February 10, 1955
Transcribed by Janette West Grimes
* CALíS COLUMN *
†† Before us lies a copy of McGee's History of Tennessee. It was the first history of our own State that we ever studied. As we glance through its pages, memory after memory comes to us of days long gone by. More than 50 years ago, we lost our first McGee's History of Tennessee in a fire that destroyed our old school house at Mace's Hill on Nov. 20, 1903. We had had typhoid fever that fall and did not enter school until about the first of October. Our mother, and God bless the memory of the dearest and sweetest mother a boy ever had, had said, "My boy has had typhoid fever and I do not want him to have as many studies as he usually has. It might damage his mind." Perhaps some of our friends and enemies also may think that the three studies we had that fall were too many and that our mother's fears for the mentality of her first-born may have come to pass. Anyway, we had only three studies at school that November day, slightly more than 51 years ago when the old school house on Mace's Hill burned. We recall that our brother and I were husking corn in the old corn crib that was on the east side of our old stables. We called it "shucking corn," and perhaps had never heard of "husking." Anyway, our oldest sister, now Mrs. Mary Perrigo, of Gallatin, came rushing to the old crib and yelled out: "The school house is afire." we rushed out in sight of the school house which stood on the hillside about a quarter of a mile from our old home and about half way from the bottom of the big hill to the top. We remember seeing the flames running along the board comb of the frame and log building. We rushed to the burning house, but arrived too late to save our three books from the flames.
†† We had no telephones then in that part of the world, which lay in the north side of the present Smith County. So early the next morning, we went to meet the teacher, Prof. George W. Goad, who resided near Pleasant Shade, about three miles from the site of the school. We met him and were greeted with the words, "Howdy, Calvin. How are you?"
†† Our reply was: "Very well, thank you. Mr. Goad, did you know that the school house burned yesterday evening?" Great was the shock to that most excellent teacher who went on to the smoking ruins of what had been his place of business as a teacher. He waited until the boys and girls, numbering perhaps 40, arrived and then dismissed them and told them to go home and to wait until another house could be built. There our three books had burned, one of them McGee's History of Tennessee. We left the old school ground that day with a heavy heart, but others went toward home with laughter and joy on many countenances.
†† But returning to the old history, we turn through its pages, still rich and alive with memories of other and happier days. We note that the first edition was copyrighted by G. R. McGee, Jackson, Tenn., Feb. 12, 1900. The writer was then in his 9th year, a carefree and lighthearted youth, but bashful beyond measure. He was never very good in sports except in running races, in which he did very well. In other games requiring some measure of skill, he was rather poor. He had a fairly good memory and did very well in his books.
†† The old history we have just found shall next claim our attention. The first division of the book is "Period I, 1663-1769." The first picture is that of the landing of Columbus in the New World. Next is that of an Indian, with his feather headdress, his tomahawk and bow and arrows, with the dark forest for a back ground. His right foot is shown resting upon a stone, or rock, as we called it half a century ago. By looking closely at the picture of the red man, we learn that it was drawn by W. H. Drake. Then follows a long narrow map of the eastern part of the present United States, purporting to be a map of the United States on March 4, 1789. The present Tennessee is shown as a part of North Carolina, reaching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. Virginia is shown as embracing the present States of Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky, and reached from the Mississippi to the Atlantic. Georgia reached then from the Atlantic to the Mississippi.
†† Next in the old history is a picture of "Indians At Home." We used to sit for minutes at a time and think of these children of Nature of the long, long ago. In this picture are shown about a dozen Indians, some ten tepees, a half dozen horses, a kettle suspended on a pole placed in forks that held the kettle over the fire. On the ground nearby are shown a slain deer and perhaps the skin of some wild animal left to dry with stakes or "stobs" holding it "taut" or "tight" as we were taught to use the word early in life. The forest stands at the back of the camp and a stream is at the front.
†† Next is a picture that stirred our vivid, boyish imagination. It is labeled: "Indian Massacre," and shows a pioneer house. Shown are four whites, two men and a woman and a small boy. How sorry for that little boy we did feel half a hundred years ago. One burley giant of an Indian stood over a poor, white-haired white man who had dropped his spade as he fell to the ground. The Indian stands over his intended victim with one hand locked in the white hair and his club drawn back over his shoulder. The poor old white man is holding his left hand over his head in an apparent effort to ward off the fatal blow of the club.
†† In the same hair-raising picture that our eyes, then bright and good but now growing dim, first saw, was another white person who was fighting for his very life. He had seized a huge Indian by his wrists as the giant of the forest sought to slay the paleface with one blow of the tomahawk. We did not then know that the white was on an average, as strong as an Indian, and that in matters of strength and skill and ability to take care of himself, one white man was the equal of perhaps two Indians.
†† In the other part of the picture that so attracted our attention and aroused our fears, were the poor mother and child, a small boy of perhaps five years. They are fleeing for their lives from three or more of the bitterest enemies the white people ever had, the Indians. The woman in the picture is shown with the door pushed slightly open as she runs for her life and the life of the little boy whom she holds by the left hand. One of the attackers has his bow drawn and is striving to drive a deadly arrow into the back of the woman. Our childish resentment at the ferocity and blood thirsty disposition of the Indians is still recalled after more than 50 years of time. How well do we recall our reaction to the injustice being done to the whites.
†† Next is a map of the present State of Tennessee, in green. Then there is a drawing with the title "Elk" and "Buffalo." In this picture are shown four members of the elk family, and five of buffalo, one of them a calf. One buffalo is in water that reaches nearly to his knees, and sneaking upon the unsuspecting buffalo is some member of the cat family, perhaps a panther. The early settlers called panthers, "painters," as did our own great-great-grandfather, Jeremiah Gregory, who shot a "painter" as it was preparing to leap from a tree on Gregory, who had laid his rifle down to take a drink of water from the old Martha Shoulders spring, just below the present home of Thomas Dias, on the waters of Nickojack Branch, in Smith County, about a mile and a half from where the writer was born. Gregory arose from a kneeling position that he had taken to procure a drink of water, seized his trusty rifle and brought down the big cat with a single, well-placed shot.
†† Following the picture of De Soto and La Salle on the Mississippi, is a picture of Daniel Boone, beneath which is the inscription: " D. Boone CILLED A BAR on tree in the year 1760." This used to be rather unusual to the writer who, as a child, prided himself on his spelling ability. But that day has long since gone by, for he realizes that Boone did well for his very meager, educational opportunities.
†† Next is a picture of "A Long Hunter," with his old, flint-lock rifle, his coonskin cap, buckskin shirt and powder horn. We had seen or looked at the picture many times before we finally discovered a deer far out from the hunter, who was aiming his rifle at the small animal.
†† PartII of the history is headed: "Settlement And Organization of the State," and is marked as being from 1769 to 1796. In the first chapter under this heading there are pictures of a Revolutionary soldier, called a "Minuteman," one of the battle of Alamance, and one of the Mecklenburg Convention. Then follows a list of all Tennessee counties, for whom named, when created, county seats and population. There is also a map of Tenn. This is still a valuable source of information to the student or newspaper man.
†† Next is a chapter on the "Pioneers." This was of great interest to the editor in his school days of 50 years ago or more, as well as of a later date. There is a picture of a "Pioneer Girl" carrying a bucket of water by a handle or bail as many called it. The bail or handle of the bucket seemed to be of rope or wire, although we rather doubt if they had wire in pioneer times.
†† We looked many times at the picture of the "Pioneer Girl," as she appeared to be passing along a narrow pathway through the trees of the forest. We looked at the full, flowing skirt, at the high collar, the sunbonnet she wore and the almost ankle-length skirt which she was holding with one hand as she carried the pail of water in her left hand. In our imagination, she looked like our second cousin, Nora Beal, the daughter of Gabriel Beal and his wife, the former Miss Bettie Shoulders, and we still think that the picture looks like Nora. She was a schoolmate of ours in the long, long ago, as well as a near neighbor. Nora has been gone for many, many years, having died young. She married Carsey Gregory, another of our second cousins, who has also been dead for a number of years. All her brothers and sisters, except Mrs. Susie Carter, have been dead for some time. Nora was a tall, willowy young girl who had cheeks of red and a clear, almost flawless skin. We often looked at the picture in the old history and then thought of our schoolmate of the years long gone by and which, of course, will never come again.
†† Then we have next in the pictures in the history two "Pack Horses," used by pioneers for transportation. There were only two modes of travel away from the rivers 175 years ago. They were on horseback and on foot. The pack horses were used to carry goods through the forests and on the poor trails of that day and time. The very first settler in Macon County was Thomas Driver, who, in 1794, came from Virginia and sought to find a home in Kentucky. However, he founded the first home in the present Macon County, on White Oak Creek some miles north of the present Lafayette. It is said that the old Driver home still stands. He thought for a time that he was in Kentucky. Driver came from Virginia, bringing his wife and two children with him. They traveled on horseback; that is, the wife and children. Driver walked and carried his rifle and his axe. On a packhorse they brought their supply of household goods and etc. This mode of travel was the only sort in a land of forests, without roads or rivers, except that of going on foot.
†† Next in the history is a picture of a pioneer log house, with its ribpole roof, stick and dirt chimney and a roof made of long boards held in place by weights, generally poles, for they had no nails in that far-off day and time. We recall that we have seen parts of a roof with the boards held in place by pegs.
†† We recall looking many times at a spinning wheel, as the book calls it. We think this was in error, for the wheel shown in the book is more like a flax wheel than a spinning wheel. However, the picture is correct except for the size of the wheel and for the motive power, whose operator used her foot to furnish the power. In our early lifetime, we saw many spinning wheels. The power used was that of an arm which was used to turn the wheel rapidly round and round. We still recall the shine or moan of a spinning wheel in our early life. Our own mother used to spin all the thread from which stockings and woolen socks were made. We have gone to the old stable at times, and obtain for our mother, "Mammy," to the writer, a husk from an ear of corn, commonly known as a "shuck" around which the thread was wound as it was spun. Then the thread was knitted into socks and stockings. We used to wear wool stockings a long time ago in our childhood. A boy thought he was getting to be a man when he was large enough to discard stockings and begin wearing socks.
†† Then on page 51 of the history were some statements that appealed to our boyish heart in a way that will last always in memory. Those statements were as follows:† At the pioneers' social parties that followed log-rollings, corn-shuckings, and quiltings, young men and maidens enjoyed in their simple way, the same pleasures that have ever been dear to all young hearts. The boys and girls had games and sports as boys and girls have today. They worked and played beneath skies as fair as those of Italy, under the shadows of mountains grand in their beauty as the Alps, and beside streams more sparkling and musical than the classic Arno.
†† We recall that in the year 1911 while we were teaching school, an episode connected with this very book came to pass. We were in charge of the school at Mace's Hill, mentioned in the opening of this article. We were then in our 20th year. We have a brother, Thomas M. Gregory, who is just 14 months and three weeks younger than the writer. He was possessed of a brilliant mind and still has one of the best memories we have ever known. He was specially good in history. It was during a recitation of the class in Tennessee history, the textbook for which was McGee's History of Tennessee. Our brother was answering all the questions so rapidly that other members of the class had no chance to answer. Our brother knew the answers "by heart." So we asked him once to let others answer and for him to wait till his turn. This did no good and we remonstrated with him a second time, asking him rather firmly not to answer till his turn came. He did not like our suggestion and went into something of a tantrum. He waited for his turn. Our brother was asked to describe the pioneer's rifle. He answered about as follows: "He used a Deckhard rifle with a barrel about 75 feet long." The brother teacher, who is now editor of the Times, felt he was being ridiculed, as well as slurred. We arose hastily with the textbook in our hands, walked over to our brother and slammed the textbook down hard on the head of our brother. He was hardly prepared for the sudden onslaught by the teacher. He subsided, but nearly all day we could see the "fire smouldering." He also told a number of others, so they later told the writer: "I am going to whip Cal as soon as I get him away from school." We did not learn of this for a long time afterward. However, the editor did not get a whipping from his younger brother. We are ashamed today, nearly 44 years later, for our loss of patience and temper and the rude treatment we gave our brother, who grew up with the writer, slept in the same bed with him, drank from the same little tincup, who fought now and then, but generally got along well, went to the same school, shared our early joys and sorrows and were closer together than any other two members of the family of ten children of our father and mother, whom we called "Pappie and Mammy." If he still feels hurt over this episode and has not forgiven his older brother, we ask him to forgive and forget the event of nearly half a century ago when his teacher brother "exceeded" his authority and tried to "crimp" the style of his smarter brother, whom we have loved through all the years with a devotion that we hope will be renewed in a better land."
(To be continued)