The Beginning


Haywood Green 1920-2005 - Mason Hall Historian

Some of the information here was taken from 'Mason Hall Community History' by Haywood Green published in 1996. His book covered some of the early history but it was mostly about the later residents. Haywood also wrote a history of the Turnpike Levee, the ferry and bridge in the 1800s across the Obion River and Big Lake north of Mason Hall to connect Obion and Gibson counties and provided a trade and migration route to the Mississippi River. Other sources were 'Gibson County, Past and Present', and 'In and Around Rutherford, Tennessee'.

I have since done much more research on the community's beginnings, recorded more information on the history and genealogy of those early first families. I leave it here on the internet for all those who have roots in the Mason Hall area and no access to the above sources. My history of the Mason Hall 'community', covers the area of south of the Obion River in Obion County, Davenport in northeast Dyer County, and Tysonville in northwest Gibson County.

Trading routes in Northwest Tennessee in the very early 1800s

Mason Hall is in southeastern Obion County in northwest Tennessee and only several hundred feet from the Gibson County line. It was one of the earliest settlements in Obion County, which was organized in 1824 from previously held Indian Lands, and it was the first settlement south of the Obion River in county. It was on the early migration route west in the early and mid 1800s, being only about 25 miles from Hickman, Kentucky where those pioneers ferried across the Mississippi River over into Missouri and onto Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Only the Obion River bottoms and the town of Troy were between Mason Hall and the Mississippi River.

The second bridge across the Obion River replaced the original ferry

My first memories of Mason Hall began in the 1940s when I went to town to get groceries with my grandad, Tom Jenkins. The community was about a hundred years old then and still a very busy little community on the road between Trimble and Kenton. My uncle owned a DX service station and my aunt operated a beauty shop in town. There was a high school that my mother and her 10 brothers and sisters attended, a cafe, grocery stores, a bank, community clubs, a funeral home, another garage, and a big grain and gin company in the center of town. My grandad lived only a few miles southwest of town, across the line Gibson County line, near Possum Pond, between Fairview and Cool Springs, but Mason Hall was the nearest place to trade.

Now, almost 75 years later, it is just a wide place in the road. Only the grain company, three cemeteries, three churches, and about 30 homes remain. The post office, school, my aunt and uncle, and all the other businesses are long gone and so are any descendants of it's first settlers. Mason Hall, once on the only north-south trading route from the port at Hickman, Kentucky is not on any major road any longer. Trimble and Kenton, on major north-south highways and railroads now, became the places to trade and provide quick access to the even larger cities of Jackson, Dyersburg and Union City.

I began developing an interest in Mason Hall in the 1990s while researching my Jenkins, Bradford, and Lovitt ancestors who migrated there about a hundred years ago. I later met with Mr Green, the local historian, several times and discussed the area's history and we visited several of the very old abandoned graveyards in the area. I'm not sure that I can even find them now. Being a genealogist, he asked me to research some of his family's origins he had been unable to do. Thus began my study of the Mason Hall's early settlers. Unfortunately he passed away before I was finally was able to identify his family's ancestors. In his memory, I dedicated my online genealogy file on RootsWeb to the first Mason Hall families, but lacked a place there to record the history of the community. I believe the story needed to be told for all of the descendants of those pioneers that settled or passed through Mason Hall in the Beginning. Thus the purpose of this web page.

No records establish exactly when Mason Hall came into existence and it has never been incorporated. It is thought that it may have been around the mid 1830s, when the Methodist Church is believed to had the first organized services in the community and the first public building was a unchartered Masonic Lodge . Many of the church's charter members were also some of the first community organizers. A post office was located there in 1837.

Many of the first pioneers to arrive in the area almost two hundred years ago now, however, settled in Gibson County about three miles south of what was later to become Mason Hall. In the late 1820s there was a small settlement around the trading post run by Baptist Boyett and later a Post Office called Chesterville there. It was between where the North Union Cumberland Presbyterian Church and where the new Tyson Store was later built at a community once called Tatum, then Tyson, and finally Tyson Store. Chesterville was on the stagecoach, wagon, and trade route from Jackson, Tennessee to the port at Mills Point, now Hickman, Kentucky. A portion of that route is now the Mason Hall Tyson - Store Rd. An example of the conditions of dirt route then is that it took 18 hours for the stagecoach trip from Trenton to Hickman. The name was later changed to Tysonville and served as a mustering place for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. There was a hardware store there then that sold farming equipment, a cotton gin, and a school.

The original Tyson Store and Post Office built by Benjamin Tyson about 1830
and later a travelers inn on the Jackson - Hickman Rd - Hamilton H. Taylor Jr.

Tysonville was the only settlement in the northern part of the Gibson County in the Beginning. It may have been on the high ground where Grassy, Dillard, Cool Springs, and Edmunston Creeks all originate. Some have referred to the settlement as Tickleville or Tinkleville but no evidence has ever been found of those names in Gibson County. There were no Tickles in the area, and the Tinkles that came here with David Crockett lived east of Mason Hall in Weakley County. This area was in District 10 of Gibson Co in 1850. District 19 was to the east in the northeast corner of Gibson County, the area surrounding Crockett's old homeplace now. Later a District 24 became the western part of District 10.

Davenport, another early settlement, on Cool Springs Creek in the northeast corner of Dyer County was about four miles west of Tysonville, and 2.5 miles southeast of what is now Main St in Trimble. The community was about a half-mile south of what is now Eastwood Dr and a half-mile west of the Gibson Co line. Abner Hargett, an early settler of Mason Hall in the 1830s, landed at Sharp's Ferry, west of Davenport on the Obion River, camped there until spring. He said when he came overland through what later became the Trimble and Davenport area that it was nothing but a huge canebreak. Early maps indicate there was once a trail, now Bermuda Grass Rd, connecting Davenport to Bethpage, Tysonville, and Rutherford . The route continued on west from Davenport to Sharp's Ferry, Obion Lake, and to Palestine across the river in Obion Co. Another trading route from Hickman and the Obion River crossing north of Mason Hall came through Davenport, later called the Upper Trimble Rd and Boyd Rd, and on south to Tatumville and RoEllen in southeastern Dyer County. Even today some earlier roadbeds can still be seen on Google Earth. Some of the early settlers were the Knox, House, Pettus, Bones, Headden, Thompson, Lovitt, Jones, Pitts, and Pierce families. Many are buried at Jones Cemetery now on Eastwood Dr and Pettus/House Cemetery on Switzer Rd in Gibson Co. There were two stores run by Jesse Pierce and M. R. Hendricks, a school where Moses House taught, a church and two or three other businesses. (My first home in Trimble in the 1950s was on the street named for Mr Hendricks). Davenport existed from about 1840s to the late 1800s. The Town of Trimble, two miles northwest, was growing rapidly as the railroad was being completed there in the 1870s and Davenport now, like Tysonville, no longer exists. Tysonville residents moved to Mason Hall in the 1840s as the trade routes grew, and likewise, when the railroad came to Trimble, residents from Mason Hall began to move there. Many Trimble residents' roots can be traced back to Mason Hall, Davenport, and Tysonville

The old road from Sharp's Ferry and Davenport to Kenton ran just south of the Jenkins place.
Later on, two new roads were built from Trimble to Kenton, one on Obion Co and one in Gibson Co

Hardy Canady is found in Gibson County land records as early as 1821. He was one of the first settlers of Tysonville. Hardy contributed the 10 acres of land in the 1840s where the North Union Cumberland Presbyterian Church now stands. Before the church was erected, the local residents met at what called the North Union Meeting House that was on land donated by Benjamin Tyson.

Boyett researchers have said that Henry Boyett and his family of North Carolina came to this area in the very early 1820s also. Others soon to follow were the Howells, Tysons, Oakes, Tolers, Smiths, Davises, Tilghmans, Porters, Garrisons, Hollomons, Watts, Cherrys, and Finches. Many of these families can be found on the Gibson County 1830 and 1840 censuses. Page 66 of the 1840 Federal Census of Gibson County records those that lived at the Tysonville settlement. Many of these early family names can now be found in the North Union Church Cemetery where some of the oldest stones date back to the 1840s. The Boyett's history says Henry and his wife are buried there though their markers no longer exist. Their family history also records that David Crockett frequently traded with Henry's son, Baptist Boyett, at his store there before he left for Texas in November of 1835.

David Stern Crockett 1786 TN - 1836 TX

David Crockett settled six miles southeast of Tysonville in Weakley County in early 1822. This southwest corner of Weakley County across the South Fork of the Obion River from its county seat, Dresden, became Gibson County in 1833. Davy wrote in his book that his nearest neighbor in Weakley County, Lee R. Owens, lived seven miles away and on the other side of the South Fork. An Owens Landing was where the Middle and South Forks of the Obion River joined. Other Mason Hall families recall stories of their ancestors hunting bears in Obion County with Crockett. A story about his hunting trip with Jesse Reeves was written by Jesse's descendants and is attached.

Crockett frequently hunted bear in the hills over in western Obion County. He assisted in laying out the Town of Troy, the county seat, in 1825 and later served as a US Congressman from the district. More evidence that Crockett frequented the area is that four of his sons and daughters married individuals from the community. One son married Baptist Boyett's sister, another son married a Porter that lived near Baptist. A daughter married a Tyson of Tysonville, and another daughter married a Flowers from just east of there. Davy's mother is recorded on the 1850 census in Tysonville living with her daughter. The daughter was buried at North Union Church Cemetery. For those interested, additional information on David Crockett, his family, and life in Weakley, Gibson, and Obion counties can be found on the internet on 100s of other web pages and books.

Meanwhile in Obion County, some of the other early settlers south of the Obion River were Elijah Boyett's family (no relation to Henry Boyett in Tysonville), the Brambletts, Crains, Glissons, Keathleys, McNeelys, Norrids, Nedrys, Nichols, Robbins, Purvis, Reeves, Worrels, and the Spights. In 1836 there appeared to be only about 50 adult males paying a property or poll tax in the 8th district, the entire area south of the Obion River. Marriages within these few families, north and south of the county line, resulted in nearly everyone being related.

In 1826 the Obion County Court ordered a road to be cut to connect the county seat of Gibson County, Trenton, to Troy, the Obion County seat. Before then, traveling within the county was limited to following marked trees. A stagecoach stop at Salem in Obion County in 1833 may have been the beginning of the town of Mason Hall. Salem was on an earlier Indian trail that later became a trade route from Hickman south to Tipton County TN. It came to be known as the Base Line and Turnpike Trail. The Jackson to Hickman route joined the Base Line at Salem then. It is believed it was sometime after this that the community began to expand. Wagons carrying freight south and westward migrations increased on these two roads that joined just outside of Mason Hall before crossing the wide bottoms of the Obion River.

As Mason Hall grew many of the early settlers in Tysonville began moving to the Mason Hall area in Obion County and many of them can be found on the 1840 and 1850 Obion County census. Tysonville all but disappeared and the only evidence of the stagecoach stop at Salem was a school and later a church. By 1850 there were slightly over 100 households below the Obion River in Obion County.

Capt John Hollomon, who arrived in the area in 1824, moved from Tysonville to Mason Hall after 1830. He, like most of the early settlers, was a friend of David Crockett and the family history records that he walked Crockett to the Obion River when he left for Texas. Capt Hollomon was one of the first community leaders. He was a farmer, large land owner, served as county magistrate for 40 years, and helped establish the first church. It is believed Major John Garrison was another Mason Hall community organizer to move from Gibson County to Mason Hall. He too was a land and slave owner in Gibson County and employed Alexander Finch as his overseer. They are found living next to each other on page 66 of the 1840 census in Tysonville. Though Major Garrison lived in Gibson County, he was appointed the postmaster of the first post office in Mason Hall in 1837. Major Garrison, along with Baptist Boyett, and John Hollomon, established the Methodist Church in Mason Hall about 1835. John died at an early age and his wife married Alexander Finch.

The Honorable William Baptist Boyett 1808 NC - 1887 Mason Hall
photo credit - Dorthy Boyett Semenyna

Baptist's homeplace north of Mason Hall
photo credit - Dorthy Boyett Semenyna

Baptist Boyett was probably the most well-known leader. He moved from Gibson County into Obion County after 1840 and settled north of town. He was a very successful businessman and built the first store, and the Masonic Lodge above it, around 1850 in Mason Hall. Boyett's Store became the focal point of the community and censuses refer to the Mason Hall area as Boyett's Store. Baptist served as postmaster, county magistrate and tax collector, and in the Tennessee Legislature. In his honor the Methodist Church, Robinson's Chapel, was changed to Boyett's Chapel in the 1840s.

Boyett Store, Masonic Lodge upstairs, drugstore next door. Photo credit - Will Nat Hollomon

Union Gin Mason Hall - Credit W TN Historical Society

George W. L. Marr was another early settler 'below the Obion' having moved there in 1821 after serving in the U.S. Congress and as Attorney General for Tennessee. He and his wife owned large tracts of land, were on later tax rolls for district 8, but moved on to Island 10 in the Mississippi River. Her father, Edwin Hickman a Revolutionary War veteran, received huge land grants here and the town of Hickman Kentucky was changed from Mills Point in his honor.

Norton Oakes, like many of the other first settlers above seemed to be well educated and served in positions for learned men in Obion County. Norton and four others from the community were appointed by the state in 1838 to establish a school system and serve as School Commissioners for District Eight.

Other prominent early settlers were Abner Hargett, Amos Finch, and William Miles. Mose Headden, Samuel K. Pettus, John Lovitt, and John Pierce were some of the early settlers near Davenport, not far from Tysonville and Mason Hall.

Later in the 1800s other communities sprang up in the area. In Obion County, Kenton on the Obion-Gibson line in the 1840s, Liberty, Turtle Bend, Georgetown Store, Beech Valley, and Macedonia. Other than Kenton, none of these communities exist today. In Gibson County, Rutherford in the 1850s, Cool Springs, Fairview, Tyson Store Community, Tilghman, Possum Pond, and slightly further south, Yorkville in the 1830s. Only Rutherford and Yorkville remain today. In Dyer County west and southwest of Mason Hall, were Trimble, established in 1875, and Churchton to the south.

In the 1840s the 8th District of Obion County was divided and the western half became a new District 11. By 1850 there were about 200 households in Gibson County's 10th District. The western part of District 10 became District 24 in the 1870s and the eastern part, District 14 then 19. The area directly south of Kenton remained District 10. The early ferry, later replaced by a Turnpike Bridge across the Obion River north of Mason Hall, provided the only access to Troy and Obion County from Kenton and Trimble and other towns in Gibson and Madison County. In the Beginning, the Mississipppi River crossing at Hickman being the only crossing for a 100 miles north or south required many North Carolinians and Tennesseans to pass through Obion County, primarily Mason Hall and Troy, on their way west.

Tens of thousands of individuals, like my grandad Tom Jenkins' great-grandfather from North Carolina, passed through Tysonville, Mason Hall, and Troy in the 1840s on his way to the Mississippi River crossing at Hickman. Ferrying the North Fork of the Obion River was possible in Weakley County to the northeast and downstream in Dyer County at Sharpsferry. A sign I observed at the ferry crossing at Hickman in 2005 claimed to have been in operation for over 160 years.

A mule-operated ferry similar to the Turnpike Ferry operated by Capt Rust. Photo: Aaron Staulcup.

Stephen 'Silas' Rust 1845 - 1905

The genealogy of all the individuals mentioned above can be found in my online file on WorldConnect

Please share your Mason Hall memories here, forever, on the internet for those that follow us. Contributions of photos, history, family genealogies would be much appreciated.

School at Davenport - unknown class photo -credit Linda Norsworthy Reed