This Article Appeared In The Times
But Was Not Actually Titled Cal’s Column
Transcribed by M. Carter
May 23, 1946
About 75 years ago there lived in the locality now known as he Winkler’s community in Macon County, a couple named Holland. They had a son known far and wide as “The Holland Child.” The boy who was mentally subnormal had powers bordering on the psychic which are denied people of common intelligence. these received only passing notice; it was his ability as a mathematician that won him fame. He had the amazing faculty of being able to solve any mathematical problem instantly, without any apparent effort , except too pass his thumb over the fingers of one hand. The Hollands left their native home long before their son reached maturity to join a show where the lad had been engaged to give demonstrations of his calculating ability.
Another circus attraction of local origin was Levi (“Scaley”) Crosslyn the aquatic performer, who, if we are correctly informed, was a native of White Oak section of Macon County. Except that his body was entirely covered with a natural growth of scales which were invariably described as being “!!just like those on a fish,” our knowledge of Mr. Crosslyn is so meager that we cannot speak with authority concerning him and perhaps it would be better not to speak at all. It seems that his circus career began in the late seventies. Those who saw him in a large tank of water as he played his much ballyhooed role as “half man and half fish” report that he had blood-red eyes, coal black hair of great length, wore an awful expression on his face and uttered strange incoherent sounds. Of course the sounds and expression were just part of the show and there are good biological reasons for believing that red eyes and black hair could not go together. The hair may have been dyed but if it was naturally black the red eyed effect must have been produced by carefully made lenses painted red and inserted beneath the eye lids.
After fighting in behalf of the colonies during the Revolution, William Wakefield migrated within the present limits of Macon County and settled near Gibbs’ Cross Roads. One day while hunting near his home he was attracted by sounds closely resembling the call of a wild turkey. He approached from behind a tree and being suspicious, placed his hat on a stick and stuck it out to give the impression that he was peeping, presently a bullet crashed through it. His assailant never lived to tell the story of his treachery as Mr. Wakefield immediately charged on and killed him. It was an Indian who had climbed a tree and concealed himself in the branches. It is probable that the poor fellow was one of Cauthawley’s men, as a Cherokee Chief of that name is said to have had a settlement of his tribesmen at Red Boiling when the white man first made his advent into that locality. We believe it may interest Mr. Wakefield’s numerous descendants who may read these lines to know that he was an ardent advocate of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States when that question was receiving political consideration.
Fresh in the minds of many of our more elderly people is the memory of Tully Brickhouse, an itinerant herbalist and trader in small articles who included Macon County in the rambles that took him over parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and perhaps other state when they were children.
He was said to be a native of Williamson County, Illinois, a bachelor, above the average in intelligence, fairly well educated for a man of his day, a rough but interesting conversationalist who was particularly well informed on matters of current interest. In his youth he was an up-to-date self-respecting young man and it was rumored that disappointment in a love affair was the cause of his assuming his eccentric way of life. He rarely if ever bought any new wearing apparel, using old cast-off garments he would find here and there. When he found a garment he liked he would tie or sew pieces of cloth on it at places of greatest wear. His shoes were always re-inforced with pieces of leather attached to the outside, especially in wet weather when, it is stated, several pairs of old shoe soles would be tied beneath his feet. Mr. Brickhouse kept himself reasonably clean.
Many and varied are the stories of those, who judging from his shabby appearance that he was feeble minded, tried to take advantage of the supposed weakness--to their sorrow. We are indebted to the late Fount Patterson for this one: Approached by a ruffian who obtained possession of his gun by pretending to want to buy it, drew the loaded weapon on Mr. Brickhouse and commanded him to dance, which he did for a time, concealing his anger. When the gun was restored to its owner, Mr. Brickhouse started away. Out of reach of his tormentor he turned on him and compelled the scoundrel to dance until he was completely exhausted, all the while heaping such torrents of abuse on him as only “Old Tull” could utter.
We do not believe that the income from the sale of his herbal remedies could have been large, yet he became a man of wealth. Since his living expenses were nil the probabilities are that his fortune was built by shrewdly investing a small income over a long period of time.
More stories are told about the late Iredell Roark than any other Macon Countian that ever lived. We got this one from one of our oldest and best loved ministers who requests his name be withheld because he did not verify the story and cannot recall the source from which he obtained it. We pass it along because it illustrates the resourcefulness and fearlessness of the man and the reader can “believe it, or not.”
After reading law for a brief time he was admitted to the Lafayette bar and waited long and anxiously for clients. At last he was employed by a man under indictment for a serious offense and who was certain of conviction as he was sure of a trial. Mr. Roark accepted the case and when it was called for trial the defendant, acting under his counsel’s instructions, told the court that he did not have any lawyer. Presently Roark arose and explained that he was a member of the bar and had never had a case and asked that he be appointed to defend the accused. After some hesitation the judge, with the consent of the prisoner, who, as you understand already had Roark employed, gave him the appointment.
“I can’t present this case until I have had an opportunity to consult my client and I suggest that you proceed with the next trial while we talk it over,” the happy young lawyer told the court. This was agreed and as the pair filed out of the little one-room court house on their way to a secluded place for the consultation something was said about watching the defendant, “There is no need of that, I’ll watch him,” returned Mr. Roark.
When the pair was well out of sight and hearing the attorney collected his fee and pointed to a dead tree far to the north, “Run as fast as you can until you get to that tree and then double your speed and don’t stop until you are in Kentucky,” advised Mr. Roark. The client lost no time in following this advise, but his counsel remained in seclusion until the judicial patience was exhausted and an officer was sent to bring the truants in.
When the judge learned that the prisoner had escaped his anger was unbounded, “I thought you said you would watch him?”
“I did, your honor,” snapped the keen young lawyer, “I watched him until he was out of sight going towards Kentucky.”
We do not know if Mr. Roark was fined for contempt of court or punished for aiding and abetting a criminal, but it is said that the incident centered attention on him and immediately brought him one of the largest and most remunerative clienteles ever enjoyed by a Macon County lawyer, a practice he held until his great powers abated with age.
We doubt if any little incident ever happened in Macon County that created more merriment than one that occurred at the home of the late A. J. Ferguson, near Bethany, early in the present century.
Twice during the evening Mr. Ferguson investigated sounds on his premises reported by his son, Oscar. Less than an hour later the family was disturbed by the boy calling “Halt! Halt!” to someone at the barn; following quickly by a blast from his shot gun. When the father reached the scene, Oscar was returning from a chase in which he had been outrun. He carried a large meal sack, branded with the letter “P,” which had been knocked from the shoulder of a fleeing man by the force of the many shot that penetrated it. Public opinion pointed to only one man as the possible owner, but good citizens for miles around who had a “P” in their initials were subjected, by their associates, to the most searching inquiries concerning their whereabouts on that night, the condition of their backs and other forms of hilarious insinuations. This continued until Potter Palmore pretended to identify the sack, claimed it as his own and alleged that he had loaned it to one of his friends, a most exemplary man, who was getting far more than his share of the fun, teasing Mr. Palmore and other good people whose name began with that much discussed letter “P.”
A congregation assembled for the evening prayer service at Smith’s Chapel about 35 years ago was startled by a brilliant light and loud roar. Those near the windows saw a large meteor, followed by a long tail of flame passing near by. It seemed to be traveling parallel to the surface of the earth and was just above the trees. Where it struck the ground or if it burned up before striking the earth this writer never knew. Estimates of the size of the meteor by those who saw it were interesting. Most people thought it was about the size of a barrel, a few thought it was as large as a tobacco hogs head while one observer expressed the opinion that it was smaller than a bushel measure.
Another celestial visitation of a kind that is very rare and of some interest to astronomers, attracted so little attention in the localities visited that it has probably been forgotten by many who saw the spectacle. It was a shower of meteors that was robbed of most of its splendor by coming at the twilight period one summer evening about 15 years ago. While we would not attempt to name the outer limits of the shower it is certain that quite a number of these “shooting stars” were seen at the same time from Sun Rise to Bugtussle to within a mile of Walnut Shade and in between. One man reported that one of these missiles struck the ground within a few feet of where he was walking along the road near Bugtussle. If you will pardon the digression, we will say that meteors are meteors only while passing through the air. When they strike the earth they are called meteorites or one may call them Aerolites of satellites and be correct.
Astronomers have advanced various theories to explain these meteoric showers. The most plausible one, it seems to us, is that a large meteor bursts far above the earth and comes in pieces.
The U.S. Weather Bureau maintained an Observation Station at Lafayette during a 10 year period beginning January 1898 and ending March, 1909. We did not learn the name of the observer. Another nearby station was at Riddleton from 1893 to 1897 with a party name Ferguson in charge.
For many years during the first and second decades of the 20th century there lived in the northeast section of the county, Ethel Howard, an intelligent negress of jovial disposition, a native of Freetown community of Monroe County, Kentucky. Thousands of people could not be shaken in their belief that she had the power of the Witch of Endor, being able to delve into the past and bring to light the most hidden secrets of the human mind or peer into the future and see an accurate vision of coming events. They are not without good reason for their belief as the following true stories illustrate. Before telling them we give the reader permission to say, “I don’t believe it,” for that is what we would do if we had not verified these and many others equally unreasonable.
Called to the telephone by a part at Rough Point, Tenn., who sought aid in locating a woman of sound mind whose absence was the cause of alarm, Ethel inverted a cup in a saucer of coffee and grounds, turned it )the client always turned the cup when present) removed the cup and gazed into the coffee. Then she seemed to go under the influence of a spell or trance which lasted only a few seconds. Upon recovery she described a tree and its surroundings and alleged that at that time the missing woman was sitting at the foot of the tree. Suddenly she became excited, “Hurry! Hurry! she said, “She’s planning to commit suicide and if you don’t hurry you will be too late.” A few days later a grief stricken man arrived at Ethel’s home and stated that the woman was his wife and from the description given him on the phone they knew the tree and its location and rushed with all possible speed to it. The found where she had been scratching among the roots of the tree and in a nearby stream they found her body from which life had just ebbed.
“You will not find your cow today,” Ethel told the late Nelson Crowe of Beautiful Home, Ky., “Tomorrow you will see a man who will stand with one foot upon something and give you some information about her,” “Then you will find the home I have described and a woman will come to the door with her hair down and a baby in her arms and tell you where she is.” Mr. Crowe, who did not believe in fortune telling, had abandoned all hop of finding the cow, which had been gone for many weeks. He had appealed to Miss Ethel only to satisfy a curiosity aroused by the insistence of many friends and was astonished beyond words when these and other minute details which she had predicted were fulfilled to the letter.
Ethel moved from this county to Glasgow, Ky., where she married and did a large business in soothsaying until her death about eight years ago.
At the suggestion of one who read part of this article, before it was submitted for publication, we relate a frivolous, yet perhaps the most mysterious experience, that ever happened in the life of the late J. M. Sutton, who for about 42 years was a leading member of the Macon County Court. At the time of occurrence, about 33 years ago, he was owner and operator of Sutton’s Mill which has been a landmark on Little Salt Lick Creek since pioneer days.
Working at the mill until about midnight, he stood at the meal bin with his back to the door, about as busy as a man could be. He was probably unmindful of the roar of the stream--swollen by heavy rains which had scarcely ceased--as it plunged over the high dam, or the grinding sounds of the heavy stones as they ground the white corn into meal of a quality seldom equaled and never excelled. Suddenly, as if a sixth sense had warned him of danger, he looked around and only a few feet away an old man and an old woman, both shabbily dressed, were walking stealthily toward him. They turned instantly and ran out of the building into the blackness of the night. The Squire, who had a large acquaintance in Macon and surrounding counties, had never met either of the pair before.
Of course the unorthodox call was prompted by evil motives or the couple would not have fled when discovered. But to seek the motive only deepens the mystery as the Suttons did not keep valuables at the mill and the good Squire was not known to have carried sizable sums of money on his person. The trail the mysterious callers made as they hurried away could be easily seen, but the tracks they made as they approached could not be found, indicating that they came through the old field overgrown with bushes and briers.
The above mentioned Squire J. M. Sutton had the most retentive memory of any one we ever knew. Many years ago an infant was the victim of a tragic accident which was the subject of much conversation over the county. Fourteen years later, in conversation with this reporter, Squire Sutton mentioned the accident and the date it occurred. At the first opportunity we talked with the parents of the unfortunate baby and found that the date was correct even to the day of the week. A business man upon learning that he had given the correct date of marriage in his own (the business man’s) family reflected on the matter and decided that no human mind was capable of retaining a knowledge of so many incidents in which the possessor only had a passing interest. That the answers Squire Sutton was so often giving people about events in their lives, which eluded their own recollections, were not facts of memory but good guesses, and out of the many guesses now and then one would be correct. So he decided to catch the Squire in his own trap. Years later he asked him the date of the above mentioned marriage and was instantly given the correct answer. We could go on and on, mentioning incidents which tend to prove that J. M. Sutton’s memory was most unusual and that rarely if ever failed its remarkable owner. Friends will recall that he died as a result of being struck by a truck in Nashville some years ago.
In the early pioneer days, there is good reason for believing it was 1832, settlers from a wide expanse of territory erected near the center of the present 6th District, a combined school and church house. The log structure was built with the understanding that all religious groups of the Protestant faith could use it as a place of worship. The Methodists were quick to organize a church there and called the place “Hall’s Chapel.” For some years this center of educational and religious instruction had no other name.
In September, 1851 a congregation met at the home of Jesse Springer in the Walnut Shade community (the A. D. West place) and with the aid of Daniel Smith and E. B. Haynie, “then and there,” according to the old minutes “constituted a church after the model church at Jerusalem.”
In October, 1852, or perhaps earlier the newly organized Missionary Baptist Church began holding their meetings at Hall’s Chapel which they called “Bethany.” For some years the two denominations met in the same house. It was easy to tell which church the person favored by the place name he used; if a Baptist he said, “Bethany,” and of course the Methodists invariably called it “Hall’s Chapel.”
When the M. E. Church at Smith’s Chapel was organized the Methodist influence at Hall’s Chapel began to wane and it seems that the younger church soon absorbed!! the membership at Hall’s Chapel. The Methodist meetings were discontinued and the place gradually became known to all by its present name--Bethany.
At the outbreak of the Civil War two Macon County boys without family prestige or political pull joined the Union army. Each was commissioned Major and neither assumed the title, exercised the authority or received the pay due a soldier of this rank. They were the late Dr. John Smith, of Red Boiling Springs, and the late Goldman Green Meador of Sarcoxie, Mo.
Dr. Smith who was 19 at the time of his entry into the service was a member of the 9th Kentucky Infantry and fought in every engagement in which this heroic organization participated up to and including the battles around Chattanooga. During this strenuous service he earned a number of promotions. With the defeat of the Confederates in these battles he was detailed to Macon and Smith Counties to raise and train recruits. With headquarters at Lafayette he trained many soldiers there. At this work he showed such remarkable ability that it attracted the admiration of his superiors. This ability coupled with his general excellence as a soldier caused him to be recommended for and to actually receive his major’s commission.
Captain Meador, if we are correctly informed, served in every capacity from private up to and including the rank of Captain. He was a native of the White Oak Creek section.
According to our information their majors commissions were signed by President Lincoln almost simultaneously with the surrender of Lee at Appomattox. Hence their failure to become majors in fact.
Paradoxical as it may seem, Dr. Smith was in the fore front of the fighting at the battle of Franklin and was not really a soldier of either of the contending armies. The time of his first enlistment had just expired and he desired to visit his parents at Bethany before re-enlisting. But when the call came he refused to take advantage of his civilian status, and plunged into this, one of the bloodiest conflicts of the Civil War, with those comrades with whom he had fought so bravely and effectively on other fields.
Nearly forty years ago a Macon Countian of great mechanical ability but without knowledge of the natural sciences spent much time in the twilight of his long life, designing and building a perpetual motion machine. When the machine was completed and set in action it ran. What a wonderful thing it was, running, ever running on power that seemed to have been generated in its ingeniously designed and skillfully constructed mechanism! When it became apparent to those present that the motion would continue until worn out, the conversation of the inventor and others present turned to securing a patent on his novelty. After the elapse of considerable time the contraption was observed to be losing momentum and it finally ceased to run. And so must these “memories” cease.