May 2013

Recently, I examined the book, Tennessee History Stories (T.C. Karns, B.F. Johnson Publishing Company, 1904). One subject grabbed my attention – Nancy Ward, who became Tennessee’s Pocahontas. What did she do to earn such a prominent place in Tennessee history?

Most people are familiar with the heroics of Pocahontas, an Indian girl who saved the life of Captain John Smith in Virginia, after becoming a friend of the white man. Unless your are a student of Tennessee history, you likely are not familiar with the lesser-known name, Nancy Ward. Like Pocahontas, she became friends with the white man and endeavored to promote goodwill between him and the red man.

Nancy’s father was an English officer, while her mother was of royal Cherokee blood, being the sister of the vice-king, Atta-kulla-kulla. Nancy's residence was at Chota, (Madisonville, TN) on the north bank of the Tellico River. The town was the capital of the Cherokee nation and became known as a city of refuge to those who had committed a crime and went there to prevent imprisonment or execution.

Nancy became known as a prophetess because it was believed that she was under the control of the Great Spirit, which included looking into the future and foretelling her people what was going to transpire. Not only was her wigwam larger than the others, she resided near the chief, which was close to the great council house where important meetings were held such as declaring war or peace.

Ward’s standard of living was quite good. It was noted that she kept a charm on her door that comprised an otter restricted by the coils of a water snake. Two white men once came up the Tellico River to trade with the Indians for corn. A dispute arose between the two factions and the intruders were about to be killed by a crowd of Indians. Nancy found out about the quarrel and immediately rushed to the spot where she quickly defused the disagreement.

The prophetess explained to her people: “These men are our brothers; you must not ill-treat them.” Because of her standing with the tribe, her order was immediately obeyed without further ado.

Nancy did not stop there. She commanded that the white men's canoes be filled with corn. The surprised but grateful visitors rowed back down the river and informed everybody whom they encountered about this beloved woman named Nancy Ward.”

On another occasion, the Indians made a raid on the Watauga settlement and arrived at the house of William Bean, an associate and fellow longhunter of Daniel Boone. Bean’s wife, a friend to the Indians, did not seek safety in the fort, thinking she would be safe. The Indians carried her to the Indian towns on the Tellico River, where they tied her to a stake on a high mound with the intent of burning her alive. Before the wood could be kindled, Nancy Ward rushed to her side and secured her released. 

Dragging Canoe, the great chief of the Chickamaugas, opposed Nancy, but her power was far too great to overcome. Mrs. Bean was not only set free but was given a guard to protect her on her way back to her husband and children on the Watauga. Whenever the Indians began the war dance and were getting ready to make an attack upon the white settlements, Nancy Ward would seek help from Isaac Thomas, an Indian trader, or some other trusted messenger to warn the settlers of impending danger.

The influence of this amazing lady also extended to John Sevier. After the frontiersman and other leaders had made a raid upon several Indian towns and were causing havoc on everything in their path, they arrived at Chota. “This town,” said the locals,” “must not be burned because it is the home of Nancy Ward, the friend of the white race.” The town was spared destruction.

Nancy died in 1822 and was buried near modern day Benton, TN. In 1923, a Chattanooga Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a monument on her grave. 

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On Oct. 14, 1934 at 8:00 p.m., Mr. John Zollicoffer and Miss Helen Summers became husband and wife at the home of bride’s parents in Mountcastle Hills. The Johnson City Chronicle described the ceremony as “dignified simplicity.” Several out-of-town guests attended the gala affair. The Rev. Robert King, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, impressively and beautifully solemnized the rites.   

The spacious rooms of the home displayed an alluring aspect with an improvised altar before the massive eastern fireplace of the drawing room. Tall cathedral candles and baskets of mammoth chrysanthemums were placed at each side against the ivy covered, white background. Ivy and baby chrysanthemums were entwined along the lovely colonial stairs and small boxwood pots marked the aisle for the entrance of the bridal party.

A program of nuptial music began at 7:45 p.m., rendered by Mrs. H.L. Burbage, pianist; Mrs. Edward Brading, violinist; and Miss Mary Luther Wright, harpist.

The Mountcastle Hills Home of the Summers Family Where the Wedding Took Place

The exquisite numbers were “Traumeri,” “Morning Calm as the Night” and “Toujours L’Amour Toujours.” Mr. Charles Broyles, tenor, sang “All for You.” At the closing bars of “Liebestraum,” the bridal party entered to the strains of “Lohengrin’s Wedding March.” During the service, “Sweet Evening Star” was softly played and as a recessional Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” and Schubert’s “Serenade.”

The bride’s brothers, Frank and Jack Summers, preceded the bride to the altar. Mrs. Frank Summers served as matron-of-honor while Miss Edith Summers, only sister of the bride, was maid of honor. The bride’s father gave his daughter in marriage. They descended the stairs and proceeded to the altar where they were met by the groom and his best man, his brother, Algernon Augustus Zollicoffer.

The bride was radiant in a bridal gown of white satin, fashioned on straight princess lines, distinguished by a deep braided satin period collar and cuffs and sweeping train. Her exquisite bride’s bouquet was of orchids and valley lilies. The bridal veil of rose point lace was shaped to the head with a coronet of orange blossoms.

The dining table, covered with an imported lace cloth, was a picture of exquisiteness. A great bowl of white chrysanthemums centered the large table and white tapers burned in silver holders. White tulle was festooned in streamers from the chandelier to four edges of the table.

The bride cut a lovely four-tiered bridal cake, decorated with lilies of the valley and calla lilies. The talismanic favors were contained in the beautiful cake. Ices were shaped to resemble bridal slippers and wedding bells. Mints were decorated similar to the cake and served with coffee.

Assisting in the dining room were Miss Mary Gump, Mrs. William Preas, Miss Mary Elliott, Mrs. Glenn Elliott, Mrs. R.N. Dosser, Mrs. Welsford Artz, Miss Effie Leland, Mrs. Jay Gump, Mrs. Harris Sanders of Nashville, Miss Marjory Shipley and Miss Elizabeth Shipley. Guests were received at the door by Mrs. Allen Harris and Mrs. David Miller and entertained by Mrs. Paul Wofford, Mrs. L.L. Copenhaver, Mrs. George Oldham, Mrs. Ward Friberg and Mrs. Frank Henderson.

The groom was a graduate of the University of North Carolina Law School, a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity and engaged in the practice of law with his brother, Mr. Jere Zollicoffer.

Immediately following the reception, tendered by the bride’s parents, the bride and groom left by motor for a two-week honeymoon to the Chicago World’s Fair. Upon their return on November 1, they resided in Henderson, NC.

What makes this wedding so special is the fact that the couple in later years rescued the city’s gorgeous Lady of the Fountain from being melted. They stored it for a period of time in their E. Watauga garage before taking it to their home in Henderson, NC where it became a garden decoration with running water from the urn. The pair eventually agreed to let the bronze statue come home to Johnson City where she belonged and hopefully will remain. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Zollicoffer.

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Hotel Windsor, originally built as Hotel Pardue in 1909, became a downtown fixture on Fountain Square until it was razed in 1971. I located an interesting item from what appears to from 1939 in ETSU’s Archives of Appalachia’s “Hotel Windsor Collection” (AppMs269, 1937-54).

The assortment contained a listing of 33 signs that once adorned the local East Tennessee landscape with facts about each one: number, property owner, location, authority (permit or lease), highway, miles from Johnson City and type (bracket, barn or other). The list includes 11E, 23, Old Jonesboro Highway, Glanzstoff Highway (E. Main Street in Johnson City to Elizabethton) and 81/34 (rural state roads). They are as follows: 

102 Ben Miller, Telford, lease, 11E south, 17 miles, 36”x48” bracket. 103 C.R. Green, Telford, lease, 11E south, 13 miles, 36”x48” bracket. 104 J.E. Slonaker, RFD Jonesboro, lease, 11E south, 11 miles, 36”x48” bracket. 104A Frank Hawkins, Johnson City, lease, 11E south, 9 miles, 14’x45’ barn.

104B D.A. Vines, Johnson City, permit, 11E south, 8 miles, 23’x45’ barn. 105 Mrs. J.S. Pritchett, Jonesboro, lease, 11E south, 6 miles, 36’x48” bracket. 106 Mrs. J.S. Pritchett, Jonesboro, lease, 11E south, 6 miles, 8’x30’. 107 Mrs. J.S. Pritchett, Jonesboro, lease, Old Jonesboro Highway, 5 miles, 6’x10’.

109 Mrs. F.S. Gray, Johnson City, leash, 11-E south 3 miles, 12’x60’. 110 C. M. Martin, Johnson City RFD, leash, 11E north, 3 miles, 8.5’x20’. 111 Mrs. Sam Fulkerson, Johnson City RFD, lease, 11E north, 4 miles, 36’x48’ bracket. 111A Mrs. Ida Meadows, Johnson City RFD, lease, 11-E north, 6 miles, 36”x48” bracket.

112 C.P. Taylor, Piney Flats, lease, 11E north, 8 miles, 36”x48” bracket. 113 Ira Green, Piney Flats, lease, 11E north, 10 miles, 8’x25’ barn. 114 Gregory Place, Bluff City RFD, permit, 11E north, 12 miles, 8’x55’ fence. 115 Mrs. W.S. Sproles, Bluff City RFD, lease, 11E north, 13 miles, 36’x48” bracket.

200 E.P. Roller, Kingsport RFD, lease, 23 north, 15 miles, 36’x48” bracket. 201 S.S. Rollins, Jonesboro, lease, 8 miles, 36’x48” bracket. 202 John B. White, Nashville, lease, 23 north, 5 miles, 10’x32’. 202A R.L. Crouch, Jonesboro RFD, lease, 23 north, 4.5 miles, 8’2”x26’.

203 Colla Sell, Johnson City RFD, lease, 23 north, 4 miles, 36’x48” bracket. 204 J.A. Denton, Johnson City, permit, 23 south, 1 mile, 6’x8’. 205 Mrs. H.H. Swadley, Johnson City RFD, lease, 23 south, 3 miles, 10’x30’. 207 Mrs. Peek, Clear Branch, permit, 23 south, 26 miles, 8’x22’.

207A Mrs. J.S. Runion, Erwin RFD, lease, 23 south, 22 miles, 12’x35’ barn. 208 Mrs. R.D. Dittorton, Unicoi RFD, lease, 23 south, 8 miles, 36’x48” bracket. 209 John Ledford, Unicoi RFD, lease, 23 south, 11 miles, 36’x48” bracket. 300 V. Chambers, Johnson City, permit, 67 south, 4 miles, 6’x10’.

301 Orville Martin, Johnson City, lease, Glanzstoff Highway (E. Main in Johnson City to Elizabethton), 2 miles, 8’x35’. 302 Carter Furniture Co., Elizabethton, lease, 19E, 11 miles, 36’x48” bracket. 303 J.D. Miller, Elizabethton, lease, 19E, 12 miles, 12’x25’. 307 Mrs. F. Hoss, Embreeville, permit, 81/34, 10 miles, 5’x9’. 308 Mrs. Ellis Moody, Jonesboro RFD, lease, 81/34, 12 miles, 6’x10’.

When I was growing up, these signs could be seen on most roads surrounding the city. Many of them remained long after the hotel closed. I hope today’s column generates unique memories from readers who recall one or more of them. I particularly visualize the one at Clear Branch near Erwin. If you know of one that is still standing or would like to comment on any of them, please drop me a note. 

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