Solomon Boltons Were Of Melungeon Origin; Robert Bolton Was Among State's Earliest Settlers

  • Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Solomon Bolton was a Melungeon and was a soldier in the War of 1812. His lovely daughter,
Jemima, had a tragic story. The Melungeons were a dark-skinned people of mysterious origin.

Another Bolton pioneer in Hamilton County was Robert Bolton, whose father was among the state's earliest settlers.

Solomon Bolton was born Sept. 17, 1791, at Georgetown District in Prince Georges Parish, S.C., the son of Spencer and Mary Harriet Bolton. The nationality of Spencer Bolton was Spanish and Portugese.

Mary was a blue-eyed German. Solomon married Rachel Davis Feb. 8, 1811. She was described as a Spaniard with a fair complexion, light hair and blue eyes. Solomon enlisted for the War of 1812 on Oct. 8, 1814, at Richland District at Columbia, S.C. He served as a private under Capt. William Taylor Jr. He also fought under Capt. Taylor in the Creek War. The Solomon Boltons lived at Greenville, then Pendleton, S.C. They moved to Tennessee at Blount County, then were at Marion County prior to moving to Hamilton County in the 1840s. They lived at several locations along the Tennessee River, including nine miles below Kelly's Ferry at the Oats place, at Adam Lamb's and at the Rogers farm at Sale Creek. They would often return to Spartanburg, S.C., to visit Spencer Bolton.

Solomon Bolton next moved to a farm on Williams Island near Moccasin Bend. The house was 150 yards from the river and was near where the ferry to the island landed. John E. Godsey also lived on the island and tended business for its owner, Samuel Williams. The Godseys sometimes attended religious meetings that were held at the Bolton home. Sometimes the speaker would be the Rev. Dyke Bolton, a nephew of Solomon Bolton. Samuel Williams was a great admirer of the Boltons and would often invite them to eat with his family at their plantation home across the river. Solomon Bolton, who was a Whig in politics, also worked on occasions at the Crutchfield brickyard.

The Bolton children included Mary Harriet who married Wesley Perkins, Lucinda Ann who married Hiram Davis, Elizabeth "Betsy,'' Hiram Rapelle and Sarah Abigail who was born Nov. 11, 1841. She married B. Raymond McCullough about 1860. Their daughter, Ellen, was born July 15, 1861. McCullough was a Confederate soldier who was taken prisoner. He died April 15, 1864, at Camp Douglas at Indianapolis, Ind., and was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.  Sarah Ann married John Franklin Skelton about 1865. He was born June 28, 1841, in Hendricks County, Ind. He was also in the Civil War, but was on the Union side. John Franklin Skelton was mustered in at age 19 into Co. G of the 16th Regiment for one year. Four months after his discharge, he was mustered into Co. E of the 68th Regiment and stayed until he was mustered out on June 20, 1865. He fought in the battle of Chickamauga and on Missionary Ridge. The Skelton children were James, Elizabeth, Frank, Susan and Minera. Sarah Ann Skelton died on Dec. 12, 1878 - one week after Minerva's birth. She is buried in White County, Ark.,  beside Susan and Minerva. Ellen McCullough moved to Indianapolis about 1880, and she had a daughter, Sally, born Sept. 4, 1881. Ellen moved back to Chattanooga and married John Franklin Skelton - her step-father - on Jan. 29, 1882. Their children were John Auston, Nellie Viola, John Franklin Jr. and William Young Skelton. Ellen died on July 22, 1899, on Stringers Ridge and was buried in the White Oak Cemetery. he was He was a GAR Member. John Franklin Skelton died April 5, 1918, in Rome, Ga. He was buried in the Oakland Cemetery. His Civil War badge and GAR badge are in the hands of a great-grandson by his second wife. The Skelton family has been researched by Evelyn Skelton Sell, P.O. Box 744, Chowchilla, Ca., 934610.

Betsy Bolton did not marry, but was said to be the mother of Solomon Bolton Jr. and Eliza Bolton. Another daughter of Solomon was Martha Ann. She married William Brumley, but he was convicted in Marion County of murdering a son she had prior to their marriage. Brumley went to prison in 1840 when he was 25 and served until 1849. Martha Ann took Robert Taylor as her second husband.

Another daughter, Jemima, was "famed for her beauty, her grace of manner and modesty. She was a dark brunette. She had a suit of black hair, which was coveted by all the girls who knew her. Her form was petite, and yet, withal was so plump and so well developed as to make her an irresistibly charming young woman. She was most beautiful of face, and had a rich black eye, in whose depths the sunbeams seemed to gather. When she loosed her locks, they fell almost reaching the ground, and shone in the sunlight, or quivered like the glamour which the full moon throws on the placid water. She was the essence of grace and loveliness.''

One of the young Simmermans, Jerome C., fell in love with Jemima. His Bivans step-mother and
step-sisters opposed the marriage, fearing to lose a share of the large Simmerman estate. With the aid of Ab Carroll and John Cummings, Jerome and Jemima made their way across the river and eloped to Trenton, Ga. That marriage occurred June 14, 1856. The couple had a son, who died
as an infant. Then a daughter, Martha, was born in the latter part of 1858. Eight days later,
Jemima Bolton Simmerman died. That event "was such an overpowering shock to the father that
he went violently insane, and had to be taken into custody and kept under guard for a long time.''

The Bivans family later filed suit seeking the inheritance. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Bolton secreted young Martha Simmerman away for her safekeeping. The suit claimed the marriage was void because a Tennessee law prohibited the marriage of a white person with a person of Negro blood to the sixth degree. The Jerome Simmerman side finally won the suit after it was proven the Boltons were Melungeons. It was pointed out that Solomon Bolton could not have served in the War of 1812 had he been a Negro or mulatto. He proved his service because he was still able to recall the roll of
his company from the captain down to the last private on the list. The exact date of the marriage
was also proven during the trial. Joel Cross said he could remember it because also that day a Baptist preacher leading a revival in Dade County got drunk, some horses broke loose and tore up
several acres of his corn, and he had a baby girl born.

When Elizabeth Bolton died at the age of 78 in 1908, she was living in North Chattanooga with her
niece, Martha, who had married James M. Carter.

Hiram Bolton served on the Confederate side in the Civil War with Co. D of the Fourth Georgia Cavalry. He enlisted at Chattanooga Oct. 4, 1862, under Capt. William J. Rogers. He was still living in Chattanooga at the time of the 1900 census. His first wife was Caroline and the second was Sarah. His children included Mary E., John R., Sevier, George, William and Joseph.

Rachel Davis Bolton died Sept. 5, 1865. Afterwards, Solomon left Hamilton County along with his daughter, Elizabeth, and her niece, Martha Simmerman. He accompanied them to Illinois. Solomon Bolton died July 16, 1868.

Ivelyn Kay Skelton Blanton of McAlester, Okla., is a descendant of Solomon Bolton who has researched the family.

ROBERT BOLTON WAS BORN in Virginia in 1795. His father, Peter Bolton, made his way to Grainger County, Tn., at an early date and was an extensive tobacco farmer.

Robert Bolton settled in Rhea County in 1816. He married Anne Holt there in 1822. She was born
in Williamson County, and her father was in the War of 1812. The Robert Boltons moved a few miles to the south near Sale Creek, where he labored as a blacksmith. They had nine children, including sons Peter, David S., Robert Newton and Thomas F.

Peter, the eldest, was born in Rhea County Feb. 27, 1824. He was educated in the subscription
schools of Hamilton County. He followed his father's blacksmith trade until he was 25, then he became a carpenter. During the Civil War, his "warmest sympathies were with the Stars and Stripes.'' His brothers, David and Robert, had gone to Kentucky to fight for the North. As a reward for his sympathies, Peter was elected justice of the peace in 1864 and then was tax collector for his district and deputy sheriff. He was postmaster at Sale Creek from 1871 to 1883. Peter Bolton in the latter year was elected as a Republican to the Tennessee House. He had been a lifelong Republican, casting his first presidential vote for Abraham Lincoln. He was also a deacon in the Missionary Baptist Church and on the board of trustees of the Masonic Academy.

Peter Bolton in 1852 married Selena L. Merriman of Bledsoe County, daughter of Bryant and
Martha Ferguson Merriman, who had come from Wilkes County, N.C., to Bledsoe County in 1834. Their children included Tennessee E., Virginia, William B., Julia C. who married J.W. Holt,
Robert L., Ulysses Grant, Mary and Cornelius. William B. was first married to Susan Troutman.
She died in 1897, then he married Mary. William B. Bolton died in 1937. His children included
Parris F., Ada B., Edgar, Emma E., Irby W., Eulie, Thelma, Will and Robbie. Children of Robert L.
and his wife, Margaret E., included Myrtle D., Herbert E., Grace S. and Favorite.

David S. Bolton was a preacher. His children included Louisa and John. John married Nancy E. and
their children included David F., Benjamin R. and Arthur E. John had a store at Sale Creek, then he
moved to Cincinnati.

Robert married Sydney Ann Bean and their children included Florence who married Lonnie
England, Peter T., Nettie who married John Fox, and William Roy. Peter T. married Lennie
Crawley. He died in 1937. William R. married Hester Jane Bowman. Their children were Rollin Lyford who married Pearl Alexander, Lola Ellen who married Columbus Fox, Bertha Leota who married Clyde W. Gray, Daniel Thomas who married Marie Reel, James Leroy who married Ina Mae Curtis, and William Isaac who married Helen Marler. Another son, Robert Newton, was a barber at Red Bank until he was 90. He married Ruth Henderson.

Thomas F. married Mattie Hoge, but he died at a young age. His children included Annie who
married Abner B. Keysaer, Maggie E. who married Will Fleming, James C., William A. "Jack'' and Thomas F. Jr. The second wife of James C. was Neva Wall, who was a teacher and librarian at Sale Creek School for over 40 years. Jack was a railroad engineer who lost his leg in a train accident and died at age 47. Thomas married Laura Shipley. He operated Bolton's Grocery and Dry Goods in the 1930s and 40s on Main Street in Chattanooga. The Flemings, James and Neva and Jack are buried at the Welsh Cemetery at Sale Creek.

Robert Bolton is buried at the McDonald (Hutcheson) Cemetery at Coultersville. Peter Bolton is
buried at the Welsh Cemetery. Robert Newton Bolton is buried at the Lone Mountain Cemetery at Graysville, Tn., with a marker telling of his Union service.

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