John Donelson

John Donelson (1718–1785) was an American frontiersman, ironmaster, politician, city planner, and explorer, who, along with James Robertson, co-founded the frontier settlement of Fort Nashborough, in Middle Tennessee, which would later become the city of Nashville, Tennessee. Donelson was also the father-in-law of future United States president, Andrew Jackson, who married his daughter, Rachel.

John Donelson
Died1785 (aged 6667)
Occupationfrontiersman, ironmaster, politician, city planner, explorer
Spouse(s)Rachel Stockley Donelson
ChildrenRachel Jackson, Jane Donelson Hays, Mary Donelson Caffery
RelativesAndrew Jackson (son-in-law)
Daniel Smith Donelson
John Donelson Martin


Donelson served in the Virginia House of Burgesses before moving to the Watauga settlements on the Holston and Watauga Rivers in Washington District, North Carolina. From about 1770 to 1779, he operated the Washington Iron Furnace at Rocky Mount, Franklin County, Virginia.[2] Along with James Robertson, he co-founded Fort Nashborough, in 1780, which would eventually become Nashville, Tennessee.[1] A collection of his diaries are kept in Cleveland Hall, in Nashville.

Personal life

Donelson married Rachel [née Stockley] Donelson (1730–1801) in 1744.[1] Their daughter, Rachel Jackson, married the seventh President of the United States, Andrew Jackson.[1] His daughter Mary married Captain John Caffery and John Donelson's great-grandson, Donelson Caffery II (1835–1906) served one term as a Louisiana State Senator and served two terms as a U.S. Senator from Louisiana and was the first nominee for president of the "Democratic National Party" in 1896 but declined the nomination. Later, in 1900, he was nominated to head the presidential ticket of the "National Party" but declined that nomination as well. Donelson's great-great-great grandson, Patrick Thomson Caffery (1932–2013) served one term as a Louisiana State Representative (1964–1968) and two terms as a United States Representative, representing Louisiana's 3rd Congressional District (1969–1973) before retiring from Congress to resume the practice of law. He was voted Outstanding Freshman Congressman of the 91st Congress by NBC News, and along with Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota, delivered the Democratic Party response to President Nixon's State of the Union Address in 1970.

Death and legacy

Donelson was shot and killed on the banks of the Barren River in 1785, en route to Mansker's Station after a business trip.[3]

Donelson, Tennessee was named in his honor.

See also

  • Cherokee–American wars
  • Sycamore Shoals
  • Mary Donelson daughter of Captain John Donelson III and Mary Purnell; Mary Donelson was the paternal niece of Rachel Donelson Jackson and wife of General John Coffee
  • Andrew Jackson Donelson {Grandson of John Donelson and brother to Daniel Smith Donelson)
  • General Daniel Smith Donelson CSA {Grandson of John Donelson and nephew of Andrew Jackson)
  • Colonel John Donelson Martin CSA (Grandson of John Donelson}
  • Judge John Donelson Martin Sr. (grandson of Col John Donelson Martin and great-great-grandson of John Donelson}
  • U.S. Senator Donelson Caffery II (great-grandson of John Donelson and son of Donelson Caffery I, agent of Andrew Jackson)
  • U.S. Representative Patrick Caffery (son of Ralph Earl Caffery, grandson of U.S. Senator Donelson Caffery II and great-great-great grandson of John Donelson)
  • Captain John Caffery, (son-in-law of John Donelson, Agent of Andrew Jackson, Sheriff of Bedford County VA., whose daughter Mary Caffery married Andrew Jackson portraitist Ralph Earl and is buried at the Hermitage.)


  • Crabb, Alfred Leland (1957). Journey to Nashville: A Story of the Founding. New York: Bobbs-Merrill.

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