Writer Remembers Bransford And Its People
By Mrs. Lee Overton
"I was born on the headwaters of Bledsoe Creek, by the railroad,
near the village of Bransford in the year 1890. The railroad was built
four years earlier 1886. My father helped build it, it ran to Scottsville,
Ky. My father John Waller OVERTON agreed to letting the railroad
company, which was Chesapeake and Nashville, build a water tank down below
the house beside the railroad.
The company ran their pipe line from a big spring, called the Cold
Spring in ANDERSON's lot then, now belonging to the James C.
BIGGs farm. The pipe came through my fathers lot and ran close to the
house. So the company gave my father a hydrant and built a little house
It was exciting for the people in the valley to hear the whistle of
a locomotive steam engine coming up the valley. It could be heard for miles
ahead and the people would rush to Bransford to see the train, with all
of its' roar and thrill. Frequently it would stop at the tank to take on
One time in particular, I remember my father took me with him up in
the engine to ride to Bransford, which was a mile away. Tom WHITE
was the engineer and Nemrod JACKSON was the fireman. I was scared,
but I took notice of everything.
Mr. WHITE reached up and pulled the whistle cord. What a thrill
to hear the loud blast of the steam whistle. Mr. WHITE then pushed
a big lever forward to start the engine. Then he pulled the throttle back
slowly, this applied the steam slowly, and as the train got in motion Mr.
WHITE would set the big lever back a few notches and give it more steam
with the throttle.
Mr. JACKSON would shovel in the coal. He had a chain on the
big old boiler door, he would pull the chain to open the door, so the hot
flame would almost come out in his face, but he would shovel the coal quickly
and shut the door. He would do this to every shovel of coal. Then he would
shut the door and get up on his seat, which was on the left side of the
engine. He also had some spickets fastened to some pipes which ran from
the water to the fire box.
He would turn these to let water in the engine. About this time we
were at Bransford. When the train stopped my father took me up and helped
me off the engine. We thanked Mr. WHITE for my first train ride.
Bransford had two stores, one with a millenary store up stairs, a railroad
depot and a pair of scales. The old store house had a platform on the end
at the railroad where the train would stop and unload freight. There was
just room for the train to pass. The train set fire to the roof of the
porch on the old store house just above this one and in 1908 it burned.
The wind was from the South and blowing pretty heavy. The roof was dry,
the old pump close by was dry so they had no water. The store burned, his
house (Jim DURHAM's) burned and also his barn, everything he had
burned up. The hill north of the store and house burned over that night.
Just after this fire the railroad company built a nice depot down about
100 yds below or south of the store. Also Jim and Marion
built the long old store which also housed the Post Office in the north
east end in the corner. Lonnie MCGAUGHEY was postmaster. The little
room was about 6' x 6' with one light window next to the pike, which gave
him light to see by. He had another window that he would raise up and let
down, it was solid wood. He would raise this window and call the names
out of the people who got mail off the train that day.
Bransford was once a very lively place. Six trains a day passed this
place. There was also a switch there where freight cars were side-tracked
and loaded with cord wood, cross-ties, hatch-handles, telephone poles and
lots of timbers shipped out.
One train whose engineer was Ben WALLACE, later John BRYANT,
went towards Scottsville in the morning about 8 a.m. and came back some
time in the evening. The passenger train about that time was run by Col.
Ed BENNETT but later turned over to Mr. CHURCH. The passenger
train came from Scottsville every morning. Due at Bransford at 6:15 a.m.
and came back from Gallatin in the afternoon at 3:15.
The train accomodated all the people between Scottsville and Gallatin.
It stopped at very near every cross road. The fare to Gallatin was 37 cents
and round trip was 60 cents. The third train was an oil train, which moved
the oil from Ky. to La. Then when the strawberry was first planted an extra
engine would go up with empty refrigeration cars on the track at Westmoreland.
I remember when only one car went by then toward the end of the season
17 cars would go by a day.
Bransford was a great place about 1900. I was 10 years old then and
knew lots of people there. Jim DURHAM was the main man, he was the
store owner and also ran a saw mill up above the railroad switch on the
right and on the west side of the creek. Jim MATHEWS and Hardy
THOMPSON did the sawing.
Jim DURHAM had two or three tenant houses. Aunt Martha MILLS
and Bud her son lived in one, also Jim FYKES. Jim
had the largest feet I ever saw on a human. He went bare footed all the
time, winter and summer. Jim DURHAM had log wagons and drove four
mules to them. He hauled logs into this mill. His hired hands drove the
mules. Jim BIVENS once lived in one house and worked in the shop
at Bledsoe with Buckner SPEARS. He was a wagon and buggy workman.
The Bledsoe Community was just north of Bransford. Bill WHITESIDE
had a store there. There was also two blacksmith shops and the old school
house, Independence. This community got it's name from the BLEDSOE
brothers and Thomas Sharp SPENCER who first came over from Kentucky
I remember one time the train fell through the trestle above Bransford
and burned up. Also burning up one man. When the train cooled some men
found a little butter bucket in the wreckage where my mother had sold the
engineer some butter. Mr. CHURCH, the engineer and I became good
friends. As I grew big enough I would pick black berries for him for 10
cents a gallon. I also killed rabbits and quails for him.
If he saw me walking down the railroad tract toward home he would slow
down the train and I would swing on the hind coach. The train would stop
at the water tank where I lived so I would get off.
About 1910, the mail route from Bransford was started with Will
MCFALL as carrier. He rode horse back from Bethpage every morning to
Bransford to carry the mail. The route went up Big Otter Fork Creek over
Wolf Hill, down to Trousdale county up by Jay HOWELLs' on the hill,
and down by Dr. Lillard REESE, by Josh OGLESBYs, George OGLESBYs,
John FERGUSONs, Holt DUMCANs round toward Templow to Noel HENRY's
gate, turned and retraced to just above Josh OGLESBYs then turned
to the right and went upon Gravely hill.
The first house was the old Tom DUFFY place at the foot of the
hill on the left. The next house up on top was where Jim LAW lived.
Then on to Bill BARKESDALE's place on the left of the road and John
MITCHELL's on the right side. On to Lizzie HARRIS, then Tom
MITCHELL's at the bottom of the hill on the left, then to Della
MITCHEL's on the right. On the left was where a man lived that some
said was one of the meanest men. He set fire to the house and burned his
mother up. When he died, no one would sit up with him or dig his grave
so they swung him up to the rafters and the rats ate him.
Then on down the road to a little store house on the right where Dick
and Noel CARR once sold goods. Then on by the church on the left
atop the hill. Up the hill where the big school building once stood on
the left. Then on to Sam STEWART's place on past the store where
Sam once sold goods for Pat F. BURNLEY. Here is where the
old Hughes post office was.
Uncle John West STEWART carried the mail pouch from Bransford
to Hughes on mule and back once a day at $10 per month. Then on out by
Frank LAW's and Aunt Sylvia's. Then down the hollow to John
VALENTINE's and Aunt Tillie's, she got an old federal pension
Gravely Hill Church is a Baptist church. It was once sponsored by Friendship
Baptist Church then in Wiseman Association, now in Bledsoe Association.
The members of Friendship helped organize this church with John MITCHELL
as the pastor. This Gravely Hill (colored church) gave $35.00 to the Bledsoe
Creek Church when it was first built about 1895.
Back to the rural route, now at Aunt Tillie VALENTINE's mail
box on the rail fence just over the county line between Macon and Sumner
County. On to Aunt Lizzie GARRETT's on the right side of the road.
Down to Will HENSON's on the left and Frank CARR then to
Lina HENSONs. On to Uncle Sten DUNCAN's, turn right and on
to New ANGLE's on the left. Uncle Newt had two daughters
Minnie and Lela. Lela married Tom JONES (he
was a singer) she finally died also Tom. They left one son Shirley
JONES now in the Sumner County Bank. Then on down to Bale THURMAN's
place, then on the right where Burley KNIGHT now lives. Then on to the
cross roads, turn left to Bransford. Next is Jim CARTER's place,
this is where the two DALTON girls fell off a footlog when the creek
was up and one drowned.
The footlog was right in front of Mr. CARTER's house off the
bluff towards the little bottom. On down to the Will RUTLEDGE house
over on the right. Odell JACKSON's on the left (where I met my wife
Nellie T. COLLINS). Mr. Jim JACKSON was in the Confedrate
Army with my Dad. They would get together and talk long about when they
were in the Civil War together.
I well remeber one time when I was about 5 or 6 years old Papa gave
a birthday dinner to all his old war comrads here in Sumner County. This
was the 3rd of May about 1895 or 96. I remember all those old men being
here. The front porch on the house facing the railroad had just been built.
So many sat out on this long porch.
Spring was just putting forth it's blossoms. We had no fly screens,
so one of my older sisters, Vesta or Estell fanned the flies
off the table with a homemade fly bush. This was long strips of paper fastened
on a little cane. They all rode horses or mules, as there was very few
buggies at that time. All had a nice time and plenty to eat.
Back to the rural route, from the Jackson place over to Fae GILLIAN's
place which J. D. HAW once owned. Also there is a cemetery between
the old house and the railroad trestle. Jake VANCE was buried there.
He fell off the little tunnel at Westmoreland onto the railroad one cold
snowy and slick night, he was drunk. Now we go under the big railroad trestle
and up on the Turn pike to Bledsoe. Bill WHITESIDES had a big barn
just up on the hill side right where the road turned into the Turnpike.
He kept race horses there and old Scott JOHNSON drove or broke them
for him. Back on the hill is a big cold spring, when he had preaching at
Independence church we would carry the water for the church from this spring.
Going north from Bledsoe we come to the Rock House Hollow on the turn
pike at the sharp curve in the road. Over to the left was a big bluff so
large a family once lived under it for several years. This was called the
old rock house. I believe Zebb DAVIS and family were the ones living
there. In the winter he put long planks up at the front to knock off the
weather and ran a stove pipe through these planks from his stove inside.
This is where Rockhouse Hollow got it's name.
Over to the left about 100 yds towards Scottsville is where Mr. Henry
ROBINSON's house stood. He had several children one of which was Carlene
who married Bass WILLIAMS. On to Noah ROBINSON's the first
house on the right just pass the big house in the turn of the road. The
next house was a little house on the right side of the turnpike about 50
yds north of the little spring. This is where Walter WILKERSON lived.
Then on pass Henry WILKERSON's place.
The next place was an old time house built back in the early 1800.
It had large columns in front, a big spring behind it. This was the first
stage coach stop from Nashville. This is where passengers going north or
east would spend the night and rest. Also to hook up another team of horses
to the stage coach to go on the next day. My father John Waller OVERTON
bought this place that this house was on from John ANDERSON. He
was the brother to Mrs. Zela EARLS.
The house was rotten beyond repair, so my father tore it down and took
the best lumber and built the little house on the hill there close by.
The rest of the old logs were hauled down home at the railroad tank and
we cut them up in stove wood. Poplar logs too rotten in places for anything
The next house under the bluff, where the Carr girls live now,
was the house Bob DURHAM built for Sophia PARRISH. Bob
DURHAM lived up on the hill to the left in the big house. There is
a little spring on the right side of the road just beyond the house under
the bluff. This is a lasting spring. Above the spring was old Nancy
FISHOOK's house. Here at this spring is where Uncle Dave KEY,
a half Uncle of mine, once laid down to get a drink of water. There at
that time he had a stroke and fell in the spring and was helpless to get
himself up. He knew everything but could not talk. Old Elder Monroe
COLLINS came by and saw him but thought he was drunk and past by and
left him in this condition.
Above this old house is the railroad trestle where the train fell in
and burned up. The next house up on the pike is where Sam FLEMING
lived. On north toward Scottsville on the left is where Dink BIBEE
(a black man) had a little house and store. About 200 yds north lived Filmore
KEY upon the side of the hill. On toward Scottsville about an eight
of a mile was where Jim STOVALL lived on the right just before you
get to the first turn up horse shoe hollow road. Then Bob COCREHAM's
on up the hollow, then turn right and around the horseshoe on top of the
ridge, all out for Westmoreland which was north about three-fourths of
a mile. Bob DURHAM ran a Hotel in Westmoreland. Back to Bransford
over on the hill where Mr. Charlie SLOAN lived. Uncle Belve
lived in an old log house that burned up where Mac BINGHAM owns
Marion DEFREESE lived on the little hill left of the road. Uncle
Cub, as they called him, gave logs from his place to build the Bledsoe
Creek Church at Bransford.
The first church was built by community interest. Everyone gave their
labor. I was just six years old at that time. I remember playing with Joe
THOMPSON, Will FLEMING and Beard ANDERSON while our fathers
worked on the church.
At this old church about 1911 was where we were having an ice cream
supper one night and little Jim DURHAM shot and killed Sim BYRD.
After we had gone for Squire Earls as coroner inquest, to pronounce him
dead, we took him on a cot over to Sambo WILLIAMS that night. We
sat up all night with him.
The sheriff who was Mr. Jim CARTER and George CARTER
his deputy soon came and arrested Jim DURHAM and took him to jail
that night. The people who were there, the men, were aroused almost to
mob violence. If some one had just said, "Let's go get Jim DURHAM
and hand him", all would have gone.
I remember a thrill I had was, the time I was up at Jim DURHAM's
store and a man came along with a roller organ on his back and leading
a monkey by a cord. He stopped and began playing the organ and the monkey
began to dance. The monkey had on little britches and coat and hat, looking
like a man, he was so funny, the man would throw the back over then the
money would turn somersaults and jump up on your pocket. He was wanting
you to give him a nickel or dime. When the man got all the money he could
from the crowd he picked up his organ and walked away with his monkey.
May I say something about the old transportation that I knew? While
I was in Nashville at the Library looking up the record of who my grandfather
Overton was I found that the turnpike directors borrowed $250,000 from
a company in Philadelphia, Pa. to finance this old turn pike. My Grandpa,
Thomas OVERTON, kept the 6th tollgate from Nashville. The trustees
or directors of the turn pike put toll gates over this road so the people
could pay for it. (Its a wonder they didn't ask the Government for it.)
Anyway, there was three toll gates between Bransford and Gallatin. One
about a half mile north of Bethpage.
The keeper was Mr. Jess DURHAM in my day. The toll gate at Sideview
was kept by Mr Buck MOODY. Mrs. WALLACE kept the tollgate
just this side of Gallatin one mile. Our Grandpa Thomas OVERTON
died and Grandmother Martha A. OVERTON continued to keep the 6th
toll gate. It was here at this toll gate that Peterson W. Key met her when
he was on a wagon hauling tobacco to Nashville, and they were married.
I remember my first trip to Gallatin on a two horse wagon. It took
all day for the trip. We started before daylight and came back after dark.
A wonderful day spent in Gallatin seeing all the pretty things.
The elementary school at Bethpage was in session only four months of
free school. After Christmas, each pupil had to pay so much tuition if
they went to the Spring School then as it was called. Only the wealthy
went in the spring. But with four months of free school a year, I obtained
a fairly good education for the times. Then I went to Hawkins School for
Boys in Gallatin. I rode the train, it came by Bransford each morning at
6:35 a.m. So I walked the mile to Bransford to catch the train. I got back
in the afternoon at 4 p.m.
The teachers at Hawkins School were Pro. Charles E. HAWKINS,
Principal, Sam WILLIAMS math teacher, Walace PINSON coach
and he also taught English and history. It was composed of about 50 boys.
The tuition was about $60.00 per term, $30.00 before Christmas and $30.00
after Christmas. I finally graduated from Hawkins and was given a certificate
so I could enter Vanderbilt.
As a young person the social entertainment consisted of the Virginia
Reel and square dancing with set callers. Also Blue Beeds and Rockside
the railroad, pea shelling and candy breaking. The music was furnished
by the Adcock String Band, Leslie, Luther, Mettie and Bessie.
Sometimes Mr. Clyde ROBINSON would play his guitar, also Shugg
and Ed STORY.
Many times these entertainments would be at night after a working.
This working as it was called was where some farmer wanted to build a log
barn or clear a piece of ground that he could not do by himself or a log-rolling.
He would invite his neighbors in that day and all would bring their wives
and stay all day to help do the cooking and there would be a big dinner
in the making. Everyone had a nice time together working and singing as
they toiled on the job.
I remember one time when the young people got to walking in stilts.
They would see how high they could get up in them. Sometimes the stilts
would be high enough they could walk around and sit down on the eve of
a barn. When they got on them they had to go to a rail fence and climb
to the top rail before getting on them and they had to get down this way
People tried to live at home and had all the thing for a dependent
living. To have a nice feather bed we had to have geese to pick off the
feathers to make it. I remember one time my mother had 58 head of geese.
When picking time would come, mother, sister Katie, Vester and Estell always
helped pick. I held the goose's head to keep him from biting mother.
Saturday evening was looked upon as a time for recreation. In spring
and summer baseball was the main game. Fall and winter, when in school,
prisoners-base and setting pegs was was the main games. Many times, on
Sunday evening we had pony-breaking, western ponies shipped in here from
the west. Some ponies were hard to ride but they finally toned down.
I remember one time the winter was so cold the branch below our house,
little Otter Fork, froze over. This caused lots of us to go skating on
ice. Just without ice skates. What a fine time we had in the old days."
Taken from writtings of the late Lee Overton
Reprinted with permission.
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