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Ellen Capito Collection (Milligan family, Greeneville, Tenn.).

Identifier: MSC 0492

Scope and Contents

The Ellen Capito Collection consists of Milligan family photographs, books, correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs, portraits, diaries and Samuel Milligan’s memoir. A letter from Governor William G. Brownlow to George Andrews invites him to speak at Knoxville’s 4th of July celebration for 1868. Two portraits of a young George Andrews and his wife, Mary Lathrop Andrews are housed in wooden, oval frames. Photographs, mostly unidentified, include cartes-de-visite, cabinet cards, tintypes, and an unidentified daguerreotype, most likely of George Andrews. Some of the photographs are early Kodaks, with the distinctive circular image mounted on card. Three photographs depict Frank J. Milligan in Navy uniform, one taking in Athens, Greece, another in Nagasaki, Japan, the last in Knoxville by Knaffl and Bro. Many photographs originate from Knoxville, Greeneville, or other East Tennessee photograph studios, including a portrait of Carrie Andrews Milligan by Charles Krutch. One depicts Registration Day, June 5, 1917, in downtown Greeneville. A photograph album contains a number of identified portraits of Milligan and Howard family members. Some water damage as caused the ink to run.

Numerous books, mostly educational, comprise a large portion of the collection. A few early books written by Joseph Lathrop, discuss religious topics. Other publications include an 1898 version of “The Night Before Christmas,” and Raggedy Andy stories.

Samuel Milligan’s memoir provides intimate details of his life and career from growing up in Greene County, through school at Tusculum Academy, service in the Mexican American War, life during the Civil War, and his work as a judge. The back of the memoir serves as a scrapbook of sorts, including newspaper clippings and obituaries. Two diaries, one, possibly by Sam Milligan from the year 1860, the other by his son, Frank Milligan from 1877.


  • 1764 - 1925
  • Majority of material found within 1868 - 1925

Conditions Governing Access

Material is available for research. Prior arrangement MUST be made by contacting the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection at

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Milligan was born on November 16, 1814, in Greene County, Tennessee, to Samuel Milligan and Elizabeth Reynolds Milligan. He grew up on a 100-acre farm owned by his father on Lick Creek, just north of Greeneville. His father served in the War of 1812 as a private. Sam taught in a neighborhood school in 1830, as a fifteen-year-old.

He enrolled in Greeneville College in the fall of 1833, with only homespun clothes, a knife, a fork, a cup and saucer, bacon, corn meal, sweet cider and 4 ½ penny pieces of silver coin. During his time at Greeneville college, he frequently took breaks to teach school and assist his father with fall harvest. After two years under this arrangement, he left school altogether to work the fields and teach full time to rebuild his strength and savings. In the summer of 1836 (Sam wrote 1837), Henry Hoss died. The school declined in the years following Henry Hoss’s death, and the trustees ultimately closed the school, and sold the land on which it operated. Sam paid back the money he owed to the Hoss estate and left Greeneville College.

In 1839 Sam enrolled in Tusculum Academy, a newer institution, situated just east of Greeneville. While continuing his studies at Tusculum, some friends nominated him to run for the Tennessee House of Representatives, representing Greene and Washington counties. At the nomination ceremony in Greeneville, Milligan won the democratic nomination and first met Andrew Johnson. Milligan defeated his opponent in the election, Whig M. S. Temple, who Sam described as “a bold and reckless demagogue,” by approximately 800 votes. Sam continued his dual roles, legislator and student, until he graduated from Tusculum Academy in March 1843.

Milligan was reelected in 1843 and served another term as state legislator. Upon his return, Sam read law under Robert J. McKinney in Greeneville. He was reelected to the state legislature in 1845, and, while in Nashville, Milligan was admitted to the state bar in November 1845. After the legislative session, he opened a private practice in Greeneville bolstered by a gift of law books from friend Andrew Johnson. Milligan worked himself nearly to death during the summer of 1846, finding himself bedridden and with minimal vision in his right eye. Doctors advised him to abandon his practice and avoid reading books. Milligan eventually recovered but forever lost vision in his right eye.

Sam and his friend Blackstone McDaniel traveled to Washington seeking an appointment as commissary in the army from acquaintance, President James K. Polk. To his benefit, Sam carried Maj. Brookins Campbell’s resignation from the same post. He departed Greeneville on July 4, 1847, successfully secured his appointment and returned home two weeks later, on July 18. He proposed to his future wife, Elizabeth Howard, then departed for Mexico. His journey took him on a public stagecoach from Knoxville to Nashville, then on a steamboat to New Orleans, and aboard the steamship Alabama across the Gulf of Mexico, landing at Vera Cruz on October 17, 1847.

He remained in charge of the commissary in Xalapa until July 7, 1848. In Vera Cruz he caught a bilious fever that affected him through his arrival in New Orleans Once home, he visited with friends for a few days before heading on to Washington, arriving toward the end of September. Sam was discharged from the army on September 28, 1848. On February 22, 1849, he married Elizabeth Rowe Howard in her father’s home. Soon after his marriage, Milligan began preparations on the newspaper, which he named The Greeneville Spy. Milligan edited the Spy from its nascence in 1849 until the middle of 1851.

In 1852, the Democratic Party selected Milligan as elector from the 1st congressional district. In 1853, he ran in a special election to represent the 1st congressional district in Congress after the death of Rep. Brookins Campbell, but Milligan lost to Nathaniel Green Taylor. In June 1856, Milligan attended the Democratic National Convention in Cincinnati, watching James Buchanan’s nomination. In 1858, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted legislation to rerun the boundary between Tennessee and Virginia. Governor Isham G. Harris appointed Samuel Milligan and Col. George R. McClellan as commissioners to remark the line on behalf of Tennessee. In the summer of 1859, Milligan’s friends nominated him for the office of state Attorney General and Reporter, without his knowledge, but he was narrowly defeated by John W. Head.

The state Democratic party elected him as a delegate for the 1860 Democratic National Convention in Charleston, South Carolina, and subsequent convention in Baltimore. Milligan supported John C. Breckinridge in the election of 1860, ultimately won by Abraham Lincoln. In September 1860, after arguing before the state Supreme Court in Knoxville, Governor Isham G. Harris appointed him to temporarily fill his mentor Robert J. McKinney’s position on the court. Greene County Democrats selected Milligan as a delegate to the states February 1861 secession convention but before voting occurred on February 9, 1861, Governor Harris informed him that the legislature elected him as a delegate to the 1861 Peace Conference held in Washington D. C.

Milligan delivered speeches against the constitutionality of secession up until the June 8, 1861, secession referendum that officially withdrew Tennessee from the United States of America. In March 1861, Abraham Lincoln offered Milligan a seat on the Nebraska Territorial Supreme Court, but he ultimately declined to remain with his family during the war. On April 6, 1864, Milligan and his neighbor were notified by Federal scouts that rebels planned to arrest them the following day, so they escaped at night and traveled to Knoxville. In Knoxville, Milligan served as a non-voting delegate to the East Tennessee Convention, before departing Knoxville for Nashville where he would see out the remainder of the war.

On June 1, 1864, Governor Andrew Johnson appointed Milligan as Supervisor of Banks where he served until January 1865, when Johnson appointed him judge of the Eastern Division of the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Milligan again served as a delegate, this time to the constitutional convention, held in Nashville, beginning January 8, 1865. He chaired the amendment drafting committee, and first proposed the amendment abolishing slavery except as punishment for a crime to the state constitution, which he called “the proudest act of my whole life.” On July 17, 1867, President Andrew Johnson offered Milligan the lucrative positions of Solicitor of the Treasury, the consulship to Cuba, or minister to Bolivia. Milligan preferred to spend time with and educate his children and respectfully declined all three. In July 1868, President Johnson appointed Milligan Judge of the United States Court of Claims, which he accepted.

Samuel Milligan remained a judge on the US Court of Claims until his death on April 20, 1874, in Washington D. C. His body was returned home to Greeneville and buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.


6 boxes

Language of Materials


Zachary Keith
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Repository Details

Part of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection Repository

601 S Gay Street
3rd floor
Knoxville Tennessee 37902 United States