TOWN OF SOMERVILLE
Somerville TN – The nucleus of settlement was begun in the middle of the county and it was named Somerville in honor of Lt Robert Somerville, who fought in the War of 1812 and was killed in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Memphis was six years old at this time and LaGrange, a small village which took its name fro LaFayette’s home in France, had become the home of a number of families of wealth and refinement.
Among the first property owners in Somerville were Jim Brown and George Bowers. The records show that Dr. Josiah Higgason, who came to Somerville from Hanover County, Virginia, and married Amy Elizabeth Cocke, daughter of Thomas Jones Cooke, bought for $50, on January 14, 1829, “a certain lot of ground in the town of Somerville”. The old Higgason home, more than 100 years old, still stands on Main Street and is occupied by Dr. Higgason’s great-granddaughter.
On July 23, 1831, George Bowers deeded to “the Commissioners of the Female Academy, William S. Gray, Benjamin F. Gray, John C. Cooper, Albert G. Hunter, John Brown, Michael Cody, Thomas C. Hudson, Isaac B. McClellan, Robert A. Parker, Bennett H. Henderson, and Washington L. Hannum, and their successors forever in trust (nevertheless,) for the use and benefit of a Female Seminary, and for no other use, interest, or purpose whatever (a piece of land) $50.”
Thus, before the town was chartered a school for higher education was established, and for 70 years the Somerville Female Institute flourished. Until the end of the nineteenth century, the original purpose of the commissioners was carried out. But with the coming of the new century, the “Institute” and the “male Academy” were converted into a public school, under the name of the Fayette County High School.
In the Interim, churches had been established in the little settlement and practically the same grounds on which they now stand. Presbyterian (1852), Methodist, Episcopal, and Baptist churches were erected. The name given the Methodist Church when it was first established was Green Coe Chapel, in honor of the young lieutenant from Somerville who lost his life during the Mexican War.
By 1835, Somerville and her sister village, LaGrange, had proved that their venture at settlement was permanent, and applied to the State legislature for charters. On January 5, 1836, the LaGrange charter was signed by Ephraim Foster, speaker of the House of Representatives, and signed by Jonathan Webster, speaker of the Senate, and on May 11, 1836, it was sworn to before Luke Lea, Secretary of State, at Nashville. In that same month the following “Act to incorporate the town of Somerville” was passed:
“Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, that the town of Somerville, in the county of Fayette, be and the same is hereby incorporated with the same powers, rights, and privileges in all respects as the town of LaGrange, except so far as the same are local in their character, be held applicable to the said town of Somerville.”