Oaklawn Manor Plantation and the Porter & related families: Part 2


Photo taken in the Study of Oaklawn Manor Plantation (Napoleon desk) with Porter Portrait – Franklin, LA.

Rev. James Porter, who was hung to death in July 1798, was the oldest child of Alexander Porter and _____Sims Porter. He actually had many siblings, some of whom stayed in Ireland and intermarried with prominent local families. Some of the others came to America.

The first one of the Rev. James Porter’s immediate family to come to the U.S. was his brother Alexander Porter who took ship from Londonderry to Baltimore, MD. in 1793.  Alexander first settled in Wilmington, Del., and finally in Nashville, Tenn., and was a successful merchant and Alderman (1807-1810). He resided there for a year or so then settled in Jonesboro and shortly married Susan Massengill. They would go onto to have seven children all born and raised in Tennessee, they were: 1) Dr.James Armstrong Porter b. 1800 married Sally Murphy died Nashville 1853) 2) Matilda Porter (married Robert W. Green) 3) Penelope Porter (married James Woods) 4) *Jane Eliza Porter (married James W. Campbell) 5) Alexander M. Porter 6) William Porter 7) Robert M. Porter.

*It was while he was living at Jonesborough that the Irish Rebellion of 1798 broke out in full force after simmering for 7 years. Alexander’s oldest brother Rev. James Porter had become involved in the “Troubles” (unfortunately that would not be the last use of that term to describe the civil chaos in that Northern section of Ireland.) – and this made Alexander determined to return to his native land to look after the welfare of his relatives.

Sketches of Prominent Tennesseans:  Containing Biographies and Records of..… by William S.Speer

He arrived too late to save his oldest brother the Rev. James Porter, but he was able to get two younger brothers (Robert & William Porter) safely out of Northern Ireland and established at Nashville. Alexander Porter returned again to Donegal in 1801 and brought over two younger sisters and two nephews: 1) Alexander Porter – the subject of this sketch and 2) James Porter.

*One of the sisters of Alexander and James’ Uncle who came over in 1801 was a Mrs. Allison. Matilda Porter Allison born 1781 of Churchminster (near Ballindrait) who married in Lifford, Ireland Andrew Allison who was born at Lifford Dec. 26, 1775 and died at Carthage, Tenn., Sept. 29, 1818.  They had a family and settled in Tennessee and will be the subjects of a following post.

*The History of the Alison. Or Allison Family of Europe and America, A.D.(Alexander Porter of Lifford, and of Tennessee, with his relatives) By Leonard Allison Morrison p.165

Keep in mind that one of the sister’s of Alexander( Jr. )and James Porter (Jr.) married an Allison also- the youngest Rebecca Porter. She basically married her first cousin the son of her Aunt. This was not unusual in the day.

Of the two brothers (or the Uncles of Alexander Porter Jr. and James Porter Jr.)Robert died unmarried.  William first lived at Carthage in Smith County (as did his sister Matilda Allison and family), but then removed to Maury County where he died leaving 3 children: 1) Louisa Porter  2) Mary Porter  3) William Porter died CW.

Alexander Porter & James Porter:

Meanwhile the two nephews Alexander and James Porter lived with their Uncle Alexander and family where both received a rudimentary education. They did however attend the now-defunct Clemenceau College and “read the law” as apprentices and Alexander was admitted to the bar in 1807.

Why Louisiana?

The Louisiana Purchase -had just been accomplished a few years previous and in effect doubled the size of the United States. By a treaty signed on Apr. 30, 1803, the United States purchased from France the Louisiana Territory, more than 2 million sq km (800,000 sq mi) of land extending from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. The price was 60 million francs, about $15 million; $11,250,000 was to be paid directly, with the balance to be covered by the assumption by the United States of French debts to American citizens. Large tracts of fertile and  inexpensive land was available for those willing to relocate, work hard and rely heavily and completely on slave labor for the Sugar plantations being built over most of southern Louisiana.


Several accounts have both Alexander Porter and his brother James Porter being encouraged to move to Louisiana by Andrew Jackson who was of Ulster/Presbyterian descent (his mother was Elizabeth Hutchinson, Father was Robert Jackson of Carrickfergus.) The Battle of New Orleans where Jackson would gain his fame, was still 10 years away.  Their Uncle Alexander Porter was alderman of Nashville from 1808-1810 and a merchant who moved in the cliquish circles of early Eastern Tennessee which was where “the new frontier” was at the time (also KY. & OH.) And Alexander Porter and Jackson would have certainly known one another.

Several of those statesman advised Alexander and James Porter to start their law practices in the new territories of Louisiana and Mississippi. Alexander in 1809 made the long trip to Opeloussas, LA, then the parish seat of Attakapas parish which comprised almost a fourth of the present state. He decided to locate there and in 1812 made his first purchase of land along the Bayou Teche in what is now St. Mary Parish.It was Porter’s Irish ancestry that gave the curved stretch of the Teche the name Irish Bend. Most of his neighbors were French Creoles, he immediately immersed himself in their traditions, learned the language and gained their trust which would prove crucial to his political career.

In, 1811 Alexander was a delegate to the Convention that drew up the Constitution for the new state of Louisiana, which was admitted into the Union in 1812. His brother James also a Sugar Planter and land holder was elected Attorney General. Both brothers, still subjects by their birth in Donegal,  Ireland of King George III were naturalized in 1816 swearing allegiance to their new adopted country – the United States of America.

In 1816, Alexander Porter was appointed to a two year term in the lower house of the new State Legislature and therein helped pass laws and regulations to get the new state functioning soundly. In 1821, when only 35 years, he was appointed an Associate Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court which office he held for 12 years.

From the marriage registers of this parish there are these important dates. From St. Mary Parish La 1807-1874:

Alexander Porter & Evaline Baker 24 Aug, 1815

James A. Porter and Sarah Anne Murphy June 1821

William Ashe Alston (of No. Carolina (sic)) and the daughter of Alexander Porter -Anne Porter 18 Apr. 1840

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Evaline Villars Baker Porter was born 1797 in Washington, KY.  She was one of the 12 children of Joshua Baker born 1763 Berkley, VA and Susannah Lewis all eventually of Franklin, LA.

Name: Joshua Baker
Home in 1810 (City, County, State): Nashville, Rutherford, Tennessee
Free White Persons – Males – Under 10: 4
Free White Persons – Males – 10 thru 15: 1
Free White Persons – Males – 45 and over: 1 he born 1763 (47 years)
Free White Persons – Females – Under 10: 2
Free White Persons – Females – 26 thru 44: 1
Number of Household Members Under 16: 7
Number of Household Members Over 25: 2
Number of Household Members: 9

Year: 1810; Census Place: Nashville, Rutherford, Tennessee; Roll: 63; Page: 13; Image: 00014; Family History Library Film: 0218687

Alexander and Evalina had 2 daughters- the 1st Evalina died sometime after 1820 – see Census information below, the 2nd Anna, was raised by Porter’s maiden sister who lived with them and ran the household. His wife died 2 years after the 2nd child was born in 1819 and is buried in the family “Baker” plot  at The Old City Cemetery, Nashville, TN.(As are her parents and Alexander Porter)

From the obituary below, Evelina Porter died at the home (see below) of the Uncle Alexander Porter (who died 1833.)


“Tammany Wood” later called Riverwood Mansion

DIEDIn this town, {Nashville}at the house of Mr. A. Porter, on Saturday evening the 30th ult. aged 22, Mrs. Evelina Porter, wife of Alexander Porter, Esq. of St. Martinsville, Louisiana, and daughter of the late Col. Joshua Baker. Mrs. Porter sailed from New-Orleans, for New York in June last, under the hope that a sea voyage and change of climate might relieve her from an affection of the lungs; but every essay from travel and medicine was in vain. She was interred on Sunday evening in Mr. T. Talbot’s burying ground, by the side of her father, who died here of the epidemic in 1816. / Mrs. P. possessed in an eminent degree all the social and endearing virtues; and leaves behind her a husband, two infant children and a large circle of relatives and friends to deplore her loss. —Published in The Nashville Whig (Nashville, Tennessee), Wednesday, November 3, 1819, p. 3.


Name: Alexander Porter
Home in 1820 (City, County, State): St Martin, Louisiana
Enumeration Date: August 7, 1820
Free White Persons – Males – 10 thru 15: 1 ?
Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25: 1 ?
Free White Persons – Males – 26 thru 44: 1 He – age 35 years
Free White Persons – Females – Under 10: 2 Anne & Evelina
Slaves – Males – 14 thru 25: 1
Slaves – Females – 14 thru 25: 2
Slaves – Females – 26 thru 44: 1
Slaves – Females – 45 and over: 1
Free White Persons – Under 16: 3
Free White Persons – Over 25: 1
Total Free White Persons: 5
Total Slaves: 5
Total All Persons – White, Slaves, Colored, Other: 10

Source Citation 1820 U S Census; Census Place: St Martin, Louisiana; Page: 164; NARA Roll: M33_31; Image: 159

Porter and his daughter Anne enjoyed traveling  and left for a 6 month stay in Cuba in 1838 and then in early 1840 (see below -she gets married April 1840) traveled to England and Ireland. Domestically, they went to the fashionable horse tracks in Louisville and New Orleans and visited sophisticated White Sulphur Spring’s Spa in WV and other posh spas and health resorts. Both had fragile health, as did many of the newcomers to the tropical, disease oriented Bayou country. They  were most certainly traveling the latter half of 1836 when there was a massive cholera epidemic in Louisiana.

The Porters (who had a ballroom on the 3rd floor) would have entertained political colleagues including Henry Clay, (Supposedly Mr.Clay’s ghost like’s walking around the grounds to this day : ) neighbors, extended family and friends per the custom of the day.

By about 1830, South Carolinian Planters were looking to Louisiana for more land and markets to diversify their holdings. Not only was Alexander a successful plantation owner, he was also a Lawyer (and had apprentices) and was involved with the convoluted politics of the times. John S.Preston (1809-1881) of Columbia, SC is a perfect example of Louisiana land speculation. He was a law graduate of the University of Virginia, married Caroline, daughter of Wade Hampton (SC’s wealthiest planter) and then took up residence in Columbia, South Carolina, and established a legal practice there. He later invested heavily in a sugar plantation, named the Houmas near Baton Rouge, LA. which prospered and gained him a substantial profit. Another visitor would have been William Ashe Alston, also a law graduate from the University of Virginia. He and Alexander Porter’s 24 year old daughter Anne Porter married at the Oaklawn Manor Plantation 18 Apr. 1840.

The lovely white-stuccoed Greek Revival brick house (some walls are 2 feet thick) has identical porticoes front and back, with six full-height Tuscan columns and a pediment ventilated by a small window. Both floors of the house are identical in floor plan, with two rooms on each side of a central hall and a staircase set into a side hall.

Even on the outskirts of American Society, deep in the bayou on large plantations in St. Martin Parish, Alexander like many of his fellow Irish & Kinsmen had a passion for horse racing, and even maintained a racing stable and trainer on his Oaklawn Plantation. In 1840, Alexander was in Kentucky visiting a friend, Col. William R. Johnson. Johnson had a gifted enslaved (born VA) horse trainer Charles Stewart, who had lost his wife and was looking for a new start (new owner) who Alexander bought for $3,500 and offered him the position as his horse trainer. They apparently got along well and had a mutual respect for one another.

From the Alexander Porter Papers, 1811-1879 Louisiana State Univ.-Special Collections. “Some letters discuss Porter’s involvement with the slave trade, slave behavior, their treatment, and their value. Two letters discuss a slave in Kentucky named Charles who had taken a wife; letters were signed by Col. William R. Johnson (Aug. 23, 1839, Aug. 30, 1841). One letter mentions a will where it is discussed how the value of the bequeathed slaves will affect the estate (Dec. 3, 1823), and an unsigned letter (April 20, 1842) asks Porter to see after the writer’s slaves, to not sell them, but exchange them to good owners. Two letters are written to James Porter (brother of Alexander) at Oaklawn from Patrick McGraw, not only discussing people’s health and livestock, but the behavior of some slaves (Sept./Nov. 1844).”


Name: William Ashe Alston
Birth Year: abt 1813
Event: Death
Death Date: 30 May 1842 “In this City”
Age at Death: 29
Newspaper: New York Evening Post
Publication Date: Jun 1842
Publication Place: New York, USA
Call Number: 83432

U.S., Newspaper Extractions from the Northeast, 1704-1930 [database on-line]. Provo, UT,

From https://uvastudents.wordpress.com “What little we do know about William Ashe Alston (1812-1842) is that he attended Univ. of VA. for only a few months in session 7, and was released “by letter” to return home in October 1830; he returned to U.Va. in sessions 8 and 9 to complete his education. (U.Va. Matriculation Books) {*His brother Theodocious Alston also attended U of VA.}He became a lawyer, and on 18 Apr. 1840, married Anne Porter (1816-1841), daughter of Alexander Porter of Louisiana. He had just returned from a trip to Europe at the time (1842) of his death in New York City. (Winyah Observer)

*There will be some related information on this subject

I wanted to know a little more about Anne Porter Alston and her spouse William Ashe Alston. I found other than the above about his attending University of Virginia, some passport information: Dec. 31, 1838 he arrived at the port of New York from Liverpool, Eng. his occupation is listed as “Gentleman.”Dec. 31, 1839 he went from Galveston Island TX. to New Orleans, LA.  Then June 1, 1840 (New York) “William Ashe Alston & Wife” applied for passports June 1, 1840.

What is curious he consigned Apr. 16, 1840 (this is 2 days before the wedding) -16 slaves of various ages to Capt. James B. Thompson who would take them from Charleston, SC to New Orleans, LA (see document below). The slaves arrived May 1, 1840.  Was he selling/brokering these slaves? Was he planning on setting up a plantation?  Were they a wedding gift? Unfortunately, neither of them lived long enough to track historically.

In New Orleans, the slave auctions were held every Saturday and they drew large crowds of onlookers beneath the rotundas (particularly the Old St. Louis) of the city’s luxury hotels. There was a large demand for slaves in Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia for the cultivation of sugar and cotton, slave traders/brokers went throughout the upper South to purchase slaves to be sold at auction in the deep South. Slaves from Virginia were especially desired for their training & ability  and brought the highest prices . (see Charles Stewart the horse trainer above)

Anne Porter Alston died December 1841 and “was” buried in New Orleans. William Ashe Alston died in New York City 1842 upon returning from a trip to Europe

Name: Mrs William Ash Alston
Birth Date: 1816
Death Date: 28 Dec 1841
Cemetery: Girod Street Cemetery (Defunct)
Burial or Cremation Place: New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, USA
Has Bio?: N
URL: http://www.findagrave.com
Name: Thomas +15 others
Gender: Male
Color: Brown
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1815
Ship Name: Chapman
Port of Departure: Charleston, South Carolina
Port of Arrival: New Orleans, Louisiana
Date of Arrival: 16 Apr 1840

(**Notice he was married Apr. 18 1840)

Age: 25
First Shipper/Owner: W Ashe Allston
Second Shipper/Owner: J B Tompson Capt. James B. Thompson
Record Type: Arrivals (Inward Manifests)
Name: Alexs Porter
[Alexr Porter
Home in 1840 (City, County, State): Saint Mary, Louisiana
Free White Persons – Males – 20 thru 29: 3
Free White Persons – Males – 60 thru 69: 1
Slaves – Males – 10 thru 23: 1
Slaves – Males – 24 thru 35: 1
Slaves – Males – 36 thru 54: 2
Slaves – Females – Under 10: 1
Slaves – Females – 10 thru 23: 1
Slaves – Females – 36 thru 54: 1
Free White Persons – 20 thru 49: 3
Total Free White Persons: 4
Total Slaves: 7
Total All Persons – Free White, Free Colored, Slaves: 11
Year: 1840; Census Place: Saint Mary, Louisiana; Roll: 128; Page: 327; Image: 668; Family History Library Film: 0009689

April 9, 1844 (Tuesday)http://www.thenashvillecitycemetery.org
The remains of the Honor Alexander Porter which were brought from his late residence in the Steamer Westwood, were, on Sunday last, committed to the tomb in the cemetery near the city. A procession was formed at the Wharf and proceeded to the grave where a brief but impressive discourse was pronounced by the Rev. Dr. Edgar (This is Rev. John Todd Edgar of 1st Presbyterian Nashville) . The remains of this distinguished man now rest in peace beside the body of his wife who died in this city some twenty-five years ago.

Alexander Porter was laid to rest in 1844 in the family Plot in Nashville, TN with a monument marking his grave. His brother James Porter inherited his brother’s estate and moved his family From his smaller plantation in West Baton Rouge Parish. James Porter died at Oaklawn in 1849 and left the estate to his wife Mary Walton Porter and their children. At his death the Oaklawn Manor Plantation was appraised at $266,000.


Sketches of Prominent Tennesseans:  Containing Biographies and Records of..… by William S.Speer

*The History of the Alison. Or Allison Family of Europe and America, A.D.(Alexander Porter of Lifford, and of Tennessee, with his relatives) By Leonard Allison Morrison p.165





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