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Weekly 150

The Dinwiddie Family — Part II

From Caledonia to McKenzie

Posted 8/28/19

In the previous edition, I left off with Joseph Robert Baker “Bake” Dinwiddie who was the third generation Dinwiddie to live in the Caledonia community. If you recall his grandfather, …

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Weekly 150

The Dinwiddie Family — Part II

From Caledonia to McKenzie


In the previous edition, I left off with Joseph Robert Baker “Bake” Dinwiddie who was the third generation Dinwiddie to live in the Caledonia community. If you recall his grandfather, James Dinwiddie (1755-1842), fought in the American Revolution with undocumented battles and dates. Bake’s father, James Jr., was born 1782 in Virginia. He moved with his father to Lafayette County, Kentucky in 1787. From there they moved to Madison County, K. in 1792. The Dinwiddie family migrated to West Tennessee in 1823.

Bake was born in Henry County, Tenn. on February 2, 1828. He married Sarah Lee Gordon in 1860, where they produced nine heirs: Mary Martha, Prucilla Gordon, Nancy Lee, Eliza Ellen, James Mucious (died as young man), Thomas Bernard, John Newton, Callia Calista and William Floyd. Sarah died in 1887, and Bake remarried in 1893 to Dolphine Snead.

The following record is from Eva D. Beasley (Bake’s granddaughter) dated 1986:

J.R.B. Dinwiddie was a large landowner and farmer. He owned and operated a “Thread Factory” in old Caledonia near McKenzie , Tenn. He was quite active in community service. Bake and his wife were educated Tenn. Sarah Lee’s parents lived in Carroll County, near or in Macedonia Community... The Dinwiddie children were educated at Macedonia School.

The beautiful two-story colonial home built by Joseph Robert Baker for his family home was called “Cedar Front.” It was partially destroyed by fire. Lightening stuck the tall chimneys at each end of the house. It was later rebuilt into a one-story house...In its time the home was gathering place for young and old. Inside the house, over three doors were secret hiding places for valuables or guns, knives and weapons for protection. Furniture was purchased in Philadelphia on a buying trip and brought to the home by boat to Big Sandy Landing then loaded onto an oxcart and brought to the Henry County location at the Carroll County line.

In the family bible there are important notes as well as family history. There is a Dinwiddie family cemetery on the land that was the Dinwiddie Plantation. It is almost gone from lack of care.

Thomas Bernard was born in 1867 in Henry County. He married Ada Erin Finley in 1890. She was a Carroll Countian and a descendant of William Finley, a wagon-maker from Baltimore, Md., who fought in the American Revolution. The couple had four children: Baker, Roy, Weldon and William Howard.

William Howard was born New Year’s Day in 1906 on a farm near the Perry School Community in Henry County. Howard graduated from Henry County High School in 1924, then completed a business course at Bethel College in McKenzie. In 1929, he moved to McKenzie and began working with the Cash Economy Wholesale Company, which was headquarted in McKenzie. The company moved to Jackson, Tenn. in 1958, but Howard stayed in McKenzie taking the position of city clerk. He served as clerk until his retirement in 1976.

Howard married Mildred Sedberry in 1934. Mildred was the daughter of Hettie Nesbitt and Andrew Johnson Sedberry. Mildred’s grandfather was Nathan Nesbitt, who on December 9, 1822, made a trail through the woods to the new county seat (Huntingdon), carrying a crosscut saw. It is reported he carved the door for the log courthouse and as Chairman of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, opened the first session of the court. Mildred’s older sister was Cora Sedberry.

The following record is from Mildred Sedberry Dinwiddie:

As a student in high school and college, “Dinwiddie” was a member of the football, basketball and baseball teams. His interest in sports activities never declined and he always remained an avid fan of all teams McKenzie. He was committed to other civic projects and had been elected treasurer of the Senior Citizens Center in 1983.

While a member of the First United Presbyterian Church in McKenzie, Mr. Dinwiddie served as choir member, elder of the church, church treasurer, and Sunday school teacher and superintendent. When he was a small child, the family were members of the Shiloh Presbyterian Church in rural McKenzie.

Howard and Mildred had two children: Catherine Love (Argo) and Betty Jane (Brinkley). Howard died in 1984.

Another Dinwiddie story of interest is that of Madison “Matt” Dinwiddie, son of Jedidiah, grandson of William Dinwiddie, great-grandson of Lt. James Dinwiddie. He was born 1839 in Madison County, Tenn.

Matt enlisted in the Confederate Army in Company I of the Fifth TN Infantry. The regiment was organized in Paris, Tenn., in May, 1861. The unit fought at New Madrid, Shiloh, and Perryville before being assigned to Strahl’s, Stewart’s, and Palmer’s Brigade, Army of Tennessee. In December, 1862, it was reduced to five companies, and consolidated with the Fourth Tennessee Volunteers. It participated in the various campaigns of the army from Murfreesboro to Atlanta. He returned to Tennessee with Hood and was active in North Carolina and Chickamauga.

During the war he suffered the loss of every member of his immediate family, and return ed to find his home devastated by Union troops. His father’s house was destroyed, and the only people left were a few of the older body servants who remained on the plantation until their death.

At the Battle of Atlanta, Matt’s brother was killed, and Matt was felled with a ball from a Union musket passing through his left lung just above his heart. He was in a hospital in Georgia for four months and finally recovered sufficiently to make his way home.

When he returned home he married Mary Elizabeth Patterson and began farming near McKenzie. The family was located on Coldwater Road near the old Manley Crossing.

Not only did the Dinwiddie family play a prominent role in McKenzie history, but they helped in the shaping of American history with family members fighting in the American Revolution and the Civil War. Strong in their pious faith and a high regard for education, numerous Dinwiddies were educators and members the clergy. From colonial times to the modern era in McKenzie, the Dinwiddies helped make McKenzie what it is today.

Jason R. Martin

B.S. • M.A.Ed • MLS

Councilman, Ward II

Executive Chairman, McKenzie 150th Celebration

E: jmartin@mckenziebanner.com  P: 731.352.3323

Jason Martin is a life-long resident of McKenzie. He graduated from McKenzie High School in 2000; earned a Bachelor of Science in History from Bethel College in 2004; a Masters in Education from Bethel University in 2009 and a Masters in History and Humanities from Fort Hays State University in 2011.


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