Santa Fe, previously known as Pinhook and later Benton, had five steam sawmills, two saloons, three grocery stores, one tannery, one blacksmith, and one bank. Benton was named after the U.S. Senator, Thomas Hart Benton. Senator Benton was a well known and respected citizen in the area representing Tennessee State Senate and later the state of Missouri in the U.S. Senate. On November 5, 1849, Benton changed its name to Santa Fe. As the story has it, Benton was renamed due to the opening of a new post office, and the town name of Benton had already been taken in east Tennessee. Another story suggests that Santa Fe was renamed after Mexican War veterans who returned home renaming it Santa Fe meaning “holy faith” in Spanish. The community grew rapidly and a horse mill provided the community with a power source to build houses and community buildings.
Maury County’s only artillery was primarily formed by James M. Sparkman in early 1861. James Sparkman, who at the time had no intention of becoming a captain due to limited military experience, recruited nearly all farm boys on the square of Santa Fe. After few artillery practices on the square, the boys set out to join the Confederacy at Fort Donelson.
“With only a few hours drill as heavy artillerists, they defeated the newly invented Federal gunboats, which were at the time considered undefeatable, and they let not one succeed in passing the battery” (Alexander, 1970). Captain Sparkman was captured on February 16, 1862, and was relocated to Johnson’s Island until September when he was transferred to the prison compound in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Upon entering the compound an officer pulled Sparkman to the side noticing the Shriner pin on his jacket and said to Sparkman, “Masonary is thicker than any blood that has ever flowed” (Alexander, 1970). Sparkman was kept in prison on his honor after the encounter. After release, Sparkman was killed by artillery failure resulting in a deep gash on his leg. He was hospitalized in a war tent for 10 days under the care of a nurse and died on June 5, 1863. Sources say, he was buried in an unmarked grave under a large beech tree.
Private John Wesley Robinson of the Maury Light Artillery set off from Santa Fe on October 3, 1861. Many letters were written between John Wesley and his wife, Josephine, while he was away at war. Inspired, country music duo Joey + Rory wrote and sang the song entitled “Josephine” based on the letters of this heart-felt story. To view the music video, click on the link “Josephine“.
The Grand Lodge of Mason’s of Tennessee granted the charter for the Benton Masonic Lodge 111 on October 6, 1845. The Benton Masonic Lodge is one of the only buildings in Santa Fe which has continual operation for over 170 years. Quarterly dues of $0.25 were paid in advance in its early years. Nicknamed the “Moon Lodge” from 1835 until the 1950’s. The Masonic Lodge got its nickname due to the full moon gatherings in which its members walked walked, rode horseback, or by buggy who were able to see their way by the light of the moon. In 1880, a two-story wing was added to the Benton Lodge for a public school, followed by a private school then later it was used as for the Santa Fe College for women. The Benton Masonic Lodge has a long history of supporting charities.
Santa Fe College,a private college chartered in the 1880’s, offered Bachelors degrees for both men and women. In 1922, the college caught fire and was rebuilt that following year. Santa Fe hosted the three day long Maury County fair in the 1920’s and 30’s.
Alexander, Virginia. “Capt. James Sparkman Original Photo Returned to Maury. Elm Springs CSA . 1970. 02 Feb. 2013.
“Captain J.M. Sparkman’s Tennessee Light Artillery Company”. TN Geneology Web Project. 2004. 01 Feb. 2013.
Fields, Mark L. “Biography of John Fields”. Relatively Connected. Mark L. Fields. 2006. 01 Feb. 2013.
Hinson, C. and Hardison, Harold. Maury County Tennessee History and Families. Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company, 1998.
“I love you, I love you, I love you Josephine”. Milkhouse Media. 2012. 29 April 2013.
“Thomas Hart Benton”. NNDB: Tracking the World. 2012. 02 Feb. 2013.