yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

Decatur County - circa 1938

author unknown

This history and overview of Decatur County, Tennessee was apparently published around 1938. The source document is a 26-page, loose leaf, typewritten draft with several hand written editing marks.  The draft was untitled.

The purpose of this document and its author are unknown. Lillye Younger mentions a publication that was prepared by the eighth grade class of Henry B. Evans in 1938.  Another possibility is that this may have been prepared as a WPA research project. If anyone can identify this document or the author, please contact me.

DECATUR COUNTY

Established in November, 1845 from part of Perry County, was named in honor of Commodore Stephen Decatur who had gained great distinction as a naval lieutenant in the war with Tripoli, 1801-05. His brilliant achievement was the boarding and burning of the captured Philadelphia in the harbor of Tripoli and the subsequent escape under the fire of 141 guns. In 1810, he was appointed a commodore and served throughout the War of 1812.

Decatur County Historical and Statistical Information

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Decatur County Population by Districts
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Date of Formation - 1845 from Perry County.

First Settlement - 1820 near Perryville, Tenn.

For whom named - Commodore Stephens Decatur, of the U. S. Navy.

First Settlers - In 1880 the birthplaces of the 8,479 people in Decatur County were as follows: Tenn., 7,733; N.C., 264; Ala. 117; Miss., 73; Ky.,70; Va., 35

Location - Eastern part of West Tennessee, adjoining the Tennessee River, in agricultural area 6.

County Seat - Decaturville, population in 1930 - 419.

Topography - Rolling uplands, cut by numerous small streams forming many narrow valleys-several alluvial bottom lands.

Size Of County - Square miles, 288; total acreage, 184,320; acres in farms, 163,333; per cent in farms, 89%.

Number of Farms - 1,665; Average Size of Farms, 98.4.

Transportation - Highways- Tenn. 20, and Tenn. 100, Last and West; Tenn. 69, North and South; Tenn. 114, Northwest and Southeast.
Waterways- Tenn. River extends full length of county along the easte side.

Telephones - Number of farmers with telephones, 1920 - 747; 1930 - 481.

Population - (Farm Operators, 1929) "hite 1,558 (94.2%) Colored 96 (5.8%).

Tenure - 1935, full owners, 691; part owners, 149; all-tenants, 825; croppers 145.

Assessed Value Taxable Property - (1933) - Total $2,013,512-, Acreage $1,591,620; Lots and personal, $269,880 Public Utilities, $152,012.

Numbers of Livestock Apr. 1,1930 Jan. 1,1935
Horses and horse colts 431 428
Mules and mule colts 3,083 2,858
Cattle 3,338 4,533
Sheep and lambs 620 506
Acres of Crops 1929 1934
Land available for crops 56,003 61,691
Crops harvested 43,486 39,598
Corn for grain 23,179 22,635
Cotton 12,409  

Soils -

Western Section - Cherty ridges poor in plant food; alluvial bottoms and second bottoms more productive.

Eastern Section - Bottom land of good productivity. Some limestones form soils of good fertility where not too cherty.

  Apr. 1, 1930 Jan. 1,1935
Hogs end pigs 8,170 9,528
Chickens 48,768 *
Turkeys (raised 1929) 166 *
(* Not available)    
  1929 1934
Irish Potatoes 197 157
Sweet Potatoes 153 169
Vegetables harvested for sale    

Traces of the Chickasaws

The Chickasaw Indians claimed the western part of Tennessee. Decatur County, which lies along the Tennessee River in the western section of the state, was a part of their hunting end fishing grounds. The Tennessee River is today the fisherman's paradise and without a doubt it helped to feed the Chickasaws with the fine fish which made it their home.

There are many traces of the Indians to be found in Decatur County today. On the hills and ridges along the river much chipped flint and many almost perfect Indian implements such as arrow heads, spear heads, pelters, etc. can be found.

There are several Indian mounds in the various sections of the county. Of, particular interest is a ridge in the southeast part of the county, near Smith Bottom School, on which is located a group, of mounds. This is known as Indian Mound Ridge. The ridge is near the river and runs parallel to it. There in a row stand three large mounds and off in the distance to the southwest, across a level stretch, is another. These mounds were used as tombs for the dead. All four mounds have been opened, and there lying on the top are numerous large, flat, limestone rocks which perhaps served as a rock-lining for the graves. Large trees growing on the mounds give us some idea of how long the dead have been resting there. The mounds hold solemnly the secrets of their charges and the trees growing on them seem to be guarding these traces of the "Vanishing American".

On the level stretch of land on top of the ridge there seems to have been no growth other than grass. This level space is believed to have been an Indian race track.

In a small clump of trees just back of the Gumdale Schoolhouse are traces of Indian mounds. One of these was opened by a group of curious school boys in 1904. They dug from the mound an Indian skeleton, Indian implements, and ornaments. It being the custom, in those days, for the teacher to punish with a "hickory", these boys received a good "whipping" for intruding upon the reposes of the ancient dead.

Farther Still:

North Carolina and Virginia were settled before Tennessee. East Tennessee, which Joins North Carolina and Virginia, was the first part of our state to be settled. Later settlers pushed their way into Middle and finally into West Tennessee.

The pioneers who settled our county were an adventurous and hardy type. Many of them had pioneered before. When they began to feel the lack of "elbow room" back in North Carolina, Virginia, and East Tennessee they hungered for the dense forests and freedom of the wilderness to the West.

When this urge began to set them thinking the family must have spent many evening hours in their cabin home in the clearing wondering about the adventure in store farther on.

Being quick to make up his mind, the pioneer's longing for the freedom of the west soon turned into definite plans and then into action; and he with his family soon found themselves floating down the Tennessee River or trudging along on the wilderness trail-going farther still:

Those who followed the wilderness trail found it dim and very rough. The story goes that the first trails were made through the deep, dark forests by a stray calf,

"The calf was a good calf as a good calf would,
And the calf came home as a good calf should."

The calf in going home made a trail which went by many springs where the calf stopped to drink. The Indians, then the settlers, followed this trail.

The settlers of Decatur County began to arrive soon after West Tennessee was purchased from the Indians in 1818. Uncle Jimmy Harris, supposedly the first settler in the county, came down the Tennessee River and landed et the mouth of a little stream which he named Cub Creek. He probably chose this name for the stream because he came in contact with and had to kill many young bears.

Ephriam Arnold settled near Harris a few years later. A part of Mr. Arnold's pioneer home is still standing on the property now owned by Bowden Arnold north of Bible Hill. The Whites, Yarbros, Rushings, Smiths, Dennisons, Pettigrews, McMillans, Houstons, Rains, and other followed. The families have been known in the county from the early beginnings.

Before 1845 Decatur County was a part of Perry County. Perryville, now in Decatur County, was the county seat of Perry. Some difficulties developed over Perry Countians having to cross the river when in flood stage to reach the county seat. Thus it was agreed to form a new county. The new county was named Decatur in honor of Stephen Decatur, whose victory in the harbor of Tripoli, February 16, 1804, helped to establish the right of our vessels to sail on the high seas without being attacked and to clear the Mediteraanean of Pirates.

The oldest deed now found recorded in Decatur County is that of Jesse Taylor to Erwin T. Cole, April, 1846. The oldest grant on record is, State of Tenn. to John A. Rains, July 31, 1846.

From Trees to Houses

When the early settlers arrived in Decatur County all their problems were not solved. In fact, it was just a beginning of puzzling things to be worked out. They hardly had time to rest from their journey before. they had to start building houses. These pioneer houses were built of trees from the forest. Had you ever thought just how close akin a house is to be tree?

The trees were cut and hewed down until the logs had four flat sides. Then the logs were notched at the ends and placed one upon the other, in "pen" fashion, until the square was the desired height. Then the rectangle was ready for the roof and chimney. The fireplace and chimney was made of stones, sticks, and clay.

There were great cracks between the logs in the walls. These cracks were daubed with clay to make the house warm. The earliest pioneer homes had just one large room with a fireplace and an earth floor.

Later the "open hall" farmhouse developed. It grew out of the family's need for more room; so another house the size of the first one was built. The second house was in line with the first, but ten or twelve feet away from it. The two houses were joined together by a roof and a floor. A door opened from each house on to the "open hall" or "dog trot" as it is sometimes called.

 The "open hall" farmhouse is still characteristic in Decatur County. However, many of the houses of this type now have more than two rooms. It is hot unsual to find a "leanto'' built to the rear of one of the houses There is always a breeze through the "open hall" in the summer, but in the winter it is the coldest passage imaginable.

The forest not only furnished material for dwellings, but also for schools and churches. When a settlement grew large enough a schoolhouse and church was built. These were also built of hewed logs and daubed with clay. Standing in the county at present are two such landmarks, Mt. Tabor Schoolhouse and Old Liberty Campground Church.

It is to the forest that our people have looked for shelter, for even to this day the forest is the chief source of building materials in Decatur County. Only a few buildings have been constructed of the native, pinkish limestone. They are beautiful; so beautiful that many will likely be built from it in the future.

For Pep

What makes us feel fine and have lots of pep? This is not a riddle for we all know that the answer is plenty of good food.

After the house was built, the pioneer had to keep up his work in the forest. This time it was to clear the trees away to plant a garden and a crop. He always planted plenty of corn in the clearing and plenty of beans, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, and mustard in the garden.

Nature also helped to feed the pioneer and his family as it had before them helped to feed the Chickasaws. Many nuts, wild grapes, and huckleberries were to be had for the gathering. These still grow wild in the county but are not plentiful now.

The settlers brought hogs and cows with them, as there are still many hogs raised in the county, hog killing and lard rendering are big events in the fall when the weather gets cold. Surely the pioneer boys and girls had much pep and "smacked" their lips over the fresh pork and "cracklin" bread which their mothers used to make.

In those clearing days the fine trees in the forest were looked upon merely as obstacles. They had to be cleared in order to have land for planting. After they were cut down, all that were not used for building or for fuel were piled in large heap and burned. The only thought was to get them out of the way. No one thought of the years and years it took for such trees to grow or that trees had any effect on flood control and on "keeping" our land. So the clearing went on and on. Today we have few such fine trees as they cut and burred. Our land has eroded and today it does not yield as much food as it used to yield. We have a different problem from the pioneer-but based on his too much thoughtless clearing. Our problem is to control erosin and to reforest our barren hills; so that our children, grandchildren, and so on can have plenty of food and plenty of pep.

Corn Is the only grain now extensively grown in the county. Years ago much oats and wheat were grown, but this practise ceased something like twenty-five years ago, principally because the soil was worn until it lacked enough lime for successful growing. In the days of wheat and corn there were several grist mills on the various streams. Among the well known ones were the Dixie, Buckner's, Parsons', Ward's and others.

For Warmth

When the wind roes wo-o-o-o-oh and we get so cold that chills run all up and down our spine, our teeth chatter, and our skin all breaks out with "goose" pimples, we run to change to a warmer dress or suit or to get our sweater of coat.

We think little about the process that our clothes go through before they reach us. We think only of getting them at at a store or shop when we want something new to wear.

It was not that simple a few generations ago and it is a long story from the type of clothes. When they were growing up they saw, knew, and helped with every step that their clothes went through before they were ready for them to wear.

At that time the farmer, with the help of his family, grew the sheep and cotton from which their clothes were made. If wool was used, it first had to be sheared from the sheep's body and cleaned. Then it was combed with a wire-toothed brush in order to untangle the fibers. This process was called carding. During these hand-spinning and hand-weaving days there was a carding, factory at Parsons.

After the wool or cotton was carded it was next spun into yarn or thread. This was done on the now antique spinning wheel. When the fibers were spun it was then "hanked " up. This was donw on a winding device called a reel.

After the yarn was reeled it was ready to be woven into cloth. This weaving was done on a frame called a loom. After the cloth was woven the garment had to be cut and sewed together by hand. It took a long time to get a dress or a suit made, and since it did take so long and this handwoven material lasted so long, of course they couldn't have a great variety of clothes.

Socks, sweaters, and mittens were knitted from wool with long, steel needles.

Boys and girls then must have been very, very happy to get a new dress, suit, sweater, socks, or mittens.

Today some sheep are raised in the county. Cotton is the main money crop of the county. Three gins, located at Decaturville, Parsons, and Scotts Hill, gin and bale the cotton as the farmers haul it in after picking in the fall.

The River Road and Other Roads

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Decatur County
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Before the days a of good roads in Decatur County, the Tennessee River and rough wagon roads were the routes of transportation. The sound of the steamboat whistle on the Tennessee River has caused many boys and girls, in past years, to rush out of doors or to stop their work in the field and, with hand-shaded eyes look up and down the river for the boats. Perhaps they were expecting some relative or friend on the boat or maybe their father had ordered some goods which they were looking for the boat to dump at the landing.

The river landings, in the days of extensive river transportation, were the business centers. There was always a thriving store at the landing. There was also a warehouse in which the freight coming in on the boats was stored until called for. The river captain, as well as the storekeeper, was usually a jolly sort of fellow who always had plenty of news to talk about or a good story or "yarn" to tell. The captain carried the news from the neighboring landings.

Some landings were built up more than others. Perryville, for instance, had a several stores, warehouses, a hotel, and was a thriving river port. Inland towns and villages hauled their freight by wagon from the river ports. Lexington and even Jackson hauled much of their freight, by wagons, from Perryville. Many of the old landings are still called by their original names today, but are not centers except for the cross-tie industry, fishing, and recreational boating. Some other landings are: Bob's, Fisher's, Brownsport, Perryville, Brodie's and Bohannan's.

Passengers, as well as freight, were carried by river. The steamboat companies on the Tennessee used to put on excursions just as the railroads do today. Almost every May 30th and July 4th there was an excursion to Shiloh National Park up the Tennessee.

Before 1889, Henry Myracle owned a large, flat piece of land, the present site of Parsons. In order to met a town started on his land, Mr. Myracle deeded one hundred and forty-three and one-third acres of land to the Tennessee Midland Railroad Company, April 11, 1889.

The land was divided into lots.  Mr. Myracle keeping every other row of lots. By doing this he not only made money for himself, but also promoted the growth of the new town, Parsons.

In 1889 the Railroad Company constructed a line from Lexington, in Henderson County, to Perryville on the Tennessee River. After the railroad was built the inland freight was carried by rail to places convenient to the railroad.

It is interesting to note that the first automobile in Decatur County was bought by Mr. Lesley Rains of Parsons, 1909. The next one owned in the county was in 1911 by Mr. Clyde Smith of Decaturville. There are now 705 automobiles, 225 trucks and 1 taxie in the county.

As progress was achieved in methods of transportation there was a demand for better roads. Today the county has a good system of county supported, graveled roads and three State Highways; Numbers 20, 69 and 100. Number 20 crosses the county from east to west; number 69 crosses the county from north to south, and number 100 is the route from Decaturville to Scotts Hill.

Due to the competition of automobiles, trucks, and buses the railroad from Lexington to Perryville, was taken up in 1936; leaving Decatur County with no railroad.

The Alvin C. York Bridge across the Tennessee River at Perryville built so travelers, business men, ana the general public might have an easier, more convenient, and safer way of crossing the Tennessee River. This bridge was built in 1930, being opened on July 4, 1930. This bridge cost $665,000.00. It was operated as a toll bridge to defray the cost of construction.  This bridge was named in honor of Alvin C. York, Tennessee's famous World War hero.

Counting Birthdays

Boys and girls always count their birthdays until they are six years old, because when They reach that age they are old enough to go to school. Going to school for the first time is a big event in the life of every boy and girl; and most of then, look forward to that great day with joy.

The boys and girls of Decatur County have not always had the type of schools we have today. In the early days there were no "free" schools as we know them today. Public education, in Tennessee, was not organized on a sound basis until 1873 when the State Legislature passed the Public School Act. This act was passed under the administraton of Governor John C. Brown. It provided for a State Superintendent of Public Instruction and for a superintendent in each county of the State The legislature levied a tax to pay expenses of these schools and authorized counties and cities to levy addition taxes for the same purposes.

The citizens of Decatur County have always been interested in schools, and from early pioneer days have erected school buildings in the various communities and had some type of school during a part of each year. Some of the schools were organized in Decatur County while it was still a part of Perry County. It is said, there was a academy at Perryville, built in 1825. (See Perry County Records).

Mt. Tabor, the oldest school building now standing in the county, is said to have been built in 1830, Richard Graham, giving the land. (See Perry County Records). This is a pioneer type, log school building. School was held in this building until the present year, 1938.

In 1845, when Decatur County was formed, Henry Wright, Jessie Taylor, and John L. Houston were appointed commissioners of education in the new county.

The following early schools in Decatur County did academic work; Decaturville, Parsons, Scotts Hill, Unity, Old Center and Sugar Tree.

The Decaturville Academy was founded in 1849, the town commissioners deeding to the trustees of the academy, lot number 99 in the town of Decaturville. This same property is now owned by H. C. Yarbro, negro.

At the August Term, of Court in 1870, the court appointed commissioners for the Female Academy which stood on the property now owned by Mr. Ed Shipman, but was operated by the officials of the Decaturville or Male Academy.

In 1882, the property of the Decaturville or Male Academy was deeded to G. W. Smith heirs.

In 1880, the trustees of Decatur County College bought the property, where the present school stands, from Mr. C. P. Dennison and Wife. A two-story, frame school building was erected on the property by the town of Decaturville. This building was used until 1909 when the present elementary school building was erected. The present high school building was erected in 1925. On December 8, 1927, the town of Decaturville deeded this school property to the County Board of Education. Both the elementary and high school are now county schools.

The first school in Parsons was located on the lot now owned by G. D. Colwick, where his new native Decatur County limestone house stands. "The trustees of  the Parsons Male and Female Institute" acquired the land for the school from the Tennessee Midland Railway Company, February 14, 1891. The first building burned in 1905 and school was held about the town in different buildings until 1008, when the present brick elementary school building was erected. The land on which this building stands was deeded to the school by the Parsons Improvement Company, April 16, 1908. It was later sold to the town of Parsons. In 1935, this property was conveyed to the Decatur County School Board by the town of Parsons for school purposes.

The annex  or the high school building at Parsons was added in 1923, and the new concret elementary building in 1931. The county court did not contribute any funds for the school buildings in Decaturville and Parsons until 1935. During that year the county took over $10,000.00 worth of bonds for each town.

The Scotts Hill School was chartered by the State August 4, 1896, the land for the school having been deeded to the board of directors for this school on August 3, 1896. This school was tinder the direction of Mr. B. A. Tucker. Mr. Tucker did so much for this school that his admirers have erected a monument in his honor or the site of the old school house. In 1927, the old school building was replaced by a new building which erected about five hundred yards south of the old building. Today they have a. fine elementary and a four year high school.

The Academy at Unity was a large school for its day. Students from the various sections of the county went there to study. The trustees of the school made application for incorporation, October 2, 1879.

The Bible Fill Academy was in the present village of Bible Hill. It resembled the other academic schools in Decatur County at that time. It was granted a charter by the State, November 5, 1883.

Old Center Academy was a demoninational school, being operated by the South Church. Mr. Benjamin Martin deeded the property to the
trustees of the church prompted by "the love I bear for the cause of Christ; and from an earnest desire to promote his heritage on earth, do
give, grant, and convey....for the purpose of building a church , with the privileges of a Masonic Hall and school purposes..." This deed was made July 29, 1874.

Old Center was a "boarding" school. A dormitory was erected near the church and schools. This was a very popular school, drawing many students. The building mentioned in the above deed and a part of the dormitory still stand. The same building, church, school, -and Masonic hall are used today by all three groups. The remanent of the dormitory is now used for a residence.

There was also an academy at Sugar Tree. The land for the present school (one-teacher) at Sugar Tree was deeded to the County Board of Education by Viola Odle and M. T. Henry and Wife, August 1927.

Since the Public School Act of 1873 was passed, Decatur County has had a county superintendent public instruction. The first one being Mr. A. A. Stegald, elected by the county court, July 7, 1873. Mr. W. C. White is the present superintendent..

For ninety-three years Decatur has been a county. This is to say that for ninety-three years the citizens have struggled for the cause of Education. We have gone a long way, but have still a long way to travel.

[OMIT is hand written on this paragraph]Today we have thirty-one white, one-teacher schools: nine two-teacher schools; and three consolidated elementary and high schools in the county. We also, have four negro, one-teacher school; and one vocational training school for negroes.

What Gifts and Wonders of Nature?

Decatur County is a long, narrow county. It has an area of 288 square miles. The assessed valuation of the county in 1938 is as follows:

Real and personal property ........1,755,518.00
Public Utilities.........................112,311.43
Total.................................$1,868,329.43

The county is bounded on the east by the Tennessee River, on the south by Hardin County, on the west by Henderson and Carroll Counties and on the north by Benton County.

The population of' the county is 10,311; with an increase of 205 since 1930.

The land is mostly sandy, clay hills with some river and creek bottoms. The surface is broken by long, deep hollows without any order or system. The soil along the Tennessee River is dark and fertile, but the soil on the ridges is much lighter and sandy and erodes easily. The land slopes toward the Tennessee River into which the entire drainage of the county empties. Beach River flows across the county and empties into the Tennessee near the center of the county. Many small streams empty into Beech River. These streams were named by the early settlers. Many small streams of the county empty directly into the Tennessee River. Yearly overflows of the Tennessee makes the land on its banks very productive, but the farmers suffer from the overflows. Perhaps the largest area of valuable land is on the Beech River. Many fine mill sites along Beech River were used by the early settlers.

The early settlers found an abundance of fine timber such as Oak varities, beech, cedar, etc. Today about all of the virgin timber has been cut, but there is much secondgrowth timber in the county. Conservation and reforestation are being stressed with the farmers and in our schools. Since the early days in our county, much timber has been cut for crossties The ties have always been shipped by river.

There is considerable mineral wealth in the a county. Deep ledges of light gray to pinkish limestone, suitable for building materials; phosphate, chert, manganese, lignite, chalk and iron ore are found.

Iron is the most valuable mineral deposit. Very little, of this has been mined. Several years ago there were some iron furnaces in the county. The Brownsport Furnace was the outstanding one. It was built in 1848, ten miles northwest of Clifton. In 1854 its output of pig metal and castings was 2,109 tons. It was in blast for 11.5 months during that year. It was discontinued about 1863. The Decatur Furnace, six miles west of Clifton, was built in 1854. Steam power was used in both the Brownsport and Decatur Furnaces. There was also a  furnace at Bob's Landing, six miles northwest of Clifton.

There being plenty of iron ore and plently of limestone, these furnaces were operated sucessfully for a time. But most of the best timber in the "coaling" section was cut for charcoal with which to smelt the iron. The great drawback in developing the iron ore is the lack of coal in this section. When it was found practical and economical to smelt iron ore with coke, the furnaces here found they had too much competition, from other southern sections where iron ore, limestone, and coal are found in the same locality, to operate profitably.

According to a test made at the request of Superintendent K. K. Houston, by the State Geologist, Walter F. Pond in 1938, the iron ore in Decatur County is fifty per cent pure iron..

When the Tennessee Valley Authority project is complete, coke can be floated down the Tennessee River from the East Tennessee coal fields to this section. In this there is a possibility that the iron ore in Decatur County will someday be profitably developed.

Deposits of phosphate rock occur in several localities in Decatur County, but none of them are now being exploited. The type of phosphate found in Decatur County is the white rock phosphate. It is formed by percolating waters. It is generally associated with the top of the Decatur limestone, though in the  White's Creek section, in southern Decatur County, it is found in the older Beech River limestone. According to C. W. Hayes, geologist, it is likely a replacement of or a filing of caverns in the limestone.

The white rock phosphates have been prospected along Beech River and White Creek in Decatur County. The Beech River Phosphate Company was the owner of phosphate lands and leases of phosphate lands in Decatur County. This company operated mines in the county and established a plant near Parsons 'in 1902.

Where there is limestone formation and running water, caves are usually found. This is the case in Decatur County. Some well-known caves are: Baughas; Lady's Bluff, on Tennessee River; Little Spring,, near Mt. Carmel; Cody, near Bath Springs; and Baby Cave, near Largo.

Counting Week Days

There was little social life in the early days. About all the mixing, people did was in connection with their work or when they went to "meetin". People traveled miles and miles to services. No early church had a regular minister or preaching every Sunday; so when there was a service within reach everyone in all the surrounding country attended.

The farm wagon and mules were hooked up, fresh hay put in the wagon bed, and the household chairs set in their place in the wagon. The grown up members of the family set on the chairs and the boys and girls rode on the hay on the floor of the wagon bed. How the boys and girls did count the time between those "meetin" days.

Going to "meetin" was a great event for all. Everyone looked forward to those good times. They not only enjoyed the sermon and eats, but also had a nice social time together during the intermission and at the noon hour. The men, it is said, talked about their crops, farm animals, and politics; while the women exchanged "news", each giving an "organ recital" of how she had been feelin' and finally the applebutter stirrings, preserving, jam-making, and molasses boilings were discussed.

The principal church demoninations in Decatur County are the Missionary Baptist, Methodist Episcopal Church, South; and the Cumberland Presbyterian. 1842 is the earliest written church record available. This record is in the form on a Minute Book of the Bear Creek, Missionary Baptist Church. These records are older than Decatur County. This book contains records of the church from its founding in 1842 until 1890. The first minutes contained in this record are as follows:

"Satterday before the third Sabath in August 1842 the church met and after worship set in conference door open for members and 2 by letter Jacob Conder Polly Bray letter and four by experience Harvey Fedrick Carharyn Wilson Winny Wilson Manda Turner Samuel Bray L. W. Steede Clk. Janes H. Hall Mod."

Following are minutes in 1850:

"Our Present Number Is 45      16 Mails 1 and 29 femailes there has bin a mistake for some years end I have Looked over All the names and put it Rite a gane as there has Bin a mistake this is all Sept 1850- Lowe Clk."

This interesting note is on the inside of the back cover of the book:

"Bare Creek Chearch Constituted in Feb. 1842 by Elder E. Collins L. M. Steede This 21st day of July 1850 Rote. by Theo Lowe Clk."

Another interestIng, feature of this old Minute Book is that the "Mail" and "Femaile" members are listed in separate columns and the colored members are listed separate from the white. In listing the negro members, the boys and girls are listed as property of their masters:

"Peare Houston Boy"
"Vernon Pettigrew girl"
"Seine Parsons girl"
"Line Parsons black girl"

In 1848, the Grand Division of Sons of Temperance deeded to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South in Decaturville, the property on which the old church now stands and which is now used only for a Masonic and Eastern Star Hall. This deed was made January 26, 1846, acknowledged in Davidson County December 6, 1871, and registered in Decatur County, December 29, 1871.

The new Methodist Church, in Decaturville, was erected in 1907, Mr. J. F. Akin and wife deeding the present site to the trustees.

On November 26, 1853, Mr. James W. Lewis deeded four and one half acres to the olders of the Mt. Joy Cumberland Presbyterian Church. This organization still exists, but having no church building they hold their services in the schoolhouse.

On November 17, 1858, William Graham deeded to the trustees of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Liberty (now known as "Old Campground"), in the fourth district, a tract of land "for the use and benefit of said church and burrying ground and never to be used for any other purpose." This first old log, pioneer church still, stands. It has been improved on the inside and is used today for church purposes. Many of the outstanding families of the county rest in the "burrying ground". This church was called "Old Campground'' from the days of the camp meeting. People used to travel in wagons to the camp meetings and carry their provisions and stay for ten days or two weeks at a time in order to worship God.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, South and Academy was established at Old Center in 1874, Mr. Benjamin Martin giving the land. The first building is used today for church, Masonic Hall, and public school purposes.

Henry Myracle deeded the land to the trustees of the old Parsons Methodist Episcopal Church, South in 1893. The new brick church is located or. this same property but across the street from the old building.

Mr. P. W . Miller and Wife Cave to the Yellow Springs Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in 1894, the land on which the present church stands.

In 1907, the Parsons Improvement Company sold to the trustees of the Missionary Baptist Church, lot number 12 in block number 10 in the town of Parsons. On this lot was erected a modern, brick church.

From available records, the Missionary Baptist Church is the oldest and strongest demonination in Decatur County. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South would rate second in the number of churches and in membership.

Decatur County is dotted with churches. It has produced its share of preachers and has one Bishop to its credit, Bishop Hay, who was born in the White's Creek section and is now a Bishop over a Methodist Episcopal, South, Conference in Texas. Decatur County at present has 20 Missionary Baptist; 13 Methodist Episcopal, South; 4 Methodist Episcopal; 5 Presbyterian; 3 Pentecostal; 2 Primitive Baptist; and 1 Christian Church.

Living Together

Living together is a big problem. This problem begins in our homes and expands with society . Things do not always go smoothly in school. We all have different personalities, some good and some bad. These difficulties sometimes cause disturbance. In the home our fathers and mothers guide us; in the school, our teachers. In life, society sets up a pattern of conduct and the governing forces put this pattern in the form of laws which they enforce.

A county is a small section of the state government. Decatur County is one-ninety-fifth of the state government of  Tennessee because there are ninety-five counties in the State. The county gets its authority from the state Legislature. It is chiefly concerned with the government of the rural sections of the State, since the cities have their own form of government. The life and activities of a neighborhood, such as caring for the poor, safeguarding health, building roads and bridges, promoting and preserving law and order are some of' the duties resting on each county. The state fixes a standard in the matter of education, sanitation, highways, and finance, to which the local authorities must conform, the county carries out the law of the State. As a political division of the State, counties have the right to own property, borrow money, levy taxes, and make contracts.

Each county has a county seat of government. Decaturville the county seat of Decatur County was selected by Samuel McLoed, Samuel Brasher, Balaam Jones, and D. B. Funderburk on the lands of John McMillan, from whom they obtained twenty-five acres, and ten acres was obtained from Burrell Rushing making thirty-five acres. The deed for this land was made May 7, 1858. Decatur has always had the county court type of government. The first court met in Decaturville in 1848 in a cabin on the west side of the square. This was used a short time until the erection of a two-story, frame courthouse, which burned July 3, 1869, destroying many of the records. July 12, 1869, the county court appointed J. W. Mayo, W. C. Frayer, Robert Young and D. M. Scott to plan the erection of a new courthouse. This contract was let in October. This house was two-story, brick, costing $10,870.00. This building was burned in 1928 and was replaced by a modern two-story brick building of functional architecture.

The county today is divided into twelve civil districts. Each elects two magistrates to the county court every six years. Also, the county seat, Decaturville, and Persons each have one representative in the county court, thus making a total of twenty-seven members in the court.

What Some Folk Believe

From ancient times men have had certain dreads and fears and a sort of reverence for the unknown. In our present stage of civilization we still have some peculiar customs and beliefs. In Decatur County, many such beliefs have been handed down from the early settlers and find some folk who believe and practice many of the following superstitions:

To prevent rheumatism, bury the feet in the ground for two hours each day.

To prevent "flu," keep sulphur in your shoes.

If a hen crows it is an omen of death.

Every time a star falls someone dies.

To cure baldness, rub the bald spot morning and evening with onion, then apply honey.

If you wash on old Christmas, someone in your family will die soon.

A bee sting will cure the rheumatism.

It is bad luck to count the stars.

If you chew dogwood, you will lose your sweetheart.

It is bad luck to wash a garment before it is worn.

It is good luck for a squirrel to cross one's path.

It is good luck to see a red bird fly up.

If a woman gets two forks at her plate, she will have two husbands.

If potatoes are planted in the new moon, they will make all tops and no potatoes.

If you are angry when you plant red pepper, it will grow faster and stronger.

Put a dime in a churn and it will make the butter come.

When a cloud is coming up, take an ax and place it in a forked branch of a tree. It will cut the cloud in two.

If, when you get up, you put your clothes on wrong, you will have bad luck.

If a woman comes to your home on New Year's Day, your chickens will all be pullets. If a man cones, your chickens will all be roosters.

If you plant your corn during light nights, it will be tall. If you plant it during dark nights, it will not grow tall.

If a rooster goes to bed crowing, it will be falling weather.

If a groundhog comes out of his hole on February 2nd and sees his shadow, he will go back into his hole and stay forty days and nights.

Burn an old shoe to keep the hawks away from your chickens.

Hang a horseshoe over your door to keep the witch away.

Can You Answer This Riddle?

In the spring of 1933 the United States government began an experiment in economic planning. By Act of Congress, on May the 18th, it created the Tennessee Valley Authority. The Authority was given a very important and difficult work to do. Its job is to plan the industrial life and improve the well-being of the people in the territory drained by the Tennessee River and its tributaries. Decatur County is in this watershed.

The TVA is studying social conditions and social needs. It is making a survey of natural resources, the soil minerals, and forests. It is convassing the possibilities of water power development and is actively at work harnessing the waters of the Tennessee and its branches, creating a great, complete power system. It it already generating electric power and selling it at low rates. It is finding means of keeping the soil fertile by checking erosion, of encouraging the planting of trees. It is trying to find steady employment for the people by developing new industries, located preferably in small towns so that members of farmer's families may find work.

The TVA is working to improve conditions in the Tennessee Valley. That is its present aim. But it is doing more than that. Its work in this Valley is to serve as a yardstick for the entire nation. In showing what can be done in planning the future of industry and agriculture and in holding high standards of workmanship in all its operations, it will be suggesting what may be done in other sections. It is working not only to promote industrial. growth but to see that this growth contributes to the welfare of human beings. If the TVA succeeds in directing business and a agricultural developments so that the poeple of the Valley are happier and more secure, it will serve as an object lesson to the nation.

The completion of the Gilbertsville Dam will call for much planning in Decatur County, since a large part of the County lies in the Gilbertsville Lake area. Many of our families along the Tennessee and Beech Rivers will have to find homes elsewhere. Fourteen schools are in the Lake area and fully that many more will be affected.

The lake itself and its immediate shores should provide a recreational medium of more than local Interest. The lake is expected to be exceptional for fishing and water-foul shooting. Its large expanse of still water should be ideal for sailing motorboats. Wooded shores and inlets would be inviting for canoes and rowboats. Pleasing scenery and cool nights should make river excursion trips popular.

Picnicking will probably be the most use of the shores; followed by hiking, camping, group sports, and use of overnight or vacation cabins.

The Decatur State Forest now being planned Linder the provision of the Fulmer Act, lies in southeastern Decatur County. A good stand of second growth forest covers this "coaling" area. In this area, a high ridge overlooks the river and will be ideal for summer homes.

Since Decatur County is already a very small county, it will no doubt cease to be county when the Gilbertsville Lake is formed. The habitable part of the county will probably have to be consolidated with one of the adjoining counties because of economic reasons.

Decatur County Farm and Home Program
Analyses of Farm and Home Problems for Year 1940
And Reasons for Selected Projects

1. Soil Conservation: - Decatur County is a County subject to serious erosion problems.  The soil is sandy and for the most part is rolling or hilly.  We have made a good start toward getting work done to help stop the erosion but we realize that we have only scratched the surface.  At our present rate of terracing it would take about 27 years. to get the county terraced.  We have about 590 to 75 thousand acres of land that can be reclaimed and this land will be needed when the Gilbertsville Dam is constructed.  This land is having taxes paid on it but it is not bringing in any income.  We are now attempting to solve the problem through other methods than terracing alone.

(a). Terracing - We realize that terracing is one of the best methods of controlling erosion.  Our land is steep and erosive and we cannot cultivate it in row crops and keep it from washing away.  Certain farmers must cultivate this steeper land and make plans to keep it from washing.  With this in mind we will continue terracing.

(b). Lime and Phosphate: - Our land having washed down to where the subsoil is the topsoil in lots of cases we must get this so-called top soil more productive.  Lespedeza, Crimson Clover and other clovers will perform this task with the aid of lime and phosphate.

(c). Cover Crops: - By cultivating the steeper land we must make an effort to build it up and at the same time keep it from eroding.  The cover crops will serve as winter pasture and help fill out the feed crops that are short on many farms.  The biggest rainfall comes in the fall and winter and the land needs protection at that time.

(d). Pastures: - In order to furnish pasture for our livestock and to assist with the erosion problem we will continue on a pasture program this year.  We have an abundance of land that needs seeding and with an added abundance of water we should make a big head way on the pasture program.

2. Cotton: - Due to a 44% above normal supply of cotton and to limited markets for our short cotton we will endeavor to get our farmers to grow a longer staple cotton and assist in establishing more markets.

3. Dairy Cows: - Our average of 1.1 dairy cows per farm is not adequate to furnish milk and butter for the farm families for many farms have more than one cow.  This leaves many without a cow.  We will attempt to educate the people to the fact that they need milk in the diet.

4. Poultry: - Eggs are also an important part of our diet and we have only an average of 30 hens per farm.  We realize that some families do not have any poultry as many have over 100.  This group does not feed as they should and a small number receive sufficient eggs except during summer months.  An educational program on poultry will be undertaken.

5. Seed: - Needing additional income and realizing that seed cannot be sown if it has to be all purchased, we will undertake to get more seed saved.

6.  Beef Cattle: - Plenty of land for pasture and needing more livestock for income rather than too much cotton, we are again taking beef cattle into our program.

7. Sheep: - This is a very important source of income as it comes at a time when very little income is available.  It also requires winter and summer pasture and does not require a lot of physical labor.

8. Workstock: - As a source of income this project can hardly be beaten.  We always need mules and horses and mares will do work on the farm and produce colts at same time.  Colts are not being produced as fast as old stock dies out.

9. Truck: - This project is undertaken in 3 communities and we will assist them as the cabbage and tomatoes are needed as a source of income.

10. Corn and Hogs: - Our river bottom and creek farms do not grow cotton and we realize that corn and hogs are most profitable for them. As hogs are needed for meat supply and cash income we are working with these farmers particularly.

11. Food and Feed: - The farm family should not want for plenty to eat and with income from cotton being low we are trying to get farm families to practice a Live-at-Home program.  This will keep down expenses and we believe money saved is money made.  The average garden produces $300 worth of food and no other 4 acres on the farm do as well.

12. 4-H Clubs: - The coming generation is the easiest to educate as we can start with them while young.  Some older farmers can be taught new methods of farming but upon the shoulders of our 2500 boys and girls rests the greater responsibility of carrying on an improved agriculture.

13. Agricultural Conservation Program: - As a means to an end we are cooperating with the AAA.  The farmers receive money to supplement other income and make improved practices possible.  It is an excellent method of furthering the Extension program.

14. Rural Electrification: - Our farm people do not have all advantages that are rightly theirs and in order to help remedy this situation we hope to get several lines constructed in the county this year.  We believe that it is economical as well as convenient.

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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

x.html">home · yesterday's · families · schools · links · what's 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