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Francis W. Headman's "My Mother's Research of the Sevier Family"

Identifier: MS-1140

  • Staff Only

This typed manuscript records Francis W. Headman's speech given about his mother’s research on the Sevier Family during the 13th Sevier Family Reunion in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, on June 20, 1981. Headman describes his mother, Mary Hoss Headman, who began genealogical research on the Sevier family when she was a teenager, taking up genealogical research again when she was 40, and continuing until her death at age 82. He mentions the sources Mary Hoss Headman consulted, such as interviews with her father, the great-grandson of Gov. John Sevier; Governor Sevier’s grandchildren; and family Bibles and government documents. Headman then delves into his mother’s genealogical findings on Gov. John Sevier, such as information on Sevier’s French ancestry through his father, Valentine. Many of the biographical points made in Headman’s speech come from his grandfather's speech given at a previous Sevier family reunion.


  • 1981 June 20

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0.1 Linear Feet (1 folder)


Francis W. Headman's My Mother's Research of the Sevier Family discusses genealogy researcher (and Francis's mother) Mary Hoss Headman's findings on Tennessee Governor John Sevier. Francis Headman gave this speech during a Sevier Family Reunion held in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in 1981, 25 years after his mother’s death. The Knoxville attorney, linked to John Sevier through his maternal grandfather, describes Sevier’s life as a pioneer and the first governor of Tennessee.

Biographical/Historical Note

Francis William Headman was born on January 6, 1910 to Mary Sevier Hoss Headman (1874-1956) and John McCurdy Headman (1875-1939). He had one sister, Embree Hoss Headman. Headman graduated from the University of Tennessee with a law degree. He was a member of Kappa Alpha and had served on the Orange and White newspaper staff and the Volunteer yearbook staff in 1931. Headman practiced law in Knoxville from the mid-1930s up to the 1980s. He died on February 14, 1992 in Knoxville.

Like his genealogy researcher mother, Headman became interested in studying his family’s history, especially his ancestral link to Tennessee Governor John Sevier on his maternal grandfather’s side. He also studied Tennessee history, collecting rare books and materials related to the state. One of the books in his collection, a Cherokee spelling book printed in 1819 by Knoxville publishers F. S. Heiskell and Hugh Brown, resides in the University of Tennessee Special Collections and is only one of three copies known to exist.

John Sevier was an early American soldier and statesman. As a soldier he fought some thirty-five battles or skirmishes, including the controversial Battle of Kings Mountain. His political career started as a representative to the Provincial Congress during the Revolutionary War. He helped organize the State of Franklin, which collapsed after a battle between his faction and the opposing Tipton Family faction in February 1788. This battle tarnished his reputation and, after his arrest for taking part in a brawl in 1788, he fled to hide in the mountains. His made his way back to political respectability by strongly supporting the ratification of the national Constitution. In 1789 he was pardoned upon election to the North Carolina Senate. Also in 1789, Sevier was elected to Congress for the 1789-1791 term as the representative of North Carolina's Western district.

With the cession of western lands to the Federal government, Sevier became active in the politics of the new territory by serving in the Territory's legislative council. With statehood in 1796, Sevier became the first governor of Tennessee. He served three consecutive terms in office (1796-1801) and returned to the position two years later for three more terms (1803-1809). In 1809, he was elected to the state Senate and in 1811 he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives. Here he served until he died in 1815 while on a mission to survey the boundary of the Indian peace treaty.


This material is in one folder.

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