Chapter I - The Pioneer
An Almost Unbroken
White County's land had reposed in
an almost unbroken silence, except for Indians, while European nations
played on the checkerboard of chance for it. The French and the Spanish
crossed Tennessee, and as White County was a paradise for hunters, with
her numerous buffalo, bear, and deer, they must have crossed our
territory. There is some evidence perhaps that they did so. Less than a
mile north of Mount Gilead there is a grave of a white person. The
oldest settlers were asked about it and replied that it was here when
The sigh of the winds, the music of the waterfall, the bellow of some
huge buffalo leaving the heard, the neigh of the wild horse, the
terrifying scream of the panther, or the sullen whoop of the aboriginal,
or perhaps wolves yelping in the chase echoed through the timber of the
hills of the vast canebrakes and stretches of tall grass. Wild nature
Indian trails by which they traveled
for war, commerce, hunting trips or for social purposes, and which later
became roads for the white man ran from sea to sea. Two concern us most;
the Black Fox Trail, and the Chickamauga Path. Our early settlers came
over these trails. Our Broadway of America which was opened by North
Carolina in 1785, was an Indian trail. The Black Fox Trail began in the
Hiwassee settlements, ran by Salt Lick in Rhea County, by the Indian
mounds five miles of Pikeville across the Cumberland plateau,
reaching the Caney Fork River a few miles upstream from . Rock Island,
and crossing the Chickamauga Path a few miles South of Rock Island. The
Chickamauga Path began in the North Georgia and Chattanooga settlements,
crossed the Tennessee River, crossed the Cumberlands by Beersheba
Springs (discovered by Beersheba Coin) on to Rock Island where it
crossed the river. It ran a little West of the present town of
Sparta and on to a fortified Indian town on Cherry Creek. There it
branched, one branch going to the settlements of the Cherokees at
Officer's Mounds near Algood, thence to Carthage; the other branch going
to Mayland and beyond Jamestown. Those settling in the North of the
County came over the East branch of the Chickamauga Path by Sand Springs
or over the train which is now the Broadway of America. Those settling
earliest in the Southern part of White County came by the Black Fox
Trail, or the Chickamauga Path. This
trail was the first white man's road built across the Cumberlands. The
Walton Road was not opened until seventeen years later. Another
important trail over which white men came into the Calfkiller valley ran
by Ravenscroft through Blue Spring Cove and connected with the
Chickamauga Path where Yankeetown now is.
Besides the fortified Cherokee town
on Cherry Creek in the center of which was a mound used for council
located between the Morris and Wilhite places, there was also a
fortified town near Ravenscroft, and another near the present site of
Rock Island. There was a village in Wild Cat Cove and a village or
camping place in Blue Spring Cove. There was a village in Anderson's
Cove and two mounds. The mound at Cherry Creek was opened a few years
ago and beads and pottery were found. There is a mound on Sink Creek
which was once
thirty feet high and almost one hundred feet across its circular top. It
has now been reduced by being plowed over. There is another mound six
miles below Rock Island.
There is a prehistoric burial ground
near Ravenscroft, another in upper Cherry Creek, another in Blue Spring
Cove, another three miles South of Sparta, another North of Doyle,
another in Wild Cat Cove, another near Bickford 's Mill, another near
the mound on Sink Creek which is connected to the mound by a gravel walk
running from the mound to a hill. There are two mounds in Hickory
Valley, one of them covering eighty acres. Early hunters or Indians
camped in a cave near Bickford's Mill. There was a stone near there
which had characters or letters on it which none of the whites there
understood. There is a cave on the Clarence Gillen place near the old
Cumberland Institute, and another three-fourths of a mile Northeast of
the old Cumberland Institute. At different periods two tribes lived in
these large caves, the Cherokees lived there when the white men came.
All these burying grounds are undoubtedly Cherokee. In addition, at many
places in the County there are small graves. These small graves are
supposed by some to have been made by a pigmy race which inhabited this
region before the coming of the Cherokees. There has been much argument
among ethnologists on this point. Some of them contend that these graves
are only the graves of children. Others contend that they are the graves
of a long-forgotten race. Many of the skulls found in these graves have
a full set of adult teeth, which lends some color to the claim that they
were pigmies. A curious thing about these graves is that they are all
lined with stone and that the bodies were buried face down. In many of
these graves are bowls which must have been filled with food, which
indicates a belief in immortality. Shells and other trinkets have also
been found in them. Some of the places where large numbers of such
graves have been found are Wild Cat Cove, Blue Spring Cove, Hickory
Valley, Lost Creek, and the Terry Cove on Cherry Creek. These graves are
usually not more than thirty inches long.
Indians and Chiefs
I find few traditions of any Chief
named Calfkiller. He was Chief over the Indians of this section. There
is a tradition that an early settler drove his cattle into this river
and the swift water carried them away, drowning them, hence the name,
Calfkiller. Practically all writers on the subject say that the river
was named after an Indian Chief. It was called Holly River in 1812
(Morse's geography). Further North on the mountain was a
Chief named Nettle Carrier, a creek at Alpine being named after him.
James Cox, longtime an honored member of the County Court of Overton
County, told me that when he was a lad, he had seen Chief Nettle
Carrier. This must have been after 1830. Mrs. Mollie B. Johnson says her
grandmother Horn knew a man named Calfkiller who lived at the head of
the Calfkiller valley. Black Fox, a Chief of the first rank, hunted in
our bounds. A camp on Lost Creek is thought to have been his. There was
some amalgamation of whites and Indians, their descendants now being
white people. There are a dozen families which now show the Indian
traits of physique. This mixture usually gave an inheritance of oratory.
Some of the wild animals now extinct
are buffaloes and wild horses, but in other days the Western part of the
County was overrun by them. Grass about eight feet tall grew there.
There are small samples of this grass now in the County. Buffaloes mixed
with common cattle. I have seen descendents of these, perhaps a dozen or
so. The buffalo disappeared early. The bear were numerous, some being in
the County as late as 1930. Otter were plentiful on the Caney Fork
River, and in the Mitchell Mill Pond, and up stream in the gulch. Wolves
came to this county from Van Buren as late as 1880, making inroads among
the sheep and leaving half-breed descendents. Early settlers suffered
much because of panther. These, too, have disappeared. There was an old
hunter's tradition that no woman about to give birth to a male child
was ever harmed by a panther. But if the child were to be a girl, the
attacking panther, if possible, always slew the woman. Once a large wolf
was killed which when standing, came to the waist band of a six-foot
man. An old lady told me that she remembered when the wolves would come
to their home, run the dogs under the house, and then fight over the
bones thrown out of the window. Deer were also very numerous. Barlow
Fisk in that day was recognized as the champion deer hunter in the
One thing that attracted high grade
people to locate here and in the mountain counties was the scenery. It
is often spoken of as rivaling Italy or Switzerland. From Sunset Rock
one may see parts of seven counties, and from the top of this rock, one
may see parts of three states.
The First Settlers
In the latter part of the year 1789,
a bold adventurer, a veteran of the Revolution, who played the fife for
three years during the struggle for freedom came from Amelia County,
Virginia, to the wilds of White County as the first settler and
afterwards to give his name to the County. He was in the battle of
Brandywine, Germantown, and Stony Point. Circumstances as well as
traditions attest that he came before the second treaty of Holston. This
treaty, made in 1791, confined the Indians to the plateau of the
Cumberland mountains. The treaty of Tellico in 1795 removed the Indians
from the mountains. This section had become known as the Indian
Territory of the Wilderness, it being a strip of land about sixty miles
wide which cut the white settlers of the East off from those of the
West. This adventurer was John White, born March 2, 1751, died October
12, 1846. He was what is called a "squatter." With him were his wife and
his son, Woodson, six years old, who later represented White County in
the State Legislature, and a daughter Martha, born 1764, died 1842. This
Martha never married. There were other children also. This John White
cleared the first land in White County
and built the first house. This land was a seven acre tract lying
between what is now the Luther Moss place and the Hickory Valley
Presbyterian Church. The house was built in the autumn of 1789 with port
holes which remained in the house until it was remodeled some thirty
years ago. It is now owned by Luther Moss.
While White was clearing this land, which was then a canebrake, for his
first crop, his daughter, aged seventeen, took a pail and started to the
sinkhole spring. When she came near the spring, two hostile Indians
jumped out of a hole and gave chase. The girl screamed and ran a race
worthy of a "Bonnie Kate.'' White came from his work, took the gun from
the porthole, which had bluffed the Indians, and hunted in the thick
canebrake, but in vain. White men encroached on the wilderness when
their own game became scarce and there was constant trouble until the
Treaty of Tellico. Pauline Weaver, born here in 1800, told of numerous
conflicts between whites and Indians during his boyhood. Even after
Tellico there were numerous skirmishes between whites and Indians.
Indians were ordered removed from Tennessee in 1834, but Buckland
lingered, wintering at my grandfather's until 1854, the last Indian in
White County. The White family by the coming of kindred became very
numerous, especially in that part of the County which soon after became
Warren. The County seat at first was near the White settlement so the
County was named after John White.
A few other settlers came soon after
the. coming of John White. And after the Treaty of Tellico the country
settled up rapidly. By 1800 the territory North of what is now known as
Yankeetown was thickly settled. In or near the Horseshoe Bend Reuben
Roberts came to a small settlement in 1794, perhaps in what is now
Warren County. At Young's Mill and at Sparta settlements were made.
Perhaps one or two settlers came to the former place before there was
any settlement at the latter but there were settlers in both places
before 1800. At the old
Emory place are two stone chimneys built before 1796.. Sparta was laid
out in town lots in 1802. John Templeton, a Revolutionary soldier, cut
his way through the canebrakes of Moore Cove and settled on the
Templeton place about 1800. He was the great, great grandfather of our
popular ex-sheriff Templeton. There was an early settlement also at or
near Walling. David Goodwin settled near Duck Pond in 1808. He came from
South Carolina with his wife and thirteen-year-old son, John T. Goodwin.
David Goodwin died in 1838. Solomon Dodson came to Hickory Valley and
settled on a hill East of the Jake Mays' place, later moving to Big
Bottom. He cleared the canebrake North of Dodson's Chapel and cultivated
it in corn for twenty-two successive years. His method of cultivation
was this: He laid off the land, covering it with two furrows; later he
plowed up the middles. This was the only cultivation and the tassels
would show just a little above the weeds. In the fall he would gather
large ears and take a supply of them to a still up the river and bring
back a barrel of whiskey. Then he would live happily until the spring
Some of the early settlers were the following: Second district: John
Felton and five brothers from the Carolinas, Benjamin Lewis, William
Lewis, a Revolutionary veteran who settled in Hickory Valley, Tom Lewis,
Ike Lewis and Benjamin Lewis, their father. These owned most of Hickory
Valley and part of the Jim Hatfield Cove. William Wilson, Sr., Andy
Rogers, Rev. John Yates, Jacob Cole, Hiram Shockley, and Merrill Doyle.
The four Wallace brothers, John, William, Laban (father of Jim Wallace),
and Lias. These were cousins to four other brothers, Stephen, John,
William and Laban Wallace. William moved to Kentucky, then to Texas and
became one of the ancestors of the famous Ma Ferguson. Laban lived in
Hatfield Cove and is the ancestor of the Wallaces of Lost Creek.
Lost Creek. Zachariah Anderson, Jackie Green, Dan Sutherland,
Edmond Cunningham, Jacob Cole, and Squire John Parks. Z. Anderson was a
Big Bottom. Asa Frazier, Ephriam Davis, Solomon Dodson, and
Cherry Creek. Jacob Robinson, Billy Glenn, Billy Lee, Benjamin
Wilhite, John P. Graves, Dave, James, and Tom Snodgrass, and Ransom
Greer who made the nails in his shop to fasten the roof on his house,
recently torn down on the Belle Mitchell place; William Little, who was
the representative of a New York land company, came here about 1800.
About the same time came John Knowles, George Ailsworth, a Revolutionary
soldier, as was also Archibald McDaniel, William Greenfield, Abel Hutson
(Hudson), Armistead Stubblefield, Isaac Swindell, Lewis Ford. It was
said of this Lewis Ford that he drank for an occupation. Once he started
home with a jugful and in crossing a fence the jug fell on one side and
he on the other. The stopper
came out and the contents seemed to him to say, "Good, good, good." He
yelled out, "Oh, yes; I know you 're good but I can't get to you.''
Other early settlers of the Cherry Creek section were Rev. Thomas
Little, Lewis Petit, Thomas Storm, John Ramsey, Ed Harris, Elijah Chism,
Nicholas Gillentine, Archibald Overton, George Allen, Nathan Anderson,
Joe Moseley, George Ogden, Jesse Allen, Samuel Allen, Thomas Allen,
David Ames, Nathanel Bramlett, Jesse Brewer, Thomas Barnes, Finch
Worley, Philip Bethan, Peter Baker, Aaron Brew, John Howell, William H.
Campbell, Abraham Crowson, Joel D. Comfort, William Denny, Asa Denson,
Mr. Leftwick, Tom Farley, Timothy Faran, John Flinn, Jesse Lincoln,
William Grant, Edward T. Garner, John Graham, William Hammond, Ben
Haggard, Jesse Hunter, William Hunter, John Henry, Christopher Hoffman,
Joseph Holt, Joseph Herd, John Isham, Charles Isham, Judge
Joseph Jarred, George Miller, John Medley, Thomas Meek, Shadrack
Monahan, Elisha Mooney, Elijah England, James McClarren, Jonathan Scott,
Cornelius McGuire, Jonathan Nicholas, and Joseph Neely, Robert Officer,
John Austin, William O'Dare, George Price, Levi Perkins, John Parker,
John Poteet, Green Richards, Milton H. Reynolds, Elick Sayers Simpson,
Thomas Shirley, Capt. Joseph Shaw, Benjamin Sapp, John Shanks, David
Tuley, Henry Taylor, Robert Frammel, Robert Vanbibber, Edward Wilkins,
John Weeks, Barrlow Fisk, Lige Golden, who settled
Golden Mountain, Dr. Madison Fisk, Benjamin Lampton, William Anderson,
Mathis Anderson, Lewis
Fletcher, John Hancock, T. B. Rice, Thomas Bounds, Anthony Dibrell,
Alexander Lowery, Nathanial Davis, Montgomery Carrick, William
Ledbetter, Thomas May, David May, Thomas K. Harris, James Simpson, Caleb
Farley, who sold the land on which Sparta was built, John Turner,
Charles Nelson, Peter Houston, Benjamin Cooper, Reuben Cooper, Thomas
Hill, Eli Sims, Bob Townsend, John W. Mitchell, William Glenn, Thomas
Hickman, Turner Lane, Dr. W. M. B. Hall, Dr. Cox, Mark Lowery, Byrd
Jones (born 1782, died 1885), Squire Tom Jones, John Young, Rev.
Stubblefield, Rev. Burden, wounded in war 1812, Abram McGee, William
Dale, Reuben Roberts, John and Samuel Weaver. Elsewhere in the County.
Abraham Saylors, who owned the land from Post Oak Creek to Baker's Cross
Roads. Philip Yarbrough, Philip Dalton, who moved West because his farm
was too small to support his family. Since then this farm has been cut
up into sixteen families. James Kuhn, Moss, Dock Shepherd, both being
exhorters holding big revivals, Samuel Brown, Dick Crowder, John Crook,
John Broyles, Abraham Broyles, Dr. Sam Young, Tom Walling, J. S. Hogg.
This is only a small list of those I have collected, it would
unnecessarily swell the size of any volume to print the entire list.
The Formation, Size and Shape of
On September 6, 1806, the
Legislature erected White County out of Smith County, which had
previously been erected largely out of Sumner County. Its boundaries
were, ''Beginning at the late Indian boundary line at the Southwest
corner of said Wilson County, thence Eastwardly with the said counties
of Wilson, Smith, Jackson, and Overton, to the West boundary of Roane
County; thence Southwardly with the line of said Roane County to the
South boundary of this State; thence with the said South boundary line
to the Southeast comer of Rutherford County to the beginning
aforesaid.'' This extended to Walden's Ridge, thence Southward along the
Cumberland mountain so as not to include Bledsoe County, except what was
later cut off of Van Buren County in the neighborhood of the, present
State Farm about the time of the Civil War and none of Sequatchie County
nor Marion. White County was almost a rectangle. Warren County, almost a
square was cut off of White County. In 1807 Warren had been reduced to
almost round by parts being cut off to Grundy, Coffee, Franklin and
Cannon Counties. DeKalb was cut off of White County in 1837. Van Buren
was formed out of White County in 1840, a portion of it later being cut
off to Grundy County. Putnam was taken almost entirely from White County
in 1842, but that County did not function until after a lawsuit in the
Courts of Overton County which furnished a small strip of territory for
the new County. The Act creating Putnam County was
reaffirmed by the Legislature in 1852. And in the same period Cumberland
County was cut off from White County.
The County seat of White County was at first Rock Island, which was
designated a temporary seat of county government. A boon came in real
estate in Rock Island when it became the County Seat and some predicted
that a large city would grow up there. The home of Joseph Terry was
designated as the legal Courthouse. A log jail was built, but none too
soon, as a man waylaid another at Shell's Ford, killed him, was jailed,
tried and hanged.
The cutting off of so many Counties threw White County to one side of
Rock Island and a new County Seat was necessary. On October 18, 1809,
the Legislature designated a permanent County Seat on the Calfkiller
River. The new town was named Sparta after an ancient Greek town on a
small river. The boon at Rock Island fell flat and our three years' stay
there hold the only history of the town of interest. The question came
up as to which side of the river would be the new town site. A town had
been laid off on the East side in 1802. The Legislative Committee left
the question to a vote which was taken on the first Monday and Tuesday
in January, 1810. The East side won. The people elected Commissioners as
follows: Thomas Bounds, Aaron England, Benjamin Weaver, Turner Lane,
James Fulkerson, Alexander Lowery and Nicholas Gillentine. Lowery was a
colonel in the War of 1812. Turner Lane ran for representative of White,
Overton, and Jackson Counties against James Chism, Moses Fisk, Ike
Plumley, and one other in 1823. Chism was elected. A lot sale was held
just after the location of the County Seat and the proceeds were used to
pay for the building of a log
jail and a log Courthouse. This jail was replaced in a few years by one
of brick which stood until the present structure was erected in 1894.
The log Courthouse was replaced by a small square brick building in
1815, which was replaced by the present one in 1896. Many additions have
been made since the town was first laid out. In 1820 Jacob Lane gave six
acres to the corporation of Sparta. West Sparta was built on the old
Alex Lowery farm.
Manner of Living
The manner of life of the pioneer is
hard to conceive of at the present. It is as if he lived a millennium
ago. He came into the new country walking, riding, in a sled, or with a
wagon or cart. He had few things to bring along with him. Our first
settlers came mostly from Virginia and the Carolinas. Some came directly
from Europe. The racial stock was mostly Irish and Scotch, with a
sprinkling of English, Welsh, German, French, and some others.
The first thing on arrival was to
clear a piece of land, canebrakes covering the richer land, and then to
build a house. The usual house was built of logs, hewn with a common ax,
although a broad ax was not unknown. I saw one made in a blacksmith shop
of this era. The floors were made of puncheons, except where the
flooring, joist, wallplates, and doors were made with a rip-saw, a man
being under the log, another man above, with a saw, not unlike a
cross-cut saw, the man above lifting the saw, the one below doing the
sawing. The first frame house in Hickory Valley was built by William
Wallace in 1824. It collapsed in 1932. Tables, stools for chairs,
cupboards, benches, etc., were hewn puncheons. Bedsteads were hewn posts
with railings of wood and corded each way, from end to end and side to
side, with ropes made of flax, cotton, or the inner bark of the linn
tree. The fireplace was large, usually six or more feet wide, made of
rock where the fire was located and with logs on the outside, six or
eight feet high, then sticks and clay the rest of the way to the top. So
large were some of these that panthers tried to come down the chimneys,
being prevented often by the wife burning the straw in a bed tick. There
were usually two doors and a window sixteen by eighteen inches each way
opening into the chimney corner. One door was usually left open for
light. Sometimes the window was covered with a greasy cloth or paper to
admit the light. Sometimes the mattress was made of grass or leaves.
Sometimes a chimney was all stone, as for example, two still standing on
the Pose Willbanks place, built when this was a part of North Carolina.
The lights were made by grease lamps; but the most fancy ones were made
in a kiln. Sometimes a saucer was used. Candles were also used, being
run from tallow poured into a candle mould. A few near accidents
happened when coal oil came into use, and a man attempted to burn it
with a rag
wick as in the case of the grease burner. Pine knots were sometimes used
for making light.
The fire was well covered at night
before retiring. If it went out, the man took a flint and struck fire on
punk with a little powder on it, or he shot a cotton rag out of his gun,
or flashed powder in the pan of his flint lock gun, or worse still, sent
one of the children through a three or four-inch snow to borrow a chunk
of fire from one of the neighbors two miles away. There was usually a
pole across the fireplace three or four feet above the fire to which a
potrack was hung. It had a hook at the bottom on which a pot could be
hung and swung over the hottest of the fire for boiling. Not all
families had chinaware dishes. Some had wooden plates, called
"trenchers,'' wooden spoons, and knives made of steel, wood, or cane,
and forks of cane. There were usually two butcher knives in each family,
an ax, an augur, chisel, saw and drawing knife. From the railings of the
bed there hung a curtain of cloth, a frill, reaching to the floor. Under
this bed were found boxes made of thin sheets of buckeye wood about
eighteen inches tall and bottomed with the same material and fastened on
with strings through holes. A large gourd, called a peek gourd, held the
powder. In box or gourd was the knitting, for the women knit sox for the
family, crochet needles, quilt pieces, and rags for patching. Medicine,
such as blue mast, ipecac, sulphur, asafetida,--the latter two were
often used in a little bag around the children's neck to prevent them
from catching contagious diseases. Children were often made to eat
sulphur and molasses for health, after molasses came into use. A good
supply of herbs was dried and laid away. Over the fireplace was a stick
or two placed horizontally for drying pumpkin, meat and the like. Meat
was kept without salt until a salt
spring was found below Taylor's Mill and one six miles below Rock
Island. The meat was killed, cooled, washed, then dipped into hot water,
hung over the fire and dried. Red corn cob ashes were used for soda.
The men cleared the land, broke it up with a bull tongue plow, or
bullikin, which was a kind of a twisted shovel or a crude kind of
turning plow. Those who had no horse dug up the land two feet across and
planted the corn in the middle, then tended it with a hoe. The tinker
came along before our country was very old and made the housewife pewter
plates, dishes, basins, and spoons. If a man came with nothing, his
neighbors supported him until he could raise a crop. If sick, they
worked his corn. They had plenty to eat. Vegetables, tame or wild meat,
honey from the woods, dried fruit and nuts for the children. Fruits
rarely ever failed. Wild animals made their depredations on cattle,
sheep, hogs, and poultry of the farmer, and some of them were dangerous
to human life. Tomatoes were grown for their beauty, being planted in
boxes, and were called love apples. They were supposed to be poison.
Potatoes were kept in holes in the ground, sweet potatoes were kept in
cellars. Turnips were kept in holes. Pumpkins, beans apples, peaches,
and pears were dried.
Woman's work was sometimes strenuous. Families were usually large. Those
who claim that women killed themselves early by too profuse childbearing
will have to go out of White County for the facts. Numerous instances
could be given, the tombstone record of the County being sufficient.
Grandmother Seals, after bearing eleven children, was so old and
emaciated over the ordeal that she could lift but two and one half
bushels of wheat onto her shoulder while standing in a half bushel
measure. Women's work was cooking, caring for the children, making linen
or cotton or woolen clothes for the whole family, spinning, weaving and
making the clothes, knitting the socks of woolen yarns, and sometimes
they worked in the fields. Then they would perhaps dance on a puncheon
floor until midnight to the music of a gourd banjo and a gourd fiddle.
The woman of that day needed no cosmetics to give her a glow of health.
She dressed in clothes of her own making, she made her sundowns of oat
straw, plaited four plait and sewed together, then the rims on each had
a ribbon sewed to it, the ribbon then was drawn, bringing the rims down,
and was tied under the chin. Men made moccasins, or shoes, the leather
being tanned in a trough. Their Sunday suits were made of linen, the
flax being raised on the place, coat, vest, and pants being immaculately
white. Their hats were of coon skin or fox skin, with the tail hanging
behind, or, sometimes a fox tail was substituted for the coon tail, or,
perhaps the man had a century hat made of buckeye splits.
Sometimes old men wore their hair bobbed and falling to their shoulders.
They drank water from a gourd, out of a pail, a piggin being a miniature
pail. A person could come to a home and stay all winter and on leaving
would be asked to come again. Maple trees furnished the sugar. Women of
the best type went barefoot to church, putting on their shoes just
before arriving at the church. Roads were muddy and almost impassable
half the time. Women wore their hair in a knot on the back of their
head. A Grecian band was worn on the back and above the hips, a bundle
making the dress at the hips out several inches at right angles to the
body. They wore bonnets a foot and a half long, coming from the head at
an angle of forty-five degrees. Then there were hoopskirts. It took only
about twenty of them to fill a church. On getting into a carriage a
woman pressed the hoops together on opposite sides until she could get
in. An old settler described the hoopskirt as the "running gears of a
partridge nest." It was common to see the best of women going barefooted
at home. Women at home, if they wore headdress, wore common bonnets.
Ashes were poured into an ash hopper and lye leached from the ashes.
Then the grease scraps were thrown into a kettle of lye and boiled at
the time of a waning moon to prevent the soap from boiling over at
frequent intervals. Soap made in this manner served for washing clothes,
hands, and face. Women washed clothes under difficulties. A kettle in
the open, smoke flying, children crying, because the oldest who cared
for them was helping wash. Washing was done on a flatblock, which was a
block of wood eighteen inches square set up on legs. The manner of
washing was this, the clothes after being boiled were thrown out on this
block and a child using a paddle beat the clothes until they were clean.
An old song ran, "The devil's in women on wash day."
Harness was made of raw hide, also bridles and clevises. Collars were
made of platted shucks. Reed Hurd (colored), made them as late as 1877.
The people cut their wheat with a sickle, a sharp hook cutting about an
acre a day; then came the cradle with which a man could cut three or
four acres a day. The wheat was treaded out with horses or oxen, then
held up and poured while the wind blew the chaff out of the wheat.
Sometimes they used a flail, which was a hickory pole beaten with an ax
eighteen inches or two feet from the large end to make that end work as
if on hinges. With this they thrashed out the wheat. If the wind were
not blowing, two men would take a sheet, a corner in each hand, holding
their hands high then with one hand moving one corner and the other
moving the other corner rapidly up and down the wheat was separated from
the chaff. This was called "winnowing.'' Cotton was usually hand-seeded
and carded with a pair of hand cards. It was then spun, reeled, warped,
and woven. Wool was used to make winter clothes. Negroes and poor whites
wore clothes of tow. Men early wore leather breeches. While hunting they
wore a hunting shirt over their other clothes. It was something like a
night shirt. Corn was cultivated more with a hoe than with a plow.
Midwives more than doctors attended childbirth. That there was a great
deal of malpractice is pure assertion. Lydia Seals attended 1,753 cases
without a mishap.
When company came, they usually came wagon load at a time, and usually
stayed from Saturday evening until Monday morning. At bed time the men
would go out for a walk while the women retired and blew out the lights,
then the men came in and retired. Hogs were kept on the mast which never
failed. One man located near the mountains at one time kept 400 head. It
was necessary to take a trained dog along to round up the hogs. While
the man approached the herd cautiously, the dog would sit about fifty
yards away and the hogs would rally around the dog. This frequent
round-up kept the hogs from going wild. In those days the customary
price for hogs was two cents a pound, the owner often driving them fifty
miles to market. In 1855 a drove of hogs was driven from Sparta,
Tennessee, to Sparta, Georgia, for market. Hogs were of the razor back
variety and were not killed until they were two years old or over. A
drove of hogs could be driven from two and a half to ten miles a day.
The money of that day was often Spanish, Mexican, or English. I have
heard old settlers from the Carolinas count English money, pronouncing
three-pence as if it were thripence, and four-pence as if it were
fopence. People beat their corn into meal in a mortar or in a hollow
rock, Indian fashion, until our first mill was erected on Lost Creek in
1808, and Scarbrough 's Mill on the Caney Fork in 1812.
Some times before corn became hard they grated the corn into meal with a
grater made of a piece of tin. Turkeys were driven to market in droves
of five hundred or a thousand, two or three men being required.
Men often gathered corn in sleds, especially if the corn grew on a
hillside. Gathering nuts was great sport for the children. A total
abstainer was almost unknown. As late as 1877 my father and Rev. W. P.
Smith were two of three total abstainers in the second district.
Fighting was not uncommon, drinking being vastly more common then than
now, but they were usually fistic encounters. Helpfulness was the rule.
Corn huskings, log rollings, and house raisings were occasions when if
you did not invite a neighbor, he regarded it as an insult. These were
the great social occasions. Quiltings were often held by the ladies at
the same time as the workings, then a social or dance was held at night,
the champion lifter being lionized by the ladies.
Corn meal was baked in a skillet, oven, or on a board turned up to the
:fire. A cake cooked on such a board was called a johnny cake. Sometimes
a hoe was used instead of a board. Such a cake was called a hoe cake.
There was an old song of the time ridiculing a greenhorn coming courting
which had two lines which ran thus, "The first thing he said when he sat
down was, 'Girls, I think your johnny cake is most too brown.'" A steer
sold for ten dollars, a horse for fifty. Land of the best kind could be
bought for one bit an acre. In 1840 one thousand acres of almost level
land was offered for one horse. People bought their supplies from the
States from which they came. Later they bought from Knoxville or
Nashville, a village in 1840, which hauled its goods through Sparta from
From the beginning of 1811 to the close of 1815 was a period of intense
excitement. In December, 1811, there was an earthquake that startled our
inhabitants. It had been raining for three months and the Calfkiller
River was running muddy water. The earthquake was at night. There was a
smell of sulphur in the air before the shock. There was a wave of the
land accompanied by a roar, then the most frightful thing occurred in an
accompanying crackling sound that sent terror to the stoutest hearts. A
dozen people who were in the quake said that rents were made in parts of
this County that were wide enough to receive a tree and they seemed
bottomless. Mud and steam shot out of the ground as high as trees. Water
spouted out of the ground. Up the
Calfkiller River a knoll containing about two acres was moved off its
base without upturning a single tree, being moved from one to eight feet
a day by the repeated shocks that came six or eight times a day. These
were strong enough to rattle the dishes in the cupboard. These shocks
continued for six months. There are half a dozen springs coming up
through holes so deep that cords made of three boss balls do not reach
the bottom. They are thought to have been formed by this earthquake.
Some have fish in them. There was the brightest
aurora borealis ever known in this County. Excitement reached its climax
when a blazing star spread its tail across the sky. When it arose,
people could be heard praying in almost every part of the neighborhood.
They said it was a sure sign of war. When the War of 1812 broke out, our
wise ancestors shook their heads and said, "I told you so."
The First Highway
A highway was constructed from
Knoxville to Nashville in 1785 which has now become a part of a national
highway. From Rock Island it followed mainly the Chickamauga Path. This
road finally became turn pike, a link at a time. It was the main road of
travel from Virginia, the Carolinas, and the East for those going West
or to New Orleans. A hundred wagons might be seen at one time coming
down the mountain with small trees tied behind them for brakes. Hotel
keepers and merchants reaped a fortune. Inns sprang up on the route, as
Bon Air Springs which became in 1840 the first summer resort in the
South. The celebrities of the State stopped
there as Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk and many others. The Crook Inn
near where Pomona now stands was another celebrated inn. As many as four
and five hundred people some times took dinner at the old Crook Inn.
Another famous old inn was the brick house now decaying at Crab Orchard.
Stage coaches drawn by four horses would arrive with fifteen or sixteen
passengers, some inside and some outside the coach. Grand balls were
given at Bon Air attended by four or five thousand of the elite from all
parts of the State. The road was not a turnpike at first. Links of it
were piked and owned by the man who piked it, who charged toll for his
link. Robert Burke, ho married the widow Hailey and whose grandson is
now living, built the old Crab Orchard Inn, the most popular inn between
Nashville and Knoxville. John Sevier, Polk, Jackson. Grundy, and David
Crockett stopped there. Crab Orchard was hen in White County.
Burke built and operated the turnpike through what is now Cumberland
County about 1828. He always drove his own stage coach, using four
horses. In 1850 Mr. Burke was driving his horses when they became
frightened and threw him from his seat and broke his neck. The pike at
that time came rough Bon Air and Sparta. At this time Nashville hauled
her goods through Sparta from Knoxville.
The early settler had a hard time
keeping time. There were hour glasses shaped like a figure eight, with a
hole in the middle. Just enough sand was put in the top part of the
glass to take an hour to run through. Now and then a sun dial was made
on the top of some nearby stone or stump. There were few old wooden
clocks among the early settlers. The first almanac in the County was
Wilson's Tennessee Almanac, in 1826. The next one was the Cumberland
Almanac, 1832. Then soon after there was the Christina Family Almanac, a
pamphlet of 150 pages with religious reading and prose and poetry for
the family in addition to the regular calendar. It was priced ten cents.
Daniel Hollandsworth came to White County over an hundred years ago. He
settled in what is now Northern Van Buren County. He built a house which
is still standing and owned by a negro. On the outside upper facing of
the door there are two rows of holes made with a very small augur. here
are thirty-one holes in the upper row, and thirty-two the lower row. By
sticking certain pegs in certain holes he of time keeping of the
pioneers was that they dated things could tell the month for each
quarter of the year. One peculiar-after some noted event, as, seven
years after the flood, or nine years after the big snow. Seeing the
great need of time pieces in the new country enterprising men from the
North came into Tennessee to sell clocks. Sales to the amount of about
two hundred thousand dollars had been reached when someone in the
Legislature became alarmed, fearing the State would be bankrupted,
passed a law in 1829 that anyone selling clocks should pay a license of
twenty-five dollars for each County in which he sold. Tim Goff sold more
clocks in White County than anyone else.
Some of the teachers who taught in
White County before 1861 were the following: Bennie Mays, E. D. May, G.
W. Anderson, whose nephews secretly put a polk stalk on his desk to
anger their uncle who was for Clay, Hiram Taylor, who taught at Mt.
Pisgah in 1843, Fletcher Jackson, Milton Hickman, who taught at Wild Cat
Cove Springs, Dewitt Croly, Miss Nancy A. Seals, Ely Sims, David Ames,
Dr. Priestly, Rev. Memucan Wade, Rev. William Jarred, Jabus Mitchell,
David Mitchell, Jr. Some of the most noted teachers of the County
immediately following the Civil War were: W. N. Billingsley, James
Williams, McDowell, Martin White, T. L. Mitchell, Rev. W. P. Smith, the
best mathematician in the County for his day.
Preachers of the Other Days
Some of the oldest ministers of
White County whose work was mainly before the Civil War were:
Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Baptists, Rev. Zechariah Anderson, Seagraves,
Ozias Denton, Isaac Denton. Methodists, Isaac Woodward, William Burden.
Baptists, Rev. James Hickey, Rev. Stubblefield. Presbyterian and
Cumberland Presbyterian, Rev. M. Y. Brockett, Rev. Thomas Little, Rev.
M. Wade, Rev. Dr. Priestly, Rev. Jesse Hickman, Rev. Wash McConnell.
Church of Christ, Abner Hill, Reuben
Cooper, Rev. L. Stone.
Denomination unknown to writer, Rev. Peter Boram, Rev. Thomas Hudson,
Rev. John Yates, and the three Mitchells.
Some White County doctors are the
following: Dr. W. M. Hall, Dr. Madison Fisk, Dr. Cox, Dr. Sam Young.
These are those whose names have come down from the early days of the
county. In later times some of the doctors have been, Dr. Findley, Dr.
Mack Snodgrass, Dr. W. B. Young, Dr. Trapp, Dr. Cotton, Dr. Baker, Dr.
Cowden, Dr. Davis, Dr. Page, Dr. Brock, Dr. Gist, Dr. Lansdan, and Dr.
James Sims. Women who achieved local fame as midwives or herb doctors
were the following: Sally Ditty, Hannah Jones, Creasy Broyles, Patsy
Broyles, and Lydia Seals. Each of these attended more than 1,500
childbirths with no malpractice charge and no mishaps.
The Slave Driver
Slave driving was a profession. The
negroes sold, or being driven for sale were not as a rule driven like
men, but like cattle. Sometimes they were rudely kicked and cursed just
at the time they were in greatest trouble, perhaps leaving wife,
children, and home. White Countians as a rule were good to their slaves,
often buying the wife or the husband so both could be together. They
often refused to sell one away from the other. An attachment grew up
between the slaves and the master, which during the Civil War was
manifested by the master risking his life for his servant, or vice
versa. The slave was allowed time at the weekend to be with
his family, and if he were caught out without a pass the patroler caught
him and returned him to his master. But the important duty of this
patroler was to see that the negroes had good treatment and plenty to
eat. This was made necessary by the activities of the "underground
railways," which ran through a nearby State, agents sometimes working up
passengers in slaveholding States. Murrel, a famous bandit, who had his
headquarters on Lost Creek, at one time, schemed with certain New
Englanders in this regard. The old-time slave was remarkable for his
White County proper is noted for being free, so far as the negro is
concerned, from the "nameless crime," there being no case on record.
White County had a superior type of negro. The negroes had their own
ministers, although many of them went to the white churches in early
days and occupied back seats. A negro hack driver was allowed to sit in
a closed stairway, but he would interrupt the eloquent minister with an
occasional "Amen." The old "missus" promised Sam a red coat if he would
not say amen any more in church. He promised, but the sermon happened to
be about the "Golden City." Sam twisted. He turned. He grunted as if
lifting a heavy load, but when the minister came to the innumerable
throng, all shouting and singing, Sam bawled out, ''Amen, coat or no
Some ex-slaves have been remarkable for their eloquence. The negroes had
a church after the Civil War opposite where the Cherry Creek Road
branches off the Sparta-Cookeville Road. Here Asberry Green, Rev.
Whitley, and Rev. Price, swayed their dusky audience with an eloquence
that was moving, sometimes thrilling, even to white people. Among the
negroes who have been esteemed highly are, Hal Harris, who has
accumulated some wealth, John McClure, a fine stone mason as well as
bricklayer, Will Burden, stone mason, and others. Sam Matlock seems to
be a jack of all trades and good at all of them. The negroes' part in
building White County is no small part. The negro who reached the
greatest age of any one in this County was Abram Officer, who came with
his master from Virginia in 1816. He was eight years old when the
Revolutionary War broke out. He died at 110 years old. Suze Matlock
lived to be 103. Very few white people have reached such a ripe old age.
Vina Fancher lived to be 106, James Robinson, 104, and Martha Gist, 103.
When R. L. Jones was superintendent of this County he gave the same
examination to the colored teachers as to the white ones. The teacher of
the colored school in Sparta made the best grade of any teacher, white
or black. Now Professor Jones is six feet and six inches tall. When the
colored institute ended speeches were in order. This colored teacher
called on Superintendent Jones to speak, saying, "I always delight to
hear people talk who are in highstanding.'' Tom Woodfin, who had several
birthdays every year, was the father of forty. seven children.
The negroes had their own doctor, W. F. Waters, who after seven years
practice, died in 1933. He
stood well with white doctors. He was here before this as a minister of
Wild Pigeons, Etc.
About 1845 wild pigeons made their
appearance in the Northern part of White County. There must have been
millions of them. Boys would take horses and lanterns and kill them with
sticks. Pigeon Roost Creek in Putnam County got its name from the fact
of pigeons roosting there. No one knew whence they came. There was a
pigeon roost at what is now called the State Farm, which was then in
White County. Large tree limbs were broken down where they would roost.
Sometimes they would come over in coveys a mile and a half wide and
about as long, and in ten minutes another covey perhaps one. fourth as
large would come over. This would continue from about an hour before
sundown until ten at night. They came to their roosts from every
direction. Guns could be heard at all times of the night shooting them
off their roost. Hogs fattened on the
squabs that fell from limbs broken by the wind or by pigeons rising to
fly. It is said that the second covey coming to roost would roost on the
backs of the first ones. The hunters and also periodic failure of the
mast finally destroyed these birds. I have seen a few small coveys since
A small invasion of army worms came into White County in 1890. They
destroyed about an acre of millet a short distance from Mount Gilead.
There have been two invasions of locusts since 1867.
Droughts have affected White County a few times. There was a drought in
1854, another in 1881, two dry years, 1931 and 1932, with a short dry
season in 1933. These caused short crops. The drought of 1881 caused
great suffering. Corn sold as high as $2.00 a bushel. To relieve the
poor Joe Taylor shipped in two carloads of corn which he sold cheap.
Land Marks and Curiosities
1. The old Rock House, built in 1844
or 1845 by William Hunter for Barlow Fisk is a famous old land mark.
Some say Sam Denton built it earlier.
2. One of the greatest curiosities in the United States is river which
under certain conditions runs one way a while, then runs the other. At
the Frank Mitchell Ford in the Caney Fork River there is a high place in
the bed of the river. Upstream from the ford is a deep hole in the river
bed. About a mile up the river is an underground passage through a cave
which takes part of the water from the river. After a dry season the
water ceases to flow over the high place in its bed. With the coming of
rain the cave takes the first water and the
river actually flows the opposite direction from its natural course.
When the water becomes so swollen that the cave will not take all of it,
it then rises above the high place and flows in its regular channel.
Sometimes the water will run southeast for half a day and then run
northwest the remainder of the time.
3. About half a mile from Dodson's Chapel is a sink hole over which
there used to be a house where milk and butter were kept. On entering
this house, one had to hold his hat to prevent it being blown off his
head by the stream of cold air rushing up from the bottom of the hole.
4. There are two caves, one east of Hickory Valley, the other on Gum
Spring Mountain, where ice may be found in August after a hard winter.
People used to go to these caves for ice in cases of sickness.
5. From the base of Sunset Rock one may see parts of seven counties and
from its summit parts of three states. During the Civil War a Federal
soldier carved on this rock the words of the song, "Just before the
battle, mother." These words proved prophetic, for on the next day there
was a skirmish in which this soldier was ''numbered with the slain.''
6. A large chestnut tree was cut down near the railway not far from Bon
Air which was eleven feet and four inches in diameter. There is a
chestnut tree in Petit Cove which is probably as large or larger.
7. A fine piece of sculpture may be seen near Price's Switch. George
Price without any instructions in sculpture cut his mother's face from
stone. It is not entirely complete.
8. The following monuments have been erected in White County: A monument
to Hugh Lowery over a spring, erected by citizens of Bon Air; on the
same road near the top of the mountain is a monument to the builder of
the road; near Rock Island on the White County side of Caney Fork is a
monument commemorating a battle with Indians in the early days of our
9. Caves with wonderful stalactites are numerous. Some of these run
under spurs of mountains as the Garlsbad Cave in Hickory Valley, the
cave in the hole where the Lost Creek Mill is located, and others. Echo
Cave, east of Hickory Valley, is wonderful for sound. A drop of water
falling at the back of it can be heard at the front. There are caves
with saltpetre in them, One near Key has blind fish in it. One cave in
the County has a lake in it. There is at least one cave in the County
which has historical interest. This is the Bone Hole Cave in Blue Spring
Cove. In one of the chambers at the back of the cave is a round, deep
hole about the size of an ordinary well. In this hole have been found
great quantities of human bones. These have been accounted
for from the fact that a famous robber band in the early days of our
County used this cave as a hiding place. The mouth of the cave is by the
side of the old trail over which many immigrants came into Calfkiller
Valley. These bandits would waylay caravans at this point, kill the
people, and throw their bodies into this hole, then take possession of
10. There is a salt spring below the Taylor and Burroughs Mill.
11. There used to be a freak poplar in southeastern Hickory Valley which
had white leaves. This could be seen for two or three miles.
12. The old stone fort on the land of the Tennessee Power Company was
erected as a defense against
the Indians. It is built of crag rock and. is now about three or four
13. There are many beautiful waterfalls in White County. Among these are
the falls of the Caney Fork River where the water tumbles down a series
of falls, or rapids, a hundred and sixty feet; Fancher 's Falls, where
the creek tumbles over a bluff an hundred and ten feet high, and the
beautiful falls of Falling Water.
14. Milksick Mountain. In the early days this mountain was much dreaded
by the people living near from the fact that cattle which grazed on the
mountain frequently died of a strange disease called Milksick. So much
destruction was caused to cattle that the County Court fenced the
mountain off for miles around it with three strands of wire to keep
cattle out, hogs not being affected by it. It is now supposed that
Milksick is a poisonous weed.
15. Caney Fork Lake formed by the dam at Fall City is a paradise for
16. Caney Fork Gulch is a splendid piece of rugged nature.
17. Lost creeks and short creeks are numerous. Some of the lost creeks
run into some cave and out again, repeating the operation two or three
18. Hell Hole is a hole in the ground a thousand feet deep with an
opening into it from each side. High rocks are on the sides of the
sloping hole which make it a wonderful bit of scenery.
19. The old Horton House is claimed to be the oldest brick house in the
County but it is not known when it was built. The Eli Sims brick house,
for which the same claim is made, was built in 1830. One of the land
marks of Sparta is the Anthony Dibrell house in East Sparta, built in
1811. Another land mark of the County is the old Thomas Little house in
Blue Spring Cove which was built in 1823.
The Stars Fell
On November 13, 1833, the meteors
fell. It was a time of great excitement. Men, women, and children ran to
and fro. They thought the Judgment Day was at hand. People prayed.
Negroes, especially women, could be heard saying, "Glory hallelu, de
judgment day am come and I's ready to go, hallelu." White men went and
made friends with their enemies. It is said that the meteors falling had
the appearance of snow. Everybody was more or less excited with the
exception of an old bachelor who went about leisurely smoking his pipe.
He was a tough old sinner. An excited, but sympathetic sister, a
neighbor, called to him, ''John, why are you not praying, don't you see
it is the Judgment Day!" He replied, "Be quiet, Sarah, no Judgment Day,
or any other day is going to come and it night.'' It is said that
meteors that looked as large as the moon came near the earth and made it
quake perceptibly. In 1836 there was another meteoric shower, but no
such display as that of 1833. There was a small shower of meteors in
The County has suffered at different times from floods. In 1902 three
clouds came together and in twenty-four hours there was eleven and
one half inches precipitation. In the flood of 1845 a Mr. Gore had
marked the Caney Fork's high water mark by going out in his canoes and
sawing off a sycamore at the water's edge. The rise of 1902 was ten feet
and two inches higher than that of 1845. A number of houses near the
river were washed away, and land was badly washed. The greatest flood in
our history was the one in 1928 when the Caney Fork River rose ten feet
higher than the high water mark of 1902. The Tennessee Power Company
bridges were washed away. This gave rise to a law suit to make the
corporation rebuilt these bridges according to their contract. The
County paid a fee of six thousand dollars to Joe V. Williams, their
attorney. The suit was compromised when the corporation agreed to
rebuild part of the bridges.
On October 23, 1873, a tornado swept across Hickory Valley, sweeping an
almost clean track where it went. Household articles from the house of
Dan Sutherland and parts of the house were found twenty miles away.
On the night of March 26, 1841, there fell a snow four feet deep. It
remained on the ground six weeks. Many quail starved to death, while
others became bold enough to come and eat with the cattle. People used
it as a date, as ''so many years after the big snow."
September 17, 1877, there was a heavy frost. In 1884 men cut wheat with
their coats on. March 20, 1876, a snow two feet deep fell. On March 14,
1891, a snow came which was eighteen inches deep.
Climate was more even in our early history than now. There were more
snows then than now and less extreme weather. Fruit and mast hit every
year. Even sixty years ago a snow six inches deep was common. Gardens
were made in part in February.
Political excitement has sometimes
been great in our history. The Polk and Clay race was perhaps the
greatest. People gathered in groups on both sides of the Caney Fork
River, one side being for Polk and the other side for Clay, and began to
sing and yell. One side would sing, "James K. Polk is long and tall,
we'll rake him down with a hickory pole.'' Then the others answered,
"Hooray, hooray, the water's rising, drown old Clay and Free Nigger
Rison (Freling-huyson). Then from the other side came, ''James K. Polk
and George M. Dallas, one
for the devil and the other for the gallows.'' Then there were angry
words that ripped the night winds, until it seemed that a fight was
sure. But the river was between them.
In 1843 a vote was taken on what town should be the permanent capitol of
the State. Some of the towns voted on were McMinnville, Woodbury,
Murfreesboro, Lebanon, Sparta, Shelbyville, Athens, Knoxville,
Cleveland, Columbia, and Nashville. Nashville was selected. The vote is
not on record, but it is said that our Representative, John Deering,
voted against Sparta, which lacked but one vote of winning. He was
accused of selling out for five hundred dollars,--some say for a drink
of whiskey. He was defeated for Representative in the next race.
Free negroes could not vote until 1830. A free negro coming into the
State before that could not stay over twenty days. Whipping, branding,
pillowing, and cutting off ears for crime were abolished for white
people in 1829, and for negroes in 1831.
Another time of political excitement was at the rise of the Farmers
Alliance, which reached the culmination of its power in the election of
Buchanan for Governor. The movement was especially strong in White
County and it had a weekly newspaper published at Sparta called the
Alliance Democrat. The alliance movement brought forth many orators. C.
T. Haston was chairman of the convention which nominated Buchanan, Jack
Price ran for representative of White County and was one of the speakers
for the state ticket along with Cotton, another White Countian. The
Alliance organized stores which sold everything at ten per cent profit
all over the State.
Three of these stores were in White County, one at River Hill, another
at O'Conner, and the third at Cherry Creek. White County was
overwhelmingly for Buchanan. The Regulars became alarmed. Three of their
men met behind barred doors, called it a convention, and instructed the
county for Turney for. governor. Excitement ran high in White County.
Buchanan was elected governor.
Perhaps the greatest period of political excitement was that following
the introduction of the prohibition issue into Tennessee politics. This
question had been an issue for a great many years, but about the year
1884 a temperance order was organized with the parent lodge at Doyle.
This order was called the Independent Order of Good Templars. Some of
the leading spirits in the organization were Honorable T. L.. Mitchell,
Dr. Douglas, Dr. Rascoe, and Dr. W. S. Findley. This organization,
formed first in White County, became a statewide movement. T. L.
Mitchell was the first candidate on a prohibition platform. He had been
a lifelong democrat. His opponent was Honorable L. D. Hill who defeated
Mitchell for Representative. By 1887 the Good Templar movement had
become powerful in the State. The wets had to organize to hold their
ground, but the Good Templars were also well organized. The contest was
especially bitter in White County. Honorable John L. Nolan, a silver
tongued orator of Nashville and Judge Frizzell, leaders in the Good
or prohibition movement, came to White County to make three speeches.
They came first to Doyle. It was a momentous occasion. H. C. Snodgrass
and E. Jarvis met the speakers in debate at Doyle. Snodgrass was at the
height of his powers. He had made his audience weep, including jurors,
and even learned judges. He was considered the greatest lawyer in the
South. Nolan also had a great reputation as a speaker. He had the
reputation of bringing audiences to their feet by the time he had spoken
three minutes. Jarvis and Snodgrass arrived in a buggy. Jarvis took out
a grip, opened it, and took out a quart bottle. Each took a drink,
Snodgrass opened the debate. He was the finest in ridicule, sarcasm,
invective, and in resourcefulness that l have ever seen. He used as
history what I now know to be fabrication. He stressed the assertion
that the whole temperance program was gotten up to break up the
democratic party. Nolan arose. He made a short introduction, then said
with great emphasis, pointing to Snodgrass, ''I never bolted the
straight democratic ticket in my life." This thrust was made because
Judge Dave Snodgrass had led seven hundred delegates out of the
democratic convention and nominated S. F. Wilson for Governor, and H. C.
Snodgrass had voted for
Wilson. Nolan had been speaking just two and a half minutes and
two-thirds of his audience were on their feet yelling. The next day the
debate was to be at Union Church in Hickory Valley. Snodgrass sent
enough men from Sparta to fill the house and crowd out most of those who
came from the neighborhood. Snodgrass, defeated in argument the day
before, now came back with all his resources. He was out for victory at
any price. He used forged history at will. His best thrust was this:
Nolan had a paper with very black lines of different lengths showing the
cost of different commodities, alcohol being in the center of the
upright lines, and the longest. Snodgrass had a diminutive one printed
in lines, very pale. He flung it up saying, "Here is Caesar's bloody
mantle. Look, yesterday, when Nolan displayed it, there was a great
commotion, I never saw the like. Tom Mitchell fainted, Dr. Rascoe had a
fit, and Dr. Findley swooned away.'' The people outside who could not
hear all that was said, thought from the cheers of those who had crowded
out the natives that Snodgrass was "cooking Nolan's goose for him."
Snodgrass made unbecoming remarks
about Judge Frizzell's personal appearance, the Judge said, ''I have
never had such remarks made to me about my personal appearance in my
life." But he didn't know Snodgrass heretofore. The debate ended in
Sparta. After this General Dibrell and Columbus Marchbanks went to
Cookeville to debate with Snodgrass and Jarvis. Before the debate began
the Dibrell boys told Snodgrass that if he made such remarks about their
old father as he had made about Judge Frizzell that there would be
something doing, and that he had to treat the General courteously.
Snodgrass was a perfect gentleman on this
occasion. I still remember two-thirds of the arguments of each side and
speaker and I am surprised at some of these arguments. The temperance
cause lost, but this debate made a deep impression on many who
remembered and thought about the issues and years later the temperance
cause won. Snodgrass made capital of the immediate success and went to
Congress, aided by those whom he had helped. Though the Good Templars
were defeated in this campaign of 1887 the movement was not dead. Lodges
were organized all over the State, which carried on for many years. The
Good Templar lodge at Cherry Creek held together under the leadership of
D. L. Lansden, afterwards Supreme Judge of Tennessee, after the others
had all gone to pieces.
One other notable political campaign caused great excitement in White
County. Andrew Johnson, Horace Maynard, and General B. F. Cheatham were
to speak at the Courthouse at Sparta. Cheatham could not come, but sent
instead the fiery John H. Savage. Savage said, "Johnson is a murderer.
He hanged Mrs. Surratt without just grounds, and if anyone will indict
him, I will volunteer to prosecute him and I'll hang him as I did
Presswood at Smithville." Johnson replied, "I never tried to do anything
worthy or worthwhile, but that some little fice dog was always barking
at my heels." This angered Savage, and it was with difficulty that a
Newspapers and Authors
The first newspaper was the Gazette,
founded in 1820. Next came the Sparta Review, founded by the law firm,
Haggard and Nelson in April, 1822. There were very short-lived papers
founded between 1820 and 1840. The Index was founded before the
Expositor. The Expositor was founded by the Honorable L. D. Hill and
brother in 1877. The State and Farm was founded by Morrison in 1886, and
the Mountain Democrat was
founded by Bochard and edited by Honorable E. L. Gardenhire in 1872 and
1873. The Favorite was
founded by R. P. Baker and ran successfully until it was consolidated
with the Expositor. The Alliance Democrat was founded by Judge F. T.
Fancher and Judge D. L. Landsden in 1891 and ran until July, 1892. The
Sparta News was founded by Brown Brothers in 1917.
Some of the White County authors
have been Rev. Lannie Stewart, three volumes; Rev. Bud Robinson,
thirteen books; Prof. R. L. Jones, co-author of two State adopted
arithmetics; Byron Hoover Dement, author of '' The People's Life of
Christ"; C. L. Lewis, author of half dozen books and coauthor of a
dozen more articles in books and encyclopedias; E. Hatch, one volume on
Christian Science; Dr. W. M. Taylor, author of a dozen more articles in
books and encyclopedias; books; E. G. Rogers, one book published, and
another soon to be published; M. Seals, one, book; Honorable Columbus
Marchbanks, one entitled "Harp of a Thousand Strings"; R. L. Jarvis,
three books; Q. M. Smith, one book; Rev. Robert Donnell, one book;
Honorable L. D. Smith, one book. These are some of those who have
written poetry: Prof. H. S. Proffitt, Mrs. Marcus S. Eagle, Major W. C.
Grimshaw, E. L. Gardenhire, and Dr. Waters (colored).
More than half of this County was
granted to Revolutionary War Veterans to pay them what the Government
owed them for services rendered during the war. Many never came to their
grants. I list a few, hut perhaps half are not now known here, being in
forgotten graves. Benjamin Hickman, Elijah Weaver, Elijah Olverson, John
Chism, William Lewis, Archibald McDaniel, William Greenfield, Abel
Hutson, John W. Simpson, John Templeton, Rev. James Hickey, Robert Cook,
Elijah Williams, John Williams, Edward Harris; and the following who
were living in 1840; Patrick Hewitt, John White, Turner Lane, John H.
Miller, Edward Helton, Thomas Hill, Elijah Anderson, Thomas Crawley,
Burgess Clark, George Ailsworth, John Ditty, John Ellison
[Allison], Thomas Welch,
Alexander Cooper, Samuel Weaver, Henry March, William Bertram, Isaac
Graham, John Weaver, Solomon Yeager, Thomas Moore, Abel Pearson, Thomas
Shockley, Jesse Hopkins, Samuel Moore, and Dudley Price.