Scott County, Tennessee
FNB Chronicles

This page was created 06 Sep 2008

(page 4)

Part III:  Early Days on Paint Rock:  An Oral History

(EDITOR’S NOTE— This is the third and final installment of an oral history by LETCHER SEXTON which was recorded by his sister EDRIE HUFF in January 1979 and was later transcribed and printed in the Scott County Historical Society Newsletter).

Of course, there was turkeys and a gobbler or two strutting around back there. And then she walked on around past the end of the house and we came to more flowers. Over next to the paling fence, along that end of the fence, there was bee gums, two kinds. One was a patent white-type bee gum, kindly square and covered over and then over, scattered amongst them, were these tree bee gums, where they had cut a hollow tree down and cut it about four feet long and run sticks on the inside for the bees to build their honey on. And the bees were just all around there and I was plenty scared of being stung. But Aunt WINNIE said, “Pay no attention.”

We went on around the house and back in the house. About that time they was ready to turn me loose and let me play. But they had warned me not to bother with the little dog there they called Plato. He looked like a little fox —small teeth and quite small. But he was old and ill and ill natured. But he was attached to Grandpa and stayed right with him.

Now, I think I’d better close out on the visit by saying my Dad come up at the weekend and took me back home.

From there, I’ll skip over to the period between 1900 and 1904...

During the period of time that CAS and RACHEL SEXTON was affected by the following events of closely related people.

Grandma NANCY WEST CECIL died of cancer on her face. She had been moved from her home to the home of her daughter, NANCY, or Mrs. JAMES CARSON’s. Here she died on the twelfth of March, 1900 at the age of 67. I can remember seeing them hold her arms while she was hollering and paining with this cancer that had partly removed part of her face and particularly her left ye. She was buried at the Cecil Cherry Fork Cemetery in a well-made coffin trimmed in black muslin and padded and pitted and sewed by neighbor women, all of whom were relatives.

RACHEL CECIL SEXTON was the descen­dant of her and the twelfth child of thirteen.

On May 6, 1901, Grandpa CHRISTOPHER C. SEXTON died at the age of 59 at his home about one and a half miles southwest of Oneida. He was buried in the J. Marcum Cemetery southwest of Oneida.

In the late fall of 1901, Great-Grandma SALLY WEST PHILLIPS died at the age of 84 and was buried on the bench on the side hill across the first branch in front of the very old log cabin in which she and her husband, JOHN A. PHILLIPS, had reared 10 children. They were the parents of NANCY, who married CHRIS SEXTON, and became the mother of the CHRIS SEXTON family of nine children. CASWELL SEXTON was the first born.

On April 21, 1901, Uncle BILL (really named J.W.T. SEXTON) married ROSALEE CECIL, who was mother’s niece. After her marriage, she became Aunt ROSIE... since Uncle BILL had been staying at our home, he brought his wife into the family. Mother, LATONIA, and I loved her. She was so pretty, so nice, so kind and helpful.

About a month later, the seated them­selves in a house about a half mile up the road towards old Alma. Uncle BILL continued to work in the Paint Rock Coal Company Cornbread Mine in order to gain and meet their living needs.

March 23, 1902, a child born and named MATTHIAS SEXTON, son of ROSIE and BILL. In November, 1902, the big disappointment swooped down on the family. Rosalee became very sick and died November 28, 1902. She was bur­ied in the Cecil Cherry Fork Cemetery with relatives who passed on before her.

Sister ELLIE SEXTON was born August 7, 1901.

Brother CALIB SEXTON was born Oc­tober 1, 1902.

Grandpa “Squire” W.M. or BILL CECIL came to live with the family. He was a justice of the peace and a member of the Scott County Squires Court. He died January 2, 1903 and was buried in the Cecil Cherry Fork Cemetery.

Uncle BILL SEXTON placed baby MATTHIAS in his mother’s family to be reared by sisters WINNIE and AMANDA SEXTON. Uncle returned to stay with his brother, CASWELL and family. About 1902, Dad and Uncle BILL rented the field across the creek from Rev. BILLIE ELLIS. They tended this field in corn, beans, pumpkin and squash. The work at the mines had been reduced to two or three days a week, so there was plenty enough time for the two of them to care for the garden needs . . . . to mow, to rake, to dry and make three or four stacks of hay for the winter to feed the stock.

There were four cows roaming free. It was my chore to drive the cows to our barn for grain feed and to be milked. At this time I was taught to help my father and mother with this chore. The family collected a good supply of eggs from the chickens. There were five or six hogs, or shoats in the pins that were fed a couple of gallons of bran soured in dishwater, called slop, that had been prepared in 60-gallon barrels to which more slop was added daily. When cold weather came, about the first of December, the shoats had grown to a fat gross weight of 215 to 235 pounds. Then, Dad and Uncle butchered them, getting about 160 to 180 pounds of usable pork. During the following weeks the meat was salt-pickeled then hung in the smoke house and smoked.

During my early growing years the family had good providers. There were no shortages of pork, milk, Irish and sweet potatoes, beans and occasionally, cornmeal, that was gotten from home­grown corn that had been taken to the neighborhood water grist mills. I might add here, that Dad and Uncle BILL rented another side hill field from BILLY ELLIS either the previous year or the following year that was located between Mine No. 1 and Mine No. 2 in Pumpkin Hollow. There was a little hollow went up — the field was on the right of this little hollow— and above the No. 2 mine in the side hill. It was pretty good ground and we got some good corn, beans, pumpkin

(Continued on next page)

(Continued from page 4)

and some melons. I believe he got some mush melons from that field, too.

Now, this ends my farm statement.

Dad’s sister, SALLY, born September 25, 1877, the sixth child in the CHRIS SEXTON family, married February 14, 1900 to JAMES WATTERS. The had two children, BASWELL and NANCY WATTERS. And she died at Helenwood, Tennessee, December 9, 1923. Soon after, JAMES WATTERS left BASWELL and NANCY with Grandma and Aunt WINNIE and AMANDA, who never married, to raise these children.

Now, Aunt MARTHA married in 1906 and I’ll take that up at a little later time.

The Paint Rock Schools are of inter­est to me now; then is, the schools be­tween 1900 and 1908. As these notes are from memory, and there are dates probably in error. The location of the old Alma School was up the hollow toward SAM CARSON’s from the old Alma Com­missary and church. It had a raised platform about a foot above the regular floor for the students and Uncle REUBEN’s son, REASON CECIL, was the teacher of the first school I attended. REASON had just returned from his services in the Spanish-American War. He had been a company clerk and he was young, healthy, strong and quick-minded and very sharp-eyed — he had to be in order to keep control of that large school. He had more than 100 students enrolled.

Of course, the average attendance would be over 80 students a month. And he taught all eight grades and the school would last five months.

So, this is the school that I first at­tended. I got a whipping one day through a joke that was played on me. I was walking behind a girl about my age and some other boy run up and grabbed her around the shoulders like he was going to hug her and then give her a little push and jumped back behind me. She looked around and thought I was the guilty party and told REASON about it. So, REASON proceeded to tan my hide with one of his switches. ‘Course, we were too tough then — we wouldn’t tell on one another, even though the boy did play this joke on me.

Then, a little later, another fellow played a joke on me. MERTIE GOODMAN and IDA PHILLIPS and another girl were walking together and I happened to be behind them when some boy came run­ning through and passed me and slapped MERTIE on the behind. MERTIE turned around and thought it was me and she pushed me over and started clawing my face with her fingernails. All that I was able to do, since she was about four to five years older than I, was to tie her hair with my fingers and pull her head down so tight on my face that she couldn’t get at it with her fingers. And some of the near grown boys and girls managed to get her off of me and stop that clawing in my face. Now, I got a real talking to when I got home and I thought for sure my Dad was going to give me a licking for getting in this trouble. But it so happened that after he found out what it was all about, he didn’t proceed to whip me. Now, that was during my first school years.

After that year, another year came up and JAMES SEXTON was appointed teacher and he had such long switches carried into the room — they must have been five feet long and as big around as your forefinger where his hand went on them. Well, that scared me enough that I tried to be good enough that I didn’t get whipped with one of those switches. I managed to get by. That was 1902.

Nineteen oh three, WILLIAM T. PENNINGTON taught school at the Old Alma and the students had begun to get grown or fall off. He didn’t have so many in attendance.

After 1903, a new school house was built about a mile down the creek and about a quarter of a mile from my Dad’s place on Paint Rock. This school was 30 feet wide, 60 feet long and the framework and base was put up on tall stone pillars. These sandstone pillars had been cut from sandstone and they were hauled there and blocked and put up as supports in order to level the building. A person could walk under the front end of the school house or under the room that the larger students went, to school. The smaller students were left in the rear of the building. And each room was 30 feet square. That gave considerable room since they had now divided the enrolled children into two grades. Now, I mean by two grades, they had divided the grades into fourth grade down and fifth grade up to the eighth grade.

This first teacher that I can remem­ber in this new building was Dad’s sis­ter, MARTHA SEXTON, principal, and LETHA REED as assistant over the smaller, children. Aunt MARTHA stayed at Dad’s and Mother’s home.

Nineteen oh five there was a Miss EMMA CALDWELL. Either MAUDE MADDEN or ARNINIE BYRGE was her assistant and I cannot identify as to which one had been employed.

Then, in 1906, since they’d had a lot of trouble with the women teachers and the bigger girls and boys, a man by the name of TILDEN SPENCER and his assistant was ELLA BOSHEARS. It was at this time that CALVIN YANCEY and JULIE ALLEN family had grown a lot of sorghum cane down by Jake’s Branch. And during the fall of the year, and while this school was on, many persons went down to the stiroffs, as they were called. In this process, the cane was stripped of its fodder, then the stalks were stripped of the cane see before cutting, then taken over to where the gin mill was and run through the mill to crush the juice from them.

And that let gallons of juice go into a tank, or kind of vessel made out of tin that was put over a very hot wood fire and the juice was boiled out. All the scratch stalks were piled up in back. And then the young boys, kids and so forth, found a great deal of fun playing on these stalks — turning summersaults, wrestling and boxing and pretending of various kinds.

Then, when the juice began to boil down, it began to form a gummy skum on top, which was skimmed off into buckets. And somebody had a post hole digger there and had dug some holes around the edge of where the stalks was piled, and the boys slid some of these discards over the holes.

Now, I can remember ELLA BOSHEARS passing by and stepping into one of these gummy holes. Well, that turned the boys loose with ideas. She had to go over to the branch of Paint Rock Creek and wade in and try to get that gum off of her shoes and legs. That left it for Morgan Beans and I to try to aggravate her. We found out she was easy aggra­vated when we made us a little sort of ditty: “Ella, Ella, where have you been?” And the other one on the other side of the house would holler and sing back, “In a sorghum hole up to my shin!” And that made ELLA so mad, that they had a time consoling her. She was an excellent teacher and I think most of the students learned a great deal from her.

About that time, too, there was three boys decided to have a little fun. They had a boy named KENNEDY and his mother had him dolled up with bows on his shoulders and nice, pretty shirt and very short pants. And he was a ruddy, husky fellow with longhair that she had curled all down behind and spread out. Oh, he was pretty, I guess, to the girls, but it was an object of division for us boys.

Well, one of the boys brought an egg there.  This KENNEDY boy had a cap that had a fold in it and they decided to hide the egg on it, so they persuaded him to let them hide the egg up in this fold of his cap. Well, one of the other three boys decided he’d take a chip with him when he found the egg. So, he got him a good big chip to be sure that he was going to succeed. He felt all over this KENNEDY boy and finally he come to the point where it was time to hit.., and with this board he hit that egg that was in the roll of his cap and the yoke of the egg squished out and come out from under the cap and went down the curls. And the boy really tore his face up crying. He cried till you could hear him all over Paint Rock, I think.

One of the girls took him down to the creek and got a comb and a brush and got him to stick his head down. She finally got that out of his hair, but it plum ruined his curls.

That happened along in our school days. and then, afterwards, there was a school by JACKSON CHAMBERS in 1907. And WILLIAM T. PENNINGTON taught in 1908 and JEROME BOSHEARS was his as­sistant. Dr. (M.E.) THOMPSON began teaching the small grade student and he was called to the medical practice and quit the school about 1908 and became a regular doctor at that time.

After that, Dad sent me to Grandmother’s and my schooling began in the fall at Oneida Schools. Then I walked two miles from Grandma’s to school. I’ll take that up a little later.

During the school days at Old Alma there’s a few incidents that bare out in my memory. I can’t definitely give the dates of these incidents. On one occasion, Dad had taken me up to the creek along the road that led to Cherry Fork and we got up to, across the creek, at REASON WEST’s. I looked over the hill to the left and there were two boys in their shirt tails hoeing corn. That was ELI and DEXTER WEST, sons of old LEWIS, nick­named Pogie, who had married MINDY ELLIS, and established there close to where his Uncle REUBEN WEST lived.

Now this LEWIS WEST was the son of REASON WEST and FAIRBY(?) MARCUM.  He had brothers, GERALD TAYLOR and JACKIE WEST and others. But this was odd to me and Dad explained to me at that time that they were long, home-made, gray, woolen shirts. And these shirts come down to their knees and they could un­button around the neck and it seemed to keep them cool.

Also, at this same period, there was a young boy about my age they called WILLIE. And then there was a young man, CHARLES. This CHARLES thought he was a little bully and could handle and beat up on WILLIE a little bit. Anyway, he made a sashshay at this WILLIE, who was a little grinner. All he would do was stand there and grin —you couldn’t tell whether he was laughing, whether he was mad, or whether he was witty and having fun. But as this CHARLES got about three or four steps of WILLIE, he come out from underhanded with a nut from a molt that had been used on the railroad. And this nut hit CHARLES right in the center of his chin and knocked him down backwards. That was a lesson to me. You can’t tell what a young boy might do.

About this period, also, they had put a store down where Stanley Creek came down and joined the Paint Rock Creek, about half a mile below our home. This store was originally set up by BAILEY CARSON and his brother, HILIARY CARSON, was put in charge of it. Along about that time HILIARY joined LUTHER PENNINGTON and I as kids to wrestle with. Well, he’d take us both on. He was a little fellow, not much bigger than either of us, but he was very quick. And he kept that store on a few months, I’d say, and he got married.

He left there and MAYNARD KEETON moved his family down and took over the store building that also had a warehouse to it. The miners would oc­casionally meet there in the nights and bring their banjos, guitars, fiddles and set there and pat their foot and play their instruments. Some of them were pretty good at it. It seemed to be enjoy­able to all.

I had a school teacher from the Paint Rock Hill School come home and stay all night with me. His name was HENRY CROSS. Along the way back to the school house, we passed MAYNARD KEETON’s store. And, some way or other, he got the idea that we ought to hear a big fire­cracker, since this was along a day or so before Christmas. So, he induced me to go into MAYNARD KEETON’s and ask the price of a firecracker. And he came in with me. He and MAYNARD talked around and around and they decided that I

(Continued on page 9)

(Continued from page 5)

should get the firecracker and MAYNARD would give me credit and the firecracker would cost a dime.

Well, I let them talk me into it. So, the school teacher and I went outside and walked a few yards and HENRY said, “Let me see that firecracker.” And I turned it over to him and he took a match and lighted it and threw it as high as he could in the air. And before it hit the ground it made a big boom.

And he says, “There’s your dime. It’s gone now. You got to pay it.” Well, I had a time of getting enough work to make a dime at my age and size. I was just big enough to carry a can of blasting powder that weighed 25 pounds, so I got that firecracker paid for by MAYNARD giving me a nickle to carry a can of powder over to someone’s wagon. And this happened a couple of times and I got free of that yoke around my neck. I was afraid that I was never going to get that dime to pay ~for that firecracker. That was one hard lesson that I learned.

FNB Chronicle, Vol. 3, No. 3 – Spring 1991
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
(p4-5, 9)

This page was created by Timothy N. West and is copyrighted by him. All rights reserved.