Last week’s column featured memories from 104-year-old Pansy Oliver Torbett as related to me by Joann Conner, her daughter. Mrs. Conner also supplied me with information that included a beguiling document dating back to April 1928.
“I read with interest,” said Joann, “your recent column concerning the former waterspout and foxhunts that were frequent occurrences on Buffalo Mountain. My husband, Joel, grew up on the south side of Johnson City and explored this mountain many times as a young boy. Hiking to White Rock was a Sunday afternoon thing to do in the 30s and 40s. Your article made me recall the stories my grandfather, Dave Oliver, used to tell about foxhunts on his farm where I now live in Piney Flats.
“Granddad related how the men and their hunting dogs would initially congregate on the “ridge” at his farm and then go into the connecting woods. My grandmother, Cordelia Oliver, dreaded these planned fox hunts because the ladies had to cook so much cornbread to feed all the dogs. They used all the pans they had and spent hours over small wood fired stove ovens cooking the quantity of bread needed.”
Joann said the dogs were not fed before the hunt because they needed to be agile in order to corner or tree foxes. Since they scurried across more than 100 acres of land during the chase, they returned from the hunt tired and hungry. Joann’s grandfather and the other hunters broke the bread into small chunks for the canines to devour.
“I remember Grandfather Oliver speaking of Gov. Alf Taylor,” said Mrs. Conner. “Mother told me several years ago that her father had received a special invitation to join a foxhunt that was to be held in honor of the (80-year-old) former governor. A few months ago, while sorting through some old records, I found the invitation she told me about. It was mailed to my grandfather on March 28, 1928 from Bluff City with a two-cent postage stamp.”
The hand-drawn letterhead at the top left of the invitation depicts Ole Limber hot on the heels of a fox. Below the caricature are these words (written as shown): “Ole’ Limber; The Elizabethton Hunt Club; Request the honor of your presence; at an; Old time East Tennessee Fox Hunt; at Elizabethton, Tennessee; Given in honor of Ex-Governor, Alf A. Taylor; on Friday, April the thirteenth; Nineteen hundred and twenty eight; at three o’clock P.M.; It will be the South’s Greatest Fox Hunt. R.s.v.p.; Alex Shell; Elizabethton, Tenn.”
This was three years before Alf died; it is not known if he participated in the sporting event. The right side of the invitation contains the names of the 15 Elizabethton Hunt Club members, which includes some of Alf Taylor’s sons: Alex L. Shell (Chairman), E.D. Houston (Secretary), Nat B. Taylor, E.C. Alexander, Frank H. Lovette, Winton Chambers, Willard G. Shell, Blaine Taylor, Alf A. Taylor, Jr., Edwin H. Hunter, G.R. Patterson, W.D. Rudy, Walter P. Dungan, Jno. (John) Alf Taylor and J.W. Denny. Piney Flats resident, Mack Houston, believes E.D. Houston to be his grandfather’s brother, Ed.
Thanks to the selflessness of Mrs. Joann Conner, another important historical artifact from the region’s celebrated past has been located and duly preserved for inspection at ETSU’s Archives of Appalachia.