Interview with William Guthrie (Culley) Caldwell:
An Old-timer Reminisces about Westmoreland
In the first Quarter of the 20th Century
Part I

Compiled by Durham Caldwell
© 2002

Thanks to Durham for permission to reprint his interview with his father!

Note: My father used William G. Caldwell as his legal signature. But to friends and family around Westmoreland and Fountain Head, he was known even as a boy by his middle name, Guthrie, or his nickname, Culley. No one called him Bill. He was born in 1898 in Fountain Head where his father (Joseph Henry Caldwell) was teaching school and where earlier in the year he had married a 15-year-old student (Lily Durham Dye). Lily was one of six children in a struggling farm family. Her parents seem to have looked on the 29-year-old "Professor" Caldwell as a good catch.

The little family lived "out in the country" in the Pleasant Grove neighborhood for a short time, then moved into Westmoreland where J. H. Caldwell quickly became a pillar of the business community and of the Westmoreland Methodist Church.

Guthrie Caldwell got the wanderlust after the First World War, found a bride on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, brought her briefly to Westmoreland, then relocated to Falmouth, Mass., in 1927 when I was 11 months old. He returned to Westmoreland in 1943 after the break-up of his marriage to my mother, remarried, and lived in the family home "Hillcrest" on Old Lafayette Road - until he died in 1983.

I tape recorded lengthy interviews with him in 1977 and again in 1980. These interviews follow, edited to eliminate duplication and portions of narrow family interest and to provide better continuity.

"WGC" denotes William G. Caldwell. "DC" represents my questions and remarks.
Durham Caldwell
November 2002

WGC: We had a surrey. We'd go out to Grandpa's. The whole family could ride in the surrey.
DC: Tell us what you remember about your grandfather, Hardy Caldwell.
WGC: I was at his home one rainy, cloudy day and he said, "Son, this is a song we used to sing before we were going to fight the next day." He threw his head back with his great long whiskers and sang "Just Before the Battle, Mother." Make the tears come in your eyes. He told me that he was up on Lookout Mountain and it didn't rain up there and when he got down, it had been raining below. He was above the rain clouds when he was on Lookout Mountain. (Hardy Caldwell was captured by federal troops at Missionary Ridge outside Chattanooga in November 1863.)
DC: Did he talk very much about his experiences in the Civil War?
WGC: Quite a lot. He said he was taken to Rock Island Prison and the first time they came behind prison walls, they were guarded by colored people. They had orders not to speak to them. He said the colored people were scared as much as they were, he thought.
DC: Did he have much to say about the battles he was in?
WGC: No, not to me. I was quite young at the time. He died in 1912. I remember the ground was covered with snow and ice. The horses slipped some going down the hills. They didn't have anybody around here who knew how to put ice shoes on horses. They just sharpened the corks and didn't have any sharp places on the toes, and they just slipped. We were lucky to get down there and back without a horse falling down.
DC: He lived at Pleasant Grove?
WGC: Right this side of Pleasant Grove.
DC: And after he came back from the war, was he a farmer?
WGC: He was a farmer. Had a pretty good farm. Raised cattle. Corn. Always had a big garden. He used to raise broom corn and make homemade brooms for their own use. The first eggplants I ever saw were in his garden. Rhubarb. Uncle Tom Harris we called him. He was one of the old soldiers. He said Jim Brown stole some eggs and gave one man a dozen eggs to cook 'em for 'em. And had a gallon of corn whisky, about four dozen hard-boiled eggs. They ate hard-boiled eggs and drank corn whisky and got Hardy Caldwell out of his bed to come sing for them the rest of the night. He was called the Sweet Singer of Israel.
DC: Your grandmother. Her name was Frances?
WGC: Frances. Well, she was an excellent cook, always had good food on the table. Sundays she never knew how many people she was cooking for. Quite often Grandpa would bring somebody home with him from church to eat dinner with them on Sunday.
DC: What do you remember about going to church at Pleasant Grove with your grandfather?
WGC: I was a small boy. The amen corner was where the old men sat. They all had whiskers. When the preacher would say something they liked, they'd all holler, "Amen!" I heard so many amen's I didn't want to go to church any more for a while.
DC: What do you remember hearing about the other Hardy Caldwells in the family?
WGC: Well, the first Hardy came from North Carolina at an early age. He had a son named William. William was the father of my Grandpa Hardy (who was known in the family as Little Hardy). And William had a brother was named Hardy. (NOTE: Some researchers think the original Hardy and his wife, Sarah Brown Caldwell, migrated to Sumner County from Virginia with a brief stopover in Allen County, Ky.) One Grandpa Hardy and another man would always have a fight when they met at a stillhouse and had a few drinks. They agreed one time to have a fight on a certain date once and for all and settle their differences. Grandpap put a big pair of wagon spurs on his shoes like they used to wear when they drove four-horse teams or ox teams. They met at the place at the appointed time. The other man said, "Hardy, are you ready?" Hardy said, "I'm ready." Hardy let him throw him down, and he threw his arms around him, held him to him, and spurred him up and down the back and the seat with those spurs until he said, "I've had enough. Let me up." And that ended the fight.
DC: Do you know which Hardy that was?
WGC: The one my father called Grandpap.
DC: I remember when "Aunt Donie" Durham was here in the middle '40s. She was very old at the time. She talked about One-Armed Hardy. She remembered him out plowing with one arm and the reins around his neck. (NOTE: Also called Big Hardy, he was a son of the original Hardy, brother to William, and father to Frances, who married Little Hardy, her first cousin.)
WGC: That's the way he plowed, I think had to hold the plow in his one hand and kept the reins around his neck. Teams were well trained. You could plow by talking to them without using the reins too much. Say "gee" and they'd go to the right. Say "haw" and they'd come to the left.
DC: How did he lose his arm?
WGC: He got it shot off with a cannon as I remember. (At Corinth, Miss., on May 28, 1862.) He was discharged, came home and stayed a while. And after he got well, he took another horse and went back and joined another company. He was in twice.
DC: When you were a boy, did the men around here talk very much about the Civil War?
WGC: Quite a bit. Uncle Tom Harris he was Uncle Joe Harris's brother. We always called him "uncle" it was a matter of affection. We all liked him. He'd meet me in the street with his walking cane and he'd stomp his cane against the ground and say, "Son, don't let 'em tell you the North whipped the South. They overpowered us and starved us to death." I went to the county fair one time. It was schoolchildren's day. Old soldiers were all admitted free. At noontime the band struck up "Dixie," and these old men jumped up and threw their hats up in the air and hollered and jumped up and down in the grandstand. They had quite a bit of excitement when the band started playing "Dixie."
DC: When you were growing up, what was your first memory? What are some of the first things that you remember?
WGC: We lived down at what we called the lower end of town, down where Paul Dotson's wife lives now. My father taught school and made a crop in the summertime. I was born in Fountain Head, but I was so small when we came to Westmoreland that I don't remember when we lived out in the country.
DC: What was it like in Westmoreland in those days?
WGC: We had muddy streets in wet weather. The transportation was horses and carriages wagons and teams. Country stores sold general merchandise: dry goods, shoes, hardware, and groceries. Most of the stores bought chickens and eggs. Farmers would bring chickens and eggs to town, sell them to the merchant. Trade it out mostly for groceries to take home.
DC: Do you remember when your father stopped teaching school and went into business?
WGC: Yes. Charlie Hanna owned a store over on the side where the old Westmoreland bank was. He wanted to go to Nashville to go into the grocery business. He sold my father an interest in his store. Bought cordwood. A general merchandise store. Mr. Hanna didn't do so well in Nashville. Came back to Westmoreland, bought my father out. My father came down on this side of town. (NOTE: The lower side, east of the railroad.) Bought a little stock of goods from Lindsay Stinson. Later on he bought the building and house lot next to the store, and we lived there for a number of years. He bought and sold land. Bought chestnut timber, cordwood.
DC: Who was cutting the wood?
WGC: Landowners mostly. This was before the L&N employees got in the union. Sometimes they'd charter a train, send a train up, load wood on the cars between here and Scottsville . . . He sold a lot of cordwood to Faucher Brick Co.

One salesman told me not long ago that he worked for a wholesale concern and had a salt special man with him one time. Came to see my father. Told him this man was selling salt. My father asked him the prices. He asked him. "How much a carload lot?" He told him. My father said, "Send me a carload." It was the first carload of salt that this little wholesale grocery concern out of Scottsville had ever sold.
DC: Why was your father buying a carload of salt?
WGC: Well, it came in seven-bushel barrels. Farmers back in those days would buy a barrel of salt to salt their meat. Most of them killed hogs and salted it in a smokehouse. And then they'd use the salt to salt their cattle and livestock and use it for cooking too.
DC: What was the first store like?
WGC: We had counters. We didn't want anybody behind the counters except ourselves and the clerks. We had sugar came in barrels. We had to weigh it out. Coffee came in big coffee sacks. We had to weigh that. We didn't have any packaged goods back in those days. Weighed up sugar, crackers, hominy, beans. Maybe you'd count a basket of eggs for a customer. He'd have his kerosene can with him and want you to fill his kerosene can for him before he got out of the back room where you kept the eggs. Then you'd have to go and wash your hands before you could finish waiting on him. And he'd maybe want a box of soda and a pound of coffee and a few odds and ends. And he'd say, "Give me the rest of it in sugar."
DC: How is Westmoreland different in 1977 from when you first remember it?
WGC: We had a passenger train going north in the afternoon and going south in the morning. They called it the Scottsville Accommodation. Our train stayed in Scottsville all night, came up here in the morning, went to Gallatin, then went to Hartsville, back to Gallatin, then to Scottsville in the afternoon. At one time, it went on to Nashville.
DC: How many cars did they run?
WGC: They had a baggage car. One end of it was for colored passengers. They had a long passenger car, two rooms in it. Had a partition so could smoke in one end. Couldn't smoke in the ladies' car back in those days.
DC: How full was the car when you went to Gallatin?
WGC: Had a lot of traveling salesmen who went by train. Sometimes the cars would be pretty near loaded. We had a freight train bring freight up. So many of the country merchants got freight at the depot that most everyday they'd bring a carload of freight and put it off on the sidetrack at the depot, and the freight clerk there'd be from one to two cubs learning the freight agency business who'd have to help unload that car. At one time they were shipping oil out of Scottsville. We'd have a through train go through here to Scottsville with oil tanks. That crew it would be a local coming back with freight cars. Unload freight and take on freight at the depot. The next week, that same crew they changed crews every week would be the local going up in the morning. That same crew would take the string of oil cars loaded with oil back that afternoon.
DC: Never pulled freight cars with the passenger train, did they?
WGC: No. Later on, after they took the passenger train off, in place of having a caboose on the freight train, they had one of those baggage cars it was for passengers in one end, and the other end was for express, baggage. But that didn't last too long. The baggage master was an old Westmoreland boy. Lived out here in the country. In fact was a distant relative. I used to go in the baggage car and ride with him sometimes. He had express and baggage and mail.
DC: What was his name?
WGC: Olie Stinson.
DC: I remember you telling me a story about your father when he was a young man riding on the train.
WGC: Tom Saylors was drunk. He was standing at the water fountain wasting the water. A lady wanted my father to get her a glass of water. My father walked up to him and said, "Pardon me. I want to get the lady a glass of water." He said, "Damn the lady!" His grandfather was on the train. Dad called him "Grandpap." He said Grandpap was in the next car. He saw what was happening. He came in and said, "Son, follow your grandpap." He took an umbrella out of my father's hand. They went from end of the train to the other, and they couldn't find old Tom Saylors. His friends hid him on the train somewhere. He supposed they put him in the men's room.
DC: Which Grandpap would that have been?
WGC: I guess that was Grandpa Caldwell's father my father's grandfather.
DC: Were they cutting much timber in this area?
WGC: A lot of crossties, a lot of telephone poles, a lot of cordwood. The lower part of town was called the poleyard. They had hundreds of telephone poles down there. Some of them were so long they had to have two flatcars hooked together to haul them out.
DC: Where were they cutting this timber?
WGC: Out in the country around here. Timber companies, the way they'd do it is buy the trees from a certain size on up. A lot of times farmers would clear some land to cultivate they'd haul the logs to the sawmill and sell them. One time I remember, an Indiana crew came in here and bought a lot of timber. They had big mules and big wagons. They kept the teams down at the livery stable in Westmoreland. They'd haul the logs in and ship them out on the freight train.
DC: What did they cut the timber with?
WGC: Crosscut saws back in those days. Didn't have any chain saws. Took two good men to pull a crosscut saw to cut down a big tree.

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