James Fletcher Tarwater was born in Dandridge, Tennessee, November 4, 1847, the son of Rev. William Tarwater, a Baptist Minister. In 1863, he enlisted in the Union Army, serving in the Ninth Tennessee Cavalry until the close of the War.
Following which he came to Roane County. General Wilder and associates had started at Rockwood a coke furnace for the making of pig iron. Mr. Tarwater mined ore for this new plant, operating through the Brown Mining Company at Cardiff. He was a Director of The Roane Iron Company, one of the organizers of the Rockwood Hosiery Mills and the Harriman Hosiery Mills, a member of the American Institute of Mining Engineers.
In 1871, he was married to Rebecca Am Kendrick, a daughter of one of the early families of Roane County. They were the parents of ten children, seven living to maturity: Polk, Maud, Jack, Tom, Dorothy, Madge, and Reba. The early years of their marriage were spent south of the Tennessee River, following the ore mines. Mr. Tarwater was associated with his brothers-in-law, Capt. J.P. and W.E. Kendrick, who operated steamboats that towed the ore on barges to Chattanooga. About 1881, Mr. and Mrs. Tarwater established a Hospitable Home in Rockwood, where they were privileged to live for many years. The family was active in the business, civic and social life of Rockwood, and interested in every enterprise for its growth and promotion.
Mrs. Tarwater was a charter member of the local Christian Church; and Mr. Tarwater was an Elder.