yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

From Lillye Younger, People of Action (Decatur County Printers, 1983). Special thanks to Constance Collett and the estate of Lillye Younger for permission to make this web page.

THE RIVER

Lillye Younger

Riverboat Maid Enjoys Career Of Service

By Lillye Younger, Sun Correspondent

PARSONS, Tenn. — A good deed 13 years ago changed the whole course of life for Mrs. Hazel Cottrell of Parsons. "I was working in a cafe and the wages were not sufficient to support my son and me. My sister, who was employed as a maid on the "Lisha Wood" towboat on the Tennessee, took ill while at home and I decided I'd fill in for her. That was May 10, 1954."

"I stayed on the waterway 68 days before my foot hit land," Mrs. Cottrell continued. "When I did get off I told the captain I'd like to work regular and so I have.

"I liked the work from the very first day." The movement of the boat and the chug-chug of the engine didn't bother her in the least. One of the best features was the wages, ample to support Mrs. Cottrell and her son.

The work of a maid on a riverboat is very similar to that of a waitress, which Mrs. Cottrell was trained to be, with the exception of cleaning the rooms on the boat.

"My day starts at 4 a.m. at the same time the cook's duties begin," she explained. "I wash off the dining table and set it, put out the butter and jelly and take orders for the way crew members want their eggs cooked. After the meal I clean up the rooms."

Cleanliness is the basic rule on the boat. "I mop the rooms from the captain's on down, keep the beds clean and the wash basins immaculate.

"The crewmen are not hard to please. It's kinda like one big family, they are courteous and treat us with great respect. They are on duty six hours and off duty six hours and we hardly ever see them except when they eat.

"I awake the sleeping crew at 11 a.m. and assist the cook with the 11:30 a.m. meal. After cleaning up the kitchen we are off work until 4 p.m. Leisure time is spent viewing television in the lounge, taking a nap or sitting on the guard rail viewing the beautiful countryside."

Food served on the boat is of excellent quality and in big quantities, Mrs. Cottrell said. Crewmen may raid the refrigerator at any time during their off hours. It is never locked.

After the evening meal, Mrs. Cottrell spends much of her time .reading in her room. Bedtime comes around 9 p.m. since she has to arise so early the next morning.

She is now working on a boat built in 1965 called the "Roy Mechling." It is modern in every respect. The runs are from St. Louis to New Orleans on the mighty Mississippi. "It takes us around three days to go from Memphis to New Orleans." she said. "We never tie up unless there is serious engine trouble."

Mrs. Cottrell boards the "Roy Mechling" at Memphis. "Sometimes its hard to make connections, but I can stay at the Memphis Botel, where there are beds and lounges for those who await their call."

"Sometimes we have guests on our boat, which often include whole families," she said. "We can accommodate four guests comfortably. They usually stay only two or three days and catch another boat home. Some of the crewmen bring their wives on occasionally."

Working conditions have improved quite a bit since 1954, Mrs. Cottrell pointed out. "Then I was on 30 days and off only 15: now I'm on 30 days and off 30 days. Payday is the first and fifteenth of each month."

The crew includes the captain, pilot, chief engineer, assistant engineer, oiler, five deck hands, cook and maid.

"I like boat work so well I'd like to stay on until retirement," Mrs. Cottrell remarked.

She was born on Marsh Creek in Perry County and attended school at Linden. She has a married son, Charles Ray Cottrell ,and makes her home at 1011 Virginia Avenue South in Parsons.

Opening Of York Bridge Remembered

By Lillye Younger

Buffalo River Review, Thursday. December 6, 1979, Page 20

Towering toward the sky, the steel structure can be seen for miles around. A sign reads "Alvin C. York Memorial Bridge." The mile long span bridges the Tennessee River at Perryville.

Construction of the bridge began in 1928 and it was opened for traffic July 5, 1930. It was built at a cost of two thirds of a million dollars under the supervision of the state engineering department. The State of Tennessee began a major road building program at the time and Highway 100 was established linking Nashville and Memphis.

"I shall never forget the opening day of the bridge," Mr. Dick Howard said. "I cooked breakfast five times that morning for guests." Mrs. Howard's husband was the first toll keeper at the bridge and she felt kinda like hostess on opening day. Dick Howard said, "It was the hottest day I ever experienced and the ribbon cutting ceremony took place under the bridge on the Perry County side because it was in the shade."

"Governor Henry Horton cut the ribbon and made the opening speech. There were people from one end of the bridge to the other and all that could get in the shade beneath the bridge also."

The Howards live just around the bend from the bridge and Mr. Howard recalls his well being drawn dry of drinking water that day by thirsty people. "Finally," she said, "we just had to take the well bucket down."

That was the day before she had running water in the house. Dick said most of the springs nearby were dipped dry by the thirsty crowd.

It was a gala occasion. Airplanes landed in fields nearby and took advantage of the occasion by taking passengers up for an aerial view of the bridge. The panoramic scene included fertile soil dotted with trees, the blue rippling water of the Tennessee and the gigantic structure of the Alvin C. York Bridge.

That night a big square dance was held at the Decatur County end of the bridge.

The first person to cross the bridge in a car, other than the employees, was Jim Tomlin, who had just purchased a new car. He crossed it the Fourth of July, before opening day. The two sons of the Howards, Ben, age 10, and Frank 7, were the first to cross it on horses.

With the opening of Hwy. 100 the ferry boat at Perryville became outdated and the bridge took care of the increasing traffic. The ferry continued to operate, but soon fade away.

The bridge opened a great trucking industry for the towns of Parsons, Decaturville, and Linden.

These trucks delivered directly to the business places.

The truck line, eventually took most of the business from the railroad and in 1936 "the Pee-Vine" folded its tent and silently stole it away. No one made a fight to hold the branch railroad line since trucking service was cheaper, and more convenient.

The bridge was first opened as a toll bridge and the fare was 50 cents per car., and 5 cents for each additional passenger excluding the driver. Trucks were charged $1 but a coupon book was issued at a discount to trucks making regular trips.

Howard said the largest amount taken in during his eight years of service was $300 a day however business picked up later.

Other serving as toll keepers were Dick Hooton, Al Conder, Malcolm Pratt, Tom Dees and Val Johnson.

The first shift was from noon until midnight, Howard said. He worked the noon shift to midnight shift. Later it was changed to three eight hour shifts.

The toll was discontinued Feb. 4, 1947, when the late Morg Conder, floterial representative at the time, introduced a bill to this effect. He worked hard to get the bridge freed of all and got to cross it only once after it was taken off. He died Feb. 8 of that year.

The Alvin C. York Bridge has played a great part in the economic growth of Decatur as well as Perry, County. It opened up a tremendous trade route, provides beautiful scenery, and is a great memorial to the fearless and daring late Alvin C. York, World I. Hero.

[Swallow] Bluff Received Its Name From Birds

By Lillye Younger, Decatur County Historian

Let's take a backward glance at one of the most prosperous river landings old the Tennessee River. Swallow Bluff, located five miles southwest of Bath Springs, between Eagle Nest Island and Dickey Island.

The three-fourth mile long bluff received its name during the Civil War. Numerous swallows flew in the spring of 1862 and built nests out of mud, sticks and straw, under the huge layers of limestone rocks. The swallows hatched out, increasing their population until there were thousands sheltered on the bluffs.

The natural formation of limestone rock layers ranges from 12 inches thick to four and five feet thick. On the top of the 75 foot bluff grow black locust, cedar and oak trees.

The first store was built at the site in the late 1800's by George Simmons. It was a general merchandise store, handling everything from kegs of whiskey to calico and veiling for the ladies.

A cotton gin was operated in connection with the business. Located halfway between the store and the river stood a warehouse.

Freight was left for inland merchants. Draymen had four and five ox-drawn wagons during Civil War days with which they delivered freight to merchants in Lexington, Jackson and other surrounding towns. Business was flourishing until the railroads were built.

The first business place changed hands in 1904 when Charley Wilson took over. He ran the business for about a year and sold out to Jess Boggan and Edd Lancaster, who operated as partners. Later Boggan bought Lancaster out and operated the business until his death in 1918.

His daughter, Olive Boggan of Parsons recalls her mother selling the stock of goods after her father's death. She sold to G. C. Pollard and Hollis Hitchcock.

By this time, business was at its peak. Economic conditions continued to swing upward as each operator prospered.

Pollard and Hitchcock moved away and sold the business to Clint Tuten.

Mrs. Tutue, who lives in Decaturville, said, "Clint worked here as a boy for .Mr Simmons and Ila Tuten. After we were married we lived here three years and operated the business.

"We had to meet the boat and take the cargo to the warehouse even, if it came at midnight. We operated at Swallow Bluff until 1924."

H. D. Pevahouse ofville [of Decaturville?] recalls, "I went to Swallow Bluff August 16, 1924 when the Tutens moved away. I operated the mercantile business, gin, filling station and bought cross ties. Cars had been on the market by this time and gasoline was a necessity."

The Pevahouse family lived in the house just back of the general store.

Cross ties were shipped by barges on the Tennessee River to market. The four businesses kept them quite busy. "We continued here until Apri,l 15, 1934," Pevahouse added.

When the Pevahouses moved away, Jahue Boggan took the store over and operated it until 1942. He was buying timber at this time which required him to move to Selmer, Tennessee.

Mrs. Parce Collett of Parsons recalls going to Swallow Bluff as a youngster of 10. "It was my first trip and I wouldn't have been any more thrilled had I been going to New York City," she said. "My uncle, Joe Younger, delivered supplies to Swallow Bluff and my dad, the late C. V. Maxwell and I made the, trip with him."

Others who have operated the business here were Ben Tuten, Marvin White and Enis Brasher.

More money was made at Swallow Bluff than any other landing on the river in these parts. There were no stores within miles of here in the early days, and it was "easy picking." Transportation was by wagon, buggy and horseback.

The development of good roads, railroads, cars and towns weakened the economic conditions at Swallow Bluff. The gin folded up first then the store.

The Swallows population slacked off in 1895. Many moved away but a few are still building here.

The store building was rented as a place for fishermen to dwell after business was discontinued. It is now a ghost house and the only original building standing. The landing is inhabited only by the remaining swallows from which it received its name "Swallow Bluff."

Tom Burton, 94, Remembers River Rafting Days

By Lillye Younger

The Jackson Sun, Friday, January 7, 1964

PARSONS, Tenn. — "I am the oldest man living in Parsons, but I don't feel like it," says Tom Burton. He was born September 27, 1871 in the Bunches Chapel Community, six miles northeast of Parsons, the son of Jerome and Margaret Dickson Burton. He moved to Parsons in 1943.

"I attended my first school at Bunches Chapel, which was a one room building used for a school daring the week and church services on Sundays," Tom Burton says.

"We had a subscription school and had to pay a small tuition of $1.50 per month. The school terms were only three months long, starting around August 1 and lasting until crop gathering.

"My teachers were Miss Ida Crowder, Jim Cole, Gabe Hufstedler and Ephriam Arnold. The teachers were very strict and used switches to discipline us students," Burton said.

"My father died when I was eight years old. I had three sisters and one brother. We remained on the farm," he said. He added that "often he got he yen to go in search of the big jobs and would run away from home.

"I will never forget the time I ran away to Missouri, at the age of 15. I got a job at a saw mill, but the work was so hard I didn't last long. My mother never worried about me because she knew I could take care of myself and that I would always come back home.

Besides farming, Burton was employed in the lumber business, that is river rafting.

"We made a raft of logs and transported them to Paducah, Ky. This was before the dams were built the Tennessee River."

They used long poles to propel the log raft along. For living quarters on the journey, they stretched a tent over the raft.

"We would take turns sleeping. It took a month to make the trip to Paducah. When we had sold our logs we would come back by steamboat," he said.

He was married to Miss Ara Arnold in 1895 and continued to live in the Bunches Chapel Community. They had two sons and three daughters. Three living children are Mrs. Ariel Towns of Sweetwater, Tex., Mrs. Rena Mays of Parsons, and Mrs. Burl Selzer, also of Parsons. His farm was on the Tennessee River. Ephriam Arnold, one of his former teachers, was his father-in-law. Arnold was a captain on the river rafting boat and Burton worked with him.

Until he fell and broke his hip four years ago at the age of 90, he _____ activity as a man in his fifties. He enjoyed hunting and fishing, and could outwalk his great son-in-law Henry Greenway, on hunting trips. He walked to town and back twice a day, a distance of 1-1/2 miles every day until his accident.

"I used to catch lots of fish," he said. "Some of the biggest ones I ever caught were at the big eddy at Lady's Bluff. Some of the catfish weighted 30 and 90 pounds; however the biggest ones got away

"I always used a .22 rifle to kill squirrels and rabbits with. It felt like it was a disgrace to kill them with a shotgun. It was too easy."

He always attended the turkey shoots and target practices. He bought a specia1 rifle for this type of shooting, but gave the rifle to his great-grandson, David Greenway, when he broke his hip.

Burton was working on a hoop for a fish basket when a piece of timber knocked him down and broke his hip. He was showing the grandchildren that he could make a fish basket at the age of 90. He was carried to Jackson-Madison County General Hospital and was able to walk out, with the aid of a walker, in 30 days.

Aside from having to use a walker, his health is excellent and he get around well. His menu includes meats every day with vegetables. He is a moderate eater. "I do not care for sweets much," he said. He retires around 7 p.m. and likes to arise by 4 a.m.

He attended Bunches Chapel Baptist Church until moving to Parsons where he attends the First Baptist Church. His wife died in 1942 and he moved to Parsons in 1943.

In regard to the space program, he has no interest in traveling to the moon and said the money used in the space effort could be used to better advantage by feeding the hungry persons in the world.

His advice to his great grandchildren is to be kind to everyone and to be obedient.

"I attribute my long life to not worrying and taking things calmly," he said

"Never cross the bridge until you come to it."

Mr. Burton lives with his granddaughter, Mrs. Henry Greenway and family at 313 North Kentucky Avenue.

Raft pilot remembers early days of log transportation on Tennessee River

By Lillye Younger

Raft: What is the meaning? Webster's dictionary describes it as a "Floating wooden framework for transporting logs."

It was considered a very early form of transportation for taking logs to market in this river area and remains in the minds of only a few of the old timers.

The raft was a flat boat, made of poplar logs, a type of wood used primarily in the buildings of houses and barns when the white man first arrived in these parts. It was 300 feet long and 100 feet wide. Runners of poles were attached to each log in the construction, making a flow of logs. These poles were attached to the logs by wooden pins.

Some rafts used tents in which the operators lived, during the trip, while others built cabins. They slept on the floor. There were usually six to 8 operators and they took turns rowing, while others slept. These paddles were attached to a swivels which guided them. The speed was determined by the current of the water, down stream. It ranged from five to fifteen miles per hour. They floated in the middle of the river, allowing the early steamboats, like the Steamer Clyde, The St. Louis Etc, to pass.

Guiding these rafts wasn't very easy since they were loaded with two to four thousand logs, that had been picked up at the river landing, along the way. They were brought to these landings by oxen drawn wagons.

In case of storms, the raft anchored near the bank and tied up to the trees. They also had to tie up for supplies. The trip varied in length of time.

"It was very cold, oft times," an old timer, Bernard Lee of Perryville, explained. "Sometimes we would anchor at the shore, build up a good tire to get warm and drink a gallon of whiskey."

These logs were delivered to Paducah via the Tennessee River, which is the one river that flows north.

"After arriving at Paducah and selling these logs to the buyers, the rafts were dismantled and sold and the workers returned via a steamboat."

Among the disasters were wrecks due to strong winds on the river. Sometimes they hit bridges when a storm arose.

Mr. Lee, an old Raft Pilot, recalls a wreck. "The raft was coming out of Duck River and hit the old narrow Johnsonville bridge. We were coming down the river and couldn't get by so we helped them repair the raft. People, always helped each other on the river. This accident happened in 1924", Mr. Lee explained. "I had been working as a pilot since 1922 and worked for 30 years on the rafts." He is the only one of the old timers left.

Bluff Cave Hear Perryville Has Legendary Secrets

By Lillye Younger, Sun Correspondent

PARSONS, Tenn. — One of the most beautiful spots on the Tennessee River is Lady's Bluff located five miles below the Alvin C. York bridge at Perryville.

The bluff is 150 feet from water level. Up the face of the bluff about 80 feet is a big cave which can be entered from the side of the bluff. The opening is low and it extends many feet back in the cave. Several wings lead off from the opening and there is one big room the scene of early history and legends.

It was in 1836 that some Cherokee Indians wintered in cave. They were en route from North Carolina to Oklahoma and winter caught them here. The chieftain was getting quite old and he was afraid of the young bucks so he decided to bury his gold, which was sewed up in a bear skin, in the cave along with his clothing.

In 1903, an Indian boy seen up and down the around Perryville for something. He stopped at Perryville one Saturday afternoon and the young men there gave him a "hard way to go." They shot at his feet just to see him jump, but he was later befriended by one of the men.

He told this man he was searching for a cave beside deep water. He wanted to find his grandfather's clothing. The man went with him to Lady's Bluff and they searched until they found a section that had been sealed off by man and here they found the clothing. This proved the young man to be chief of his tribe. One bear skin of gold was found by the white man and the two other skins have never been found. There are other sealed off places in the cave.

When the early settlers came to Perryville, the Indians were still living in this section. One day a young girl, about 15, was working in the field and a small band of Indans were on the war path and tried to capture her. She ran from them until she came to the high bluff overlooking the river.

Not being able to turn back and rather than being caught she jumped off the bluff and hit the rocks, some ______ below, and was killed. From this tragic incident the bluff de rived the name of Lady's Bluff.

In the early days, the bluff was an old landmark and much talked about by raftsmen and flatboatmen. From here they could get their bearing and know their exact location on the river.

Directly in front of the bluff is the big eddy. It was considered the most treacherous spot in the river at one time The wafer was was 90 fee deep here and would encircle small boats and pull them under.

Huge logs would get caught here and men would tie up and salvage them. Any salvaged from the river belonged to the one that salvaged it. Sometimes bales of cotton were salvaged.

Three men lost their lives here in 1930; two swam to safety. The water is not as deep since Kentucky Lake came into being; however, it is still the deepest spot in the river in this section.

During the pioneer days, transportation by water was a popular mode of travel. Drummers would catch the small 16-foot flatboats and call on their customers who had stores along the river landings.

One night several years later a boatman was coming up the river and as he approached Lady's Bluff he saw a huge light which looked like a fire. He thought it was the end of time and became so frightened he fell on his knees and began praying. He prayed all the way to Perryville, a distance of five miles.

It was several days before be found out it was a beacon light which had been installed at Chesterfield to guide airplanes.

Today, at the foot of Lady's Bluff is one of the best fishing spots on the Tennessee River. In the fall great strings of jack salmon are caught here. The top of the bluff is a paradise for geologists in search of fossils. It is an ideal spot for those interested in photography and is a great attraction to artists.

From the bluff one can see for miles in either direction. In the fall Brodies Landing, Lick Creek, Denson Landing and the Alvin Q. York Bridge . . . . [clipping terminates here]

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This site was created by David Donahue and Brenda Kirk Fiddler.
This site is currently maintained by Jerry L. Butler
Copyright © 2004 - 2010, All rights reserved

new · memorial · about

This site was created by David Donahue and Brenda Kirk Fiddler.
This site is currently maintained by Jerry L. Butler
Copyright © 2004 - 2010, All rights reserved