yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee


Beatrice Tucker Taylor

Nancy Orlena Graham, our paternal grandmother was born 1829. She and twin brothers Jasper and Newton were orphaned in childhood and were reared by William (uncle Billy) Wyatt and wife aunt Betsy. Grandmother said the boys were so identical in looks that aunt Betsy made different coats so she could tell them apart. In June 1848 uncle Billy entered a 238 acre tract of land in what is now Dunbar Community. He received the grant April 1849. Uncle Billy's original cabin, a large log building which served as a living room, bedroom and kitchen for a while, stood until 1928. Our uncle Alonzo (called Lon) used the cabin as a kitchen a long time. In later years uncle Billy built a story and a half log house which was living room, the upper part bedroom and the cabin was then the kitchen. The land grant was given when Neil S. Brown was governor of Tennessee.

In 1843 Alec Tucker (part of his name may have been William) and Nancy Orlena Graham were married. His father's name was Jacob Tucker. Have a letter he wrote to our father. He lived in Mississippi. That is about all I know about him.

November 15, 1945 our father Reuben Houston Tucker was born in a log house on what was later known as the Cox place part of the original land grant. His brothers and sisters were John Alonzo, Jasper and Newton (twins named for grandmother's two brothers. Jasper died when a baby. Newton lived to a good old age. He lived in Mississippi a while he lived near Granger, Texas a long time. Other children were Noah, Andrew, William Riley, Elizabeth (called Sis), and Almarine. Grandmother and all the children except Newton, Andrew and Almarine are buried in Brasher Cemetery, Dunbar Community. Grandmother died August 1906.

When war between the States broke out, Grandfather entered the Confederate Army. He was wounded in Shiloh battle April 6, 1862. He died at, or near Corinth, Mississippi in a few days. We've heard Grandmother and our mother who was a child, relate how on Sunday and Monday April 6th and 7th the cannons roared as Shiloh battle was fought. The peach trees were blooming and blooms were scattered.

Grandfather's leg was shot off and gangrene set up. He lay on the battlefield all night. After a day or two, grandmother sent Daddy, who was a lad not 17, with a neighbor men who had sons in service. Dad found his father alive, talked with him, stayed with him until he was buried. He told Dad to be a man and help his mother work and help raise the other children. But this became impossible for him to do, as his life was in constant danger from "bush whackers", those who were not in service. Dad went into service before he was 18 in the Confederate Amy and served the rest of the war. He was in Co. D. 19th Cavalry.

Before Dad went into service, one night Grandmother heard horsemen at the front gate. She woke Dad who was sleeping upstairs. She then went to the door and talked with the horsemen to give Dad time to get away. He dressed, came downstairs, went out the back way. But was seen, and bullets started whizzing by him, and over him, just missing his head, lodged in the log walls of the log cabin. Uncle Lon showed us the bullet holes in the logs when we were youngsters.

When Grandfather went to the army, they were living in old historic Bath Springs neighborhood. So Grandmother moved back with Uncle Billy and Aunt Betsy. Daddy remembered when they lived in Bath Springs, that deer sometimes ate up their bean crop in the cornfield.

The night they shot at Dad he jumped the back yard gate and escaped in the woods.

After the war was over a woman heard some men planning to kill Dad. She walked 2 or 3 miles to warn him. Leaving his plow in the field, he again hid in the woods for awhile. Grandmother carried a pail of food, set it on a stump near the spring. When she found the pail empty, she knew he had found it. Dad showed us a big, hollow chestnut log where he slept nights when it was raining. He went to his grandfathers in Mississippi and stayed awhile. Grandmother, during the war and after, struggled along as best she and the children big enough to work, assisted by Uncle Billy who was old, could do. We heard her relate, with tears in her eyes, that there were nights when she didn't have enough food to keep her children from being hungry.

 Reconstruction Days were a trial to men and women, too. The men who fought on both sides, for what they understood to be right, were glad to be back home with their families. Some rode old, broken down mules or horses, and some walked. Many of them wore tattered uniforms. Some joined the Ku Klux Klan for protection, but soon disbanded, as there were some who did not act as they should.

Johnathan Duck was born in North Carolina in 1788 (probably in Anson County, as he came from there to Tennessee). Bathsheba Woodward who married Johnathan Duck, was born in North Carolina in 1793. They were our maternal great grandparents. They came to Tennessee in a covered wagon. We do not know the exact date. Their children were Cynthia, who married Col. David L. Lancaster. They were our maternal grandparents. The Ducks settled somewhere near or at what is now Cedar Grove. According to Mr. Gordon Turner, Johnathan Duck was the first person buried in Fellowship Cemetery. Piety married Greene Turner, who went off. They had one son Martin Woodward. He was the grandfather of Mr. Gordon Turner. Later, Piety, who was our great aunt, and Mr. Turner's great grandmother, married Gabriel Scott. They had several children. Zilpha Duck married William Holmes. Johnathan and Bathsheba had some boys. We don't know how many, but one was Charles Duck, another one was Nathan.

Our maternal great-grandfather Benjamin Lancaster and brothers (we don't know their names ) came to America and some settled in North Carolina, and some in Virginia. Joseph Lancaster, who was a great teacher, came with his father Benjamin. Benjamin's wife Sarah was from Virginia. Later they moved to Williamson County, Tennessee. There our grandfather David L. was born January 14, 1807, grew up and became a colonel in the county militia. Benjamin and brothers, according to T. A. (Ac) Lancaster, were descendants of the House of' Lancaster (England) who fought "The War of the Roses" with the House of York. Those who were, for .the House of Lancaster wore a white rose. Those who were for the House of York wore a red rose. Grandfather David L. was first married to Parmela Davidson. Their children were Harve, Ben, Bill, Dave, John and Jess, one daughter Evaline. After the death of his first wife he married Cynthia Duck. Their children were Andrew Johnson who died when small; another one died when an infant; Sarah Bathsheba born August 18, l854 (our mother); Gabriel Scott born 1857 or possibly earlier. He grew up in what is Dunbar Community and became a doctor. He died in 1908.

Our mother joined Thurman's Creek Primitive Baptist Church in 1869. This church was constituted the 4th Sunday in July 1833 with 13 members signed by Temple Hicks, Elias Keaton and W. M. Wolverton. The original log church was named for Thurman's Creek which was named, for an early settler who was probably the first one in that settlement. Some of the writer's fondest memories are of trudging along a hot sandy road to this church with mother. The spring was enclosed by a fence. Two stakes were driven in the ground. A gourd hung on one and a glass on the other, but we carried our little mugs to drink out of. I still have mine. Years have passed. Memories grow dearer. When we sing "the Church in the Wildwood" it touches a tender chord in memory. In 1912 the church was torn down. The logs were sold to elder J. A. Burcham. A frame building was then erected on what is known as the Brooksy Thompson Road. Mr. John Bateman was the contractor and built it for $300.00. It is still standing. School was taught there from 1913 until it was consolidated.

Daddy and mother were married February 1, 1872. Their children were William David December 11,1872; John M July 30, 1874; Mary Azalee May 20, [1892?]; Dorsey B. Thomas Sept 20, 1882; Gabriel Newton January 29, 1886; George Washington September 8, 1889; Vera March 1895; Alpha February 1897 and Beatrice December 2, 1898. [Hand written addition: James Warren Mar. 9, 1880; Rosie Anna July 16, 1878]

When our parents were married there was a big wedding supper with relatives and neighbors and guests. Aunt Amy Culp (colored) wife of uncle Phil baked the pound cake for which she was famous. There are several different recipes. Some of the ingredients were one pound flour, one pound sugar, butter and a dozen eggs. Chess pies, chicken and dumplings, beef, boiled ham and vegetables were served too.

Grandfather gave mother a big bay mare "Old Bess" who was gentle as a kitten. Mother said she must have ridden Bess hundreds of miles holding a child in front of her and one riding behind. Later she traded Bess back to grandfather for a tract of land.

During the war Dad had some narrow escapes. At Brice"s Cross Roads his blanket which was pinned around his shoulders had bullet holes in it. He was wounded in the shoulder. Once he was cut off from his command. He ran across the enemy line with bullets whizzing at him. He got safely back to his own comrades who when they saw him coming let out a "Rebel Yell."

Grandfather David L. was a union man. Some of his sons were in the union army and some in the confederate army. Grandfather recalled the colorful race for the presidency in 1844. Those in favor of James K. Polk for president painted their oxen's horns with poke juice. Those for Henry Clay painted their Oxen's horns with red clay mud. He recalled the solemn scene of November 13, 1833 when the stars fell. Grandfather believed education makes better citizens. He gave a piece of ground for a school house. He gave part of the lumber and helped build the house which he named Pleasant Grove. Later it was better known as Lancaster School. Here our older brothers and sisters went to school and sat on benches most of which didn't have backs. When we went to school there the benches had backs. There was a table where the older pupils sat to write. This building burned in 1911. For a while we went to Union Hall to school. This building was put, up for a meeting place for the Farmer's Union. Some of the teachers who taught there were P. H. Brasher, Vester Tucker, Jess Tucker, George Tucker, Lealon Wyatt, Gollie Montgomery and others.

Our family lived for a while near the Tennessee River and a while in the Bath Springs community. Here in a double log house with open hall as a dogtrot the writer first saw the light of day December 2, 1898. The family soon moved back to Dunbar.

Part of Perry county in 1845 became Decatur county. Dad said he just was born in Decatur county. Andrew Jackson, one of Tennessee's great heroes died in 1845 the year daddy was born.

Daddy was a lover of the out-of-doors. Trees were a special joy to him. There was the big walnut tree by a cross fence which he would agree shaded his late potato patch. However, he never cut the tree by the cross fence. There were some straight slender poplars on the Due Spring branch he left saying "the children might use them in building." They did use them. The writer inherited his love for trees. All of us cherished the memory of the loved ones and friends lost. To the writer there is a special place ace in memory for the trees we've known. Many are now destroyed. The big sweet gum tree had the horse lot rail fence built against it. When we were youngsters we would sit on the top rail and pick the sweet fragrant gum from the tree. The elm tree in the pasture is where we sat in the shade and read. From the hickory nut trees we gathered nuts. The persimmon tree gave its tasty fruit. "Old Watch the yellow dog who was our playmate liked the possum apples too. The big oak tree that stood in the yard; the beech tree above the spring where we carved our names; the pines, hollys and cedars; huckleberry bushed we called them; my! how we enjoyed eating those berries; the mulberry tree in the garden; the red bud trees on the spring branch; the dogwood tree in the calf lot; the. plum trees near the creek; the honey suckle bushes in the D. Dile hollow; yes, you guessed it, the writer loves almost every kind of tree.

Old Pleasant Grove School house burned in 1911. In 1912 Turman's Creek Church was built and was Pleasant Grove School too. It is still Turman's Creek Primitive Baptist Church.

The winter of 1912 brought a fine improvement to Dunbar community. It was a telephone line with switchboard at Scotts Hill. Our number was 8-Z which was one short ring and one long ring. The telephone box was fastened to the wall, had a crank to ring it by and the receiver hung on a hook. Wow picture this phone in contrast with your neat phone of the present. It would take a lot of imagination to understand the pleasure it was to us. In winter roads were muddy and traveling was limited. Well, come Saturday night neighbors and those out of the neighborhood too who were interested in singing would gather at our home and we'd sing. Sometimes we'd go to the neighbors homes for a singing but our house seemed to be headquarters.

In the early nineteen hundreds people still had cotton pickings in the fall and had "clearings" to get the ground cleared for crops. Armed with axes, wedges and crosscut saws and qrumming hoes they would work to get the clearing done. There would be a big dinner and supper served then have a square dance and play party for the young folks.

In 1910 Halley's Comet appeared. It came up a little after sundown then rose higher in the sky. Rest assured there was plenty of superstition about it. Some believed it was just the end of time and were very frightened.

In 1913 people in Decatur county began dipping cattle to rid them of the Texas tick fever. The vat for dipping was dug out then concreted and filled with water and medicine to kill ticks. A shelter was built over the vat. Cattle were put in the herding pen and run through the vat and allowed to drain in the draining pen. Some resented dipping cattle but later were satisfied because it got rid of the fever tick. There were some amusing incidents about it, too. One inspector rode up to a man's gate. The lady of the house went to the door. "Oh," she said, "I guess you're that old tick man." "No," he replied, "I'm the live stock inspector." The vat for Dunbar community was dug at the edge of the old Dile field in sight of the Dile house where uncle Jimmy Mayo lived for many years. While the vat was being dug some one for fun drew a picture of a man on a piece of wood with two switches crossed under it and wrote, "No more digging here, the witch hasn't lost its virtue yet."

In 1913 there were several cases of typhoid in Decatur county. There was no vaccine for typhoid then. Doctors gave calomel and other drugs for the disease. Some did not survive the fever.

Around 1911 professor A. J. Veteto began teaching vocal music schools in Decatur county. He taught one in 1911 at Keeton's Springs Church. In 1913 he taught a school at Bath Springs Church (Freeze out). This school was taught 21 days for $50.00. The pupils who attended were Elsie Britt, Carl Scott, Tom Strawn, Emmett Blanton, Fount Wright, Kendrick Brooks, Erskin Brooks, Curry Miller, George Tucker, Azalee Tucker, Lessie Wright and Beatrice Tucker. Professor Veteto taught schools at Red Walnut, Mt. Nebo, Liberty, Scotts Hill, Davis School House and other places. Some of the boys who attended these schools became vocal music teachers.

In 1911 cars were a curiosity in Dunbar neighborhood. Nobody there owned one. One fine Sunday morning the fall of the year 1911 several gathered at Keeton Springs Church for services. It was early so we youngsters were eating huckleberries at the edge of the woods by the church house. All at once we heard a loud noise up the road. One or two there had seen the "horseless carriage" so they recognized the sound. One old fellow said, "By Ned, that's a car and if we run we can get to the road before it passes." It was on the old stage road. The church was off the road a little ways. So, we ran, youngsters, some grown-ups, led by the old fellow who first mentioned it. Well, we arrived a little before the car did. Lots of water has run under the bridge since then. Many cars have come and gone but I shall always remember the race we ran to see that car, the first one most of us had ever seen.

Beatrice Tucker Taylor

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