Former Resident, Samuel Mosier, Recalls Living at Johnson’s Tank
Historians are indeed fortunate when they tap into the oft-fading memories of senior adults and garner priceless cephalic reminiscences of an era long since passed. Such was the case in mid 1969 when 97-year-old Johnson City resident Samuel Mosier made a withdrawal from his memory bank for the Johnson City Press-Chronicle.
Samuel explained that he was born in Greeneville, TN in 1871, which was just two years after Johnson City became incorporated. One of Mosier’s earliest memories was attending Andrew Johnson’s funeral in Greeneville. The townspeople had never seen a hearse complete with black tassels and imitation black feathers on the top.
In 1888, 17-year-old Mosier relocated to the “village,” as he called Johnson City. Between 1871 and 1888, the population grew from about 500 to around 3500. The man and the town literally grew into adulthood together. Samuel remembered when the settlement was called Johnson’s Tank, so named after Henry Johnson’s water tank that stood at Main and Buffalo on property that much later became the old city bus station.
The senior resident became a telegraph operator for the ETV&G (East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia, later known as the Southern) Railroad, but was fired after he and 15 co-workers joined the Order of Railroad Telegraphers. Villagers received water by gravity feed from a spring at the bottom of Spring Street. Another water source was located under what became the John Sevier Hotel. He recalls the latter being an ongoing concern for owners of the building.
Mosier remembered an old flourmill in Johnson City that was run by two men whose last names were Biddle and Elsworth. He also mentioned his good friend Dudley Jobe, who at that time was a motorman for the city streetcar system.
Samuel further recalled being acquainted with U.S. Archer who owned one of the first automobiles in Johnson City, a White Steamer. This “steam car,” manufactured by the White Motor Company between 1900 and 1910, contained an external combustion engine. The unique vehicle constantly required maintenance. Since Samuel had a mechanical aptitude for repairing things, he and Archer became the best of friends. Mosier regularly performed maintenance on the White Steamer, which provided a bonus for him by being permitted to drive it around town for curious citizens to observe.
The 97-year-old resident remembered the first department store, run by R.L. Bruner, being located at the future site of Parks-Belk on Main Street. Samuel said that a dime in 1888 would purchase a pound of butter or a pound of steak. Mosier served at one time as a city commissioner and later was in charge of waterworks.
Samuel related an amusing event that occurred at the George L. Carter home, which at that time was the biggest house in Johnson City. It originally received its water from a spring, but was later connected to the city’s water supply. The bill for the first month was a staggering $75, a sizable sum of money for that era. Mosier sent a workman out to attempt to locate the problem. It seemed that when the Carters were connected to the city water line, the work crew failed to shut off the supply from the spring. This blunder allowed city water to flow into the spring for an entire month.
Samuel Mosier died in early 1969, but not before bequeathing to history buffs a valuable chunk of Johnson City’s rich past.