While little is known about his mother, Susan Francis Spencer Cheshire, my husband, Bob’s second great grand uncle, James Riley Cheshire was a rather well known man…at least in Jefferson County, Tennessee. As a young man of only 14 years, he vividly remembers some of the tragedies of the Civil War, of which his family was not a part, but because of where they lived, they were suspected of being a part of the rebel sympathizers. The old Baker place was where they lived, and the Bakers were hated by the Union soldiers for their loyalty to the Rebel cause. The family had moved there when Mr Baker decided to move to a place that was closer to his son-in-law’s place. So, the Cheshires into it because it was a bigger, very nice log home.
Soon after moving there, James recalls the day when he saw one of the Baker boys and Mr Richie, a brother-in-law, shot by the Union Soldiers. The bodies were taken to the Cheshire house to be prepared for burial. As they were getting ready to place them in their coffins, Union soldiers showed up and searched the house again, but they didn’t do anything to the bodies. James saw the soldiers march old man Baker into the woods, and heard the three shots they fired into him. After they left, James and his five year old sister, Louise Cheshire ran out to the woods and spend several hours guarding him so that the hogs didn’t get his body before the coffin maker could help move him. The Bakers had been so hated by the Kingston Militia that it was decided that their house would be burned. They ordered the Cheshires to get all of their goods out and burned the house down. There were many harrowing experiences that James recalls from the Civil War days, and maybe it was all the death he saw then that prompted him to begin carpentry work, including coffin making. He was the first person in the county to make a flat top coffin. I can’t say why the flat top coffin was so important, but apparently it was the latest thing. The people really liked them, and they had a hard time keeping them in stock. James was always considered a wise man. He felt very strongly that evey town needed a church. He joined the Cottage Grove Baptist Church in 1871, and he helped organize the Baptist Church of Cowgill in 1888. He was made deacon of the church in 1893. He also worked in banking, and became a judge at one time.
My main interest in James comes from the fact that he is related to both sides of my family. His dad is an ancestor of the Knox side of Bob’s family, and his mother is a Spencer, and related to my dad’s side of my family. Unfortunately there seem to be no pictures of James…a fact that I find very sad indeed. Nevertheless, he is a connector to both my families, and was a very well known and respected man who went through so pretty awful things as a young man, and handled them quite well in my opinion. And he was the brother of Bob’s grandmother, Sarah Cheshire Knox.