Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Clay-Kenner House

Marker ID:  
Location: intersection of East Main St and Clay St, Rogersville, TN
County: Hawkins
Coordinates: N 36° 24.517    W 083° 0.233
  36.40861666    -83.00388333
Waymark: None


Clay-Kenner House
Murder in the Streets

John G. Bynum and his wife Nancy Bradley Phipps Bynum, owned this house during the Civil War. The value of his land and slaves in 1860 totaled $140,000, an enormous sum for the time. Bynum helped raise the county's first Confederate unit, the Hawkins County Boys. In December 1861, local Confederates killed Unionist William K. Byrd in the so-called "Byrd Raid", and Bynum was suspected of involvement. The Byrd Raid began almost four years of indiscriminate attacks between Confederates and Unionists in Hawkins County.

In 1862, Confederate supporter John D. Riley murdered Bynum in front of the Bank of Tennessee (now the Masonic Temple) three blocks west of here. According to diarist Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain, the pair earlier had "an altercation" and neither forgot: "Time passed along and each seemed to be cherishing the dark malignant passions of the heart." Riley discharged a shotgun at Bynum's chest, "tearing one lung to pieces." Bynum fired his revolver as he fell from his horse, wounding Riley. Bynum died at the scene, but Riley was not arrested.

Three years later, Nancy Bynum married Confederate Capt. Henry Boyle Clay, a grandson of the famous U.S. Senator from Kentucky. Capt. Clay served on the staff of cavalry Gen. John Pegram before transferring to the staff of Lt. Col. Basil W. Duke, one of Gen. John Hunt Morgan's subordinates. Clay was with Morgan on the day Morgan died in Greenville. When Union soldiers forced him to identify Morgan's body, Clay cried out, "You have just killed the best man in the Confederacy."

(Sidebar)John A. McKinney, a prominent attorney, constructed the Clay-Kenner House in the Italianate style about 1845. The house was modified in the 1870s with the interior woodwork and the Victorian porch on the eastern side. The front portico, in the Greek Revival style, replaced an 1870s veranda in 1962.

2016 by Tennessee Civil War Trails.