I’m Starting to Get a Feeling

So, the Franklins were up there in what is now Sumner County since white people started settling there. As were the Douglasses. These are old, old families. As were the McKains and the Cages. The Douglasses married into the McKains and the Cages and the Franklins married into the McKains and the Cages.

The Franklins and the Douglasses, though, did more than just intermarry. They REALLY intermarried, generation after generation, to the point where I don’t think that you can really talk about the Franklins and the Douglasses, but it’s perhaps better to think of them as the Franklin/Douglass clan.

One way that this history is shaped that I don’t have a good sense of is who all served with Jackson during the War of 1812. That seems to be a structure in the background of this history that would help to make sense of it.

But I’m starting to get a feeling there’s another structure semi-related to Jackson in the background.

Okay, so keep in mind that Jackson has a kind of faction–him, Sam Houston, James K. “Young Hickory” Polk, Judge John Overton, and, perhaps, the Winchester dude who founded Memphis with him and Overton (I haven’t found any evidence of this, but I mention him only because he’s from Sumner County).

And even though I would say that the Franklin/Douglass clan was not politically opposed to the Jackson faction, I’m starting to get a feel that they may have been socially opposed.

There are two questions a person must ask after looking long enough at the Franklin/Douglas clan. 1. Why was Eliza Allen allowed to make such a good second marriage? By the time she married Dr. Elmore Douglass, her parents were dead and she was a divorcee at the heart of a huge political scandal. Why does she get to marry a doctor from one of the oldest families in the area? 2. Why does Isaac Franklin marry Adelicia Hayes? He’s in his 40s. He has a palace of debauchery. And he has a ton of nieces and nephews he’s made rich–either by hooking the nephews up in the family business or by marrying the nieces off to his business partner.

But Eliza Allen ran into trouble with the Jackson faction. Adelicia Hayes’ brother was killed by Polk’s brother. Having the Allen family tied into your clan gives you a lot of banking money and politicians on your side (and note that at least a few Franklins went into banking after slave trading) and it gives you sympathetic folks all up river.

The Hayes family gets you in with them and the McGavocks. Adding to your influence with the McGavocks, we know that John Overton’s wife was first married to Andrew Jackson’s doctor, May, who’s first name is not coming to my mind. She liked Jackson enough at first to name one of her sons with May “Andrew Jackson May.” But, the family story is that, after the Dickinson duel, after Jackson told May to lie to Dickinson as he died, Mrs. May came to loathe him. And she loathed him through her marriage to John Overton. Her kids with Overton also married into the McGavocks.

I don’t know what to make of it, but I feel like there’s the shape of something there.

4 thoughts on “I’m Starting to Get a Feeling

  1. Some thoughts:

    There are probably military records about who served with Jackson. Bridgett would know more about this than I do, but I’d get in touch with a good US military historian and check out what’s available.

    The social aspects of political antipathy and the political aspects of social antipathy are fascinating.

    I’m not as sure as you are that we should expect Eliza Allen to look all that damaged/devalued to her contemporaries. They weren’t Victorians, and Sam Houston was sufficiently known as an embarrassing lout that they were likely able to take her leaving him in stride, or even approve of her for it. I don’t think a good second marriage for her has to be explained by tribal antipathy. (Not that that’s an argument against there being such an antipathy.)

  2. I don’t know. The whole situation still strikes me as strange. After her parents died, she was a very young divorcee with only two other siblings of legal age (one of which quickly married, but I’m not sure about when the other married). She somehow kept herself and at least six (possibly seven, depending on when the one sister married) together in Gallatin. They didn’t have to all move to Carthage where the rest of the Allens were. Her mother was a Saunders, which is an old Sumner county family, but from a rather late arriving branch. (I probably need to learn more about that branch at some point.) And I haven’t yet found any evidence that the Saunders were able to help the family out much.

    I just think it’s unusual that we see this branch of the Allen family utterly implode–the political scandal and divorce, both parents dying shortly after, the loss of the farm–and yet, Eliza is able to keep the family together and she and her siblings are able to make good marriages. Clearly, they had tremendous community support in order to do that.

    But why? I mean, that’s always the question. But I have to say this is why I just don’t buy the idea that she was in love with another man and never loved Houston and that’s why they divorced. No, it’s not the Victorian era, but the idea that the whole town would so firmly and loyally support her if they had any excuse not to just strikes me as improbable. And, clearly, they provided A LOT of support to her.

    And, frankly, they must have genuinely liked her and her siblings and cared about them, because their parents were dead and the rest of the Allens didn’t live there. They could have cut that whole family loose. But it appears that Gallatin and specifically the Douglasses made sure as best they could that the family thrived.

  3. Eliza’s father had 800 acres, which is pretty rich, though there was a tier above that had a thousand acres or more. It definitely wasn’t strange or inappropriate for the Governor to marry into the family.

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