May 26, 1927
REMINISCENCE No. 12
by W.T. Foster
This paper will be devoted to people and things of more than usual note in Smithville and Dekalb County around
- By far, Dr. J. S. Fletcher was the most scholarly person and possessed the finest collection of rare and valuable
books. He was my friend and permitted me to read them. There I saw the only copy of "The Koran" I have
ever seen. It was a rare p rivilege to talk with the doctor, he was so gracious and helpful.
- Wm. Magness was the most prosperous citizen in town. He was a good man, stuck to business, clear in judgment,
fair in his dealings, temperamentally fine. He was envied of course by those "ne'er-do-wells" always
in evidence in small towns. I re member one Christmas night the "boys" hauled a cord or so of his wood
down to the widow Heel. Next day he sent Mrs. Heel word not to bother about it.
- Bart Pack was the greatest woodchopper that ever shed luster on Dekalb's brawn. I think it was Tom Sewell who
had his two-horse team haul seventeen loads of oak and hickory to the present Ewin Staley place. I saw the loads
and I know they were good ones. Bart Pack came in from the country, attacked that pile of wood about seven o'clock
in the morning, cut each stick into three foot lengths - three pieces - and threw the whole of it over the fence
in a day and fifteen minutes! I will wager tha t feat has never been repeated in Smithville. It was a night never
to be forgotten -- that spread of bright, new chips. The price for cutting a load of wood the was 10 cents, --
I wonder how much it is now!
- The finest carpenter that ever drove a nail in Smithville was Dr. Ben Cantrell (kind of an herb doctor too),
a specimen of whose work and hairline joinery one can see by examining the building in which T. W. Wade ran a hotel,
near the south-east corner of the square. If you are curious to see wonderful fitting he did on sills and studding,
look under there and you will see a style of carpentry that is worthy of Westminister Abbey. Columbus Murphy was
the fastest ever in the town but can not be classed with Cantrell for quality.
- Rance Youngblood was the finest smith that ever presided over any nail in Smithville. He made his hammers and
finest tools and tempered them perfectly. Did you know tempering is nearly a lost art among smiths?
- Mary Womack, in my opinion, was far away the most intellectual pupil that attended Fulton Academy in my day.
I say this in full view of the fact that associated with us were such brilliant minds as Alvin Hooper, Lonnie Crowley,
Jim Beckwith, Sud ie Kidwell, Bettie Allen, Martha Crowley, Maggie Carnes, Jim Sewell and others. If I ever heard
Mary misspell a word I can not recall it, her close competitor in this art being Sudie Kidwell. Her other studies
were just as well mastered. She just would not fail. Carlyle says genius is hard work, and it was just that which
kept Mary at the head all the way.
- One of the most remarkable women Smithville ever produced was Is Dozier. I speak her name just as she would
have me say it were she here. I knew her mother, a fine woman, who left four daughters, among them Is who by virtue
of native ability be came the leader in all affairs though not the oldest. Her judgment was of the finest, her
intuition wonderful, her courage the loftiest, her sentences, polished steel when necessary. She was frank as death,
the impersonation of kindness and universally loved. She was of high descent, having I think, in her veins the
blood of Sir Francis Drake who helped to defeat the Spanish Armada and was Knighted by Queen Elizabeth after having
as the first englishman circumnavigate the globe.
- Dr. Pryer and his wife added culture to Smithville. He opened a photographic gallery, the best ever in town
to that date. He was an Englishman, very exact in speech, a little whimsical. Will was an only son, a little belligerent,
with many wat erloos. Clara, an only daughter, was one of the prettiest and most attractive girls ever in Smithville.
One May day the entire school went to the Falls. John Tubb and I decided we were above walking, or at least would
be so when riding Dr. Pryer's jenn et, which we did. Boy-like we felt we had distinguished ourselves, but the fiddler
had to be paid. Some two weeks later the doctor caught me on the street, lead me up into his gallery, way back
into his "dark-room". If I should go to the the penitentia ry I could not feel worse than on that occasion.
"Thomas, look at that" -- he stuck out the toe of his shoe -- Now do not ride my jennet again. You may
go." I went.
Return to Reminiscences
of Smithville - Index Page
Return to DeKalb
June 2, 1927
REMINISCENCE No. 13
by W.T. Foster
I desire to call the attention of my readers to the fact that this is paper number thirteen. Who has ever seen
room thirteen in a hotel? How many of us have ever seen locomotive thirteen? On reflection, we can not recall much
familiarity with this number--the world has used it as little as possible, which is another way of saying that
the world is superstitious. Yes, some two-hundred generations ago it began--Adam and Eve had just begun keeping
house. Think of all the "bad luck" signs preval ent in every land, civilized or uncivilized, think of
what a mass of it there is and how identical. The wonderful thing about it is that it persists by tradition. Tradition
is more reliable even than history for it does not add, it does not subtract. I t passes from generation to generation
unchanged. The fertile soil in which superstition has flourished is ignorance. But we are having less respect for
superstition as the years go by. When a light is carried into a dark room the darkness flees. When education becomes
universal few mourners will sit about the bier of superstition. Think of the wonderful progress we have made since
putting to death twenty people charged with witchcraft at Salem, Mass., in the seventeenth century. Think of Cotton
Mat her being a chief fomenter of that persecution and of Judge Sewell who after the mania subsided-arose at each
recurring anniversary of the execution, and standing before all the people made a confession of his sin: "O
God forgive me for my part in the Sa lem witchcraft persecution." Living in the blazing effulgence of the
twentieth century can you realize that Sir Edward Blackstone of England, the author of those great treaties on
common law believed in witches? That Sir Matthew Hale, the just judge of whom we read in McGuffey's reader there
in old Fulton Academy actually condemned witches? But we are moving onward and upward, even in spite of the obscenity
of many of the moving pictures entailed upon us for lack of a censor, the fascinating and queeri ng effects of
plush seats making forty miles an hour, and the many whirl of unthinkable modern dances, to say nothing of the
thousands of parents all over this country who have left their children to special providence. I have been in direct
daily contac t with large groups of children of all ages for fifty years and I give it as my deliberate opinion,
take it all in all, they have advanced, not retrograded
- Reader, pardon the wide detour from the beaten road in the first half of this paper. Now that we are again
on the main highway I find myself pondering over the stage-coach days just after the Civil War. If there ever was
a man who magnified his office, it was the average stage-driver Around '70. If I should be called upon to name
the man who did the stage-driver "airs" to complete perfection, I would say Horace McGuire. Dr. Marden
says, "Find your place and fill it full," and this, Horace cer tainly did. He was good, kind, considerate
of the health and comfort of his patrons, polite to the last degree, with an air of confidence in his ability to
put his patron safely to his destination that would have adorned the captaincy of the ocean liner, Leviathan. I
was accustomed to see him make up his team of four in the morning and as he mounted to his seat on the old stage
and perched himself aloft, I confess I rather envied him as he gathered up his lines, cracked his whip and rolled
away for Nash ville, or perhaps, Lebanon. Trunks in the boot and valises tied on the deck with four or more passengers
inside. the old stage went rocking on its way. Meeting the stage as it returned in the late afternoon was a great
event with the small boys. Tracki ng marbles or playing "knucks" suddenly caught the far away sound of
a bugle. "there she is boys." and instantly we were rushing westward. out near the ford of the creek
we met the stage and our particular objective was to get a good hold on the boot st raps that fastened in the trunks.
Here we half slid and half rode into town. If we "stood in" with driver all was fine, if not he "cut
behind" with his long lash and woe to the tresspasser who was in reach. Arrived at the post office, the mail
was carr ied in and behind closed doors the post master assorted it then stood at the little window and called
aloud the name on the envelop. The people standing in a dense group called out "here" in answer to their
names and the letter was passed from hand to ha nd. "All up, Gentlemen" by the post master and the crowd
melted away. In spite of just one daily mail from Nashville, the simple life of dear old Smithville was enjoyed
by all. Happy childhood with strawberries from Walden field, huckleberries from the "flat-woods," home-made
sugar from Holmes Creek, apples from Giles Driver's Orchard, chestnuts from J. A. NeSmith's grove, along with Paris
Driver's cider and Lidge Whitley's ginger cakes. Grand old days!
Return to Reminiscences
of Smithville - Index Page
Return to DeKalb
Last update: February 2, 1997