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MJ History: The deeds of Colonel Robert Butler

Donna G. Ferrell

Special to The Chronicle

We have another piece from Donna G. Ferrell this week. This one is titled “The Deeds of Colonel Robert Butler.” 

The writer asked her niece, Diane Weathers, to trace the deeds in Wilson County of Robert Butler. Using the landmarks and local names in the deeds, she found the place, the original 640 acres of Robert Butler. Weathers came by with a map and off we went on a road trip. We traveled west on Central Pike (not here in 1820), turned on Chandler Road (not here in 1820), and went to the crest of a hill (here in 1820). 

Looking out over the hill, there before us was Mt. Juliet (not the house, but the subdivision). We tried to imagine what it must have looked like in 1820, when Butler could stand on his property and look out and see Mount Juliet House. Did Butler name the road to his property Noreland (Moreland today)? Did he have plans to build a Noreland Estate, like two of the Butler properties side by side in Ireland? 

Our search continued, Weathers went online to search for the Butler family, the writer went to the library and archives. We both discovered about the same information, but each of us found additional data that fit together like a puzzle. The Butlers have an extraordinary history, much has been written about this family. 

The owner of Mount Juliet House, John Davis, was born in 1773 in Albermale County, Va. He was the son of Fielding Davis and Elizabeth Lewis. Mount Juliet House was probably built before he married Theodelia Martin in April 1810 in Wilson County. She was also from a prominent family from Albermale County, Va. They had four known children: Lewis Davis, born about 1812, died in the early 1840s; Isham Davis, born about 1814; Caroline M. Davis, born about 1819, and Nathaniel F. Davis, born about 1821. All three of the children married and removed to Texas. Theodelia Martin Davis died before 1840. 

John Davis, now alone in Mount Juliet House, married his cousin to the widow Sarah Price Lewis Tilgham. She is the daughter of Owen Price Lewis and Sarah Perkins, also from Albermale County, Va. Sarah P.L.T. Davis died in January 1844 and is buried on the plantation, and probably John Davis’ first wife Theodelia and son Lewis, but Sarah’s grave was the only grave marked. Her tombstone is recorded  in the book, “Annotated Cemetery Records of West Wilson County area of Tennessee, published by the MJWWHS, page 49. Sacred to the memory of Mrs. Sarah Tilgham, Consort of John Davis, b. Nov. 8, 1778 A.D., and departed this life Jan. 1844 A.D., a native of Virginia. Her tombstone is no longer in its historical place, it was probably removed for safety reasons during construction of the subdivision, hopefully the stone will be found and returned to its proper place. 

John Davis had lived in Mount Juliet House over 30 years. The last deed found for John Davis is recorded Oct. 1846, he sells 366 acres, including his home place (Mount Juliet) to John Crudup. John Crudup did not build Mount Juliet House, he did not own the house until 1846. When Drake published the 1835 date in 1879, all of John Davis’ family had been gone almost 30 years and John Crudup had lived in Mount Juliet House for 33 years. 

No one remembered, no one to tell the story of the house that John Davis built. Mt. Juliet, it’s always been there. 

In genealogy, you have to follow the facts, not the oral history, unless it can be documented. There are times you think you know the people and the kind of life they lived, then you get a surprise that can change that in an instant. It is all about the proof. The writer felt empathy for John Davis, it was the name of his home that evolved into the community of Mt. Juliet. No mention of him was made after 1846, no record of his death, nothing. I could not let John Davis go, just kept searching for him, thinking his family had deserted him in his old age. Then to my surprise, I found John Davis in the 1850 Federal Census in Cass County, Texas. His family did not forget him after all, they came back for him and took him to Texas. His daughter, Caroline had married Bartholomew Figures in June 1834 in Wilson County. Bartholomew Figures was listed on the census as an Inn Keeper, after reading the names of their children and the people in the inn, the very last name on the list is John Davis, age 77, born in Virginia. John Davis’ two sons Nathaniel F. and Isham and their families were in Marion County, which borders Cass County, Texas. What a reunion that must have been, the John Davis family back together again and with 10 grandchildren and more to come. John Davis of Mount Juliet died in Texas after the 1850 census. 

By 1846, John Crudup was living Mount Juliet House where he lived for the next 40 years. John Crudup, Jr. was born about 1808 in the Rutland Settlement, his parents were Rebecca Temple and John Crudup, Dr. born in 1770 in North Carolina, and died before Jan. 1810 in Wilson County. Blake Rutland and Isham Fielding Davis were the guardians for his three sons: Robert Crudup, Elisha Battle Crudup and John Crudup, Jr. John Crudup, Sr. had purchased 320 acres in 1807, in 1828 the land was divided between the three sons. This was the only Crudup family in the area, Robert and Elisha B. Crudup eventually removed from Wilson County, only John Crudup remained. By the age of 17, John Crudup was keeping lists for estate sales, his guardians did not neglect his education. John Crudup married in 1837, Wilson County, Mary Elizabeth Graves the granddaughter of Blake Rutland, daughter of John G. Graves and Mary Rutland. John and Mary Elizabeth had three children, Dempsy Graves Crudup, Mary Temple Crudup and John R. Crudup. Mary Elizabeth’s sister Johanna Graves, widow of Samuel Walker lived at Mount Juliet House with her sister and brother-in-law, till her death in 1881. Johanna Graves and her husband Samuel Walker are buried in the cemetery located behind the West Wilson Middle School. 

John Crudup was a well respected member of the community. He was on the Board of Trustees for the purpose of establishing a high school in Mt. Juliet in 1854. Crudup was appointed as judge by the Wilson County Court in 1861 for District 25 for the election for President and Vice-President of the Confederate States. He was the executor of will for several well known people in the area and often a witness for wills and deeds. John Crudup and John Davis were neighbors for years and as quiet and uninvolved in the community as Davis was, Crudup was the opposite. John Crudup and Mary Elizabeth were still living in Mount Juliet House in the 1880 federal census. When and where Mary Elizabeth Graves Crudup died and is buried in unknown. In Sept. 1884, John Crudup sells to J.H. Osment and his wife Emma,” my homeplace in the 25th District.” No records were found on Crudup after Nov. 1886. When and where John Crudup died and is buried is unknown. As long as anyone could remember the house had always been there, just as the Mt. Juliet community had always been there. Mount Juliet House had survived for 150 years or more, when it was destroyed by fire on Feb. 7, 1958. Even though Mount Juliet House and the John Davis family are gone from this place, his legacy lives on in the City of Mt. Juliet. 

Did Colonel Butler and Andrew Jackson watch the house being built on the mount? Did Colonel Butler help John Davis train the militia? Did Colonel Butler suggest the name Mount Juliet to John Davis? Did Colonel Butler plan to build Noreland Estates on his 640 acres, just west of John Davis? These are questions that can’t be answered without proof. Is it possible that John Davis named his own plantation? He was also of Irish descent. Not only did Colonel Butler, know his pedigree so did John Davis. In the same book by John Kirwan, “In 1757, Hannah Davis, who was the widow of John Davis, late of Enniscorthy, County Wexford, conveyed her property to trustees, on the occasion of the marriage of her daughter, Mary Davis, to Francis Gervais, a surgeon of the city of Dublin. Sometime afterwards the property was acquired by Somerset Butler first Earl of Carrick.” The Davis family owned the property in Ireland before the Earl built Mount Juliet Estate for his wife Juliet Boyle in 1765. There is no proof, at this time, of a connection between Butler and Davis and other than social. The names Mount Juliet, Noreland, Ormonde and Carrick are strictly associated with the Butler family of Ireland. 

Where did Mt. Juliet get the name? The origin was the Mount Juliet Estate in Ireland, the preponderance of the evidence certainly suggest a Butler. Colonel Robert Butler was here, he knew John Davis, his father was one of the five fighting Butlers of Revolutionary fame who had named his plantation “Ormande.” Colonel Robert Butler was the only Butler who purchased land in the area. Butler had been living at the “Hermitage” with the Jackson’s until 1821. It is possible that only Butler called the house Mount Juliet. This could be the reason so few people knew the origin, other than the inner circle. It is only circumstantial evidence that Colonel Butler named Mount Juliet or suggested to John Davis, more research is need for proof. We have proved the land, 0.5 mile west of Eagle Tavern. The man John Davis who bought the land in 1800, built the house called Mount Juliet, and lived in the house over 30 years. It was to Mt. Juliet the militia came to drill, on John Davis’ property. If John Davis’ house was built before he married in 1810, then the name of the community goes back well before 1835. After all, Mt. Juliet has always been there. If only we could find a John Davis descendant with a journal, or more letters of Colonel Butler. Maybe some day, someone will knock on a door again. 

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