Hamilton County Pioneers - The Pearsons

  • Sunday, May 28, 2006
  • John Wilson

Abel Pearson was the founding pastor of Soddy Presbyterian Church in December 1828, and his son was a fiery Unionist, state senator and Chattanooga police commissioner. Another Pearson, Alexander R., sank all his savings into the Harrison and Jacksonville Railroad, but the Civil War put a halt to that venture.

The Abel Pearson line was originally from North Carolina. The first Abel Pearson, father of the minister, was with John Sevier at the battle of Boyd's Creek. This was fought at the French Broad River against the Indians in 1780. The minister Abel Pearson was born in 1787, and he had a brother, Jacob. The Pearsons eventually went to Monroe County, Tenn., and were among the earliest settlers at Philadelphia. When the Legislature passed an act to establish Philadelphia in 1828, it was “on the lands of William Knox and Jacob Pearson, on Sweetwater, in Monroe County.” Jacob Pearson was one of the original Philadelphia commissioners along with Lewis Patterson, who had gone from Sale Creek to establish a tannery on Pond Creek at Philadelphia. Patterson married Mary Young Pearson, daughter of Jacob and Jane Young Pearson. In 1828 at Monroe County, William
Bayless filed charges that “Abel and Jacob Pearson persuaded his wife, Sarah Bayless, to remove herself from his residence and take his slaves with her.”

The Lewis Pattersons later returned to Sale Creek, and the Rev. Abel Pearson came to help set up the church, which first met in log cabin homes. The Rev. Pearson served the church for two years. He was the author of An Analysis of the Principles of Divine Government. It was published at Athens, Tenn., in 1833. Abel Pearson died Nov 13, 1856, and was buried at the cemetery at Soddy Presbyterian.

Abel A. Pearson, a son of the minister, was born about 1819. He married Catherine Craig Patterson, a Virginia native whose first husband, John Anderson Patterson, had died in 1838. Abel A. Pearson had a large farm at Sale Creek and had accumulated $12,000 in assets by 1860. He was the postmaster of Sale Creek in 1856. As a Union leader, Pearson was a delegate to a convention in Knoxville in 1861 where there was talk of forming a separate state of East Tennessee. After the war, Pearson was a political partner of Mayor A.G. Sharp and gained appointment as head of the Metropolitan Police Department in Chattanooga. This was a heavy-handed police regime, and some referred to Pearson as “Turban the Terrible.” The writer Sam Divine said, “It was during the reign of that commission of political bosses that the first ‘blanket’ street railway franchise was granted, which has formed the basis of bond issues to the extent of $10,000,000. A.A. Pearson was one of the grantees, as I remember.” Pearson in 1869 was elected to the state Senate representing Hamilton, Bledsoe, Bradley, Marion, Rhea and Sequatchie counties. He served until 1871. Abel A. Pearson also served as city recorder and he was on the County Court. He moved to Idaho in 1890.

His children included Melcina, Catherine, Caroline, John C., James D., George W., Mary E. and Millard Fillmore. Another son, William James, was also on the County Court. He died in 1925 and was buried at the Poe Cemetery at Daisy. Melcina married Carry Pennlot in 1864. John C. married P.C. Seigfried in 1873. James D. married Lorma Waddail in 1877.

Alexander R. and William B. Pearson had arrived at Harrison by 1850. A.R. Pearson had a grocery store. He married Keturah Bassett in 1850.

The family of William B. Pearson and his wife, Louvenia, included Mary J., Samuel B., James A., Lucretia A., Adelia and the twins Emma and Ellen. William B. Pearson was a justice of the peace.

A.R. Pearson was caught up in the enthusiasm for a railroad leading from the then county seat of Harrison to Jacksonville, Ala. The road was graded as far as Graysville, Ga., but the war stopped it there. Pearson invested “all his money and lost everything he had” in the failed rail project. He died Jan. 6, 1864.

His children included William Jackson, Samuel P., Patience E. and Sidney L. William Jackson Pearson married Martha Lucinda Moon, and their children included James, Lois Elizabeth, Lee, Tennessee and Jessie. Lois Elizabeth married Samuel Doak Hodges, son of Howell and Amanda J. Hunt Hodges.

William Jackson Pearson, who was left to provide support for his mother and younger brothers and sisters, operated a store. The William Jackson Pearsons were active at the Harrison Baptist Church.

His younger brother, Sam Pearson, also had a store at Harrison for 10 years, then he moved into Highland Park and was in business there for 36 years. He bought the building occupied by the old Harrison Academy and moved the bricks to the corner of McCallie and Dodds avenues, building a store there. Sam Divine often wrote good-naturedly about him, including once telling of an onion patch he had planted behind his store at Harrison. Sam Pearson had “planted a quarter of an acre of onions on a plot of ground in the rear of his store and the only work he ever gave them was an hour or so every morning before breakfast for exercise; his only tool being a small rake. When he came to gather the crop he had to rent the adjoining lot to pile the onions on. The yield from this small plot of ground was at the rate of nearly 800 bushels per acre.” Sam Pearson was living at 2524 McCallie Ave. when he died in 1928 at the age of 72. Survivors included his brother, W.J., of Harrison and sisters, Sidney Bell and Elizabeth Hodges.

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