yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

Dunbar Community History

by Mrs. A. H. Taylor
from the collection of Paul Montgomery

This article is transcribed from a newspaper article that was probably originally published in the Lexington Progress.  The date of the article is unknown but the author wrote several such articles for the Lexington Progress about life in the Dunbar Community.  Thanks to Don Keeton for locating the copy for transcription.

We have been requested to write more of the history of Dunbar Community. The school we mentioned was named "Pleasant Grove" by our grandfather, but was quite as well known as the Lancaster school house.  Grandfather Lancaster was born January 14, 1807, being five days older than Gen. Robert E. Lee whose principles and career he greatly admired.  During his long useful life grandfather had some interesting experiences.  Mother related to us how he recalled the awe-inspiring sight of the falling of the stars on November 13, 1833 and she often heard him speak of the colorful race for the presidency by Henry Clay and James K. Polk.  The men who were in favor of Clay for president painted their oxen's horns with red clay mud, and those favoring Polk painted their oxen's horns with poke berry juice.

In the school, we mentioned, spelling was recited orally, usually there were three of four classes; pupils would line up to spell and the line would extend across one end of the room.  The advanced class would number by saying first, second, third or by naming the presidents in the order in which they came.  There was a primary and an advanced U. S. history book.  Often, history was taught by assigning each pupil a topic to report on.  Here, we would like to say we've often heard the expression "First impressions stay with us longest"; and we believe this to be true about many things.  We recall, that the teacher, while teaching the lesson in the text book, would earnestly strive to impress us with some great truth or moral lesson.  We remember reporting the topic "The Treason of Benedict Arnold," and how the teacher emphasized the great lesson of loyalty.  Loyalty to our country, to our creator and loyalty to our own convictions of right and wrong.  What delightful sketches of stories and books our readers contained and how we longed to read the whole story.  Some of them we read aloud when our youngsters checked them, from the library; some of them we're hoping to finish reading in the near future; for we heartily agree with the author who said "Education is never complete.  We just go on learning."

Friday was a special day at school.  Often parents visited school in the afternoon.  There would be recitations, debates, a ciphering match, and a spelling bee.  The teacher would see that the best spellers were divided between the two sides so each side had an equal chance to win.  Lunch or dinner was carried in tin pails.  Dinner was not a skimpy affair either.  There would be fried pies, ginger bread, baked potatoes, butter, biscuits and home made sausage.  The dinner pails were set on backless benches in the corners of the room. Hats and coats were hung on nails driven in the wall above these benches.  Water was carried from a spring not too far off, and a pail of fresh water was passed around, all the pupils drinking from the same dipper.  On the wall hung mottoes carrying such thoughts as "Lost time is never found again."  "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you." and "Try, try again."  When we lost the school house and library, we also lost some nice desks, about eighteen, we believe the first our school had ever had.  There were not enough desks to seat all the school, so the teacher had us take it time about using them. After "Pleasant Grove" school house burned, school was taught at "Union Hall."  This building was erected on ground deeded by Mr. W. H. Lafferty for a meeting place for the Farmer's Union in 1907.

Later a larger house, the present building was built and school continued there until it was consolidated.  G. W. Tucker, Guy Kennedy, Mrs. Samuel L. Duck, and Miss Avis Johnson are just a few of the teachers who taught at Union Hall.

Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Lafferty live at the Lafferty old homestead in the house Mr. Lafferty built several years ago.  It is an attractive place; flowering shrubs, a rock wall across the front yard, a big spring close by; the place is appropriately named "Big Spring Farm."

Here we would mention Turman's Creek Baptist Church, located in a valley near the creek from which it took its name.  It was a log building, a typical "Little Brown Church in the Dale."  Near by was a fine spring enclosed by a fence for that was before the stock law was passed.  When just a tot, we'd walk to this church with mother and thought it the longest, hottest road we ever saw.  But we crossed a cabin where an old colored man lived, and he seldom failed to give us chewing gum, candy, or peanuts, and this made the road seem a little shorter.  Uncle Phil Culp was formerly a slave, a plow boy when the stars fell.  Mother often spoke of uncle Phil's wife, aunt Amy, who was a famous cook.  Her pound cakes were something special, and she was in popular demand to bake this cake for weddings, far and wide.  She baked mother's wedding cake and help prepare the remainder of the most bountiful supper, which was on February 1, 1872.

We do not know the date, right now, when the Turman's Creek church was founded, but mother became a member in 1869.  This building was torn down in 1912 and by fall of the year, a new building erected on what is now known as the Brooksy Thompson road.  It was both a church house and school house.  School continued there until consolidation a few years ago.  It remains Turman's Creek Church.

About two miles from Dunbar bar store there was once a school house known as "Fountain Hill" where our parents and the neighborhood children attended school between 85 and 100 years ago.

Once, when a playmate and I were rambling through the woods, close to our home, we found a pile of large rocks which looked like a house place.  Mother told us a school house once stood there which had a large stone fire place and chimney.  It is close to a spring we always called Cedar spring.  In recent years, we had an active P. T. A. at Union Hall school meeting regularly, rendering programs, and a nice hot lunch was served daily to the school.  We are proud of our new churches, schools with modern equipment and bus transportation.  But we must never forget to pay homage to those founders and builders of homes, schools and churches who blazed the trails leading to our present conveniences.

The new block building is the third one to be occupied by Keeton Springs Methodist Church.  It takes its name from the fine spring located near the second building.  The Jesse Lancaster place now owned by Mr. O. C. Cordle is not far from the store.  Uncle Jess related that hearing the great Jenny Lind sing, was one of his most thrilling experiences.  He had gone to a distant city on a stave boat.  We believe he said New Orleans.  Near where the new church stands is where the old blacksmith shop stood.  Uncle Jimmy Mayo ran the shop for many years.  Here, farmers would gather on wet days to have plows sharpened and hoes re-handled; to discuss crops, the weather and community news just as they did at the store.  No, there was no radios then, but the old shop was the scene of many broadcasts.  We remember school children loved to linger at the shop door, just as Longfellow relates in his famous poem.

About a mile from the store once stood the J. A. Tucker house when Neil S. Brown was Tennessee's Governor.  Uncle Bill as he was known and his wife aunt Betsy were our paternal grandmother's foster parents.  When grandfather Tucker went to serve in the Confederate army, grandmother and her children moved to their home.  It was a story and a half house, the original cabin standing nearby was used for a kitchen.

Grandfather received his death wound in the first day of Shiloh battle, was removed to Corinth, Miss. where he died a few days later, but not before dad reached him.  We've often heard dad, mother and grandmother speak of hearing the cannon's roaring and knew there was a battle somewhere.  After a day or two dad went with some neighbors who had men in service.  Although dad was a lad of 16 years grandfather told him to be a man and help his mother rear the children.  But he was not left in peace to do this.  His life was in constant danger from "bush whackers" as they were called.  Once, grandmother awakened dad when horses and riders were at the front gate.  He dressed, went down stairs, out the back door but he as seen, and bullets started whizzing, just barely missing him, some lodged in the logs of the kitchen wall.  Dad, being very agile, jumped the back yard gate and in the darkness escaped into the woods.  He volunteered for service in the confederate army and served the remainder of the war, going out in service before he was eighteen.  He had many narrow escapes during the war.  Once he was cut off from his comrades but finally reached them.  He said they really gave a Rebel Yell when they saw him returning. We've heard dad and an other old comrade relate that at the battle of Brice's Cross Roads, dad's blanket which was doubled and pinned around his shoulders had fourteen bullet holes in it when the battle was over.  Dad always chuckled when he saw how a spent minie ball stuck him and he reached his hand to wipe off the blood, finding he hardly had a scratch.

We would not fail to mention the famous old Cody homestead.  This house was built of the most beautifully hewn logs we've ever seen.  Here the Cody boys went to the war.  We never visited this famous old home without feeling that here had been the scene of interesting happenings.  A relative related to us once, how during the war the Cody family heard that part of an army would be passing along the old stage road. The family hid some of their possessions in the woods, among them were their blue willow ware dishes.  We saw the sole remaining piece of those fine old dishes, a plate, not many years ago.  On the Cody place is located the Cody Cave and the cave spring where our youngsters sometimes go on picnics.  But the house was torn down and removed to another county several years ago.

- Mrs. A. H. Taylor (Dunbar Historian)

Mrs. Taylor's Family

Grandfather - David L. Lancaster

David Lancaster was a son of Benjamin M. Lancaster and his wife Sara, who left North Carolina and came to Williamson County, TN ca 1760. David L. Lancaster married Parmela Davidson of Williamson Co, TN first. His second wife was Cynthia Duck of Decatur County. He and his second wife are buried in the Wylie Cemetery now known as the Gardner Cemetery. Children of David and Parmela were: Harvey, Jesse, John G., David A., William B., and Benjamin M. Children by Cynthia were: Sarah Bathsheba and Gabriel Scott.

- History of Decatur County, Tennessee, Lillye Younger.

[In 1845, D. L. Lancaster signed the petition by the citizens of Perry County to divide the county using the Tennessee River as the western boundary for Perry County thus creating a new county west of the river - Decatur County.]

Grandfather - William Alex Tucker, C.S.A. Co. E 27th Int.

Another Rebel from the Dunbar area. He organized a Company (D) called the Decatur County Tigers which formally joined the 27th Inf. at Trenton in Sept., 1861. Alex was fatally wounded in the first day' s fighting at Shiloh (Apr. 6, 1862), with a leg shot off. He lay on the field all night while comrades helped the best they could. Next day he was jolted in a wagon ambulance south as the Southern army retreated toward Corinth. After the retreat another Rebel from around Dunbar came home on leave and told Alex's family that he had been critically wounded at Shiloh. At once, Reuben Houston Tucker, 17-year old son of Alex, was started on a mule to try to find and help his father. Nearly 50 miles from home, the boy found the father among the wounded near Corinth and lovingly cared for him the best he could until the father died a few days later. Reuben helped bury his father and then returned home to Dunbar. Soon in the army himself, neither Reuben back then, nor his popular and able historian daughter, Mrs. A.H. Taylor (now living in Lexington) later, could ever definitely locate Alex's grave.

Father - Reuben Houston Tucker, C.S.A. Co. D 19th Cav.

Entering the Confederate army after his father Alex's fatal wound at Shiloh, Reuben served throughout the remainder of the war. His experiences during the war and after, would fill a book according to his daughter, Mrs. Taylor. Even after the war he was almost captured by bushwhackers more than once He hid several times in the deep woods around Dunbar and told of sleeping on rainy nights inside a big hollow chestnut log. Reuben's mother (Alex's wife) was the former Nancy Orlena Graham. Reuben married Sarah Bathsheba Lancaster, daughter of Col. David Lancaster, on Feb. 1, 1872. Their children and years of birth were: William David, 1872; John M. 1874; Mary Azalee, 1876; Rosie Anna, 1878; James Warren, 1880; Dorsey 8., 1882; Gabriel Newton, 1886; George W., 1889; Vera, 1895; Alpha, 1897; and Beatrice, 1898, the last now being Mrs. A.H. Taylor, living in Lexington.

Reuben H. Tucker, born November 15, 1845. Enlisted in the service May 7th. Discharged in November 1864. Battles in which he participated: Parkers Cross Roads. Other events: battle wound - bullet in shoulder. He passed away in June 1917.

Uncle - Jesse Johnson Parish Lancaster, U.S.A. Ist Lieut. Co. G 6th Cav.

Returned here after the war to rear a family. Two sons were William ("Bill") and Achilles ("Ack") who, after teaching school, completed their law training and became well-known and successful attorneys in Lexington.

[Jesse Lancaster operated the Dunbar Cotton Gin from 1879 to 1888 before moving to Lexington, TN.]

 - source, The History of Scotts Hill, Tennessee, Gordon R. Turner.

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