Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Family Story

Back in the fall I posted about my great-great grandfather William T. Nash and his success with the founding and operation of the Nash Drug Company. While visiting back in Arkansas earlier in the year, I was reminded of another family story that involves his father, Augustus S. Nash (1828-1920) pictured above.

To frame the story, I'll have to tell you some about his life. Much of this information comes from Goodspeed's Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeastern Arkansas published in 1883. He was born in Bedford County, Tennessee, July 23, 1828, son of Travis and Joanna Nash. They were farmers, and Augustus grew up on their farm near Shelbyville, Tennessee. When Augustus was fourteen, he was apprenticed to a saddle maker, but upon reaching adulthood, he left the saddler's trade for farming. In 1849, he married Marjory Atkins (1829-1923), and they had seven children: Thomas, William, Charles, Leander, Richard, Wiley and Victoria. In 1860, Augustus and his family moved to Jackson County, Alabama and bought a farm in that area.

With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Augustus enlisted in the Confederate Army, in Company G, Fourth Alabama Cavalry.  I have found the muster rolls for this regiment online, and he apparently started the war as a private and ended the war as a private. I'm sure his saddle maker skills were put to good use. According to Goodspeed's, he fought in the battles of Fort Donelson/Fort Henry, Murfreesboro, Resaca, Missionary Ridge, Atlanta, Franklin, Knoxville, and Chickamauga. He was wounded in the left ear at Chickamauga, which you can see in this photo. I have gone through my copy of Battles and Leaders of the Civil War which lists the order of battle for both armies for major engagements to see where the Fourth Alabama Cavalry appears. It is apparent that this is a pretty true list of his regiment's battle history, but does leave off that they were at Shiloh and Nashville. Anyone familiar with Civil War history knows that this is pretty much a complete list of the major battles fought by the Confederate Army of Tennessee.

At the end of the war, Augustus surrendered with his regiment in Columbus, Georgia. After that he went to Nashville, Tennessee, where, as Goodspeed's says, he "took the oath" of loyalty to the United States. He then returned to family and farm in Alabama. He resumed farming there, until 1871, when for reasons I'm not clear about, he moved his family to Jonesboro, Arkansas, where he bought a farm. He was successful at that, and in 1876 opened a merchandise business in town.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, that was about the same time Augustus' son William established the Nash Drug Company. All of them did well with their businesses, and Augustus became a director of the Bank of Jonesboro and was elected county treasurer. In 1898, William began construction on this large home on West Matthews Street in Jonesboro that is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Augustus lived next door and one of his other sons lived across the street.

In the early years of the Twentieth Century, Jonesboro was a thriving town, and sometime around 1905 - 1910 (I'm still trying to pin down the exact year) the town government began a program of widening and paving the major streets so they would be more suitable for automobiles. When it came time to pave West Matthews, Augustus and William were told that a number of big trees in their front yards would need to be removed to widen the street. In those days before the invention of air conditioning, you wanted large shade trees in your yard for some relief from the hot Arkansas summers. You can see some of the trees in the picture above.

The entire family made it plain to the town that they didn't want those trees removed, but couldn't get anyone in government to give them a commitment to leave the trees alone. So on the day the paving crew got to the 400 block of West Matthews, Augustus was waiting, sitting in a chair under the trees with his shotgun in his lap. I'm sure after his war experiences, he wasn't the least intimidated.

As you can see in this picture, there is evidence today, over 100 years later, that Augustus got his way, and the street was narrowed to miss his trees.


Gil said...

Reid, wonderful account of your great-great grandfather. If you haven't done so, visit Chickamauga Battlefield. Shortly after the war, surveyors and engineers from the Union Army laid out the positions of all combatants by units. These same men were in the battle. Your GGGF's unit most likely will have a placard or marker where it stood and fought. It is a beautiful place in the mountains of Northwest Georgia and not far from Lookout Mountain Battlefield. It is in a state of permanent preservation never to be encroached upon.

Reid Farmer said...

Thanks, Gil! I had heard the story since I was a little boy, but it wasn't until one of the trips back there last summer that I noticed that the street actually narrowed and that it must be true.

I'm still waiting for Steve to ask what kind of shotgun he had.

You are right, I should visit Chickamauga. I have been to the battlefields in the Chattanooga area, but for some reason never went down into Georgia for Chickamauga.

After reading your comment, it occurred to me that for a person as interested in the Civil War as I am, I haven't been to nearly as many battlefields as I should have

Steve Bodio said...

What kind of shotgun did he have?

Reid Farmer said...

I have no idea