Chester Co. TN
S. E. Reid
THEN and NOW
A Historical Comparison
FACTS OF THE PAST AND PRESENT
WHICH THE FUTURE WILL WANT
S. E. REID
PRICE 50 CTS.
LONG-JOHNSON PRINTING Co.,
HAVE BEEN INVITED to write a brief history of the progress that has been made by the people of Chester County from its formation in 1882 until now, of prevailing conditions then, and the conditions that prevail among the same people now, political, social, economic, as well as religious and educational.
In attempting to write of this period, I am entirely dependent on my memory, as I have no data covering the period of which I write. It is not my purpose to go into detail with respect to many things of which I shall write and I trust I may be excused for mentioning many splendid citizens, that it has been my good fortune to know — men, who by their wisdom and courage, helped to lay the foundation of the affairs of this county, that have stood the storms that have passed over us and left us unscathed.
It shall be my purpose to give my readers a pen picture of the exact conditions that universally prevailed forty-two years ago. It is quite common to hear people complaining of the present time, berating everybody and everything, that everybody is a thief and a knave. In connection with this, you will hear a lot said about the good old times."
Now, friends, I believe that the present time is the best that has ever prevailed since Chester County was formed. Remember that "distance lends enchantment to the scene," and in getting away from the things we lived through, back there, we have become rather enchanted by them. So let's take a trip over the county in the year of our Lord 1882. We will start at Center Point, which was then in the First District. We will have to make the trip on horseback, for it would be impossible to go in a buggy, even if we had one, for there is not ten yards of respectable roads in all the territory now comprising the First and Thirteenth Districts. From McNatts old mill we look down Middletons Creek, whose rich lands were then almost a jungle, covered with giant white oak and gum, nearly all of which land now comprises some of the richest farming lands of the county (or the state either).
There were no telephones then, and the first telephone ever installed in the county was made of a couple of cigar boxes and a flax string. It connected Galbraith's store with Carroll's store, one mile from Center Point.
At this time, there was not a dozen two horse plows in this territory. Not a corn planter, a stalk cutter, or a disc harrow. There was now and then, a mower, but most of the roughage was obtained by pulling fodder, and this operation, which was just like work, usually lasted from about the fifteenth of August until frost.
We will now go down to Enville or Wild Goose, as it was then called. There was then a three months school going on at Center Point, and we go ten miles before we see another. Only one painted farm home between Center Point and Wild Goose (where John Short lived).
There was not a full-blooded cow in all this territory, nor a thoroughbred hog. It took two or three years to grow a hog large enough to weigh two hundred and fifty pounds. Selling chickens by weight was not thought of, and fat hens would bring about 30c each. Now they bring from one dollar to one dollar and a half.
Now you say, Great Scott, how did we ever make a living?" Well, we didn't make much of a living, we just breathed. We were only completing the work that our fathers had begun, by African slavery and slipshod unscientific methods in our system of farming, we had ruined the best country in the world.
Just be still a moment and let me tell a little more about the then. Then we were destroying millions of dollars worth of timber yearly, to build fences, (and cutting and splitting rails is another job just like work).
Now we keep our live stock up and save all that money and labor. Then, two bales of cotton was a good load for two mules, now, two mules will carry six or seven bales over the same road. Then, it took a man with two or three boys, large enough to plow and work in the crop and if they made four or five bales of cotton and corn enough to feed his stock through the winter, (and it usually took them all the winter to gather the crop, and no time for school), they had done well. Now, you can find men all over the country who will, with but little help, make six or eight bales of cotton, gather nearly all of it himself, and have his children ready to go to school by the first of November.
Its absolutely amazing to think of the changes (for the better) that have been brought about within the last forty years, and most of these changes and improvements have been brought about in the last ten or twelve years, and have greatly improved the condition and increased the happiness of our great rural population.
Besides these I have not mentioned the automobile, that has brought the citizen and his family within speaking distance of his church, where he may on Sunday attend upon the worship of God, and his horses are getting a day of much needed rest. Although some of the "croakers" say the automobile is a curse to the country, this is not true; it is the misuse of it, like many other blessings, that makes it a curse.
Then, the radio wasn't thought of. Now, we may listen in and enjoy a sermon or a concert.
Many of our farmers now have electric lights and water works in their homes; then, we had a very inferior quality of coal oil lamps, many of them made of brass and making a light about the size of a tallow candle.
At this time there was not a daily paper read in the county, and very few weeklies. There was not a dozen agricultural journals read in the county. Now there are hundreds of farmers who read the daily papers, and the very best agricultural journals are read by more than half the farmers who have profited by the advice of the experts who write for them, and the result has been perfectly amazing.
We have so many things now that we did not dream of then, that it seems almost incredible. Then, we received our mail once a week and often had to ride five or six miles on horseback to the postoffice to get it. The mail was carried then by horseback and a single bag usually carried the week's mail. Now, every day, except Sunday an automobile carries the mail over the same route and it is delivered to your door free. Now, what I have written as to the First and Thirteenth Districts will apply to every district in the county. As to the Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Districts, there were thousands of acres given over to sage grass, people thinking it too poor to pay the expense of cultivation. Now, the Now the same lands are the most valuable lands in the county, many of them have been made to yield from a bale to a bale and a half of cotton to the acre, and from 50 to 75 bushels of corn. This increase in production has been brought about by more scientific methods of farming.
Mr. L. M. McCallum is perhaps entitled to more credit than any other man in the county. Under his splendid leadership, many men were induced to try out more scientific methods of thorough preparation of the soil, diversification of crops, cooperation among farmers, more rye, more legumes, more clover crops, more live stock, more manure, hence, the improvement in the earning capacity and value of these lands.
The late Joel F. Hamlett, of the 2nd District, was a pioneer in the farming who was 40 or 50 years ahead of his time. He was a man of wealth and refinement, and his extensive experiments were of great value to his community. (Peace to his ashes). And as a result of his leadership, there grew up around him some of the best farmers in the county.
Well, my story is growing long, and yet, "the half has not yet been told," but what I have written can be applied to every part of the county.
Then, there were but few farm houses carrying a coat of paint. Now they stand on almost every hill top.
There was not a painted school house in the county outside of Henderson, now every school house in the county has two good coats of paint.
We had just one money crop — cotton, now we have cotton, peppers, strawberries, potatoes, tomatoes, pigs and cream, which are bringing thousands of dollars into the county.
I might write and write on, telling of the many improvements we now have that we did not have 40 years ago, but I shall stop long enough to ask this question, What is the cause of the "Then and now"? In answering that question I say better roads, better farming, diversification and cooperation — cooperation and progress go hand in hand in bringing happiness and contentment to a united people.
I can see that to go on I must take more time than I have at my disposal, to write of all the good men who gave their lives to the service of Chester County, viz: C. R. Scarboro, Wm. Rush, J. H. Fry, J. H. Mitchell, J. A. Miller, Wm. Kerr, Hiram Johnson, O. F. Hendrix, C. G. Hardeman, W. I. Allen, K. H. Reid, W. C. Trice and a host of others whom I would like to mention; these men have all gone to their well earned reward, except J. A. Miller. No better or braver set of men ever sat in a County Court, of which I had the honor of being the youngest member.
I here close this reminiscence of conditions forty years ago in Chester County, and I affectionately dedicate these recollections to the progressive citizens of my beloved county with the wish that you may carry on the work that has been so nobly started and that you may hold aloft the Banner of Progress, and never let it trail in the dust, and when you come to the end of life's way you may have as your reward, the consciousness of duty well done.
In part one I thought I had written about everything that was necessary to be said as to the progress that has been made by the people of Chester County within the last forty years, but a little reflection convinced me "that the half has not yet been told," and if I can succeed in telling the story in such a way as to cause my readers and especially the citizens of my beloved little county to reflect and go back with me and look through memory's page and then by contrasting the difference between the blessings of the present and the inconveniences of the "then," and if I can refresh your memory as to these things and cause you thereby to be contented with the present and that Chester County, Tennessee, is a good place to live, a good place to labor, to love and help promote peace and happiness of the community and uphold the dignity of the great state in which we live. If I can succeed in doing this, then the jotting down of these reminiscences shall have served their purpose and I shall be fully rewarded for this labor which is one of love.
Pastures always look green at a distance and the horizon always looks smooth and so many Chester Countians have been deceived by green pastures and a smooth horizon, have left Chester County to find the pastures bare and the horizon as rough and rougher than the little county they had left, and it is partly the object of this letter to call attention of Chester Countians to the advantages you have right here.
I have devoted considerable space in calling attention to the wonderful progress that has marked the onward march of civilization in this county in the last forty years. To my way of thinking there is only one exception: then, you would take your wife and children in a two-horse wagon and drive over a rough road to church and the whole family would sit spellbound under the influence of a sermon fresh from the battlements of Glory by an humble servant of God, who has ridden through heat and cold to meet his flock.
Now, all you have to do is to sit down and order your sermon from Sears, Roebuck & Co., who keep them in cold storage, and when they arrive, crank up your Victrola — and there you are!
Now, dear reader, don't desert me, but listen just a little longer, and I shall return to my subject.
Where are the boys and girls? Do they go to church? Yes, then to the picture show, and then joy riding. Oh that we had more old fashioned Mary Janes and Nancy Anns who were raised by mothers who knew how to say "no, you shall not keep such company."
Forty years ago, as I previously mentioned, there was not a painted school house in the county; now every one in the county is painted and provided with modern equipment, most of them requiring the services of two teachers.
Even as late as 1892, ten years after the county was organized, Bob Wilkens taught the school at Enville and received for his services, thirty-five dollars per month; now teachers get from sixty to eight-jive dollars.
This leads us to think more of the schools of the county. Then the average daily attendance was less than fifty per cent, very few of the pupils had completed the eighth grade; now, under the influence of better equipped teachers, hundreds of them are completing this grade annually. I think I can truthfully say that in no field of human endeavor has greater progress been made in Chester County, than in the field of education.
Now, it is perfectly natural for us to ask ourselves what brought about all these wonderful changes on the farm, in the home and in schools. The application of scientific methods in our farming operations, good roads and the compulsory school law, is the answer. I know that it has been said, the compulsory school law is dictatorial, in that it undertakes to prescribe a certain line of duty that a man must perform toward his own children. Well, there is another side to that question. If the law compels me to pay a tax to send another man's children to school, I think it but right to compel him to send those children to the school that I have helped provide for them, and I think the place weakest in law is that it exempts them from attendance before they are 21 years of age. The enforcement of this splendid law brought the daily attendance up to 921/2%, and in this connection I wish to put into this record the names of all of our County Superintendents who have done so much to bring about these results, viz: Alex Ross. Robt. McNatt, J. S. White, J. W. Stewart, Miss Hattie Massengill, Robt. Farrow, C. B. Ijams, N. B. Hardeman, J. W. Stewart.
When this county was organized, we had one school in Henderson, the Henderson Masonic Male and Female Institute. Now on the same site is the Chester County High School, which is second to none in the state. Also there has been established two Junior High Schools in the county. Also I must not fail to mention Freed-Hardeman College located in Henderson and under the control of the Christian Church, and is one of the foremost institutions of learning in the South.
Such is the story briefly told of Chester County and her achievements.
Many other things could be written of her that would challenge the admiration of every good citizen, but enough has been said to cause many of us to feel proud of the fact that we helped to shape her destiny.
One more little story and I am ready to write finis.
In 1892, fourteen of us ran for the various county offices, (I was young then). All of us were quite willing to let our personal affairs go to the dogs in order that we might serve the "deer peepul." We each made speeches at fourteen different places in the county and when we checked up the time each candidate had used, it developed the fact that Will Cason had made fourteen speeches in thirteen minutes and was elected by a good majority.
Moral, ''Don't speak too long."
A Little Over Forty-two Years Ago Chester County was First
Organized, at That Time It Being a Part of Henderson,
Madison, Hardeman and McNairy Counties.
HESTER COUNTY was organized in April 1882, a little more than 42 years ago. Several attempts were made, and two elections were held to make the county, before it was carried by the fractions of Henderson, Madison, McNairy and Hardeman counties, which went to make op the county of Wisdom, which name it was to bear. This was in honor of the distinguished Wisdom family who lived in McNairy County at Old Purdy at that time. John L. Wisdom, now of Jackson, Tenn., is the only surviving member of that family that we now recall.
After these failures to carry the election by a two-thirds majority vote which was due to the Hardeman fraction not favoring the withdrawal from her home county, the Commissioners, some of whom I recall as Wm. Rush, Hiram Johnson and others, were not to be deterred in their undertaking, and the name was changed from Wisdom to Chester County and was finally carried by the necessary majority.
The county was organized by the election of Wm. Rush as its first Chairman and was launched upon another career for good or bad. At the time, the county having just been organized, had no money to pay the running expenses for the first year, but it had good and honest men, who by judicial management, soon, or at least after a few years, put the county on a financial basis which it has continued to maintain up to the present. Esq. C. R. Scarborough and Esq. Rush were the Chairmen of, and the financial agents for the county for many years after its organization. Alternating very nearly each year and were always faithful to their trusts.
Some of the Justices of the Peace who contributed to successful management were such men as Hiram Johnson, J. P. Thomas, A. G. Sewell, J. D. Shelton, J. P. Cherry, I. J. Massengill, W. L.Massengill, Esq. McCorkle, R. H. and S. E. Reid, W. C. Trice, F. F. Kee, J. H. Fry, J. M. Malone, Wm. B. Skinner, Wm. Senter, Esqs. Beene and Ward, J. E. Blaylock, W. A. Kerr, Patrick Grantham, J. M. Pike, J. M. Dees, J. M. Robeson and J. H. Mitchell.
Mr. John Barheim was the county's first County Court Clerk; Robt. Criner, Sheriff; C. M. Cason, Register; Ed Estes, Circuit Court Clerk, and W. S. Rhodes, Trustee, who served from the organization up to the general August election, following, or about four months. At the following August election, H. D. Franklin was chosen County Court Clerk and held that position for three terms or twelve years up to August 1894, when J. W. Stewart, who at that time was County Superintendent of Public Education, was elected County Court Clerk and was re-elected, for four more terms, or in all twenty years, up to August 1914, when C. L. Parrish, who was Circuit Court Clerk at the time, was chosen County Court Clerk, and held that office up to July 1, 1922, resigning to accept the Postmastership which he now holds. On the resignation of Mr. Parrish, J. R. Galbraith was elected to fill out the unexpired term which closed September 1, 1922.
R. B. Wood was elected at the August election 1922, and has held the office up to the present and whose first term will expire two years hence.
As stated above, Robt. Criner was the first Sheriff, and was succeeded by Capt. A. A. Anderson. Mr. Anderson served out his constitutional term and was followed by his friend and deputy, J. D. Johnson. Mr. Johnson was followed in office by Mr. H. F. Weir, W. I. Allen following Sheriff Weir, and in turn came G. W. Smith. Sheriff Smith was superceded by J. A. Deming, who served out his allotted time and was followed by W. T. Stewart, who served from September 1st to January 1st, when he resigned and Capt. Anderson was elected by the Court to fill out his unexpired term. Capt. Anderson was followed by B. F. Weir and then J. W. Phillips, who after serving only a part of one term resigned and R. W. Underwood filled out his unexpired term. R. T. (Bob) Robbins next, filled the office for a full constitutional term and was succeeded by Chester Freeman, who will retire September 1st, making six years that he has served.
W. S. Rhodes was the first Trustee of the county and was followed by Esq. C. G. Hardeman; Cal Hendrix was the third Trustee and was followed by Esq. Nat Buckley. S. E. Reid was elected and served for several years and then Esq. Wm. Rush, whom we mention as the first Chairman of the County Court and served until the election of J. N. Tillman, then S. C. Malone, who is the present Trustee.
Ed Estes, at the formation of the county, was elected as Circuit Court Clerk. W. T. Carson, who was Mr. Estes' deputy, was the second Clerk of that Court and was followed by Geo. H. Poole. Mr. Poole resigned to accept a position in the Government service at Memphis and is now a United States Commissioner and a lawyer at Memphis, Tenn. C. L. Parrish followed Mr. Poole in this office and when he decided to run for County Court Clerk the present Clerk, J. W. Seaton, was elected and has served in that capacity up to this time.
C. M. Cason was elected the county's first Register, and was followed in this office by Mr. Mich Dodds, who died in office, and Uncle Joe Walker, as he was familiarly known, was elected and H. D. Criner, now of Texas, followed Mr. Walker. Then Mr. A. G. Sewell was elected and served up to the time that W. T. Lindsey was elected, who is now holding said office.
After Esqs. Rush and Scarborough had served as Chairmen of the County Court for several years, then Esq. W. C. Trice was elected and served until he declined to serve longer and was followed by J. D. Johnson, then by Esq. Beverly Robertson, then by said J. D. Johnson again, who held said office up to the time of his removal to Jackson, where he held the office of Mayor of that city for a number of years, and was followed by M. L. Cheatham, J. D. Haggard and now by the present Chairman, J. P. Cherry.
W. A. Ross was the first County Superintendent of Public Education and was followed in that office by Mr. Bob McNatt. Esq. J. S. White followed Mr. McNatt in that office and served for a number of years, when J. W. Stewart was elected on Jan. 1, 1890, and served three years and eight months up to the time he was elected County Court Clerk. Miss Hattie Massengill was the first and only lady County Superintendent the county has had, and Robt. D. Farrow followed her and served a short time, but went to Shelby County where he has been engaged as one of Memphis' most successful teachers up to the present time. Prof. C. B. Ijams followed Mr. Farrow, then Prof. N. B. Hardeman, each of the last two serving about eight years each. J. W. Stewart was then elected and is serving up to this time.
Mr. Tip Bogewell was the first Clerk and Master of the Chancery Court and was followed in office by Mr. H. D. Franklin, then by E. A. McCann, the present Clerk and Master.
In addition to the financial management of the county, it may be recalled that the county has had three court houses and two jail buildings. Soon after the formation the Commissioners bought the Crook residence which stood where the present Court House now stands, which was destroyed by fire March 17, 1891. A new Court House was soon erected which was later destroyed. After this fire the present building was erected. The county built a new jail, but it was badly built and was removed and the present jail built on the same lot where the older one stood. These buildings have all been paid for.
Along with this the county built new steel bridges across the river and sloughs east of town at a cost of about $10,000.00. All these have been paid for along with the court houses and jails.
In this review of the official life of those who have directed the county's business for the past forty-two years (leaving out the writer), I want to say, that in thinking of each one, personally, as I pass from one to the other, as he came and passed out, that few counties have had a higher class of citizens. During all of these years, or at least after the first few, the county has been able to pay her debts, and has had a normal growth in all her undertakings; and I am constantly asking myself the question, "Will the future produce as faithful public officers as these?"
There are many of these men who have so impressed themselves upon the people by what they accomplished that a history might be written about each one of them.
Sixty-Four Years Ago the First Settlers Located in What is Now
Henderson and From That Time on the Little City
Has Made Wonderful Progress
T IS INDEED FITTING that the history of Henderson and Chester County should be published in this year, 1924. Every year is of supreme importance, but events come to pass which mark off the time into epoch-marking periods.
About one hundred years ago the white man first looked upon this Western District of North Carolina with seeing eyes and determined to possess it. Then when the white race had held possession and built homes, towns and cities for fifty years, nearly all, — men, houses, property, businesses, were sacrificed under the cruel hand of war, laid ruthlessly upon the Southland by its own race and brothers in blood.
Fifty years have again flown in to the past since the people of this country returned to their ruined homes to begin life over again, to rebuild the lost and to build better and larger than they had ever before dreamed of doing.
This is why we, ourselves, should know and tell the world what has been accomplished by brain and brawn, energy and push of people who have and do now live in this, truly and splendid little city.
In the year of 1860, the site on which now stands the thriving and progressive little city of Henderson, and at that time a part of Madison County, was invaded by few families who moved here from Henderson County, among whom was Mr. W. P. (Polk) Bray, who is still a resident here, and has been continuous, with the exception of a few years he spent in Texas in the early seventies. Mr. Bray built the first business house that was ever erected here, in the fall of 1860, it being located on the lot on Front row where a colored restaurant now stands. In that year a small depot was built, it being located near the spot where the present depot now stands.
The town at that time was called Dayton and bore that name until after the war. Building was slow until after the war, there being only two or three business houses here when the war came on, all of them being located on what is now called Front Row.
Among the first to locate here were Dr. T. A. Smith and family, John Buchanan, Polk Bray, Mrs. Conyers, Dr. Spencer, the Priddy family, and J. D. Franklin. Dr. Smith as the first railroad agent.
When the war came on in 1861 building activities ceased, as in all other sections. During the war the depot was burned by the Confederate soldiers, when they took possession of this section. The railroad business was then transacted in a box car until after the war. But let the four years of suffering, sacrifice sorrow and shedding of the best blood in the country be forgotten.
Immediately after the war building activities resumed. The depot was soon rebuilt this tune it being erected by the M. & O. R. R. Co. Soon thereafter the name of the town was changed to Henderson, being named after our neighbor county Henderson, as most all these early settlers were natives of that county.
Up until 1870 there were only about a half dozen stores here. In 1871 a building boom struck the little village and houses began to spring up in all sections. At that time practically all the land for miles around was owned by Dr. J. D. Smith, Sr. Later he began to open up divisions and to sell lots; this was in 1873 and was really the beginning of what is now the progressive little city, Henderson.
As we have stated before, the first store was opened in 1860, it being conducted by John Hughes. Others to follow were: Arnold-Bray Co., G. L. Priddy, John West, Hart Brothers, R. J. Barnum, which later emerged into Barnum-Galbraith. Polk Bray put in the first drug store, Jim Bland, R. J. Howard were also among the first merchants. Mrs. Conyers opened the first hotel here in 1861, which she conducted until 1880.
J. D. Franklin was the first postmaster the town ever had. Others to follow were: B. S. Lovelace, Dr. Joe Bell, C. W. Cunningham, Albert Anderson, W. M. Bray. Other business and professional men who should be mentioned in connection with the early days of the town, and who much credit is due, are: Dr. J. W. Baird, physician and druggist; W. C. Christopher, liveryman; Purdy & McCraw, merchants; W. M. Bray, merchant; E. N. Tabler, merchant; Dr. J. N. Sherrill, merchant; Dr. I. W. Perkins, physician and druggist; Robt. Purdy, merchant; Thomas-Asheroft & Rhodes, merchants; W. J. Ozier, merchant and liveryman; McEloud & Massengill, merchants; Capt. J. R. Carroll, merchant; J. F. O'Neal, merchant; J. J. Christie, painter and decorator; Berry Cook, depot agent; Mrs. J. M. Hart, proprietress hotel ; D. L. Roy, hotel. Others who were connected with the hotels here from time to time were: D. L. Ross, J. H. Trice, W. H. Wheeler and Mrs. W. H. Thomas.
The first brick building to be erected here was built by Cason O'Neal & Co., the next was J. F. O'Neal, Sr. Others to follow were: R. J. Barnum and I. J. Galbraith.
The first church to be built was the Missionary Baptist and was located near where the city cemetery now is, and was used by the various denominations for a place of worship. The first resident minister to locate here was Bro. J. D. Franklin, a Baptist; next to follow was Dr. G. M. Savage. A few years after the Baptist Church was built the Methodists erected a small frame building on the lot which is now graced by one of the most modern church buildings to be found in this section. The First Christian Church was erected in 1871.
The first school of any importance was taught here in 1868 by Prof. G. M. Sayles, and was in a little frame house that was built for a cheap residence and was located where the girls' dormitory of the Freed-Hardeman College now stands. In 1870 a two-story frame school building was erected across the street on the lot where the high school building now stands and was known as the Henderson Masonic Male and Female Institute. Prof. Sayles was also the first to have charge of this school. Prof. Sayles is now connected with the Union University at Jackson. The property of this school, after a few years, was acquired by the Georgia-Robertson Christian College, the old building was razed and a new brick building was erected. In later years the property was purchased by the city, and with the many improvements, the city now boasts of a $100,000.00 building.
The Freed-Hardeman College was erected here in later years and has been a principal factor in promoting the growth and progress of the city.
In 1889 B. F. McKinney and others organized the Farmers & Merchants bank; then a few years later the Chester County Bank was organized, then followed the Peoples Savings Bank, which gives us at present three of the strongest banking institutions to be found in the state.
The first light plant was built in 1898 by W. J. Ozier and T. B. Hardeman. This plant was used up until 1911 when a new and more modern plant was installed. The plant was purchased by the city in December 1916.
With each year showing a marked improvement over the previous one, we jump to 1901.
At that time the little city had a population of about 1000 and was incorporated by an Act of the Legislature of that year. A City Council was elected and the little town soon began to put on city airs. T. B. Hardeman was elected Mayor; H. C. Ashcraft, City Recorder, and M. F. Ozier, City Attorney. Soon thereafter internal improvements began; walks were put down, water works and sewerage system installed, nice dwellings and business houses erected, and at the present we can boast of one of the best high schools in the state, a college that ranks A-1, several miles of concrete walks, four churches, a total population of about 2,000, and a large number of the most progressive business and professional men that ever located in a small city.
At present the streets are being paved, and with the building of a hard surfaced road from here to the Tennessee River and one to Jackson, the future progress of Henderson and Chester County would be hard to predict. But with the start we have and the building of hard surfaced highways, Henderson should more than double her present population.
And another very important fact, that insures future progress, is that all the business and professional men of the city realize that the progress of Henderson is almost entirely dependent on the many thousand acres of rich farming lands that surround the city, and are always ready and willing to back up any movement that is destined to promote better farming conditions.
We could go on citing other reasons that point to a bright future for Henderson, but we will close this brief summary of the progress made in Henderson since the beginning by urging every citizen to back up our Mayor and Aldermen in all of their undertakings that concern the progress of the city now and in the future.
In about 1810 or 1812 Josiah Wamble entered a lot of land upon which Montezuma is now built. He put up a store and very soon other settlers began to settle around him. For a number of years the place was called Wambles Store. By 1820 the settlers were so many that a town was laid out and was given the name "Montezuma" after a Mexican Indian chief. The name means "Bright Stream at the Foot of the Mountain."
Identified with the early settling of Montezuma were the Wades, Randolphs, Casons, Hollis, Burkheads, and later the Skinners, Perkins, Rowseys, O'Neves, Claytons, Barretts, Ozments and Pattersons. As the village grew, other substantial citizens came until quite a little town was built. Then came the first mistakes. They refused to let the M. & O. R. R. come through their town. They switched around Montezuma and then Henderson was begun, which, in the course of years, drew largely upon the inhabitants of this place.
Her citizens early began to see the necessity of education, so Montezuma Male and Female Academy was built. Many noble men and women have gone out into the world to engage in the different pursuits of life as a result of the training received in that institute. In about 1874 or 1875 the Memphis Conference located the Jackson District High School here. It prospered for about ten years, when the Conference saw fit to move it away.
When Chester County was organized, Montezuma was a close second for the County Seat. She still has a few enterprising citizens left that identify themselves with every interest that is for the upbuilding of the town.
Any history of Chester County would be incomplete if I should leave Muffin out. Mifflin was settled in 1821 by Col. John Purdy, who was a surveyor and laid the town lot and named it after his native town in Pennsylvania.
He (Purdy) was a prominent business man and was a member of the Tennessee Constitutional Convention in 1832.
Jas. Thomas, originally from Virginia, settled near hi in shortly thereafter.
James Clifford came at the same time and was a neighbor of Thomas.
Jerry Hendrix and Micajah Joyner also opened farms near Mifflin in 1822.
Shackelford Charles Riddle, an old Baptist preacher, moved into, the neighborhood in about 1822. He was a great hunter and moved to Mississippi in 1822 where game was plentiful.
The first school at Muffin was taught by James Glass in 1828. Col. Bill Hall and Thomas Gorham, the first Circuit Rider, took up residence here in the same year.
John Haltom, Peter Collins, James Neil, James Brown and Wm. Phelps settled near Mifflin in 1824.
Muffin was settled in 1821 and as above stated, Montezuma was settled in 1810. So, Montezuma outranks Mifflin in point of age.
Those old pioneers soon recognized the necessity of education and James Glass was employed as teacher. Muffin still maintains a good school, the old academy having been displaced by a modern building. The late C. R. Scott taught the last session at the old academy in 1865.
There is an old legend as to why Jacks Creek was thus named. (It was named for a negro boy named Jack — the story is filled with romance). Hugh Ross settled near Jacks Creek at a very early day (about 1820). John M. Hart, a wealthy planter who came from Virginia, settled and opened a fine plantation in 1824 or 1825.
A. C. McCorkle married Hart's daughter and was a merchant at Jacks Creek for many years.
John C. Trice came to Tennessee when quite a young man and married Elizabeth Crook, and it is said of him that the day he and Betsy moved to themselves that his father-in-law sent him a negro man to be his slave and that Trice sent the negro back with the word that Betsy, his wife, was all the Crook family he wanted. They lived and died within a mile of Jacks Creek and accumulated a fortune.
Stephen L. Ross, son of Hugh Ross, heretofore mentioned, was a Representative in the Legislature of Tennessee.
Mr. Ross was a typical odd fashioned Southern gentleman and a staunch Democrat, having been nominated by his party to run for the State Senate. The Republican party met in Convention and nominated Hon. F. J. Hodges for the same office. Hodges went before the Convention and declined to run, saying he expected to vote for Steve Ross and advised everybody else to do the same thing. So we all voted for Steve Ross and, of course, he was elected.
Before I leave Jacks Creek I must introduce my readers to a man who spent most of his valuable life in and around Jacks Creek. He was as genial as a sunbeam and as eloquent as a Cicero, and it is my honest opinion that he was the ablest Missionary Baptist preacher it was every my good fortune to hear. My heart has so often been thrilled by his matchless eloquence. I refer to my good friend. Elder W. J. Hodges, who now sleeps under the roses at Unity Church that he served so long as its pastor.
There is a story that Brother Hodges loved to tell. He had an appointment published that he would preach at a place on a certain subject at a certain tune. After filling the appointment to his own satisfaction he was anxious to know how or what the people thought of his discourse, so he asked a cousin of his (Elisha Hodges) what he thought about it. "Well, Bill, I want you to try that sermon again. Select some pretty day, get a big congregation, get everybody pleasantly situated, and if you can't beat that discourse you preached today, I would advise you to quit."
Jacks Creek is at the junction of two great highways, has five or six mercantile establishments, a good strong bank, a good school, one of the largest ginneries in West Tennessee and is an excellent cotton market.
Masseyville was settled in 1879 by Dr. J. H. Mitchell, one of God's Noblemen, who passed away recently. Peace to his ashes. A friend to everybody, he was always ready to serve in the interest of humanity. He and his son, Bruce, engaged in the mercantile business there for many years.
Enville, a corruption of the name Enloe, was named for B. A. Enloe, a Representative in Congress for the 8th Congressional District of Tennessee.
This thriving village was settled by M. E. Bishop and A. G. Sewell in about the year 1885. Its first name was Wild Goose because Dick Harden raised some wild geese there.
Enville now has several stores, one bank and is a good business point. It is surrounded by a fine agricultural country. It has a good school, several large ginneries and is altogether an excellent town. It possesses a fine citizenry, has two highways and is alive to every good work.
Since "Then and Now" was written, I have decided to write a few more paragraphs as to) what has been done in Chester County in order to keep abreast of the times.
We have issued bonds to the extent of about $250,000.00 for road building purposes and under the supervision of our excellent highway department, roads have been laid off and built so as to tap every community in the county by means of latteral highways leading into the arterial highways which have been laid off and built. We now have eight miles of concrete or slab roads, one hundred and ten miles of gravel and five hundred miles of graded road.
We are so situated that a man may step into his car at 5 o'clock in the morning and land in Nashville or Memphis by 10 and never have to leave a graded, gravelled or concrete road. Under the influence of this fine rural road system the average daily attendance in our rural schools has jumped from about 50% to about 92%. In establishing our splendid road system great credit is due J. R. Lipe, who retired some years ago and the foundation of our system laid by him is now being carried out by Ernest Peddy and Chester Freeman.
I shall now send this little book forth, trusting that its pages may be perused by the sons and daughters of the men named therein; may take pride in the knowledge that they are related to those whom started Chester County, Tennessee, in her successful career.
— S. E. REID.