Reminiscences of Pioneer Days in Scott County
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This is the second and final installment of the Jehu Phillips article which was first published in the Cumberland Chronicle in 1904. Phillips, an early Huntsville settler, has many descendants still living in Scott County. He was a Civil War soldier and later served for six years as Scott County Trustee. At the time this article was published, Phillips was 86 years old and one of the oldest residents of the county.)
See Part I
I helped survey Scott County and also helped lay off Huntsville, the first town in the county, said Uncle JEHU PHILLIPS who is furnishing these reminiscences. The act of establishing Scott County was passed by the legislature on December 17, 1849. This county was originally composed of fractions taken from the counties of Anderson, Campbell, Fentress and Morgan. The act provided that no more than six citizens should be taken from Fentress County. The northern boundary line of the county originally extended 58 miles east and west along the Kentucky and Tennessee state lines.
The act of the legislature states that Scott County was named in honor of General WINFIELD SCOTT.
Uncle JEHU says that about the time Scott County was organized those pioneers who had come in here had settled along New River and the different creeks. Those old settlers living on Black Wolf Creek beginning at head waters were ANDREW LEWALLEN, JACKIE POTTER, JOE LEWALLEN, old man PEAK (who was a soldier in the Revolutionary War), HINCHIE REDMAN, who lived below where the town of Glen Mary is located, and MATTHEW DAVIS; those settlers living on Brimstone Creek were Johnnie Triplett, FELIN GRIFFITH, MIKE ROBBINS, MOSE SEXTON, HARRY BAGLEY, TIM SEXTON, BILL SEXTON, ZEKE NEWPORT, and BAILEY BUTTRAM; old folks living on Straight Fork beginning at the head waters were Dolap (who was hung for killing a woman on said creek), JNO. L. SMITH, GEORGE and DREW SMITH, BILLIE and JESSIE BIRD, and JOHNNIE SHOOPMAN; the pioneers to settle on Buffalo Creek beginning at the mouth were one LEDGERWOOD, BILLIE JEFFERS, JOSHUA DUNCAN, BILLIE HUGHETT, ABSOLUM CROSS, one ROBBINSON, two MARCUMs, TOMMIE CHAMBERS and BEN DUGLEY; there were only a few on Paint Rock Creek and they were REYNOLD LAWSON (who built the first water grist mill in the county), LOUIS and ELSWICK THOMPSON, JOHNNIE CARSON, and WAYNE COTTON. The TERRY and CHITWOOD families settled in and around where the towns of Winfield and Oneida are now located. WAYNE COTTON and SAMPSON STANFIELD were the surveyors who helped survey Scott County.
I was a chain carrier and helped to survey a part of Scott County. We began at a point on the east bank of New River and about two miles from the mouth of Beech Fork then ran southwest crossing Smokey Creek in all about eight miles to the Morgan County line on the mountain between Smokey and Brimstone then Northwest about ten miles crossing Clear Fork just below the mouth of Skull Creek then on to New River at the mouth of Hone Creek, then down New River (or Big South Fork of the Cumberland River) about six miles to the mouth of Anderson’s Branch, thence northwest about nineteen miles to the Kentucky line. That was as much as I helped to survey.
The citizens of this new county voted to decide where the county seat should be located. There were three places voted. First, the TOMMIE CHAMBERS farm on Buffalo where ALEC CHAMBERS now lives, second, the LEVI CARTER farm just east of Paint Rock where JOHN B. JEFFERS now lives, and third, the farms of GEO. McDONALD and MANUEL PHILLIPS. The last named place was selected for the county site and the town of Huntsville was located. Huntsville was laid off in a town sometime during the spring of 1850. GEO. McDONALD lived near where DAN JEFFERS now lives and MANUEL PHILLIPS lived near where DEMPSIE MASSENGALE now lives. As originally laid off, the town of Huntsville only included about twenty acres. GEO. McDONALD and MANUEL PHILLIPS were the first citizens to reside in the town of Huntsville.
I was at the first circuit court held in Huntsville said Uncle JEHU PHILLIPS, when interviewed for part of these reminiscences.
This court was held in a one room long house, near where ALVIS JEFFERS’ residence now stands just east of the town spring. The house had no floor, nor windows and but one door. There were open cracks on all sides of the house. Benches were made of logs split in two, flat sides up and pegs driven in the ends. The house had been used as a "meeting house" when preaching services were conducted. This court was held in the fall of 1850 or 1851, and was in session three days. Judge ALEXANDER was judge, JOHN LEWALLEN sheriff, and JOHN L. SMITH clerk. Of those who were on the first jury I now recall—CREEKMORE, JOHNNIE CHAMBERS, ABSOLUM CROSS, JIMMIE CHITWOOD, ELIGA TERRY, JOHN GRIFFITH and ABE CROSS. Among the lawyers present were DAVE YOUNG, HORACE MAYNARD, W. KAIN, DAVID CUMMINGS, and McADO. The lawyers and judge boarded with JOHN L. SMITH who lived where DAN CHAMBERS now lives.
In those days circuit court met only twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall of the year. This court was held in the log house only twice.
The brick court house was built about the year 1851. Three brothers named NEWMAN from Knoxville were the contractors. The bricks were burned on the public square near where the frame court house now stands.
When I was a young man growing up there were no such things as wagon roads in this county. There were no wagons and people had no use for a wagon road. People did not travel about much and when they did it was along bridle paths either horseback or on foot. The first road in this county extended from Jacksboro across Buffalo and Paint Rock up Brimstone Creek across the mountain to Montgomery which was the first county seat of Morgan County. At the time this county was organized there was no wagon roads in this county leading to Jamestown, Monticello or Williamsburg.
I saw my first wagon at Jacksboro. In pioneer days here, a covered wagon was a great curiosity and men, women and children would follow one for a long distance. Before pioneers got to making wagons in this county the people would haul farm products from field to barn with a sled. Next they got to making two-wheeled ox-carts before wagons were introduced. Ox carts cost about $80 and only the well-to-do farms could afford one. I have seen farmers who had raised 500 or 600 (bushels) of corn haul it all from the field with sleds. In those days corn was only worth 25 cents per bushel. Irish potatoes one shilling per bushel, and pork was worth only $1.25 per 100 pounds gross. You could get farm hands to work for 25 cents per day and board. There were very few mules in this county before the Civil War. My father only raised two mule colts and sold them the following fall, worth about $40. A cow and calf was worth about $8 and a good yoke and oxen was worth about $30.
Before the Civil War the Whig and Democratic parties were about equally divided in this county. My father and the PEMBERTONs were Democrats. I was raised a Democrat, but after the war nearly every citizen in the county voted the Republican ticket and have been doing so since that time.
I remember that when the Civil War broke out there were three stores in Huntsville and they were owned by CARLAND, CAIN, and JOHN L. SMITH. There were also three saloons here and they were run by ABE HATFIELD, JIM McDONALD, and LOOPER.
The excellent spring in the ravine just south of the public square was one of the main reasons why the county seat was located here. This spring flows out from under a large cliff and while the stream is only about one half inch in diameter yet it remains the same in both wet and dry weather. The water is free stone.
The first well bored in Huntsville was on the lot where ALEC HUGHETT now lives. It was bored for a man named CURLOCK by a HANNAH.
The first doctor to live here was a man named SPROUL and he lived where BAILEY STANLEY now lives. He was here about two years.
When I was a young man the people were all very healthful and there was very little sickness. In those days we never heard of such diseases as pneumonia and grip and many others that people now have. The people living on rivers and creeks were troubled with fever and ague in those days more than they are now.
Before the War there were plenty of deer in this county. I killed four in one day. JACK ADKINS killed nine in one day and be did it with a flint rock rifle too. He killed them on White Oak Creek near where ISAAC RISEDEN now lives.
We used to have some big shooting matches in this county. It was a favorite sport. I remember that once Major DUNCAN and I had a match for $50. The match was on Black Wolf Creek and there were about 100 people present. We shot 60 yards with a rest and the winner of 6 best shots out of 11 was to get the $50. I remember that I was the lucky man that day.
Once I saw a shooting match for a horse. This match was on Brimstone Creek and was shot 100 yards offhand. Each shooter paid $1 for a shot. CALL NEWPORT won the horse and came within two inches of hitting his center at that distance.
You might inform your readers that elk once roamed wild over the mountains of Scott County said Uncle JEHU PHILLIPS, when furnishing part six of these reminiscences.
MIKEY LOW and wife and son Phillip and DREW CARROL were the first whites to settle on Smokey Creek. MIKE LOW went hunting and killed a bull elk on what is now called Bull Creek and I have been told that was what gave the creek its name. That was before I was born but my father got the elk’s horns from MIKE and kept them for many years. I can remember seeing the horns. They were different from a deer’s horns because they were flat where a deer’s horns are round. Father finally took the horns to Knoxville and sold them.
My grandfather TOBIE PHILLIPS lived in Virginia and owned about 60 negroes at one time. After he died and when I was about 18 years old I went with my father and Uncle JOHN PHILLIPS to Virginia to see my grandmother PHILLIPS. She then had 42 slaves on her plantation. While I was in Virginia I visited a lead mine. We made the round trip on horses. At that time a man and his horse could stay all night at most any farm for only 25 cents. But you can get one dollar now easier then you could get 25 cents then.
Scott County land is now considered for its coal. I can remember when coal was not used at all in this county, when people didn’t even use it in blacksmith shops. In those days they called it stone coal but it had no commercial value whatever.
When I was a boy there was not coal oil and people did not have any lamps. For a light people burned pine knots and later got to making tallow candles. In those days we used can forks, home made knives and pewter plates. I was about grown before father had any earthen plates. Then there were no tea cups and saucers. People drank their coffee and milk out of tin cups.
Those few who could write made their own ink and wrote with goose quill pens. HORACE MAYNARD was a lawyer and he wouldn’t write with anything else but a goose quill pen. I never saw a lead pencil until after the Civil War.
During the spring of 1861 DAVID SHARP, who lived two miles below Jacksboro, and I took two droves of hogs to Atlanta, Georgia and sold them. We found the people there in a great cavil over the question of succession or the right of a state to withdraw from the Union. We returned from Atlanta in March. In April a call was made by JEFF DAVIS for men to fight. He claimed to the Ohio River for the South. ABE LINCOLN, President of the United States, also made a call for men to fight for the United States. When ABE LINCOLN ran for President in 1860 people called him a black republican and he received only one vote in Scott County. That vote was cast by SHADE LEWALLEN who lived in Huntsville. In 1862 SHADE died of small pox in Huntsville and was buried in what is now an orchard just south of the Baptist church building. The men in Scott County in 1861 were opposed to the United States Government being divided or busted up and that is why they nearly all went into the Union Army to fight. They were for the Union to stand.
Everybody from Scott County had to go to Camp Dick Robinson in Kentucky to enlist. That camp was about 125 miles from Huntsville and about one mile from what is now High Bridge, Kentucky.
Out of the Scott County men who enlisted in the Federal Army for three years service the following were appointed captains: ABE CROSS, WAYNE COTTON, WILL ROBBINS and JOHN NEWPORT. A company consisted of 102 men and these four each organized a company in Scott County and took the men to Camp Dick Robinson and enlisted. ABE CROSS got up the first company and WAYNE COTTON the next. I believe three companies were organized in 1861 and one in 1863.
When ABE LINCOLN ran for President the second time most of the voters of Scott County were fighting in the Union Army but there had been a wonderful change in sentiment and most of those in Scott County voted for ABE LINCOLN for President.
I belonged to what was known as the National Guards in the year 1863 and helped to guard the roads from Williamsburg, Kentucky to Clinton, Tennessee. There were three companies containing 106 men. JOSEPH NEWPORT, DENNIS TRAMMEL and WINCE CROWLEY were the captains of those three companies. TRAMMEL was my captain.
FNB Chronicle, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Winter 1991
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
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