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Archiver > TYNER > 2006-05 > 1148771800

From: "Judith Rittenhouse" <>
Subject: The Mysteries of Tyner, Tennessee
Date: Sat, 27 May 2006 16:16:40 -0700


by Robert Scott Davis, director

Family & Regional History Program

Wallace State College

P. O. Box 687

Hanceville, AL 35077-0687

Office Phone: (256) 352-8265

Office FAX: (256) 352-8228

Office e-mail:

Home e-mail:

Home Phone: (205) 429-5251

Professor Davis is director of the Family & Regional History Program at Wallace State College in Hanceville, Alabama. His numerous publications include Requiem for a Lost City: Sallie Clayton's Memoirs of Civil War Atlanta and Ghosts and Shadows of Andersonville published by Mercer University Press. He descends from Wilmouth (Mrs. Frederick) Magwier, likely the daughter of Dempsey and Obedience Tyner.

Zella Armstrong wrote a pioneer work about the local history of the Chattanooga area that included the story of an interesting character and his relationship to the community of Tyner Station, now one of the city's suburbs:

Dempsy (Dempsey) Tyner, soldier of the Revolution, born in Chowan County,

N. C., Aug. 4, 1755, died in Hamilton County, October 13, 1842. He is buried

in the neighborhood which is now called Tyner's Station. It was named for his

grandson, Capt. J. S. Tyner. Dempsey Tyner moved before the Revolution to

Abbeville District, S. C., where he volunteered. He moved from South

Carolina to Jackson County, Ga., thence to Roane County, Tenn., and thence

to what is now Hamilton County. His widow, Obedience Tyner, moved to

Georgia, where she applied for [a] pension. Her maiden name is not given

in her application.[1]

This account provides previously lost information about two of Hamilton County's pioneers, Dempsey and J. S. Tyner. The latter, as chief civil engineer of the East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad, named the station Tynerville for himself in 1858. That station became Tyner post office in 1860. J. S. Tyner also resided there and his house would later become the headquarters for Confederate General Patrick Cleburne when the community was defended by four forts.[2] Armstrong, however, made some significant errors in her account and did not discuss for the fate of J. S. Tyner.

Biographical information for this man has been lacking, making him something of a mystery man. J. S. Tyner did not reside at Tyner Station after the war; the county sold his property for taxes in 1867.[3] One candidate for this man would be the J. S. Tyner (born Tennessee, ca. 1823-1829) who appears as a farmer concurrently in the 1860 census of nearby Catoosa County as Ivory [sic? Ivey?] Tiner and in Walker County as J. S. Tiner.[4] This man could well be a grandson of Dempsey Tyner but he was not a captain, or apparently an engineer, but only a private in the Sixth Battalion of the Georgia State Guards, a Confederate unit of old men and boys raised to serve briefly during the alarm following the federal capture of Chattanooga in the late summer of 1863.[5]

A James Sevier Tyner of Hamilton County, a grandson of Dempsey Tyner, is also a possibility for the namesake of Tynerville. He did draw a Confederate pension and he worked as a steam boat captain later in life. This J. S. Tyner, however, was only born on February 15, 1847 at Ross' Landing, near Chattanooga, the son of Sevier Berlin Tyner and Serena Elizabeth Hicks. He entered service in the Nineteenth Tennessee Confederate Infantry Regiment as a drummer boy.[6]

Actually the civil engineer J. S. Tyner who named Tyner Station went missing to researchers because compilers of the various indexes for the census records misread his surname. Researcher James Russell finally found this J. S. Tyner (born Georgia ca. 1828), his wife, and their two children only by a page by page search of the Hamilton County census of 1860. This bit of data began the process of filling in the many blanks in the life of J. S. Tyner. That census, for example, shows him to have been a relatively wealthy man, for his time, with real estate worth $5,000 and personal estate worth another $5,000.[7]

This John Stuart Tyner, though, has still not been located through the 1850 federal census although in that year he lived in Troup County, Georgia, as a partner in business with Elijah D. Cheshere. He also became involved the Atlanta & LaGrange Railroad (later the Atlanta & West Point) and married Sarah Caroline Norwood (1834-1902, daughter of Andrew Pickens and Elizabeth Young Norwood) in Troup County on May 8, 1851.[8] Tyner remained there at least as late as 1855. His Confederate service record shows that he served from Hamilton County as a captain of an independent company of cavalry that later became part of the First Confederate Cavalry Regiment, and also did duty as an engineer. Aside from serving in such battles as Chickamauga, Corinth, Perryville, and Shiloh, he worked for General Joseph Wheeler's cavalry corps as an explosives expert and map maker.[9]

A letter in his service file shows that he was raised in Macon, Bibb County, Georgia, and that he took leave to travel to Troup County, his wife's home county. He must have been the son of the Keeland or Keeler Tyner, the only head of household of that surname who appears in Bibb County census records for 1830-1860, and Ann Martha Barnard (died May 15, 1865). Bruce Allardice, another researcher, found J. S. in the 1870 census experiencing almost as much difficulty as James Russell did to locate him in 1860. In 1867, Tyner moved with his family to Charlton County, Georgia, where he operated a saw mill in partnership with Captain W. W. Parker. His father, Keeland, died there on February 16, 1872. J. S. Tyner himself passed away a few years later from tuberculosis in nearby Coleraine in Camden County.[10]

Captain J. S. Tyner almost certainly did not descend from Chattanooga area Revolutionary War veteran Dempsey Tyner, however. Seminole War veteran and attorney Keeland Tyner, Captain J. S. Tyner's father, was born in Effingham County, Georgia, around 1798. He was the son of Elijah Tyner and Selena Rogers.[11] This fact raises questions about Dempsey Tyner of Hamilton County's mixed blood community that would later become Tyner Station. That Dempsey Tyner (or Tiner, likely a distant cousin of Keeland Tyner), did live in the Chattanooga area is almost the only item about his complicated and colorful life that has solid documentation. His son Lewis, a Chattanooga area pioneer, founded a family that claimed that Dempsey as a full blood Cherokee. They would remember that he acted as a translator of the tribe's language who, long after the war, also worked for the famous Cherokee Vann family as an overseer of slaves. A neighbor remembered him:

Mr. Dempsey Tiner claimed to be a Cherokee Indian. He looked like an Indian in

stature and his general makeup, and he had the characteristics of an Indian. . .

I knew Mr. Dempsey Tiner well. I saw him often, he lived on my father's

farm, just a little way from my father's house for 5 or 6 years, and I staid a

good deal at Mr. Tiner's house.[12]

Lewis appears on the 1836 enrollment of the Eastern Cherokees as a resident of Hamilton County with quadroon children.[13] Tyners also appear in the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek records. No contemporary record of Dempsey, however, suggests that he was anything but white.[14]

If Dempsey Tiner, as he claimed, was born in Chowan County, North Carolina in 1755, he would have had little chance to have a Cherokee Indian, or a member of any of the tribes mentioned above, as a parent. [15] Chowan County is on the coast and far from any of the historical lands of any of those people. North Carolina researcher William D. Bennett believes that Dempsey actually descended from a tribe of coastal North Carolina and Virginia Indians. Likely tribes of Chowan County that Dempsey's Indian parents might have descended were the Chowanocs, Meherrins, Nansemonds, and Nottoways, all of whom were still in existence as tribes as late as the 1750s. (The Nansemonds are found in nearby Nansemond County, Virginia even today). A 1755 list of North Carolina Indians shows that in Chowan County there were "Chowan 2 Men & 3 Women and Children."[16]

The relatively rare name of "Tyner," or "Tiner," appears in America as early as 1681, with Nicholas Tyner and, although the family appears most often in neighboring Northampton, Bertie, and Dobbs counties, in Chowan County in 1699. An Asa Tyner appears on a 1771 tax record in nearby Bute County, North Carolina as a free person of color, which indicates Native American or African American ancestry. A Mulatto family of Dempseys also lived in Bertie County although Dempsey was a common given surname among mixed Indian and white families.[17]

In later years, members of the Tyner family in far off Georgia, and elsewhere, could have been adopted by other tribes or assumed non Indian identities. Dempsey Tyner and some of his kinsmen moved to the South Carolina frontier before the American Revolution.[18] Tyners fought for the King's Cause at Ninety Six, South Carolina as Loyalists or Tories in 1775. As a member of the South Carolina Patriot militia, Dempsey Tyner, would have served between 1776 and 1782, often as a scout and spy. He fought at the battle of Kettle Creek, Long Cane, and Eutaw Springs as a Whig (rebel) but, also in 1780, he fought as a member of the King's restored colonial militia at King's Mountain, South Carolina. His campaigns even included fighting Cherokees. As Patriot, Tory, or neither, he may have been conscripted. One can imagine, due to lack of exact documentation, that Dempsey lived his private life and spent his time as a scout/spy in the American Revolution as black, red, or w!
hite depending upon the situation where he found himself. His life after the war followed essentially the course outlined by Zella Armstrong except that, according to records in his pension file, he died in Meriwether County, Georgia, on October 13, 1842, likely while living with Jackson Tyner, one of his many children. Ironically, he died only a short distance from where John Stuart Tyner, later founder of Tyner Station, would live and marry nine years later and where J. S. Tyner's widow would marry John D. Gillespie in 1889.[19]

Tyner, the community which Dempsey never knew but that bore his surname, in the part of Tennessee where he had lived, like much of the South, experienced its share of post Civil War hard times, as did much of the South. In the 1940s, more than 300 of its families had to give up their homes for a federal munitions plant in the 1940s that later closed. The community's depot ceased operating in 1957 and its post office closed in 1972. In that same year, it and many other communities were formally annexed by the city of Chattanooga. Today, it exists as hardly more than a name in local histories. Even as a footnote, however, it harkens of fascinating tales of interesting people in controversial and complicated but important epochs in American History.[20]


[1] Zella Armstrong, The History of Hamilton County and Chattanooga Tennessee (2 vols., Chattanooga: Lookout Publishing, 1931), 1: 201. The author acknowledges the help provided by Judith Lamb Rittenhouse, Richard Smallwood, Bruce Allardice, Dr. Karen Walker, Kathie Whitfield, and Sharon Ashton in the preparation of this article.

[2] Judith Rittenhouse, "Towns Named Tyner," Tyner Tymes 1(November 1978): 20-22; James W. Livingood, A History of Hamilton County Tennessee (Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1981), 134-35, 188.

[3] Dennis Ward to Tynerlist Genealogy Internet List, August 21, 1998.

[4] The Eighth Census of the United States (1860) (National Archives microfilm M653, rolls 114 and 139), Catoosa County, p. 1027, and Walker County, p. 826.

[5] Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers who served in Organizations from the State of Georgia (National Archives Microfilm M266, roll 36), Ivory Tiner file; Jessie J. Brandon, Births, Marriages and Deaths 1900-1012 Taken from the Walker County Messenger (Rossville, Ga.: The Author, 1993), 90.

[6] Gustavus W. Dyer and John Trotwood Moore, The Tennessee Civil War Veterans Questionnaires (5 vols., Easley, S. C.: Southern Historical Press, 1983), 5: 2083-84; Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers who served in Organizations from the State of Tennessee (National Archives Microfilm M268, roll 199), James Tyner file.

[7] Eighth Census of the United States (1860) (National Archives microfilm M653, roll 1253), Hamilton County, (stamped page number) 43; John Wilson, Early Hamilton Settlers (Flintstone, Ga.: The Author, 2001), 310-12. Finding J. S. Tyner in the 1860 census of Hamilton County was further complicated by the use of the handwritten page numbers by some researchers. He appears on handwritten page number 145 (stamped page 43) but the pages of that census were scrambled before being bound and having stamped page numbers added.

[8] Troup County Archives to author, January 25, 2006; Merle Massengale Bruce, comp., Early Marriages, Troup County, Georgia, 1828-1900 (LaGrange, Ga.: The Author, 1982), 334; Forrest Clark Johnson III, Histories of LaGrange and Troup County, Georgia (3 vols., LaGrange, Ga.: Family Tree, 1987), 1: 422; Dorothy McClendon, Lillie Lambert, and Danny Knight, comps., Family, Church, and Community Cemeteries of Troup County, Georgia (LaGrange, Ga.: The authors, 1990), 105.

[9] Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers who served in Organizations raised directly by the Confederate Government (National Archives microfilm M258, roll 4), J. S. Tyner file; Nathaniel C. Hughes, The Confederate Soldiers of Hamilton County, Tennessee (Signal Mountain, Tn.: Mountain Press, 2001), 170-71. Coincidently, John Stuart Tyner worked with fellow Confederate engineer Lieutenant John Stewart. Robert S. Davis, "'Every Crossroads and Farm': General Henry DeLamar Clayton's Civil War Maps of Northwest Georgia," Georgia Historical Quarterly 82 (1998): 154.

[10] Ninth Census of the United States (1870) (National Archives microfilm M593, roll 140), Charlton County, Georgia, p. 323; Willard R. Rocker, comp., Marriages and Obituaries from the Macon Messenger 1818-1865 (Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1988), 195; Macon Telegraph, March 10, 1872, p. 2; letter of W. O. Gibson to Charlton County Herald, April 13, 1934, reproduced at the Internet website: http://okefenokeepress.com/Gibson-LetterstoEditor.html. Simeon Tyner, Keeland's brother, lived in Macon County, Georgia, and he had a son named John (b. 1831), a farmer in the 1850 census. That J. J. Tyner, however, was still in Macon County, Georgia, in 1860, where he worked as an overseer of slaves. Seventh Census of the United States (1850) (National Archives microfilm M432, roll 76), Macon County, Georgia, p. 149; Eighth Census of the United States (1860) (National Archives microfilm M653, roll 130), Macon County, Georgia, p. 130.

[11] Thomas H. Compton, The Tyner Family: The Descendents of Elijah Tyner of Effingham County Georgia 1760-1840 (Inverness, Fl.: The Author, n. d.), iv, 165.

[12] Judith Rittenhouse, "Dempsey Tyner and Tyner, Hamilton Co., Tenn.," Tyner Tymes 1 (November 1998): 23-24; deposition of Caroline R. Rogers, August 24, 1896, claim for Cherokee citizenship of Mrs. Ellena Parker, et al, Cherokee Nation West, National Archives Southwest Region, Fort Worth, Tx. Rogers mentioned Dempsey as having sons Hiram, Jackson, Jessie, John, and Louis, as well as at least one daughter, the wife of Newton J. Hibbs.

[13] Fifth Census of the United States (1830)(National Archives microfilm M19, roll 180), Hamilton County, pp. 84-85; Jerry Wright Jordan, Cherokee by Blood (9 vols. to date, Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1987- ), 2: 81-82, 5: 219-20; James W. Tyner, Those Who Cried: The 16,000: A record of the individual Cherokees listed in the United States official census of the Cherokee Nation conducted in 1835 (n.p., 1974), 187; Census of the Cherokees. . . in 1835 (National Archives Micropublication T496, roll 1), p. 7. Many of the statements made by the Tyner descendants in the Guion Miller claims seem questionable, such as Lewis Tiner being a full blood Cherokee. They also stated that Dempsey died in Hamilton County.

[14] Elizabeth Rittenhouse Lamb, "Index to the Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory," Tyner Tymes 2 (December 1979): 13-14.

[15] Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files (National Archives Microfilm M804, roll 2433), Dempsey Tiner, SC S1599. Tyner descendents have a tale of an incident wherein the Cherokees raided the farm of John Tyner in Chowan County in the mid 1700s and captured his daughters Susan and Tamer. They were eventually recovered but they chose to live with the Choctaws as their children were Indians. That would seem to be an explanation for how Dempsey Tyner (b. 1755) could be a Cherokee. Almost the same story, however, is also told of a Cherokee raid in Elbert County, Georgia, in the late 1700s wherein a Mary and a Tamer Tyner, daughters of William Tyner, were captured. Burr K. Hackle­man Sr. and Phyllis A. Hackleman, Hacklemans in America 1749-1988 (Rochester, N. Y.: The Authors, 1988), 453; A. C. Whitehead, Maker's of Georgia's Name and Fame (Boston: Educational Publishing Company, 1913), 9-92.

[16] Frederick Webb Hodge, Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico (2 vols., rep. of 1910 ed., New York: Gatewood Press, 1969) 1: 292, 839, 2: 24; William L. Byrd III and Shelia Spencer Stover, "In Search of Cultural Identity," North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal 17 (1991): 66-74, 18 (1992): 48-54 19 (1993): 160-63. For more on mixed racial families in the South see and Virginia Easley DeMarce, "`Verry Slitly Mixt': Tri-Racial Isolate Families of the Upper South--A Genealogical Study," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 80 (1992): 5-35. Some researchers believe that the Chowanoc Indians took in the survivors of England's famous Lost Colony of Roanoke. The Nottoway Indians of southeastern coastal Virginia, along the border with North Carolina, referred to themselves as "Cheroenhaka," meaning "of the fork of a stream." These Indians were in the same linguistic family (Iroquoian) as the Cherokees, hence a possible explanation for Dempsey Tyner being a translat!
or. Some 300 Indians calling themselves Nottoways settled on the northern frontier of South Carolina between 1748 and 1754. No information has been found of these people living in the intervening areas of coastal North Carolina. John R. Swanton, The Indian Tribes of North America (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1952), 65. The Lumbees of Robison County, North Carolina, descendents of Africans and alleged to be the remnants of many coastal North Carolina tribes, are sometimes referred to as "Cherokees." W. McKee Evans, To Die Game: The Story of the Lowry Band, Indian Guerrillas of Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: University of Louisiana Press, 1971), 3, fn. 1.

[17] Margaret M. Hofmann, Chowan Precinct North Carolina 1696 to 1723 Genealogical Abstracts of Deed Books (Weldon, N.C.: The Au­thor, 1984), 5; Paul Heinegg, Free African Ameri­cans of North Carolina (n.p., 1991), 108, 182; Virginia DeMarce to author, June 15, 1993.

[18] The COM Index at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History shows Caleb, Harris, and John Tyner first appearing in colonial land grant records in 1766; a Richard appears in 1769; and a William arrives by 1774. Dempsey would have been too young before the American Revolution to have obtained a land grant.

[19] Bobby Gilmer Moss, The Loyalists at Kings Mountain (Blackburg, SC: Scotia-Hibernia, 1998), 81-83, Roster of South Carolina Patriots in the American Revolution (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1985), 945, and The Loyalists in the Siege of Fort Ninety Six (Blacksburg, SC: Scotia-Hibernia, 1999), 124-25; Gregory Palmer, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution (Westport, Ct.: Meckler Press, 1984), 865; Murtie June Clark, Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War (3 vols., Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1981), 1: 48, 224-25, 242, 245-46, 249, 263, 286, 291, 344, 374-75, 405, 423, 516, 538; Revolutionary War Pension Claim of Dempsey Tyner, SC S1599. Dempsey Tyner appears in the 1790 federal census of Edgefield County, Ninety Six District, South Carolina. U. S. Department of Commerce, Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the year 1790: South Caroli­na (1908; rep. ed. Athens, GA: Ib!
erian Press, 1990), 67; Ge Lee Corley Hendrix, Edgefield County South Carolina Abstracts of Deed Books 1-12 1786-1796 (Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1985), 178. In Georgia's 1805 land lottery, Dempsey is listed in Jack­son County, along with Jackson, Noah, Samuel, and Stephen Tyner. He also appears in the 1801 and 1804 tax digests of Jackson County and in 1807 received a land grant in Jackson County, what later became Hall County. Dempsey moved to Roane County, Tennessee, about 1809 but he and his son Lewis are recorded in the 1830 census of Hamilton County on adjoining pages. Dempsey resided in Meriwether County, Geor­gia by the time of the 1840 census. Index to Headright and Bounty Grants of Georgia, 1756-1909 (Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1970), 699; Tyner Tymes 1 (November 1978): 23-4; William C. Stewart, Gone to Georgia: Jackson and Gwinnett Coun­ties and their Neighbors in the Western Migration (Washington, D. C.: National Genealogical Society, 1965!
), 22.

[20] Rittenhouse, "Towns Named Tyner," 20-22; Livingood, A History of Hamilton County, 160, 188, 212-13, 383, 431.

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