August 4, 1927
REMINISCENCE No. 18
by W.T. Foster
In this paper I am to speak of interesting personalities in and around Smithville in the early seventies-- some
for one thing some for another, each, however, a type of the genus homo, representing a class in the world's social
alignment, easily recognized.
- There was old Dr. Eastham, loquacious and interesting, smiling as he told some old-time experience, often breaking
into a subdued titter as some feature of it struck his fancy, always carrying a walking cane, always spick and
span--chin-whiskers blacked, curly locks well groomed--the inevitable culmination of the conversation being a narration
of his latest matrimonial menacing. George W. Eastham was in many respects a man of parts and a fine character.
- Alonzo Dunlap was easily one of the most respected men who ever lived in Dekalb county. He represented the
county in the state assembly and was highly regarded by his compeers. He was a man who valued his honor and who
swerved not from the line he deemed right.
- J. T. Hollis was a perfect type of the easy-going office holder. The first I ever knew of him he was an office
holder and I left him in office, I think in 1876. He held office on during the war of secession, and he signed
his name to hundreds o f thousands of confederate bills, money that we boys stuffed our pockets with and imagined
- John B. Robinson was highly informed as to the law and if he gave you an opinion on a legal point you could
rely on it for John knew. He was mercurial, explosive, out-spoken, at times sarcastic, but he liked his friends,
one of whom he choose to let me be--boy friend, of course.
- Perhaps the quaintest and most highly irascible fellow on short notice who ever lived in Smithville was Wm.
Morgan the shoe-maker. It seems he had a remarkable coon-dog named Rattler and like all dog fanciers, Morgan could
not refrain from desca nting on his dog's fine points. This dog adulation got itself coined into the phrase "Rattler's
a good coon-dog, here Rattler, here!" Certain boys around town, of whom Joe Fisher aspired to be chief, seemed
immensely to enjoy shouting the phrase in Morm an's vicinity and getting for their pains a prompt "you son-of-a-gun!"
"These teasing fellows were a type of toreadors--shaking the red rag in the bull's face. Morgan, be it said
was a fine workman who catered to many tasty dressers of the up-country.
- James A. NeSmith was in many respects a remarkable man as well as lawyer. He made his mistakes--so did Sergeant
Prentiss, so did Wesster, so did Bill Cullom, and Jim's was identical with theirs. I was closer to Jim NeSmith
than any other boy wh o ever lived in Smithville. He never hurt me by example word, or act--he always advised me
against the things that hurt and hinder. He was ever a perfect gentleman to his boy friend. I loved him. He had
valuable books in his library and I read them. His defense of Jim Henry Rainey a Lebanon, and successfully, stands
as one of the most remarkable defenes on record, using as he did the Bible as his only law book. He was one of
the celebrated men of Smithville's bar, and always a distinguished bar it w as.
- Before John Sullivan had ever stepped into a ring--even contemporary with Heenan there was a boxer in Smithville,
a fellow who never looked other than out of a band box, far-a-way the best and most tastily dressed man there,
rivaled only by Jim A twell when he occasionally returned to Smithville. A man who rarely failed to bring down
his man with a K. O. I refer to Jim Eastham who afterwards studied medicine and practiced in another part of Tennessee.
Jim was an athlete--quick as a flash, muscu lar, courageous. He was the most graceful dancer in Smithville and
in a number of steps executed, rivaled only by Taylor Shures.
- Dr. J. S. Harrison was a Smithville land-mark for many years. Back from the Civil War with a fine record of
service, he began practicing medicine at Smithville and immediately enjoyed a large practice. His success was marked.
I shall never forget how he told me he ran a woman out of bed who was possessed of the idea that she could not
move! Thrusting a large sedge-grass broom into the fire he used it flaming as it was and actually ran her out of
the house. She was cured. He was cheerful, frien dly and loved by those who shared his acquaintance. He was an
inveterate joker, always harmless. Terry Trapp being on of his favorite victims.
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August 11, 1927
REMINISCENCE No. 19
by W.T. Foster
- My readers may consider this paper a continuation of No. 18 for there are others who were around Smithville
during the early seventies, who were interesting personalities.
- On my occasional trips to Chatanooga to attend to business of interest, my route was through the Battle Field
at Chickamauga with its hundreds of monuments. I never see them without thinking of Judge W. G. Crowley who was
wounded there. If I am in error here some friend will set me right when I see him. I recall Judge Crowley as the
friend of every one who needed Him, great-hearted, brave, fair minded, possessed of a very high sense of personal
honor which he stood ready to defend at all times. H e was my valued friend when I was a boy, encouraging and inspiring
me to high endeavor.
- Hop Capshaw, tooth-dentist as he called himself, also watch-fixer, was a little the most unique character I
ever saw. He has many good qualities--he was economical, industrious, fairly efficient--qualities that make men
rich, and Hop had gathered to gether some of the world's filthy lucre. Then his ambition to have a big two-story
business house in Smithville on the corner east of the jail. Hop was architect, carpenter--every-thing! Up went
the house but Hop evidently was skimpy on braces for one night a sudden squall struck the bare skeleton and threw
it far down the slope--great was the sound of it! Hop, undaunted soon had it up again and wiser by experience he
lavished braces this time! It stood. Stone-henge had nothing on it for picturesque ness.
- David Blankenship, the father of David Jr. and Silas was perhaps one of the most profoundly read men that ever
resided in Smithville. He had a stateliness of carriage and air of dignity that marked him as unusual and demanded
attention. He was a ph ilosopher of no mean ability and he displayed such familiarity with the works of the great
masters as stamps one as scholarly. His English was faultless and rare for excellence and the unusual. In his last
days he became aberrant to a degree but in the main he retained his careful reserve and dignity.
- Possibly the lady that held first place in the esteem and affection of Smithvillians in the seventies was Mrs.
Thena Whaley. She was a teacher at Fulton Academy and the idol of us all. She was the soul of gentleness, the acme
of politeness, most hi ghly refined, the personification of neatness always cheerful, deepely sympathetic, pure
in word, thought and deed as the driven snow, beautiful hair in little festoons about her ears, a smile upon her
sweet face, her silken sleeve ensconcing a beautiful and loving arm which drew some little fellow closer up to
her while she started him on his way up the hill of knowledge. I do not know where her grave is but I know it is
honored ground for it guards the dust of as perfect a woman as ever lived. I hope I may be permitted to stand this
summer near her tomb and with head uncovered meditate a little while on her ministrations to me in the yester-time.
- Stanfield Dunlap was a young man in 1870. Like his father he was very fixed in his character. His sense of
personal honor was dormant. Some of my readers will re-call the test put upon him by Bill Hathaway on the streets
of Smithville. He was una rmed at the time but putting himself on an equal footing he returned to town and requested
an open-air meeting to settle the matter. The meeting was not held. No one ever questioned his courage after that.
"as brave as Stanfield D." became a simile in DeKalb. By the way, Stanfield was the first to introduce
a soda fount in Smithville. To get his pressure he rigged a vessel in the top of a locust tree near the courthouse
well--the finest, coldest water in the town--and he kept a fellow busy carrying u p cold water. His extracts were
limited in variety but on court days he did a land- office business. Sitting near the well curb was Lige Whitely,
the finest ginger cake maker ever resident in this world I think, and on another corner of the curb sat Eli Vick
looking after the taxes. From a two-wheeled ox-cart near by Paris Driver retailed hard cider made from genuine
"Kentuck" apples. Those were ideal days! What if George Colvert took four days to go to Nashville and
return? He counted that quick an d it was for those days. But I catch myself moralizing and I shall resist great
as the temptation is.
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