[EDITORíS NOTE The following article was published by Esther Sharp Sanderson on January 8, 1965 as part of her "Profiles In Courage" series of newspaper articles in the Scott County News. The entire collection of articles is now on sale in book form by the Scott County Historical Society].
January 8, 1965
More than a half century ago, there lived on Paint Rock a Christian gentleman, CASWELL SEXTON, his good wife, RACHEL, and a brood often healthy, happy youngsters. Mr. SEXTON was a coal miner by trade, but he owned a small farm on which he and his children worked to help supplement the low income that he received from his work in the dark confines of the narrow seams of coal beneath the surface of the hills up and down the creek.
Almost as soon as the boys learned gee from haw, they plowed the fields. Those too young to plow followed along behind the plow with their weeding hoes. There were occasional clod fights in the fields, and if the weather was unusually hot the boys would dive in the old swimming hole in their birthday suites to cool off. "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" thought the SEXTON boys. They managed to sandwich in enough fun to remain alert. In the evening, when their father was seen emerging from the mouth of the mines overlooking the farm, the daily task was finished and the boys were free to take their guns and go into the woods to hunt. Some good fat rabbits, squirrels, groundhogs, raccoons, opossums, quails and pheasants added variety to the meals which consisted principally of produce from the farm.
In spite of the low income from the farm and the mines, Mr. and Mrs. SEXTON managed to keep their family well fed and with sufficient clothing to be in school every day. They too occupied their places in church and Sunday School, come rain or shine, snow or sleet, the SEXTON parents and their big family were present at both services. Mr. CASWELL SEXTON was a pillar in the Paint Rock Baptist Church, serving as elder and Sunday School superintendent for many years.
A familiar scene marching down the aisles each Sunday morning was the sprightly, vivacious, well-groomed mother of ten. Like stair steps from the oldest to the youngest, LETCHER, LATONIA, MANFORD, ELIE, CALEB, MAXWELL, ALTON, OSWELL, EDRIE and MALVIN took their seats in the classes and places in the choir. LATONIA served as organist for many years. All the children attended the Almy Elementary School, and all but LETCHER attended the Huntsville High School. The whole SEXTON family was interested in education, and they walked about ten miles a day to and from school, being financially unable to board. They were active in all extra curricular activities; school plays, debates and especially athletics in which they excelled. Better players never graced the basketball courts nor threw their weight about on the football fields than the children of the Sexton families. Competition was in their blood and it had to come out.
There was little money beyond actual necessities in the SEXTON home, but there was joy and a heap of living within the walls of that old frame building. In early life the children learned to give and take and to accept responsibility. How very rich are those children who are so very richly blessed with these attributes. But their happy home life was shattered by the sudden death of their kind father in a mine explosion on Christmas Eve day. Little did MANFORD think as he held the head of his dying father in his lap that his education would be curtailed in order for the younger children to continue theirs. Upon his young shoulders and the brave and courageous mother fell the hard task of keeping the large family together and educating them. They were equal to the occasion.
The three younger children, EDRIE, MALVIN, and OSWELL, finished high school and went to work to put themselves through college, later received their M.A. degrees. In the meantime, MANFORD taught school and with the help of the younger children during vacation they continued to operate the farm. Six of the SEXTON children taught public school in Scott County; namely, LETCHER, MANFORD, MAXWELL, OSWELL, EDRIE and MALVIN. MALVIN served two terms as Scott County School Superintendent and Mrs. EDRIE HUFF served as Scott County Public School Supervisor. MAXWELL finished law school and is at present a practicing attorney in Oneida, Tennessee. MANFORD served several terms as Circuit Court Clerk. Five of the Sexton boys served in the various branches of the armed services of their country. Mrs. SEXTON passed away a few years ago. Two of her children, Caleb and Elie (Mrs. M. DOBBS) preceded her in death. Eight are still living.
In the early history of what is now Scott County, there were three items that were indispensable to the early settlers. One was THE BOOK, the BIBLE, another was the axe used in felling the trees and shaping the logs that went into their cabins in the clearing, the last but nowise the least important was the trusty rifle, Old Betsy. Upon their merits as marksmen, depended the wild game that helped to feed their pioneer families. The CECIL and SEXTON men were known the country round as expert shots. When they met at the shooting matches, it was a common occurrence for them to carry home the first choices of beef or the big fat turkeys.
According to statistics, young men in the armed services from East Tennessee were experts on the rifle range. In fact, they were considered the best. It was an inherent trait handed down from father to son to bark a squirrel from the highest tree or to shoot a fowl in flight. Servicemen like the late Sergeant ALVIN C. YORK and our own Scott County boy, ARCHIE ALTON SEXTON, developed most unusual skills roaming the mountains in search of necessary game. Times were hard and ammunition was not too plentiful. They developed through pride and necessity, a skill that was to bring them fame in the years ahead.
People are aware of the fame of Sergeant YORK, but we doubt if too many are aware of the outstanding achievements of ARCHIE ALTON SEXTON. He served in the Cavalry and in the regular army before accepting positions as Lieutenant in the Protection Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the branch office in Detroit. He lives in Chicago where he continues to work in the Protection Department of the Federal Reserve Bank. It has been during his duties in connection with the bank that he has amassed a most remarkable record with 110 medals to his honor.
According to the "Commentator," a monthly publication of the Chicago Reserve Bank, the Protection Department is going to run out of exhibit cases to display ARCHIE ALTONís medals. That is, if he keeps up his present pace.
He recently won the departmentís quarterly shoot which brings his total of medals up to 110. For thirty years he has been on the "No. 1 Team" for the department, and one-fifth of the medal honors given to the department are to his credit.
From 1934 to 1945, the Bankís Protection Department won 90 percent of the competitive shooting matches in the state. "Then a score of 250 was tops," ARCHIE ALTON said, "now pistol matches are more competitive and the shooter must reach the 280 or 290 mark to be good."
He has only one higher level to shoot for, that of master. Once ALTON shot a score of 280 which puts him in the category of master. "But you have to do that three times in a row, and it isnít so easy," he qualified.
ALTON says that shooting is hard on the nervous system because you cannot flinch, and you are always anticipating that "boom." ALTON says that he tries to have 70 or 80 rounds of practice shots per month. In 1942 he started wearing glasses, but says he, "It didnít affect my sharp eye. I can still see good at a distance." This expertís goal is "to watch potential young shooters in the department be able to win."
ALTON, may we suggest that the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank buy some round trip tickets for your fellow workers to spend some Indian Summers in the beautiful hill country of Scott County where they can learn the lore of field and stream and join in a "turkey shoot" where a "bullís eye:" is easy to come by. There are not witches left to spell "Old Betsy."
FNB Chronicle, Vol. 3 No. 1 Ė Spring 1991
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
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