Marcus Brutus Winchester

Marcus B. Winchester, land developer and first mayor of Memphis, was born on May 28, 1796, at Cragfont, the eldest son of James Winchester and Susan Black. Winchester was educated in Baltimore but left school at age sixteen to serve at his father’s side in the War of 1812. He was captured with his father and others at the battle of River Raisin and sent to prison in Quebec.

In October 1818 Winchester accompanied Andrew Jackson and Isaac Shelby to the signing of the Chickasaw Cession (Jackson Purchase) and traveled on to the Chickasaw Bluff to report on the land investment owned by his father, Jackson, and John Overton. Winchester and surveyor William Lawrence drew up a plan for a town which his father named Memphis.

Marcus Winchester made his home in Memphis, where he served as agent for the proprietors and opened the first store. He was one of the first five members of the Quarterly Court and was elected register in 1820. When Memphis was incorporated in 1826, Winchester became the first mayor. He operated a ferry and served as postmaster until 1849, although his loyalty to the Jacksonians came under question when he supported Davy Crockett for Congress.

About 1823 Winchester married Amarante Loiselle (called Mary) of New Orleans, and most historians agree that she was a woman of color. They had six daughters and two sons. Possibly because of his marriage and the hardening of racial lines, Winchester’s career declined. He moved with his family to his farm three miles outside Memphis and was involved in a variety of lawsuits and financial difficulties.

After his wife’s death in 1840, Winchester married a nineteen-year-old widow, Lucy Lenore Ferguson McLean, in 1842. He served as a delegate to a railroad convention in St. Louis in 1849 and was elected to the state legislature in 1851. Winchester died on November 2, 1856.

Suggested Reading

Michelle Jarzombek, “Memphis-South Memphis Conflict, 1826-1850,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 41 (1982): 23-36

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Marcus Brutus Winchester
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  • 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