John Bradshaw

Note: Nancy Jane Bradshaw married James Henry Darr.  This article is about Nancy’s Grandfather, John Bradshaw who settled in Jefferson County, Tennessee in the Mount Horeb community.


John Bradshaw was one of the early settlers of the Dumplin Creek area. The pioneering spirit, that likely led his predecessors to come to colonial America, was passed to his sons and grandsons who continued opening frontiers further west. He was born 18 Dec 1743 — probably in Bucks Co Pennsylvania. According to family accounts he served prior to his eighteenth birthday with General Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox,” in his Cherokee Indian campaigns that began in 1759. There are further traditions that John Bradshaw lived in the newly opened lands of Virginia and western North Carolina where he farmed and worked at the blacksmithing trade. He was among the first to use a continuous hoop-rim on wagon wheels and is said to have invented the concept. He served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War and was an auditor of the Washington and Sullivan Districts in North Carolina .

John Bradshaw married Nancy Agnes Clendennin, daughter of John Clendennin and Jane Houston. With his family, friends and relatives, he moved to Limestone Creek in Washington County, Tennessee in early 1780s. Early in 1785, with his brother-in-law Richard Rankin, he explored the dense forest wilderness in Greene Co. (now Jefferson Co.), where at the head of Dumplin Creek they found that for which they searched: the place to make their homes beside beautiful, clear, running springs. Together they cleared land (two acres each), planted and fenced in corn, built rude cabins with logs obtained in the clearing of the land then returned to Limestone Creek for their families. Upon their return to Dumplin Creek they found that buffalo which still roamed the valley, had broken down the fence and trampled the corn. Undaunted, John and Agnes Bradshaw built the home where they would spend the rest of their lives. He acquired 1300 acres of land within the next few years, repeatedly served his community as juror, and helped family and friends (as revealed in the numerous wills he witnessed and estate settlements he participated in). Together they raised seven of their nine children, all of whom scattered across the continent westward excepting Jennet (wife of Thomas Rankin) and Richard who lived his entire life in Jefferson County, where he raised his family and cultivated his land and that of the home farm. It was he who took care of his parents until their deaths.

The children of John and Agnes Bradshaw were Elizabeth, born 24 Oct 1770, who became the wife of Richard Grace; Jennet (Jane) born 21 May 1772, who married her cousin Thomas Rankin 21 Feb 1789 and died 14 Jan 1824; Francina (Sinea), born Aug 1775, who married James McCuiston 7 Aug 1806 and moved away; William, born 7 Jan 1778, who married Margret Bigham 6 Feb 1797 and moved to Missouri; James, born 1779, who married Susannah Massey 22 Apr 1800, moved to Georgia and then Missouri; Samuel, born 1 Sept 1782, who married Dorcas Prigmore 30 Aug 1803 and moved to Franklin County, Tennessee; Christopher, born 3 May, 1785, who married Mary Elizabeth (Polly) Davis and moved to Greene County, Tennessee, Buncombe Co., North Carolina and Missouri where he died 15 May 1860; Richard, born 15 Jan 1788, who married Lydia Prigmore 4 Aug 1809, died 3 Oct 1872; Thomas, born 1793, died in childhood.

Staunch Presbyterians, John and Agnes probably attended Hopewell Church in Dandridge and upon his death 25 Dec 1818 he was buried in Dandridge, probably in Hopewell Church Cemetery. Agnes died Aug 1823. There is one record indicating they were both buried in the Mt Horeb Church Cemetery but they were buried prior to the Church’s formation and the cemetery becoming a church cemetery.

Brought to the newly created home at the head of Dumplin Creek when only months old, Christopher Bradshaw, eighth child in this family, grew to manhood working on the family farm, learning the carpenters trade and receiving enough formal education to desire a higher education. He purchased land above the headwaters of Dumplin Creek in 1805 and in September 1806 married Mary Elizabeth (Polly) Davis, daughter of Revolutionary War veteran Nicholas Davis and wife, Mary Hays. Following service in the War of 1812 as Lieutenant in Col. William Lillard’s East Tennessee 2nd regiment Volunteers, Christopher Bradshaw sold his farm and with his growing family, moved to Greeneville, Greene County, Tennessee. There he purchased ten acres of land and enrolled at Greeneville College (now Tusculum) and studied under Dr. Charles Coffin. As a student at Greeneville College and licentiate of Union Presbytery, Christopher preached on alternate Sundays at Harmony and Timber Ridge churches. After ordination in the Presbyterian Church in 1820 he continued serving both churches until 1827 when he moved to Buncombe County, N.C. He served several churches, including one that was to become the First Presbyterian Church of Asheville, N.C., a church older than the city itself. In 1843, at age 58, he joined family and friends in a move to Missouri.

Christopher and Polly Bradshaw were the parents of twelve children: John D. who died at Fort Laramie 1849 of cholera while crossing the plains to California; Jane; Elinor; Isaac A. born about 1819 in Tennessee, died 24 Dec 1885 in Yavapai Co., Arizona and for whom (with his brother William D.) the Bradshaw Mountains in Arizona were named; Nicholas Albert who died in California; William D. Bradshaw for whom the Bradshaw Road in California and Bradshaw Ferry on the Colorado River were named; Nancy; Eliza; Harriet M; Thomas who died in Jacksonville, Florida as a young man; Martha who died at 12 years in North Carolina; and Polly who never married. Christopher Bradshaw, widower, remarried in Henry County, Missouri 10 May 1847, to Juliann D. Campbell; they had a son Julian W. (who died at the age of 51 and a daughter, Martha C. It is not known when or where first wife Polly Davis Bradshaw died and was buried. After moving to Missouri Christopher organized Presbyterian churches in rural areas of Henry, Johnson and Vernon Counties where none had existed, and did home mission work for the denomination. At age 75, on May 15, 1860, he died leaving a young widow and small daughter in addition to the grown children from his first marriage. He was buried at Balltown Cemetery, Osage township, Vernon County, Missouri . William D. (Bill) Bradshaw, youngest son of Christopher was in California, then a part of Mexico, prior to 7 Nov 1845 when he joined the U.S. Service according to Quartermaster receipts. He was among the few Americans living in California; he joined General John Fremont’s exploring party and participated in the “Bear Flag Rebellion,” in Jun 1846. On 6 Oct 46 he enlisted as a lieutenant in the California Battalion, serving in the Mexican War whereby California was secured as part of the United States. Following his honorable discharge 17 Apr 1847 he remained in California. Bill’s older brother, Isaac A. Bradshaw, carpenter by trade and farmer, married Frances Burdette Combs, daughter of John Combs and Betsy Bigham Bullock, on 22 Aug 1843 in Johnson Co., Missouri. They were the parents of Catherine, born about 1845, Maria, born about 1847, Elizabeth, born about 1849, and Frances, born about 1851; all were born in Missouri. Upon learning of the discovery of gold in California in 1849, Isaac A. Bradshaw, left his wife and daughters in the home of his father and joined by his brothers John D. and Nicholas Albert, crossed the plains and mountains to California. As noted, John D. died and was buried at Fort Laramie. Nicholas became ill at the California “diggings and died there. Isaac returned to Missouri by January 1851, purchased farm land and lived in Johnson County until 1853 when he and Frances sold their farm and moved west. They established their home in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California, and he pursued his carpenter trade when not in the mining country prospecting. Isaac A. and William D. Bradshaw prospected both separately and together, located several mines, independently and together, and explored the western mountains from British Columbia to Mexico City. William was appointed by the Governor of California to command a detachment of Militia because of a labor revolt in 1851 at Mokelumme Hill where he achieved a settlement without bloodshed in a highly volatile situation. He was also a member of the miners committee that drew up laws regulating mining at Vallecito Camp in Calaveras County, California in 1853.

The discovery of gold along the southern Colorado River in Arizona by Pauline Weaver brought miners and prospectors in vast numbers across the dangerously arid California desert to LaPaz, a boom town in early Arizona. Few men knew the country better than William Bradshaw. He laid out a trail across the desert in 1862 between the sparse sources of water, and with a partner, William Werringer, established a ferry across the Colorado River. These became know as the Bradshaw Road and the Bradshaw Ferry. Isaac A. Bradshaw joined his brother at the ferry early in the year 1863 while the mild weather of winter was upon the desert and they prospected, making several mining claims in the surrounding deserts of Arizona and California. They also made a prospecting trip up the Hassayampa River in Arizona following closely behind Pauline Weaver and Joseph Redford Walker, who were guiding the first two parties of men into that part of Arizona looking for gold. The areas prospected by these groups became the Weaver and Walker mining districts of Arizona. Danger from Indians native to the land was severe and constant, making travel in large groups imperative. The Bradshaw brothers moved somewhat south of the two parties and into the mountains that would bear their name in future years, the Bradshaw Mountains. The following September 1864, a mining district would be created there and named by the miners in honor of the brothers, Bradshaw, who had brought the region to notice the year before. William D. Bradshaw ran unsuccessfully in the election held 18 Jul 1864 for a seat in the first legislature in newly created Territory of Arizona. Territorial Governor Goodwin appointed Isaac A. Bradshaw first sheriff of LaPaz and by an act of the first Territorial Legislature William and his associates were granted a 20 year exclusive right to keep and operate a ferry across the Colorado River at any place between Mineral Point (six miles south of LaPaz} and 5 miles above LaPaz. On December 2, 1864 William D. Bradshaw, walked into a carpenters shop in La Paz (likely his brother’s), and with a drawing knife ended his life. His periodic “big benders” were notorious and were felt to have contributed to his death.

Isaac A. Bradshaw ran the ferry with hired help until 1867, when William’s estate was settled, then sold the ferry and moved on to the area he and William had visited near the Bradshaw Mountains in what was now the Bradshaw mining district of Yavapai County, Arizona Territory. He spent the next 18 years locating and developing mines throughout Arizona, becoming widely known for his mining knowledge, and deeply loved by his wide circle of friends and acquaintances. His relationship with his wife and daughters who continued living in Santa Rosa was maintained throughout the years and he provided well for his family. The last known visit to his family in Santa Rosa was in May 1884. He was stricken with overwhelming pneumonia and died 24 Dec 1885, while still in his camp in the mountains of Yavapai County with a mining friend, George Gibbs. Gibbs and another friend, Robert Groom, from a nearby camp, buried Isaac A. Bradshaw on Christmas day on his claim in the heart of the land he loved. They marked the grave with stones piled several feet high so that it would not be lost in that vast, lonely land and on one single large stone they chipped out the name, BRADSHAW, with their prospector’s picks. A small saguaro cactus, now grown to maturity, was planted at the head of the grave by the two grieving men in tribute to their fallen comrade. Isaac A. Bradshaw left no male descendants to carry on his Bradshaw name, therefore we will end the story at this point by noting that he has descendants through his daughter, Frances Bradshaw, who continue living in Arizona, while those of his daughters, Catherine and Maria, live throughout the west. Through the Bradshaw line, Jefferson County, Tennessee produced men and women of honor and integrity to add to its long history of illustrious sons and daughters.

Aline Hovt Berge



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