Memories and Stories of Life in Marion County
Life on the River as told by Mary Ethel Ritchie Thompson (1895-1996)
(Submitted by Iley Thompson - grandson)
The Parker ( a steamboat) carried sand up the river for years, which was about the only kind of work that existed on the river.
There used to be big sand banks along the river. Below the Pot, where we lived was a sand field about a mile long. The Parker would bring two barges at a time to the sand fields. The sand was loaded onto the barges with wheelbarrows. It would take 50 to 75 men to fill the barges in a week or two. Then the Parker would come down about every three weeks with empty barges and would pick up the full ones. My dad would make twenty-five cents a day loading sand.
The Parker was on its way to pick up the barges of sand when it got into a race with the John A Patton. During the race it blew up and three men were killed. This happened on February 6, 1907.
A Trip To Town
The John A Patton carried freight on the river. It would pick up freight in Alabama (Decatur) and carry it to Chattanooga. It would also stop along the river and pick up people, cows, hogs,corn and cotton and carry them on into Chattanooga.
It would meet the Joe Wheeler at Ross's Landing to transfer freight that was going on to Kingsport and Knoxville. That was when there was nothing there, just the river bank. The Patton went up on Sunday and came back down on Tuesday.
On Tuesday mornings I would go to town with my dad. We would start about three in the morning. Dad would have a market basket of eggs and I would have a peck basket of butter. We would cross the river at the Pot and take a path up the mountain, cross the top, and down the other side and around Lookout Mountain to St. Elmo. We would get to town about eight in the morning. Then we had to walk all the way down Broad Street to buy our groceries and to get to where the boat was docked.
We would swap the eggs and butter for flour, coffee and other items or we would sell them. We would get five cents a dozen for the eggs and ten cents a pound for the butter.
One time I bought a new pair of shoes, they cost fifty cents. I'll never forget them. They were black and buttoned up to the top and had a red flounce at the top. I was dressed up!
The Patton left the landing about eleven-thirty in the morning. We would ride it back down the river and get home about two o'clock in the afternoon. Gee it was fun.
The Captain was Simp McGee. He would let me ride in the pilot house and at every curve in the river he would let me blow the whistle. I was a big shot.
We moved from the Pot in 1910, and things began to get a little better then. We had dad's old mule and a pair of oxen. Then dad bought a horse and we rode him every where we went. When I was sixteen he bought another horse and I started carrying the mail.
The John A Patton
Built by the Howard shipyards in Jeffersonville,Ind in 1906.The boat burned at Bridgeport, AL Nov 5 1910. It was owned by the Tennessee River Navigation Company and,named for the company president. It was home ported in Chattanooga TN ,and ran the Chattanooga-Decatur AL trade.
Specifications: Sternwheeler, Wooden Hull, Length
165.0 ft, Width 32.0 ft, Depth 4.5 ft, Engines 12-1/2 s x 6',
Boilers 2 ea 38"x26'.
Settlin' up with Sam
(submitted by Tammy Goodrich)
Going to town was a big deal. When Lois and Kenneth went to town with their daddys, they could go to the movies, which only cost 35 cents, and go out to eat at a hamburger place, where a hamburger and coke only cost 25 cents. So, they took off down the mountain to get the money. They were dreaming about the trip to town the whole time. When they reached Sam's house, he wasn't home. Instead, his wife Lorrine came to the door. Lorrine asked them if they came after the money, but they were embarrassed and said no. They could have kicked themselves. They started back up the mountain dissappointed because there would be no trip to town without that money.
They had walked most of the way back home when Kenneth came up with a plan to go back and get the money this time. They walked back down to Sam's house. Kenneth boldly knocked on the door. When Lorrine opened the door, he asked, "Lorrine, did you say money or honey?" She replied, "I said money." Kenneth spoke up, "We did come after the money." Lorrine said, "Well honey, I don't have the money. You will have to come back when Sam is home."
My mother doesn't remember if they ever did get the money that day or not, or if they got to go to town the next day, but this is a story she has told me over and over and one I will treasure for the rest of my life.
to Grandfather Grayson's Home at the foot
of the Mountain
(Told by Alice, then 11 years old)
(submitted by Dennis Gertz)
(The Alice that wrote about her last stay with her grandparents is: Alice Jane Cowan, b. July, 2, 1867. She was the daughter of William Henry Cowan and Sarah Caroline Grayson.)