Barney Campbell’s Descendants in the 1872 Chancery Court Suit – 52 Ancestors #414

Cousin Sherri, who is related to the Campbells, found a newspaper notification in the Knoxville Weekly Chronicle dating from July 24, 1872, and it clearly has to do with the Claiborne County, TN Campbell line.

Them’s my people!

So down the rabbit hole I went!!!

Who are these people? How are they connected together?  What is this all about?

Why Do I Care?

Why might an 1872 Chancery Court suit be important? My Campbell ancestors, John Campbell and his daughter, Elizabeth Campbell, were long dead by then, so why would I care what was happening 30+ years later?

Well, it’s complicated.

First, we don’t know much about the father of the two men, John and George Campbell, who settled in Claiborne County around the time the county was formed in 1801. They are believed to be brothers, both sons of Charles Campbell, but we lack definitive proof.

Second, we don’t know who the father of Charles Campbell is, but we have Y-DNA hints, and we’ve been chipping away at this brick wall for decades now. You just never know when and where that desperately needed tidbit is going to drop. Property and arguments over property are generational and often reach significantly back in time.

Third, Jacob Dobkins’ two daughters, Jenny Dobkins and Elizabeth Dobkins married John and George Campbell, respectively. Then, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren intermarried. All was NOT quiet on the homefront. In fact, these families seemed to be wracked with one scandal after another. Thank goodness, because those court records make them much more human, and often, it’s all we know about the family. Not to mention buried and not-so-buried hints.

Fourth, Jacob Dobkins was quite controversial. Jacob was a Revolutionary War soldier who bought a ton of land in Claiborne County, 1400 acres to be precise, apparently to keep his family together instead of his sons and son-in-laws moving off to claim land someplace else. Jacob was buried on the old home place, which wound up in the possession of his grandson, Barney Campbell, who himself is surrounded in mystery.

As it turned out, Jacob’s will was hidden and there was a huge brouhaha and resulting lawsuit over all that, complete with soap-opera-worthy drama and first-person details. I didn’t discover that Supreme Court case until this time last year when another cousin notified me. So old Jacob Dobkins still continues to surprise me, as do his family members. That one was juicy, too, and went all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1853, which is the only reason we found it.

Fifth, Barney Campbell himself. This man – Lord Have Mercy. He was Elizabeth Dobkins’ first-born child. There was debate for decades about whether he was born to Elizabeth before she married George Campbell, or after. And, based on that and other anomalies, whether or not Barney was fathered by George Campbell or someone else. The fact that George’s other children were mentioned by name in his will, but Barney was not, fueled that flame.

The story from WITHIN Barney’s line as told by a descendant:

My grandmother, Sally, died (in 1951) when I was about 10. I heard the story of Barney from her many times growing up…Barney was a Dobkins, his mother was Elizabeth, and he took the Campbell name when Elizabeth married George Campbell.

To explain that and probably to rescue Elizabeth’s reputation, another story emerged in a different child’s line – that George and Elizabeth had found an abandoned baby boy whose parents had been killed in Indian raids and raised him as their own. This, of course, removed the tongue-clucking about long-deceased Elizabeth’s morals. Tisk. Tisk.

Initially, based on DNA results, it looked like the answer was that Barney’s father was “someone else,” but his mother was Elizabeth Dobkins based on his descendants’ autosomal matches. Then, the results from the descendant of a second son of Barney tested and matched the Campbell line. Of course, we can’t go back in time to figure out what REALLY happened. Given those circumstances, I found it odd that Barney, of all the grandchildren, eventually would wind up owning his grandfather, Jacob Dobkins’ farm – especially after the accusations surrounding Jacob Dobkins’ will – yet he did.

I need about four Bingo cards to keep track of all of this.

To add to that suspense, someone else who lived in Claiborne County told me years ago that one of their relatives in Barney’s line started researching this family decades earlier, found something, tore everything up, and stopped searching. They wouldn’t tell anyone what they found and said no one needed to know. There’s clearly SOMETHING there, a story begging to be told.

What was it?

Where did they find that information?

Were the destroyed papers the originals?

Is this the key to that big secret?


I transcribed the article so I could work with the names of the plaintiffs and defendants. It was quite helpful that the suit told us where the defendants lived. I used my own research plus Joe Payne’s website here, which isn’t always correct, but Joe obtained the information from the old-timers in Claiborne County. In other words, the stories haven’t been sifted through the Ancestry filter hundreds of times and “stretched.”

Joseph Lanham and Levi Brooks vs

Residents in Claiborne County:

    • Benjamin Campbell
    • Eldridge Campbell
    • D. Campbell
    • John Campbell
    • Elizabeth Jennings
    • Mary Walker
    • David Campbell
    • Abraham Campbell
    • Alexander Campbell
    • Emily Brooks
    • Louisa Lewis
    • Abraham Lewis
    • Eliza Shumate
    • Daniel Shumate
    • Isaac Campbell
    • Mary Campbell
    • Benjamin Campbell
    • Margaret Campbell
    • George Campbell
    • Nancy Campbell
    • Reuben Kesterson

Non-residents of Tn:

    • Arthur L. Campbell
    • Newton J. Campbell
    • Andrew Campbell
    • Eldrige Campbell

Residents of Union County, TN:

    • Lucy Walker
    • John Walker

Resident of Hancock County:

    • Robert Campbell

Resident of Grainger County:

    • James Campbell

In this cause it appearing from the allegations in the bill filed, which is sworn to, that Arthur L. Campbell, Newton J. Campbell, Andrew Campbell, and Eldridge Campbell are non-residents of the state as aforesaid, so that the ordinary process of law cannot be served on them. It is therefore ordered that publication be made for 4 successive weeks in the Knoxville Chronicle notifying said non-resident defendants to appear before the Chancellor at a Chancery Court to be holden at the courthouse in Tazewell, TN on the second Monday in October 1872, then and there to make defense to complainants said bill, or the same will be taken as confessed and set for hearing ex parte to them.

July 16, 1972

Note that the second Monday of 1872 was October 13.

Who are these people? How are they related to each other? Who are the plaintiffs, and why do they have an interest in whatever the complaint is. And what is the complaint that they are suing over?

I have to know, so down that rabbit hole I leaped. I sure hope there’s a big fat rabbit down there!

Who Are These People?

Of course, the Campbell family, like all Southern families, named children after ancestors, other family members, and so forth. That means there are a bazillion Johns, Georges and Williams, etc. Many are about the same age in the same county. They need to take numbers.

“Hello, I’m John Campbell #372; pleased to meet you.”

The first thing I did was to try to sift out who these people’s parents were. I was actually HOPING that they would be a mix of the descendants of John Campbell and George Campbell, which meant they had a common interest, might link back to their fathers and confirm that they were brothers, or even give hints a generation further back.

Multiple people are listed with the same name, so I had to figure out which person was being referenced.

Also, who are the plaintiffs, and what is their interest?

I created a table and listed every defendant in the suit, the location as given in the suit, then their parents and birth year, if known, along with any commentary. By the way, Barney Campbell had two wives, but that doesn’t matter in this suit, so I’ve only listed him as the parent.

Name 1872 Location Birth/Spouse Parents Comment
Arthur L. Campbell Outside TN Born circa 1842 Barney Campbell
*Newton J. Campbell Outside TN Born 1845, died 1911 in Claiborne, m Lucy Williams 1885 Barney Campbell In 1870, he was living in Pleasant Grove, Kansas, but had moved back to Claiborne Co. by 1885 when he married.
Andrew Campbell Outside TN Born c 1842 Barney Campbell In 1870, Andrew is living with his brother Newton with the Nelson Lanham family in Kansas.
Eldridge Campbell Outside TN B 1827, died > 1880 Claiborne, m 1845 Emeline Hazelwood Barney Campbell Probably this guy, but check his death location since he is reported to have died in Claiborne.
Lucy Walker Union Co., TN B c 1834 m John Walker 1850 Claiborne Barney Campbell
John Walker Union Co., TN Husband of Lucinda (Lucy) Campbell
Robert Campbell Hancock Co., TN B 1845, d 1914 Pennington Gap, VA, m Sarah Thomas George Campbell (son of Barney) & Nancy Eastridge Probably this guy – Robert S. Campbell
James Campbell Grainger Co., TN Probably James C., son of George d 1864, son of Barney
Benjamin Campbell


Claiborne Co., TN B 1820 d 1882 Claiborne m Eliza “Louisa” Eastridge Barney Campbell
Eldridge Campbell (second listing) Claiborne Co., TN Uncertain. The only other Eldridge I show is the son of Jacob Campbell, son of John Campbell.
T. D. Campbell (probably Toliver Dodson known as “Dock”) Claiborne Co., TN B 1835 d 1899 Claiborne m Sarah Lewis Barney Campbell
John Campbell Claiborne Co., TN Many candidates, Barney’s son b 1829 d 1900 Claiborne Barney Campbell Many John candidates
Elizabeth (Louisa) Jennings Claiborne Co., TN B 1823, m James Jennings, died aft 1866 Barney Campbell She is likely a widow
Mary Walker Claiborne Co., TN Uncertain, could be Barney’s daughter who married John Lanning and perhaps remarried?
David Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B 1841, d 1919 Claiborne m Missouri Williams Barney Campbell Middle initial either H or R
Abraham Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B 1850 d 1914 Claiborne m Nancy Williams Barney Campbell
Alexander Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B 1853 d 1923 m 2C Sallie Campbell Barney Campbell
Emily Brooks Claiborne Co., TN B 1831 d c 1887 m Levi Brooks Barney Campbell Levi Brooks is one of the plaintiffs.
Louisa Lewis Claiborne Co., TN B 1843, d 1920 m Abraham Lewis George Campbell d c 1879 & Nancy Eastridge, son of Barney
Abraham Lewis Claiborne Co., TN Husband of Louisa Campbell
Eliza Shumate


Claiborne Co., TN B 1847 d 1914, m 1866 Daniel Shumate George Campbell d c 1870, son of Barney
Daniel Shumate Claiborne Co., TN Husband of Eliza Campbell
Isaac Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B 1851 d > 1885 George Campbell d c 1879, son of Barney
Mary Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B c 1853 George Campbell d c 1879, son of Barney
Benjamin Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B c 1855 George Campbell d c 1879, son of Barney
Margaret Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B c 1860 George Campbell d c 1879, son of Barney
George Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B 1864 d 1922 Claiborne George Campbell d c 1879, son of Barney
Nancy Campbell


Claiborne Co., TN Unknown
Reuben Kesterson Claiborne Co., TN Unknown

*Newton J. Campbell was very confusing. Not only are there multiple men by that name, but the Newton under discussion moved to Kansas, then back before marrying. Before this, I’m not sure anyone realized he had ever moved away. I don’t think his brother Andrew moved back because there is almost no information about him.

Barney Campbell’s first wife was Mary Brooks with whom he had a dozen children between 1820 and 1835. She died between 1835 and 1840. His second wife was Martha Jane Kesterson (1810-1889), the daughter of David Chadwell Kesterson and Elizabeth Lanham. Note the family connection in that Newton and Arthur Campbell are living with a Lanham family in Kansas in the 1870 census.

Barney and Martha had six children that lived, and probably at least one that died, between 1840 and 1853.

Regarding the Mary Campbell who married a John Lanning, I can’t help but wonder if this is actually a misspelling of Lanham. I can’t place her.

I can’t fit Reuben Kesterson, who was ordered to appear as a defendant cleanly into this family. However, in that valley, everyone was literally related to everyone else within a couple of generations, thanks to intermarriage. In the 1870 census, Reuben’s wife was deceased, so he may well have been listed as a surviving spouse. Or, he could be George Campbell’s minor children’s guardian. Or, something else.

It’s worth noting that every one of these people that I can place is either the child of Barney Campbell, through both of his wives, or the child of Barney’s son George, who died in 1864, with the exception of the second Eldridge. There is only one other Eldridge living at that time who is not Barney’s son or grandson. Was Eldridge accidentally listed twice? Did Barney’s son George have a son Eldridge that is unknown?

Barney was born about 1797 and died sometime between 1853 and 1856. A will for Barney has not been found – which may be the predicating force behind this lawsuit.

In 1860, Levi Brooks, one of the plaintiffs, is living beside Barney’s widow with his wife, Emily Campbell, and their children.

Barney’s Children

As a sanity check, I created a table of Barney’s children and what I know about them, then bolded the abovementioned children.

Name Birth, Death Spouse Comments
Benjamin 1820-1882 Claiborne Married Eliza Louisa Eastridge Alive in 1872
George (deceased 1864, not in lawsuit but his children are) B c 1821, d 1864 in Civil War Married Nancy Eastridge Captured in Civil War
Mary E. B c 1822 d ? Married John Lanning in 1853 Uncertain. There’s also a Mary Ann Campbell.
Louisa “Eliza” (deceased, not in lawsuit) B c 1823 d c 1866 Married James Jennings in 1840 – why is he not on the list? Their daughter, Mary Jennings b 1831 married c 1870 Joseph Lanham, one of the plaintiffs
Andrew B c 1826 died ? Married Louisa “Eliza” Campbell, his 2C
Eldridge B c 1827 d after 1880 Claiborne Married Emeline Hazelwood
John B c 1829 d after 1900 Claiborne Married Mary Ann Chadwell
Mary Ann B c 1829 d 1908 Claiborne Married James Walker in 1840
Emily A. B c 1831 d 1877 Claiborne Married Levi Brooks  in 1848 Levi Brooks is a plaintiff.
Lucinda B c 1834 d > 1886 Claiborne Married John Wesley Walker in 1850
Toliver D B 1835 d 1899 Claiborne Married Sarah Lewis in 1854
Charles B c 1841, probably died in Civil War. He served and is not found after. No record of marriage 20 in 1860 census, not found in 1870 nor listed in the suit
David H. (R.) B 1842 d 1919 Claiborne Married Missouri Williams in 1874
Arthur L B c 1842 d 1904 Married Sarah Ellen Clingensmith in 1875
Newton J. B 1845 d 1911 Claiborne Married Louisa “Lucy” Williams c 1885
Abraham B 1850 d 1914 Claiborne Married Nancy Williams his 2C c 1890
Alexander B 1853 d 1923 Claiborne Married Sarah Campbell his 2C c 1880

This is beginning to make more sense.

It appears that this suit probably has to do with Barney’s estate. His second wife, Martha Jane Kesterson was living in 1872 and is not a party to this suit. She would have, by law, inherited one-third of Barney’s estate. Perhaps that portion wasn’t under debate.

In 1839, Barney was taxed for 200 acres, so he clearly had land to be divided which descended through his descendants to recent times.

The Chancery Suit

Ok, so what does the Chancery Bill filed in the Chancery Court in Tazewell have to say? That’s where the meat of this lawsuit will be revealed.

Chancery bills tell us what is alleged. In other words, let’s say that person A claims they paid person B for some land, but person B died before conveying the land, died without a will, and the heirs either didn’t know about the deal, or don’t want to recognize it. Complicating matters further, the heirs planted a crop on the land which needs to be harvested, and person A claims it’s his crop since he bought the land. Person A would file against all of the heirs in order to obtain satisfaction. A judge would have to figure out what happened, and what is equitable under the circumstances.

In most places, Chancery Court is entirely different than Circuit or Criminal Court. Disputes requiring a judge to determine a fair and equitable settlement are resolved in Chancery Court. Think about a couple’s assets in a divorce. A Criminal Court would try someone for murder or a crime that broke a state or federal government law. Civil or “regular” court would be used to collect an undisputed debt, register a will, record tax payments or “prove” a deed transfer in open court by testimony.

Additionally, a Chancery Court generally served a region, not just a county, where county courts only served that particular county.

The second Monday of 1872 was October 13 and the Claiborne County chancery notes do not appear in the regular Claiborne County court notes, although the Chancery Court bills, pleadings and minutes were recorded in the courthouse at Tazewell in Claiborne County.

I browsed the court minutes at FamilySearch and read the circuit court minutes page by page, hoping for something. Anything.

Claiborne County is one of my “home” counties, so I have just about every published resource. I don’t have those notes, but maybe I missed something. I checked every available source, just in case.

I was getting a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach because I was beginning to suspect that those records may not exist. The courthouse burned twice, once in 1863 during the Civil War, and again in 1931. Thankfully, not all records burned either time, but plenty did, including some crucial records.

The FamilySearch Catalog and FamilySearch Claiborne wiki don’t list Chancery suits or minutes at all.

Then, I found it, here.

I Found Something

No, no, I didn’t find the Chancery filing or anything else whatsoever about the suit. What I found was confirmation that those records don’t exist.


This Tennessee Secretary of State site confirms that the Claiborne Chancery Court records began in 1934. Given that divorces were heard in Chancery Court, this also explains why I could never find the divorce records between Martha Ruthy Dodson and John Y. Estes. At least this exercise was good for making sense of that.

However, all that was waiting down this rabbit hole about John and George Campbell was a laughing rabbit. But maybe not for Barney’s descendants.

Sometimes, even some information is better than no information. Just the newspaper article alone helps assemble Barney’s family.

So, now the rest is up to Barney’s descendants. Does anyone know what happened in 1872? Any juicy stories about land, Barney’s estate, or a rift in the family?

One thing we know for sure – something assuredly happened! So far, it’s still a mystery, and this newspaper filing was just a teaser.

Update 10-24-2023

Not long after this article was published, a cousin sent me the following deed from Claiborne County Deed book 12, page 598 that may pertain to the lawsuit filed in 1872. This deed was filed in 1880, so by inference, this deed, if related, would have been related to the result of that suit.

Based on the language, it would appear that Barney had given advancements to his children, but not his son George who had died before Barney. It’s worth noting that not all of the people in the suit are reflected in this deed.

Extracted as follows:

Lucinda Walker, wife of John W. Walker appeared separately…acknowledged annexed deed…signed on August 25, 1880.

Indenture entered into 10th day of March 1869 between Benjamin Campbell, Andrew Campbell, John Campbell, Eldridge Campbell, Emily A. Brooks, Loucinda Walker, T. D. Campbell, Mary Ann Walker, Louiza Jennings all of the county of Claiborne, state of Tennesee, of the first part and A. L. Campbell, David H. Campbell, Newton Campbell, Abraham Campbell, Alexander Campbell of the county aforesaid of the second part.

In consideration of that Barney Campbell had advanced to the party of the first part considerable property both parties being heirs at law of the said Barney Campbell, and that party of the first part for the consideration of their having had advancements by the said Barney Campbell their father before his death do hereby convey, sell, bargain, enfroff? and confirm into the said party of the second part all the right, title or claim to the reversionary interest in the dower of said Barny Campbell’s widow Jane Campbell her dower is the first part laid off to her out of the lands that Barney Campbell owned and lived on at the time of his death, to have and to hold to the said A. L. Campbell, David H. Campbell, Newton Campbell, Abraham Campbell and Alexander Campbell all the right that the said Benjamin Campbell, Andrew Campbell, John Campbell, Eldridge Campbell, Emily A. Brooks, T. D. Campbell and Mary Ann Walker, Loucinda Jennings has or may have in and to the dower of said Jane Campbell widow of Barney Campbell, decd, the part of the first part does hereby covenant to and with the party of the second part that they have a good right to convey their title in the lands before mentioned and that said Party of the first part will forever warrant and defend the title to the said lands as before stipulated to the party of the second part their heirs and assigns forever in fee simple.

Said party of the first part have hereunto set their hands and seals…


Jeremiah Brooks
Levi Brooks
Attest as to T. D. Campbell
Robert Campbell
John Cales
as to Mary A. Walker
D. Cardwell
J. A McGriff
as to Louiza Jennings
D. Cardwell
F. L. McVey
as to Loucinda Walker
D. C. Smith
William B. Hodges
Attest to Emily Ann Brooks
Signature Sept 10
Henly Buise
J. W. Buise

Second column:
Benjamin x-mark Campbell
Andrew x-mark Campbell
John x-mark Campbell
Eldridge x-mark Campbell
T. D. x-mark Campbell
Mary Ann x-mark Walker
Louiza x-mark Jennings
Loucinda x-mark Walker
Emily Ann x-mark Brooks

Filed in my office October 4, 1880
B. H. Campbell Registrar


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7 thoughts on “Barney Campbell’s Descendants in the 1872 Chancery Court Suit – 52 Ancestors #414

  1. I really enjoy your articles and following your logic as you think through the research. I am surprised that I have not seen a relative in common with you yet as my roots are in most all of the areas you talk about and have been since before Tennessee was a state.

  2. Hi Bobbi,
    I always love reading your articles. I think I may have found the Claiborne County TN Deed this refers to—-It’s in Book I2 p 598.

    Tom Spradling
    PS: I’ll send you a copy to your email

  3. These are my peeps as well! Abraham Lewis was my Great Grandfather. He was married to Lucy b 1842 and buried in one of 2 Campbell Cemetaries in the Bear Creek community, Louisa was married 2 times, once to Jacob Walker and then to Royal Lebow. It is possible I have some of the documents you need, I have lots of old deeds, letters and the like I have not had time to transcribe yet. Abraham and Lucy’s son Robert married one of the Kesterson descendants.

  4. Thank you so much for this article! Barney Campbell is my husband’s ggggrandfather and his father is such a mystery, based on family lore and DNA – I read this with bated breath:):)! I also enjoyed reading through the deed referenced by Tom Spalding.

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