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Read about a free black man who moved to Tennessee.

Jeffrey Lockelier was a black man who was born free in North Carolina in 1788. A young fellow with a taste for adventure, he came to Nashville in 1807. 
Because the idea of soldiering appealed to him, he joined the militia, serving under Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812. He distinguished himself in the Indian Wars at Enitachopco and Emuckfau Creeks and in the deadly Battle of Horseshoe Bend, which finally crushed the Creek Nation. 
Lockelier served with distinction in every conflict: his obituary stated the “none could boast of a heart more devoted to his country’s cause,” for “his military services terminated only when his country ceased to have enemies.” 
After the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, Lockelier, now known as Major Jeffery, returned to Middle Tennessee, where he met and married a woman named Sabina, a slave of the Sumner family in Williamson County. He soon purchased his wife from Thomas Sumner and petitioned the court to grant her freedom in July of 1817.
Struggling with a heart ailment in his early 40s, Major Jeffrey was visited by his old commanders, President Andrew Jackson and General John Coffee. He “enjoyed, to a high degree their good opinion and friendship.”
Lockelier’s death occurred September 22, 1830, at the age of 42. His obituary appeared in newspapers across the country including the New York Evening Post, which marveled, “Though a very humble member of society, still it may be truly said, but few enjoyed the esteem and good will of the community to a greater extent than he did. His universal benevolence was a distinguished trait in his character; and it seemed to be the business and the pleasure of his life to serve others without even the expectation of reward.”
 Lockelier was not forgotten by the city planners who named Nashville’s Locklayer Street near the Bicentennial Mall in his honor. Unfortunately, the stone which once marked his grave in Nashville’s historic City Cemetery no longer exists, but it is scheduled to be replaced as part of the cemetery’s tombstone restoration project.
[Article written by Carol Kaplan, used with permission.  First printed in the “Monuments & Milestones” newsletter for the Nashville City Cemetery Association.]
 



Picture Credits:
  • A detail from a drawing by John Andrews done in 1856 showing free blacks fighting at the Battle of New Orleans.  Louisiana State Museum, The Cabildo


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