John Overton's Hills

John Overton's Hills

John Overton was a renaissance man. He was a planter, a banker, a land speculator, a tax collector, a Tennessee Supreme Court Judge, a presidential advisor to his friend Andrew Jackson, and a co-founder of the city of Memphis, Tennessee. He was an American pioneer of the first order ... and the hills that surround the Inns of Granny White are named after him.

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

Born in Virginia in 1766, he saw opportunity in the western wilderness and struck out at the age of 21 to forge his future on the frontier. Gifted with a supreme intellect, he apprenticed as a lawyer in Kentucky before relocating to the Southwest Territory (Nashville, Tennessee) to practice law in 1789.

Six years later, he was appointed Supervisor of Revenue for the territory, primarily collecting taxes on the 450 liquor distilleries operating in the region. Although the position did not earn him many friendships, it did give him immense familiarity with this neck of the woods.

In 1796, hostilities with the indians in the region were subsiding, and the territory was experiencing tremendous growth. John Overton became wealthy with the buying and selling of real estate. By 1800, Overton owned in excess of 65,000 acres (more than one hundred square miles) of land in Tennessee. He built a substantial plantation on 2,300 acres south of the city named Traveller's Rest. This estate (today located near the intersection of Franklin Road and Tyne Boulevard) encompassed the rolling hills extending to the southwest ... including the hills occupied by the Inns of Granny White.

Thus the name ... Overton Hills.

The residences of Travelers Court
nestled into the Overton Hills

In 1804, John Overton was named a Superior Court Judge for Tennessee and seven years later was appointed to the newly-created Tennessee Supreme Court.

Among Overton's massive land acquisitions, he owned 5,000 acres along the Mississippi River. He had made the risky purchase (in indian territory) for 15 cents an acre in 1795. But the frontier was pushing westward, and in 1818, President Jackson negotiated a settlement with the Chickasaw indians opening the area to settlement. Overton spent the rest of his life promoting the growth of his new city, Memphis.

He died at Traveller's Rest on April 12, 1833.