Dade Comity Sentinel, Trenton, GA Thursday. August 18.1977
‘Uncle Bob’ McKaig
(Editor’s Note: The McKaig reunion will be held Sunday at the New Salem United Methodist Church. The following article is re-printed by request of the family, in of “Uncle Bob” McKaig and all other deceased family members. It first appeared on the front page of The Dade County Times in 1955, captioned “Uncle Bob Reminisces “and written by Myrna McMahan under her weekly column head “Dallyin in Dade”)
Whenever I talk to Dade’s older residents, I usually run across little-known historical facts about the county, For instance during the course of conversation with “Uncle Bob” McKaig the other day, I found that there was once a road off Lookout Mountain at New England called the McKaig Gap Road.
It was built by his people when they operated a small iron furnace there in the middle 1800’s. Shortly after they had established that particular furnace, they sold out and went to Rising Fawn, where they started a small blower-type furnace which was later sold to a company that established the iron works.
Grandfather Drew Land in Johnson’s Crook
Mr. McKalg’s grandfather owned almost all of Johnson Crook at the time, having drawn it after the Indians left the county..
It was there that his father was captured by the Yankees during the Civil War. He was a Union soldier until he grew dissatisfied with the way they were fighting then deserted to come home. Alter his capture, he was marched up the mountain via a road the Yankees had dug out at the head of Johnson’s Creek and taken to Chickamauga. He again slipped away and joined the Confederate Army for the remainder of the war.
In 1870, he moved to Lookout Mountain as one of the first settlers and began farming. After he married, he became the father of thirteen children.
“Uncle Bob” was born in 1877, about the time the New Salem community was building up. There were few homes and no stores or roads as we know them
First Church on Mountain Built l884
The first church was built in 1884 out of logs and served also as a school. He attended three months out of year and remembers that there were no high school classes taught. Although he attended church regularly; he didn’t know what a Sunday School was until he was seventeen years old, at which time one was organized. He recalls that both Methodists and Baptists would hold meetings at the same time in, the church, with the preachers taking turns refuting the other.
While still a young man, he worked as a guard at Cole City in the mines, then weighed coal as it was loaded into railroad cars for the trip down the mountain to Shellmound. Capt. Reece and Dr. Davis were Superintendent and camp doctor respectively, during the time Mr. McKaig worked there. He boarded with John Steven at a boarding house.
After the mines at Durham were, opened up and the Cole City prisoners moved there, Mr. McKaig went there to work for ten years.
Raises ‘Small” Family
In 1900 he was married to a Rising Fawn girl, Miss Nora Gatlin, who passed away two years ago. They built a home on their 320-acre farm two miles south of what is now the Massey place and raised ten children. “Only ten,” he puts it, which seems a small family to the old-timers who were raised in families of a dozen or more children.
He has farmed and cut timber ever since. A staunch believer in modern farming methods, he wishes he knew twenty yeans ago what he knows now about farming.
He was Dade County’s first Farm Bureau member, joining in Walker County until a chapter was formed here in the county. He has served as a director and still likes to keep up with the organization although he is crippled with rheumatism and a little hard of hearing now.
After he became unable to work on the farm, he went to live with his daughter, Mrs. Dessie Massey, and contents himself with reading the Bible and attending church and brush arbor, meetings.
Now and then his mind goes back to the old days, and he lives once more the colorful days of his youth.