The Smell of Sulphur

In 1821, Major John Randle and some of his family were prospecting for salt at a historic salt lick in Henry County, Tennessee. They dug a well down 16 feet or so, and then hit a solid layer of marble. Undaunted, they began drilling. Three-hundred and seventy-four feet later, a gush of water “with enough force to turn a mill” erupted from the hole. But it wasn’t salt that was a notable feature of the new artesian well, but white sulphur water. The new spring soon became a destination for health-seeking Tennesseans, and a resort grew up on the spot. It proved particularly healthy for those Memphis residents who fled the city in 1873 to avoid a yellow fever outbreak. However, the site now lies beneath Kentucky Lake which the Tennessee Valley Authority filled in 1944.

Sulphur Well 2

Guests at Sulphur Well, date unknown. Sulphur Well was an important tourist destination in western Tennessee until it was submerged beneath Kentucky Lake.

Sulphur Well was likely the last major project in Major John Randle’s adventurous life. He died later in 1821, and his will was proved in neighboring Stewart County. This was the same county where his granddaughter Martha Davidson Randle and her siblings were born and lived prior to the death of their father.

John Randle was born in Brunswick County, Virginia, in the 1740s where he grew up amidst a large extended family, marrying Molly Ware who was the daughter of an older cousin. Both the Randles and the Wares were among those families with deep Virginia roots, stretching back into the thinly-documented 17th century-tidewater country. The couple did not stay put in Brunswick County, however, but near the start of the Revolutionary War joined a family migration southward. As quoted from one of their great-granddaughters Caroline Peeples Thompson,

…. previous to the Revolutionary War, there moved from Roanoke, Virginia, to the great Peedee in North Carolina, and settled along the river, three brothers; and with them came three other brothers (cousins) by the same name.


  • William Randle
  • Peter Randle
  • Dumb Johnny Randle


  • Richard Randle
  • Colby Randle
  • Major John Randle

“Major” was a title John gained after the move to North Carolina when he served as an officer in the Anson County militia during the Revolutionary War. While he joined a petition for the creation of Montgomery County out of the northern area of Anson County early in the war, he appears to have remained with the Anson County unit even while some of his collaborators joined the militia of the newly-created neighbor. He is described as a “gallant officer” in family genealogies, but unfortunately no stories about his service survive. Various portions of the Anson militia fought in major battles including Guilford Courthouse and Eutaw Springs, but the soldiers mostly tangled with the local Tory militia in bloody skirmishes.

As seen before with the Barnetts, Craftons and Easleys among others, the desire for new land and opportunities lured ambitious families ever further to the west. Between 1800 and 1810 Major John Randle left the NC county he had helped to create and defend and headed west with his grown children to the newly-settled Stewart County in western Tennessee.

Genealogical Notes:

To make clear the family connections in this Randle puzzle, here is a diagram of the Randles who went to North Carolina. Note that the parents of Molly Ware are likely but not definitively proven. Also note that Susannah Randle’s mother is claimed by some to be Frances Wynne, a granddaughter of Joshua Wynne and Mary Jones.

Randle Tree


The family has long had notes on the family compiled by Arthur E. Randle, citing information provided by Caroline Peeples Thompson who was one of Martha Davidson Randle’s daughters. The attached PDF below has a complete copy, although readers should treat the information regarding the origin of the name and the Pocahontas relationship with skepticism.

The Randle Family


There is more than one immigrant story for the Randle family, and several people with that surname came to Virginia in the 17th century. Here is one such story from the vertical files in the North Carolina archives.

A History of the Randle Family


An advantage to publishing information to the world is that occasionally someone with more expertise than I finds this site and sends me more information than I would ever have discovered on my own. Such is the case with this post, which attracted the attention of Larry Cates. He kindly sent me pieces of an article he had written for the North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal (Vol. 41 No. 4, November 2015, pp. 335-353) entitled “A Beginner’s Guide to Jumping the Pond: Part II, Tips for Tracing the Immigrant.” This article provides some terrific examples of genealogical research methods, and within this demonstration includes sections on the Randle and Fox families (many genealogists claim Mary Johns’ mother was Jane Fox, daughter of ship captain John Fox). This source is invaluable for research into the English origins of the Randles.


Finally, Wanda Ware DeGidio has done a great job of tracking down primary source citations for the Ware family. While there is no definitive proof of Molly Ware’s heritage in her work, Wanda does provide an inventory of associated documentation to accompany educated deductions. She identifies Peter Ware and Susannah Randle as Molly’s parents, and does a great job of showing how Peter Ware’s father was a Peter Sr.,  as opposed to a Thomas Ware that many online genealogies claim. Her website is Ware Family History, and has contact information.

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