History of Campbell County, Tennessee
 

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SNAKE TALES AND MAY SNOWSTORMS PEPPER THE WRITINGS OF LOCAL RESIDENT OZIAS MUSE

By Dallas Bogan

Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.  This article was published in the LaFollette Press.

   On March 8, 2001 the writer reviewed the historical writings of Ozias Muse, a local resident. This week we shall feature more of these adventuresome events as he remembers them.

     Mr. Muse tells of a coal miner that lived on top of the mountain near the Tar Kiln. On a particular weekend this miner had a brother to visit him, both worked at the nearby Peabody coal mine. As the visiting brother departed down the hollow looking for ginseng, a large rattler sunk its teeth into his ankle. Being in severe pain, he made his way up to his brother's residence house to find kerosene, it being the only real provision in the house to treat snakebite. Being in much pain, he drank several glasses attempting to rid him of the excruciating pain. 

     Mr. Muse states that his in-laws, the Ernest Brooks family, lived in the Peabody mining camp. The family was walking the old log road to visit relatives at the head of Hickory Creek. The Brooks family passed near the miner's house and heard a man screaming with an ear-piercing shriek. They immediately stopped and discovered that the man was snake bitten.

     Mr. Brooks, thinking quickly, recalled a plant called snake master. He immediately rushed down to the head of the hollow and discovered a quantity of this weed, swiftly grasping a handful and rushing back to the house. 

     He immediately told the lady to process the weed through a food chopper. However, absent a food chopper, she was told to lay the weed on a board and pound it to a pulp. She was then directed to blend enough cream or whole milk to make a rather thick paste and secure the mix directly over the snakebite. The patient was then to lay on his back and keep as quiet as possible.

      The Brooks family, having done all they could possibly do, continued on their way to Hickory Creek. The family stayed all night at this site, and on their return trip they stopped to check on the snake-bitten man. Much to their surprise, the injured man had gone home. 

     Sometime later, the family returned to the Peabody camp and found the wounded man had greatly improved. 

     Mr. Muse also tells of his father's early teen years living on either Ollis Creek or in the Jacksboro area. The entire family loved to hunt and fish. At the time, Mr. Muse's father and his younger brothers had caught the largest raccoon, the largest possum, and killed the largest rattler that anyone in the area had ever seen. 

     Early on a Saturday morning, the father and his younger siblings traveled to the only framed and riven-board covered country store in Jacksboro to buy their lunch and some fishhooks. Their plan was to go fishing in Rocky Ford Creek between Caryville and Pioneer. Their travels led them down a little cattle trail through the bushes, now known as Bruce Gap. Mr. Muse's father was leading the way by separating the undergrowth for the younger ones to follow.

     During their travels, the father arrived at what he thought was a pole or small log lying crossways in their path. Just as he raised his foot to step over it, it moved. He loudly yelled "snake" and jumped backward. 

     The younger children, hardly experiencing this type occurrence, began to cry and moan and quickly ran off the trail. The huge snake was coiled up like a large truck or tractor tire, it being ready for battle. 

     Ozias Muse's father called for the children to return and told them that they were to kill the snake. Quickly, Ozias, with his two younger brothers, scaled a high rock bank above the trail and began hammering boulders as big as could be lifted down on to the rattler. 
The snake went into all kinds of gyrations trying to escape the bombardment. Finally, the plummeting of the boulders did the trick: the snake was dead. This event had scared the children so much that the fishing excursion was forgotten. 

     Hay bailing wire was looped around the snake's head and it took three of them to pull it out of the rock pile. The family tied the snake to a pole and tried to drag the monstrous thing home for all to see. It eventually became too heavy, so it was left behind. 

     The family went back to the country store and told of they venture. The locals at the store thought they were kidding. And so, they had to be shown the evidence. Four of the men arrived at the site and could not believe what they saw. The men measured the snake at almost 10 feet, a diameter of 4 1/2 inches, with a head spread of 7 inches.

     Mr. Muse also relates that his father, at age 16, and his brother Frank, visited Mr. Tom Rookards on Ollis Creek for an overnight stay. The pair proposed to go creek fishing the next day. 

     Upon arrival at the creek, they noticed the sky darkening. Mr. Rookards looked to the sky and told the brothers that they may possibly go rabbit hunting the next day because it was to snow that night. The brothers thought little of this gesture.

     The brothers, however, woke the next morning, their objective to go fishing. A very strange sound interrupted their thought, that of tree limbs breaking and some trees actually crashing down. Quickly rushing to see what was going on, the brothers were dumbfounded to see a 14-inch blanket of snow on the 19th of May! 

     Corn at this time was a foot high, the heavy snow flattening it to the ground. Many farmers replowed and replanted their fields.. The Muse family, however, decided to let nature take its course, and wisely so, leaving the cornfields stand as they were. This turned out to be a wise choice for they had an abundant crop.

     The Southern Railroad construction from Caryville to Jellico was completed in about five years. Ozias Muse tells that his father remembered the workers finalizing the "Mud" tunnel at Pioneer. The operation was most difficult and overwhelming. The water leakage and the soft mud made the assignment quite complicated. However, the hardy crews worked diligently on both sides of the tunnel, completing the connection of the tunnel rails with the northern rails. 

     Mr. Muse's parents, along with their children, walked to the northern end of the tunnel and waited for the first train to exit the tunnel. They could hear it puffing and roaring as it entered the south end of the tunnel. Within a short time the big black smoking engine came chugging out of the tunnel with its headlight shining and its whistle tooting. The children, crying and whimpering, clung tightly to their parents. And on chugged the big black greasy engine on its way down Elk Valley to Jellico. This event was the beginning of the first rail system traveling through this part of the country.

     Daily the engine with its cars made its run from Knoxville to Jellico. For months to come the neighbors gathered at the tracks to watch the huge steam engine pass pulling from eight to twelve cars. 

      With the growth in population the Southern R.R. began operating a four-car passenger train on the run, making a round trip each day from Knoxville to Jellico. This move provided adequate and comfortable transportation for passengers, along with a dependable carrier for the mail. Local expansion was thus opened for the area, which was well received by the locals.

     R.L. Neubert operated a sawmill in a hollow whose mouth was just south of the Peabody mine tipple and near Highway 25 W. The logs were transported to the mill with the lumber being hauled to the Peabody siding by rail. This was done with a small "Climax" locomotive handling both chores. 

     Railroad trackage from this mill extended as far as Hickory Creek and Lows Creek. Soon after leaving the mill the locomotive "back-switched" to climb and cross the steep mountainside to enter Rock Creek, a rather long hollow with an abundance of timber.

     A track switch located in Rock Creek allowed access to Board Tree Hollow; a fine source of straight grained timber, which was preferred for splitting boards or shingles for roofing purposes.

     The thoroughfare from Board Tree Hollow to Hickory Creek was much too steep for locomotive service. On the other hand, R.L. Neubert, operator of the mill, and E.L. Saulsberry, the general contractor, laid track over the mountain with the steeper Board Tree Hollow side just half as long as the Hickory Creek side. 

     Railroad cars, suitable for hauling logs, were placed on both inclines and connected with a 1 1/4-inch steel rope of cable. The steepness of the short side was not quite enough to allow a descending loaded car to pull a loaded car up the long side. To eliminate this problem a rope drum, powered with a gasoline engine, was placed at the top of the inclines to keep the loaded cars moving toward Board Creek Hollow and the railroad.

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