History of Smithville
On Wednesday, April 26, 2011,
The National Weather Service says the tornado that hit Smithville was the first EF5 tornado in Mississippi since 1966. It had winds of 205 miles per hour. It was a half-mile wide and was on the ground for close to three miles, killing 14 and injuring 40. The tornado destroyed 18 homes Wednesday, which the weather service said were well built, less than 10 years old and bolted to their foundation.
Publication Information: Pierce, Jessie.
History of Smithville and Surrounding Territory. Amory, Miss.: The author, 1958.
This is a small booklet written by Miss Jessie Pierce of Smithville in 1958. It has so many names of the early settlers of Monroe Co and Itawamba Co MS and is so interesting that I will try to type it in as I can. I hope that someone will find the person they are searching for in it.
"By request of my nieces and nephew I will try to give them all the information I can and the early history of Smithville and surrounding country. Of course it is all tradition and legendary and old folk tales of the pioneers.
You are all familiar with the Gaines Trace over which all of the early settlers came. In my contact with Dr W A Evans of Aberdeen while he ws writing the history of Monroe County, he said that Frederick Weaver was the first white man to settle in what is now Monroe county. I have an old piece of walnut furniture his son, Jesse Weaver, brought up from Mobile in the early steamboat days on the Tombigbee. He is buried some miles northeast of Turon Church at what was once his home but now is the most lonely place imaginable.
I have no history prior to 1818, the year my grandmother was born. As soon as legal land titles were available, her father owned and sold the property to a man named Greenwood, from which the Springs took their name-hence Greenwood Springs. There were only two families in what is now Monroe County. This Trace Road ran ina southwesterly direction. Somewhere in the old New Hope Cemetary Community Luke Stanifer, the Walls, and Nabors settled. A trail leading came in at Brooks Store from there and ran westward. It was called Trace Road. Back south from Brook's Store, the families that lived along this trace, but not all at the same time, were the lockridges, Malones, McCommons, Bloodworths, Richbon, and Hedgepeths.
Now to get nearer home. The Pierce, Perkins, Bennetts, Nashes, Shannons, and Griffins came in. They were the ancestors of the late Bob Christian and Willard Griffin. They pushed on and forded Bull Mountain and made a crop on what later became the Jim Harrison farm at Tilden. It was then an open prairie. Great grand-dad, William Pierce, settled just south of Mr Cowart's on the bank of the creek. His sons were Aaron, William, Joseph, John, and Ebenezer. His daughters were Ruth, Malinda, Mary Jane and Minerva. His sons as soon as they could get legal titles entered and owned all of the land in that neighborhood. Less than 80 years ago there was but one dwelling in the 360 acres. Now there are 15 nice homes on that property. Dr Evans said in the early days there was no other church but Primitive Baptist. The lane leading south of the Ida Price home went to a churhc near the creek, and Old Pierce Cemetary was started for a church cemetary. The Moore families great grandmother, Ruth Pierce, was the first to be buried there.
My great grand-dad settled on what is now a highway leading to Detroit (Alabama) just above Splunge Creek bridge. The place took on the name of Jonesboro. I never knew why, they met regularly here for military practice. They were called muster days. William Pierce was the drummer for these occations. He was almost equal to The Deerslayer in J F Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales. He was credited with killing 2700 deer in Monroe, Itawamba, and Tishomingo counties.
Great-grand dad Perkins always boasted of his Sir John Wolf and Indian Princess Pocahontas blood. His wife's maiden name was Sally McManum of Virginia. She was the widow Marsh, with a little girl, Betsy Marsh. Besides this stepdaughter, his daughters were Jane, Isobel, Polly, Laney, and Martha. His sons were William, Perry, Larkin, and Robert. Uncle Perry was a doctor; William an iron worker, and Uncle Larkin was a fiddling farmer. They are all buried in Oktibbeha County. After the treaty with the Indians, Grandsire Jim as he was called, was appointed by the government to go as guide and interpreter with the Indians. He spent three years in Indian territory. Throught the Bureau of Archives and History I trace my two great grandfathers back to Browns Creek, Anson County North Carolina. William Pierce's wife was James Perkins sister so we had the distinction of having a great aunt for a great-grandmother. Aaron Pierce and Robert Perkins were first cousins. They were born in 1814 in Giles County Tennessee. My grand dad Robert Perkins served with the surveying party in surveying out the counties and districts."
"Sometime away in the past a son in law of the Burdines came looking for a location and selected a place 2 or 3 miles southeast of the old Baptist Church that I have already mentioned. After he died, the Burdines abandoned this land and it became a cattle range. My Daddy's step sister, Aunt Georgia Davidson, would saddle a horse, no matter how wild, ride through this wild forest to these old fields. By this time, they were called the Skinner Fields (close to old Adley). She would locate the cattle by the bells, and come riding in cowboy style. She delighted in these trips as she was something of a tomboy. All this happened before my time but in later years she was one of the noblest, grandest character I ever knew.
I suppose the Burdines first introduced Methodism as all through my life I never heard of a Burdine that was not a Methodist.
By this time Siloam was built, the first Methodist Church. It had a setting of big trees and was where they held the great camp meeting. They came from a long distance and tented on the old camp ground. Here they shouted, sand and preached and would go off in trances. I think this frenzy was so exhausting they would faint from exhaustion. They would lie in state of coma for some time. Here my grandfather's old negro always had a little refreshment stand until one night he was murdered by another negro.
Long time before this time the Reverend Mr Banner was teaching here. During a great storm a little boy ran out and was killed by a falling tree. His name was Braden.
After the war a company of Yankee soldiers were camped at Smithville. One night while coming in off a pilfering and marauding trip they were ambushed and one was shot dead off his horse in front of the old church.
I attended my first school there under Professor Dansby. He was a big brawny man with brilliant black eyes and a hooked nose, but he was very kind. At that time the students studied out loud and the din of the noise would reach such a high pitch he would stamp his foot and hooler "SILENCE", and nearly scare the little ones to death.
Reverend John Burdine preached his last sermon there. I remember I was at my grand-dad's old home that faced the lane leading to the church. All the girls in the community came by horseback riding to church. They all had the long black riding skirts nearly touching the ground. They were something every woman possessed.
By this time Mr Burdine was disabled. My grandfather and Wesley Bowen had moved away. The big church cemetary was this side of the church. A few years ago a grand daughter of the Rev John Burdine came and assisted in putting the brick pillars and fence around the Burdine and Stegall graves. All the other part of this big cemetary had been plowed under years before. This was the sister and wife of the cotton company of Anderson and Clayton."
"By now Smithville had a Methodist Church and what was left of the members moved to Smithville and old Siloam fell into decay. The bright lights of the jack-o-lantern that were seen on misty nights and the sheep sleeping in the house gave rise to the most terrific ghost stories and superstitious people were afraid to pass there. The Maxey and Wright families burial ground is on the spot where the old church stood.
I have no idea when Major Smith built the first home where Aden Moore lives and kept a store in part of the dwelling. My parents were born in 1839. My daddy remembers riding behind his father and buying a pair of red top boots there. My mother remembered attending tghe marriage of William Moore and Amanda Pierce. Major Smith's daughter, Miss Frances Smith danced at this wedding. Mother remembered her stylish costume, knee length dress, wide pantelets that came down over her slippers and big padded sleeves. I have no idea when the Fulton road was opened and a stage coach put on, but Major Smith kept the stage stand. In recent years a lady in Covington Tn asked my assistance in locating her great grandmother Frances Smith's grave. We located it at Ballardville in Lee County. Through this lady I learned that Jane and Frances Smith married coachmen, Bolin and Livingston.
Some 80 years ago grandfather moved to Lee County and found the descendants of the Bolins and Livingstons. Many years ago a grandson of Miss Frances Smith, the Rev Alvin Bolin, was pastor of our Methodist Church. His daughter is Mrs Ruth Armstrong, a nurse in the Amory hospital. This ends the Smith story.
I don't have much history on my great-grandfathers Riggan and Armstrong. The Riggan came from the Carolinas and lived 2 years in Virginia. His wife was and Edington. His 6 sons are buried at Riggan Chapel that bears their name. Belva Harman traced the Armstrongs back to the Easter States and found some of them to be of importance hence the Armstrong pride.
The Stegalls came from Kentucky. Mrs Elizabeth Burdine has the names of the original Stegalls. There were 6 of theses: Henry, William, and Stanley, the great-grandfather of the Nabors Brothers. He built a home where the funderal home is now. This old home burned down a long time ago. The Stegall sisters were Sally, Ester and Tarley. Sally married my great uncle, Dr William Armstrong. Ester married my other great uncle Drury Armstrong who lived at Cotton Gin. His family burial ground was taken for the Amory cemetary. Tarly married a Wigul and died in Fulton.
Henry Stegall settled just beyond where the Negro church where New Chapel is. He built a school house where the road now makes a bend. Just north of this he built a find 2 story dwelling. Across the road was a post office and a big store. At Ironwood Bluff he built a big river port office and a warehouse where the steamboats delivered his supplies. In the meantime he had a big 2 sotry white house built on a square bend on the north prong of Bull Mountain, and it was a beautiful place. you had to go down a long road to the door. When you turn down the creek a narrow road faced a cabin at the foot of the bluff. On top of this hill was a house where an old Mrs Naylor lived and told fortunes. She was quite famous as a fortune teller. Here also was an old cemetary. That was a dense wilderness in my early childhood and the mill was rotting down when I could first remember."
"This Mr Stegall had opened the Ironwood Bluff Young Ladies Boarding School. He would go north and hire teachers. At that time my grandfather owned 500 acres joining Mr Stegall on the west side. He had a brick yard just beyond the negro church. The clay pit may still be visible. For many years all the old tall chimneys that are standing in Smithville now were built of these brick. A great fire destroyed all of the Stegall property except the land of which there were hundreds of acres. My grandfather, Robert Perkins had a wonderful home at New Salem.
Dr Stegall then bought the home where Mr Aden Moore now lives. I think this widow Bowen who later married a Ballard had built the house where Major Smith's old home was. I suppose Mr Stegall bought this from the Ballards. He built the old store that the Nabors tore away. He also built a 24 room institue where McKenzie's shop and the COOP store is and went north and hired teachers. Smithville became an educational center. My dad remembers acting in a play with John Bankhead at one of these exhibitions. This was the Senior Bankhead who served in the Senate so many years from Alabama.
By this time his second wife had died and left him with 5 daughters. They were talented musicians: each one had a grand piano in the house at the same time. Mr Stegall was now looking for a athird wife. He went north again to hire teachers. He picked up a woman in New York, went to Washington and married her. Rube Davis, a noted lawyer of Aberdeen, witnessed this marriage. He brought her home and she shut herself up in the daytime and caroused the saloons at night. At the end of one month he handed her $1000. She stepped on the stage and left in time. Mr Stegall then set out to marry Sally Spence. He lavised every luxury on this young girl until he won and married her. Her mother was grandfather Perkin's sister. Grandpa was so enraged at his sister for permitting this marriage they never spoke to each other again. Of this marriage there were 5 sons and one daughter and part of that family was younger than I. Sometime in his prosperous days he had built a mill on what is now the Jack Brooks estate. From 1818 to 1861 no country had ever flourished as this had around Smithville. There were beautiful homes and fine farms and Smithville was a thriving little town.
However there were lots of people who were very poor. They were without means to take up land. Share cropping was unknown. There was little demand for labor as the slaves did the work. From the bounties of nature they could get most of their living. The streams were almost packed with fish, the woods alive with game of all kinds, besides nuts and wild fruit. The rich men's negroes looked down their noses, and called the white people who owned no property "poor white trash."
"I will have to go back to the Trace Road on the farm owned by Mrs Fowler, Floyd Whiters owned this place. The trail led on down Section Branch. The farm now owned by Thurston Armstrong was the Eddington farm. The trail led to Inmans Mill and the Skelton farm. In the northeast corner of the Armstrong farm are big sand piles marking where graves were once there. We suppose this trail of rocks led to the present school property. Where Mr Hendrick's house is now, a man by the name of Hedgpeth had a saloon. In years an oak tree has grown out of the wall of the old well at the saloon.
Down the lane in the edge of the bottom at the Mineral Springs was once a hotel and for a long time the Smithville Spring was a popular health resort. The old hotel was moved away, but the beech trees remained and they were visited by the community to rest in the shade and drink the find cold water. Not many years ago Mr Kennedy cut these trees.
At that time the Indians across the river had beaten a path to Hedgpeth's Saloon. A strange man rode over this path, swam his horses across this big river, and settled a home. This was Major Barr. He put in Barr's Ferry, and lived and died there. He was a mysterious character, yet an educated and high class gentleman.
"Not long after his death, I crossed what looked like the Mississippi River. Actually it was the Tombigbee. The boatman was a crazy man and I had to stand by him in the boat. I thought I would die from fright before I got across. Fifty years later I crossed the river at the same place and it had diminished in width to half its former width.
By 1861 the War was on. All the young men volunteered and formed a company they called the Red Rovers. They drilled three months where the high school is under the military training of Major Barr.
I have no idea when the Bowds, Dalrymples, Dansbys, Cheeks, Cowleys, and Terrels came to Smithville. They held services under the trees until they could build the old Baptist church that was torn down not so long ago and replaced by the fine brick building. The Rev Seaward, the pastor for many years, built the home where Mrs Norman Lyly now lives. The Ollie Ausborn home was built by Professor Dansby. The old Lee Sullivan home was built by the Inmans. Dr Tubb's old house was built by a Mr Thompson. The old Jerry Moore home was built by Dr Jim Elliot. It was the town tavern. The Hyde Livery Stable was where Bud Young lives. One of the Elliot boys took some money from Hyde's coat that was hanging in the stable. This started war between the two families. The Elliotts and brother in law, Ben Mosley, barricaded themselves upstairs and fired on Hyde as he walked up the street. He went back, got his gun and returned their shots till he fell dead. It cost the Elliotts nearly all they had to save their necks. Years after the Hyde killing Little Jim Elliott was home on furlough from the army. There was to be a big party for the visiting soldiers. Little Jim as he was called spent the evening in the Jess Leech home and he and young Willie Stegall practiced all evening. They were both fine violinists, and were to play for the party. That night a strange coincidence, the last piece they played was "The Vacant Chair". He came back to town, met this brother in law of Hydes, a few words were passed and Looney shot him down. My mother sat up there that night and said no one ever saw such grief. It nearly killed his mother and sisters. She said all seemed quiet outside, but next morning Looney's body was hanging to a limb on a big tree at the front corner of Aden Moore's yard.
The old Dobbs home was built by Joe Brown, Smithville's first banker, who absconded with the money. I have no history on Mr Morgan's home and don't know who settled the Gene Young place. In my childhood an old black woman, Aunt Betty Black, owned this. She was as black as a crow and rode a tiny white mule. Away before the War, a Mrs Maupin and her brother in law, Ed Maupin, lived at the McKinney place and taught school in a house just across the street. Here is where lived the music teacher who died and is buried in the northwest part of Smithville cemetary. Years afterwards the man she was engaged to, came down from Massachusetts and placed a tomb at her grave. Her name was Fanny Van Cleave. I think her tomb gives the date of her death. From the time the institute was sold till 75 years ago Smithville had no school building, when the school was built where Mrs Alinder's home is. The schools were taught in vacant dwellings. Miss Docia Vaughn was burned to death in school in the old Lee Sullivan house. There was a transient man that taught little bit about over the county. He was a Frenchman and could not speak English plain. The children tried to pronounce words like he did. He would fly into a temper and threaten to break a stick over their backs. He was found dead by the road side at Gravelee Springs. His name was McGrat.
The Murray Addington Home once belonged to the Mosley's, and the big old white house near the Addington barn. The Stalnaker and Annice Armstrong farm was owned by the Dunlaps. The old house Terrell Cox tore away was the McCrimman place. The old Jim Davis home was built by the Dalrymples. The Everett Davis place is the old Walls place. my home was once owned by an old Negro woman, Aunt Sara Little. Not many years ago the Rev Matt Allen built the home I am living in. The old house in the grove owned by Dr Tubb was buil by a wealthy old bachelor, Conner Dowd, a brother of Mrs Dalrymple and Mrs McCrimman. All I know of Miss Luna Addington's home is that Dr Crump lived and died there.
I shall give the names of all the doctors that have lived here in my lifetime: Dr Elliot, Dr Gardner, Dr Roberson, Dr Gregory, Dr Crump, Dr Dobbs, Dr Spratt, Dr Wren, Dr Green, Dr Harman, Dr Cowden, Dr Summerford, Dr P Burdine Sr, Dr Bean, Dr Tubb, Dr Aycock, Dr Brack Burdine, Dr Condrey and Dr Roebuck. Only this number only Dr Tubb, Dr Aycock, and Dr Bean are now living.
"I have all the old places mentioned, and I will take off in another direction. The War had paralyzed the country. Negroes were freed and I suppose Mr Stegall sold the blacksmith shop down near Jerico Bridge to the negroes for a church. It was moved north of the road in a big grove of fine oaks. The government sent two white women down to teach the negroes, a Miss Waterberry and a Miss Dowd. They ate, slept with the poor poverty stricken negroes and taught school at old Jerico. These women were neither looked at nor spoken to by the white people.
At the time Mr Stegall was doing all he could to save his fortunes. He brought in a colony of Swedes and settled them at the old Meadows Mill. They were all mill rights and carpenters and knew nothering of our way of farming. Some were graduates in the Swedish language. The men wore gold ear rings and some gold rings in their nose. As I have mentioned, the mill was on this side of Bull Mountain. Mr Stegall had one of these Swedes tending the mill. One day a brother in law of Mr Hard Dyer who was living near the mill, ran by, threw his gun on the porch and said, "I have killed Johnson." That was the last ever seen or heard of Allen Livingston. Mr Dyer's young sister Myra came screaming for my daddy. Mr Stegall was riding up through the bottom, heard the mill running and hurried on. He and Dad got there at the same time, found Johnson lying in a pool of blood and the mill just ready to catch fire as the grain had run out. The men of the community and Smithville got there, made big pine know fires and laid the dead man out up stairs with one little candle.
Ath this time there was a close friendship between this man Johnson and an old woman, Miss Van Hoosier, over at the mill. She had thrown a white cloth over her head, walked through the dark bottom alone and entered the back way. Two of the townsmen, John Clayton and Bob Ray went up to see about the corpse. Just as they reached the top of the stairs the woman rose up from the side of the corpse. They let out a yell and fell down stairs almost frightened to death. They thought the dead man had come to life. That was the biggest wake ever held around here.
Mr Stegall buried him behind his home in the family lot. By this time the infirmness of finance and age was getting him down, but this did not hinder him from taking a fifth wife, a widow lady with four grown children. The late Walter Boggan of Becker was her oldest son. Of this marriage was born one daughter, the late Mamie Richard Stegall, who died in Birmingham three or four years ago. She fell heir to the home and farm of Aden Moore. She was a beautiful lovely woman. Mr Stegall had deeded all his lands to his other children. After once saying he would not die satisfied unless he was the wealthiest man in Monroe County, he died penniless.
I shall now have to retrace to where the institute was built into the hotel at Greenwood Springs and to the old Standifer settlement. Somewhere between the old Antioch Church ground and Hatley, a famous botannical doctor, Dr Gid Lipscomb opened a crude sanitarium. He split out long pine boards and built cabins for his patients, and compounded his medicine from his garden of herbs. He had seven sons. Occasionally Mrs Lipscomb would have the settlers in to a sewing bee. The old doctor was a great fiddler. At night the young people would enjoy a bid dance. My grandmother, Susanna Armstrong, danced with Bob Stockton who played such an active part in helping to adjust the affairs of Monroe County in the stormy Reconstruction days. I suppose the New Hope Cemetary was started from the Lipscomb Clinic. The county poor house was in the Parham Gin area, and the county potters field was plowed under a long time ago.
Another character was Doderic Masengill, a Cherokee Indian who spent his life in that community. The county is full of his descendants, all prosperous substantial citizens but very few bear the name of Massengill.
I am now ready to take off on the old Russelville road from the old Jerico church. I mentioned the hight school property before. The home where Mr Crouch lives was the first on that piece of land and was built not many years ago by my brothers, Tolie, Plummer and Locke Pierce.
"The Marshall Rieves home was the old Bush home. Mitchell settled up at the bridge where Thompson now lives. The McNiece and Shelton farms were settled by Jimmie and Tommy Lann. The Jess Leech home was built by William and Stanley Stegall. Acros the road in front was the big decaying home once owned by Pierce Davis. On the rocky hillside the old house is still standing that was built by a Mr Tucker whose wife was a Davison and an aunt of the late E D Gilmore. I don't have a history of them. Their little boy was so mean that all bad children were called "Bud Tucker".
Before I could remember, the Rev John Burdine moved from his home in Lee County to the old house on the branch on the present Brook's farm where he spent the balance of his life. Here was where Casey Wax's parents were married. The Wesley Bowens owned the William Johnson and Thomas Lee Cowley places.
The Jones owned from Mrs Martha Jane Cowley's home to the Gene and Holsten Elliot home in Itawamba. They built the house near the family cemetery and Uncle Marshall Jones taught school until he died in manhood. A part of what was once a fine old home is still standing back of Mr Albert Stevenson. Up at the pottery place (Suggs) this all belonged to Madison McKiney. The Robbie Pierce place was settled by James G McKiney. The Madison McKiney place was bought by the Rev Mr Springfield who built the old long church just a little beyond the pottery. The McKineys went west in my dad's childhood. One of the families were all killed in an Indian massacre. In her widowhood, my mother taught school there.
Now back to the Jones family. There were eight of the brothers: Ira, Benjamin, Christopher, Westley, Robert, Marshall, Oliver, and Stephen. Only one east of the Mississippi River bears the Jones name, Buford of Memphis. The Ben Harmans are the descendants of Benjamin Jones.
I was born in 1868 in the Bluff Creek home of William Stegall. The old road ran south of the Elliot place and split the farm into two big fields. A lane faced our home. Before the War, droves of human beings were driven down this road like cattle and sold for from $500 to $1500 apiece. I am glad I never witnessed anything so pitiful and wicked. Also great droves of fat hogs were driven down and sold for 3 cents per pound. In my time there were droves of beautiful horses that were driven out of Tennessee and Kentucky. I will have to describe one wonderful horse my father traded for out of a drove. He was only 3 years old but had been badly cared for. With good care he developed into the finest and biggest horse the country had ever had. He wa a bright bay in color, white face and legs, black curly mane and tail, and pale blue eyes and was gentle as could be. My mother rode him wehre she wanted to go. People would ask if she wasn't afraid of that big blind horse; he was glass-eyed.
Our next sight was the long trains of cotton wagons out of Itawamba and North Alabama on the way to Aberdeen, the nearest cotton market. There was a big camp ground at the ford on Bluff Creek and it was a lovely place. The most unusual traveler was a man in a wagon drawn by a milk cow and an old jenny. He was going somewhere in style.
The next attraction was watching the linemen build the telegraph line from Aberdeen eastward. It did not stand long till it was taken down.
Mr Hardee ran a peddler wagon. His load was cedar buckets and churns; cedar vessels that I am sure no one ever heard of. They were called kelers and piggins. The kelers were small shallow tubs, the peggins were small buckets with one stave extending up into a fancy trimmed handle. They were all bound with bright brass hoops. The kelers were used for foot tubs. Daddy's little half-sisters and I used the piggins while we were learning to milk the cows. I suppose the pioneers brought in the domestic animals from the eastern states.
Dr John Tubb had moved into an old house on the east side of his farm near the old log church. This is the Gilbert Johnson place. His wife was the widow of Dr McCoy, who had died in the army. Her sons were Coleman and John McCoy. In the doctor's office was a skelton which must have been that of a giant judging from its immense size. I would take the jitters when I passed the office door. I remember when he built the house torn down by Gilbert Johnson. The big trees were little bushes when he set them out.
In front of our home was a lane through which all the cattle passed to the range in the bottom. Doctor Tubb had the most frightening billy goat that followed the cattle. His big horns, yellow eyes and long beard made him the terror of our lives."
"Our main excitement was seeing men swim across the ford in flood time. My little brother was a born fisherman. As soon as he could toddle over the big cotton ridge he would go fishing. I had to go along much against my will. Occasionally we would land a crawfish with our bent pin and sewing thread tackle. We had a flock of puddle ducks on the creek. They roosted in the orchard. Each morning was an Easter egg hunt, and the eggs were almost every color except red. We tried cooking some but that broke us as might say from sucking eggs.
I suppose all tubs had worn out. There were none in the stores, so they would dig a trough out of a big poplar log and use them for washing. They would cut them out as smooth as a cup.
There was a fine big orchard at our home and such wonderful fruit. There were no insects or blight. They would wash and pare these fine apples, pour them in this trough and with clean wooden mauls would beat them into a pulp, put in a little press on an inclined floor and press the cider out. It would turn to vinegar soon and eveyone had a supply of fine apple vinegar.
Our next excitement was the bee robbing, but we kept at a distance. Every container was filled with this fine honey, even the wooden bread tray. You know poverty is said to be the mother of invention. These resourceful people had the determination to overcome the things that this war had brought about. They raised big gourds that would hold nearly a half bushel, sawed the tips off, cleaned out life a tea cup and then they were filled with lard, honey, salt, sugar, soap, and then set on benches. The old dirt floors of the smoke houses had pits where the people had dug up the floors of the smoke houses after the war, put the dirt in hoppers, and poured water over it, boiled it down to get salt which was a precious as gold dust. I used to watch them mold candles and run bullets for the rifles.
The farmers marked their live stock's ears and turned them loose. Each person knew his neighbor's mark, but in time the swamps were full of wild dangerous hogs. The swamps were alive with every king of wild life. The mink, otter, and beaver had yielded millions of dollars worth of fine furs, but at that time was very cheap. We paid little attention to the flight of the pidgeons as they were here before we were. They would start on their flight in the bottom and by sun up would fly in such close formation that the sky was almost hidden as far as you could see in any direction. It would be 8 o'clock before this morning cloud passed and from 4 in the evening till dark to their roost in the hills. They would pile on the smaller limbs till they broke, the woods looked like they had been torn down by a storm. The men would ride up there at night and when they returned they would have big long meal sacks full of pidgeons thrown across their saddles. They all disappeared at once, and there has not been one in the country for over 80 years.
Sometimes previous to the War a Mr Merith Meadors owned all the land between the Christopher Jones place (now the Elliot farm) up to Turon church. He also had dozens of slaves. He was the grandfather of the Booker family. In the spring his son went looking for redhorse fish, something the people had never heard of. He found Bull Mountain and Bigbee almost dammed by these fish--millions of fish. The men went wild. They camped on the creeks, and would haul out fish by the level wagon beds full. That was the first of redhorse fishing.
I cam remember the great timber rafting. It took 70 years to destroy the forest of this fine timber. This was the dangerous hard work enjoyed by the adventurous. Many lives were lost. Also much timber was lost in the breaking up of rafts and sinking from weaker bridges. At the head of Bigbee there is probably a fortune of this fine timber in the bottom of the river.
"Back in my early childhood there was an epidemic of diphtheria that killed so many children. By my mother's expert care, she pulled us through sickness. About his time, my dad and grand father set up a sorghum mill and evaporator near the ford. There was much life around this place and a continual picnic for all the children. A little distance above the ford was a great cave or gully with a shallow entrance. In the high clay wall birds built their nests. They were the bank martins. There was a big chinquepin thicket near the ford where the ground was black with chinquepins. My dad and grand father bought the first cook stoves and sewing machines which were a great convenience as well as curiosities.
I remember the great snow. They shoveled out paths through the snow. We played up and down the paths. I could just see over the snow bank. Sometime in the 1870's we had a drought. There was no corn in the country. Grandpa run a barrel of tar and Daddy got a load of apples and carried to the prairie and bartered for corn. Others burned coal kilns, carried charcoal, fruit, bacon, pine knots and bartered for corn. There was nothing in the prairie but cotton and corn. By their determination and patience and resourcefulness, they overcame the crisis.
For recreation, a wave of dancing took place. Uncle Abe Auborn was the musician. His descendents are here now by almost legions. Alf and Jerry Moore too, played for the parties in later years. They were almost equal to Bob and Alf Taylor, the famous fiddling politicians of Tennessee.
The next was a panic among the negroes of how voodooism took place. The negroes were afraid of each other, not knowing who had the gift of conjure as it was almost as bad as the Salem Witchcraft. They had conjure doctors and for the least illness would think they had been "spelled" as they called it. They told such unreasonable tales of their cures. The white people made light of all this. The negroes became more secretive about it, yet they still believe in the conjure.
Nove for the last part, I should have thought of sooner. This was the passing of Van Dorn's army of fifteen thousand men. My mother's little slave boy was holding her baby girl when an officer rode by and handed the boy a Bible to give to the baby. I still have that old Bible. This looks like I tried to write the history of my life but I am only trying to illustrate the difference in the life in my childhood and life of the children of the present day.
When I was 8 or 9 years old my daddy bought from his father and settled the Alvis Cowley place. Previous to this, grandpa had built the little school where the Pierce Chapel Church is now. There is where I went to school, sat on punchin benches and nearly froze to death by a tin heater. I had many teachers but they were somewhat like Mr Dock McKinney's teachers. In his school days he said when he got words of two syllables in the old blue back spelling book the teacher would whip you and turn you back as that was as far as they could teach you.
Mr McKinney was mayor of Smithville many years and in spite of his limited education he was a very capable official. He had one weakness. His daughters said he would always take the jitters when performing a marriage ceremoney.
Now back to the old log church which had fallen in disuse except for an occasional transient preacher that would preach there sometimes. When I was almost grown a man by the name of Lewis, a Freewill Baptist held a revival there. Nearly all the people joined. They few Methodists and Freewills organized a union church at the Pierce School House but the Methodist membership was small. In a few years it was thrown out of the conference. The Freewill membership built the handsome church that now stands, and it has prospered greatly. This is a true history of the Freewill Baptist Church at Pierce Chapel.
There could still be pages written of the romances and tragedies, and the fires at different times. The burning of the Methodist Church. At different time Smithville would have a fire. Once every business house was destroyed except the old Nabors store and it was empty. The good roads and fine vehicles have turned the world into roving gypsies.
There are many things too sad or funny to mention. Like Charles Dicken's old Widow Gummage, I have reached the stage where everything goes by contraries. My brain won't register and my notes are so scattered it will be like reading a book backward. This is all true--the traditonal history and not the least bit exaggerated. When you have passed the ninetieth milestone and feel that you are completely ostracized, there is no present or future-just memories and dreams is all."
August 7, 1958
by Miss Jessie Pierce