Brimstone: mountain homeplace of the Griffiths
By JOSETTA GRIFFITH
FNB Chronicle Editor
JOSEPH (Sugar Joe) GRIFFITH (a descendant of Revolutionary War Joseph) married SARAH NEWPORT November 23, 1860. (Assistance is needed in linking this Joseph back to Revolutionary War Joseph. Anyone with information in this regard is asked to contact Freddie Griffith, 615-663-2408). Their farm consisted of the area on both sides of Brimstone Creek near the site of the Laddy Coal Company camp. Their children married and settled close by. ANDREW and his wife, MARTHA, settled on Griffith Mountain. BERNETTE married JESSE BROWN and they raised their family in the vicinity of Nydeck near Glenmary. ELIZABETH married JIM RICH and their place was on a bench of the mountain near Hamby Gap. MAYNARD married ARMELDIE NEWPORT and they raised a family of eight on Round Mountain. LUCY was the second wife of WRIGHT GRIFFITH and they raised six children beside Brimstone Creek about a mile from the Lone Mountain Church. CALVIN married OLIVE ROBBINS and they raised their family of six on top of Griffith Mountain. The backside of Griffith Mountain slopes off to Indian Fork. ELMER and his wife, FLORINDA, raised a family on the Brimstone side of Griffith Mountain.
Maynard Griffith and
Only a few families live now in what is known as "the head of Brimstone" and no one lives where the old home places were around the mountain tops. Only a few chimneys and fruit trees mark where the subjects of this story lived and raised their families. But most of the remaining families can trace their ancestors back to Revolutionary War Joseph.
Times were not easy. Food for the table came from hunting or was raised on the farm. A variety of methods for preserving food for winter included canning, smoke curing, drying, holing up, and pickling to name a few. Medicines had to be concocted from handed-down herbal recipes and home remedies were used to "doctor" the sick because medical doctors were miles away. Clothing was handmade, and spinning wheels were commonplace. Everyone raised large vegetable gardens and fruit trees were plentiful. Corn and hay for the livestock had to be raised. Washboards and cast irons heated on a stove were how the womenfolk kept the laundry done. One room schools were located throughout the valleys, but if crops were coming in or hogs needed to be slaughtered, school was out of the question. A few were able to complete their educations, but not many.
Even into the 1940s horse drawn wagons provided transportation to church and to visit neighbors. Only a few cars were owned and those usually by Sons who had gone to work in the coal mines. Lanterns and carbide lights were carried at night by those who walked to church.
Church services not only provided spiritual uplifting, but also were about the only social gathering enjoyed by these folk. Not everyone who attended went to enjoy a divine spiritual experience. Some clustered outside and were known to partake of a "spirit" that probably was bottled in one of the many nearby hollows.
Jim Rich and wife, Elizabeth
Bernette Griffith Brown
Coal mining began in Brimstone around 1890. These were deep mines and miners tunneled miles underground to extract the rich resource that lay beneath the mountains. Mine openings dotted the hillsides. Around the turn of the century, railroad tracks were laid further up the valleys to the farthest reaches to haul out timber. The finest hardwood timber to be found was logged from the Brimstone mountains. Logs laying on boxcars were taller than the loggers. Logging continued into the 1940s. Strip mining of coal, where the caps of the mountains were circled by heavy machinery to extract coal seams, began in the 1950s. Stringent government regulations and low coal prices virtually shut down the coal business in the 1970s; only a few companies remain in operation.
The Round Mountain Lumber Company began purchasing the Brimstone land and mineral rights in 1909. The Payne Family of Harrisburg, PA. purchased the holdings of Round Mountain Lumber Company in the 1920s. HOWARD BAKER (elder) managed the land company which came to be known as Payne-Baker and ended up with 1/9th of the holdings. Today most of the land known as Brimstone is owned by the Brimstone Company, a land management company purchased in 1972 by RSB (ROLLINS, SWAIN and BAKER). The Brimstone Company name evolved and is now owned by SWAIN, ROLLINS, STANSBERRY, WORTHINGTON, and TIPPY . W.H. (Bill) SWAIN is the managing partner. Logging is again underway in the Brimstone mountains.
Several producing oil and gas wells have been in operation in the Brimstone area since the local oil boom two decades ago.
The view from the mountain tops of the valleys and hills below is a breath-taking vista when the hardwood trees are in full color in October. The brilliant reds, yellows and oranges dotted with evergreens stretch for miles in every direction. The view rivals any you may have ever seen.
No one knows how Brimstone got its name; it conjures up thoughts of "hell and brimstone" to some, but all who lived and grew up there, even through hard times, harbor only fond memories of the place they called home and still bring their grandchildren and great-grandchildren on annual treks for "homecomings" to see where the old homeplaces were.
Research on the Griffiths is on-going — anyone who can fill in the blanks in the accompanying family branches (or correct errors) is asked to contact FREDDIE GRIFFITH at 615-663-2408 or GRIFF EVANS at 817-267-0732.
Goto Joseph "Sugar Joe" Griffith Lineage to see the Griffith Lineage information provided with this article.
FNB Chronicle, Vol. 6, No. 2 – Winter 1995
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
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