Thanks to David Collier for persmission to reprint this article!
Note: Thanks to Nathan Knight for contributing this article. Comments by Nathan appear in brackets.
On the farm of J. P. TURNER is a pear tree that, according
to GUY HARRISON'S
grandfather, who owned the land before the Civil War, was bearing fruit when Federal troops
BILL GEORGE related to me that he had heard old-timers say that during the Civil War this tree was used by Confederate troops to zero the Cap and Ball rifles in on, from a point 300 yards away, and that he, one time, dug up two bullets from the ground around the foot of this tree.
Today Cottontown sits by the creek, basking in its memories, how in its infancy it struggled for survival. It remembers house raisings, clearing of new ground for crops, when creek beds were the only means of reaching the farmland, and searching for springs to build their homes by.
Remembered, too, are lean winters when food and fodder ran scarce and when the only doctoring and medicine was quinine, herbs and sympathy.
It remembers worship services being held in the homes and soon the STROTHER'S Meeting House was built. These early settlers depended upon the Lord for Strength and guidance. it recalls the early services held here when people for miles around would camp here, people of all denominations, to hear Bishop ASBURY proclaim the Gospel.
Later on, the DUKE Schoolhouse was used for worship. DAVID LIPSCOMB is remembered by some as having preached here as a young man.
Later on, it remembers Bethel Church that replaced STROTHER'S Meeting House, Little Bethel Church in the black community and its early days as a church. Along about that time, the Church of Christ was built and years later the Baptist Church, was constructed and thrived for many years. When interest finally lagged, FRANK CUNNINGHAM and family kept the doors open by their attendance with a song and prayer until it built its attendance up again.
Yes, Cottontown recollects all these churches and the part they all played in the lives of its people, such as all day singing and preaching with dinner on the grounds and baptizing in the creek, sometimes breaking the ice in wintertime.
Well it remembers the gold rush days when two of ERVIN DORRIS'uncles left for California in a wagon drawn by oxen.
DAVID RASCOE and ELLIS STROTHER were best of friends. DAVID joining the Army and retiring as a Colonel. Mr. ELLIS, as a young boy 17 or 18 years of age, going to California and working as a lumberjack in the redwood forests.
Cottontown's mind wanders at times to the hills where con and fox were hunted by some of the best opt licker hounds in the country, but its mind always comes back to the creek where most of its memories are. The creek would let children play in its bed, building castles in the sand or trapping those little knotty head fish in little pools. Maybe a little girl would have a play house on the bank using bits of broken pottery and glass for dishes.
Some of the mighty sycamore or cottonwood trees along the bank, after years of flooding and with the soil being washed away from their roots, these trees would lose their foothold and topple across the creek, making good diving boards for swimming or a place to stand on to snare those high fin suckers in early spring. These trees were good also to sit on some sunny day and listen to the mourning doves calling to their mates.
Cottontown remembers when it became a young thriving community with blacksmith shops, several stores and post office.
When SCOTT REID was elected postmaster, GEORGE MITCHELL and two more fellows threw him into the creek to initiate him.
Miss JESSIE MAY STROTHER remembers one time she was coming from Bethel and the creek was so high she and 20 other girls stayed the night with GEORGE and RUTH PARHAM. TED STROTHER also remembers he and another 20 or so people stayed in the schoolhouse one night due to high water. The schoolground and road had a foot of water on it.
Yes, the memories of Station Camp Creek are many, some good and others bad. One day a thing of joy, children skeeting thin rocks across a deep pool or catching silver sides with a bent pin fish hook or making a water wheel out of a section of a corn stalk, in shallow, swift water or watching a mud turtle sunning himself on a pile of drift, then a sudden storm would come and the rain and wind would make the creek a terror, covering the broken pottery and bits of glass with silt and washing the windmill away..also, washing houses away, such as happened to Miss NAN LOFTIS' house in 1951. Cars were covered with sand and gravel from the creekbed.
After a rise, before the bridge was built, a man up Bug Hollow would show up with his team of mules and pull cars across, making himself a bit of change.
Years ago, court was held in the PARHAM'S home where fiery court battles were fought and CORDELL HULL and other notables of the day visited. Later court was held at MITCHELL'S store. When GEORGE MITCHELL was squire, Miss LELA MITCHELL DONOHO, his small daughter, was allowed to sit in on some of the trials held in the back of the store.
Cottontown remembers a small, spotted pony being ridden by a little black-haired girl carrying an accordion as she rode up Countyhouse Road on her way to visit and play for the inmates at the county farm. These residents all looked forward to having LELA come to play for them. She knew them all by name.
Miss MAYBELLE remembers the house parties held at GEORGE PARHAM'S where she was raised by GEORGE and his wife RUTH. She recalls too, the barn dances the PARHAMs held down by the creek under the sycamore trees.
At recess the school children would walk to the edge of the playground and watch Gold Dollar, a horse owned by GEORGE PARHAM, being driven to a cart on a training track just over the fence; the trainer was Mr. WEST.
Miss GAYNELL SPURLOCK and FRANK SHAW remember the reunion at their grandmother's (Miss SARAH SHAW) home on 24th of December, this being her birthday.
Cottontown remembers with pride, the crack basketball club coached by "WHIZ" CUMMINGS, when Cottontown was a two-year high school; also the first T Model schoolbus and the terrible time it had trying to get up HASSELL hill, going so slow up the hill with boys walking behind and holding back on the T Model. Then, when it reached the top, they would jump on and ride.
BUD COLLIER had a pony one time that could trot from his home to the White House in one hour.
One day, two of Cottontown's residents were in Gallatin and they got to partaking right sharply. They started home on foot and when they got to the tollgate, they were still partaking and in extra good spirits. Together, one jumped on the other's back and rode him through the tollgate, then went merrily partaking on their way home.
One Christmas Eve, one of the stores had a drawing and a goodly number of people were present. Some got to partaking and a fight erupted. Bottles got to flying and one came too close for comfort to one fellow and splashed against the wall by his head. Now the creek was knee deep and 40 feet wide at the time. The story goes that this fellow came running out of the store going so fast that he didn't even get his feet wet as he ran through the creek.
When the bridge across the creek was being built, a young teenaged boy had a spotted pony he rode a lot. He started hauling moonshine on this pony which he procured by the gallon from a nearby ravine and sold by the drink, to the workers who were building the bridge. I may add here that the finishing of the bridge ended his bootlegging career as he didn't pursue the business farther.
I think a ghost story is in order at this time and it goes something like this:
In the Little Bethel community there were two sisters-in-law living together in a log house. They didn't get along all that good together. One sister-in-law said to the other, __________________________________ Soon after ___________________________ the door facing. In time the door was in splinters. Strangely enough, no one was hit by any of the rocks, which were always very hot. One day J. P. TURNER's daddy, WALTER, who was no relation to the sisters-in-law, went to the house to get a lard stand containing seed corn sitting on the porch and a rock hit the can and dented it. Mr. WALTER turned the can around and another bigger rock hit the lard stand and demolished it.
After a few years of these shenanigans, the house was vacated and the old house was left to the ghost. Briars and brambles soon took over and the house decayed, but no one could ever figure out where the hot sandstone rocks came from.
Cottontown remembers, with pride, the many boys it has seen leave home to go to war in all the major conflicts this country has had.
It remembers lazy Saturday afternoons when work was caught up and people would gather around MITCHELL'S store or another store and pitch horseshoes or play croquet, or maybe swap some yarns or brag about their horses while the same animals would stand half asleep on three legs, waking up enough to swish its tail at an annoying fly or maybe stomp occasionally.
A baseball game would be in progress on the schoolgrounds. All in all, a picture of contentment and happiness.
It remembers Miss LOUISE KITTRELL'S daddy's request, during one of his last illnesses, of wanting a squirrel to eat. It was December and cold as blue blazes and HENDY VAUGHAN heard about his friend's request. He showed up on this miserable, cold morning with a dressed squirrel.
As twilight falls, Cottontown has a moment of sadness as it remembers old faces and friends that used to come here in the evenings and sit on feed sacks, nail kegs around the stove and play cards and dominoes and maybe checkers or perhaps just to watch the game. Some just to talk about the new foal their mare had.
Cottontown has seen a lot of people come and go, some to reach great heights either in religion, business or government. But wherever they go, when their twilight years set in, they remember the creek, the hills and hollows, the stores and churches and whether man or boy, girl or woman, they never forget their young days here by the creek and the lessons they learned at church, school or at their mother's aproned knee and have a storehouse full of memories.
But, Cottontown is not looking back and living in the past. Instead it's looking forward with a bright eye to the future of seeing new faces and accepting changes and taking them in stride as it always had. It will always keep its trust in God to look after its own.
There's just one thing that hasn't changed since Capt. THOMAS COTTON forded the creek here in 1795 . It's still seven miles to Gallatin.