yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee


Dorothy Nell Ward

Henderson County Times Community Series

This article probably appeared in the Henderson County Times circa 1982. This web page was made from clippings in a scrapbook labeled "Henderson County Historical Society 1982-1983" compiled by Virginia Butler, President 1982-1983.

Yes...There was really a Rhodes Town. Even though the descendants of the Rhodes settled there, they have somewhat thinned out. There was once a large Rhodes Town located in the Southwest part of Henderson County, near the Chester County line. Now this is called the Laster Road Community.

Rhodes Family

Before we go any farther into Rhodes Town, let's go back to some of the history of the Rhodes families and from whence they came.

My record goes back to the year of 1661 when Hezekiah Rhodes was born, probably in Middlesex County, Virginia. To this family was born William Rhodes in 1698 also in Middlesex County, Virginia. To William Rhodes was born Christopher Rhodes in 1730 in Orange County. No. Carolina and to Christopher was born another William Rhodes in 1764 or 65 in North Carolina. This family moved to Spartanburg, So. Carolina where we received information from land grants and tomb stones in the Rhodes Cemetery that we visited in Enoree, S. Carolina.

Records also show they fought in the Revolutionary War. To William and Rebecca Wollford Rhodes was born James, William, Jr., Elenor, Margaret, Christopher, Rebecca, John W. and Catherine Rhodes. This is the family that moved to Henderson County, near old Jacks Creek Church approximately in the year 1832 to 1834. Later in 1835, William Rhodes, Sr. moved from Enoree, S. Carolina to Tennessee with his children. Records show that James, the oldest son, came first bringing with him William, Jr., Elenor, Margaret, Christopher, and Rebecca (his brothers and sisters) in 1832 to 1834, and later their father came bringing with him, John W. and Catherine in 1835.

Records show this family to have been very religious, with William Sr. serving as a Baptist minister at Woodruff Baptist Church near Enoree S. Carolina in 1834. When he moved to Henderson County, Tenn. we know he served as pastor at Old Jacks Creek Church (still active) and one of the oldest churches still existing today in Henderson County from 1837 to 1848. William Rhodes died in 1850 and possibly is buried in the "Rhodes Cemetery" on the farm of Lavaughn Grissom.

Having been more interested in my direct ancestors, I will begin here with James Rhodes, my great-great grandfather. I know he settled on what now is the Jess Grissom farm about 1832. He was a tanner and farmer. Although the James Rhodes estate was not settled until 1866, church records indicate he died in 1851 or 1852. His wife Hannah Rhodes was still living in August 1855. Both James and Hannah Rhodes are believed to be buried in the Rhodes Cemetery on the Lavaughn Grisson farm also.

To James and Hannah Rhodes on December 28, 1820 was born my great-grandfather, Edwin Rhodes. He was born in South Carolina but moved with his father, James, to Rhodes Town in 1832 or 33, being only 12 or 13 years old. On March 14, 1850 he and his wife, Sarah Latham Rhodes moved to the Sweet Lips Community in what is now Chester County, Tenn. It was here that his first son, James W. Rhodes was born and died as an infant. His monument still stands at the Sweet Lips Cemetery.

After a few years, Edwin and his family moved to his father's homeplace in Rhodes Town. Edwin and Sarah lived at this location (now the Jess Grissom home) the remainder of their lives. Edwin died June 29, 1882 and Sarah on Oct. 9, 1881. Both Edwin and Sarah are buried at the Old Jacks Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Henderson County.

To Edwin and Sarah Rhodes were born the following children - James W (died as an infant), Thomas Neal Rhodes, who settled on what is now the Gleeman Rhodes farm, Robert Purdy Rhodes, who settled his family in the nearly community of Middlefork, Nancy Almire Rhodes who with her husband, Sy Parker, and family who moved to Texas. William Rhodes (father of Eldridge Rhodes and Mildred Clifford) who lived on what is now the Homer Clifford home on Laster Road. John A. Rhodes (father of Abb Rhodes) who settled on the late Elbert Rhodes homeplace in the community. Emily Rhodes, who with her husband John Vantreese, moved to Texas. Sarah Rhodes, who with her husband Henry West and family moved to Texas.

Mary Jane Rhodes never, married but moved with her sisters to Texas. Miles Rhodes with his family lived in the old homeplace, now occupied by Mr. and Mrs.Jess Grissom. Alice Rhodes who after her first husband J. B. McAdams [died], moved to Texas and lived with her sisters. Then my grandfather, Jake Rhodes who with his family lived in what is now the home of Mrs. Dessie Patterson, a daughter who lived with her mother after her father's death. You see with Edwin Rhodes having 12 children and 11 of them and their families . . . made up a great big Rhodes Town community.

All six boys lived and farmed in the community somewhat close together. All five girls moved to Texas.

Alton Rhodes, Dessie Rhodes Patterson, Abb Rhodes and Mildred Rhodes Clifford, children of the Rhodes boys, still live in the Rhodes Town community. Edd Rhodes also lives on the county line nearby. Several of the grandchildren, including Gleeman Rhodes, Howard and Carman Rhodes, Denver Rhodes, Pete and Clyde Patterson and Audrey Patterson also live in the community.


The first school in the community was "Rhodes School." The building must have been used in the 1860's to probably about 1886. It was located on the Jake Rhodes farm, about 300 to 500 yards from where Alton Rhodes lives. Evidence of the old dug well used has recently been found. Then about 1870, Jackson Laster (grandfather of Eldridge Rhodes and Mildred Clifford) moved to Rhodes Town and had several children and as it was too far for them to attend Rhodes School (about 2 miles), he gave land for a frame schoolhouse to be put in the center of the community. Rhodes School became "Laster School" in honor of this generous farmer and ginner.

In 1886 or 1887, Henderson County erected the first one of its school houses. Old timers remember its size to be about 40 x 50 feet.

About 1908, this large building burned. Another frame building, 30 x 40 feet was built. Uncle Miles Rhodes and W. F. Seaton did the construction work for the new school. William Wilkinson was the teacher at Laster when it burned.

Due to the decrease in attendance, this building was sold and torn away, leaving only a small classroom. In 1931, an extension was made to the room and in 1935 a second room was added making it a two teacher school.

The first teacher of Laster was Mr. Baughn, father of G. C. Baughn, who taught chemistry at L.H.S. The average attendance of the school was 70 in contrast to the 1940 average of 52. In 1940, the teachers were Lena Rhodes Wallace and Juanita Travillian. Among the most renowned teachers at Laster School were Attorney Joe Davis, Attorney Elmer Stewart, the late Ira Powers, Professor W. C. Crook, Arthur Rhodes, Burton Rhodes and in my time I also remember a very dear teacher, Mrs. Cedrick Young who taught 5th to 8th grades.


The main place of worship in the Rhodes Town Community in the early settlement was Old Jacks Creek Baptist Church. We find in the book of "Henderson County," written by G. Tillman Stewart, that Jacks Creek Church was among the first organized churches in the county, that being in 1827.

We also have had the opportunity to read the minutes of the church which goes back to 1829. It was this church that my great-great-great-grandfather William Rhodes, pastor of Woodruff Baptist Church in Woodruff, South Carolina, moved here to pastor in 1834. We find it written in the old minutes book of the church that William moved his membership by letter on the Saturday before the 2nd Lords Day in July 1834.

John Johnson was church clerk at this time.

I also find in records on the date of October 3, 1865, that my great-grandparents, Edwin and Sarah Rhodes were listed on the church membership.

The church is still active today. Isaac Vernon Rhodes, age 90, a resident of Lexington Manor Nursing Home is the oldest living member of the church.

Gin and Thrasher

Marshall Brantley (grandfather of Ellis Brantley and father of Joe Brantley - both of Lexington) was a very prominent citizen of the Rhodes Town area in the early 1890's. He was the general merchant, owning and running the old wheat thrasher and along with Mr. Jackson Laster running the first horse-drawn cotton gin. Later with Sam McAdams he operated the more modern gin and sawmill in the early 1900's.

The following is the story about his grandparents as told by Ellis Brantley.

"Marshall E. and Martha Ann Griffin Brantley were born in Union County, N. Carolina. They moved to Henderson County, Tenn. in the year 1888 or '89." Ellis said, "I think it as 1888. They farmed the first year on a farm about one and a half miles east of Old Jacks Creek Church, possibly rented the farm and the first year they lived on it, and buying it the second year, living there for several years."

Joe Brantley thinks he bought the farm from a Mr. Stegall, either a Mr. Stanley or Mr. Elbert Stegall.

Ellis states, "My father, James M. Brantley, told me he was 8 years old when they moved here to Tennessee from Union County, N.C." He also stated that his father, Marshal Brantley along with grandmothers two brothers, John Griffin and James Griffin with their families along with the Elisha Mullis family (his wife was grandmother's sister), a family by the name of Sells together with some single men, one named Bill Polk and that I can remember.

Polk did not remain here long before he went on to Texas and finally back to N.C. to care for his aged mother. Polk was the first cousin to my grandmother.

Ellis stated, "I might also mention having heard my dad speak many times about the train trip. They chartered a coach, boarded it in Monroe, N.C., the county seat of Union County, rode the same coach to Henderson, Tennessee. Before I forget, I heard Grandpa tell about coming out here prospecting before moving, looking for a suitable location. He borrowed a horse from W. G. Baughan. . . . I do not know how long he stayed on this trip, but while he was out here, his youngest son died. I do not remember if I ever heard the cause of his death."

"My father, James (Jim) remembered some of the happenings while on the trip out here such as the mountains, tunnels, Nashville and finally their coach being shoved on the side-track at Humboldt, Tenn. It was there picked up again after several hours and finally stopped at Henderson, Tenn. where they unloaded and made their way to the Laster Schoolhouse Community and settled on what I first knew as the Preacher Rogers place."

"After a few years, and I do not know how many . . . grandfather and I think his partner, Mr. Jackson Laster (grandfather of Eldridge Rhodes and Mildred Clifford), started the first cotton gin close to the Laster-house . . .it being horse-drawn. I think it required four teams to furnish the power. I well remember hearing my father tell how tired he would get. His job was to follow the teams and keep them moving . . . ginning about three (3) bales of cotton each day provided they had no breakdowns. Farmers did not take their cotton there expecting to get ginned by any certain time. The old gin barn, it was called, had stalls they unloaded their cotton in basket and it was picked up in baskets and ginned when their turn came . . . very much like we used to take corn to be ground into meal. Just what year this type of cotton gin was discontinued, I do not know, but _____ [line or lines missing] driven one-stand gin in my earliest memory, some time in or around the turn of the century. It was in this gin that Grandpa lost his hand. Sometime during these years he and Mr. Albert Hatchett ran and operated a wheat thrasher."

I would like to say thanks to those who have helped me with some of the information I received on the facts of Rhodes Town. A lot of work and research has been put into it.

I first got interested when my brother, Gleeman Rhodes, with help from Cratis Wadley, did research on names and dates of the family tree.

Later, I visited the Christ Church in Middlesex County, Virginia where the early Rhodes attended. I also visited Woodruff, South Carolina and saw the church that William Rhodes was pastor of before coming here in 1834 and visited the Rhodes Cemetery at Enoree, S.C.

After collecting pictures from different families, I put the stories together along with help from Tillman Stewart about the schools . . . and also Mr. Ellis Brantley and Joe Brantley, both of Lexington who helped with the pictures and information on the wheat thrasher, gins and sawmill.

If anyone who reads this can help me on some of the names and knows more information I would be very much interested and it would be very much appreciated. Contact me, Dorothy Nell Ward at 968-3373. I would also like any pictures that I do not have to help get my book more complete.


This picture of the new gin was made in the early 1900's. From left on the wagon are Wash Neisler,
Anderson Holmes; Homer Jordon, Lee Brantley, Tom Brantley, Bob Morris and behind are Lee Brantley
and Ambrose Jones. Standing on the ground are Harrison Richardson, Gene Robert Jordan. On the
second wagon are George Robert Neisier, Alvin Jordan, W. F. Seaton [Nonnie], and Ervin McAdams.
Top row behind the wagon are Dickle Climer, John Rylie Jordan, Hobert Beecham, Charlie Jordan and
on the bale of cotton are Hugh Ryals and behind him [unknown] and Charlie Neisler. On the cotton
in front of tree, Sam McAdams and seated at top on platform are John Rylle Holmes, John Will Goff, and
second row, John A. Neisler, Jim Bob Sumler with the pitchfork. Substitute photograph source
Henderson County, Tennessee: A Pictorial History, by Emily Davis and Brenda Kirk Fiddler.

Dessie Rhodes Patterson who was born in 1896
to Jake and Mollie Rhodes. She still lives
at Rhodes Town at the old homeplace.

This picture was made at Jake and Mollie Rhodes home in July 1923. Left to right, front row: Jake
Rhodes, Herman Rhodes, Sid Rhodes, Clyde Rhodes, Thomas Rhodes, John Vantreese, Lena, Thurman
and Enoch Rhodes; second row: Mollie, Dessie, Lyman and Dalton Rhodes, Samantha Burton, Effie
Scott Alton and Elton and Bonnie Rhodes. Back row: Arthur Rhodes. Substitute photograph source
Henderson County, Tennessee: A Pictorial History, by Emily Davis and brends Kirk Fiddler.

[1923 reunion photograph not reproducible
from xerox copy of clipping]

The Rhodes Reunion in 1923 at the home of Miles Rhodes in Rhodes Town.
First row, left to right: Enoch, Bonnie, Mollie, Jake, Hubert, Edna, Ruth Brown,
Lee Nell Rhodes, Howard, Fredrick, Dalton, Edith PhillIps, Leota, Harvell,
Gilbert, Carman, Lyman, Clifton, Hulon, Audrey, Vestle, Mildred, Homer,
Burton; second row: Alton, Elton, Lloyd, Minnie, Effle, Arlie, Thelma Brown,
Nadine Brown, Net Brown, Georgia Rhodes, Mary Sue, Dessle, Herman, Clyde,
Lena, Thurman, Mertice, Berlon, Aunt Susan, Aunt Janne, Carl, Gordon,
Bobbie, Mattie, Effie Vantresse Scott, Earl, Edd, Aunt Bea, Uncle Miles; third
row: Sid, Guy, Eldridge, Roy Nobles, Finis, Oscar Nobles, Raymelle, Abb,
Santos, Luther Brown, Alonzo, Sid Rhodes, Edna, Claudle, Walter Ross,
Burma, Samantha West Burton, Alonzo Wright, Lela, Melvin, Elbert, Linnie,
Uncle Thomas Rhodes, John Vantreese, Fate, Alfred, Vernon [Bum]; fourth row:
Arthur, Elliott, Luther, Floyd, Willie, Thomp, Ernest and Conrad.

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