Jesse Benton. A Little History
Born in 1783 in Hillsborough, North Carolina
Jesse had a duel, in 1813, with William Carroll & later that year Jesse & his brother Thomas Hart Benton had a brawl in the Public Square with Andrew Jackson & William Carroll.
Jesse married Mary Childress in Williamson County in 1817. They moved to West Tennessee and then to Texas.
Jesse was a Colonel in 1836 in the Texas Rangers during The War of Texas Independence.
Later Jesse left Texas and moved with Mary and twenty slaves to Sabine Parish, Louisiana. There he became ill, wrote his will and died in 1843.
Mary Benton and her niece Minerva with her two children Henry & Mary, accompanied by her brother William G. Childress, left Louisiana and returned to Tennessee. Mary was determined not to leave her husband in an unmarked grave in Louisiana. In 1847 Mary and her nephew John W. Martin bought a lot in City Cemetery at the corner of City avenue and Mulberry avenue where Jesse had been buried.
In 1852, Mary purchased 38 1/4 acres from Mrs. Adams and built a fine house on Middle Franklin Pike (now called Granny White Pike). The name of Mary Benton’s house was “Sunnyside.” The family vacated the property during the Civil War.
In 1870, Mary was living in Sewanee with her niece Minerva and her great niece Mary Benton Douglass Sevier & her husband. Mary was in poor health. She wrote her will with instructions to “have the remains of my husband brought to Sewanee and buried by my side.” This did not happen. Mary lived another eleven years and was buried in Chattanooga. Her niece Minerva moved to Russellville, Kentucky where she died in 1887.
Seven eyewitness accounts (1890-1909) in local newspapers reported seeing, at City Cemetery, Jesse Benton’s tombstone “one of the humblest slabs in the place” across from “the handsomest monument in the state to William Carroll.”
Regrettably, during the first survey of Sections, Lots and Tombstone Inscriptions in 1908, Engineer Smith misread Jesse Benton’s tombstone inscription as “Lizzie Benton 1783-1843” on the Benton-Martin lot. No tombstone was found at the 1908 Plat location, in Section 11.2 (11 EP) Lot 1, during the MTSU GSI Survey of Tombstones in 2002. Like many tombstones in old graveyards, Jesse Benton’s original tombstone was lost to weather and to time. In September 2015, a Replacement Tombstone for Jesse Benton was placed on the Benton-Martin lot.
Col. Granville Sevier (1869-1944) was the son of Theodore F. and Mary Benton Douglass Sevier. In 1927, Col. Sevier and his new wife Marion Shainwald Sevier visited Nashville. He seized the opportunity to purchase the property formerly owned by Mary Benton. Col. Sevier brought his mother to reside in the house which she had named “Sunnyside” when she lived there as a little girl.
Col. Sevier was posted to Honolulu. His wife died in Honolulu in 1928. Col. Sevier, in a letter to his sister’s husband on April 5, 1929, written from Fort Shafter, Honolulu, laid out his plans “to have a very plain vault erected on the lot and transfer: “Aunt Benton (Mary Benton), Grandmother Douglass, his wife Marion Sevier.” He named other graves on the Benton-Martin lot by saying “besides Uncle Benton (Jesse), there is Henry Clay Douglass, my mother’s brother, and my sister Mary Douglass Sevier.” [Note. His mother died November 30, 1929.]
In 1932, placed in the Benton-Douglass Sevier Mausoleum:
Mary Childress Benton (transferred from Citizens Cemetery in Chattanooga)
Minerva Hulme Douglass (transferred from Maple Grove Cemetery, Russellville, KY)
Mary Benton Douglass Sevier (transferred from Currin Vault at City Cemetery)
Marion Shainwald Sevier (transferred from Honolulu, Hawaii)
After his retirement, Col. Sevier returned to live at “Sunnyside. He added the wings to the house, built “the office” in the yard and made many improvements. Col. Granville Sevier died in 1944 and was placed in the Mausoleum.
During this research project, contact has been made with Benton-Douglass-Sevier family members. These descendants have shared important documents, letters, photographs, and Bible records which have enabled a better understanding of the history of Jesse and Mary Benton and their kin and of “Sunnyside.”
Prepared by Fletch Coke 9-22-2015