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Long-lost McGavock Civil War Diary Returned to Tennessee

Press release from the Tennessee Secretary of State; August 19, 2014:

The long-lost diary of a prominent Nashvillian has been returned to Tennessee by a California woman. Andrea Shearn, a retired science teacher, found the diary while helping her parents move into an assisted living facility.

Shearn found the diary in a wooden box on a closet shelf in Cincinnati, where her grandmother had evidently put it in 1963. Neither Shearn nor her parents realized it was there.

Examining the diary, Shearn learned that it had belonged to R.W. McGavock, a Confederate officer with beautiful handwriting. Under McGavock’s name was written: “Captured at Ft. Henry Stewart Co. Middle Tennessee Feb 6th 1862 by Capt. M Wemple Co H 4th Ill Vol Cav Presented to Ms. Lue Wemple.”

Delving into her own genealogy, Shearn discovered that Capt. Myndert Wemple of Illinois was her ancestor. He evidently found the diary after McGavock and his troops evacuated Fort Henry in a battle that was a disaster for the Confederates. Wemple’s descendants preserved the diary and handed it down through the family for the next 100 years, until it disappeared into that closet in Cincinnati.

Shearn transcribed the diary, becoming ever more interested in the writer and his experiences. She was surprised to learn that Randal McGavock was a Harvard-educated lawyer who was elected mayor of Nashville at the age of 32. He was a lieutenant colonel of the 10th Tennessee Regiment of the Confederate Army.

Shearn got in touch with State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill.

“This nice lady from California called and said, ‘I wonder if anyone in Tennessee would be interested in this diary,’” Sherrill recalls. “When she told me it was Randal McGavock’s diary, my first thought was to fly to California and get it before it disappeared again.”

Sherrill and others at the State Library and Archives had long been aware of Randal McGavock and his diaries, as eight volumes of his diary have been housed at there since 1960.

“We had this great set of diaries, but the volume from the beginning of the Civil War was missing,” he said.

Shearn eventually flew to Nashville to visit Two Rivers Mansion, Carnton and other sites associated with Randal McGavock and his family. She and her husband brought the diary with them and generously donated it to the archives.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett said: “We are extremely grateful to Andrea Shearn for returning this diary to Tennessee. I know that scholars and McGavock descendants will enjoy the opportunity to read it and fill in the blanks in this soldier’s history.”

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Press Releases

TSLA to Hold Workshop on Researching TN Supreme Court Records

Press release from the Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett; July 31, 2014:

Among the vast amount of information available at the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA), Tennessee Supreme Court records make up by far the largest single collection. With individual case files that sometimes include hundreds of pages and stretch over several generations, the entire collection takes up most of an entire floor of TSLA’s building.

These records are packed full of valuable information for genealogists and other researchers. And during the next session of TSLA’s free workshop series, State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill will provide tips on navigating through those files.

The workshop will be held from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. August 23 in TSLA’s building, which is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the State Capitol building in downtown Nashville.

“Every county in the state has sent cases to the Supreme Court on appeal,” Mr. Sherrill said. “In some cases, the local records have been lost or destroyed. That means the Supreme Court records are sometimes the only ones still available. The cases cover every aspect of life in old Tennessee, ranging from land disputes to horse stealing, and from moonshining to murder.”

Mr. Sherrill has 30 years of experience as a librarian, archivist and genealogist, and has written more than 20 books on various historical topics. He has served as state librarian and archivist since 2010.

Although the workshop is free, reservations are required due to limited seating in TSLA’s auditorium. To make a reservation, call (615) 741-2764 or e-mail workshop.tsla@tn.gov

Free parking is available in front, beside and behind the TSLA building.