Hamilton County Pioneers - the Potters

Monday, November 13, 2006 - by John Wilson

Moses Potter was one of Hamilton County's earliest settlers. In the Civil War his family had most of its food taken by the soldiers. Two of his grandsons went west and married descendants of the wealthy Rockefeller family.

Moses Potter was born in Kentucky about 1800. His wife was Ellender Hooten. They had arrived in Hamilton County by 1829 when the name of Moses Potter appears among the papers of the Roark family. They settled at Sale Creek. Potter apparently never acquired property, but worked as a farm laborer.

A daughter, Nancy Florence, was born in 1828 when the Potters were in Alabama. The other children included Elizabeth, Catherine, William, Mary Eveline, Rebecca T., James Anderson and McKelvey Livsey Sydney. John C. Potter, who was born in 1852, was a son either of Moses or of Nancy Florence. Margaret Oldham and her son, Anderson Oldham, were living with the Moses Potter family at the time of the 1850 census.

Nancy Florence Potter and Oscar Claiborne Goins had a son, William Preston Goins, who was born in 1853. The couple separated, and O.C. Goins married Esther Reynolds in 1858. Nancy Florence and a Coulter later had a son, George Washington Potter. Coulter died in 1863 in a logging accident on the Tennessee River. Nancy and her children stayed on with Moses and Ellender Potter. They remained at Sale Creek as the armies swarmed over the countryside in the late summer of 1863.

With the Union Army under siege in Chattanooga after falling back from the Chickamauga battlefield, soldiers were sent out to forage in the countryside. At the Potter place, nearly all the food was seized, animals were taken, and the wells pumped dry. Moses Potter tried to hide his pigs in the woods, but the Union soldiers found them and butchered them all except for one old sow. Since there was nothing to feed the sow, the Potters butchered her as soon as the soldiers left. Left by the soldiers without salt, the Potters tore the floor out of the smokehouse and gathered up the salt that had collected there from the curing process. William Preston Goins, who was 10, had become proficient at playing the fiddle. The instrument was his prized possession. The night before the Union troops pulled out, they asked him to play for them and he obliged. Next morning, he found that the fiddle and bow were missing along with the Yankees. A granddaughter of W.P. Goins recounted that the boy “dashed after the troops, found the thief who took his fiddle and demanded it back. The soldier refused to give up his plunder, and Grandpa went to the company commander who ordered the fiddle returned to the boy.” The fiddle is still in the family, being owned by David Goins of Paragould, Ark.

One of the Potter sons, James Anderson Potter, enlisted Feb. 7, 1864, with the Union's Co. B of the First Battalion of Light Artillery. He was 18 when he marched away to Cumberland Gap, Ky.

Ellender Potter died during the 1870s, but Moses Potter lived on at Sale Creek. He was living alone at the time of the 1880 census when he was 80. He died in 1883.

William Preston Goins in 1875 moved to Martinsville, Ill. There he married the Rockefeller descendant Lydia Elizabeth Lafferty, daughter of Parmenas and Mary Jane McClure Lafferty. They had 11 children. In 1884, they moved to Beech Grove, Ark., in three covered wagons. W.P. Goins made a fine farm after draining swampland. He had a blacksmith shop and a sawmill. An expert woodworker, he often fashioned caskets for his neighbors. He lived to be 97. His half-brother, George Washington Potter, also went to Martinsville. He married Mary “Mollie” Lafferty, sister of Lydia.

Mary Eveline and Rebecca T. Potter married Conner brothers Thomas and Asa. They were living with their mother, Mary Conner, at Sale Creek prior to the war. Elizabeth Potter remained unmarried. William Potter and his wife, Esther, were in Hamilton County just before the war with their daughters, Elizabeth and Nancy, and son, James. But they did not return after the war.

John C. Potter stayed on here, marrying Tennessee Iles, daughter of John and Sarah Shipley Iles, in 1880. Their children were James A., Annie B., William A., Harry M., Ida Mae, Cora Almeda and Elizabeth M. John C. Potter, who was “a prominent farmer at Sale Creek,” died in May 1897. He had been “ill for some time suffering from a couple of diseases.” He was buried with Masonic honors. Tennessee was left to rear the large family of young children. James A. married Mary Cephronia Howard in 1906. He died 10 years later from the lingering effects of a cut to his leg while whittling when he was a child. Annie Belle married James Luther Crawley, and Ida Mae married Chester A. Brackett. Ida Mae died in 1991 when she was 100. Cora married Charles A. Howard and then William H. Nichols. The Nichols couple operated Nichols Dry Goods Store in Rossville. Elizabeth married Samuel Thomas Davis. William A. married Hallie Lee Brackett, and Harry married Gertrude Reynolds. Tennessee Iles Potter was 97 when she died in 1955.

William and Margaret Potter also came from Kentucky to East Tennessee, arriving in the early 1840s. William was born about 1806 and was a blacksmith. They were in Meigs County, then moved to Birchwood in the 1850s. Their children included Andrew, Charles, Elizabeth Jane, Saphronia and George W. Andrew Potter married Artemesia Cantrell, and they were at Birchwood just before the Civil War with their children, William L., James Asbury and Margaret. This was one of the many families broken up by the war, and afterwards the children were with their Potter grandparents. James Asbury “Dollar” Potter married Sarah Iles. After she died in 1893, he married her younger sister, Hannah Elizabeth. Their children were Sarah Saphronia who married Halsey George Bussing, Lena Ellen who married Arthur Bowman, Dewey Etna “Etta” who married Arthur Ellsworth and Frank Brock, Bertha Beatrice and Etha Elizabeth who married James Guthrie and Earl Bishop. Dollar Potter died at Sale Creek in 1916 after he had earlier had a bout with smallpox. He had been crippled by rheumatism for a number of years.

Jesse James Potter, son of Dollar Potter, married Nellie Belle Massengale. Their daughters were Nellie Mae who married Tom Haithcock, Irene who married Buddy Nye and then Aston Jones, and Barbara who married Olin Lawson. The sons include J. Ralph who died when he was 27, and John Henry who married Clara Laney and worked at Combustion. Another son, Jesse Allen, is the court officer for Chancellor Frank Brown. He married JoAnn Hillyer, and their children are Tim, Leigh Ann and Marsha.

Another son, Robert Lewis “Pete” Potter, was a well-known football coach at McCallie School. He married Lorraine Burroughs. Their son, Ralph, is the current McCallie football coach. Lisa, daughter of Pete Potter, married Dale Bryant.

THOMAS C. POTTER was a Confederate veteran living at Sherman Heights when he applied for a pension in 1905. He was born in McMinn County Feb. 1, 1828. He enlisted in the fall of 1861 in the 63rd Tennessee Infantry in Co. H. He was at Chickamauga, then at Richmond he was injured when a cap burst in his right eye. It almost destroyed his sight. However, he remained in the army until the surrender. He had one boy and two girls, but he reported, “My family are all seperated.” His wife had died by 1905.

EDWARD LEWIS POTTER came to Chattanooga from Bowling Green, Ky., during the boom times of 1887. He was born in Kentucky in 1847. He was a deputy under Sheriff J.F. Shipp five years and also was in the city public works department. He was living at 8065 S. Greenwood in Highland Park when he died in 1912. His wife was Minnie and the daughters were Mrs. Owen Phillips, Rachel Smith, Alice Hardister and Mrs. Clarence Welch.

BENTON HOOPER POTTER operated a grocery on Hixson Pike and he was superintendent at the workhouse at Silverdale for 15 years. His wife was Jennie Nichols. He was living at 3919 Kings Road when he died in 1974 at age 80.


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