yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee
History of Henderson Co.

From Auburn Powers, History of Henderson County, Tennessee, 1930. Reproduced with permission for personal use only. No further reproduction can be made without written consent of Andy E. Powers and Sherode B. Powers.


Chapter XIII

Rev. Fleetwood Ball

Rev. Fleetwood Ball, who for 28 years has been pastor of the First Baptist Church, Lexington, Tennessee, was born March 16th, 1876, being the oldest child of Rev. Martin Ball and the late Mrs. Lizzie McKay Ball. He was educated in literary branches at Union University, Jackson, Tennessee, capturing the Strickland Medal at the time of graduation, which meant that he was accorded the highest honors of his class. He procured his theological training at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. For 22 consecutive years he has been moderator of the Beech River Baptist Association and for 16 years Recording Secretary of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. He has served as pastor, in addition to his full-time work at Lexington, the following churches: Rock Hill, 26 years; Chapel Hill, 22 years; Piney Creek, 18 years; Union, 5 years. To these country churches he preaches once-a-month each on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. He has the distinction of marrying more couples and preaching more funerals than any other preacher in the County. He was married in May, 1907, to Miss Flossie Lee Melton of Lexington, Tennessee, who died in December 1918, leaving four daughters, Mary Elizabeth Ball, Flossie Melton Ball, Lily McKay Ball and Martha Joe Ball, who were reared by an affectionate grand-mother, Mrs. Martha Vesta Melton of Lexington.

He is the most outstanding and influential man of the County at present and gives his life to his work.

W. V. Barry

William V. Barry was born in McNairy County in 1858, and is the second of a family of eight children. His father was Dr. Daniel Barry and his mother Mrs. Eliza J. (Moore) Barry. W. V. received his education at Purdy and taught school for some time. In 1880 he began the work as assistant to his brother, C. D. Barry, who established the first newspaper in Decatur County. In 1881 W. V. assumed complete control of the paper and published it until 1884, when he moved to Lexington and established the "Lexington Progress", which he has edited ever since. Mr. Barry ranks high as a journalist.

In 1883 he married Miss Mollie A. Dennison, daughter of C. P. and Mrs. Nancy J. Dennison and reared a large family.

Mr. Barry has ever been a close adherer to home life. About the only time he ever spent away from home was the winter of 1904 and 1905, which he spent in Florida and part of the winter of 1908 and 1909 when he was called by Chancellor E. L. Bullock of Jackson, Tennessee to serve as secretary for him during the session of the Legislature of 1909, which passed the Anti-whiskey laws forbidding the making and selling of whiskey in the State of Tennessee. Mr. Barry even made week-end trips home during this session.

Mr. Barry is a devout Catholic and Democrat, casting his first presidential vote for Hancock. He is a pleasant, courteous gentleman and very popular. His sympathy has ever been for the farmers. He says that if he had his life to live over he would live it in the country.

T. Edwards

Thompson Edwards was born at Mifflin, Tennessee, May 30, 1862, and died October 13, 1929.

When three years old, he moved to Lexington with his parents, the late Milton S. and Jennie Muse Edwards. He was married on October 28, 1886 to Miss Elizabeth Stewart. To this union were born three children, Milton S., Eva, and Richard.

Mr. Edwards began his successful business career as a clerk in the C. F. McHaney Drug Store, later entering the grocery business for himself, during which time he was also chief clerk under his mother, who was post-mistress. Later he engaged in the livery business. He was elected Trustee of the County in 1898, serving until 1908, and was the local Standard Oil Agent for many years. Following this he was made President of the Central State Bank, which position he held for ten years.

He was a member of the Baptist Church, being treasurer of same for 16 years. He was very attentive to his church, evidenced by the fact that he attended Sunday School for nineteen years and five months without missing a single Sunday.

For 64 years he was a resident of the town of Lexington. He began as a young man to interest himself in the welfare of the County and town and during his long tenure of citizenship, took an active part in civic affairs.

As a native son of Henderson County, he loved the people of the County, and in turn was held in high esteem by them. He was a man of sterling character, high resolves, and dauntless spirit, one who caught a vision of what life is for, and with devotion gave himself to all its higher calls. The worth of a life can only be measured by its moral and spiritual values. To this princely line, he belonged. Above all other qualities he bore a reputation for honor and integrity that was without a stain.

Judge W. H. Denison

Washington Hill Denison was born in Henderson County on a farm 10 miles northwest of Lexington, January 5, 1878, the son of W. W. and Martha Fuller Denison.

He attended the country schools of the County and took the course prescribed in the old Southern Normal University at Huntingdon, Tennessee, receiving the B. A. Degree from this institution in the classes of 1900 and 1901.

For a number of years he taught school in Henderson County, and other sections of West Tennessee. He was admitted to the bar in the summer of 1903, taking the first examination held by the State Board of Law Examiners at Jackson in June 1903.

He began the active practice of law at Lexington in January 1907, and at the same time performed the duties of County Superintendent of Schools of the County, though he had practiced law at Decaturville for a few months prior thereto. He served for a period of ten years as County Superintendent in connection with his law practice, and retired voluntarily at the end of that period, not being a candidate to succeed himself at the January term, 1917.

He formed a partnership for the practice of law with Hon. E. W. Essary in 1915 and this relationship lasted until 1929, with the exception of the time spent on the Chancery Bench and the Court of Civil Appeals.

He was appointed Chancellor by Governor A. A. Taylor in June, 1921, to succeed Chancellor J. W. Ross, when Ross became Federal Judge where he served until the regular August election in 1922, when he was defeated by the former Governor Tom C. Rye. Soon thereafter, Denison was appointed on the Court of Civil Appeals by Governor A. A. Taylor to serve during the sickness of Judge Sid Clark of Trenton, serving during the fall session of that Court at Nashville, 1922.

Early in 1923, he resumed the practice of law in partnership with Hon. E. W. Essary. He became an independent candidate for judge of the 12th Judicial Circuit in the August election, 1926, defeating Judge N. R. Barham, the Democratic candidate for that office, and after a long contest with his unsuccessful opponent, he was declared elected by the Supreme Court of Tennessee, the last of May 1929, assuming the duties of that office the first of June 1929, where he is now serving the people of the 12th Judicial Circuit of Tennessee.

He married to Katherine B. Gaston of Nashville, Tennessee, daughter of Rev. and Mrs. B. J. Gaston, on the 20th day of March 1917. They have two children, Katherine L., aged 12 years, and W. H. Jr., aged 8 years. These four, with his mother now in her 83rd year, constitute the family circle, his mother having lived in his home since the death of the father nearly a quarter of a century ago.

Judge Denison has the reputation of being a fair and honest Judge. He is a republican, and was elected Judge in a district that is overwhelmingly democratic. This alone speaks for the confidence the people put in Judge Denison.

Ernest W. Essary

Ernest W. Essary was born near the Village of Lone Elm (Chesterfield), eight miles east of Lexington. He had his early educational training in the common schools of the County, after which he entered the Southwestern Baptist (now Union) University at Jackson, where he received his B. A. Degree. He then returned to his native county where he became principal of a school at Lexington. After two years he entered the Cumberland University Law School at Lebanon, Tennessee, receiving his Law Degree there, and was licensed to practice law on May 18, 1896. He then returned to Lexington and formed partnership with S. E. Murray, the style of the firm being "Murray & Essary". This partnership continued for several years after which a partnership was formed with W. H. Denison, the style of the firm being Essary & Denison. This association continued until Denison retired to become Circuit Judge of this Judicial Circuit. In the fall of 1896 he was elected to the Legislature and represented Henderson County two terms. He was then elected Mayor of the Town of Lexington and served one term. In the Presidential Campaign of 1904 Mr. Essary was a Republican Elector from the Eighth Congressional District and in 1908 was sent as a delegate to the National Republican Convention at Chicago from the State at large. From 1910 to 1914 he was State Prison Commissioner. When Hoover was nominated as a Candidate for President, Mr. Essary again represented his District as a Republican Delegate to that Convention at Kansas City, Missouri.

Mr. Essary is the present County Attorney for Henderson County and is engaged in practicing law with his son under the style of "Essary & Essary".

Mr. Essary was married to the eldest daughter of Dr. W. T. Watson and from that union he had two children, a son Ernest, W. Jr., who is now a law partner with him, and a daughter, Mary Louise, who intermarried with Elmer O. Scates, now residing in Memphis, Tennessee.

His father, Mr. William Essary of Chesterfield, is perhaps the oldest citizen in the County. He was a Union soldier during the Civil War and has since been an influential citizen. He has ever been a friend to the poor and has helped many a man purchase a home. He is yet active, driving or riding his horse when he wishes, and is loved and honored by those who know him.

Judge F. M. Davis

Judge F. M. Davis was born February 3, 1865, had a common school education, read law in Judge Levi s Woods' office. Beginning in 1885, took a course at Cumberland University in 1886, was licensed to practice in 1886, and began at Lexington, and has remained there ever since. He is, however, not in active law practice at the present time.

During his term as a lawyer he took part in politics. He served two terms in the State Legislature, in 1893 and in 1895, and was County Judge from 1926 to 1929, when he was legislated out of office.

During his campaigns he was very active and was generally conceded the honor of being the County's ablest stump speaker.

Mr. Davis was married to Miss Myrtle Richardson of Nashville in 1893. She died two years later, leaving no children. He was again married in 1896, this time to Miss Dora Pearson, who bore him six children, four sons and two daughters. Felix, the oldest, is running a loan office in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. John, the second, is a physician and surgeon in Shattock, Oklahoma. Joe, the third, is an active lawyer in Lexington. Nell, a daughter, married in Chicago. Edith, now 17 years old, is in Union University at Jackson. Jim, the youngest, is in Lexington High School.

This is a family record anyone should feel proud of.

T. A. and W. H. Lancaster

T. A. and W. H. Lancaster were born in Hardin County, Tennessee, near Saltillo, and near the Sulphur Well. They are sons of Jesse L. and Susan E. Lancaster. The family moved to Decatur County during the sixties, and there remained, excepting two years when they lived in the State of Illinois, until 1895, at which time they moved to Lexington, where, in 1897, the mother died, and in 1898 the father died. These two boys were educated in the short term public schools of the County, and taught several years in said schools. T. A. attended the Academy at McKenzie several terms; and W. H. at Clifton and Decaturville. They both finished their literary education at the Southern University of Illinois, located at Carbondale, in 1885.

They each taught school thereafter T. A. at Decaturville, one year, and then at Chattanooga three years; W. H. at Scott's Hill two years and one year at Sardis and two years at Chattanooga.

T. A. graduated from the Law school of Cumberland University in 1891, and began the practice of Law at Jackson with Judge S. J. Everett, but remained in Jackson only one year after which he formed a partnership with Judge John E. McCall at Lexington. There he was engaged in the practice until early in the year 1926, when he was appointed Federal District Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. Judge McCall appointed him Referee-in-Bankruptcy, and he continued in said position until the death of Judge McCall, some years ago. On November 9, 1926, T. A. died at his home in Lexington. It has been generally said of him that he gave more pains and attention to his clients, and gave less offense to his adversaries than any lawyer in West Tennessee, and that he was the best and most proficient Referee West Tennessee ever had. It was his life practice to do the fair thing with every body, and he was held by the Bar as one of Tennessee's most eminent lawyers, and honored citizens. He gave much of his time to the promotion of the school interests of Lexington and Henderson County, serving as chairman of both the City and County Boards of Education for many years. Although he had no children, he loved children devotedly, and the cause of education with great ardor.

He was elected to the Legislature from Henderson County, in 1902, served one term, and was then elected County Judge and served in that office six years, resigning to accept appointment as Referee-in-Bankruptcy. He was local Attorney for the N. C. & St. L. Railway for more than twenty years, giving up this connection when he was appointed Federal District Attorney. He was Presidential Elector on the Harrison ticket in 1888.

W. H. Lancaster resigned as principal of the McCaully Street High School in Chattanooga in June 1891, returned to his home in Decatur County, manufactured staves two years, then entered the mercantile business in Decatur County, and then at Lexington, where he had moved in 1897, and then in Jackson. He gave up the mercantile business in 1908, began the study of law, was admitted to the Bar in 1909, began the practice in January, 1910, and has since been in the practice, although he has many other matters in hand. He was Republican Elector for the Eighth Congressional District of Tennessee on the McKinley ticket, in 1896 and was such Elector for said District in 1928 on the Hoover ticket. Hoover carried the State by about 40,000 majority. When the Tennessee Electors assembled in Nashville in January 1929, W. H. was made chairman of the board of Electors that cast the vote of Tennessee for President Hoover. He served as County Judge from September 1916 to September 1918, and upon the death of L. B. Johnson, was chosen County Judge for six months, until the next August election.

T. A. & W. H. Lancaster have been connected with much of the litigation in the Courts, both State and Federal, in Henderson and adjoining counties, for many years. They each have had to do with almost all the big cases in the territory round about. They worked together loyally and were each to the other not only a brother in the true sense, but each, in a way, was father to the other, and W. H., the survivor, has no more fond recollections than of those wherein he and "Ack" were closely connected from boyhood on through the years, and no sadder than the death of his brother whom he loved as few men love others.

William F. Appleby

William Eranklin Appleby was born July 22, 1879 on a farm near Lexington and was reared on the old family homestead, which consisted of SSO acres, now owned by his widow, Mrs. Lessie Appleby. He was the son of A. R. Appleby, a farmer and merchant now living near Lexington and Mrs. Mary (Roberts) Appleby, who died in 1895.

Mr. Appleby completed his education at the Normal School at Huntingdon, Tennessee in 1900. In young manhood he took up the profession of teaching. By religious faith he was of the Christian order.

When he entered politics, he took a staunch stand for the Republican Party and was a strong supporter of it, and held various County offices. He died on February 27, 1924.

L. B. ]ohnson

Perhaps the greatest orator the County has ever produced was L. B. Johnson, who was born and reared at Middleburg, eleven miles east of Lexington. He was reared a poor boy educated in the common schools of the County. After teaching for some time, he took up the study of law at his home and mastered the course, passed the bar examination, and began practice at Lexington. He was also made County Judge at one time and was a very efficient judge. He died about 1924, a promising leader in the prime of life.

E. M. Evans

Perhaps Ellis M. Evans, who was born a farmer near Moor's Hill in 1874, is the most powerful man in the County by virtue of his position. He is Postmaster at Chesterfield; Depot Agent; school director for the 6th district and chairman of School Board; Chairman of the highway commission since September 24, 1929; having control over highways and bridges and the work done by convicts on same; State Committeeman of the Eighth Congressional District for the Republican Party; and Recommender of Federal appointments such as collectors of customs, postmasters, census supervisors, and other Federal positions.

John L. Sullivan

John L. Sullivan has lived a quiet and successful life thus far. He is a man of honesty and friendship. When it comes his way to do so, he is ever ready to befriend those about him. (The author recalls trivial incidents of such, but they are the incidents that prove the real character of a man--not the big incidents where one is financially or honor bound to befriend his fellow man.)

Mr. Sullivan was elected County Register in 1910 and served three consecutive terms, or 12 years. He was nominated for the fourth term, but was appointed postmaster and withdrew before the regular election in August 1922. He resigned the position of County register in April 1922 to accept the post-mastership at Lexington. Since then he has served under the appointments of three presidents, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover. Mr. Sullivan is conscientious in his work and feels proud that he has held three commissions under three different presidents.

"Bob" Lewis

Robert A. Lewis was born near Sardis in 1864, was reared by a widowed mother on the farm, and received his education in the common schools of the County, before the organization of high schools. He, however, attended schools outside the County for about one and one-half years. He tauaht school for a time, served two terms as Circuit Court Clerk, was assistant cashier in the Bank of Lexington for six years, was cashier in the Central State Bank for twenty years, and is now President of it. He became president at the death of T. Edwards who was president.

Mr. Lewis has stood for honesty and progress and advancement of such as promote the highest and best interest of his county and state.

Eli Jones

Henderson County's greatest inventor is Eli Jones. He has had more patents issued to him than any other man in the County. It is doubtful if that number of patents can be duplicated by any other man in the State. One of these patents alone, which was issued February S, 1929, cost $570.00. The machine for which the patent was given contains over 2000 parts.

Mr. Jones was born in Henderson County in 1877, married Miss Exie Ella Neisler, and has reared a family of five children. He suffered a stroke of paralysis a few years ago, and died October 11, 1930 from another stroke. He was a highly loved man, and a kind father.

G. W. Stewart

One of the County's calmest and soberest citizens of special note Is that of George W. Stewart of two miles south of' Lexington. Mr. Stewart is not the kind to talk a lot about nothing. He seldom speaks unless he has something to say, yet he is by no means a "grouch" He enjoys sports as well as a boy and always keeps up with the different leagues in baseball and football. He is a man of strict integrity, and everybody trusts him. He is loved and respected by all who know him, and has been a loyal member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church for thirty-six years and has been clerk of same for twenty-eight years.

Mr. Stewart was born near Lexington December 23, 1864. His parents were James R. Stewart and Mrs. Martha Mary Ann (Odle) Stewart.

Our subject had almost reached manhood before he saw the need of an education. He then set about to go to school, walking several miles to school every day. In 1889 he began teaching and taught for fourteen years, possessing what would now be termed a high school education.

He was elected road commissioner for his home district by the quarterly court in 1898 and served for five years. In 1903 he was appointed Deputy U. S. Marshall for the Eastern Division of West Tennessee by Honorable Frank S. Elgin. In 1906 he was elected justice of the peace and was re-elected in 1912. In the same year he wad appointed Superintendent of the Henderson County Poor House and served for twelve years. In 1918 he was elected by the quarterly Court on the Henderson County Revenue Committee and served in that capacity for ten years. In 1924 he was elected by Massed Convention of the Republican Party, Chairman of said Convention and is still serving as such. He was.deputy sheriff from 1926 to 1928. In 1926 he was appointed U. S. Commissioner by H. B. Anderson, Federal Judge, and is still serving in that capacity. On October 6, 1930 he was elected by the County Court as a member of the County Board of Education to fill the vacancy made by the resignation of Fielder. He has also been a farmer almost all of his Life.

G. T. Stewart

Tillman Stewart, son of G. W. Stewart mentioned above, is a promising young man. He is the most widely read of any young man in the County and is making a wonderful success teaching in Lexington High School, from which he graduated in 1926. He, like his father, is of high character and is honest and ambitious.

While in the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (1926-1930) he was the most successful distance runner ever on the track team there. He broke old State records and set new ones time and again. Before he finished there, the only records to be broken in such races were those set by himself, but he broke them and set new ones just the same. In the spring of 1930 he entered the Southern Track and Field Meet at Birmingham, Alabama and won Southern championship in the two-mile race.

W. R. Wilson

William Robert Wilson of Wildersville was born at Salusbury, Hardeman County, Tennessee January 23, 1859. His parents, James Alton Wilson and Mrs. Sarah Elizabeth (Ferguson) Wilson, were of Scotch Irish descent. In December 1868 the family moved to Wildersville, where William, as he was called, began his life as a plow boy on the battle ground of Parkers Cross Roads.

At the age of nineteen he began teaching, and taught his first school at Burch School in the old Ninth District, after which he entered Henderson Masonic Male and Female Institute at Henderson, Tennessee, and finished June 16, 1882, receiving his degree. After teaching one year he attended the Peabody Normal at Jackson, Tennessee for one month, then returned to his sister's near Wildersville, and married Miss Mary C. Kiter on July 12, 1883.

Immediately after his marriage he opened school at old Lone Elm and taught there for three years, after which he bought a farm three miles south of Wildersville and moved thereto. Soon, however, he was called back into the teaching profession, this time at Mazies' Chapel near Alberton. He taught at various schools and met with success everywhere. For a few terms he taught in the Baptist College in Lexington as professor of mathematics under E. W. Essary. He taught at Wildersville at various times and helped considerably to build up the town.

While he was living in Lexington, he purchased the Lexington Republican Paper and ran it for two years assisted by Mr. Shaeffer. Then he sold his interest to Mr. Shaeffer and moved back to Wildersville, after living in Lexington seven years, during which time he served as County Superintendent for two years and as City Recorder for the town of Lexington for four years.

While on his farm near Wildersville he was so successful in building it up that he received much favorable comment from his neighbors and from those who observed his work. Entirely unexpectedly to him he was called upon to take over the work as County Demonstrator, in which capacity he served for three years.

He served as magistrate of the First District for four years.

In 1916 or 1917 he purchased half interest in the City Drug Store at Wildersville and has since been in active management of the store. He is now about seventy years of age.

I. K. Pope

Henderson County's most outstanding farmer at present is I. K. Pope. He lives in the western part of the County and is very progressive in live stock farming. His White Leghorn Chickens have won for him many prizes. He has gained a State wide reputation as a master farmer.

Henry Essary

S. H. Essary, a native of Henderson County now at the Experiment Station at Knoxville, Tennessee is nationally known for developing a better kind of lespedeza (Japan clover) known as "Lespedeza 76". Seed of this variety are now used in all the Southern States.

  1. Give a sketch of each man's life and works in order of occurrence.

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