Special to Grainger Today
RUTLEDGE – This month the Whiteside Family Association, a group dedicated to genealogical and historical research of Whiteside kindred, will hold its annual meeting in Knoxville. It isn’t a coincidence that the Association chose East Tennessee for the meeting, because this area was home to some famous Whiteside family members in the early years of the state.
The Whitesides of Grainger County descend from Thomas Whiteside Sr. (1755-1823), who emigrated from Ireland and settled in Chester County, Pennsylvania. A doctor who served in the Revolutionary War, he had 10 children with his wife, Mary Junkin (or Jenkin). Many of his children migrated from Pennsylvania to Tennessee, and several of them settled in Grainger County, while others went on to Middle Tennessee.
Jenkin Whiteside (1772-1822) was one of the older sons of Thomas Whiteside Sr., and Mary Junkin (or Jenkin). According to the “Biographical Directory of the United States Congress,” Jenkin was a lawyer, land speculator and entrepreneur. Born in Pennsylvania, Jenkin studied law and was admitted to the bar before moving to Tennessee and practicing law in Knoxville. A city commissioner for Knoxville in 1801 and 1802, he was elected as a United States Senator from Tennessee, serving from 1809-1811. Jenkin’s various business endeavors took him to Alabama and to Nashville, where he later lived. At the time of his death, Jenkin Whiteside, a lifelong bachelor, was reputed to be one of the wealthiest men in Tennessee.
Thomas Whiteside (1783-1852), Jenkin’s younger brother, moved from Pennsylvania with his brother in the early 1800’s to Grainger County, where he lived the rest of his life. It seems that Jenkin entrusted much of his Grainger County land holdings and dealings to Thomas. Thomas is often credited with building the famous Bean Station Tavern, but it was really Jenkin’s money that built it. The Grainger County Archives holds an original document that is a written agreement between Jenkin and Thomas, in which Jenkin is selling several real estate properties in Grainger County to Thomas, with stipulations regarding Thomas’ payment for the land in installments over many years’ time. The articles of agreement was signed by both men in 1820, just two years before Jenkin’s death. The land Jenkin conveyed to Thomas included land “adjoining Bean’s Station in said Grainger County, the land adjoining Oresville on both sides of German Creek and the lands below the forks of said Creek which the said J. Whiteside purchased from Robert King & John Coulter, including where a saw mill stood on said creek supposed to contain about 1500 acres,” as well as “the tract including the Station supposed about 200 acres.” Thomas Whiteside had only made a few of the payments owed on the real estate when Jenkin died.
In addition to Jenkin and Thomas, other Whiteside siblings and relatives left Pennsylvania for Tennessee. A sister of Jenkin and Thomas, Jane Whiteside, married a man by the surname of Lafferty. When both Jane and her husband died young, their five Lafferty children were taken in by their uncle, Thomas Whiteside, at Jenkin’s insistence and with his financial support. The three Lafferty daughters lived with Thomas in Grainger County until they were old enough to be sent to school in Middle Tennessee. The two Lafferty sons—James and John—lived in Grainger County, where they were reared, educated, and set up in business by Thomas Whiteside.
Also, Jenkin’s and Thomas’ sister, Isabella Whiteside, and her husband James McGoldrick moved to Grainger County, where James McGoldrick died about 1844. Thomas Whiteside supported Isabella Whiteside McGoldrick and her children during her widowhood, allowing her to live on his land, and provided for her in his will. It is pretty safe to say that all the McGoldricks and Laffertys in Grainger County are also Whiteside descendants.
Whiteside nephew James Lafferty, son of Jane Whiteside Lafferty, married Valeria Trousdale, daughter of William Trousdale, who served as governor of Tennessee from 1853-1857. James Lafferty’s three children lived in Middle Tennessee after the death of their mother. James Lafferty’s brother John married Cornelia Mayes, and their children lived in Grainger and Hamblen Counties. The daughters of John Lafferty married into the Gill, Rice, and Tidwell families, and one daughter, Mary Alcesta, married John Hervey Crozier Jr., who built a flying machine in Grainger County that predated the Wright Brothers’.
According to Stories of Early Inns and Taverns of the East Tennessee Country by LaReine Warden Clayton, after Thomas Whiteside arrived in Bean Station, he first built a large two-story log tavern of eight rooms, which competed with and overshadowed the Bean family’s original “station.” But as traffic increased and more people passed through the famous crossroad at Bean’s Station, in 1814 Thomas Whiteside built a new, larger tavern and inn. The Bean Station Tavern must have been a magnificent structure, with three floors, one hundred feet long, and made entirely of brick. In 1823, a new two-story addition, forming an ell, or extension built at a right-angle, was added at the rear. It was sixty feet long, with double verandahs on its entire length.
The Bean Station Tavern, with a wide porte cochere in front for loading and unloading carriages, then had a total of 50 rooms. An imposing structure, it was one of the finest of the great coaching inns of its time, and said to be perhaps the most elaborate hostelry between New Orleans and Baltimore. The main building burned in 1886, leaving only the two-story brick ell at the back. There are no photographs of the main building prior to its burning. Photographs of the Bean Station Tavern taken prior to 1941, when the tavern was dismantled before the completion of Cherokee Dam, which created Cherokee Lake, only show the smaller ell which survived the destructive blaze. These are the photos of the Tavern with which we are familiar, but they only expose a fraction of the grandeur that was the Bean Station Tavern.
The Daughters of the American Revolution considered the Bean Station crossroads and the Tavern so significant that in 1929 they purchased a tiny triangular plot of land in front of the Bean Station Tavern, at the corner of old Lee Highway and northbound Highway 25-E. There they erected a large bronze marker set in stone, commemorating the many historical events that took place at the crossroads. Before old Bean Station was inundated by the waters of Cherokee Lake, the DAR marker was moved to a park near the newly relocated intersection of Highways 11-W and 25-E. More recently the marker was moved to a small plot near Bean Station Baptist Church, where it now overlooks Bean Station Cemetery and the lake waters that cover old Bean Station.
Upon the death of Jenkin Whiteside in 1822, his brother Thomas Whiteside was appointed administrator of Jenkin’s estate, which was valued at more than a quarter-million dollars—a huge sum for the time. Thomas oversaw the sale of Jenkin’s property and real estate in Middle Tennessee, and assumed control of the rest of Jenkin’s holdings. Perhaps it is a coincidence that Thomas Whiteside built an addition to the Tavern in 1823, the year after his brother Jenkin died, but that is when he gained control over Jenkin’s fortune. Though often questioned about it, Thomas repeatedly put off settling Jenkin’s estate, but continued to support his relatives living in Grainger County, who often grumbled behind his back about his reticence. Court cases held by the Grainger County Archives reveal that Thomas was accused by heirs of Jenkin Whiteside of never settling Jenkin’s estate, thus denying them their inheritances. However, these court cases were not filed until after Thomas’ death, and may be an indication that Thomas’ wealth and influence made him a difficult man to cross.
Like his brother Jenkin, Thomas Whiteside never married, but he was infamous for fathering numerous illegitimate children. Two women were acknowledged to be his mistresses—Jane “Jensy” Holt and Mahala Henderson—and their illegitimate children were commonly known by everyone to have been fathered by Thomas Whiteside. In 1841, Thomas Whiteside petitioned Grainger County Circuit Court to legitimize his five children by Jane Holt and change their surnames from Holt to Whiteside. The eight illegitimate children of Thomas Whiteside by Mahala Henderson apparently were given the surname Whiteside. As Thomas’ children got older, most of them lived with him at the Bean Station Tavern, and he saw to their education. All 13 of these children were named and provided for in Thomas’ will. However, DNA testing has proven that Thomas fathered other illegitimate children who were not given his surname or named in his will.
There is at least one Circuit Court case in Grainger County wherein Thomas Whiteside was accused of lewdness with Jane Holt, but her death and numerous stays in the case prevented its judicial conclusion.
Thomas Whiteside’s lengthy will made generous provisions for his many children, his sister Isabella McGoldrick, and two emancipated slaves. A codicil to his will donated a one and one-half acre lot of his land for the building of a church and a public burying ground. The codicil further provided for funds to erect a church for the use of the Presbyterians and other Christian denominations. Thomas Whiteside’s remains were laid to rest in his burying ground, now known as the Bean Station Cemetery, but it seems the Presbyterians did not get their church building.
After Thomas Whiteside’s death, the Chancery Court lawsuit brought by the Lafferty brothers and other heirs of Jenkin Whiteside against the estate of Thomas Whiteside, deceased, claimed that Thomas never fully administered nor settled his brother Jenkin’s estate, nor paid over to Jenkin’s heirs (his brothers and sisters, and children of deceased brothers and sisters, including the Laffertys) their share in Jenkin’s immense estate. Further, they claimed that Thomas never paid to Jenkin, or to Jenkin’s estate after his death, the money Thomas promised to pay for the Grainger County land Jenkin sold Thomas in 1820. In numerous depositions in the case, various people stated that for many years Thomas Whiteside purported to have a good title to the Bean Station property, when he did not. It appears that the Laffertys won their case, leaving the executor of Thomas Whiteside’s will without the means to completely execute the generous provisions of Thomas’ will.
The burial sites of only two of Thomas Whiteside’s 13 acknowledged children are known—that of his daughter Eliza Jane, daughter of Jane Holt, and his daughter Harriet J. Whiteside Alexander, daughter of Mahala Henderson. Both daughters are buried near their father at Bean Station Cemetery.
The famous Bean Station Tavern and its infamous owner Thomas Whiteside are fascinating parts of the history of Grainger County. The DAR marker and Thomas’ imposing grave marker in the Bean Station Cemetery stand as reminders of the past glory of old Bean Station and the influence of the Whiteside family.