Padgetts Were Pioneers of Ooltewah

Sunday, February 19, 2006 - by John Wilson

Jacob Padgett made a new start late in life, migrating to Ooltewah when he was in his 70s. But he lived many years in his new home, lasting until Nov. 5, 1874, when he was 100 years, two months and four days old. A grandson, Benjamin William Padgett, was a Union officer and state legislator.

The Padgetts apparently trace back to Edmond Padgett, who was in Essex County, Va., in the late 1600s and early 1700s. A later Edmond was born about 1771 and lived at Rutherford County, N.C., with his wife, Susanna. He was apparently an older brother of Jacob.

Jacob's children were born in North Carolina, including a son, Elias, who was born about 1798. He first married Elizabeth Wells. After her death in the 1850s, his second wife was Sarah. The Padgetts were closely allied with the Webbs at Rutherford County, and some of them also made the move to Ooltewah. Elias Padgett in 1829 was a witness to the will of David Webb. An Elias Webb died at Rutherford County in 1814.

Jacob Padgett was first in Greene County, where he had a tobacco plantation. In 1848, he paid Sheldrick McCombs $200 for a farm near that of Thomas Shirley on Savannah Creek in the section that became James County. There he constructed a large two-story frame house with chimneys at both ends.

Elias Padgett was trustee of James County from 1871-1874 just after the formation of the county. An active churchman, he was among those to whom property was donated in 1851 at Savannah Creek for a Methodist Episcopal Church. His children included Cynthia, Humphrey, Jesse, Elias Jr. and Benjamin William.

Humphrey Padgett married Mahala Holsten at Greene County in 1848. They moved to Ooltewah and had a large family. The children included Mary J., Narcissa who married Jacob P. Nowlin, Thomas Joseph, Elizabeth A., Tennessee who married Sam Henry, Orleania C., Laura E., Sarah C. and Jesse Peter who married Ada Brady. Thomas Joseph and Jesse Peter farmed at Ooltewah in the vicinity of Greenwood Road. Thomas J. died in 1936. Jesse P. had a son, Ralph, who married Pauline Turner. Their son, William Joseph, married Patsy Cagle. A daughter of Ralph Padgett is Betty Gail, who married Wayne Winkler. Dorothy, daughter of Jesse P., resides near the old homeplace at Greenwood Road. She married Clyde Burns.

Jesse Padgett (son of Elias) was a minister who presided when Wright Carden and Celia Wells were married in 1865. Celia had resided with the Jacob Padgett family.

Family members say the Padgett family was split by the Civil War, with two of the brothers opting for the Confederacy and two for the Union. Benjamin William, who studied medicine as a young man, enlisted on Dec. 12, 1862, at Louisville, Ky., with the Union's Fourth Tennessee Cavalry. He rose to the rank of second lieutenant and was captain of Co. L. He was later placed on detached duty by order of military Gov. Andrew Johnson. At the close of the war, he married Harriet McNabb of Ooltewah. Dr. Padgett was a United Brethren minister as well as a doctor. He was chairman in 1885 of the Sunday School Convention of the Fifth District of James County. He gave land for and built Padgett's Chapel, which became Greenwood Baptist Church. In 1891, the Padgetts gave a site for the Ooltewah Methodist Church. Dr. Padgett in 1895 was elected president of the Survivors of the Fourth Regiment, Tennessee Cavalry Volunteers, U.S.A. He was in the state House from 1871-73 and the Senate from 1887-1889. He was a delegate to the Republican state convention in 1892 and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in
1906. He died the following February and was buried at the National Cemetery. Harriet McNabb Padgett lived until 1926.

A son, Julius P., died of typhoid fever when he was 15. A daughter, Minnie May, had a congenital defect and died as a young woman. The other children included Eugenia L., Annie Elizabeth who married J. Albion Rogers, Maude Mullor who married Albert Davis, and Benjamin Harrison. Benjamin and the Rogers couple moved to Tucson, Ariz. Benjamin H. married Ethel Kilmoore, a schoolteacher from Lake Geneva, Wis. Benjamin H. had two sons, Warren Boyd Padgett and Ben Robert Padgett. A daughter, Corey, died young. Benjamin H. Padgett worked as an engineer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, regularly running between Del Rio, Tex., and Tucson. Warren and Ben Padgett left Arizona as young men. Warren moved to Los Angeles and was a surveyor and civil engineer. He married Edna Ashbrook in 1949, and they had Vernon Russell, Bryan Wayne and Benjamin Charles. Vernon moved to Whittier, Calif. Wayne moved to Sumter, S.C. Benjamin C. moved to Anchorage, Alaska. Ben Robert worked for the patent office in Washington. He had Robert, Marianne and Janet, of Northern Virginia.

The Davis family stayed at Wolftever Creek at the old Dr. Benjamin Padgett place. Another son, Lewis L., moved into Sherman Heights in East Chattanooga. He married Mary Mahoney and had a son, William. Another son of Dr. Padgett was James Jesse Albion, who was principal at the Hixson School and also was an attorney. He moved to Memphis. Still another son was Warren Marshall, who was a well-regarded criminal investigator with the city police and then the sheriff's department. He also worked as a night watchman for the N.C. & St. L Railroad at Alton Park. He caught cold while on this job and took to bed with “pneumonia fever.” He got up and was sitting by the fire talking with his wife, then he became faint, went back to bed, and “in a few minutes was dead.” He was 30 and had resided at 715 Cedar St.

Another son of Dr. Padgett was William Dexter, who gained his medical degree in 1898 from Grant University in Chattanooga. He practiced medicine for seven years in James County, then moved to Lenoir City and on to Newport. He married Nellie May Hartman in 1897. His brother, Robert Elias, married her sister, Lillie Hartman. Robert later lived at Pittsburgh, Pa., and at Toledo, Ohio. The Hartman girls were daughters of Frederick Bernhardt Hartman, a native of Germany who came to New York City in 1860 to avoid compulsory military service. He made his way to Chattanooga and then bought a portion of the Jacob Padgett farm, including the two-story farmhouse.

Jacob Padgett was buried at a family cemetery on Wolftever Creek. There are 35 other graves at that plot, located 1,500 feet south of Highway 58 on the old Albert Davis farm. Nancy Padgett Ramsey, who died Jan. 19, 1894, is also buried there. Much of the Padgett farm was taken by TVA for Lake Chickamauga. A wall of the old Dr. Benjamin Padgett home is incorporated into the clubhouse for the Woltever Fishing Club. Three Davis granddaughters of Dr. Benjamin Padgett still living are Mary Davis Konecny of Albertville, Ala., Evelyn Davis Neyman of Gulf Breeze, Fla., and Margaret Davis Boyd of Nashville.

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