yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

Uncle Jake and other Fisher Stories

from the collection of Brenda Kirk Fiddler

W. V. Barry

W. V. Barry, Lexington Progress founder and publisher, in his older years, loved to write about Decatur County where he and his brother started the Decatur County Beacon in about 1880-1881. One of his favorite families to write about was the Fisher family, especially Uncle Jake. Some of his stories are hard to follow but there is a lot of interesting stuff in the articles he wrote in his column, "This is My Column". W. V. Barry was born in 1858 and by 1940, his eyesight was so bad that he dictated his material. His son Henry by 1940 had been running the newspaper for several years, Mr. Barry was appointed Clerk and Henderson County Clerk and Master in 1911, a position he kept until about August 1942. Mr. Barry died in 1948, outliving his son Henry by two years.

Many of Mr. Barry's local color / historical articles were written for the Jackson Sun and for the Nashville newspapers as well as for the Lexington Progress.

March 6, 1925 Lexington Progress

Help This Woman Find Her Folks

Jones A. Austin of Lexington recently received a letter from Mrs. Florence Fisher Kellogg of Canize Springs, Texas, seeking information of a Fisher, who is said to have lived in this county. Mrs. Kellogg says: "I wrote the P.M. at Warren's Bluff asking if he knew anyone that lived in your county years and years ago. He had a son by the name of King Fisher that came to Southwest Texas 50 to 60 years ago and married my mother, Sallie Vivion. He never told my mother anything of his people and about 40 years ago he was killed in San Antonio, and we are anxious to know of his people."

If you read this notice, please call attention to the elderly people living close to you about it and if you have any information concerning King Fisher or his father, send it to the Progress office.

May 10, 1940 The Lexington Progress (by W. V. Barry, who founded the newspaper in 1884)

This is My Column (excerpt) by W. V. Barry

The late W. T. Logan of Lexington, who practiced law in Decaturville, in partnership with Judge Levis S. Woods, was counsel for one Jake Fisher, who wound up the bankrupt estate of one Charles Young, who came to Decatur County, with a half million dollars and ran a mill long enough to cut the timber off a vast tract of land since known as "The Coaling"--and I have heard Mr. Logan say that "Uncle Jake" Fisher was one of the best lawyers he ever met, notwithstanding Uncle Jake was perfectly illiterate, only being able to make a scrawl which passed current for JAKE FISHER, but looked no more like that than any other name.

Dick Logan had a case in Chancery before Chancellor Abernathy, but lost it and said to his client, "Uncle Jake, I am your lawyer, you pay me, and the thing to do is to be perfectly frank with you, and I am telling you that to appeal our case will cost an additional hundred dollars and we will lose it," to which Uncle Jake replied: "Logan, you go on and 'peal the case and if we do nothing else we can show old Abernathy the contempt we've got for his d___n little co'rt--'peal the case."

March 24, 1944 Progress

My Column by W. V. Barry

From this point, having done Flatwoods in full, I shall go on down Buffalo River beginning at the ford nearest Flatwoods and on the way from Flatwoods to the Smith farm which a few years ago, was and may yet be occupied by Joel Stone and his widowed sister Duffy the twin of Bransford Stone, who lives in Nashville.

Below this ford was the home of old Tobe Lineberry, whose family came from Germany and was changed to Lineberry from Lindibarger. Then comes the Bill Chapel ford, as I have called it, but the name really was "Slinkshoals"--and below that on the land, as I knew it, cultivated by John Carey Whitaker, father of Mrs. Emma Fisher, widow of Dr. Bob Fisher of Parsons and somewhere near this point on Buffalo, many years ago was a grist mill, and whisky distillery, owned and run by Anderson White, father of the late John H. L. White, who died in Lexington.

In my early days here Anderson White lived at Sardis, and I remember him as a heavy built man of florid complexion and abundant hair as white as cotton--and back to the name "Lineberry"--that was the name of the second wife of old Henderson McDonald, who called her the Dutch woman, and my readers may remember my story of her death, the funeral that occurred on Monday, and the Squire's marriage the next Sunday to an old maid named Hail [sic] Bridges and that the 'Squire made the statement as the reason for marrying so early was that the Dutch woman was as dead as she'd ever be. I have not told the story as I heard it that 'Squire McDonald not only ran away from Tennessee with his great niece and married her in Oklahoma, but I was telling it one day by word of mouth in the presence of Black Webb, who once lived here in the Lindenfield house who remarked, "I know all about it for the girl was my cousin."

Before reaching Linden there was formerly a mill run by the power of water which came from a hill, being something like half of Buffalo River, the other half of the river following the valley. There was said to be one of the finest instances of water power in Middle Tennessee, ample to run any sort of industry as far as Linden, a mile or so, if there had been the electric machinery of today. This mill, I believe, belonged to Capt. Billy Webb of the same family as the Webb family have been known in Lexington. Black Webb, if I am not mistaken, married a daughter of Dr. Black of Perry County, who was a good doctor, a well known character in his way and extensive land owner--and that I have heard brings on more talk.

Dr. Black, somehow or other, got into debt and a young lawyer in Linden, T. W. Sims, had the debt in his hands for collection, so he said one day to John Nix, a deputy sheriff, who had a son named Claude. "John, Dr. Black is my friend, but I've got to collect that debt," and up to see Dr. Black went Mr. Nix, and after John and the Doctor figuring at various precincts and different banks at which they might get the money, John finally said, "Doctor, I know a fellow whom I believe to have about that money, and if he has, and we can get it, he will only charge six per cent, and so the doctor, having no idea whom John had in mind, asked his name and John replied, T. W. Sims, and from Mr. Sims they did get the money, and finally Dr. Black cleared his land of debt and today I guess it is one of the best farms in Perry County.

T. W. Sims, who represented us in Congress for 24 years, was never much of a money lender, but he never did ask more than six per cent on any loan he made.

July 2, 1943 Lexington Progress

My Column by W. V. Barry

It was not long after my arrival in Decaturville, April 14, 1881, that I had pointed out to me a man named Fisher, who signed his name J. F. Fisher, but said signature looked no more like J. F Fisher than it did J. M. Brown. I noticed that nearly everybody addressed this man as Uncle Jake, and I soon did it myself. I owe my stories about Jake Fisher to the late W. T. Logan, known as Dick, who died 50 years ago, the husband of Mrs. Celestia Logan, and the father of Mary, wife of my son, Henry.

It must have been while I was first in Decaturville that Uncle Jake dictated the winding up of the biggest land lawsuit or sale in Decatur County, the property of the old Brownsport furnace, which was run for a time by Charlie Young, who was said to have gone there with a cool half million dollars, and there dropped it, after having had cut off a great area of wood to fire the furnace, for coal had not then come to use in such places. I have been told by Mr. Logan that every move made in the windup of the estate was done by Uncle Jake Fisher, and Logan said that in the lawsuits, Mr. Fisher could have conducted the suits himself, but for the fact that he didn't have the license to practice law. For instance: when Logan lost a suit for Uncle Jake before Chancellor Abernathy, when it was finished, he said: "Uncle Jake, I am your lawyer and you pay me, which is all right, and the thing to do is to be perfectly frank with you, and tell you that it will do us no good to appeal the case and will cost you another $100," to which Uncle Jake replied, "Logan, lemme tell you, if you can't do nothing else, we can show old Abernathy our contempt for his damn little court you go on and 'peal the case."

I have been told that when Charlie Young was running the Brownsport furnace, he made at least one trip to Europe taking his family along, and while over there purchased paintings which must have been rare, but in the final sale, went at $1.00 each, and I have seen two of them hanging in a Decaturville saloon. I was also told that these two pictures were finally brought by Mr. W. Stout, and I wonder whatever became of them. Mr. Fisher was at one time accounted a rich man, owning much land and having considerable money, but a great deal of it got away from him, one way by signing notes, such as one for $1,000 he and Joe Yarbro signed for one Jesse Val, who long ran the warehouse at Perryville, and was at one time a merchant in Lexington, all of which brings about the story of Uncle Jake lying drunk in the ware room of Frank Fisher, the day he had to pay that $1,000, when his grandson, Jake Reynolds, was selected to get Uncle Jake's money and keep it until the old man got sober-but he fooled them by saying, "I ain't dead yet-ain't a damn cent in that," making it appear that his grandson was trying to rob him before he died, and I really think that Uncle Jake enjoyed the joke.

July 16, 1943 Lexington Progress

My Column

Mr. J. F. Fisher was a member of a large family, among them being Parson John Fisher, a local Methodist preacher, who rode the slowest horse I ever saw, "Hickory Bill" Fisher, a substantial farmer of the Mt. Lebanon neighborhood, who finally moved to Decaturville, and Paul Fisher, a farmer, who lived between Perryville and Decaturville, and who I remember at one time was working a pair of mules aged, respectively, 29 and 31 years. The three Fisher women, "Hickory Bill's" wife, Mrs. Eleanor Finley, a widow, and Mrs. Hettie C. D. Fisher, wife of Paul, were all members of the Dixon family, an old aristocratic family who had been wealthy and all of whom were literary and knew comparatively nothing about dressing as to colors, as shown by their grotesque appearance, and in their matter of baking cakes, as shown by those at an affair of one Wallace Hearn, a son of Mrs. Paul Fisher by a former marriage--but all of them could read everything they could lay their hands on, and could write excellent verse--but I am getting too far away from Uncle Jake Fisher.

One of the richest stories concerning Uncle Jake, and showing him up as almost mathematical machine while he could hardly make a figure, was the fact of a settlement on a winter's handling of cotton at Fisher's Landing, where Uncle Jake had a store and had a visit at the end of the season from one C. L. Green, head of the Cotton Commission Company, who came from Cincinnati with quite an array of paraphernalia made up of red and black ink, pens and pencils, etc., and brought with him a reputation of being the most expert accountant and the biggest rascal in Cincinnati, and the settlement on cotton filled with all sorts of fractions. Uncle Jake stood there with a big piece of chewing tobacco showing at the corner of his mouth, not able to write a line and swindled Green in the settlement.

At one time Uncle Jake bought a consignment of cook stoves with a written agreement that he would pay for them when they were sold. Season after season passed, and one of the stoves remained unsold and man after man came up the Tennessee River for the purpose of getting a settlement, with always the same results, for Uncle Jake's reply was always the same, "Damn it man, don't you see they hain't all sold," until one day a dapper young fellow, carrying a container with fishing rod and tackle in one hand and a double barreled shot gun in the other. On reaching the store the young man made the same request about the stoves and got the same answer. The young fellow sat around until time for Uncle Jake to walk to his home on the edge on the bottom. When Uncle Jake noticed the fellow walking with him, he asked, "Where in the hell are you going?" to which the young man replied, "They tell me that fishing and hunting are pretty good hereabouts and I am going to board with you until you pay for those stoves." Uncle Jake, seeing that he had come to the end of the stove situation without further profit, said, "Damn it, man, let's go back to the store," which they did, and Uncle Jake paid for the stoves and the young man left on the next steamboat that came down the river.

One day Uncle Jake said to his son-in-law, John Thomas, "Damn it, John, don't you want me to show you how to make $25," and proceeded to explain: "You give me your note for $50 and go over and get Cat Lacy (Cat being another son-in-law) to sign it. You know you hain't worth a damn, so this fall, Cat will pay it." Mr. Fisher knew that Lacy was good for his debts. Well, when fall came, the matter went on as calculated. John Thomas didn't pretend to pay. Cat Lacy did pay it and Thomas went to Uncle Jake and said, "Mr. Fisher, how about that $25?" to which Uncle Jake replied, "Damn it, man. I said I was going to show you. I didn't say you was going to get any of it."

One morning in the fall when Uncle Jake was going to Decaturville and had come to the place where one road leads to Fisher's Landing, and the other to Perryville, he met a fellow in a sewing machine buggy, who stopped and said to Mr. Fisher: "Last spring our agent for the Wheeler & Wilson Sewing Machine, sold a machine to Jake Fisher, Jr. We have his note for $90 and I am collecting. Do you happen to know anything about him?" "Damn it, man," said Uncle Jake, "I ought to for he was my son." For Uncle Jake was always on the alert. "What kind of man was he," asked the agent. "A pretty good man," said Uncle Jake, "while he was living, but he left nothing." When as a matter of fact, if a hill had not been in the way, the home of little Jake could have been seen. The result of the whole thing was that Uncle Jake gave the fellow $40 for the $90 note and proceeded to make his son pay it without delay.

Speaking of little Jake, one day in the summer when there had been heavy rains and the street badly cut up in front of my office, the hot sun baking the clods into a hard surface, little Jake Fisher happened to get down drunk in the shade of a large heaven wood tree [sic] in the yard across the street, and two or three times in the afternoon I went out to little Jake, took him by the heels and dragged him down into the shade of the tree. One time little Jake was out on bond in a pistol case and Uncle Jake got mad at him, took his name off the bond and had little Jake put back into jail.

All these things I have told about Mr. Fisher are no reflection on any of his people or descendants, all of whom, so far as I know, were honorable, industrious people. Henry Wright, one of his sons-in-law, a great big fellow, was a friend of mine, and likewise, his brother, Ewing, a sawmill man, as I remember, who was quite handsome and a good fellow. If Uncle Jake had been an educated man he might have been a millionaire and then some, for his brain was his outstanding characteristic.

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