Josephus Conn Guild

Born in Virginia, Josephus C. Guild came with his parents briefly to Stewart County and then to Sumner County in 1812. Both his father and mother died the following year, and he became the ward of his uncle, Walter Conn of Cairo. Educated locally, Guild read law in the offices of attorneys at Gallatin and Nashville and won admission to the Tennessee Bar in 1822. He opened a law office at Gallatin, where he practiced until 1859, when he became judge of the Chancery Court, Seventh Division. In 1862 the Union army occupation closed the courts and ended his term. Two years later he moved to Nashville and represented clients until 1870, when he returned to the bench. He resumed private practice in 1877.

Guild volunteered for the Seminole War of 1836 and was elected lieutenant colonel of the Second Regiment, Tennessee Mounted Volunteers. He served in the field in Florida but escaped unscathed, even though he participated in several fire fights. For most of his life, Guild owned thoroughbred horses and won his share of races at Middle Tennessee tracks. He was a lead investor in a company that sent seventeen local men to the California gold rush in 1849, but, predictably, all lost their invested funds.

An effective advocate for railroads during the 1850s, Guild played a key role in organizing the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N). He persuaded the voters of Sumner and Davidson Counties to invest public funds to assure the line's construction and later served as the L&N's vice-president for Tennessee and as its corporate counsel.

A Jacksonian Democrat, Guild won elections to the State House of Representatives in 1833 and 1835. His most memorable speech to the legislature was made in 1833 in opposition to forcible removal of the Cherokees from the state. In 1837 Guild won election to the state Senate representing Sumner and Smith Counties but did not seek reelection at the end of his term. He returned to the House for a term in 1845 and another in 1851. Guild was a member of the five-man central committee of the state Democratic organization. In 1857 he was his party's nominee for Congress from the Fifth District but lost by 290 votes. He was a Democratic presidential elector in 1844 on the ticket of James K. Polk and George Dallas and again in 1852 on the ticket of Franklin Pierce and William R. King.

Although long committed to the preservation of the Union, Guild declared for the South in 1861. He embraced armed resistance as the only option left to force the central government into negotiating the issues that divided the country. His outspoken support for the South caused Military Governor Andrew Johnson to arrest and incarcerate him in 1862 at Fort Mackinac, Michigan, as an example of what might happen to other public figures who did not return their loyalty to the Union. He and two fellow political prisoners were held until they made oath not to assist the Confederacy against the Union. He returned to Gallatin on September 25, 1862.

During the early 1840s Guild and his wife Catherine Blackmore built a handsome brick house on their Rose Mont plantation one mile south of the public square in Gallatin. Their family included four daughters and two sons, one of whom was George B. Guild, a Confederate soldier and military author who was later mayor of Nashville.

During his latter years, Josephus Conn Guild wrote a book-length memoir entitled Old Times in Tennessee. Published in 1878, it was reprinted in 1995 by the Rose Mont Foundation.

Suggested Reading

Joshua W. Caldwell, Sketches of Bench and Bar of Tennessee (1898)

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Josephus Conn Guild
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
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  • Access Date July 25, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018