By Old Uncle Gib
While strolling down the Old Stage Coach Road, otherwise known as Old Rockwood Highway or East First Street, I noticed tape around the Major Benjamin Bentley house, known as Bentley Mansion. Years ago this was the largest building in the county, a showplace used as an inn and hotel. Could the house have had puncheon or whipsaw floors, I wondered. Surely its timber was from right within Cumberland County, and milled in one of the old local saw mills.
This set me to thinking about the Bentley family in Crossville and Cumberland County. Benjamin Bentley was born in Pennsylvania, April 6, 1796, and moved to Tennessee prior to 1850, with his wife, Mary Stewart Bentley.
Bentley was known as an “operator,” who owned a large plat of land. The Land Grants from the 1830 Tennessee land grant program, numbers 4976 and 4977, included 4,447 acres. Bentley purchased the land from Geo. W. Miller at 20cents per acre, and ended up in a lawsuit with him in 1858, that was settled by the state supreme court.
Capt. Jim Lowe is quoted from one of his Landmark articles in the Chronicle, “Benjamin Bentley named the town of Crossville, which means, 'A Village at the Crossing.' The Latin word, 'villa' means a nice, little house, and from this the word village comes, which means a collection of homes.” Bentley surveyed the land, laid out the 'Town Plat,' and was one of the first town commissioners.”
There is a note in another Chronicle that Chris A. Ford, first county surveyor, had done a survey of the city. He found that he had left a link out of his chain by mistake and did the survey again. There was little difference in his first and second survey, but the second was considered more exact.
Mary Stewart Bentley died March 30, 1853, in Cumberland County, and was buried on the Bentley property. This was probably in the section now known as the Cry Cemetery, located in the overgrown area to the west of the Head Start office on Old Rockwood Hwy.
See next Friday's Chronicle for more on Maj. Bentley.
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Old Uncle Gib is a weekly historical feature published each Friday. Old Uncle Gib is a pseudonym that was used by S.C. Bishop, who founded the Chronicle in 1886. Bishop actively published the Chronicle until 1948.