yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee
History of Sardis, TN

From Beulah Hanna and Carra Holland, History of Sardis, Tennessee, Sardis Homecoming '86 Committee, May 1986.


Little did we realize as this decade began, what a tumultuous one it would turn out to be. In Sardis there were four groceries owned by:

George Medlin, J. I. Johnson, Fred Wilhite and T. H. Phillips.

All except Wilhite sold gasoline so there were no service stations in town. There were: blacksmith, Henry Bivens; grist mill, Luther Bivens; drugstore, J. A. Medlin; hardware, Neal White; garage, Hastings Jones; ice house, Medlin and Carter; cotton gin, Charlie Martin; and barbershop, B. V. Bivens. A rather unique business had been established in 1934 by J. T. Hanna. He had a woodworking shop where he built cedar chests, cabinets, swings and once he even made a cedar bed. Someone asked him to make a truck bed and thereby opened a new avenue to a bigger job. From this beginning he built truck beds for people all over West Tennessee and northern Mississippi. He made about twenty for one company in New Jersey. He had an unusual trademark -- Hannabilt. W. H. McBride, one of our local boys who was in the Army in World War II, said he was in Denver, Colorado, and there saw a Hannabilt truck bed. In 1944, Mr. Hanna started a hardware store.

Things were tranquil in Sardis and we didn't realize what the year of 1941 would bring. But, it was that year that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. We immediately declared war on Japan. War had been raging in Europe for two years and they needed help to defeat Germany. So Great Britain declared war on Japan the same day that we did. Germany and Italy feared what this alliance between Great Britain and America would bring and they declared war on us. We retaliated by saying a state of war existed between us and the Nazi countries. President Roosevelt called this a war of survival. We've always been a nation who will fight when attacked so when the call went forth, by volunteer and draft, there was hardly a home in Sardis that it did not touch in some way -- fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers. Since this war was fought on two fronts, boys from Sardis served in Europe, and also on the many islands in the Pacific. It was in the Pacific area where two young men from Sardis gave their lives serving their country. Guy Delaney, brother of Mrs. Ralph Philips, gave his life in the Phillipine Islands, on the Bataan Death March.

Houston Richardson, who graduated from school here in 1938, was in the Navy serving in the Pacific when his ship was torpedoed and he went down with it.

I don't know how many men were injured during the war, but Seamon Ross was the only person who left from Sardis that lost a limb in the service. However, Samuel Russ was inducted from Arkansas and came to Sardis after his marriage to Ruby Chalk. He lost his leg below the knee, in France. He died in 1973. We asked Seamon to tell us how this tragedy happened and he graciously agreed to do this. The following are his words.

"I was inducted into the Army in April 1942. After a period of training at camps in Kentucky, Texas, and Louisiana, I left for England on December 29, 1943. I crossed the English Channel into France during the Battle of Normandy and fought through France, Belgium and Holland, into Germany. I was wounded April 8, 1945, when we were ordered to clear the machine gun fire which had the infantry pinned down. I was the gunner on our tank. We had a new crew that day who had just arrived in Europe and were in combat for the first tine. I was taken from my old crew and placed with this new one so they would have one person with experience. The driver was new and was having trouble driving through the woods. The tank commander told him to get in the road, which was a big mistake, for the enemy zeroed in on that road. As we came to the edge of the woods, I don't know but I believe an eighty-eight shell hit us. When it came through the tank, it was like a flash of lightning. When I came to myself, all I could see was smoke and I knew I was coming out of that tank for I had seen too many burn. I pushed open the top hatch, tried to stand on one leg and managed to pull myself up over the top and fell on the ground. Shells were hitting all around us. My leg was off below the knee except for some skin. I held it with one hand and crawled into the woods. I knew the infantry was close so I called for help. One guy came and I was bleeding so badly, he corded my leg with my belt. He had to get help to carry me back to the first aid tent and then I was sent to the hospital tent where they finished removing my leg at the knee joint. The next day I saw our assistant driver, who had been wounded, and he told me our driver was killed, the tank commander had lost part of his foot, and a boy who had gotten in the tank so he could radio his platoon was killed. I was flown back to England and put on a hospital ship for an eighteen day trip back to New York. From there I was sent to Lawson General Hospital, Atlanta, Georgia. My leg became infected and more had to come off. My weight went down to one hundred pounds. When I was well enough they fitted me with an artificial leg. I was honorably discharged on March 13, 1946, with decorations of European, African and Middle Eastern campaign ribbons, good conduct medal, purple heart with one oak leaf cluster, and five bronze battle stars. I served three years, eleven months, and eleven days."

We are sure that many experiences of hardships and suffering could be related by most of those who served their country in this war. We wish we could relate all of them, but we can express to you our thanks, our love, and our deep appreciation for your willingness to give yourself to help to keep this nation free.

Those who served from this area are Edgar Austin, Elvis Austin, Raymond Austin, Lonnie Barber, Roy Benson, Arlis Bivens, James Bivens, Loam Bivens, Walter H. Bivens, Hughie Britt, Dolphus Brown, Paul Carter, Cledis Chalk, Manuel Creasy, Guy Dickson, Clyde Dyer, Earl Dyer, Robert England, Cecil Hanna, James Hanna, Harlan Hanna, Aubrey Hart, Collas Hart, Ralph Hassell, Homer Hayes, Herbert Hayes. Ben Howell, Cecil Johnson, Hasting Jones, Charles H. Kennedy, W. H. McBride, Roy McBride, Cleo McCollum, Lon C. Martin, Hassell Martin, Threet Martin, Haggard Martin, Marvin N. Martin, Sanders Martin, James M. Medlin, Roy Medlin, Thomas R. Medlin, Wildon Medlin, John T. Meggs, Gordon Millner, Raymond Millner, Johnnie F. Mitchell, Purvis Montgomery, Douglass Moore, Romie Neisler, Roland Qldham, G. H. Parker, Jr., George W. Parker, Eugene Pipkin, Jesse Pipkin, Max Ray Pitts, Charles Presley, Clayton Pruett, Preston Pruett, Neal Rice, Leon Rice, Houston Richardson, Ray Roberts, Ezra G. Robertson, Harold Ross, Seamon Ross, Glen Ruth, Hershel Ruth, Cleatus Scott, J. T. Scott, Raymond L. Scott, Wesley N. Scott, Keith Story, Kyle Thompson, Travis Thompson, Edwin Thompson, Neal Thompson, James Roy Thompson, Henry Tubbs, Willard Wylie, Collas Yates, Bonnie Johnson, Golie Stanfill, Guy Delaney, George Maxie, Travis Carter, Freeman Sanderson, Robert Montgomery, R. D. Willis, Johnnie Yates, Loyd McBride, Howard Wiley, Haywood Presley and Glen Chalk.

So far as we know, Mrs. Charlie Martin had more sons in the war at one time than any other in Sardis. There were five of them: Threet, Hassell, Haggard, Marvin N. and Lon C.

It seems almost trivial to even mention that we at home had rationing and sometimes considered that a hardship. Items that were rationed were sugar, coffee, shoes, gasoline and tires. We learned to cook with syrup and molasses, to make our coffee weak, to wear threadbare shoes and to pool our gasoline and tires in order to make a trip occasionally. But how good it was to have our boys back home and pick up the threads of life and go back to a normal life once again.

In 1949, the town was incorporated and J. T. Hanna was the first mayor. Our other mayors have been McCall Lewis, Aubert Little, Riley Stanfill, and Van Smith. The first aldermen were T. H. Phillips, R. L. Moore, W. T. Johnson, Riley Stanfill and J. S. Johnson. One of the first good things that we saw as a result of being an incorporated town was street lights.

But our tranquility was disturbed by war again -- The Korean Conflict. During World War II, Korea was liberated from Japan. After the war American troops occupied South Korea and Russian troops occupied North Korea. In 1950, North Koreans who were primarily communists, attacked South Korea, who wanted to be a democracy. The United Nations voted to help South Korea maintain its choice of government. As always, our country was among the first of all the nations to send in troops, supplies and weapons. Some of the heaviest fighting of afly war was in this conflict. The war raged for three years, then a truce was signed on July 27, 1953. A buffer zone, two and one-half miles wide, was established between South and North Korea. An international team was to patrol this zone and try to establish a permanent peace. These are the names we were able to obtain of those who fought in this war: Joe Neal Hopper, Carl Scott, Roy Austin, Ray Austin, Ben Pruett, Eli Pruett, Gene Thompson, Edwin Thompson, Raymond Millner, Kenneth Millner, Charles Thompson, Joe Smith, Gerald Roberts, Sam Howell, Johnny Wylie, Wayne Martin, Charles Creasy, James T. Creasy, Gerald Creasy, Billy Frank Creasy.

Raymond Millner was a prisoner of war for two and one-half years in Korea. He had served in World War II, returned home safely and gotten out of the service. But he reenlisted and was sent immediately to Korea.

Then we're back to routine living again. A few new industries came to Sardis and made the town a better place while they were here. In 1955, Craig Brothers built a lumber shed and it was in operation until about 1960. In the early 1960s, Mack Chandler built the building by the city hall. In one part of this building he installed a laundromat and on the other a dollar store operated by Mr. and Mrs. Bud Clark. About this time, Claud Powers built a service station. A factory came in from Kentucky and was run by a Mr. Crenshaw and stayed for about a year.

The town did several things that would improve the town and the school. They supplemented a coach's salary in order that the school might have a better coach and ball team. The parking lot at school was paved and also the streets in Sardis. A contribution was made to the cemetery to help maintain it. But best of all, in 1964, we had city water. This was such a great help to many people.

Then we come to an unusual happening in our nation. An undeclared war. Many Americans lost their lives in the Vietnam Conflict. In 1965, the North Vietnamese fired on a United States destroyer while it was in international waters. We retaliated by bombing bases, naval crafts and oil storage depots along one hundred miles of coastline. Our men began to be sent in by increasing numbers over the next few years. A few other countries also sent troops but America sent the most. The United Nations allowed communist countries, to keep them from supporting the right. There was a great diversity of opinion as to whether we should have been in this war at all or not. By feeling this way we made the mistake of making those who fought in this war feel bad instead of proud that they had served their country well. As a consequence, these boys came home with deep inner scars that are sometimes more difficult to heal than outer scars. They deserve our thanks and praise because they served honorably and well. These are the names we were able to obtain who served in this war: Marvin Huff, Merrel Austin, Jack Adams, Harold Scott, Eddie Simmons, Jerry Simmons, Milton Pruett, Ray Austin, Gerald Presley, Charles Austin, Jerry Tucker, Bobby Jones, Jerry Huff, Jimmy Rawlins, Danny Swatford, Tommy Scott, Johnny Meggs, Tim Little, Billie Mainers, Denny Alexander, Steve Holland, Franklin Clenney, Jimmy Joshlin, Sam Gary, Jerry Kirby, Jerry Williams and Marshall Ruth.

Then back to life in Sardis. In the early 1970s, Bobby Dyer had a furniture store here for about five years. At about this same time, Bill McVey put in a hardware store. Sardis hadn't had one for several years. It was here for a few years.

We have always been considered a cotton growing area but in the 1970s this began to change as farmers began growing soybeans and milo. So, because of no cotton, the gin owned by Bill Phillips closed in the early 1970s. Those of us who remember it as a very busy place in the fall of the year, when they ginned one-thousand or more bales of cotton each year, feel sad as we pass by and see it vacant. Change comes and many times we are reluctant to accept it.

Our country's two-hundredth birthday was celebrated in 1976 with centennial celebrations throughout the nation. One was held in Lexington and our community was asked to participate. Mrs. Louise Story wrote a song about Sardis and it was presented at this program. She sang and Mrs. Robbie Smith played the piano. The young people from the Sardis Methodist Church helped in the singing. The words to this song are below.

Dear Old Home Town

It's just a little country town,
Filled with friendly folks
Who all love well
And, when your luck is down,
They'll never let you frown,
But greet you with a smile.
They like to laugh and play
And then to kneel and pray
And weep in sym-pa-thy.
So if it's happy you would be,
Come on down to Sardis, Tennessee.


O! Dear old home-town
Down in Tennessee,
There's no place on earth I'd rather be
It will always be,
Home sweet home to me,
Down in Sardis, Tennessee.


If you go walking down the street,
There'll be many folks
You're sure to meet,
Who'll say hello to you and ask,
How do you do?
And if you've come to stay,
They'll take you by the arm
And ask you where you're from
And then you'll feel so gay.
So if it's happy you would be,
Come on down to Sardis, Tennessee.

Another notable event that occurred in Sardis was the establishment of a senior citizens' center. Prior to this time, Mrs. Leona Miller, Mrs. Joanne Helms, and Mrs. Lorena Holland had worked out of the city hall. They helped to meet the needs of the elderly and sick by counsel and advice and by visiting in the homes of the shut-ins in this community. But, in 1976, a building was purchased to be used for the benefit of the senior citizens.

The first president of the organization was Clarence Shirley. They agreed to meet monthly for a potluck dinner, with a short program. The churches alternate, with a different church having a devotional each month. The building that was purchased cost eleven-thousand dollars, and this was paid for by donations and fund raising events. When the charter was obtained, a grant was received from the government to repair and beautify the building. The carpet was given to the organization by Duck Carpet Company of Jackson. The directors of the Senior Citizens have been Willie Mae Dill, Glenda Joshlin, Merecia Phillips, Sally Boyd and Debbie Meek. It is a group with many activities daily for the benefit of those who can be there. But of most interest is the quilting they do. Probably several hundred quilts have been quilted since this began. Health fairs have been conducted for several years and blood pressure is checked daily for anyone who will come by and ask for it. Many other services are available to senior citizens. Mrs. Mabel Johnson and Mrs. Flora Bivens have been working at the center since its beginning. The other people who have served as president are Maynard Johnson, Tom Holland, Loyd McBride and the present one is Mrs. Sally Boyd. The building was purchased in 1976 and the note burning ceremony was in 1978. Mrs. Mary Goff coordinated all the efforts to secure the building and provided leadership and untiring work until the building was paid for and the group was established.

Newcomers to Sardis

In the 1970s, several people from other areas came to Sardis. They did as the early settlers did. They came in, bought homes and land, and made themselves a vital part of our community. In fact, they came and exhibited such a deep appreciation for this section of the country that it made all of us more aware of the wonderful community we have. They came from New Jersey, Louisiana, Florida, Hawaii and one who is a native of Holland. They came with a multitude of talent and used it as they became active church people, president and active members of the Homemakers Extension Club, members of the Book Club, president and vital members of Senior Citizens, Fire Department volunteers, a part of the business community, giving help in every community project, and even serving as mayor. They once were newcomers but they are now our neighbors and friends.

Another small factory located in Sardis in 1979. It was owned by Danny Swafford and was known as the MKD Manufacturing Company. They had fifteen employees and had to move to another town because we were unable to furnish them with enough room.


In the summer of 1945, disaster struck in the form of a polio epidemic. We spent that whole summer afraid to go anywhere. It was thought to be very contagious. It was a hot, dry time and that kind of weather seemed to be conducive to the spread of the disease. So we tried to take every precaution, stay out of crowds, get plenty of rest and emphasize cleanliness. It was probably just an exercise in futility, for doctors were never exactly sure how the disease was transmitted. The first preventive was a vaccine inserted into a sugar cube and given to all the children. This epidemic only touched two families in Sardis. Mr. and Mrs. Chester Scott had three children who had polio. Charles was permanently crippled, even though he spent a year at Warm Springs, Georgia. He now lives in Florida. Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Scott had a daughter, Joann, who was permanently crippled and now lives in Memphis.

Then, in 1949, Mr. and Mrs. McCager Scott's daughter, Barbara Scott Bridges, had polio. It affected her left arm. She spent some time in the Crippled Children's Hospital in Memphis. She has a slight impairment in her left arm.

In 1952. polio's effect was again felt in our community. Randy Sanderson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Freeman Sanderson, had polio when he was only eighteen months old. He spent four months at the hospital in Memphis. Even though Randy walks on crutches, he graduated from Sardis High School in 1970. He attended the vocational school and acquired training to be a draftsman. He now works for Taylor & Associates in Savannah as a draftsman.

In 1954, Shirley Bridges was stricken with polio. She was taken to John Gaston Hospital in Memphis and stayed fourteen days in isolation and then to the Crippled Children's Hospital for eight months. After that, she was sent home in a wheelchair and her doctor said she would never be able to walk. But, with much determination, she did. She had a homebound teacher, Mrs. Beulah Hanna, until she was able to return to school and graduated with her class as valedictorian. She attended Lambuth College and is now the records librarian at St. Frances Hospital. She is married to Rex Staten and has three children.

Most of us could learn much from these young people. When things looked really bad, they squared their shoulders and with great will power and fierce determination, they surmounted great obstacles to build themselves good and meaningful lives.

Photograph, Sardis High School and Mr. and Mrs . Steve Sipes' Home
Photograph, Mrs. Willie Mae Haggard's Home and Mrs. Ann Doster's Home

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