Tennessee Migration

4th-generation Simon
(son of John, son of Dennis II, son of Dennis I)

Simon and his wife Samford First had three children between 1775 and 1780 in North Carolina, in Craven or Duplin counties.

  • Dennis b. c1775
  • Samford b. c1777
  • Mary b. 1780, North Carolina

Their childbearing years were, of course, in particularly tumultuous times as the American Revolution was unfolding. North Carolina and the other British colonies became the 13 states of the newly formed United States of America. In the midst of all of this, Samford died in Duplin County between 1780 and 1790.

Simon Remarries – Moves to the Back Country

After the death of Samford, Simon married Ann Snell and, some time thereafter, they moved over the Appalachian Mountains, deep into the “back country” of the state of North Carolina, to a place along the Cumberland River about 10 miles east of that which is now known as Nashville, Tennessee. Simon’s children, Dennis, Samford, and Mary,  from his deceased first wife, Samford First. Dennis married Winifred Green on October 19, 1799 in Davidson County, Tennessee, so the move occurred prior to that date. He is also listed as one of 2,232 free male citizens in the 1812 census of Nashville. He is designated there as a member of Capt. Bell’s Militia. He is also listed as on the tax assessment of 1816 as an inhabitant of District 3, south of the Stone’s River and bordering Rutherford County in southeastern Davidson County (map below). Dennis’ sons, Jesse and Green, were born in 1802 and 1807 respectively, in Davidson County.

British Territorial Expansion 1763-1774


By Jon Platek – Own work by uploader, base map used is found here, uploaded by User:Roke, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

“Control” over this land was was ceded by the French to the British only a couple of decades earlier in 1763, as a result of the French and Indian War.  North Carolina back country (now Tennessee) was a relatively small part of a vast land bordered by the Apalachicola River and Appalachian Mountains and Quebec on the East, the Gulf of Mexico on the south, the Mississippi River on the West, and the Canadian wilderness on the north. The war also left the formerly French territory west of of the Mississippi in Spanish control, 150 miles away. Many of the indigenous people in the “Indian Reserve” area migrated westward to minimize contact with the British. Others, most notably the Acadians, were forcibly moved to New Orleans and Haiti.

5th Generation Dennis (son of Simon)

McClendons Settle near Nashville
In my line of McClendons, the six generations preceding me, starting with Simon’s son Dennis IX (aka John Dennis McClendon), were born near Nashville from 1802 to 1922. The first five established a distinct presence in the area of Donelson, just east of Nashville. Much of the land they farmed was in the vicinity of Stones River and is currently most likely under the water of the Percy Priest reservoir. The reservoir project was approved in 1946 and completed in 1967, expanding a relatively small river from roughly 100 feet wide and 20-30 feet deep, to a lake covering 14,200 acres reaching depth of 130 feet. A graveyard with eight members of the McClendon surname and 30 others who may be kin, that would have been inundated by the lake, was moved in 1966 to Mt. Juliet Cemetery, on the north side of W. Division Street, just west of the Main Street intersection in Mt. Juliet Tennessee, about 10 miles west of Nashville. One grave, Mildred Katherine Singleton, was moved to Barton Creek Baptist Cemetery. The last Nashville-born generation was my father, Dennis McClendon XIII, who had no desire to remain in the Nashville area as a farmer.

Most of the other McClendons have moved on, as well. The current census rolls show 98 McClendons living in the Nashville area.

Numeric Suffices – Dennis McClendon IX through XIV

As mentioned elsewhere, the family unofficially added numeric suffices to the name Dennis McClendon, with the son of the original immigrant being Dennis McClendon II and his son, Dennis McClendon III. After that, it appears that the suffix was denoted chronologically rather than a simple father-son method. It may also have duplicated as the branches of the family became geographically dispersed and intra-family communication waned. If this theory is true, then Simon’s son Dennis would have been Dennis McClendon IX. Although he was only the 5th generation from the patriarch, he had uncles and cousins who shared his name. From him the name/suffix passed to his cousin Dennis McClendon X (b.1809 in Marshall, Alabama), and then skipped generations a couple of times passing within the Nashville-area family to his grandson Dennis McClendon XI (b. 1827), 2nd great-grandson Dennis McClendon XII (b. 1897), and then directly to his 3rd great grandson Dennis McClendon XIII and his 4th great-grandson Dennis McClendon XIV (myself).

The last skip in the suffixed names was my great-grandfather, William Anderson McClendon. William was a farmer who devoted much of his life to Christian lay ministry in many capacities. The post-war economy was very challenging in Tennessee, so He and his brother Benjamin migrated to Texas in pursuit of greener pastures reported by family relations who had moved there previously. Apparently the reports were exaggerated. Benjamin stayed in Texas, having adult children who had put down roots there, but William returned to Donelson after five years. William and his wife, Emma Dorris, had five children and continued farming. The two were second cousins, sharing great-grandparents, George Hagar and Mary Thompson (see chart). At the time of his death, William also served as a deacon at Whitsett’s Chapel Baptist church. His grave is reportedly located at Starkey Cemetery, in close proximity to that church to this day. William’s brother, Thomas J. McClendon is interred at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Donelson. His father, Reverend Dennis McClendon (XI), devoted his career to the church. McClendon ancestors through William’s wife, Emma Dorris, produced some interesting history.

British Settlers into the Breach

From the “Tennessee Encyclopedia“:
“On a chilly March day a group of settlers who had already “topp’d the mountains” and followed Daniel Boone into the wilderness, building cabins, planting crops, and even forming a democratic government of their own, were gathered at the call of a North Carolina lawyer, Judge Richard Henderson. At his home in the Piedmont, Henderson had heard Boone’s glowing descriptions of the backcountry and had made an exploratory journey to discover for himself its potential worth. His response was as extravagant as the fertile land spread before him. He formed the Transylvania Land Company and invited the Cherokees to a council. His proposal was to pay 10,000 English pounds or, if they chose, a cabin filled with English goods, in exchange for some 20 million acres of land.

The Transylvania Land Company was a gigantic speculation enterprise. The Cherokees who responded to this invitation pondered the offer, examining the cabin full of trade goods; this was an experience without precedent. For many days they gathered, twelve hundred proud, curious men, women, and children. Smoke from their council fire and campfires rose like a blue haze in the crisp spring air, blending with the rich aroma of beef (provided by Henderson) roasting over glowing hardwood coals.

Moving through the assembly were Oconostota, the Great Warrior, chief of all the Cherokees, tall and powerful, along with the smaller Attakullakulla, favorite of the white people who called him the Little Carpenter because of the many treaties he had cobbled together, and the gentle Old Tassel, admired for his eloquent oratory. But perhaps most commanding of all was Attakullakulla’s son, Dragging Canoe, a stern, suspicious warrior, his face deeply pocked by the scourge of smallpox that had arrived with the white man’s blankets. Daniel Boone, familiar to both the settlers and the Cherokees, waited awkwardly in the background. Palaver was not one of his skills.

For three days they talked, looked at the goods “Carolina Dick” had brought in six heavy wagons lurching and lumbering through the mountains. Here were guns and ammunition, hatchets, shirts and wristbands, brooches, ribbons, rum, and several kinds of blankets, all manner of English wares to be exchanged for an empire embracing the land that would become the state of Kentucky and that part of Tennessee drained by the Cumberland River and its tributaries. It was a trade described as “the most colossal transaction in lands by individuals or a private corporation that America has ever seen.”

As negotiations drew to a close, the Cherokees indicated their readiness to sign the treaty. Attakullakulla spoke of past treaties with the white man. Old Tassel accepted the trade that had been set forth. There were nods and sounds of agreement. Then Dragging Canoe, son of Attakullakulla, rose and faced his people. In words as fierce as his pocked countenance he denounced his father and all others who would sell, at any price, the hunting grounds of their ancestors. There were those who said that he confronted Henderson. Others remembered that he grasped Boone by the arm. But all agreed on the curse he pronounced: “You have bought a fair land, but there is a cloud hanging over it. You will find its settlement dark and bloody.” And with a group of younger warriors who shared his resistance Dragging Canoe strode from the council ground. Never again did he enter into any peace negotiation with the white Americans.

The signing of the treaty went forth with all solemnity, but even before it was finally accomplished Henderson took Daniel Boone aside and sent the ready scout and a party of axmen on their way to begin blazing a trail westward. For his part, the impatient speculator did not linger at Sycamore Shoals to hear some of the disappointment now voiced by many Cherokees receiving their share of the trade goods. One warrior, given a shirt as his portion of the treasure, spoke for many: “We have sold the land, and I would have killed more deer upon it in a day than would have bought such a shirt.

For his part Dragging Canoe made sure that Henderson and his companions did not forget his prophecy at Sycamore Shoals. He and followers, now called the Chickamaugas after their retreat along the great bend of the Tennessee River, terrorized small, scattered forts and settlers bound for the area that would be Nashville. The savagery of efforts on both sides in the struggle to take and hold this land was appalling in its revelation of the human need for place, for territory.

Twenty years later, in 1838, the long struggle over land between the United Sates and the Cherokees came to an end. Despite the fact that many Cherokees had adopted the dress, the commerce , even the religion of the white people surrounding them, they would not be allowed to remain in their homeland. In concert with Georgia, Tennessee removed by force of arms some 14,000 Native Americans from their mountains and valleys and rivers along a route where so many died that it became known as the Trail of Tears. Winding across the Mississippi to the Oklahoma country, the Trail of Tears might be seen as a dark counterpart to the Leutze mural, the finale to a long process that began at Sycamore Shoals.”

The Donelson Settlers
In 1780, settler John Donelson brought 60 families on flat riverboats to an area near a log stockade on the bank of the Cumberland River near what is now downtown Nashville. The stockade had been built a year earlier and the place was known as the Bluff Station. There was a natural salt and sulfur spring in the locale which attracted animals and consequently, hunters. The area had been a European trading post since the early 1700s and was know by several names including French Lick, Sulphur Spring Bottom, and Sulfur Dell. In 1789 North Carolina ceded the western territory to the federal government. In 1796, the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Tennessee. In 1806 the city of Nashville was chartered.

Nashville Founding Heritage

Emma’s great grandmother, Elizabeth Menees (b.1776), was the granddaughter of James Menees Sr. (b.1711), an immigrant from Antrim, Northern Ireland. James Sr., arrived in Pennsylvania, in 1730, and settled in the Albemarle region of Virginia over 100 years after the first McClendons had lived in and vacated that area, albeit a few miles to the south. James Menees Sr., and his wife Ellen Cardwell, had eight children.

Two of the children, James Jr. (b. 1763), and Benjamin (b. 1775), migrated to the western North Carolina wilderness with the Donelson party in 1780. Both of the brothers served in the Revolutionary War, in the Continental and Virginia lines, respectively. They would be granted generous land holdings in Tennessee for their war efforts. Benjamin is also recorded as a ratifier of the Constitution of the United States, by which the newly formed state of North Carolina came into being. Benjamin’s son James was listed as the steerman on the boat that brought them down the Cumberland River from Virginia.

Benjamin’s daughter, Elizabeth, as mentioned earlier, is Emma Dorris McClendon’s great-grandmother. Elizabeth joined her brothers in Tennessee and married John Dorris (b. 1773) in 1795. They had seven children. One, they named William Dawson Dorris, who became a noteworthy person in his own right.

William Dawson Dorris