Bits and Pieces

 March 13, 2013

Here is a new community to add to the previous list:

Slemp Hollow – “Slemp Hollow is a small neighborhood in the Upper Watauga area. The people residing here are farmers. The valley is narrow but highly productive. The buildings and outbuildings are in a good state of repair throughout this neighborhood. The land has been built up over a period of years through intensive farm methods.”

January 22, 2013

Here is a new community to add to the previous list:

Roan Creek – “In the area across Roan Creek and in the confluence of this creek with the Watauga River reside a number of farm families. They are considered within the corporate limits of Butler, but since they are separated from the village proper they contribute very little to the activities of the community. A good percentage of these people are farm families although they may supplement their farm income by work in the plants at Elizabethton. Their principal employment is that of farming. The children attend Watauga Academy at Butler.”

January 10, 2013

Ah, the first semester of Grad school has been a tough one! I was able to slip on and type a little here and there on the Old Butler genology. I am still on the G’s (almost finished) and do encourage any who wishes to get a head of the names that you can find nearly all the information I am providing in Russ Calhoun’s book. In the meanwhile, I am going to share some of the communities I have come across so far in the Old Butler area (these will be added to the community page at a later time).


Butler: “Butler, a small town of approximately 200 families, is situated on the banks of the Watauga River in Johnson County. the people are largely agricultural, at least they depend on agricultural products which they produce on small tracts of land for home consumption. Several prominent families are extensive land owners on Watauga River and Roan Creek.

Butler was built around the lumbering activities of the Whiting Lumber Company. Watauga Academy is situated in the corporate limits.”

Carden’s Bluff: “The Cardens were among the first settlers in the district. They were not only early settlers, but they had large holdings, including the area which has become known as Cardens Bluff.”

“Cardens Bluff community, more properly described as the area between Dividing Ridge church and Watauga River, is inhabited by a large number of industrial families who work in the plants at Elizabethton. Perhaps 85% of the people in this area depend directly or indirectly on the plants for support.

The terrain is rugged in most of the area. Very small strips of land are suitable for agricultural purposes. Prior to the advent of TVA, Cardens Bluff School served the area. Since this school was demolished it is proposed to transport children to the schools at Hampton. Hampton and Elizabethton are the principal trading centers.”

Coal Pit Hollow: “Coal Pit Hollow is a small neighborhood in the Upper Watauga community. There are only a few families in this neighborhood and they derive their principal income from farm work. Most of them are owners who cultivate narrow strips of land on steep hillsides. Children are transported to the village of Butler by school bus.”

Cobb’s Creek: “Cobb’s Creek is a neighborhood in the Butler Community. the original families are subsistent farmers. They supplement their income by farm labor and part time industrial employment. The people of this community, as a whole, have family ties and are God fearing, devout people. The Cobb’s Creek Baptist Church and School serve the neighborhood.”

Cook Hollow: “Cook Hollow is a neighborhood just outside the city limits of Butler. No particular name has been given the community in which these people live. Cook Hollow is a farm section. The few farmers who reside there depend entirely upon farm activities. They attend church in Butler and send their children to the city schools in the village.”

Cowanstown: “the people who live here cultivate small tracts of farm land adjacent to the river’s bank. There are good access roads to this community; therefore, a number of people come by taxi to Elizabethton to work in the rayon plants. School buses run from Butler but children of grammar school age attend the school at Gregg Station.

Cowanstown is an old neighborhood in the Upper Watauga community. The people residing in this area are not as progressive as those further down the river toward Butler. The land is not as productive and the terrain is more rugged. The farm land that is available lies along the bank of the river. The production of beans in this area is becoming a major cash income crop.”

Doeville – “Doeville community derives its name from the former railroad station and post office which were known as Doe. It is located where Doe Creek enters Roans Creek. Before the railroad was washed out, this was a thriving community due to the railroad which enabled the people to sell wood, bark and lumber in the markets of Johnson City and Bristol.

Most of the farms are small and are located along the creeks. Tobacco and beans are the principal crops, supplemented by some stock raising. A great majority of the people in this community are Stouts and Grindstaffs. There are three stores and one mill in this section.”

Eastman-Farthington: “The development of this community is attributed to the lumber activities in this area several years ago. Two men, Mr. Farthing and Mr. Curtis, acquired the land almost in its entirety before it was cleared of timber. Over a period of years, the timber was cut and the land subdivided into small tracts. These small tracts were attractive to people of moderate means. The land was sold on a partial-payment plan, and over a long period of years with the accumulated interest the ultimate amount paid may appear unreasonable. However, most of the people are owners of these small tracts which are free of indebtedness. The roads are first-class chert highways leading through the valley. The principal cash crops are beans and corn. The children of high school age are transported to Butler.”

Fish Springs – “The community of Fish Springs is comprised of a number of small family farm operators. They do not depend entirely upon the income from the farm for support, as almost every family has a representative in the plants in Elizabethton. The children of elementary school age attend Fish Springs School and White Brothers’ Store serves the community for their purchases of general merchandise.”

Frog Pond: “The area surrounding the former Frog Pond school site is known as a neighborhood by the same name. Since Frog Pond school was washed away by the flood of 1940, the children are transported to school at Butler. The people who live in this community are largely agricultural, deriving their principal income from this source. The trading center is Butler. However, some merchandise is purchased from local country stores at Gregg and at Courtner’s store across the river.”

Gregg: “Gregg is a neighborhood in the Upper Watauga community. This name was derived from a family of the same name. The people depend largely on agriculture but do supplement this income by work in the plants in Elizabethton. The land is highly fertile and produces an abundance of almost any crop planted on it.

Gregg School serves the children of elementary school age. Those of the high school age are transported to Butler.

One store, that of Charles Culver, serves the area but the general merchandise required is purchased at Butler.”

Gregg Station: “Gregg Station neighborhood in the Upper Watauga community is comprised of agricultural families. Some of these agricultural income are supplemented by work in the Elizabethton plants. The school at Gregg serves children of elementary school and Watauga Academy at Butler is attended by the children of high school grades.

In the vicinity of Gregg neighborhood the agricultural land is highly productive and situated alongside the river’s banks. Tobacco is the principal cash crop. However, the production of beans is fast becoming a major operation.”

“One store, that of Charles Culver, serves the area but the general merchandise required is purchased at Butler.”

Horseshoe (Carden’s Bluff area): “The people residing in this community are a semi-industrial class, many of them earning their living by part-time or steady employment at the plants in Elizabethton. A number of families are owners. The Cardens Bluff school served the community until the advent of TVA.”

Midway community begins about a mile and one-half north of Butler and extends north for about two and one-half miles. The community is strictly rural, consisting of small farms from 20 to 60 acres. Most of the land is in a good state of cultivation and lies along Roans Creek and highway 67. About 80% of the people live in the valley, while the other 20% live in the hollows extending down to the valley from the high ridges. Several people from this community work at the rayon plants in Elizabethton. As a whole the people maintain a fair standard of living. They raise all their food on the land and can enough during the summer to supply them during the winter months.”

Piercetown – the community is a small one lying along the road side of U.S. 67 and extending up the branches and draws emptying into Watauga River. the people are closely attached to the soil and earn the principal part of their living thereby. However, many of the families are represented at the NARC plant in Elizabethton. Piercetown School serves the children of elementary school age. Others are transported to Butler and Hampton.”

Spring Branch Hollow is a small neighborhood in the Upper Watauga community. The people derive their income largely from agricultural operations. However, a few family representatives are employed in the plants in Elizabethton. In the past, lumbering has been one of the principal means of earning a living. Children of elementary school age attend Frog Pond school prior to the flood that destroyed this building in 1940. Now they are transported by truck to Butler, which is also the principal trading center.”

No Longer Turning

No longer turning

Published  September 17, 2012 By Brad  Jolly– Assistant News Editor

From the Johnson City Press

TRADE — The wheel is still and the flume is dry as the people of Trade look  for a way to restart the Trade Grist Mill.

The mill was a thriving attraction in the small public park that also  contains a former school building that now serves as the Trade Community Center.  It was also a commendable example of community cooperation as the vintage  machinery was donated by a neighboring landowner and the building was built by  inmate laborers.

The milling tradition in Trade goes back to at least 1802 when Thomas Jones  homesteaded on nearby Roan Creek and built a mill. Pleasant May and his wife  Callie bought the property sometime after 1850.

A grim event in that mill’s history occurred in 1892 when Callie May got her  dress caught in the mill’s revolving shaft and was fatally dashed against the  floor. “She was an excellent Christian lady and beloved by all who knew her,” the Johnson County News reported. “Our sympathy goes with the family as they  follow her remains to the lonely grave.”

The mill was purchased by the Snyder family in 1915. A son, Peter Snyder,  later learned to operate the mill and ran it until around 1989. He said he never  liked to be in the mill alone for fear of encountering the ghost of Callie May.

In the 1950s a new highway between Mountain City and the state line took the “race way” that powered the mill’s water wheel. Peter sold the wheel and  replaced it with a gasoline engine, which was used until the mill closed.

People who bought the property in 2004 donated the mill’s machinery to the  Trade Days Museum. It was restored and became the works of the Trade Grist Mill.

The Trade Grist Mill operated for about four years powered by piped-in creek  water before it was stopped by mechanical problems, said Frank Lawrence,  grandson of the Snyder who bought the old mill in 1915.

“People brought corn, wheat, buckwheat, flax,” he said, and the mill produced  flour, grits, cornmeal and even scratch feed for chickens. They sold some  products to Food City and Mast stores, “but we couldn’t get enough orders to pay  the miller.”

Then in quick succession, the miller quit, the bearing went out and the shaft  broke. A replacement bearing, Lawrence said, would cost at least $4,000.

Lawrence, who has learned a lot about the milling trade over the years,  conducted a tour of the silent mill. It contains half a dozen milling machines,  including a couple bearing the name Meadows Mill, which he said were built in  the late 19th century in North Wilkesboro, N.C. “They were run by water when we  had it,” he said.

Sacks of corn sat in a row on the floor.

“We had hoped to make money for scholarships,” he said.

The members of the Trade Community Center are not throwing in the towel. In  fact, repairing the mill is but one of several of their goals. Others are  bringing back the Trade Days Festival, perhaps as the Mill Days Festival, and  converting part of the Trade Community Center into a museum.

“We’d like to fix it up to where you could see it all at one time,” Bill  Roark said. “This would be a wonderful place for a welcome center, right here on  the state line.”

Roark said estimates on a thorough repair of the mill range from $4,000 to  nearly $10,000. “And we would need to hire a miller,” he said.

Toward that end, the Trade Community Center is about to obtain 501c3 status,  which will make donations tax deductible and enable the center to apply for  grants.

With the repairs accomplished they would hope to serve the public a couple of  days a week in the spring and fall.

“We have the artifacts, and we would like to establish a museum in the old  Trade Elementary,” Earleen Reece said.

The reopened mill would beckon some visitors from the highway, said Paul  Stout, who serves as the Trade Community Center treasurer. And when the mill  wheel is turning, he said, “It’s as peaceful as can be sitting around here.”


Brad Jolly is assistant news editor for the Press. Email him at

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