James Nugent

Fugitive from Ireland

Edward and Mary (Gawron/Gawnon) Nugent were the parents of four sons, Patrick, John, Francis, and James, and two daughters, Mary and Nancy, both spinsters.  The family lived at the lodge of Sir Percy Nugent at Donone, being gatekeepers, not relatives of Sir Percy.

These traditional notes came from two sons of James Nugent's youngest child, Elizabeth (Nugent) Moore, 1808-1889, who moved toGreencastle,IN.  Additional information and copies of abstracts were made in 1950 by John Bennett Moyers, and copied in 1964 by the present writer.

Ancient Irish history states that the ancestors of the Nugents came toIreland at the period of the Anglo-Norman invasion at the end of the 12th century.  At that time, the name was deNogent, after their place of origin inFrance.  InIreland, they established themselves in the counties of Meath and Westmeath with their principal stronghold in the barony of Delvin,County Westmeath.  From their earliest places of settlement, they spread northwards intoUlster and southwards intoMunster where one branch made its home near Carringaline inCounty Cork, so that today the name is widespread.

But moving from the 1100s to the 1700s, we return to the family of Edward Nugent.  Patrick, son of Edward, was killed in one of the uprisings against the English.  Son James ran away and came toAmerica when 16 or 18.  A grandson said that James was almost caught firing a rifle by the gamekeeper and ran away lest he be arrested as a poacher. His mother learned that he was leaving and followed him to the wharf, saw him as the ship set sail, but was too late to stop him.

James probably landed atNewcastle and then came up theValley ofVirginia.

James Nugent was born about 1775 in the Parish of Mulligar Co.,Westmeath, Ireland.  He married Mary Jenkins in Botetourt Co., VA in 1797.  She was of Welsh descent, born in Shenandoah Co., VA.  A Presbyterian, she had left home because of trouble with a stepmother.  James was Catholic, but after his marriage left the church.  Some place, probably in Virginia, he learned to be a millwright. Allegedly he was red-haired, pock-marked, and addicted to the bottle.

James and Mary (Jenkins) Nugent had arrived in Hawkins Co., TN, by 1809, where James purchased land near the mouth of Caney Creek onHolston River.  He farmed and built mills.  He died in 1819 having, practically on his deathbed, returned to the Catholic fold.

James' sister Nancy Nugent had followed him to Tennessee and probably influenced this return to Catholicism.  At any rate, Nancy and James' children became estranged and embroiled in lawsuits. James and Mary had six children:

·        Edward (who later removed toMissouri);

·        Jane who intermarried with Grief B. Huntsman (who died prior to 1861), Hawkins Co.,

·        Nancy who intermarried with surname Nutty and removed toIllinois (Nutty deceased prior to 1861);

·        Elizabeth, who intermarried with Thomas A. Moore, and removed toIndiana (Moore deceased prior to 1861);

·        James, deceased prior to 1861, father of:


                a. James Nugent,

                b. Harriet Nugent and

                c. Elen Nugent, all ofHawkins County,TN;


  • Mary who intermarried with Briant Davis, both of whom deceased prior to 1861, who were the parents of:

                a. Samuel Davis (Hawkins Co., TN);

                b. Warren Davis (Illinois);

                c. John Davis (Madison Co., KY);

                d. William Davis (Calloway Co., MO);

                e. James Davis (Madison Co., KY);

                f. Elizabeth Davis;

                g. Susan Davis who intermarried with surnameJohnston (Tennessee); and

                h. Matilda Davis who intermarried with John W. Legg (Hawkins Co., Tennessee).

NOTE:  In a second list of these children, George Davis of Tennessee is substituted for Elizabeth, and the siblings are named in the following order:

                a. Susan Johnston,

                b. Matilda Legg,

                c. Samuel,

                d. George,


                f. William,

                g. John, and

                h. James.

Source:  Hawkins County,Tennessee, Chancery Court, #132, Edward Nugent and others vs. Samuel Powel, executor of the Estate of Nancy Nugent, deceased, and others, filed 23 APR 1861.

James died during the winter of 1818-1819.  Prior to his death, he had made his last will and testament which, for some reason, disinherited his wife and children, leaving all of his estate to his sister Nancy. ApparentlyNancy sold the land and invested the resulting $3,000 to $3,500 in private securities for herself.  After her death in 1859, the old woman left a will inHawkins County in which she again disinherited the children of her brother James, leaving her small estate to Irish relatives.

It is appropriate to interject here that this Nancy Nugent was quite a character in the Tennessee Rogersville community. She was "written up" in the Presbyterian Witness in 1859 after her death.  She was described as an ardent Catholic in an overwhelmingly Protestant community.  She apparently showed great charity for other religious sects when the members were not her own family.  She moved from household to household in later years, staying with community people as a guest for weeks or months.  A woman of very limited education, antiquated and exceedingly "outre" in her style of dress and, occasionally given of that infirmity for which so many of her countrymen are celebrated, and of an avaricious disposition, the article, said, she was nevertheless almost always a welcome guest.

But back to brother James and family.  The Civil War interrupted the settlement ofNancy's estate, but papers connected with it are numerous.

A niece inIreland, named Mary Nugent, was the eventual heir and this Mary at her death willed her interest back to the "Nugents of America."

But the "Nugents of America" were already in court.  The children of James Nugent and Briant and Mary (Nugent) Davis had sued.

We are most interested in daughter Mary Mathilda Nugent who married Briant Davis ofHawkins County,TN.

Mary Mathilda Nugent Davis

We really know nothing of Briant and Mary (Nugent) Davis other than the names of their children contained in the court records pertaining to the disposition of the Nugent estate above. The record indicates that both Briant and Mary died prior to 1861.

According to descendants, Mary's brother Edward Nugent married a Cherokee girl named Anastasia Everett in 1825 and later moved toMissouri "during the trail of tears time".  Edward was disowned in his aunt's will because of this indiscretion.  It is very possible that another sibling -- i.e. our Mary -- may have also married a Cherokee, Briant Davis.  But we have no proof whatsoever.

We have searched for record of Briant throughoutTennessee, finding one Bryant E. Davis in 1830 and another in 1850.  Neither is of the right age or place to be the husband of Mary Nugent.

We do know that Briant and Mary Davis’ son George Washington Davis married Diana Gulley in 1854.  By 1861 George and Diana had removed toSouthern Illinois with Diana’s parents.   Some say the families were predominantly of Cherokee descent.

Here ends the family of Robert Lee Anderson.  What of the heritage of his wife Dolores?

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