Today, Pennington Bend is home of one of Nashville’s most notable attractions , Opryland. Pennington Bend is noted in Nashville history, as an entry point into town via ferry across the Cumberland River. It is suspected that Andrew Jackson traveled into Nashville, crossing via this ferry into Pennington Bend. The ferry was ran by plantation owner Graves Pennington. Pennington Bend is just south of the Cumberland river and is also bounded by the river in the shape of a horseshoe. Hence, the name Pennington Bend.
Graves Pennington, one of the original settlers in the area owned nearly 600 Acres within this Bend when he died. Graves Pennington also owned a large plantation within this bend for many years. In 1850, Graves Pennington was known to have over 30 slaves on this land. At this time, Graves Pennington was about 67 years old and nearing the end of his life. Prior to that, Graves Pennington owned a much larger number of slaves on the land. Many of them had been distributed between his children as he grew older. It is known that his children along with some of his slave expanded during this time across the south.
Graves Pennington died in 1854. His land estate was put up for sale the same year. This AD from June 18th, 1854 in the Nashville Union American shows the property for sale.
My first question would be, who were these “Likely Negros”, and where did they go? My second question would be, were any of them related to my great great grandfather? Would any of them be his grandfather, grandmother, parents, aunts, uncles or cousins?
The reason I ask the second question, is that my great great grandfather, Henry Pennington was also born the plantation on Graves Pennington’s land. Henry was one of the slaves born on that land in 1846 and then distributed to one of the sons of Graves Pennington. In seek of land and a growing cotton trade, 2 of these sons are known to have moved to Marshall County, MS near Holly Springs, along with Henry, my great great grandfather who was still a small child. In the story below, I show the relationship of my great great grandfather Henry, to this family. I have researched this family extensively, and have used that research to gather answers about my own family.
Today, Pennington Bend, with this long history in Nashville, gives way to the noises of Briley Parkway, which runs the full length of the Bend, but also Opryland and Tennessee Mills. The noise on the bend today, certainly fade the voices of the “21 Likely Negros” and other history on that land over 160 years ago.
Pennignton Bend, Metro Nashville
My research and documentation of the Graves Pennington family and that of Henry Pennington is as follows.
The objective of this document is to establish birthplace and ownership of my great great grandfather, a slave named Henry Pennington.
In order to establish this information, I needed to discover all information about the family that owned him. Henry was born in Pennington bend, Nashville, TN 1846. Henry was owned by Graves Pennington. At about 5, Henry ownership was transferred to son William R Pennington. William R Pennington died in 1854 in Holly Springs, Marshall County, MS, and left then Henry to his 3 sons Willoughby Pennington, John Winfield Pennington and Morton Pennington .
Later, Henry was freed from slavery after the civil war, then took the Pennington name as his own. Henry started his family around that time. Henry Pennington died around 1878, around the age of 32. It is suspected that he died of yellow fever pandemic, along with thousands of others around the Memphis , Tennessee and northwest Mississippi area.
Graves Pennington, Henry’s original owner, was born around 1783 in Sussex county, Virginia. Later, he moved to Nashville, Davidson county Tennessee and served in what was called Captain Thomas’s Militia. The role of the militia was to be prepared to defend the territory from invaders, such as native Americans. In return for their duty, the militia was provided land ownership that they managed stake claim to.
Graves Pennington staked claim to a tract of land, bounded by the Cumberland river in Davidson county Tennessee just outside (east) of the Nashville city limits at that time. Graves Pennington became a wealthy businessman in the area, he ran a successful plantation and ran a ferry, which was a key crossing at the Cumberland river, going into Nashville at that time. Today, this tract of land in Nashville still bears his name. This area is known as Pennington Bend, which refers to the bend in the Cumberland river.
Graves Pennington had 8 children. Graves Pennington entered into 2 marriages. First, he married Frances Graves in 1803. To this union, his sons John Winfield Pennington, James T Pennington, and William R Pennington were born. In his second union he married Martha Bondurant in 1820. To this union, Sarah Ann Magdalene Pennington, Mary Amanda Pennington, Martha Pennington and Graves Pennington Jr were born.
In1850, Graves Pennington was known to have 32 slaves on his Plantation on Pennington Bend, one of which, was my great great grandfather Henry Pennington. Around 1852, the Pennington family decided to expand beyond Nashville to take advantage of the cotton trade in Mississippi.
After the civil war and through turn of the century at 1900, the Pennington children continued to move and expand into Arkansas and various parts of east Texas.
Marriages of Graves Pennington
Graves Pennington Married twice, first Franky Graves, then Martha Bondurant.
Marriages of William R Pennington (Son of Graves Pennington)
William R Pennington married Fanny McMurray. Note: They married in Nashville in 1845, before they moved to Marshall County, MS, where William R Pennington died in 1854. William R was Henry’s owner at the time he died as explained further along in this document.
Graves Pennington in 1850
Note, Graves was 67 years old, living in Nashville (Pennington Bend). He was shown to be born in Virginia. He died around 1854, and his slaves had been divided among his children.
Slaves of Graves Pennington 1850
Note boy 2, this would likely be Henry Pennington, he is the only boy at this age. Henry was transferred to William R Pennington. This will be shown further along in this document.
Marshall County, MS Probate Records
William R Pennington (son of Graves Pennington) moved to Marshall County Mississippi around 1852. At this time, William R Pennington owned Henry . Henry, as a small boy in addition to other slaves were moved to the county with William R Pennington from Nashville.
A book that compiles the Will and Probate records of Marshall county 1832—1862 contains the records of the will of William R Pennington.
Death of William R Pennington
William R Pennington the (son of Graves Pennington Nashville, TN) died in Marshall county MS in 1854. His will was recorded at the Marshall county Mississippi courthouse. These records are found in the Will and Probate records of Marshall county book. Note names of mother and father. Note names of the 3 sons of William.
Death of Jame T Pennington (other son of Graves Pennington)
James T Pennington the other son of Graves Pennington that moved to Marshall County Mississippi also died in 1854. The inventory of his slaves was shown.
Appraisal of the estate of William R Pennington
William R Pennington’s will was appraised in 1855. His slaves were listed here. Note the boy, Henry (This is Henry Pennington, shown on the Marshall County, MS census later in 1870)
Sons of William R Pennington, heirs to land on Pennington Bend
Willoughby Pennington, John Winfield Pennington and Morton Pennington were all sons of William R Pennington. Note: These kids inherited William R Pennington’s share of the Graves Pennington estate in Nashville (Pennington bend).
Estranged wife of William R Pennington makes claim on his estate
William R Pennington’s Wife remarried, but claimed a part of his estate in 1855.
Henry Pennington listed as inventory to the son of William R Pennington.
Note the inventory and ages of slaves inherited by Willoughby Pennington, John Winfield Pennington and Morton Pennington. Note the slave Henry age 9, (This is Henry Pennington, shown on the Marshall County, MS census later in 1870)
List of property sold from the estate of James T Pennington
Property sold from the estate of James Pennington filed in 1856.
Inventory of the estate of James T Pennington to his children
The estate of James Pennington filed in 1857, left his property to his (2) children. His son Graves Pennington (named after his grandfather) and is daughter Martha Agnes Pennington
Willoughby Pennington (eldest son of William R Pennington) head of household 1860