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John Early Biography

Front of John Early

Who was John Early?

Source: History of Metro Schools (Book published in 1975 for Bicentennial and housed in MNPS Public Relations Office)

  • John Early School dedicated October 20, 1935
  • Named for John Early, business and civic leader
  • Early served 2 terms as chairman of Davidson County Board of Education

Source: Obituary in Tennessean dated December 14, 1934

            (Vertical File in Nashville Room at Nashville Public Library)

  • Early served as treasurer & director of United Charities for 35 years
  • Fundraiser for Fannie Battle Day Home and John W. Thomas Fresh Air Camp
  • Worked with Davidson County Charities Commission
  • Board of Education member for many years
  • Grandson of Bishop John Early of Virginia
  • Co-founder of TN State Fair
  • Member of National Trotting Horse Association (Southwest representative)
  • All schools closed on December 14, 1934 so teachers & students could attend funeral services

 Source: 1870 Federal Census             (Via

  • John Early
    • 1870—age 2
    • Born 1868 (white)
    • Father is John F. Early—age 38
      • Born 1832
      • Employed by a Transfer Company
    • Mother is Eliza B. (Bostick) Early—age 33
      • Born 1837
      • House wife
    • Siblings
      • Harden—age 8
      • Eliza—age 4

Source: 1880 Federal Census             (Via

  • John Early
    • 1880—age 12
    • Siblings now include
      • Hardin—age 19
      • Elisa—age 14
      • Maggie—age 9

 1890 Federal Census destroyed by fire—no records

Source: 1900 Federal Census             (Via

  • John Early
    • 1900—age 32
    • Born May 1868
    • Lives with his widowed mother at 1805 West End Avenue
    • Not married
    • Works as a bookkeeper

 Source: 1910 Federal Census             (Via

  • John Early
    • 1910—age 41
    • Born 1869 (estimated year)
    • Lives on Greenwood Avenue
    • Married to Willie E. Early—age 32 (born 1878)
    • Children
      • Daughter         Margaret          born 1904 / age 6
      • Son                  John Early, Jr. born 1905 / age 5
      • Daughter         Katherine        born 1910 / age 8 ½
    • Others in living in household
      • Servant            Maria White    born 1843 / age 67      (black)
      • Servant            Charles Martin born 1876 / age 34      (black)
      • Cook               Callie Brown   born 1887 / age 23      (black)

 Source: 1920 Federal Census             (Via

  • John Early
    • 1920—age 51
    • Born about 1869
    • Lives on Greenwood Avenue
    • Works as a manager / manufacturing horse equipment
    • Wife: Willie F. Early—age 41
    • Children
      • Daughter         Margaret E. Early        age 16
      • Son                  John Early                   age 14
      • Daughter         Katherine W. Early     age 18
      • Son                  Joseph H.                    age 7
      • Daughter         Elizabeth                     age 3 10/12

 Source: Nashville Relief Society & United Charities Records

            Special Collections Center Closed Stacks / Range 1 Section 1

            Box 1

  • Folder 1: Charter of Incorporation-- April 16, 1887
    • Founding members who signed charter: Mrs. Laura Gillespie, Mrs. P.V. Farrar, Miss Eliza Crostwait, Miss Mary A. Burton, Miss Bettie J. Scavel, Mrs. Sophia K. Hatton, Mrs. Sarah Manier, Mrs. Louise Hamilton, Miss Mary Frances Battle
    • Objectives of organization:
      • Support of benevolent & charitable undertakings
      • Supply destitute & poor with necessities of life, employment, & homes
      • Distribution & expenditure of funds to support those in need
  • Folder 5: United Charities Meeting Minutes—April 2, 1910
    • Resolutions passed by board
      • Have more cooperation between charitable organizations in Nashville
      • Create a council of charities’ officers & meet quarterly
      • Employ a field secretary (paid for by United Charities & Ante-Tuberculosis League)
    • John Early is present at this meeting representing United Charities
    • Other members present: J.B. Richardson, G.N. Thruston, W.C. Collier, Maj. Cheek, A.H. Robinson, Jas. Parkes, A.B. Hill, Miss Battle, Miss Davis
    • Other charities present: Ante-Tuberculosis Association, Humane Society, Polk Street Day Home, Earnest Circle of King’s Daughters, Woman’s Board of City Missions, Pentecostal Training School, County Charities, Methodist Training School, Federation of Jewish Charities, South Nashville Federation, Golden Rule of Circle of King’s Daughters, Boys Club & YWCA, Biblical Department of Vanderbilt University, McKendree Church, St. Ann’s Church, Welfare Committee of Centennial Club

 Folder 6: Board of Directors of United Charities Meeting Minutes & Reports

    • Meeting March 6, 1913
      • John Early is serving as Treasurer of Trust Fund
      • United Charities is in debt over $2,600 plus $700 due (total $3,400)
    • Meeting May 26, 1913
      • John Early is elected to Board of Directors
    • Treasurer’s Report for January 1, 1924 to December 31, 1924
      • John Early still serving as treasurer
      • Report is typed on John Early’s business letterhead:

Early-Cain Company

Manufacturers of Harness, Saddles, & Horse Goods

JNO. Early Agent for Hartford Live Stock Insurance Co.

179 2nd Ave. North

Sole agents for McMurray’s Sulkies & Carts

Tuttle & Clark Boots

Ruducine   Pony Buggies 

 Folder 7: 30th Anniversary of United Charities (ca 1911) Narrative

    • United Charities work began Thanksgiving Day 1881
    • Mrs. Sophia K. Hatton worked as State Librarian and lived in the same building as Fanny Battle and her mother
    • These women got the idea to feed the hungry on Thanksgiving Day at the State Capitol; also collected and distributed items to needy
    • 1882 Cumberland River Flood—these ladies and others formed Citizens’ Relief Commission (aka Nashville Relief Society)
    • The title “Nashville Relief Society didn’t reflect the scope of the work being done so the name was changed to “United Charities” to capture the work of the many different organizations working together
    • Headquarters located at 418 6th Ave. North in a 23 room building

 Folder 8: Beginning of John W. Thomas Fresh Air Camp (ca. 1911)

    • 1901 widespread summer sickness (typhoid fever)
    • Money donated to alleviate sickness which was used to create a camp
    • Camp located on land near Lebanon (Leeville Farm which was owned by Dr. D. c. Kelley)
    • Camp opened summer of 1902 and took in 21 women & children
      • This camp burned; more donations came in to build a new camp near Mt. View
  • John W. Thomas, president of Nashville & Cincinnati Railroad, donated fund to build better camp facilities---camp named after him

 Folder 16: Annual Report of United Charities (Jan. 1, 1934-Jan. 1, 1935)

    • John W Thomas Fresh Air Camp
      • Organized under Chapter 120, Public Acts of 1917
      • Purpose: to provide temporary homes for homeless children between ages 4 and 12 years old
      • Children were sent there by Juvenile Court & Welfare Commission until their homes was rehabilitated or other provision made
    • Annual Meeting of Board of Directors
      • Resolutions on the death of Mr. John Early for 30 years of service as Treasurer of the Charities

Above information researched and compiled by
Rebecca Verner, Instructional Designer