TRENTON, DADE IN 1800s RECALLED

BY FRANK NEATHERY

AS TOLD TO BROWNY STEPHENS

 

 

Trenton as I remember it in the 1870s:

 

Entering Trenton from the north we cross the corporate limits at the Col. John Jacoway old home on our right.  Immediately ahead of us was a narrow road on the left, which led to J. T. Woolbright’s home, built by W. F. Neathery in the latter ‘60s or early ‘70s.

 

This road also led to a ford in Lookout Creek and to what was known as the Woolbright swimming hole, and also a distance farther down the creek was the Lucy hole that was very deep water.

 

Next on our lift was the Dick Graham home, also erected by W. F. Neathery about the date of the Woolbright house.  Next on the right was a large barn.  Then near on the right was the residence of James A. Case.  Across the road in front of the Case home was a dwelling occupied by Dr. Morris, wife, son Joe, and daughter Musie.   They were from Ohio and came to Trenton in the early ‘80s.  His son Joe was a printer and set type for T. A. Havron, editor of the Dade paper.

 

As we approach the first cross street (street now serving Trenton High School) on our right was the Nail home.  A daughter of Mr. Nail married Sam Bush, who became sheriff of Hamilton County, Tenn.

 

Across the street opposite Nail’s home was a cotton gin.  Near the gin was a large pile of cotton seed and as I remember, 12 or 14 feet high and maybe 30 feet in diameter at the base.  Around this stack of seed was a high rail fence which I was told would poison the stock if eaten by them.  They are fed to stock now, and we pay a good price for the oil pressed out of them, using it as a seasoning in food, and we are now told it is much better for us than “hog lard.”  I don’t know, but if we go farther back in the hills in the woods and beyond the borders of corruption, and among God’s people, we find they use “hog lard” altogether – cook their beans with home-raised bacon.  Those beans, green beans, are cooked – the green is cooked out of them and the bacon grease cooked.  Uh!  Good.

 

Quo Vadis?  Oh!  Yes, we were going into Trenton – had reached the first cross street and we advance toward the public square.  On our right was a small house, and I was told John Nethery once taught school in it, using Webster’s “Blue Back Speller.”  I suppose, for a girl while reading, read:  “Ann can spin flax thread, John Nethery cracked Jane and Jule on the head.”  It seems he had occasion to reprimand Jane and Julia for misbehavior.

 

Now across the street (road) from this little house was the home of William F. Nethery, where on Sunday, Sept. 1, 1873, I breathed my first breath of life.

 

Now as we enter the public square, on the northwest corner, is a small one-room log cabin with a plank lean-to on the backside.  On the northeast corner was, and is yet, the store of T. H. P. Cole, deceased. Before Mr. Cole, I was told, a Mr. Blanchard sold goods there.  While Mr. Cole was there, a man by the name o Cox made harness in the second story.  Afterward, the second floor was converted into a dance hall and skating rink.  Finally was bought by the Oddfellows.

 

Going around the square clockwise was a two-story brick I think was built and operated as a general merchandise store by Jimmy Smith and Andrew Brow, who had previously operated a store on the west side of the passenger depot, Mr. Smith being telegrapher and agent for A. G. S. Railway.  The brick building on the public square being completed, they moved their stock of goods to it.

 

The store building at the depot was moved on wagon wheels by Joe Kiser to a place just in the rear of the old jail and used as a barn.

 

We will now continue around the square.  Next was a store, frame building.  Next was the small two-room law office of W. N. and J. P. Jacoway.  On the south end corner was a two-story building in which Tom Robertson and wife conducted a hotel.  Mr. Robertson also was a shoemaker, and made shoes and boots to order.

 

Entering Trenton from the north approach in the years of the 1870s, we found the following residences and other buildings we have designated by numbers of letters beginning our recording before reaching the corporate limits (one-half mile of courthouse.)

 

Baptist Cemetery in which stood a one-room log house used by the Primitive Baptist as a church.

 

(1)   Home of John Jacoway, Sr.

 

(2)   Richard (Dick) Graham.  (This house was built by William F. Nethery in the latter ‘60s or early ‘70s.)  Graham was a lawyer.

 

(3)   Home of J. A. Case (B) His barn.

 

(4)   In 1883 Dr. Morris resided here. I am of the opinion he erected this building as his home after coming here from the North.  Dr. Morris was not a practicing physician.  I do not remember this building before leaving Trenton in 1880, returning Feb. 14, 1883, at which time I first remember it.

 

(5)   This was the Nail home.  (Sam Bush married Nail’s daughter, Bush was a one-time sheriff of Hamilton County, Tenn.  His son, Nick, also became sheriff.

 

The Federal Army, on entering Trenton, burned the courthouse and maybe Sherman got the idea to use the torch on his march through Georgia to the sea from this procedure.

 

In 1869 there was a new brick courthouse.  These numerals appear on the front near eaves of the roof.  My father told me that a man named Mack Young supervised the making and laying of brick.  He had with him two young men which he had raised, James Leymance and John Cuzzort.

 

Young also bult the Academy over which is the Masonic Hall.  I believe my father became a member of the craft of mysteries.  Also, his brother, John Smith Nethery.  I was told that John Nethery was the first member of the Masonic Order to be buried with Masonic rites in Dade County, being interred at Baptist Cemetery at Trenton.  Being the first Mason burial, it attracted people from all parts of the country as well as the few members of the order at that time.  He also had a countywide acquaintance, having taught school and also served as County Clerk in the term of County Clerk Nathan Cole, whose health prevented him form serving.  His record as Clerk was said by Shade Hale, who served as Clerk in years later, 36 years, to be the neatest, best kept of any.  Nethery served as Clerk about the latter ‘60s or early 70s.

 

(6)   Gin, cotton gin, behind which was a pile of cotton seed, appearing to me now as being 15 feet high and 40 feet in diameter at the base.  Around this pile of seed was a high rail fence to prevent cattle from eating the seed.  It was said they were poison and would kill if eaten by them.  But having advanced somewhat in knowledge, today we feed them to stock after extracting the oil from them for use in seasoning food.

(7)   A small house.  Don’t know owners. Used principally by transients.

 

(8)   Home of William F. Nethery and sold to Methodist Church as a parsonage in the year 1876.  The first pastor to occupy it was the Rev. Salyer and wife.

 

(9)   A one-room log cabin which later had a lean-to-box and batton room on the north side.

 

(10) Two-story business building.  I was told this structure was built by a Mr. Mann, and the first occupant to sell merchandise from it was Mr. Blanchard.   This building must have been erected before the Civil War.  My first memory, 1883, Mr. T. H. B. Cole conducted a general merchandise store in it and continued until his death.  Entering the public square, north side, and going around the square clockwise is a two-story brick built I think in the early ‘80s by Smith and Brown (11) as a storehouse.  Behind it was (11) wagon scales.  They had previously sold goods near or at the passenger depot.  Mr. Jimmy Smith was the agent and telegrapher for A. G. S. Railway while Mr. Andrew Brown was a prosperous farmer, later becoming the largest individual taxpayer within the county.  That was long before High Surcharge Truman tax.

 

(13) Store building.  I first remember Mr. Polk Major sold goods here.

 

(15) Law office of W. U. and J. P. Jacoway, Jr.

 

(17) Hotel.  I was told Mr. Polk Majors’s father once owned and operated this hotel, and was referred to as Major’s Inn. (B) Across the street from the hotel was a barn used by the hotel to stable horses for those stopping at the hotel that traveled by horse and buggy.  Later in connection with the operation of this hotel was Mr. Jerome Williams and wife Bettie.  Bettie was the daughter of James bates, an early settler in Dade County.  Was a most reliable man of honor.

 

He lived on the joining farm to old Benjamin Brock, and as has been said of Mr. Brock can be applied to Mr. Bates:  “His word was his bond and his note worth 100 cents to the dollar.”  Across 1st Avenue SE from the hotel was a barn (stable).

 

(12) Two-story frame dwelling know as Taylor house.  I think this was the home of Cam Taylor (I remember the death and burial of Mr. Taylor in the Baptist Cemetary.)

 

(18) Building on the south side of the square and on the corner of Main Valley Road.  I first remember this as a saloon in 1883, at which time David E. Tatum dispensed whiskies.

 

(16) West side of square.  Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  Miss Mary Pace, daughter of B. F. Pace, taught school in this church in 1878.

 

(14) The family occupying this house was of the name Carroll.  Mrs. Carroll was a daughter of Mr. Major, if I remember correctly.

 

(12) The county jail.  I have a faint remembrance of a sheriff by the name of Steel about 1877.  We then lived in a house just north of the T. H. B. Cole Store.  This sheriff came from the jail with a razor in hand, shaving his face while walking about the square.  I guess the first man I ever saw shave.  My father wore whiskers.

 

(17) Hotel.  I first remember that Tom Robinson and wife operated this hotel.  They had two boys, Allen and Walter.  Mr. Robinson was a shoe and boot maker.  He used a bent needle especially made for sewing shoes.

 

It was told that he broke the only needle he had, and he called a Negro boy, Simon Charmichle (I remember Simon) and told Simon to go to Chattanooga and get some needles.

 

Simon was a very fast walker and it is said her could keep in sight of the passenger train on the A. G. S. at that time.

 

He went, got the needles, and was back at the hotel in time for breakfast.

 

I will not vouch for the truth of this tale.  But I do know that born in that poor Negro’s brain was an idea, and idea of a house on wheels known today as trailer homes.  Simon built one at Trenton and it was reported in the Dade paper at that time as, “The House That Simon Built.”

 

(18 A-1) Residence of Moses Maxwell, a blacksmith.  In rear of this building was his shop.  I remember this family very well.  They had five or six boys, no girls.  Boys that I remember:  George, Cameron (Cam), Jefferson, William, Alexander (Alex).  Cam married Josie Duboise.

 

(18 ½) Dwelling of several rooms. Party occupying this house name has become entirely erased from my memory.  But I do have a recollection of a little girl that I was very fond of, and I think she of me, as she would bring to me a liberal supply of Damsel plums, which grew in their garden.

 

Retuning to Main Valley Road, going South, we come to what was known as the Gardenhire Inn (20).  This was a large two-story log house.  Other buildings in rear.

 

(21) Frame building.  Occupied by Mr. Crabtree.  Crabtree was a tanner and operated the tannery of T. H. B. Cole.  Later Ordinary of Dade County.

 

(22) Cannot recall name of party occupying this house.  My father and mother lived in this house before my birth, I was told.

 

(23) Cole’s Tannery.

 

(24) Log cabin with lean-to.  Robert Carter lived here 1879.

 

(25) Tannery of Benjamine F. Pace.

 

(27) Blacksmith shop owned by B. F. Pace.

 

(29) Log house, also property of B. F. Pace.

 

Having now reached intersection of Mountain and Back Valley Road, we turn right a distance of about 300 yards and reach the home of Jerry Pace.

 

(26) First occupants I remember about 1879 or 1880, a Mr. Castleberry and family.  On our return from Roan County, Tenn., on Feb. 14, 1882, Mr. Shook Pace, brother of Benjamine F. Pace, was residing here, raising a large family, 6 girls and 4 boys.  With him was his sister, Miss “Aunt” Nancy Pace.

 

(28) Short distance south of corporate limits we came to the Taylor place.  Mr. Alex J. Jeffrey married Mr. Taylor’s daughter, and they lived out their days here.

 

(30) Is home of  “Little” Ben Wilkinson who died many years ago or more.

 

(32) Home of Luke Wilkinson, 70 odd years ago.  Luke and his wife raised a large family.  If  I  remember correctly, 17 or 28 children.  Luke Wilkinson was deaf and dumb.  This affliction was caused by fever, I was told.  Most everyone who knew Luke for any length of time could understand his signs and sound of mouth.  I was fond of his company, he soon learned my signs as I adopted his and when he was in Trenton – he generally contacted me as I could and would convey to him the gossip of the town.  Many of the young folk were afraid of Luke and when he became tired of them or anyone he would make a sound “yampoo.”

 

On east side of Main Valley road opposite Luke Wilkinson farm lived a Mr. Gifford (31).  Gifford was in the war with the Seminole Indians, driving them to the everglades in Florida.  Mr. Gifford was given a grant of land in Florida for his services in that war.  He never in after years made any claim of it.

 

Now we will return to the capitol of the Independent State of Dade – Trenton.

 

I note I failed to describe the building N. 114 on the public square. This was a wagon scale.  Locust poles set in the ground to support the roof and railings on the side which also were locust poles. This scale building was also used at on time as a gallows. On the night of this party, there were services at the old Presbyterian Church.  My mother, father and we children attended.  The preacher’s name was Elam, but not of the Presbyterian faith, but Christian, better known then as Campbellite, but bitterly resented.  My grandfather, Washington Bacon, was a Campbellite preacher and once lived in Dade County.  There had been much excitement in the county for several days, at least.  There was an ore mine a Tatum’s switch about half the way on the railroad between Trenton and Rising Fawn.  Near this mine, a Negro attacked a farmer’s wife.  He was captured, brought to Trenton, and tried before a Justice of the Peace, and committed to jail to await action of the Grand Jury.  But there were twelve women who could not wait, and on this night of services at the Presbyterian Church, and after the services, these twelve women called at the jail and requested of the sheriff the keys to cells.  Bill Byrd was the sheriff, and a brave man, but like Adam, could not resist a woman.  He laughed and joked with them, but the women became more demanding.  Then with force they overpowered him and secured the keys.  They removed the Negro, and marched him across the square to the wagon scale.  Passing a rope over a rafter near the top of the roof, they drew the end of the rope down to a railing on the west side and made it fast.  While this was being done, one woman, really, formed and tied a hangman’s knot in the other end of the rope and passed it over the man’s head, leaving the knot under the left ear, regulation style.  With some difficulty, he was stood on a top railing and some calculation made as to the amount of rope to allow for the drop.  This done, he was pushed off and left to choke to death, and he did that.  No veil was placed over his head.  Sheriff Byrd was not allowed to witness the execution.  The keys were returned to the sheriff, and when these women were satisfied the Negro was dead, dead, dead, they dispersed.  I will only stand for correction of this narrative by one of the women who were members of this “necktie party,” then only in secrecy.  A meeting is welcomed.  Address me at 4308 DuPont St., Chattanooga 4, Tenn., and a place of meeting will be agreed upon.

 

2nd Avenue:  N. C. H. W. Beginning at 2nd Avenue north of the courthouse which was the first cross road on entering Trenton from the north.

 

Going west, we come to the district line road, following it a short distance, we come to a wagon gate, entering it, we soon (A) are at Nethery’s home since 1877.

 

Continuing on the district road, we reach the home of Jeff O’Neal (B), son of Zechariah O’Neal.

 

A short distance further, we reach the home of Zechariah O’Neal (C) who at one time before the Civil War owned considerable lands west of the district line and extending northward and on the side of Sand Mountain continuing northward (D) we leave the district line, curving left to the west, we reach the end of the trail and there we find the home of Wilburn O’Neal, another son of Zechariah. (E).

 

Going east on 2nd Avenue and before reaching Second Street North, we reach a dwelling on the left.  Here my memory becomes dim.  But, faintly I believe a family by the name of Naylor lived here.  There was, either a relatives connection with the families of Cole or Jacoway.  My mother told me that in this house was written the book, “Sut Lovingood.”  The author’s name I’ve forgotten.  I  read this book before I read “Peck’s Bad Boy,” and comparatively, “Peck’s Bad Boy” was a good boy.

 

Advancing to the second block, we come to the home of W. U. Jacoway.  We give this house No. 206 Second Avenue NE.  Continuing in an easterly direction, we reach Depot Street, turn left, go north to 413 Depot Street where in 1882 lived Mr. Cox. The leather harness maker, whose shop was where the Odd Fellow’s Hall is today, 1952.  Have been told that before Cox, Mackenzie Nichol occupied the house. 

 

Living at No. 112 First Avenue NW was Polk and his sister, Miss Sue Major.  I  remember Miss Sue in October 1875,  at the funeral of my sister, Annie.  Annie died after living three weeks.  Wagons, carriages were assembled in front of the house.  The coffin had been carried out.  All were leaving the room.  I thought I was being left alone and set up a yell.  Then Miss Sue Major returned, placing a little white bonnet on my head, carrying me out to a carriage.  I never forgot Aunt Sue.  I love the memory of her still.  Later, Mr. Howard and family lived here.  Children – Lizzie, J. P. and Spurgeon.  J. P. had a dog he harnessed and a wagon to which he was hitched, and which he and his brother rode.  All went well unless a strange dog appeared to investigate and came to close to J. P. and Spurgeon.  J. P.’s dog would object and attack the other dog, wagon hitched, and the stray dog, never having met another so equipped with armor, ran for his life.  Mrs. Duboise and daughter, Josie, lived in the house after the Howards moved to Whiteside.  Mrs. Duboise had two boys, Bud and William Killian, by a previous marriage, but was then a widow.

 

Near this house and west of the jail was an open field and in May, 1883, Walker was hanged for killing a man named Hartgarger or Hardbarger, who lived at South Pittsburg and worked at the furnace at Rising Fawn. Hartbarger, after visiting his family, was crossing Sand Mountain on his return to Rising Fawn when he was said to be ambushed by Walker and Troece for robbery and only obtained 35 cents (maybe $1.35).  Anyway, a very small amount.  Reece turned state’s evidence, was given 10 years, served time in the penitentiary at the Cole City coal mines.  Walker was sentenced to death.

 

In after years, there was a Negro hanged about the point where Walker’s gallows stood.  While recording hangings, will report the hanging of John Rutherford which took place at the SE corner of Trenton and off the road that leads to Sitton’s Mill.  Rutherford was serving time in the penitentiary at Cole City.  While there, he organized with convicts a “break,” storming the gun room at the office outside the walls of the penitentiary.  He secured guns and opened fire, killing a man and wounding others.  He was recaptured, tried and sentenced to hang.  As I remember, this is the last hanging Dade has had.

 

The first one was a Negro woman, a slave of Mr. Gross, who then lived in the large log house one mile north of Trenton on Main Valley Highway (maybe I should have said ditch).  This woman killed her own child, she said, to prevent it from growing up and becoming a slave.  This woman was legally tried and sentenced to death.  She was hanged from gallows on the property of Zechariah O’Neal, west of District Line Road, a short distance.

 

Turning another page of tablet of my memory, I find recorded a lynching which took place at Cole City, Ga., Dade County, 1895, and since the date has become dim, I have retracted it but I’m not positive, but Oct. 4, 1895, was the date.  This Negro convict was named Neal Smith and was a trusty.  He carried water for a railroad section gang working on the top line of the track which went to a coal washer, there being a track on the side of the mountain which extended to broadgague tracks at the coke ovens and foot of the mountain and was known as Lower Cole City.  Miss Margie Henderson, daughter of Bill Henderson, lived at Lower Cole City and was returning home after visiting her sister who lived on top of the mountain, Upper Cole City.  She was walking the lower track when this convict saw her from the upper track.  By offering some excuse to the boss, he started toward the coal washer and when out of sight of his boss, he left the upper track, going to the lower track and a distance ahead of Miss Henderson.  He awaited her approach, and stepping out, he attacked her, striking her on the head with a rock.  This rock was near ten inches in length and of an alliptical in circumference and two inches in diameter.  She put her hand on her head for protection and he pounded her hands, breaking her fingers.  He also gouged one eye almost out of her head.  She carried a pen knife.  He used this knife after beating her unconscious and dragging her down the side of the mountain on a slope of about 60 degrees during his attack.  This crime was committed on Oct. 1, 1995.  While he had left her for dead, later in the afternoon and near dark, another Negro convict trusty, whose job it was to take and return mules used to pull lorry cars in charging coke ovens with coal, form stables at Upper Cole City.  This man saw Miss Henderson staggering in timber and underbrush, her clothes red with blood, reported it on reaching the stables and a party rushed down the gulch and found her unconscious.  They carried her back to her sisters where she received medical attention, but it was a number of days before she regained consciousness.  Then only for moments.  Of  course, Cole City was boiling and the surrounding which included Marion County, Tenn., and Jackson County, Ala., that is, northern section.  The Negro who discovered her was first charged with the crime, but the track boss remembered Neal Smith whom he had permitted to go to the coal washer building at a late hour that afternoon, and much longer making the trip than was necessary.  They found the clothes he wore, and Miss Maggie’s penknife was found in his possession.  The evidence was convicting and Neal acknowledged.  This was on Thursday, Oct. 3.

 

The people had organized and were waiting for the attacker to be found.  The penitentiary was strongly guarded.  The sheriff of Dade had deputized a large force.  Friday night, there appeared a determined force of men from the surrounding country, but I never saw a man I knew.  What was I doing there?  Well, it was like this – I knew Miss Maggie, knew the entire family; then, too, I was assisting in the publishing of the State of Dade News and was there to gather it first hand.  Just a lapse of mind, I suppose, but today I find that time has had a bad effect on the pages of my memory tablet.  After retracing this old report, I may be able to tell the disposition of Neal Smith’s body.  After tracing the dimmed page, I find some 200 men or more in the yard in front of the gate of the stockade.  The gate opened and several men entered, advanced to the door of the prison and with little effort opened the door and went to the bunk on Neal Smith.  He had been double shackled and a necklace was about his neck.  A large ring on his leg shackles had been passed over a building chain.  Only a minute and the ring was severed.  Marching out of the building and out the stockade gates, all openings being made fast, the crowd marched quietly west and down to the old Dade mine.  There they marched on narrow guage track to the point where Miss Henderson had been attacked on the Tuesday before.  There he was struck on the head with the same rock he had beaten Miss Henderson with.  This act accomplished, he was then dragged down the steep 60-degree slope of the mountain on the same trail where he had dragged the girl to a large flat rock eight feet square.  This was the same rock on which he had attacked her.  Then a man used a sharp knife to slash at his body form his ears and down the front of his torso.  Then, with a going away backhand slash with the knife, this man said to the congregation, “He’s yours.”

 

A fusillade of fire from many kinds and makes of arms rang out, and the mountainside reverberated again and again.  The man fell just off the rock that marked the place of his crime.  The shots continued for a short time.  On their return to the top of the mountain after the lynching, many visited at the girl’s sister’s and were allowed to pass through the hall to view through the open door Miss Henderson lying on the bed and having convulsions, then four days after the attack.  This scene only incited those who viewed it, and with little encouragement they would have started out to exterminate the colored race.  Being enraged already, this scene caused among them an outrageous desire to excessive, violent and atrocious acts.

 

Someone recognized me as I had mounted a large, claybank-colored horse to start on the return to Trenton (2:00 a.m.), and demanded that I wait until they could go to where Neal Smith Lay.  Already a man had an axe in hand, another had a burlap bag, and a crowd had started.  I was to take Smith’s head and place it on the top picket in the center of the gate in the iron fence that then surrounded the courthouse.  Attached was to be a note of warning to all Negroes.

 

I disliked my new assignment and at once told them that Smith was a state prisoner, and that the governor, then Atkinson, would order an investigation and suggested they use that axe to build a pyre and cremate the body in a way destroying and evidence of lynching and to save expense of a coroner’s inquest, also burying expense.  An elderly gentleman then addressed the crowd, saying my suggestion was the action to follow.  Later it was learned he was cremated.

 

n      Dade County Sentinel

 

(Used by permission, History of Dade County Georgia, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, 1981.)


  1. Wow. This is an amazing look at 1870s Trenton. The lynchings discussion is so very sad, but so compelling to read.

    I googlemapped these and could not find any houses still standing. Do you know if there are homes or buildings still standing at these locations? Or any existing photographs of these places?
    (1) Home of John Jacoway, Sr.
    (15) Law office of W. U. and J. P. Jacoway, Jr.
    “Advancing to the second block, we come to the home of W. U. Jacoway. We give this house No. 206 Second Avenue NE.”

    Thank you so much for this. Amazing to read.

  2. Judy Germann

    Does anyone know by which of Washington Bacon’s children Mr. Neatherly descends? I don’t have his name in my family database.

  3. Deborah Smith

    The home or cabin of Zachariah O’Neal is still standing today. It was built about 1834-35 in Trenton. It missed the burning becasue of where it was located.




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