Oakdale School was destroyed by fire in the Spring of 1969.



taylorClarence TAYLOR, MR CLARENCE, age 72, passed away peacefully Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at Life Care Center of Morgan County. He was born and raised in Crossville, TN. He was a member of Meister Memorial SDA Church and was baptized July 1997. Mr. Taylor was a retired Navy Veteran with 30 years of service. Also retired with 10 years at BMCF. He was preceded in death by mother and father Walter and Ella Taylor. A special CNA; Carrie Ledford aka “BONNIE”, brother-in-law; Don L. Robbins of Deer Lodge. Mr. Taylor is survived by wife of 24 years; Cleda Hall Taylor. Daughter and son-in-law; Michelle and Randy and granddaughter; Cheryl of Charleston, SC. Brothers-in-law; Clayton and Cleo Hall of Sunbright, Carlene and Edward Morgan of Sunbright, Cathlene and Eugene Morgan of Calhoun, GA, Charlene and the late Don L. Robbins of Deer Lodge, Charlotte and Denny Phillips of Briceville and Connie and Sam Hall of Wartburg. Also a host of nieces, nephews, grand nieces and nephews also survive. The family will receive friends Wednesday, January 27, 2010 from 6:00 to 8:00 P.M. at Schubert Funeral Home, Sunbright. Funeral service will follow at 8:00 P.M. with Pastor Phil Colburn officiating. Graveside service will be Wednesday at 11:00 A.M. in the Mt. Hope Cemetery.  [Schubert Funeral Home]

by Donald Todd
The two most vicious killers ever to roam the roads and trails of the frontier were the terrible Harpe brothers, known as Big Harpe and Little Harpe. They were the sons of a North Carolina Tory who had moved to Knox County about 1795. Soon after the Harpes moved to east Tennessee, frequent murders began to occur along the routes and trails of Tennessee and Kentucky, however, it was nearly two years before the perpetrators of these crimes were identified.
In early December of 1787, the Harpes committed a murder on the Wilderness Road north of the present town of London, Kentucky which led to their identification as the probable murderers in the previously unsolved crimes. A young man, Thomas Langford from Virginia, had spent the night at a small inn run by John Farris, Sr., an old family friend from back home in Virginia. He was traveling alone through the wilderness on his way to Frankfort and was preparing to leave when five people, two men and three women, all poorly dressed and ill-kept, stopped for breakfast. Young Langford graciously paid for their meal. Since he was traveling alone, he invited them to travel along with him on his way north.
A day or two later, a drover moving a herd of cattle south over the road stopped at the inn and told how he had discovered the body of a young man while driving some of his cows from the woods back into the road. The body had been hidden by the side of a log and covered with leaves and brush. From his description, the innkeeper recognized the dead man as his young friend. Fortunately, the innkeeper had sent word back to the authorities about the motley crew with which his friend had been traveling. He joined the posse which set out to hunt down the murderers of his young friend. A few days later the killers were discovered and surrounded before they realized that anyone was near. Resistance was impossible and they were taken without bloodshed.
The five were lodged in the Stanford jail. All three women were in advanced stages of pregnancy. Two were consorts of Big Harpe, and the third was the wife of Little Harpe. Her name had been Sally Rice before her recent marriage to Little Harpe. Her father was later to become a prominent Roane County minister who founded the city of Riceville. As the investigation into the murder continued, it became known that this motley crew had actually committed four murders between Cumberland Gap and Stanford on this one trip. It was determined that the Harpes should be tried at Danville, Kentucky. They were transferred to the Danville jail. This was a log structure with walls nine inches thick but the jailer, wishing to take no chances, bought two horselocks to anchor the men’s feet to the ground and installed a new lock on the door. Two guards were hired to keep a constant watch on the prisoners.
During February and early March, the two women friends of Big Harpe had their babies in the Danville jail. Both were delivered by a midwife. On the night of March 16, 1798, the two desperados who had been temporarily unchained, overpowered their guards and cut their way out of jail taking the guards’ guns with them. All of the women and the babies were left behind. It was soon learned that the two Harpe men had headed for Cave-in-Rock, a hideout for outlaws and river pirates on the Ohio River.
The women remained in jail until after Sally Harpe’s baby was delivered in April. After convincing the local people that they were the innocent victims of the brutish Harpes, the people provided them with an old mare and food and clothing and sent them on their way back to East Tennessee. Within a short time after leaving Danville, they turned onto a little known trail to Green River, where they traded their mare for a boat and headed down stream to the Ohio where they would rejoin their marauding mates.
The Harpes remained holed up out of reach of the law for a short time until the manhunt gradually died out. They then moved back to East Tennessee and are said to have located a hideout in the Indian territory in the mountains somewhere between the present towns of Oliver Springs and Wartburg. This hideout was to serve them if they became pursued while in the southern end of their territory. They had already resumed their campaign of pillage, robbery, and murder.
On July 29, 1799 the Harpes put their vicious mark on the history of the present Morgan County even though the county was still Indian territory and was not to be organized for 18 more years. On that fateful day, James Brasel and his brother Robert were riding along a road leading to their homes in Knox County (now a part of Anderson County). It was their ill fortune to meet the Harpe brothers who had recently committed another murder. In order to throw suspicion from themselves, they told the Brasels of the killing and said they were looking for the murderers. Then in a sudden change of mood, they accused the Brasels of the crimes and ordered them to get off their horses. Robert, fearing what would happen, made a dash for freedom and escaped. The Harpes tied James’ hands and feet, cut his throat and then shot him. His body was left beside the road where it was later recovered by his family. Robert attempted to raise a posse to pursue the killers but was not able to do so until they had sufficient time to escape. The real mystery is where the murder occurred. There are two different accounts and each has some points in its favor. These differing versions will be discussed later on in this account, but a short history of the Brasel’s movements into East Tennessee is in order.
Richard Brasel moved from Greenville, South Carolina to Knox County, Tennessee after he was approximately 60 years old. Several of his grown children, including James and Robert, also sold their property in South Carolina and came to East Tennessee at about the same time, which was in the 1790’s. James bought 50 acres on Grassy Creek in Knox County, Tennessee in 1795. Prior to his coming to Tennessee he had married Nancy Hall and several of their children had been born in South Carolina. Nancy was a sister of David and Samuel Hall, two of the earliest settlers of Morgan County. James and Nancy’s children were John (b. @1785), Elizabeth (b. @1787), Obedience (b. @ 1791), David (b. @ 1793) and Richard born about 1799, the same year that James was murdered.
Nancy Hall Brasel remained on the Anderson County tax list until 1812. She then sold her property in Anderson County and followed her brothers Samuel and David Hall to that part of Roane County which later became Morgan County. She purchased 27 acres of land from Daniel Stonecipher on Crooked Fork Creek and appeared on the Roane County tax list in 1814. There are several indications that Nancy brought all her children with her when she moved to Crooked Fork. The two youngest, David and Richard, appear to have left Morgan County when they grew up, but the three oldest children all married into the Stonecipher family which had already settled in Morgan County. John Brasel married Rhoda, a daughter of Revolutionary War veteran Joseph Stonecipher. Elizabeth Brasel married Benjamin Stonecipher and Obedience Brasel married Daniel Stonecipher. Both Stonecipher men were sons of Joseph Stonecipher. It is easy to see how extensive the relationship of the family of James Brasel is to the present population of Morgan County, when one considers the number of descendants of the Brasel, Hall, and Stonecipher families over the past 2 centuries.
Most of the early murders committed by the Harpes seem to have been on or near the Wilderness Road, the well-known route through the Cumberland Gap, but after the murder of Langford and the Harpe’s escape from the Danville jail, the rewards for their capture had increased until they could no longer travel that well used route because of the organized parties hunting for them.
When the Harpes came out of hiding at Cave-in-Rock they started preying on the people along the Cumberland River from Burnsides down to the Tennessee line and using the trail across the Cumberland plateau through what was later to become Kentucky and East Tennessee. They are reported to have killed a man in Stockton’s Valley near Price’s Station on the Cumberland River and a youth by the name of Trabeau farther west. They met a black youth going to the grist mill and bashed his brains out against a tree but later left the horse and bag of grain untouched.
These horrible acts so incensed the community that the people organized a company and started searching for the Harpes. They had barely got started before they killed a man by the name of Tully on Wolf River near the Kentucky and Tennessee line. Either on their way down from Kentucky or on their return they murdered a man by the name of Bradbury about eight or nine miles east of Kingston. As soon as the people of Tennessee became aware that the Harpes were back in the state they organized search parties and began to hunt for them. The Harpes crossed the Clinch River at Papaw Ford and headed back over the route they had just traveled coming south. A writer of the day tells us that this route was already known as the Kentucky Trace at the time the Harpes were using it. James and Robert Brasel had been to Stockton’s Valley in Kentucky and were returning to their homes in Knox County by the same route on which the Harpes were headed north. They met just a short distance north of the Emory River a mile or two upstream from where Montgomery, the county seat of Morgan County would later be located. Most reports indicate this as where the Brasel murder occurred. This would place it near the center of Morgan County about two miles north of Wartburg. The actual place of the murder was said to have been called Brasel’s Knob.There seems to be no place now known by that name in the vicinity, but the passage of nearly two centuries of time has probably erased the name.
Not long after the Brasel murder, the Harpes were in western Kentucky, not far from their old Cave-in-Rock hiding place. Here they committed two particularly atrocious murders, that of a baby and its mother. They were hunted down and Big Harpe was wounded and captured. The enraged husband cut his head off and carried it back near where the killings took place. He sharpened a pole and mounted the head on it and raised it at the forks of a road. The skull was reported to have remained in this position for several years as a grim reminder of the fate of this viscous mass murderer. Little Harpe escaped and went to the Mississippi territory where he continued his life of crime until he was finally caught and executed.
The villainous border terror was at last removed and people could again go about their roads and trails without fear of meeting anyone more dangerous than the Indians who still owned much of the area. The full extent of the atrocities committed by these fiends will probably never be known. They seemed to murder for the pure love of seeing people die. They are reported to have said before meeting their own fate that, with one exception, they never felt any compassion for any of their victims. The one exception was when Big Harpe killed his own baby when its crying got on his nerves. The various published accounts of their activities in Tennessee and Kentucky list about sixteen known murders committed by them. There is no doubt that the number literally ran into the dozens since they were operating in a vast wilderness where murders could easily be hidden.
At the time I started working on the history of James Brasel’s family and his unfortunate encounter with the Harpes, most of the material that I had read led me to believe that he had been murdered in Anderson County within a few miles of his home. The murder apparently took place on July 29, 1799 and was reported in the August 7th issue of the Knoxville Gazette. One more recently published report refers to the location as being near his frontier home in Knox County. However, the more research I did the more I came to doubt that the murder has occurred near James Brasel’s home. Most of the local descendants of James Brasel had always thought that he had been killed in Morgan County, but long before it was officially Morgan County. I discovered an article published in the Morgan County News in 1937 which quoted some of the older residents of Morgan County at that time as referring to the route from Wartburg to Jamestown and on into the vicinity of Albany, Kentucky as the Old Harpe Trace and also telling that James Brasel was killed in Morgan County.
I finally got a lucky break! Jerry Williams, (Melinda’s second cousin – note by MSF) who is also interested in Brasel history, discovered that I was working on this story and loaned me his treasured copy of an obscure book on East Tennessee history, entitled “Life as It Is”, written in 1842 by a Roane County lawyer by the name of J.W.M. Breazeale. I have been unable to determine if he is related to the Brasels and simply used a different spelling for his last name. This little book contains the most detailed account of the murderous activities of the Harpes during this time that I have found. Since this book was written at a time well within the memory of many persons who were alive and remembered with horror the Harpe brothers, it is probably the most authentic account of the activities of these villainous murderers available today. It has been invaluable to me in attempting to fill some of the gaps in this story. It is primarily because of this little book that I have become convinced that James Brasel’s murder did happen in Morgan County.
There are several reasons for this change of opinion after reading Mr. Breazeale’s book. One is the date of publication which was 43 years after the murder. Without doubt there were many people still alive who had a first hand knowledge of the location of the Brasel encounter with the Harpes. Another reason to give great credence to his account was his nearness as a Roane County lawyer, to what should have been his sources of information. In addition to being a lawyer, Mr. Breazeale also published a newspaper for some time, and as a publisher he would have known the importance of getting his story accurate.
I have used several sources of published information in compiling this story. Where differences between versions did occur in some of the details, I used the version best supported by logic and other supporting materials. Major sources of materials include;
The Knoxville Gazette, August 7, 1799; Life As It Is, J.W.M. Breazeale, Knoxville, TN 1842; The Morgan County News, Nosy, But It Is News, Wartburg, TN 1937; The Wilderness Road, Robert L. Kincaid, New York, 1947; The Stonecipher Tree, Mary H. Underwood, Knoxville, 1984.

Bring in your artifacts to be recorded!

HOURS ANNOUNCED : 10:30 AM – 2:30 PM – March 25th
**Do you have items pertaining to the Civil War?
If so, you are invited to join us as the “Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission” visits Wartburg to digitally copy your artifacts, manuscripts, letters, photographs or other items of The Civil War era.
All items must be original and owned by the person bringing them in.
Everything will take place on site and all materials will be carefully handled in accordance with archival standards and and will be returned to their owners. Participants will receive: basic conservation supplies for their items; digital copies of the images; the opportunity to have their Civil War memorabilia preserved, digitized and shared online for future generations. This is scheduled for March 25th and will take place in the lower level of the Wartburg Public Library. Hours have not been announced yet. We hope you will join us and help preserve our Heritage and History. ( I will post the hours as soon as I know them.) HOURS ARE 10:30 am – 2:30 pm. If you have artifacts, please bring them in to be photographed. The archivists will scan or take digital photographs of the materials, some of which will be featured in the exhibit, located online at www.tncivilwar150.org.

Join us!!

Photo from internet site
Wartburg Castle 

 Eisenach, Germany 
Wartburg, Tennessee


Plans are in the making to build a “full scale” replica of the Wartburg Castle on a mountain overlooking the city of Wartburg, Tn.  This replica is the dream of a former pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wartburg.   This pastor and a group of interested Morgan County people, traveled to Germany recently to view the original Wartburg Castle. Building plans are to begin soon with the building of the Chapel area of the Wartburg Castle of Wartburg, Tennessee.

From the Morgan County News, Wartburg, TN, March 9, 2000

Wartburg Castle is located on a 1230-foot cliff overlooking Eisenach, a city formerly behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany. It was founded by Duke Ludwig of Thuringia in 1067 AD and is one of the best preserved castles in In its great hall, the minstrels of the High Middle Ages held their competition. Germany. The oldest part of the Wartburg Castle is believed to be the lower gatehouse, whose arch was built about c 1150, and is now the entrance for visitors.

      Martin Luther, the excommunicated and outlawed reformer, translated the New Testament into today’s German language at the Wartburg.  After being called upon to stop his teachings and writings against the prevailing church of the day, Martin Luther was “kidnapped” in a friendly way, by Frederick the Wise and taken to Wartburg Castle to provide him a safe haven.

    The castle became a powerful, historical symbol of the Reformation after Martin Luther’s stay there. This ‘symbol’ was brought to Tennessee when the German and Swiss immigrants came to East Tennessee and named their settlement “Wartburg”.

Morgan County News dated March 9, 2000
Printed materials at the Wartburg Public Library, Warburg, Tennessee

Web Site about Wartburg Castle:


06. June 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: History · Tags:


 Madeline Jones taught in Morgan County schools for 31 years.  She is remembered by many for her quiet wisdom and determined spirit.

   “Mrs. Madeline,” as she was known to her students, was born November 5, 1915 — the second daughter of Sarah Melvina Jones Wilson (1888-1916) and Jesse Monroe Wilson (1890-1975).  Due to her father’s interest in unusual names for his children, she was named Aleta Madeline.  The idea for the name Madeline came from the French novel ‘Les Miserables’ which he read during the weeks preceding her birth.  Her sister, older by nineteen months, was named Evelyn Yetive.  Subsequent half-brothers were named Jesse James, Gaylon Eugene, Glenn Scott, and Donald Allen.  Her half-sister was named Virginia Jo.

   Three months after her birth in the 2nd District of Morgan County, Madeline’s mother died of pneumonia.  From the time of her mother’s death, she and her sister were cared for by her maternal aunts Bertha, Columbia and Florence Jones, her uncle Henderson, and her grandparents, Serena Clay Barger Jones (1847-1939) and Benjamin Wiley Jones (1854-1920).  The house in which she was born, built by her father, was located on the Jones farm in the Joyner community.  It remained unoccupied for many years after the death of “Sallie” Wilson.

   Jesse Wilson worked at various jobs in the Morgan County area after his wife’s death.  He lived at Petros with his parents, Esther Glass Wilson (1872-1968) and Peter Wilson (1886-1940).  He made frequent visits to see his children unless circumstances prevented him from doing so.  One such set of circumstances was the influenza epidemic of 1918.  Mr. Wilson’s large family was beseiged with the flu.  One day he walked by the Ben Jones farm on his way to make funeral arrangements for a teen-aged sister.  On the way, he stopped to yell from the gate to check on the condition of his daughter, Madeline, aged three, who was suffering from both diptheria and scarlet fever.  Contact between the two families had been almost impossible because of the flu epidemic.

   After making arrangements for the burial of that sister and yet another teen-aged sister who died the next day, Mr. Wilson again visited his daughter.  Her condition was critical.  The Jones family had been “sitting up” with her every night for over a month, and the “Granny woman” of the community had given up hope.  Mr. Wilson went to Harriman and persuaded/coerced a throat specialist to make a house call to treat his daughter, Madeline.  The fee agreed upon was $25 and a gallon of moonshine — the moonshine to be paid after the visit was completed.  It was to this doctor, and her father for bringing him, that Madeline Jones owed her life.  After the specialist treated her, her condition continued to improve, although she had a permanent hearing loss and was thin and pale for the remainder of her childhood.

   Madeline attended Joyner Elementary School where she graduated from the eighth grade.  She and her sister walked the two miles to school each day even in cold, snowy weather.  She attended Central High School in Wartburg where she graduated in 1934, the salutatorian of her class.  After her graduation, she attended the University of Tennessee.

   Her first teaching position was at Ruppee School in the southwest portion of Morgan County.  It was a one-room school for which she received a warrent for $50 a month.  Due to the insolvency of the county, it was almost impossible to cash these warrants for full value.  Madeline boarded with the Fred Hamby family in the Ruppee community.  In addition to teaching school, her responsibilities included preparing her students to sing at funerals and escorting them to the church to do so.  On at least one occasion, she also assisted Mrs. Hamby in making a shroud.

   After summer school at the University of Tennessee, Madeline returned for a second year at Ruppee School.  In the meantime, she had acquired a permanent certificate to teach elementary school in the state of Tennessee.  She also purchased a 1937 Chevrolet from Schubert Motor Company with the understanding she would be taught to drive.  Schubert Motor Company was one of the few places where you could get full value for a county warrent provided part of the money was applied to a car payment.

    Later teaching positions included Petros Elementary School and Elizabeth School.  During World War II, she was teacher/principal of Joyner School. From there she was transferred to Oakdale High School where she
taught two years.

    In 1939, Madeline Wilson married Kenneth Collin Jones, also of the Joyner Community.  They were the parents of one daughter, Betty Lynn, who is married to Don L. McNeilly.  They have two daughters — Donna Lynn and Lisa Dawn.

    The greater part of Madeline Jones’ teaching career was spent teaching in Wartburg schools.  When the new high school building was completed in 1946, she transferred from Oakdale to Central High School.  There she taught a variety of subjects — math, algebra, French, and physical education.

    In 1950, Madeline returned to elementary school, teaching fifth grade at Central Elementary School from that time until her retirement in 1968.  By that time she had taught the children of many of her former students.  Her classes were well-disciplined although she seldom resorted to “paddling.” Her methods were up-to-date and designed to impart basic education while keeping students interested in learning.  She set professional standards for herself that few teachers were able to attain, and she retired at the age of 53 when she felt she could no longer meet her own standards.

    Aleta Madeline Wilson Jones died January 15, 1973 after a courageous battle against cancer.  Her legacy to her former students is the memory of her wisdom and determination.

*Written in response to a request from theMorgan County Retired TeachersAssociation*Written and submittedby Betty Lynn Jones McNeilly

Written January 1st, 1872

Courtesy of Judith Pitcock



November 30, 1938  – January 3, 2002

Founder-Morgan County Home Page-1996


Gone–to fly with the eagles …

DAVIDSON, MORGAN (M.T.), 63, Lancing, passed way Jan 3, 2002 in his home in Lancing. He was born on Nov. 30, 1938. He retired from Catepillar Tractor Company in Joliet, Ill., after 30 years of service. He was instrumental in organizing a committee to do a book on Morgan County. His efforts helped make “The Heritage of Morgan County” a success. He was a member of the Morgan County Genealogy and Historical Society and was a Mason. He was preceded in death by his parents Arthur and Effie Davidson. He is survived by his wife Phyllis, of 42 years; son and daughter-in-law Craig and Karla Davidson of Knoxville; daughter and son-in-law Janet and Duane Carlson of Plainfield, Ill.; two granddaughters, Morgan and Madison Carlson; brothers Wesley of Deer Lodge, Stanley of Lancing and Johnny of Milner, Ga.; sister Beth Syler of Carbondale, Ill.; and several nieces, nephews and a host of friends. The family received friends Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002 from 6 to 8 p.m. in Schubert Funeral Home, Wartburg. A Masonic service began at 8 p. m. followed by a memorial service with Rev. Rick Taylor officiating. [Morgan County News, 1-10-2002]

Unknown date…

Morgan County Jail – Built about 1930
(Photo from “The Mountain Weekly” 9/11/1997) 

Morgan County Archive & Family History Center 
Taken March 15, 2013

(Note the handicap ramp to the left of the building)


Displaying IMG_1126.JPG

Fall 2013

Inside the building before renovations began. This is where the Genealogy room is now located:

This is how the inside of the Genealogy room looks now:


Dated March 1913

This photo was taken May 1918 at the fruit farm in Lancing.


“They called it the Berry Farm, Strawberry Farm, Fruit Farm, etc. It used to have rows and rows of those multifloral roses along the road. They were like hedges, and you couldn’t see much past them. They were sold to farmers to form natural fences, but quickly got out of control once they were planted. It took years to get rid of them. They made a pretty scent when they were all in bloom, though. Lovely to drive by then.”


Sunday School on Cumberland Strawberry Farm”. Notice the men’s hats on top of the bulding.