a tree-rific journey into family history

Fifty Cents and some Animal Skins: a look at the land of Landess

John Henry Landess, my great-great-great-great grandfather, was born of Dutch extraction on November 18, 1799 in Kentucky. He was one of eight children born to the union of Henry and Gracie Landess. In the 1820s, John Henry Landess bought an acre of land near Bellville, Tennessee for 50 cents and opened a tannery business. He also started the first cemetery in the area.  Apparently he knew his animal hides well because by 1850, his property was valued at $28,000. By his death on September 11, 1876, his land totaled more than 600 acres. Some combination of hard work and good circumstance led to this vast expansion and success. His accumulation of land is significant for someone who started with only one acre and whose surname is just one letter away from Landless.

John Henry Landess married Mary Hurst Stone (1815-1891) on April 5, 1831 in Lincoln County, Tennessee. A native of Virginia, Mary Landess bore 11 children: Earline Bobo, Sarah Landess, Sallie L. Landess, Martha A. Terry, Fannie Elizabeth Holman, Mary Goodrich, John Henry Landess, Susan K. Landess, William James Landess, Ella J. Landess, and Charlie S. Landess. One son, William Landess (1852-1932) married Ida Mae Boone (1856-1949), a descendant of Daniel Boone’s brother. I descended from one of John Henry Landess and Mary Hurst Stone’s daughters: Fannie Elizabeth Landess Holman (1843-1923). You can read about her son in another post here.

I went to Lincoln County, Tennessee earlier this year to see the towns where many of my maternal ancestors settled. For the Landess branch, I drove to the Bellville community. I followed a map to the area where Landess Cemetery sits, but I did not find the exact spot. (Luckily, I found some Landess family grave pictures on The land where John Henry Landess settled appeared untouched by time. As I traveled through the rural countryside, I saw hills, fields, creeks, spring blooms, and even horseback riding. I feel a sense of pride knowing that I went over the same land where my great-great-great-great grandparents lived, made their home, worked, raised a family, toiled, died, and created a legacy.

My 4x-great grandfather, John Henry Landess (1799-1876), is interred at Landess Cemetery outside Bellville, Tennessee.

My 4x-great grandmother, Mary Hurst Stone Landess (1815-1891), is interred at Landess Cemetery outside Bellville, Tennessee.

Lincoln County, Tennessee is an important county for many of my maternal branches: Holman, Landess, Feeney, and Woods. This March, I was fortunate to travel there with my aging grandmother so she could see the city where her father was born. I hope to return someday.


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2 thoughts on “Fifty Cents and some Animal Skins: a look at the land of Landess

  1. Pingback: The Agony and Mystique of Unknown Photographs: awesome old pictures inside! « Genealogics

  2. Patricia Murphree on said:

    Good afternoon, my great-grandfather, John McKenzie, who was born in Inverness, Scotland, worked at the Landess Tannery after he moved to Fayetteville, TN, sometime after 1866 until his death in 1877. He and my Irish great-grandmother, Bridget Lohan McKenzie, named their son, b. 1880, John Landess McKenzie. My grandfather Duncan Lawrence McKenzie, and my uncle, John Lawrence McKenzie worked at the tannery as well, and I have a wonderful photo taken around 1908 of a number of our family members in the tannery yard. If you will email me, I will be happy to send you an electronic file of the photo.

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