yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee


compiled by Brenda Kirk Fiddler

A Steer and Dog Tale

October 31, 1913, Lexington Progress

Not many years William R. Dennison, mine host of the Walnut Hill Hotel at Perryville, Tenn., had two wild steers which he was anxious to sell but had not been able to catch. A certain man in the neighborhood, having two well-known dogs of the Shepherd breed, which were noted cattle catchers, Mr. Dennison offered him $5.00 to catch the two wild steers referred to. The power of the dogs took the proposition and soon landed one of the steers, but not so the other-and thereby hangs this steer and dog tale. Starting at a certain point on the Dennison farm near Perryville, the two dogs gave the remaining steer an overland chase, making quite a circuit and finally heading toward the Tennessee river, which was reached in due time and was swum by the steer with the two dogs hanging to him. The wild and infuriated bovine did not long tarry on the East side of the "Noble Tennessee" but again invaded its water and swam back to the west bank and again made for the original starting point on the Dennison farm, which point was finally reached with the dogs still hanging to the animal and at which point the steer capitulated-without a sign of an ear left and quite all of the nose torn off. The two steers were sold for $50, driven into a pen and Mr. Dennison says that the next morning anybody could walk up to them in the stock pen. This is told absolutely as the truth and if doubted by any reader of this paper, additional proof can be had.

Mine host Dennison tells another interesting story of 4,200 pounds of poultry being drowned by the sinking of a ferry boat at a certain landing below Perryville in water almost cold enough to freeze. The fowls were brought up the river to Perryville and in one night picked up and made ready for shipment of the early train of the next morning. The dead fowls filed two wagon beds that held four barrels of corn each.

After Thirty Years

October 30, 1914, Lexington Progress

On Thursday of last week, Mrs. G. H. Partin [nee Nettie Lewis] entertained for a few hours her three aunts, Mrs. W. H. Howell of Harrisburg, Illinois, Mrs. George Matthews of Grayville, Illinois, and Mrs. Q, L. McCreery of Rocky Ford, Colorado, who were on their way to visit their sister (Mrs. Partin’s mother) Mrs. W. H. Lewis at Parsons.  The three visiting ladies after a most pleasant stay of three days in Parsons, where they were entertained by Mrs. Lewis and Mr. Joe Wheat and family, started on their homeward return last Monday morning, stopping over here until Tuesday morning with Mrs. Partin.  This is the first time the four sisters have been all together in about thirty years and the three non resident ones are going to remember this visit to Tennessee as among the greatest pleasures of their lives. [Marker in Parsons Cemetery for William H. Lewis: February 18, 1837-May 28, 1911; Hattie B. Lewis: September 24, 1847-December 8, 1920. Marker for Nettie Lewis Partin: 1880-1933. Marker for Infant son of G. H. and Nettie B. Partin: February 22, 1907, aged 3 days.]

Dr. H.G. Perry

October 19, 1923, Lexington Progress

Montgomery, Ala, Oct. 13.--Dr. H.G. Perry, well-known official of the state health department and for many years register of vital statistics for the state of Alabama, died suddenly at the home of his son, Dr. Frank G. F. Perry, October 8th. Dr. Perry was returning to his home from the capital and was stricken with an attack of heart trouble while near his son's home on Madison Avenue and lived only a short time after entering.

Dr. Perry was educated at Auburn and at the Georgia Medical College, and after graduating from these he took several post-graduate courses in New York and Baltimore. In 1906 he was elected treasurer of the state medical association of Alabama and served until 1911, when he was elected secretary, which office he has filled since that year. In 1904 he was made counselor.

In the fall of 1882, if my memory serves me correctly, the citizens of Decaturville, Tenn., applied to the Claude J. Bell Agency at Nashville for a teacher of the Decaturville school and Mr. Bell sent them one Henry Gather Perry, an Auburn, Alabama boy, fresh from school. That young teacher and I found a strong attachment for each other, so when I went to Purdy in March 1882 and brought to Decaturville to keep house for me my aunt, Mrs. Eudora Miller, who died in Lexington several years ago, Prof. Perry made his home with us and when I married on the night of Jan. 12th, 1883, and carried my bride to my home he was there to welcome us.

That attachment between us was so strong that we have kept up an intermittent correspondence during all the years since he lived in my home. After Prof. Perry left Decaturville and returned Alabama, he studied medicine and became, as the above article clipped from the Nashville Banner states, quite a distinguished doctor. One time many years ago he was carrying a patient to Hot Springs, Arkansas, he wired me that he was going to pass through Lexington, so i could join him and go as far as Jackson. He was one man who could stand out as the cleanest, purest gentleman I ever knew. Peace to his ashes.--W.V. Barry

Famous Storm Recalled

Scrapbook, Date March 192__, Written by W.V. Barry and printed in a Nashville, Tennessee newspaper--either the Tennessean or the Banner

 Lexington, Tenn., March 19.--(Special)--The oldest inhabitant is responsible for the statement that Lexington had its biggest fourteen minutes' downpour of rain Friday between 11 and 12 o'clock. Streets were flooded in a few minutes that have heretofore required an hour or more of the hardest rains and at the south corner of the public square the water reached the axis of automobiles--about 12 inches.

 The considerable hail which fell here recalls to many persons the greatest hailstorm which visited the town of Decaturville, Decatur County. In the month of May, 1879, then and up to date said to be the greatest ever known in West Tennessee, John McCorkle, a traveling man and brother-in-law of another very popular man of the road, "Stuttering" Jim White, had a favorite race mare hitched to a post in Decaturville and when the hail began to fall and he went out to turn the animal loose, he was badly hurt by a large hailstone going through the crown of the first derby hat that had ever been seen in Decaturville. Unsheltered calves were killed and one horse in the lot of John H. Bray, its owner, was so badly beaten that when he was bought by Joe Youngblood and worked in this territory, he had to be cut out of harness if he could not be unbuckled very quickly ever afterward when he heard the sound of hailstorm coming. The shingle roof of every house in Decaturville was ruined and on weather boarded walls dents made by the hailstones could be seen for years afterward.

In a creek bed between Decaturville and Perryville on the Tennessee river six miles east, a bank of ice, leaves and dirt remained three weeks.

After perforating the roofs, the hail broke all the glass out of the big front windows of the Dennison hotel, under a ten-foot porch on the bounce. The darkened heavens and the accompanying roar made the late Judge J.W. Doherty supplicate the Lord in a prayer that would have been to the credit of a veteran Christian, much less such an agnostic as the judge was said to pride himself on being. The fall of hail covered a small area outside the town of Decaturville.

Another Anniversary

September 20, 1935, Lexington Progress

September 10th was an anniversary in my recollection of dates, being the date on which the Decatur County Beacon was established at Decaturville in 1880 by my elder brother, Charles D. Barry, who died in Purdy, McNairy County, in October 18, 1881.

Charles was a watchmaker in Savannah and how he got the notion to establish a paper in a town that never before had one, I do not remember, but he did and began printing the Beacon on an army press, but later brought a Washington hand press that had been used by a defunct Republican paper, and was in the hands of the late Henry Hinkle, who is yet remembered in Hardin County.

The Republican paper had been edited by one George W. Shipman, who married Emma, daughter of Bob Thompson, a illiterate former minister, who flourished in Purdy as a merchant. The Thompsons moved to Washington, D.C., Shipman with them, died, but when old man Bob came back to Purdy on a visit, he had put on the polish of a Senator and the language of a born orator, notwithstanding the fact that his early preaching days, he was said to have said in the pulpit, "I have learn these things afore and seed 'em fotch up" and it was further said that in early married life, he lived in a rail pen, with daubed cracks, and that on Sunday, while away to the preaching, hogs broke in, and broke the family dishes, but with all that, old Bob's wife was a most excellent woman, and her three daughters, Emma, Christiana and Mattie are fine girls. Mat married a man named Ben Kincannon, whose home was at or near Saltillo, where she taught music.

I went to Decaturville April 14, 1881 and learned the type cases on the afternoon of that day. Charlie's health continued to fail and he died in October 1881, and so I got into the newspaper game, and I have tried to play the game honestly during all those 54 years, and come October 10th, 51 years and six months of that time has been spent in Lexington.--W.V.B.

A Bad Boy

March 17, 1939, Lexington Progress

Some years ago, the son of the Methodist pastor in Decaturville, Tennessee, was known as the "Preacher's Bad Boy." His badness did not run along such lines as drinking, cursing, gambling and other kindred sins. Instead, he was always in some kind of mischief, saw the ludicrous and ridiculous side of everybody and of everything, could mimic the actions and conversational tones of anyone, and imitate the sounds of many animals.

If they heard a dog fight, a cat fight or a dog and cat fight, Sam started it. If a dog ran through the streets with a can to his tail, as they often did, Sam tied it. If any prank of any kind was played on man or beast, Sam was back of it. In fact, he got full credit for doing many things that he never even thought of doing.

However, he was in great favor with the young people. Usually he kept the group laughing at his jokes, stories and mimicking some interesting character. He attended church and Sunday School regularly, and was always in the lead when some service was needed for sick or destitute people. No one among them was more thoughtful and eager to help when help was needed, or seemed to get more pleasure out of it. But the church leaders could not harmonize his varied avenues and methods of fun with "pure undefiled religion."

His father was a good preacher, a fine pastor and was loved, not only by his own flock, but also by those of other denominations and those of no church affiliations. Because of this fact, the people tried to overlook many of the "terrible" things Sam did for the sake of the family; but they wondered just what would become of the boy.

One very rainy Sunday his father could not cross the swollen streams to get back from his country appointments into Decaturville for the night service. A small group of young people met at the church, but after waiting for some time for the preacher, who could not get there, some one suggested that they go home Sam said: "Now, I know a lot of Dad's and Grandad's sermons and prayers, and can preach one of them to you." They had a regular service of song, prayer, Scripture reading and preaching. Almost perfectly as to tone and gesture he [Sam] delivered a sermon as father had recently preached at the same place, more to the amusement than to the edification of the group.

But this was the limit. It was the "straw that broke the camel's back." If nothing else would stop this foolishness, then the courts must try it. But it was almost conference and his father was planning to transfer to Texas. Through love and respect for the family, the church decided to endure for a few weeks longer, and the family moved to Texas.

Yes, but what became of Sam? Later, he heard the call to the ministry, and served some of the best churches in Texas. He was so popular that the Texas people asked the General Conference to elect him bishop, and they did. The "Preacher's Bad Bob" became Bishop Samuel R. Hay, who is now a superannuated bishop.--The Christian Educationalist [publication]

(Bishop Hay is an uncle of our townsmen W.W. and E.A. Hay. It has been reported that Bishop Hay will be asked to conduct a series of protracted services here during the summer at the M.E. Church, South, and members and the town's populace hope that he will be able to accept.)

My Column

December 13, 1940, Lexington Progress

Way back when I lived in Decaturville, it must have been in 1882, when the Tennessee River got on one of its greatest rampages, a crowd of us were sitting in the store of G.W. Smith and Son, when Perry Houston and his son, Bill, came in and were first to have crossed the iron bridge at Buckner's Mill. In the crowd the general topic was high water, and when the time came an elderly man, known as "Uncle Boyd," told of his experience, riding a mule in the high waters in the state of "Elynoy," as he had always pronounced Illinois. Uncle Boyd said that when he got into water too deep for the mule to ford or wade without swimming, the animal rose on his hind feet and he slipped over its tail. At this juncture, Uncle David Funderburk, who never saw a joke in his life and did not like Uncle Boyd anyhow, sat in his chair with his feet firmly planted, his walking cane in his right hand with his head leaning against the counter, kicked forward with both feet, bumped his head against the counter and said, "Gad sir,you took that mule on your back and swam out," to which Uncle Boyd replied, "I did nothing of the kind," and Uncle David continued, "I am satisfied if you will refresh your memory, that you took that mule on your back and swam out." Nothing daunted, Uncle Boyd finished his story, but I have forgotten how Uncle Boyd and that mule got out of that high water.

Continuing about Uncle David in the same store one day, Tom Ramsey, son of the local circuit rider, remarked that if a certain bill passed the legislature, forbidding the sale of snuff within four miles of a female institution of learning, the women would get to chewing tobacco, whereupon Uncle David Funderburk remarked, "Get at it--By gad son, they've been at it ever since I can remember," and Uncle David was an old man with a nervous affliction which gave him a very tottery walk.

It seems to me that I have told the story as related to me by Add Funderburk, an aged colored man who lives here, how his old master, Uncle David, was twice hanged in the effort to force him to tell the hiding place of his money which Uncle David would not do, and would not have done, but before he was strung up the third time, Mrs. Funderburk told where the money, a few hundred dollars, could be found. By the way, Uncle Add Funderburk is the only Negro man I know that was born a slave.

Now back to the matter of high water. The back water from the Tennessee River was so high at the Buckner Mill, a mile and half from Decaturville, on the road to Parsons that I have gone with a horse on a flat boat over the tops of the steel girders of the iron bridge, the first bridge of that character built in Decatur County, which bridge has been removed, erected elsewhere and the present bridge on the Parsons-Decaturville highway, built some hundreds of yards below the Buckner mill--and I guess that famous water mill has long been abandoned.

Wall Hotel in Perryville

Information is needed on the old Wall Hotel in Perryville. We have an unconfirmed picture of the hotel as well as some newspaper articles about it but we need to learn more about it. Please contact me if you can help with information about the Wall Hotel, formerly located in Perryville.

At Perryville, the water was so high that the skiffs landed at the upstairs windows over the roof of the porch of the old Wall Hotel--and by the way, it was said that when these rises came, the chinches that operated on the lower floor moved upstairs.

This old land-mark hotel was finally burned and while the fire was in progress, Capt. J.P. Alley was seen standing at the point where the road crossed the railroad, going toward the new hotel built on the point of Walnut Hill, by Bro. Bill Dennison. Captain Alley was brandishing a three foot white oak stake, and when asked what he meant, he said that he intended to brain every chinch from that hotel who tried to get to the Bill Dennison hostelry. Bill sold the hotel to my old friend, Lex Gwinn, father of Mrs. Will Houston of Lexington, and it was finally destroyed by fire after Mr. Gwinn had sold it.

Speaking further of the old Wall Hotel, the late Tom Reeder and I went to Perryville to see Tom take a boat to Cheatham's Ferry, the home of his father, whom he was going to visit and Tom, by the way, was a brother of Mrs. J.H. Stout of Decaturville, who like her husband, John, has passed away. I told Tom that if we sat up waiting for the boat, it would not get there before daylight, so we procured a room, retired and had not gone to sleep before we heard the boat whistle at Mousetail, six miles down the river. I saw Tom on the boat, came to the hotel, saw Miss Mollie Wall sitting in her mother's room, and after chatting a while through the window, I asked her to come out on the porch, as it was a beautiful, pleasant, moonlit night, which she did, and we sat on the bench at the corner of the porch toward the river. I noticed that a tall fellow came down stairs two or three times to the drinking water bucket at the other end of the porch. Mollie and I sat talking for quite a while and I learned afterwards that some Negroes who were bringing freight to the warehouse, saw the fellow who had been coming down after water, lying flat on his stomach on the roof of his porch with his chin over the corner immediately above where Mollie and I were sitting, but I don't suppose he heard any state secrets as Mollie and I were only casual acquaintances.

The young man's name was Campbell. His brother was running a sawmill near Perryville and being an admirer of Miss Wall, had written her a note that day asking the pleasure of calling on her that night, to which she replied that as she and her mother had been busy all day, they wished to retire as soon as the boat came and left, begged to be excused. The fellow must have been what they call jealous hearted--a sensation I have never experienced. Mollie Wall was a good looking girl, married Tom Stout, had no children and died after a few years. Tom married again, still lives at Perryville, has raised a family, and is about as blind as the writer. Can you beat this for a mixed story?

Local and Personal Items

January 14, 1927, Lexington Progress

During the recent high waters, quite a number of Lexington people went to Perryville to witness the awe-inspiring sight of the Tennessee River on a real rampage. The greatest Tennessee River flood we can remember having witnessed was in 1882, if we remember correctly, when we crossed Beech River and the back water at Buckner‘s Mill 1 1/2 miles this side of Decaturville and carried our horse over the top of the long span of girders of the iron bridge, on an improvised flatboat. When that same rise was at its crest, the old Wall Hotel was standing at Perryville, and passengers got out of the second story, over the roof of the long porch on the front of the building. That flood carried away houses in East Perryville that had withstood all previous ones.

My Column

April 11, 1941, Lexington Progress

By the unfailing courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Dennison, more affectionately known as "Stan and Hat," Mrs. Barry and I enjoyed a trip to Decaturville last Sunday afternoon, returning via Perryville. I spent part of my time at the home of Mrs. Hettie Miller, who was the wife of my brother, Dr. Henry Barry, who died in Decaturville. Hettie had gathered at her home quite a group of relatives among who was her granddaughter, Mrs. Iris King, and two children, the younger a baby boy of nine months who took to me as if we had long been friends.

At one place on the road in Decatur County we passed what is called a honky-tonk, or bootlegging joint, where there were seven cars parked, said to be patrons who had failed to lay in a supply of spiritus frumenti customer on Saturday, and of course, could not do without it until Monday.

Now note the difference: Patrons of bootlegging joints can lie around the supply house reasonably drunk , while the legal liquor store must buy his bottle and get out, all of which makes me still believe that legal liquor is preferable to bootlegging, and I am told that bootlegging prices are much higher, especially on Sunday, notwithstanding the legal prices are too high for any man "with one eye and half sense" to pay.

When we reached Lexington on the return, Mr. Dennison offered to drive out Broad Street and let Mrs. Barry see the many beautiful new homes. Beginning at the new station on the old Dr. Warren corner, next the W.W. Hay hotel [check] and on out quite a distance the total of handsome homes far surpassing that on any other street or section. Out this same way there are many more unused lots upon which homes can be built and even now it is a real treat to see the handsome, convenient and modern homes which have taken the place of the old time all wood structures.

My Column (excerpt)

Lexington Progress, May 30, 1941

The presence of Mel Scott in my office, last Friday, brought to my mind a story told b hs father, the late attorney, D.E. Scott, which I may or may not have told in The Progress, and and I freely confess that I am likely to be guilty of that which is said to be a sign of senility in the age--repetition.

The happening that I have in mind occurred at old Center Church in Decatur county, where presiding elder W.S. Duckworth was present on his first visit to that congregation. Among the citizens present, members and non-members of the church, was Uncle Bill Boggan, a well-known local character. Someone present said to Mr. Boggan, "Uncle Bill, shake hands with our new presiding elder, Bro. Duckworth," but Uncle Bill, instead of extending his hand, remarked, "During the war I knowed a man named Duckworth," and the preacher replied, "I was in the war." Mr. Boggan then said, "That man's name was Bill," and the preacher followed, "Well, my name is William." Going on, Mr. Boggan said, "More than that Bill Duckworth was my colonel," to which Duckworth responded,"That was my rank." The conversation seemed ended until Uncle Bill said, nodding toward the church , "I don't know how Colonel Duckworth is in that church, but if he is anything like he was during the war, he will give you hell," and went on, "You fellows have been talking about where Colonel Duckworth is going to spend the night, and I will tell you, he is going home with Bill Boggan and we are going to sit up all night talking about all the damn meanness we did during the war."

Mr. Scott said that it soon became evident that Colonel Duckworth wanted to go home with private Bill Boggan just as much as the private wanted him, but my deponent failed to tell how late the two old boys enjoyed themselves that night in the home of Bill Boggan."

[Notes: depondent = one who gives evidence; Decatur Co. Cemetery Records, p. 562, Simmons Cemetery: William H. Boggan, GSA soldier; born 8-11-1 826; died 5-27-1890.]

This is My Column

Dec. 26, 1941, Lexington Progress

When I first mentioned "ghosts" as the subject matter, for My Column this week, my home secretary, who happens to be my sister, Mrs. G.T. Ray, said: "Why not a Xmas story?"' So now I am starting the Column with both subjects in view, without really knowing what I am going to dictate--but first let it be Xmas and my recollections of that most sacred of Christian festivals.

As the old song tells it: "When I was but a little child, how well I recollect," my discovery of Santa Claus, who was called Kris Kringle, and later St. Nicholas, and finally we fell into the prevalent name of Santa Claus--and I have always been an ardent Christmas fan, doing on that day the best of all the year, keeping open house to friends and relatives, and during the fifty-eight years of married life, but very few times missing a turkey for Christmas, when at home--and as Bob Burns said in a broadcast not long ago, Ii e money as I have ever had, I have never really learned how to buy a little turkey And speaking to turkeys, back in the "good old days--the horse and buggy days" hen we had none but dirt roads and the automobile and hard roads had not appeared to claim their thousands upon thousands of victims each year, just before Christmas, I got in so many turkeys on subscriptions to The Progress that I had several to give away to friends, but never a turkey did I sell.

However, things had changed in November, 1928, when the surviving children of the C.P. Denison family had a reunion in our Lexington home, and the turkey for the occasion, furnished by Frank A. Helton, who died in Santa Monica, California, several months ago, cost just a little short of nine dollars--all of which is straying from the subject of Xmas, and I will go back to it.

Just before Xmas, 1882, when the Decatur County Beacon had fallen into my incompetent hands, I stated in the paper that the tree in the old Methodist Church, which still stands unused, except the Masonic Lodge, which occupies the second floor. Some of the leading citizens of Decaturville, such as W. Stout, Reubin Smith, and others, said: "We don't have Christmas trees; never did have Christmas trees," to which I replied: "Well, you are going to have one this time," which we did, and up to this time, I can say that I have never seen a prettier, or more valuable Xmas tree. The tree was a large cedar, and loaded to capacity with stacks of presents all around the foot of it. I wonder if Decaturville has ever failed to have a Xmas tree since that memorable December 24th, 1882, just fifty-nine years ago. At that time, and for years after, Decaturville was a good town in any ways and a wild town in some ways.

For years when a death occurred, the town, business men closed their doors and dug the grave, and when that practice ceased, Charles Shelton, a local Negro, dug the grave for $1.00. In the matter of attention to the sick, Decaturville was the best place I have ever seen, and in the matter of church going, that old Methodist Church had a full house, and on one Sunday, before the August revival, Pastor Tom B. Ramsey, who expected to do his own preaching, thus addressed his congregation: "Brethren, we are going to have a great meeting this year, and the purpose of the meeting is to save souls, and I promise you that if you will join me and pray with me for success, we'll e a good meeting in spite of hell." Bro. Ramsey was truly a preacher who tried to preach "Christ and Him crucified" and the latter day actuation of money and it mutiplied," had not reached him.

In Bolivar, Tenn., where Tom Ramsey was born and reared, his family, the "knock down, and drag out," whiskey drinking element, but when Tom felt the urge to preach, he dropped all that, and I can testify that he was happy in his calling. When he didn't have the money to buy his chewing tobacco, or to replenish his corn crib, for Decaturville was then on a circuit, so one Xmas, Tom Ramsey, Jr., and I bought his daddy a dollar's worth of chewing tobacco, the kind tobacco, the kind he liked--all of which is a far cry from Lexington and Xmas and I will get back to that.

When our children were young, we carried them, attended Xmas trees, and carried back home a load of the cheap gewgaws of the day, hardly a one of which could be found a week later--and then if the weather happened to be bad, Dec. 23, and Dec. 24th, the Xmas business was spoiled, but now look at it. Last Saturday was almost "the Red Letter Day," in the history of the town. The business houses were jammed full of buyers and in some places, one could hardly get through the crowds on the sidewalks. Everybody was busy, everybody spending money and everybody seemed happy.

As I am writing this on Sunday, I do not know what part John Barleycorn and City Marshal Mart Kee played on the occasion, possibly not much as on the Saturday before, where there were a number of arrests--so let me warn you, Xmas or any other time, to beware of putting down your throat a thief to steal away your brains.

So, with this scattering column, it is my wish that all may keep well and to the fullest enjoy the most wonderful day, the Natal day of Jesus of Nazareth, the Prince of Peace, who seems most nearly forgotten in a warring world.

As I have spun out My Column to an unexpected length, I will have to postpone my ghost story until the first issue of The Progress in January.

[Note; The ghost story appeared in the issue. The story dealt with McNairy County.]

This is My Column

May 7, 1943, Lexington Progress

As the Indians say when greeting a person, "How?" --That is how are you now, and how have you been ever since I last greeted you through My Column, April 23, when circumstances forced us to miss an issue of The Progress, the only issue ever missed in our fifty-nine years except the customary Christmas week in which all country newspapers used to indulge, and a few issues in midsummer, which we took instead of the Christmas vacation.

It was pretty hard work on my part and that of two women, Henry's wife and Dr. Cornelia Huntsman, to induce him to give up an issue, which I was loath to have happen, but Henry's condition was such that I was reminded of a Decaturville incident which happened before I landed in that town in 1881.

There was a big crowd in the town, a lot of drinking, and when the crowd surged out of the front door, on the G.W. Smith store, my future brother-in-law, J.T. Rogers, closed the door, slapped a bar across it on the inside, went out the back way and around the front. The shut-out crowd moved en masse to the Philip Breshear "grocery," as saloons were then called. Finding the door closed, the crowd broke it in, and Tate Rogers, seeing what was gong on, ran out toward the old Dennison livery stable. Looking up to the left before he reached the stable, he saw Mr. Breshear making tracks across the back garden. Calling at the top of his voice, Tate stopped Phillip and yelled to him that a crowd had broken into his grocery, was drinking his liquor, breaking his glasses and playing the devil generally, to which Phillip replied: "Begad, sir, there's nothing in that grocery so sweet as my life--just let them help themselves."

Henry and I love the old Progress, I because I founded it when quite a young man, and he because he is the one of six sons who has stayed with me, with the exception of a comparatively short experience in the telephone business here and in Memphis in 1901. While working at Memphis, Henry had a very peculiar remark made to him by Foster Hume, who was the Memphis manager, and that he was the only person who had brought back to the Cumberland Telephone Company, money that had been paid by mistake on salary. I wonder if that good fellow, Foster Hume, is still living.

I got a most outstanding thrill when Mrs. Barry read to me the last issue of The Progress, carrying the several letters from our boys who are in the military service of Uncle Sam. When I heard stated their cheerful words, and their determination to help do a job which must be done, the old quotation occurred to me, with he change of a word or two:

Breathes there an American
With soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said:
"This is my home, my native land."

It is a rare thing indeed to find an American who is not willing to risk his life for defense of his country.

* * * * *

Well, we have lost our newest resident on North Main Street, but temporarily, we hope, by the departure of little Miss Virginia Ruth Pentecost, aged five weeks, daughter and first child of Lieutenant and Mrs. Ned Pentecost, and first grandchild of our neighbor, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Hardin. The little one and her mother left on Wednesday, April 21, for Colorado Springs, near Denver, Colorado, to there join Lieut. Pentecost. After a layover of some hours in St. Louis, Billie and her baby took a pullman compartment for their destination, but not until Sunday of this week did Mr. and Mrs. Hardin receive word that their daughter had safely arrived in Colorado Springs--all of which reminds me of the remark made by someone, that the sweetest words in the English language, or any other language, for that matter, are "Mother, Home, and Heaven," to which I added several years ago, the word "Baby," for no home is complete without one. Some babies accumulate years--my own baby, Edward, will celebrate his thirty-eighth birthday next October fourth. You can readily see that babies never grow old.

[Note: Mr. Barry in another article quoted a colored preacher about babies in which the preacher said that "the closest to heaven most of us sinners will get is to see a baby."]

A post card received the first of this week from Mrs. Annie Jones Eller, at Bristol, Va., where she has been for about a month with her daughter, baby Bill, and father Dudley Holman, announced that she was about to leave for Memphis, where Irby Eller has doubtless been leading a lonesome life. This is just another case of a grandmother being crazy about a grandbaby, because it is her only one.

* * * * *

In Decaturville, getting along towards fifty years ago, one Bose Thweatt was elected Justice of the Peace, and when called on to marry a couple in a home near the place where Perryville road turns to the left from the Decaturville and Fisher Landing road, when he got to that part of the ceremony that if any person had any objection to the marriage, to speak out or forever hold their peace, Jim McMurray, of Perryville, called out from the rear of the room, "I object, because I want the gal myself." Bose never did get back on the ceremony, but the couple went off somehow, and considered themselves married.

Bose let his hair grow rather long before he had a haircut, and when he did have that performance in the back yard of the old Friar Hotel, he carried his chair into the house without cleaning up the cut-off hair, the color of which might have been called a nondescript color, that is, no color that could be named, unless Bose hit it when he passed through the yard. Bose saw his hair lying on the ground, went into the house and asked his wife "who in the devil cleaned a ‘possum out in the yard."

I guess that Bose, like most of the others of whom I write, has gone to one of those worlds where they neither have ‘possums or haircuts.

* * * * *

Some time ago I listened on the radio to Dr. John L. Hill making his usual Sunday morning talk to the Fidelis Bible Class of the First Baptist Church, at Nashville, in which he stated that we shall know our loved ones when we get "over there"--in fact that we will know everybody--which goes to show what flights of imagination even big men can have. So far as I am concerned, I have never taken stock in such flights of imagination, but I admit that my superiors have and do express such belief--for instance:

The aged lady who spent a night in my home a few years ago, and who now lies in her grave at Abilene, Texas, stated that when she died and passed over the river, that she knew one of her sons, her favorite son, would meet her. That was, in a way, the one outstanding woman I have ever known. She belonged to the outstanding families of McNairy County, had every possible advantage to secure an education, and while entitled to the best the world could give, and to heaven, I believe, after death, yet her life was simply a continuous tragedy. Today, of her husband and five children and two grandchildren, there are none left except one granddaughter.

My Column

May 21, 1943, Lexington Progress

It is not my purpose, to pass judgment on the religious belief or unbelief of the late Judge James W. Doherty, who lived many years in Decaturville, and went from there to this expected interview with St. Peter at the gate, in which the Judge's only hope was that he had lived sixteen years in Decaturville, a slam on the good old town, in which I take no stock, for it was there that the second important event in my life transpired. It was there that I was married 60 years ago last January 12th, and after all those years, we are still putting up the fight of life together.

Judge Daugherty is considered an infidel, agnostic, or anything else other than an ordinary Christian. He read the Bible, as do all of his kind to criticize, but never to obey it. However, I have in mind two instances which lead me to believe that the Judge believed in a Supreme Being.

The first was the fact that he was said to have prayed out loud on the afternoon of a day in May, 1879, when Decaturville was struck by the most terrific hailstorm I have ever known. It broke out every window glass in the town and necessitated reroofing every house on the side from which the storm came. I have been told that in addition to all such damage, small calves were pelted to death in open lots, and one horse, owned by John Bray, was so severely beaten that ever afterwards, when he was being worked by Joe Youngblood, a grocery drummer, if any sound resembling the coming of a storm was heard, the horse, had to be gotten out of the harness quickly. On one or two occasions, leather straps had to be cut to release him from the shafts. That was the only time Judge Doherty was ever known to have prayed--and now for the second instance:

One day at the Dennison hotel table, Judge Doherty was spouting off his belief that everybody had a hobby. I insisted on him telling his own. He replied, "Well, I never could understand why the Almighty let so many damn fools live, when He could have sensible men in their places."

The shabbiest trick ever pulled off by Judge Dogherty was in a letter written to the "Seymore Times," an infidel publication in Seymore, Indiana, in which he told of the baptism of one Colonel Wagner--and its effect on a dog. Col. Wagner lived at Farmers' Valley, Perry County, but made frequent trips to Linden as superintendent of the school affairs of the county. The dog to which I refer was owned by Wagner.

When it was given out that Col. Wagner would be baptized in Buffalo River, and join the Christian Church, the day finally came with the dog at the heels of the Colonel until he actually entered the water, when the dog gave a long, loud howl, seeing that his master was determined to make a damn fool of himself. It was soon learned that the dog had taken up with somebody in Linden, eight or ten miles away. After that, when Col. Wagner visited Linden, he would occasionally come across the dog, try to make friends with him, but always without success, for the dog would turn his head and go the other way. I myself, saw and read the article in the "Seymore Times."

These little items were left out of My Column last week, and I have consumed all the space I am allowed this week, having been late getting my copy in.

This is My Column

November 19, 1943, Lexington Progress

Not long ago I received a letter from my kinsman, V.J. Kindel, who with his wife, who was Ella Duckworth, of Savannah, son Allen, who locally delivered the Commercial Appeal, daughters, Lois and Maud, and a baby girl who died here and is buried in the local cemetery, all lived in Lexington a good many years ago, and I am writing this only because we have several people who yet remember the family.

Mr. Kindel, generally known as "Bud," lost his first wife, married Miss Anna Crook, of Nashville, and lived there several years.

He now lives in Columbia, S.C., celebrated his 89th birthday last August 23, and some time ago retired after 20 years of service years with the STATE, a daily paper, in the interest of which he traveled the state of South Carolina over and over again and is fully entitled to the pension, which he enjoys from that paper.

The last time that distinguished gentlemen, the Hon. Tom C. Rye, former lawyer, attorney general, Governor and for twenty years, Chancellor, was in Lexington--didn't know he had been here--and I didn't like that because I have many pleasant recollections of the 20 years. I served as Clerk & Master under him. During that time I tried to be as good to him, at many October terms of court, [by giving him] a jar of Mrs. Barry's famous sauerkraut.

In My Column last week when I made reference to two oil paintings which hung in a Decaturville saloon, I called it the G.W. Smith Saloon, when it should have been the G.W. Jones, generally known as "Wash," and Wash was a good fellow who frequently used the quotation, "Honest to God," and the boys said that when Wash used that expression, if he hadn't lied in a month he was sure telling a whopper--and that reminds me of another Decaturville story:

John Hailey, who lived there before I came to Decaturville, was a very likable fellow, but sadly addicted to drink. One Wednesday night John attended the prayer meeting in the old Methodist Church, sitting in the rear, and when Lawyer J.M. Porterfield, made a talk on "The Evils of Intemperance," John rose to his feet and asked, "Porterfield, are you talking about me?" to which Porterfield replied, "No John." Porterfield replied, "No, John." When John, not fully satisfied, asked, "Honest to God, Porterfield?" and the meeting went on.

Still another matter I missed in giving the contents of the Decatur County Beacon of May, 1883, was the advertisement of the school of which H.G. Perry was the principal, the Decaturville Academy, and by the way, Prof. Perry was living with Molly and me at that date of the Beacon.

The rates of the school were $1.00 per month for primary, intermediate, $2,00, and academic $3.00. Prof. Perry quit teaching and became a prominent doctor, dying suddenly in Montgomery, Alabama, while he was the vital statistic member of the State Board of Education.

His son, Fred Perry, was a dental student in Vanderbilt University in the winter of 1908-1909, and came to see me in my room in the Maxwell House, accompanied by a young Jap, who was also a dental student in that University.

It may be that this one is the last Decturville story that will occur to me, but it may turn out like Flatwoods, Wayne County--just can't tell: One Sunday afternoon, with Tom Ramsey, son of the local preacher, Fielding Young, and maybe one or two others, called o the girls in the home of girls in the home of Dr. H.H. McMillin, and just before we left, a streak of devilment struck me, and I insisted that Misses Mattie and Mittie McMillin sing my favorite song, the fact being that my favorite happened to be "Harbored Watch Ahoy," which, above all the songs I could recall, Tom detested most. After protesting that I knew all the songs they knew, the girls consented and I noticed that Tom Ramsey was squirming like a cockroach on a hot griddle. When we got out and had Dr. McMillin's middle office building between us and the residence, Tom Ramsey could get no further without exploding, and said: "Boys let me tell you, Dr. McMillin is a saint, and I love both of his girls, but if you ever do ask them to sing that d____ song again in my presence, I'll get up and leave, if it insults the whole family, for I have heard that song the last time." Tom Ramsey, by the way, was toned after all music, only knew that song, and one day when Miss Mattie McMiIlin sat at the little organ, and unconsciously drifted into a march by which Tom had walked out of the school house for several months, Tom asked, "Miss Mattie, what is that you played? It seems to me I've heard it before."

I have made references to Bro. T. P. Ramsey, who was pastor of the Decaturville Methodist Church, but I haven't told that he chewed tobacco, so when Xmas came, his son, Tom, and I joined forces and bought Father Ramsey a dollar's worth of good chewing tobacco--and have you ever been a tobacco chewer, quit for a while, fall from grace and go to chewing again, and what better did you ever taste than a good quid of natural leaf, or eve Brown Mule? Poor Brother Ramsey, a god man if I ever knew one. He died in Somerville, I believe, when the annual conference was in session in Memphis.

I have always contended that personal mention is the life of a country newspaper, that is that part of life which does not depend on dollars and cents, for a country sheet would be bound to have an enormous circulation before it could pretend to live on subscriptions. Even the Jackson Sun, which is between a real city daily like the Commercial Appeal, and a little better than an ordinary country sheet like the Humboldt Courier-Chronicle. The Jackson Sun, for example, for which I was correspondent several years ago, might now run a daily column under the caption, "Comers To and Goers From Jackson." The strolling reporter daily meeting many people from surrounding towns who go to Jackson to spend their money don't get a line in the paper, nor do the merchants of Jackson do any outside advertising in compensation for the daily trade which outsiders bring to the town--beg pardon, the city of which is saying nothing about Jackson, for I love it, and have many friends there. School friends among them the lamented mother of City Attorney Bill Moss, whose name was Patty Randolph--and some time or other I ‘m going to turn in and show Bill Moss that I know more about his people than he does.

This is My Column

May 12, 1944, Lexington Progress

 Just now I have in mind a man who officiated in two counties, and I use the word "officiated" advisedly for this man held an official position in two counties. The man is J.O. Carlton, generally known as "Bud," and was one of four brothers who bore the nicknames of "Big Bud," "Little Bud," and "Bud."

When I reached Decaturville on April 14,1881, Bud Carlton was running the "Slab Town" saloon, which, like other businesses of the same kind, was put out of business later, but I do not remember the date, and following abolition of the saloon, the school house was burned supposedly by an incendiary, and when the news of the fire reached Purdy, one Col. J.W. Purviance (I don't know how he got the title) asked "Why don't the newspaper there denounce the damned incendiaries?" and Newt Watkins, "the wool man," who was recuperating from a recurring attack from a wound received during the Civil War, answered, "If the boys who are running the newspaper get too brash, they might be in the same fix you are--afraid to stick your damned head out after dark, and you know it." And now back to Decaturville.

The little frame office where I was running the Decatur County Beacon, was not far from where the little school house was burned and it would have been very easy to stick a torch to it any night.

As I have said, Bud Carlton was running the "Slab Town Saloon," which was the nightly rendezvous of a bunch of young fellows known as the "chain gang" met late at night when the supposed roll was called, made up of the best citizens of the town: William Stout, J.A. England, J.T. Rogers, John Tate, John Pratt, G.B.D. Rushing, G.W. Smith and his son, Reubin, and possibly others, all of whom were at home in their beds, and the way that gang carried on was out of the ordinary.

Well, I have on my mind that Bud Carlton served as Sheriff of Decatur County, but I am not as positive about that as I am that he was sheriff of this county, after he came to Lexington, but be that as it may, Bud, like his father, was a good blacksmith, and the father, who came to Decaturville from some other place of residence with his son, opened up a shop at the northwest corner of the public square, with a shed, under which horseshoeing was done, the principal work of the firm, and it had no capital. The way they conducted the business was like this: When either Bud or his buddy had a horse to shoe they went to the Smith store and bought the shoes and nails, and at the close of the business day, they had a settlement. Business was good and all went well until one unfortunate day when there was a difference that resulted in breaking up the business in spite of the fact that every man who passed the shop was asked to look over the settlement, all of which failed to be satisfactory. Old man Carlton got drunk and moved away from whatever he had of a family away from Decaturville.

In the next chapter in the Carlton history we find Bud in Lexington, a Republican candidate for Sheriff, was nominated and elected, but I do not remember for how many terms, but it seems to be that Bud figured in Decatur County politics as a Democrat--that county being dependable Democratic. The first Republican I remember to have been elected was Jim Dick Blount, who served as sheriff.

 However, there is nothing unusual in men changing their politics, and I used to laughingly state that good old Bill Dyer, who was our Circuit Court Clerk, had to move away from the edge of Jackson to keep from being a Democrat--and my good friend, Ed. Owens, a former Mississippi Democrat, has long been a Henderson County Republican. You see, a man's politics depends on his environment.

The last I ever heard of the Carlton family they had lived at Somerville, but one of Bud's brothers used to come by Lexington as a printer after the family moved away from here.

The following history of the Bud Carlton family is furnished by Henry:

When Bud Carlton was sheriff of Henderson County, a couple of men driving through Lexington, driving west. One of them was named Luff man, the other was not known. In a few weeks after they left Lexington, the body of the other man was found near Crucifer. Bud Carlton unraveled the mystery and Luff man was brought to Lexington for trial, the result of which has been forgotten. Mr. Carlton's son, Ed., went to work as the N.C. & St. L. Railroad, in the fall of 1900, as a fireman, at the same time that Charlie Berry was employed in the same capacity. Ed. was called to duty as a watchman of engines at Jackson, and one night, Mr. W.J. Hills caught him asleep--and he worked no more for the N.C., but later, after an injury in a wreck, became an engineer on the L. & N. out of Birmingham. Helen, the elder daughter, married Charlie Hill, a N.C. conductor, and after his death, joined the family after they had moved to Collerville.

My memory is that Ed. Carlton was a most mischievous boy, but one of the most charitable. If he had anything from marbles to tops that you wanted, he would give it to you. He was positively the best reader I ever heard. he could glance at lines of print and repeat them without further looking and was a friend who never quit.

This is My Column

May 26, 1944, Lexington Progress

[Mr. Barry includes in "My Column" the letter from his niece, Mrs. Annie Jones Eller of Memphis.]

"The Progress has just been read and I was interested in your remarks about the Carlton family.

I thought you would like to know that soon after we moved to Memphis, nearly 30 years ago, I ran into Mrs. Carlton (wife of Bud Carlton) and Troy, their youngest daughter, in a neighborhood grocery.

As you remember, thee were four children, Edgar, Helen, Ella and Troy. Ella had died from injuries received in a train wreck on the L. & N. Railroad, at Galloway, Tenn., several years ago: Helen (and I think Edgar) lived in Santa Ana, California.

Mrs. Carlton and Troy moved to California to be with the other children. Some ten or twelve years ago I had a card from Troy telling me of the sudden death of her mother in California. I suppose that's the last we'll hear of the Carlton family. However, I thought of them three weeks ago when Nannie Jones Carlton (no kin to Bud) and I passed the old jail on our way over to Grandma Jones' old home place.--Annie Eller Jones

My Column (excerpt)

July 7, 1944, Lexington Progress

I have been switched away from what I began to write about colored people so often, that I now hardly know where I left off, but I believe I resume with Decatur County, where Harve White, a well-liked young Negro man, was deliberately shot down by a white hoodlum, "Snort" Simmons, who had already killed another Negro named Scott, all of which happened between the old Frayer Hotel and the house immediately across the street. Harve was shot in the stomach, said to be identically in the same spot of the shot which killed President Garfield. Harve was carried to his cabin, laid on a pallet on the floor, was visited occasionally by a doctor, and got well. President Garfield had a swarm of doctors every hour or less--and he died.

Harve White was a good Negro, lived many years but had an unfortunate ending. One winter day he drank too much liquor, went to his home, and that night froze to death--at least he was found dead next morning. Time after time going back to Decaturville after I moved back to Lexington, I always had to shake hands with Harve, and I didn't object.

The outstanding Negro citizen of Decaturville before I went there in 1881, was Uncle Aaron Yarbro, who at one time was "well to do" financially, but lost out by the trickery of a white man, I was told. Uncle Aaron died no better off than the average colored man of his age.

Another notable Negro in Decaturville was Charles Shelton, generally known as Coon," who pretended to be a barber, but never did learn to give a decent shave or hair cut, and really he was the local bootlegger, who bought his liquor at Perryville, made it half water at a spring half way to Decaturville with the fact that the brand was "Rot Gut" when bought at Perryville. Hundreds of times old "Coon" was called at night for various purposes, and never a single time was he found to be asleep.

For a time in Decaturville, it had been the custom when a death occurred, for the business men to close their store and dig the grave, but that was finally quit, and Charlie Shelton would dig the grave for $100. So when I moved to Lexington and had to pay $5.00 for digging a grave, I thought it was little short of highway robbery.

One more mention and I am done--the MacDonald family, old Jim and his sons.

Jim lived on a ridge on one of the roads to Perryville, and one end of his house was a room where a table was always set to give any white person a meal. Old Jim had a wagon and two or more mules, and hauled all the goods from Tennessee River landing to Farmers' Valley, and the store of George Kittrell.

Jim's sons, as I remember them, were Lewis, who lived to be a very old man and died not long ago in Lexington; Frank, who lived and died at Perryville--and thereby hangs a tale; Ike, who went blind and died a few years ago, and still another who ran the ferry boat at Perryville, and whose name I do not remember.

The first winter that the Tennessee Midland railroad ran to Perryville from Memphis, Frank McDonald was said to have the contract to furnish the fuel to every business. All went well for a while. Frank would take his sack, go to the cars of coal standing on the track, fill the sack with all he could carry, and deliver it to the store, saloons or whatever it might be.

Unknown to Frank, a new night watchman was appointed and when he made his first trip and began to fill his sack, he was seen by the watchman who cracked him down with a pistol. Frank made a running record for all of Perryville, and all of the coal burners came pretty freezing until new arrangements could be made.

Frank McDonald quit drinking liquor on his own accord and for the last few years of his life, was a pretty good man.

Once more I have written too much and will have to leave my story untold until a future date.

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