Purdy, Tennessee

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The Hurst mansion dates back to the Civil War era. It is one of the oldest dwellings in the community. In 2007, the building is abandoned.

Purdy, Tennessee is a rural unincorporated community 3.5 mi (5.6 km) northeast of Selmer in McNairy County, Tennessee. Until 1890, Purdy was the county seat of McNairy County.[1]

Failed development in the 1850s kept the community rural thereafter, without industries, major business ventures or tourism. During the Civil War the town was a crossroads, but during the war damage was done to the town which led to its decline.


In 1850, according to Census records, the population of Purdy was 260. The population was residing in 43 dwellings in the district.[2]



Purdy is located at 35.22670 North, 88.53060 West, 3.5 mi (5.6 km) northeast of Selmer in McNairy County.[3]

The elevation above sea level is 570 ft (173.7 m).[3]


Graves on the Purdy cemetery date back to the early 1800s and the Civil War era (2007).

Purdy was the county seat of McNairy County until 1890.[1]

Failed railroad development 1850s[edit]

In the 1850s, citizens of Purdy refused to support a railroad line through their community, while residents of Selmer, supported a railroad through their town. The railroad brought business and wealth to Selmer and the rural community of Purdy remained so.

County seat changed 1890[edit]

In 1890, due to the increasing economic development of Selmer following the railroad, the county seat was moved from Purdy to Selmer in a decision of Selmer voters. Since 1890, Selmer has been the county seat of McNairy County, Tennessee.[4]


Col. Fielding Hurst, an officer in the Civil War, was murdered by one of his enemies in his mansion in 1871, according to local folklore. This is false. Fielding Hurst sold his home in Purdy to pay debts and lived in Mount Gilead, Tennessee, where he died in 1882.[5] According to history he was responsible for the death of residents of Purdy. "Some time after the battle of Shiloh, April 6 and 7, 1862, Andrew Johnson, then Governor of Tennessee, authorized and commissioned Fielding Hurst to recruit and organize a regiment, this regiment was known as the 6th Tennessee Cavalry. About the first of October in that year, companies A, B, C, D, and G, were organized by Col. Hurst." To Johnson's regret though, Hurst proved more murderer than soldier.

On April 16, 1863, Col. E. W. Rice wrote to his commander Major General Oglisly concerning Hurst's activities saying, "Colonel Hurst's 6th W. Tenn. Cavalry is at Purdy for the purpose of destroying property. He has ordered the furniture removed from some of the houses and threatens to burn them. The colonel passed through line this morning but did not report to my headquarters, and I do not know by what authority he destroys the property." The letter went on to say Hurst destroyed homes and churches saying, "It was Hurst who played the role of Nero in Purdy, even singing songs and praying while the churches were burning."

One of Hurst's most horrific murders was the killing of Lt. J. W. Dodds, an officer in Colonel F. Newsome's 18th Cavalry who was at home on leave from the war. A dispatch of General Forrest reads "Private Silas Hodges . . . states that he saw the body of Lt. Dodds very soon after his murder, and that it was horribly mutilated, the face having been skinned, the nose cut off, the under jaw disjointed, the privates cut off, and the body otherwise barbarously lacerated and most wantonly injured, and that his death was brought about by the most inhuman process of torture."

Hurst's reputation was dark to say the least. His murderous ways led an unknown writer to pen this poem that was the apparent sentiment concerning Hurst:

"Despair for the children who lie now in bed. The widow, the aged, the soldier who bled. For out of the "Nation" comes a sickness and curse - God save us all from the demon called Hurst. Like vandals of old through our land they did ride With Hunger and Death always close by their side. Came Terror, his herald, but the wailing comes first . . . We know he is coming, that demon called Hurst."

According to folklore, the cemetery and the mansion are haunted by the souls who lost their lives.[6] Graves in the Purdy cemetery date back to the early 19th century and the Civil War era. The Hurst Mansion is currently owned and operated by Darren and Roxie Holt and Ricky and Rhonda Miller, both of Purdy. A haunted house attraction is centered around the mansion annually at www.purdyhauntedmansion.com.


Purdy's newspaper is the Independent Appeal, which serves all of McNairy County. It was founded in 1902. It is located at 111 N. 2nd St. in Selmer.


The community's main source of income is agriculture (especially cotton).


After the abolition of slavery, sharecropping was the primary means of income for low income families in the area. Mostly for the cultivation of cotton, land would be used by sharecroppers in return for a share of the crop to the landowner.


Modern machines such as the cotton picker have made manual cultivation obsolete over time as they took over work from laborers.

In 2007, Purdy was a rural unincorporated community with no industries, major business ventures or tourism.

Notable natives[edit]


  1. ^ a b Purdy McNairy Co. TN
  2. ^ http://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/tn/mcnairy/census/1850/1850-pudey.txt rootsweb.com, Census, Purdy, 1850
  3. ^ a b http://wayhoo.com/index.php?a=wlist&sr=20&state=TN&map=Purdy WayHoo.com Geographic coordinates
  4. ^ http://www.genealogyinc.com/tennessee/mcnairy-county/ GenealogyInc.com
  5. ^ http://www.fieldinghurst.com/trueorfalse.htm http://www.fieldinghurst.com
  6. ^ http://www.hurstnation.com hurstnation.com - Early and modern folklore of Purdy, Tennessee

Coordinates: 35°13′36″N 88°31′50″W / 35.22667°N 88.53056°W / 35.22667; -88.53056