"Tennessee Trails" through Bedford County

Bedford County TN Biographies

Derrell J. Hart
1818 - 1876

Residence of Derrell J. Hart still standing in 1974

Derrel J. was the fourth son and ninth child of Henry and Nancy (Rainey) Hart. A number of family members believe that his full name was derrel Jesse Hart, while others point out that in all legal papers and records he is listed as Derrel, D.J., or Derrel J. To support the latter contention, Derrel had a brother named Jesse G. Hart born ca 1821 in Tennessee and was married in 1848 to Lucinder Frier in White County, Illinois. As most of the children of Henry and Nancy Hart went to Illinois in the early and mid 1850's it appears that Jesse G. also went there. In fact, as far as can be determined Derrel J. was the only one of the children of Henry and Nancy who remained in Middle Tennessee throughout his lifetime. It is possible that Derrel's middle name was Jesse, but not probable.

Derrel J. Hart and his family were active in the Mt. Hermon Baptist Church. His wife Rachel, joined the church in July 1840. Derrel J. was received into the church by experience and baptism in September 1842. In July 1847 he wsa elected a deacon and was ordained in October 1847. He was appointed church clerk in September 1848 and served in that capacity until 1865. The records reveal that Derrel was selected a delegate to the Duck River Baptist Association a total of nine times beginning June 1848 and through July 1876. Rachel was a member of the church for over 76 years.

Derrel and Rachel are found in the 1840 22nd District, Bedford County Tennessee Census with one child, a female, under age five. In 1850 Derrel is listed with Rachel, Rebecca 11, Mary 9, James 7, Samuel 5, and Henry 2. In 1860 the census shows four additional children, William, Jesse, Martha and John. All children are living at home except Rebecca C., who has married Timothy Brown and is believed to be living in Lincoln County, Tennessee, at the time, and Mary C., who had married Richard Mullins and is living in the same area. This is a total of 9 children, on child died in infancy.

On January 1, 1851 Derrel purchased a tract of land consisting of 35 acres, 125 poles for $347.95 This land was in the 22nd District of Bedford County on the waters of Big Flat creek and joined by lands owned by William Boon and Henry Hart. On October 9, 1854 Derrel purchased 80 acres from his father, and on December 26, 1857 he purchased another tract of 140 acres from Mr. Boon. Executors (probably executors for the estate of Mr. Boon.) Unfortunately, there are no copies in the courthouse of these two deeds, but they are listed there in a book titled "Index to Burn Records". No other records were found that Derrel J. acquired other property.

Derrel Hart was crippled with rheumatism for several years before he died. He suffered considerably and at time, was not able to get around. During one of these difficult times, he was sitting on his front porch. It was during the Civil War, and Union soldier were in the area. Derrel's older boys had gone across the hill to the store at Dean (now New Hermon), and only Derrel, his wife, and the younger children were at home.

A group of Union soldiers came up the road, carrying with them a wounded man. They stopped at Derrel's home and asked for material for bandages. Apparently, they were not satisfied with the material given them, because they went into the house, pulled out dresser drawers, etc., scattering things as they went and taking everything they wanted. Derrel probably complained and tried to stop them. However, they took what they wanted, hit him on the head with a steel handgun, and left him lying, bleeding on the floor. As they went up the hill and were just out of sight, the older boys arrived home from the store. On learning what happened, they quickly took their guns and went after the Union soldiers. They came within sight of them at the top of the hill. Shots were exchanged, but no one was hurt, and the Union men escaped.

According to a family story told to Mary Hart, wife of Henry Hart who is the son of Jeff Hart, a grandson of Derrel J., he died due to a rattlesnake which did not bite him. She says that her father-in-law, Jeff Hart, told her that Derrel was in the woods near him homecutting firewood. During this time he came upon a rattlesnake which struck or jumped at him coming very close, and spit its venom into his face. When Derrel did not arrive home at the expected time, his chidlren went looking for him and found him lying on the ground near the pile of wood. As they carried him home he told them of the snake and insisted that it did not bite him. An examination of his body revealed no evidence of snake bite. Nevertheless he became very sick and soon died, apparently from the poison of the venom spit into his face. He died October 9, 1876 and is buried beside Rachel in the old part of the Mt. Hermon Church Cemetery. He was only 58 years old.

Authors Note: According to snake experts a poisonous snake does not have to bite if in some way the venom can come in contact with an open sore such as in this case a chapped lip or a sore in the mouth.

Rachel Morris Hart lived 38 years after the death of Derrel. She apparently remained in the old homeplace which still stands (1974) in a cool hollow on Sam Hart Road in Bedford County, Tennessee. According to Walter Scott Hart and his sister Katie Frank (Hart) Carlock, grandchildren of Derrel J. and Rachel by their son, Henry K., they remember visiting her there in their childhood. On a visit to the old house in the recent past, Katie Frank remembered the old house and that her Uncle John, Rachel's youngest son, lived there with his mother until her death. He occupied the front bedroom on the right of the front entrance. He was John M., called "one-eyed John" Hart, and he did not marry until after the death of his mother and he was 60 years old in 1919.

Probably due to his untimely death, Derrel J., did not leave a will and it was necessary for the Bedford County Courts to appoint an administrator to settle his estate. The oldest son, James Wilkes Hart, was bonded and appointed on November 6, 1876 as shown on Page 493, Minute Book E. The first order of business was to provide a year's support for Rachel while the estate was being settled. After that, the matter of dower rights of Rachel to the real estate amounting to 262 acres and 62 poles was settled in her favor in September 1877. The remainder of the estate was disposed of and the proceeds were equally divided on November 6, 1879 among ten heirs, including Rachel.

The birthdates of the Derrel J. Hart family are taken from a letter written by his son, Jesse F. Hart, dated August 27, 1919 to Henry K.Hart, a brother. Apparently Jesse F., being a Baptist minister, held the family Bible and Henry K. had asked him for this information. Ironically, Henry K. never livd to read this letter as it was postmarked August 27, 1919, the date of his death. This letter is in the possession of Katie Frank Carlock, grandaughter of Derrel J. and daughter of Henry K. Hart.
Transcribed and contributed by Christine Walters April 11, 2006
Source: The Hart Book by Charles Gerton Hart 1974

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