The following history of Wesley, was part of the document, The Stanton Story, written as a skit, for the 1986, one hundred thirty year anniversary celebration, for the community of Stanton. Please note that all references, implied as current (or ‘now’), are referring to the year 1986.
Because of my connection to Stanton and my love of history I attended the 130th celebration and learned a lot about the history of the area. It is sad to see how Stanton has changed but now with the mayor and some of the foward thinking citizens I see promise. One factor that will make a difference is the Solar Farm and Industrial Park time will tell.
Samuel P. Ashe left his home in Fayetteville, N.C. and had taken possession of his land holdings here on the Boliver and Randolph Road. We do not have reason to believe that he was the first settler. In fact the community seems to have been called Capt. Baugh’s Community, but we find that Mr. Ashe had visualized, on his land, a town, that he had already mapped out with a town square and streets and we know the names of them. The streets were 40 feet wide, and by 1829, he was selling these lots. We have found the number of more than 30 which were laid out. The town was called Wesley.
Wesley was on the Covington Road. Mrs. Lillie Mize’s house is close to where the Ashe home was and the town was this side of that. Wesley is a ghost town now, but it was a little village very much alive in those early days. We had great help from some of our fine citizens and from early records as we sought to rebuild, in our thinking; this little town. It was an important center in this section; it was one of the main stops on the Stage Road from Bolivar to Randolph. And even as late as 1840 the map showed this road as the only road of consequence in the district. In one of the old deeds examined, we found wording which makes us believe that one of the old stage roads followed pretty closely the route of the original Memphis Trace of the Chickasaw Indians. We found, too, that the old Memphis to Brownsville stage road crossed the Bolivar Road at Wesley. Not only was Wesley the center of traffic in those days, it was a trade center and the social, religious center as well. It was quite a busy little place. At different times there were 6 stores we know of, a tannery, a cotton gin, blacksmith shop, wagon shop, a hotel, a tavern, a post office, Masonic Lodge, a school, two churches; Methodist and Baptist with a Presbyterian Church down the road a few miles to the southwest named Emmaus.
By 1830 there were about 40 homes in this district. Maybe most of them were crude, probably made of logs, though Mr. Ashe had a sawmill and grist mill here in those early years, and maybe the furniture was of the simplest sort; but they were homes, nevertheless, established by men and women of faith, faith in God and the future, in each other, and in this lovely land. You know it took pretty brave souls to venture out in this wilderness. One of the families, the Hardy’s, were ancestors of June Stewart.
Some of the earliest families and we found that nearly all of these lived in the Wesley area, were the Agours, Armstrongs, Ashes, Baughs, Elders, Hardys, Hawkins, Hunts, Lamberts, Lemons, Littlejohns, Peters, Pughs, Sims. We know of three doctors who practiced out there: Dr. John Rogers, Dr. Pugh, and Dr. James Schuler. Dr. Rogers and Mr. Ashe were brothers-in-law. Their wives were Sheppards, Sisters of Thomas Sheppard, who lived in District #2. The Sheppard land is now owned by Sara Morris Shelton. Dr. Rogers’ son, Dr. William E. Rogers, started the U.T. Medical School in Memphis. The Court records show many interesting things that happened in Wesley.
In the hot Congressional race, when David Crockett ran against Mr. Fitzgerald of Weakley County, one of the main issues was the occupant bill which would show preference to the people who were living on the land where the grants would be made. Crockett was for it, with all the Crockett ardor and enthusiasm, while his opponent, backed by the forces of Andrew Jackson, who was then President, was against it.
Mr. Fitzgerald won by a very slim majority. Crockett carried nearly all the counties by small margins, but a huge vote for Fitzgerald in Madison County beat him. The Box at Wesley went for Crockett.
The 1853 tax records, show listed for taxing, 8 town lots in Wesley, a far cry from the 30 odd laid out in the 20’s. This shows that the little town of Wesley had not grown as had been hoped even before the railroad came through.
Speculation as to just where the railroad would run was the pastime of the day. Of course, it would go through Wesley the only town in the district and it was situated in its very heart. But Mr. Stanton had other ideas; he had visions, too, of another town arising on a spot back down the stage road about 2 miles, and he got busy to make that dream a reality. He offered his land for the road to pass through, and we were told by the old timers that he offered more.That was quite a common practice in those days. Railroad officials agreed with him and accepted his offer. In 1855 the rails were laid through Stanton.