Goldens of McMinn, Tennessee – circa 1836 to 1870

Golding / Golden / Goulding et al Family History on Facebook

Updated 2017.04.02

McMinn, Tennessee holds a special interest for me.

My gg-grandfather Nathaniel Green Golden lived there in his middle years (1860-1870) after moving his family from Pickens, South Carolina. A number of his children were born in McMinn: Nathaniel Green “Green” Golden Jr (1862–1933) and John Hambright “Henry” Golden (1866–1937).

>>>>> McMinn County in 1860 was considered a haven to Unionist South Carolinians. In the referendum of June 8th 1861, the vote was 904 for secession and 1,144 against in  McMinn County. Nathaniel Green Golden’s son Private Marcus Golden would join the Unionist Tennessee 12th Cavalry Regiment in spring of 1864, dying in October 1864 due to wounds received from the September 1864 Pulaski campaign. Marcus Golden was not alone. Some 35,000 eastern Tennesseans joined to fight as Unionists.

>>>>> John Hambright Golden‘s name often is recorded as including “Sterling” as part of it. The McMinn Hambrights were also former South Carolinians. Captain John Hardin Hambright had fought at King’s Mountain during the Revolution. His son was Major Sterling Hambright, a pro-Unionist Tennessean from McMinn that served in Company A, Tennessee 10th Cavalry Regiment (Union). His other son Private John Hambright served in the Tennessee 5th Cavalry Regiment (Union).

Note: Many military records call these regiments Mounted Infantry  instead of Cavalry.

Tennessee Secessionist Vote

Per the 1870 census, Nathaniel Green Golden lived in District 9, Athens, McMinn County … although his name is recorded as “Samuel”. All other members of the family by his first wife Arzela are listed: Arzela (age 44), Eliza (20), Mary (18), Elizabeth (17), Richard (15), Joseph (12), Martha (10), Green Jr (9), and John (4 … my g-grandfather).

Am very interested in any records or histories of McMinn County for the 1870s. Please contact me at

Jacob Golden and Family

Goldens had lived in McMinn since possibly the mid-1830s.

The Jacob “Choske or Choste” Golden family originated in Henry County, Virginia which sits not too far from the Tennessee line. Jacob Sr died in Henry County in 1779 and Jacob Jr was born there in 1780. Yes, the years of father’s death and son’s birth seem odd, but that is another story.

>>>>> Based upon YDNA, there is no relationship between the Jacob Golden and Nathaniel Green Golden families.

By 1820 Jacob Jr was living in Grainger County, Tennessee, where he married Elsie Elizabeth Starr. By 1840 he was already living in McMinn County per the census.

Folks in the undated photo below are listed as only “Goldens”. The photo itself is from the Jacob Choske Jr family history.

Golden - Jacob Choske Jr
“Goldens”, undated
Photo from rickmead_1 (

The flag on the Golden’s front porch provides a clue as to when this photo was taken: the flag’s stars are arranged in a circle of eight stars with one center star and a star in each corner, for a total of 13 stars.

This design is known as the 1876 (Philadelphia) Centennial flag celebrating America’s 100th birthday.

1876 Centennial Flag

Jacob Choske Golden, Jr., appears in both the 1840 census (age 60) and 1850 census (age 70) in McMinn County, Tennessee.

At some time after 1850 he moved to Racine, Newton, Missouri where he lived with his son Caswell Golden, passing away in 1855 at Newton, Missouri. Jacob’s wife Elsie Elizabeth Starr supposedly passed away in 1837. Some family histories listed Elsie as dying in 1865 in Missouri, which is where her father moved when he left Tennessee.

Cherokees and the Trail of Tears

There is a claim that Elsie died in 1837 on the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma, during the removal of Cherokees in 1837/1838.

Disagreement exists among family historians as to whether Elsie  died in Tennessee or Arkansas or Missouri. Her father was George Starr and he supposedly lived until 1855 in Missouri after leaving Tennessee.

>>>>> Starr Family lore is that the Starrs were Cherokees and that Elsie spoke only Cherokee (per George Starr, 2001); which should mean that Jacob Golden spoke Cherokee as well.

Arkansas is en route to Oklahoma. Most unfortunately it is indeed the case that the U.S. government and specifically the state governments colluded to round up and to expel anyone with a native American bloodline to prevent there being any future claim to the land. I cannot imagine that a 56-57 year old woman would be taken away for being native American due to her bloodline when her many children were also not taken away — inasmuch as they had the same bloodline as their mother.

Gold had been discovered in Georgia in 1829 near to the Tennessee line on “Indian lands”. The following year, 1830, Congress was petitioned to expel all native Americans from Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. A few years prior, some small amount of gold was also found in 1825 in the Charlotte, North Carolina area — preceded by an earlier gold rush in North Carolina back in 1799 when a 17 pound gold nugget was found.

The Cherokee fought back through the court system AND WON their case in 1832. One of their biggest supporters was a Congressman by the name of Davey Crockett. Crockett argued (1834, see letter below) that if the Cherokees had to be removed because they were on land that white settlers wanted then white Tennessee settlers should be removed because they were on land that Georgia gold hunters wanted.

Davey Crockett letter

Davey Crockett was so furious with President Jackson’s campaign against the Cherokee that he threatened that if it appeared that Jackson’s VP Martin Van Buren would win in 1836 then he would leave the USA and go to ‘the wilds of Texas’. Van Buren was the favored candidate to win and Crockett didn’t wait for the election to carry through on his threat, dying in 1836 in Texas at the Alamo.

As for the Cherokee’s court victory to protect their lands and families, it was a shortlived win which was undermined when a small group of Cherokee agreed to an 1835 treaty to relocate — signed in the name of all Cherokee. Many in Congress saw this as a sham agreement, the treaty passed in the Senate by just one vote. This drama also played itself out in McMinn County, Tennessee when one Cherokee leader killed another for signing the agreement.

So About Elsie Starr Golden

While the rumor about Elsie may be true that she spoke only Cherokee and died on the Trail of Tears, there is no evidence that I know of. Her death year is often listed as 1837 and it appears that eastern Tennessee Cherokees were not round up until 1838, so … am not sure that anyone really knows what happened to Elsie.

You are welcome to add to or to correct this story by contacting: Bill Golden,


2013.09.30 – Noted that several family histories listed Elsie as dying in 1865 in Missouri rather than in 1837.