Life on Mill Creek

by Robert Bryant

This is an excerpt from “Bryant, Sullivan, Gossett Family History” written by Robert Bryant.

Mill Creek and surrounding communities, such as Rock Valley on the east; Little Rock on the west; Wrigley, Lyle, and Bon Aqua to the North; Pinewood, Vernon, Nunnelly and Coble further west; and Little Lot, Hassel’s Creek and Lick Creek to the South and East, were bustling communities from the early 1900’s to the 1950’s. The Tennesse Products and Chemical Plant at Wrigley was the source of jobs for many of the men of the Mill Creek community, including my father. Most of the other families made their living by farming. The Little Rock Church of Christ, the Rocky Valley Church of Christ and the Wrigley Church of Christ were the prominent churches in the area; and there were also Elementary Schools located in each community. Some of the larger communities also had Junior Highs, which went thru the 10th grade. It seemed that life on Mill Creek always centered on church, family, work and school. In gathering information for this publication, I thought it fitting to include memories that family members have expressed about growing up on Mill Creek. Those memories were put together as part of a William Stephenson Sullivan family reunion in the early 1980’s at Montgomery Bell State Park in Dickson, TN; and were written by myself, my brother Deany, my Sisters Betty and Sue; and some of the brothers and sisters of my mother. Some of the detail may not be particulary interesting to many readers, but is included because it paints a clear picture of what it was like to grow up in a small rural community in the early to mid 1900’s. Following is the text of those memories as written:


(Robert was born in 1937, and with wife Sandra lives in Centerville, TN)

I was born the first son and third child of Clarence and Mary D. Sullivan Bryant on June 16, 1937 at Bluff Springs on Mill Creek. The day of my birth Mildred Temple Paris, daughter of Cliff and Stella Temple who lived just across the creek, and her husband Robert Paris came to visit. Mildred suggested to Mama and Daddy that they name me after her husband Robert and they did. My memories of growing up on Mill Creek are clear and it seems just like yesterday. Almost everything revolved around Church, Family, Work and School. During the week we worked and went to school; and on Sundays we went to church. During that period of my life World War II was fought and won, and the Yankees were winning baseball’s World Series. The first thing I remember hearing on the radio was a Yankee baseball game. Sometime in the 1940’s electricity and running water were installed in our house, allowing us to build an indoor bathroom. Betty finished high school in 1948 while Sue graduated in 1950. Deany was born in 1940 and started to school about 1946.

Thinking about those early years now, I don’t remember Mama or Daddy ever talking about the Depression and how it affected them. It must have been difficult, because all four of their children were born during that period of time. Betty (1931) and Sue (1932) were born in the early stages of it, while Deany (1940) and myself (1937) were born near the end of it. Perhaps I was too young to remember, but I can’t recall hearing anything said about it, even when I was older. Growing up on a place like Mill Creek in the 1940’s was a unique experience that kids raised in the city didn’t have. It taught me that you have to earn your way in life and nothing is given to you on a silver platter. And that’s the way it should be.


Daddy worked for Tennessee Products at Wrigley, and Mama worked at Southern Sportswear and later at Genesco in Centerville. We didn’t have much money , but were probably better off than many other families on the creek. They both worked hard and gave us all the things we really needed. Although we did a little farming, Daddy didn’t have much time to devote to it because of his other job. We raised a garden every year and had plenty of food from it. As teenagers, Deany and I often worked on Papa Sullivans and Uncle Bud Sullivan’s farms for $2.00 per day. We had a good team of mules to ride to the fields early in the morning, to the house at noon to eat, and back to the fields in the afternoon. The work included plowing, planting corn, picking corn and hauling hay. Picking corn was a hot job, very rough on the hands, and the person who got the “down row” was likely to have a stiff back as well. But from first hand experience I can tell you the hottest job had to be taking in hay. At that time some farmers were beginning to use hay bailers, but neither Papa Sullivan or Bud had one. We used pitchforks to throw the hay on the wagon, and from there it was taken to the barn to unload. A large “hay needle” was inserted into the hay to lift it up into the barn. At that point it was necessary for someone to be up in the loft to guide the hay into the back corner, and boy was it hot in that barn loft. My Aunt, Lois Sullivan Cude, has the old hay needle we used back then to lift the hay. At noon Mama Sullivan always had a good meal prepared for us. Most afternoons the weather was hot and humid, so after work Deany and I headed for the creek and the swimming hole. This served two purposes; cooling us off and at the same time giving us a good bath.

In addition to working for Papa Sullivan and Bud, our work at home included tilling the ground for the farming and the garden; weeding the garden, harvesting the crops, cutting wood, feeding the chickens and hogs, carrying water from the spring and so many other things I can’t even think of now. Bringing water up the big hill from the spring wasn’t any fun, but the water was nice and cool right out of the hill. Back in those days, most of us probably drank out of the same dipper, with no worries about spreading germs. This was particulary true when drinking at the spring itself, because most of the time there would only be one container to use. When we did get sick with a cold, flu, etc it was often “on with the Mustard Plaster”, or “down with the Castor Oil”. Anyone who hasn’t experienced those treatments, doesn’t know what he/she has missed. Hog killing time was around Thanksgiving each year. I can still see daddy carving up the meat into hams, shoulders, ribs, etc., salting them down and getting them ready for the smoke house. Around July 4th every year was blackberry picking time, and there was always a good crop of them on our property. It was so hot that time of the year we usually left very early in the morning and got our buckets full before it got too hot. Of course chiggers, ticks and snakes had to be dealt with, but we managed to survive them. The work really seemed hard back then, but now I realize it wasn’t too bad. One of the benefits that came from it was good physical conditioning in my younger years.


Three of the earliest known schoolteachers on Mill Creek, long before my time, were Moses Thornton, George Ingram and Wesley Irwin. This was in the early 1800’s when the county was in the early stages of settlement. In all my research I haven’t seen anything that gives an indication of where the schools during that period were located, but I have a feeling they were in the same general vicinity as in my school days.

In 1943, I entered school at Little Rock in a small block building that had just been built. It could be made into two sections by closing curtains across the middle of the room. The school was located about a half mile down Mill Creek southwest of our home and sat next to the Little Rock Church of Christ. Betty and Sue finished the eighth grade there, while Deany and I attended there a few years before transferring to Wrigley. During the winter the school was heated by coal, but there was no air conditioning during hot months. One of the teachers in the 1940’s was Geneva McCoy Sullivan, the wife of uncle Emery “Bud” Sullivan. She was very strict, and when we did something wrong she punished us by paddling the palm of our hand with a ruler. Other teachers I can recall were Mildred Casey, Zelma Pennington, and Mrs McGahey. Betty told me that when she was in school, Alene Beasley Houston was a teacher there. And Aunt Ruth Sullivan Morton told me recently that Jewell Beasley, Alene’s sister, also taught there at one time and boarded in the Sullivan home. Ruth said Jewell helped her deliver milk to Wrigley.

Each year at Christmas someone cut a large cedar tree for the classroom. We didn’t exchange many gifts, but there usually was a good supply of apples and oranges; and it was a time we all looked forward to. Another annual school event was a picnic held somewhere in the community off school property, at which hot dog and marshmallows were roasted over an open fire. I can also remember cake walks being held there. Between the school building and the Little Rock Church of Christ Building was an outhouse used by the students. The thing I remember most about it was getting hurt while playing inside it. One of the boys daring feats was jumping from one of the seats and grabbing a rafter running across the top of the building. More than once I missed the rafter and hit the floor on my back. Playing marbles was a lot of fun, but baseball was my favorite. Seems like nearly everyone enjoyed the game and most kids, boys and girls alike, participated. The field was in front of the school building and was rough, with big rocks used for bases. The outfield was next to the church building, and many balls were banged off the front of it during our games. To get to school, we walked about half of a mile down Mill Creek, crossing it a couple of times along the way. It wasn’t unusual for the creek to dry up in the summer and freeze solid in the winter. Some of my fondest memories are of skating on the frozen water on the way to school. During the summer, movies were shown almost every week at the school and consisted mostly of westerns with stars such as Lone Ranger, Sunset Carson, Hopalong Cassidy and Lash Larue. During the 1940’s a large passenger plane crashed on a hillside a couple of miles down the creek from the school, killing all the people on board. The students at Little Rock Elementary were allowed to go down and view the wreckage from a distance. We didn’t know much about airplanes then and didn’t quite know what to make of the tragedy. The Dude Gordon family lived about a half mile up Mill Creek next to Highway 100 in the house where George Litton had priviously lived. The Gordon children, Thurman, Martha, Jean and Norman were about the same age as Deany and I, and we spent a lot of time playing with them, since they were the closest family with children our age. During our early years, Buford “Humpy” Litton and Emma Jane Temple Litton lived between our home and the Gordons. They had a son Paul and a daughter Devetta. Emma Jane was the daughter of Charlie Temple and Susie Gossett Temple.

In 1951 there was a huge ice storm that lasted several weeks and closed all the schools. Trees and power lines were down everywhere from the weight of ice, and the community was practically paralyzed. In 1977 snow and ice covered the ground during January; and school was out the entire month. The temperature never got above freezing for several weeks. There was another bad ice storm during the mid-1990’s that shut down just about everything for two or three weeks. Many residents in the East Hickman Community were without power for several weeks. The damage was greater than the 1951 storm because there were more power lines to fall and more people depended on electricity as their source of energy.

Kids I went to school with and played with on Mill Creek

Thurman Gordon – Son of Dude and Johnnie Lee Gordon

Martha Gordon – Daughter of Dude and Johnnie Lee Gordon

Jean Gordon – Daughter of Dude and Johnnie Lee Gordon

Norman Gordon – Son of Dude and Johnnie Lee Gordon

Hubert McGahey – Son of Mort and Bessie McGahey

Paul Victory – Son of Claggett Victory

Hillard Tidwell

Roy Stone – Son of Sam Stone

Ray Edward Dotson – Son of George Dotson

J. W. Dotson – Son of George Dotson

Arnold Johnson – Son of Alene Johnson

Mary Lou Johnson – Daughter of Alene Johnson

Kenneth Williams – Son of Clarence Williams

Velma Victory – Daughter of Ellis “Bad Eye” Victory

Opal Victory – Daughter of Ellis “Bad Eye” Victory

Paul Staggs – Son of Lummy Staggs

Ralph Givens – Son of Lon Givens

Herbert Hooper – Son of Spike and Reppie Lankford Hooper

Earl Hooper – Son of Spike and Reppie Lankford Hooper

Froggy Hooper – Son of Spike and Reppie Lankford Hooper

Kids I went to school with in Wrigley

Preston Bradley – Son of Joe Bradley

Hugh Bradley – Son of Joe Bradley

Don Luckett – Son of Primm Luckett

Bobby Bass – Son of J. D. and Oma Moss Bass

Harold Choate _ Son of Vernie and Lula Skelton Choate

Pud Bentley – Son of C. W. and Mildred Ferguson Bentley

James “Hootie” Bentley – Son of C. W. and Mildred Ferguson Bentley

Paul Booker – Son of Opama Bell Booker

Charles Jackson – Son of Herschel and Gracey Bryant Jackson

Billy Vaughn – Son of Grover and Nola Vaughn

Paul Vaughn – Son of Grover and Nola Vaughn

Junior Vaughn – Son of Grover and Nola Vaughn

Ray Estes – Son of Rusty Estes

Curtis Thornton

Nadine Thornton

Wayne Epps – Son of Willie Epps

Delman Ray Gray

Geraldine Griffin – Daughter of Hubert “Pop Eye” Griffin

Marjorie Griffin – Daughter of Hubert “Pop Eye” Griffin

Nina Jo Bentley

Jack Bentley

Marie Martin – Daughter of Jim Martin

Patty Martin – Daughter of Frank Martin

Patsy Bass – Daughter of J. D. and Oma Moss Bass

Christine Hudspeth – Daughter of L. C. Hudspeth

Don England – Son of Hubert “Pug” and Georgia Bryant England

Norman England – Son of Hubert “Pug” and Georgia Bryant England

Johnny Greer – Son of John Greer

Dutch Dile – Son of Fred Dile

Ralph Bass – Son of Chester Bass

Martha Bass – Son of Chester Bass

Charles Thompson – Son of William Thompson

Teachers at Wrigley included: Jesse Wright, Principal, Mr. G. O. Milam (Principal following Jesse Wright), Mrs G. O. Milam, Mrs J. J. Weatherspoon, and Claudie Luther, wife of Bryan Luther. When I was in school at Wrigley, basketball was played on an outside dirt court. A Gym was built a few years later, but both it and the old school have since been demolished. The school was located on a hill just southwest of where the methodist community cemetery now stands and Northeast of the Wrigley Church of Christ. The Louis P. Thompson’s grocery store was beside the road just east of the cemetery. Next to the grocery Louis’s son William Thompson operated a barbershop. The Wrigley commisary was located on the hill just above the Tennessee Products Plant, and just across the road from the Bon Air Hotel. Buster Bentley operated another grocery store at the top of the Wrigley hill leading down to Highway 100. Lacy Lyell ran a grocery on Hwy 100 where the northern end of Wrigley Road intersects the highway. The Wrigley Church of Christ stood high on a hill just across a hollow from Bentley’s grocery. The Ball Park, which still stands, was built in the 1940’s right in the middle of Wrigley on top of a cinder pile from the plant. This is the land that my great grandfather, Rueben Bryant, farmed during the latter part of the 1800’s. South of the Wrigley Plant going toward Little Rock, was a bottom land area thru which the black, polluted water from the plant flowed. This area was known affectionately as “Black Bottom”. Some Diles families and the Lummy Staggs family lived in this area.

Hickman County High School

During my high school days, the school was located on a hill overlooking Duck River, a couple of blocks off the town square, next to the old Fairview Acadamy. About 1955 a new gymnasium was built on the site, replacing the small one that had been there for many years. In 1976, when I was chairman of the School Board, a new high school facility including a gymnasium and football stadium was constructed about 3 or 4 miles north of town and a quarter mile or so East of Highway 100. A new baseball field was added a few years later. When Sue and Betty attemded school a Mr. Edwards was the Principal. By the time I arrived, he had been replaced by Mr. Wilton Roberts. Some of my classmates there were Britt James, Jean Bryant, Becky Jones, Carolyn Stephenson, Sarah Walker, Martha Huddleston, Margaret Mitchell, (daughter of former sheriff Guill Mitchell), Ruth Gossett, Billy Bowen, Phillip Daugherty, Barbara Aydelott, Eleanor Aydelott, Jimmy Harber, Peggy Brown, Joy Coleman, Helen Parham, Charles Thompson and many others. Teachers included Marc Nickells, Sarah Jones Tiller, Mrs Pearl Field, Mrs Cora Moore, Mrs Emma Nicks, Mr. T. J. Rogers, Mr. Brown Breece, Mr R. E. Bruner, Mr Cecil (Coach), Mrs Grady Carouthers and Farris Harmon.

All of the high school kids from Wrigley gathered each morning in the Commissary to wait for the school bus, driven by Mr. Wes Primn, to pick them up for the daily trip to Centerville. Back in those days the bus route didn’t include every little side road. Lots of kids had to walk a considerable distance to catch the bus. I walked from our home up Mill Creek Road to Highway 100 every morning and back every afternoon. Many times I would walk all the way on up to the Wrigley Commissary and to wait for the bus with all the Wrigley kids. It picked us up between 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. in the morning, and brought us home about 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon.

The Jenkins Story

by Sybil Knight Jenkins

Some time before the Revolutionary War, Jacob and Jerry Jeinins, (half English and half Welsh) came to this country. The chief difference in brothers was their difference in political beliefs. Jacob was a firm believer in the separation from the Mother Country of England. Jerry was very obnoxious to his acquaintance in the State of North Carolina that he was killed by his neighbors. The story goes that as he rode on his Coffin on the way to his execution, that he cried, “Long Live King George.”

Jacob married and had seven sons, all of whom were Revolutionary War Soldiers. Following the war, Jacob and his family moved to Barren River in Kentucky, by the way of Boone Trail. There, a large settlement of Jenkins grew up. Here it is noted that at this early date, the family characteristics were of extremes, rowdiness and respectability. A family feud developed over, for the want of a better term, “wild women.” Uriah and Sam, who were cousins, became particularly bitter enemies.
Some time before the Mexican War, Jacob (Grandsire) Jenkins, brought his family, consisting of Amos, Jacob, Uriah and a daughter, Nancy, to Barren Fork, in Hickman County, Tennessee to avoid the bitterness of the bloodshed in Kentucky. Uriah continued his “wild ways” in Hickman County, where he became known as “The Bull of Duck River.”
Jacob settled around Centerville, Tennessee and there is no record of his family. Uriah married and an Anderson and they had one daughter, Blanche, who married Wilson Overby. She died young, leaving no children. One day, Uriah got on his horse and started back to Kentucky for a visit. Before leaving, he told Zade Martin, that if he did not get back, he could have his wife. Arriving in Kentucky, he encountered his old enemy Sam, by whom he was killed. The story that his wife then married Martin and raised a large family.

Flagpole Hill

by James E. Bradford

You won’t find Flagpole Hill of a map of Williamson County, Tennessee, located about one to one and half miles form Highway 100 on Pinewood Road. There were only a very few people that lived in the Flagpole Community at the time. They had no schools, no Churches, no auto’s and a whole lot of guns and wildlife. This was on a high hill, the highest hill in Williamson County above sea level. They cut the limbs of a large Oak Tree, left the center standing and connected a long steel bar at it top and put an American Flag at its top.
There were no Churches in the area at the time, and once a year, during the month of August, they would have a tent meeting and people from all beliefs would meet here and sleep in tents. There were no springs near by and Mr. Rueben Anglin and his sons would bring a wagonload of water in barrels of water for the people to drink and wash themselves with.
The men would haul sawdust and lumber from nearby sawmills to create a temporary floor for the tent. They would make wooden benches for the worshippers. Children would sit on the floor if their wasn’t any room to sit with their families. The services lasted all day, concluding by nightfall. Families would camp at the meeting place each bringing their own provisions for the two week stay. They would eat in family units rather than together as we do today, with the popular dinner on the ground method of sharing meals. Water was brought in daily by Mr. Rueben and his sons.
The Greenbrier and the Union Valley Churches were the first churches in the area. The Flagpole event was discontinued not long their after their building.
Mr. Alex Meacham was the owner of the ground where the Flagpole was located. He did not live in the area, but was a great lover of nature and wildlife. He owned about 1000 acres of land and did not allow any wildlife hunting or the cutting of the trees. There were many that did slip into the area and hunt wildlife to eat. When I returned for the Korean War, Mr Meacham had passed and his children sold off the timber very quickly after his death. This broke my heart. There were chestnut trees there, dead but still standing that were more than six foot in diameter.
The picture was given to Rick by Annie Anglin-Pewitt, the granddaughter of Reuben Anglin. She is my lifetime friend and my cuz form both the Anglin’s and the Tidwills. Her mother was a Tidwell. She also married Edward Pewitt, also my cuz.
Flag Pole, a place that hold many very precious memories.

The Iviah Vivian Brown Story

My name is Iviah Vivian Brown and will try to put down some of the
things that I remember about my Mother Charlotte Bradford and Father
Miles Lemarion Brown. They were married February 24, 1915, in Hickman
County, Tennessee by M. M. Petty, Justice of the Peace.
They started their married life in a small three room house that my
father built on the farm of his father, William George Brown, better
known as “Billy” Brown. This house was located on Big Spring Creek,
just about where the creek runs into Piney River. My father was a
farmer for many years. A leg injury kept him form going into World
War I.
I was born about a year after their marriage and I don’t remember
much about our lives until I was five years old. When I was three,
father’s brother Ross Vestal Brown, died from blood poising. I
remember going to see him before he died.
About this time father bought or rented the David Aaron Dodd farm a
mile or two from Spring Creek on Piney River. Why we moved I do not
know. Later in 1920, we moved back to Big Spring Creek where in 1921
by brother, Max Hulin Brown was born. It was about this time that an
old sow hog about killed me. Mother had made me a new dress and I
went outside to show my Dad. He was watching the sow eat and when I
walked up she grabbed my new dress. It was torn from my body as my
Dad got me away from her. I wasn’t but very scared. The sow became
bacon and ham when the weather got colder.
I always helped my mother take care of my baby brother. She also
begin to teach me to make beds and wash dishes. Daddy made me a
little wooden box to stand on so I could reach the dishpan where it
sat on the table. Another thing I could do was churn butter. I didn’t
like that job very much.
Both my parents had lots of relatives living close by, so sometimes
we rode a horse and visited them. Daddy took Max in Front of him, and
mother rode side saddle behind Daddy and I road behind her.
Once Daddy borrowed Grandfather Brown’s buggy and we went to visit my
Mother’s sister, Tommye Bradford-Haywood, at Santa Fe, Tennessee. She
was married to Hubert Haywood. We also visited some of Daddy’s
relatives who lived nearby. Daddy’s mother, Oilie May Vestal-Brown,
had been born and raised on the Santa Fe Road, near Columbia, Tennessee.
My Grandfather Brown also had a surrey with a red fringe on the top.
I thought it was so beautiful. I’d sit in it for hours and pretend I
was going on long trips. Once in a while Grandpa would let me ride
with him when he had the time. He was quite and important man in our
community, and had business in Centerville and Nashville.
About this time we moved back to the Dodd farm. Daddy must have
bought it for we lived there off and on until Daddy’s death in 1963.
I really liked the Dodd farm. We had a big house and a large yard
with big maple trees to play under.
My mother was a very good housekeeper. When we ate our meals she
always had a nice tablecloth with napkins to match. On the table she
had tiny glass bowls to put at each place with salt in them. We were
taught good manners and never talked while we were eating. Every week
she scrubbed the kitchen floor with lye soap and it was always clean
and white.
When I was six, Daddy decided to go to Detroit, Michigan to find
work. A lot of people he knew had already gone and found work. He
left us at home and went to find work and a place for us to live.
After awhile, he sent Mother the money for us to make the trip.
Mother’s brother, Henry Bradford, carried us to Dickson in his Model
T Ford. When we got to Dickson, Mother got Max and me a haircut in a
barber shop. That was the first place I ever saw electric lights.
We spent the night at Daddy’s brother, Walter D. Brown and family who
lived in Dickson, Tennessee. The next day we got on the train for
Nashville. When we got there we had several hours to wait for a train
to Cincinnati, Ohio. I spent most of the time looking out the windows
at the city. It was a sight for a little girl from the farm. One
thing that stands out was a big electric sign advertising Sealtest
Ice Cream. It was close to where the Nashville Tennessean Newspaper
Offices are now. That sign stayed there for many years and I was to
see it several other times on future trips to Michigan. Daddy was
staying with Mr. Bill Estes and family. They were form Tennessee too.
Many years later Mr. Bill was my school bus driver when we all moved
back to Tennessee. Daddy had rented us the upstairs apartment in a
house on Farr Avenue. We lived there for several months. I started to
school as soon as were moved in. Mama had taught me at home for a
long time. Mama enrolled me in Lyon School, a few blocks form our
house. My teacher was Mrs. Ivy Younger. I loved school and learned
fast. At midterm I was promoted to second grade. When school was out
in June 1923, I was already promoted to the third grade. One day a
deep snow fell and I got very wet going home. I took pneumonia and
was very sick for awhile.
Daddy met a man at work that came from Georgia. His name was Ambrose
Bowen. When Mr. Bowen got a vacation, he went to Georgia and got
married. His wife’s name was Bessie. Mr. Bowen and Daddy rented the
upstairs of a house that had a grocery store downstairs. It was on
the corner of Mt. Elliot and Kascuisko. They had three rooms and we
had three rooms and we shared a bath. Clatye Bradford-Smith, mother’s
sister, and her family were to live just across the street from the
grocery store during the fall of 1926 and to March 1927 when they
returned to Tennessee. The Smith children also went to Lyons School.
I really liked Bessie Bowen. She was lonely so her and Mama became
good friends. Later she had a little girl and they named her Rebecca
Rowena Bowen. I really did love the baby and helped care for her when
I could.
On weekends the Bowen’s and our family went to Belle Isle Park for a
picnic. We carried lots of food and rode a streetcar to the park. The
park was on a very large island in the Detroit River, between the
United States and Canada. There were several playgrounds for the
children and also a large zoo. I saw an elephant for the first time.
They also had large greenhouses with thousands of flowers and shrubs.
There were banana trees and tall palms. Some of the orange and lemon
trees had fruit on them. Later the city built several huge fountains.
They were a sight to see. Under the waterfalls they put colored
lights and at night they were just beautiful. We always stayed until
dark so we could see the lights.
While we lived over the grocery store, Daddy carried us to the movies
for the first time. I really enjoyed it and insisted on going often.
Mama liked it too and she helped me convince Daddy that we should go.
Max was only three years old so he didn’t enjoy it much as he
couldn’t read. This was a while before talking pictures came to be.
It was here that I learned to roller skate. I cut off the handle of a
broom and taught myself to skate. I still have scars from learning, I
fell a lot. By the time I was fourteen, I had dreams of being a
professional skater. We would see the skating acts at the vaudeville
shows in the movie houses. The depression put a stop that dream.
In the fall of 1923, we left Detroit and came back to Tennessee.
Daddy had bought a car and we drove through. On the way Max became
very ill. As soon as we got to our house at the Dodd farm, Daddy went
to get a doctor. The doctor said Max had diphtheria and was dying. He
said there was a new vaccine for diphtheria, but that Max was so bad
he wasn’t sure it would help. He gave him a double dose. After a few
hours he got better and the doctor was surprised that he made it. The
doctor tacked a square of red cloth by our door and no one would come
in. It was thirty days before anyone could visit us or we could leave
home. It was a hard time on Daddy and Mother. We had just came home
and our trunk with our bedding and most of our clothes was in
Dickson. Daddy always shipped it by train, and he had to wait a month
before he could go to Dickson to pick it up. Mother must have had a
hard time doing all she had to do for a sick child and not much to do
In the spring of 1924, Daddy put out a crop and we had a nice garden.
In June a tornado came through with a lot of hail and destroyed all
the crops and gardens. So another year on the farm was a failure. At
this time, I wasn’t going to school. Mother helped me at home. It was
three miles to school and much to far for me to walk alone. Before
Christmas, Daddy went to work with Mother’s brother, Henry Bradford.
They went to Nashville and stayed all week and came home on weekends.
Uncle Henry’s wife was named Ella and they had two little boys. They
lived about a mile from us. Henry and Ella were living where their
son, Billy Robert Bradford lives today, 1988. A few days before
Christmas, Aunt Ella came to visit us. It had rained for days and
Piney River was up everywhere. In Nashville, the river was so high
that Daddy and Uncle Henry couldn’t leave. They were to bring our
presents for Christmas. So for Christmas all we had was a can of King
Leo Peppermint sticks that Daddy had brought home earlier. When the
waters finally went down, we had Christmas on New Year’s day. In
those days all a the roads followed the streams. Our road crossed
Piney River several times inside of two miles. People just didn’t
travel in cars in winter and even in summer cars had a hard time
getting through the streams. ?
She wanted all her children to be born in Tennessee, so Daddy [it
ended like that]
When spring came, Daddy went back to Detroit to work. Mama waited at
home with Max and I until he found a place for us to live. This house
was on Garadin Street. My mother started keeping boarders. She was a
real good cook so she never had any trouble getting boarders. One of
our favorites was Mama’s brother, Dob Bradford. He was a happy-go-
lucky person. Always laughing, singing or dancing. Max and I just
loved him.?had him for Thanksgiving dinner. ?It was back to school
again a Lyon. When I came home each afternoon, Mother, Max and I got
our wagon and went grocery shopping. We got most everything at an A &
P grocery store. We bought our baked goods at a bakery. The bakery
had cream puffs for ten cents each. I liked them so well I saved all
my pennies until I could buy one. We lived on Garadin Street until
spring of 1926. Mother became pregnant with her third child. Daddy
brought us back to the farm in Tennessee. I was ten years old. I
started back to school at Pinewood. It was a long walk, but Uncle
Henry Bradford was building a house at Pinewood so I rode with him
most of that spring. Sometimes the river would get up and I couldn’t
go to school for days. Once in a while it got up when I was at
school. I’d stay with someone close to school. Most of the time I
stayed with the Same Griffin family. They had a daughter my age so I
could borrow clothes from her to wear. Thinking back it’s a wonder I
ever learned anything. Went to school when I could and changed
schools every few months. When spring came, Daddy went back to
Detroit. Grandpa (Samuel Davis Bradford), came to stay with us. He
stayed the rest of the year. When Daddy returned to Detroit in the
spring of 1926, he boarded with Hollis and Clatye Bradford-Smith.
They lived on Farr Avenue near Mount Elliot Avenue. Charlotte
Bradford was in Detroit that summer for a short stay with Clatye and
returned to Tennessee. At some time before March 1927, all the Brown
family were living in Detroit. Grandpa Bradford was every child’s
dream of what a grandfather should be. Max followed him all day long.
He grew a garden and a few truck patches. We helped plant seeds and
set out the plants. After lunch every day, he would sit under one of
the maple trees and tell us stories. Some of his ghost (stories) were
very scary, but we loved them. He also told us about when he was
young and fought Indians. Mama always said most of it was his
imagination, but we believed every word. ?
Mama raised chickens. One baby chick has a solid white head. Grandpa
named him white head (what else). We petted him until he was so tame
he would sit on Grandpa’s knee and listen to the stories. He grew up
to be so mean that he jumped on us every time we went outside. One
day he made the mistake of jumping on Mama. She put him in a pen and
we had him for Thanksgiving dinner. ?On May 27, 1926, my second
brother was born. Mother named him “Miles Lemarion Brown, Jr.” Daddy
wrote a letter from Detroit and told Mama to “kiss my little Zoonie
for me.” From then until he was full grown he was called “Zoonie”
Brown. Daddy didn’t see Miles Jr. until he was several months old.
Daddy came home in 1926. I kind of draw a blank here, for after
Christmas Daddy carried me to stay with Aunt Tommye Bradford-Haywood,
so I could go to school without a long walk. I don’t know were Mama
stayed. Maybe with relatives for Daddy went back to Detroit, just
after the New Year. He told me if I would be a good girl he would
send me a present for my birthday. When I finally got it, it was a
gold ring with my initials engraved on it. I was eleven years old.
While I lived with Aunt Tommye, I went to a one room school that was
in sight of their home. I got acquainted with many of my relatives on
Daddy’s side of the family. Aunt Tommye’s husband, Hubert, raised fox
hounds. On night when he carried them out on the ridges to listen to
them run, he let my cousin Frances and I go with him. He would build
a big fire and sit by it and listen to the hounds running the fox.
After school was out, Daddy came and got me. He was home again to try
farming. After the crops were in, he rebuilt our house. He tore away
a lot of it and built three new rooms. There was a new kitchen, a
screened dining area, and a new bedroom for me. He also built a big
porch across the front. I guess he spent too much money on the house
for that fall we went back to Detroit.
After our return to Detroit in the fall of 1927, Hollis and Clatye
Bradford-Smith and family moved into the house and lived there until
1828, and moved back to the Smith farm across Piney River form Henry
and Ella Bradford. While at the Brown farm, their youngest daughter,
Jean was born, on March 6, 1918. This was our last return to Detroit
and we remained there until I was fourteen, in the summer of 1930.
When we first got there, we lived on Dwyer Street for a short time. I
still went to Lyon School. Later we moved to one block over to a
larger house so Mama could keep borders again. That trip back to
Detroit put me back to the fifth grade. I hadn’t learned enough in
Tennessee to pass the required tests in Lyon School. One good thing
came out of my setback was as a fifth grader, I competed in my school
spelling bee. I won against the whole school. I didn’t do very good
in the city contest as I was up against sixth, seventh and eight
graders. I did win a large World Atlas and big dictionary with my
name on the front in gold letters. When I was ready for the sixth
grade, we moved into a new house on Koschuisko Street. It was large
enough that Mama could keep her borders, and I could walk to my new
school. Max was going to school now and he could walk to Lyon School
which was in sight of our house. My new school was Alex Cooper
Intermediate School. I liked it real well. We could have hot lunches
everyday and went to different rooms for some of our classes. One
class I liked best was home economics. I learned not only basic
skills but to make many desserts. From then on I always made the
dessert for our meals at home.
Mama really liked reading and so did I. She bought a number of books
and magazines for us to read. In school we studied the books of
”Treasure Island” and “Robin Hood”. I guess I was the only student
that enjoyed it. I kept my books and read them over for many years.
One thing I liked about the Detroit Schools was there was never any
homework. All lessons were studied at school. The only books we could
bring home was the ones that belonged to us or library books. It was
so strange when I moved back to Tennessee and teachers signed so much
I still went grocery shopping everyday after school. Only now I went
alone. I purchased the food that would be used in the next day’s
meals. With ten boarders and our family my mother sure did a lot of
cooking. It was my job everyday to wash the dishes after supper. It
took a full hour everyday. I always hated having to do it for by the
time I was finished it was to late to go outside. About this time the
Company Daddy worked for built a large park several miles out of
town. In the summer we went there nearly every Sunday. Mama fixed a
picnic lunch and we went in our Dodge touring car that Daddy got for
us. My Uncle Dob Bradford still stayed with us and most Sunday’s he
would bring his girlfriend and go with us. He name was Hazel Jones.
My sister Hazel was named after her.
?In the spring of 1929, my little brother, Miles Jr., was nearly
three years old. He liked playing outside and one Sunday he
disappeared. We searched the whole neighborhood for him. Finally
Daddy called the police to help. Several hours later they found him
several miles form home. He was wandering around the street, so the
police decided he had been kidnapped. Every who did it got scared and
put him out. We were all very worried and Mama was hysterical.
Needless to say we kept a closer watch on him from then on. ?That
summer I got scarlet fever. Later Miles Jr. got it too. Our house was
quarantined for twenty-eight days, so all our borders had to leave.
Even Daddy couldn’t stay in the house with us. Later some of the
borders came back but a few didn’t. ?The next year was very hard on
my Mother. In the fall she found a lump in one of her breasts and
went into the hospital for surgery. Her health never did get as good
again. Daddy and I managed to take care of the borders and our family
until Mama was able to help. Daddy bought her a new cook stove to
make her work easier. It was green and cream enamel and she loved it.
She had wanted one for a long time. My children will remember the
stove for it stayed in our family until 1964. That year I started
another new school. It was called John Burroughs School. It was so
large, it had two gyms, a swimming pool and a cafeteria that was
almost as large as the other schools I went to. I learned to swim
there and became a junior life saver. Years later I was able to save
Miles Jr., and a cousin form drowning. I played softball that year
and was captain of our team. ?Our house had an upstairs apartment and
day a young couple moved in. They had a small baby. I did babysitting
for them. They had the first radio I ever saw. I really enjoyed
listening to it.?
?In the winter of 1929, Mother burned her arm really bad. She was
stoking the furnace and someway the steam burned her. Even if she
couldn’t use her arm she was able to help with the cooking. So all
together we were able to do what needed to be done. Times were
getting very hard. The depression was starting. Most of our borders
had left by spring of 1930. Daddy stayed on until summer. Work got ?
scarce so he decided it was time to go back to our farm. He took his
savings and hired a truck to move all our furniture to Tennessee.
Mother wasn’t about to leave her stove behind. Daddy invested in some
real estate and he lost all that. He had a few hundred dollars to
take care of us until he could make a crop. ?On our way back to
Tennessee our car had some trouble and Daddy pulled into a garage to
see what was wrong. They put it on a rack to raise it up, and not
knowing he was standing on the rack while he looked under the hood,
Daddy was raised up. He stepped back and fell and hurt his wrist.
Mother thought is was broken but he wouldn’t go to a doctor. Mother
bandaged it tightly and he drove home with one hand. It healed up all
right in a few weeks. ?When we got home stayed with Grandfather Brown
for a while. Our house had a family living in it and they didn’t have
to leave until New Year’s. The man’s name was Francis Marion
Crawford. He lived there with his wife and daughter. His nickname was
”Uncle Duck” and he would be counted on to tell a tall tale or two.
His daughter’s name was Vivian Christine. She was three years older
than I was. We became very good friends. Just across the river from
Daddy farm was a man named Albert Sullivan. His wife was Christine’s
oldest sister and her name was Ruby. He had several children, but the
two oldest girls were the same age as Christine and I. In the next
year we were together a lot. Just up the road from us was a family
named Wrenn. They moved that year and Christine’s father, “Uncle
Duck”, moved to the Wreen house just before Christmas . That fall of
1930, before the Crawford’s moved, we lived with my Grandfather
Brown. Mother was expecting her fourth child, but she helped my step
grandmother can fruits and vegetables and for her help we got part of
them. Daddy worked for different people that needed help and for pay
he took what ever we could use to help make it through the winter
until he could make a crop the next year. When school started, my
parents carried me to Mother’s sister that lived near Columbia,
I was starting the eight grade and loved going to school at my
Aunt’s. We road a bus to a new school, that had replaced the one room
school I had attended before. I got acquainted with may of my
relatives. I was older now I could visit them more often. Even after
I married, I went back a few times.
When Daddy came to get me and I went home, I started back at Pinewood
School, Miss Eunice Murphy was my teacher.
Mother and Daddy worked very hard that fall to gather enough food for
us to eat in the winter. They worked for people gathering crops and
Mother helped can fruits and vegetables and they took a share for
pay. Everyone was glad of their help for no one had money to pay
hired help.
We moved into our house just before Christmas. We were all glad to be
home at last. By now a school bus ran over on Highway 48, so I only
had a short distance to walk. We still had the river to cross, but
Daddy kept a small boat and when our foot log washed out, we used the
boat to cross. I was fifteen and was allowed to date on the weekends.
Christine Crawford, her nieces, Doy and Virginia Sullivan and I spent
a lot of time together. Once in a while Mr. Sullivan would give a
square dance. He played a fiddle and someone usually came that could
play a guitar or banjo. Once Daddy let me have a square dance in our
When my sister Hazel was a few weeks old, she became fretful and lost
weight. The doctor said she needed to be bottle bed with rich milk.
We had a cow but she was not giving mild. My Victrola was the only
thing we had that was worth enough to trade for a good cow. Daddy
found a nice Jersey cow with a young calf. It belonged to James and
Florence Cooper that lived on Plunder’s creek. Daddy said that if I
would trade my Victrola for them I could have the calf for my very
own. It was very hard to give it up, but in a few weeks Hazel’s
cheeks grew rosy and she was fat and healthy. I knew then we had done
the right thing.
Mother never got very strong after Hazel’s birth. I took on a lot of
extra work helping her. To repay me for all my help, she managed to
make me two new dresses. The depression was really bad so anything we
got was a treat. She was a very good seamstress.
I had lots of friends and we had swimming parties and fish fries all
summer. Before school started in the fall, my Grandfather Brown
became very ill. All of Daddy’s brothers wanted us to move into our
old house on Spring Creek and take care of him. They told Daddy that
if he would take care of him as long as he lived they would deed him
their share of the farm. So we moved again. It took a while but we
finally got everything moved. I started to school again that fall,
but Mother’s health go so bad I had to quit and stay home to help her.
My Grandfather Brown died on Saturday, November 7, 1931. We had only
taken care of him for a few weeks. All of Daddy’s family decided that
he hadn’t earned the farm, and wanted him to pay them if he wanted
the farm. Daddy sold the Dodd farm to Doctor John Edward Wood. He
paid his brothers and sisters for the farm. It was a huge old two
story house and had three big fireplaces. We still almost froze for
it was a cold house. We got most of Grandpa’s things. His widow took
what was hers and moved to Centerville to live with her children.
As Christmas grew nearer, Mother became very ill. She had to go into
the hospital at Nashville. Max and I kept things going with the help
of one of Daddy’s cousins who came and stayed with us. Her name was
Annie Lou Harbison. She was a lot of help to me. She taught me to sew
and help me make what clothes we got. In mid-January, Mother came
home and we cared for her until she died on Thursday, February 16,
1932. Charlotte Bradford-Brown died at home on Piney River in Hickman
County, Tennessee, and is buried in an unmarked grave in the Brown
Cemetery on Big Spring Creek.
On January 11, 1932, I was sixteen years old. On my birthday a new
family moved into our neighborhood. They were from Nashville and
everyone was excited that something new was happening. For me this
family was to become my future in-laws. They were well liked and the
woman came to help me take care of Mother.
In this family was the father. His name was Hurshel Benton Gibbs. The
mother, Lela Arizona Gibbs, two daughters, the oldest was Mettie Lee.
She was already married to Harvey Young. The other daughter was Sadie
Geraldine. She was married to Rufus Gallaher, Jr.
In March, Mrs. Gibbs said her son was coming for a visit. She had
told me so much about him before we met, I think I fell love with him
before we met, and on the last Friday of March, 1932, I met my future
husband. He was twenty years old. I think even that day we knew that
we would be together all our lives. We discovered we both liked the
same things, especially fishing. From then on for over forty-five
years we have been fishing, together.
This ends one story and begins another. It has many very precious
by Iviah Vivian Brown
* * *
Dear Vivian:
On behalf of all the “Friends of Oak Grove”, we appreciate your very
beautiful and touching story. We thank and love you very much for
sharing it with us.
James E. Bradford

Thoughts and Memories of My Father, part 2


The Young Teamster
These are some notes from Gilbert Sullivan’s memoirs as transcribed by his son Dan Sullivan
Later on after the team of little blue mules I first owned, I had another pair of larger mules. The off mule (the mule on the left hitched as a team) was mean. You had to always watch her to keep from getting hurt. Uncle John Buttrey was working with me, he was getting to be an old man, probably 65 years old at the time, and we were hauling spoke timber. By the time Gilbert was 12 he was a professional teamster, and would hire out with his team to haul what ever needed to be hauled in the surrounding area. At times this was the only income the family had. By the time he was 16 he had become an expert teamster, maybe as good as there was around. He continues his story about working with Uncle John Buttrey hauling spoke timber. We called the cuts tough butts. They (the men cutting the timber) only cut two to four 36 inch cuts off the butt log of a tree. This was the very best wood in the tree. Usually straight clear grain and was probably White Ash. We rolled them up on skids from the back of the wagon and loaded them cross ways in the wagon frame. On the haul we had to make, we had a pretty steep hill to go down to get to the spoke mill which was about 200 yards down the road. It was a short haul so we loaded pretty heavy. We would lock the back wheels going off the hill. The lock chain would run from the coupling pole back to the wheels. They would either tie the brake pole down in a lock position, or tie up the back wheels with a log chain so the wheels would not roll, but scoot going off a steep place to keep the load from pushing on the mules. Where the road went off the hill we had to straddle a big stump. They would cut the trees close to the ground to get the best timber from the base of the tree to make spokes for wagon and buggy wheels. With each trip down the hill the back wheels, which were locked and scooting, would cut down into the ground a little deeper leaving less and less clearance over the top of the stump. Finally the ruts cut down enough to where on one trip the lock chain hung the top of the stump. I was sitting on top of the load, driving the team, and when the chain hung the stump the wagon came to a sudden stop. With the jolting stop, the front end of the wagon busted out and the spoke timber went rolling out between the mules, down the hill in front of the wagon. The rolling timber must have thrown Dad forward down on the mules from the top of the load, for in his notes he went on to say, I caught the harness of the lead mule and got on her back. One of the cuts got cross ways and landed on the off mules hocks and the double tree, and blocked the other cuts from coming on down on the mules. The mule must have realized she was in a dangerous place, because she just squatted and stood perfectly still. Uncle John and I blocked the other cuts so they could not roll any further, got the cut off the mules hocks, got the road cleared, and went on to the mill. I was really lucky not to have been hurt. Most of Dad’s work with his team and wagon was hauling some type of timber products. Most of the land for several miles around Turnbull Creek was timber land, and a significant part of the local economy was from harvesting various timber products. A lot of the stories he would tell me and my brothers when we were young boys were about working in the woods with a team. This next story he wrote about was one of those, and was about a time when he worked with his brother Norman. Another time Norman and I were hauling logs. I was driving the little blue mules I liked so much. I was trying to get them on the other side of the wagon to pull the logs on. The way logs were loaded on a wagon was to put two skid poles from the bed of the wagon to the ground so that logs could be rolled up the poles and onto the wagon. When the logs were too big to be rolled up by hand or the angle of the skid poles too steep, logs could be pulled up the skid poles onto the wagon by tying a log chain to the wagon, running it under and around the log on the ground, then across to the opposite side of the wagon where either one or two mules could be hitched to the chain so the mules could pull and roll the log up the poles onto the wagon. It took two chains to rig this system. Dad continues the story. There was a big patch of green briars that the mules had to walk through to get to the other side of the wagon, so they were going slow. Norman was known to be high strung with a mean temper, and apparently in this situation impatient. Norman was mad and contrary, so he hit one of the mules with a small stick. My mules were not used to being whipped so they got nervous. I got mad and told Norman never to hit one of my mules again. So he said “boy, I’m gonna whip you”. I had a real good string whip hanging on the lead mule’s harness, so I grabbed the whip and started backing away and whipping his legs. So he got enough of that and told me to load my own logs and he would load his. I got loaded and went to the sawmill with my load, and was on my way back to the woods when I met Norman going to the mill with only one log, and the back end of it was on the back hounds of the wagon instead of up on the log bolsters. He stopped his team and wagon and said “boy, you know I can’t load logs with one chain”. I said “yes I knew that when I left”. I had two chains so I had no trouble loading by myself. I guess they went back loading together, because Dad went on with another story about loading logs with his brother Norman. One day we were loading a big log with Norman’s team. Every time the log would get to the top of the skids, one of his mules would quit pulling. He tried three or four times, and when the mule would stop, the log would roll back down the skid poles to the ground. He asked what were we going to do. I think he was wanting me to load his load with my team. I told him I would load it with his mules if he wanted me to. So he said “all right”. I cut me a large switch about eight feet long, picked up the lines, and clucked to the mules to come up. When the log got to the place where the mule had quit pulling, I gave him a cut with that big switch and told him to “get”. He loaded the log the first time we tried.

Rowdy Friends and Homemade Whiskey
Some time near to this period, the new road that was called Cox Pike was being built. It was in the winter and I hauled creek gravel on the road. It was about 5 or 6 miles from home, and I would leave the wagon on, or near the job and ride the mules to and from the job. After some two or three weeks going home at night, I started staying with uncle Nat Pewitt and his family at night. Guy and Ray Pewitt, (I assume they were sons of uncle Nat) had a still up a hollow from the house. It was a large still and they called it Steam Shot. One or two nights a week I would go with them to cook off a run of whiskey. Guy was working for a man they called Slim. I must it is inferred here that Guy had some business arrangement with Slim, where Guy and Ray would make the whiskey, and Slim would distribute it. Slim lived near Nashville, and Slim was the only name I ever heard him called. While hauling gravel, I broke a set of haimes, and so I borrowed some from uncle Nat. One Sunday morning when I started home Guy and Ray rode with in about __ miles of home. We had some whiskey so I was feeling pretty good, and Guy wanted to race me. He had a real good saddle horse, and he was fast. I was drunk enough I suppose I didn’t care, so I took him on. My little mule ran out of the road under some low hanging limbs and I hurt my arm. Soon after that we stopped at a friend house, and he brought out a quart of red whiskey and wanted me to have a drink. I did, and that is the last thing I remembered until I got to Liberty Church of Christ. That is where Ray left me and went his way. I don’t know when Guy left us. When I got within about a mile from home I came to myself, and I was walking and leading the mule. I wondered why I was walking, so I got back on the mule. When I got home it must have been about 12:00 o’clock. I unsaddled the mule and turn him loose, and went to sleep in the corn crib. I woke about 4:00 and went to the house. Some time after the job was done, I went on a Saturday evening to carry the haimes I had borrowed back to Uncle Nat. I rode a little 2 year old mule that was not broke very well. I met Guy and Ray about one mile from their home on the way to the still with a load of sugar in the wagon. They wanted me to go with them to the still. I hitched my mule in a shed belonging to a Murry Lankford, and went with them to the still. We carried in a load of sugar, and brought back a wagon load of whiskey. The weather was damp and cold, and it was snowing a little, to where the ground was well covered (about 1 to 2 inches of snow).

When we got back to where my mule was tied, we stopped and I got back on the little mule. Guy wanted me to get out in front of the wagon, as we wet on down the road. The way we were going, there was a long hill, down grade for about a mile all the way. A deep gully had washed out on both sides of the road, and the road was narrow. Guy had a real goad team of mules and fat as mud. All it took to get them to run was to kick the front gate of the wagon, and they would run for life.
Going off the hill, when we got to a place where I had no where to get off the road on the side to let them pass, Guy began to kick the front gate of the wagon and holler to get his team started running. I had to run my little mule flat out to keep from being run over. I was scared half stiff. I kept thinking what if my mule fell. There was no way they could have kept from running over me and my mule. Guy ran me all the way down the hill. I remember 2 or 3 years after that I was riding along Parker Creek road, and I saw a fairly large still in plain view of the road. There were some 25 to 30 wooden 60 gallon barrels of mash. The still was operated around the clock with 2 shifts a day. They would blow the steam whistle when it came time to change shifts. They operated with a steam boiler just like they used in those times to run a sawmill. The steam was piped to the boiler to heat the mash. One time when I was bout 14, two other boys and I stopped in at Uncle Jim Green’s store. Dewey Beshears stopped by the store too. So we were on our way home and Dewey wanted to race his mule against mine. There had been some lose rock put in a mud hole in the road, and his mule hit them rock and fell against my mule’s chest, and she turned a complete flip. I flew though the air about 15 feet in front of her. When I went back and caught her there was dirt caked on top of the saddle horn. Neither me or the mule was hurt. This story took place before World War I had ended. Dad was logging, and he sent Grover and me to buy some corn from Mr Giles Paige. Corn was $10.00 a barrel. Mr. Paige lived where Matt Sullivan had lived for a long time, and was living there when he died. On our way back, when we got to where Dave and Nettie lived, we met Guy and Ray Pewitt in the forks of the road. Guy had a real good pair of mules but they had never worked very hard, and was not use to pulling very much. Our mules were a little heavier, and were use to pulling in the woods, and were much slower. Guy wanted to tie the back of the wagons together and see which team would pull the other back. I realized what Guy had in mind so I agreed. I pulled my brakes on knowing his mules would jump against the wagon and fly back. About the time they did that, my mules started pulling, and I took the brakes off, and started dragging them back. Guy began yelling to stop. His mules had no chance to ever get in a position to dig in and stop from being dragged back.

Mules, Wagons and Long Roads

When I first started hauling on the road, Grover would go with me. We would haul spoke timber, staves bolts, lumber, and cross ties. I would always do the driving. In the summer time the roads would be real dusty, and in the winter lots of mud. One day in the winter it started turning cold, and the mud started freezing on the wagon hubs. By the time I got home that night the wheels were froze solid with no openings between the spokes. Once in the summer I was hauling lumber, and the mill where I loaded was close to where 100 Highway crosses the Hickman county line. That was long before the Highway was built. When I got to the top of the hill I ran in to the first crawler tractor I ever saw. It was pulling a large grader, grading the road all the way to Bon Aqua. The grading had left two or three inches of loose dirt in the road. I was already too heavy loaded before I hit that loose dirt. The loose dirt made the load pull all the more harder for the team. I should have left the wagon until the next day, and let some other wagons open up the tracks, but I kept going. I got to Bon Aqua about three hours late, and the mules were about give out pulling in the loose dirt. I watered them good and fed them so they could eat while I unloaded. That took about an hour. So they made it back home all right. One summer it was hot and dry. I always carried a bucket to use to water the mules with. One day about three miles from the station, (Bon Aqua Station) there lived a man named Gennis. He had a pond beside the road where we had stopped many times before to get water for the mules. On this day I was alone. No other wagons were with me. I stopped at the pond to water the mules, and had got over the rail fence ready to get the water, when Mr. Gennis saw me and made me get out without the water. I sure felt bad about that. I think Dad may have meant he felt that, it was mighty little of Mr. Gennis for not letting him water his mules. On a Saturday morning, I had gone up on the hill close to the house to get a load of firewood. I got back and was unloading from the back end of the wagon. The wood pile, where the wood was being stacked, was on a bank, and the wagon was down in a little hollow or dry branch. The mules kept pulling the wagon up and after several times the wagon was past where I wanted to unload. This apparently was aggravating Dad and made him mad. So they pulled up again, and I jumped up on the double tree and began to whip them with the end of the lines. Two hundred feet up the hollow the road went out of the hollow. On a bank at the place where the road left the hollow there was a solid rock wall. Although Dad does not describe exactly what was happening at this point, I think we can surmise that when he started whipping the mules they decided it was time to leave, and they got in a hurry doing it. Probably at a runaway pace, and when they approached the rock wall, (he picks his story back up at this point) the right side of the wagon got too far to the right up on a bank, and the wagon turned over throwing me against the rock wall. The front gate of the wagon caught my shoulder just enough to skin the hide. If it had caught me about three inches more it probably would have crushed me to death. I think I inherited some of that, take just so much and then explode, temper, and it has got me trouble a few times too. From the age of twelve until the age of eighteen I hauled stave bolts to two different stave mills, and tough butts to one spoke mill, and hauled logs to two different sawmills. I hauled staves, after they were manufactured, away from the two stave mills, and spokes, after the spokes were milled, away from the spoke mill, and lumber and cross ties from one of the sawmills. I hauled dye wood part of the time. Most of these manufactured wood products were hauled out to train sidings at Bellevue or Lyles Station, but most of the road hauling was to Bon Aqua Station. I have hauled with some of the best drivers and probably some of the worst in the county. As far as I can remember Mr. John Rainey was one of the best. He always had the best team and his harness was as good as money could buy. (When I was 8 or 9, he carried a load of hogs to Nashville for my Dad, and I went with him.) My Grandfather Green Sullivan, Uncle Oscar, and Uncle Turman always had good mules and harness. I had real good harness and some real good mules. Some that I was very proud of.

Work In Nashville
The year I was 16 when I got the crops laid by, I went to Nashville to work. I was probably the first part of July. I had my clothes in a small suitcase and walked to past Hillsboro, where the road crossed the creek. ( Leipers Fork) It was a little after dark, and I had pulled my shoes off to wade the creek when I saw the lights of a car coming. I flagged him down and he stopped, and asked me where I was going. I told him I was trying to get to Franklin to catch the Interurban into Nashville. The Interurban was a little commuter rail line that ran between Franklin and Nashville for several years, but after Franklin Road (U S Highway 31), and Hillsboro Pike were built, and automobiles became the prevalent means of travel the Interurban went out of business, probably in the late 1930s. The man’s name was Mr. Cannon. He carried me into Franklin to the Interurban Station. I was real tired, and when I sat down to wait for the Interurban, I went to sleep. When the car came by and was ready to go the conductor woke me and asked if I was going to ride that car. I told him I was and he said he was ready to go. When I got to the transfer shed in Nashville, while waiting for my street car, I got on some scales and weighed. (probably the kind that were around in public places where you could put a penny in and weigh) I weighed 109 pounds. The car I wanted to go out on was called the Buenavista. I went out to 22nd avenue where I boarded with Uncle Charlie Lampley. Monday morning I went over into west Nashville and got a job with John B. Ransom Box Factory. I got into a real hot argument with the hothead I was working with. He went and told the foreman I was giving trouble. The foreman came over and said for me not to come back the next morning. I said I would quit now if he wanted me to. He said no, for me to work on till time to quit. Later on the foreman came back around and said for me to come back next morning. I did, and that was Friday. Friday night I told the foreman I was going home over the weekend, and might be a little late Monday. He said that would be all right. I was wanting time Monday to look for another job. I went home over the weekend, and got back to Nashville late Sunday evening. Early Monday morning I went on up the railroad to Buchanan Lumber Company. It was a large place with some 25 or 30 men working there. They manufactured doors, windows, and window frames, and had a huge lumber yard. They had a team of mules and a wagon, so I started driving them there on the yard, bringing lumber from off the yard to the warehouse where they worked it into whatever they had orders for. In two or three days, they would send me out on small orders up to two or three miles from the place of business. I liked that job much better than the one at the box factory. I had to walk about two miles between work and where I stayed at night. About one mile of that was on a spur railroad that ran behind a lot of colored houses. One evening a bunch of colored boys were playing ball. There were about 5 or 6 of them, and 2 of them were larger than I was. One of them knocked the ball out a ways, so one of the boys had to go and get the ball. They all began to laugh at him, so I laughed too. One of the bigger boys said, “what are you laughing for boy”? I said “because you all are laughing.” One of them said, “I bet you could whip the hell out off him couldn’t you.” I said, “hell yes if it is necessary”. With that they started throwing cinder rocks at me. I dodged several of them, and started running after the one that was the closest to me, and they all ran. I stopped and stood there for a few seconds, then walked on. I was very glad I never saw any more of them. I was making twenty five cents an hour, ten hours a day. Their lumber came into the yard in freight cars. They figured it took two men a day to unload a car. I asked the foreman if he would let me unload the car at night. He said he would see about it. In a little while he came back and said he would. I unloaded 2 or 3 cars that way. As I recall Dad telling this story, he contracted for so much to unload a car, and would unload one car during the night, and made a good deal of extra money that way. I worked 6 or 7 weeks, and had to go home and pull fodder.

The Last Story
Dad’s journal is a randomly remembered, randomly written collection of stories in no particular chronology. The journal was written in a bold but shaky hand about 3 years before he died. From the time I was just a little boy, on up until the last days I lived at home, and even after I left home and returned for visits Dad would tell about things that happened in his childhood. As you can tell from this recreation of his journal he especially loved to tell about rough and rowdy days with his mules and wagons. This is the last memory he recorded and was short, but no exception, it was about working with his mules when he was just a boy. A boy by age, but a man by deed. . One summer I helped build the road from Fernvail to near Linton. We graded it with mules, and then hauled creek gravel with wagons. It was a very hard summers work. I rode a mule about 7 or 8 miles there and back, in the morning and evening. I must have been 15 years old.

My thoughts
At times I ponder the question. How do you measure the worth of a man? I’ve asked Mary that question several times. I know the immediate response of many, perhaps most would be, “it’s simple, look at his financial statement”. Or others may suggest that you have to look at the totality of the man. Nice try, but that one can be debated for as long as man has the capacity to think. Comprehending, and then measuring such a thing becomes cosmic. The definition of the word cosmic as used here is, “the inclusion of everything, but the description of nothing”. We then are left simply with our regard for the man, or if you will, our feelings. My world is limited I know, but Gilbert R. Sullivan was the greatest man in my life. I know that measurement is based on feelings, on love, and respect, but it’s all I need to know. A part of him was reborn in each of five sons. I think all of us had similar regard for him, and each in their own way struggled to measure up. I think each of us knew the futility in that task, and dealing with that, played out in it’s on way. Yet having something of him in each of us, even if only a fraction, is enough to cherish the life in us, and the ability to pass a bit of that on.