Recollections of 60 Years Ago by R.M.
Note: This article appeared in The Loudon County Herald, 14 Sep 1893 and was reprinted in The Loudon County Herald, Centennial Edition, June 13-20, 1970. Although this article is about people and land in present day Loudon County, the area was a part of Roane County until 1870.
About the year 1830 the writer, then a boy about 6 or 7 years of age, rode behind old Aunt Sally BLAIR, to Blair's Ferry on the Tennessee river, now know as Loudon. Mrs. BLAIR had been on a visit to her daughter, the wife of John B. EDWARDS on Pond creek and I was sent to ride the mare back home. On approaching the river I saw quite a number of Indians of all ages, and one old man was pointed by Mrs. BLAIR as the celebrated Indian chief Pathkiller. He, with quite a numerous family, lived on the bank of the river to the left of the road leading down to the ferry in some littler log cabins. Pathkiller it seems had chosen not to go West when the Hiwassee purchase was made in 1819, but took a reservation of 640 acres of land instead and remained on it till about 1831. Many of the old citizens around and about Loudon will remember Pathkiller and his family as well as old Aunt Sally BLAIR who has been dead nearly 50 years. She and her husband lived on a fine river farm about two miles above Loudon on which they raised a very respectable family consisting of 5 daughters, to-wit: Polly, Rachael, Frankey, Jennie and Betsy; also 4 sons, John, James, Vincent and Hugh. Polly BLAIR married John B. EDWARDS, and they settled in Pond Creek Valley. They raised eight or nine children who about all went West, some to Arkansas, Missouri, Oregon and Washington. Rachael married Jeff ELDRIDGE and they settled about 20 miles above Chattanooga on a fine river farm where they died many years ago, leaving a large family. Frankey married George Pomeroy CARMICHAEL, who settled on the lower end of Tellico Plains where she died many years ago leaving a respectable family. Jennie BLAIR never married; Betsy married Andy ALLEN who for many years followed the saddler's trade in Philadelphia till about 1860 when he bought a farm north of town where he died many years since leaving a widow and respectable family of children. John BLAIR married Polly EDWARDS, only daughter of Edward EDWARDS and they settled on a farm south of the river immediately opposite the point where the railroad strikes the river going east from Loudon. They have been dead several years leaving only two children, William, who know occupies the old homestead, and Sally, who married Jack HALL, who lives on a farm on the Little Tennessee River. Jim BLAIR married his cousin, the daughter of old Sammy BLAIR, and settled on a farm joining John BLAIR on the river opposite the Browder place. He joined the C.P. Church and became a celebrated minister in that church. The remaining sons, Vincent and Hugh, about 1844 married and went to Texas. Many of the great- grandchildren of old Aunt Sally BLAIR are men and women with families, and some perhaps have grand children who will be surprised if they see this in print. I have thus given a rather hastily and dimly remembered resume of one of almost a half a hundred of the old original settlers of that once famous section of county for men of sobriety, industry, and sturdy honesty. And why stop at one? The story would be too long for this fast age. But I cannot resist the temptation to strike the "harp of a thousand strings," wake up the memory many grand old names of men and women who lived respected and died regretted. Alas how long the list grows, as with closed eyes, I in fancy look along the backward path over the 60 years of recorded time to childhood's happy hour! And why shall I not recall their honored names? Did you expect to be so soon forgotten? No. Then as in thought I stand in front of the Pathkiller house and look across the big river I see the old CARMICHAEL house that was for so many years a splendid wayside hostelry, where the weary traveler might always find rest, refreshment, and good cheer. The old gentleman I did not know, but he and his wife, Aunt Peggy, were of the old style stalwart race of people, who raised a family of six sons, equally rugged and robust and at a later day (1843), it was a grand sight to see all six, Jake, Pom, John T., Bill, Dan and Jim stand in a row with Aunt Peggy at the head like a platoon of Wellington's Genadiers. Though all are dead perhaps but Jim, and though during intervening years, hundreds of scenes of greater moment have passed across the tablets of my memory, yet that scene is not effaced or obscured, and I can say to their spirits, I remember you still; peace be to their ashes and rest to departed spirits. Let us come over the river and here we find more the BLAIR's, the JOHNSTON's, the ROBERTSON's, John HOLSTON, and others of the class known as first-class citizens, but to life's roll call they answer not. Coming a little further southwest, we find the old Hardy JONES house still standing as it did 60 odd years ago; but the old proprietors are not there. A few years ago I rode near the old house, and seeing not one around, I sat for some minutes contemplating the apparent death-like scene before me and contrasting it with my last recollections of the place then so animated with life and bustle, the old gentleman calling and ordering his darkies around and Rufe and John, once my schoolmates, all gone. What a change in 60 years! I rode on sad at heart, down the hill to the old Jack ROBERTSON house. There it stood as I last had seen it 60 years ago, but as I rode around it I saw no familiar face. The old folks and Mat had been long dead and Emma and Louisa, once my schoolmates all gone. Going on down into the bend of the creek to the place where we went to school, but the log school house was gone and more comfortable and pretentious structure occupied its place. I had also missed the old mill that once stood at the dam just below the ROBERTSON house. Nothing familiar was to be seen. I tried to call the roll of the school viz: John, Rufe, and Nancy Ann JONES; Mat, Louisa, and Emma ROBERTSON; Mike and Jim ROBERTSON, sons of that sturdy old Joe ROBERTSON who lived just across the creek, three of David LAY'S children, Nancy, Susan, and Allen EDWARDS, Arch CARMICHAEL, one or two of the HUFF'S and a few others I could not recall. Where are they all now? In my rambling around no one recognized the old gray headed man as the tatty or toe headed boy of 65 years ago. Rambling around the world for 60 years and serving through two wars had left me about as much changed as the people and scenes through which I was passing. But to resume. Does any one remember that genuine specimen of the old field schoolmaster, Allen S. BACON. He lived in 1830 on the school land in the mouth of the dry valley, and taught school there for many years. At his school quite a number of the young and rising generation of that day obtained the education that amply fitted them for the duties of life in rural occupations. Does anybody remember old Neddy EDWARDS who lived a mile or two up the valley and rode a little old pacing gray mare called Kit? His good wife sleeps on the old homestead and he on his son's farm on Pond Creek. Then there were Charles and Richard TALIAFERRO, two famous bearers of Gospel tidings to a sinful world. Perhaps no two men did more to set up and establish a high standard of morals in all the country around and about them than these grand old men. I cannot drop the story of Rev. Charles and Dick TALIAFERRO without some further reminiscences; as from their prominence, both in the minority and as citizens, they deserve more than a passing notice. They lived on adjoining lands near Pond Creek and I have no doubt were the original enters of their land as the treaty of 1819 first gave the white people the right of entry was made before the treaty. They were not only good preachers but good farmers as well. Charles TALIAFERRO also had a tanyard and cotton gin or wool carding machine, I forget which. At any rate I remember going to school to Alfred HELMAN, who taught in a little log house just below the tanyard and two of his sons, John and Hardin, went to the same school. John was a very studious boy and advanced rapidly in his studies and was a great favorite with the teacher and consequently was envied by the other boys. Hardin was equally as studious but in an entirely different direction. His chief aim and purpose seemed to be to do some mischief to some other boy by which he generally managed to get a flogging every day and very often two or three times a day. If a day passed without Hardin getting whipped he was sorely disappointed. He would be sure to earn two or three the next day to make up for it. The writer was a small kid, then very earnestly engaged in making straight marks and pot hooks on a copy book composed of half a quire of foolscap; and studying the marvelous stories of Peter Parley about mother Carey's chickens. After that school my acquaintance with the TALIAFERRO boys ceased and I have no further knowledge of their future career. I would not be surprised, however, to learn that Hardin made more successful man of the two as I have often seen the goody, goody boy turn out to be a very worthless sort of man while the harem scare-um-devil-may-care bother may turn out to be a first class citizen and successful business man. In 1874, when travelling on business in north Alabama, I stopped at a farm house to stay all night and after supper the landlord, his wife, and daughter prepared to go to Church some two miles away and by their invitation I accompanied them. What was my surprise to see the Rev. Dick TALIAFERRO rise in the pulpit and conduct services. I could scarcely control myself till services were over and when concluded I eagerly approached and took him by the hand and when I told him who I was, that I was the same little boy whom as a four year old he had picked up in the road with but one little garment on and made me ride before him home, he exhibited that same kindly expression of countenance and benevolent disposition that characterized his whole life, and seemed as glad to see me as he would some near relative. It affords me great pleasure to pay this little tribute of respect to so good and worthy a man and conclude it with this remark, it matters not how exalted our station in life, we can lose nothing by kindness to a child. The little episode to which I have referred has taught me that lesson and I have often acted on it. The next important character in that direction was old John WRIGHT a very weathy old gentleman who lived in an elegant brick mansion near the mouth of Pond Creek having a very large and extensive landed estate and a number of slaves, a fine flouring mill, a forge, a saw mill, and a rope factory, where he manufactured ropes from hemp of his own raising; he also had a boat yard where he built boats in which to carry his flour and other products to market. Rich as he was he went barefooted during summer and it was said the hollow of his feet made a hole in the ground. In that day and time WRIGHT's place was known by the name of Slab Town. Whether it yet bears that name or not I do not known; at any rate it was quite an amount of business was done. I now remember there was one of two stores where all the goods usually needed for country trade was kept. Mrs. WRIGHT raised a great quantity of ducks and on one occasion a neighbor crossing the creek and mischievously called the old gentleman out and told him there was a large drove of wild ducks just below his house in the creek. Thereupon WRIGHT gathered his double-barrel shot gun and fired both barrels into the gang killing a dozen or more of his wife's ducks. It has always been a mystery to me how the old gentleman got up so many valuable improvements so soon after the treaty of 1819. He must have got permits from the Indians before the treaty was made. A little further west was a valley called Stoglins (Stocktons) Valley, named after an old gentlemen of that name who had a great desire for legislative honors and when out on his canvas would wear his socks wrong side out for luck. Whether he ever succeeded in his very laudable purpose I do not remember. Going up Pond Creek in that day, 1830, we would have found Phil STEVENS, Green BOWERS, Esq. PURSLEY, a Mr. CARTER, and POPE, the last two lived at the foot of Black Oak Ridge, near John B. EDWARDS, who subsequently bought all five of them out, besides some other land toward Philadelphia. Taking the road from the Hardy JONES place toward Philadelphia, we pass the Bennet FRANKLIN place and then the old Robert CANNON place. How well I remember the old gentleman who being very deaf always had a bunch of wool in his ears, I suppose to assist his hearing. The old gentleman was an occasional visitor to John B. EDWARDS still house. Just over the ridge from old Bobby CANNON lived one Wm. C. JULIAN who was fond of playing pranks upon the old man. On one occasion, seeing one of old Bobby's darkies going towards J.B. EDWARDS with a jug in a sack he waylaid the negro, disguised so the darkie would not known him and by some means got the jug from the boy. On the next day he sent for CANNON who was in a terrible passion about the loss of his whiskey and to passify the old gentleman treated him most royally out of his own whiskey. At least that was the story JULIAN afterwards told about it. Many were the pranks and tricks those old fellows JULIAN, John BLAIR, the ROBERTSONS, CANNON and JONES used to play on each other and yet more correct and honorable men in their dealings it would have been hard to find. Alas they are no more and if the present population are the equals of these fine gentlemen in good citizenship they have done well. Town of Philadelphia But let us go to town, to Philadelphia, the first town the writer ever saw a place justly celebrated for more fights to the square mile than any town of its size this side of the Mississippi River. Let me describe it as I first saw it. The first thing I remember was a small house with a sign over the door that I did not understand, "Doggery." Hent LAWSON was sitting before the door playing the fiddle and a few loafers sitting around enjoying the music. Next I remember was Maddy's Tavern. The sign "Eli CLEVELAND'S Store" next caught my attention. Next was a picture of a saddle and the words "Dan JONES, Saddler" on it. John CHESMETT also had a sign of something. There were the UPTONS, of horse racing fame, and Andy ALLEN the saddler and harness maker. But I cannot remember them all. We would search in vain for a single one of them now. Who can remember being there at Battalion muster? Ah, there was royal sport. While the valiant militia are being mustered out to fields let us take a position under a spreading oak a little north of the city. There is an ox cart with a barrel of cider and some ginger cakes. Sitting by the root of the tree sits a little old man named GOSSITCH or GORSET playing on the violin and that good old tune, the favorite and only piece of music known in Piney called "Root up Steekee." The music is so enticing that we little boys stay around and about it and ginger cakes till the soldiers came back and then after liberal dispensation of whiskey the fun begins. Old scores that have been of long standing now have to be settled, coats are thrown off, galluss tightly girded around, sleeves rolled up, a ring formed and the fight begins. Some shows foul play under pretense of parting them and gets knocked down for his pains. Disputes arise and other fights begin and in twenty minutes half that many fights going on. No stones or knives or pistols are used as their would brand that man as a coward. A fair stand-up fist and skull fight is over the parties are required to wash, shake hands, and make friends till the next muster day. Does any old resident recognize the occasion? There were other occasions at Philadelphia equally interesting as the muster. The elections were always honored with quite a number of fights and the MADDYS and UPTONS who followed racing, gave the people still further opportunities for drinking and fighting. But enough for the present. In another article I may refer to some of the customs of those good old days. The lands being fresh, the farmers raised fine crops and there being no market for their grain, they raised hogs, cattle and horses and mules and drove them south in winter to Macon, Augusta and other markets. The proceeds of such ventures were generally stored away in the familiar "stocking" the family bank, which rarely ever suspended specie payment. One of the routes of travel to market was by Unicoy turnpike over Tellico Unicoy Mountain to Murphy, North Carolina, up the Hiwassee River to the Blue Ridge, then down to and across the Savannah River and to Athens, Georgia, and thence to Augusta. John T. and William CARMICHAEL took a drove of hogs that route in the winter of 1843-44 and I went with them and drove Pom CARMICHAEL's team, and hence I know the route. We were loaded with bacon lard, and whiskey going down and with sugar, coffee, and molasses coming back. It was on that trip I first saw a railroad train at Augusta. The foregoing is a fair sample is a fair sample of the interstate commerce in that day and so continued till the railroads came. All dry goods were hauled in wagons the remaIndexr of the way. The farmers bought very few goods out f the stores for the reason that they produced all their necessities at home. In addition to crops of corn wheat, oats and rye, they also raised good crops of cotton, flax, some hemp and small patches of rice; all kinds of garden vegetables. They sent their cotton to the gin to have it picked, the women carded and spun it on the old- fashioned spinning wheel, to make the chain the wool was carded into rolls at the carding machine, and the women spun the yarn for the filling and after coloring it in the dye pot that almost invariably sat in the kitchen chimney corner, they wove the jeans that made the men and boys winter clothing and the linsey beautifully striped or checked for their own dresses and underwear and the only thing they went to the store for was the indigo and madder. They also rotted, broke, scrutched, and hackled the flax at odd spells in winter ready for the women to spin and weave for the men and boys to wear in the summer. The women also carded, spun, and wove all the cotton domestics needed in the family for all kinds of garments as well as quilt lining, sheets, pillow cases, etc., with the flax they also made all the table linen, towels etc. They spun the wool yarn and knit all the socks and stocking the family needed. To supply all these demands nothing was required out of the store but the indigo and madder. Thus supplied by the farm and their own industry they cared but little whether the tariff was high or low or in fact whether there was any tariff. It did not affect them. They did not send in spring time to some drug store to buy garden seeds for two reasons; first there was no drug stores and second the good wife saved seed. There were no drug stores, for the reason the people were healthier under the treatment of the old women than they are now under the army of doctors. Fall and spring colds were effectively cured with horehound teas given night and morning. If a child had the earache, the old mother would go into the garden and get a handfull of herbs, feverfew, rhue, and tansy, wash and mix them with corn meal to make a doug, and bake it in the ashes, and when done split the ash cake and apply one half to the patients ear as hot as could be borne. In fifteen minutes the patient would go to sleep sound and well. I have been cured that way quite often. I doubt if there is now a garden in Loudon county containing these useful herbs. If any family had mumps, the old mother would give a dose of salts and bind up the jaw with slippery elm poultice and keep the patient indoors a day or two and a cure would be the result. Measles were cured with teas and careful nursing. Many other ailments were cured in the same way without the aid of a doctor. Such diseases as pneumonia and consumption were unknown because the old woman cured the colds, the incipient stages of these diseases. All laboring men as well as the girls and boys and young men of well to do farmers went barefooted during summer. I know how it was myself for I went barefooted in summer till I was 18 years old. The general diet was all produced on the farm except the coffee and chocolate and the sugar and molasses. Coffee was rarely if ever used more than once a week for Sunday morning breakfast and then only by the old folks. There was in that day and time, 1828 to 1835, a good blacksmith shop in every neighborhood, also a fashionable tailor shop where men had their clothes cut and made according to Philadelphia fashions and they were better dressed than they are now. There was also shoe and boot shops so that no shoes were bought out of the stores except fine Sunday shoes for the young ladies to wear to church, which was promptly taken off on their return except when the beaux came with them. Sometimes the farmer would have some beef hides tanned and when he would get his leather home he would send for the shoemaker who would bring his entire outfit of tools and remain till the entire family was shod all around. This always took place in the fall and that shoeing had to last till time to go barefoot again. There was here and there a hatter shop where hats were made that one would wear longer than a whole box of the shoddy concerns you now get out of the store. There was also another character I must not omit. He was called a tinker. His business was to go about the country and solder all the leaking tinware and mould pewter spoons and dishes which were in great demand to eat mush and milk out of, the usual supper dish. The nice young gentlemen and ladies about Loudon may doubt the above. Remember I am writing about the original settlers of that country and may be your grandfather or great- grandfather, and if you doubt what I say I refer you to my friend J.A. MITCHELL of Tomotley, Tenn. Thus I have written of some grand and good men and women who have long since departed to the silent shades of their long rest, not to disturb their quiet slumbers but to remind the living that these grand old men and women from North Carolina and Virginia were the pioneers who laid the foundation for the civilization this younger generation boasts of. It was in that immediate vicinity I first saw the light, over these hills I first hunted oppossum, on that grand river I sported often, and in it often bathed by youthful limbs and now I may ride over the beautiful hills and only be regarded by those I meet as a stranger. During the times I have been writing about, 1830 to 1835, all farming tools were made in the country shops, including the wagon carts, plows, hoes, mattocks, shovels, forks of all kinds, axes, etc. . . so that the principal things brought out of stores were scythes, sickles, or reap hooks and such mechanic tools as saws, hammers, chisels, augers, pocket knives and the general outfit of tableware; buckles, and bits for bridles and harness and a few calico dresses and sometimes a silk dress for the wealthier families. If the women were extravagant in anything it was in head ornaments, such as the flaring leghorn bonnet and accompanying reach combs by which the hair was tucked, rolled, puffed, reached and curled, and twisted into all manner of fancy styles, that the heart and brain of man and woman could conceive. These adornments, accompanied by a bright figured calico dresses and store shoes made the girls of that period perfectly irresistible, especially so when the sparkling eyes, round rosy cheeks, ruby lips and pearly teeth were taken into account. There was a tariff on some few of the articles enumerated above, but not one in ten knew it, or if they did, who cared. It was so insignificant as to attract no attention as the whole expenses of the entire U.S. Government was only $24,585,281.00. The Government was run upon such economic principles that old Sam IVENS, who lost a leg at the battle of Guilford Court House in the Revolutionary War, only got $8 a month. He had a wooden leg and once a year he walked from Pond Creek Valley to Knoxville to draw his pension. Does anybody remember old Sam? The old veteran generally went in the fall of the year. He had a very large cane walking stick about seven feet long which had all the joints bored out except the bottom one, and he generally filled it with whiskey before starting on his tramp and it would hold enough to last him the entire trip. He left that section about 1839 and went to Polk County where he died about 1840. Pension were not allowed then to any except such as were actually wounded in battle. Would there not be an awful wailing and gnashing of teeth among the G.A.R. fellows if such was the law now? The pension roll would no longer be six times greater than the entire expenses of government then. But there are other reminiscences worthy of attention. In the summer of 1837 I worked on the farm of Rev. James BLAIR and I was much impressed with the earnestness and devotion to duty exemplified in his daily life. His work at home was like his preaching, earnest and with all his might. He would work all the week till Saturday about 10 o'clock and he would unhitch his horse, shave, and dress and be gone across the river to preach and on Monday about 10 o'clock he would return, and having donned his working clothes, he would work like a house afire till the next Saturday. It was from the earnest work of such men as Jim BLAIR, Joe PEELER, Bob SMALL, and the TALIAFERROS, that a high moral standard in that section was established. It was sometimes said that when these three got together at a camp meeting there would be a regular corn shucking time. There was one thing could be said, they did not mix politics with their religion as is too common now. Whiskey was 25 cents a gallon or ten cents a quart and no restrictions and yet not one-fourth the drinking that is down now with whiskey at $3 a gallon. Snuff dipping was not indulged in by the ladies in those days, consequently their teeth were not blackened nor the corners of their mouths begrimed nor their ruby lips tanned with the repulsive stuff. Hence, it was a luxury to the boys to get to kiss them and they were not slow to avail themselves of the privilege when in social games of selling pawns it was accorded. The old ladies when paying a visit to a neighbor invariably carried a reticule in which instead of a box of snuff there would be a ball of yarn and a partly knit stocking on which her busy fingers would be engaged while discussing neighborhood affairs with her friends. The women often had quiltings and these were generally when the men had log rollings, rail splittings or corn huskings, thereby getting the boys and girls together for a night's frolic. There were also in those days such social gatherings as spinnings in which a dozen of more girls would assemble with wheels and cotton cards and while some carded the rolls the others spun the rolls into thread. The way these girls would make the wheels hum and dance back and forth as they deftly drew out the thread and wound it on breach was charming to see. In those days you could hear the hum of the spinning wheel at every farm house you passed. Now they are never heard but in their places you hear the sewing machine. But I have not told how the girls got home from the spinning. They invariably stayed for supper and that would be about night. The mothers, good old souls, would become uneasy about them and scold and fret around about the trifling things staying so late and order the boys to go after them. The boys would of course complain about having to be always tagging after their sisters and by the time they got to the place they would be so mad that instead of taking their own sisters home they invariably took some other fellows sister. Good old times, I sometimes sing: "Oh would I were a boy again When life seemed formed of sunny hours, When all the heart knew then of pain Was swept away in transient showers." There are many characters I have omitted, not intentionally, but from being too prolix, and thereby worrying your readers. But the memory of Allen S. BACON, the first school teacher I ever went to school to comes up for further comment. As I have already said, he was a good teacher for the times. He raised a very respectable family, one of whom at least, Drury A. - became a leading citizen of your county and held honorable positions of trust in both Roane and Loudon counties. He was a man of very pleasing manners and amiable deportment. There was another son, however, called Kier, for Hezekiah I suppose for whom I had the greatest aversion. I feared him as I would a bear and hated him more intensely than any man I ever saw. All this fear and hatred originated from his perverse and as I thought his insane desire to tickle me to death, in which he often came near succeeding. He would tickle me till my breath would be gone and I would think my time had come and I should surely die. It was a lesson to me and I have never tickled a child to excess. I have written this with no feeling of enmity to Mr. BACON who became a very respectable man and good citizen as I learn, but as a warning to others to never indulge the habit of tickling a child, for no one can forsee the injury that may result. About a mile and a half up the valley Edward EDWARDS settled and built the house where Jim ROBERTSON now lives, about the year 1820. He was a useful man in the neighborhood. If any person was seriously sick, he was sent for to bleed them as was the universal custom in that day. If they had the toothache they came to him to pull their teeth. His son, P.J.R. EDWARDS, afterwards studied medicine under Dr. Thos. A. ANDERSON and became one of the most successful practicing physicians in lower East Tennessee. He settled in Bradley County in 1835, and was an employed surgeon in the army during the removal of the Cherokees and in 1838 was elected register of the Ocoee District. He was the first to reverse the barbarous practice then in vogue of feeding the fever patient on calomel and strictly forbidding the use of water, whereby thousands died merely for the want of water. He exactly reversed the practice. He forbid the use of calomel and gave them in addition to what they wanted to drink a regular cold bath and he had the gratification of seeing his patients get well.