James Anderson Whiteside
Any adequate conception of
the character and accomplishments of a man who has left his mark upon the world
of men and affairs properly involves not only a general view of the man and his
activities, but something more than a passing glance at the period in which he
lived, at his ancestry, and particularly at his environment; three conditions
which exert the strongest possible influence, both upon the formation of
character, and in the presenting or the withholding of those opportunities which
determine in so great measure the man’s success in life.
James Anderson Whiteside, the subject of this monograph, was born on the first day of September, 1803, near Danville, Ky., in a region, and during a period, when all men’s opportunities were much alike, and were only those of the pioneers in a rich but still unsubjugated country.
Of his mother’s family, the Andersons, there are many worthy representatives of the name, widely scattered. His father, Jonathan, himself one of the pioneers, was a grandson of that William Whiteside, who married Elizabeth Stockton, and with her emigrated from Ireland about the year 1740, and ultimately settled in Tryon (now Rutherford) county, North Carolina.
Jonathan Whiteside and his wife, Thankful Anderson, must have been of those who followed closely in the footsteps of the great pathfinder, Daniel Boone. Of the ten children born to them, James Anderson was the fifth; and when he was ten years old the family removed from Kentucky and settled at Monroe, Overton County, Tennessee.
As a boy, this fifth son of the pioneer got his education as he could. Schools in the backwoods of Kentucky and Tennessee were few and far between in those early years of the nineteenth century; but it is related of him that he was so far advanced as a mere boy that he was able to teach others; that he did so teach a class of the neighborhood boys, who, like himself, were eager to learn. And that he early developed the sagacity and trustworthiness which were afterwards the distinguishing traits in the man of affairs is proved by the fact that, as a small boy, he was the mail carrier between Somerset, Ky., and Hilham, Tenn., a service which, in the early eighteen hundreds, asked for no little courage and fortitude on the part of a mere lad.
After the family removed to Pikeville, Tenn., a new farm had to be subdued, and thereafter the growing boy saw little of leisure, and perhaps still less of educational opportunities. Yet it is recorded of him that such scanty leisure as he could command was given to reading and study, and in those youthful and formative years the foundations were laid, upon which he was afterward able to build a sound superstructure of culture and intellectual acquirement. His mother, thinking that he would not be as successful in the farmer’s calling as he might be in one of the professions, sent him to study medicine under his brother-in-law, Doctor Cox, of Sparta, Tenn. Here, with the help of his instructor, he became a good Latin scholar, but the more he studied the theory and practice of medicine, as the theory and practice obtained in that early day, the less he liked it. He chose instead to study law, and it was in Pikeville that he was admitted to the bar, and began the practice of the profession which was his later choice.
Of his early success as a lawyer, the family records say little more than that he was a hard working young attorney, attracting attention by his faithfulness, and later by a certain gift of leadership, which, tho he was no politician, presently landed him in the State Legislature. It was in Nashville, while he was serving in the Assembly, that he met Miss Mary Jane Massengale, of Grainger County, and on February 5th, 1829, when the groom was twenty-five and the bride not yet seventeen, they were married, and began housekeeping in Pikeville, where all of James Whiteside’s five children by his first wife were born.
In the middle of the thirties, the straggling little town under the shadow of Lookout Mountain – a trading post then known as Ross’ Landing – began to attract attention. Its situation on the river, at that time the principal highway between the eastern and western portions of the State, its location at the throat of the great valley of East Tennessee, and its beautiful site in the cup of the mountains, all marked it as the beginning as a future city. This was James Whiteside’s belief, at all events; and in September, 1838, he removed with his family to the new home in the Chattanooga Valley.
Two years later, he was a leading citizen of the place. He had identified himself with the two pioneer land companies of the region, the Hargrove Land Company and the Hines Land Company, and was building the first, or one of the first two, brick houses in the town; a house which still stands as a well-preserved specimen of the honest early architecture of Chattanooga. Farther on, he became an associate in other land companies, notably in that one, which eventually gave him large holdings of what was then the forest wilderness of Lookout Mountain.
Still practicing his profession, he easily became a public spirited leader in the town which, in the year of his removal to, had been named “Chattanooga.” For public-spirited men of action there is always opportunity in a pioneer region, and James Whiteside’s first great public service to his adopted town was rendered when, almost single-handed, it is said, he secured the selection of Chattanooga as the northern terminus of the Western & Atlantic Railroad. In the light of after events, this service can hardly be overestimated. Harrison, at that time the county seat of Hamilton County, wanted the new railroad, and its builders were undetermined. History and tradition agree, in giving to James Whiteside the credit for Chattanooga’s victory over the rival town; and the coming of the railroad was the decisive fact determining which of the two towns was to be the future city.
From that time on, Mr. Whiteside interested himself more and more in railroads. He was on of the two principal projectors of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway, and was the one of the two whose diplomacy and persuasive powers made the building of the road a possibility. At the same time, the Memphis & Charleston Railroad was projected; and it was largely thru Mr. Whiteside’s influence that the city of Charleston donated $500,000 towards its building.
Identifying himself closely with the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis, first in its construction and afterwards in its management, Mr. Whiteside was also instrumental in bringing the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad to Chattanooga; and his prediction made in 1856 that the branch of the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia, then built to connect Cleveland and Chattanooga, would become a portion of a great thru trunk line has been amply verified. It was about the same time that the Wills’ Valley Railroad (now the Alabama Great Southern), was projected; and is this, too, Mr. Whiteside was interested, both as a promoter and as one of the financing directors.
It was in the early fifties that the first practicable wagon road was built from the Chattanooga Valley to the summit of Lookout Mountain. The road (now gone into disuse), is still known as the “Whiteside Pike,” and its construction was largely due to the man whose name it bears. A short time after the completion of the pike, the desirability of the mountain as a summer resort, began to be appreciated, a number of cottages were built, and in 1857, Mr. Whiteside began the erection of a hotel on the eastern brow of the mountain, directly above Lenora Spring. The “Lookout Mountain Hotel,” first of the name, was opened for the season of 1858. Four and six-horse stages ran daily between the town in the valley and the summit of the mountain; and until its destruction by fire during the Civil War, the house continued to be a popular resort.
In 1857, Mr. Whiteside, tho still retaining his home and property interests in Chattanooga and on the mountain, removed to Nashville, to assume the active management of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railroad as its vice-president. In the period of his Chattanooga residence he had been several times a member of the State Legislature, and had practiced his profession energetically. It was under the multiplied cares and responsibilities of the new duties in Nashville, that his health, never robust, began to fail; and these cares and responsibilities were greatly increase during the excitement which preceded the outbreak of the war. Very early in the first year of the conflict actual, his son James, enlisted; and in the autumn of that year, word coming that his son was sick ion Virginia, Mr. Whiteside went north to bring him home. The fatigues of the journey and the anxiety for his son brought on an illness, which terminated fatally, on November 12th, 1861.
James Anderson Whiteside died, as he had lived, a leading citizen in the best sense of that much misused phrase. Never a very strong man physically, he was temperamentally self-controlled, kindly-mannered, careful and methodical in his own affairs and in those of his clients. “One of Nature’s gentlemen,” was the descriptive phrase oftenest applied to him; and the loyalty of Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis employees to their officers, an esprit du corps which has long been the praise and envy of other railroad organizations, had its beginnings under Mr. Whiteside’s kindly and considerate management.
In politics, Mr. Whiteside was an old-line Whig, acting and voting with that party up to the time of his death. As a loyal Tennessean, he cast his vote in favor of secession, and the enlistment of his son, James, was among the earliest in Chattanooga. As a lawyer, he was one of the pioneers in a field which has since been successfully entered by many eminent attorneys; the field of the “business lawyer.” In religious belief, he was Episcopalian. He gave the land and out of his own funds built the first Episcopal church in Chattanooga, a small building on Chestnut Street, between Fourth and Fifth; and later the site of the first parish church of St. Paul’s, the lot on the corner of Chestnut and Eighth Streets, was his gift, together with a liberal money donation for its building. Careful and forehanded in many ways, in many others he was lavishly liberal. It is a well-known fact that he gave the entire tract now known as Cameron Hill in the city of Chattanooga, to the artist Cameron, the sole condition of the gift being that Cameron make Chattanooga his permanent home.
Mr. Whiteside married twice. His first wife was Mary Jane Massengale, as noted above. By her he had five children, John B., Penelope P., Anderson, Foster, and Thankful Anderson. Mary Massengale died April 12th, 1843; and February 1st, 1844, married Harriet Lenora Straw, by whom he had nine children, James L., Florence, Helen (Mrs. R. L. Watkins), Ann Newell, Vernon, Hugh and Charles have died. His second wife survived him many years, becoming in her turn one of the best known of the Chattanooga pioneers.
Standard History of Chattanooga, Tennessee Chas. D. McGuffey 1911