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On Thursday, February 14, the City of McKenzie will celebrate our founder, James Monroe McKenzie’s birthday at the freshly renovated depot. As part of McKenzie’s 150th Celebration, …
On Thursday, February 14, the City of McKenzie will celebrate our founder, James Monroe McKenzie’s birthday at the freshly renovated depot. As part of McKenzie’s 150th Celebration, birthday cake and refreshments will be served along with tours of the depot from 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
About the McKenzie Family
The following information was sourced from the writings of Mrs. Hilda Scates Dudley, great-granddaughter of James Monroe McKenzie.
James Monroe McKenzie was born February 14, 1818 to Colonel John D. McKenzie and Patsy Bonner McKenzie. Known for his kindness and benevolence, James Monroe was responsible for donating land for the Masonic building, Bethel College and the McKenzie Depot Station. A member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, James Monroe died at the age of 56 in 1874 and was interned at Mt. Olivet Cemetery along with his wife, Martha Louisa Coleman McKenzie.
Much of the wealth accumulated by the McKenzie family can be traced to Colonel John D. McKenzie. Colonel McKenzie fought in the American Revolution and was captured at Valley Forge. A British soldier struck him across the back and broke his shoulders. The British stacked their bayonets with the intention of impaling the colonel. Before they could drop him, he gave the Masonic signal of distress. The commanding officer ordered him to be taken down and sent to a house. The officer paid for the colonel’s care until he was able to return home.
For his disability, he received a pension of fifty dollars per month for life. Fifty dollars at that time is equivalent to approximately $1,000 in today’s money. After visiting the Colonel’s sister, Millie Gilbert, in 1827, the McKenzies moved to this area. The family homestead, located near the railroad depot and Stonewall Street, was purchased through the McLemore Land Grant.
James Monroe McKenzie donated the land to form the depot, on the condition that his son, George Washington McKenzie, would be the first railroad station manager. George was employed by the L&N and NC&StL Railroads, serving as station manager for 50 years. His wife, Willie Diechman McKenzie, was a socialite often hosting elaborate affairs at the Hotel McKenzie.
Two other notable children of James Monroe McKenzie were a pair of doctors, John David McKenzie and James Albert McKenzie. Following the Civil War, the brothers studied at Vanderbilt. Around the turn of the century, the brothers retired from their medical practice in Bradford, Tenn. They built matching homes side-by-side on Stonewall Street in McKenzie.
The last of the family to bear the name McKenzie was George D. McKenzie, son of George Washington McKenzie. He was a cashier for Citizen’s Bank and at one time an agent for the L&N and NC&StL Railroads. He also served on the city board and city magistrate.