May 2015

Today's column is part 2 of my Johnson City Press History/Heritage page reader response. I will forward any comments you send me to the appropriate contributor.

H. Kay Godbey

It is so nice to see your series on this interesting and important Lady of the Fountain. Every fountain has a story, but most fountains never have their purpose and history documented. During PhD studies, I was fortunate to have made a “Study Tour” to Paris in 2007. My research focus was on the fountains of Paris, and the resulting paper was the most fun writing I've done. I came to realize that no matter what the origins, once a fountain is established, it represents the spirit of the community, and it belongs to the people who visit it. Your work here on the Lady of the Fountain is a great gift for Johnson City. Thank you.

Ralph B. Mowery

I read your weekly column on a regular basis and thoroughly enjoy it. You touch on many familiar things in your column. My family moved to Johnson City from Illinois in December of 1947. My family had Dr. Ray W. Mettetal as a family doctor until he retired and were friends with his family. I can remember meeting his father, on perhaps a couple of occasions when I was young.


Young People Visit the Freedom Train During a Stop in Johnson City in 1948

My question to you is, do you know about or have any information on the Freedom Train that visited Johnson City in 1948 or 1949. It carried many artifact pertaining to the founding of the U.S., such as copies of the Declaration of Independence and had them on display for visitors to the train. I remember waiting with my parents in a long line to go onboard. I was seven or eight years old when it came to Johnson City. Thank you. (I am currently working on a column about it.)

Terry Oliver

I am sending this on behalf of my niece. She was wondering if you or someone you know have information on W.A. Payne who managed the Dixie Motel in 1953, the year that was listed in your article. What was his real name? Did he have any son's, brothers or kin by the name of Ernest Payne? Where he is W.A. Payne buried? If you don't know, we hope that you might direct us to someone who does. We really enjoy reading your articles in the Press. We like reading them because of the time period those old building were still standing in the 1950s-60. Thanks for your time and any info you might provide. Keep those articles coming.

Ben Hicks

I have been working on discovering my family history in the area and have ran across several of your articles during my search. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them. I was wondering if you may be able to point me in the right direction to find some specific information I am seeking. I would like to find a list of former mayors of Elizabethton TN, specifically from the late 1800's and early 1900's. I have been told that my great grandfather, James Burrow, served as mayor at some point during that time period. Any guidance you could offer would be greatly appreciated, and thank you for your time.

Gary L. Love

I am originally from Johnson City and have property on E Watauga Ave that was left to me by my grandparents, Guy Martin and Hazel Young. I was looking at an article that you wrote concerning children’s letters to St. Nick in 1909. In it was a Christmas wish from one young man named Guy Marten (Martin?) Young, whom I believe could have been my grandfather. Could you please tell me the source of this information? I am very much interested because that side of my family had a significant role in our country’s history and Washington County in particular. My great, great, great, great grandfather, many times over, was Robert Young who was responsible for killing a British officer (named Major Patrick Ferguson) at the Battle of Kings Mountain.

The cemetery he is buried in is near Brush Creek behind the old armory off of the Old Jonesboro Highway. His cabin now rests at Winged Deer Park. I first discovered the Young Cemetery after looking through some TVA files concerning a cultural survey of that area. When I investigated the area, I found the cemetery in ruins from a storm that had toppled trees over the headstones. I contacted the City of Johnson City and they came out and did a good job repaired the fencing and cleared the fallen trees. Any information on any of this would be greatly appreciated.

If you can assist any of these individuals, drop me a note and I will see that they receive it. 

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Andrew Johnson Stover was a grandson of Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of the United States. As a child, he frolicked about the White House and lawn and became a favorite of the political brass of his day. His lifestyle later changed dramatically when he left the nation's capital to became a hunter and a trapper, dwelling in a rudimentary log house insulated with clay in the Holston Mountains of East Tennessee.

To look at Stover as an adult, one would think that he had always dwelled in the environment that he later occupied. Even though he dressed like and mingled with other mountaineers on occasion, he preferred to be alone.

The grandson had been eyewitness to some stirring events in American history, happenings in which the central figure was his grandfather. Although some individuals had made the transition from a log cabin to the White House, few had abandoned White House living to return to a wilderness mountain abode.

Yet, such was the history of Andrew Johnson Stover, whose grandfather succeeded the great Abraham Lincoln and whose biography was itself eccentric and interesting. Not many men occupied the White House whose life story was as romantic as that of Andrew Johnson. And few have spent their boyhood in the White House and their manhood as a frugal mountain hermit in a log hut like the president's grandson.

In the little town of Greeneville, Tennessee, stood a rude structure, gray with age, over the door on which was a weathered stained sign upon containing the letters, “A. Johnson, Taylor.”

In the ancient structure of his early youth, Andrew Johnson piled the needle and handled the goose; he made the long-tail coats and fancy trousers for Greeneville dudes of that era. Likewise, he cut and sewed the more sober garments for deacons and judges in the village.

So, with Andy Johnson, cross-legged on the tailor's bench, the little shop became a sort of political forum for the community. While men were measured for a new Sunday outfit, they were surprised to see what a wonderful grasp of public awareness their tailor possessed.

And while the future president's needle was busy basting suits for the Greeneville beaux, the loom of fate was busy weaving another fabric, which Andrew Johnson was to sew into one of the most spectacular careers in American history.

Step by step, he rose in life until he became Vice-President of the United States and when the great Abraham Lincoln was silenced by the bullet of John Wilkes Booth, the Greeneville tailor succeeded to the chief magistracy of the nation.

A fate uniquely awaited him as an occupant of the White House. In his horizon was an impeachment trial with which he would have to grapple.

What was Mr. Stover doing while the throng of hostile critics took unpleasant aim at his grandfather? All this occurred while the world was looking curiously on to see what sort of political pathology would be applied to the ghastly wounds in the American Union. Stover continued playing in the White House and on White House grounds.

Those were not the most brilliant days, socially, the White House ever knew. The country was just catching its breath after a prolonged and ghastly war in which the Union had seemed at times to be in danger of being forever split. It was a time when countless homes had been saddened and desolated and thousands of brave men had been killed or wounded on many bloody battlefields.

Nevertheless, there was a certain relief and joy in all hearts that the war was over and this feeling found expression in the society affairs of the time. There was a cheerfulness and exuberance about them unknown for some years past.

At any rate, Stover saw the most splendid society of that era at its brightest. He had total freedom in the White House as he observed foreign representatives in their gold-laced uniforms and breast bedecked with royal orders. He saw the loveliest women of this time flaunting in gauze and crinoline in dreamy waltz. He watched with uncomprehending childish eyes the great events that succeeded each other with such startling rapidity.

Perhaps he comprehended more than any one guessed. Maybe he saw the hollow emptiness of glory and grandeur. Possibly, in those childish days at the capital, a sort of infantile philosophy taught him the misery that goes hand-in-hand with political distinction, the heavy cares, the responsibilities, the heart aches and the weary burdens. Perhaps he determined then, in his boyish heart, to turn his back on all of that and seek happiness in the simple life close to God's creation.

At any rate, the White House child soon became a log cabin man. The magnificence of the executive mansion was succeeded by the rustic walls of a cabin set in a mountain of wilderness.

The formal White House gardens were succeeded by the rugged wilderness of the mountain slope, decked in tangled green, save in mid-spring, when the dogwood and other mountain flowers were in the glory of full blossom.

Andrew Johnson's Grave, Andrew Johnson Stover, Taylor Shop in Downtown Greeneville, TN

Instead of sitting on his knees in the councils of this and other nations, Andrew Johnson Stover had for his companions his guns, his dogs, his traps, the sunlight, the shadow, the pine tree, the raccoon and the hoot-owl. Beside a mountain brook, clear and sweet, bubbling and splashing downward to the valley, he had no vain regrets of giving up his previous days. The free wild mountains and the blue, overarching sky, were more pleasant to him than the stately gardens at the nation's capital.

Andrew Johnson was likely chosen for the vice-presidential nomination because he was a Tennesseean. He was well-known. His name was conspicuous among the politicians of the war period, not only because of personal abilities, but because he was a Union Southerner. His geographical location made him a valuable running mate for Lincoln.

Andrew Johnson Stover Plays the Banjo. A View of His Final Resting Place

Andrew Johnson Stover was excited neither by recollections of his childhood in the White House nor the work of the landscape gardener in the country around his grandfather's grave. His gun and his cabin in the mountains were all that he asked for in life. But to the ardent student of human nature, both Andrew Johnson, the president, and Andrew Johnson Stover, the hermit, are well worth studying. The unique journey will be rewarding. 

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In 1987, former Press Lifestyles Editor, Anne M. Newton, interviewed Jack Q. Williams, who worked for the Southern Railway, about his participation in the 1926 Johnson City Kindergarten Orchestra. 

Williams' most blatant memory about the musical experience had to do with his thumb and an automobile. Charlotte Brown, director of the Orchestra, provided transportation for those students needing a ride.

“I remember her driving a two-seated touring car,” said Jack. “She picked us up and drove us to orchestra practice and afterward took us home.” He lifted his right hand and said, “See that thumb. occasionally, that bruise mark on it starts growing and splits the nail.”

“I got it mashed in her car. She drove a vintage car with doors that opened backwards (known as suicide doors because they were hinged from the rear rather than the front. Once, as I was getting in the car, someone closed the door on my thumb. It was in there from the time we left for school until the moment we got home. I never said a word.”

Jack said it was the most painful 10-minute ride he'd ever taken. He admitted that he showed no emotion, being too bashful to say anything.

Johnson City Kindergarten Orchestra Classmates, Columbus Powell School, 1926

In May 1926, when Williams was only 5 years old, a photographer came to Columbus Powell and took several pictures of the melodious group. Jack marveled that Ms. Range, their teacher, somehow worked magic to keep everyone tranquil and in their designated position. “Knowing those boys,” he said, “I don’t know how we posed so well for the picture. Maybe she used a black snake to keep us in line. That would have certainly worked for me.”

Although the students in the photo are not individually identified, the 1926 Johnson City Kindergarten Orchestra consisted of Jimmie Joe Biddle, director; Maurie Wody, S.T. Williams, Florence Greenway, Margaret Norris, Francis David MaGill, Emma Good, Jack Q. Williams, Kenneth Shell, Marie Truman, Mildred Truman, Charlotte Brown, Billy Payne, Perry White, Isabelle Robinson, Anne Jennings, Lester Hyder, Betty Hargen, Jean McCormick, Pauline Bowery, Betty Preas, Charles Dubbs, Roland Johnson, Virginia Rumley, John Wallin, James Coleman, Jane Jones, Guy Blackwell, Melba Loudy and Thomas MaGill.

The Knoxville Sentinel included a story about the Kindergarten Orchestra in their June 12, 1926 issue. According to the paper, the orchestra performed numerous times for local audiences and state bodies meeting in convention in Johnson City over several months.

The group, made up of 30 young musicians, ranged in ages of from 4-6. The newspaper noted that it was, perhaps, one of the very few, if not the only organization of its kind in the United States. Song-o-phones, similar to those in a regular brass band, were used by the children in the orchestra.

Jimmie Joe Biddle, seen up front wearing a black suit and bow tie, was the orchestra’s 5-year-old director, “who wielded his baton with the dignity and grace of a professional.” The paper also described a young “wee miss” who read notes from the piano score as she skillfully played the xylophone.

Their repertoire included the “Blue Danube Waltz,” “La Paloma,” “Stars and Stripes Forever” and other patriotic melodies. Williams barely remembers what they played, just that they had so much fun.

“At that time, I don’t know what songs we knew,” he said. It didn’t really matter because I always had fun, I’ve had fun all my life.”

Williams went through the 3rd grade at Columbus Powell, then left for Boone, NC in 1929. His family returned to Johnson City six years later and he enrolled in Junior High and Science Hill High School, reuniting with many of the same people he knew in the Kindergarten Orchestra.

If any of my readers has additional information about this unique orchestra, please share it with me.

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Today's column deals with response from four Johnson City Press History/Heritage page readers. I routinely receive requests for help pertaining to local history matters. I try to assist if possible, but sometimes I am unable to do so. Attached are four slightly paraphrased notes that I received from readers. They need your help.

Roger Garland

Concerning your article about Billy, the mascot goat at ETSC, I think I can solve your question as to what happened to him. My aunt and uncle James and Mary Lowery were caretakers of the college's farm located off Southwest Avenue, where the current married student housing is located. My Uncle Jim was also employed by the college at the physical plant. The goat you're speaking of was kept at the large barn located on that farm. I remember him and his successor Captain Kidd.

Billy, as I always knew him, was not at the barn one day. When I asked my Uncle where he was, he told me he had died and they had buried him. Later I found out that Billy was injured by the rough handling by some football players and later died of his injuries. He was then replaced by Captain Kidd, which was the meanest, most ornery goat I ever met. You had to outsmart him with diversion just to get in the barn. I hope this clarifies the mystery as to what happened to Billy the Kidd.

Diana Chesser

I enjoyed your newspaper article about the Okolona area, train stop, etc. You mentioned the Anderson family in your article. I wanted to mention that an old Anderson cabin is still standing on Anderson Road, the first road past Okolona Road on the old Erwin Highway. I have taken several photos of the old cabin. You can see if from the Old Erwin Highway. There is also an Anderson cemetery somewhere in that same vicinity.

Old Anderson Cabin in Okolona Located in the South Section of Town

Also, I wanted to mention that on Okolona Road is an area called Cave Springs. A relative of mine, Charles Burton Jones, was a teacher at Cave Springs School. I have been unable to find a photo of the school, but I do have one of Charles' children standing on the porch of the school. A couple of years ago, I contributed to the “Find A Grave” website, submitting those buried at the Cave Springs Cemetery. There are a few Haynes family members also buried there. You also mentioned this same family in your article. Again, I enjoyed your article very much.

Janice Loudy Spillman

Hi Bobby. I graduated from SHHS with you. Larry Johnson sent me your Feb. 9 column about Columbus Powell's 1952 third grade class valentines. I attended the 3rd grade at Columbus Powell but was in Miss O'Dell's class. I remember Jean Ann Senter, Bonnie Fisher, Brenda Spain, and Phyllis Arnett. Jimmy McMackin also went to Columbus Powell; I wonder if he might be the Jimmy you listed in your article. Jimmy was also in our 1961 SHHS class. Larry has shared a couple of your columns with me, the most recent one being about Cecile Mettetal's grandfather. I always enjoy them. Thank you for all the pleasant memories.

Dr. Clinton Holloway

 I graduated from Milligan College in 1995. I have read many of your articles with interest. At the school's request, I just completed a new book of about 30,000 words and 200 pictures that is slated for fall publication for the start of Milligan's 150th anniversary. In the course of our research, we found a postcard which shows opening exercises of Milligan's Student Army Training Corps (SATC) for WWI dated October 1, 1918. As the armistice was only six weeks later, that was a short lived program, but it resulted in a fire at Milligan, which is of significance to the school. The postcard was donated by Mary Hardin McCown and shows her cousin, George W. Hardin, who was named after her famous father.

The postcard shows a man on a small platform outside the administration building giving a speech. Although I cannot locate who that person is because the picture is not detailed enough, I assumed he was a politician of some sort, not wearing a military uniform. I understand State opened a SATC the same day.

Would you have any knowledge of who would have given speeches for the opening of the SATC at Milligan and ETSC on October 1, 1918? If I can be of any assistance in Milligan related research, please feel free to contact me. Kind regards.

If you can assist any of these four individuals, drop me a note and I will see that they receive it. Continuation of this column will occur in a few weeks.

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