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John McKenzie


John McKenzie was a Revolutionary War soldier, born in Albemarle County, Virginia September 17, 1757. He was residing in Halifax County, Virginia in 1776 when he volunteered for army service. In his six-page declaration made in Carroll County Court (Tennessee) in 1831-32 in applying for a pension, he gave many details of his service in the southern campaigns of the war in Virginia and the Carolinas. This declaration is in the National Archives in Washington and a copy is in the library of the Carroll County Historical Society in McKenzie, Tennessee. His declaration mentions many actions and battles in which he took part in the Carolinas and also states that he was acquainted with some of the well known officers of the American army, including General Nathaniel Greene to whom he served as Aide in the battle of Guilford Court House, North Carolina, in March 1782. John McKenzie stated that he was given a commission as Captain by General Sumter in 1778 or 1779 and was known in the army as "The Big Virginia Captain." The pension records show that in 1777 or 1778 he was Captain in Colonel Thomas Sumter's South Carolina Regiment and was also Contractor for Salisbury District under General Davidson. He was Captain of Light Dragoons in Colonel William Hill's South Carolina Regiment and Captain in Colonel Malmedy's North Carolina Regiment and was in the battles of Rocky Mount, Hanging Rock, Camden (South Carolina), Rudgeley's Mills, Ironworks, Torrence's Tavern, Guilford, New Market, Beattie's Ford, and Orangeburg, and was discharged in 1782. In his declaration John McKenzie stated that from 1791 to 1795 he was engaged in building forts for the defense of the country against the raids of the Creek Indians and in 1792 was in command of the fort at Rock Landing, Georgia. He was surely a hardy and courageous man, and by his own description a "big" man. There is a record that when some blacks were captured by Indians, John went to the Indians' camp, confronted the chief, and demanded that the men be handed over to him, but they had already been transported away.

After the war John McKenzie settled in the State of Georgia near the present town of Sparta, where he became a member of the General Assembly, a member of the Commission on Peace, and Judge of County Court. He was commissioned a colonel in the militia and was thereafter know as Colonel McKenzie. From a declaration made by his wife, Martha (Patsy) Bonner McKenzie, we learn that she and John married in Washington County, Georgia, December 20, 1792. She was 17 and he ws 35. The census records show that she too was born in Virginia (January 8, 1775, thus she was only one year old when John joined the army.) In 1816 or 1817 they moved from Georgia to Maury County, Tennessee and in about 1828 they moved to Carroll County.

In his declaration John McKenzie stated that while he was in the army he met Benjamin Gilbert, who was also a soldier. After the war Benjamin Gilbert married John's sister Emily McKenzie in Virginia and the Gilberts settled in the same area in Georgia as the McKenzies. Later both families resettled in Carroll County, Tennessee, the Gilberts arriving first, in the early 1820's.

Fifty years after the war, in 1832, John McKenzie, then 75 years old, applied for a pension and Benjamin Gilbert testified for him in Carroll County Court. The pension of Forty Dollars a month was approved and appears to have been paid for the remaining 10 years of John McKenzie's life until his death in 1842. Martha survived him and she applied for and was granted a widow's pension. The pension records show that in 1843 three sons were living: Jeremiah H. (born 1793); Alexander A. (born 1799); and James M. who stated he was "the youngest son".

A newspaper obituary in 1842 stated that John McKenzie's Masonic funeral was to be "preached at Caledonia", but no mention was made of the place of burial. Later a marker was placed in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in McKenzie, Tennessee. The town of McKenzie, formerly called Dundas, is named for a member of John's family.

A reading of John McKenzie's long declaration will attest to his courage, uprightness, and devotion to the cause he so strongly believed in.


NOTES FROM Hazel McKenzie:

Captain John McKenzie was captured by the British and cruelly beaten and dropped on staked bayonets until death being so near, he gave the Masonic distress sign and the Capt. ordered him cut down, saying if he isn't a good man now he has been.  He was my greatgrandfather.  Spoons made from money drawn from Governor(?) went as Pentrou(?).  He went to his grave with a lame arm, never being able to put on his coat without the aid of his valet, Jessee Fite.

Patsy Bonner McKenzie was born in Londondary Ireland (her father was a see merchant).  She came to New Orleans while Capt. J. McKenzie was with Jackson and married him there in the fall.

She went back to Virginia at close of Revolution and lived there till James Monroe McKenzie was about 9 years old and came to Carroll County to see Millie Gilbert who was John McKenzie's sister.

He bought McLemore Grant 212 acres of ground for Monroe McKenzie, the youngest child.


                                            submitted by Jere R Cox