yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

Tales of Old Days are Recalled
in Colorful History Of Dunbar

by Mrs. A. H. Taylor

Dunbar Info Wanted!

We are interested in expanding the amount of information on this web site related to the history of the Dunbar Community.  Anyone with historical information or pictures related to the Dunbar community are urged to contact me.

August 1, 1958 Lexington Progress

Someone has said quite truly, "Tennessee is knee-deep in history, but rural communities also abound in history."

In Decatur County there is a rural community called Dunbar. Since early days of our country, the cracker- barrel type of country store has held an important place in the community or "settlement," as it used to be called. When the writer was young her parents still called the neighborhood "the settlement."

From this type of store, Dunbar Community received its name. The new block store is owned by Mrs. B. B. Keeton. On the opposite side of the road stands the original log store. With the passing of time, it has been reroofed. This store, formerly called "Hermitage," was used long before the Civil War. It was used as a mustering in station during the war. It was also the scene of political discussions and sometimes fights would be the end of a discussion. The man who operated the store, selling the usual commodities, also ran a bar. After the war came hard times. Realizing the bar would no longer flourish, the owner said, "done bar." Thus the name of the store became Dunbar. [ A town in Scotland is called Dunbar.]

It is located on the old stage road, and many are the stories related to the happenings of the stagecoach days.

The home of B. B. Keeton contains two of the rooms of the original log house more than 100 years old. The farm has been in the Keeton family since 1855 when it was acquired from James W. Clardy. The farm is more than 100 years old and once was operated by slave labor. It was used as a stop for stagecoaches in early days, and travelers going west in covered wagons would stop for a week or two to rest.

Not far from Dunbar is a fine spring which was called Clardy Springs, but it is now known as Keeton Spring. Between the store and spring was the location of Clardy School years ago.

Dunbar store was once a post office and the slot is still in the door of the building where letters were dropped inside 50 to 60 years ago. A rural route was established and Bath Springs became the post office.

This store has changed hands several times through the years. Bob Keeton, W. C. Fanning and W. D. Johnston are a few of the owners. Mr. Keeton, present owner, has operated the store for more than 25 years. The writer remembers the jars of candy on the shelves, and we would save paper sacks in which we had bought sugar, coffee or salt and would carry them back to exchange for candy.

Every spring brought around a special day at the store when the new spring hats arrived. What a thrill to try them on, all were loaded with flowers, chiffon and ribbon. Mothers came in bringing chickens and baskets of eggs to sell to buy new hats.

Johnston, W. D.

May 22, 1936 Progress

W. D. Johnston, aged 76, brother of Dr. C. H. Johnston, died at the family home in Decatur County near Dunbar. He was unmarried and made his home at the old family place with Mr. and Mrs. Tucker, she being an adopted sister. He is survived by his brother, Dr. C. H. Johnston and two nieces of Martin, and one nephew of Union City. Funeral services were held Saturday by Rev. Fisher, pastor of the Methodist Church of which he was a member with burial in the family graveyard on the farm.

source:  Brenda Kirk Fiddler

W. D. Johnston was the son of a well-known country doctor. Dr. Kit Johnston, known to most Henderson Countians, was a son of this doctor.  Dr. Johnston gave his services to the Confederacy and died away from home.  His body was brought back and on a hill among lonely cedars on a farm known as the Johnston farm to us, became the last resting place of Dr. and Mrs. Johnston.

Their home, a large two-room log house with open hall and two large stone chimneys on the bank of Turnbo Creek, is still standing. In recent years the chimneys were torn down and the house remodeled by the present owners, Mr. and Mrs. G. N. Tucker. Mrs. Tucker is the foster daughter of Mrs. Johnston, better known as Aunt Frances to the writer, who loved to visit their home with its quaint furniture, four poster beds, corner cupboard of solid cherry and other interesting objects.

The writer would listen as the aged lady with charm and zest would turn back the pages of time, in memory, and give us a glimpse of other days and customs long since a part of the past.

Dunbar has had some distinguished visitors throughout the years. Bob and Alf Taylor in their famous race for governor stopped at the store. Perhaps the most famous visitor was Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who stopped under the large shade trees by the store to feed and rest his tired, hungry soldiers and himself. The writer's grandmothers, assisted by other ladies in the neighborhood prepared and served a meal to the General and his men from their own meager supplies.

About a mile from the store stands the house which was the home of the writer's maternal grandfather, Colonel David Lancaster, a descendant of the House of Lancaster of England, who fought the War of the Roses with the House of York in the old country.

Grandfather was born January 14, 1807, being five days older than Robert E. Lee. During his long, full life, grandfather had many interesting experiences. Our mother told us how he recalled the awe inspiring night the stars fell. He often recalled the stirring race for president by James K. Polk and Henry Clay. The men who were for Clay painted their oxen's horns with red clay mud and those for Polk painted their oxen's horns with pokeberry juice.

Grandfather considered his greatest service to the neighborhood was giving a piece of ground for a schoolhouse. He also gave part of the lumber and helped to build it. He believed that more education would bring about better citizenship. He named the school Pleasant Grove, but it was known as well as Lancaster Schoolhouse. Here was were the writer, her brothers and sisters attended school with its split log benches later replaced by benches with backs. Our father, R. H. Tucker, was a director for the school for a number of years.

Doctors, lawyers, ministers and teachers have grown up in Dunbar community and they carried on their professions honorably and well. A few of these are Dr. G. S. Lancaster, our maternal uncle, two Adkinson brothers who became doctors and who lived close enough to trade at Dunbar store, Dr. Gilbert Howell, Dr. Kit Johnston and Dr. R. L. Wylie, who is still practicing medicine.

W. H. and T. A. Lancaster were born in Hardin County but spent part of their lives in Dunbar community. Later they came to Henderson County to make a name for themselves. Their old home, the Jesse Lancaster place, near the store, is now owned by O. C. Caudle. Uncle Jess related that one of his greatest thrills in life was hearing the Swedish Nightingale, Miss Jenny Lind, sing when he went on a boat trip to a distant city, New Orleans, we believe.

Professor B.A. (Ben) Tucker, one of the great teachers of all times, [sic] spent part of his life near Dunbar store.

The Rev. O. H. Lafferty, beloved Methodist minister, now retired and 80 years old, was born and reared in a log house in Dunbar community.

About a mile from the store once stood the J. A. Tucker house. When Neill S. Brown was governor of Tennessee, William Wyatt, better known as Uncle Billy, entered a 238-acre tract of land on which stood this house. Nearby was the original cabin he built, a large log building with a wide stone fireplace and chimney, later used for a kitchen. Uncle Billy and his wife, Aunt Betsy, were the foster parents of the writer's maternal grandmother and her twin brother, who were left orphans in their childhood. The land grant given William Wyatt by Neil S. Brown is one of the writer's treasured possession.

Near our old home in Decatur County is the old dipping vat. The dipping of cattle to eradicate the Texas fever tick began about 1913 in Decatur County, and we recall there was some anger and opposition, although later, people realized this was a great help to them. There were some amusing incidents about it, too. Now the old vat is just a landmark.

In Dunbar community is the W. H. Lafferty home near where the old log house stood. Beside the road is a big spring. The place is appropriately named ‘Big Spring Farm."

Near where Keeton Springs Methodist Church now stands is where the old blacksmith shop was located. Uncle Jimmy Mayo ran the shop for many years. Here farmers would gather on rainy days to have plows sharpened and to discuss crops , weather and neighborhood news. There were no radios, but the old shop was the scene of many broadcasts. We remember that school children loved to linger at the door just as Longfellow states in his great poem.

Dunbar Store, compiled by the Keeton Family

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