Hon. Thomas Christopher Muse was born in Pittsylvania county, Virginia, January 23, 1834. When he was only five or six years old his father moved to Henderson county. Tennessee, where he grew up. When sixteen, he clerked on the Tennessee river in the commission business one year. His father, Daniel U. Muse, a farmer, was a native of Pittsylvania county, Virginia, exceedingly fluid of politics, a Henry Clay Whig, and when dying, January, 1865, left an injunction that his children should all be educated — a wish which was carried out. He came to Tennessee with one child and one negro, and notwithstanding losses by the war, left an estate of thirteen thousand dollars, besides his lauds. After his death his widow "broke up," moved to Jackson, and there died in 1878, at the age of fifty-eight. She was originally Eliza, daughter of Isaac Stone, of Virginia. She was a lady remarkable fur her fine management, economy and domestic ((Utilities, and her devotion to husband, children and servants. The clothing for her entire family she had wade at borne.
His father trusted almost entirely to his memory in his transactions with his neighbors, though he could keep books. After his death many of his neighbors came to his administrator and paid several hundred dollars of which there was no account in writing. He was a remarkably healthy man, his last sickness being his first. His grandfather, William Muse, was a Virginian, of Scotch-Irish blood. One of his sons, James Muse, was a man of fine literary attainments; located near Lexington, Kentucky; taught a private school; made a fine fortune by simulating in lauds, moved near Lexington, Missouri; remained there several years as a teacher, and also as n minister of the Christian church; from there he moved to Collins county, Texas, and died. He was an eloquent man, and distinguished as a leader in his church wherever he resided.
Of his brothers: (1) Dr. John A. Muse resides at Pinion, Madison county, Tennessee, engaged in the practice of his profession. (2) Henry Muse, who was educated at Ann Arbor, Michigan, and West Point New York, resigned his position after remaining two years at West Point, is now farming in Johnson county Texas. (3) William A. Muse is principal of the public school at Rutherford station. Gibson county, Tennessee. (4) Kitheridge Muse was educated at the Southwestern Baptist University. and is now merchandising at Jack's creek, Henderson county, TN. (5) James D. Muse, graduated June, 1884, from the Southwestern Baptist University, Of his sisters, Jennie K., widow of Milton S. Edwards, is postmistress at Lexington, Tennessee. Callie A. is the wife of Ed McCollum a merchant at Henderson station, Chester county, Tennessee. She was educated at the Conference Female Institute, Jackson. Ida, the youngest sister, educated at the same school, is living, unmarried, with her sister at Lexington,
The subject of this sketch was educated at Clinton Academy, Hickman county, Kentucky, and graduated in law at the Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee, in 1855; practiced law at Lexington, Tennessee, till the war; after which he moved to Jackson, Tennessee, continuing his law practice.
In 1874, he made a canvass for Congress against Hon. J. D. C. Atkins, but was defeated, one of the issues in the canvass being the civil rights bill, on which he took the same view precisely that the Supreme court of the United States has lately laid down, via.: That all men are equal before the law, and that negroes must obtain their rights through the same channels with the white race. In that canvass also he took ground for a tariff for revenue, with incidental protection.
He became a Mason at Jackson, Tennessee, in 1870, and has taken all the degrees, including Knight Templar.
In religion, he inclines to the Methodist church, but is not a communicant. His first wife was a Methodist. The present Mrs. Muse is a Presbyterian. He married first in Madison county, in 1855, Elizabeth, daughter of William R. Collier, of that county, a native of North Carolina, a prominent citizen of the county, and a large farmer. Her mother was a Robinson, of a North Carolina family, grand-daughter of Battle Robinson, a large slave-holder, who moved from North Carolina to Madison county, where be died. From this marriage were two children: (1) William C. born March, 1860, graduated at the Southwestern Baptist University, Jackson, now on the editorial staff of the Louisville Courier-Journal. (2) Albert D., born February, 1867, now studying in the Southwestern Baptist University, taking a full course, as did his brother.
Mrs. Elizabeth Muse dying, he married at Paducah, June 6, 1872, Mrs. Theresa, widow of Capt. Charles C. Smedley, daughter of Mr. Edrington, who, for a great number of years, was clerk of the county court of Ballard county, Kentucky. She is a step-daughter of Hon. John W. Crockett, at one time member of the Confederate Congress from Kentucky. Her mother was a Robertson, of Kentucky. Her daughter, Fannie Smedley, married Charles C. Harris, a druggist at Jackson, and has two children, William and Charles. Mrs. Muse is a lady of fine literary attainments, well read in poetry, a good French scholar, and is noted for her tireless industry, family pride and ambition, especially for the success of her step-sons.
In February, 1861, Mr. Muse was elected from Henderson county to the convention to consider whether the State should remain in the Union. The convention was voted down, Mr. Muse advocating "No convention." His father being a Whig and an uncompromising Union man, he inherited those principles, and was a Union man during the war, and on that account was arrested, in 1862, by the Confederate authorities and held a prisoner at New Orleans until Gen. Butler took the city, and released him. He then took a sailing vessel, and after twenty-eight days, landed at Boston, went to New York, and thence, via Louisville, home, which he reached duly, 1862, finding the country in possession of the Federals. When the Confederates regained possession, he was again arrested, in 1803, but the citizens of Lexington, Henderson county, interfered and procured his release, at the instance of his wife, who claimed that in reciprocity she was entitled to her husband's release, she having favored several distinguished Confederates. She went further, and assured the Confederates that, if her husband was taken off, she would have Lexington burned, including her own house, which argument prevailed. On his release, he took his wife and child to Paducah, where he remained two years, until about the close of the war.
In 1865, he was elected from the Twenty-first senatorial district—Henderson, Decatur, Humphreys, Perry and Benton counties — to the State senate, in which he voted for universal suffrage, and against the issuance of State bonds, under Brownlow's administration, for the purpose of rebuilding and re-equipping the railroads of the State, that had been neglected and worn out during the war. In 1867 he was appointed by Gov. Brownlow, chancellor of the division composed of Haywood, Dyer, Gibson and Madison counties. In 1868 he was elected to the same position and held it till the change of the constitution, in 1876, when he was defeated by Hon. James Fentress, of Bolivar. In 1868, he was elector for the eighth congressional district, and voted for Grant and Colfax. The same year he was chairman of the Republican executive committed of that district. In 1876, he was a delegate to the national Republican convention at Cincinnati, and in 1880, to the national Republican convention at Chicago. In 1880 he was a candidate for the United State senate, but was defeated by Hon. H. E. Jsckson, and returned to his home and was sent to the State senate, taking the position that all men should be held equal before the law, and that no man, white or black, should be disfranchised. Re was elected, in 1882, judge of the common law and chancery court of the Democratic county of Madison, which position he now occupies. His term expires September, 1886.
Judge Muse, "the oldest of the nine Muses," is, in every-sense, a self-made man, socially, professionally, politically and officially, baring received little or no assistance from relatives or partial friends. He is one of the exceptions to the rule that Republicans are ostracized socially, as his last election as judge sufficiently evinces. All the family, from the father to the youngest son, were uncompromising Union men during the war, and are all Republicans since, a remarkable record for so largo n family, and illustrative of that loyalty to conviction that all men respect as one of the chief elements of genuine manhood. His decisions as chancellor and common law judge have been, almost without exception, sustained by the Supreme court. His reputation for impartiality on the bench has never been questioned. His first ambition in life was to acquire a good education, even while assisting as foreman on his father's farm. His motto has been to do correctly whatever he had to do. He chose the profession of the law, and devoted himself assiduously to learn all the elementary principles of it, and was not ambitious to be other than a lawyer till after the war, when ho went into politics in the interests of the country, as he understood and had them at heart. His father gave him one thousand one hundred dollars after he quit school, and though too kind to his friends by going their security, he is now in very comfortable circumstances. He was never drunk in his life; his chief ambition was to be an examplar for others. From the day he was twenty-one, till now, he has uniformly had some business in hand and plenty to do. He never broke a promise, never did injustice to a fellow man, and never knowingly told an untruth. The world is always full of work for men of this stamp, for such qualities with confidence, and surround a man with troops of friends from the best and most influential classes of society.
Sketches of Prominent Tennessee and Tennesseans by William S. Speer 1888
Sources: Memphis Commercial Appeal, Dec. 1, 1892; Speer, Prominent Tennesseans, 320-21; Goodspeed, History of Madison County, 807; Willliams, Historic Madison, 233, 526; Miller, Official Manual, 184, 186, 191; Richardson, Tennessee Templars, 161; Madison County Tombstone Inscriptions, 23.