Archive | April, 2013

Eat Ripley Tomatoes

29 Apr
Eat Ripley Tomatoes

Eat Ripley Tomatoes


Photo Source: My own


Lost Ripley – Eylau Plantation

25 Apr

Eylau Plantation was the home of Dr. Samuel Oldham and his family. Dr. Oldham relocated to Lauderdale County from Virginia in 1827. Once they arrived Dr. Oldham purchased land from Columbia University (land speculators I suppose?) about 8 miles east of Ripley to build his farm. Eylau was built entirely by his slaves and completed in 1835. Eylau was a show place with fireplaces in each room and the like. It was built for entertaining with the first floor being converted into a ballroom.

Eylau Plantation

Eylau Plantation built by slaves and completed in 1835

Dr. Oldham is said to have treated his slaves kindly and they were provided with comfortable living quarters. Oral history has also stated that some of his former slaves are buried in the cemetery that was on the grounds of Eylau. Details in his will indicate that he did not want his slave families to be separated. He also mentions a few of his slaves in his will. They are as follows,

George Young from the Forest Home Plantation

Peter (a boy)

Jim and Bet (husband and wife)

After his death the slaves on the Eylau Plantation were divided equally between two of his sons. Special provisions were made for Jim and Bet. Dr. Oldham saw to it that they were allowed to stay in the home they currently lived in, that they were provided wood in the winter, and that the family always looked after them.

– Tiffany

– Source and picture: Lauderdale County From its Earliest Times by Kate Johnston Peters

Newspaper Clippings – Commercial Appeal Feb 25, 1888

17 Apr

I came across this clipping back in February and thought I would share.

Blacks Recruited for California

Blacks Recruited for California




I wonder if any of our West TN friends were recruited by this gentleman to work in California.


– Tiffany

– Source: The Commercial Appeal February 25, 2013 edition

Lost Ripley – Clay Funeral Home on College Street

17 Apr

Clay Funeral Home was a business started by Lauderdale County native Alex Clay. Clay was born in Lauderdale County, TN in 1882 and he passed in 1951. He was the son of Elias and Mary Jaroe Clay both former slaves. Clay Funeral Home was located at 168 College Street. He was one of the first graduates of Lauderdale County Training School graduating in 1908. According to the US Census prior to his work as an undertaker he worked as a farmer. Clay buried many of Lauderdale County’s Black citizens. It is also thought that Clay owned Canfield Cemetery located on Scott Drive in Ripley, TN. According to oral history the Clay funeral home was located behind a few homes on College Street, one of those homes belonged to Junius (June) and Cordelia Clay, who are believed to have been cousins to Alex Clay. The land on College Street were Alex Clay made his business was given to him by Chaney Jaroe, his grandmother. Prior to the Clay Funeral Home being in this spot this location was home to the bush arbor that was home to Miles Chapel CME Church before a lot was secured for this church on Elm Street. After his death he left all of his assets to his wife and children. I have not yet been able to determine the exact location of Clay Funeral Home. I also haven’t been able to locate picture of it. If you have pictures of it that you would like to contribute, please let me know.



– Tiffany

– Source: Oral History interview with Geraldine Clay, Lauderdale County From its Earliest Times by Kate Johnston Peters

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Life in Ripley, TN

14 Apr

This edition 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Life in Ripley, TN comes to us courtesy of Madison County, TN.

2. The Madison County Area was once involved in a plot to capture a slave thief named John Murrell.

This story begins in 1834 with Rev. John Henning whose descendants would go on to found Henning, TN in Lauderdale County. At this time Rev. Henning was making his home in Denmark in Madison County, TN. Rev. Henning suspected that a thief named John Murrell had stolen two of his slaves and he hired a man named Virgil Stewart to track down Murrell and bring his slaves home.

As the story goes Stewart tracked down Murrell and gained his confidence. They traveled together through the West Tennessee wilderness where allegedly Murrell told Stewart about his exploits in slave stealing, horse stealing, and a plot to incite the largest slave revolt in the South. Stewart claimed that on this trip Murrell admitted to stealing Rev. Henning’s slaves and that he had already arranged to resell them. During the course of the trip the slaves were sold by an associate of Murrell’s and they were thought to be in Manchester, Mississippi. As the story goes Henning’s slaves never made it to Manchester, TN and Rev. Henning eventually gave up finding them.

On Murrell’s return to Madison County Rev. Henning had him arrested for slave stealing and Murrell went on trial. He was convicted and sentenced to 10 years. You might think that the story stops here, but it doesn’t. Virgil Stewart went on to publish a pamphlet about the ordeal called “A History of the Detection, Conviction, Life and Designs of John A. Murrell, the Great Western Land Pirate” (Athens, TN 1836). This book was heavily thought to be an embellishment of the actual events, but nevertheless it made its way to Beattie’s Bluff, Mississippi and was thought to be the basis of a slave revolt in that area. Several died as a result of Stewart’s lies including slaves and those thought to have helped the slaves plan the riot. The pamphlet went on to make Murrell a legend and if you’re interested his thumb is on display at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, TN.

Here are some extra details:

Slave theft was a felony in Tennessee. Murrell had been charged in 1833 with harboring 3 slaves belonging to William Long in Madison, County. Long had thought that Murrell had taken the slaves in order to resell them. This is why when Rev. Henning’s slaves went missing Henning immediately considered Murrell as the culprit.

Murrell supposedly also admitted to Stewart that he used a slave named Sam from Madison County to run a slave resell scam. The scam involved Murrell selling Sam, after a while Sam would escape and runaway, and Murrell would sell Sam again to someone else. Murrell also used a slave from Tipton County in a similar scheme.

John Murrell Stealing a Slave

John Murrell Stealing a Slave

So there you have it folks. Our little West Tennessee towns and their inhabitants were involved in plots of slave stealing and inciting slave revolts and Rev. John Henning helped to create one of the biggest legends in West Tennessee history in John Murrell.


– Tiffany

Sources: Flush Time and Fever Dreams by Joshua Rothman and Beginnings of West Tennessee by Samuel Cole Williams

Image Source:

Runaway Slave – Memphis Daily Appeal February 21, 1857

11 Apr

Memphis Daily Appeal February 21, 1857

On Friday night, a negro was found secreted in the wood car of the passenger train, and was arrested and lodged in jail. He proved to be a slave owned by Mr. Samuel Whitney, of Haywood county. He was endeavoring to make his escape to this city, and from here to Cincinnati. He had laid in a supply of corn-bread, and had a bottle of whisky in his pocket.


Unfortunately, there was no record made of the slave’s name. I checked other sources such as the online Memphis Police Blotter, but these records don’t start until 1858. I checked for Samuel Whitney and I couldn’t find any records of him in Haywood County, TN. I did see that a man with that name lived in Kentucky, so maybe this is the same man and he just had a plantation in Haywood County as well as Kentucky.


Hopefully this slave wasn’t punished too bad when he made it back to Haywood County.


– Tiffany

– Source: Memphis Daily Appeal February 21, 1857