Hamilton County Pioneers - the Vineyard Family

Monday, October 20, 2008 - by John Wilson

In the pre-Civil War days when Chattanooga was still little more than a sleepy village, it had night watchmen who patrolled in the evenings. One of these was Noah H. Vineyard, who found himself charged with murder. He was in the Mexican War and he mysteriously disappeared after joining the Confederate army as a substitute for the brother of the murder victim.

The Vineyards were originally from Virginia. Noah Vineyard was born there about 1815. Many of the family had migrated down to Grainger County, Tenn. Noah Vineyard's wife, Caroline M., was a Georgia native. She was born there about 1832. They had a son, Winfield Scott, and daughters who were also named with the Mexican fighting in mind. There was Margaret Monterey, Palo Alto and then Buena Vista. The Vineyards lived on the triangular block bounded on the north by Fourth Street, on the east by Georgia Avenue, and on the west by High Street. Vineyard was a plasterer by trade. But he was hired by the city aldermen for the night watchman position along with Phillip Simmerman. The latter watchman ventured into trouble too. He was brought to trial on a variety of charges. Simmerman was cleared of all charges except for taking lewd women in the recorder's office and keeping them there overnight. For this offense, he was dismissed by the aldermen on a 6-1 vote and W.L. Dugger was put in his place.

The case involving Noah Vineyard occurred at a dance at the house of the Kinmen family near the northwest corner of Market and Seventh streets. Frank Wisdom was shot by a man named Stoneman, and he died about a week later. The case, as described by writer Henry Wiltse, was “a rather mysterious occurrence and would have furnished a writer of detective stories considerable good material for analysis and speculation.” Stoneman had the unique defense of saying that the watchman Vineyard was present
when the shooting occurred and ordered him to do it. Accordingly, murder charges were brought against Noah Vineyard. He was represented by the eloquent Col. Reese Brabson, who had served in Congress, along with his partner, George Washington Lyle. Both Brabson and Lyle were to die a few years later at the start of the war. It was pointed out at the trial that Frank Wisdom had been questioned on his death bed and had never pointed an accusing finger at Vineyard. The defendant was cleared and the city agreed to reimburse Vineyard for his legal expenses.

Frank Wisdom was the brother of Abner James Wisdom, a prominent Chattanoogan who
was in the livery and livestock business. A.J. Wisdom joined the Confederate army and was in the supply department until he was taken prisoner at Nashville. His wife went to Nashville and was able to gain his release. The Wisdoms then went by wagon to Milton, Ky., to await the war's end. Noah Vineyard, who was then 46, agreed to serve as A.J. Wisdom's substitute. He was with Co. A of the Fourth Tennessee Cavalry in the quartermaster department and with Co. D of the 37th Tennessee. Vineyard was sick in
Chattanooga in July 1863, then he was captured at Gordon's Mill near Chickamauga on Sept. 15. He was not heard from again for many years. Only several decades later did his few remaining kin learn that Noah Vineyard had been taken to a prison in New York where he died on Oct. 21, 1863.

Caroline M. Vineyard died in 1880 at the age of 47. She was the only remaining daughter of Mrs. Joe Forstner. She willed $100 to her son, Winfield Scott Vineyard, and gave her property on Mott (East Fourth) Street to her two daughters.

Margaret “Maggie” was “a remarkably bright and pretty girl.” She married Hiram Fitzgerald, who followed his father-in-law's line of work as a constable and was also city fire chief. The marriage took place in 1879 - a year after Hiram Fitzgerald had helped battle Yellow Fever at Chattanooga. Maggie Vineyard Fitzgerald was residing with her daughter, Mrs. W.A. Degler, at 532 Central Ave., when she died in 1923. She was buried at the Citizens Cemetery. She was “the last of her (Vineyard) family.”


Chattanooga Books Available By John Wilson

John Wilson, former Hamilton County Historian, has written two volumes on the early families of Hamilton County and also books on Chattanooga and on Lookout Mountain, as well as editing books on Chattanooga's railroads and the Stokes and Hiener photo collections. Railroads In And Around Chattanooga , featuring Chattanooga's intriguing railroad history, has 69 chapters and covers ... (click for more)

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