Category Archives: General Histories

Bible Hill Tornado – 1952

from the research of Lewis Long Brown, Jr.

These pictures were originally photographed by Genevieve C. Bobbitt Brown in 1952 following the devastating tornado that struck Chesterfield and continued through the Bible Hill Community.  Lewis Long Brown, Jr. compiled the index and captions for these pictures.  His complete index is available in Adobe PDF Format.

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Dr. Robert M. Brown House
Dr. Robert M. Brown House
Dr. Robert M. Brown House
Dr. Robert M. Brown House
Dr. Robert M. Brown House
Dr. Robert M. Brown House
Dr. Robert M. Brown House
Dr. Robert M. Brown House
Across the road from Dr. Brown House
Across the road from Dr. Brown House
Across the road from Dr. Brown House
Across the road from Dr. Brown House
Russ Long Barn
Russ Long Barn
Russ Long Barn
Russ Long Barn
Northeast Corner of Bible Hill Crossroad
Northeast corner of Bible Hill crossroad.South of #17
East side of Bible Hill Road (Cub Creek Hall Road)
North Side of Russ Long Road
Bible Hill Baptist Church
Miscellaneous Damage
Miscellaneous Damage
Miscellaneous Damage
Sattie Baker-Tolley House
Sattie Baker-Tolley House
Bible Hill Crossroad
Bible Hill Crossroad
Laura BROWN-Dodson House
West of Bible Hill Crossroad
Truck on Russ Long Road
Sattie Baker-Tolley House
Miscellaneous Damage
Bible Hill Cemetery
Bible Hill Cemetery
Bible Hill Cemetery
Miscellaneous Damage
Miscellaneous Damage
Bible Hill Crossroad, East of Bible Hill Road
Destroyed House
Miscellaneous Damage
Miscellaneous Damage
Miscellaneous Damage
Miscellaneous Damage
Miscellaneous Damage
Miscellaneous Damage
Across the Road from Dr. Brown House

A Story About a House and its Family

by Lewis Long Brown Jr.rmbrownhouse

Sometimes, when my computer monitor and I are sitting alone staring at each other, I try to visualize what life was like for my great-grandfather back in nineteenth century West Tennessee. I imagine the roads weren’t much more than dirt trails meandering here and there through the woods, and a visit to one’s neighbor was a purposeful event involving some amount of prior planning. Most people farmed, which meant  a day of work was hard physical labor from dawn to dusk. A trip to town was a slow, all-day affair bumping along in a hard, wooden wagon behind a team of mules; yet for most people of the time, it was a special treat coming on rare occasions.

Back then, a thriving town might have a population of five hundred people. Governmental buildings might be made of the most plentiful material readily at hand, logs; and it was not uncommon for floors to be of compacted dirt until elevated, off-grade wooden ones could be constructed. Town jobs included blacksmith, wagon maker, tailor, merchant, saddle maker, lawyer, shoe maker, and physician. Like today, small Tennessee towns had their elected officials: sheriff, magistrate, councilman, and tax assessor.

It was a time when a rural farm family’s survival depended on its ability to project its thinking into the future and make decisions in the present with conservatively anticipated results later. Few people in my great-grandfather’s time had the luxury of misjudging the future. A miscalculation today about seasonal conditions later-on could mean starvation. The people of that time always had their eye on the horizon. Their survival depended on it.

Occasionally, the unexpected happened; and someone might be stricken ill or felled by
serious injury. Out of necessity, people were self-sufficient; but sometimes a situation occurred which required more attention and medical knowledge than a family possessed.
Country doctors in the nineteenth century practiced a kind of medicine which required a great deal of generalized knowledge. They had to know how to deliver a baby, set a broken bone, clean and sew-up a festering wound, remove a bullet, pull a rotted tooth, amputate a gangrenous limb, or treat a raging fever, all with equal amounts of human care and skillful diligence. There were no corner drugstores in rural Tennessee back then, so what medicines existed were either age-old remedies with well-known ingredients or experimental concoctions. Most were meticulously hand.made by the physicians themselves.

A rural doctor rode his circuit on horseback. When his patients beckoned, it made little difference whether it was hot weather or cold, rain or shine, early in the morning or late at night, he had to go. The level of dedication of most country doctors to their patients was extraordinary.
My great-grandfather Dr. Robert M. Brown practiced medicine in Decatur County, Tennessee (a long, narrow county, along the western bank of the Tennessee River, about one hundred twenty miles east of Memphis) from the early1870’s until he died in 1916. He married the former Mary Carroline Hendrix of nearby Henderson County about 1873. By 1876, in addition to his medical practice, Dr. Brown was the postmaster of Bible Hill, a small community a few miles west of where he lived. According to the 1880 U. S. Census, the Brown family lived in the 5th District of Decatur County. This is the district north of Cub Creek and east of Highway 69 to the Tennessee River. It contains the communities of Jeannette and Cozette. Since Dr. Brown’s practice was prospering in Bible Hill (in the contiguous 12th District), he and Mary probably decided to relocate sometime after 1880. It is likely they built a new house there before they moved.

The site of the Dr. Brown House is on the north side of the Bible Hill Road (Decatur County
Highway 882) and about one hundred fifty yards west of the crossroad of the community, where Highway 882 turns north. The house sat about thirty feet back from the edge of the road. Today, a modern home is built on the site.

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DCHS Fires – 1956

from the research of Richard F. Butler

1956 was a year of disaster for Decatur County High School as the classroom routine was interrupted by two major fires.  The year started with the gym burning in the early hours of January 22, 1956.  A dance had been held in the building on Saturday night and the fire was discovered by Cotton Ivy and some friends on the way home from coon hunting a little after midnight.

The year ended with the high school building burning after school was out for the holidays.  The fire started about 3:30 pm on December 30, 1956.  An eye witness reports that it appeared to have started in the center of the basement where the gas furnace was located.  After the fire was subdued, it was determined that all outside doors were locked.

On Wednesday morning, January 16, 1957, kerosene-soaked newspapers were found stuffed into a stovepipe in the second grade room of the elementary school building. The county sheriff and the state fire marshal’s office investigated the fires and the incident at the elementary school and concluded that these incidents were arson.  They questioned several people but didn’t release any names.  At the time, they announced that they expected to make arrests, but none were made.

Plans were already underway to build a new school building at the time of the high school fire.  Bids for the new elementary and high school building were taken on September 18, 1956 and the contract was awarded a few days later.

Midnight Flames Destroy Decaturville Gym

The Parsons News Leader, January 27, 1956

DCHS Gym after fire - 1956

Shown above is the remainder of the Decaturville Gymnasium after its destruction by fire Saturday night. The building is a total loss, along with all equipment, cafeteria and restrooms. Fast action by three fire departments prevented the spread of the fire to other buildings of the school and homes in the area.

A midnight fire of undetermined origin completely destroyed the Decaturville Gymnasium last Saturday night, along with all equipment stored in the building.  Efficient work by the fire departments of Decaturville, Parsons and Lexington prevented the possible spread of the fire to other buildings and homes in the area.

According to Mr. Guy T. Kennedy, County Superintendent, the loss of the buildings would total approximately $115,000, and total loss of equipment including football and basketball equipment totaled approximately $18,000.  Total insurance carried on teh building was $8,000 according to Mr. Kennedy, representing the amount of money the county had in the WPA-constructed building.

The school cafeteria was located in the basement of the building and was a total loss, necessitating the closing of school this week.  However, the school board is making arrangements for temporary facilities and H. B. Evans, Principal, has arranged to rent typewriters and school is scheduled to resume on Monday of next week.

The fire followed a school dance which ended about 11:30 p.m. and was first discovered at approximately 12:30 a.m.

To the People of The Town of Parsons

We, the people of Decaturville, wish to express our sincere appreciation for the use of the Parsons fire truck and the assistance given by your officials in fighting the fire that destroyed our gymnasium.  This aid and assistance helped to curtail the damage and we are truly grateful for your help.

Town of Decaturville
Will T. Rogers, Mayor

Fire Razes High School Building Here

Decatur County Herald, January 4, 1957

A second major school fire in less than a year destroyed the Decaturville High School Sunday at a loss estimated at $150,000.

Flames broke out in the basement of the two story brick structure at 3:30 p.m. It was almost five hours later before firemen had the flames under control.

Fire leveled the school’s gymnasium and commercial department last January causing a loss of $100,000. The cause of that fire has never been determined.

Authorities Sunday night were seeking the cause of Sunday’s fire.

Henry B. Evans, principal, said the building had been closed since Dec. 21 when Christmas holidays began. A pilot light was left burning in a gas furnace.  Al the doors were still locked when the fire broke out.

Helping fight the fire were fire men from Jackson who brought a fire truck and members of the volunteer Parsons and Decaturville Fire Department.

The nine classroom building was built in 1925.  Mr. Evans said the structure was valued at about $100,000.  The rest of the loss include fixtures and equipment totaled about $50,000.

Plans for reopening classes on January 7 are being laid this week with all available space in store building, churches and such room quarters being converted into classrooms. The records of the school, some books and several pieces of equipment were salvaged.  Sheriff Ola Duck and the state Fire Marshall are continuing an investigation to determine the cause of the fire.

Fire Strikes Decaturville High School

The Parsons News Leader, January 11, 1957

Fire Strikes Decaturville High

RAVAGED HIGH SCHOOL at Decaturville is shown in two photos above. Top shows the south entrance to the 25-year old structure and lower view shows side view.

Fire of undetermined origin seriously damaged the Decaturville High School Building on Sunday, December 30.  The flames began in the basement of the building about 3:30 p.m. and was fought for almost five hours before firemen from Decaturville, Parsons and Jackson brought the fire under control. A year ago, fire destroyed the school’s gymnasium.

The school had been closed since December 21 for Christmas holidays.

The building was built in 1925 and contained nine classrooms as well as the heating plant for the school. Much athletic equipment was also destroyed, but records and some books and equipment were salvaged.

School re-opened on January 7, utilizing space in vacant store buildings and churches.

An investigation is being made to determine whether the fire was of incendiary origin.

The building was valued at $100,000.00 and contents lost were valued at almost $50,000.00.  The building was only partially covered by insurance.

Arson Attempt on School

Decatur County Herald, January 18, 1957

Discovery of kerosene saturated newspapers at Decaturville School Wednesday morning was described as a definite “arson attempt” linked with two blazes which destroyed the adjoining high school and gymnasium with[in] a year.

Decatur County Sheriff Ola Duck said the saturated newspapers were found stuffed in a stove pipe in the second grade room by Henry B. Evans, principal of the school and John White, Negro janitor.

The high school was destroyed by fire Dec. 30 and the gym went up in flames last Jan 22. Authorities are still investigating the high school blaze and Sheriff Duck said several persons had been questioned.

There is no doubt but this was an arson attempt, Sheriff Duck said and it appears the fires and this attempt are definitely related.

Arson Try Fails at Decaturville School

The Parsons News Leader, January 18, 1957

An attempt to set fire to another building of the Decaturville School failed Wednesday morning when gasoline-soaked newspapers were found stuffed into the smokepipe of a coal stove used in the Elementary School building which was destroyed December 30.

Flames burst from the stove as John White, colored janitor, was attempting to light a fire in the stove. White was slightly burned.

Sheriff Ola Duck was notified and is conducting an investigation. He stated that the case was a deliberate attempt at arson.

The High School Gymnasium was destroyed by fire in December of 1955, and about three months ago, gasoline was found poured on the attic of the agriculture building newest structure of the school plant.

A new school plant to house the high school and elementary school is under construction, but is not expected to be complete until late summer of this year.

Decaturville Fires May Lead to Arrests

Decatur County Herald, February 8, 1957

Members of the state fire marshal’s office and Sheriff Ola Duck are making progress in their investigation of the fires that destroyed the Decatur County High school gym on January 22, 1956 and the high school building on the following December 30.

Several persons have been questioned and released, pending further investigation.

Sheriff Duck said they have questioned a number of men who will be offered lie detector tests.

Investigating officers have admitted to a felling that they will be able to “break the case” with formal charges within the next few days.

County Court Makes School Appropriations

Decatur County Herald, October 18, 1957

The regular meeting of the County Court was held Monday.  The court appropriated school funds as follows:

$50,000 for the Colored School at Decaturville
$30,000 for the Perryville School
$15,000 for the Lancaster School

Marlin Dodd of the 12th District was named to the School Board, replacing Wilburn Townsend who resigned.  J. S. Barker was re-elected Service Officer to serve until July.

The court also voted to pay a reward of $1000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of person or persons responsible for the burning of the Decarturville gym and high school.

Legal Notice to Bidders

Decatur County Herald, August 31, 1956

Sealed proposals for the constructions of Decatuville Elementary and High School, Decaturville, Tennessee, for the Decatur County Board of Education, Decaturville, Tennessee, will be received by the Co. Board of Education on or before September 18th, 1956 at 10:00 A.M. Central Standard Time at the Court House, at which time and place they will be publicly opened and read.

Copies of the proposals, contract documents, drawings and specifications may be obtained by eligible bidders from Donald Cowan, Architect J. Carl Russell,Associate, 820 Nashville Trust Building, Nashville, Tennessee; a deposit of $150.00 being made for each set of drawings and specifications.  Checks to be made payable to Donald Cowan Architect, J. Carl Russell Associate. The full amount of the deposit for one set of documents will be returned to all except the successful bidder.  Sub-Contractors and Suppliers will be furnished plans and specifications at a production cost of $20.00 which is not returnable.

Any Contractor requesting and receiving plans and failing to submit a bona fida bid, forfeits his deposit.

Copies of the plans and specifications may be examined free of charge at the offices of the Superintendent of Schools or of the Architect.

Each bid must be accompanied by a certified check or bidder’s bond executed by the Bidder and a surety company licensed to do business in Tennessee, kn a sum equal to 5 percent of the amount of the total bid.  The bond is required as a guarantee that if the bid is accepted, a contract will be entered into and the performance of it properly secured.  The successful bidder will be required to execute a performance bond, covering and including labor and materials, in amount of one-hundred (100%) of the contract price.

Proposal forms must be properly filled out and no qualifying letter or statements will be considered.

Bidding shall be in accordance with the Tennessee General Contractors License Law.  No  bid will be accepted from any bidder who has not requested and received plans direct from the Architect.  Bidders on construction to the amount of $10,000.00 or more must be licensed Contractors as required by Chapter 135 of the Public Acts of 1945 of the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee.  Bidder’s name and license number must be placed on the envelope containing these documents.

No bidder may withdraw a bid submitted for a period (30) days after the date set for the opening of such bids.

The Owners reserved the right to reject any or all bids, and to waive informalities therein.

Any bid received after the scheduled closing time for receipt of bids will be returned to the bidder unopened.

J. Madison Smith
Decatur County Board of Education

Sale of School Property

Decatur County Herald, November 1, 1957

Department of Education
Decatur County, Tennessee

Sale of School Property, Frame Building of Decaturville school known as the Rogers Property.

Request having been made of me as Purchasing Agent of the County, by the Decatur County Board of Education at its regular meeting, September 12, 1957, by Motion No. 9 of said meeting, requesting me to sell, and I did on October 7, 1975, at 1:00 o’clock P.M., sell said property; but the bid being too low, the same was rejected and I will again offer for sale –

On the 9th day of November, 1957 , at 1:00 o’clock P.M., sell to the highest bidder for cash, all the estate, title and interest in said property belonging to the said Decatur County Board of Education, including bathroom equipment.  The right is reserved to reject any and all bids, but will be sold in the manner stated above, at the highest and best bid, unless said bid is too low.

This 31st Day of October, 1957
Samuel L. Duck, County Judge

DCHS Gym in Happier Days

DCHS Football Squad - 1955

DCHS Football Squad – 1955

Early Days of Parsons Tour – Nov 16, 2013

Early Days of Parsons Tour Parsons Cemetery Tour

Construction of Alvin C. York Bridge

Alvin C. York Bridge contruction

The Alvin C. York Bridge across the Tennessee River at Perryville built so travelers, business men, and the general public might have an easier, more convenient, and safer way of crossing the Tennessee River. This bridge was built in 1930, being opened on July 4, 1930. This bridge cost $665,000.00. It was operated as a toll bridge to defray the cost of construction.  This bridge was named in honor of Alvin C. York, Tennessee’s famous World War hero.

This picture is scanned from a postcard from the time. Thanks to Bart Taylor for providing this image.  The picture is made facing Perry County with only the first span over the river channel under construction.  The bridge was completed prior to the flooding of Kentucky Lake in 1944. The completed bridge is also viewed from another post card scan.

A close up of the barge shows two working men and details of the construction scaffolding.

Scott Hill, TN School Buses Collide, June 1937

THREE ARE KILLED AS BUSES COLLIDE.

15 OTHERS HURT WHEN TWO SCHOOL BUSES DEMOLISHED ON WAY TO SCHOOL PLAY.

Lexington, Tenn., June 12. (AP) — Three persons were killed and 15 injured tonight when two school buses, carrying passengers to a school play, collided at Scott Hill, 14 miles southeast of here.

First reports gave the names of those killed as BILL STANFILL, 18; BESS STANFILL, 23; and CHARLES STEWART, 18, all of Reagon, Tenn.

One bus carried 15 passengers and the other 12. Both were reported demolished.
The dead were taken to a Lexington mortuary. The injured were carried by ambulance to a Jackson, Tenn., hospital.

Officials at the Lexington sheriff’s office said the buses were drived by ARCH MARTIN and DICK GRISSOM. One was carrying a load to Scotts Hill and was practically loaded. The other was returning to Reagan, about four miles from Scotts Hill, for another load but had picked up several persons on the return trip.

ROBBIE LEE ROGERS, 10, Reagan, and BUDDIE OLIVER, 19, Reagan, were reported in a critical condition at a Jackson hospital. WELCH JONES, 22, also of Reagan, was reported seriously injured at the hospital.

Names of the less seriously injured, reported to have been treated by physicians, were given as CLAUDE MARTIN, Sardis; RAY MARTIN, ROY MARTIN, MILDRED MARTIN, RAY STANFILL, ASTOR SEGERSON, BROWN DEERE and OLEITA DEERE, all of Reagan.

Addition:
WILLIAM EDGAR (BUDDIE) OLIVER 19, of Reagan, Tenn., died in a Jackson, Tenn., hospital Sunday afternoon.

OLIVER suffered severe head and internal injuries.

Kingsport Times Tennessee 1937-06-13

Decatursville, TN Courthouse Fire, Jul 1869

On July 3 the Court-house of Decatur County, at Decatursville, Tenn., was entirely consumed by fire. Loss, $100,000. The lawyers of the town had their offices in the Court-house, and their libraries were all consumed, together with valuable papers which they had in their possession. In the County Clerk’s office there was $30,000 in currency. The County Court Clerk also had many valuables in his office, which he tried to save, with more important county papers. He wrapped himself up in wet blankets and penetrated the building, but the flames drove him back, and he was slightly burned in the attempt.

The New York Times, New York, NY 12 Jul 1869

Petition for Division of Perry County


The following petitions can be found on microfilm at the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville, Tennessee. The original petitions are also available. These are part of Record Group 260, Acts of the 26th Tennessee General Assembly.

The page numbering is added by the archivists and included to aid you in location on the original documents.

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Perry County Tax List – 1837


Tennessee State Library and Archives, Tax rolls, Microfilm roll # 7, Perry Co, TN

In 1837, Perry County included what would become Decatur County. Districts 1 – 6  were located on the west side of the Tennessee River which would become Decatur County and districts 7 – 12 were located on the east side of the Tennessee River which would remain Perry County.

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Stories from the Past

Brewer

In the 5th district (Howesville) of the 1850 census for Decatur Co, James Q. (Quisenbury) Brewer is listed as having a saw mill and he was also Justice of the Peace. According to Bill Chumney, he moved to Perry County in 1838 by wagon train from Chatham County, NC. Water from Cub Creek was diverted through his saw mill to provide power. Mr. Chumney says, “I remember…seeing an old leather bound ledger that my grandmother had that James Q. used to keep his customers’ charges and payments on both the saw mill and justice of the peace fees.” We share Mr. Chumney’s feelings of regret that the ledger no longer exists.


B.R. Jennings‘ transcription of   “Paducah Daily News” microfilm:

Tuesday, Feb. 21, 1888      The New Mail Service

The new steamboat mail service on the Tennessee River, which goes into operations this week, lands mail at the following places four times per week: Paducah, KY; Altoona; Star Lime Works; Birmingham, Aurora, Enterprise, Blood and Warburgh, KY; Dildah’s Landing TN; Pine Bluff; KY; New Buffalo, KY; Paris Landing, TN, and Bayne, Molke, Danville, Ariadne, Clayton, Johnsonville, Rockport, Cuba Landing, Ship’s Landing, Ledbetter, Britt’s Landing, Denison’s Landing, Parker, Brodie’s Landing, Mouse Tail, Perryville, Webb, Cedar Creek Landing, New Era, Lego, Peter’s Landing, Bob, Clifton, Laden, Swallow Bluff, Point Pleasant, Saltillo, Cerro Gordo, Coffee Landing, Savannah, Pittsburgh Landing, Hamburgh, Pyburn’s Bluff, Boyd’s Landing, and Walnut Grove, TN; Eastport, MS; Chickasaw, AL; Waterloo and Smithsonia, AL, Florence, AL.

February, 1883

Mr. Will Scott returned from a business trip up the Tennessee today. He reports great excitement in certain parts of that country over small-pox. The ports of Saltillo, Waynesboro, Clifton, and Decaturville maintain a strict quarantine and will allow no one to land there. There were sixteen cases of the disease at Johnsonsville and there have been six deaths from it. The water from the Ohio is backed up the Tennessee for nearly seventy-five miles.

April 23, 1885     East Perryville Burned

On landing at east Perryville, on the Tennessee, night before last, the Henry A. Tyler found that the two-story frame building there, used as a dwelling and a hotel, had just been burned down. The steamer took a lot of peanuts from the warehouse of Mr. J. H. Tate, at the landing, and on  rounding out the officers heard bells ringing, and discovered that the large warehouse they had just left, and the store adjoining, were already in flames and being rapidly consumed. There was no insurance on any of the property and both fires are supposed to have been incendiary work. The two fires were fully one hundred yards from each other and several hours apart. Mr. Tate was the merchant and shipper of that landing, and, of course, his loss will be serious. East Perryville, is immediately opposite old Perryville, 158 miles above this place.