Ada Mae Murphy Blevins: She kept the home tires burning
(EDITOR’S NOTE—The following article is reprinted from Esther Sharp Sanderson’s Profiles of Scott Countians, a book published by the Scott County Historical Society. The article was first published as a weekly column in the Scott County News on November 20, 1964).
High on top of the Cumberland Plateau, near the little village of Winfield, is a four room house mellowed with age. It holds many memories both happy and sad. It takes a heap of living to make a place a home, and this old home that is over one hundred years old has had a heap of living in it. If the walls of its four rooms could speak, voices out of the past would speak of love, heroism and sacrifice. They would speak of marriages, births and deaths. ADA MAE MURPHY BLEVINS is today the lone survivor to keep the home tires burning. The keeper of the keys has earned them through the love and unselfish sacrifice she has made for relatives and friends through the years.
Ada Mae was born in Winfield, February 15, 1893. She is the daughter of CAMPBELL and BETTY MAE GOODIN MURPHY. The family was very poor, and ADA MAE recalls the hardships of her early childhood where she grew up on a farm. There were four children: ALFRED, GERTIE, LORA and ADA. They cleared the land, sawed logs, piled rocks, plowed the ground and hoed the corn, as did most children living on farms at that time. School terms were short, and there was little chance for formal education. At the age of seventeen, ADA MAE left home and went to live with her Uncle MITCHELL MURPHY, who paid her two dollars a week. While staying at her uncle’s, she met GEORGE CHITWOOD, whom she married that year.
George H. Chitwood, first husband of Ada
The town of Chitwood, now Winfield, was named for the four Chitwood brothers, JAMES, ZACHARIAS, PLEASANT and LAZARUS, who came over the Wilderness Road from North Carolina and settled near the present site of Winfield in the latter part of the eighteenth century. It was a strange coincidence how the family name and the town’s name came about. According to tradition, a very young lad stowed away on a British vessel bound for America. The sailors nicknamed him "Little Chip", which later became known as Chitwood. DANIEL CHITWOOD, an ancestor of the Winfield CHITWOODs, was born in North Carolina in 1794. JAMES L. CHITWOOD was born in what is now Kentucky in 1802. He married ELIZABETH ELZIC in Anderson County in 1822. The CHITWOODs were English; the MURPHYs were Irish.
The CHITWOODs were very versatile and industrious people. According to old records, they engaged in farming, blacksmithing, and the mercantile business. Many of their descendants have been active in the social and political life of the county since its organization in 1849. WILLIAM CHITWOOD was appointed by a legislative act as one of the board of commissioners to organize the county. The MURPHYs were farmers and educators. CAL MURPHY spent many years in the classrooms of Scott County.
Soon after their marriage, GEORGE CHITWOOD and his bride, ADA, moved in with GEORGE’s mother, "Grandmother" EMM, as she was commonly called. There were ten of her grandchildren living with her in the four room house. There was little time for a honeymoon for Ada did all the cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing for this large family. Another daughter, SOPHIA, moved in with her five children. SOPHIA became ill and passed away, leaving GEORGE and ADA to take care of the orphaned children. Even though Mrs. CHITWOOD was not a trained nurse, she took care of the sick and the dying in her husband’s family and in the neighborhood. People in the entire neighborhood looked upon her as an angel of mercy in time of need.
An epidemic of typhoid struck the town of Winfield leaving sorrow and desolation in its
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wake. The entire Chitwood family with the exception of ADA were stricken. ADA recalls that for twenty-eight days and nights she never ceased her vigil. She gave GEORGE and her three children all the care humanly possible, but in spite of her attention, her husband passed away, leaving her with three children and expecting another.
It was indeed a struggle for this courageous widow to keep the children, HERBERT, GLEN, FLORA and BEULAH together and furnish them with necessary food and clothing, but this she did by farming, and taking in washings of the neighbors. Since GEORGE’s passing, there was no one to plow the fields, and Mrs. CHITWOOD and the children would work in the neighbors’ fields in order to get plowing done in exchange for their work. ADA’s son had a friend whose mother died and he came to live with the hospitable CHITWOOD family. ADA cared for him for five years. In fact, the CHITWOOD home was looked upon as a haven for the orphaned, the aged and the infirm. Uncle JESSIE LAY was an example. He had no relatives, just a sick old soul with no home and no one to care for him. ADA took him in and nursed him until he passed away.
HERBERT CHITWOOD married MONA WEST; GLEN, JEWEL LOUDON; FLORA, TEDDY CRABTREE; BEULAH, SHORTY CARSON. Mrs. CHITWOOD’s oldest daughter, FLORA CRABTREE, returned to the old home with her husband and small daughter prior to her death. MARY SUE CRABTREE was only four years old when her mother passed away and Mr. and Mrs. MILEY BLEVINS raised her.
In the meantime, Grandma EMM became an invalid and ADA cared for her for seven long years. Mrs. BLEVINS has been a member of the Second Bethlehem Baptist Church for the past fifty years, but during Grandma EMM’s declining years she was unable to attend church services.
Miley and Ada Blevins
In 1928 ADA married MILEY BLEVINS, a descendant of one of the oldest pioneer families in Scott County. They are descendants of JOHNSON BLEVINS, who was born in Virginia in 1795. His descendants intermarried with the CHITWOODs, TERRYs, COTTONs. PEMBERTONs and SMITHs in Scott County, one might say they are thick as the sands of the seas. The BLEVINS generation were good farmers, educators, and business and professional people.
Following a lingering illness, MILEY BLEVINS passed away November 8, 1964. Alone with her memories, Mrs. ADA BLEVINS is still living in the old home that was standing there during the Civil War. It is one of the few remaining landmarks reminiscent of a bygone era.
Faithful to the end, ADA BLEVINS had placed duty above self. There should be a medal of honor for these faithful, courageous, unselfish mothers and wives who go far beyond the call of duty to administer to the needs of their own families and others in need. This is indeed the pioneer spirit manifest by the unsung heroines who helped settle this outpost of civilization. It takes both sun and rain to make a rainbow. No life is all sunshine; neither is it all storm. How often God clothes the common things with a rich a beautiful meaning. He speaks to us through the ordinary day by day services we share with our fellowmen. When we open up the windows of our souls, God’s love will surely shine through.
FOOTNOTE — In 1966, two-years after this story was published, the old, 100-year-old home burned. Ada lived with her daughter until a new house could be built on the site of the old home place. This house is now home to ADA’s granddaughter, BRENDA COFFEY, who made extensive renovations to it. Ada passed away on March 30, 1971 and is buried in the Chitwood Cemetery.
FNB Chronicle, Vol. 10, No. 2 – Winter 1999
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
(page 8 and 11)
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