August 18, 1927
REMINISCENCE No. 20
by W.T. Foster
In this paper I shall undertake to tell something of how the younger social set passed the time away in and
around Smithville in the early seventies.
- The Civil War left a preponderance of females and set quite a premium on the males so fortunate as to get home
unharmed. Social entertainment's of every kind were frequent with perhaps the old-time cotillion leading. The fiddle
and the banjo in the main made the music and fiddlers and banjo pickers Smithville had an abundance with Steve
and Nath Shaw on Caney Fork always available. Nearly everybody danced. There were those who had won distinction
for their excellence in calling the figures. The caller's voice rang out clearly and distinctly in a kind of chanting
undulation set off with circumflexes rising and falling. It was really a part of the evening's entertainment to
hear him. Small boys "jigged in the corner" when permitted to come in. There was no unseemly body contact
in this dance, no hugging up-partners stood at respectful distances from each other at all times, nor did the gentlemen
at any time find himself supporting largely the weight of the lady. Occasionally the schottische, a mild and beautiful
movement was danced but the modern waltz was unheard of. I refer to the waltz that very much reminds one of a battle
between bullocks. There were "play parties" where "snap" was dominant, alternating with "slap-out,"
paying paws, etc . Ah, the innocence of those old days! We hear much of this enlightened age! Which way is the
craw-fish going when he is progressing--forward or backward? Which? Are we any worse in the aggregate as compared
with the seventies? I think not. Our mea ns of information have so multiplied, the publicity of the daily is so
merciless, vice itself has reached such a refined stage, concealment is not the desideratum it used to be. All
this is apt to deceive our judgment except our minds have a very judicia l temperance. When we come to think deliberately,
has human inclination changed since Adam was in the garden? What about our sympathetic system of nerves--has it
changed? Why should it? The presence of the human race on this planet depends on the norm al functioning of the
sympathetic system. We have not added nor subtracted a vice or a virtue since mother Eve was in the garden. Education
is playing a great part in the tremendous drama which is being staged before our eyes. The race refuses to be bo
und longer by fatalistic creeds. There is a powerful under current of opinion that is clamoring for freedom of
thought. Fear is being literally whipped out of the world. Superstition which has ever been the child of fear is
about to be denied the right of domicile. The race is actually unfettering and unmanacling itself. We are on the
eve of the re-birth of the world so far as freedom of thought is concerned. Right here is where education must
come in and dictate a moral panacea for the world. Peop le must be taught what is best for them physically, Mentally,
morally, socially, spiritually. Religion--the sermon of the Mount religion--must be basal in this five-fold development
of men and women for it is primal but its handmaiden is education. Can you visualize a world where there is no
superstition and fear? Where you can look at your neighbor woman without the slightest reservation as to her virtue?
We are not seeking a new religion--we need the old one strictly on the job--vitalized--one hundr ed per cent efficient!
No, we are no worse than the ancients and certainly we are no better. Every sin of Sodom and Gomorra is being committed
today! Pathologists are perfectly aware of this and books are being written thereon. The harems of the East are
yielding their dread secrets of human perversion. Really there is no necessity to go afar--the social situation
in America is alarming.
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Smithville, Tennessee September 1, 1927
REMINISCENCE No. 21
by W.T. Foster
I wish I had a list of every man, woman and child who lived in Smithville in 1870! I wonder how many of them are
now living! I have permitted myself to indulge in little fifty-fifty visions, the first fifty placing little floral
offerings on the li ttle grassy mounds of the other fifty! Perhaps! I found a letter on my desk when I came from
Atlanta and on opening it I found The Review had sent me a letter placed in its care by a Texas reader and the
writer was telling me how much he appreciated the articles I have written. Do you know we live in a very funny
world? I have sent several of these articles to various old acquaintances, some in Tennessee and a half a dozen
in Texas, articles remembering their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, ect., yea, even their very selves, but
if a single word of recognition of my kind offices has ever come to me by any of the means of transportation or
communication known to men, my memory is now an absolute blank! Would I be warranted in sending to each of th ese
old acquaintances a copy of "god's good Morals and Gentle Manners"? Not on your life! They are a fine
folk, certainly they are if they have kept faith with ancestry, and I'll wager they have. But my old friend who
wrote me yesterday--to be sincere, I feared he was over Jordan years ago,--sent me such a delightful letter that
I can not restrain myself from allowing you to enjoy it with me. I am assuming that Jay -"Jay Dillard"-you
know him - Jay is a few years younger than I am, will not rebuke me severely for borrowing a little help with his
permission-for Jay was always a good fellow. Dr. and Mrs G. G. Dillard--what a benediction in ancestry
- "Dear Tom:
- I am J. F. Dillard, a son of G. G. Dillard, who moved to Smithville in 1872, a partner of Tom Christian in
the drug business. I remember with great clearness most of the characters of whom you write in The Review and I
much wonder why the older we grow the more we live in our memories. Do you remember Coon Potter who always said
"Certainly" to everything, and do you remember the old yellow dog who through all weather followed Cain
Magness to town. And do you remember how Josh Phillips enjoyed the opportunity to argue predestination?
- It would be interesting if you could recall some of the battles of Jim Willis and Bob Gilbert, old-time bullies,
and write about them. If you draw a bit on your imagination it would not hurt for they were great "men of
valor" in their day.
- I was talking to some ladies of Dallas last Sunday who told me that some of them had received copies of the
Review from you.
- I see Stanfield Dunlap frequently. His red hair is now white but the fire is still in his eyes, and he often
tells me stories of the olden times that are very interesting.
- I just wanted to write my appreciation of those stories you have written for the Review and express the hope
that you will write more of them.
|"Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned,
From wandering on a foreign strand?"
- I have quoted the above from Jay's letter--a letter so human, frank and sincere. Some one will read this and
be glad that he wrote and that he is still on this side of the river. I'm glad he used that excerpt from Scott's
"Lay of The Last Minstrel. " It is a gem--perhaps the finest verse ever written on patriotism in any
language, in complete from containing sixteen lines. Reader, write me as Jay did--I might use your letter--what
about it? Address Lyerly, Ga.
- In the few remaining lines of this paper I wish to remember you of the tallest brothers, if not the very tallest
men, who ever lived in DeKalb County. I refer to John and Kire Love. Each must have been close to six and a half
feet, Kire slightly le ading. One or both held the office of sheriff. A joke was told that one of them serving
a paper entered a cabin by bowing his head, shutting his eyes instinctively and opening them after straightening
up (he was looking over second story) observed, "no one at home," withdrew himself leaving the man desired
sitting at the fire in the lower story! This reminds me of Philip Bluhm, that fine Russian who settled in DeKalb
in the early seventies and became constable in his district. It was said that he cha sed a fellow into a swamp,
to the top of a stump. Not being able to get him, he indited on the back of the writ "In swampum, on stumpum,
- The following letter was printed in the SMITHVILLE REVIEW on September 8, 1927.
APPRECIATES MR. FOSTER'S REMINISCENCES
Sept. 1, 1927
- We have been reading the articles of Mr. Foster's in your paper. We have and do appreciate them so much. They
refresh our memories of the past. We remember most all of the people and things that occurred back yonder. We remember
Uncle Perk Bl ads with his long white beard who was assassinated at his home at Liberty, where Mrs. Braswell now
lives, by Kersey and his men. Also James Clark who with others were at a party on Canal Creek on Clear Fork was
killed by the same men. I went to his buri al at the Salem Cemetery where Uncle Ben Blads was also buried.
- Col. Joe Blackburn and his men the next day went out and ran them down on the south side of a cove of Short
Mountain killing eight of them including Capt. Kersey.
- We remember seeing those men lying side-by-side on counters in a house that stood in the southwest corner of
what is now the W. H. Givan yard. That was a great sight to a little boy (the writer). My, my, those were perilous
times. They were burie d northwest of Liberty, northeast of the Liberty bridge in the field of Daniel Smith now
owned by Mrs. J. W. Overall. They were put in one grave without anything on but their clothes they had on and the
soil to fill up the grave.
- We remember the General Joe Wheeler raid which left the women, children and old people with but little to eat
and with no stock to make any more. There were thirty-five hundred of them. Col. Blackburn and many of his men
are buried at the Salem Cem etery at Liberty, Tenn. While a little boy, (the writer,) new most all of his men.
We have helped to bury many of them.
- There are but few of those that wore the blue and gray on this side -- the roll call will soon be heard no
- We thank the Lord of hosts that there is no north or south but we are one.
- I remember Mr. Frank Foster being in Liberty. He was a shoe and saddle man (not harness for there was no call
for them then).
T. M. GIVAN
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Last update: February 2, 1997