Stories From "The County Beyond" – No Business, Station Camp, Williams Creek, and Parch Corn
[EDITOR’S NOTE— The following excerpts are taken from Dusty Bits of The Forgotten Past, A History of Scott County, by the late H. Clay Smith. The book, although written more than two decades earlier, was published by the Scott County Historical Society (SCHS) in 1985. The initial printing (a hardback) was sold out a few years ago, however, the Historical Society has republished the book in soft back, and it is available from the SCHS].
Nobusiness, Station Camp, Williams Creek, Parch Corn: all have become the land of "The Country Beyond." It is now schoolless, churchless, postless, storeless and – almost – roadless.
With Dewey Slaven, I. N. King and Jake "Darb" all removed from this early Indian and white man paradise, there could be nothing more fitting to call it than "The Country of the Beyond." It was here, at Parch Corn, that the famous Blevins family took root in 1820, having come from Virginia (what is now West Virginia) to Wayne County, Kentucky, and on to Scott County.
When Armpie Blevins planted his seed down on Parch Corn, little did he know what the outcome would be. He did know that a grist mill was one of the essential things in any growing community and that Parch Corn was just the place for one. Between 1820 and 1845 he had hunted for a living, which was about all there was to do.
Each home had a "hog claim;" that is to say, the resident had an old sow and some pigs that he "branded" with his registered mark, such as an upper cut in the right, and a lower cut in the left, ear; or a wallower fork in the left and a bit in the right; and, again, maybe it would be a hole in each of the ears. On and on went this sort of thing, until every settler had a mark of his own and no two were alike.
This mark became recognized as that belonging to Blevins, to Smith, to Walker or whoever it might be; and if a newcomer moved in with a mark like any in that community, he had to change it a bit. The writer doesn’t know the stock mark of "Armpie," as he was called, but he does know those of his Sons Jake "Darbie," Houston, Lewis, Shade, and so on.
He first became acquainted with Jake "Darb" when the latter was the Star Route mail carrier from Oneida to Elvia, the post office at Station Camp, so named after his oldest sister, Elvia Smith Thompson. Jake had to make the trip once a week, regardless of high water, freeze-overs or what-have-you and he would just about fulfill his Contract, if anyone could. But, often, he would become so lost in thought that he would forget where he was.
On one occasion, Jake had reached the place of the writer’s father, when he stopped to water his team and chat with us a bit. On discovering that the carrier had no mail in his wagon, only the saddlebags over his shoulders, and on our calling his’ attention to the fact that there was no mail from Elvia to Oneida, he replied, "Oh, yes, I have a bag in the wagon." On close search, however, Jake discovered that he had left it at "Ground Hog" spring, some two miles back, where he had stopped for water.
He had laid the bag out for a head rest while he took a "wee nap" after his midday lunch.
"Well, by George," he remarked. "Keep my saddlebags until I go back and fetch it."
Jake lived most of his 92 years in the old house at Parch Corn, built in 1881 by his father. "Lit" Litton took the contract, for $5.00, to hew, notch, lay, peg-roof and floor the sturdy old home that outlived father and sons and, too, passed on with "The Country Beyond." Many are the stories that Jake related to the writer about the first settlers here and about the Indians, tales that he had gathered from his old, bosom friend, Richard Harve Slaven, already mentioned in this book. Richard Harve had kept a record of most of his experiences and those of other hunters, had passed them on to Jake "Darb" and the latter, in turn, to the writer. Now, all is quiet in, and around Parch Corn, except the noise of the river, the stamping of the buck or a chant from some distant point, of an owl — even of an eagle, once in a while. If it were not for these old memories of the past, all, except for the virgin timber that has been removed, would be today as it was when the first white man set eyes on the place.
THE LONE OWL
I. N. King, or "The Lone Owl," as he styled himself, was a school teacher who had returned to Station Camp in the early 1920s to run the post office at Elvia, teach the school, run the store, look after the lands of the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company, represent this part of Scott County on the county court as esquire, perform marriage ceremonies in the community and, in general, give advice to his neighbors as he would write when doing so in the Scott County News. As he would say, "The Lone Owl hoots again."
King, too, like the Blevinses, the Burkes and the Slavens, faded out and moved to the "civilization of Oneida" to close out his remaining days, alongside of Jake "Darb," the two dying within a year of each other. Houston Blevins, the 95-year-old "Ram’s Horn Orator," who began life in the Parch Corn community and moved to the Oneida vicinity over 65 years ago, alone remains to tell the writer about many of the early things he did in and around the community.
Mr. Blevins was a schoolteacher, lawyer, orator, esquire and writer for many years to the Scott County News and to the Knoxville papers, along with being a farmer. There is nothing of which he is prouder than of having been a lifelong Republican and of having cast his first presidential ballot for Garfield.
When he visited the writer, just recently, he began by saying, "My eyes have grown very dim and my hair is white with the toils of labor. I have given to my fellowman, students, county court, the law, the Church and the Republican party. I have spoken in every county in the Second Congressional District and always in behalf of the Republican party.
"Like the time I was running for representative in this district and found myself speaking to a goodly crowd in another district. When I had finished I was told by the crowd,
"We would like to be for you, but just can’t’
"1 don’t see why,’ I remarked, ‘I know this to be a strong Republican people, and I am your legally-nominated man.’
"Yes, but Mr. Blevins, you are when you are in your district; but this is in another.
Well, Houston has always been quick-witted, so he remarked:
"Well, I am like my father. Each year or so he went out and deadened a new ground. I will just say that I have been deadening a new ground and will be back some of these days running for an office that will give you a chance to vote for me."
Then he told the writer about the time that his father had sent him to the upper pasture with the milk cows and a bull, along with a young calf. When it came time for the cows to enter the pasture, the bull and the young calf, who had become very fond of each other, would not enter the gap and decided to run off down the hillside.
Houston, not being full of energy, didn’t run after the two but, instead, returned to the house, whereupon his father wanted to know if he had put them all in the pasture. "Yes, all but the bull and the calf," was the reply. "Well, why not them?" demanded the parent.
"Well, said the boy, "I jut decided it would come sucking time after a while and the little bull calf would learn bulls don’t make much of a mother."
Among the early settlers around Nobusiness who followed the Indians into the Oklahoma Territory were some of the children of Jonathan Burke.
Burke was born in England in 1810 and had come to this country in the early part of the century. After arriving he had migrated to Kentucky and to the Nobusiness settlement in Tennessee, where he built a two-room cabin about a mile and a half from the mouth of Nobusiness Creek. This house was noted for the big parties carried on there by this large Burke family and also for a guerrilla battle that took place there during the Civil War.
Jonathan died just after the war was over. After his death, his wife and their son Peter decided to follow some of their Indian friends who were related to them and who had been removed to the Indian Territory, these dropping out in Arkansas. The Burkes took their home with a covered wagon and a yoke of cattle to pull it, along with a little mare, which the mother rode.
Their first half-day’s journey took them to a neighbor, Jonathan Blevins, where they bought another yoke of cattle, leaving the next morning. Most of the family followed them, a sister remaining in Arkansas; the rest went on to Oklahoma, where a majority of them died and are buried in the Crowder cemetery. Harmon later returned to give the writer the following story:
While in Oklahoma Mr. Burke, who was part Cherokee, met a very old Indian relative who had hunted in the Nobusiness region and who told him of a lead mine somewhere in that section, promising that he would return with him and show him the hidden riches. However, while they were preparing to make the long journey, the old Indian fell sick.
He lingered for weeks, trying desperately to recover enough just to make the trip, but meantime endeavoring hard to make Mr. Burke understand how he could locate the lead mine by following Indian signs and markers. The old Cherokee passed on without being able to make the trip.
Harmon returned and took up the ordeal of trying to follow the markers and signs that he found through the old Indian’s instructions. He and others dug all over the vicinity, but were never able to come up with the answer. He told the writer just before he died that he was satisfied the lead was there somewhere, for he had too much faith in his Indian relative not to believe it; besides, he had found nearly all of the markings and signs he had been told about.
Today, this place still carries on in its proper name of Nobusiness, though there is now only one family living there.
Tennessee and Scott County lost one of the last of the country’s pure Anglo-Saxon characters when Esquire Dewey Slaven died. He was born on and lived out 75 years of rural life in and around Nobusiness, and came from a large family of whom, however, at his death, only two boys and three girls remained, the boys living in Oregon and the sisters being scattered.
As to Dewey, himself, and his old-maid sister, they never budged from home until the last six months of his life, when he went to Steams, Kentucky, for medical treatment, dying there while under the doctor’s care.
Neither he nor his sister was ever married and it is said that they could live from one year to the next without the help of anyone. They lived in the house where their father had been born and where they grew everything they ate, except salt, coffee and flour. He came to Oneida only about twice a year and then, mostly, to get sweet tobacco and the news, as he called it.
They had no radio, television or any form of communication with the outside other than with those who might go there on fishing or hunting business; and, at that, they would never see Mr. Slaven or his sister, as they did not "star" (as they called it) before the fog cleared from the river; and that was usually around 9 a.m.
If you should have drifted by their house, you would have found no people more friendly or hospitable than these two; whether you were relative, friend or stranger, you were welcome to their well-rounded meal, as it is called, and to as many meals and nights’ lodgings as you desired; and without charge.
It was Dewey’s favorite program to have the visitor talk while he did the listening, as one good "staying all night" — as he termed it — was worth to him what a trip to Europe would be to others. His whole desire was to know what was going on in Oneida and "round-about places."
When a visit was over and Dewey had made up his mind it was about time for him to go for the winter or spring provisions, he would walk to the top of the mountain to the fork of the roads, to where trucks might pass by on log or lumber-hauls, and would remark that he was going to "layway" a ride to Oneida. Upon reaching "town" he liked to light up his long-stemmed pipe and start a conversation that would find one expressing his opinion as to who would be elected to the county offices, this being one of his principal reasons for "comin’ out t’town."
He usually weighed the candidates and returned home without letting anyone know who he had decided was the best man. One of the very few questions he ever asked a man during a half-day’s conversation was, "Who’s the best man runnin’?" But when the votes came in from Nobusiness — 15, 25 or whatever — you could tell how Dewey had voted and who was the best man, for many voted for themselves, but all the rest would be for one man: Dewey’s man.
The county election commissioners respected Dewey until his death. Beginning this year, there will no longer be a Nobusiness voting place, for, the last time, there were only six or eight voters, and some of them had to walk five miles to cast their ballots.
Dewey and his brothers shaved only about once a week and had rather black beards, along with well-rounded, filled-out bodies, this last especially applying to Reason, who also had a bit of a clubfoot and walked with a limp. Reason always dressed in overalls that were a little short in the waistline and often showed a little of the naked midriff at the vents in the sides of his shirt. He said these vents always gave him ventilation; anyway, they did make him a noticeable character.
Noticeable or not, there were never more sober and trustworthy citizens in Scott County than these Slaven boys.
Bill Phillips is the proprietor of one of Oneida’s general stores and is the type of merchant who likes his customers. Too, he seems never to get panicky or over-hurried, regardless of what happens, and, for this reason, his store came to be just the right place for Reason and Dewey to do most of their trading.
On one occasion, Reason was at the door when Bill opened up, which was rather early. It was the latter’s custom, when Reason was in the store, to wait on the other customers first, as this one was never in a hurry and usually stayed most of the day in the store. On this occasion, however, Phillips noticed he was picking up and sorting through some lace, so he asked,
"Can I help you, Reason?"
"Yes, I want some lace (measuring off on his fingers the length of about two inches) and some black satin and tacks." By now Bill knew what the hurry was:
Reason was buying necessary material for a coffin.
Not having been told who was dead, Phillips asked and was informed that it was Reason’s wife. Bill tells how the two large tears that rolled down Reason’s face were enough to break the heart of any man.
No stauncher characters than these Slaven boys have lived in this section of Tennessee. Their passing, with that of hundreds of others like them, has turned Nobusiness and Parch Corn, together with Williams Creek and Station Camp, over to the fishers and hunters.
FISHING & HUNTING IN NOBUSINESS IN 1914
Carl E. Smith taught school in Nobusiness in 1914 and learned as much from his students as he taught them. One of those pupils, Reason Slaven, stayed at the home of Esquire French Miller, another of the fine characters who have gone on. He was descended from one of the first to be granted land on Nobusiness and Station Camp in 1824, and lived out his ninety years there. No more loyal Americans could ever have arisen than this man and his family.
On one occasion Miller was passing the home of the writer’s father and had failed to get a shipment of legal whiskey while in Oneida. He borrowed a quart at the Smith home. For many months thereafter a quart of the liquor sat on the Miller mantle and, though during that time he might have run out, he would not touch that quart nor let anyone else do so, as he had placed it there for Mr. Smith when the latter should pay him a visit, which he did once or twice a year for the purpose of hunting and fishing.
On this first occasion it was a year before he made the visit, and during all that time the whiskey was never touched. Miller would always remark, "No, begads, sir!" That belongs to Henry Smith. I borrowed it, and he has to come after it."
Such incidents showed the firm friendship these mountain people had for each other; and, while this may be dry reading to the outside world, those of this section who came up with these folks know what it means to have such characters. Much could be said of this character, Esquire French Miller, as he was a "mainstay" in the community of Nobusiness during his ninety years of life.
He furnished sons for "Uncle Sam" and served as the law for that part of Scott County for many years, taking on all comers, good or bad; either was welcomed to his home for the "full meal," as already described, and his home was practically an inn for the general public who traveled the Monticello road. As for the "toughs," they looked like the easiest of all to him; he never turned them down; only he brought them to justice by arrest.
Miller had a lot of Irish about him other than just being redheaded, as was illustrated at the time when a neighbor had become insane, and the esquire was taking him to the Insane Institution, which was always referred to by people of this section of the state as the Insane "Asylum."
He, Mr. Miller, was coming up the river with the fellow handcuffed to the rider’s saddle. Going down the river and meeting Miller was the writer’s father, who was well-acquainted with that waterway, knowing every crook and turn of it, together with all the shoals and islands. He also was a dear friend of Uncle French and understood him, if anyone did.
There were the usual "howdys," then Mr. Smith, noticing how well-secured the fellow was to the saddle, got the impression that the latter was one of the toughest of characters; and he wanted to know why the man was so bound and where Mr. Miller was taking him, since he was not traveling the regular road to anywhere and was using the up-river path to deliver this sort of prisoner.
The reply was, "I am taking him to Solomon’s Island." Mr. Smith thought for a moment but, not remembering any place on the river by that name and thinking he might have misunderstood, again inquired where they were going, whereupon the annoyed jailer erupted, "Why, Henry, you dang fool, he’s crazy, and I’m taking him to Solomon’s Island!" (Meaning the "Insane Asylum.")
But, crazy or not, he would have delivered him; and without any help, either.
Mr. Miller reared a very sturdy and worthy family on the narrow banks of Nobusiness Creek and goes down in the history of Nobusiness as one of its noble inhabitants; but there were many fine ones; such as: the Burke boys, Peat, Hutt, Harmon, Lewis; the Blevinses, Jubber, Houston, Shade, Jake, "Darb," Crawford, Harve; the Winchester, Tusco, Haywood; the Marcums, Esquire Sherman; George Watson, and others whom writer Smith will relate some of the dry humor about.
Mr. Miller’s son, John, who later moved to Indiana and died there, "a well-to-do farmer," was fond of studhorses and always kept one for the service of farmers in the Nobusiness community. On one occasion he was plowing a very-unruly "stud." Young "Bob" Stearns had just come down from Michigan, where he was a graduate of Michigan University, to become acquainted with the holdings of the Steams Coal and Lumber Company in the Nobusiness section.
He was coming up the river on a mare that was in the state of attracting a stud. John’s horse began to take off down the hillside in an uncontrollable disposition long before the boy could discover what the trouble might be. The hillside was so steep that it was about all one could do to plow it under the most favorable of circumstances; and, even at that, you had to be able to draw up one leg so as to make it look as if it were shorter than it was; then, having accomplished that, with a "stiff upper lip" and a crawdad determination, you might, with the help of an experienced horse, plow a few rows only.
This, John was doing very well, as he had lots of experience at it. . . until down the hill the stud began to go, John trying desperately to handle him and each moment plowing up more corn than he could afford to lose, when he had just about made up his mind to "pole" the animal. To "pole" means you take up anything you can find in the way of a pole or club and warp the beast over the head to "corral" him and show who is the master.
With that in mind, John began to see what the trouble was: Mr. Steams was approaching with the little filly.
John called out to him to stop and come no "closter," as he could not hold the stud any longer; but Stearns, not being acquainted with the river people or the ordeals of this sort: a stud and a filly, along with the roar of the river and the mountain language, seemed not to understand Mr. Miller and kept riding closer and demanding to know what the latter was saying.
Finally, when half of the corn was destroyed and the stud horse had torn down about half of the fence, John shouted, "I said you are a damned fool, or a studhoss, one!"
Then there was Sherman Marcum, who reared a large family and several orphans and took in all strangers for a night’s rest and lodging. He served this part of Scott County in the capacities of esquire, school superintendent, timber trader and by helping in church affairs, as well as by being well-versed in politics. He and the Watson brothers, who were brothers-in-law of his, were among the few Democrats in this part of the county.
Sherman also had out the "mountain welcome" sign. His large family went out into the country and made good, there being one preacher, W.C. Marcum in the group.
The writer uses these families to give a general idea of just about what was going on all over Scott County from 1850 to the outbreak of the Civil War.
From 1914 to 1917, prior to America’s entry into World War I, Nobusiness was progressive and produced a good baseball team, among the members of which were the following: Will and John Miller, Sons of French; Mitchell Burke and Crawford Blevins and Charley Blevins. The last-named, when first introduced to the game, was asked to pinch-hit. He knocked a homerun, hitting the ball so far that he was able to score while the fielder was still chasing it and to watch while the latter was retrieving it. He then remarked, "I’ll just make another one."
Later on, he did make another, but this time ran the wrong way and was told it didn’t count. He demanded to know the opinion of the "empire."
In the same game, one of the players on the other team had doubled and was going on to third base, whereupon the second baseman, who had a brother playing third, hollered to the latter, "head him off, over thar; he’s comin’ on over thar!"
This page was created by Timothy N. West and is copyrighted by him. All rights reserved.