Jackson County History 1930

May I tax the patience of our readers while I make one more reference to "the house of John Bowen, on Roaring River", as the place where the first Court of Pleas and quarter sessions should be held.  

In his interesting and instructive letter, published in the Sentinel, August ______ . Mr . L. F. Myers says: Nat Brown and brother James Brown, sons of John Brown, made the statement that the first court held in Jackson County, Tennessee was at their father's house, three and a half miles South of Hilham in 1803, and next at the Hickey Place, owned at the time by Benjamin Totten.

Now, note the date 1803, when the first court was held at the Brown Place. Remember, the Act creating the County was passed Nov. 6, 1801. Where were Courts held during the interval of more than a year between that date and the f irst of the year 1803. Four Courts were to be held each year, December, March, June and September. Does not this demonstrate that the four courts at least, during 1802, were held at the house of John Bowen on Roaring River, as the Act provides? This does not detract from the interest in the John Brown place, where the Courts were held in 1803.  

The Commissioners were required by the Act to procure 40 acres as near the center of the County as practicable, and lay off the town of Smithfield. I think Capt. Myers has helped to locate the lost town of Smithfield, and the site should be appropriately marked as well as the Bowen place, and the Hickey, or Totten place.

A. V. and W. H. Goodpasture say in their life of J. D. Goodpasture, page 16, that: Daniel Brown married a sister of Benjamin Totten, the first of Overton County. The Courts of the County (Overton) were organized at Totten's House on Eagle Creek, and continued to be held there until the General Assembly passed an Act that after the first day of June 1810 the Courts should be held at the town of Monroe.  

Benjamin Totten was the father of James L. Totten, who practiced law at Livingston until some time in the Thirties, when he moved to Trenton, was elected to the Legislature in 1835, and soon afterwards moved to Mississippi, where he became a Circuit Judge of Benjamin C. Totten of Huntington who was on the Circuit bench from 1837 to 1845; and of Archibald W. O. Totten, who began the practice of law at Troy, and moved thence to Jackson, and was on the Supreme bench from 1850 to 1855. So Jackson County can claim these eminent Tottens as citizens originally in her boundaries, born at least Jackson Countians.  

There is one other distinction that should, I think, be credited to James L. Totten. What young men and maidens of fifty or sixty years ago could fail to recall the song of "Roaring River"? There is not so _____ to the words, but there is a swing and "lilt" to the tune that is fascinating to the devotees of terpsichore.  

In the early days at Gainesboro in the old fashioned dance they could dance, or tip the "Light Fantastic" to the tune of Roaring River for half the night. It is in exaggeration to say that this tune occupied the attention of the musicians and dancers for half of the night, for there were many other tunes used but "Roaring River" was the favorite. In fact, this tune, with variations and mutations unlike any other tune I know, has no terminal facilities. Like Tennyson's Book, it goes on forever.  

Judge E. L. Gardenhire told me that the author of "Roaring River" went from our country to Mississippi and there became a Circuit Judge. I have endeavored to recall the name, but could not read the reference to James L. Totten. I am now of the opinion that he is the man. Two verses of the song refer to local streams that serve to identify it with the County, as originally created, while the third is of modern origin, and here it is:

Roaring River 

Hopper's Creek and Roaring River,

My wife's dead and I'm a Widower.

Chorus -

I'll rack back to Roaring River,

I'll rack back to Roaring River,

I'll rack back to Roaring River,

I'll rack back to Roaring River. 

Hopper's Creek and Falling Water,

Some old man will loose his Daughter.

 Chorus -

 I'll rack back to Roaring River.

Ad libitum.

 Aaron's Branch and Tally's Hollow,

I will lead and she will follow.

Chorus -

If you think there is no music in Roaring River you should have heard John W.T. Meadows, Tecumseh G. Settle, or Samuel H. York in their palmy days, one or all together, on their old fashioned fiddles. The tune should be preserved, and I nominate Mrs. Clara Cox Epperson to put it on paper for posterity, and send it to Garland Draper. I am sure she knows the tune, for her father, Capt. Robert A. Cox, was an excellent violinist, and knew "Roaring River" with all its variations. 

Speaking of Mr. Meadows, Mr. Settle, and Mr.York, all of whom were worthy citizens of Gainesboro and vicinity. When I was a boy recalls a custom prevalent at that time. Masonic funerals were always accompanied by music on the violin, slow solemn music, and the tolling of the Church bell. The procession would form at the residence and there take up the coffin, preceded by the musicians, a slow procession would wend its way to the cemetery, or the Church first, and then to the cemetery. The solemn notes of the bell end the slow mournful music of the violins, with the Master of the Lodge, or the oldest Mason present bearing a ponderous Bible, square and compasses open before him, and at the grave the responsive reading of the ritual. All those things were calculated to arrest the attention of' tho living, and make them think on this transitory state, and of things eternal. 

I can now hear the strains of the tune most frequently used, which was the one used in the song: Columbia, Columbia, to Glory Arise, The Queen of the World and the Child of the skies.  

L. K. Smith, Carrollton, Georgia. 

September 1, 1930. 

Return to the Jackson County History page.

Return to the Jackson County TNGenWeb page.

Note on Copyright
The contents of these pages are property of the TNGenNet Inc. and/or private contributors. Any reproductions and/or use of this material for profit is expressly prohibited without the written consent of the contributors and/or the State Coordinator of the TNGenWeb (TNGenNet Inc.).
Jane Hembree Crowley
Charles Reeves, Jr.,

Jackson County Coordinators
This page last updated: 9 July 2000