Patty Barthell Myers
15 Camp den Circle
San Antonio, TX 78218-6053
August 19, 2002
925 Woodview Lane
Knoxville, TN 37909
Here are my grandfather's Mountain Stories, which I included in my genealogical
record, Descendants of Joseph Barthel" and His Wife Christina Lutz, privately
published, 1991. These stories will also appear in a record I am currently
preparing on my mother's paternal grandparents -Ancestors and Descendants
of Thomas Rice Lyon and His Wife Harriet Wade Rice. I had hoped
to get this one out this year, but I'm afraid it'll be next year before I
can get it done.
Thomas Rice Lyon hired my Grandfather Barthell to investigate land titles
for him in Tennessee and Kentucky. These lands T.R.Lyon later sold to his
brother- in-law Justus S. Stearns, founder of Stearns Coal & Lumber
Company in Kentucky. Justus S. Steams had married Paulina Lyon, sister of
T.R.Lyon. Thomas Rice Lyon later went into investment banking in Chicago
(Lyon, Gary & Co.). My Grandfather Barthell became attorney for Lyon,
Gary & Co., and also for Stearns Coal and Lumber Co. The family connections
get a bit complicated - Justus and Paulina (Lyon) Stearns had a son, Robert
Lyon Stearns, who married Laura Freeman, sister of Florence Freeman, wife
of Edward East Barthell.
I am also enclosing some biographical material on my Grandfather Barthell,
which appeared in my Barthell record and also in my book Ancestors
and Descendants of Lewis Ross Freeman with related families, 1995,
Penobscot Press. (Read more regarding Patty's book Ancestors and Descendants of Lewis Ross Freeman with Related Families)
The page numbers on Mountain Stories are not correct. In the Barthell genealogy
they start on page 390. I don't know where they will start in the Lyon-Rice
genealogy, but they'll be at the end. I am still proofreading that.
Patty Barthell Myers
" Original spelling was Barthel, but father of Edward East Barthell decided
to add a second "L" because he thought it looked better that way.
Edward East Barthell, son of John Peter Barthell and
Fannie Card Barthell, was named for Edward Hazzard East, who had been Governor
Andrew Johnson's Secretary of State during the War Between the States, and
became one of Nashville's leading lawyers of all time. He was a man of varied
interests and was a successful practitioner at the bar of two states. He
was a member of the Illinois State, Tennessee and American Bar Associations.
Young Edward E. Barthell, after preliminary education
at local schools, entered the Vanderbilt University Law Department from which
he graduated in 1888, taking the Founder's Medal. One of his classmates was
John Bell Keeble. Both were members of the Kappa Alpha Order. After graduation,
they formed a Nashville law partnership with the name of Barthell and Keeble.
It was customary for young lawyers of the day to participate
in politics, in order to become known to the public, and Mr. Barthell was
twice elected to the Nashville City Council from the 19th Ward, in East Nashville,
serving from 1893 to 1897. He was selected as the City Council's representative
on the Executive Committee of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Among other
activities, he became a member of the Old Oak Club in 1897, and later a member
of the Nashville Board of Education of which he was president when the new
Hume-Fogg High School was dedicated in 1912. At that dedication the presiding
official said that since Mr. Barthell had been supported in his youth by
the handrail on the stairs of the old school, it seemed proper to give him
a cane made from the wood of that handrail, for support in his old age. It
was a gracious speech, graciously acknowledged, but Mr. Barthell had never
attended the old school. He was one of the incorporators of Columbia Military
Academy and in 1905 served as president of its board of trustees.
Mr. Barthell's law practice led him into title work;
Mr. Keeble meanwhile was devoting most of his time to the Louisville &
Nashville Railroad Company. Their partnership was dissolved, and after practicing
for a short while with Frank Slemons, Mr. Barthell headed the firm of Barthell
and O'Connor, later Barthell, Howell and O'Connor. His title work took him
frequently to Chicago, where he opened a law office; and in 1915 he moved
his family to Chicago, giving up his Nashville connections. He was admitted
to practice in Chicago in 1916, becoming associated with Mr. Henry
Fitts and later with Mr. Charles O. Rundall. Until 1925 he was a member
of the firm of Barthell, Fitts and Rundall. Subsequently he continued his
association with Mr. Rundall under the firm name of Barthell and Rundall.
At the time of his death he was the senior member of the firm of Barthell,
Schroeder and Hatmaker.
Mr. Barthell had become a recognized authority on timber
land titles, and his opinion was almost a prerequisite to marketability of
bonds secured by mortgages on timber lands. His reputation in this field carried
him into practically every timber growing state in the Union. It has been
stated that directly or indirectly he had occasion to pass upon the titles
to a larger area of land in this country than any other individual practitioner
of his generation. He was recognized as the outstanding authority on Appalachian
Mountain real estate titles.
Mr. Barthell was one of the first Vanderbilt alumni nominated
for membership on the Board of Trust of that institution through ballots of
members of the Alumni Association. A close associate said of him: "He had
two hobbies, the service of his friends and Vanderbilt University." He was
elected to membership in June 1920 and was again nominated and elected in
1928, when his term expired. Thereafter, in 1936, the Board of Trust through
its own action elected him to another term, which he did not live to complete.
He died in Chicago, Illinois, 8 May 193. (Waller¹, pp. 237-8; Chicago
Bar Record, Vol. XIX, pp. 21, 23, November, 1937, No.1.)
¹ William Waller, Nashville 1900-1910 (1972) Vanderbilt Univ.
Press, Nashville, Tenn.
All rights reserved Copyright (Q 2002 Florence B. Myers
International Standard Book Number: 0-9672230-2-4 Library of Congress Catalog
Card Number: 00-109714
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted in any form or by any means whatsoever, whether electronic,
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First Printing 2002
This book is available from
Florence ("Patty") B. Myers 15 Campden Circle San Antonio, TX 78218-6053
Manufactured in the United States of America San Antonio, Texas
WHO CAME TO AMERICA 1830 ON THE ROMULUS AND WHO SETTLED
IN ERIE COUNTY, N. Y.
Patty Barthell Myers
15 Campden Circle
San Antonio, TX 78218
Edward East Barthell
Beginning about the year 1898 I had business which caused
me to spend a good deal of time in the mountains of east Tennessee and eastern
Kentucky. During that time I became quite well acquainted with a number
of people of that section, including many who are ordinarily called "mountaineers,"
and in fact have made a number of real friendships with them.
During these years I've had many experiences which were
somewhat unusual and, to me, interesting. From time to time I told these
stories and repeatedly it has been suggested that I should write them for
publication. I shall not do just that, but at the moment I think that I shall
dictate them to a stenographer with the idea that they may be typed and perhaps
come into hands more competent than mine to put them in appropriate ;shape
for publication, should it be thought that they would be interesting enough
for that purpose.
There are several mountain ranges in the section referred
to, all of them parts of the Allegheny range. The highest mountains in the
Allegheny, some of which rise to a height of sixty-five hundred feet, are
the Great Smoky Mountains, the crest of which range is the border line between
North Carolina and Tennessee. From one hundred to one hundred fifty miles
west of the Great Smokies are the Cumberland Mountains, the maximum height
of which is about two thousand feet. In the Cumberland there is a plateau
thirty or forty miles wide and perhaps sixty miles long, which is called
the Plateau of the Cumberland, and here the land is nearly level, being cut
occasionally by gorges several hundred feet deep. The Cumberland Mountains
are principally in Wayne, McCrary and Whitley counties, Kentucky, and in
Claybourne, Scott, Fentress and Pickett counties in Tennessee.
In these mountains are found people whose ancestors
immigrated from Virginia and North Carolina shortly before and for some
years after the Revolutionary War, when the only convenient means of travel
was by the waterways.
It was not easy to go from the mountains to the low
country or from the low country to the mountains, and one result has been
that, until the coming of railroads and more particularly of automobiles
and good highways which were built for them, the people who settled in those
mountains "stayed put," and the invasions from the outside were comparatively
few. The old names and the old habits have persisted. For decades they have
raised their sheep, sheared the wool, washed it, combed it, dyed it, spun
it into thread, wove it into cloth, and from it made their own clothes.
The soil is thin, yet they ate practically nothing but
what they raised themselves. Perhaps the average family did not spend more
than twenty-five to fifty dollars a year at the "store."
What they drank was likewise manufactured out of what
they raised. They made "coffee" out of parched corn and they made other
beverages out of corn and other grains that were not parched. Until recently
bear, deer, turkey, and other game were in abundance, and many mountaineers
made their own firearms which were as useful as plow-shares in feeding the
family. There are many living in the mountains today who still make their
own rifles, as incredible as that statement appears. These rifles and other
firearms were not dictated solely to the killing of game and the hunting
of food. The people of the mountains, as well as those of the plains, are
human; and their loves and hates, pleasures and sorrows are just as strong,
perhaps stronger; and sometimes a feud, instead of food, was an occasion
for their use.
The Blevins, Hatfields, McCoys, Kidds, Fosters, Piles,
Wrights, Peavyhouses and Kings -all know how to shoot, and it was in this
country and from these people that Sergeant York learned "never to miss."
For some reason, perhaps because the United States Government
had sent "revenuers" through the country which interfered with the making
of whiskey, the mountaineers are naturally suspicious of strangers and take
no one into their confidence until they at least think they know all about
him and that he is worthy. An unaccompanied stranger might spend weeks or
even months traveling the section and come out without having really learned
but little about the people. But when one has gained their confidence, he
has nothing to fear and can implicitly depend upon their assistance in case
of need. Ordinarily they are wary of answering questions, particularly questions
of a personal nature. It has often been said that it is impossible to get
a categorical reply to any questions that may be asked them excepting as
to how long they have had possession of a certain piece of property.
"Possession" is the most important feature in connection
with the title to any mountain land, and every mountaineer is a born land
lawyer when it comes to claiming title by possession. If asked, therefore,
in Tennessee he is certain he has maintained possession of a certain piece
of property for seven years, or in Kentucky for fifteen years, these periods
being the statutory period of requisite to make title in those respective
states, and the mountaineer will not hesitatingly answer yes. But to any
other question the answer will probably be an evasion until, at least, such
time as he can figure out what may be the result of his reply.
However, I started out to tell stories and not to describe either the people
or the country in which they live.
In connection with the first story, it must be borne
in mind that the entire section of the country is very strongly Republican.
In fact, it is said that when Cleveland was President in 1884 he couldn't
find a Democrat in Scott County to appoint Postmaster at Huntsville, the
county seat, and they brought in a man from a nearby county to fill the office.
In 1898 or 1899 for a client, who had made money in
the purchase and sale of timber lands in the north [Thomas R. Lyon], I went
to the Cumberland Mountains for the purpose of buying a tract of timbered
property. The area that was wanted comprised about 50,000 acres, and it
was acquired from quite a number of people, some who had only "possession
titles" and others whose titles depended largely upon their rifles.
After acquiring the property I had thirty or forty deeds
to record in the real estate records, and some of them were very long. Haywood
Pemberton, who had formerly been County Superintendent of Schools, had recently
been elected County Register, this being the officer who records real estate
conveyances. Haywood was a very accurate officer, but he wrote just about
as fast as he plowed; and it was manifest that it would take him two or
three weeks to spread these deeds of record I had been a telegraph operator
and had learned to write rapidly. I wanted to see that the deeds were properly
recorded and get back to Nashville as soon as possible. I, therefore, suggested
to Haywood that he would let me transcribe the deeds to the records and
I would pay him the fees thereby nevertheless. At which he replied: "No
siree. Just so long as Haywood Pemberton is County Register o' Scott County,
Tennessee, they don't nobody but him er one of his sworn deputies write
in his books." I told him that, having now become a property owner in this
county, I was very glad to hear him take that position and to know that
the records of the county were going to be faithfully kept. And then a bright
thought occurred to me and I suggested to him to swear me in as a deputy
and then I would do the work and he would get the pay. Sitting across the
little pine table, he looked into my eyes with a seriousness which forebode
the wrath of God said, "I see your game." This took me somewhat aback and
I inquired, "What game?" To which Haywood replied, "An' the next time Haywood
Pemberton runs for County Register o' Scott County, Tennessee, he'll be beat
because he'd had a Democratic deputy."
Many of the mountaineers are quite thrifty, and some
of them are punctilious in small things, as may be surmised from another experience
that I had with this same County Register of Scott County, Tennessee. I had
business in that office one fall or winter when the days were short. The
rule of persons working for others is to work from "kin" to "cain't," which
means from "can see" to "can't see." In other words, from daylight until
it is too dark for the work which is on hand. There was no electricity in
the county, and the Register's office was not equipped with either lamps
or candles. Wanting to put in some longer hours, I told Haywood that if
he would come back at night I would pay him for his time in sitting in the
office while I was at work. He replied that he didn't feel like er sittin'
in er cold office." Which is practically saying that he didn't want the expense
of keeping a fire in the stove. I told him that I would buy coal, whereupon
he interjected, "You cain't work by firelight." To which I replied that
if he would buy a couple of lamps, I would pay for them. He then asked,
"What about the chimneys, wicks and oil?" Whereupon I agreed to pay the
expenses of that purchase. I was in the office two or three nights. When
I paid him for his services he said, "What are you going to do with your
coal?" (I had bought some little more than we had used.) I told him that
he might have it. He then inquired, "What are you going to do with your lamps?"
To which I replied that I would leave them there for the accommodation of
anyone who might subsequently want to work at night. He wound up with the
question, "Does that include the chimneys, wicks and oil or are you goin'
to take them with you?"
Huntsville is four miles from the railway. The courthouse
sits in the middle of an acre or two of land which doubtless was dedicated
about a hundred years ago for a public square. The square is the center
of the city's activities. It might be called the broad, bright way when
the sun is shining. At all other times it is anything but bright. It is the
gathering place for the entire county on "court day," and there is the gathering
place for all of the bearded old men and some of the younger men at other
times. I have often been there in summer when games of taw were played from
"kin" to "cain't." This is a game of marbles; one placed in each comer of
a square about two feet wide and long and another in the center. The players
stand some distance away and shoot at the marbles with another marble. I've
seen bearded men from fifty to eighty play the game for hours at a time,
always stopping when the hotel bell rang for dinner at noon to go to their
homes for the mid-day meal, but resuming again in half an hour.
Philosophers are not unknown in the mountains, but sometimes
their philosophy is just a bit unconventional. For years a strong, upstanding,
hard- working, woman named Polly Chambers ran the hotel. It was a building
that would ordinarily accommodate ten or twelve persons, but the guests
"doubled up" when more were present. Ordinarily Polly did all of the work.
She was manager, chambermaid, cook, waitress, and general roustabout. She
cut her own stove wood, brought up the coal and made the fire. Her husband,
"Dan," was her star boarder, neither paying board or turning a hand toward
assisting her. He had two horses and a spring wagon which he called the
hack, and he drove the hack to Helenswood -the railway station -four miles
distant, twice a day. He employed a small boy to take care of the horses
and to hitch and unhitch them to the hack, the pay being his board which
was furnished by Polly.
Sitting out on the porch one night after supper and
picking his teeth with a splinter about eight inches long which he had pulled
from a loose board on the side of the house, Dan said to me: "Mr. Barthell,
a man ought to be mighty good to his wife, oughtn't he?" Thinking that this
gave me the opportunity to impress upon him the duties of a husband, I decanted
at some length about women being the burden bearers, of how they put up
with thoughtless, if not worse, treatment by their husbands, and so forth.
After which he replied: "I've always been mighty good to Polly. You know,
I never have charged her nuthin' for haulin' her stuff from the railway
Recurring to Haywood Pemberton -After being defeated
for re-election as County Register, he got a license to practice law. So far
as I was able to learn the license was the only evidence that he had of being
a lawyer. Pride in his personal appearance was not his principal characteristic,
but he changed his shirt and shaved nearly every week, generally on Sunday.
He did not wear collars excepting when he went to some other town which was
probably once or twice a year. He wore no vest, and his coat and trousers
that he wore around Huntsville had manifestly seen years of service, as was
evidenced by holes in the elbows, knees and seat. He was fairly acute with
reference to his own interest in connection with some other matter, as was
shown by another experience that I had with him, to wit: I was employed in
connection with a proposed lumbering operation, and among other things, required
right of way for a logging way road to bring the timber to the saw mill.
I employed Mr. John Toomey of Helenswood, who was probably the most prominent
man in the county, to buy this right of way. The transaction was holding
for some time during which I went to Scott County to see what progress was
being made and to straighten out the few snarls. Since I had been down there,
some years ago, the road had been graded from Helenswood to Huntsville. Shortly
out of Helenswood we saw a woman walking toward Huntsville.
She had on a sunbonnet and her dress was in keeping.
Mr. Toomey told me, "That's Nancy Long. We're er buying a right er way across
her farm and she's goin' to Huntsville to sign the deed." I thereupon stopped
the Ford and asked her to ride over with us, which she did.
Judge William H. Buttram, of which more anon, had kindly
given the use of his office to a couple of lawyers who were assisting me
in the transactions, and I though that Mrs. Long would go with us to that
office to sign the deed. When we got out of the Ford, however, she said that
she wanted "to go over here a ways, but I'll be back arte while." Mr. Toomey
and I went in Judge Buttram's office where the other lawyers and I discussed
matters for a couple of hours or more before Mrs. Long put in her appearance.
Haywood Pemberton came with her. From the conditions of his beard, his shirt
and general appearance, it must have been Saturday. You remember, he sometimes
changed his shirt and shaved on Sunday. They came in, sat down. The facial
expression of the mountaineers is immobile. Not speaking from experience,
but surmise, I would say that they must be good poker players. Without change
of expression and with expressionless voices the conversation proceeded
about as follows:
"Howdy do." "Howdy do." "Purdy day." "Purdy day."
I had bought a great deal of land in that neighborhood,
and depending upon the property and circumstances, had paid anywhere from
$250 to $700 an acre for it. The right of way was before me; and after making
a calculation, I said,: "It seems to me that five hundred dollars is a pretty
good price for one and thirty-three hundredths acres of mountain land."
By Haywood, remarked to Mr. Toomey: "Jawn, Mizzus Long tells me as how
you're er buyin' right er way across her farm."
By Mr. Toomey: "Yes."
By Haywood: "You know, Jawn, Mizzus Long ain't had much experience in business
and she thought as how she oughta talk it over with a more experienceder
By Mr. Toomey: "Yes."
By Haywood: "Mizzus Long knows as how you want to treat her fair, but she
just thought that some more experienceder person oughta talk it over for
By Mr. Toomey: "Yes."
By Mrs. Long, in a plaintive but resigned voice: "Yes, Mr. Toomey always
been mighty good to us pore folks. Whenever we've been hongry he sends us
er piece 0' bacon and a bag 0' meal."
By Haywood: "I knowed, Jawn, that you want to be fair, but I was just er
wondering if you've offered her enough for it."
By Mr. Toomey, to me: "We've already er traded."
By Haywood: "Yes, I know, Jawn, you've already er traded, but I knowed
that if you hadn't given her enough for it, you would be willin' to pay
her what's right."
By Mr. Barthell: "How much have you agreed to pay Mrs. Long, John?" By
Mr. Toomey: "Five hundred dollars."
Thereupon the scene changed. Haywood, who up to that
time had been so undemonstrative immediately became volcanic. He turned to
his client, waved his arms in the air and in a loud and outraged voice said,
"Thar now, Nancy, what have I been er tellin' you for the last two hours?
Haven't I been er tellin' you that they'd take advantage of a pore, lone
widow woman? I've known Mr. Barthell for nigh on to twenty years. He thinks
he's honest, but he's been alivin' up thar in Chicago among them rich people
for so long he don't think that pore people got no rights."
Somewhat surprised at Haywood's explosion, I inquired,
"Why, what's the matter, Haywood?" To which he replied, "It's one and thirty-four
The conversation proceeded to the point where Haywood
demanded six hundred dollars. His idea of value apparently grew with his
indignation, for he was shortly demanding seven hundred and fifty dollars
and then a thousand A couple of hours afterward we were served an injunction
to prevent our carrying out the trade, which it developed had been made with
Mrs. Long in writing. I've never been able, as a lawyer, to figure out just
why the judicial proceedings, as Mrs. Long could have declined to sign, which
would then force us to either come to her terms or take action. But we were
served with a process owning bill charging us with all manner of fraud in
taking advantage of a pore, lone widow woman, "without no experience in business
Mr. Toomey subsequently told me that
he ended up the case with Haywood by making a gross payment of five hundred
and fifty dollars, out of which the court costs were paid and a fee of two
hundred and fifty to Haywood, Haywood having thus abundantly protected the
"pore, lone widow woman, without no experience in business."
Report on the titles of some of the property that was
bought required an examination of the records at Jamestown, Tennessee, which
is the county seat of Fentress County. At that time the nearest railroad
point to Jamestown was Rugby Road, on the Cincinnati Southern Railway, from
which station one had to drive about thirty miles over at times an almost
impassable mountain road.
In coming back from one of my early trips to Jamestown,
my driver, John Goad, asked me if I would like to have a bottle of wine
and said that a woman who lived a few miles ahead of us made "mighty good
wine," and that she sold it for a dollar a bottle. As we approached her
house he went in to make the purchase. He stayed quite a while, during which
time a woman came to the door and took a long look at me as I sat in the
wagon waiting for Goad's return. When Goad came back he carried a bottle
with him and said, "She thought you might be a 'revenuer' but I told her
that you wan't. She said she had rather see for herself, and after looking
you over she said she wan't satisfied as to whether you was or not, so she
stamped this bottle." And sure enough there was a two- cent documentary stamp
pasted on the bottle itself. This was while the documentary stamp act was
in force, enacted during the war with Spain, which accounted for the existence
of documentary stamps.
The Register of Deeds of Jamestown at this time was
a man named Link Brier. Link and some of his pals were very fond of alcoholic
drinks, and the office generally hung heavy with the smell of liquor. One
of Link's closest pal was a member of the Bar named Jesse Evans. Jesse was
long, tall, and not only slender but actually thin. 1 had learned that one
of the easiest ways to get assistance was to carry a bottle of whiskey with
me, so when 1 went to Jamestown 1 generally took a bottle of bourbon. On
one of my trips 1 forgot the accustomed bottle. 1 had been working in the
office for an hour or so with some of Mr. Brier's pals looking on when Jesse
Evans tapped me on the shoulder and motioned for me to follow him. He took
me out of the courthouse and around a comer formed by an "L" and whispered
to me, "I got some peruny, won't you have some?" 1 had to excuse myself not
only for not having brought any liquor with me but on the ground that Peruna
did not particularly appeal to me.
The practice of law in Fentress County was not particularly
remunerative, and a number of members of the Bar often did other things
to supplement their income. One of the Register's pals was a man named Albright.
When I was introduced to him I asked him what was his occupation, to which
he replied, "When lawin' is good I law, and when loggin' is good I log."
The four outstanding men in Scott County at the time
were John Toomey, Judge J. C. Parker, Judge W. H. Potter, and Squire Hughett.
John Toomey -a trader in timber lands and anything else
that might be convenient to trade in, who when asked his occupation would
reply that he was a "schemer."
Judge J. C. Parker -a man 6 feet 2 inches tall, with
a long beard, who had been a Union soldier, had been County Judge, had been
a member of the State Constitutional Convention of 1872, and who at this
time practiced law, ran a saloon, farmed, and "traded," but politics was
his chief occupation. He had been very successful in politics, so successful
that he had two or three sons on the government payroll. This, of course,
meant that he was a supporter of Dick Austin, who was then the Congressman
from that District, and had been for some years. Just about this time Congressman
Austin was defeated for re- election by a man named Hale. The next time I
saw Judge Parker, without expecting resentment, I said to him quite casually,
"It seems that Hale put it over on you in the election." Much to my surprise
the Judge flew into a rage, almost frothed at the mouth and replied, "He
done it by fraud, Barthell, he done it by fraud. He paid ten dollars apiece
for votes when we never paid but two dollars before."
Judge W. H. Potter -a member of the Bar, who ran "the
store" and traded.
Squire John Hughett -six feet and a half, who weighed
probably two hundred and fifty pounds or more, who had been a Squire for
probably forty years, but whose principal occupation was farming and trading,
chiefly in mountain lands and timber.
No well advised person will buy land in this section
of the country without inquiring into the possessions they have thereon for
a number of years past, and ordinarily the seller is required to furnish
two or more affidavits of responsible people telling where such possessions
have been and just what they consist of -whether it was farmed, lived on,
whether orchards were there, grave-yards, and what-not. In buying a large
boundary of land several thousand acres within the general boundary were
offered by Judge Potter. Knowing that we would not accept the titles unless
possessions were shown, he furnished several affidavits to the effect that
he had had "possessions" on the property for ten or fifteen years, seven
being the minimum required.
Mr. M. P. O'Connor, of Nashville, who was representing
me in this particular transaction, told him that the affidavits were not
satisfactory, that the Judge knew that they had to specify just where the
possessions were, what they consisted of, and that it would be necessary
for the Judge to furnish affidavits of persons who knew the facts with reference
to his possessions. The Judge replied (he was County Judge at the time),
"By Ganne, I will furnish all the affidavits you want." And the next day
he brought up four affidavits to the effect that he (the Judge) had run two
illicit distilleries on the land for fifteen years.
We thought that such information, under oath, coming
from the County Judge and others was entitled to belief.
While negotiations were pending with Judge Potter his
wife died. They had been married for thirty or forty years, had several
grandchildren, and the Judge was deeply bereaved at the loss of his life-time
companion. In his bereavement he sought solace not in liquor as most of
the mountaineers do, but in remarriage; and that he was successful in this
was evidenced some months later by an invitation to his marriage, which
was literally as follows:
I went to Judge Potter's store one day and asked if
he had any cigars. he said, "Yes sat, I've got some good uns," whereupon
he reached under the counter and pulled out two boxes, which were but partly
filled. Those in one box were very black and those in the other were straw-color.
I took the straw- colored cigar, whereupon he said, "Them is mighty good
uns but they will cost you seven for a quarter." I invested twenty-five cents,
and to be quite frank, they were so innocuous that I think I enjoyed them
more than any cigar I ever smoked.
Dear Sir: You ar invited to be at the home of Miss BE
TTY ROSSES, this being her Fathers home J. C. Ross December the 22 just
after No. 16 runs at which
time MISS BETTIE ROS and I expect to have awedding serymoney and then we
will have agood Dinner. I ex pect to gow up to Bern Creek junction on train
and then gow nearly one mile, to the Home of MISS BETTY, now don't you
fail to be their,
Respectfully your frind,
W. H. Potter
When I first met him Squire Hughett was about eighty
years old, but strong and vigorous and looked as if he had never had a sick
day. Several years afterwards when standing on the railroad platform at Helenswood
one day, 1 saw Squire Hughett with several men around him, and joined them.
The Squire had a lump half as big as a grape on his lip on the left side
of his face. The Squire's son Jasper, who was standing by, touched the lump
with his finger and said, "I tell Pap that is gwine kill him some day." And
sure enough it developed that it was a cancer and Jasper's prophecy came
Squire Hughett was one of the most prosperous men in
that section of the country. His reading and writing were rather limited,
but his vigor and activity were great. As was all other mountaineers, he was
very familiar with the law of "possession" of land, and in the course of
twenty or thirty years he had recorded numbers of deeds made to him by first
one person and then another, some of whom were not even known around the
country; and in due time he was able to prove that he had had possession
of the land for seven years, sometimes by a little patch that had been cultivated
away up the valley, sometimes by evidence that he had raised cattle on it,
and sometimes otherwise. The result was that at one time 1 paid him over
$150,000 for lands which he had thus acquired and on which his title had
been adjudicated good. Squire knew the lines of his lands, and with a twinkle
in his eye would explain to me or my representatives just how he had drawn
that boundary and the other boundary, this line and that line, in the deeds
which he had taken, there or other places, and always would wind up by stating
that "I always look after my 'possessions! '"
Squire Hughett's domestic situation was much involved,
and in some circles might not be considered altogether conventional. A few
months after the cancer killed him 1 was at the hotel at Knoxville one night
in the winter sitting before the fire in my room after supper when there
was a knock on the door immediately followed by the entrance of Squire's
son Jasper and a man whom 1 had always known by the name of Robbins. After
greetings and sitting around looking at the fire for a while, Robbins said,
"Tell him, Jasper," who replied, "No, you tell him." Whereupon Robbins said,
"Well, see it's this way, Squire Hughett, he's dead." 1 said yes, 1 had regretted
to learn of the death of Squire, that I had done a great deal of business
with him, that I had found him to be a fine old man, always dependable.
Robbins continued, "Yes, Squire Hughett is dead. You
know he left four children, not counting his woods-colts. Jasper and his sister
were children of the Squire's first wife and me and my brother are children
of his second wife, who is Lucinda Robbins. After Squire's first wife died
him and Lucinda got married, that is not exactly married because they couldn't
get married because Lucinda's first husband was a captain in the Anny and
she was getting a pension of $25 a month which she would lose if she married
again, so they just couldn't get married, but they lived together the rest
of her life, and me and my brother are Lucinda's children. That is why we
are called Robbins. Now Squire settled up with all his woods-colts before
he died, and Jasper and his sister and me and my brother are now settlin'
up the estate, and what we want to know is..." and then he asked some question
about how to proceed. I went into as much detail as I could with him, and
there being no complications, I told him just what to do to wind up his
After this there was dead silence for a while whereupon
Robbins heaved a sigh and said, "Well, ax him, Jasper." To which Jasper
replied, "No, you ax him." And Robbins asked in the most resigned way, "What
do we owe you?" I told him that I was not practicing law locally, but was
merely up there representing clients who lived at a distance and I made
no charge for what I had told them. With renewed life and some energy Jasper,
whose chair was very close to that of his brother, nudged his brother in
the ribs and said, "Thar now, what did I tell you."
A man named Robinson once offered to sell a client of
mine 600,000 acres in Fentress County and adjoining counties. I knew enough
about the situation generally to know that Robinson or no one else could
have a good title to such an area of land in that vicinity. Of course, Robinson
maintained that his title was good.
He was wonderfully gifted as a talker. He called to
see me one day and said that if I wouldn't interrupt him he would explain
his title to me so that I could not fail to see that he owned the land,
after which he told me his story in the most plausible way, producing this,
that and the other document to sustain him, and among them was an abstract
made by a member of the Bar at Jamestown named Garrett. After he had told
what would ordinarily have sounded as a most convincing story of his title
he caught himself as by afterthought, and said, "Aha, there is one matter
that I was about to overlook, that I was about to deceive you on. When I
was down there I was told that there was a man who owned eighty acres of
my land and I said take me to see him. I want to see the color of any man's
hair that claims adverse to me. We went out to see him but he wasn't at home
and up to this day I cannot tell you the color of his hair."
Looking him straight in the eye I said, "You have been
down there?" "Aha," he said, "that is how I found this land. I spent sixty
days' vacation down in the mountains and ran across this tract." To which
I replied, "Until you said you had been down there I thought you believed
what you were telling me." Then it was his time to look me straight in the
eyes, and after what seemed to be five minutes of this silent procedure,
he said, "Well, you are on to me aren't you?" I told him that I was. He folded
up his papers, put them back in his bag, and said, "Well, no harm done."
I knew the man to whom he referred as having made his
abstract. He was generally called Bully Garrett, and when I asked him why
in the world he made such an abstract for Robinson when he was bound to
know that Robinson did not own the land, Bully quite frankly wrote back,
"I made him that kind of an abstract because that was the kind he wanted."
Robinson had represented to my client not only that
he owned the 600,000 acres but that it was of immense value and he wanted
to borrow six million dollars on it for the purpose of developing its timber
and mineral resources, and he had made the appointment with me to talk about
his title with the statement that he was on his way from New York to Japan
to deal with the National Government in connection with the construction
of a railroad and would therefore have only two hours and twenty minutes
to spend in Chicago between trains, in order to catch his ship from San Francisco.
However, within the next week or ten days three other
investment houses who made a business of lending money on such properties,
mentioned to me that Mr. Robinson was offering them an opportunity to acquire
some very fine property or bonds on it, and I had told them all that Robinson
had no title.
Ten days or two weeks afterward I was asked out to luncheon
by Mr. Thos. S. McGrath, a timber broker. After an excellent luncheon McGrath
asked me what I would say to his getting some real money out of the Robinson
lands in Fentress and adjoining counties in Tennessee; to which I replied
depending on the amount, it would be either grand or petit larceny. McGrath
expressed considerable regret and said that Robinson had been to see him
the day before and told him that I had prevented his dealing with other houses
on the Street and had told him (McGrath) that if he could get $10,000 for
his 600,000 acres he would give McGrath half of it.
One of the great characters of Scott County was W. H.
Buttram. When I first began to go to that county Buttram was "Clerk and
Master of the Chancery Court," and he was even then referred to as the mast-fed
candidate. It appeared as a means of keeping his name before the public he
had been pretending to run for Congress for many years and describing himself
as "a country man and the mast-fed candidate" on his cards.
Shortly after I became acquainted with him Buttram was elected
Prosecuting Attorney (an office which in Tennessee is called Attorney General),
for Scott and several surrounding counties.
In prosecuting a man for murder one day he offered to
introduce the dying statement of the deceased. The attorneys for the defense
objected on several grounds, among others, that the statement was made as
a witness in court, that there had been no opportunity of cross-examination,
and that therefore it would be merely hearsay. The Prosecuting Attorney
appeared to have prepared for such an objection, however, and immediately
told the court that he had anticipated this but that no such objection had
any weight, as it had been established in English jurisprudence for at least
two hundred and fifty years, that it came up in the English court when Brutus
was prosecuted for killing Caesar, and that Brutus' lawyers objected to
Caesar's dying statement on the same ground that the defendant's attorneys
had just interposed in this case, but that the court upon inquiring what
the statement was and being told that Caesar said, "Brutus, you dirty dog,
you stobbed me to the hollow," let the statement in as the dying statement
of the deceased and that therefore for two hundred and fifty years it had
been the law that we were now bound to follow.
a couple of terms as Attorney General, or Prosecuting Attorney, Buttram
ran for Circuit Judge and was elected and subsequently re-elected. There
were eleven counties in his Circuit and he would have to travel from one
to the other in holding court. However, his salary was $2,500 a year plus
traveling expenses, so he made a good thing of it. After he had been on
the bench for about ten years I met him one day on the train. Whenever two
or more persons were present Buttram was always a jokester, but he had much
hard sense and when talking with one individual he became serious. This
day on the train he told me that he was getting tired traveling around so
much and thought if I would see if he could get a job with the Stearns Coal
and Lumber Company he would resign his judgeship and settle down. He added,
"Of course you know I don't know no law, but I know the kind of law that
these people like and that is the kind it takes to get by with."
While on the bench Buttram made a very satisfactory
record, both to himself and to his constituents. As an illustration of his
administration of the law: He one day tried a suit where one man had sued
another for a board-bill for himself and four children; the wife doesn't
appear to have been mentioned. The evidence was that the defendant and four
children had stayed at the plaintiff's house four weeks without paying any
board. The defendant said that he was just "a visitin'." These statements
were made to the court by the attorneys on both sides without evidence having
been introduced. When the statements were made the Judge asked the lawyers
if they had any law books on "visits." Neither of them had. The Judge said
he had, and reaching into his saddlebags he pulled out the Blue Back Speller
and said that "on page so-and- so --you will find this statement: 'We like
to have our friends visit us,' and then on the next page you will find: 'Visitors
should not stay too long. ", And he thought when a man took four children
and went to see another man, staying four weeks, that was too long and he
therefore gave the plaintiff judgment for $50. Neither side introduced any
evidence and that both sides were satisfied was evidenced by the fact that
there was no appeal.
In another case a man was prosecuted for serious physical
assault on another. The case was in the Criminal Court being tried before
a jury. After the evidence was in the Judge charged the jury as follows:
Gentlemen of the Jury: If you find defendant
-this great big ruffian here --without just cause jumped on and beat up
the prosecutor- -this little bit of a measly fellow here -which he did,
bunged him up, knocked out his teeth, broke his arm and tromped on him,
which he did, didn't have no cause for doin' it, which he didn't, then you
will find him guilty, which he is.
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