Monday, June 25, 2012

I Found Some Family Buried Between Home Depot and Cash Saver Food Outlet

Sunday morning I was up early and climbing around the Patterson branch of my family tree to see what I could find and was surprised to discover one leaf is actually buried between a Home Depot and a Cost Saver Food Outlet that are so close to my house, I can almost see them.

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Bettis Family Cemetery Historical Marker

I have passed the cemetery hundreds of times, and not once have I ever noticed it or the historical marker that sits in front. It's located off Angelus about halfway between Poplar and Mclean. Although I would like to say, "You can't miss it," I have missed it repeatedly for about 15 years.

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Sally Bettis and I

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Inside the Bettis Family Cemetery overlooking the back of Home Depot

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Broken monument to Tillman Patterson Betts

So Sunday afternoon, I went by and photographed it and then went to the library to see if I could find some more information about my distant Patterson relatives buried there.

I’ve been researching the Patterson family for the last several months. The one I connected to my neighborhood cemetery Sunday morning was Sarah Patterson, the daughter of Smith Patterson who was my sixth great grandfather, making her my fifth great aunt.

Sarah was the sister of my fifth great grandfather, Young Patterson. She and I are connected through my maternal line:
Young Patterson was the father of James Patterson
who was the father of Sarah E. Patterson Fowler
who was the daughter of Ruby Fowler Lovelace
who was the mother Guy Lovelace
who was the mother of Shirley Lovelace Williams
who was the mother of me.
Sarah was born in 1750 likely in Prince George County, VA, moved with her family as a young girl to Granville Co., NC and then married William Bettis in Franklin Co, TN.

According to deeds and land transactions, William and Sarah sold their farm near the Patterson family in Granville, NC around 1798 and migrated first to Washington Co., GA then, around 1805, to Wilson Co., TN

In 1819, a group that included William and Sarah Patterson Bettis, along with their sons Tillman “Till,” John and James and Sarah’s brother, Drury Patterson, and his son, Thomas, migrated to Tennessee to help settle the area that would become Shelby County. Drury Patterson and Sarah Patterson Bettis were the siblings of my fifth great grandfather, Young Patterson, who remained in Guilford Co., NC.

It’s thought the group was headed to Texas, stopped at the bluff of Memphis and heard about the new opportunity for securing large amounts of land in the area. Some of the group stayed in the area on the bluff of the Mississippi River while others in the group continued on to Texas.

William and Sarah Patterson Bettis had named their son Tillman Patterson Bettis after Sarah's side of the family.

The city directory for Memphis in 1855 stated that Bettis and the other settlers “came to Memphis in 1818 to await the ‘opening’ of the land office and the survey of the country for the procurement of land.”

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Article about The Bettis Family Cemetery, 1972

According to an article by Paul R. Coppock, a Commercial Appeal reporter who wrote articles on the history of Memphis for many decades, the group also included four of Till and Sally Bettis’ children.

“Tillman Bettis, sometimes known as ‘Till,’ was a person of considerable standing in early Memphis. He and his wife, with four children, came to the bluff soon after the signing of the Chickasaw Treaty of Oct. 19, 1818. They waited for months for the survey to be and the land office to be opened."

The cemetery is all that remains of the land the group settled. It extended all the way from Poplar to Union, and from McNeil almost to Cooper.”

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One old book I found in the library had some interesting information about Till. It also happens to be the book with one of the longest titles I’ve ever seen: “The History of the City of Memphis, Being a Compilation of the Most Important Documents and Historical Events Connected with the Purchase of its Territory, Laying off the City and Early Settlement Also The "Old Time Papers” by James B. Davis

It's available free online and is a great book about the history of Memphis. There is a great story about Till on page 304.

According to Davis, Till was “rather on the free-and-easy order, fond of his glass, his friends and a good joke; took the world easy and seemed to care but little about the opinions of others…generally unconfiding…a strong whig…and a devout Presbyterian.”

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File on Tillman Patterson Bettis at The Memphis Public Library

In another document I found in the library, at an event at Buntyn Station in Memphis on July 25, 1867, Col. Jesse H. McMahon gave a historical address and included Till Bettis:
“The first white female child born in Shelby County Tennessee, was Miss Mary Bettis, now the excellent fellow citizen William Pittman of Bray’s Station. She is the daughter of Tillman P. and Sallie (Carr) Bettis, being the sixth child and now herself the mother of seven children. I trust I may find an excuse for this personal allusion to private history in the fact that Tillman Bettis and his good wife in their own personal characteristics and in the characters of their sons and daughters have left a name familiar as household words in Memphis and Shelby County that is a synonym for incorruptible integrity and all those qualities that make up the composition of good men and good women and in this reunion of the “Old Folks at Home” I have the right to speak of them with honest pride to the stranger folk that may be your guest. May their names and memories be prolonged to the remotest generations.”
Several sources state its doubtful Mary Bettis really was the first white child born in Memphis but, once you get something like that tacked onto your personal brand, you should go with it.

Till and his first wife Sarah “Sally” Carr had nine children together and Sally died after the birth of the ninth. He headstone in the cemetery is though to be the oldest in Shelby Co.

Their children were William Talbot, Ann L., Drury Lyon, Salina, Lucy L., Mary Jane, Martha, Tillman Carr and Sara Carr.

After her death, Till married a widow, Sallie Harkleroad Gribbin, who already had two children from her previous marriage. Together, they had seven more: Samuel, Shelby Alexander, Elizabeth “Betsy,” Anderson Carr, John Claiborne, Nathanial Anderson and Virginia Caroline. Sallie died 3 Aug 1860.

Tillman died at his home on Union Ave. in Memphis on 6 Feb 1854.

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"I worry about the future of the cemetery, as its
significance becomes diluted with each generation."

Although there are only a couple of markers recognizable in the cemetery today, according to multiple articles and sources, those known to be buried in the Bettis Family Cemerery are:

Drury Lyon Bettis
21 Aug 1814 – 9 Apr 1854

Martha Bettis
30 Apr 1822 – 1839

Thomas A. Bettis
Son of T. C. (Tillman Carr) and E. J. Bettis
10 Jul 1845 – 1 Aug 1846

Sally Bettis
First wife of T. P. (Thomas Patterson) Bettis
23 Dec 1784 – 19 Jun 1826

Tillman P. Bettis
6 Oct 1788 – 6 Feb 1854
Erected by W. T., J. C. and N. A. Bettis, A. L. Harkleroad, M. J. Pitman, and S. C. Horne, Sons of T. P. Bettis.

Daniel Hankleroade
15 Jan 1803 – 5 Apr 1845
(son of Till’s second wife, Daniel married his stepsister, Ann)

Margaret Harper
Died 1855
(mother-in-law of Till’s son, Tillman Carr Bettis)

Samuel Bettis

And there are thought to be many, many more buried under the mound leading up to the cemetery.

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Article from April 4, 1969 stating Sally Bettis'
headstone is oldest in Shelby County, TN

For many years, the cemetery was part of the family farm but as time marched on and the population of the city moved east from the river, the farm was subdivided and sold off and eventually, the area around the cemetery became part of the Covenent of the Good Sheperd. The nuns farmed the land as a community sprung up around them.

As the area was developed in the '60s by the Montesi and Beltz families, a Montesi’s supermarket was built next to the little cemetery. A Zayre Department Store was then built close by. Eventually, the names of the stores changed, one was torn down and a new Home Depot was built in its spot.

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Today, Home Depot owns the land and has committed to keeping the cemetery mowed and taken care of. As you can see, since the article in 1969 was first published, the large headstone has been split in half and even more of the headstones are missing.

Hopefully, the little cemetery that pays tribute to the Bettis family will remain for many more years. The next time you're headed down Angelus to CashSaver, stop and check it out.

For more blog entries, visit my Blog Home Page or to check out the genealogy research about my specific family lines, go to Haywood County Line Genealogy Page.

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