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
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.
SEXTON was born October 1, 1902.
“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
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
and some melons. I
believe he got some mush melons from that field, too.
Now, this ends my
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
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
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
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
should get the
firecracker and MAYNARD would give me credit and the firecracker would cost a
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
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