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Special Collections Online at UT

Some Themes in the Early Life of William G. Brownlow

Identifier: MS-0561

  • Staff Only

This collection consists of a senior thesis on William G. Brownlow originally submitted to the history department of Princeton University by Gordon Bonnyman, Jr. Bonnyman is the great, great grandson of Brownlow. The thesis discusses Brownlow's early life, career as a circuit rider, and some themes to 1860.


  • 1969


The material in this collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite, and a minimum of 2 business days are needed to retrieve these items for use. Researchers interested in consulting any of the collections are advised to contact Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in this collection remain with the creator. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library.


0.1 Linear Feet


This collection consists of a senior thesis on William G. Brownlow originally submitted to the history department of Princeton University.

Biographical/Historical Note

William Gannaway Brownlow was born August 29, 1805 in Wytheville, Virginia to Joseph and Catherine (Gannaway) Brownlow, and was orphaned at the age of 11. In 1825, having tried his hand at farming and carpentry, he had a religious experience at a camp meeting and entered into a career as a circuit riding minister in the Holston Conference. Parson Brownlow married Eliza O'Brien on September 11, 1836, and settled down to work for her father in the family iron mill at Elizabethton. After being approached by members of the local Whig Party to edit their failing newspaper, the Republican and Manufacturer's Record, Parson Brownlow became -- because of his wit, venom, and violent rhetoric -- one the most noted or notorious journalists in American history. He moved to Knoxville and changed the name of his newspaper to Brownlow's Whig, which he used during the Civil War to publish his strong Unionist views.

After the War, Parson Brownlow and fellow East Tennessee Unionists formed a state government with Brownlow as governor. Publicly, as governor, his attitude was one of unremitting revenge upon the Confederates, though privately his attitude was charitable and forgiving toward individuals. Brownlow was elected in 1868 to the Senate, where, due to his extreme weakness born of years of illness, he made little mark. After his service in the Senate, Brownlow returned to East Tennessee where he died on April 28, 1877.

Acquisition Note

This collection was donated to Special Collections in 1970.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA