The Blacks of Little Trammel
Part Two

by Mary H. Black
abt. 1928

Submitted by Claude W. Nimmo
Retyped for the page by Diane Payne & Danene Vincent

*Note from Claude Nimmo, the Blacks of Little Trammel, "was put together by Levi Wilson Black's second wife who he married in Salem, IL on Jan. 26, 1913. Mrs. Mary H. Knowlton Wilcox. She died on Dec. 16, 1938."

Part Two

Money was very scarce, twenty five dollars having as much purchasing power as one hundred has now. A tale is told of a Rev. Taylor, employed as pastor by the Providence Church. He applied for board at Branch Jim Rippy's (one of the members of his church,) offering $25 for a year board. Rippy, not being at home when he called, Mrs. Clarinda was requested to name the matter to him on his return. "Why, yes," he said "I could afford to board him two years for $25."

The circuit preachers of that day who came to Sugar Grove were Hulsey, Bill Lynch, William Coley (buried at New hope and for whom Coley Troutt was named) and Pete Anderson. Nat Parker, Old and white headed, was a local preacher and because A.A. (Andy Anderson) was white headed when little, Nat, has always clung to him as a nickname in memory of this old man. Jack Henry of Bledsoe Creek, an old man in the day often preached through the country. James Minnis, who came from Va. or N Carolina where the Christian denomination was strong, established three; Providence, Cedar Grove, and Union Chapel. At one time, he had given out an appointment to preach at Sugar Grove (M.E.) The meeting house was locked against him, although a small congregation had assembled. Standing upon the steps he preached from this scripture: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock, and if any man will open the door, I will come in and sup with him, and he with me." After the war, he became discouraged, as he was unable to increase the number of Christian Churches and he joined the M.E. work. Providence, before the war, was the most spiritual church in the Little Trammel country. Revivals always began on the Second Sunday in Oct., and it was the rule every where if no interest was manifested in three days, the revival closed. In those days, the altars would be full of men and boys seeking their souls salvation. It was not a woman's affair only, as it seems to be largely now so. One at Fairfield, fifty years ago, under the preaching of Bill Lynch, there was such a demonstration of religious feeling among the men, that it was spoken of for years the meeting of the "Big Men's Shout."

"On the night the stars fell," Nov. 12-13, 1833, George Black was on the road to Nashville. He came home greatly disturbed in mind and shortly after became a Christian. A great wave of religion swept the country and people moved up in their Christian living. Meetings were attended by great manifestations of the Spirits, Power, such as "Jerks," Ect. As previously stated, few could read and write. Little importance was attached to an education in the estimation of the majority of settlers along little Trammel nor was much expected in its pursuit. Forty day's school at home, now, could get as much learning as those of that day of short school period with the meager teaching and advantages given then. Pupils started and finished with the old "Blue Back Speller." On a page called "The Baker" were sentences of short words. A little father was another called by the pupils, "Horseback" Said a man years after, Jim Rippy, "I got to Horseback, took a ride and never came back." Meaning that finished his literary pursuits. Little E W's first, and almost only, school days were spent at Sugar Grove under Dr. John Davis, Theodora---uron, Miss Sudie Morris, and Dr. John Davis again. The old log meeting house was also used as school house. This house was old when E W was born. It was built by the first settlers and perhaps antedates Fairfield. Cracks between the logs were the only provision for light. Seats were made from logs split in halves. The split side of a half was smoothed and into auger holes on the rounded side short legs were inserted. This formed a seat with no back. No desks, no blackboards or other conveniences such as we see today in school rooms. A large fireplace at the back and a door at the front completed the equipment. Dr. Davis, to avoid sitting on the split log seats brought a home made splint bottomed chair for his own use. One Sunday, some boys pushed thorns through the bottoms from the underside to give the good Doctor a surprise on Monday. E W never forgot these pupils who wished to learn to write, bought foolscap paper and made books in which their teachers wrote them copy according to each ones ability. Many used Goose Quill pens. Few were advanced enough to bring arithmetic and slate. Sugar Grove boasted but one pupil who had gotten that far up the ladder of learning. A young man, Robert Holmes, he and his brother Calvin were under the guardianship of George Black, while Squire Patton Bell was guardian over their two sisters, one of whom married Sandy Escue. This old log building was burned in the Civil War.

E W last school days were in 1865, when Capt. Nimmo came home from the rebel army and taught a subscription school at Pleasant Grove, (then know as old Brushy) in the Union meeting house. This house, built in the first settling of the country, was large and high, and without a loft; shedded on the north and west like a barn. The sheds were built by setting forked posts in the ground and laying the plates in the forks. Puncheon floors were the rule in all meeting houses, and some of the house wives of that day were proud of them in their homes, at least Eliza Black so expressed herself. The boards of the roof of this meeting house were fastened down by wooden pins driven through auger holes in the board suspended lengthwise to be raised or lowered as light was needed. Extending along this opening and just beneath was a shelf where pupils practiced writing. This window and shelf was that much in advance of Sugar Grove conveniences. It also had a large fireplace at the back and a door in front. The young people had no schools to attend during the war and came flocking to Old Brushy until the Capt. was obliged to engage his brother Gran. Nimmo as primary teacher. Charlie Davis, Jo Carter, Sarah Ellen Hawkins, Fanny Hawkins, Fanny Gaines were among those enrolled in a large school. The term lasted six months and was the only real school E W and his brother A A ever attended, but he did not cease to improve his little fund of knowledge but all along his life sought to advance. The meeting house was burned, it was said because of strife in the church, the land divided and the two houses now standing were built.

The first stage route from Gallatin to Scottsville ran from Gallatin past A G Sarvers, through Minta Mandrell's fields, where the old road bed is still plainly visible, a little past Gran Graves turning to the left, thence past Wylie Graves, through the Absher neighborhood, joining the Jackson highway at the big Trammel Bridge. Jackson Highway was unheard of then, just a country road, An interesting experience was related by an old man named Bledsoe, that happened to long before the Civil War. He was Traveling by stage from Gallatin to Scottsville. The region being a wilderness with here and there a cabin built far apart. When the driver ascended to the ridge at a place north of what is now known as Graball, he stopped to rest his team and passed the time in blowing his horn. His solitary passenger became alarmed, supposing the blowing in that lonely place for highwaymen. At the point of his pistol he commanded the drive to proceed. At Scottsville he went to the inn, supposing the incident closed. But the driver, after caring for his horses, secured a pistol and following Mr. Bledsoe to the inn demanded satisfaction. "You had the advantage of me back on the road," he said I had to do as you said, as much as to infer, now you must do as I say. Mr. Bledsoe had to talk very nicely to him, and he called on the bystanders to witness if he was not justified under the circumstances in what he had done, to get rid of the insulted stage driver without bloodshed. In the same conversation, Mr. Bledsoe also gave an interesting anecdote not connected with this subject, but it illustrates the character of Pres. Jackson. In 1828 history readers know that Jackson vetoed the charter of the United States Bank. In some way, Mr. Bledsoe's entire means were involved and he became nearly or quite bankrupt. He said to Mr. Jackson "we, been friends; why did you not warn me of the course you expected to take in regard of the charter?" Said Jackson, "I know we have been friends but as an honest man, I could not notify friends that they might save themselves at the expense of the uninformed." Mr. Bledsoe could only acquiesce in the justice of Mr. Jackson course.

Before the birth of E W this old route was abandoned as it was very difficult to use a dirt road in winter. The road passing the Black home had been graveled to the Kentucky line. And this became the stage route until the railroad was built. It is now called Jackson Highway.

Samuel Edmunds, Squire Geo. Chipman's father, Granville Tucker and Phillip Rice (for whom Phillip Rice Ceasy was named) were drivers on this route. The coach, painted red, was of the typical style. Its passage was an interesting event to the children. Boys would of ten, catch hold of the straps behind and run with it a distance.

The Black's of Little Trammel, lived many on the side of this great highway. Though the stirring days of 1861-1865, thousands of soldiers, clad in blue, marched by their door, and other thousands clad in gray. E W remembers well, Gen. Bragg's soldiers passing north four abreast on a slow lope or double quick. The column extended for miles. The cavalry lope became very popular with the country boys who trained all their riding stock to that gait. Gen. Bragg going north to the Perryville fight against his brother-in-law Gen. Buell, who let him escape and there by lost his generalship.

"Bragg and Buell met at the Perryville fight;
Bragg and Buell slept together every night." (Old Song)

At the muster ground, previously mentioned, near Westmoreland, then Coatstown, Capt. Nimmo mustered and drilled an infantry company of which he was elected Captain. A little later his example was followed by Capt. James Minnis with a cavalry company. Both men were getting aged. About the time of Minnis muster there had been some depredation in the neighborhood and E W., a listening boy heard Capt. Minnis say at the muster ground "I have an old sword at home that has drawn blood and can again if necessary." George and Eliza Black for religious reasons preferred (Rev.) Capt. Minnis company for their boys, so Geo. Jr. (Watt) and Alfred Enlisted at the same time in the cavalry and went to Bowling Green where the confederates were gathering to be organised into an army. The forces fell back south and Alfred having measles in the hospital at Nashville, was brought home to die and eternally bivouac at the edge of the old muster ground. Nimmo was not a Christian, but came home respected by his men and carrying a ounce ball of lead in his side. Minnis resigned, afraid some said, to trust his own men on the field of battle. Though a very able preacher, his scolding and tyrannical way cause his men to dislike him. This difference in the two men made a strong impression on E W. If any "War is Hell" what about civil war? Many of the worst characters of the country roamed about as bushwhackers or guerillas terrorizing their helpless neighbors. One day such a band led by the infamous Fykes brothers found a young Ohio Soldier, sick and resting under a walnut tree by one road side in sight of the home of the Black's while his comrades passed on toward Gallatin. This band took him up a hollow and shot him. Andy Anderson and Eli Wilson, on the hillside hoeing corn hear the shot and told their father. A black murder of a defenseless man. A rail pen was built around the body to keep the hogs away of which the woods were full. Black, at the solicitation of his neighbors, reported the murder at army headquarters at Gallatin and soldiers were sent to take the body away.

One day when George Black was riding a sorrel horse towards Scottsville he was met by union soldiers who forcibly exchanged a broken down black for his sorrel. The black proved to be a better animal when recurite than the one he lost.

Of the young men who marched under Capt. Nimmo, David Caldwell, brother of singing Hardy Caldwell and Will Davis were killed in the first Battle of Bull Run. Will Davis was attached to the Tom Carter family of which came Levi Black's wife.

Although a young boy and having no part in the war only as spectator had a little experience of the hatred, still smouldering, occasioned by guerilla warfare. A man named Watson, of Pennsylvania, stationed at Scottsville, and leasing oil lands in Sumner County employed E W to take leases for him. After securing a number he went to Scottsville to report. He rode up to a livery stable, ordered his horse hitched and fed and then proceeded to the hotel where Mr. Watson made his headquarters. As he passed out of the stable (so he learned afterward) one stableman said to another, "Do you know that man?" I don't know that I do. Do You"? Was the reply. "Well I think he is that damned old Ellis Harper." This remark created an excitement. Dave Walker, a lawyer, hearing of the talk walked to the stable to look at the horse. By this time a little crowd had gathered. He said "that is Squire Black's horse and saddle." Being with Watson on one of his trips, he had seen the horse at its home and recognized it. Going back to the hotel when Watson and E W were straightening their business he reported what had taken place at the stable and asked E W if he had ever been mistaken for Harper. There were men there who would have shot Harper on sight.

We must now record some of the old social customs of that faraway time when our E W was young and saucy. There was the old time-honored institution of the charivari or serenade. A newly married groom and bride would have felt slighted without this manifestation of popularity. When it was learned where they were to pass the night, someone would constitute himself leader and call around and notify his neighbors, appointing a meeting place. When the crowd with fiddles and firearms had gathered they marched in Indian file behind their leader to the house where the newlyweds were passing the night. In front of the house, the leaders would loudly inquire, "who has been lately married here?" Another would answer with the names of the bride and groom. "We'll charivari them," says the leader. Twice they circle the house playing fiddles, then the leader fires his pistol, the signal for pandemonium lets loose. So rapid and loud are the reports, no one knows that he fires but for the pressure of his finger on the trigger. This continues until all are tired. The door is opened and they are invited in and treated if there is any material for a treat available. Every man in the neighborhood engages, (Those not too feeble to be out doors), in the serenade.

At Christmas, a little candy and a few trinkets were given to the children, but a public Christmas tree or entertainment was unknown for many years. All the men, so E W says, would have been so drunk they would fall in a pile and smothered. A whiskey stew was made at every house, and at daylight, neighbors passed from house to house tasting the "stews." Guns were fired all night and during Christmas day (Who said, "pagan"?) one person firing as many as one hundred times, in a day. Percussion caps were used and when a box of one hundred were exhausted, it needed no great mathematical ability to keep the score. A custom of half-drunken men riding about their neighborhood killing at each house as many chickens as necessary to feed the crowd, had about gone out of practice when E W was very small; he remembers twice when they came to this mother's house. The crowd would give their commands how and when to chickens were to be cooked, and then ride onto the next place where this would be repeated until their circuit was completed. At the time appointed, they would return to be served with coffee, bread and the chickens. This was all in good humor, but now, for men, to ride up and begin shooting chickens might brew trouble.

The nearest and most intimate neighbors of the Black's on the Little Trammel were Patten Bell at what was later known as the Morris place; Capt. Ras Bell at the Maggert place; Jessie Rippy and sons (Anderson, James, Elvis, and Wylie); Isaac Calwell; Garret Carter; The widow, Margaret Turner; Samuel Edmunds and William Phillips. Lewis Martin had built just south of Sugar Grove and was an old man when E W was quite small. This house was torn down when the railroad was constructed. In the old house was found a letter from North Carolina, written on the fifth Sunday in February, (a rare date) of a year previous to the Civil War. As it mentioned the sale of some slaves. Samuel Edmunds, the stage driver, married Martin's only daughter and became the father of Mildred Hight, E W's first sweetheart. In these families grew up quit a bunch of young people, companions of E W. Betty Bell, Sally and Bettie Caldwell, (mother of our sweet singer, Moses Morris, whose voice is now silent in death), Martha Bales, Mildred Edmunds, Mary Black, Mary Jane Caldwell, Minerva and Mary Philips were among the sweethearts of that day. Some of the young gallants were Cullen Bell, Thomas Woods, Will Philips, Morgan Rippy, Frank Key, Jim and John Brown, Andy Anderson Black and E. W.. In the spring for several years these boys would put up a grapevine swing to the branch of a white oak tree near Dr. John Davis place and there on pleasant Sundays swing their sweethearts, "Pretty girls" some sixty years ago. At Isaac Caldwell's were many parties. At Mike Graves's now known as the Henry Rippy place, a dance could be held at any time, as there were both dancers and fiddlers in this family and it was during the war a great gathering place for young people. This place was settled over one hundred years ago.

Do I hear you ask what has become of this merry crowd? Ask, rather, the green turf of these old burying grounds, what it conceals beneath. I know of but three tottering (1927) old men (Andy Anderson, E W., John Brown) left of that happy band who laughed and sang at the trysting place by the old swing on summer Sundays. The red-buds and dogwoods have bloomed many times since some were laid away. It is sad to turn from the frolic and dance to the tomb; such is life, one day in the house of mirth and the next, in the house of death. The principal and perhaps only public burying grounds of that early period in the immediate neighborhood of Little Trammel were Old New Hope and Providence, but family burying grounds were on every farm. The homestead of the Black's was an exception. The first one buried at Dr. Davis was Daniel Davis, the Dr.'s brother, Mrs. Frank Davis, then the Dr.'s mother and father. Two children of Mary Black, wife of S W Davis, Mrs. McDole, the Dr.'s sister and her husband, Andy McDole. An afflicted union soldier, discharged from the army, making his way northward had stopped at Gran Nimmo's (at Carney Carter) place where he was unable to proceed farther and died and buried with the Davis's. Though they sleep so near the Jackson Highway, all its traffic and noise will not awake them. The Last trumpet only. Lewis Martin and the Edmunds are buried back on the hill at Sugar Grove. At the old Maggart place settled by Dr. Conyers father, is an old family burying ground where the Conyers and Maggarts and a few neighbors are awaiting the resurrection day. E W remembers when he was just a little fellow going to his first teacher Dr. Davis, that school was dismissed for a burial there. The deceased was wife of Josiah Martin, who lived at the now Buck Graves place. On the Bell place, later known as the Morris place, are buried the Bell's and their kindred.

Go to The Blacks of Little Trammel -- Part One

Go to The Blacks of Little Trammel -- Part Three

Return to Sumner County, TN Family Album

Return to Sumner County Main Page