Tennessee Avents

Numerous branches of the Avent family tree can be found in TN, and it would be impossible to trace them all, or to sort out the ancestry of all the Avent families that now live there. Here is a brief listing of some of the earlier Avent emigrations to TN. (Much of this is speculative on the webmaster’s part, so please feel free to correct him if you find any mistakes.)


From "Hardeman Co., TN, Historical Sketches", by the Hardeman County Historical Commission, 1979.


“Peter Avent was born in VA about 1781. Peter and Sarah Avent joined the adventurous group who left VA, lived for a while in NC and moved later to TN. They arrived in Hardeman Co. during the 1830's. Ten children were born to Peter and Sarah; Jane married James Vickers, Rebecca married Alexander McDaniel, Mary married N.B. Lallier, Lucinda married a Marshall , Martha married a Moody, Eliza married John H. Gates, John called Jack, Drewry married Susan Gates, James married Frances A. "Fannie" Wells, and Peter Augustus married Margaret Traylor. Peter died in April, 1857, and Sarah died before 1870. It is assumed that they are buried in the Avent-Marshall cemetery.


James Avent, son of Peter and Sarah, was born in NC in 1816. He was living in Hardeman Co with his parents in 1850. He married Frances A. Wells of Tippah Co., MS and lived in MS until after the Civil War, when he returned to Hardeman Co. His home was near Hickory Valley and remains in the Avent family to the present day. He and his wife are believed to be buried in the Avent-Marshall cemetery. They were the parents of 5 children: Lucy, Robert J., Cleophus A., Bennie Fenton, Walter H.”


This Peter Avent was likely the son of John Avent and Elizabeth Grizzard, of Greensville  Co., VA. As we see in John Avent’s will:


Greensville Co., VA, Wills, Vol 3, Page 191:



Son Peter Avent-1 negro Mingo

James Avent-1 negro boy slave named George which he carried with him to the state of Tennessee in March 1820



This John Avent was the son of John Avent (1706-1755) and wife Margaret (later Solomon) of Sussex Co., VA, who was the son of Col. Thomas Avent.


As is evident from John’s will, Peter had a brother named James who also moved to TN, in 1820.  James was the progenitor of many interesting and prominent Tennesseans.


He was born ca. 1788 in Greensville Co., VA, and it is thought that he married his cousin Mary "Polly" Avent, daughter of William Avent and Sarah "Sally" Ward of Nash County, N C.. As seen above, he moved to TN in 1820 and appears to have lived in Davidson, Rutherford and Hardeman counties. There is one reference stating that he is buried in Limestone Co., AL, which was the home of his sister, Elizabeth Woodruff Walton:


Walton Family Cemetery Limestone County , Alabama


James Avent born Jan 09, 1788 died Sept 15, 1866

Mary Avent [wife of James] born July 23, 1787 died Sept 04, 1830.


Whether or not this is the same James Avent, there was a James Avent, born in VA in 1788, living in Rutherford Co., TN in 1850 with wife Martha, born in GA in 1808. Martha is clearly not the first wife of James since they also have a child living with them, Washington Avent, who was born in 1820, so this does not conflict with what we know of James Avent, son of John Avent and Elizabeth Grizzard.


It should be pointed out here that the genealogy given here of James Avent and his family, and the TN Avents in general, is based mainly on census records, which are often unclear and can be deceptive, so this information should not be seen as beyond contradiction.


It appears that James and Polly had at least three children:


Benjamin Ward Avent, b. ca. 1812 

James Monroe Avent, b. ca. 1816 

Washington Avent, b. ca. 1820 


Benjamin Ward Avent was born in Greensville Co., VA in 1812. Benjamin lived in Rutherford Co., TN and was a physician and the Surgeon-General of the Army of Tennessee during the War Between the States. See the page “Avents in American Wars” for more information about him.


That this Benjamin Ward Avent was related to Mary (Polly) Avent seems likely due to the fact that Mary (Polly), daughter of William Avent and Sally Ward of Aventon, NC, had a brother named Benjamin Ward Avent, so Mary (Polly), wife of James, might easily have named a son the same.


James Monroe Avent was born in Greensville Co., VA in 1816 and became an attorney and judge in Murfreesboro , TN , and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from Tennessee in 1860. From “The Goodspeed History of Rutherford County ”, originally published in 1886:


“James Monroe Avent, a prominent and wealthy attorney of Murfreesboro, Tenn. , was born December 10, 1816, in Greensville County, Va. His parents, James and Mary Avent, were natives, respectively, of Virginia and North Carolina , and removed from the father's native State to Alabama, from whence they came to this State and county in 1830. They resided here until 1856, when they removed to Hardeman County, Tenn., where the elder Avent died in 1868.


James M. Avent's boyhood's days were spent on the farm and in the schools, differing from the experience of many lads of his day, insomuch that his education was superior to that of the ordinary youth. He secured a good literary education at the Clinton College, in Smith County, Tenn. At the age of twenty-one he had decided to make the law his profession for life, and entered the office of Charles Ready, of this city, with whom he read law until he was admitted to the Rutherford County bar in 1840. He then engaged in the practice here, rapidly growing in reputation and character as a lawyer, and was for many years a partner of the late ex-Chancellor B. L. Ridley. Mr. Avent is now the senior member of a well-known law firm of Avent, Smith, & Avent, and it may be justly said that he has contributed largely to the success and high standing of this firm at the Rutherford County bar.


February 27, 1837, Mr. Avent married Mary W., the daughter of the late Maj. John W. Childress, of this county. The result of this union has been five children, the following four now living: Frank, James M., Bettie B., and Sarah W. Mr. Avent is a Democrat of the old "Jacksonian school," and has always been an active and zealous worker for his party, but never aspired to office. He has frequently been appointed judge pro tem of our courts, and discharged the duties of this highly responsible position in a manner that indicated his superior qualities as a jurist. He is a prominent member of the Masonic fraternity, and has been identified with all public and private enterprises that were calculated to promote the prosperity of the city and county. He was one of the organizers of the Stone's River Creamery Company, of which he is now president. Himself and wife have been life-long members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and he is justly and universally reocognized as one among the leading and successful citizens of our county, a lawyer of fine judgment and ability and a consistent Christian gentlemen.”


James Monroe and Mary Avent’s child Frank Avent, born 7 Mar 1858, went on to make a name for himself in the legal profession, as did his father. From “A History of Tennessee and Tennesseans : the leaders and representative men in commerce, industry and modern activities”, by Will T. Hale. ( Chicago : Lewis Pub. Co. , 1913):


“FRANK AVENT. As secretary and commissioner Mr. Avent has been identified with the work of the Tennessee State Railroad Commission for fourteen years, and probably there is not a man in the state better informed on the technical, legal and commercial details of Tennessee's transportation system than Frank Avent.


In 1906 he was elected to fill an unexpired term of two years in the commission, and in 1908 was elected to the full term of six years, representing the middle division of Tennessee . In 1899 he began his service as secretary of the commission, which he continued until his election as one of the members. During these years the work of railroad commissions throughout the country have been vitalized into one of the most important services of the state government, and Mr. Avent has taken a creditable and useful-part in promoting the better relations between the public and the transportation companies, but probably more important still in laying the foundations and precedents upon which the work of succeeding commissions will long be based.


Mr. Avent was born in Murfreesboro on the 7th of March, 1858, a son of James M. and Mary Williams (Childress) Avent. The father, who was a son of James Avent, a Virginian and a pioneer settler at Murfreesboro , was born near Petersburg, Virginia, and died at Murfreesboro in 1895, his active career being spent as a lawyer for more than fifty years. The mother was born at Murfreesboro and was a daughter of Maj. John W. Childress.


Reared on a farm, Mr. Frank Avent began his education in private schools, after which he took a special course for two years in Vanderbilt University, and in 1880 was graduated in law from the Cumberland University at Lebanon. He was engaged in practice at Murfreesboro for six years, and has been a resident of Nashville since 1898. He was elected to the legislature in 1886, and in 1894 declined a second nomination. Mr. Avent is a Democrat, his fraternities are the Knights of Pythias and Odd Fellows, and he is a member of the Methodist church South. He was married in 1891 to Miss Mayna Treanor, of Nashville, and they have two children, Mary and James M.”


Frank Avent’s wife Mayna Treanor (1865 - 1959) was a nationally known artist whose work is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institute's National Portrait Gallery. She used as her studio an old log cabin (built ca. 1845) located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  In 1993 the National Park Service approved the request of the Tennessee Historical Commission that the Avent Cabin be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been preserved by the state of TN and is now open to the public.


The third son of James and Polly Avent was Washington D. Avent, born in Greensville Co., VA on 15 Mar 1819-25.  He was married to Nannie P. McKinnie (6 Apr 1829-27 Jan 1886) on 19 Nov 1855.  Washington Avent and his wife are both buried in the David McKinnie Family Cemetery in Hardeman Co., TN. "Hardeman County, Tennessee: Family History", by the Hardeman Co. Historical Society, page 18, has this to say about Washington Avent:


"It is said that Washington Avent, a Mount Comfort resident, was the first merchant in the new Hickory Valley. He built an impressive home facing the railroad and adjacent to his mercantile business. He and his son James Monroe Avent played a prominent role in Hickory Valley history during the last half of the 19th century.


James Monroe Avent, planter and sportsman, was born near Hickory Valley. He is a legend to thousands of men and women who go afield with bird dogs or with hounds. For more than half a century his dogs were consistent winners at the Grand Junction Field Trials. He was the first star dog handler in America."


James Monroe Avent was born in 1859 and lived in Hardeman Co., TN.. This James Monroe Avent (there are several) was nicknamed "the Fox of Hickory Valley”, and was described as follows in the March 3, 1930 issue of Time Magazine:


"Most celebrated of contemporary handlers is James Monroe Avent, 70, a shrewd and tight-lipped Tennessee squire who has never been known to play poker with his competitors after a day in the field, who never divulges information as to good quail country which he knows more thoroughly than anyone else."


Here he is with National Champion dog "Momoney":



His home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. From the Tennessee Historical Commission Website:


"James Monroe Avent (1860-1936), along with Hobart Ames, was responsible for establishing the National Bird Dog Championship in Hardeman County. The bird dog trials continue to be held annually at the Ames Plantation in Grand Junction. Avent’s house in Hickory Valley was listed in the National Register on April 25, 2001, because of his role in starting and promoting the bird dog trials. Both Avent and some of the dogs he trained were notable enough to be placed in the Field Trial Hall of Fame. The house is also significant because it is a fine example of the popular Queen Anne style. A variety of sawn and turned woodwork embellishes the house."


He and his wife, Emma Graves, are buried in Grand Junction Cemetery, Hardeman Co., TN. Their tombstones read:


Avent, Emma Graves 1868-1950 wife of James Monroe Avent

Avent, James Monroe 1859-1936 husband of Emma Graves Avent.


Two other early Avent emigrants to TN were brothers Amos and Abner Avent,  sons of Thomas Avent and wife Rebecca Stephens, of Nash Co., NC (Thomas Avent/Rebecca Stephens  => William Avent/Sarah Massie => Col. Thomas Avent/Elizabeth). Abner was born in 1777 and Amos in 1775, and when their father died in 1781 they were left orphans, and raised by other family members.


They moved to TN around 1815. It appears that Amos was married to Matilda Rogers and that they had around 13 children, many of whom moved to MS. 


Amos may have crossed paths with Davy Crockett in the Carroll Co., TN, court. From the Court Minutes of Carroll Co., TN, 1822

"Ordered by the Court that Wm. Lightfoot, ... Amos Avin...,  David Crockett... be appointed as jurors to the worshipfull Co. Court to be held on 2nd Monday in March next at the county seat of said Co."  


And from 1823:


"David Crockett came into open court and made oathe to the killing of 2 wolves.. This day came Sion Rodgers Sheriff of Carroll Co. & returned his venira facias and the following (to wit) Stokely H. Enoch…Amos Avin… out of which the following Gentlemen were chose as grand jurors (to wit) Stokely H. Enouch…."


"Amos Aven", age 69, born in NC, shows up on the 1850 Henderson Co., TN census with wife Matilda and son Green. He cannot be located on the 1860 census so it is assumed he died 1850-60. One reference states without sources that he died 1855.


Abner’s wife was named Mary (maiden name possibly ‘Ward’) and they had at least eight children. He died 1822 in Smith Co. TN.  In his will he names his wife Mary and children Polly Evans, Rebekey Fite, Benjamin, Nancy, Elizabeth, Peggy, Thomas. He also mentions a Patsey Anderson, to whom he left $2.00 (another daughter?). In his will Abner left everything to wife Mary "provided she kept his children together and behaved herself in a respectable manner and if not, after one year everything (was) to be sold and equally divided among the children….”