From Lillye Younger, The History of Decatur County Past and Present (Southhaven,
MS: Carter Printing Company, 1978).
Special thanks to Constance Collett for permission to make these web pages.
In Memory of Lillye Washburn Younger 1912-1998.
Thousands and thousands of years ago huge elephant-like animals roamed the country with their broad shoulders and big feet pushing and crashing through the jungles. Great herds wandered far and wide from old pastures to new ones, from watering places to salt licks, from salt licks to meadows. These strange animals knew how to choose the best routes. They seemed to know, by instinct, the way to the lowest gaps in the mountains and to the shallowest fords across the rivers avoiding swamps on the one hand and unnecessary hills on the others. These gigantic shaggy four-footed engineers chose their way so wisely that men today have built many railroads and highways along these first animals' path. Men learned about the old animal paths by studying the tracts, bones and other signs which have been found.
By the time of Indian hunters, buffalo were the largest animals that traveled the paths. Indians were even greater travelers than the animals. The Indian highways followed the buffalo roads. Thousands of moccasined feet packed the earth down so tightly that even today, after hundreds of years, one may sometimes find, far away in the woods, a strip of sunken path which is an old Indian trail.
Traders and hunters found the Indian trails as good as they needed but when the settlers began to pour through the mountains into the Tennessee Country, they wanted better ways to travel. Settlers wanted to carry their civilization along with them and they could not carry much civilization on a pack horse over the Indian trail.
Daniel Boone was one of Tennessee's first road builders. He cut a trail and later it was widened into a wagon road and over these roads plodded the wagon trains. Boone's roads were called the principal highways for all travelers into Tennessee.
As population and business grew there was need for more and better roads. In 1804 the Legislature gave to each county, permission to construct roads, bridges and ferries. To pay the expense of construction and upkeep, the counties could charge a small toll for use. This meant that the counties must furnish money needed for construction and then hope to repay it out of toll money.
There were always some persons however, who had a little surplus money. The Legislature set the amount of toll that could be charged in order that turnpike companies might not take advantage of farmers and travelers.
The only toll turnpike in Decatur County was known as the Decatur County Turnpike. It was organized in 1908 and granted a charter by the act of the General Assembly. Members of the organization were Harry Burke, Hood Long, Dr. R.Y. Fisher, Wid Long and E.M. Vise.
These men financed the construction of the five-mile stretch connecting Parsons and Decaturville. It was built at a cost of $1,000 a mile, out of native crushed phosphate. The huge boulders were broken up with sledge hammers.
Gas-powered machinery was not available and the road was built by mule power. A grader, pulled by four mules, and a mule-drawn scoop were the contractors main equipment. Walter, Jess and Rube Hearington did the hauling of crushed phosphate.
The Dycus Brothers of Wayne County, were low bidders and got the contract. To do a finished job, a huge roller was pulled by mules which smoothes the gravel for cushion riding. It took about a year to complete the five mile road.
The first toll gate was set up two miles from Parsons near Mount Tabor. Bill Woodard was the first toll keeper.
The toll gate changed locations each time a keeper terminated his job. Each keeper moved the gate near his home for convenience. One man was able to sit on his porch and collect toll.
The gate was a long chestnut pole extending across the turnpike on a swivel with a heavy weight at the end. It was four feet in height.
Toll was twenty five cents for a wagon with a double team, fifteen cents for a buggy and horse, and five cents for horseback riders. For cattle, horses, and hogs, which were driven across the toll gate, the charge of 5 cents each was made.
For those who were fortunate enough to own a car, the toll charges were twenty five cents. There was no extra charge for passengers. The first Decatur County Historian, the late Moss Arnold, rode a bicycle over the toll and paid a fee of five cents.
Toll keepers closed the gate at dark. Often they were awakened by a late way-farer, out in the night, who would let themselves through.
Some of the keepers were Lucian Herndon, Will Roberts, Bill Branum and Mrs. Pearl Edmonds. The workers were paid from $3.00 to $5.00 a week.
The organizers lost money on the turnpike. Mr. Harry Burke not only went broke on the endeavor but also lost his health. The toll didn't pay enough. By the time the tenders were paid there was nothing left.
In 1920 the County freed the road when they took over road building and maintenance in the county.
Today it isn't called a turnpike but is still one of the leading thoroughfares in the county. It is a link of highway 100. This strip was widened and resurfaced in 1964 and a portion of it is a three lane highway.
In 1975, the bridge across Beech River was replaced with a new one and has been named the "Arthur Tolley" Bridge honoring the late funeral director.
Before the day of the turnpike a gravel road linked Parsons and Decaturville. A part of this road is still used leading from Parsons to Riverside High School. It took a course to the West at the present Riverside High School and crossed Beech River about 150 yards west of the present Arthur Tolley Bridge.
This bridge, of the yesteryear, was constructed of stone pillows, steel frame and railings, with a wooden floor. Buckner Mill was located a few feet from the bridge. After crossing the bridge, going south toward Decaturville, traffic had to ascend a steep winding hill, very high in altitude, and in the early days a T-Model Ford was in tip-top shape if it could pull this hill in high. Those short of funds could coast down the hill and save gas. It wasn't hard to trace traffic at this point for the wooden planks would make a tremendous noise as the cars passed across. This hill was known as the "Buckner Hill".
The road came out at Decaturville Foodland where it crossed the present highway and went into Decaturville by what is presently known as the old Decaturville Road, passing by Guy Butler's place, E.C. Kennedy and Boss Thompson's place, reentered the highway at the Baptist Church near F & P Food Market.
The first route in the southern end of the county began at Carrolville, a small town and river landing, located in the Clifton Bend on the Tennessee River. This Stage line followed the Buffalo trails. Its route included the Cades place, then by Lone Chestnut to the Dr. Hancock place, which was located near the center of Bath Springs, passed by Shannon place just off Highway 114, went in front of Red House stage stop, and on to the Stevens and McCorkle places. Here one ascended a steep hill called the "McCorkle Hill", then to Dunbar. It crossed the present 100 Highway at Browns Crossing into Scotts Hill, across Cane Creek near Sugar Hill and into Lexington. From Lexington the stage line went to Jackson via Wolf Ridge, a very lonely and desolate road to travel. After the Civil War, a segment of the road spiraled from Bobs Landing, formerly known as Shannonville.
Another early road in the northern end of Decatur County was known as the "Bucksnort Road". This road was an outlet for Perryville, which was a big shipping point for water-way transportation in early days. The road winded around Pikes Peak Springs, through Hopewell Community, by the present fire tower, on to Cub Creek where it forded the creek, except when a big rain flooded the area, then through Jeanette, formerly known as "Howesville". It entered the county at the corner of Henderson County.
New roads replace old roads and such was the case in the road from Perryville to Parsons. The old Perryville road left Parsons at Second Street East, in front of the present Parsons Post Office, winding its' course by the Parsons Cemetery, over rocks and rills as well as around numerous curves and coming out at Perryville by the Baptist Church. An old landmark on this road is known as the Old Townsend place, now occupied by Mrs. David Yarbro. This road is still in use.despite the fact a new highway runs parallel with the old road.
The mile long Alvin C. York Memorial Bridge spans the Tennessee River at Perryville. Construction of the bridge began in 1928 and it was opened for traffic July 5, 1930. It was built at a cost of two thirds of a million dollars under the supervision of the state engineering department. The State of Tennessee began a major road building program at the time and Highway 100 was established linking Nashville and Memphis.
Governor Henry Horton cut the ribbon and made the opening speech.
The first person to cross the bridge in a car, other than employees, was Jim Tomlin, who had just purchased a new car. He crossed it on the Fourth of July, before opening day. The two young sons of Mr. and Mrs. Dick Howard, Ben aged 10 and Frank aged 7, were the first to cross it on horses.
The bridge was first opened as a toll bridge and the fare was fifty cents per car and five cents for each additional passenger excluding the driver. Trucks were charged $1 .00 but a coupon book was issued at a discount to trucks making regular trips. The Toll Bridge Coupons were $2.50 per book. Coupons were for twelve and thirteen cents each and in the back were two and three cent coupons.
Those serving as toll-keepers were Dick Howard, Al Conder, Malcolm Pratt; Tom Dees, Val Johnson and Dick Hooten. The toll was discontinued February 4,1947 when the late Morg Conder introduced a bill to this effect.
The largest amount taken in during the eight years Dick Howard served as toll-keeper was $300 a day; however, business picked up later.
The bridge opened a great trucking industry for the towns of Parsons, Decaturville and neighboring Linden in Perry County. The Alvin C. York bridge has played a great part in the economic growth of Decatur County.
Road building came into full bloom at this time and the road from Parsons to Lexington was built in 1930 and 31 and was of gravel. Later, it was concreted in 1933 and 34.
A contract, dated May 31, 1930 concerning the Department of Highways & Public Works of the State of Tennessee and the Town of Parsons, reads in part: "Whereas, the Department, with the aid and assistance of the Bureau desiring to construct a road known as Highway No. 20 from Lexington to a point within the Town of Parsons, the bureau has made certain rules and regulation requiring that the town will not pursuit any encroachments upon the right-of-way of said highway with the town's limits nor will the town pass any laws or ordinances setting unreasonable speed limits or make such traffic laws, or regulations which will penalize traffic or will pass any laws which will hinder or make obstructions of any kind to the free movement of traffic." Signed by W. A. Partin, Mayor Albert Bowman, L. F. Hufstedler, E. J. Houston and H.R. Rains.
It is known as State Highway No. 20 and links up with Highway 100 in Parsons from Decaturville. It also links up with Highway No. 100 to Linden crossing the Tennessee River at Perryville. The Highway from Decaturville to Parsons is known as Highway 100 as well as 69.
Four roads, bearing family names lead out of Parsons. They are Wilkins Town Road, Taylor Town Road, Myracle Town Road and Rosson Town Road.
A newspaper clipping from the Lexington Progress dated July 5,1930 related to road construction. "E. M. Evans, Chairman Henderson County Highway received instruction from State Highway Engineer for West Tennessee, W. M. Rees, order to secure right-of-way construction of Highway No. 100 from Decatur County to Chester County Line, a distance of six to eight miles. Another important highway item is the graveling of the old road from Lexington to Parsons." The old road is being graveled to accommodate the enormous traffic which will pass over the Perryville Bridge recently opened for traffic.
Today, Decatur County is blessed with good roads. Highways include 20,100,114 and 69 which are the major highways and numerous well graveled roads throughout the county. Presently, U.S. Highway 641 is under construction. It crosses Decatur County in its trek through four counties from the northern to the southern border of Tennessee. The four counties are Henry, Benton, Decatur and Hardin.
Prior to the construction of good roads in the county, the ferries at Perryville was the main type of transportation. They linked Perry and Decatur Counties and played an important part in the settling of Decatur County since the main course of transportation in frontier days was the waterways.
Will Dennison owned what was known as the Upper Ferry and James Walker Howard owned the lower Ferry. These two were about one thousand yards from each other. Howard received a charter and later the ferry was handed down to Dick Howard, Sr. and then to Ben Howard Sr. father of Dick Howard of Pope, Tennessee. It was later sold to Buck Conder who operated it. When the good roads spiraled the once thriving business began to dwindle and the Lower Ferry was sold to Will Dennison.
Among those who operated the ferries at Perryville were Henry Churchwell, Herbert (Preacher) Churchwell, and Clyde Young. Henry Churchwell served in this capacity until his death in 1925 when his son, Herbert took over.
Clyde Young began as ferry operator in 1929 and continued until Alvin C. York Bridge took care of the increasing traffic.
Other ferries serving Decatur County in Pioneer days were at Point Pleasant, Bobs Landing, Vise Town Landing and Clifton Landing which is still in operation at the present date.
It was the dawn of a new day in commerce when steamboats began to appear on the rivers. Earlier transportation was confined to Rafts and flat boats, self-powered, as well as skifts and canoes.
Water transportation was an outlet to the early settlers; however, rivers were party blocked at places by rocks and tree trunks.
As early as 1801 the Legislature began chartering companies to remove rocks and tree trunks from streams. Canals and dams were also to be constructed.
An unusual event occurred in January 1918 when the Tennessee River at Perryville froze over. The freeze was so deep that a wagon and team could cross from one side to the other.
A photograph showing the Steamer Clyde and the Watt Russ gasoline mailboat ice bound belongs to Mrs. Carmon McMurray. The river was frozen for two or three weeks, having frozen in the center first. The boat motors had to be cut loose.
It was a great attraction to Decatur Countians. One family drove from near Parsons to the river at Perryville in a two team wagon, heating rocks and placing them in sacks in the wagon to keep their feet from freezing. They had to take turns walking beside the wagon to keep warm when the rocks got cold. You could hear the ice popping when the river began to thaw for miles around. It was the middle of February before the ice started breaking up and it took until March 15, before it was cleared of chunks of ice.
Steamboats that plyed the Tennessee River were "The Steamer Clyde", The Cotton Blossom", "The Lou Ellen", Robert Rhea", "The Empress", "The Golden Fleece" and numerous others.
These steamboats were the pulse-beat for merchants in this area. They received merchandise from Paducah, St. Louis, and other shipping points.
Large warehouses were constructed at river landings, which housed merchandise for inland merchants prior to the good roads, as well as for the River Landing merchants.
River landings along the Tennessee River in Decatur County were Crew's Landing, which was located near the Benton County Line, Parker's Landing was the next landing and Jim Buck Warren ran a store here in 1908.
Bohannon Landing was the next landing in line and Mr. Scott Bohannon had a big warehouse as well as store here in the early days. Later, Mr. and Mrs. L.K. Yates lived here. Brodies Landing received its name from Mr. Charles S. Brodie, an early settler who owned 5,000 acres of land here. Later the big warehouse and store belonged to B.M. Maxwell and Poolie Bateman and at one time was operated by F rank Houston.
Cliff's Landing was first settled by John Cliff and other store operators were John Newson and later B.M. Maxwell, who stayed here only two years prior to moving to Brodies.
Other landings on the Tennessee River in Decatur County include Bateman Landing, Perryville Landing, one of the larger landings and one that is still in existence today, and Fishers landing, which was perhaps named for Jake Fisher who lived here and later Jake Reynolds had a big store here also.
Next to Fisher's Landing up the river was Martins Landing and Brownsport Landing, which came into existence in the 1860's to serve the Brownsport Furnace.
Swallow Bluff Landing received its name from the numerous numbers of Swallows who made their home in the miniature mud adobies, clinging to the bridges. Located five miles southwest of Bath Springs between Eagle Nest Island and Dickey Island, the three fourth mile long bluff received its name during the Civil War when the swallows flew in the Spring of 1862 and built their nests out of mud, sticks and straws under the huge layers of limestone rocks. The natural formation of limestone rocks layers ranged from 12 inches thick to four and five feet thick. The first store was built at the site in the late 1800's by Troy Simmons. Other store owners down through the years were Charlie Wilson, N.J. Boggan, Edd Lancaster, G.C. Pollard, Hollis Hitchcock, Clint Tuten, H.D. Pevahouse, Ben Tuten, Marvin White, Enis Brasher and the last operator of the business was Jahue Boggan who folded up in 1948 and moved away. The development of good roads, railroads, cars and town weakened the economic conditions at Swallow Bluff.
As the upward swing of the river course escalated, there were Garrett's Landing, Elkin's Landing and Vise Landing which was located below White's Creek. Here a big warehouse and store was operated by Smith-Vise Company. W.G. Smith owned a cotton gin here in the early days. A picturesque landing in route is Cedar Bluff Landing which in recent years has been developed by Mr. & Mrs. J. T. Lafferty and numerous homes have been constructed for the once city dwellers, as well as some local families. Double Island Landing, Martins Landing, Point Pleasant and Bobs Landing also played an important part in the early days of our county.
Martin's Landing was located a short distance from Bath Springs, Point Pleasant Landing was located in Clifton Bend and here stores were built out of Cedar Lumber and later on, some buildings were constructed of kiln dried bricks of the home-made variety. After the landing faded away, the bricks were used for two store buildings in Clifton.
The last landing in Decatur County was Bobs Landing, which is only inhabited by the birds, crows, snakes, etc. At one time, the thriving river landing was bustling with business. It was first named Shannonville for Bob Shannon, an early settler in these parts. Later it was changed to Bobs Landing because of difficulties in the postal service. There happened to be another post office named Shannonville, therefore the first name of the founder was used in the post office.
The arrival of the "Iron Horse" created great excitement in West Tennessee. In 1842 the first steam locomotive was brought up from New Orleans by boat. Memphis put on a big parade as the locomotive was hauled up Main Street but when it was put on the track; it would not run. A few days later mechanics had it in shape, and it steamed down the track pulling a few cars made of Stagecoach bodies. This was the first train to operate in Tennessee. A few weeks later the sheriff stopped the run and seized the locomotive. The company had gone broke.
In 1845 a big convention was held in Memphis to discuss what could be done to improve commerce. The railroad fever began to rise again. Soon old projects were revived and new projects begun.
In 1848 work was begun on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad. It was completed in 1854. Today it is known as the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad.
The year before the completion of the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad, work was started on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. The line was completed by 1857.
The building of the railroad in Decatur County contributed greatly to the growth of the county.
The Tennessee Midland Railroad Company was chartered December 29, 1886 to extend from the city of Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, easterly to the Virginia State line. The road would end near the Clinch River in Hancock County, which was a distance of 450 miles.
Work on the railroad began in 1887. The distance from Memphis to Jackson was 85.5 miles. This section of road opened June 1, 1888 and workmen continued grading toward Perryville, Decatur County, situated on the banks of the Tennessee River.
The directors of the Tennessee Midland Railroad on December 1,1888 were as follows: A. S. Buf6rd, J. B. Pace, E.D. Christian, Charles Watkins, Thomas C. Williams T. C. Leake, Jr., R. H. Temple, all of Richmond, Va. James T. Gray, J. J. Montaque, A. L. Crawford, W. D. Benhell, Napoleon Hill, John Overton, Jr. of Memphis, J. M. Hamilton and Nathan Baxter, Jr. 
R.H. Temple was chief engineer, John Overton, Jr. was elected President March 20, 1889 and T. C. Leaker, Jr. was elected Vice President on the same date.
The work continued after June 1888, from Jackson toward Perryville. The distance from Lexington to Perryville was 25 miles. The mileage of line inside Decatur County was 11.01 miles. The distance from Memphis to Perryville was 135.6 miles.
The railroad company controlled 200 feet (100 feet on each side of the center) if the deed did not specify otherwise.
The supervisor of the roadway was R.H. Pentecost of Lexington. Will Warden of Parsons, acted as buyer for the lumber necessary to build the Perryville Branch.
Benjamin Franklin Streigel originally from Merrill, Wisc., was the contractor in charge of the trestle work and grading of fills. He supplied the piling for the trestles along with laborers and mules necessary for the work.
The laborers were Italians, Germans, Irishmen and local persons. Among those who settled in this vicinity were John Kneareen, Lew Seltzer, Patrick Fallan, Walter Harris, a Mr. Youngerman and Mr. Halter. They were Tie Hacks.
The Perryville Branch was responsible for a number of good towns springing up along its tracks in Henderson and Decatur County. They were Warren's Bluff, Chesterfield, Darden, Beacon and Parsons.
Before 1889, Henry Myracle owned a large flat piece of land, the present site of Parsons. In order to get 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, 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 of Parsons.
The first depot that Parsons had was moved from Thompson Station on the main line by flat car. It was a small building, just large enough to sell tickets and take care of business matters. This depot burned and a new and larger one was built. They were located in the vicinity of the present business, Fayes Fancy, near the intersection of Main Street and Tennessee Avenue, South.
The line was completed to Perryville in 1889; however, it was here it met its Waterloo. It never crossed the Tennessee River much less reaching the Virginia Line. Seems that money gave out. The first train puffed into Perryville June 30, 1889. It was loaded with passengers, mail and freight and consisted of six coaches. There was a coach for whites, one for blacks, a baggage car and three freight cars. Among the train's first passengers were officials, construction workers and local workers.
Martin Dial sawed the lumber to built the Perryville Depot.
The original deed for the railroad reads thus, "Deed to Tennessee Midland Railroad, J.W. Phillips to Land N. R. R. Co."
Mr. Phillips sold to L and N R. R. Co. for the sum of $1,491,864, the railroad formerly known as the Tennessee Midland Railroad, described as follows: Extending from within the city of Memphis, in the State of Tennessee, and running thence in an easterly direction through the counties of Shelby, Fayette, Hardeman, Madison, Henderson and Decatur to Perryville, on the West side of the Tennessee River, in the said last county named including all cars, depots, franchises, equipment, buildings, etc." "Except certain town lots donated to said railway Company at or near the Town of Parsons."
This deed was registered August 6, 1896, in Decatur County Book No. 13, Page 61.
Serving as depot agents on the line at Perryville were: Will Andrews, Luther Hurst, George Peck, who arrived from Michigan, O.C. Kirksey, who hailed from Yuma, Tennessee, George O'Guinn, from Beacon, Tennessee and John A. Tinker of Decatur County.
Parsons Depot Agents were John Young, B.F. Goodlow, H.L. (Crickett) Veale who served in 1926-27, W.H. Neely, Hubert Borne and John A. Tinker who served after the Perryville Station was closed and moved to Parsons. SidneyCoggin was the first telegraph operator.
Serving Depot agents at Beacon were: Tip Oxford, Ebern Kirksey, Glen Batton, George O'Guinn, Dick Joyner and Hobart Hayes. Later Mr. Jess Long served as caretaker prior to the train's death.
John Tinker served as depot agent in Perryville until the railroad began losing business with the coming of good roads, trucks and automobiles. He then was transferred to Parsons to serve in the place of Hubert Borne, who was ill. The day the train made its last trip to Perryville, Boren died. Tinker also replaced George O'Guinn at Perryville when he became ill.
Perryville youngsters attended school at Parsons and rode the train, which was nicknamed the "PeeVine". The train left Perryville at 7 a.m. and returned a 6 p.m. In between, it would make two other trips from Lexington on. It returned to Perryville around 1 p.m. and back to Lexington around 2:30, then made the nightly trip and spent the night at Perryville. About one mile West of Perryville there was a round "turntable". The engine was headed toward the river when it reached Perryville at night and to get it turned toward Lexington, it had to be turned around.
Between Parsons and Lexington there were three trestles. Two of the trestles were straight and the other one was a long curved one which people still talk about as the "Ole Curved Trestle." It was made from red cedar as were other trestles. From Parsons to the Decatur County line adjoining Henderson County were three other trestles. One near the town of Parsons, crossing Bear Creek, another crossing Arms Creek and another crossing Johnson Creek called Barnett Trestle. The trestles were straight with the exception of the one across Arms Creek which has a ten (10) curve in it.
According to the legend, when Barnett Trestle was taken up, a black man became ill and was buried at the west end of the trestle.
Warren Myracle and his brother bought the lumber from one of the trestles and sold it in Murfreesboro to a cedar factory where cedar water buckets and cedar pencils were made. He received $15.00 for his share and bought a belt buckle which he still possesses.
Beech River overflowed out of its banks and got under the curved trestle. The water had some effect on the wood and the repair of the trestle was necessary.
The railroad began to lose business as a result of a paved road which "captured all its revenue" and earning sources.
On February 10, 1936, the L and N Railroad and N.C. & St. L lessee, filed an application with the Interstate Commerce Commission for a certificate of public convenience and necessity permitting the "Former L & N and the latter N.C. & St. L. to abandon operation of the so-called Perryville Branch, all in Henderson and Decatur Counties.
The crew on the Perryville branch when it was discontinued were: P. H. Dennison, passenger conductor; W. H. Hodges and W.M. Garvey, brakemen,' W. E. Linderfield, Engineer, A. R. Attaway, freight conductor and V. G.Hearne, baggage man. The train served as both passenger and freight train. It opened up a faster mail service in the county with two incoming and outgoing services daily.
All of these men were transferred to the main line of the N.C. & St. L. railroad. Mr. L. W. Scott of Lexington bought the old Depot and constructed a service station at the corner of Main and Tennessee Avenue, South.
The shrilling Sound of the train whistle, the puffing of the engine, while filling up with water at Parsons water tank, and the sound of the conductor calling out the towns on the once important Perryville Branch Line silently faded away come October 31,1936, the last day the train made its run. It was filled on this Memorial day with citizens from the county filling the coaches for a last ride on the "PeeVine". Parsonians took a round trip to Perryville and back, while those not so successful, who had to work, only stood by, with tears in their eyes and waved goodbye to another era in the history of Decatur County.
Despite the fact that Decatur County lost the train, it was later replaced by the airport.
Parsons Municipal Airport, Scott Field, was built in 1959 at a cost of a quarter of a million dollars and was financed by state, county and city funds with no federal aid. It was named for Madison Scott, Mayor, when the city acquired the airport. He is an avid flyer, having served in the military.
In 1964, a building was constructed on the ground with office space, lounge, lobby and snack bar. It has a runway 3,000 feet long which extends north and south.
It is on the direct route from Nashville to Memphis and is located right inside the town in the industrial area, adjoining the National Guard Armory on 9th street.
People who fly here include: business men, salesmen, sportsmen, politicians and local enthusiasts who also enjoy its facilities. Private planes are housed here and Parsons boasts of a Parsons Flying Club.
The local airport has been very important to the six industries in Decatur County as well as to other surrounding industries. It is also very important in emergencies. One plane, enroute to Brazil, stopped here when it snowed one cold winter day.
The first manager was Herman Townsend. He kept a record of planes that landed here each day and in 1966, he reported that ten planes arrived here in one day.
The airport is a feather in the cap for the town of Parsons as well as Decatur County. In the field of transportation, Decatur County moved from oxcart days to the airplane.
The first mode of transportation was the two wheel cart, which was drawn by oxen. Early settlers arrived by flatboat prospecting and later returned home and moved their families in the two wheel cart, which was about 6½ feet wide, four feet deep and 10 feet long with an open bed and no springs. The shaves were rigged up so the cart would not go up or down. Some families used mules to draw the cart. These pioneers brought few possessions to the new country.
Later, an established trail was made and a new type of transportation came into being. The four wheel wagon was made out of rough lumber with no metal in the construction. It had a wooden tar box which was used on the axle and hub of the wheel.
Later, the wagon was streamlined and had metal axles. They were first drawn by a yoke of oxen and used for moving furniture and logging. The logs were hauled from the forest to the saw mill on the wagon.
In 1828, the coach was the commercial mode of transportation. It was enclosed and the passengers sat facing each other. One such type was the brougham, the type Andrew Jackson used. This was the Stage Coach which discontinued operation in 1870.
The family buggy was a four wheel vehicle, that seated two persons, and was usually drawn by a horse. If more than one rode, one had to ride in the other's lap. It had a top that would let down in summer. In winter, it was equipped with side and front curtains, to keep out the cold. The front curtains had a small slit for the lines to go through and a peep hole to drive by, that is, when the curtains were used. Traffic was not very congested.
A rug lap was used to wrap around the passengers and a brick or two were heated before the journey started to keep the feet warm.
One of the fancier modes of travel was the surrey, which was built about the same time as the buggy. A four passenger vehicle, with fringed square top, it was a bit more expensive and only the wealthy could afford one. The surrey was beneficial for large families, the little ones could be packed in by numbers.
Of course, the steamboat and the train, before mentioned, were also used in transportation.
Progress marched on and in 1895, the first automobile was built. It was a Duryea, which was modeled after the buggy. It had side curtains, no batteries and had to be started with a hand crank. It ran off a magneto. It was assembled in Chicago and won the race from Chicago to Waukeegan, Ill., a distance of 28 miles at the speed of 7-1/2 miles an hour.
In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt gave George Partin of Parsons a six cylinder open type used Ford car, for his services in the presidential campaign. The car was shipped from Chicago by flat railroad car. It was the first one in Parsons.
Leslie A. Rains of Parsons had a second hand studebaker car, which had a buggy type solid rubber tire, three inches in diameter. He traded a nice stallion for the car, which was valued at $1 200.
Fred Rains drove the Partin Ford to Mt. Tabor where a brush arbor was used in a summer revival and broke up the service since it was the first car many had seen. The noise was deafening and the congregation heard it long before it came in sight. Even the preacher said he had never seen a car and he was going to see this one, so he stopped preaching to go out to see it. Some, less enthusiastic didn't feel this way and wanted to arrest Fred for disturbing public worship but nothing ever came of it.
In 1912, Ray McClanahan became the first car agent in Decatur County when he took the Ford Agency at Scotts Hill. The "Tin Lizzie" was a nickname for the early Ford. Later they were called "T" Models and "A" Models.
In 1913 Clyde Smith owned a Ford car with a brass radiator. He used it to carry mail from Parsons Star Route all over the county and transport passengers also.
In 1916, production had picked up and several in Parsons had new cars. Mr. Carl Partin purchased a new Chevrolet from McGee-Ross in Jackson at this time.
Early dealers in Decatur County were Wylie Stout and Jim England who had the Ford Agency in Decaturville. Hobart Goff was employed as a salesman. In 1923-24 Hobart Goff and G. C. Pollard sold Durants Cars and Star Cars, in Parsons. In the 1920, Herbert Roberts had the Chevrolet Agency in Parsons and was located at 207 Tennessee Avenue South. He later moved away and J.C. Partin became dealer. He went out of business and in 1935, Wilburn Townsend and Leonard Townsend opened up the present Chevrolet Agency. It is presently operated by Wayne Townsend.
Jack Stevens had the Ford Agency in Parsons in the early 1930's. In 1944, Hobart Goff became the Ford Dealer and operated until his retirement. His sons, Billy and James Goff, then took over the dealership and later James was sole operator. In 1966, James Goff went out of business and G. L. Teague and Dr. Paul Ford Teague became Ford Agents in Parsons. In 1974, Roger Volner joined the firm.
Will Long had the agency for the Brisco Car at Perryville in the early l900's and later came to Parsons and was dealer for the Studebaker in the l930's, as well as Chryslers, Plymouths and International Trucks. In 1951, Doug Hayes took over the agency.
Another early car dealer was Weaver Rogers who had the agency for the Kaiser and Frazier car. Poolie Bateman was also a car dealer in Parsons. He sold Overland cars in the early 1920's.
Industry played an integral part in the lifeblood of Decatur County. In the early days there were five cotton gins in the county, located at Parsons, Decaturville, Swallow Bluff, Scotts Hill and Beacon.
The first cotton gin in Parsons was operated by Mr. George Partin who later sold to Adolphus Rains. When Rains went out of business Jim Lamping negotiated the sale to Mr. Hobart Goff. It was a two story building of rough yellow poplar with bins and shutes constructed of hand planed poplar. Located on the present Main Street in the 100 block near Mclllwain's Service Station, one side of the building was a flour mill operated by R.F. Corklin. There was also a wool carding business nearby which made wool bats.
Goff tore the flour mill down and rebuilt the gin in 1924. He used some the lumber in his home which was located at 217 Camden Road.
Goff sold the gin in 1926 to White Bros. of Jackson and it burned in 1928.
Will Long opened a cotton gin in Parsons in the late 20's which was located at the intersection of Goff street and Tennessee Avenue. It was operated by Freeman Wilson but later it was torn down when cotton began to decrease in the county.
Among the early residents who worked at these gins were: Rube Ivey, Tom Hays, Ben Boyd, and Will Greer. Presently there are no cotton gins here.
In 1935, H.D. Pevahouse operated a gin in Decaturville, located on 69 Highway in the city limits. In 1954, he sold to John Austin who later sold to Wayne Byrd in 1959. This gin also had to close due to the shortage of cotton in the county in the 1970's. Earlier Bill Pratt operated the gin here.
George Simmons operated the first cotton gin at Swallow Bluff in the late 1800's. He sold out to Charley Wilson in 1904. Later operators were: Jess Boggan and Edd Lancaster. Lancaster sold out to Boggan and continued operation until 1918. It was then sold to G. C. Pollard and Hollis Hitchcock. They sold to Clint Tuten who operated the gin.
H.D. Pevahouse became operator of the cotton gin in 1924 and continued until 1935. The last operator was Jahue Boggan who continued the business until 1942.
Scotts Hill gin, located on the ground of the present livestock sale barn was operated by John Pratt and later Tom Mitchell.
Scotts Hill boasted of two other cotton gins in the early days. The first was operated by Ephram Austin, one of the first settlers of Scotts Hill. It was located at the rear of his mercantile store and was a horse powered gin. It baled a bale or a bale and one half of cotton a day.
Another gin here was operated by Fate McKenzie, located below the Austin Mercantile Company and Edd Austin operated a gin here, which was located below the present gymnasium.
Cotton was the major crop in Decatur County in the early days and due to the slow method of transportation, gins sprung up in every locality.
Frank Volner operated a horse powered gin in pioneer days two miles east of Scotts Hill on the Decaturville Road. It was located on a high hill and was convenient for those in the area.
When the Town of Scotts Hill was destroyed by fire, the early gins were also destroyed.
The transition in the mode of transportation and good roads caused many of these gins to fold up.
After the close of the gins in Decatur County, gins in Henderson County near the Decatur County line served the area.
Two late gins were the one at Darden, last operated by Richard Byrd which burned and the present Taylor's Gin, operated by Jerry and Mack Taylor at Taylor's Crossing in Scotts Hill.
In 1975, there wasn't a stalk of cotton grown in DecaturCounty.
Since Decatur County is noted for its rock deposits, one of the paying industries from the origin to present time is gravel pits. According to a chemical analysis report, it has noted exposures 18 feet in thickness but considered the average to be about 5 feet thick in the Beech River tract in Decatur County while a 30 foot exposure has been recorded. The rock from this pit averaged 75-77 percent bone phosphate of lime.
According to this report, "The white lamellar phosphate of Beech River district occurs as a sort of blanket deposit, as well as in fissures and caves — a point of considerable interest bearing upon the origin and mode of deposition."
R. H. Pentecost owned the first gravel pit in Decatur County located at the foot of Parsons Cemetery. Today, gravel pits have popped up like Mexican popping beans and they are too numerous to enumerate. Mother Earth is so kind to Decatur Countians from the standpoint of rock formations.
A very interesting industry of the yesteryears was the phosphate business. It was mined on the banks of Beech River and brought to Parsons by wagons to be shipped out by rail. The company was formed by T. S. Hughs of Clifton, Judge John A. Pitts of Nashville and L. H. Burke of Parsons. It was incorporated for $3,000 and was managed by L. H. Burke. The company had mineral rights on the land for miles around including Wilkins Town and Taylor Town.
The industries provided employment for the men of the county. They received $1.00 a day. A man plus mule and wagon received $2.25 for 10 hours work.
In 1904, Harry Burke had a one ton block of phosphate at the World Fair in St. Louis and it brought first prize and the Blue Ribbon.
Preparing this stone was quite a feat. There were one dozen cross cut saws used, plus 100 pounds of sand paper and 100 pounds of Jeweler's dust. O.E. Buckner was the saw tender, keeping the saws sharp.
Tennessee is the only state in the union that has a blue ribbon for Phosphate.
After returning from St. Louis, Harry Burke called a meeting of Parsons Business men, desiring to form a company to take the oils from cotton, peanuts and corn but the project didn't jell.
The Phosphate company was going good until the Panic of 1907, then there was nothing. The money that was available was Aluminum and called "Lummox". A former Decatur Countian, Bob Burke, was in possession of some of the "Lummox" at his death in 1968.
Water powered grist mills played an important part in the establishment of Decatur County. Here corn was ground for cornbread.
One of the early mills near Parsons was Buckner Mill, located on a hill, overlooking Beech River, three miles south of Parsons.
It was built by James Edward Buckner, first on Bear Creek and because of lack of water, it was moved to Beech River.
Jim Adair helped construct the mill. Also, W.G. Fonville. They dynamited the rock wall in the bank of the river and let the shaft down into the water. The shaft was connected to the small mill house perched on the bank and to a propeller in the river bed.
A dam was built across the river, backing up enough water to furnish power for the mill. Two mill stones, located in the mill house, were attached to the shaft which was propelled by the force of the water.
Shelled corn was placed between the stones and a lever tripped for grinding the corn into meal. The bottom mill stone had deep grooves cut into it and was stationary while the top stone moved in a circular motion, thus crushing the corn into corn meal, which was deposited into a hopper, holding about five bushels of meal.
The meal was then sacked in heavy canvas meal sacks and called a "turn of meal".
The payment was one-sixth of the corn. A square toll box was placed in the millhouse and the miller's share of the corn went into it. No money was involved.
An accident occurred at the mill, which is in the minds of those who recall the mill. Milton Adair, age 13 and a friend, were fishing in a boat near the dam when the swift water pulled the boat too close to the dam and overturned. He was drowned.
With the coming of gasoline powered grist mills, business at the water propelled mill dropped off, operations ceased in the late 1930's. Erie Jordan of Parsons salvaged the Cedar Shaft. There was enough material in this shaft to make a cedar chest and a bed.
Two grist mills were located at SugarTree.
The first grist mill in Scotts Hill was operated by Ephraim H. Austin and located in a valley just back of the present live stock barn. A dam was built to harness the spring water and furnish power for the water powered mill. Later other grist mills located here.
Due to the huge amount of timber in Decatur County, sawmills have been a way of livelihood from the beginning to the present time. They have been set up in every community. Arthur Evans was a widely known sawmill operator in Parsons and John Pratt in Scotts Hill. Workers for John Pratt were Joe Taylor, Shack Davis and four Taylors, Mack, Charley,Virgil and Ernest.
Lowell Pratt operated a sawmill in the Cozette Community. Delmar Ballinger operated a sawmill near Bawcum Cemetery. His father, Mr. Dock Ballinger, operated sawmills in his day at various places including Ballingers School, Yellow Springs, and at Sugar Tree for a short time.
Stanley Gulledge operated a sawmill in the Prospect Comrtiunity.
When transportation was much slower than present days, blacksmith shops were a necessity. Here the horses and mules were shod so they could perform the tasks of pulling wagons, buggies, Surreys, hacks, etc. Also, so they could plow the soil for the cultivation of crops, so very essential, before the day of super-markets. Horses were also used for a mode of transportation for those desiring to go horseback riding.
Blacksmiths living in Sugar Tree were Tom Bates, John Farlow, and Bill Terry. Claude Dillingner moved to Perryville from Indiana and put in a blacksmith shop in 1897. Nathaniel Moore had a blacksmith shop at Sardis Ridge.
In Parsons, Jim Lyles ran a blacksmith shop back of Rustic Theatre on Main Street. Anthony Fisher operated one near the Railroad water tank, Dee Hale had one back of Maxwell's Dept. Store on Long Street, Lee Stone had one on the Bible Hill Road and it was operated by his son, Terry, after his death. John William Smith, 86, operated one at Cedar Hill, the last of its kind.
Livery stables were also a necessity before the motor drawn vehicles arrived. The livery stable was a building where horses and buggies were for hire along with rigs, hacks and surreys.
Besides a place where you could hire a conveyance, the livery stable served as a parking lot. On big celebrations, like July 4th, the farmer would hitch up the horse, drive to town for the day. He went to the livery stable and left his conveyance. The attendant would take the horse out of harness, water and feed him and keep him until the owner called back. He charged $2.00 for the day's parking.
Drummers, now called salesmen, came to town via train and would hire a rig to call on their customers in nearby towns.
The livery stable in Parsons was owned by J.K. Pettigrew and was located on the east side of Main Street across from Virginia Avenue. He operated the Livery stable from 1897 until 1907 when he moved to Sulphur Springs.
G.W. Partin owned a livery stable in Parsons and it was operated by Will Fonville.
In 1907, Rains and Houston opened up a livery stable across the street from the first one. The operators were Will Rains and E.J. Houston. Here they operated the business until 1911 at which time they sold to B.F. McClannahan of Scotts Hill.
B. Lewis built a livery stable in 1916 at the time untamed western horses were being shipped in here from Texas. This building was located at 113 Tennessee Avenue and later moved to what is now 117 Tennessee Avenue, South.
Bob Laster went in partnership with S.L. Jennings after B. Lewis went out of business. The manager of this stable was Jess Houston. By this time competition was getting keener and Tom Hayes put in another livery stable on Fourth Street.
A livery stable was located in connection with Smith Hotel in Decaturville. Eventually the livery stable vanished and with them, vanished the symbol of an age.
A Heading factory was owned by a Mr. Parsons from French Lick, Indiana in the early days of Parsons. The factory made heads (or ends) for barrels. It was located near the present Decatur County Hospital in Parsons.
A bedspring factory located in Parsons around 1904 and was operated by R.L. Snyder. G.W. Partin owned a Hoop factory in Parsons in the early days.
Despite the fact that Decatur Countians were enjoying the giant strides, which had been made since it became a county, they were suddenly awakened to a new day, "Depression Days".
The economic depression which began after the 1929 stock market crash, is a never-to-be forgotten period of history. It was a national castrophe effecting every living person.
The first blow came when the banks were forced to close. Creditors were unable to pay their loans, land prices went down and quick money loans took all the bank's money. There were no insured banks.
The Bank of Commerce in Parsons closed its doors in 1931. Every bank in the country closed and reopened according to the strength of its capital. The Bank of Commerce never opened its doors again; however, the Farmers Bank in Parsons was the first bank in Tennessee to open its doors after the declared holiday. The other bank in the county at that time was Decatur County Bank which opened after the holiday.
Not only did banks have to close but many business places were forced to close, never to reopen. With little or no money in the country, it didn't take many business places to supply customers.
Prices in depression days were the lowest in history. Pork was ten cents a pound and ground beef five cents. A juicy T-bone steak sold for 25 cents a pound.
Two pounds of coffee sold for 35 cents and a 24 pound sack of flour cost 59 cents. Meal was 24 cents for a 24 pound bag. Soup beans sold for five cents per pound and nails were four cents a pound.
Sales from some of the grocery stores registered as low as $1.95 a day with a $3,500 stock of goods.
Farmers who had mortgaged their farms lost them. A thousand pound beef would bring only $40.00 and a 200 pound hog sold for $2.80 to $4.00. Corn brought $3.00 a barrel and peanuts brought 3 cents a pound. Farmers would butcher their hogs and sell pork from door to door. Beef was also sold this way.
Bread lines were set up in cities to feed the hungry but Decatur County was fortunate as it relied on "Mother Earth" for food.
The lifeblood of the housewives and their families was the produce sold from the farm wagons. Pink Lewis of Beacon made regular trips on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Beans, green peas and butter beans sold for five cents a pound and roasting ears brought fifteen cents per dozen.
He also peddled pork and beef. A front quarter of beef brought six and one-half cents a pound and eight cents a pound for the hind quarters. Sausage brought fifteen cents a pound.
Later prices began to rise and peas and beans went to ten cents a pound and corn sold for fifty cents a dozen. That was after President Roosevelt introduced the New Deal and W.P.A.
Farmers raised cotton, peanuts and corn which brought in a small income. Cotton sold for $25.00 a bale in 1929, while peanuts sold for four cents a pound. Corn sold for 50 to 60 cents a bushel.
Conditions continued to grow worse. For weeks no cars traveled the country roads because there was no money to buy gasoline and tires.
Hunters were not able to buy shotgun shells which sold for sixty cents a box so they fell back to trapping animals for food. Streams were seined for turtles and fish for the housewife's table.
Along with the wild meat, salads were gathered from the woods. Numerous varieties included wild "poke sallet", narrow and broad leaf dock, creasy, wild turnip salad, lettuce, rabbit ear and dandelions.
In the fall hickory nuts, walnuts and hazelnuts were gathered for the long winter nights. Blackberry patches were raided for jellies and jam for the table.
Conditions became so bad that some families had only stock peas to cook in clear water without any seasoning. Others lived on parched corn for days. Corn was carried to mill and ground into meal for cornbread.
Milk was an important product in those days. Everyone in the country and many in town kept a cow to furnish milk for the family. Some of the town cows were tied to front porch posts while they feasted on the green lawn.
Wood and coal were the chief heating products. Farmers cut their own wood and some sold wood to their town neighbors for $1.00 a rick (8 feet long and 4 feet high). Coal sold for $3.60 per ton and laborers received 50 cents a day to haul and unload it. The day was at least 12 hours long.
Wages for farm labor was 25 cents a day. Farmers paid 35 cents a hundred to get their cotton picked. They usually swapped labor, helping each other on the farm. Clerk hire was $1.50 per day in 1933 and 1934.
Meals in restaurants were in keeping with other prices. Breakfast, which consisted of sausage, two eggs, toast, jelly, butter and coffee was 15 cents while dinners were 25 cents including drink.
The one redeeming feature during the depression days in Decatur County was there was less crime. Neighbors loved one another and had time to visit. They divided their meager fare with one another.
President Roosevelt sent commodities to Decatur County and other counties which were distributed through the Red Cross to the needy. People made weekly trips by truck to get this food.
The "New Deal" program introduced by President Roosevelt after he was elected in 1932, began to revive the barren paradise of the unfortunate with the Social Security program, the T.V.A., C.C. Camps and Government insured banks. The economy began to rise slowly and the depression days faded into history.
Life styles changed in industry as well as in other areas. It was a "Red Letter" day in Decatur County, April 11, 1938, when Salant & Salant, Inc. opened its plant in Parsons. It was in the midst of unemployment and depression.
The plant manufactured men's work shirts at the beginning, later switching to men's pants along with the shirts and now manufactures men's pants only. The shirt department was catalogued as "Atlas Department" in 1942, and the pant department the "Princeton Department".
It was a shot-in-the-arm, so to speak, despite the low wages prior to the wage and hour law. An employee of 34 years service, who worked on piece work when she first started, only garnered eighty-four cents for two weeks work. That was the training period and one made only what they sewed. She received 1-1/4 cents per dozen for banding collars. Of course this was due to being inexperienced and unaccustomed to the high speed machines. However, when the wage and hour law came in, conditions began to mushroom and it seemed easy to earn a decent living.
It started out with five machine operators the first day. Mrs. Lima Houston, Mrs. Dorothy Keeton, Mrs. Jettie Murphy Tillman, Mrs. Rada Thomas and Mrs. Mary Joe Stone, and now there are around 650 employed here. Payroll for the first year was $28,000.00. Employment at the end of 1938 had reached around 50.
Salant & Salant, Inc. with headquarters in New York, is located at 706 Tennessee Avenue South. It has operated continuously since 1938 except for a three months period in 1940. Harold White came to Parsons as Superintendent of the plant when it opened and served continuously until Jan. 30, 1970. He was succeeded Feb. 2, 1970 by Gerald Hughs who is presently serving in this capacity.
Serving as the plant's first mechanic was Jimmy Burns and the first office employee was Miss Eulene Latta. Mrs. Marjorie Barnette Brasher was the first floor lady and had charge of all the sewing room. Driver of the first transfer truck for the company was Bert Baker.
When the plant first started, Joe Lipshie, now Chairman of the Board of Directors in the New York Office, did all the cutting; however, in 1942, Francis Holman and Donald Bangs served in this capacity.
W.T. Veasey headed up the Atlas Department. Serving as first shipping foreman was Gene Shaw and the first personnel director was Mrs. Wynema Myracle.
The plant's official name has been changed from Salant & Salant, Inc. to Salant, Inc. It was the life blood of our county following depression days. Salant and Salant paved the way for other industries to locate in Parsons.
In 1959 Kaddis Manufacturing Corp. with home offices in Rochester N.Y. located at 710 Florida Avenue, S.
The plant produces precision screw machine parts. This plant has been a great asset to the county since it employs men primarily, with the exception of the office force.
Harold Riker served as the plant's first plant manager. Dick Prinsen was appointed to succeed Riker who died Jan. 14, 1969. At this time, Thomas Baker and Thomas Cotham were elevated to assistant plant managers.
In 1965-66, the size of the building was doubled from 18,000 square feet to 36,000 feet and in 1970 an additional 5,000 square feet was added.
Presently, the plant employs 104. It began with six employees.
Thermo Dynamics, Inc., producer of commercial refrigerators, located in Parsons in 1962. The first plant manager was Hugh Lasater. The number of employees in the beginning was 30 and today there are 150 in employment, which constitutes two shifts.
The first office manager was Joe Beuhier and the first office employees were Martha Tyler and Sue Scott. Billy Goff was one of the first employees and Billy Bedingfield was the first foreman.
The present plant manager is Jim Ferguson and the foremen are Don Armstrong, Edd Brumfield, Donnie Cook, Larry Fisher, Thomas Howers, Don McCorkle and Rudolf Paul.
Heads of the various departments are Nick Wulfert, Material Control Manager, Clay Blakenship and Carl Daniel, Maintenance Managers, John Freligh, Production Control, William Gilchrist, Engineer Manager, Lucille Keeton, Accounting Manager, Jack Mills, Controller and Don Tinto, Quality Manager.
In 1965 the plant had 75 on the payroll and the payroll at that time amounted to a million dollars. The plant was enlarged in 1965 and air-conditioned throughout. It, too, furnished added employment for the male population of the county.
Kol-Pak Industries, makers of commercial refrigeration, located in Crowder Industrial Park in Decaturville in 1968. Jack Dalton serves as the plant manager. Founders of the plant are Douglas Hayes, James Smith and Jack Dalton.
The plant employed six in the beginning and presently they have 250 employees. It spiraled until now there are plants located in Parsons, Decaturville, Lobelville and Scotts Hill. The Corporate headquarters for all the plants is Parsons. The company acquired Norris Dispensers in 1971, makers of milk dispensers and beverage coolers.The Scotts Hill plant is manufacturer of the McCall Division.
The Refrigeration division manufacturers walk-in and reach-in freezers and coolers and refrigerated warehouses.
Jack Dalton is president of the company and plant managers are Don Moore, Frank Cunningham, Jerry Graves and Ronnie Moore. Blair Stentz is General Manager and Joe Jetton is Sales Manager. Comptroller is Gaylon Yates and Purchasing Agent is Charles Wortham. Serving traffic manager is Billy Goff, Office Manager is Jim Shaw.
There is a quarter of a million square feet of floor space in the four plants, which employs 15% females and 85% males. Presently, there are two shifts employed at Lobelville, which is located in Perry County. Scotts Hill is the latest plant having opened in 1975.
The Parsons plant is located in Parsons Industrial Park on Ninth Street and the Scotts Hill Plant is housed in the headquarters of the former textile plant on Main Street. Quite a large amount of money is distributed in the county from the payrolls of these plants.
The latest plant to locate in Decatur County is Karlyn Manufacturers, which located here in 1970. Makers of jeans, the plant changed names in 1974 from Karlyn to Commodore Apparell.
Located at 207 Tennessee Avenue South in Parsons, the first plant manager was Mrs. Katie Rushing. The present plant manager is Bill Harden. Mrs. Carolyn Patterson was the first floor lady and present employees working in this capacity are Mrs. Dean Coats and Mrs. Hazel Milam.
The first office worker was Mrs. Brenda Funderburk who has continued in this position. Employment the first year reached 35 and today total number employed is 90.
Headquarters for the plant is in Nashville and it is one of the six plants located in Tennessee.
The Decaturville Sportswear Company, Inc., makers of women's sportswear, which is located in Decaturville, started operation September 9, 1960, was a shot in the arm to the economy of the County Seat Town.
Being the first textile plant to locate in the town, it began operation in the Old Decaturville Gymnasium, made available by the town of Decaturville, the County School Board and the Decatur County Court. In the beginning, the plant personnel numbered less than one hundred (100).
Four expansions, totaling 178,000 feet boosted the plant's area to 196,000 square feet. In 1968 the plant expanded to 256,000 square feet at an estimated cost of more than $500,000. The Largo road was closed when the two floor addition was constructed. It houses a lunchroom-cafeteria, administrative offices, storage space and restrooms. The new addition boosted to 1,600 the number of employees; however, today, the employed number is 800.
The first plant manager was Louie Carnie and in 1967 Ray Rindone was plant manager. Presently, the manager of the plant is Lloyd Anderson.
Those who have served as personnel director were Ray Rindone, Mrs. Lerah Washam, Swan Pollard and presently, the personnel director is Mrs. Rebecca Adams.
The Decaturville Sportswear Plant has been instrumental, financially, in the erection of numerous new houses in Decaturville, as well as added business places. It has afforded employment for not only those in Decatur County but surrounding counties as well as it has increased the population of Decaturville as couples join in Holy Wedlock, build new homes and settle down here.
Early industries helped Decatur County tremendously and one such was Smiley Sand and Gravel Company, located near the ferry at Perryville Landing in the late 1920's. It was operated by Jack Smiley, Jim Smiley and their sister, Nell. It was instrumental in supplying the necessary material for the construction of the Alvin C. York Bridge as well as gravel for roads, bridges, vaults and sand for concrete in the construction of buildings.
Later, Tinker Sand & Gravel Company located in Perryville in 1938, with the exception of two or three years during World War II. The company is located at the landing where the ferry once operated. It employs 15.
The latest Sand & Gravel Company is the Teague Brothers Company. There are fifteen in the operation.
Both of these Sand & Gravel Companies are instrumental in the economic success of the county.
The limestone studded county has one open limestone mine located on 69 Highway North, near the Jeanette Community which has been a big asset to the county.
Opened in 1957 by N.J. Boogie, it was known as Western Materials. In May 1966, Western Materials moved away and Vulcan Materials Co.-MidSouth Division moved in.
There are twenty-five employees at the mine and the annual payroll is approximately $130,000. The company contracts Agricultural lime and road rock to companies who sell it all over West Tennessee. The mine produces from 900,000 to one million tons a year.
In the field of livestock, Decatur County was fortunate to have a Hog Buying Station locate in the county in 1960.
The building was constructed by Wayne Byrd who leased it to Armour & Co. for the promotion of hog marketing as a boom to the area's farm economy.
Within the first six years, the Hog Buying Station, located in Decaturville, had put more than $10,000,000 into the pockets of area farmers.
The first buyer of the hog buying station was Herman Hayes. Other buyers include Joe Akin and Paul White.
In 1975, Morrell Packing Company leased the building after Armour and Company severed their lease. The building was sold to William Mac Johnson.
Orbin McPeake is presently serving as hog buyer here. Due to the fact that the hog market has fluctuated so rapidly, causing farmers to raise fewer hogs, the market's success has declined a bit; however, it is an asset to the county. Competition with buyers at livestock sales outside the county has proved helpful since competition is the life of business.
Livestock production continues to be the largest source of income in the county. About 60% of the farm income comes from it. Hogs are the largest single source, making up about 33 percent of livestock income. Cattle makes up about 26% of the livestock income and sheep and dairying the other percent.
A well established market for livestock is the Scotts Hill Auction Company located in Decatur County, which holds weekly sales. Here the farmer has an outlet for his cattle, hogs, sheep and goats. They are sold at auction.
Tom Mitchell started the Sale Barn. Later Youel Gibson joined him as a partner and at Mitchell's death, Henry Gibson bought half interest. Presently it is operated by Henry and Youel Gibson.
Decatur County covers an area of 346 square miles with 221,440 acres according to 1960 census. It is endowed with fertile soil and with an ideal climate for farming.
Of these 221,440 acres, there are 145,885 acres in farmland with a total of 906 farms in the county. The average size of the farms is 161 acres. Some of the best land is located on the Tennessee River which divides Decatur County from Perry County. Cotton, corn and pastures were the main crops grown in the county in 1960; however, in 1975 cotton has bowed out and soy beans have replaced the crop. In 1879, Decatur County harvested 5,591 acres of cotton as compared to 2,910 acres in 1959. The yield increased from .39 per acre in 1879 to 1.0 an acre in 1959. 2,350 acres were harvested in 1964 with a yield of 570 pounds per acre which totaled a production of 2,800 bales. In 1975 there wasn't a stalk of cotton grown in the county.
Corn shows an increase also. The average yield of corn in the county in 1952 was 21 bushels per acre and in 1965, it was 52 bushels per acre. This is an increase in the last 14 years of 31 bushels per acre. In 1975, the average increase was 60 bushels per acre. 9,100 acres was harvested in 1964 producing 455,000 bushels of corn.
Soybeans is another crop that has shown an increase within the last few years. In 1963, 250 acres were harvested yielding 20 bushels to an acre and producing 5,000 bushels in comparison with 300 acres in 1964 yielding 21 bushels per acre and providing 6,300 bushels. There was a definite increase in the production of soybeans in 1975.
Very little wheat was grown in Decatur County in 1963. Only 50 acres was harvested as was the same amount in 1964. It shows an increase in production to 600 acres grown in 1975.
Forests cover about 60 percent of the land area of Decatur County. Over-cutting, grazing woodlands and improper selection are among the problems in the woods.
Pines have been set on land not suitable to row crops and pastures. In 1964, forty seven farmers planted 172,000 pine seedlings as compared to 141,500 planted by forty farmers in 1963.
Catfish farming in the county was initiated in 1968 when Robie Dodd experimented with catfish in managed lakes. At harvest time, his lakes were drained and the catfish deposited into huge vats and sold to businesses. He later sold out and presently Bill Benedict is owner of the six lakes.
Other catfish lakes prove profitable as well as recreational since they are open to the public for fishing at a small price per pound.
Among those who have catfish lakes here now are Terry Reid, who has six big lakes, located near Bear Creek. Lewis Lacy has two lakes in Garrett Community, Troy Brasher has one lake near Lost Creek Boat Dock. John D. Vise has one lake. Mack Chandler has a number of small lakes. Troy McCormic has one lake and Chunk King has a lake near Perryville.
Decatur County holds the record of the world's largest blue catfish which was caught by Joe Potts October 1971 in the Tennessee River. The big blue channel cat tipped the scales at 112 pounds, measured 53-1/2 inches long and taped 38 inches in girth. The distance between his eyes measured eight inches.
He was offered $1000 for the fish provided he delivered it and it stayed alive three days after delivery to a man in Indiana; however, it didn't make the grade and died.
Although the number of full-time farmers is decreasing and the size of farms are getting larger, there is an increasing number of part-time farmers in the county. The decrease of farmers derives from industries which have located here affording the once farmer ready cash weekly or biweekly.
Decatur County has made progress in the area of soil testing. In a soil testing results from the State Soil Testing Laboratory in Nashville, Decatur County ranks second in West Tennessee in number of soil test samples.
Decatur County has shown considerable improvement per capita personal income. Per capita personal income in Decatur County in 1965 was $8,876. Personal income in the county in 1975 was $11,842 in comparison to the amount in 1960 of $7,895.
Per capita personal income in Decatur has shown considerable improvement from 1960 through 1967. Each year it has shown a gain as well as from 1967 to the present date.
Cradle rocking has been exchanged with jobs outside the home. These jobs include industrial workers, clerks, grocery store checkers, school bus drivers, political officials and machine shop workers.
Industrial plants rank first as employers. More than 2.000 of the County's women are employed in the Decatur County Plants, in some jobs working side by side with men, successfully performing the same job.
Various reasons are given when married women are asked why they plunge outside the home. Heading the list of answers is their desire to boost the family's income.
Other sources of income in the county include Musseling on the Tennessee River.
Not only is it a way of life, but it is a profitable occupation. Shell buyers employ diggers who are paid by the number of pounds they catch. Many have been known to earn $25.90 to $40.00 a day. The men work an average of eight hours a day. Late in the afternoon is the best time to catch the Mussels. The biggest enemy is the wind. When it blows strong, mussels will not bite.
The early method of musseling was by hand boats and brails. Equipment was made from iron pipes and wires.
The more modern method is boats with outboard motors and brails raised by the motor. The brails are let down to the bottom of the river to the mussel beds. He opens his mouth for food and when the brail touches his mouth he clamps down on it, and all one has to do is pull up. They live on the bottom and are bedded six to eight feet deep, like cordwood, and are usually found in from 75 to 150 feet deep water.
A new method for catching the mussels is Scuba diving. A man dresses in an underwater outfit, with an oxygen tank attached, goes down to the bottom of the river with the help of weights. He holds a basket in one hand and picks up mussels with the other and brings them to the surface.
These mussel shells are shipped to Japan where they are used in the cultural pearl industry. Buttons are a product from the mussel production.
Buyers at Perryville from time to time include Edd Lee, Dave Stafford, Dan Eugene McFall and Bernard Lee.
Towboats have played an important part in the economy of Decatur County. They afford a better way of life for a number of residents, including both male and female. The only disadvantage to river life is having to be away from their families for 30 days or less.
Working conditions are very good on the towboats which ply the Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi, Green, Cumberland, Missouri and Illinois. The sky is the limit as to the menu and employees work six hour shifts.
Females are employed as cooks. Some have not been able to stick to the art of cooking for men on a towboat, but others have been employed for quite sometime.
The retirement is good. An employee can retire after 20 or 25 years of service. An increase in retirement benefits makes the difference. Also they receive partial medical assistance with retirement.
There have been some casualties from this type of employment in the county over the years. Young men have lost their lives while others have been lamed for life.
The two boat industry affords employment for around 150 employees from Decatur County.
Monthly salaries coming in to the county amount to around $18,000.
A saw mill of importance and missed under the saw mill section was the Pratt and Price Sawmill, owned by L. H. Pratt and Demp Price. This mill moved all over Decatur County as well as Benton, Gibson and Chester Counties. Later L. H. Pratt pulled out and Demp Price continued in this capacity. In 1958 his son, E.V. (Ab) Price took over after his father retired and he now has a big saw mill near 1-40 Highway.
Vise Town Landing
Swallow Bluff Landing
Cedar Bluff Landing
Double Islands Landing
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