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C. G. Nenney.

Identifier: MSC 0580

Scope and Contents

C. G. Nenney pocket ledgers and photographs. C. G. Nenney, Lumberman, Hamblen County, 1880-90’s Though he seems to have preferred simply using his initials and surviving documents from his lifetime only identified him as either “C. G.” or “Charles”, an application for a delayed birth certificate filled out by his daughter Nellie (#D-388557, Nellie Elizabeth McReynolds) reveals that C.G. Nenney’s full name was Charles Grandison Nenney. (Possibly his parents chose the name as a would-be witty take on the name of Charles Grandison Finney, who was a very well-known Presbyterian minister at the time of C. G. Nenney’s birth.) Charles Grandison Nenney was born in Jefferson County, Tennessee on May 9, 1834, the son of Charles Patrick Nenney (1809-1857) and Sarah Galbraith Nenney (1809-1899). In the biographical sketch of himself that he submitted for publication in Goodspeed’s collection on Hamblen County, Tennessee, C.G. Nenney claimed for his grandfather, an Irishman named Patrick Nenney, the honor of having been the first permanent pioneer to settle in what became Hamblen County. Moving onto Bent Creek, near the future town of Whitesburg, no later than 1790, Patrick Nenney built a store there and experienced success as a merchant. For reasons of his own, Patrick seems to have chosen not to pursue naturalization as an American citizen, but being forced to register with the local federal district court as a potential enemy alien during the War of 1812 (British Aliens in the United States During the War of 1812, pg. 376) did not significantly affect his business and he continued to build wealth and status. When he died in 1824, his estate was valued at $24,770, the equivalent of over half a million dollars in today’s money. C.G.’s father Charles Patrick Nenney died at a relatively young age and left few pieces of remaining documentation behind him. On paper, he appears to have been a medium-size farmer and a small-scale slave owner (possessing 6 slaves at his maximum). Until the last census year of his life, Charles Patrick’s mother Lucy was identified as the head of his household. For Goodspeed, C.G. remembered that his father had not only “engaged in merchandising and farming”, but he had also been “active in politics and instrumental in the building of the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railway”. Charles Patrick must have been solidly successful, for he was able to send his sons William L. and C.G. to Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tennessee. After his graduation in 1856, twenty-two year old C.G. “commenced life independently”, but the sudden death of his forty-eight year old father cut his new life and plans short. Within a year he had been called back home to help his mother, grandmother, and younger siblings—the youngest of whom was only four years old. Perhaps due to Charles Patrick’s involvement with the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad, C.G. was almost immediately appointed its depot agent at nearby Russellville, Tennessee. And, that was how his life continued for the next twenty years. The 1860 Census of Jefferson County recorded “C.J.” Nenney as a twenty-six-year-old depot agent and the head of a household comprised of his mother, three younger siblings, and Dr. Samuel T. Snapp, the thirty-one-year-old widower of C.G.’s sister Lucy Ellen who had died in 1856, at only nineteen years old and just two months and six days after her wedding. Confederate military records show that his older brother William served as a “laborer” for Company A, 3rd Confederate Engineer Troops from at least April through September 1864 and that in 1930, his younger brother James Nenney successfully began collecting a Confederate pension based on his service in Company K, 6th Texas Cavalry, but as a railroad employee, C. G. was exempted from draft by both the Union and the confederacy. There are no indications that he ever served in the military or met any of the other standards that would have required him to seek amnesty or pardon from the United States at the close of the Civil War. Nevertheless, C.G. Nenney sought and received amnesty by special order of President Andrew Johnson on November 9, 1865. He may have felt it was prudent due to the fact that his family home had served as a headquarters for General Longstreet; his status as “a life-long Democrat, who voted first for Buchanan”; or his general reputation as a supporter of the Confederacy. The 1870 Census of Jefferson County found thirty-six-year-old Charles still living with his mother and younger sister Catherine and still working as the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad’s agent at Russellville Depot. He possessed real estate valued at $3000 and personal property worth $1750. In 1877, C.G. got married. He was forty-three years old; his bride Laura Ellen Smith was twenty-two years old and the daughter of William Taylor Smith and Lucinda Doak Smith of Concord, Knox County, Tennessee. Lucinda Doak Smith was the daughter of Rev. Samuel Harvey Doak; the granddaughter of Samuel Witherspoon Doak, co-founder and president (1830-64) of Tusculum College; and the great-granddaughter of Rev. Samuel Doak, pioneer Presbyterian minister and co-founder and president (1818-29) of Tusculum College. By 1880, C.G. Nenney's household had expanded considerably. It included not only himself, his mother Sarah, his wife Ellen, and their one year old daughter Sarah Lucy, but also his fifty-year-old bachelor brother William; his widowed youngest sister Mary and her toddler son Charles; his widowed aunt Nancy Nenney Hunt; C.E. Cunningham, a twenty-four-year-old bachelor described as a “cousin” and a “lumberman”; and twenty-four-year-old Hugh Galbraith, the bachelor brother of Mary Nenney Galbraith’s late husband Audley, who was identified as a boarder and a railroad clerk. C.G. himself was listed as a forty-six-year-old railroad clerk and farmer. By 1885, Sarah Lucy had died, but C.G. and Ellen had become the parents of two other children who would survive into adulthood: Chester Arthur Nenney (born February 4, 1881) and Nellie Elizabeth Nenney Wheeler McReynolds (born June 14, 1884). Another daughter named Lucy (Lucy Ellen Nenney Patterson) would be born on August 31, 1887, and she would be followed by a fourth and final daughter, Adelia Doak Nenney Baylor (nicknamed “Dellie D”) on December 3, 1892. During March 1886, fifty-two-year-old C.G. left his position with the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad and pursued a lumber business. By 1900, though, his career in the lumber industry seemed to have passed. That year’s census identified sixty-six-year-old C.G. and his nineteen-year-old son Chester simply as farmers. C.G.’s seventy-year-old elder brother William was still a bachelor and still lived with C.G. and his family. William also still described his occupation as cabinet maker. Dates supplied for his death vary, but Charles Grandison Nenney died some time before the next census year, on May 31, 1900, 1901, or 1909. The date on his tombstone seems to have been corrected, perhaps either from 1900 to 1909 or vice versa. Since the 1900 Census had enumerated his household on June 9, 1900 and included him, it seems easy to dismiss the date May 31, 1900, leaving either May 31, 1901 or May 31, 1909.


  • 1880-1900

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C. G. Nenney.
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Repository Details

Part of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection Repository

601 S Gay Street
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Knoxville Tennessee 37902 United States