Chapter IV - War
Revolutionary War. Our County was not
settled when the Revolutionary War was in progress, but more than half
of the land in the County was given to Veterans of this war as grants
for their services. Great numbers of the early settlers rendered
distinguished service in the Revolution, men like George Ailsworth, who
was a charter member of the first Masonic Lodge in Sparta, William
Greenfield, Archibald McDaniel, Abel Hudson, all of whom were buried
at Mount Pisgah, Major William Lewis, Rev. James Hickey, John White,
John Templeton, Major Nathaniel Evans, E. Alverson, Thomas Hill, Elijah
Chism, Thomas Hickman, father of the famous Jesse Hickman.
War of 1812. In the War of 1812 the government made a requisition
for twenty-five hundred men. White County furnished two full companies.
John W. Simpson, who later was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, commanded
one. The other company was commanded by Captain George Gibbs, who resigned as State Senator to go to this war. Gibbs became a General.
Simpson distinguished himself, particularly at the battle of New
Creek War. During the Creek War White County raised two companies
commanded by Captains Rotan
and Ramsey. These companies gave a fine account of themselves.
Mexican War. In the Mexican War White County raised one entire
regiment commanded by Colonel Anthony. This regiment covered itself with
glory at Monterey. After the Mexican War was over and the regiment
returned home, the village which up to that time had been known as
Standing Stone was renamed Monterey. It was then in White County.
Civil War. In the Civil War White County furnished nine full
regiments and portions of other companies to the Confederates. The first
company organized was Captain D. T. Brown's company, organized early in
1861. Brown was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. One-half of
Captain Shield's company in the same regiment in which Brown's company
served were White Countians. Three companies were organized and reported
to Camp Zollicoffer in Overton County. When the infantry was organized
at that camp, Captain G. G. Dibrell was elected Lieutenant Colonel. He
later became a General. The White County companies in this regiment were
commanded by Captains D. M. Southard, W. Gooch Smith, and Dr. J. H.
(Mack) Snodgrass. At least one-half of Abram Ford's company of the above
regiment, organized in Putnam County, were White Countians. In October,
1861, Captain E. P. Sims organized a company in White County and joined
Infantry, and in December, 1861, Captain David Snodgrass and Captain
William M. Simpson organized a company each and joined the Coim
Battalion, and in the later part of 1862 Captain Thomas Taylor organized
a company and joined Murray's Cavalry. General Dibrell was given
authority to raise a full regiment of cavalry. This he did within the
enemy's lines, raising twelve full companies. This regiment with Dibrell
as Colonel was mustered into service at Yankeetown September 4, 1862, F.
M. Daugherty of Overton County, Lieutenant
Colonel, Jeffry Forest, Major, and M. D. Smallmann of McMinnville, later
a Judge, Adjutant. White County furnished two companies for this
regiment commanded by Captain Jefferson Leftwick and J. M. Barnes. The
regiment reported at Murfreesboro October 8, 1862, and was placed under
Forrest's command, Dibrell becoming a Brigadier General. We had a large
number of men who joined companies in Putnam County. Colonel J. H.
Savage had a great number of men under his command who came mainly from
the southern part of White County. Captain George Carter organized a
regiment from southern White County and Van Buren.
In 1861 Captain Edmond Pennington organized a full Federal regiment
which joined Farrett 's Fourth Tennessee Regiment, Mounted Infantry U.
S. A., which was one of the best fighting units in the Federal Army.
Civil War Battles and Skirmishes in White
Skirmish. The first skirmish in White County was at Young's Mill,
four miles below Sparta, between Colonel Wharton's Texas troops and a
Federal advance under General Nelson, in which several were killed and
the advance of the Federals checked. In this battle Jeff Clark was being
pursued by a Federal soldier who was trying to saber him. The Federal
was gaining and the result seemed inevitable when Captain Leftwick, a
Confederate, shot the Federal soldier.
Battle of Meredith's Mill. On August 2, 1862, General Dibrell,
four hundred strong, engaged the Federals in battle at Meredith's Mill
on Wild Cat Creek three and one-half miles North of Sparta. The
Federals, four thousand strong, were commanded by Colonel Minton from
Michigan. Twelve men and twenty-four horses were killed on the Federal
side, and several Confederates wounded. This was in the forenoon. In the
afternoon the Federals returned to the attack, reinforced by three
additional regiments, while Dibrell was reinforced by two additional
companies from Starne's regiment. The Federals were driven back with a
loss of forty-two. Fate Quarles and another scout were sent to see where
the Federals went. They followed as far as Young's ·Mill and the
Federals kept going.
A Bushwhacker Whacks. Tom Yates, with nine men, had been
following one hundred and twenty-five
Federals for three days watching a favorable opportunity to attack. The
Federals came to Brice Little's early one morning and began catching
poultry for their breakfast when Yates and his men opened fire from
behind the garden palings. The Federals took to the barn and Yates
gained the house. Yates commanded his men, "Let's burn the barn." The
Federals thereupon scattered. Yates returned from the chase with
thirteen prisoners and twenty-six horses. There was no casualties on
either side except that in following the Federals, Yates saw
occasional blood stains.
Cherry Creek. Some Federal soldiers belonging to Captain Charles
Burgess' command attended church at Cherry Creek. Burgess advised
against the attendance, and remained under the hill having laid down the
fence so that easy egress was possible. It was night, and Rev. Jesse
Hickman was preaching. Soon Burgess heard hoof heats. Captain Champ
Ferguson was coming. Ferguson and his men opened fire. They were singing
in the church and Sam Poteet was shot in his open mouth and a woman, Ann
Gooch, was accidentally wounded. One Federal soldier remained in the
house while all the others made a hasty exit out the back door. The one
remaining was a lad who laid down on the floor between the benches and
the woman put their feet on him, thus hiding him with their dresses.
|Amanda McDowell, who lived at the Cumberland Institute
in the Cherry Creek community, wrote about two Civil War
incidents at the Cherry Creek Church.
20, 1863 (page 219-220)
Jeff Snodgrass was shot and killed. Mr. Quarles
was shot but survived. Martha Simms had a pistol
cocked at her. "It was all Dee Bradley's doings. Some
say she fired the first pistol, but others that were by Jeff
said that he fired first and she fired second."
Monday, November 28, 1864 (page 257-260, recorded
on November 30)
Revival service. Several Federal soldiers were in the
service. Renegade rebels came and begin shooting in
the church. Sam Potete was killed and Amanda's
brother, Fayette (former Confederate soldier was shot but no
seriously). Ann Gooch was wounded in the thigh and
From Fiddles in the Cumberlands
based on Amanda McDowell'sy diary, compiled by Lela McDowell
Blankenship. Originally published in 1943, edited in 1987 by
W.J. McDowell and republished. Reprinted 2007 by the
White County Genealogical-Historical Society in Sparta, TN.
At Anthony Dibrell's. Nine Federal soldiers were having a ball at
the Anthony Dibrell home. Three Confederate soldiers attacked them, and
the Federals began retreating toward the mountains eastwardly. The fight
continued toward the foot of the mountain, where four of the Federals
scattered among the timber, the other five having been killed. Jonathan
Scott, grandson of the old Jonathan Scott, and son of James Scott was a
cripple. His horse became frightened and stampeded among the Federals,
when he was shot through the head, the horse carrying him hanging in the
saddle head downward, back to Sparta.
Skirmish at O'Connor's Branch. It was known that William Matlock
had great wealth. Dr. Elkana Williams saw a number of Federals going to
Matlock's. He went on and told some Confederate soldiers about it who
started for Matlock 's place. The Federals were led by Captain Bill
Slaughter. With Slaughter were Dave Barr, Snorton McCaleps, Josh Hickey,
and his sixteen-year-old son, John, who was the toughest of them all,
and George Lever. They came to Matlock's and demanded breakfast. In the
meantime they began to search for money. They shook the dresser but the
roll of money they expected to find did not fall out. John Hickey said,
"I demand your eight thousand dollars in gold. Ain't I brave to demand
such a sum from you, I being only a boy?" It is said that John Hickey
then pulled off Matlock's boots and began pulling his toe nails out
with pinchers and burning his feet to make him tell where his money was.
Matlock's granddaughter said, "What would you do if you saw the
Confederates coming?" They laughed, but when a man holding their horses
gave the alarm, they got busy. They broke away in two bunches, some say
the reason was that the Confederates came up in two directions. Mrs.
Matlock, seeing that a battle was imminent, told them to go out the back
door. McCaleps and Slaughter did so. One part of the Federals came
toward the O'Connor Branch. Here Bill Hudgens, thinking that Dave Barr
had surrendered, met Bar, both being on horseback. Barr began shooting,
the first shot cutting a wisp of Hudgen's beard off. Hudgens held his
pistol out arms length toward Barr and held himself sideways until Barr
had shot out his load. Then when Barr started to run Hudgens shot him in
the left shoulder, Barr falling off his horse dead at the point in the
road where the brick house now stands. Barr
was taken a few yards south and buried by the side of the road, where he
remained until the straightening of the road for the hard road, when his
people came from Putnam County and removed the remains there. George
Lever was killed in the fight and Josh Hickey was wounded. The Hickeys
went up the road and on to England's Cove, but Josh returned to beg for
his son's life. Sam Scott, hearing the :fight, hurried his team to
arrive and prevent the killing of the prisoners, but it was too late.
John Hickey begged for his own life. Mr. Luke said, "How can I spare
your life when you now have on my dead son's clothes." John Hickey had
evidently killed Luke's son and taken his clothes. Both Josh and John
Hickey were killed. Sam Scott gave a negro a half dollar to remove the
bodies of the Hickeys where hogs would not mutilate them. McCaleps lived
in Putnam County many years after the war. The Confederates in this
engagement were Bill Luke Hitchcock, Taut Isom, and Dan Smith, the
latter on hearing the firing, came to the skirmish from his home. Bill
Hudgens, and some say, two Texas rangers, were also in the fight, making
six on each side. Hudgens would not have shot Barr, who seems to have
had little to do with the affair, had Barr not opened fire on him. Four
of the six. Federals engaged in the skirmish were killed and the other
two shot as prisoners.
The Battle of Dug Bill. Colonel Stokes was in Sparta making a
speech to the citizens, having sent out some men. The Confederates
decoyed the Federals on, Wiley Steakley and another man firing and
retreating. Steakley fired the first shot of the battle. The
Confederates were under Colonel J. M. Hughes. The Federals were under
Colonel Exum. About eighty or eighty-five of the Federals were killed,
which was about two-thirds of their number in the engagement. The place
was a gulch with high cliffs on each side. When the Federals entered
this ravine, it was difficult either to advance or retreat. Those
present say that the slaughter was indescribable. Their ammunition
giving out, the Confederates slew some with stones. A Mr. Gann ran his
horse down an incredibly steep place, fell off his horse, crawled into a
hollow log, and at night returned to the Federals. Joe Blackburn came to
Mrs. L. D. Snodgrass mother's home and to other homes to requisition
horses and wagons to haul off the slain at night. Of forty-one who were
carried through Sparta thirty-eight were shot in the heads and three
were killed with stones. More were killed than at first was estimated.
Skeletons were found by the road side and in the woods for a year or so
afterwards. Ferguson faced his enemy, Tinker Dave Beatty in this fight.
Skirmish. Ferguson met Blackburn who had some of Stokes' men with
him at Yankeetown.
The battle began with Ferguson in the road. Mrs. Mary Young, then a
small girl, saw Ferguson shoot one of Blackburn's men, then leap off his
horse and thrust the man through with his sword. Then Ferguson chased
Blackburn and his men up Cherry Creek, killing several of them. At the
Clint Gooch farm near Key, Ferguson and Charles Burgess with their men
met. One of Ferguson's men had a pistol drawn to shoot Burgess. It
required quick action. Burgess shot behind him. Looking back he saw the
man hit the ground but Burgess kept going. A boy named Little under
Burgess had his horse shot from under him. Burgess saw that if he
stopped to take up the lad on his own horse, he himself would be killed,
so he kept going. The lad was shot, making the killed one on each side.
The Bear Cove Battle. Captain Charles Burgess and his men met
Captain Champ Ferguson and his men at
Bear Cove. Ferguson almost destroyed Burgess' entire command. The
Federals attempted to come onto the public square at Sparta, but were
repulsed by General Dibrell. John Gatewood on his gray race horse went
through Sparta giving the rebel yell. Stokes' men pursued him out of
town north when Tom Yates men closed the gap behind them and Dibrell
came down on the north of them, killing several of them. Two
Confederates were killed on the cliff of the river north of Sparta.
Ferguson was surrounded in a swamp on Golden's
mountain by Blackburn's men, but Ferguson extricated his men and made
good his escape.
Other Skirmishes. Pennington raided Ferguson. Ferguson soon
thereafter raided Pennington, chasing him up Cherry Creek. It is said
that you could trace the line of retreat of the Federals by the knives
and forks they lost or threw away, which had been taken from the
citizens. Captain Burgess was at the home of Stephen Wilhite and
Ferguson passed by. Burgess ran out and killed one of Ferguson's men and
his Federals killed two more of the Confederates. Ferguson retreated
forward first north then west. Three weeks later Ferguson raided
Burgess, killing six of his men.
Captain Ferguson captured a wagon train on Cumberland Mountain. The next
night he gave a dinner and
invited the girls of Cherry Creek. There was a ball afterwards, after
which he ordered the girls taken safely home.
There was a skirmish between Colonel Blackburn's men and those of
Captain Simpson south of Bon
Air. The Confederates went to Bon Air. Ferguson requested that he be
given a dozen men and he would capture the pickets of Blackburn. The
request was granted, Wiley Steakley being one of them. That night
Ferguson captured all of Blackburn's pickets but one whom he killed.
Some bushwhackers were once having a ball in Wamon Dibrell's house when
Confederate soldiers came upon them. The bushwhackers retreated to the
bushes where the Lee Hotel now stands. The Confederates set fire to the
woods. The bushwhackers ran out near the old Sparta Cemetery, and twelve
of them were killed.
Colonel Joe Blackburn was once in pursuit of some Confederate soldiers.
He came to the gap of the Gum Spring Mountain where Joe Mosely lived.
Mosely had seen the Confederate soldiers pass but had refused to
tell anything about it. Blackburn ordered Mosely hung upon a tree, the
stump of which may yet be seen. Mosely was then let down, but again
refused to tell anything. He was again hung up and for a longer time,
but again he refused to tell anything. He was again hung up and for a
longer time, but again he refused any information. Then he was hung up
the third time. This time it took some time to restore him to life, but
he was still silent. Blackburn went on then and reached the camp of the
Confederates, capturing many of them.
Bill Slaughter with about 18 men came one night to John T. Goodwin's. He
left all of his men but one under the hill to watch while he and that
one went to the house for money. Entering the house he said to Mr.
Goodwin, "Bring out that five hundred dollars and be quick about it, I
haven't killed a man for three days.'' The money was handed over and it
seemed that Slaughter was about to slaughter the family, when the dog
barked and Slaughter, fearing an attack, made haste to get to his men.
That same night Slaughter beat up Jim Mills but got no money, Mills
having hid his money in an auger hole in a post. The next night
Slaughter was in Officer's Cove near Monterey when he was attacked by
Confederates, and he and his men were annihilated.
Once in a skirmish Cam Terry, a negro raised in upper Hickory Valley,
captured Bill Anderson and another man. Terry was an officer in Colonel
Blackburn's command. Terry intended to kill Anderson, but Anderson
knowing Terry's weakness for the game, proposed a game of cards.
Anderson and his partner were to go free if they won. If Terry and his
partner won, then the prisoners were to be killed. Anderson won, yet he
could see that Terry would be pleased to kill him. He used the bayonet a
few times before Anderson went away.
A few nights after this Anderson and another man went to Terry's home
and took him north of Lost Creek and hanged him to a cedar tree, then
dumped him in a hole near the tree. Dr. Morgan came later for the
skeleton, but it could not be found.
Joe Blackburn once
pursued Tom Yates up Pine Mountain, Yates going up at the Bill Wallace
place, then coming down at the hanging rock. Blackburn not knowing the
mountain, considered this way too rough and went around the mountain,
but Yates was gone when he got there. Shortly after this Yates ordered a
man named Brewer, a weakly man with a wife and three little children to
cut a tree out of the road where it had fallen. Brewer worked hard, but
lacked a little of finishing the task in the assigned hour, so Yates
shot Brewer with his big pistol three times. Each time he shot Brewer
caught to a sapling and reeled round the sapling saying, "Oh, Lord what
will become of my wife and poor little children.'' Yates afterward said,
''I took pity on the poor devil and finished him with the little
pistol.'' Some time afterward Yates took dinner with Bennie Sapp in
Sequatchie Valley. "Where are you going, Tom,'' asked his Uncle Ben. ''
To get Dr. Collin's two stock horses," replied Tom. "Let Doc alone,"
said Mr. Sapp, "He is behaving himself. I know you and I know this man.
You can't take those horses." Tom replied, "I have thirteen men who have
taken dinner over there on the hill." The thirteen men came. Half an
hour later firing was heard. Mr. Sapp went over to the doctor's, the
horses were playing in the lot. A negro was in the yard with a pistol in
his hand, and the doctor was sitting on the doorstep with two pistols in
his hand. Yates was gone with one man shot in the foot and one horse
shot in the hip. Yates took a fine mare with him. The enemy were in
pursuit. The farmer held on to the bridle. Yates requested that he be
freed with the mare. The enemy were firing and Yates hit the farmer with
the butt of the pistol, laying the hide open on top of his head. Yates
afterward said that he hated this worst of all his deeds.
Yates was going at another time to Grassy Cove with J. Frazier who lived
there. He was waylaid by Bill Flynn and his brother and shot through the
thigh, and Frazier was killed. Frazier begged Yates to stay with him.
but Yates knew it was useless and so he went to a cave on Lee
Cunningham's place, where he remained for three weeks behind a wall he
built, until sufficiently recovered to travel again. While here a man
named White was hunting squirrels in Hickory Valley for Yates.
Blackburn's men shot White through the hand, claiming that White was
shooting at them. White was at home on furlough from the Confederate
When the war was ended, Yates was taken by the Federals, and was being
taken to Nashville for trial. Yates knew what his fate would be if he
were tried. He was nearing McMinnville and it was growing dark, all were
horseback. Yates leaped off his horse suddenly into a ditch in a briar
patch. He could hear the bullets going into the bank of the ditch above
and beyond him. They never caught him.
General Dibrell fortified with trenches which may still be seen on
Cemetery Hill, once fought an engagement with a Michigan regiment
located where the high school now is. Artillery was used. Three of
Dibrell's men were killed and forty-two of the Federals.
John Webb once placed a number of people on the proscribed list, one of
these being his uncle, who he said, had burned his barn. This was a
falsehood. The uncle, Crock England, was plowing in a field when Webb
came to him and killed him. England's children begged Webb not to kill
their father but Webb was obdurate. Now Webb was a disreputable
bushwhacker whom no one would believe. His father was a Methodist
minister. Later Webb and his brother, another bushwhacker, were up in a
tree and Federal soldiers shot them out of it.
A woman named Mrs. Alby and her daughter, Mrs. Clark, both disreputable
women, kept a liquor store at Yankeetown. Some Confederate soldiers came
there to get some liquor. Blackburn and his men ran in on them and
killed Taylor, who lived on the mountain, and Copeland and Reagan of
Putnam County. Reagan had his wedding ring with him. It was taken by
Blackburn's men who always robbed the dead. At the same time they also
killed a man named Jones.
Captain George Carter was in Overton County. One morning he took an
inoffensive hired boy out of the home of Isham Richards and shot him in
the chimney corner, the only known reason being that the boy's father
was a Federal. Now Carter was a brave man but he was given to such deeds
The Federals beat up a near-sighted man, known as Blind Jim Howard, but
they failed to find the hiding place of his money.
On the Smithville road between Peeled Chestnut and Cassville a Michigan
regiment was camped on a hill above a stream. A Federal was cut off from
his company and killed by Confederates. The Confederates then killed the
Federal pickets. During the encounter two or three Confederates were
wounded. The Federal commander was so angry that he threatened to burn
every house within ten miles around.
Tinker Dave Beatty came once to the widow of Bill Sims and his men began
to carry out bed clothing.
Mrs. Sims asked to see Beatty, whom she informed that she was Bill Sims'
widow. Beatty made the men
carry the things back, for Sims had once kept Beatty out of jail and
Beatty appreciated it, but the men went down to the negro shack and took
what they wanted, even to the negroes' fiddles which they went away
Colonel Joe Blackburn had a skirmish in and near Bear Cove with Captain
Bledsoe, capturing Bledsoe, Will Green, and W. F. Jones, a lawyer of
McMinnville, the latter being so drunk that Blackburn thought he was
crazy and turned him loose. He killed the others and afterwards hung
Green's body to a walnut tree. Blackburn being a Federal, started for
Kentucky, neutral ground, but he was met by Gatewood and his men at Bon
Air and killed. Atrocities like those given above filled the years of
the Civil War and such things were of frequent occurrence for years
afterwards. Cruel deeds were not confined to one side, but both sides
During the war a number of notable men were in Sparta. Among them were
General N. B. Forrest, who was in Sparta twice during the war, one time
skirmishing most of the way from Rock Island. General Bragg's army
passed through Sparta on the way to Chattanooga, the army was three days
in passing. General Bragg had his headquarters in Sparta for a while at
the home of Colonel Wamon Dibrell. General Russell A. Alger of the
Federal Army came to this County at one time with four thousand soldiers
and had his headquarters for a time in Sparta. Champ Ferguson for a
while used White County as a basis for his raids through Tennessee,
Kentucky, and Virginia. Colonel Bill Stokes who commanded the Federal
garrison at Sparta, for a long time was a White Countian. He was a man
of great ability, a good speaker, and he was successful. After the war
he made the race for Governor of Tennessee, and would have been elected
but for the fact that Center, the other candidate for governor,
persuaded J. C. Brown to support him instead of Stokes, Center agreeing
that if he should be elected, he would enfranchise the ex-Confederates
who had been disfranchised. Center was elected.
The years following the Civil War were years of strong prejudices and
bitter hatreds. The men who had fought on the side of the Union and the
men who had fought for the Confederacy were back at home to live
together. It is hard for those who can not remember those days even to
imagine the bitterness and the terror of that time.
The Loyal League and the Ku Klux Klan organized by the opposing forces
after the war was over kept alive much of the bitterness of the
conflict. The first Loyal League in White County was organized by Levi
Kerr at Onward Seminary just after the Civil War. Most of the League was
composed of negroes, though some white men were members also. There was
a Loyal League also in the south end of the County. The League went down
as soon as the Confederate soldier was enfranchised. The Ku Klux Klan
also was organized soon after the War and was composed for the most part
of those who had been Confederate soldiers. Many atrocities were charged
against the Ku Klux Klan, among these being the killing of negroes. It
seems to be the opinion now of those in position to know that the Ku
Klux Klan was, considering its size, a very law abiding order,
and that most of the crimes charged against it were done after the order
was disbanded by its leaders and by State law.
I have only an
incomplete list of those who went to the Spanish-American War. Some of
these were, Johnson of Bon Air, James Onboy of Quebec, Slatton of Peeled
Chestnut, Rousseau Hudson of Fancher's Mills, Jarvis of Sparta who died
while in the service, Price of Sparta and Charlie Brock who died of
fever while in the service. A man named Moore who was always fighting
and frequently in Court for it was released from his fine by the Judge
if he would go into the army and fight our enemies. Moore agreed, but
was rejected because of his
physical condition, whereupon he cried.
The World War
When the World War
broke out, our people were shocked for they had come to feel that war
was a thing of the past. As the war went on the people were more and
more stirred by the stories of horror that daily filled the papers.
Sentiment was divided, some favoring the Central Powers and some the
allies. After our nation entered the war sentiment very quickly
crystallized in favor of it. Many wanted to volunteer and some did so.
But the prevailing idea was that since there was a Draft Act it would be
the patriotic thing to do to wait until drafted to go. Many of the young
men who were examined for the Draft showed great eagerness to go. Some
who were rejected showed keen disappointment. There were some, however,
who sought to evade service. They were called slackers. A cavalry
company was located for a time in Sparta, the duties of which were to
guard the railroad bridge and to round up slackers. A number of these
slackers were captured and brought to Sparta by
these soldiers. Some of them were from other Counties who had sought
refuge in our mountain fastnesses. On the whole our people were very
loyal and when the meatless and wheatless days came, there was little
complaining. In all of the drives of war activities our people did their
full share, some people even borrowing money with which to buy Liberty
Bonds and in other ways to finance war activities. In the crop
production drives women and girls put on overalls and went to the fields
to work. Boys left the high school in order to help make crops, "Help
win the War" was the motto of our people.
As unit after unit was called to go to the training camps enthusiasm ran
high. As the war went on and our boys began to take part on the battle
front, there was eager scannnig of the papers every day by all classes
of people to find the casualty lists. Those who did not take daily
papers went every day to some place where there was a daily paper. White
County soldiers in the World War gave a good account of themselves as
they have in all wars. When the war was over and the soldiers began to
return home, public meetings in their honor were held in almost every
neighborhood. White County lost comparatively few men in the war. Two of
these were Clayton Hennessee and Joe Baker after whom the local Post of
the American Legion was named. These were brave soldiers and they died
During the war and for several years afterward was a time of
demoralization as all war times. Prices of all commodities were
unreasonably high. People lost all sense of value. Wages and farm
products were also high in price. People began mortgaging their homes to
buy costly automobiles and other luxuries. Reckless young spendthrifts
actually worked at saw mills in silk shirts. Unnecessary debts were
piled up. There was a let down in the moral standard of the people as
always happens in time of war.
In all the wars our country has had since the settling of White County,
White Countians have played their full part. The Civil War affected our
people more than any other for it divided the County and while no major
battle was fought on our soil there were small battles and skirmishes
continually throughout the war, and there were many deeds of cruel
vengeance for years afterward. Practically all of the feuds in our
County, as in all the mountain country, had their origin during the
Civil War. At the outbreak of the Civil War the South had a population
of nine million, nine hundred and fifty thousand slaves, three hundred
and eighty-four thousand slave holders, with only eight thousand holding
over fifty slaves. In the whole nation in 1840 there were two
million abolitionists. The Quakers raised the first voice against
slavery as early as 1700. The first antislavery society was founded in
1815. Eihu Embree of East Tennessee founded and edited the Emancipator,
the first Abolition paper published in the United States. Some claim
that the Abolitionists of Tennessee were a sorry lot and I am sure it
depends on which side does the estimate. We are far enough away now from
the great struggle to act sensibly and to give the need of glory to
whomsoever it is due. We should use the standards of today
instead of the prejudices of yesterday. As the Civil War divided us, so
the war with Spain reunited us. The sons of the Blue and the Gray fought
side by side in that war. The Blue and the Gray now sleep side by side.
In their breasts all wounds have healed, in their dust they are at
peace; so let it be with us, and let all join in the sentiment, "Our
country once divided, but now, our country."
Many of the crimes
done in our County began in the heat of passion caused by war. Some of
these have been mentioned in connection with the Civil War, but a great
many crimes have been done in peace time. Some of the most noted of
these are the following: On the porch of the old Crook Inn at Pomona,
which was then in White County, one day sat Jerry Baker, John A.
Murrell's counterfeiter. He was reading a paper when M. C. Dibrell, an
officer of the law, rode, up to the inn. Baker quietly mounted his horse
and rode away. Dibrell announced that he was seeking Baker, some one
said, "You'll have to beat that, for that was Baker who rode away when
you came." Dibrell finally got Baker and he was tried at Sparta for the
murder of Fuget in connection with an accomplice named Paskell. Fuget
was a man from the North, but was then residing in Jackson County, and
was a counterfeiter working with a man from McMinnville named Fletcher
Woodard, son of Rev. Ike Woodard. Fuget wanted a guide across the
mountains and Baker undertook the task, later Fuget 's body was found
behind a log and Fuget 's horse hitched nearby. At a branch nearby,
where Baker had probably washed his hands, was found a knife with
Baker's name on it. Baker and Paskell were arrested and brought to trial
and after the trial had been going for three weeks feelings in the
County became so intense that the trial had to be moved to McMinnville.
Baker was sentenced to be hanged and was taken to Nashville for
safekeeping but died the day before he was to be executed. Thus ended
the career of Murrell's most
trusted right-hand man, a man whose brains more than any other had
helped Murrell in carrying out his plans. Baker had kept part of the
Murrell clan in the Bone Cave in Van Buren County, then a part of White
prior to 1835. He also had had his headquarters for a while in Blue
Spring Cove. What became of Paskell I do not know.
Another celebrated case was that of Archibald Kirby. Kirby told Peter
Elrod who ran a powder plant on the east bank of the Calfkiller River
not far from the Harriet Iron Works, that he had found a great saltpetre
cave and that if he would go with him, he would show it to him. One day
Elrod went over to where Kirby was. Kirby had been trimming fruit trees
and was wet to the waist, he had his sleeves rolled up and a hatchet in
his hands. They started to the cave. Kirby walked before, hatchet in
hand, leading the way to Hell Hole. When they got there, Elrod hitched
his horse and laid down to look over the hundred-foot precipice. Kirby
hit him with the hatchet and took ten cents out of his pocket, but his
heart failed him and he did not throw Elrod over the precipice as he had
intended. Seven days later the horse broke loose and came home. By
tracking the horse the searching party were led to Elrod's body. In the
trial which followed Kirby was defended by Sam Turney who made little
defense because he saw that the papers in the case were faulty. The case
finally went to the Supreme Court and Kirby was freed, Turney then said
to Kirby, "You're as guilt as hell, and if you ever murder again, I'll
volunteer to hang you.'' A short while after that Polly Hunter was
murdered and Turney, true to his words, volunteered and hanged Kirby.
Another case was that
of a Scott negro who killed a negro named Crock England for beating up
Scott's brother. This was one of the hardest fought legal battles in
White County. Swafford defended Scott. The case had to be moved to Van
Buren County, then to the Supreme Court. Scott was once sentenced to be
hanged, and finally he was sent to the penitentiary. The case cost the
County sixteen thousand dollars.
Another famous case
was that of John Holder who killed his brother-in-law, Halterman.
Snodgrass was Holder's lawyer. The case was long drawn out and Holder
was finally cleared at a cost of sixteen thousand
dollars to the County.
There have been at least twenty-five murders done in Sparta. Most of
these it seems have come about by some one trying to run the police out
of town. A case which caused a great deal of feeling and which was
finally taken to the Supreme Court arose out of a lynching. A widow was
working at the Crook Inn. She started home and was met by a negro man.
She was found later with her entrails hanging on bushes, horribly
mutilated. The negro was placed in jail. Calvin Crook, then a young man,
headed a mob, took the negro out of jail, and hanged him to a tree near
where Storm Townsend's garage now is.
Two more executions which caused considerable feeling at the time were
those of a man named Dooley and a man named Mitchell who were hanged on
the same scaffold near a spring near the Newt Carr place. Dooley had
been reared by a man named Patterson but had gone away for a while. Upon
returning to Patterson's house he was helping Patterson drive some hogs
when they came to a spring. Men that day usually carried their money
with them. Patterson laid down to take a drink, Dooley hit him in the
head with his whip handle. Patterson said, "You wouldn't kill me and me
raised you, would you?" "I've dandled you on my knees many times."
Dooley hit him twice more and Patterson was dead. Who killed him was a
mystery until Dooley, conscious smitten, came forward to say that he
could not bear any longer to conceal the crime and made a full
confession. He was hanged without cap or anything to conceal his face.
The other man who was hanged on the same scaffold was a very ignorant
fellow. He and his mother lived on the mountain. The surveyor was
surveying land near their home. The mother said to her son, "If that
surveyor comes on our land, take an ax and kill him." This he did. The
hats of both Dooley and Mitchell were left hanging where they had hung
them upon going on the scaffold for years after the execution.