Shelby, John (of Nashville, TN)

Born: 1785-05-24 Sumner County, Tennessee

Died: 1859-05-15 Davidson County, Tennessee

Flourished: Nashville, Tennessee

John Shelby was a physician, businessman, and railroad director. Born into a wealthy family, he studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. While there, he married Anna Maria Minnick, with whom he had two children. After returning to Tennessee, he opened a medical practice in Gallatin. In December 1818, he and his brother, Anthony, received 640 acres of land on the east side of the Cumberland River as a Christmas gift from their father, who had received the land as payment for his service in the Revolutionary War. Shelby purchased his brother's share for $2,500 and established a large estate on the land, which later became the Nashville suburb of Edgefield. He and his father owned the Nashville Bridge Company, which built the first suspension bridge in Nashville in 1822. Shelby served as Nashville's postmaster under Presidents Zachary Taylor and Millard Filmore. In 1850, he owned real estate valued at $150,000. In 1857, he founded Shelby Medical College, which eventually became part of the University of Nashville's Medical Department. Shelby leveraged his position as the largest owner of real estate in Edgefield and became a director of the Edgefield and Kentucky Railroad Company, at one time owning $50,000 of company stock. Shelby's son-in-law, Washington Barrow, was a lawyer and U.S. congressman who served alongside Abraham Lincoln in the Thirtieth Congress. Barrow was Shelby's personal attorney in the period leading up to his death.

Zella Armstrong, Notable Southern Families (Chattanooga, TN: Lookout, 1922), 2:314-16; Tennessee Chancery Reports (St. Louis: G. I. Jones, 1879), 3:171-72; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), Nashville, Davidson County, TN, 251; Neil Larry Shumsky, ed., American Cities: A Collection of Essays (Oxfordshire, UK: Taylor and Francis, 1996), 1:463-65; Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1853 (Washington, DC: Robert Armstrong, 1853), *380; Republican Banner (Nashville, TN), 17 May 1859, 3:1-2.