A.E. Blunt Was Missionary At Brainerd, 1st Mayor Of Dalton

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ainsworth Emery Blunt was a missionary to the Cherokees at Brainerd who stayed behind when the Indians were forced on the Trail of Tears. He was a founder of the First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga and was the first mayor and postmaster of Dalton, Ga.

The Blunts were an old English family who came to New England at an early day. Isaac and Mary Abbott Blunt were the fourth generation of the family in America. Their son, John G. Blunt, was born at Andover, Mass., Jan. 31, 1756. He fought at Bunker Hill and Saratoga and was present for the surrender of British Gen. Burgoyne. John G. married Sarah Eames in 1780, and they settled with their four children at Amherst, N.H., about 1789. Ainsworth Emery was born at Amherst in 1800.

A.E. Blunt moved in 1818 to Boston to work in his brother's store. There he learned of the missionary work among the Indians in the Tennessee wilderness. He was assigned in January 1822 to Brainerd on South Chickamauga Creek and he left Feb. 14 after admonishing his parents on the necessity of a full prayer life. As he departed he wrote in his journal, "We are about to bid farewell to one another perhaps for the last time on Earth. Oh, that this might be a season of reflection. May it be a season to awake us to a sense of duty.''

He went on a steamer to Savannah, arriving March 14. He was at Augusta 10 days later, then went by way of Athens prior to arriving at the Spring Place Moravian mission April 11. He was "very sore occasioned by jumping the watercourses.'' Blunt accomplished the final 35 miles to Brainerd the next day. The following morning he was pleased to behold "the first rising sun on Mission Ground.'' He examined the mission layout and found "the most delightful and pleasing schools I ever saw, both male and female. The boys have made good proficiency in reading, writing, arithmetic and grammar. Here were nearly 60 boys and not two who were dressed alike.'' The next day Blunt was assigned to take care of the oxen "which were five or six year sold and wild!''

He soon met a young teacher, Harriet Ellsworth, who had come south from Greenboro, Vt., with her brother, John C. Ellsworth. The Ellsworths were relatives of Oliver Ellsworth, who was the first chief justice of the U.S. and a member of the commission that drew up the federal constitution in 1787. The Ellsworths were also related to the fiery preacher Jonathan Edwards. In one of the first white weddings in the Indian territory south of the Tennessee River, A.E.Blunt took Harriet Ellsworth as his wife in 1822. She was described as "a woman of rare intelligence and great piety. She had an usual executive ability.''

Blunt reported in a letter in 1823 that his situation at Brainerd was far from the comfort of a New England homestead, but he was "contented. We feel that much good is being done here, and souls brought to Christ. Our dwelling house is very simple yet, as are the furnishings also. The cabin is one of logs, daubed with mud - is 14 ft. square, chimney at the end on outside. The furniture in our house consists of one bed, one whole chair, and one with no back. The five or six packing boxes we had, serve as container for clothing, etc. We have two chests which I brought from my New England home. As to utensils, we have 3 spoons, 3 tin pint cups, 4 plates, 1 pair snuffers, a shove, and pr. andirons - so you see we are not burdened with utensils in the house at present. We have with us a visitor from the Sandwich Islands.''

Blunt was "a man of great personal integrity and decision of character.'' He taught carpentry, blacksmithing, coopering and religion to the Cherokees. He was appointed postmaster at Brainerd Sept. 13, 1836, and served until the office was closed in 1838.

The Blunts later recounted about an operation of a ferry at Brainerd. A mission rule was that only necessities would be brought across the creek on Sundays. When two men showed upon the sabbath with two barrels of whiskey, they became angry when they were denied transport. The men "rolled the two barrels of whiskey out of the wagon, waded in and floated them across.'' Another interesting operation was the valuable fish trap maintained in Chickamauga Creek. It yielded a steady supply of fish, especially when hemlock boughs were used to beat the water above the falls and stupify the fish so they could be easily caught.

The Blunts had five children while they were at Brainerd - Harriet Eliza in 1823, Martha Ellsworth in 1825, John Ellsworth in 1828, Ainsworth Emery Jr. in 1831 and Sarah Elizabeth in 1834. However, the eldest and youngest daughters died at young ages.

A.E. Blunt became seriously ill in 1834, but he later recovered. His wife's health was not good,and they decided to transfer to Candy's Creek in Bradley County in 1837.

Blunt accompanied the Indians on the Trail of Tears as far as the Mississippi River, but he was unable to continue due to illness. He went back to Brainerd and was assigned to wrap up the affairs of the mission. He paid $40 for the mission cemetery so it would not "fall into the hands of speculative men.''

The Blunts settled on a small farm at the north end of Missionary Ridge, and he was county treasurer and chairman of the school commission. The Blunts took a leading role in establishing a Presbyterian church in town on June 21, 1840. The pewter communion set used at this historic occasion had been sent from Amherst, N.H. That same set was used at every communion service at the church until the Blunts moved in 1843 to Cross Plains (Dalton), where Benjamin C. Morse was involved in construction of the Western and Atlantic Railroad. He had married Martha E. Blunt. Blunt and Morse joined in a mercantile business in Dalton on the southwest corner of Thornton Avenue and Morris Street. Blunt later operated a grocery and grain firm with John H. King. A.E. Blunt was postmaster of Dalton from 1845 until 1853. He was mayor of Dalton just after it was incorporated Dec. 29, 1847. He was trustee of the Dalton Academy. The Blunts were active in the First Presbyterian Church of Dalton and their fine communion set was also used there.

The family was saddened June 10, 1847, with the death of Harriet. Family members say her husband fashioned a travois in the Indian style behind one of his fine horses and transported her to the mission cemetery, where she was buried beside her young daughters. The following year, Blunt completed a fine two-story home at Dalton, then in 1849 he married Elizabeth Christian Ramsey, sister of the Ross's Landing pioneer Reynolds Ramsey. It was said that Blunt, while his first wife was still alive, had passed the home of Reynolds Ramsey and had seen a pretty young woman (Elizabeth Ramsey) going around the house. He had remarked, "There is a fine young woman who will make some young man a good wife.'' A.E. Blunt and Elizabeth had a daughter, Eliza Ramsey "Lillie.''

During the Civil War, the Blunts at first remained at their home. A.E. Blunt was at the Dalton depot when the Andrews Raiders sped past in the "General'' locomotive they had commandered. A number of Confederate officers, including Joseph Johnston and Joseph Wheeler,stopped at the Blunt home. The family later refugeed in Illinois with their son, John. The son-in-law, Benjamin Morse, died at Naganee, Mich., in early 1863 of a stomach ailment. Upon the family's return to Dalton, they found the trees in their yard had been cut down and the fences torn away. The house had last been used as a hospital by the Union troops. A.E. Blunt died Dec. 21, 1865, soon after the family's return south. He is buried at West Hill Cemetery. His second wife lived until 1899.

John E. married Augusta Evans Wood. He was an engineer who moved to Chicago and worked on several railroad projects there.

A.E. Jr. still remembered the Trail of Tears.He had "stood by the road side watching the dejected tribe as hundreds of them, men, women and children, filed past, and their sorrows made a deep impression on his childish mind.'' Years later, he could still talk and sing in the Cherokee language. A.E. Jr. studied at Dartmouth,then he became principal of the Masonic Female Institution at Cleveland. He resigned to serve with the Union's First Tennessee Cavalry, rising to the rank of captain. A.E. Blunt Jr. married the daughter of Dr. J.F. Hall of New Hampshire in 1865. He reopened the female school at Cleveland and was the town's postmaster eight years. He became interested in the hybridizing of grains and developed many new strains of wheat. It was said he had "over 400 varieties of wheat, most of which he knew at a glance without consulting the labels.'' He was professor of agriculture at the Colorado State Agricultural College, then in 1890 he set up a new agricultural station in New Mexico. He died in 1911.

Lillie married Thomas Miles Kirby, a Confederate veteran who was taken prisoner at Gettysburg. Their children were Lucy Ann, Carrie who married Walter C. McGhee, Alleen who married C.W. Dunlap and Emery who married John A. Baxley. Mrs. Baxley willed the historic Blunt home at 506 S. Thornton Ave. to the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society. The house was extensively renovated in 1988. The old pewter communion set was put on display by Pioneer Bank in 1972, but it disappeared soon after that.The tankard had been estimated to be over 900 years old.

Marvin Sowder wrote a book on A.E. Blunt entitled A New Englander Comes South. It is offered for sale by the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society.


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