Hamilton County Pioneers - the Vandergriffs

Monday, June 16, 2008 - by John WIlson

Gilbert and Joseph Vandergriff were pioneer Hamilton County settlers, buying several thousand acres in the Soddy and Hixson areas in the days when Indians were still residing south of the river. One of Gilbert Vandergriff's acquisitions of the McClung and Cozby lands in 1830 was 100 acres for $100. It was “on the south side of Tumbling Shoals at the foot of the ridge.” The deed mentioned the Turnpike Road crossing the valley and going up the ridge. He also acquired property at the reservation of the Cherokee James Brown.

The Vandergriff family was originally from Holland. The name is said to mean one who
lives by a canal or moat. Jacob Lendertsen Van der Grift and his brother, Paulus Lendertsen Van der Grift, came to Brooklyn from Amsterdam about 1644.

Leonard Vandergriff Sr. and Jacob Vandergriff were in Henry County, Va., by the late
1770s. In 1787, Leonard Vandergriff Sr. sold 200 acres on the north side of the south fork of the Mayo River to Nathaniel Scales for 200 pounds. Jacob and Sarah Vandergriff pushed on to Tennessee, where they died at Anderson County in 1828. Vandergriffs were also at Grainger County, Tenn., at an early date.

Several female members of the family had the unusual name Hiley. One of the earliest Hiley Vandergriffs married George Levi. The Levis moved to Hamilton County, and Hiley Vandergriff Levi lived from 1810 to 1855.

Leonard Vandergriff, who was born in the 1780s, was in Hamilton County in the 1830s and 1840s. Garrett Vandergriff, who was also born in the 1780s, was here about the same time.

Gilbert Vandergriff was still living here at the time of the 1850 census when he was 82. His birthplace is given as North Carolina. Joseph Vandergriff was apparently a son of Gilbert Vandergriff. Gilbert Vandergriff Jr. lived in the same vicinity. Gilbert Vandergriff Jr. and his wife, Elizabeth, had Mary Ann who married a Dowlin, Jacob V. who married Lovie, Margaret who married William Scott, Jane who married a Brown, Hiley, Nancy and Sarah E. who had a son, Richard Vandergriff, and later she married a Morrison and had Thomas Morrison and Annie who married a Wolf. Hiley had a daughter,
Elizabeth, who married Michael P. Brown. Children of Jacob and Lovie Vandergriff included Gilbert who married Mary White in 1869, John B., Altha, Mary, Alfred, William Monroe, Rebecca and Eliza A. Altha married Leonard Lewis and Mary married his brother, John Lewis.

Joseph Vandergriff was born in 1799 and his wife, Nancy Ann, was born in Virginia in 1803. Joseph died in 1866 when he was 86. He was the first person buried in what became known as the Vandergriff Cemetery, located near the Falling Water Baptist Church. Nancy Ann lived until 1890 when she was 87. Their children included
Sarah who married Washington Hixson, Isaac, Dicy who married Francis Jackson, Lucinda who married an Evans, Elizabeth who married a Dail, Mary who married James Shannon, James, Nancy who married William McClanahan, Lucretia who married Joel Barker, and Hiley who married William Dowlin. Another daughter, Rebecca, married John C. Hixson. Rebecca Vandergriff Hixson died in 1869.

Another son of Joseph and Nancy Ann Vandergriff was Gilbert Vandergriff. He married
Elizabeth Selcer, a daughter of the pioneer Absalom Selcer. Gilbert Vandergriff resided at one time in one of the old Robert Patterson homes. He was living at Bakewell when he died in 1914 at the age of 68. He was buried in an aboveground vault at the Gray Cemetery at Bakewell. Gilbert and Elizabeth Vandergriff's nine living children at the time were Mrs. W.N. (Maggie) McGill, Joseph Francis Vandergriff, Mrs. Riley
Flerl and Mrs. Joe Guider of Bakewell, A.M. Vandergriff, Mary Belle Vandergriff and John Vandergriff at home, Mrs. Warren Windham at Daisy and Mrs. Gus Smith of Oklahoma. A deceased daughter was Elizabeth McCabe, who had died in 1889 at a young age along with a child after marrying Nicholas McCabe and having a daughter, Nola. Mary Belle Vandergriff was 101 when she died in 1981 at Red Bank. J.F.
Vandergriff married Mattie Gertrude Smith, a sister of Gus Smith. Their sons were Raymond and Jack. Raymond had a son, James, and Jack had sons, Greg and Doug. John Vandergriff, the youngest child of Gilbert and Elizabeth, married Billie, and they had no children. He was a railroad engineer.

Pleasant Vandergriff, who was born about 1817, lived in Hamilton County before and after the Civil War with his wife, Sarah. A Sarah Vandergriff, who was apparently the mother of Pleasant Vandergriff, resided with them. She was born about 1790. The children of Pleasant and Sarah Vandergriff included Tennessee, Martha, Elizabeth, Joseph, William, Mary, Nancy, Pleasant, John, Edney, Sally and James.

William and Louisa Vandergriff lived in Hamilton County for many years before the Civil War. This William Vandergriff was born about 1800. Their sons were James and David.

John and Permelia Williams Vandergriff were in Anderson County for many years, but moved here several years before the Civil War. They had Alfred, James who married Martha Miles, Nicey, Mary F., Amanda who married James Alfred Conner, and William Franklin who married Sarah Adelaide Conner. Alfred and his wife, Hiley, had sons William and James. James Vandergriff died in the last year of the Civil War, leaving a son, John, and daughter, Ellen. Ellen Vandergriff, who was born early in the war, married Simon Adams. Martha Miles Vandergriff lived until 1907. Nicey Vandergriff first married James Noah Levi. He was killed in the Civil War, and she afterward married John Hewitt Kell. William Franklin Vandergriff was on the County Court in 1870. He died in 1890 when he was only 45. Illustrating his Civil War leanings, one of his sons was named U.S. Grant Vandergriff. Other sons were James and Robert C. Daughters were Mrs. Daniel Brown, Mrs. John Scrudder, Mrs. James Godsey, Mrs. G.W. Brown
and Mrs. T.K. Morrison. Sarah Conner Vandergriff was living at Red Bank when she died in 1922. She was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church for over half a century and was “an old-fashioned mother devoted to her children.”

William Vandergriff, who was born in 1804, married Catherine, who was from North Carolina. Their children included Miles, Mary J. who married Allen Pickett, Jacob who married Margaret Brock, George Washington who married Lucinda Vandergriff, Pleasant, Matilda who married William H. Burnett, Lydia who married Mordecai Price, and William M. who married Liza J. Another son, John F. Vandergriff, and his
wife, Nancy Ann, moved to Sequatchie County. Jacob Vandergriff was “huge of stature” and was first known as Big Jake Vandergriff. He was called Bear Jake Vandergriff after he clubbed a bear to death that he met while taking a load of meal in a bag on his shoulder up Walden’s Ridge. Jake Vandergriff was a master hewer of logs, who built a number of log homes on the mountain. These included Grey Lodge for the Kruesi family, Topside for the David Keys and Cross Roads. One of his sons, he named Summerfield Vandergriff for Summerfield Key, brother of David Key. William M. left 10 children when he died at age 81 in 1932 at Hixson. The children were W.W. of Cincinnati, Mrs. A.M. Clay of Chattanooga, John, Edward, Monroe Thomas, Mrs. B.F. Hamill,
Mary Elizabeth who married Francis Marion Wilson, Mrs. Wheeler Hixson of Hixson, and J.E. and R.L. of Tampa, Fla. Monroe Thomas Vandergriff married Sally Hixson. The children of Jacob and Margaret Vandergriff included Caledonia who married William Branson, John and Mary E.

David and Catherine Vandergriff also moved here from Anderson County prior to the Civil War. Their children included Lucinda, Elizabeth, Dicey, Louisa, Chestley, Gilbert, William, Alfred and Rebecca. Lucinda married George W. Vandergriff, son of William and Catherine Vandergriff, in 1861. They had sons Alfred and Michael.

George Washington Vandergriff and his wife, Mary Esther, lived in Hamilton County for many years and their 10 children were born here. However, the parents and some of their children moved to Marion County in 1883. George Washington Vandergriff died in 1897 at age 84. He was buried at the Teague Cemetery at Whitwell. The children of G.W. and Mary Esther Vandergriff were Catherine who married J.J. Hendricks, Isham, George W. who married Elizabeth, James Leonard who married Martha, John H., Elizabeth who married a Jordan, Alfred who married Kyla, William M. who married Martha Hixson, and Pleasant J. Another son, Jacob Vandergriff, married Mary Lydia Conner Hixson, whose first husband, John Hixson, had been killed in the Civil War. Their children
were Mintie, George Carroll, Charles William, Lewis A., Henry F. and Robert Lee. The children of William M. and Martha Vandergriff included Carrie E. who married S.P. Ashley, Calvin, Claude V., Mary H. who married L.B. Jones, William A and Margaret M. who married James T. Ware.

During the Civil War, the Vandergriffs furnished many men to the Union's Sixth Mounted Infantry. Alfred Vandergriff, the eldest son of John and Permelia Vandergriff, died of sickness at Chattanooga on Feb. 24, 1865. He left sons William and James. David Vandergriff, who was born in Grainger County, enlisted at Chattanooga on Aug. 2, 1864. He was then age 44 and was a carpenter. David W. Vandergriff, who was a son
of William and Louisa Vandergriff, enlisted for the last year of the war when he was 18. He was soon reported as absent due to sickness. Gilbert Vandergriff, son of Joseph and Nancy Vandergriff, enlisted at Chattanooga on Aug. 2, 1864, when he was 19. He was sick in a hospital at Chattanooga, then returned to his unit on June 28. Jacob Vandergriff, son of George Washington and Mary Esther Vandergriff, also enlisted at Chattanooga. He was on detached duty at Cleveland, Tenn., then he was home due to illness. William Vandergriff, a 22-year-old son of David and Catherine Vandergriff, enlisted at Chattanooga on Aug. 2, 1864, along with another William Vandergriff, who was 21. William Franklin Vandergriff enlisted Aug. 2, 1864. He was promoted to first sergeant on Aug. 20, but he resigned from this position. He was later placed on detached duty at Cleveland, Tenn.

A Gilbert Vandergriff who served with the Union forces died at the home of his son, George A. Vandergriff, in East Lake in 1907. This Gilbert Vandergriff in 1869 had married Mary White, who was a native of Kentucky. Their other children included William S., Alabama who married a Heck, Hugh, John and Alma who married a
Smith.

County Commissioner James Roland “Buster” Vandergriff was a son of Thomas Vandergriff and grandson of Monroe Thomas Vandergriff. Ruth Vandergriff Fiorello, who resided at the Life Care Center of Red Bank, was a daughter of Monroe T. Vandergriff. After the death of Buster Vandergriff, he was succeeded on the County Commission by his wife, Charlotte Ellison Hill Vandergriff.


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