Transcribed By Bob Morrow
February 22, 1952
This Article Appeared In The Times
But Was Not Actually In Calís Column
††††††† These lines are being written on Wednesday morning, Feb. 13, 1952, exactly 53 years after the coldest weather ever recorded here in Middle or West Tennessee.† The official temperature reading at Trenton, Tennessee, was 29 degrees below zero.† Union City had a low reading of 28 below; and Dresden, another West Tennessee city, had a reading of 27 degrees below.† We have no record of the exact thermometer reading here in Middle Tennessee, and particularly in Macon and Smith Counties.
††††††† The writer was a lad of seven years and a few months when that terrible spell of weather came.† There had been a lot of rain and the river was high and the backwaters covered the low lands along the Cumberland and up the creeks.† The backwater in the vicinity of Dixon Springs, near which our father lived, was very high and across the old pike.† Although we did not see the frozen backwater, we are informed that it froze to a depth of three feet or more, and that as the river dropped down, huge chunks of ice three feet or more in thickness were to be seen wherever the backwater had been.
††††††† We also recall that a man named Dias, who lived in the vicinity of Dixon Springs, died during that terribly cold spell, and that the ground was so deeply frozen that it was considered impossible to dig a grave until warmer weather came.† So the body was unburied for a number of days.
††††††† The writer recalls the night of Feb. 12, 1899,† when our father, Thomas Morgan Gregory, known as "Dopher" Gregory, decided that we were going to have a record-breaking cold spell and prepared to meet it.† He had a large, heavy piece of woven goods, called drilling, we believed.† He used this for a cloth on which to spread and dry his wheat at threshing time.† Our floors were of yellow poplar and were not "tongue and grooved."† Consequently the wind came through the cracks in the floor with a vim that we still recall after more than a half century. Our father took that "wheat cloth," as he called it, and put it down all over the floor in our little living room the day before the record-breaking cold night.† When we arose next morning, that floor covering was billowing a foot high with the fierce wind that blew down from the "North Pole."† When the children arose next morning, our father had a pile of wood enough to have warmed the room in ordinary winter weather, on the andirons or "dog irons."† But it just would not burn right.† Little, blue blazes ran up through that big pile of wood, but we got only a small amount of heat.† Our little mother, whom we all called "Mammy," finally bundled herself up in a lot of old garments and went out in the "cook room" as she called it.† The living room was ceiled, but the kitchen was weather-boarded, but not ceiled.† It was the coldest eating place in the dead of winter the writer ever "et" in.† Our father always built the fire in that little, "step-stove," with its four caps, and the word, "Palmetto, No. 7," across the front door.† Finally she had the morning meal ready and we entered the coldest kitchen we can recall in our lifetime of 60 years.† We managed to eat a little meat, some gravy, that "froze" before it struck the plate, two or three biscuits, perhaps a little butter that was so hard frozen that it was nearly impossible to cut it with a knife.† The honey we usually had and sorghum molasses had to be passed by.† They would not "run."
††††††† We recall that we actually ran from the kitchen to that "blue" fire.† The day wore on and gradually the thermometer rose and in a few days, the most bitterly cold weather ever recorded here in Tennessee had passed by.
††††††† We recall that here on the Ridge in Macon County we heard that one man's house had a chimney with an opening of about two inches between the chimney over the fireplace and under the ceiling that ran across the room above the fireplace and about where the mantel is usually found.† The story is told that the ground froze so deeply and expanded the earth enough beneath that chimney to raise the chimney enough to fill that opening.† We wonder why the house did not rise with the chimney, but this is the way we heard the story.
††††††† There was terribly cold time in February, 1835.† On "Cold Friday," Feb. 5th, in that year, the cold here in Tennessee was so severe that hogs and cattle froze to death.† But there is no official record of the exact cold as measured by a thermometer.† In fact we suppose the thermometer had not then been invented.
††††††† The winter of 1779-1780 was so cold that the Cumberland froze over at the present city of Nashville, the ice being thick enough to support the weight of cattle which were driven across on the ice.† The bitter cold of that winter drove game from the forests and made life rather difficult for the Indians, who did not strike the infant settlement at Nashville for some months.† But in the summer of 1780 they did begin to ambush and slay all those that exposed themselves to the attacks of Indians.