THE 4TH CIVIL DISTRICT OF DAVIDSON COUNTY IN 1850
by Sara Binkley Tarpley
INDEX TO THE 1850 CENSUS, 4TH CIVIL DISTRICT
INDEX TO THE 1850 SLAVE SCHEDULE, 4TH CIVIL DISTRICT
The 4th Civil District lay in the east central portion of Davidson County in an area bordered by the Cumberland and Stones Rivers and the Wilson County line. The area, near Andrew Jackson's Hermitage, from which it would later take its name, was a desirable one for agriculture, and particularly for the growing of cotton. Charles M. Hays enumerated the district between September 11 and September 20. [The twenty-six-year-old Hays, a resident of the 5th Civil District, enumerated that district and the 3rd Civil District as well.]
In 1850 the total free population of 977 included 454 females and 523 males. The population was overwhelmingly young with an average age of 20. Half the population was under 16, with four-year-olds constituting the largest single age group. The oldest free inhabitants were a married couple John and Rebecca Cook, both 78; the youngest were Thomas Stevens and W. W. Moore, both one month old. Age groups broke down as follows:
0-5 - 182
6-18 - 375
19-29 - 164
30-39 - 105
40-49 - 79
50-59 - 40
60-69 - 19
70-78 - 13
Among children ages six to eighteen, only 140, or thirty-seven percent, were attending school. In addition three nineteen-year-olds and one twenty-year-old reported attending school. Designated as students in the occupation column were one seventeen-year-old, one eighteen-year-old, one twenty-year-old, and one twenty-one-year old. These were young men from more affluent homes and may have been university students. Seventy-seven, or nineteen percent, of residents aged 20 or over reported that they could not read and write. Two residents were described as deaf and dumb or deaf mute, one as dumb, three as idiotic, and two as insane.
Of the free inhabitants, 949 living in 161 households were white. There were two free blacks and twenty-five free mulattoes living in four households. Surprisingly one household was headed by a black man with whom a young white man was living.
Of 107 property owners, 105 were white; two were black. The total reported property value for the district was $479,095, with an average value of $4,478. This figure was due to the presence of several wealthy landowners in the district and distorted the average land value. Half the property owners owned land worth $1,500 or less, with a value of $2,000 being most often reported.
Not surprisingly, most men were farmers with 163 of them so reporting. There were thirty-four laborers, six overseers, three blacksmiths, three wagon makers, four teachers, two physicians, two ministers [both Presbyterian], and one each of the following: baker, cabinet maker, carpenter, constable, gunsmith, millwright, miller, plasterer, shoemaker, toll gate keeper, turning machine maker, and wagoner. Two young men reported that they were in the Navy, and four men specifically reported that they had no occupation.
The vast majority of residents were born in Tennessee, a fact partly attributable to the large number of children and teenagers in the district. Sixty-nine people were born in Virginia, fifty-five in North Carolina, eleven in Kentucky, eight in New York, five in Ohio, two in Louisiana, and one each in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Europe, Switzerland, Berne [probably Switzerland], England, and Scotland.
A few families dominated the population. Seventy-one people were Wrights, with forty-three Binkleys, forty Gleaves, thirty Hurts, and twenty-three Bakers. These surnames accounted for twenty-one percent of the district's free residents. The Hager and Hagar families should be mentioned here as they were more than likely related but with different spellings shown in this census. Together they totaled thirty-two.
The most popular given names included some still popular today. The most popular female names were Mary , Elizabeth , Martha , Sarah , and Nancy . The most popular male names were John , William , James , Thomas , and George .
Not everyone living in the 4th District in 1850 is listed by name. Fifty-five residents owned 913 slaves, nearly half the district's total population. The average slaveholder owned seventeen slaves. However, again the presence of several wealthy families distorts the district's total picture. Approximately half of the owners owned seven or fewer slaves, with the most common number owned being one. Those owning the most slaves were Andrew Jackson, Jr., who owned 137; his relatives William Donelson and Stokely Donelson, with seventy-one and sixty-six respectively; John L. Hadley, with fifty-one; Timothy Dodson, with forty; and P. C. Shute with thirty-four.
There were 418 male slaves, 488 females, and seven whose sex could not be read on the film. By age they were
0-5 - 230
6-18 - 315
19-29 - 134
30-39 - 96
40-49 - 54
50-59 - 26
60-69 - 36
70-79 - 9
80-89 - 2
90-95 - 3
ages illegible - 8
The average age was nineteen. The youngest slave was one month old; the oldest, ninety-five. There is a striking difference between the number of slaves over sixty and the number of free residents over sixty. It is difficult to know whether the larger number of elderly slaves was due to some genetic factor or to less accurate information about birth dates. Surprisingly the only slave reported to be a fugitive at the time of the census was a ninety-five-year-old woman.
The majority of slaves, 880, were black, with twenty-six mulatto, and seven whose race could not be read. Interestingly the largest and wealthiest slaveholders reported no mulatto slaves. Since it seems unlikely that none of their slaves were mulatto, perhaps there was a status issue involved in the race of one's slaves!
Although slaves were not named and no family relationships can be discerned, it is clear from the ages and sexes listed for many households that family groups were often separated.
©2003 Sara Binkley Tarpley