Squire James Twigg

1804-1896

by Mildred L. Pulliam
From: Goshen Trails, October 1972 edition; p. 11
Reprinted by permission

SQUIRE JAMES TWIGG

          Squire James Twigg was born 31 August 1804, in what is now Rutherford Co., Tenn.  He was the eldest of seven children of Timothy and Catherine (Mason) Twigg.  The father, Timothy Twigg, was born in Ireland and emigrated with his family to South Carolina.  While still a boy, he came to the site of Nashville, Tenn., and helped to build the first houses erected there.  It is said he became a great favorite of Andrew Jackson, living with him for eleven years and working for him some of the time in various capacities.  Considering the eleven year time span he probably lived with Jackson at his first two homes, namely, Poplar Groves Plantation and later, Hunters Hill, previous to buying The Hermitage.  He was with General Jackson during the Old Indian Wars and was wounded at the Battle of Talledega.  He was with Jackson again at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812.  For several years he engaged in flat boating on the Cumberland River.  In 1803, he was married to Catherine Mason and they settled in the fertile canebrake country about eighteen miles southeast of Nashville, in a home he built fro the slabs of a single Linden tree.  Here he cleared and planted his land and distilled most of the agricultural products which he transported by flat boat to the settlements on the Cumberland River where he found a ready market.  With the coming of the sale of cotton and the help of slave labor he developed one of the finest plantations in Tennessee.  In 1818 his wife died, a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.  While several children were born to this union their names are unknown to the writer.  It is said James Twigg had four sisters, one of whom married a Caulwell (Caldwell) from a prominent family in Nashville, Tennessee.  There is known to have been at least one brother mentioned as a trader.  In 1822, Timothy Twigg remarried to Catherine P(r?)oberts by whom he had two children.  In 1846, he died, a member of the Old Baptist Church.

          James Twigg grew to manhood with the ability to assume responsibility at an early age.  He was given a good common school education such as was afforded the children of southern planters.  In 1822, at the age of 18, he came to White Co., Illinois, where he taught school and lived in the home of Jacob Barker, a Revolutionary War soldier from Fairfield, S. C.  It is thought the Twigg and Barker families had previously been acquainted in South Carolina.  Living in the Barker home, he met and won the had of Jacob's daughter, Polly.  They were married in 1825.  At first they lived on an adjoining farm but in April, 1829, they settled in the woods in section two, township seven, range six.  Through hard work and good management he gradually added to the size of the original tract until he owned eleven thousand and seven hundred acres becoming one of the wealthiest men and largest land owners in Hamilton County.  Along with his extensive farm interests he operated a general store and grist mill.  Before the coming of the railroads he bought and raised livestock which were driven to Shawneetown to be slaughtered and sold down the river to southern planters.  He would haul back merchandise which had been shipped to Shawneetown from up river trade centers and sell it from his general store.

James and Polly Twigg were the parents of eleven children of whom only six reached the age of maturity.  There were five daughters and one son, namely: Nancy, married John W. Davis; Teresa, married Richard Jasper Hall; Polly, married Samuel Lewis Hall; Elizabeth married George Burnett; Rebecca married John G. Gregg and Jacob married Elizabeth Vaught.  Polly Twigg died 13 Aug 1843, aged 38 years, 6 months and 26 days.  She is buried in the Barker Cemetery, two miles west of Broughton in South Twigg Township, Hamilton Co., Ill.  James Twigg was married secondly to Eliza Bramlett but there were no children from this marriage.

           In 1861, the Hickory Hill Baptist Church was organized in the home of James and Eliza Twigg.  He donated four acres for a church and a separate two acres for a cemetery.  Located in South Twigg Twp. in Hamilton Co., Ill., the old church and cemetery set on a high wooded hill with a commanding view of the surrounding countryside.  The first church was made of logs and there was also a log cabin school on the same grounds.  A new frame church was built in 1884 and was standing until 1972 when it was demolished to made room for a new church.  Eliza Twigg died in 1886 and is buried in the old cemetery at Hickory Hill.


Andrew Jackson

Many interesting stories have been handed down in the family about James Twigg.  He used to like to tell of being present in Nashville on the day of the pistol fight between Andrew Jackson and the Benton brothers.  He heard the shots ring out from the interior of the City Hotel where Jackson and his friends had confronted Jesse and Thomas Hart Benton and their companions.  When the shooting affray was ended, General Jackson was carried into the Nashville Hotel gushing blood.  His left shoulder was shattered and his upper left arm almost severed from the pistol shots of Jesse Benton.  While friends gathered around and all the doctors in Nashville worked feverishly to stanch the flow of blood before General Jackson bled to death, they reached the conclusion that they would have to amputate his arm with the exception of one doctor.  Jackson heard them talking and roused himself long enough to say in a firm tone of voice, "I will keep my arm, thank you."  In the meantime, Col. Thomas Hart Benton and his partisans gathered in front of the Inn shaking their fists in a frenzy and shouting their defiance.  Public opinion went against the Bentons to such an extent, however, that they soon left town with Thomas Hart Benton telling friends he was literally in hell there.  Such is an outstanding example of the kind of frontier feuds James Twigg was witness to in his youth in Nashville, Tenn.

           James Twigg kept a great deal of his money in gold which he called his "yellow boys."  These were gold coins minted in 1834 when President Jackson was trying to overthrow the powerful United States Bank which he later succeeded in doing.  Democratic stump speakers would shake long green purses filled with Jackson's "yellow boys" and jangle the coins together before wildly cheering crowds while denouncing the evils of the United States Banking system.  Although readily accepted the "yellow boys" did not have the desired effect in stabilizing the economy because they soon disappeared from circulation and into the hiding places of the thrifty who knew gold was good at any time but were not certain of the value of the paper money.  It was a case of good money driving out the bad.

           The title of Squire was used by James Twigg after he became a Justice of the Peace in Hamilton County at an early date.  He was a life long Democrat, first voting for Jackson, when he ran for President.  He was a public spirited man with the good of his country at heart, a robust man of stocky build, he embodied the pioneer qualities of self reliance and rugged individualism which enabled him to go out on his own and conquer all that he surveyed.  He was an outstanding man of his times in the true frontier tradition.  The iron constitution of a sound mind in a sound body kept James Twigg hale and hearty until his death on the 31st of March in 1896.  He had outlived all of is own children except Nancy Davis who was his first child.  He is buried in the new Hickory Hill Cemetery, next to Hickory Hill Church.

          The name of Twigg is now extinct in Hamilton County.  The only son living to maturity, Jacob Twigg, died young, leaving one son, called James, who left no male issue.  The last living person to bear the name was a granddaughter, Roxie Twigg, who married Wheeler Irvin.  Only the township in which he lived bears the name of Twigg in Hamilton County, Illinois, named Squire James Twigg's honor.  

           Line of descent of Mildred L. Pulliam from James Twigg: George William Pulliam, who married Ercel Ray Hall, daughter of Jacob Twigg Hall who married Myrtle Flannigan, son of Samuel Lewis Hall, who married Mary (Polly) Twigg, daughter of James Twigg, who married Mary (Polly) Barker.

References:
The History of Gallatin, Saline, Hamilton, Franklin and Williamson Counties, Illinois by Goodspeed (1887).
The Life of Andrew Jackson by Marquis James
Hamilton County, IL Census Records
Hamilton County, IL Court House Records
Tombstone inscriptions: Barker Cemetery, Old Hickory Hill and New Hickory Hill Cemeteries located between Walpole and Broughton, Illinois
Family Records.

Copyright 2001.  All rights Reserved


Back to Hamilton County  Back to Hamilton County Biographies