behind me, and slipped it easy-like up to the rope on my neck, and worked it, unbeknownst to them, until I got it around my ears and off my neck; 
then the man in the tree says: “When you stand away off dar for, you d—-d fool; come close;” get close to the tree, when the man in the tree there sent the end of the rope down, and says, “Ketch hold, dar.” 
They ketched the rope, and I looked ‘round to see where to jump; so when the man rode off to let me swing, I fetched a big lunge and lit right among the horses, the man up the tree say: “The d—-n n***** is gone; look out dar,” 
I got down long the horses, and they were afraid they would shoot one another; and, at last, I saw an opening andI darted through; 
one man says, “there he goes,” and then they began to shoot, and that blinded me; 
they shot in my face and all around me; I never heard the like; while they were shooting I ran against an old stump and fell just as a head of them shot; at last one man shot me in the hand, and just before I got to the fence another man shot me in the side; he galloped up close to me and fired, and I fell; and he says, “I’se got him.” 
But that made me jump again, and then I come to a rail fence, and I saw dar was a rock fence by it, and I jumped over that, and I got mighty weak and didn’t go but a few steps before I fell in a clover patch; lay still and heard them hunting and shooting all around, but they didn’t find me; 
I lay dar till ten o’clock yesterday morning and I got so bad off for some water, I walked and crawled through some beech woods, and got to a black man’s house and told him not to tell where I was; but he got scared, and said if I died there the white folks would get after him.”
After Beatty's harrowing escape from his hanging and despite being shot, he managed to make his way to the home of another black man, Jeff Walker.  Walker cared for Beatty but was afraid of being turned on by the KKK and so turned Beatty over to the authorities. Newspaper accounts describe that, 
Wednesday night about dusk a negro went to Judge Cook at Franklin and said that Beatty was out in the country badly wounded.  . . . Dr. House kindly visited the patient. He found him at a cabin on the road-side on the farm of Mr. Jeff Walker, near two miles from the place of the attempted hanging, and near four miles from Franklin. He placed him in an express and lodged him in the calaboose where crowds soon collected to get a view of him. . . .
Beatty was transferred to the Nashville jail for "safe keeping" by order of Judge William S. McLemore. When the train arrived he was conveyed by express wagon to the jail, where "a good many colored people were waiting to see him."
. . . his wounds were . . .  dressed by Drs. House and Hughes. He lay on his back with his body bare, and all over the right side of the chest and abdomen were small punctures about the size of No. 3 shot. There were a great many, possibly a hundred or more. The side was puffed up and hard. He had been vomiting blood and also passing it by the bladder. He was evidently in a bad fix. 
Being asked if he recognized any of the mob, Beatty said he did, and named two. His escape was almost miraculous, . . .
Judge William S. McLemore was in charge of the case and publicly stated his anger over the attack on Beatty.  

He ordered Beatty's removal to Nashville as a desperate step required for his safekeeping, and the papers reported that "Nothing by the extreme peril of his situation would justify his removal, . . . . the satisfaction fo safety counteracting any ill effects from the journey. It is a shame that the proud county of Williamson should be under the necessity of resorting to a retreat, and, says Judge Mclemore it shall never occur again." Unfortunately, however, within months it did happen again.  Just months later, in October 1878, John Thomas was lynched by hanging in Franklin. 

Regarding the Beatty case, Judge McLemore stated, "I mean business, and the parties who infringe the law shall feel the weight of its arm. Of that I am determined."  The paper described Judge McLemore's remarks as being accompanied  "with a flash of the eye that looked "ugly" for mobbers." 

It is telling that despite such tough language regarding the intent to prosecute Beatty's attackers, in an interview with the local press, Beatty stated that he knew two of the men who lynched him but was cautioned not to state their names. And the paper implied that Beatty had already given their names. However, no one was ever prosecuted for his attack.


Beatty arrived in Nashville on the 5:25 pm train from Franklin on Wednesday, August 8th in custody of Charles Q. Beech, J. H. Dunn and Dr. S. J. House. According to accounts, "as they took Beatty from the cars at the Chattanooga depot a large crowd gathered around him, all seeming bent on seeing one who had so miraculously escaped from the clutches of a mob bent on his destruction. he was placed in an express wagon and conveyed to the jail where a good many colored people were waiting to see him. He was carried to the second story of the jail, where it was thought he would get more air, and where too, it is quieter. He was very much exhausted and had very little to say to anyone."

Beatty died in Nashville from his injuries on Saturday night, August 11, 1878. I have not been able to locate a burial location for his body.

Calvin Beatty death record in Nashville City Death Register
The cause of death was noted as "gunshot wounds"

Nashville Daily American_Fri__Aug_9__1878

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Young Family of Franklin

On this date in 1877, Charlotte Young of Franklin, Tennessee published an ad in the Southwestern Christian Advocate (New Orleans, LA). She was seeking information about her mother and brothers who were sold to "speculators" during slavery near Alexandria, Virginia. They had been enslaved by Bernard Hoe [Hooe Jr] who lived in Prince William, Virginia. According to the ad, when she was small, her mother and two brothers were sold to slave traders.
“Mrs. Charlotte Young,” Lost Friends Ad, The Southwestern Christian Advocate (New Orleans, LA), August 9, 1877, Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery, accessed April 22, 2018, <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>.
From what I have pieced together, Charlotte was born about 1832 in Virginia.  I am guessing based on this ad that she may have also been enslaved by Barnard Hooe, Jr. in Alexandria Virginia.  I think that it was around 1840 when her mother and brothers were sold away from Charlotte.  It is pure speculation, but in 1842, Hooe moved from Alexandria into Washington DC to open a new business and seems to have been in some financial trouble. By the 1850 Census he lists no assets - real or personal. I wonder if the sale of the enslaved people in his possession - including Charlotte's family could have been the result.

The_Daily_Madisonian (Washington DC)
At some point, Charlotte met her husband Samuel and in 1849 - when she was 17 years old - their son Sam Jr. was born in Virginia.

Around 1850, Charlotte, her husband Sam and their infant son were brought to or sold to Franklin, Tennessee.  It was a common practice during this time period for enslaved people to be redistributed from the Upper South to states further south and west where large-scale farming was more profitable.

Lewis Miller, Sketchbook of Landscapes in the State of Virginia, 1853-1867. Courtesy, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia; slide 84-896c.
This sketch, entitled, "Slave Trader, Sold to Tennessee" depicts an all too common scene at the time of people being sold - in this case from Virginia to Tennessee.  People were shackled together, two-by-two in "coffles" or chain gangs.  They were forcibly marched long distances where they were sold like animals.  It is possible this is what happened to Charlotte, Sam and their infant son.  Or perhaps they were moved to Franklin along with the other possessions  - like furniture and livestock - of the people who enslaved them.  

Freeman Thomas, another enslaved man from Franklin, recalled the practice this way, 

I've seen them sell women away from little children, and women would be crying' and they'd slap 'em about crying'. . . . I’ve seen ‘em handcuffed long as from here to the fence out there, women screaming and hollering about leaving their children.
I am not sure who enslaved the Young family here in Franklin, but it is possible that the white William Young and Rebecca Bugg family was keeping some of them in slavery - this may be how at least Sam Young Sr. came by his last name. William Young and his wife had both been born in Virginia and lived on Carter's Creek Pike where he had about one dozen people in bondage. Perhaps he bought Sam, Charlotte and their son from a slave trader; it is likely we may never know.

Charlotte and Sam's next son Moses was born in Franklin, Tennessee in 1851, Another son Eli joined the family in 1857.  The family then lived through the Civil War and all the fighting, chaos and destruction that raged in and around Franklin from 1861-1865. 

On Christmas Day 1865, Sam Sr. entered into a one-year labor contract (along with two other African American men Nelson Wilson and Ryal Atkison) to farm about 212 acres for C. [Charles] A. Merrill. Merrill was a well-known slave trader in Franklin. They may have been working on Merrill's Rose Hill farm on Columbia Avenue just south of Franklin near where the Taco Bell is today.

An ad for Charles Merrill's slave trading business from a Nashville newspaper
April 27, 1861

Charles Merrill's Rose Hill
Sam Young and his partners agreed to "take charge" of the farm and "furnish [21] hands and cultivate" the farm in "good order". The men were to farm 100 acres in cotton and the balance in corn or a mixture of corn and oats. Young and his partners agreed to deliver the cotton to Merrill's cotton gin the same day it was "pict from the fields."  They were to commence to plow the farm "immediately."  The contract implies that a "dwelling house" was provided on the property because they were instructed not to cook in it and to deliver it in good condition at the end of the year. They were also instructed not to have "any crowds . . . assemble there that may annoy the neighborhood."  Merrill was to receive half of the crop at the end of the year.  The large size and relative sophistication of this share cropping arrangement implies that Sam Young and his partners were well-respected and trusted. 

However, tensions remained high between many African Americans employees and landowners. This system of labor contracts was a complete reversal in the social and economic structure, foreshadowed changes in the political structure that were hard for some to accept.  In July 1867 an armed conflict broke out on the Franklin Square between two rival political groups - divided largely - but not exclusively -  along racial lines. Sam Young Sr. was involved and was wounded.  Young was interviewed by the Freedmen Bureau's officers and his affidavit appears below. According to his statement, he was working to keep the peace and was marching with the members of the Loyal League (a group of largely African American men who generally aligned with the Republican Party) when they were fired upon by Conservatives and many former Confederates.  Young was injured, but not seriously.  [The topic of the Franklin Riot deserves a fuller exploration than I can give it here.  I have spoken on this topic before, and have posted many newspaper articles from the time period clipped here if you would like to read the original sources.]

During this time of very early Reconstruction, it is likely that Sam's sons were working with him - either farming or as stone masons - which was Sam's primary skill; but they were also learning to read and write. Middle son Moses must have displayed some aptitude for school work because in 1869 his name appears as a second year student at Central Tennessee College in Nashville - a school for students of color.  

Central Tennessee College, 1869

That same year, his older brother Sam Jr. married Nancy Southall in Franklin. In 1870the family was shown in the federal census living in Franklin. Sam and the two older boys were working as stone masons.  Sam Jr. and his wife Nancy had added a granddaughter to the household   By 1872Moses was employed as a school teacher in Franklin, according to a bank deposit record with the Freedman's Bank in Nashville. 

In 1873, Sam Sr. appeared to be farming as well as working as a stone mason, because his cotton entry into the Williamson County Fair that year won him a $25 prize.

Nashville Republican Banner, October 7, 1873, page 3
By August 1877, Charlotte Young had begun to search for her mother and brothers in earnest and published the newspaper ad looking for them.  It's not clear whether she ever found them.  Tragically, the following year, Sam and Charlotte's family home was destroyed by fire.  The loss was reported in the Nashville newspaper.

Nashville Republican Banner, Saturday August 3, 1878
During this time period, Sam Jr, and his wife added several children to the family, but Sam Jr died in 1879 of heart disease, and I suspect that his wife Nancy also died.

In the 1880 Federal Census, Charlotte and Sam Young Sr. were still living in Franklin.  They were raising their five grandchildren and living with another daughter in law.  I think their youngest son Eli had passed away, as well and I can find no record of Moses.  Sadly, I also lost the trail for both Charlotte and Sam Sr.  

One of their grandchildren - Annie Grace - married and stayed in Franklin the rest of her life. She worked as a hotel cook as a newlywed while her husband James Mitchell worked as a mail carrier.  Later James would become a popular minister in town.  He was employed as a pastor at various churches including Presbyterian, Methodist and AME Churches throughout his life.  The couple never had any children, but were active in the community.  Annie went to college and worked as a teacher later in her life.  They lived on Columbia Avenue in Franklin where they often hosted meetings of the various clubs that they participated in.  

The legacy that Charlotte and Sam left behind through their contributions to Franklin and those of their children and grandchildren is long lasting and enduring.  

Thursday, August 2, 2018

John Merrill, elected constable in 1878

In honor of Election Day, today we remember that on this date in 1878 John Merrill, an African American man, was elected constable in Williamson County. This was a remarkable accomplishment during a time of strict Jim Crow segregation and the suppression of black voting rights. 

John Merrill was born around 1822 and worked as a carpenter in Franklin. Merrill lived in the Hard Bargain neighborhood. He was a leader in the community; he was a member of organizations such as the Mosaic Templars of America. He moved to Nashville around 1909 but upon his death in 1923 was buried in Franklin’s Toussaint L’Ouveture Cemetery

John Merrill
b. 1922, death April 25, 1923
His legacy lived on through subsequent generations - his great-grandson Robert Murdic Jr was a Tuskegee Airman in World War II.

Robert Murdic, Jr
Class 44-F
Flight Officer

Photograph of Tuskegee airmen - including Robert Murdic Jr - attending a briefing in Ramitelli, Italy, March 1945
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

John Merrill's great-great- grandson Tom Murdic was past president of the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County.