Transcribed by Janette West Grimes


April 9, 1953







On last Thursday morning about nine o'clock, ye editor, his wife and son and daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence gregory, and their son, Tommie, left Lafayette by car for Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to visit our son, Charles E. Gregory, who is in training at that camp which is only about a dozen miles from Washington, D. C. We carried with us a boiled ham, some fried peach pies of the halfmoon variety; and a lot of other eats for the trip.


   We had not seen our son since February 18th when he walked out of the print shop with, "I'll be seeing you, daddy," and was gone. I had a feeling that he was afraid to prolong his farewell beyond the brief words as above given, perhaps fearing that he would break down. It had been quite a long time since his old dad had seen his baby son, who had volunteered for service. We grieved much over his absence, often visiting his room that seemed so dreary and empty without his presence. He had always been from babyhood full of life and laughter, and was the "life" of the printing  office force. He was full of pranks and jokes and had a lot of fun in "pulling" things even on his dad.


   We left Lafayette for a journey of about 1,500 miles, and drove steadily toward our destination. Down Goose Creek we traveled at a fast clip, turned east into Smith County, crossed the waters of lower Dixon's Creek on which stream the writer was born nearly 62 years ago. Thence we went through Dixon Springs, our first town or village to ever visit, thence through our native county seat town of Carthage, across the Cumberland there and thence to the long ridge which leads westward off the Highland Rim by way of Chestnut Mound. On we went to Cookeville, just east of which place we made our first stop. Eastward, ever eastward, we continue on our way, climbing to the Cumberland Plateau not far  from Monterey. Then for many miles we traveled on the Plateau, going from "Walden's Ridge, "going down from "Alden's Ridge, just below Rockwood. We turned our course northeastward, through the valley of the Tennessee River. A few miles out of Kingston, we stopped at one of the roadside tables and ate our first meal "on the road." We were soon on the way and reached Knoxville about the middle of the afternoon, driving right through this large city and on up the Holston Valley towards Rogersville, one of the oldest towns in Tennessee. We left Tennessee in the middle of the double town of Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia, divided only by a street. We soon reached Wytheville, in Wythe County, Virginia. It should have been stated that we had our second meal of the trip on the banks of the Holston between Rogersville and Bristol. We then proceeded before putting up for the night.


   We had seen already a great deal of rough, rugged mountain terrain, much of which appears strange to those not familiar with the slant of the rocks in the east part of the Cumberland Mountains and in practically all the Blue Ridge Mountains. There we find the rocks, not in fairly level layers, as here in Middle Tennessee in most places, although there are here in places strata of rocks that are on a slope. In the section above referred to, on both sides of the valleys, the rocks are almost uniformly set at an angle halfway between horizontal and vertical or an angle of about 45 degrees. For hundreds of miles north and south and east and west, these mountains are set in this odd manner. In the beds of small rivers, the same sort of strata is to be seen, as well as in firlds an forests; and most prominently shown in the huge blocks of stone that protrude down the sides of the mountains. Mosst of the rock appears to be limestone, although in some places there are slanting slabs of sandstone. Roadways cut through this stone, in some places many feet in length, show this same peculiar slope of about 45 degrees from the upright. These millions of acres of stone all have the same general slope, from the southeast toward the northwest.


   How far they extend westward through Cumberland Mountains we do not know; but they do not reach to the western limits of the mountains. So somewhere between Walden's Ridge and the western foothill region of the Cumberland Mountains, the sloping form comes to an end.We would judge that the end of the sloping layers of rocks in the Cumberlands is reached perhaps 20 miles west of the eastermost edge or escarpment, Walden's Ridge. We see but little sign of the sloping nature of the rock layers at Ozone Falls, which is some distance east of Crab Orchard.


   Up the French Broad River which comes out of North Carolina, the jagged edges of the rocks are noticeable even to the very water's edge. It seems unusual to see a stream that has apparently cut its way "across the grain," right through hundreds and hundreds of feet of stone, all set at an angle of about 45 degrees.


   Just what causes this is unknown, although, geologists suppose that at some far distant time in the past, there was some sort of a mighty upheaval of the mountainous terrain; or else on the side of the lower slope, a dreadful "dropdown" involving hundreds of thousands of square miles of Southern Appalachian Mountains and the valleys lying between ranges. Surely there must have been an earthquake or earthquakes of such a nature as we have not had on earth since man has been here. All these things are beyond the feeble mind of man, and we pause and gaze upon the mighty works of God whose ways are past finding out. Truly we stand in awe of the Power great enough to pitch the mountains as a man might pitch hay.


   We resume our story of visiting the editor's son. We passed through one Virginia town after another. About ten o'clock we came to Salem, Virginia, and decided to spend the night there. We had a good bed, splendid accommodations, hot and cold water, at a fair price. We found at Salem an old-fashioned wagon of the variety said to have been used by the pioneers in their early travels from Virginia to the country that lay to the southwest. This was a rather small wagon, fairly high wheels and builded for use with a yoke of oxen. It had a bed or body that somehow reminded one of a small boat or canoe with the rear end quite a bit higher than the front. We thought of the pioneers that crowded their families into these covered wagons, of the plodding cattle that pulled them, of the creaking of the wagon that rumbled slowly westward, of the owner who went ahead of the laboring oxen, of those who drove the sheep, hogs and other animals that would be needed in the pioneer home soon to be established in the West, as all the lands west of the Blue Ridge were originally called. We thought of all the bravery required by pioneer mothers in taking their infant in her arms, riding in the old covered wagons mile after mile and day after day, slowly but surely going toward the setting sun in search for new and fresher lands, and for better opportunities for their children. A whole vista of our imagination opened up as we contemplated the wagon caravans of that day and time. We thought of all the dangers incident to this sort of travel, of the raging streams to be forded, of the rivers to be ferred across, of the fear and dread of the sworn enemies of the white people, the Indians. But we have to come back to the present again and forget the past for the time being.


   We had difficulty in finding out just when we had crossed the divide between the waters that flow westward to the Mississippi and those that flow eastward in the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic. In fact we did not find out with any measure of certainty just where this transition takes place. We did learn that on leaving the watershed of the Holston River which is a tributary of the Tennessee River, that we were for a time on the watershed of the New River which rises in North Carolina, flows generally in a northwesterly direction and passed through of near Radford, Kentucky, near which place the New River joined by the Little River. The two rivers are called the New River onward to the northwest into West Virginia, which State is entered by the combined rivers near Lyn, Va. Later the New River is joined by the Gauley River from the North and the stream becomes the Kanawha River, which empties into the Ohio River, at Point Pleasant. At this place in 1774 the Indians are said to have put up the strongest, and most sustained battle they ever fought in all the history of the conflicts between the Indians and the whites. In this they were finally defeated.


   The Kanawha River from its source to its mouth is approximately 450 miles long. Charleston, West Virginia, is the largest city on the entire stream. We had no idea that the section of Virginia through which we were passing on Thursday night included a part of the watershed of the Kanawha River, until we were informed of this fact by some party who knew more of the geography of the Dominion State than did the writer.


   It should be added that the change-over from the Tennessee River watershed was so gradual that a stranger passing through Virginia between Marion and Wytheville, by car wouldn't have dreamed that he was at the head of two streams and that without a huge barrier or mountain. Generally, in a country as mountainous as the western part of Virginia is, there is a mountain between the waters that flow in two different directions and into two different rivers or streams. Here in our own county of Macon, the dividing line between the waters that flow northward to the Ohio is the highest part of the Highland Rim. In Lafayette it runs just back of the editor's home, as well as the homes of many of our people. However, the town of Lafayette may said to beon the Ohio watershed. The dividing line in Lafayette begins near the cheese plant, thence through to the south of the Fred Pipkin home, to the south of the A. L. West home, the Dr. Thurman home, turns somewhat to the south there and leaves all the houses on the Red Boiling Springs Road, as far as the (Mrs.) W. S. Goodman home, on the waters of the Ohio. But the Jimmie Tucker home is on the watershed of the Cumberland.


   But going "back to Virginia," we find that the Kanawha River watershed in Virginia is not very large, extending over the counties of Wythe, Pulaski, Montgomery and part of Roanoke, so far the route we took to reach Washington is concerned. In Roanoke County, Virginia, we strike another watershed, one that was also like that previously crossed in our trip northeastward, with no big hill or mountain as the bound between the two. The next watershed as one goes to the northeast is that of the Roanoke River, which flows generally southeastward until it enters North Carolina and finally makes its way to the sea.


   The next stream one finds in his travels to the northeast is that of the upper reaches of the Shenandoah River, which occupies a long and fertile stretch of land with mountains on both sides. The Shenandoah empties into the Potomac River at or near Harper's Ferry, quite a distance above Washington D. C. If one followed the valley to its lower end, and then traveled on to the capital city of our nation, he would find that he was many miles out of the way. So a road across the mountain from the Shenandoah Valley has been constructed, leaving the valley at New Market, crossing the mountain and into the valley of the  South Fork of the Shenandoah River. In this valley are the famous Luray Caves. After remaining in this valley for a comparatively short distance the highway crosses another mountain range into Rappahannock County. Here th estreams are a part of the Rappahannock River system. There are no more mountains in this part of Virginia. Although the sloping rocks of the Appalachians are still to be seen, they do not rise to mountainous heights.


   Quite a lot of our people are descended from former residents of the valleys of Virginia. The Willis family of this county are descendants of a man of the same name who lived long ago in the Shenandoah Valley, who owned a huge plantation and had a big home called Pilgrim's Rest. We have seen pictures of this home as well as the coat of arms of the family. Willis was well to do and was a member of that group sometimes called "The First Families of Virginia."


   Another family in the same vicinity in the long ago was that of the Fuquas. They left Bedford County, which is in the upper part of the Shenandoah Valley more than a hundred years ago and settled near the present New Harmony. Gus Fuqua, the father of our preacher brother, Elder N. Fuqua, was born on March 4, 1844, near Liberty, Bedford County, Virginia. Bedford , the county seat, is about 29 miles from Roanoke through which we passed early Friday morning, after having spent Thursday night in Salem, as above set forth. Caleb Fuqua, the father, of Gus, left Virginia, about 105 years ago. We have additional information on the Fuqua family if any reader is interested in this particular group.


   About 42 miles southeast of Roanoke is Chatham, county seat of Pittsylvania County, Va. From this county came the Witchers, of our own county, the Gammon, the Goad, the Brawner, and other families. We are not quite sure, but we believe the Shrums of our own county were originally from Pittsylvania County. These two counties are to the east or southeast of the mountains and are in the better farming regions of Virginia.


   When we left Roanoke, Va., on Friday morning, we were only about 15 miles from Fincastle, the county seat of Botetourt County, Va., in which county one of our great-great-grandfathers, Leonard Ballou, was born April 4, 1767. He came to Sumner County in 1795, and lived for a time on Dixon's Creek. He died near Pleasant Shade on Aug. 4, 1840. He was one of the charter members of our church, Mt. Tabor, established in 1836. The writer is now pastor of this congregation to which our old great-great-grandfather belonged in the years that are gone forever.


   We hope that our readers will bear patiently with us as we continue this narrative next week.