STANTON PAGE 2
CONTINUATION - THE STANTON STORY
Our next chapter in the story of Stanton takes us into the War years.
In the Civil War Years there were many, around here, who rode with Forrest; there were those who fought with Wheeler, Morgan, Gen. Joe Johnston at Atlanta, and one or two fought under Gen. Lee. The Stanton area furnished to the cause, trained signal service men, skilled sharpshooters and doctors. One fellow fought a hand to hand combat with a Yankee soldier; another captured a battle flag at Shiloh and was detailed to take it to President Davis at Richmond. There were those who lingered long in the prison camps and there were those who did not come back. The folks at home fought too. And, while no battles were actually fought here, one little incident caused Stanton to almost suffer battle scars. The Union general William H. Wallace and his troops who took part in the battle of Shiloh, were camped here in the Corydon Spencer grove. Some Stanton boys, aroused by the enemy in their midst, fired into the camp, and General Wallace, in retaliation, issued orders to burn the town. To Mr. Spencer, who was a Union sympathizer, is given the credit for talking him into rescinding his order. Those were heated times and we understand Yankee bullets were whizzing too. The story is that Capt. Chaney stepped out on his front porch one night and barely missed meeting one of them. The railroad bridge was destroyed and the cars did not run again until after the war. The Federal general Hursts army also roamed through these parts and he is reported to have had shot to death two innocent Southern youths with the excuse that they were spies. Someone said that was up at the Dunlap home.
The years following the war were hard ones and Stanton suffered along with the rest of the South. The best portrayal of these times may be in the following comments from the Methodist minutes of the Wesley Circuit:
"Taking it altogether there has been less done in this land than ever was done since my existence. The confusion rising from the freedom given the Negroes has approached a famine in many places. Confusion reigns supreme. Nothing doing and apparently no prospects of doing anything. The gloom upon the country cast a gloom also upon the church. " And he adds this timely little teachings: " Most of us have something of the FORM and too little of the POWER of Godliness."
In 1866 the Wesley parsonage was sold to J.M. Webb, netting the big sum of $250.00. They didnt know exactly what to do with the money, so they decided to turn it over to Brother Cage to keep until called for "he to return it in the same currency, or its equivalent, gold, now at this date, being 40% premium." Later they voted to give half the $250.00 to the preacher and the other half to the struggling little church at Covington. And in 1867 we find the report where the conference sent several hundred dollars to the suffering poor of the South. So we find here a spirit of sharing even when theres so much need here at home.
One interesting little thing happened here during those irksome Reconstruction days. In November 1876 there was an enthusiastic celebration when election returns coming in indicated that Samuel J. Tilden, a Democrat, had been elected President of the U.S., Stantonians got a blacksmiths anvil from Mr. Tom Hicks shop and a railroad iron from the section house. Into a square hole in the anvil black powder was poured, a fuse laid, and the heavy rail was put over the hole. When this was fired there was a brilliant flash of light and the sound was louder than that of a cannon. 'Twas a complete celebration in all details, only it was premature, for the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, won the election.
But times gradually got better, and soon people were looking forward again. Folks in those days, same as now, liked to get around, they had gone without things for so long. New buggies were high adventure, one-seated or two-seated, or the more elegant surrey with the fringe on top, all these could be seen on Stanton roads.
We cant leave these years, however, without mentioning two disasters which struck. Late one Sunday night in 1874 the dreaded destroyer, fire, came and took just about all of the lower part of the business section, from the Peoples Bank down the entire row. Then, in 1878, the yellow fever struck and, while there was not too many deaths from the disease here, the wildest sort of panic prevailed. Family after family refugeed.... One former Stanton boy, J.J. Ashe, who had moved to Memphis, stayed there and nursed the sick and dying. He, himself, was a fever victim and lies buried out here at Wesley.
During the decades following , Stanton had a great spurt of growth. New faces were seen on the streets, new people were coming to town, new names were being added to the districts records. Some of these who came were: Albrights, Baucums, Baxters, Blacks, Bournes, Burroughs, Caldwells, Claxtons, Craftons, Coppedges, Dildas, Newmans, Nolens, Prices, Pyles, Raglands, Rives, Rawlins, Sheltons, Truss, Tucker, Williamson, Ruble, Woods, Youngs, and Major Murnan, the Union soldier who cast in his lot with us. One interesting little item about a prediction Mrs. Murnan made: When they built their home, situated across the road from Mrs. Sharps store, everybody thought it would be built facing the railroad. "No", said Mrs. Murnan," I want the back of it to the railroad. It will face, instead, a great road which will be built in the future." Her prediction came true in the late 20s when highway 70 was built. Only first it was called "The Broadway Of America."
Stanton was really growing these days. More and more lots were sold, more homes were built. One interesting old deed delivered by Mr. and Mrs. Adams to Dick Jones, for a lot, in 1874. Its the lot where Mrs. Modglin now lives. We remember it as the Tom Hicks lot. Dick had a home on the lot and a blacksmith shop close by. He was a Negro, and the tale goes that he set out to make a perpetual motion machine. He believed in his project so strongly that he put everything he could rake and scrape in to it, went broke and lost his home. Later all the gadgets of his machine were sold as junk for $3.50.
In 1880 the Stanton Cemetery was started on land bought from Mr. Somervell. The first funeral held there was that of Mr. W.H. Foster. Little Mary Shelton Newmans is the first grave but her body was reinterred from a cemetery nearby. And, as that sacred spot grows and becomes more and more, resting places of our loved ones, there grows within us, year by year, a deeper reverence for that hallowed ground.
After the fire in 1874, the town was rebuilt, and this time some of the stores were brick. The lower portion was not, however, and about 50 years later, another fire reduced it to ashes. In 1887 the business houses were 2 dry goods stores; 2 drug stores; 3 groceries; 1 grist mill; 1 cotton gin; 1 wagon shop; 1 blacksmith shop; 1 livery stable; 1 undertakers shop; and 2 saloons.
Around the turn of the century this areas reputation as quail country had become quite well known and hunters from far and wide came each fall to try their skill at shooting and to watch the dogs work. Many of these men were prominent Easterners. Mr. Laurellard, of New York, head of P. Laurellard Tobacco Co., was one of them. One of Stantons citizens, Mr. Charlie Tucker, kept and trained a whole kennel of bird dogs for him, many of whom won outstanding honors. Mr. Tucker was also a successful apple grower and he placed Stanton in the limelight with his famous apple orchards. One variety, his " Tucker Specials" was quite well known. Another huntsman who came was Mr. Barnut, a wealthy furniture manufacturer of New York. 'Twas he who gave to the Presbyterian Church those beautiful walnut chairs. But the huntsman who came and most won Stantons heart was Mr. W.B. Cleveland of Cleveland Ohio. He came to hunt birds and found his bride, one of our most charming young ladies.
One story was told by Mr. Ruble, who lived here years ago and later moved to West Point, Miss. He said one day he was down in the Hatchie Bottoms in his buggy when a storm came up. The rains poured for about ten minutes and, in that falling rain were hundreds of little fishes, perch - 1 ½ to 2 inches long. He said they just peppered the ground all around him and they were hitting the horse and top of the buggy just like leaves falling. The only way he could account for that fishy rain was that they were sucked out of Wesley Lake and a nearby creek by a tornadic wind.
How exciting it was when the first automobiles came to town. Children would drop everything they were doing and run to see them pass. And to get to ride in one was a never-to-be-forgotten experience. The wind almost took your breath away; the dust almost strangled you, but you had such fun! And the horn had such a progressive, satisfying sound! But those who owned them, they were the proudest of all. How they would brag and boast about making Mortons hill in high. Some of the brave early owners were Mr. Reex Kerr, who had a Maxwell; Mr. Newsum Powell, who had a Flanders; Mr. P.O. Wilkerson and Mr. Gene Crafton, who were proud possessors of bright glowing Fords. But the horse who had held the road for so long, was loath to relinquish his reign to that shiny contraption, and he bucked and snorted considerably whenever he met one. When a car came in sight youd see men, women and children shell out of the wagons and buggies, while the men grabbed the horses and women and children scrambled up the ditch bank in the side of the road until the scary thing passed.
And then there was the time when the women set out to clean up the town. Women are great organizers. They had already got their church societies functioning. They had started the U.D.C. chapter here in 1907, which, incidentally is the oldest continuous womans organization in the county. It always met on the 2nd Tuesday of each month and it was the social event of the town. It seemed as if the hostesses vied each other in entertaining and the refreshments were out of this world, especially in summer months with ices shaped into lilies, roses, tiny cotton bales and such. But back to our town clean-up; the Civic League, it was called with Mrs. Ora Wilkerson as president, Mrs. Holladay, secretary, and Mrs. Thad Hicks, treasurer. The ladies really went to work. They literally took brooms and rakes and cleaned the town. They needed money, so they made a quilt all embroilered with names; you had to pay ten cents to get your name on it. Then they sold the quilt. They made pies and cakes. Mrs. Maxwell wrote a play and staged it. STANTON UP-SIDE DOWN, rich and ludicrous take - off on the womans usurpation of her husbands job. But, you know maybe it wasnt so far fetched after all; maybe Stantons face-lifting was a job for the men, but we find woman leading the men in doing it. The biggest and most lasting job they did was to cover up those ditches which ran through the town. The one in front of the stores just past the parkway was especially objectionable.
During the 1st World War Stanton soldiers, both black and white, were among those who went " over there" and fought " to make the world safe for democracy." There were the Marines, the Sailors, those who fought in the artillery and infantry, those who served in the medical corps, and one who did secretarial work at the Peace Conference. Always, in any branch of service, they served well and were a credit to their home town. Again, those at home did their part. They sold War Bonds, sewed and knitted; they did without good things to eat so the boys could have what they needed; they " Hooverized." And how happy we all were when the war was over. You know we did not have radios in those day. We had to wait 'til the trains brought the papers before we got the news. Our way of letting everybody know the good news was to ring the church bell. Once some of the ladies went up and rang it when the Armistice was a rumor instead of reality. Another time Stanton celebrated prematurely.
Lets talk about the crazy " Flapper Age" of the roaring 20s. It stuck Stanton and had the older folks shaking their heads. But somehow we came through it and I cant think that we were any worse than the preceding or succeeding generations. The Jitterbug, Charleston, and the " sweet mammas" in short, short skirts with long, long waists, and the tight little spit curls. My, how hideous they were. Looking back on these years now, we find it hard to believe that they could have been that horrible.
In 1927 the town of Stanton was incorporated. This was her second venture in incorporation. Back in the 1880s it had been tried for a few years but the charter had been abolished. This time she was given a new charter. The first officials were: G.N. Albright, Mayor; C.H. Stuart, Recorder; G.F. Freeland, E.S.Gilliam, and Ed Peeler, Aldermen. Mr. Crafton was the road man. His job was to see to the grading and the graveling of the town streets. Before that we had dust and mud. It was also during the service of these officials that Stanton received her first electric lights.
We quickly move into the early 30s when the depression hit our little town full blast. Jobs and money were sure hard to come by. Many of us looked back to the years before and regretted that we had not saved more when we had it to save. All of us resolved that wed surely save for a rainy day if and when the good times came again. Looking back today on those days I wonder if we realize just how rich we really were, oh, not in worldly goods but in the many, many things which are far more important than money. Stanton had one great permanent loss, however-- the Stanton Bank closed its doors and panic prevailed for a time. But I am happy to tell you that her depositors did not lose a dime. They were even paid interest on their deposits, Only the stockholders were left holding the bag, which was empty.
Then on Sunday Dec. 7th, 1941, word came over our radios that the Japs had struck Pearl Harbor. World War II had begun! The tragedy of that war was quickly brought home to us with the news that one of our own boys, Malcolm Wright, had lost his life. He was Haywood Countys first casualty. Nor was his the only boy we lost. Both black and white died, side by side at this horrible time. Several of our boys were in prison camps and the sadness and strain showed on all faces. And, while they were nothing compared to the tragedies we faced, all of us remember the shortages. We thought it was a major calamity when the dog chewed up the food stamps or we lost our sugar stamps; but we just did without. When the gas stamps were gone or the tires wore out, we just walked. That was nothing compared to what our soldiers were under-going. Looking back on it now we can laugh, but it wasnt too funny then. Finally the war was over. How happy we were to have our soldiers back home. How we prayed that there would never be another war!
But our prayers werent answered. Theres the Korean Conflict and Vietnam Crisis and again we suffered another first casualty: Billy Wright, who was killed in Vietnam. Billys body was brought back home to us. Malcolms had been lost at sea.
We cant close our Stanton story without pausing to pay tribute to our Negro citizens. Two churches, Adam Chapel Methodist, built in 1880 on land given by Nathan Adams, and Mt. Zion Baptist, built in 1884 on land given by Mr. Chaney, have, throughout the years, furnished leaders and worthy citizens who have done their part in making real contributions to their town. For them we are grateful.
We do live in a delightful and peaceful place. Now, we don't make any claim to fame; we havent given to the world an Einstein, or a William Shakespeare. But thats all right. And we havent grown. You must remember we started out as a small town and are still small. We make no apologies for that. We do, however, strongly maintain that Stanton has done her share in diffusing, throughout the area and throughout the land, men and women of vision, of learning, ability and faith. She has done this by maintaining a steady, stable place in which to rear worthy sons and daughters.
As we look back over the vast number of young men and women, both black and white, who have gone from here, or who have stayed here- as we think of all the successful doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, ministers, farmers, engineers, business people- well, we know where they got their high ideals, where their characters were set- right here in their home town. And we are proud.
Posted July 23, 2000
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