William Blount was born on March 26, 1749 in Bertie County, North Carolina, to a prominent family of well-connected merchants who were part of the colony’s local aristocracy. Like his brothers, William sided with the Patriots in the Revolutionary War, serving as paymaster for North Carolina’s troops in the Continental Army. He served in Congress under the Articles of Confederation and signed the U.S. Constitution for North Carolina in 1787.
In 1790, President George Washington appointed Blount to be Governor of the Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio. He governed from the home of William Cobb at Rocky Mount, until he concluded the Treaty of the Holston. Then he announced his capital would move to Knoxville, a city that did not yet exist, and construction began on Blount Mansion in 1792. William spearheaded the successful effort to have the Southwest Territory admitted to the Union as Tennessee—our nation’s sixteenth state—in June 1796. He was elected one of the state’s first two United States Senators. Blount was involved in risky land speculation, and eventually found himself heavily indebted. He secretly conspired with Great Britain to seize the Spanish-controlled Louisiana in the hope of boosting western land prices. When the conspiracy was uncovered in 1797, he was expelled from the Senate and became the first federal official to face impeachment. However, Blount remained popular in Tennessee and served in the state senate during the last years of his life. In March 1800, an epidemic fever swept through Knoxville, and several members of the Blount family fell ill. William became sick on March 11 and died ten days later on the night of March 21, 1800. He was buried at the First Presbyterian Church Cemetery a few blocks from Blount Mansion.
Mary Grainger “Molsey” Blount
Mary Grainger “Molsey” Blount, the wife of William Blount, was born into a prominent family in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1760. She married William Blount in 1778, and gave birth to nine children. Molsey moved to Knoxville in 1792 and lived in a log cabin near the present-day Craighead-Jackson House until Blount Mansion was constructed. Her arrival in the territory was delayed when she suffered a badly broken arm during a carriage accident in North Carolina. Molsey fell ill from jaundice—possibly caused by Yellow Fever—and died on October 2, 1802 at the age of forty-two. She had outlived her late husband by just two years. Molsey and William are buried in the First Presbyterian Church graveyard in downtown Knoxville. Click here for more detailed information about Mary Grainger Blount
Willie (pronounced Wiley) was William Blount’s younger half-brother, born to their father Jacob Blount’s second wife in Bertie County, North Carolina on April 18, 1768. Willie attended college at the forerunners of both Columbia University in New York City and Princeton University in New Jersey before practicing law in North Carolina. When William Blount was appointed governor of the Southwest Territory in 1790, Willie accompanied him and served as one of William’s two personal secretaries. When William Blount was forced into bankruptcy by his failed land deals, all of William’s property passed into Willie’s hands. Willie followed William’s footsteps by entering politics and was elected to three terms as Governor of Tennessee, serving from 1807-1811. During Willie’s time in office, Tennessee sent so many men to fight in the War of 1812 that the state became known as the “Volunteer State” (though a similarly impressive number of troops sent to the Mexican-American War in the 1840s helped cement the nickname). Willie died during a visit to the Nashville area on September 10, 1835, at sixty-seven years old. He was owner of Blount Mansion from the time of William Blount’s death in March 1800 until his own untimely end thirty-five years later. Click here for more detailed information about Willie Blount.
Cornelius Blount, who was named for leading North Carolina Patriot and statesman Cornelius Harnett, died in infancy.
Anne “Nancy” Blount
Born in October of 1780, Anne was the eldest of the surviving Blount children. She married Henry Toole from the town of Tarboro, North Carolina. Following the death of her first husband, Nancy married William Hadley. She died on June 3, 1805 at the age of 25, leaving three children. Click here for more detailed information about Anne Blount.
Born in 1787, Blount Blount died at four years old in 1791.
Richard Blackledge Blount
Born in North Carolina on May 8, 1789, Richard was three when his family moved to Knoxville. He later married Catherine Minor of Montgomery County, TN, and had four children.
Born in 1791, Jacob was named for his paternal grandfather. Following the deaths of both of his parents, Jacob became the ward of his uncle Willie Blount. He died in 1809 while attending William and Mary College in Virginia.
Born in Knoxville in 1794, Eliza was the youngest of the Blount children. She married Pleasant Miller’s nephew Edwin Wyatt in 1816. Wyatt was a physician and surgeon in the U.S. Army. Together they had three children. Eliza died on November 23, 1835 in La Grange, TN.
Mary Louisa Blount
Born in 1782, Mary Louisa was the second oldest child and was ten years old upon arriving in Knoxville. She married Pleasant Miller, a local lawyer, on April 11, 1801. The two resided in Knoxville until the fall of 1824, when they moved to Madison County. The Millers became a prominent family in Tennessee. Mary Louisa died in 1847 in Jackson, TN. Click here for more detailed information about Mary Louisa Blount.
William (Billy) Grainger Blount
Born North Carolina in 1784, William Grainger Blount was seven years old when his family moved to Knoxville. At the age of 18, following the deaths of both of his parents, William became the ward of his uncle Willie Blount and Hugh Lawson White. Later he studied to be a lawyer, though he never actually practiced law. Instead, Billy chose a career in politics, serving as Secretary of the State of Tennessee and as a member of the U.S. Congress from 1816 to 1820. In 1818, William Grainger Blount became the legal owner of Blount Mansion. He never married, dying on May 21, 1827 in Paris, TN. Click here for more detailed information about William Grainger Blount.
Named for her paternal grandmother, Barbara was born on September 16, 1792, in the log cabin that served as her family’s first home after arriving in Knoxville. Consequently, the hill on which it stood became known as “Barbara Hill.” Because she was only ten years old at the time of her mother’s death, Barbara was placed under the care of her older sister Mary Louisa Blount and her husband Pleasant Miller. Barbara became one of the nation’s first coeds when she was admitted to Blount College—the forerunner of the University of Tennessee—in 1804. She married Edmund Pendleton Gaines in 1818 and died in Mobile, Alabama on November 30, 1836, leaving one child. Click here for more detailed information about Barbara Blount.