As the new mask mandate reminds us to practice safe health measures, our local cemeteries continue to offer a respite from being quarantined at home. Today's excursion leads us out of the city to the historic Montgomery Cemetery.
The Montgomery Cemetery, located north of Chattanooga on the north side of Mahan Gap Road, is the final resting place of Revolutionary War patriot Pvt. James Davis. Born in 1761, Davis died at age 82 on Dec. 9, 1843; his wife, Mary Brumley, is buried next to him. His descendants are scattered across the cemetery.
Davis's Revolutionary War pension application, filed on Aug. 28, 1832, in Hamilton County before the "Worshipful Justices of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions" provides a fascinating overview of Davis's life and military service.
In his sworn testimony, James Davis stated that he was born in Fauquier County in Virginia but admitted that he had no documents proving his age nor his service other than his recollection. He traced his movement westward following service on the Continental Line in North Carolina, indicating that he moved first to Greene County, Tennessee, for about 15 years and then to Knox County. After 10 to 15 years in Knox County, Davis spent two years in Campbell County, about 12 years in White County, followed by moves to Jackson County, Alabama, and a return to Tennessee, with residences in Marion County and then Hamilton County. At the time of his application, he had been in Hamilton County for nine years. Given his advanced age, it is understandable that the number of years at each residence may be inaccurate.
A more detailed examination of his movements conducted by local historian and cemetery sleuth Jim Holcomb and the Hamilton County Genealogy Society enhances the story. Based on land documents, Davis paid $45 for a land lot in Dallas, then the Hamilton County seat of government, in 1832. The following year, he purchased an additional lot for $200. In a search of land documents, it appears that Davis sold that lot to Aaron Rawlings in 1833 for $300 but eventually, upon default by Rawlings, regained the land. By 1836, Davis and family had relocated to an area known as Long Savannah, now known as Snow Hill. As the removal of the Cherokee opened land for speculation, Davis purchased 160 acres, apparently the land he was already residing on as an "occupant enterer." Just days before his death, a deed indicates that he sold the land to his son, Wesley, but apparently the sale was never formalized. More than a decade later, the widow of his son, Sullivan, executed a deed for her portion of the land to her brother-in-law, Wesley Davis.
His pension application also contains detailed information about his military service. The recorded series of movements, engagements and scouting expeditions reminds readers of the reality of frontier warfare. Davis recalls that he first served as a "volunteer under Captain John Keys" and was then posted as a ranger under a "Captain Smith ... in Burke County, North Carolina." His account mentions service under a series of other commanders ["Captain Smith, Captain Gordon, Lieutenant Witherspoon and Colonel Malbury"], but the retelling takes an interesting turn as he describes the Battle of Eutaw Springs and Gen. Nathaniel Greene's skillful leadership. He mentions "several scouting parties during the Revolution," including a "return home destroying the property of the Tories in our route by order of Colonel Cleveland." Documents recently discovered include his participation in what he described as the final battle of the Revolution, an engagement with Chief Dragging Canoe and the Chickamaugans.
His widow, Mary Davis, applied for his pension after his death, "personally appearing before the Court" and declared that "she was married to said James Davis at about the age of sixteen years, about sixty-two years ago." With supporting affidavits from neighbors, Asahel Rawlings, clerk of the Hamilton County Court, certified that the evidence exhibited proved that "James Davis was a Revolutionary Pensioner ... at the rate of forty-three dollars and thirty-three cents per annum."
While the Revolutionary War seems a distant chapter in our history, it is worth noting that our local cemeteries offer quiet testimony to the courage of our patriots.
Linda Moss Mines, the Chattanooga and Hamilton County historian, also serves as regent, Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR, which is planning a memorial service for Pvt. Davis later this fall.