Note from Belinda L. Jowers
The following history of the Kolwyck family of Darden, Tennessee is taken from original correspondence between Charles McDaniel, of Rocky Mount, Virginia and Clarence Kolwyck during their search of the Kolwyck family genealogy in 1971. My grandmother, Jewell Kolwyck, was instrumental in helping Clarence locate many of the missing family records. In her later years when she lost her sight, we would spend hours going over these letters and stories. She found joy in relating some of our family history to me and I will forever cherish those wonderful moments spent listening and learning from her.
We begin our story from a letter dated May 10, 1971.
I am glad to have your letter of October 9, 1971 and I am sorry that I could not answer it sooner. Your information along with mine is at least a start in the jigsaw puzzle of the Kolwyck family tree, though far from complete, as of course it will always be. This is a beginning of what I hope in time will be a more complete history of the family.
I will never forgive myself for not reducing to writing Aunt Shrill’s knowledge of the family. I am glad that you found her name to be Sarilda as compared to the family bible entry, which looked like Swillda. I only knew her as Aunt Shrill. She didn’t die until 1930. She was a walking genealogical chart including the names, birthdays and deaths of every member of the family. She used to rock me to sleep with the old Dutch folk songs learned from her father. I remember her as of medium height, intelligent, beautiful, wiry, and a gossipy woman with a high temper the endurance of a cross-country runner, and easily offended. She spent her life sponging on relatives – two weeks at a time. Then she would feign some offense; pack her clothes, knitting and quilting and trudge miles to another relative. But you could expect her back – all sweetness and love – after she had made the circuit of offense.
Grandfather and Aunt
Mary said that being the baby in the family she was the “apple of her
father’s eye” and was so spoiled by him that she never overcame it
and many relatives agreed. But don’t misunderstand me, I loved her, as
did all the children of my generation, like no other woman in the world, save
our mothers and childhood “crushes”. As I look back, I think I
would have to say that she was one of the most remarkable women in my young
I am going to venture a guess as to why she was called Shrill. I remember her saying that because of his broken English her father could not say Jim, referring to my grandfather. He would say “Jom”. The same may have been true for “Sarilda”. Of course, he had no formal schooling, as did few in those days, including my father. That is evident in the phonetic spelling of the names appearing in the Bible. The correct Dutch spelling of our name is Kolwyk. Except for the inserted “c” we are now spelling it correctly. The “c” is short.
According to the stories handed down in the family by Aunt Shrill, grandfather and Aunt Mary, great-grandfather William, on the morning of his 16th birthday, November 2, 1808, upon finishing breakfast, pushed his plate back and announced that he was going to seek liberty, because he was required by law to report for military service in Holland on that date. The family lived near Amsterdam and was reputed to be quite wealthy. He never communicated his subsequent whereabouts to his family and, therefore, did not claim his “inheritance”, which was supposed to have been sufficient to make us all rich.
Pursuing the story (and I think henceforth the story is true, with some embellishment by repetition), young William made his way to the port of Rotterdam, where he stowed away in a sail ship bound for Mobile (not New Orleans - at least it landed in Mobile). On the second day out, hunger pains forced him to come out of storage and he was assigned the duty of attending sails atop the main mast pole. Storms were so severe that the crossing took two months. According to him the ship would list so much that he was frequently ducked in the spray. It seems also that being a stowaway he drew the night watch and the favorite sport of the crew was guessing or betting whether the “little Dutchman” would survive the nightly storms. But sure enough, each morning they would look skyward and see him swaying with the storm. And well that he was, else Chattanooga would be short one lawyer.
Being so fearful of
apprehension by the Dutch government and the U.S. authorities, young William is
said to have many times regaled the family with his exploit in jumping ship
just as it bumped dock at Mobile, hitting the dock running, and he didn’t
stop running until he reached Chickasaw Indian country in West Tennessee
(Henderson county created in 1821). This answers your question as to where he
did not tarry in route. This was in midwinter 1808-1809, three years
before Reel Foot Lake was formed by the mighty earthquake of November, 1811 to
January 1812. Incidentally, if you want to read an interesting vignette of
Tennessee History you should order a copy of the NIGHT RIDERS OF REELFOOT
LAKE, by Paul J. Vanderwood, published by the Memphis State University
He finally ran out of breath upon reaching what was later known as the Cub Creek area near the village of Shiloh in the extreme north east corner of Henderson County where he lived out his life. This area is now partially covered by the Natchez Trace State Park and Forrest. Please note from a detailed map of Tennessee; the Henderson, Carroll, Benton, and Decatur counties more of less intersect at this point. Flatwoods being just across the county from Shiloh accounts for his being buried in Decatur County, rather than Henderson County. Probably the family church and cemetery were at Flatwoods, not more than a mile or so from his home in Henderson County. I am sure the carvings on grave stones in that area hold a lot of family history.
The only children I knew were Aunt Mary Cagle (childless, as I remember), grandfather and Aunt Shrill. My records show grandfather’s name as James Wesley. Louisa S., the daughter you found in the census records, but not shown in the Bible, apparently married James F. McFarland. Margaret C. or S. appears to have died when she was seventeen years of age. I have no record of what happened to Gerebeth G. True. Anderson D. (Uncle Dee) died in Andersonville prison, from scurvy caused by a diet of weevil-eaten cowpeas, as the story went in the family. This prison is known in history as one of the most inhuman on record, perhaps worse that what our boys are enduring in North Vietnam. It is described in Sandberg’s biography of Lincoln as having less food and more scurvy and starvation; less soap and more filth; scabies and lice; less medicine, and more gangrene, fever, diarrhea, ulcers, sores, hemorrhage, a stockaded twenty-seven acres, 32,000 prisoners were packed six square feet per man, where they died at the rate of 3,000 per month. There is no record of Uncle Dee’s marriage or descendants.
Nathan R. died during the Civil War. Last fall I found a Nathan Kolwyck about 80 years old, living in New Madrid, Missouri. He could be a grandson of the Nathan, although I have no record of Nathan’s marriage. This was the first I knew of the existence of this branch of the family. I saw only his daughter, about 50, who is the “spittin’ image” of Aunt Shrill. Voyd, Uncle Jim’s oldest boy, used to tell a story handed down by Aunt Shrill about Nathan’s huge size hands, 12 inches wide, believe it or not. Incidentally, Voyd died last fall after lingering heart failure over a period of several years.
I know nothing about
what happened to Catherine F. and Sara Allen, unless Sara Allen married a
McDaniel. There are so many second and third generation Bills and
Margaret’s that I can’t place them. William S. was the grandfather
of Glennie Colwick who operates a store in Parsons, Tennessee. One of
Glennie’s cousins settled in Sikeston, Missouri, leaving several widely
scattered offspring, spelling their name with “C” and
“I” instead of “K” and “Y”.
Miner T. married M.A. Barnes and is believed to have settled in Gibson County near Humboldt and was said to be the first person in the country to can tomatoes commercially. Vegetable growing was a family tradition in Holland, hence the name meaning “cabbage patch” (Kol – kohlrabi = kale; wyk = place). Gibson County is one of the most highly productive counties in the country. That area is still known as the “Strawberry Capitol of the World.” As far back as 1920 Halls shipped 18 car loads per day during the season. I remember visiting his two sons in Gibson County, Bill and Jim. Another son, Horace migrated to Chattanooga, rearing a large family, now widely scattered. The whereabouts of one son was unknown for 40 years until he died as a bum in New York about eight years ago (1963). Another son is a retired wealthy rancher in Montana.
Bill had a large family in Gibson County and died at age 99 about ten years ago (1961). His son Oren was the first casualty in WWI from that county. The American Legion post at Humboldt is named for him. Another son, O’Neil is the one who has great-grandfather’s bible. His son, Raymond, is now the Chief of Police of Humboldt. The late entries in the bible represent this branch of the family in Gibson County and I know nothing about them, except as described. Gibson County was a long way from Darden in the horse and buggy days.
I had never heard of a second marriage of great-grandfather, although it does appear likely upon caparison of the Bible and census records. Until you mentioned it I had thought that the marriage of William to Sarah Fullerton on December 23, 1859, referred to the marriage of his son William S., but he would have been much younger than Sarah who could not have given birth to the children fathered by William S., so I guess great-grandfather got lonesome for female companionship.
This is about the extent of my recollection of great uncles and aunts and of the whereabouts of descendants. Having traveled extensively in the original 48 states and having checked hundreds of telephone directories, I am convinced that there are no Kolwyk or Colwicks of great-grandfather’s. I once spent an entire day in the “Tulip Capitol of the United States” Holland, Michigan, which is ninety-five percent Dutch, and I could not find a trace of the name. About 10 years ago my wife spent one day in Amsterdam and Rotterdam Holland and she reports the name Kolwyck, quite common in the telephone directories of those cities.
The Tennessee Civil War records at Nashville show that J.M., M.T., W.S., A.D., and J.W. served in the confederate army. Of course J.W. was my grandfather. M.T., W.S., and A.D. are identifiable with the Bible records. It is my guess that J.M. was the son of Miner T. above referred to, whom my father and I visited in Gibson County when I was twelve years old. He was called “Cousin Jim”, as was the custom in those days in addressing cousins not immediately known and seldom seen.
My history teacher, later president of the University of Tennessee, used to caution against going back in one’s family tree for fear of finding an ancestor hanging from a limb, which I then knew applied to our family. Note that Nathan R. is not listed among the Confederate veterans and that the Bible record shows that he died on February 9, 1862, the second year of the Civil War. According to a story handed down in the family, one of grandfather’s brothers was hanged because he refused to be conscripted into the Confederate Army. That would have to be Nathan, since the others are accounted for in the war records. Both he and grandfather had taken to the woods, but when Nathan was apprehended, grandfather decided to save his own neck by surrendering and enlisting. But this was not the last of grandfather’s aversion to the Confederacy.
Grandfather was a private in L Company, 1st Artillery regiment at the battle of Franklin, fought in the late afternoon of November 30, 1864, which ranked in ferocity with Gettysburg and Shiloh in killed, wounded, and prisoners. When darkness ended the fighting each side thought it had lost, and during the night many confederates took to their heels, including grandfather. Neglecting to muster in after the battle he successfully hid-out the duration of the war and again neglected to muster out after General Lee surrendered at Appomattox on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865.
The battle of Franklin story about grandfather I know to be true. He was never able to get a state confederate pension, nor could grandmother after he died. In 1922 or 1923, when I was in pre-law at U.T. (already a lawyer in-so-far as the family was concerned), I was asked to stop at Nashville, en route to Knoxville, to check on her pension. I was greeted at the pension office by a kindly “Colonel” with a flowing grey beard (all confederate privates were Colonels by then), who asked me to wait while he checked the records. After a long delay he came out of a back office and sat down beside me. Placing his hand on my knee he said in a still kindly voice, “Son, I am sorry that we can’t give your grandmother a pension, because your grandfather was a deserter.”
That raises the question as to why Uncle “Dee” died in a confederate prison. He is listed as Pvt. A. Co. 1” H-Arty” which presumably would be grandfather’s regiment. It would be reasonably surmised that he likewise ran away from the Battle of Franklin, but was less fortunate than grandfather, even less fortunate than Nathan. Certainly he must have deserted at some time or other, or was court-martialed for some serious breach of discipline; otherwise he would not have been consigned to starvation with thousands of Federal prisoners. Just think how twice lucky we are that grandfather escaped both the noose and Anderson Ville prison!
By turning to a contour map of the tier of counties along the west bank of the Tennessee River as it meanders northwardly from Mississippi into Kentucky one will find a series of red clay hills and small creek bottoms conductive only to marginal and small plot farming in those days with a “bull-tongue” plow, one or two mules, occasionally a mare to produce mules, sometimes a yoke of oxen, one or two cows for milk and butter, a few hogs for cured meat and chickens for eggs to eat and to swap for coffee, sugar and salt. Even my father, with two boys and three horses, could never cultivate more than twenty-five acres in corn cotton and hay, and seldom cleared more than $100 in any one year. The good land was owned by the land speculators and slave owning cotton barons. The area where great-grandfather settled was bought up by the Federal government as sub-marginal land (gullies in which two story horses could be buried) in the early thirties through the Roosevelt-Wallace “plow the pigs under” program.
There were no plantation, and therefore no slaves to that area. Slavery was hated there as bitterly as in Boston. Even I never saw a Negro until I was fourteen years old and he was said to be half Indian. He was sort of an old floating farm hand and handy man, of unknown ancestry and without hope of posterity, whom father had hired for a day or two of work. When mother called us to dinner (now lunch, for some unknown reason) he refused to join us at the dinner table, despite mother’s urgent request. His refusal plus his reddish-black color completely baffled me, about which I later directed some pertinent questions to mother. Then it was that she took occasion to lay down one of her many precepts of life that have controllingly directed my life. She went into great detail about how the Lord had seen fit to populate the world with people whose skin was of many colors, but that color was only skin deep, and that underneath the blood of all was red and each had a soul that was white in the sight of God. Then she concluded, “I don’t want to hear of you judging any man by the color of his skin.” And that was 56 years ago. Their action illustrates the Dutch stubbornness of mind and independence of thought, sometimes just plain orneriness, which has characterized the breed down through the latest generation, and so be it.
Unquestionably the family has supported its country since the Civil War. I don’t know whether any member volunteered in the Spanish-American War, which was of short duration, involving very few soldiers. It has already been stated that Oren Kolwyck was the first casualty from Gibson County in WWI, about which I have poignant memories. Just before reported for duty he and his older sister, Cousin Lena, visited us at Darden in a spanking new buggy, with collapsible top and side curtains, drawn by a prancing bay horse outfitted in beautifully ornamented and polished harness that squeaked of newness. Gee, I thought how prosperous they must be. We could never afford a buggy. I remember Lena as a beautiful and charming woman and Oren as a fine specimen of physical manhood. And it was a great shock to hear in a matter of week that a German land mine had mangled his manly body in France.
In WWII, Uncle Jim’s youngest son Jesse, while in the flower of young manhood sustained a brain injury which destroyed his sanity but not his physical strength. He lingered in the security wards of carious veterans’ hospitals until he finally died a merciful death about four years ago (1968). To know the grief suffered by his family is to know the horror and tragedy of war. Last year Uncle Jim’s grandson, Arra’s only Child, lost his life in Vietnam, leaving a young bride and forever inconsolable parents. Even I volunteered in WWII at the age of 41.
Before departing from the Civil War history, the end result of that experiment was that Kolwycks were and are confirmed Republicans. I have never heard of one who had admitted voting the national Democratic ticket. Grandfather could never forget the death of his next two older brothers and he died with a consuming hatred of the confederacy and all for which it stood, including the Democratic Party. Individual Democrats were seldom tolerated and never trusted. I vividly recall his last ballot. It was on a hot August day, he was so feeble that he had to be lifted in a split bottom chair onto a wagon and then lifted out of the wagon at the polling place. When he had been lifted out of the wagon onto the front yard upon returning home, he said, between gasps for breath, “Well boys, I guess that is the last time I will vote, but thank God, I voted the ticket straight” (republican).
Even today (1971) Henderson County is solidly republican. It voted for Landon in 1936. In 1968, it went to one for Nixon, and last year (1970) it went by the same margin for the Republican candidates for Governor and Senator, both of whom were elected. I can only recall two Democrats being elected to county office, and one of them because a republican had reputedly stolen one corner of the court house. In recent years no Democrat has contested a single office. All elections are steeled in the Republican primary. The same situation still prevails in most of the tier of counties along the west bank of the Tennessee River.
Coming now to grandfather’s immediate family, I insist that his name was James Wesley, because that was the name given to me by my father when I applied for a commission in the Navy at the outset of WWII. After the Civil War, it seems that the children drifted southward in Henderson and Decatur counties. Aunt Mary married a Cagle and they lived about half way between Shiloh and Darden, perhaps over the line in Decatur County. I can vaguely remember visiting her, but can’t recall anything about her husband (probably then deceased). I remember her as the quiet motherly type, heavier and less wiry than other women in the family and not given to “shooting off at the mouth” as some of the others were inclined. William S. settled near Parsons in Decatur County and I am sure died long before I was born.
Grandfather (J.W. Kolwyck) acquired a farm of about 300 acres northwest of Darden. The house, consisting of two large log rooms connected by breezeway, was one mile from Darden. During my early childhood the family built a frame house (hand-planed poplar lumber) a few hundred yards away on the road to Darden. The farm was sold off piecemeal down to 80 acres, on which is located the frame house, which my father bought from the heirs about 1914 and is still proudly owned by my brother, Henry and me. On this site is located the one-room log cabin in which father and mother lived the first year of their married life, which I treasure above all my possessions. I have planted the unwooded hills to loblolly pine, now 20 – 30 feet high. When once asked why I was doing this, since I could not hope to live to reap any return, I replied that I was repaying the family’s debt to the land.
Shortly before his death my father participated in the establishment of a cemetery on a hill just west of and overlooking Darden and on a path used as a shortcut from home to Darden. He and mother are buried in a plot he acquired for the family. When once asked why I would want to be buried there, rather than in Chattanooga where I have now lived for 48 years, my answer was that when I die I want to go home – and Darden is home.
There is a unique history surrounding the naming of Darden. When the railroad was being built, the railroad authorities asked the citizens to name the station. Since the largest citizen in the state, Mills Darden, lived in the county, his name was selected. At that time he already weighed about 500 pounds, but by latest published accounts his weight has since increased to something over 800 pounds. Being sensitive about his size, he would never allow himself to be weighed. Once when he came to the county seat, Lexington, for weekly supplies, some curious citizens devised a means of weighing him without his knowledge. Being a prosperous farmer he always used a spring wagon. So, before he alighted from the wagon one man crawled under the wagon and measured the distance between the top and bottom leaves of the springs, then by filling the wagon bed with rocks until the springs compressed to the same measurement, and then weighing the rocks, they ascertained his weight.
When it became known that the first train would arrive at the depot, farmers gathered from miles around, as the engine chugged to a stop one farmer began cracking his bull whip over the heads of his oxen and otherwise lashing them with tobacco loaded language known only to oxen, Asked why he was in such a hurry to get away, he yelled: “As long as that train is going forward I’m not afraid, but when it starts going sideways I want to be away from here.”
One nostalgic recollection of this train still lingers with me. In my early childhood we lived about eight miles north of Darden. When the “weather was right” we could hear the engineer’s lonesome whistle, and sometimes smell the smoke. This was signaling to father of a sudden change in the weather and to check his watch. But most important, I knew the whistle was coming from where grandpa lived. When I visited him I never missed running out to see the train go by when I heard the whistle.
Regrettably Darden was never successful in respectfully increasing its size commensurate with its namesake. Back in 1920 when I was “principal” of a two-teacher, 2 month summer school, I supervised the United States History class in taking a census within a one-mile radius. It came out 175. Upon repeating the project the following summer the class sorrowfully reported a population loss of one resident due to death. Then one bright girl happened to think of a birth the night before. All was then well. Darden had retained its status-quo, and so it remains to this good day. With one general store and post office occupying the abandoned railroad station, one filling station and a cotton gin (now seldom used), it has no pollution problem, no slums and no urban sprawl and will not be applying for an urban renewal project within the foreseeable future.
Another fond memory of the Darden railroad station is that the longtime agent, Hubert Boren, was one of the best friends I ever had. By most unusual circumstances, he died on the day that the “Peavine Special” made its last run. That name was given to this 24-mile long stretch by the children along the line who, like me, rode it daily to high school at Lexington.
Grandfather was a distinguished appearing, rather sedate, kindly man, who sported a General Grant type (black turned gray) beard rounded off at the second shirt button, about 5’10”, straight as an arrow, weighing about 170 pounds, without one pound of excess fat. These physical characteristics were handed down to the eight children, and since grandmother was likewise black headed, so were all the children. It is doubtful that any of them weighed more at 50 than at 20. I weigh the same today that weighed at 18 (135 pounds). Father and I were the same size and were known as the runts in the family.
Without implying that any member of the family was addicted to alcohol and at some risk to my own reputation, I think I should share the story of one unforgettable binge in the family. In his late years, grandfather spent much of the daytime catnapping in bed. His doctor having prescribed brandy to stimulate his weakened heart a quart usually stayed within easy reach on the floor beside his bed, which he would sip from between naps. One day as a very small boy, while I was “staying a week” with grandpa, the other members of the family departed for the field and left me to “look after grandpa.” Promptly grandpa felt the need of a stimulant and soon lapsed into slumber, evident from his snoring (he being the champion snorer in the family). Being intrigued by that bottle and feeling in the need of a stimulant myself, I could not restrain the urge to emulate grandpa. As he continued to snore, I continued to add stimulant on stimulant. When the others returned from the field, “they say” (my memory being a bit hazy) that they found me swaying atop a stump in the yard trying to crow like a rooster. Fortunately for me, my thirst for the bottle did not outlive the story of my inglorious “grandpa sitting.”
Grandfather (James Wesley Kolwyck) married Eliza Kesiah Newman in 1866. Newman is pure English and I can well imagine her ancestors being among the original organizers of the Baptist Church in England in the 17th century. Her father, Elder Henry Newman, came into the wilderness of West Tennessee as a “hell fire and brimstone” Baptist preacher with the zeal of John the Baptist and the determination to stamp out sin wherever found. Being a tall raw-boned Lincolnesque type, with the agility of Cassius Clay (Mohammed Ali) and the reach of Joe Louis, he was averse to using other means when the Bible failed him in his many encounters with the devil. It is from him that grandmother’s descendents inherited the traits of quick temper and militant honesty, still evident in the latest generations.
Elder Newman’s son (Uncle Tom) was an equally effective, but less belligerent, Baptist preacher, as were two of his grandsons, Johnny Bradfield and my Uncle George Kolwyck. Through the years, they asserted a profound influence on the religious and moral life of that community, where today the devil is still having a hard time. But don’t forget that the reception being the Christians, intolerantly referred to as “Cambellites” from the name of the church’s founder. It was bad enough to be a democrat, but if one happened to also be a “Cambellite,” he was almost a community outcast. I can actually remember my father warning me to be wary of such people, but he was always careful to except out nearest neighbor, ½ mile away. When the exceptions were added up they were not such a bad lot after all.
The Cambellites were guilty of the unforgivable heresy of practicing “sprinkling” as distinguished from baptism by emersion – total emersion. It was not enough to accept Jesus Christ, one must go the final step and have his sins washed away in Big Creek or Brown’s Creek, as symbolic of the River Jordan. I still have pictures of my baptism in Big Creek and I am proud of them.
Grandmother was a remarkable woman, whose religion was a way of life, reflected by the fact that all non-relatives of the younger generation affectionately addressed her as “Aunt Kiz.” Her religion stood her in good stead as her eyesight progressively failed. From my first remembrance she was blind in one eye. As long as I live I will never forget the excruciating pain she suffered when the other eye failed. I shudder today when I recall her shrill cries of pain, and how she would pray to God for relief. And who can question the source from which relief finally came. She knew and that was enough.
Her blindness was caused by glaucoma, defined as being marked by intense intraocular pressure, resulting in hardness of the eye, atrophy of the retina, cupping of the optic disk and blindness. The disease struck three generations of grandmother’s family. Her mother’s eyes were said to have literally burst out of her head. Aunt Sis lost her vision in much the same progressive manner. There was a saying in the family that one, suffering from eye ailments and accompanying headaches until I was twenty-five. Then by some miracle all symptoms disappeared and I yet have correctable 20/20 vision. But you can bet your life that I have annual checks for glaucoma, as should all of grandmother’s descendants. Back in those days no cure was known for glaucoma – not even sedatives to alleviate the pain. Doctor’s knowledge was still bleeding for fever as George Washington was killed. Grandmother’s pain was “treated” by the application of slimy, loathsome, bloodsucking leeches near her eyes to draw off the “poison blood”. Doctors bred leeches at their offices and carried them in their medicine saddle bags in water filled fruit jars. Now there is no excuse for blindness from glaucoma, if detected in time. Today, as this is written, a free glaucoma clinic is being conducted in Chattanooga, examining 5,000 per day, of which 150 are found with glaucoma symptoms. To know the tragedy of blindness one has only to live in the household of a blind person where every piece of furniture must remain in the same place at all times.
Now that I have gone this far in describing the family, which I never thought of doing when I started, I may as well add a sketch on grandfather’s eight children, much of which is known to Sybil, but not to your lovely wife’s generation. Incidentally, considering the reputation of the present generation for caring little about its elders, it does come as a surprise that my second cousins have manifested an interest in the family history, not heretofore shown by any previous generation. Shortly after receiving your letter, Velton’s daughter Rebecca Hendrix, who lives at Darden, wrote me for information on the family history, and I and sending to her a copy of this letter and a copy of your letter. She refers to her grandfather as James Wright, and that may corroborate your information as to my grandfather’s name.
The eldest was William Henry, William for great-grandfather Kolwyck and Henry for great-grandfather Newman, but known as “Buck” and “Uncle Buck” by his nieces and nephews. He was the carpenter in the family, and a good one. I have a table that he made for me when I started school, on which I studied through high school. He had the most accurate aim with hand power tools that I had ever seen. He could mark a spot on a piece of wood, swing an axe high over his head and come down with a bull’s eye. He was the least talkative of the family – and would sit for hours and enjoy the conversations of others. He was about 5’10” and more on the “chunky side” than the others, weighing about 180 pounds. He was the only one to wear a mustache. He has three surviving children: Daisey, Beulah, and Roy. His oldest boy died at about eight, but more of that later.
Uncle Jim was the next boy and I can’t remember whether he was older than Aunt Sis. As above stated his full name according to Rebecca was James Wright. Now there was a man in every sense of the word – at close to 6” tall, weighing about 190, with the strength of a bull and the endurance of a mule and kindness and humility of a preacher and with profound respect for the person and opinions of others. He was not given to glib conversation, but when he said anything he “hit the nail on the head,” and he meant exactly what he said. I cannot think of him except as the husband of Aunt Mary. If every husband and wife became one person, theirs was the case. When Aunt Mary went to heaven the angels must have danced in gleeful celebration. How I remember the times that I found it convenient to run up in her kitchen for fried chicken, green beans and corn bread, such as no one else could cook. If I had ever picked a second father and mother they would have been Uncle Him and Aunt Mary. Uncle Jim’s oldest boy died at about the same age and time as Uncle Buck’s oldest boy. They were about two years older than I and their deaths left me the oldest male cousin in the family. Here was another consequence of untrained doctors. The disease was call “flux”, which must have been a form of the uncontrollable dysentery, either amebic or bacillary, which literally ate their intestines out of their bodies. I still recall with horror their emaciated bodies just before the Lord mercifully relieved them of pain. His next son was Voyd, who at one time worked with Uncle Sam in Missouri, where he met his wife, Jewell, who is correctly named in the finest sense. They have one daughter, Sue, voted most beautiful girl in high school, and the “apple of my eye.” I thought so much of her that my wife and I drove 500 miles in one day to attend her wedding. Ara is the home bound teacher in Henderson County. I have already mentioned the tragedy in his family. The Loraine, who has two, distinguished looking sons in business in Lexington. Belton is the youngest survivor. Has the one charming daughter, Rebecca, who also is interested in the family tree. Ata, Velton, Rebecca, Daisey, and Beulah are the last of Kolwyck clan living near Darden.
Margaret is a name running throughout the family and grandfather’s family was no exception, but the name was never used. It was “Sis” throughout her life, she being the only girl among the first 5 boys. And then she was Aunt Sis to the succeeding generations. She like all the women in the family was of the wiry type, weighing around 100 pounds. Somehow I can recall less of personal association with her than with any other member of the family. She married at about 40 and lived in the area where Aunt Mary Cagle lived. Her husband was the widower of my grandmother Maxwell’s sister and older than Aunt Sis. We called him Uncle Johnse Jones. He died shortly after the marriage and Aunt Sis was a widow the remainder of her long life. She died about 4 years ago at about 95 years of age.
It is said that childhood memories are the most lasting, but in my case these memories are likely chargeable to old age. At any rate, I remember an amusing story in regard to Uncle Johnse. Shortly after he and Aunt Sis were married we paid them an overnight visit, as was the custom in those farm wagon days. Before departing on the trip mother cautioned me to not make any reference to Uncle Johnse’s long nose, as another youngster in the family had previously made the mistake of doing. He had been so deeply impressed with the same warning that when the sugar was passed around for coffee, he handed the bowl to Uncle Johnse and very courteously inquired, “Will you have sugar in your nose, Uncle Johnse?” I did not make the same mistake.
With pardonable prejudice I come to my own father. He was given the unfortunate name of Coon, which plagues him throughout his life. This was another case of erroneous phonetic spelling. Kuhn is a common Dutch name and was supposed to be the name of father’s great uncle, a brother of the original William. Father added the middle initial “c” and always referred to himself and signed his name as “C. C.” It was thought by some that his name was Christopher Columbus, and he did not discourage that impression. Ironically, I got into trouble by adding the middle name of “Lee” to my name one day in school. A neighbor hurried from school and tattled to mother of my indiscretion, and she was waiting with a switch when I later arrived. It served no purpose for me to argue that I should have a middle name like the other children. Father and mother said that I was named Clarence to get away from the plethora of Jims, Bills and Henrys common in both father’s and mother’s families. But when my brother came along they returned to family tradition and named him James Henry. Clarence is an English name (Earl of Clarence) meaning clean and pure. So Kolwyck being “cabbage patch” my name would derivatively be “clean cabbage patch.” Father’s name plagued Henry and me throughout our teens, it being perfectly natural for teasing boys to call us the little coons. Since Kolwyck was pronounced by grandfather’s family with a long “o” (coal), Uncle Sam expected we were doubly in for trouble. Electricity being unknown in those days, lighting was by coal, oil and grease lamps with wicks – grease lamps for every day use with cold wicks and many other variations. Parents can be most unkind to children in their selection of names representative of animals of capable of being perverted into derisive nicknames. The trauma to a child can sometimes adversely affect its entire life, as it may have affected father. It is hoped that Coon will not be repeated as a family name.
While discussing phonetic spelling it is interesting to note from the original Bible entries that the names of great-grandfather and great-grandmother, their dates of birth and marriage, the names and dates of birth of children, then names and dates of birth of two McDaniel children and the date of death of a McDaniel child were all written by the same scrivener, the last date being November 4, 1847. In each instance the name is spelled Colwick. It would therefore seem obvious that the Bible was purchased near the date of the last entry.
Resuming my impressions of my father, he suffered a serious injury in his late teens which was to plague him the remainder of his life, prohibiting him from doing the usual hard work demanded of a small farmer in those days. It was call a “log rolling” strain, which more appropriately should have been called a “log toting” strain. In this age it may be difficult to explain to the modern generation what was meant by log rolling. When father was growing up in the late nineteenth and even into the twentieth century, land had to be cleared of virgin forests for cultivation of crops. Unfortunately, because of lack of knowledge of soil conservation techniques, when the top soil in the hill country had been eroded away the land would be abandoned to gullies and new land would be stripped of virgin timber to suffer the same fate. The clearing of timber was called log rolling, which the simple process of felling the trees, cutting them into lengths and burning them. If the terrain was not conducive to rolling the logs with cant hooks into a pile, they had to be carried by hand. This was done by rolling the log onto a series of second growth hickory poles with a lifting by each end of the pole, much as pallbearers carry a casket. Then as always, there were men who boasted of their physical strength, and some, as in this case, were not averse to taking advantage of others. For men of equal strength the log should rest on the center of their pole and for men of unequal strength, the log should be handicapped by a shorter end of the pole; also lifting should be in unison, otherwise a quick lift of one end would put the man at the other end to a disadvantage. On this particular occasion the man on the opposite end from father came up too suddenly with his end, burying gather’s knuckles into the ground. Not being a quitter and chafing under the taunts of others lifting the log, he gave one mighty heave and collapsed, never to roll another log. I don’t know the technical name of his injury, but it involved a strain of the muscles of his lower abdomen and groin from which he never fully recovered, either in strength or freedom from pain. I am sure that the injury accounted in part for, or aggravated, his short temper and irritability.
I have always thought that, given an education, father could have made a good lawyer. Even so, he was fully informed as to current events – local, statewide, national and the world at large, mostly gained from the daily NASHVILLE BANNER, which he was never without. He dearly loved to discuss the issues of the day, once organizing a debating society at the one room Bethel School, so that his talents and knowledge would not go unexercised or unnoticed. Being a great believer in education, there was never any doubt about my brother and me getting an education. I was started on letters and numbers at 4 years of age and was a decent reader when I started to school at 6. My reading was done in daytime by light from a hole in the gable of the loft of our log house, and at night either by the dim light of a grease lamp or prone on my stomach before an open fire in the fireplace. And read I did – every day and everything available including the Bible, which I read from cover to cover, in addition to mother having read it to me before I could read.
I still remember an amusing incident about learning to read. I had a little fabricated cloth book which listed the letters of the alphabet with some object or animal pictures alongside to symbolize each letter, such as “A” for apple, “C” for cat, etc. A swan was pictured beside “S”. Of course, swans were unknown in those parts, but we did raise geese. I had been taught that an “S” looked like a snake. So, one fine day I announced that I had mastered my alphabet book and proceeded to recite “A” for apple, X X X, “C” for cat, X X X, and reaching “S”, I glibly reeled off “Snake WAN Goose.” That story was never forgotten by father and mother as long as they lived.
Except for illness I was never permitted to miss a day in school, and in those days school was never dismissed on account of bad weather. If snow was knee deep or the creek was overflowing, father would don his boots and carry me on his back. There were no excuses, and if I got a whipping at school I could expect a worse one when I got home. I had to bring every book home at night and I didn’t go to bed until all lessons were prepared for the next day.
Honesty was a way of life at our house and was definitely the best policy. If I committed any offense calling for a whipping, which was often, and then tried to lie out of it, also often, the licks came in cadence – one for the offense and two for lying. Mother used the sprouts from a peach tree in the yard. Father used his razor strap or the hose whip. Either could send blood streaming down my legs and leave welts on me for weeks. I am still almost afraid to tell even a “white lie.” When I announced one night from father’s knees that I was going to be a lawyer, mothers only response was, “Just be an honest lawyer.” Too bad some of the younger generation didn’t have parents like mine. When I was about 14, father taught me a lesson in honesty that has been a controlling influence on my life. For 5 years we had lived on a small farm about 5 miles north of Darden. Having an opportunity to buy the old home place and desiring to move to the railroad, so my brother and I could commute to high school in Lexington, 12 miles away, he let it be known that the farm was for sale. A neighbor was anxious for the farm to “square up” his farm, but would only offer $1,000.00. Soon a man came one Sunday from another part of the county and offered $1,200.00, which father accepted. When the buyer offered to leave a deposit and requested a written memorandum of the agreement, father replied, “My word is my bond, besides, today is Sunday.” Learning of the agreement the next day, the neighbor rushed to our house and offered $1,500.00, which father indignantly refused. When the neighbor suggested that he was not legally obliged to go through with the sale, father him out of the house. He then turned to me and said, “Let that be a lesson to you.” That $300.00 would have gone a long ways on your education, but not the price of my broken word.” I have never forgotten that lesson. How could anyone forget it? And so, I honor my father as an honest man. What better heritage could he leave his children?
There will always be a special place in my heart for Uncle Sam. At one point in my college career I found myself completely without funds. In a fit of despondency I wrote him that I could not continue in college unless I could somewhere find some money, and could he loan me just $50? He sent the $50 and I managed to finish college. I mentioned this incident to Sybil last summer and she remembered her father saying at the time that he thought he was making a good investment. I hope he was not mistaken. I regret that over the years I did not maintain closer contact with him and his fine family, but such is life in this modern world when families seem to scatter to the four winds.
Uncle George was the third generation preacher in the family and a devout one. He lived his religion every day and every hour. He was a kindly man and tolerant of others. Unlike his grandfather Newman, he used only the Bible in trying to sway others. It was said of him that no man could or did speak an unkind word of him. He often said that he wanted to die in the pulpit and prayed that he be permitted to do so. His prayer was granted. The crowd at his funeral at Lexington was so large that Tennessee Highway 20 (now highway 412) traffic had to be routed around the court square. He died at peace with the Lord, the world and all mankind. No finer man ever lived than Uncle George. He had one son, James, who lives in Lexington. He, like Velton and Voyd, has one beautiful and charming daughter, whom I first met last fall.
My childhood favorite was Aunt Beadie, whom I looked upon more as a big sister than as an aunt. Petite of body, with a charming personality and beautiful alto voice, no one could fail to like Aunt Beadie. Incidentally, she, Aunt Sis and Uncle George had considerable music ability. Because of frail health she was unable to carry her share of the farm chores, often complaining of abdominal pains. Some thought the doctor included, that she had “hysterics,” a term then described one who feigned illness to avoid work, and totally unrelated to the dictionary definition of the word. But when she died in her late 30’s no more was heard of her “hysterics”. Obviously hers was another case of either failure of medical diagnosis or improper treatment, or both. It was a great shock to me when she passed away so suddenly and prematurely.
The youngest child was Uncle Jack who died about a year ago (1970). In his quiet even-tempered way he and Uncle Buck were very much alike. He worked hard, attended to his own business and expected other people to do the same. In early childhood he suffered a severe lighting stroke, remaining unconscious for many days. No one would question that the family’s constant prayers saved his life. In his later life he was again struck by lightning, which literally lifted him over a 5 foot fence. Although he apparently recovered from both attacks they undoubtedly had a general debilitating effect on his health. He had two boys, Olin and Irby who settled at Jack’s Creek in Chester County, where Uncle Jack spent the last years of his life. He was the last to leave “Kolwyck Town” just north of Corinth Church, where 4 families lived in a group after leaving the old home place.
The Kolwyck family has never “set the world on fire.” It was a typical pioneer family, in which every member worked hard for an honest living, feared God, and respected his neighbor. No member has ever been convicted of a crime. I know of only two divorces and they were in the 5th and 6th generations. In grandfather’s family I never heard a “cuss word,” not even a damn or an off-color story or joke. They were not maudlin, demonstrative religionists. Some did not attend church regularly and father never joined a church. They just instinctively and inherently knew right from wrong and lived the golden rule. Voyd enjoyed repeating what Jon A. McCall, president of the First National Bank of Lexington said to him one time when he applied for a loan: “No Kolwyck needs an endorsement or security to get a loan at this bank.” After being away from Henderson County for 37 years I found when I ran for the State Supreme Court in 1958, that I had not been entirely forgotten. I carried the county 2 – 1 and got every vote cast in the Darden precinct, thanks largely to Voyd’s lovable daughter, Sue who contacted every voter.
I guess you thought I would never answer your letter. As you can see from the date of this letter, it has taken a lot of time. I hope it will be of interest. Incidentally, at my ripe old age, I am known, I hope affectionately, as Uncle Clarence to the younger generation.
With Love & Affection,
March 21, 1952, Lexington Progress
Services for the Rev. George W. Kolwyck, 70, were conducted at the First Baptist Church Monday afternoon with the following ministers in charge: Elmo Blakely, Edwin E. Deusner, Arvin Rhodes, Earl Owens, Grady Woods and Onnie Blankenship. Burial was in Lexington Cemetery with the Masonic fraternity in charge of the service.
The Rev. Mr. Kolwlyck died at 11:30 Sunday morning at Bemis where he had gone to conduct a worship service at North Bemis Baptist Church. A. G. Hayes, who accompanied him to Bemis, said that Mr. Kolwyck appeared to be in good spirits and did not complain of feeling ill. He was on his knees giving a prayer when the members of the congregation heard a choking sound and looking up saw the minister slump to the floor. Death was attributed to a heart attack.
The Rev. Mr. Kolwyck had lived near Darden most of his life but moved to Lexington about two years ago. He had been an ordained Baptist minister for 42 years and a member of Corinth Baptist Church for 60 years. He was a member of Cheap Valley Lodge, F. & A. M.
Surviving him are his wife [Annie Owens]; one son, James Kolwyck of Lexington, two brothers, Jack and William Henry, both of Darden and one sister, Mrs. Margaret Jones of Lexington, and one granddaughter, Rubye Ann Kolwyck of Lexington.
The funeral was one of the largest attended services in many months. Twelve Baptist ministers were on the rostrum and the crowd overflowed the main auditorium and adjoining Sunday School rooms. Pafford Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
[Marker for Kolwyck, C. C., 1/3/1873-3/23/1942, "Father" footstone\Kolwyck, Ava M., 12/2/1879-1/28/1951, "Mother" footstone]
February 9, 1951, Lexington Progress
Services for Mrs. Ava Kolwyck, 71, widow of the late C. C. Kolwyck, were conducted last Tuesday at Darden Baptist Church with burial in Darden Cemetery by the Rev. George Kolwyck. Mrs. Kolwyck died the preceding Sunday at the home of her son, Henry Kolwyck in Chattanooga. She had been ill for three years and confined to her bed for the past nine months. Mrs. Kolwyck was a member of the Darden Baptist Church. She was reared in the Mt. Ararat community. It was her wish that her funeral be preached by the Rev. Kolwyck.
She is survived by two sons, Clarence and Henry Kolwyck of Chattanooga; a brother, Arthur A. Maxwell, Memphis, three sisters, Mrs. Laura Moore, Huff, Arkansas, Mrs. Sarah Hawks and Mrs. Lena Evans, Parsons.
Kolwyck, Abby D., d. Feb. 25, 1904, "Aged 11 Ds" "Son of J. W. & M. E. Kolwyck"
Kolwyck, Beadie, May 18, 1884-Dec. 23, 1944
Kolwyck, M. A. Jones, Oct. 24, 1875-____
Kolwyck, Bezzie A., 1897-1977
Kolwyck, Jack J., 1886-1970
Kolwyck, Dossie, d. July 25, 1903, "Age 1 Yr 2 Ms 13 Ds" "Dau. of J. W. & M. E. Kolwyck"
Kolwyck, E. K., Apr. 22, 1850-Oct. 5, 1931, "Wife of J. W. Kolwyck," "Mother" footstone
Kolwyck, Enib B., Jan. 12, 1921-June 9, 1998
Kolwyck, Erby L., Nov. 8, 1920-Apr. 15, 2001; from temporary marker read in
Casey Funeral Home, Henderson, Tennessee, Erby Lee Kolwyck
Kolwyck, Ethel, Jan. 20, 1893-June 11, 1904, "Dau. of W. H. & Mollie Kolwyck"
Kolwyck, Hobert, Apr. 16, 1899-July 10, 1904, "Son of W. H. & Mollie Kolwyck"
Kolwyck, J. W., d. Feb. 22, 1914, "Aged 75 ys, 6 ms, 19 ds" "Husband of E. K.
Kolwyck," "Father" footstone
Kolwyck, James W., 1870-1951, "Daddy" footstone
Kolwyck, Mary E., 1880-1955, "Mother" footstone
Kolwyck, Jesse, Aug. 12, 1920-June 23, 1968, "World War II Veteran,"
military marker as footstone "Tennessee Cpl 1060 Base Unit AAF World War II"
Kolwyck, Jessie Graves, Aug. 14, 1911-____, "Ara and Jessie Married Dec. 13, 1930"
Kolwyck, John A., Aug. 30, 1946-Aug. 19, 1969, "SP4" "1st Air Cavalry Div.
also military marker "SP4 US Army Vietnam"
Kolwyck, John Arra, June 5, 1909-Jan. 17, 1977, associated with a central
with "John and Peggy married Nov. 29, 1968"
Kolwyck, Maxine, 1918-1999, "Mother" footstone
Kolwyck, Velton, 1911-1984, "Daddy" footstone, carved wedding rings and "1934"
Kolwyck, Mollie, 1871-1961
Kolwyck, William H., 1869-1945
Kolwyck, Ohlon, Aug. 4, 1918-May 15, 1991, "Father"
Kolwyck, Maybell, Nov. 26, 1919-May 6, 1988, "Mother," carved wedding
with "Feb. 1, 1941";
"Our children Mary Gail/Glenn/Danny/Shelia/Randal"
Kolwyck, Otis, June 30, 1898-July 3, 1904, "Son of J. W. & M. E. Kolwyck" (eroded) [dates are unreadable in 1991; dates from Adcox and Webb]
Kolwyck, Owrel, Dec. 30, 1897-Feb. 10, 1898, "Son of J. W. & M. E. Kolwyck" (eroded) [dates are unreadable in 1991; dates from Adcox and Webb]
Kolwyck, Peggy Stanfill, Aug. 17, 1945-____, associated with a central
with "John and Peggy married Nov. 29, 1968"
Kolwyck, Shirldie A., Sept. 16, 1847-May 23, 1930, "Aunt"
Kolwyck, Vance Leon, Nov. 17, 1931-June 8, 1935, "Son of Roy F. & Lossie Kolwyck"
Newman, Docia Ann, 1868-1886
Newman, Elder H., Mar. 15, 1823-Sept. 9, 1898
Newman, H. C., May 20, 1884-July 13, 1891
Newman, T. M., 1854-1926, "Rev."
Newman, Linnie C., 1855-1933
Newman, Susan, Feb. 14, 1828-July 14, 1889, "Wife of Elder H. Newman"
Newsom, Bettie, June 6, 1868-June 21, 1919, "Wife of J. W. Newsom"
Newsom, John W., 1857-1911
Newsom, Pearlie, 1892-1907
Newsom, Wesley, 1900-1903