Confederate Officer and Chancery Judge
Birth: January 10, 1843 in Lincoln County Tennessee
Death: Dec. 15, 1919 Shelbyville, Bedford County, Tennessee
Before the dawn of the American Civil War, Tennessee was deeply divided. Tennessee voted down secession at the outbreak of the movement. Shelbyville, Tennessee, in particular, was referred to as “Little Boston” for it’s anti secession sentiment. Like many, once a state resolved it’s direction, the oath of many civilians followed the allegiance to their state.
Walter was the son of Benjamin Franklin and Susan Blake Bearden, wed in 1841. He was descended from Thomas Bearden and his wife Abigale Hammock in Spartanburg, S.C. He was married to Marguerette C. Whiteside in 1874. They were sometimes referred to as W.S. and Maggie. He was Chancery Judge. He was said to have kept a Bible with records of the Bearden family history.
CAPTAIN WALTER SCOTT BEARDEN
This ripe scholar, successful lawyer, ex-soldier, and popular gentleman, was born in Petersburg, Lincoln county, Tennessee, January 10, 1844. As a child he was fond of study, was an apt scholar, and by the time he was twelve or thirteen years of age was in the leading classes in mathematics and the classics in the academy he attended. At fifteen he began to assist in teaching, always choosing the advanced classes, and began to support himself before there was a hair upon his face. Since fifteen years of age he has cost no man a cent. At sixteen, he carried a class through Davies’ Bourdon (algebra), having himself solved every problem in it. He had mastered the curriculum in the schools near his home before he was old enough to go to college, and continued to assist in giving instruction till the fall of 1860, when he entered Emory and Henry College, Virginia, and remained till the following spring, when the college closed on account of the war. He returned after the war (1865-66).
From his earliest years he has been a great reader and studied with keen interest a great variety of misccllancous works. Often he and his brother would lie in bed at night and read until 2 o’clock. In this way he acquired a valuable stock of information on many subjects, besides cultivating facility of expression and becoming familiar with the language of standard writers. Returning to Tennessee in the spring of 1861, he taught a country school near Petersburg a few months.
He next assisted in raising a company for the Confederate service – Company E, Forty-first Tennessee regiment – and was made second lieutenant, although not quite eighteen years old. At the battle of Fort Donelson he was captured with his regiment and imprisoned several months at Camp Chase and Johnson’s Island. After the exchange and reorganization of his regiment he was elected first-lieutenant, and during the last two years of the war was captain of his company. He saw war in all its vicissitudes – cavalry fights, infantry fights and fights with gunboats – the field, the march, the camp and the prison. He was in the campaign around Vicksburg, during which his regiment formed a part of Gregg’s famous brigade, and went through one of the toughest campaigns endured by any body of troops during the struggle. He was in the Dalton and Atlanta campaign from New Hope church to Jonesborough, during which time his company suffered severely, and Captain Bearden was three times wounded. He was at Peachtree Creek, Georgia, on July 20, 1864; on the right of Atlanta in the same month, and at Jonesborough, Georgia, August 31,1864, where he received a severe wound in the thigh, which disabled him and put him on crutches for the rest of the war (family legend has it that he was shot in the upper thigh, he was presumed beyond survival. A young nurse from Shelbyville, Tennessee attended to his wounds, saving his life. They married in 1874). After the Jonesborough battle he went to Aberdeen, Mississippi, and there remained till the surrender.
During the latter part of the war Captain Bearden organized a body of men and protected the cotton in a large section of the country from persons who were trying to get it away before the arrival of the Federal troops, who expecting to find it would probably have laid waste the country if disappointed in what they regarded as war booty. Hearing that the planters would be held accountable for all of the cotton that ought to be in that region, Capt. Bearden and the men whom he drew around him, protected it until the arrival of the Federals and thus saved many plantations from pillage and destruction. At the close of the war he went to Meridian, Mississippi, to get his parole, and was pressed into service by the Federal commander to assist in preparing paroles, and made them out for nearly five thousand Confederate soldiers. His twin brother, Edwin R. Bearden, who was a lieutenant in his company, and had commanded it at Chickamauga (Brotherton Farm), where he was severely wounded, was with him on this occasion, and was also pressed into the same service of paroling Confederates.
Captain Bearden returned to Petersburg, Tennessee, after the war was over, and being in very poor health took to doing all sorts of hard work, such as cutting and hauling wood, in hope of restoring his health. In the later part of 1866, he moved to Shelbyville and assisted Maj. Randolph in Dixon Academy several months, teaching a part of each day and spending the rest of his time reading law in the office of Samuel Whitthorne, Esq. Early in 1867 he was admitted to the bar by Judge Henry Cooper and Chancellor Steele, and at once began practice in partnership with Mr. Whitthorne, continuing with him a little more than a year, since which time he has practiced alone, always doing a large business and leading a very active life.
Previous to the war all of Captain Bearden’s political predilections were in favor of the Whig party; in later years he has been a Democrat, but never an “offensive partisan.” He has been chairman of the Bedford county Democratic executive committee, has presided at numerous political meetings and attended various conventions, but while taking a lively interest in politics, and freely expressing his opinions on whatever questions came up, he has steadily refused to become a candidate for any office whatever, though often solicited to do so.
Captain Bearden became a Mason in Mississippi during the war, and was made a Royal Arch Mason, under a special dispensation from the grand Masonic bodies of Mississippi, about one month after he was twenty-one years old. He became High Priest of Tannehill Chapter, No. 40, R. A. M., at Shelbyville, about 1870, and: held the position for ten years. He became a Knight Templar in Murfreesborough Commandery, No. 10, in 1877, and attended the Triennial Conclave of the order at Chicago in 1880. He has taken a great interest in Masonry, and has collected many rare and valuable books on that subject.
Captain Bearden has at different times taken a considerable part in newspaper work, and during 1870 and 1871, wrote for the Nashville Banner over the nom de plume (pen name) of “To Date,” and contributed a column or more each week, which formed a complete history of Bedford county during those years. He also took a warm interest in newspaper work in his own town, and though not officially connected with any of the papers, assisted greatly in establishing the Shelbyville Commercial, and wrote for it about one year during its infancy. He has always been esteemed a ready, pointed and effective writer.
He has been interested actively in fire insurance (his son Walter, Jr. would found National Life & Accident Insurance, founder of WSM Radio and the Grand Ole Opry) for a number of years, representing the Liverpool, London and Globe, the Home, of New York, the Phoenix, of Hartford, and for a while the old Franklin, of Philadelphia, as well as numerous other companies, and has done a large business for them in his part of the State. He has been attorney for the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis railroad for several years. He was one of the promoters of the Sylvan mills, near Shelbyville, and has been a director in the company since its organzation; is also a director of the Charter mills at Wartrace.
Capt. Bearden’s father, Dr. B. F. Bearden, a native of South Carolina, came to Tennessee in his youth. He was a man of great breadth of mind, a leader in his profession, a thinker, and a man of learning, but withal very modest. He died in 1870. All of the Beardens in this country are related, and are supposed to be descended from the early French settlers of South Carolina. As a family they have been remarkable for their sound, practical, common sense. Capt. Bearden’s mother was Miss S. M. Blake, of Lincoln county, a lady of Scotch blood, and a sister of Rev. Dr. T. C. Blake, of Nashville.
Capt. Bearden married in February, 1874, Miss Maggie C. Whiteside, daughter of Thomas C. Whiteside, a well-known lawyer of Shelbyville. Her mother was Miss Robinson, of Winchester, Tennessee. To this union have been born two sons and three daughters.
Capt. Bearden has been a member of the Presbyterian church about twelve years.
He began life with nothing in the way of capital, but with a good education, backed by industry and energy, punctual attention to business and an earnest desire to succeed. He always strikes while the iron is at welding heat. His methodical arrangement of his business, as well as his information on a great variety of subjects, has contributed largely to his success. Every paper is kept in its proper place, every stray bit of information is carefully noted down. He has ever striven to check litigation. Conservative in disposition, he aims to get the rights of his clients and then stop the case, and loves justice for its own sake. But whenever there are hard blows to be given, whenever wrong-doing is to be crushed, he goes in to deal sledge hammer blows. Striving to do justice to all men, he never changes his clients according to what they are worth, but for the value of his services and no more.
He is now said to be a candidate for the chancellorship of the Fourth chancery division of Tennessee, at the next judicial election.
From: Sketches of Prominent Tennesseans: Containing Biographies and Records of Many of the Families who Have Attained Prominence in Tennessee
“Judge Walter Scott Bearden, eminent jurist of Tennessee, died at his home in Shelbyville on December 15, after an illness of several months. at the time of his death Judge Bearden was Chancellor of the Fifth Division of the State, and previous to his election to this office he had been judge of the Chancery court of the Fourth Division since 1886, making a total service on the chancery bench of thirty-three years.”
Judge Bearden was a native of Petersburg, Lincoln County, Tenn., where he was born on January 10, 1843, the son of Benjamin Franklin and Susan Margaret Blake Bearden. He received his education at Emory and Henry College, which he left before graduation to enter the Confederate army, in which he served with distinction, becoming a captain in 1864.
In 1874 Judge Bearden was married to Miss Margaret Cooper Whiteside, who proceeded in him in death. He is survived by two sons and two daughters.
He was a prominent Mason, being a Knight Templar and a member of the Scottish Rite, holding membership in the Murfreesboro and Nashville Lodges. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church and a man held in the highest esteem throughout the scenes of his long and honorable judicial service.
SOURCE; Confederate Veteran Magazine, January,1920 Courtesy of David Lacy
In 1900, the household included: W.S. and Maggie, son: Ed W. age 25, his wife Juliet, age 20, their 4 month son, Edwin R., Daughters: Mary H. age 20, and Sue age 16 son: Walter S. age 18 and James F. Whiteside, age 46, druggist, most likely related to Maggie. The undertaker F. R. Bearden determined the cause of death to be abdominal aortic aneurism with myocardarditis.