Nashville’s first formally educated lawyer was James C. Napier. The Profiles of African Americans in Tennessee text has a nice write-up of his background. As I’ve been working on this blog and researching various people in Nashville history, I have kept Napier in the back of my mind to begin formally researching. I do so hoping that some of the information I provide is useful to others.
So, in light of recently being contacted by someone who may be a distant relative of JC’s, I have now begun working on the genealogy. It is located here. Of course it is still in very early stages, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for the Napier family from here on out.
One aspect I am particularly interested in about him is his grandfather. I found in some sources that his grandfather was of Scottish descent and the founder of Napier Iron Works based in Dickson County, Tennessee. Dickson county is county very close by to Nashville. With a little internet searching, I found that the founder of Napier Iron Works was a man named Dr. Elias W. Napier. Since I had already located JC’s family in the 1850 census, I knew that JC had a brother named Elias W. Well, that would make sense if their grandfather was Elias W! I also found other names in the white Elias’ family that match with names of JC’s family members; for example, Dr. Elias had a nephew named William Carroll Napier, same name as JC’s father.
Then, in using WorldVitalRecords, I found Dr. Elias W. Napier’s will. It was published in the book, Dickson County, Tennessee Will Book, Volume 2 published by Simmons Historical Publications. In the will, he frees a number of his slaves, including “Judy, my seamstress, and her five children, to wit, Fanny, William Carroll, James Monroe, Thomas Benton, and Andrew Jackson.” Looks like Judy is William Carroll Napier’s mom, thus JC’s grandmother. Other family members are also mentioned in the will. I can’t wait to dissect this a little further.