You might say that Shadrack Lewallen was ahead of his time by just a few years.
Or, perhaps, that he was a trend-setter.
When President Abraham Lincoln successfully sought re-election in 1864, he carried the popular vote in Tennessee and Scott County — even though the Volunteer State was still officially a part of the Confederate States of America. In fact, Lincoln overwhelmingly captured the popular vote in Scott County in 1864. That was noteworthy because, just four years earlier, Lincoln had received a single, solitary vote in Scott County.
This is the story of the one man in Scott County who dared to cast a ballot for the president considered by many to be the best the United States has ever known — though, unfortunately, not much is known about that man.
It isn’t clear whether Shade Lewallen was a part of the Lewallen — or Llewellyn — clan that migrated to the Cumberland Plateau from North Carolina in the early 19th century. The Llewellyns were Welch, and had been a ruling family in Wales before the nation was conquered by the English. It has been written that the Llewellyns were banished to North Carolina. Anderson Grant Llewellyn eventually moved with his family to Scott County.
Jehu Phillips, Scott County’s first elected trustee and an ancestor to Oneida’s Phillips brothers — former attorney general Wm. Paul, retired federal judge Tom, financial adviser Steve and doctor Gary — wrote for the Cumberland Chronicle in 1904: “When Abe Lincoln ran for president in 1860 the people called him a black Republican, and he received only one vote in Scott County. That vote was cast by Shade Lewallen who lived in Huntsville.”
In her book “Scott County and Its Mountain Folk,” historian Esther Sharp Sanderson wrote in 1958 that Lewallen fought in the Battle of New Orleans under General Andrew Jackson. “It was a favorite pastime for Shade to tell his nephews, Bill, John, and Leutian, about ‘Jackson’s War’ and how the Tennessee boys in buckskin rallied around Old Andy at ‘Orleans,’” she wrote.
Who Was Shade Lewallen?
Not long after casting that noteworthy ballot for Abraham Lincoln, Shadrack Lewallen died. In 1862, a smallpox outbreak swept through Huntsville, and both Shade and his wife, Elizabeth Stepp, were among its victims. He was 55 at the time; she was 54. According to numerous writings, both were buried on the family’s plot of land, which was located near Huntsville’s Presbyterian Church. The Lewallen Cemetery no longer exists today; in 1878 the lot was sold by Lewallen’s heirs to Alfred Gill.
Beyond that, Shade Lewallen’s heritage is quite muddled.
Many accounts of the Lewallen family history consider Shade Lewallen to be Rev. Andrew Leutian Lewallen — a veteran of the War of 1812. It has been written that Andrew Lewallen — who was one of the sons of Welshman Anderson Grant Lewallen — was known by the nicknames “Shade” and “Shadrack.”
But Andrew Lewallen was born in 1795; by the 1860 census, he would have been well into his 60s — more than a decade older than the Shadrack Lewallen that is listed in the Scott County census for that year. Additionally, he married Malinda Davis, from Kingston, and his children are not the children listed in Shadrack Lewallen’s household in the 1860 census. He died in 1873 and is buried in the Carpenter Cemetery off Nydeck Road in southern Scott County. Finally, Andrew Lewallen likely wasn’t even a resident of Scott County in 1860; he was granted 150 acres of land in Morgan County in 1855. Even if he lived in Scott County, the Anderson Lewallen line settled in the Glenmary area of southern Scott County, several miles south of Huntsville.
The flip side of the coin is that if Shade Lewallen fought in the Battle of New Orleans, as Sanderson wrote, he would have been doing so as an 8-year-old boy. The Battle of New Orleans was fought in January 1815.
It seems likely that there were, in fact, two Lewallens who were known by the nicknames “Shade” or “Shadrack” — the Abraham Lincoln voter, and Andrew Leutian Lewallen — and history has confused the two. Sanderson wrote that the Shade Lewallen who fought at the Battle of New Orleans “is the oldest cemetery in Huntsville, beside the Presbyterian Academy lot.” But the Shade Lewallen buried near the Presbyterian Church, the one who died in 1862, was simply too young to have fought in New Orleans.
That tells us nothing more of the Shade Lewallen who voted for Abe Lincoln. According to the 1860 census, he and Elizabeth had five children — Eleenda, Mary, Elizabeth, William and Nancy. What became of the children after their parents’ deaths in 1862 — Elizabeth, William and Nancy would’ve been minors at the time; Eleenda would have been about 20 and Mary about 18 — isn’t recorded. Nor is it recorded who Shade Lewallen’s parents were.
The only clue that can be gleaned about the identity of Shade Lewallen comes from an old Scott County deed book, which records the sale of the plot of land that Shade and Elizabeth — and, apparently, two others — were buried on. It states that “William Sherman & Fernando Lewallen, sons of James Lewallen, ded’d sold their interest in this lot.” That likely indicates that Shade Lewallen’s real name was James.
A little more is known about Lewallen’s wife, Elizabeth. She was the daughter of James and Dorothy Step, and was born in Buncombe Co., N.C.
The Politics of the 1860s
To say that Shade Lewallen was the only person in Scott County who supported Abraham Lincoln for president is probably somewhat unfair. Lincoln was not on the ballot in Tennessee; Lewallen’s vote was apparently a write-in.
With that said, it’s extremely unlikely that Lincoln had many supporters in Scott County. In Virginia, the only of the 11 states that would go on to secede from the Union where Lincoln was on the ballot, he received only 1.15 percent of the popular vote, and did not receive a single vote in 121 of 145 counties. Across the 15 slave states as a whole, Lincoln won just two counties.
Scott County was a Union enclave. It voted against secession in 1861 by the largest margin of any county in Tennessee; the letter sent by Sheriff Baby Buttram to Nashville certifying the vote stated that 521 men had voted against secession and only 19 had voted for it. Then, after learning that secession had carried across the state by a 69 percent to 31 percent margin, Scott County’s leaders voted to secede from the State of Tennessee and form the Free and Independent State of Scott. But that didn’t mean that voters here were necessarily a fan of Lincoln’s. Along with Campbell and Anderson counties to the east, Scott Countians voted for Constitutional Union Party candidate John Bell, a former U.S. Senator from Tennessee, by a small margin over Southern Democratic candidate John C. Breckinridge, the vice president of the United States. To the west, Morgan and Fentress counties supported Breckinridge.
Things had changed by 1864, when Lincoln sought re-election. “When Abe Lincoln ran for president the second time most of the voters in Scott County were fighting for the Union Army, but there had been a wonderful change in sentiment and most of those in Scott County voted for Abe Lincoln for president,” Phillips wrote.
Phillips also said that the war changed the politics of Scott County.
“Before the Civil War the Whig and Democratic parties were about equally divided in this county,” he wrote. “I was raised a Democrat, but after the war nearly every citizen in this county voted the Republican ticket and have been doing so in this county since that time.”