New River Settlers


Sept 17, 1927
“New River Settlers”
W. J. Smith

The early settlers of the Tenth district, called “New River” are about gone. The Bunch, Daugherty, Patterson, Byrge, Phillips, Asher, West and Lowe families are gone to a world unknown to us.

Over one hundred years ago, Isaac Phillips settled on Elijah’s Creek. The soil was rich, large oaks, poplars, and sugar trees. The land was theirs and they did as they pleased. They made their own sugar, cut down small poplars and made troughs. When the timber would freeze and thaw they would tap the sugar trees by boring holes in them, make spiles out of a cane or elder joint, place it in the sugar hole for the sugar water to run through, have two or three troughs to a tree, hang their old fashioned pots on a pole to boil the water. It would take eight gallons of water to make a pound of sugar. I have known my father to make 75 pounds of sugar in a day up in the head of Frost Bottom.

Timber would freeze and stay frozen all winter. Snow would be 4 to 6 feet deep all winter. You would have to cut roads through the snow to get to your wood pile. All you had to do for your hogs was to just feed them enough to keep them from going wild and most of them would go wild anyway. People did not know their own hogs and did not care. When they wanted meat they would just take their old flint rock rifle and kill the first hog they came to. The woods were full of deer, bears and buffaloes.

People made their own clothes, knit their own socks and stockings. Women would grind their meal with a hand mitt, or grit it on a tin gritter. They would make their own whiskey, drink it when they wanted it and that was as regular as their meals. Corn was 4 cents a bushel, whiskey, 20 cents a gallon. My father said when he married they had six gallons of whiskey on the wedding day which cost $1.20. Over 100 people were there, but nobody got drunk. That was in the 1829.

They had no schools then on New River; hardly haywhere else. A man by the name of Billy West taught the first school that ever was taught on the waters of New River, in a beech log cabin. There was not a nail in it. It was covered with four foot boards, door shutter made out of split boards pinned to a door frame; the roof waited down with rib poles; puncheon floor; stick and clay chimney. Billy West taught this school for $6 a month. He did about 30 years ago, a very old man.

I want to ask a question of my readers, who was the first school teacher ever taught school on this globe.

November 12, 1927
“New River Settlers”
W. J. Smith

Suppose we take a trip from Oliver Springs by the way of Petros, across Cumberland mountain to the head waters of New River, down the river to the outh of Elijah’s creek, up said creek to Grave’s Gap down a graded road to what used to be called Bradentown, across Walden ridge to Sulphur Springs, that place settled by Hart McKamey, down Powell Valley to Winter’s Gap, the starting point.

One hundred years ago this route was a wilderness. There were all kinds of wild beasts, buffaloes, deer, bears, and elks. The settlers then were red men. This was their home.

Then the white man become to come in. Trouble set in. Wars between the two races began. The red man was driven back little by little. More people moved in. The settlers had in the world but a rich country, and it was rich. People lived on hog and hominy. Men and women and children were hale and hearty. They had everything common. They all belonged to the same church. Nothing disturbed them but the red man. They had no barber shops.

Go back over our route now. All the tall oaks and poplars are gone. Changed into gold and silver, laid up for the last days. We find graves of Indians and old settlers all along in the place of cabins, brick and frame homes.

Suppose D K Young and L C Houk, the attorney general, Bill McAdoo, the father of W G McAdoo, leave Huntsville court as they used to and come across Smoky mountain down New River to open their eyes and see the changes here. The coal roll down the chutes, the trains whistling. What would they say? Or old Uncle Bill West, the first man who ever taught school on New River, should see his old beech log cabin set down beside the brick school house at Rosedale.

Readers listen, God is our refuge; a present help in time of need. He made this world to use and not abuse. Whatsoever a man soweth, he will reap.

A local newspaper

In the 1920′s, Jasper Smith wrote articles for the Anderson County newspaper about the different areas of the county. They are being shared with you because of the genealogy that was written in some of the articles.

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