The Tennesseans

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.

New American Settlers into the Breach

Stepping back to the 1790s, a period in which Simon McClendon migrated to the “back-country”, the land was quickly transforming from wilderness reserved for the indigenous people to fertile ground for westward expansion and settlement by people of European heritage.

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 Dorris McClendon’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.

Menees/Whitsitt Connection

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 Along the circuitous river route from Virginia.

Benjamin also had a son, Benjamin Jr.,  who with his wife, , begot Thomas Menees (June 26, 1823 – September 6, 1905). Thomas was a Confederate politician who represented Tennessee in the Confederate States Congress during much of the American Civil War. He was trained as physician, and between 1874 and 1895 served as the dean of the merged medical departments of the University of Nashville and Vanderbilt University.

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 and Family

William Dawson Dorris has been the source of anecdotal oral histories for my entire life. Many of the stories of him get a little flourish here and a little embellishment there. What I have found to be true of him actually surpasses the stories I have heard to a remarkable degree.

William Dawson Dorris (restoration in pencil by Steve Chastain, from photograph)

The best biography of William Dawson Dorris, that I have seen, is found in “The Tennessean,” Monday, April 23, 1888, Page 8, in an article titled, “An Eventful Career”, subtitled, “A Surgeon Soldier of Renown—Survey of a Career Identified with Interesting Epochs in National History”. Dorris was 75 years old at the time of publication:

The dispatches announced a few days ago that Dr. Wm. D. Dorris, father of Duncan R. Dorris, the well-know journalist and stenographer, had been awarded a re-issue of pension as Surgeon of the Bloody Frst (sic) Tennessee Regiment in the war with Mexico, from which he will derive a snug sum from arrearages. A representative of the The American, in his investigations concerning that venerable gentleman’s good fortune, found that he had received notification, through the Hon. W. B. Bate, from John C. Black, Commissioner, to the effect that the pension certificate 6,446, re-issue of Wm. D. Dorris, M. D., had been allowed. Upon the back of this notification was written the following:

United States Senate.—Dear Doctor: The within will inform you of success in the Pension Bureau. Hope you will enjoy the pension money for many years to come.

I expect you are the oldest man on the pension rolls for that particular service.

Respectfully and truly, Wm. B. Bate.

This increase of pension has been awarded in consequence of the ill health Dr. Dorris had entailed upon him in having gone through the campaign in Mexico. He has rendered much aid to Mexican war veterans of his regiment by having preserved in a book the names of those to whom he administered medical or surgical treatment while the United States army was passing triumphantly through our neighboring Republic. This book, which is considered not only historically, but practically of great value, is now in the possession of Maj. A. W. Wills, who represented Dr. Dorris in securing an increase of pension to which he was entitled. Indeed, it is regarded as one of the best records of the kind extant.

Dr. Dorris is a veteran of three wars, having been surgeon of Campbell’s regiment in the Seminole war of 1836, in the Mexican war and in the late conflict between the States.

During the three years in which he was engaged, he was in 175 battles and skirmishes. In the late intercine strife, when he served in the Federal army, he was wounded with buckshot in the side, three of which still remain in his body, a battered ball having worked its way out from the hip-bone five years ago. He also had two ribs broken in the wreck of a train on the Chattanooga division between Tullahoma and Normandy while the road was operated by the Government. But undaunted by wounds and bruises he was in active service until the close of the war.

Dr. Dorris was born on Sulphur Fork, five miles from Springfield, Robertson County, Aug. 23, 1802, and consequently is in his 86th year.

His ancestors were all fond of military life, some of them ffghting (sic) in Klans in the highlands of Scotland against English encroachments against their liberty, and still again in the Cootinental (sic) army. His grand uncles, William, John and Isaac Dorris, were in this army and came out of it with swords gashed to the depth of a quarter of an inch. It was told of Isaac, and handed down to his posterity, that in the contest with the army of Gen. Farleton, himself and comrades made havoc with the red coats, Isaac, who was a stalwart soldier and a giant in strength, handling his heavy broad sword while in close conflict as if it were a mere plaything.

Rev. Joseph Dorris, Dr. Dorris’ grandfather, was a celebrated Baptist preacher of his day; was Gen. Jackson’s chaplain in the way of 1812, and was familiarly know in the army as the “High Priest,” while Jesse Denton, a well-known and popular Presbyterian minister, was denominated “The Scribe.” Many members of the Dorris connection were in the war of 1812 as either officers or privates. Gen. Jackson thought so much of Rev. Joseph Dorris that he induced him to live in the Hermitage District at the close of the war.

In the Seminole war William Wesley Walker, of Capt. J. Lemuel Henry’s company, who died a few years ago in Sumner County, was shot in the head, and was supposed to have been killed outright, and in that belief a detail was made to dig his grave and bury his body, which along the trench. Dr. Dorris insisted that, while Walker seemed to be pulseless and had apparently lost respiration, he still lived; that he was in a cataleptic state, and was, therefore, unable to move a muscle, and that he should not be buried alive, thought he appeared to be dead. As there was a disagreement among surgeons Dr. Dorris said he would prove to all persons that he had rightly diagnosed the case. To add to this affirmation, Dr. Dorris placed the crystal of his watch to Walker’s mouth, and when he took it away there was moisture upon it. Notwithstanding this practical demonstration, all others were positive in the belief that Walker was without a doubt a corpse. Finding that he was almost hopelessly in the minority he appealed to the commanding General that so brave a soldier should not be allowed to be buried alive, and asked that Walker should be given into his keeping for four or five days, and that if, at the end of that time, Walker did not revive he would consent to his burial. The request was granted, and before the allotted time had expired Walker was aroused and found to be a living soul. Walker said, on a return of his speech, that he had looked into his grave all night, and though he heard everything that was said and done, he was powerless to make it known that he was still alive.

Dr. Dorris was a graduate of the Transylvania University, Kentucky; was a hard student and had had the advantage of studying practically the effects of all known diseases. His professor in surgery was Dr. Dudley, who had served as a surgeon in the army of Napoleon Bonaparte, he having served ten years in Eastern countries.

While on the battle field of Monterey Dr. Dorris had his probe shot out of his hand while examining the wound of a soldier who lay prostrate on the bloody ground. He cut a small stick, used it for a probe, extracted the ball and the soldier recovered.

In a talk with Robert A. Cole, who is now 78 years old, he said that of those who composed what was then known as the Governor’s Guard, of which there were two companies, himself, Ira Stout, Isaac Taylor and Dr. Dorris, were the only ones now living out of all who participated in the Seminole war.

Dr. Dorris was not only a soldier in every sense of the word, but he was always a public-spirited citizen in time of peace. He was a member of various Boards of Aldermen.

He was the author of a pamphlet entitled “The Human Soul,” which attracted much attention when issued long before the late war.

One of the savants of London, when the cholera was raging almost throughout Eastern countries not many years ago, proclaimed that he had discovered the cause of this disease, which emanated from a small insect. In answer to this announcement, the late Dr. W. K. Bowling, in a well-written article in the Nashville Medical Journal, said, most emphatically, that the London scientist was not the first man to discover the origin of cholera. Nashville was entitled to the credit of having produced a gentleman of observation and discernment who had first mad known that this terrible scourge was traceable to an infinitesimal gnat, and that man was Dr. Wm. D. Dorris. This fact Dr. Dorris practically demonstrated, through microscopy and other means, to the entire satisfaction of the medical fraternity practicing medicine here in about the year 1833.

That was when the cholera first made its appearance in epidemic form in Nashville. Dr. Dorris was at the time in charge of the cholera hospital, and out of all those placed under his care, he never lost but one patient. Dr. Bowling asserted that Dr. Dorris alone deserved the credit of having been the first man in the world to discover the cholera germ.