Robbins: Dr. Jonathan Bachman was a revered city father

Robbins: Dr. Jonathan Bachman was a revered city father

June 19th, 2016 by Frank (Mickey) Robbins in Opinion Columns
Jonathan Bachman, seated, with his three grandsons.

Jonathan Bachman, seated, with his three grandsons.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

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Jonathan Waverly Bachman fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. He then came to the First Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga and ministered to all creeds, classes and colors during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878, becoming recognized as the city's chaplain.

Born in 1837 into a family of 10 to Jonathan and Frances Rhea Bachman at their Roseland Farm in what became Sullivan County, Tenn., Jonathan Bachman studied in a log schoolhouse before entering Fall Branch Academy, Blountville Academy, Emory and Henry College, and in 1860 Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He and brother Nathan "did much charitable and religious work among the rabble of Five Points (near today's Chinatown), a place of evil eminence in those bygone days." When the Civil War broke out, the brothers returned to their native state.

Jonathan Bachman enlisted as a private in the 19th Tennessee. He was receiving orders from Gen. Robert E. Lee in the West Virginia campaign and later served under Gen. Stonewall Jackson during the mid-winter Romney campaign. He raised and commanded the 60th Tennessee Volunteers in the summer of 1862.

During the siege of Vicksburg, he was captured and exchanged, then resumed command. At one point his horse was shot under him. While on parole in 1863, Bachman married Evalina Dulaney, daughter of pioneer physician, Dr. William R. Dulaney, of Blountville. He served as a Confederate chaplain from October 1864 until the end of the war.

After caring for congregations in East Tennessee, Bachman came to Chattanooga in 1873 as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, then at Seventh and Market streets. He served his congregation for more than a half century, presiding over a move in 1910 to a new sanctuary at 554 McCallie Ave.

The Bachman home was nearby at McCallie and Houston streets. John Wilson's "Chattanooga's History" noted that Bachman was "tall and slender with a quick military step, a light brown mustache, bright blue eyes and a smile of ineffable sweetness." He would rise early, work in his garden, and complete his sermons and literary work before noon. Then he would "visit his flock and anyone else in trouble."

Bachman "could relate to everybody from the highest to the lowest and had a personality that made you rise to your best." While he later served as national chairman of the United Confederate Veterans, he labored to build friendship among former Union and Confederate soldiers. The pastor was instrumental in the founding of the Bonny Oaks Industrial School as well as the Associated Charities, today's United Way.

Bachman loved to hunt, shoot and ride, but his favorite hobby was fishing. The minnow's pond in his garden provided ready bait. He raised all kinds of trees, vegetables, and flowers in his backyard. He grew trees from seeds and named them after Confederate generals.

He and his wife read regularly to their children from the Christian Observer and the Youth's Companion. By the time his daughter, Ann, was 10, she had read the Gold Thread, Pilgrim's Progress, Scottish Chiefs, Thaddeus of Warsaw, The Poems of Ossian, Don Quixote, Swiss Family Robinson and all the works of Charles Dickens and Walter Scott.

During the Yellow Fever epidemic, the pastor sent his wife and family to Sweetwater and stayed to care for all people, black and white, rich and poor throughout the community. At home he read aloud each morning the 91st Psalm: "Surely he shall deliver thee from the noisome pestilence."

When he died in 1924 at age 86, more than 5,000 people attended his funeral. The Bachman Tubes at Missionary Ridge were named in his honor.

His wife Evalina had died in 1898.

Survivors at his death included Mrs. William (Frances) Magill, Mrs. Charles (Mary) Anderson, Mrs. Charles (Anne) Hyde, Mrs. Charles (Evalina) Buek and Nathan Lynn Bachman, later a U.S. senator.

In 1904 Nathan married Pearl Duke of the well-known North Carolina family. Their daughter, Martha Bachman, married Thomas McCoy, an attorney from Asheville, N.C.

The mountain summer home that belonged to Sen. Nathan Bachman and Martha Bachman McCoy was transferred to the Town of Walden in a gift/sale after she died in 2004. It is now the McCoy Farm and Gardens and is open to the community and for weddings and events.

Frank (Mickey) Robbins is an investment adviser at Patten and Patten. For more, visit and

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