The Rockwood Times, Rockwood, TN, Thursday, 2 Feb 1905, Vol. XXIV, No. 46.
About Roane County People. by W.E. McELWEE.---Roane county never contained a more industrious, honorable and useful citizen than James C. ABLE. He was born near Campbell's Station, in Knox county, Tenn., Feb 17th 1818.
While a small child, his parents came to Roane county and went to live in a house near the big spring, that furnished the water power for the HALEY mill and which now supplies the pumping station for the town of Rockwood. The old house is still standing and is now known as the UNDERWOOD home. The first exploit of the young hopeful was to visit the chicken coop where he found a hen with a full brood of young chicks. With the industry he has displayed in all his after life, he preceded to pull the heads off of all he could catch. The commotion in the hen house betrayed him. Then the great mother took him across her lap, with his face toward the ground and his back toward the moon and with a mush paddle for a tuning fork, set him to singing their funeral anthem on the key of G. That was more than eighty years ago but he has never been in the chicken business since. As he grew into boyhood he hired to work in and around the old fashioned Catalan(?) forges that hammered iron on White's creek. He was set by his employers to do all kinds of work except driving ox teams, they were used, exclusively at that day in teaming. It is said that an ox will not pull unless the driver bombards him with cuss words. As the boy "Cris" would not swear he was a better collier or hammerman than an ox driver. On reaching majority he was elected constable. He made a fine collecting officer (of his fees). These he carefully saved for future use. After his term of office he was elected a Justice of the peace. News reporters were unknown in those days and news of the sensation kind was heard orally; hence when there was a trial the neighbors all gathered and when it was over they stayed to talk it over and take dinner with the 'Squire. Having married and bought a farm, he quit official life and went to farming and wagon making, working on the farm in good weather and in bad weather and at night in the shop. The irons were drawn in the forge, our friend A.P. THOMPSON having drawn the tires for the last of the wagons manufactured by him. By industry and frugality he soon became a money leader and helped many of his neighbors through tight places.
In politics he was a Whig and in 1860 voted for BELL and EVERETT on the platform of "The Union, The Constitution and the Enforcement of the law." After the election, when the war cloud was gathering, he stood by his platform in support of the union, though under republican administration. The country became intensely excited and there were public gatherings in every neighborhood and speeches made on opposing sides. There was an assemblage at a spring in Mr. ABLE'S field. We were one of the speakers, for a withdrawal from the union and argued that, "Government was instituted among men to secure their happiness, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever, from any cause, government menaced their lives, liberty or pursuit of happiness it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and to institute new government, organizing its powers on such principles as seems to them most likely to secure their safety and happiness." The song of "John BROWN'S soul go marching on, ' was but an exponent of the prevailing sentiment in the northern states. To remain in the union would surely result in an internecine(?) war being precipitated by fanatical zeal and that it was more manly and honorable to fight the [torn] battle with the people of the north, out of the union, than to fight a servile insurrection precipitated on us by our neighbors, in the union. Besides, in forming the union it was an admitted doctrine that a state had the right to withdraw but to emphasize the fact, many of the states added that statement and provise to their signature to the compact.
At the conclusion of our address Mr. ABLE came forward and taking us by the hand with a hearty shake, said, "Billy, you reason right well, but, if you folks try to carry out that program we'll fill h--l so full of you that your hands and feet will be sticking out the doors and windows." With another grasp of the hand he invited us home with him to take dinner. War came and Mr. ABLE, taking his sons with him, went to Kentucky where he and they enlisted in the first Tennessee Federal Infantry. A circumstance illustrating the man occurred on the retreat of his command from Cumberland Gap. ABLES had been sick a long time and was unable to keep up with the command. On reporting to his captain, S.J. TEDDER, he asked leave to go back home to Roane county to get treatment from his family physician, G.W. FRAZIER, a relative of our present governor. Verbal leave was granted him and his name kept on the roll as present. Although within the confederate lines no one offered to arrest him. After his health was restored he enlisted several recruits and returned to Kentucky to his command.
After the war was over, we were down in the meadow and with an old hammered Dutch blade, was mowing grass, when we were hailed by some one. On looking around there stood Mr. ABLE. His hand shake was as hearty as when he separated four years, and over before.
We had a good long talk and before leaving he said, "Billy, I expect you have lost everything and have to start from the bottom. If you need a little money to start with let me know about it, but don't ask me to go on your note as security to anybody." Who could help loving the grand old man.
There is an association in Roane county of all veterans of any army and of any war. At a meeting of the association at Kingston in October 1903, a resolution was passed to present to the oldest member of the association attending the next annual meeting a gold headed cane. In accordance with said resolution Col. J.W. BOWMAN, Maj. H. CRUMBLISS and Capt. W.E. McELWEE met at the house of "Wid" ABLE on the 22nd inst., to make the presentation. Maj. CRUMBLISS, as chairman of the committee made the presentation speech, which was in part as follows:
"At a meeting of the Roane county Veteran Association, held at Kingston, in the month of October 1903, comrade W.C. SHAW offered a resolution, donating a gold-headed walking cane to the oldest comrade attending the next meeting to be held at Rockwood, October 15th, 1904. At that meeting it was found that James Christopher ABLE, late corporal of Co. E, 1st Tenn. Vol. Infantry was the oldest comrade present, whereupon a committee was appointed to procure a suitable cane and present the same. In obedience to said appointment, I, as chairman of said committee, and a comrade of Co. E take pleasure in presenting to you, comrade ABLE, this memento, in token of fraternity, charity and loyalty. It is a token of merit and the high esteem in which you are held by the members of Roane County Veteran Association. It is the wish of your comrades that the Supreme Commander of the universe may spare your life through many years to come. Take this staff, upon which to lean through your remaining years and when the bugle calls you to bivouac beyond the line of human vision, leave it as a souvenir to your descendants that they may have visible token of the part you acted in the great civil war for the preservation of the union. The cane was accepted with thanks, but from the tone of the speech Mr. ABLE facetiously remarked that he was "being taken for an old man. On the mantle stood a large photo of Mr. ABLE in a group with four generations of his descendants. The cane was Lignum vitae.
After the presentation we were invited to the dining room and partook of a dinner fit to have been served to royalty.
Mr. ABLE informed us that he had his burial suit ready and his tombstone, together with that of his wives on the ground, the inscription only lacking the date of his death. Upon the stone might be truthfully written "Here lies God's noblest work, an honest man."
The Rockwood Times, Rockwood, TN, Thursday, 2 Mar 1905, Vol. XXIV, No. 50.
About Roane County People. by W.E. McELWEE. ----In PETERSON'S History of the "Military Heroes of the Revolution" is a beautiful steel engraving of Brig Gen. Dan MORGAN. He is represented as a man of splendid physique, clear [illegible] features, firm set lips and large brilliant black eyes. He appears clothed in the typical garb of the Indian fighter of that day. A blue Hunting Shirt coat and cape trimmed with heavy fringe. In his belt hangs a sword on one side and on the other a pistol, made of a rifle barrel and about half as long. When a young man he had, as a subaltern officer in charge of the advance guard, led them to the rear of the Indian forces and charged them without orders. Although he put them to rout he was court-marshalled and ordered given forty lashes. After the flogging the commander acknowledged his error and apologized. What is creditable to MORGAN'S heart he forgave him and during the revolutionary war made of him one of the most trusted subordinate officers.
When he heard of the Mechlenburg declaration of Indexpendence, he began to organize and drill a company preparatory to the war that he saw was inevitable. When the news of the battle of Lexington was heard, he called his company together and tendered their services to the state. His courage and daring soon made him a conspicuous figure and one promotion after another was given him. His impetuosity in battle carried everything before it. His Biographer says of him that, "He struck at the enemy like the Eagle at its prey." At the battle of Stillwater he dealt the enemy blow after blow with such rapidity and terrific force that he was given the Soubriquet of "The Thunderbolt of War."
The house of Burgesses of the state of Virginia in 1777 ordered a levy of Sixteen regiments to be raised for service in the continental line. They eleventh regiment was placed under the command of Col. Daniel MORGAN. Capt. George RICE commanded a company in that regiment. Most of the men were of foreign birth. Among the number was an Irishman, recently from Emerald Isle, named Thomas CRUMBLISS. He was red complected and sandy haired and like most Irishmen was full of jolly good humor even in his old age.
After the war was over he and two companions, Samuel WALKER, of the 12th regt. commanded by Col. James WOODS, and Robert CROW of 10th (Col. STEVENS) regiment, came to Tennessee, and finally settled in Roane county. At that period of time, there were few newspapers or periodicals. Mail facilities were poor. News traveled slowly, generally as told from one to another. For instance, the burning of Richland theatre on the night of Dec. 26th, 1811, in which Gov. SMITH and one hundred and eleven others lost their lives, was announced from the pulpit at Muddy creek church, in Roane, now Loudon county, on the first Sunday in February following, by the Rev. "Bobby" WINTON at a funeral service for the wife of James McELWEE.
For want of general local news, conversations at social gatherings and family parties consisted, in the main, of telling stories and propounding riddles and conundrums. At a social gathering, at which "Uncle Tommy" as he was called, was present, he gave a number of conundrums for those present to answer. Among the number were the following:
How did the table of Dives, as told in the bible, differ from my fathers table in Old Ireland?
Ans. Crumbs fell from Dives table and my fathers was a crumb-less (CRUMBLISS) table.
Another: Why was the dog that [illegible] like a dog(?) taking the hand of an industrious woman?
Ans. Because they were licking a sore (Sewer.)
There is no record of Uncle Tommy's age, but he came to Roane county in 1811 and as he was not assessed for poll tax it is reasonable to presume that he was over fifty years of age at that time. Neither is there any record of his death or his place of burial but the records in the county clerks office show that evidence was taken in 1821 for a pension, under the act of 1820, it is clear that he died after 1821.
Thomas CRUMBLISS married after he came to America and raised three children James, Hugh and Alice. The date of his marriage is unknown but both of his sons were of age and paid poll tax in 1813. They had served in the army the preceding year.
Hugh CRUMBLISS was in Capt. Thomas WALKER'S company, CLARK'S battalion, East Tennessee Vol. and James was a corporal in Capt. James ROGERS Co., Col. JOHNSON'S regt. Tenn. The records at Washington give the No. of the regiment as the 3rd Tennessee, while the record in Roane county give the number of the regiment 24th. Each of the companies were recruited in Roane county by Lieutenant, afterwards Col. Uriah ALLISON. Gen. Edmond P. GAINS, writing to ALLISON of the men recruited by him from Roane county says, "No men are, by nature, training or ancestral descent, better calculated for military service then these generous patriots of the mountains, none more able and active and none more brave than the descendants of the 'Over the Mountain men' of the revolution.
After his return from the army, James bought 150 acres of land "on the waters of Caney creek" and married a Miss GODDARD, daughter of Thomas GODDARD. The old home is on the pike road from Kingston to Harriman. (Continued.)