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James Monroe Barnhill 1822 – 1852

He lived a short time on this earth. Born January 1, 1822, probably in Hickman County, Tennessee, which was hardly more than tall cane and grass at the time, James appears to have been the eldest of four born to William Barnhill and Nancy Ann Ragan. The family soon settled in Hardin County as new Indian land was opened for settlement.

His marriage to Mary Ward Holt is not officially recorded, but it is clear from the evidence[1] that they married about 1840 or 1841. Five children were born in the short time that James and Nancy had together: James Monroe, Jr., born 1843 and married [1] Sarah Elizabeth McGee and [2] Marguerite Allice Bryan; William Porter, born 1845 and married Annie Baker; Elizabeth J. “Bettie,” born 1847 and married Larry Mooney; Martha A. “Matt,” born 1850 and married John D. Robinson; and Mary Eliza “Molly,” born June 24, 1852 and married Joseph Hamilton Martin.

Just seven days before the birth of his last child, James drowned in the river. His wife and father-in-law Giles Holt served as executors of his estate. He was buried at the Savannah Cemetery, where many of his siblings also lay. His widow and two daughters moved to Palestine, Texas, apparently traveling with daughter Mary and her husband Joseph Martin.[2] She later married George N. McKay. She died in 1917 and is buried in Palestine.


[1] A number of books on Hardin County residents include references to the marriage, and it is implied in wills and deeds.

[2] According to Ella May Martin Underwood in a letter dated 7/21/1994, Mary Ward Holt Barnhill and her two oldest daughters, Elizabeth J. and Martha A., moved to Texas about the same time as Joseph Hamilton Martin, his wife, and their two children, Minnie and Annie.  Mary Ward Holt settled in Palestine where she had a boarding house; when she died 4-12-1917, she was survived by only her oldest son, James Monroe Barnhill Jr. and oldest daughter, Elizabeth Barnhill Mooney Deen.

[3] No direct record links William to James Barnhill and wife Winney Roberts, but researchers have concluded that he is, in all likelihood, a son of James.

[4] Hardin County TN, County Court Minutes, Book D, p86, shows on 9/2/1844 a year's support for his widow and minor orphans was provided. As records show that provisions were made for his widow and "orphan children," it is evident that William Barnhill had other children, since James M. Barnhill Sr. would not have been a minor in the 1840s.

[5] A newspaper article printed sometime prior to 1929 by Emma C. Jones, a neighbor of Lafayette Preston Barnhill. She was assisting his father, Theodore Philander Barnhill, in qualifying for a Confederate Pension. The article describes his service as a Confederate Soldier and capture near Savannah TN and subsequent escape. She states that he married Rebecca Worley of Savannah by whom he raised one son, Preston Barnhill, who died several years earlier. He lost all the brothers he had in the Confederate Army. They were John, Will and James.

[6] Hardin County TN Inventory Book 1842-1849, p64, identifies him as a County Commissioner.