The Robertson Genealogy Exchange

Colonel Harlee's Notes on 122419 Matilda Fountain Childress

John Catron [husband of 122419 Matilda Childress] settled in Nashville in 1818 and was then admitted to the Bar. In 1824, he was elected by the legislature as a justice of the Supreme Court of Tennessee. He so served until 1834. President Jackson, in 1837, appointed him a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He so served until his death. (Clayton's History of Davidson County, Tennessee, pp. 108-9) .

From Mrs. Bond's Kinship Book, pp. 489-491:

"The General (Andrew Jackson) had known [122419] Matilda Childress familiarly as a child, had watched her growth into a young woman of forceful personality whose influence affected even his strong will. For her sake he had taken interest in the career of John Catron; the rising young lawyer she had chosen for her husband, and had taken pains to further his ambitions. It is easy, therefore, to credit the statement that it was Judge John Catron's wife, [122419] Matilda (Childress) Catron, who secured for him the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, by appointment of Andrew Jackson, who was then in the President's chair. As the story goes, when [122419] Mrs. Catron approached the President with the request that he appoint her husband to fill a vacancy that had occurred on the bench of the Supreme Court, it was immediately granted, with the remark, 'I believe he will make a good Judge, Matilda.' To what extent her life influenced that of her husband in other respects, we do not know. We can only guess that she shared, if she did not prompt, the humane sentiments towards her negro servants, so plainly indicated in the terms of his will in which he made bequests amounting to thousands of dollars to his black people who had in slavery days served him faithful and well.

"He died soon after the close of the war that liberated his slaves. His wife who survived him several years, not only carried out his benevolent wishes, but in her own will, probated in 1872, she bequeathed a house and lot and $5,800 in stocks, as her separate property, to her servant woman, Pauline Robertson.

"The Nashville residence of Judge and Mrs. John Catron was on Fourth Avenue, North, then called Cherry Street, opposite several noted private homes where the Maxwell House now stands. With its pillared porches, wide entrance hall, and spacious reception rooms, it long stood as an historic landmark of the most interesting period of Nashville's existence, when Tennessee was in the ascendency in the nation's councils, when Washington pulsed with the words of her great statesmen, and social life in the capital city was adorned with the beauty, and led by the wit of Nashville women.

"The great actor, Joseph Jefferson, on being asked during a banquet in New York City where he had found the most beautiful women, replied that 'in Nashville and within a radius of ten miles, were the most beautiful women and charming hostesses in the world.'

"The interior of the Catron home was richly furnished and contained many fine paintings and rare works of art. The portraits of two famous lawyers, Chief Justice John Marshall and Chancellor Kent, held places of honor on its walls. These were purchased after Judge Catron's death by the noble, Northern born, gentleman, General G. P. Thurston, of the Army of the Cumberland, and presented by him to the library of the Bar Association of Nashville.

"Judge Catron devised in his will his portrait of General Andrew Jackson, painted by Earle, to the State of Tennessee, to be hung in the State Library in the Capitol. It is said to be a perfect likeness of the General as he appeared in 1819.

"When Marshall Bertrand, of European fame, and his son, Napoleon Bertrand, visited Nashville in 1843, they were the guests of Judge and [122419] Mrs. Matilda (Childress) Catron.

"Judge Catron's library was said to be at that time one of the finest private collections in the United States...."

Source: William Curry Harlee, Kinfolks: A Genealogical and Biographical Record, 3 vols. (New Orleans: Searcy & Pfaff, 1935-37), 3: 2620-2621.

Last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2003

All original material Copyright ©2003 Tom Robertson. All rights reserved including those of electronic transmission and reproduction of the material in any format.

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