William Walker Anderson, Sr.


Letter from William Walker Anderson Jr. to his Granddaughter Mary Margaret (Anderson) Coffey outlining his father’s life and his own early years during the War Between the States… (1918)




   William Walker Anderson Sr. was born in Rockbridge Co. Va. June 10, 1804 in the vicinity of the Old Rock Church (sometimes called Stone Church) Presbyterian, six miles from Lexington Va. At the age of 18 he left his plow in the field at noon and found an Uncle at his home, who was returning from Baltimore to Maryville, Tenn. where he was a merchant. Father went home with his Uncle and remained in his employment for two years, at which time he returned to Va. And married Elizabeth McChesney. They lived in Maryville for two years and then went to Athens, Tenn. where they lived until 1840. Father was a merchant, frequently taking droves of horses down to Ga. and Ala.. About once a year he would load up his four horse wagon with bacon, take it to Baltimore and exchange the bacon for dry goods. It usually took two months to make the round trip. A set of common cups and saucers were sold for five dollars, a ladies Leghorn bonnet sold for $25.


   The Cherokee Indians were still numerous in Southern East Tennessee and North Ga. Father on one of his trips with horses into N.Ga. found the streams greatly swollen from continued mountain storms, he had to make his horses swim the Chickamauga and in doing so became entangled in the vines of the stream and lost his saddle bags full of papers and clothing, an old Indian Chief witnessed the accident. A few years after that happened father passed through the same section. The old Chief recognized him and returned his saddle bags all soggy and molded, which he had kept in his wigwam until he should find the owner.


   In 1840 mother had two daughters, Cornelia, Hestaline and three sons, James, William and Robert. Robert died in infancy, the girls lived to be 6 or 8 years old. Father then in 1840, with the hope to benefit mothers’ health removed to Rosses Landing, now Chattanooga. We lived in a frame dwelling on the South East corner of 4th and Walnut St. where my mother passed away on the 12th of Sept. 1840. I was then about 4 years of age. It has been a great grief to me not having even a likeness of her. She was buried in the old citizens graveyard East of Chattanooga. Uncle Berry, who married mother’s sister, had moved to Rosses Landing before father came. He had charge of the Indian supplies in a long range of hewed log cabins, called a warehouse, along the bank of the river, east of the foot of Market St. Uncle Berry’s wife whose name I think was Rebecca, it is on the tombstone near that of mother’s, she died the same year and sleep side by side.


   My father in his early manhood was an unusually fine looking man, had a fine florid complexion, sandy or slightly auburn hair, was something over six feet high and weighed 180 lbs. he was strictly temperate in all things. He was made a Colonel of the militia before leaving Athens and with cocked hat on horseback made a striking appearance. The first church built at Rosses Landing was a frame perhaps 30 by 60 feet with a gallery for Negros, fronting East on Walnut between Third and Fourth Sts. It had a passable size bell and father always acted Clerk, that is stood up beside the pulpit and read out the hymns and led in songs. The Presbyterian and Methodist preachers usually made their home at fathers. The Methodist sometimes used our church as the log cabin which stood in the woods near what is now the intersection of Georgia Ave. and Fifth St. was quite small for their congregation.


   Father did a general merchandise business, first near the banks of the river, but in the course of time moved up Market to 4th St. where he remained for several years and acquired considerable real estate. He owned several Negroes and always treated them kindly, would not sale or separate them. He established a Sunday school for the Negroes in the Presbyterian Church to which some belonged and many learned to read.


   My brother, James McChesney Anderson, married Miss. Mary Morrow, daughter of Dr. Wm. I. Morrow, Indian Agent for the Cherokee tribe under Filmore. James became a doctor and in 1850 went to California, and after two years started home for his family by way of the Panama R.R. on the Steamer Philadelphia. The Cholera broke out off the east coast of Havana and he died at sea. He left two sons, James and William, they lived at Neosho Newton Co. Mo.


   Father was decided Whig before the war and thought it best for the south to make the fight in the Union, but when his state seceded he went with it in good will. He was to old for service but took great interest in the Southern cause. When the enemy took Chattanooga and we were skirmishing on Citico Creek, a Confederate soldier was badly wounded, father heard his cry, found him and concealed him up stairs in his home until he recovered. The Yankees found revenge by filling fathers well full of rocks and tearing down his home and making barracks in the city of it.


   On my return from Burritt College at 21 years of age in July 1857, I renewed my acquaintance with Miss. Lydia Cravens who was returning from Mary Sharp College in Winchester, Tenn. It was a case of love at first sight with both of us and we were married in the Presbyterian Church at 7th and Market Sts. on 1st Sept. 1859.


   On our return home we went into house keeping in my old home on 4th between Walnut and Cherry Sts. Lydia’s health became bad and I took her to the mountain and we lived in the cabin which Mr. and Mrs. Cravens lived in when they first moved to the Mtn. On the 30th of July 1860 Charles was born. I was in great distress for Lydia’s health was such I feared she wouldn’t recover. I will never forget the consolation that dear old Grandmother Cunningham gave me (she was Lydia’s step Grandmother) and the attention she paid to Lydia. To know her was to love her, she was a grand good woman. On Jan 6th 1862 William Franklin was born in Chattanooga.


   I was very much inclined to join Gen. Frank Walker’s Company, the first formed in the City but the condition of my wife forbade. Mr. Cravens was under contract with

Gov. I. G. Harris to furnish salt peter and wood pulp for making powder, and I spent that year in manufacturing salt peter in a furnace at the mouth of a cave under the point, near the N&C Railroad. (since the dam was built the mouth of this cave is under water, it was an opening that led to Ruby Falls) I explored the caves in that section and along Waldens Ridge for dirt for salt peter, cut forests of Blackjack timber for ashes and had boxwood cut for making powder.


   I then joined the Lookout Artillery, then being formed by Capt. R.L. Berry. I was 1st Sergeant, was under Bragg in Ky. campaign, we spent the winter near Knoxville. In the spring we were ordered to Mobile. While at Pollard, Ala. I received word that my wife quite sick. Capt. Berry willingly gave me leave. I went home and found that by some means unknown to me, Lydia had engaged a substitute for me and he was accepted. I remained home for some months shipping coal and coak to Memphis for the Confederate Army.


   James Cravens and I had leased the South Side Coal mines from his father and had built a team road higher up the Mountain to the Kelly vein. And we were getting out our first car load of coal from it when we heard the Yankee guns bombarding Chattanooga. I went down to the river banks and saw the Yankees trolling their guns up the banks on the other side. At once Father and I determined to carry our families down to Georgia. We hauled our valuables in wagons to Chickamauga Station and took then to Adairsville where we remained until Jan.10, when we embarked for Dawson, Ga. where I had been detailed to manufacture Enfield rifles. When we arrived at Adairsville, Ga. my stepmother fell suddenly ill and died on Jan.16, a coffin was not to be had in the place nor was there a man who make one, so with a negro man I hitched up a team and went down to Capvill 15 or 20 miles and found a suitable casket in which mother was buried. We all then went to Dawson, the family by rail and I with the stock and teams and Negros through the country. I was assigned to duty at the Armory.


   On the 6th of April, just tree months after mother’s death, Lydia died ad three days layer, the child Walter. Lydia was sick but a few days. The new acquaintances were numerous and kind, she had every comfort and convenience that could be had. Old Dr. Sadler. A refugee from Nashville, Tenn. gave her every attention. After mother’s and Lydia’s deaths, there was  no one but the girls to take care of Charlie and Frank and I thought it best to get them back to the Mountain where Mrs. Cravens and Grandmother Cunningham could look after them. I got a comfortable carriage team and with the children put out for the Mountain. In order to avoid both armies between Chattanooga and Atlanta I directed my way to the west side of Lookout Mountain up through Ala. We progressed safely until we got to Wedowy, Ala. There I found that we were running into a Yankee raid that was sweeping the country, we were advised to turn back to Dawson and after a long journey of 8 or 10 days in the August summer, we reached Dawson. Little Frank, then something over two years old, took sick. I employed the best physician to be had, but all was in vane. It almost broke my heart for he was an unusually bright child. I buried him with his mother and little brother. After the surrender we returned to what was left of home but after two weeks left for Forsythe, Ga. thinking I would spend a year in that genial climate and by that time the Yankees would be gone…now more than 53 years have passed and I am still under the same roof.




Prepared and submitted by Robert Coffey