Tennessee Mountain Stories

A Letter from Beth about The Next Book

Good evening Friends and Readers,


I write you a few hours later than I normally publish the weekly blog but I hope you will forgive my tardiness when I tell you that I’ve spent this day - in fact the last few days - frantically working to get Margaret’s Faith to press. I’ve got a proof copy on its way and by next week I hope to be able to report the book is available on Amazon with copies at retail locations shortly thereafter!

There is always a long list of people who ought to be thanked for getting one of these things out - one of these days I’ll attempt to present that list - and you readers are certainly on it.

Thank you for your patience with me as I finish up these details. I very much look forward to sharing this story with you and I’m always eager to hear your feedback.


The Boy and The Big White Haint


Well I’ve kind of gotten on a roll with the ghost stories – and I think this is one you’ll really appreciate since it’s a good reminder how we can let our imagination, or our fear, get the best of us.

From Callie Melton’s “Pon My Honor”:

Another favorite haint tale Grandpa told us was the one about the time Old Man Phillips sent one of his boys to the cotton gin.

When Grandpa and Grandma lived in the little settlement called Stockton’s Valley, everybody raised a cotton patch …not only for making bats for quilts, but for making other cotton things like mmeal sacks and summer clothes.  Every family seeded their cotton by hand, but that was a slow, hard way.  Finally, somebody set up a little one-horse, home-made gin nearby, and people started taking their cotton there to be ginned.


One time Miz. Phillips was in a hurry for some cotton for spinning and weaving, so old man Phillips sent one of the younger boys to the gin with a big sheet full of cotton.  Like the miller, the ginner didn’t work every day, so on the days he did work, there would be several folks with cotton, so each one had to take his turn.

The Phillips boy had got to the gin late, so he was the last one to get his cotton ginned.  When he was ready to start back home, it was getting dusky-dark.

The road home was through the woods, and to tell the truth, the boy was about half-way afraid to be out by himself after dark.  So, when he got a little ways form the gin, he started to run his horse.  He had raced down the road for a good piece, when something made him look back.  The boy almost fell off his horse, for there in the road right behind him was something big and white.

Horse and rider.jpg

This really scared the boy, so he hammered his heels in the old horse’s ribs, and off they went faster than ever.  Again the boy looked back…and this time there were two big white things following in the road behind him.

This time he doubled his speed as he went tearing down the road, and every time he’d look back he’d se a big white thing or two coming right on down the road behind him.

When he got close to home, he started yelling as loud as he could.  When he rode up to the house the whole family was standing outside waiting to see what in tarnation was the matter.  The boy just fell off his horse, and when he could talk he told his pa that there were haints trying to catch him… that they were big and white, and was following him right smack in the middle of the big road.

Old man Phillips didn’t exactly believe in haints, but he could see that something had just about scared the daylights out of his boy.  So he got on his horse and started down the road to see about this here haint business.

Sure enough, he hadn’t got very far when just ahead of him he could see something big and white right smack dab in the middle of the big road.  His hair about stood on end, but he kept on going, and when he got close enough he could see that the thing wasn’t moving… it was just waiting there in the middle of the big road.  His horse started to snort and cut up, so it took all the courage he had, but he got down and lead the horse, and he just walked right up to the thing.  When he got up close to it… he saw what it was… a big pile of fresh ginned cotton!

The old man got back on his horse and rode on down the road, and soon he saw another big white pile of cotton in the middle of the road.  Then he knew just what had happened!  When the boy was riding so hard, one corner of the sheet had come loose and a wad of cotton had tumbled out and landed in the middle of the road… then, the faster he rode, the more cotton had tumbled out.

Old man Phillips gathered up all the cotton he could and went on back home.  When he got there, the family were all setting in the house trying to comfort the scared boy.  But, out by the gate where the boy had stopped, lay the empty sheet.  He put the cotton he had brought in the sheet, tied it up, and took it in the house.

“Here, son, is your haint,” he said as he pitched the sheet of cotton down at the boy’s feet.

The Scalded Preacher


Everybody loves a story on the preacher – and knowing we’ve got 2 or 3 preachers who read these stories, I’m hoping for your comments at the end. 

This is from Callie Melton’s “Pon my Honor” and is presented verbatim.

James Watt Raine from The Land of Saddlebags book

James Watt Raine from The Land of Saddlebags book

One time I had the Shiloh Methodist Church Record looking it over.  The membership roll was fairly familiar, but her and there would be a name that I could not place.  The list of pastors, however, was a horse of a different color, and I had to call upon my father to acquaint me with them.

Dad was almost ninety then, but he still had an alert mind and that wonderful sense of humor that we’ve all found so delightful.   As I went down the list, he’d tell me what he remembered about each man.  I came to one name, and Dad started laughing.

“Oh, that’s the one I scalded,” he said.

“How come?” I asked him, knowing full well that there was a good story here.

“Well,” he began, “You know that pa started the Church at Shiloh when he moved to Overton County from Old Fort Blount in Jackson County way before the Civil War.  Him and the Eldridges and the Dillens were the first members.

Now you know that we lived the closest to the meetin’ house, so ever preacher that come to Shiloh in them days always stayed at Pa’s.  The Second Sunday in ever month was Meetin’ Day, and the Preacher would allers come on Saturday and stay all night with us.  He was allers a Circuit Rider, and he usually lived a fur piece away.  Then there was always the protracted meetin’ helt during the latter part of July ever year.

Now, I’ll tell you right off that them Methodist preachers was a breed apaprt.  Besides being the eatenist set, they was allers having somebody to fetch and carry fer ‘em.  I was jest a tad of a boy in them days, so I was the one to do all the fetching and carrying.

But Brother John here capped the stack. The protracted meetin’ was going on in July as usual, but it was unusually hot.  Since Brother John was staying at our house, we all had to go to meetin’ ever day… both morning and evening.  The morning preaching was helt starting at 10 o’clock so as to give the women folks time to get dinner ready before meetin’ time, and the men time to do any work that they had that was pressing.  The evening meetin’ was helt at early candlelight, and both times Brother John never did seem to know when to quit.

Brush Arbor that Concord Baptist Church in Chase City, VA started out with.  http://www.concordbaptistchurchcc.org/Our-History.html

Brush Arbor that Concord Baptist Church in Chase City, VA started out with. 

When we’d get back to the house at dinnertime, and even before we could eat, Brother John would have to have a cold drink right from the spring, and a pan of warm water to bathe his feet in.  I can still recollect how hungry I’d be, but I’d have to wait for Brother John to bathe his feet.  It was the same old story at night, too, and I’d have to run to the spring in the dark for cold water no matter how lond he’d helt or how sleepy I was.

Now all this meant that ever time before we went to meetin’ I’d have to set a pan of water on the hearth to have it warm to bathe his feet, and as soon as we’d get home, I’d have to run all the way to the spring and back to be sure his drink would be cold.

After a few days of this I got mighty tired of it.  But knowing my Mother, I knowed that as long as that protracted meetin’ went on I was stuck.  So one day I took matters in my own hands.          

That day when we got back to the house from meetin’ I dashed through the house, grabbed the water bucket without being told, and took off to the spring.  When I got back the Preacher was setting on the doorstep that led from the big room down to the lower room.  He had his shoes and socks off, just setting there waiting for his cold drink and his pan of warm water.

I rushed him his tumbler of cold water only minutes from the spring.  And while he was drinking it, I set the pan of water down right by his feet.

Without even looking down, he let out a deep breath of contentment jest like a sick kitten to a hot rock, and slid both feet into that pan of water.

And that’s when the roof purt night caved in.  He dropped the tumbler, fell back flat on his back in the floor, with both his feet in the air and yelling his head off.

“Lord o’mercy! Lord o’mercy,” he yelled, “I’m scalded!  I’m scalded.”

I’d got clean out to the barn, but I could still hear the uproar.  It took Pa and Mother both to convince him that the water was icy cold jest fresh from the spring and not hot a-tall.

Well, I got my hide tanned properly, but it was worth it I tell you, fer that was the last time that Brother John bathed his feet at our house.”

Loafing Locales

Men Loafing, Crossville, Tennessee 1937  Photo from: http://photogrammar.yale.edu/records/index.php?record=fsa1997017027/PP

Men Loafing, Crossville, Tennessee 1937

Photo from: http://photogrammar.yale.edu/records/index.php?record=fsa1997017027/PP

After last week’s article about General Stores one Facebook friend pointed out that the Peter’s Store in Clarkrange was a longtime home of the post office and it got me to thinking about the places people hang out. 

A couple of years ago I found a list of the post office location in Tennessee and shared them here.  That article mentioned only in passing that the post office was often part of some other business, generally the country store.  How convenient to be able to make one stop and do all of your business – oh wait, our mega-stores these days keep trying to do that, don’t they?  But unlike the stores we bustle through today, yesterday’s country store and post office were leisurely businesses.  I guess if you had to walk, ride a mule or drive a wagon to get there you weren’t in too big of a hurry to rush off. 

We all know (and we often mention) that folks used to visit a whole lot more than we do these days.  Stores had front porches – or barrels sitting around a pot-bellied stove – so you could ‘sit a spell’ and greet your neighbor, catch up on the local news and generally be a part of the a community. 

It wasn't hard for the photographer to capture some men loafing in Crossville in 1937 - here's a second shot.  http://photogrammar.yale.edu/records/index.php?record=fsa1997017035/PP

It wasn't hard for the photographer to capture some men loafing in Crossville in 1937 - here's a second shot.


My Daddy tells about going to Wash Livesay’s store in Campground in his Grandpa Stepp’s wagon.  The story is about the team of horses but it’s set on the front porch.  While Grandma went in to do her business at the store, grandpa and grandson passed the time with their neighbors.  He also tells about that same grandpa having business to attend to in Jamestown – he’d really hurry to get the business out of the way so he could head to the courthouse steps and join the loafers there.  Daddy laments – and I completely agree – how he’d love to sit among those old men and just listen.  Can you even imagine what we might learn?  Talk about history!



Lamp Collection

I have collections – completely by accident mind you.  I never go out and think, “I collect this so I should buy it”.  Somehow these collections just happen at my house.  And I love them.

Well last week’s article was accompanied by a photo of a coal oil lamp that I don’t even own.  My Aunt Roberta had it nicely displayed in her kitchen and I snapped the picture just for the blog.  However, the responses I received on Facebook made me think about all of the lamps that I’ve collected and I wanted to share some of them with you.

It goes without saying that in the pre-electric homes of our grandparents coal oil lamps were indispensable.  Yet they were precious and therefore protected and that means they’ve been handed down.  If you’ve inherited one of these treasures, did you ever think about how much it must have meant to the people who had it before?  They touched it every day – or else they went to bed with the sun and didn’t rise until good daylight.  It had to be cleaned and filled regularly and would have set near the center of the home – for no one wastes their only light on a corner.  One reader mentioned that she “got her lessons” by this type of lamp, and many children would have spent time hunched over tablets or slates near the lamp. 

Now if this was my principle means of light I imagine I’d find a few minutes during the daytime to do my needlework despite the quaint picture Hollywood paints of women sewing by lamplight.  However, I know there’s been many pages from The Good Book read by coal oil light for daylight hours are valuable and the quiet family time of an evening are ideal for studying The Bible.

Even understanding how much it would be used and how important the lamp was to the home, there was not a lot of money to be spent on them.  Therefore as with most products, there were models offered at varying prices.  I tried to do some research to learn what I might about these models I’ve inherited and was amazed how difficult that was. 

I did learn that oil lamps were produced all the way through the depression years.  It was after World War II that electrical power really reached to the rural areas therefore there would have been demand for new lamps until then.  In fact, there were improvements being made to lamps well into the 20th century.  The Aladdin Lamps which offered incredibly bright light for their day were first sold in America in 1909.  The burners were imported from Germany where the technology for a center draft burner had been developed just three years earlier.  And of course fuels were always evolving from the olive oil used in biblical times to the refined kerosene that we can still buy as “lamp oil”.

Reader Rose Davis had this lamp with a fluted fount (the part where the oil is held). 

Reader Rose Davis had this lamp with a fluted fount (the part where the oil is held). 

Several folks said they have lamps just like the one pictured in last week’s article.  I’ve seen a LOT of these on the mountain and I imagine it was an economy model.  In fact, I have a pair of lamps with a beautiful scroll pattern around the foot of the lamp and I found the same model for sale at www.oillampantiques.com for about $84.  The site mentioned that it dates from the early to mid-twentieth century.  So that answers one of my questions – I’m always curious to know how old some of these lamps are. 

Replacement Burner - Isn't that pretty?  I wonder if original burners were ever decorated like this?

Replacement Burner - Isn't that pretty?  I wonder if original burners were ever decorated like this?

All of my old lamps have flat wicks – although I recognize they may not still have their original burners because that part of the lamp seems to wear out.  In fact, I've replaced a few burners and I'm thrilled replacement parts can still be found pretty easily for my lamps.  I have new lamp that has a round wick – or rather a flat wick in a circular burner.  This is similar to the Aladdin lamps but those have the addition of a mantel that glows when heated and produces significantly more light.  The center-draft wick is supposed to put out 3-4 times more light than a flat wick.

A repairman came into my home one time and commented on my lamp “collection” – that was probably my first realization that I was collecting them.  It turned out he was an avid collector of antique lights and had a lot of information about their ages and origins.  Maybe one of you have similar information – I’d sure welcome your comments!

This lamp may have no monetary value but it's one of my most prized.  It belonged to my Great Grandma Key.  I don't know that it's ever been burned.

This lamp may have no monetary value but it's one of my most prized.  It belonged to my Great Grandma Key.  I don't know that it's ever been burned.