Tennessee Mountain Stories

Mel and Belle – a Muddy Pond Family Memory

I recently made a virtual friend in Mr. Bill Sisco.  I discovered him while researching on Ancestry.com.  I don’t know that I can exactly call him kin yet but you know the branches of family trees among mountain families are so inter-twined that I’m fascinated by all the region’s families. 

Bill shared some memories from his early years growing up in Muddy Pond.  It’s a very familiar story and one I thought you might enjoy as much as I did:

Mel and Belle Phillips

Mel and Belle Phillips


Mel and Bell [Phillips] farmed just outside of Muddy Pond.  Their daughter, Dolly Jane Philips and her husband Benton Phillips owned the store in Cliff Springs. Dolly Jane was a Philips that married a Philips but they were not related. Mel and Bell had one other daughter who was my grandma, Dovie Sisco.

I was born somewhere in the woods (I have no ideal where) near grandma and grandpa’s farm in a shack that mom and dad rented. Shortly after I was born dad built a house on grandpa’s land and the first few years of my life the woods and fields on his farm was my whole world.

Between the two of them they could do anything that needed to be done. Grandpa didn’t bother anyone and you had better not bother him or his but if your barn burned down he would be the first one there to help you rebuild and he would bring a wagon load of lumber and nails with him.

Mel Phillips, Bill Sisco and Dovie Phillips Sisco

Mel Phillips, Bill Sisco and Dovie Phillips Sisco

I can remember Grandpa working all day in the fields and when he stopped for the day the first thing he would do is take the harness off of his big white horse, throw me up on the back of the horse and lead the horse down to a little creek where he wiped the horse down and let him drink all the water he wanted. When that was done he would lead the horse back to the barn (with me still on the horse) and feed him. I really thought that it was me taking the horse to water and that I was riding him all by myself.  Then he would clean himself up to get ready for supper (what ever happened to that word? Why don’t we have supper anymore?).

Grandpa had a little blacksmith shop in front of the house where he would shoe his horse and repair his farm equipment. [He also] repaired things for his neighbors. Everything was repaired, nothing was thrown away.

Grandma was the doctor for everyone, She didn’t have a degree or the title but everyone from miles around came to grandma when they were sick or hurt. There was not any real doctors anywhere close by. She used to take me with her down on the mountain side to dig up roots that she used for medicine. She would tell me where to dig and she would fill up her bag (she also kept a jug of moonshine that she used for medicine).

They were my heroes. It broke their hearts when Mom and Dad moved to Ohio and took me away.