Chapter V - Biographies
(People Deceased at Time Seals
In this chapter the purpose is to
give a brief biographical sketch of some of the men who have gone on to
their reward, but who have helped in making the history of the County.
The first is that of John White who has already been mentioned in the
story of Pioneer days. He was born March 1, 1751. He was the first
settler of White County and the County was named for him, though some
historians say that the County was named after Hugh Lawson White. The
house which John White built has been remodeled but is still in use. It
is now owned by Luther Moss. White was a Veteran of the Revolutionary
War, having played his fife in the battle of Germantown, Brandywine, and
Stony Point. He settled first as a squatter and did not prove his claim
until 1807. For the last fifty years of his life he drew a pension from
the government. He died October 12, 1846, and his grave is on the Monroe Passon's place in Hickory Valley.
Woodson P. White was born
in 1783. He was the son of John White and came here with his father from
Virginia when he was six years old. He represented White County in the
State Legislature from 1823 to 1827, his long service in the Legislature
being a proof of his popularity in the County. He was the first to serve
over two years. He died in 1829, and was buried by his wife, Nancy, who
died in 1821. His daughter, Elizabeth, became the wife of William Young
and is buried in the Sparta cemetery.
John Knowles was born in Belfast, Ireland, and was a prominent
leader in the Irish rebellion. The rebellion was crushed by the English
Army and the British decided to execute the leaders of the rebellion.
While Knowles and his sister were upstairs they saw the British coming
to take him, to execution. His sister let him down from this upper story
by bed sheets and he escaped, going to Virginia. He never saw his sister
again. He married in Virginia, had three sons, and probably some
daughters, before he came to White County. He gave of the old John
Knowles tract. One of his daughters married each of his sons a farm. E.
Y. Knowles now owns sixty acres Archibald McDaniel, a Revolutionary War
veteran. When our County was organized in 1807, John
Knowles, and not William Phillips as has frequently been state, was the
first sheriff of the new County.
Black Fox was a Cherokee
chief of the first rank, unlike Calfkiller and Nettlecarrier who were
only tribal chiefs. The first settlers called one of the chief trails
the Black Fox Trail after this chief. Black Fox had his hunting ground
in the Southern end of what is now White County. His hunting camp was
located on Lost Creek. On January 7, 1806, Black Fox was instrumental in
having his nation cede seven thousand square miles of land to the
government. In 1807 Black Fox and his chiefs were given permission to
hunt in their old territory "until, through settlement, it might become
improper." The government granted an annuity for life of one hundred
dollars to Black Fox.
Barlow Fisk a cousin of the celebrated Moses Fisk
who established in Overton County the first female academy South of the
Ohio River, came from Massachusetts. He and his brother, Madison Fisk,
settled in White County. Madison Fisk was instrumental in establishing
the first Masonic
Lodge in Sparta. Madison Fisk owned the land where the Rock House is
until 1839, having bought it at a sheriff's sale in 1824. Barlow Fisk
bought the property from Dr. Fisk in 1839, two years after Jackson
ceased to be President. According to Milton Fisk, son of Barlow Fisk,
the Rock House was built and the Fisk family moved into it when Milton
was about eight years old. Now Milton was born in 1836. If this be true,
then the tradition that Jackson stopped there each time he was on his
way to be inaugurated for President, is incorrect. Milton Fisk's
declaration would place the building of the Rock House about 1844.
Barlow Fisk had the reputation of being the greatest deer hunter in the
County. When the snow fell, he would take a slow tracking dog and as he
would kill a deer he would disembowel it and hang it up, going on with
the hunt. After he had killed as many as he wanted he would get a horse
and sled and haul them home.
Sam Denton was the builder of the Rock House. He had formerly
lived in New Orleans, was living in New Orleans when the battle of New
Orleans was fought. He was a cotton merchant there. He furnished the
bales for the famous cotton wall behind which Jackson's men fought.
Denton came to Jackson and said, "Mr. Jackson, we do not know how the
battle will go, so I will appreciate it if you will give a showing for
this cotton." Jackson replied, "If you want a showing for your cotton,
by the Eternal take a musket and defend it." Denton did so. After Denton
came to White County he was in a land company at Bon Air which held
several thousand acres of land.
The Goodwin family. David Goodwin came from South Carolina in
1808 and settled near the duck pond
at the Luther England place. His son, John T. Goodwin, was recognized as
being the best carpenter
in White County. David Goodwin held the office in this County which
superintended the slaves, seeing that they had plenty to eat and had
fair treatment. Once he went to one of the largest slave holders in the
County and found that the slaves were underfed. He found, too, that the
smokehouse was full of meat. Being refused the key, he took an ax, broke
open the smokehouse door, and told the negroes to take meat and cook it,
which they did. He died in 1838. John T. Goodwin who was born in 1795
and died in 1875 was a Two-Seed Baptist, they being very numerous in the
County in his day.
John Yates was a Methodist preacher and lived in Hickory Valley.
He killed his horse with his pocket knife under a poplar, later known as
the white leaf poplar, which could be distinguished for miles. No one
knew why he killed the horse, but many people of that day believed that
the, tragic death of the horse under the tree had something to do with
the tree turning white. Mr. Yates was noted in several ways. He married
and had thirty-three children, more than one figuring in White County
history. A number of his descendents have been prominent in White County
affairs. Yates preached in many parts of the County. One of his
preaching places was out on Cumberland Mountain seven miles from his
home. He always rode a steer to this appointment. Like most of the early
ministers, the last five minutes of his sermon was a studied and
practiced conclusion about Gabriel blowing his trumpet. Ministers vied
with each other in that day as to which would have the most eloquent and
effective piece of oratory. Yates was endowed with a wonderful voice, so
when Yates would reach the mountain top on the way to his appointment,
he would practice on that part of his sermon that had to do with Gabriel
blowing his trumpet. One fine Sunday morning while practicing thus, a
man with a gun came out of the bushes and proceeded to curse the
minister, saying, "I came out here to kill a deer this morning for
necessary meat for my family, while you come along bellowing like the
Bull of Basham until you've seared every deer off the top of the
mountain." Yates lived to be ninety-six years old.
The Lewis Family. There were four Lewis brothers, Tom, Ben,
Elijah, and William who together with their father came to Hickory
Valley in 1798 from South Carolina. Benjamin, William, and Elijah had
made a trip to Tennessee before this, having gone to Nashville. They had
hired an Indian guide in East Tennessee and on the way to Nashville had
spent one night at the head of Cane Creek. Here the Indians showed them
a lead mine from which they took all the lead they needed, but they were
never able again to find the mine. On their return to South Carolina
they went through Hickory Valley. Upon reaching South Carolina they
received grants for land and returned to Hickory Valley with their
father and little brother to settle. William Lewis settled the lands now
known as the Roane County Wallace land, building his house where the
Wilson boys now live. William later traded this land for the land where
James Haston now lives and spent the remainder of his days there.
William Lewis was a Major in the Revolutionary Army, having been with
Washington at Valley Forge. Elijah settled in the upper end of Hickory
Valley on the land now known as the James Wallace place. Benjamin Lewis
settled near the center of the valley at a big spring by the side of an
Indian trail. This old place is now owned by Granville Rogers. Major
William Lewis, father of the Lewis boys settled the lands now known as
the Hiram Miller place. He willed this land to his youngest son, Thomas.
With the Lewises came two Mitchell brothers, John and William, and their
sister. Benjamin Lewis married this Mitchell girl. They had six
children, three boys and three girls. The boys were named Mitchell,
Harvey, and John, the girls were named Leah, who married William Bryan,
Patsy married James Gracy (her descendents are the Graceys, Warrens,
Rogers, Hayes, and Mayes), Betty married Joseph Simmons. This Benjamin
Lewis was a soldier in the war of 1812 and was with Jackson at New
Jacob Cole died at the age of thirty-seven, but he left an
impress upon the religious life of the County. His descendants of note
were William, his son, a large farmer and stock raiser, William's son,
Joe, a successful farmer and stock raiser. Jacob's brother, Josiah, was
the champion at the shooting matches in the early days.
Thomas K. Harris was made a general in 1814. In 1816 he fought a
duel with General John W. Simpson.
The duel was fought near the Shell's Ford and Harris was killed. The
duel is said to have been caused by things Harris had said about
Simpson. Harris had been in Congress from the Fourth District and had
returned to his old home in Sparta and was making the race against
John W. Simpson was a Revolutionary veteran and founder of one of
the best families in this County. The Simpson family are related to the
William Little came to this County from Scotland about 1800. He
was the representative of a New York land company and bought land for
his company all over the mountain section, paying for the land one bit
an acre. He went to New York to meet his brother, Rev. Thomas Little, a
minister of the Church of Scotland, who was coming to join William in
White County. When he reached New York, he found that Thomas had already
landed and had bought a team and started for White County. William died
a few days later, never seeing his brother.
Thomas Little brought along with him from Scotland his
seventeen-year-old son, Brice. They spent their first night in this
County on a hill west of the Billy Passons place in Hickory Valley. They
went on then to Blue Spring Cove. There were then only three or four
houses with a small patch of cleared land around each house at Blue
Spring. He organized the church there and was its pastor until his
death. He built his home in 1823 which is still standing.
Zecheriah Anderson was born in 1790, and died in 1867. He was a
Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Baptist preacher. He was a substantial farmer and
stock raiser. Several of his descendents have been prominent in the
Willam Matlock was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina in
1798. He first came to Carter County, Tennessee, and from there to White
County in 1820. He served in the War of 1812 as a member of Captain
Jesse Cole's company, First Regiment East Tennessee Volunteers. He was a
noted slave trader. He built the house now owned by Frank Turner near
O'Conner. He was a man of great size and strength. He married Susan
Manafee in White County in 1844. He accumulated great wealth. At one
time he brought his money to Sparta for deposit in the bank and offered
anyone the money who would lift the sack in which the money was brought.
He died in Georgia in 1864.
Colonel Stephen H. Coims, was born October 22, 1815. He came to
Tennessee from Indianapolis, Indiana, and settled in White County
several years before the Civil War. During the Civil War he was the
commander of a battalion raised in White County, Confederate troops. He
was wounded at the battle of Fort Donelson. Coims surrendered February
16, 1862. Colonel Coims was limited in his literary qualifications but
he had a winning personality and no one at the Sparta bar in his time
was more skillful in the selection and manipulation of evidence. His
home was on the corner where C. G. Stacy now lives and his office was
where the Carson Meat Market now is. He never had any children of his
own, but he reared a niece who married the late Judge W. F. Story. His
old sword is now in the possession of the Story family. His wounds never
healed and in the last years of his life caused him a great deal of
trouble. He committed suicide at a home a short way west of Crossville,
December 18, 1874.
The Hudgens Family. Three
Hudgens brothers and a sister came from England. One of the brothers
settled in North Carolina, one went West, and the others settled in
White County, becoming the ancestor of the Hudgens family of this
County. The sister married Daniel Boone's father and became the mother
of Daniel Boone.
Daniel Clark was perhaps the greatest man in early White County from the
point of view of the economic development of the County. At one time he
paid more tax than any other one man in the County. Daniel Clark was the father
of Wamon Clark who was the father of the brilliant lawyer, Mark Clark,
who committed suicide at Manchester. Daniel Clark married Monie Hembree.
He owned two thousand acres of land north of the present Clark Mill on
which he had thirty negro families. When these negroes were not busy on
the plantation he had them working on contract jobs. He had the contract
to rock the public square of Sparta which was done with slave labor. He
had a mill race dug, diverting the waters from Town Creek to run a
furniture factory which was located a few yards from the present Clark
Mill. He manufactured all kinds
of furniture used in that day, including coffins, which sold for two
dollars and a half each. He had also on his plantation a mill. He also
built the old factory in 1842, which he sold to William Glenn who in
turn sold it to Tom Snodgrass, Bill Sims and Perry Sims, who sold it to
Pennington who converted it into a woolen mill. The factory cost twenty
thousand dollars to build. In personal appearance he was tall, had broad
shoulders, and was handsome. He ran a brick kiln and made the brick
which went into his brick home. Daniel Clark was perhaps the largest
slave trader in this section of the State. He died in 1879.
DeWitt Croly (Crawley) was a teacher, later he became absorbed
with religion. He would leave his school and go into the woods and pray
a half a day at a time. He was considered the best bookkeeper in the
County and was often in demand to straighten out the tangles in other
men's bookkeeping. He ran the first nursery in this County in 1786. For
a while he ran a school for the benefit of the children of the owners of
the factory in the factory dining room. When he was seventy-three years
old he married a girl aged eleven but soon left her
and went to Texas where he died twenty years later.
Thomas Hill was a veteran
of the Revolution who came early to this County. It is said that he came
with the Snodgrass family. His son, Abner, was the first minister of the
Church of Christ in this County.
Rev. James Hickey was a veteran of the Revolution and came here
from Mexico where he had been a
missionary of the Baptist Church. A number of his descendants have been
Baptist ministers in this section. He was buried in the old Giles Elrod
Dr. Sam Young was one among the first doctors in this County.
Married a sister of Dave Snodgrass. He taught Dr. Tom Snodgrass
William B. Hall was born in 1815, died 1846. He was a doctor in
White County and is buried in the old Sparta cemetery.
Andrew Robinson was ruptured so that he could not do manual
labor. He became a student and a scholar. Rev. John L. Dillard, the
greatest theologian in the early Cumberland Presbyterian Church, always
submitted the manuscripts of his books to Mr. Robinson for his criticism
before publishing them.
Sam Parker of Hickory Valley during the second half of the last
century was one of the leading men of the County. He was distinguished
in appearance and made an impression on everyone he met. Although
limited in education he was a clear thinker and could hold his own with
the best men of his time. He was a natural born leader. In 1851 he
represented this County in the State Legislature. Later he made an
unsuccessful race for Governor. His son, Sam Arter Parker, was
postmaster at Sparta for eight years. Sam Parker, son of Sam Arter
Parker, was postmaster in Sparta for sixteen years.
Eli Sims was born in Ireland and married a Miss Townsend there.
He came first to Virginia and then to White County bringing along with
him his father-in-law, Bob Townsend, who lived with him. Mr. Sims built
house which is thought by some to be the first brick house built in this
County. He fastened the shingles on with hickory pegs. He owned. and
operated what is claimed to be the first cotton gin in White County. He
was also a teacher, L. D. Snodgrass being one of his pupils. He was
trustee of White County for four years. Four of his descendents have
held the office of County Court Clerk, the present incumbent being one
Sod Harrison was born about 1800 and lived to be eighty years
old. Although illiterate, being neither able to read nor figure, he was
the greatest mechanic this County ever produced. He was the master
mechanic in the construction of most of the mills, wooden horse powers,
gins, and other machinery built in the County in his day. Men wanting a
first class job always sent for Sod Harrison. His series of wooden cog
wheels always worked.
Ambrose Davis was the only
cave man in this County. Mr. Davis came from one of the first families
of the County. He was an excellent carpenter. He had trouble with his
family and became insane, though he was harmless. From remarks he made
it was surmised that while crazed he had killed his ex-wife and the man
living with her. Davis lived in a cave north of John Coles' place,
eating roasting ears, meat from coons, possums and such other animals as
he could catch for their fur. He said that his favorite dish was black
snake soup, and that skunk meat was among the finest; if carefully
skinned. He made more bread trays, trenchers, and wooden
spoons than anyone else in the County. His work was perfect long after
he became deranged. In his mental state he did not know the value of
money and he sold bread trays worth two dollars and a half at that time
for twenty-five cents.
Eli Robinson was the son of
James Robinson who died in a burning house at one hundred and four years
old. Robinson made hundreds of tombstones in this County and shipped
many outside. His factory which was near the Rock House where he lived
burned with great loss and he moved to Chattanooga. His son James
Robinson is the owner of the Chattanooga Marble Works and has been
marvelously successful. John Walker, son-in-law of Eli Robinson worked
with his fatherin-law in making tombstones at the Rock House. Later
he, too, went to Chattanooga where he practiced medicine and
fortune-telling. He became very popular, amassing considerable wealth.
He died about ten years ago.
J. W. Scott received his education at Doyle College and had many
friends in this County. He went to Chattanooga where he practiced law.
He was a brilliant man, kind, generous, sociable, a good mixer, but he
was easily discouraged and had habits that worked against success. He
was found dead in a hut he owned a few miles out of Chattanooga. It is
believed by some of his kin that he was murdered by a rival bootlegger.
He had a half-brother, Jonathan Scott, who was killed east of Sparta in
a skirmish of three Confederates against nine Federals.
Jonathan Scott came to White County in 1808. He settled at what
is now known as the Sam Scott place. He had three sons, Sam, Jim and
William, the latter moving to Illinois and dying without male issue. Sam
had twelve sons and one daughter, one of whom is Quill Scott, a reform
member of the County Court.
George Ogden. Another builder of White County was George Ogden
who came here from Wilkes-Barre,
Pennsylvania. In 1831 he constructed an over shot water wheel and built
the first carding machine in the County, and perhaps the first in the
Vardrey Camp came to Camp's gulch in what is now Van Buren
County. His two sons were Jasper and
Newton. Jasper was a school teacher for years and then owner of a large
farm. He moved to Texas. Newton was the father of Dr. James Camp and
Judge Harry Camp.
Harvey Doyle was born in 1730. He came here from South Carolina.
He married Ola Fryer and thus
came into possession of several thousand acres of land at Doyle. His
sons were Merrell, owner of the place now called the Walter Wallace
place, John, Simon, Henry and Joe. Some of these sons went to California
and made large fortunes.
Dr. M. Y. Brocket was a Presbyterian minister, a very sympathetic
doctor, and a good man.
Dr. Thomas Mayo Bosson was born 1786. He came to this County from
Roxbury, Massachusetts. He was a
noted physician in the early days of the County. He is a relative of the
celebrated Mayo Brothers. He died in 1850.
Dr. C. S. Rascoe was born in 1834 and had a career of usefulness.
He was a successful school teacher, a good doctor, and an active
temperance worker. His varied activities gave him a remarkable influence
in White County. The later years of his life were spent at Doyle. He
died in 1905.
John Marlow was with Jackson in the battle of New Orleans. He was
a widely known maker and seller
of maple sugar. Some of his customers were merchants of Nashville.
Charlie Richards was an electrician and had charge of the
electric light plant of Hope, Arkansas.
E. Hatch was our first Christian Scientist having written a book
on the subject. He bought the Mitchell Mill property during the time of
its very worst period. He erected a paper mill and made paper pulp while
experimenting with it. He moved the pulp mill to Sparta in 1885 and
erected a building but did not have the funds to complete the
installation of the plant. He sold his property and moved away from here
and soon died of heart trouble.
Adam Huntsman was a member of the first Masonic Lodge at Sparta
and represented this County in
the State Legislature four years, afterwards serving as a State Senator.
He married a daughter of Judge William Quarles. He came into national
prominence when he defeated David Crockett for Congress, Crockett going
to Texas after his defeat. Huntsman moved to Alabama and was elected
first to Congress and later to the United States Senate.
Columbus Marchbanks was born in Putnam County but most of his
life was spent at Sparta. He was a splendid lawyer and one of the finest
orators in the State. He represented White County in the State
Legislature and made an unsuccessful race for Attorney-General against
William Cullom and others. His lecturer, ''A Harp of a Thousand
Strings,'' was a gem and made him nationally known.
Judge M. D. Smallman of
Warren County was born and reared at Onward Station. He taught school in
the southern part of White County for two years.
Hon. Sam Turney was an unique character. He was one of the most
successful lawyers ever at the Sparta Bar. He was original but very
eccentric. He used to sit at a hotel and cut his own hair. When
remonstrated with, he replied, ''I guess I know the shape of my own
head.'' There were no records of warrants and indictments kept in those
days, Turney would eat the warrants, thus freeing his client. Once a
counterfeiter was up for trial, Turney was his lawyer. Turney asked to
see the five dollar bill presented in evidence. Talking and wrapping the
bill around his finger he found a chance to put the bill into his mouth
and at the same time took a good bill out of his vest pocket and
substituted it for the counterfeit. Then he requested the Judge to send
three men to the bank to see if it would pass. It did and his client
went free. He won national fame for planning the escapade which
prevented our State from having a United States Senator for two years.
He and the actors with him became known as The Immortal Thirteen. Toward
the end of his life he was baptized and became a Christian preacher.
Great crowds came to the services whenever it was announced that he
would preach. He was a soldier in the War of 1812 and when he died in
Sparta in 1862, he was buried by a Convoy of Federal soldiers.
H. L. Turney, brother of Sam Turney was born at the old Turney
home a, little west of Sparta. When he became a man he left White County
and became a Congressman. He was the father of Peter Turney, one time
Governor of Tennessee.
Major Nathaniel Evans was one of the early settlers of White
County. He was the officer on whom
John Sevier depended most to carry out his commands in the Battle of
General G. G. Dibrell, statesman, soldier, orator, man of
affairs, one of the builders of White County had a remarkable career. He
spent ten years as a member of Congress. He was president of the
Southwestern Railroad in 1869; he was part of the organization of the
leading coal company of White County; made an unsuccessful effort to be
Governor. He was on the staff of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, and was
the one Forrest trusted more than any other to carry out his orders. His
military exploits are recorded in Dr. Wyatt's Life of Nathan B. Forrest.
Frank Dibrell, son of General Dibrell, held a number of offices,
among them that of Comptroller of
Tennessee. Another son, Will Dibrell, was in one of the largest
wholesale shoe stores in the south at Nashville. James, another of the
General's sons was high sheriff of White County. Another son, Jeff, was
superintendent of the Bon Air Corporation. Another son, Stanton, was
agent at the Sparta depot for many years.
Fred G. Mitchell, son of Thomas Mitchell, was twice
representative of this County, having defeated one of our ablest men. He
was noted for his geniality. He was appointed Convict Inspector which
office he held two or three months before his untimely death.
J. D. Goff, descended from Judge Goff of Hadley, Massachusetts
held office in this County for forty-five years. He was Justice of the
Peace, County Court Clerk, and County Judge. He was once defeated by
Judge George H. Hudson but died in office.
William Passons was born about 1823 and died in his
year. He was the father of high sheriff Monroe Passons, whose son,
Thomas, is now an efficient teacher in Cookeville Tennessee Polytechnic
Institute. Another grandson of William Passons is the popular and
efficient principal of the Sparta City School, Arlis. Bill Passons, son
of William Passons, was for years policeman of Sparta. Major Passons,
son of William Passons, was one of White County's strong men. He could
lift the gear wheel of a horse power, a weight of five hundred pounds,
above the pinion. Dalton Davis, grandson of William Passons is now the
City Marshal of Sparta.
Edward Rotan was born at
Sparta in 1844. He had a notable career as a Confederate soldier. He
fought at Missionary Ridge and Chickamauga and was wounded at the Battle
of Perryville. After the war he taught school three years, marrying one
of his teachers. During his business career he was a bank president and
at different times president of two railroads. He headed the street car
enterprise of Waco, Texas, where he had gone in 1886. He became a
multi-millionaire and died in 1932.
Charles T. Haston was born in what is now Van Buren County in
1847 and came to Hickory Valley in 1883. He was a farmer and a large
stock raiser. He would often send as many as a hundred head of cattle
out on Cumberland mountain to graze during the summer. He bought one of
the first reapers in White County in 1883, and in the same year he
erected one of the first woven wire fences in the County. He bought and
sold cattle, hogs and sheep. For several years he was a member of the
County Court. Mr. Haston was chairman of the convention that nominated
Buchanan for Governor. This was a very noisy convention. A wrangle
started, whereupon Mr. Haston with a voice that could easily be heard
above the noise of the wrangle said, "Boys, boys, stop that wrangling or
the chair won't sit any longer." This brought down the house. Buchanan
was immediately nominated.
Van Haston, brother of C. T. Haston, ran a fine farm in Western
Hickory Valley and raised fine stock. He was a factor in the development
of that part of the County but was not as active in the affairs of the
County as was his brother, though Van Haston was once County Surveyor.
Dick Haston, another brother was also a useful citizen and large land
owner and stock raiser. All these were descended from
John A. Catron was a Virginian who came first to Overton County
then to Sparta where he studied law under General George W. Gibbs. After
remaining in Sparta a few years he returned to Overton County and became
Judge of the Court of Appeals. He was appointed a Federal Judge by
Andrew Jackson. Tradition says that Mrs. Catron went in person to see
Jackson telling him what she desired. Jackson was alone in his room
smoking his cob pipe. When she had finished her plea, Jackson replied,
"By the Eternal, he shall have it." Catron held Court in Sparta in 1834.
General George W. Gibbs was one of Sparta's leading lawyers in
the early days. He was a man of large affairs, and founder of the bank.
He went to West Tennessee and founded Union City.
The Lincolns. Jesse
Lincoln, a cousin of the president, was in the dry goods business in
Sparta for about thirty years. Another Jesse Lincoln, a nephew of the
president, came to White County for his health. He died at Clark Town
and was brought to Sparta and was buried in the old cemetery.
Jesse Everett Hickman was born near Cherry Creek October 22,
1805, died at his home near the church he loved so well, December 26,
1888. Some idea of his virility can be gained if one considers that he
was active up until a few weeks of his death. He had just left the home
of James Sims and was going down the steep hill toward the creek in a
buggy when the harness broke. The horse became frightened and the old
minister was thrown out and badly hurt. He was taken to the home of Mr.
Sims and there cared for until he could be moved to his own home. He was
hoping to be back in his pulpit again soon when the end came rather
suddenly. But there he was eighty-three years old, and still carrying on
the work as many a young man would find too tiresome, for that road is
still one of the roughest in the County.
Twenty years ago all the old people had stories to tell of Hickman that
made the man a real person to the listener. Nearly all these old people
are now dead and he is for this generation only a name. No one seems to
have known anything of his early life, of his training, of his
education. Tradition has it that he was educated at Princeton. Of that I
have never been able to learn the truth. It is very unlikely. Still,
that he was a man of sound training is proved by the ease with which he
wrote. All that I have seen of his writings pointed to the fact that he
was well trained. His writing was clear and easy to read, mechanically
correct. He had a diction remarkable for its force and clearness. How a
man could have acquired such ability in the wilderness of that day has
often puzzled me, unless it is true that he went East for his education.
The same easy manner one finds in his writing must have been in his life
as well. It has been said of him that he was equally at home in the city
mansion and in the mountain hut with dirt for a floor. He was the friend
of such scholars as J. L. Dillard
and yet so far as I have ever heard he never engaged in literary
pursuits. He spent too much time in the saddle for that, Łor he was
preaching everywhere over the mountain country continually. It is said
that he organized more churches in this section than any other man who
ever lived here, forty-two churches being organized by him. He did an
almost unbelievable amount of evangelistic work. Indeed, so it is said,
he was released once for a period of two years for general evangelistic
work. Turning over the main part of his work to a young assistant, he
held evangelistic campaigns in such cities as Nashville and Louisville.
But the thing that has amazed me about him is the vigor with which he
carried on his work as a pastor. He seems to have been all the time
visiting in homes, holding prayer services, and making himself felt in
the lives of the people.
Hickman was ahead of his day in many matters of church work. Back in the
forties he became convinced that pioneer days were over and that the
church ought to budget its affairs. Once determined on this course he
had courage to carry it through, though it split his church. He and six
of his Elders favored the plan, three Elders opposed. The vote in the
congregation on the plan to adopt a definite financial policy was taken
in the afternoon of the opening day of the annual revival. The plan
carried by a big majority. But one of the Elders who opposed the plan
called a meeting at his house that night and another church was
organized. This church on Cherry Creek has ever since been called the
''Lower Church'' because a little log church for the new congregation
was built about a mile down the valley from Hickman's church, which has
ever since been known as the "Upper Church." But the significant thing
is that at a time when a definite financial plan of church
administration was not in force even in many city churches Hickman set
up such a plan in his church on Cherry Creek. A very unique system of
every member canvass was set up. An all day meeting was called with a
roll call of the members of the church. Each member responded to the
roll call with his pledge for the year.
Hickman lies buried in a neglected private cemetery a little way from
the old middle ford of Cherry Creek. A simple slab marks his resting
Rev. James Lansden was a prominent Cumberland Presbyterian
minister in the early days of that movement in this County. Two of his
sons were Rev. John Lansden and Dr. Hugh Lansden, the latter being the
father of the late Judge D. L. Lansden.
Alexander Goodwin was one of the first merchants of White County.
He also ran a tannery West of the present Mount Carmel and later one at
Baker's Cross Roads. His sons, John and James, were merchants at Baker's
Cross Roads, as is his grandson Sam Goodwin. John Goodwin established
and ran for over forty years a Swiss pottery.
Perry Officer was a man of large affairs, a farmer, stock
1·aiser, and buyer. He brought many thousands of dollars into the County
by his trading. He owned large tracts of land. He was the engineer for
the pikes that were built in 1887. At his death he was worth probably
half a million dollars.
Frank Coatney was the most noted raider of wild cat stills we
ever had in White County. He served many years as a revenue officer. In
one year while there were saloons in Sparta he cut up more stills than
were captured during the whole thirteen year period of prohibition.
Tandy Lewis was a teacher, president of the County School Board,
sheriff, Representative in the State Legislature, County surveyor, and
Champ Ferguson was a noted Confederate raider who during the
Civil War used White County as a
base for his operations. Much that has been written about him is
terribly inaccurate. It has generally been supposed that he was born in
White County. From the modest tombstone I copied the following: "Captain
C. Ferguson was born November 29, 1821, in Clinton, Kentucky, married
Martha Owen July 5, 1848. Died October 20, 1865.''
Ferguson was a Kentucky mountaineer of Scotch ancestry, who moved to
Fentress County, Tennessee, and at the outbreak of the Civil War he was
well-to-do and as refined as any of the mountain men of his time. He
bore the reputation of being a perfect gentleman in his dealings with
his fellowmen. He moved to White County to escape the persecutions of
the "bushwhackers" favorable to the Federals. He soon entered the
Confederate service and was made Captain and wore the regulation
uniform. It has been said that he was such a cut-throat that the
Confederate army would not let him join it. But he was invited by Nathan
B. Forrest himself to enlist. When General Wheeler came through Sparta,
Ferguson accompanied him as far as Liberty and was in the skirmish at
Doweltown. He was cruel, it is true, and often killed his prisoners,
sometimes running them through with the sword after shooting them. The
charge on which he was tried by the Federals was that he had killed a
wounded Lieutenant in a Virginia hospital. No Confederate ever defended
Ferguson's cruelty. But it is a fact that cannot be denied that he had
great provocation for some of his terrible deeds.
He did not want to go to war but realizing that he must decide, he went
to a cave to make up his mind. When he returned home, he found that
sixteen of Tinker Dave Beatty's men, headed by Lieutenant Smith, whom he
afterwards killed in a Virginia hospital, had come to his house in his
absence and had compelled his wife and daughter, Ann, to undress and
march three times around the house naked. Before his death he killed
everyone of the sixteen. For his little boy, three years old, he bought
a little Confederate flag. The little fellow was out on the porch waving
his flag when some Federal Soldiers came by. A volley of shots rang out
and the little boy lay dead in his own blood, pierced by many bullets.
Such deeds made Ferguson desperate and he became a national problem.
Sometimes his band would dwindle to no more than a dozen men; sometimes
he would have four or five hundred that carried death and destruction
where they went. But most of his horrible deeds were in revenge. It was
difficult for a man to wrong him and not pay the supreme penalty.
He was finally captured by the Federals and brought to trial. He was
promised that he would be treated as any other Confederate soldier, but
this promise was only a scrap of paper. He was condemned to be hanged.
His wife and daughter were near him when sentence was pronounced. He was
allowed to talk with them before he was led away. Not a tear was shed.
As he turned to go his wife said, "Champ, die with your head up.'' To
which he replied, ''I will.'' He was buried in the France cemetery. His
daughter, who was a beautiful girl, became the wife of George Metcalf.
John B. Rogers. The father
of John B. Rogers came from Virginia to Warren County in 1812, John went
North and became the friend of Abraham Lincoln. He courted
unsuccessfully Elodie Todd, sister of the wife of Lincoln. He was a
staff officer of Andrew Jackson in the Seminole War in 1818 and helped
arrest Arbuthnot and Ambrister, the latter being taken off of a ship
near the mouth of the Suwanee River commanded by Captain Louis. Louis
sought to destroy some papers of great importance to Jackson. Rogers
personally captured these papers and received the thanks of Jackson.
Just before Ambrister was shot, he handed his sash to General Rogers,
saying, ''As a token of regard for your kindness.'' This sash was taken
from Roger's home and destroyed by Confederates during the Civil War.
In 1823 Rogers was made adjutant to General Smartt of McMinnville. In
1825 when Lafayette visited
Tennessee, Rogers commanded Lafayette's escort and the great Frenchman
being lame, he leaned on Rogers. A conversation revealed the fact that
Roger's father fought under Lafayette in the Revolutionary War. In 1823,
at Jackson's request, Rogers was unanimously elected Attorney-General of
the State, even Polk, Grundy, and Crockett voting for him. In the Texas
War Rogers was elected a Brigadier General with the brevet of Major
He married Louisa Clark and for a while practiced law at Sparta. In 1840
he founded the first summer resort in the South at Bon Air Springs. It
has been thought by some that this hotel was founded by Christopher
Hoffman, but the old register indicates clearly that Rogers was the
owner at the founding. Rogers sold it in 1855 to Constant Lake, David
Williams, and Kimball Porter, who held it until it was destroyed by
Scott's Confederate Cavalry. His wife died in 1851 and was buried at
Rock Island where he was then living.
In 1860 he was a Lincoln Elector and a Union sympathizer throughout the
war. Five times he was robbed by the Confederates and forced to flee
from home for personal safety. All of his movable property was carried
away, the damage being, probably more than one hundred thousand dollars.
His property at Rock Island was destroyed and the grave of his first
wife mutilated. Among those arrested was a stonecutter who was released
on condition that he would erect a slab over the grave with this
inscription: "Here lies Mrs. John B. Rogers, the friend of Abraham
Lincoln." This was done, and the card bearing this inscription is in the
possession of Captain W. E. McElwee of Rockwood, Tennessee.
In 1867 he was elected a member of the State Senate from this district.
Later he was elected to Congress. He has been given the credit of
starting the boom of Grant for President. At the time of his death in
1873 he had become wealthy again. He was buried in the old cemetery at
Bon Air. About fifteen years later his daughter, who had married a
Federal Colonel named Jarvis, whom she met while the Federals were
stationed at Rock Island, and his second wife, the wealthy widow Collins
of New York, whom he had married in 1853, had his first wife removed to
Bon Air. Later the second wife was also buried there. A nice monument
marks their graves.
Benton McMillin, lawyer, statesman, orator, Governor of
Tennessee, for twenty years, a member of Congress, diplomat, is too
well known to need any extended notice here, but it is not so well known
that he once lived in Sparta. He was born in Kentucky but came here when
he was a young man. He studied law in the office of E. L. Gardenhire and
began the practice of law in Sparta. He moved to Celina in 1871 and was
elected to the Legislature, then appointed Circuit Judge, then elected
to that position, then to Congress, then Governor. He died in 1932.
Captain Hawthorne C. Gray
is of interest here because of his tragic death near Doyle in 1927. Gray
started from Belleville, Illinois, to try to break the world's record
for height in a balloon. Some boys going after the cows late in the
afternoon saw a balloon in a tree top with the rope dragging the ground.
The balloonist was found in the basket of the balloon, head and
shoulders doubled forward showing that he had been dead for some time.
The instruments showed that the balloon had reached the greatest height
ever recorded up to that time but Gray lost the record of the highest
ascent, since it was certain he was dead before his balloon reached its
highest. The body was taken to H. B. Hunter's undertaking parlors.
Representatives of the Navy Department and Gray's wife came and along
with them reporters who tried to throw off on the South and Sparta. But
the sensible Mrs. Gray put a quietus on such conduct, for she spoke in
the highest terms of the care her husband's body had received.
John M. Welch, lawyer of the County School Board, developer of
White County. He pulled walnut stumps and sold them bringing many
thousands of dollars into the County that otherwise would have been
wasted. He was for a long time President of the Cumberland Lumber
Company which was for a long time one of the big lumber companies of
this section. He built a number of fine houses in Sparta. He was twice
President of the School Board. At the time of his death in 1934 his home
was in Chattanooga, though he still maintained a summer home at
William Turner was born in 1839 of English and Dutch descent. He
was a Confederate soldier, farmer and stock raiser. He served two years
as Trustee of the County. His son, Frank, now Town Clerk, is very
popular as seen from the fact that he held the office of County Court
Clerk for sixteen years.
Colonel Jarred Ward was born in Ohio in 1844.
He was a Federal soldier. He introduced the first sawmill in White
County in 1866, and ran for a number of years a very successful lumber
business. His two children were Norman and Bessie, the latter marrying
Judge F. T. Fancher.
Oliver Young. Oliver's father was a pioneer of Sumner County then
moved to Jackson County and was a
sheriff there for fourteen years and twice a member of the State
Legislature. Oliver came to this County in 1870 and was a useful and
influential citizen. One daughter married Honorable L. D. Hill, another
married a brilliant lawyer, Honorable Eph Story, and a son, Dr. W. B.
Young, is one of the most important factors in the development of White
Eldridge Sullivan was for many years a physician at Cherry Creek
and Spring Hill. His son, Bayard
Sullivan, is a physician at the Veterans Hospital at Livermore,
California. Dr. Bayard Sullivan has traveled in the Near East and is a
lecturer of splendid ability. Dr. Eldridge Sullivan's daughter is the
wife of Thomas Mayberry.
Rev. Howard Sutton was born in 1852, and died in 1905. He was a
minister of the Church of Christ
and perhaps the most popular minister that church ever produced in this
County. He was as popular outside his own church as in it. All
denominations respected him. He was educated at Spencer and taught for a
while at Cumberland University. He did a great deal of evangelistic
work. His memory is cherished by many of the older generation.
Major Gooch Smith ran a tan yard up the river from Cave. He had
many business enterprises. He was a
large farm owner and cattle raiser. He was a lawyer of ability and had a
large part in the development of the County. He was a major in the
Confederate army. His son, William, was a judge renowned in the law.
Another son, L. D. Smith, died as the Attorney General of the State. His
daughter, Marcus S. Eagle, has written a lovely volume of poems, some of
them of rare beauty.
Crockett Lawson was a famous Indian fighter on the Western
J. K. P. Fancher owned a great estate on Taylors Creek and
Falling Water. He was in his day the greatest apiarist in Tennessee. He
owned a mill and a store and was a cattle breeder. He introduced Jersey
cattle into White County.
J. S. Hogg was born on Gum Spring Mountain in 1851. The family
were very poor and he picked up such education as he could get here and
there. Soon after reaching manhood he went to Texas and began the
practice of law. In 1886 he was elected State's attorney and the next
year he was elected Governor of Texas, winning his election on a
platform. to regulate the railroads and the express company. He thus was
the father of the railroad commission. While he was Governor of Texas a
White County boy who had gone to Texas was caught in the crime wave
there and sent to the penitentiary. Thomas Walling, who knew Hogg well
when he lived in this County, and after whom the village of Walling was
named, wrote to Governor Hogg imploring him to pardon the boy. Hogg
wrote in reply that he did not know anyone for whom it would please him
more to do a favor than Thomas Walling, but Texas was full of crime and
said he, "I am determined to stamp it out, I am
sorry I can not turn the boy out.''
James W. Throckmorton was born on the farm now known as the Story
farm near Sparta, 1825. His mother was a daughter of Dave Snodgrass. The
family moved to Texas when James was sixteen years old. He became the
best parliamentarian in Texas. In the convention of 1861, he was one of
seven who voted against secession. Later he joined the Confederate army
and made a brave soldier.
John B. Potter was born in DeKalb County but came to Sparta in
early manhood and married a daughter of Daniel Young. During the long
years of his life in this County he was identified with practically
every progressive movement in the County. He, more than any one else,
made possible the organization of the County Fair in 1914 and he was
keenly interested in it as long as he lived. He did much for the
encouragement of agriculture in the County and was himself the owner of
much farm land. He was one of the organizers of the Civitan Club at
Sparta. At the time of his death in 1933 he was President of the Sparta
branch of the Commerce Union Bank.
Honorable Wainwright Shockley was a lawyer at the Sparta bar, but
did but little practice outside of his own affairs.
Joel Barnes came here from Cookeville as Principal of White
County High School for seven years. He had been elected President of the
State Teachers' Association just a few days before he was killed in an
automobile accident in Florida.
David Crockett Crook, a brother of the late Calvin Crook, was a
Colonel in the Confederate Army and a Methodist preacher. A monument to
him stands at Oglethorpe.
Joe Brown, father of Honorable Foster V. Brown, was a merchant in
Rev. Tom Kittrell was a Cumberland Presbyterian preacher who
served churches at practically no salary in this section. He was born
and reared at Old Zion.
Rev. Riley Green established many Baptist Churches in this
section of Tennessee.
Rev. W. P. Smith a teacher at Cumberland Institute, and a
Cumberland Presbyterian minister, was the best mathematician in White
County in his day.
Judge W. F. Story was descended from titled English gentry. Judge
Story was a lawyer of fine ability and was our first County Judge. He
represented White County also in the State Legislature.
William and Thomas Bosson, brothers, came to White County from
Massachusetts. Both Served in the
Federal army. William was a State Senator and a member of the last
James O'Dell was a Federal
soldier who distinguished himself for bravery on the battlefield. He was
an uncle of the writer.
Marshall Cowden, son of Dr. John Cowden, was one among the first
graduates of White County High School. He died at Bon Air where for many
years he had been principal of the school. He had been a member of the
County Court and Chairman of the County School Board.
Nattie Austin, distiller and merchant, could do sums in partial
payments in his head, though he could neither read nor write.
James Mooneyham in the early days was a gun maker of more than
local fame. He also made and sold
William Musgrove and Nathan Steakley were the first tailors in
Rev. Nathan. Owen, who got his education after he reached
manhood, became a very eloquent preacher.
Steve Hickman was known far and wide for his many eccentric ways.
He owed Dr. Fane of Cherry Creek a doctor's bill. He asked the doctor if
he might pay the bill in dried fruit and being told that he might, he
and his wife and eight children took a few dried apples wrapped in a
handkerchief and went to Dr. Fane 's on Saturday night to stay until
Sunday afternoon. He repeated this until the doctor told him the bill
Sam Clenny, aged fifteen, was the first to carry the mails over
the mountain east from Sparta.
Thomas Eastland was the largest landholder in White County in his
day. He is buried on Dumpling Knob together with a hunter who along with
him discovered it while hunting. His wife is buried at Bon Air Springs.
Gus Geer was a splendid young lawyer who at his death was chief
of the Federal Government's Revenue Department. He died in 1918,
Dr. Henry Smith in the old days was known as the ''maker of
doctors," having taught so many young men medicine.
Dr. Wesley H. Peek went to Chicago and gained a great reputation
as a doctor. He became a millionaire.
Captain Sam Johnson distinguished himself in the Confederate
army. He was a successful farmer and stockman.
John Lowry would have been Governor of Texas but for the failure
of his health.
John Mitchell was the oldest Confederate veteran holding office
in the State at the time of his death. He had been for many years
Register of White County.
Rev. Harve Jarvis was born and reared near Mount Gilead. He was
for years a Presiding Elder of the Southern Methodist Church.
Rev. R. L. Jarvis was born and reared at Mount Gilead. He was a
celebrated Presbyterian minister and was for many years John
Wannamaker's pastor in the famous Bethany Temple in Philadelphia.
Baalam Oakes was a well-known Presbyterian preacher and was
famous as a singer.
Shepherd Coots was the most famous violinist Tennessee ever
Jack Scott was famous as a violinist. He owned a Cremona which at
his death sold for ten dollars. It is now in a famous symphony orchestra
and is valued at many thousands of dollars.
A man named Acuff made the
first bed springs used in White County.
Newt Cameron was a tanner, teacher, banker. He went to Texas and
became a millionaire.
Ben Gist was the largest land owner in White County in 1880.
Thomas Storm was the largest individual land owner White County
ever had. At one time he owned forty-four thousand, one hundred and
sixty acres in this County.
Martin White distinguished himself as a teacher both in Tennessee
and in Texas.
William Cambron was noted in a number of States as a Baptist
Joe McBride was famous all over the nation as a saddle maker.
Howard Farley was also known in most of the States through his
R. P. Baker, founder of the White County Favorite, ran a
newspaper in Sparta for thirty-five years.
Miss Ella Snodgrass was County Superintendent of White County for
a number of years. She was known as the best County Superintendent in
the State in her day. In her administration the White County High School
was established, largely due to her efforts.
B. G. Seals was the best blacksmith in the County in his day. He
could weld an eight-inch drill.
Hugh Lowery was a fearless revenue officer. He was killed in
trying to make an arrest. A monument to his memory stands at the Hugh
W. H. Burbury was known as the best gardener in White County in
his day. He was the director of the Sparta Band.
John A. Blackburn is still referred to as the best farmer White
County ever had.
W. F. Steakley while a policeman at Bon Air made three thousand
arrests. He was ambushed nine times.
Jule and Rob Gist each made over a million dollars in the cattle
business in Texas.
T. A. Carden was a celebrated Methodist preacher in this section.
He was noted for his sarcasm. He founded a church in Spencer.
J. T. Anderson was a banker in Sparta. He was one of the
organizers of the telephone system in this section and had a large part
in this County's development.
Joe Snodgrass in 1840
established the first drug store in Sparta.
C. G. Broyles was the first dentist in Sparta. He began his
practice about 1876. A man named McFolin began the practice of dentistry
about the same time. The honor of being the first dentist is claimed for
C. H. 'l'homan was born in Canada but came to Sparta in early
manhood. He ran a tailor shop until his death. He has tailored clothing
for the Secretary of State.
The most widely known Baptist preacher in White County in the days
following the Civil War was William White.
Jim Green went West from White County in early manhood and became
very wealthy as a cattleman.
William Dinges was a popular Cumberland Presbyterian preacher in
the days following the war. He was at one time County Court Clerk.
Dave Dinges, brother of William, was a banker, and the father of
Mrs. Grafton Green, whose husband became Chief Justice of the Tennessee
W. H. Witt, J. P. Murray, and E. L. Gardenhire were White
Countians who served in the Confederate
J. L. Quarles was a Confederate Scout. He began business as a
general merchant in Sparta and continued until his death last year,
having been in business longer than any other man who ever lived in
Sparta. He was a prohibitionist in the days when it was very unpopular
to be a prohibitionist, which gives an indication of how firm he was in
Notables Connected With Our
David Crockett lived in
Fentress County which was then a part of White County in 1817. He was
defeated for Congress by Adam Huntsman and went to West Tennessee and
afterwards to Texas, where he was killed at the Alamo.
Andrew Jackson used to stop at Glenn Hotel in Sparta. He often
attended church here. Jackson stayed at least two nights at the old Fisk
Inn at Bon Air Springs. He registered there on July 19, 1843.
James E. Polk registered at the old Fisk Inn on August 14, 1842,
and Felix Grundy on July 19, 1844.
Rev. James Luna, a White Countian, founded a church, "The Baptist
Church of Christ as Founded on
the Bible.'' At the height of its influence the denomination had sixteen
Many notable men have visited Sparta. James Whitcomb Riley spent
a month once at the Rhea House on his vacation, during which time he
wrote some of his most famous poems. Will Allen Dromgoole once
vacation in White County. Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, son of
President Theodore Roosevelt, spoke a few minutes at the Courthouse in
Sparta during the Smith-Hoover campaign.
White County in
Mrs. Murfree stayed in
White County while she was writing ''Drifting Down Lost Creek'' and
another book about Pine Mountain. Opie Reed stayed at the Rhea
House in Sparta while he was writing the two novels "The Waters of Caney
Fork," and "The Jucklins." A Philadelphia authoress wrote about Sparta
and the Pygmies buried here and referred to the Honorable E. Story as