Tennessee Records Repository

Decatur Co. TN


From Lillye Younger, People of Action (Decatur County Printers, 1983).

Special thanks to Constance Collett and the estate of Lillye Younger for permission to make this web page.

Mrs. Younger is Honored with an Autograph Party

The Parsons Public Library was the setting for an autograph party, honoring writer, Mrs. Lillye Younger, author of "Decatur County History, Past and Present" last Saturday afternoon from the hours of 2 to 5 p.m.

The Library was aglow with arrangements of magnolias, yellow and orange lilies and mixed summer flowers. The windows held a painting of the author, by her cousin, Mrs. Helen Phillips of Jackson, which was surrounded by history books and colorful stars, plus yellow rosebuds. A massive sign, with the inscription, "Congratulations, Lillye", was hung across the awnings.

The author was seated at a table where she greeted her many friends and relatives and autographed histories for them. Mrs. Doris Scott assisted her in the sales. Mrs. Mary V. Moore kept the guest register. Seated at the desk was librarian, Mrs. Lelia Conder. Mrs. Constance Collett served as photographer and hostess and Mrs. Lola Goff, Mrs. Melba Woody and Mrs. Louise Patterson assisted in serving. She wore a blue creation created by Louise Patterson and was presented with a corsage of blue, white and yellow.

The refreshment table was overlaid with a blue cross-stitched hand made cloth and centered with a cake, in the shape of the open history, bearing the colors of blue and gold as well as the book title. Guest were served cake squares, nuts, mints, and punch.

Among the dignitaries who attended were Bob Clement, candidate for Governor of the State of Tennessee; Steven A. Bergguist and Elsa Bergguist; and Carl Partin, life-long citizen of Parsons.

Friends gathered from all over the county as well as surrounding towns and those from out-of-state to attend the history making event. It was truly a day to be remembered and one which Mrs. Younger will always cherish and be grateful for.

New History of Decatur Bright Spot in Memphis State Series

By Hugh Walker

Tennesseans collecting the county histories now coming from the Memphis State Press had a bright day last week when the history of Decatur County, third in the series, made its appearance.

These books are bound in durable cloth with maroon and gold ornamentation on their spines. They are well printed on high-quality paper, and sell for $10 each — $9 to a-subscriber to the series. At today's prices, that is a triumph in book making.

The Decatur history has been written by Lillye Washburn Younger, county historian and city judge in Parsons, the county seat. For 10 years she was a correspondent of The Tennessean.

This is a well written, well organized book. Here are some things you might like to know about Decatur County:

Decatur is a tall, narrow county on the west bank of the Tennessee River, on the eastern border of West Tennessee. It was named for Admiral Stephen Decatur, an American naval hero who was killed in a duel. Some of the beautiful Decatur silver was bought by Andrew Jackson and is now at the Hermitage.

The county is only 15 miles wide and has very-few people — a population of about 10,000. Our historian tells us that, during Indian days, it was a hunter's paradise — and it still is today. Though thinly populated, the county is rich in natural resources — trees, minerals and game of every kind.

In 1904, Harry Burke was a Decatur countian who liked Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis. Harry went to the fair, and took with him a one-ton block of phosphate from Decatur County.

In preparing this stone Harry and his helpers used a dozen crosscut saws— -apparently hand powered — a hundred pounds of sandpaper, and a hundred pounds of jeweler's dust. It must have shined like the proverbial mackerel in the moonlight — and it won a blue ribbon at the fair. Tennessee is the only state in the Union, our historian relates, that has a blue ribbon for phosphate.

Rural iron smelting operations were carried out in the county, before and after the Civil War, and Mrs. Younger has an excellent description of how these crude furnaces worked. The Brownsport furnace, built in 1848, operated for 30 years. "Today, beside a quiet, abandoned rural road in a wooded setting, the ruins of the old Brownsport furnace stand. The area is still known as the Old Coaling."

The site has been marked by the Tennessee Historical Commission on highway 100.

"Musseling," the new history tells us, is a profitable occupation on the river. The mussel shells are used to make mother-of-pearl buttons, and others are shipped to Japan where they are planted in mollusks, causing them to produce "cultured" pearls.

There are a number of good illustrations in the Decatur history, and a full-page map shows the location of caves in the county.

B&PW Club To Promote History

The Decatur County chapter of the Business and Professional Womens' organization has launched a book sale drive of "Decatur County" written by Lillye Washburn Younger. Presently serving as the Parsons' City Judge, Mrs. Younger is also the Decatur County Historian. Lillye Younger will be honored with an autograph party and reception on Saturday, May 31, 1960 at the Parsons Public Library on Tennessee Avenue. The party will last from 2:30 to 5:00 p.m. and refreshments will be served.

The book represents volume 20 of the Tennessee County History Series, the major publishing enterprise in state and local history hunched by the Memphis State University Press last year. Comprehensive in scope, each county history includes such topics as pre-history, geography, Indians, pioneers, settlements, economic growth, and unique characteristics. The books are published in a limited edition with each volume signed and numbered. The price will be $10.60 per book if purchased individually.

Mrs. Younger, a native of Decatur, is only the second person to serve as county historian. In her role as historian she has for ten years presented a daily radio program on local history. She is a resident of Parsons and a member of the West Tennessee Historical Society, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Daughters of the American Revolution. She is the wife of the late Harmon Joseph Younger of Paris, Tennessee.

The Decatur County B&PW members will continue to take orders for "Decatur County" through the month of June. The book may be ordered by contacting members of the organization or by writing Joy Damn, Memphis State University Press, Memphis, Tennessee, 38153.

Book Review

Lillye Washburn Younger, civic leader and county historian, has written a history of her county in the Tennessee County History Series. She has brought to her endeavor many years of experience as a historian and a journalist for the Parsons' New Leader and the Nashville Tennessean. Two years before the present volume she published her History of Decatur County.

She has produced a short general history of a West Tennessee County formed in 1845 along the Tennessee River. She begins with a sketch about the agricultural, industrial, and economic development of the county. Her contention is that of all the county's assets "perhaps its greatest resource is its people." She gives considerable attention to religion and towns, primarily because she covers each church and settlement individually. She also deals with education, landmarks, transportation, and communication.

Knowing what appeals to readers, she presents interesting details about society. For instance, she covers the various ways of laundering clothes, including use of a brass washboard, decades before modern washing machines. She shows in the 19th century payment for grinding corn was made in kind with sacked meal known as a "turn of meal." Regarding religion, she points out a Methodist church ordained a woman elder years before women began working openly for that status. One church supposedly "met in peace," and another congregation agreed to pay the minister more "if it was cold." Perhaps the impact of technology can be seen in her account of an early car's disrupting. a brush arbor revival because of the vehicle's noise and people's initial curiosity about automobiles.

At times the volume could have been arranged better for people who are not already familiar with Decatur County. It does not contain a table of contents, but perhaps more valuable in the long run is the nine-page index. The book is illustrated with several appealing pictures and two maps. Unfortunately, the first map is on page 56 instead of at the beginning, a more preferable location to this reviewer. A small inset on that page does show Decatur's geographic position in the state. However, those comments should not unduly detract from a valuable history.

The University of Tennessee at Martin, Marvin L. Downing

Library Gains New Book

Mrs. Lillye Younger delivered her new book I person to Vivian Barber, Librarian, for the Gibson County Memorial Library. Mrs. Younger has spent the last eight years compiling "The History of Decatur County, Tennessee," and the library is proud to be among the first to own this new county history.

Lillye Younger was born in the Hickory Grove Community in Gibson County. She is the daughter of Jena C. and Lilly Dodson Washburn. After graduation from Peabody High School, Mrs. Younger moved to Parsons and has lived there since the age of seventeen. She is the widow of Harmon Joseph Younger. She's the Decatur County Historian and has the honor of being the first woman city judge in Tennessee. She's served two terms from 1972 through 1976 and has recently been re-elected to serve a two year term for Danny Roberts, Parsons City Mayor.

Decatur County Business and Professional Women
Memphis State University Press
are pleased to announce
an autograph party and reception
in honor of
Lillye Washburn Younger
upon the publication of
Decatur County
Volume 20 of the
Tennessee County History Series
Saturday, May 31, 1980
Parsons Public Library
Tennessee Avenue
Parsons, Tennessee
from 2:30-5:00 p.m.

New County History Now Published

Mrs. Lillye Washburn Younger has completed a history of Decatur County for Memphis State University Press. Her manuscript will be published in November and is the third in the series of histories on each of Tennessee's 95 counties. Joy Bailey Dunn of the University Press is the series editor and Dr. Charles W. Crawford is associate editor.

Mrs. Younger, a native of Decatur, is currently county historian, only the second to be appointed. In her role as historian she has for ten years presented a daily radio program on local history. She is a resident of Parsons and a member of the West Tennessee Historical Society; the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Decatur County History lists for $10.00. For more in-formation on the series, please write to The Tennessee County History Series, Memphis State University Press, Memphis, TN 36152.

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