The Jenkins
Rappahannock VA
to Mason Hall TN

Subtitle

Mason Hall, Tysonville,and Davenport TN
 

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Haywood Green 1921 - 2005

 

Some of the information here was taken from 'Mason Hall Community History' by Haywood Green published in 1996. His book covered some of the history and the later residents of Mason Hall in the 1980s and 90s. I have done much more research on the community's beginnings, provided information on the history and genealogy of those early first families, and leave it here on the internet for all those who have roots in the Mason Hall area. This page covers just the beginnings of these three communities although Tysonville and Davenport no longer exist. Haywood also wrote a history of the Turnpike Levee, the bridge that was built across the Obion River outside of Mason Hall to connect Obion and Gibson counties and provided a trade and migration route to the Mississippi River.

My first memories of Mason Hall began in the 1940s when I went to town with my grandad, Tom Jenkins, while visiting here from Up North. The community was about a hundred years old then and still a very busy little community on the road between Trimble and Kenton. My uncle owned a DX service station and my aunt operated a beauty shop in town. There was a high school where my mother and her 10 brothers and sisters graduated, a cafe, grocery stores, a bank, community clubs, a funeral home, another garage, and a big grain and gin company in the center of town. My grandad lived only a few miles from town, across the line in Gibson County, near Possum Pond, between Fairview and Cool Springs, but Mason Hall was the nearest place to trade.

Now, almost 70 years later, it is just a wide place in the road. Only the grain company, three cemeteries, three churches, and about 80 homes remain. The post office, school, and all the other businesses are long gone and so are the descendants of it's first settlers. Mason Hall, once on the only north-south trading route from the port at Hickman, Kentucky is not on any major road any longer. Trimble and Kenton, on major north-south highways and railroads now, became the places to trade and provide quick access to the even larger cities of Dyersburg and Union City.

I began developing an interest in Mason Hall while researching my Jenkins, Bradford, and Lovitt ancestors who migrated there over a hundred years ago. I met with Mr Green several times and discussed the area's history and we visited several of the very old abandoned graveyards in the area. I'm not sure that I can even find them now. Being a genealogist, he asked that me to research some of his family's origins he had been unable to do. Thus began my study of the Mason Hall's early settlers. Unfortunately he passed away before I was finally was able to identify his family's ancestors. In his memory, I dedicated my database on WorldConnect to the first Mason Hall families, but lacked a place to record the history of the community there. I believe the story needed to be told for the descendants of all those pioneers that settled or passed through Mason Hall in the beginning.

Mason Hall is in southeastern Obion County in northwest Tennessee and only several hundred feet from the Gibson County line. It was one of the earliest settlements in Obion County, which was organized in 1824 from previously held Indian Lands, and it was the first settlement south of the Obion River in county. It was on the early migration route west in the early and mid 1800s, being only about 25 miles from Hickman, Kentucky where those pioneers ferried across the Mississippi River over into Missouri and onto Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Only the Obion River bottoms and the town of Troy were between Mason Hall and the Mississippi River.

No records establish exactly when Mason Hall came into existence and it has never been incorporated. It is thought that it may have been around the mid 1830s, when the Methodist Church is believed to had the first organized services in the community and the first public building was a unchartered Masonic Lodge . Many of the church's charter members were also some of the first community organizers. A post office was located there in 1837.

Many of the first pioneers to arrive in the area, however, settled in Gibson County about two miles south of what was later to become Mason Hall. There was a small settlement around the trading post run by Baptist Boyett called Tysonville. It is believed to be between where the North Union Cumberland Presbyterian Church is now and where the Tyson Store was later built. This area was in District 10 of Gibson Co in 1850. District 19 was to the east in the northeast corner of Gibson County, the area surrounding Crockett's old homeplace. Later a District 24 became the western part of District 10. Tysonville was the only settlement in the northern part of the county in the beginning. It may have been on the high ground where Grassy, Dillard, Cool Springs, and Edmunston Creeks all originate. Others have referred to the settlement as Tickleville or Tinkleville but no evidence has ever been found of those names in Gibson County. There were no Tickles in the area, and the Tinkles that came here with David Crockett lived east of Mason Hall in Weakely County.

Davenport on the Cool Springs Creek in the northeast corner of Dyer County was about four miles west of Tysonville, and 2.5 miles southeast of what is now Main St in Trimble. The community was about a half-mile south of what is now Eastwood Dr and a half-mile west of the Gibson Co line. Abner Hargett, an early settler of Mason Hall in the 1830s, landed at Sharp's Ferry, west of Davenport on the Obion River, camped there until spring. He said when he came overland through what later became the Trimble and Davenport area that it was nothing but a huge canebreak. Early maps indicate there was once a road (Bermuda Grass Rd) connecting Davenport to Tysonville. The road continued on west from Davenport to Sharp's Ferry, Obion Lake, and to Palestine across the river in Obion Co. Another trading route from Hickman KY and the Obion River crossing north of Mason Hall came through Davenport (Upper Trimble Rd and Boyd Rd) and south to Tatumville and RoEllen in southeastern Dyer County. Many of the early settlers are buried at Jones Cemetery on Eastwood Dr and Pettus Cemetery on Switzer Rd in Gibson Co. There were two stores run by Jesse Pierce and M. R. Hendricks, a school where Moses House taught, a church and two or three other businesses. It is believed Davenport existed from the 1840s to the late 1800s as the Town of Trimble, two miles northwest, was growing as the railroad was completed there in the 1870s. .


Hardy Canady is found in Gibson County records as early as 1821. He was one of the first settlers of Tysonville. Hardy contributed the 10 acres of land in the 1840s where the North Union Cumberland Presbyterian Church now stands. Before the church was erected, the local residents met at what called the North Union Meeting House that was on land donated by Benjamin Tyson.

 

The Mason Hall community had it's beginnings at Tysonville near the North Union Cumberland Church

The first building was erected in the late 1820s. Earliest photo about 1910. Photo courtesy - Bob Nichols

 

Boyett researchers have said that Henry Boyett and his family of North Carolina came to this area in the very early 1820s also. Others soon to follow were the Howells, Tysons, Oakes, Tolers, Canadys, Smiths, Davises, Tilghmans, Porters, Garrisons, Hollomons, Watts, Cherrys, and Finches. Many of these families can be found on the Gibson County 1830 and 1840 censuses and the 1830 Sheriff's List. Page 66 of the 1840 Federal Census of Gibson County records those that lived at the Tysonville settlement. Many of these early family names can be found in the North Union Church Cemetery where some of the oldest stones date back to the 1840s. The Boyett's history says Henry and his wife are buried there though no markers remain. Their family history also records that David Crockett frequently traded with Henry's son, Baptist Boyett, at his store there before he left here in November of 1835.

 

 

David Crockett settled six miles east of Tysonville in Weakley County in early 1822. This southwest corner of Weakley County across the South Fork of the Obion River from it's county seat, Dresden, became Gibson County in 1833. Davy wrote in his book that his nearest neighbor in Weakley County, Lee R. Owens, lived seven miles away and on the other side of the South Fork. An Owens Landing was where the Middle and South Forks of the Obion River joined. Other Mason Hall families recall stories of their ancestors hunting bears in Obion County with Crockett. A story about his hunting trip here with Jesse Reeves was written by Jesse's descendants. Crockett frequently hunted bear in the hills in western Obion County. He assisted in laying out the town of Troy, the county seat, in 1825 and later served as a US Congressman from the district. More evidence that Crockett frequented the area is that four of his sons and daughters married individuals from the community. One son married Baptist Boyett's sister, another son married a Porter that lived near Baptist. A daughter married a Tyson of Tysonville, and another daughter married a Flowers from just east of there. Davy's mother is recorded on the 1850 census in Tysonville living with her daughter. The daughter was buried at North Union Church Cemetery. Additional information on David Crockett, his family, and life in Weakley, Gibson, and Obion counties and those who went with him from here to Texas can be found on the internet on 100s of other web pages and books.

 

Meanwhile, in Obion County, some of the early settlers south of the Obion River were Elijah Boyett's family (no relation to Henry Boyett in Tysonville), the Brambletts, Crains, Glissons, Keathleys, McNeelys, Norrids, Nedrys, Nichols, Robbins, Purvis, Reeves, Worrels, and the Spights. In 1836 there appeared to be only about 50 adult males paying a property or poll tax in the 8th district, the entire area south of the Obion River. Marriages within these few families, north and south of the county line, resulted in nearly everyone being related.

In 1826 the Obion County Court ordered a road to be cut to connect the county seat of Gibson County, Trenton, to Troy, the Obion County seat. Before then, traveling within the county was limited to following marked trees. A stagecoach stop at Salem in Obion County in 1833 may have been the beginning of the town of Mason Hall. Salem was on an earlier Indian trail that later became a trade route from Hickman, Kentucky south to Tipton County, Tennessee. It came to be known as the Base Line and Turnpike Trail. It is believed it was sometime after this that the community began to expand. Wagons carrying freight and westward migrations increased on these two roads that joined just outside of Mason Hall before crossing the wide bottoms of an unbridged Obion River.

As Mason Hall grew many of the early settlers in Tysonville began moving to the Mason Hall area in Obion County and many of them can be found on the 1840 and 1850 Obion County census. Tysonville all but disappeared and the only evidence of the stagecoach stop at Salem was a school and later a church. By 1850 there were slightly over 100 households below the Obion River in Obion County.

Capt John Hollomon, who arrived in the area in 1824, moved from Tysonville to Mason Hall after 1830. He, like most of the early settlers, was a friend of David Crockett and the family history records that he walked Crockett to the Obion River when he left for Texas. Capt Hollomon was one of the first community leaders. He was a farmer, large land owner, served as county magistrate for 40 years, and helped establish the first church. It is believed Major John Garrison may have been the next Mason Hall community organizer to move from Gibson County to Mason Hall. He too was a land and slave owner in Gibson County and employed Alexander Finch as his overseer. They are found living next to each other on page 66 of the 1840 census in Tysonville. Though Major Garrison lived in Gibson County, he was appointed the postmaster of the first post office in Mason Hall in 1837. Major Garrison, along with Baptist Boyett, and John Hollomon, established the Methodist Church in Mason Hall about 1835. John died at an early age and his wife married Alexander Finch.

 

The Honorable William Baptist Boyett

 10 Jan 1808 Wayne Co NC - 31 May 1887 Obion Co TN - Mason Hall Cemetery

Photo credit - Dorothy Semenyna

 

Baptist Boyett was probably the most well-known leader. He moved from Gibson County into Obion County after 1840 and settled north of town. He was a very successful businessman and built the first store, and the Masonic Lodge above it, around 1850 in Mason Hall. Boyett's Store became the focal point of the community and censuses refer to the Mason Hall area as Boyett's Store. Baptist served as postmaster, county magistrate and tax collector, and in the Tennessee Legislature. In his honor the Methodist Church, Robinson's Chapel, was changed to Boyett's Chapel in the 1840s.

 

Boyett Store, Masonic Lodge upstairs, drugstore next door. Photo credit - Will Nat Hollomon

 

George W. L. Marr may have been another early settler 'below the Obion' having moved there in 1821 after serving in the U.S. Congress and as Attorney General for Tennessee. He and his wife owned large tracts of land, were on later tax rolls for district 8, but moved on to Island 10 in the Mississippi River. Her father, Edwin Hickman a Revolutionary War veteran, recieved land grants here and the town of Hickman Kentucky was changed from Mills Point in his honor.

Norton Oakes, like many of the other first settlers above seemed to be well educated and served in positions for learned men in Obion County. Norton and four others from the community were appointed by the state in 1838 to establish a school system and serve as School Commissioners for District Eight.

Other prominent early settlers were Abner Hargett, Amos Finch, and William Miles. Mose Headden, Samuel K. Pettus, John Lovitt, and John Pierce were some of the early settlers near Davenport, not far from Tysonville and Mason Hall.

Later in the 1800s other communties sprang up in the area. In Obion County, Kenton on the Obion-Gibson line in the 1840s, Liberty, Turtle Bend, Georgetown Store, Beech Valley, and Macedonia. Other than Kenton, none of these communities exist today. In Gibson County, Rutherford in the 1850s, Cool Springs, Fairview, Tyson Store Community, Tilghman, Possum Pond, and slightly further south, Yorkville in the 1830s. Only Rutherford and Yorkville remain today. In Dyer County west and southwest of Mason Hall, were Trimble, established in 1875, and Churchton to the south.

In the 1840s the 8th District of Obion County was divided and the western half became a new District 11. By 1850 there were about 200 households in  Gibson County's 10th District. The western part became District 24 in the  1870s and the eastern part, District 14 then 19. The area south of Kenton  remained District 10. The early ferry, later replaced by a Turnpike Bridge  across the Obion  River north of Mason Hall, provided the only access to Troy  and Obion County  from Kenton and Trimble and other towns in Gibson and  Madison County. The  Mississipppi River crossing at Hickman, Kentucky being  the only crossing for a  100 miles north or south required many North  Carolinians and Tennesseans to  pass through Obion County, primarily Mason  Hall and Troy, on their way west in  the beginning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thousands of individuals, like my grandad's great-grandfather from North Carolina, passed through Tysonville, Mason Hall, and Troy in the 1840s on his way to the Mississippi River crossing at Hickman.  Ferrying the North Fork of the Obion River was possible in Weakley County to the northeast and later downstream in Dyer County at Sharpsferry. A sign I observed at the ferry crossing at Hickman in 2005 claimed to have been in operation for over 160 years. 

A mule-operated ferry similar to the Turnpike Ferry on the Obion River operated by Capt Silas Rust. Photo: Aaron Staulcup.

 

The genealogy of all the individuals mentioned above, including Silas Rust, and his photo, can be found in my database on RootsWeb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The StoryTellers

My feelings are in each family there is one who seems called to find the ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and make them live again, to tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve.

To me, doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead, breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the story tellers of the tribe. All tribes have one. We have been called as it were by our genes.

Those who have gone before cry out to us: Tell our story. So, we do.

In finding them, we somehow find ourselves. How many graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count. How many times have I told the ancestors you have a wonderful family you would be proud of us? How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me? I cannot say.

It goes beyond just documenting facts. It goes to who am I and why do I do the things I do.

It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference and saying I can't let this happen. The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh. It goes to doing something about it.

It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish. How they contributed to what we are today.

It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family.

It goes to deep pride that they fought to make and keep us a Nation.

It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us. That we might be born who we are. That we might remember them. So we do.

With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we are them and they are us. We are the chosen.

So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family. It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take their place in the long line of family storytellers.

That, is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and put flesh on the bones.

Author unknown