Col. John Donelson

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Col. John Donelson

Also Known As: "Patrick", "John Donaldson"
Birthplace: Somerset County, Maryland
Death: April 11, 1785 (66-67)
Lincoln County, Virginia, United States (Murdered By Indians returning home from a trip to KY)
Place of Burial: Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Capt. John Patrick Donaldson, I and Catherine Donaldson
Husband of Rachel Donelson
Father of William Donaldson; Elizabeth Donelson; Alexander Donelson; Catherine Hutchings; Mary Caffrey and 12 others
Brother of Andrew Donaldson; Mary Long Henry and Mary Shaw

Occupation: Surveyor, Colonel, co-founder of Nashville, Pioneer, Co-founder of Nashville, TN
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Col. John Donelson

DAR Ancestor #: A033074 A Patriot of the American Revolution for VIRGINIA - NORTH CAROLINA with the rank of COLONEL

Col. John Donelson, Jr.

  • Parents: Capt. John Donelson, Sr. and Catherine Davies.
  • Born: Apr 7, 1718 in Somerset County, MD.
  • Died: 1785 in TN.
  • Spouse: Rachel Stockley born: 1715 in Accomack, VA; died: 1801 in Davidson County, TN.
  • Eleven children

Donelson was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses and served in the Revolutionary War. Family lore (via Emily Van Dorn, from her mother) has Col. Donelson on George Washington's staff during the war. The Donelsons moved to the Tennessee frontier in 1779. There is a statue of Donelson in Nashville's Riverfront Park.

The children are: Alexander, Mary, Catherine, Stockley, Jane, Capt. John Donelson III, (who also served in the Revolutionary War), William, Samuel (whose son was Confederate General Daniel S. Donelson), Severn, Rachel (who married Andrew Jackson), and Leven.

Daughter Rachel died before Andrew Jackson moved into the White House, so Emily Donelson (daughter of Capt. John Donelson III) was made his private secretary and served as First Lady during the Jackson years in the White House. She married her first cousin, Andrew Jackson Donelson, who was raised by Andrew Jackson and Rachel. Andrew Jackson Donelson also served as President Jackson's private secretary except for one year when he and Emily were exiled to Tennesee for shunning the wife of a presidential friend. Emily's middle name was "Tennessee".

Severn Donelson and his wife Elizabeth had twin boys; they kept one (Thomas Jefferson Donelson), and the other (Andrew Jackson, Jr.) was adopted by Andrew Jackson.

Aboard his flagship, the "Adventure," Colonel Donelson led families on an historic river voyage to the first permanent settlement on the Cumberland.

Colonel Donelson and his wife Rachel Stockley (circa 1730-1801) had eleven children. Their seven sons and four daughters were all born in Virginia and all traveled from Watauga settlements in east Tennessee to the new Cumberland settlement. In fact, all of their children, except for one son who went overland with James Robertson, were on the historic river voyage, including twelve-year-old Rachel. [1]

Shortly after arriving in Nashville, Colonel Donelson moved his family about 10 miles up the Cumberland and settled at Clover Bottom on Stone's Rivers. Indian attacks and floods soon forced the Donelsons to abandon their initial settlement and move first to Mansker's Station and then to Kentucky. Colonel Donelson's interest in the Cumberland area continued and he acquired land in the vicinity of what became the site of the Hermitage. [2] The Donelson family returned to stay in 1786, but unfortunately without Colonel Donelson who was mysteriously killed on his way back to rejoin his family in Nashville. The community of Donelson was named after the area's first family of settlers. [3]

The Donelson name figured prominently in early Tennessee history. The sons and daughters of Colonel John Donelson and Rachel Stockley, the second generation of the Tennessee Donelsons, produced approximately 63 children The Donelsons were pioneers, Indian fighters, professionals, businessmen, soldiers, and politicians, and always aligned with General Andrew Jackson. [4] Just as the successful voyage of the "Adventure" placed the Donelson name in the pages of American pioneer history, the marriage of Rachel Donelson to Andrew Jackson, placed the Donelson name in the pages of American political and presidential history. [5]



This site has Captain John Donelson’s Diary from 1779. It’s has a first hand account of the risks, perils and hardships early settlers experienced in their quest to settle a frontier, a very interesting read for those who are really interested in history. . The state of TN has the original scanned document.


  1. U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 :Name: John Donelson Gender: male Birth Place: MD Birth Year: 1718 Spouse Name: Rachel Stockly Spouse Birth Place: VA Spouse Birth Year: 1715 Marriage Year: 1740 Marriage State: VA Number Pages: 1


Colonial Frontiersman. One of the two founders of Nashville, he joined with James Robertson to lead the first settlers to began a new settlement on the Cumberland River at the French Lick. A land speculator and surveyor, he had served in the Virginia House of Burgesses before moving to the Watauga settlements on the Holston and Watauga rivers in East Tennessee. where he met James Robertson. While Robertson led a group of mostly men and boys overland with pack horses and livestock, John Donelson organized and led a flotilla of approximately thirty boats from the Holston River to the Tennessee River,up the Ohio River,and then up the Cumberland River to the present site of Nashville, approximately 1000 miles. Most of his passengers were the wives and children of the men who went with Robertson. John Donelson was mysteriously killed on the trail between Kentucky and Nashville in 1785. His tenth child (out of eleven) was Rachel Donelson Jackson, the future wife of Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States.

Col. John Patrick Donelson
MyHeritage Family Trees
Birth: Apr 7 1720? - Snow Hill Somerset County, Maryland, Colonial AmericaDeath: Circa Nov 17 1785 - KentuckyParents: John Patrick Donaldson, I, Catherine Donaldson (born Davies)Siblings: Andrew Donaldson, Mary Henry (born Donelson), Rachel Donelson, Catherine Donelson, William Donelson, Margaret DonelsonWife: Rachel Donelson (born Stockley)Children: ...y Ann Caffrey (born Donelson), Alexander Donelson, John Patrick Donelson, Jane Hays (born Donelson), Rachel Stockley Jackson (born Donels...

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Col. John Donelson's Timeline

Somerset County, Maryland
April 25, 1738
Ireland County, Pennsylvania, British Colonial America
Somerset, MA, United States
Spotsylvania County, Virginia, United States
Pittsylvania County, Virginia
June 1, 1753
South Carolina, United States
April 17, 1755
Accomac County, Virginia
Pittsylvania, VA, United States