Compiled by Josetta Griffith
FNB Chronicle Editor
For a lot of us, the mention of Low Gap conjures up in our minds the overlook on old Highway 27 coming around the curves up from the Town of New River and the beautiful canyon of Low Gap.
Actually, the name Low Gap doesn’t have anything to do with the low, canyon-like crater along the basin of the New River; instead, it has to do with the name the early settlers of this region gave to the low gap in the mountains that allowed them to travel from Pioneer and Huntsville southward to Brimstone and Robbins.
Many, many families have lived in Low Gap and many more are descendants of those who either lived in Low Gap, or still live in Low Gap.
Prominent Low Gap family names are BEGLEY, BLAKELY, BOWLING, CHITWOOD, CROSS, DUNCAN, JEFFERS, MARLOW, NEWPORT, ORICK, POTTER, SEABOLT and STEWART, to name a few.
The following stories, from various families, help us to understand what it was like to grow up in Low Gap. Some of the stories are taken from the Scott County Historical Society publication Scott County, Tennessee And Its Families, and some reminiscences are from the cookbook published by the EUGENE STEWART family, The Stewart Family Really Cooks.
EMMITT NEWPORT is a descendant of BENNIE NEWPORT and ELLANIA DUNCAN. He was born and raised in Low Gap. He was born December 30, 1906 and died at his home in Low Gap on December 25, 1985.
EMMITT married LENA NEWPORT, daughter of WILLIAM and OLLIE NEWPORT, in September 1925. He attended the one room school in Low Gap for only a couple of years. EMMITT worked with his father in logging until he got his only public job with Southern Railroad. He worked for Southern Railroad for 43 years until he became disabled.
EMMITT lived his entire life in Low Gap except from 1952 to 1955, when he lived in a company house of the railroad in New River.
EMMITT and LENA had six children and all of them were born in Low Gap. He was a faithful member of the Low Gap Baptist Church until his death in 1985. Children:
MABLE NEWPORT was born in Low Gap in 1926. She married MARVIN GENE (Pete) FRANKLIN of West Virginia in 1944.
JAMES NEWPORT was born in Low Gap in 1928. He married ADA EVANS, daughter of WALTER and GRACE EVANS of Robbins, in 1947.
BETTY NEWPORT was born in Low Gap in 1930. She never married.
BILLY JOE NEWPORT was born in Low Gap in 1932. He married HANNA WEGHOFER of Germany in 1952. Her parents were MARTIN and BERTHA WEGHOFER.
ARLIE LEE NEWPORT was born in Low Gap in 1934. He married LOIS HALL, daughter of DAVID and LUCY HALL of Robbins, in 1953.
MARY ELIZABETH NEWPORT was born in Low Gap in 1942. She married HUBERT TERRY, son of HENRY and AVO TERRY of Oneida, in 1958.
EMMITT and LENA had 27 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren.
I was one of six children born to BENNIE ULUS NEWPORT and ELLANIA (DUNCAN) NEWPORT. Mom and Dad were both born in Scott County. Dad was born in the Black Creek community to EZEKIEL and MARGARET CLEMENTINE SHOEMAKER NEWPORT. Mom was born in the Low Gap community to MIKE and ELIZABETH DUNCAN. My three brothers were INMAN, EMMITT and EDMOND; my two sisters were ELIZABETH and LASSIE. We were born and raised in Low Gap, where all of us were married and raised our families, except Inman who moved his family to Stearns, Kentucky, where he worked in the coal mines for forty-four years.
Dad was a farmer and a logging contractor. During the depression, when times were so hard for most people in Scott County, we felt very fortunate, because our farm provided us with eggs, butter, pork, beef and produce. In those days the corn fields were plowed by horse drawn plows and were hoed by hand. Dad hired help for ten cents an hours.
As a young girl, I remember attending the one room school that was built on the L. M. WASHAM property across the road from my Dad’s farm. My first school teacher was JOE PEMBERTON. Later, my sister LASSIE and I walked to the school in New River, where Uncle JIM JEFFERS was my teacher. Because there was no church at Low Gap at that time, LASSIE and I walked to the New River church. In 1929, LASSIE died of typhoid fever; she was sixteen years old. I was heartbroken. Since the Low Gap Bridge had been washed out in March, LASSIE and my Grandmother DUNCAN, who died one week later, had to be taken by boat to the cemetery.
The following family helped each other survive:
EZEKIEL NEWPORT, (1-7-1854 - 5-22-1925)
MARGARET CLEMENTINE SHOEMAKER NEWPORT, (7-20-1856 - 12-12-1933)
ELIZABETH NEWPORT DUNCAN
BENNIE ULUS NEWPORT, (11-25-1885 - 11-10-1955)
ELLANIA DUNCAN NEWPORT, (8-21-1889 - 2-5-986)
INMAN NEWPORT, (12-30-1904 - 3-25-1983)
EMMITT NEWPORT,(12-30-l906 – [?]-25-1985)
ELIZABETH NEWPORT CHITWOOD (1-14-1911)
LASSIE NEWPORT, (7-2-1913 - 6-29-1929)
THELMA NEWPORT STEWART (8-25-1917)
EDMOND ULUS NEWPORT, (8-14-1924)
In 1932, I went to work at the boarding house in New River where I cooked, cleaned and waited tables for three dollars a week, plus room and board. I saved enough money with this job to travel with the HARRY COFFEY family of Oneida to the World’s Fair of 1933 in Chicago. The fact that the COFFEY family was kind enough to take me, a virtual stranger to them, on such a trip endeared that family to me to this day.
I met my husband, THOMAS EUGENE STEWART, at the New River Baptist Church in 1932. GENE was the son of ROBERT L. STEWART and ETHEL (WILLIAMS) STEWART, who lived on Highway 27 next to Airline Tea Room. We were married at Mountain View by the late Rev. ROY BLEVINS.
I was born March 25, 1913 at Oakdale, TN, Morgan County. I am one of ten children born to ROBERT LEE STEWART and LILLIE ETHEL (WILLIAMS) STEWART.
Later we moved on Greasy Creek, Morgan County, in a clapboard house in 1917. We lived there when the first flu epidemic killed so many people. My mother’s half brother (EARL/HAYWOOD) came to our house with the flu. The entire family came down with it except dad who had to care for us, and you can imagine some of the things he called EARL. He never liked any of mom’s family anyway, he thought they were a sorry lot. While we lived there another of mom’s half brothers (EDWARD) came by. There was a big snow on and Edward was driving a car and cars were scarce back then. ED had his wife CLARA and their daughter, THELMA, was with him. He had had a big hassle with his family in Petros and he left swearing he would never come back. They left the next morning and that was the last direct word we ever had from him. Later in the l930s, mom got a graduation announcement from THELMA in Council Bluff, Iowa. That’s the last we ever heard from them.
We spent some rough years on Greasy Creek. We cut firewood and got water from the creek. We lived right out in the woods. We moved from there to Catoosa in Cumberland County. Later dad ran a barber shop and restaurant there. One day the oil stove exploded and started a fire that burnt the restaurant, the barber shop, the post office and the company store. This was just about the whole town.
We moved from Catoosa to Sunbright, Morgan County. Dad had a barber shop there. We later moved back to Catoosa and lived
there a while. While we lived there, Grandma WILLIAMS (mom’s mother) moved there. She was good to us children. We liked her, but dad was not very fond of her. When we moved again, which we did often, we went to Helenwood, TN, Scott County. Grandma WILLIAMS talked mom into letting me stay with her for several months when the family moved. We joined them later in Helenwood. That was around 1924, I think.
I attended my first school in Helenwood. Dad bought his first T-Model Ford Touring Car in 1925 for around $500.00: The next weekend he had a few drinks and backed the car into a telephone pole. It was not too severely damaged. Dad owned a barber shop, meat market and pool room. He made lots of money but it somehow all got away. At this time Helenwood was a boom town. There were five major coal mines and some sawmills working. Around this time, surveys were made to build a major north-south highway through Scott County. It was called The Dixie Highway, later to become U.S. 27.
About this time, dad bought some land south of Helenwood and started building our home at what is now known as the Tea Room area. We finished the house and moved in for awhile. Dad decided to move to Clinton, TN., Anderson County. He leased our house to the OMAR STOREY family for a year and we moved to Clinton. After about nine months we moved back to Helenwood. Since our home was leased out, we rented a house in what is called Coaltown. These houses were owned by the coal mine company. We lived there till the lease was up on our house. We lived in this community till I married in 1934. About this time, dad and mom moved to Sunbright. Dad had a barber shop and pool hall there.
In 1932, I had joined the CCC Camp. I spent two weeks in Fort Oglethorpe, GA. as pretraining. Shots and clothing were issued there. I was later sent to Morristown, TN. where we
built the CCC Camp. I was later transferred to the CCC Camp at Wartburg, TN. I spent 13 months in the camps and then left for good. Shortly after I got home, I got married to THELMA NEWPORT at Mountain View by Pastor ROY BLEVINS. DOYLE WASHAM was our witness.
A few years earlier we had built a service station on the home place. After I married THELMA, we lived there for a while. We later moved in with her parents in Low Gap, TN. I went to work for her father, BENNY NEWPORT, in the log woods. Our first child, DONALD EUGENE, was born January 26, 1935 at the Newports. Dr. M. F. FRAZIER delivered him.
I worked for the railroad section gang from 1935 to 1938. On June 26, 1936 I got my hand shot pretty bad while down on the river below LUTHER MARLOW’s. My brother, CLETE, was with me. I lost six months work and then returned to work. Some months later I was laid off . . . but that’s a whole other story. Six weeks after the accident, DEAN, our second son, was born, July 22, 1936. We lived at the old Begley place at this time. Our first girl, FRANCES, was born April 24, 1938. We later moved in the old shack where EMMITT used to live. MICKI, our next daughter was born there, July 9, 1940. Later that same year we kept a boarding house for GEORGE RECTOR for the 12-15 workers in the sawmills in Cumberland County.
THELMA’s sister and her husband (LIZZIE and BUD CHITWOOD) moved to Kentucky to live at West Point. We moved into their house. The triplets were born there February 26, 1942. The three girls died after a short time.
In late 1942, we moved to Clinchmore, TN., Anderson County. to paint the coal company houses. We then moved back to the Tea Room community to a small house on the home place.
In January of 1943 I went to Ohio and got a job working for the Army. I drove trucks at Patterson field in Fairfield, Ohio. THELMA was pregnant and getting close to her time and not feeling very well. I asked for time off to go home, but they refused so I quit and headed for home. I got off the bus at 3 a.m., close to where we lived. When I got there, the baby, RODNEY, was already born. This was February 23, 1943. In April, I went to Akron, Ohio and drove a semi for (Cook) Dixie Ohio Express Co. I worked in long-distance driving — south to Atlanta, Ga. and Birmingham, AL. After a bad wreck in Georgia, my old rig was unsafe and I couldn’t get a better truck, so in late September, I left this company.
We moved to Sunbright, TN. and I drove a bus from Jamestown, TN. to Oak Ridge. I later worked in Oak Ridge for J.A. Jones Construction Co. as a timekeeper. I then worked for Carbide Chemical Co. as a chemical operator. In late 1945 I lost this job.
We bought a home in Sunbright after leaving Oak Ridge. Dad and I did contract work. We did wiring and plumbing on houses. JERRY was born there on June 9, 1945. I worked with dad most of 1946.
On June 6, 1946, JANE ELOISE was born. She died at five months old about the time I bought the old home place. (On November 12, 1946, I bought the old home place in Low Gap from LOUIS COKER.) JANE and the triplets are buried in the Newport Cemetery in Low Gap, TN. We moved to Low Gap on January 9, 1947. We lived there 12 years. The rest of our children are as follows:
GAYE REE (June 3, 1948)
THELMA KATHRYN (November 19, 1949)
PHILLIP KEVIN (October 5, 1951)
BENJAMIN ANDREW (November 21, 1953)
DEBORAH LOUISE (October 25, 1955)
These 12 years were perhaps the most important years of our family’s life. Times were very hard, money was scarce. The house was as cold as a barn. We managed to improve it in some ways. We heated mostly with wood and it was hard to keep enough heat to keep us warm. I worked wherever I could get work just to get by. I bought a horse to use on the farm and I used him in the log woods for GEORGE SHOEMAKER. We grew our own hay and grain for the horse and two cows. Everyone had a job at home. We raised a large
CHILDREN OF EZEKIEL NEWPORT AND CLEMENTINE SHOEMAKER NEWPORT
CHILDREN OF MIKE DUNCAN AND ELIZABETH (NEWPORT) DUNCAN
garden, including both kinds of potatoes and cane for molasses. We raised hogs for meat and lard. It was a hard life but it had its good side. We were together with lots of love.
In June of 1947, I was converted and joined the Baptist Church in Low Gap. Most of the children were also saved and we attended church regularly. I have always believed that our church life and us all working together to make a living, formed a bond of love and respect that has kept us strong and upright in many ways.
The four oldest children graduated from Huntsville High School. DON became a policeman in Dayton, Ohio; DEAN worked for McCall’s Magazine and later became a lawyer in Somerset, Kentucky; FRAN and MICKI lived in Dayton at this time and worked. Life on the farm was still hard and work was scarce.
We decided to move to Dayton and I sold the farm to DEAN. We moved on January 9, 1959. The first house we moved into on South Charleston was not the place for us. Six days later, we moved to a-nine-room duplex on Ferguson avenue. FRAN and MICK moved in with us. I went to work for Hertz Rent-A-Car in the Maintenance Dept. I became good friends with the owner, JACK HELMERICH. I got raises in pay and got along well with the other employees and staff. It was a good job.
Later, Mr. HELMERICH approached me with a deal — He had several bird dogs and beagles. He offered to buy a place in the country that would suit me if I would care for his dogs for the rent. We found a farm in Germantown off Route 4 in Germantown-Liberty Road with 50 acres. He bought the farm and we moved in October 23, 1959. We cared for the dogs; we built dog runs; we built houses for them. I still drove 11 miles to work so he bought me a pick-up. We later bought 10 pure-bred Angus cattle with calves plus a mare and two ponies. As time passed, I had more and more to do on the farm and gradually quit going to the shop in town except for special jobs. Mr. HELMERICH later bought more cattle and I told him we couldn’t manage on so little acreage. He was becoming more involved with the farm and decided to buy a larger one.
The farm he bought was in West Alexandria, Ohio. He named it Angela Acres (after his wife). It had 146 acres. In late 1960 and early 1961 we began moving everything to the new place. There was so much work to do! Fences to build; water lines to lay; new barns and sheds to build; and later a new silo with electric unloader and auger feeders. He hired outside workers and used Hertz workers on their off days. Two of the guys who were there a lot were black and named AL and BEAR. They did a lot around the place. Two ponds were dug and new automatic waterers were put in the new barn. My job was to care for the livestock and do the farming. We kept from 60 to 110 head of cattle, 32 dogs, 19 hogs, 13 horses, 100 chickens and several ducks and-geese.
The job ran from early in the morning to late in the evening. It became just too much to handle. My youngest boys, KEVIN and DREW, worked summers and every day after school for hardly any pay. The children attended Lanier School just next door. RODNEY had already graduated from Jefferson High before we moved from Germantown. JERRY graduated from Lanier High. This later consolidated with West Alex High and the younger kids went to Twin Valley South High School. GAYE and KATHY graduated from there (1965- 1967).
In 1967 I talked to Mr. HELMERICH. I was not getting ahead and it was time to change jobs. We were living month to month with no way out. Mr. HELMERICH wasn’t happy with me, but agreed to sell the farm. We got busy and
CHILDREN OF ELVIRA NEWPORT
CHILDREN OF BENNIE NEWPORT AND ELLANIA (DUNCAN) NEWPORT
prepared for the auction. Everything was auctioned off; the farm, cattle, hay, feed, equipment and etc.
ROD and JERRY were married at this time. The rest of us moved to Vandalia, Ohio in September of 1967. KATHY married in October of 1967 and GAYE worked for General Motors and had a place of her own. The rest of us moved back to Oneida, Tennessee and lived in a project house for about 10 months. (I hunted and fished most of this time). In August, we moved back to Dayton and lived on Maryland Avenue close to where ROY, my oldest brother, lived. I worked for Delco Products, a division of General Motors, for a year on second shift. I was tired and unhappy, so I gave notice and we moved back to the “ETCHEL CROSS Place” at Low Gap, which DEAN owned. That was in 1969. KEVIN graduated from Kaiser High “School that year.
I went to work for Scott County Road Dept. as a truck driver. THELMA’s youngest brother, EDMUND, and I worked together much of the time. In January of 1970, I had a stroke and a light heart attack. I was forced to retire and apply for disability with Social Security. It took over a year to receive any money and DEAN helped us a lot during that time.
I had a rough time for a few years, but improved. I threw away most all the medicine the doctors were giving me and started a vitamin regimen and exercise. I’ve been doing well since I got straightened out.
KEVIN entered the Navy and DREW graduated from Huntsville High School (now Scott High School). DEBBIE was the only one of our children who had not finished school. On April 1, 1978, DEBBIE was killed by a drunk driver while she was a pedestrian. She had married but was divorced at the time of her death with two small boys. They lived with us after the divorce.
DEBBIE’s death almost destroyed THELMA. Then losing the boys (JASON and DUSTIN) made it worse. She was never truly well after that time.
We left Low Gap and moved to Bronston on November 7, 1979 to a house DEAN had built for her. We had a real nice place there.
In late May of 1985, THELMA became very sick, she spent 31 days in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lexington, Ky. After she came home the doctors found out that she had bone marrow cancer. From then until she died three years later, she had a very painful time. It was just terrible. She finally died on September 3, 1988. It was an awful shock for everyone even though we know it will happen, no one is ready when it does. After more than 54 years together you never get over the hurt. It has been over 10 years since she died, but I still feel she is a part of my everyday life. I look forward to seeing her again in a painless world, by the grace of God.
Living at the home in Bronston after her death became harder as time passed. Finally I decided to leave. But to go where? Who could I be more help to? I didn’t want to interfere with anyone’s life. I hoped to be close enough to help each other but not a part of their household. Several of the children offered suggestions and offers to live with them, but I finally decided to go to KATHY’s in Oklahoma. I knew it would never be home but home as I knew it ended when Thelma died.
I moved to Oklahoma on April 28, 1990. RAY and MICKI moved me by truck. It was a big hassle to get stuff packed and loaded. I gave away an awful lot of our belongings, but still moved too much. Some of it I gave to KATHY and KENNY. They did so much to fix me a place to live. We added a large room for utility purposes.
With all the lifting and moving I ended up with a hernia. I had an operation in Muskogee, OK. right after I got there! I guess it’s OK. It still hurts and gets sore, but that’s acceptable at my age. Several of the family have come out to see me and I get phone calls from most of them regularly.
None of us knows what the future holds for us and that’s as it should be. The important thing is to be prepared to accept whatever comes to us. It may not be good or easy, but that is part of life.
ALONZO LANCE (Bud) CHITWOOD is a descendant of JAMES CHITWOOD and MARTHA WHITE, that settled in Winfield, Tennessee in 1795. JAMES CHITWOOD was born in Virginia on June 21, 1751 and died in Winfield, Tennessee in 1839.
ALONZO (Bud) CHITWOOD (March 9, 1905 - January 12, 1985), was born in New River, Tennessee, the first of thirteen children of EDWARD CHITWOOD and GERTRUDE MURLEY. He married ELIZABETH NEWPORT on July 4, 1933. in Low Gap. ELIZABETH, the daughter of BENNIE NEWPORT and ELLANIA DUNCAN of Low Gap, was born January 14, 1911. They made their home and raised their family in Low Gap.
ELIZABETH NEWPORT attended the one room school in Low Gap through the fifth grade. It was necessary that ELIZABETH quit school and go to work in order to help support her parents. Times were very hard in those days and money was hard to come by. At age twelve ELIZABETH began working as a housekeeper and cook.
ELIZABETH lived in the homes of the people she worked for. It was a seven day work week, doing all the cleaning and cooking. For a number of years she worked for the MOSBYs, a family of four, in New River. Mr. ED MOSBY was the superintendent for Ritter Lumber Company. ELIZABETH worked for ten years before she was married to ALONZO. ELIZABETH never earned more than two dollars per week for a seven day work week. After her marriage to ALONZO she devoted her life to her husband and raising her family.
ALONZO grew up in Robbins, where he attended school through the eighth grade. He was a very, mechanically inclined man. His first job was operating a small steam train at the brick yard in Robbins in 1921 at the age of 16. He taught many people how to drive a car, including his own father, during a time when all the cars in Scott County could be counted on one’s fingers.
Beginning about 1927, ALONZO worked on the construction of Highway 27. He also helped in building the approaches to the New River Bridge, the road and highway up New River Hill, and the brick highway in Helenwood.
From 1933 to 1937, ALONZO worked for Ritter Lumber Company in New River, earning a dollar per day. He worked in the lumberyard and as a fireman on the log train from New River to Brimstone.
ALONZO operated heavy equipment for many
years. He began with the expansion of Fort Knox, Kentucky, in 1939, and worked on building Dixie Highway from Fort Knox to Louisville, Kentucky.
ALONZO and his family moved back to Scott County in 1942 and he became a fireman on a steam locomotive train, for the Southern Railroad. He made the run from Louisville to Danville, Kentucky to Oakdale, Tennessee. He had hopes of becoming an engineer, but had to give up his job after two years because of problems with his legs.
In the 1940s, ALONZO operated heavy equipment in strip mining at Flat Creek, Brimstone and Norma. In about 1950, he worked on the widening and reconstruction of the present-day Brimstone Road and Coopertown Road in Oneida.
Electricity reached Low Gap in the late 1940s and ALONZO helped many of his neighbors by wiring their homes. With the help of other members, he also wired the Low Gap Baptist Church. Later in most of these same homes he installed electric pumps, plumbing, bathrooms and sewer systems, which he dug by hand. For nearly forty years when most of these people had a plumbing or electrical problem, ALONZO (Bud) CHITWOOD would fix it— most of the time free of charge, simply because they were his friends and neighbors.
In 1952, ALONZO began working as a maintenance man for the Scott County Board of Education where he remained until his retirement in 1964.
ALONZO was a member of the Low Gap Baptist Church and a member of the Scott County Masonic Lodge and Eastern Star in Robbins. He was a happy friendly man that always had a smile for everyone. He loved people and was always lending a helping hand to his friends and neighbors. ALONZO never looked down on anyone or up to anyone — he treated everyone as his equal.
1. CHARLES CLAYTON CHITWOOD was born in Low Gap in 1934. He married WILMA MAE SHARP of Huntsville in 1955. The daughter of JOSHUA JONATHAN SHARP and ERIE WEST of Huntsville. Children:
1 .MELINDA KAY CHITWOOD was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1961.
2. CHARLES CLAYTON CHITWOOD II was born in Oneida, Tennessee 1968.
2. VOLETTA JUNE CHITWOOD was born in Low Gap in 1937. She married HOWARD LAWSON of Norma in 1957. The son of MITCHELL LAWSON and AUTHA MAE COKER of Norma. Children:
1. DEBRA JUNE LAWSON was born in Oneida, Tennessee in 1959.
2. HOWARD LANCE LAWSON was born in Oneida, Tennessee in 1961.
3. HAROLD ROSS CHITWOOD was born in West Point, Kentucky in 1940. He married SHIRLEY MAE BANNER of Dayton, Ohio. The daughter of AVERY BANNER and ETHEL HUNLEY of Dayton, Ohio. Children:
1. GARY LEE CHITWOOD was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1962.
4. MARSHALL LEE CHITWOOD was born in West Point, Kentucky in 1941. He married PAULINE POWELL of Berea, Kentucky in 1961. The daughter of WALKER POWELL and DORA HISEL of Berea, Kentucky. Children
1. MELISSA ANN CHITWOOD was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1965.
5. THOMAS LANCE CHITWOOD was born in Harriman, Tennessee in 1953. His first marriage was to SHIRLEY GALE NEWPORT of Robbins in 1972. The daughter of LEON NEWPORT and SARAH SMITHERS of Robbins. Children:
1. SARAH ELIZABETH CHITWOOD was born in Oneida, Tennessee in 1972. His second marriage was to ANGELA KAY FREELS of Winfield, Tennessee in 1985. The daughter of GLENN FREELS and JOYCE CLEVENGER of Winfield, Tennessee.
2. RYAN LANCE CHITWOOD was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1986.
FNB Chronicle, Vol. 10, No. 3 – Summer 1999
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
(page 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10)
This page was created by Timothy N. West and is copyrighted by him. All rights reserved.