June 2016

In July 1903, Ex-Gov. Robert L. Taylor (“Our Bob”) journeyed to Bristol on a short business trip, vowing to return that same day and bring his two small sons, Bob and David, home from their visit with Uncle Alf at Johnson City.

Before he left, Gov. Taylor was seen at the Southern Depot (between W. Market and N. Roan) by a Journal and Tribune reporter, surrounded by a party of admirers, both Democrats and Republicans and in the best of spirits.

When asked if he was a candidate for the Senate, the cheerful ex-governor said that he was running in the interest of Senator Bate, whom he wished to succeed himself. “I am having a good deal of fun from the boys in this race,” he said. “They can't see how I can possibly be for Senator Bate. Those who go against him will soon find out why I am for him.

“I am not ready to go to the Senate yet,” he continued. “I haven't the money enough, but I am heaping it up in this political sense awful fast now. I don't want to go to the Senate this time. I am like the drunk who staggered around and held to the inside of his bedroom door, saying he would jump into his bed… the next time it came around.

“Seriously, I see no reason why this old man, rich in years and honor, should be turned out at this time if he wants to stay in. I would have defeated him several years ago if I could have, but 'bless your life, honey,' as the old saying goes, 'we were both younger then than we are now.'

“The time has passed by now to defeat Senator Bate. He has grown old and with the weight of years come the sentiment of war, which is the strongest in the (emotion) of any people. I went against Shiloh once, but I will never do it again. I am converted; the sentiments of war are stronger than (those) of peace.

“Senator Bate is a much stronger candidate now. Whatever I can do for him, I will do. I would not mind having the honor of succeeding him, but it is a case of 'after you, my dear Gaston,' with me, and I can wait till the old man retires. I used to think if I didn't get my young and heated blood into the senate chamber at once, the whole country would go to the bow-wows.

“But I have got over that feeling and the longer I put off my race, the less I am inclined to crowd out an old man who has been just as good a Democrat as the country ever produced and a bravo and honored soldier as well.

“You can tell them I am for Bate, first, last and all the time. I have had several representatives from headquarters come to me and try to tell me what a big mistake I was making by being for Bate. I can't see it that way. The only mistake I ever made was running against him in 1892 and I don't care to repeat it.”

1903 Johnson City, Tennessee Advertisement

When asked for an interview, Mr. Taylor pulled off his hat and exposed his bare frontal to the zephyrs, which blow through the Southern station at times. He gave his hearers a merry twinkle of the eye and replied, “I reckon I can. About all I can do is to get interviewed. That's the only way the poor fellows have of keeping the people from getting them.

“We would ill have been deep beneath oblivion's dark wave politically if it had not been for the kindness of the newspaper reporters who come to our rescue. They used to know us when we were in our glory and are too charitable to pass us by now that we are reposing on the shelf, maybe forever.

“We poor old fellows live in the future, and the newspapers are after that kind of news, so I suppose we can play into each other's hands in that way. About all, that is left to an ex-politician is the past and the future. Mankind, in general, lives in memory or hope. The present is never fully appreciated.”

That is quite a depiction, Mr. Taylor.

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In 1872, two gentlemen, who had relocated to Johnson City from New York several years prior, were asked to express their thoughts about living in our mountainous community as contrasted to their former residences.

The men were John Caulkins and “Yankee” Smith. Collectively, they provided an interesting glimpse of what East Tennessee was like 28 years before the turn of the 20th century, at least in the opinion of two displaced Northerners. Note that this was just seven years after the Civil War ended.

Mr. Caulkins

John's letter noted several advantages, the first being the mildness and health-giving properties of the Southern climate. He boasted that he was writing his letter on April 21 in a short sleeve shirt at 9:00 a.m. in a room with no fire burning, doors wide open and the temperature at 68 degrees F.

John cited specific instances of Northern residents who went to the South on recommendations from their physicians as a cure for pulmonary diseases.

The relocated “Yank” alleged another benefit was having 10 or 11 months out of a year to perform farm work, further noting that the past winter was unusually severe. But even so, at no time was frost more than three inches deep or ice accumulations over six inches, something uncharacteristic of the frigid North.

The South had its share of low-priced land as compared with the North. The writer owned at his New York farm six acres of land, which sold at auction for $650 an acre. He bought a farm of 140 acres near Knoxville for less than $1.50 per acre, which compared favorably with his New York residence. His previous six acres, he claimed, were not any better than the average of his present farm that was sowed in winter wheat.

The same could be said for other crops such as corn, oats and potatoes. As to fruit, he previously never saw a better crop or larger production anywhere than he found in East Tennessee. With regard to variety, he grew all the standard fruits, both large and small, to their utmost perfection.

However, the Northerner had a few shortcomings to identify. He said the county where he abode contained many farm buildings that were unsightly and generally in pathetic shape. The roads and highways were rough and, in some cases, appalling. He felt that the area would eventually open up and develop into one of the finest agricultural regions in the world; he was right.

Another question John responded to was how welcome Northern men were to the region. He stated emphatically that all men were treated equally well with one stipulation – “that they behave themselves.” His family learned to love the people of East Tennessee dearly.

Caulkin's letter offered advice to anyone pondering a change of residence: “If your numerous readers desire to change their place of residence, we really think they will find in East Tennessee more substantial advantages and fewer shortcomings than in any section known to the writer.”

Local Advertisement from 1872

“Yankee” Smith

The second letter from “Yankee” Smith offered a somewhat different perspective. Although he had lived in East Tennessee for a period of time, for reason not stated, he was returning to the North.

In his Tennessee home in Roane County, nearly all of the sowing was done by April 1. Although spring was exceptionally late, the planting of corn had commenced and, in some instances, garden work was so far completed such that peas and the like had fully awakened from their winter nap.

Smith believed that the people of East Tennessee were destined to become one of the foremost in the land. Noting that Tennesseans were a liberty-loving people, he believed they could not fail to rise. 

The Northerner further commented that he was keenly aware of misrepresentations of life in Tennessee by persons from the North. However, those who came as laboring men, were ready to aid in any and everything that would be advantageous to the settlement where they might locate and be heartily welcomed.

Back in the little village located near their New York destination, the hillsides were still covered with old snow, the precipitation likely laying there for months. He found the Tioughnioga River was still ice-bound, it being frozen over in November to such a thickness that Tennesseans would scarcely believe the report as truth.

Smith concluded his remarks saying, “Can anyone fail to see the great advantages that East Tennessee has over the Northern section? The good features of Tennessee cannot be too highly spoken of.”

These two mostly positive reports about the South were a bit surprising, considering the fact that the Civil War had just concluded.

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The eye-catching news in a local Feb. 28, 1903 newspaper was bold and to the point: “Beginning March 1st, Johnson City will be in total darkness.” It seems that on that day the contract with the Electric Light Company for street lights expired, leaving a new contract pending. The city population that year was about 5,000.

In the meantime, the lights continued to burn with the understanding that a new contract had been established to fix the price. At a meeting of the board on that Wednesday night, an effort was made to come to an agreement on a new contract with a Mr. Stratton, who represented the light company.

Stratton desired a contract for five years at $80 a lamp per year. However, if the city would utilize seven additional lamps, he agreed to cut the price to $75 a lamp per year. The city wanted to pay $75 for the present number of lamps, but if seven more were added, they agreed to cut the price to $72.

The city's light committee convened and issued two proposals, the majority favoring Mr. Stratton's contention, but the minority report made by Alderman Mathes carried the vote. That one was based on a clause in the original franchise contract that specified that “the price charged shall not exceed the price paid in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Bristol.”

The average, Mr. Mathes figured, would be $84 for 2000 candle power lights based on an all-night schedule. Conceding that 200 lights or more could be furnished more cheaply per light than 40, it was agreed that Johnson City would accept 1200 candle power lamps instead of 2000.

To further cheapen the cost of lights, the “moonlight schedule” was accepted and thus saved 40 per cent of the price, but Mr. Mathes said he agreed to deduct only 20 per cent, and this would make the average price $66.

Johnson City Ads from Feb. 28, 1903, Same Timeframe for City Going Dark

Trying to agree on a contract, he kept going up until he reached $72 and finally $75. Mr. Stratton emphatically stated that his company could not furnish the lights at that price and the board adjourned with plans to reconvene the following Thursday evening to further address the matter.

The issue was again brought up and finally disposed of by tabling the committee's report and notifying Mr. Stratton that the street lights would be paid for each month on the old rate of $85 until the matter was otherwise disposed of.

Regrettably for the city, the offer was not satisfactory and the following brief telegram told the final chapter: “Coeburn, Va., Feb. 28, 1903. To: J.W. Crumley, Major Johnson City: Have wired to discontinue street lights on and after March 1st. As much as this is regretted, we can not furnish lights without some definite agreement for compensation. Signed, F.A. Stratton.”

This failure of both parties to compromise created a strong current in favor of the city maintaining its own plant. As a result, the board appointed a committee to travel to Morristown to investigate their plant. However, unlike Johnson City, the Morristown plant was owned by the city. The committee drove there the following Wednesday, obtained all the facts and figures and made a report at the next meeting of the board.

If a plant was to be built in Johnson City, the present legislature would be asked to pass an act authorizing the city to issue bonds for that purpose. In the meantime, residents of Johnson City were deprived of nighttime street lights, something they had gotten used to, for an undetermined amount of time. 

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I recently came across a listing of nine churches in Johnson City  in 1908, which was three years after the devastating downtown fire. The find reveals a lot of key information about these places of worship:

1. First Baptist Church: the “Little White Church”): E. Main Street; Rev. Clarence Hodge, Pastor; Pastorium, 111 Harris Avenue; Sunday School, 9:15 a.m.; Preaching, 10:30 a.m.  and 7:30 p.m.; BYPU (Baptist Young Peoples Union), 6:30 p.m.; Prayer Meeting, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. The church relocated after the fire to Watauga Avenue and eventually to Roan Street where it acquired a new name: Central Baptist Church.

2. Christian Church: E. Main Street; Rev. J. Lem Keevil, Pastor; residence, 209 Buffalo Street; Bible School, Communion and Sermon at 10:30 a.m.; YPSCE (Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor) at 6:30 p.m.; Preaching 7:30 p.m.; Prayer Meeting, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

3. St. John's Church (Episcopal): Roan Street and Myrtle Avenue; Rector, Rev. W.H. Osborne; Rectory, 208 Unaka Avenue; Services: Eastertide Ladies' Guild, 2 p.m.; St. Mary's Guild, Thursday, 2 p.m.; St. Andrew's Brotherhood, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.;, Sunday, 7 a.m., Early Celebration: 9:15 a.m. Sunday; Sunday School, 10:30 a.m.; morning prayer and sermon, Friday, 7:30 p.m. instruction; 8:00 p.m., choir practice.

Methodist Episcopal Church

4. First Methodist Episcopal Church: Corner of Main (frontage) and Roan streets (side); Pastor, Rev. A.S. Beaman; Parsonage, 100 S. Roan Street; Sunday School, 9 a.m.; Preaching, 10:30 a.m.; Epworth League, 6:30 p.m.; Evening Preaching, 7:30 p.m.; Prayer Meeting, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. (Older people may remember this location as the old King's Department Store).

5. Market Street M.E. Church, South:  Rev. S.H. Vaughn, D.D. Pastor; Parsonage, corner of E. Market and S. Roan Streets; Preaching, 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday School, 9 a.m.; Epworth League meets 45 minutes before evening preaching;, Prayer Meeting, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

6. First Presbyterian Church: Corner Main and Humboldt streets (street now defunct, once located south from Main Street and one block west of the railroad); Rev; J. Edmunds Brown, Pastor; manse at 116 Watauga Avenue; Sunday School; 9:15 a.m.; Preaching, 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.; C.E. 6:45 p.m.; Prayer Meeting, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

7. United Brethren in Christ: Church and Parsonage, corner Roan Street and Watauga Ave.; Rev. C.H. Berry, Pastor; Sunday School, 9:15; Preaching 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.; YPSCE at 6:30 p.m.; Prayer and Bible Study; Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

8. Watauga Avenue Presbyterian Church: Rev. Jere A, Moore, Pastor; manse at 606 E. Watauga Avenue; Sunday School, 9:20 a. m.; Preaching, 10:45 a.m.; C.E., 7:30 p.m.; Prayer Meeting. Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

9. Catholic Church: Mission House, (behind Science Hill High School on E. Market Street); first Sunday of every month; Mass and Catechism, 10:30 a.m.; Benediction, 3 p.m.; E.T. Callahan, Mission Priest. 

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Today's column is a glance back to August 1954 when 15-minute soap operas filled the weekday airways of radio and television. A contrast of these 14 programs with today's television “soaps” is rather noteworthy.

BACKSTAGE WIFE: Gambler Victor Stratton presses his attentions on Mary Noble, which she tries to ward off while still keeping his friendship because he owns part of Larry's new play. Larry, unhappy and hurt by what seems like Mary's loss of faith in him, turns to Elise Shephard, who is all too willing to open her arms to him.

THE BRIGHTER DAY: Despite Althea's own inner confusion, her instinct where men are concerned was sound enough for her to warn her younger sister Patsy that handsome Alan Butler would take some hanging on to. But that didn't keep Patsy's heart from breaking when Alan asked for release from their engagement. As Althea's relationship with Dr. Blake Hamilton develops, will Blake's younger brother help Patsy past her own crisis? CBS Radio.

FRONT PAGE FERRELL: David and Sally Farrell seem to be involved in cases that tax their resourcefulness and energy and put a constant peril on their lives. Sally always follows along, though the beginning of most cases finds her trailing behind. Before it's through, however, she's in as deep as David and follows each step until the case is solved, and another murderer caught. ABC Radio.

THE GUIDING LIGHT: Meta Roberts is baffled and worried as her stepdaughter, Kathy, continues trying to win happiness with the subterfuge and half-truths that have already caused so much misery. Is there any hope for Kathy, even if Dick realizes his true feeling-of lack of it for Janet Johnson? CBS-TV and CBS Radio.

JUST PLAIN BILL:The events of the past few months still seem like a horrible nightmare to Bill. The woman he almost married, Thelma Nelson. was proven to be a vicious criminal, but Bill is too big a person to have one incident destroy his faith in people. Because of this great faith in life we again find Bill trying to help. NBC Radio

LIFE CAN BE BEAUTIFUL: Chichi would never have married Dr. Mac if he hadn't been a courageous, independent man, but there is a line past which courage becomes rashness, and when Mac tries to deal single-handedly with a shadow from his family's unhappy past, he runs into trouble that his brother Craig might have helped him avoid. NBC Radio.

LORENZO JONES: Belle Jones has used desperate measures in a situation to save the marriage she recalls with such happiness. She leaves the theater and returns to Canada with Lorenzo. Gail Maddox, who has hoped to marry Lorenzo, is startled by this new turn of events and takes frantic new action against Belle. NBC Radio.

LOVE OF LIFE: As always, Meg Harper's arrogant, trouble-bent personality had stirred up a storm of problems even in quiet Barrowsville, which her sister Van feels honor-bound to solve before taking up her own happy future with Paul Raven. CBS-TV.

MA PERKINS: Ma's friendship with the Pierces is an old much-treasured one, and when Alf Pierce's will named Ma as trustee, she accepts unhesitatingly despite her inward qualms at being responsible for so much money. Has Ma done the right thing toward reckless Billy Pierce and his ambitious young wife, Laura? CBS Radio.

ONE MAN'S FAMILY:From time immemorial, parents have agonized over the question of whether to guide their children on a tight rein or a loose one. But in the Barbour family, the problem is settled by personality, for James Barbour is a man of strict principles. It remains for Fanny, his wife, to soften the restrictions on her children. NBC-TV.

OUR GAL SUNDAY: Sunday's separation from Lord Henry has left her weakened, shaken, and uncertain of the future of her marriage. It is understandable that when a new threat arises she finds it difficult to gather her strength to combat it. Sunday's future is going to depend on her ability to find her courage again. CBS Radio. 

PEPPER YOUNG'S FAMILY: Very few people are immune to the lure of big money, quickly made, and Pepper can understand his father's excitement over Dr. Grayson's prediction that oil lies beneath the Young farmland. But neither Pepper nor Linda can overcome an instinctive distrust of Grayson. NBC Radio.

PORTIA FACES LIFE: Though Portia gave up her legal career for full-time family life, Walter Manning has always been proud of her ability and more than once has been glad of her help with his own work. But what happens when Portia's career once again becomes an active issue in the Manning home? CBS-TV.

SEARCH FOR TOMORROW: Although Joanne Barron's marriage to Arthur Tate is blocked by the startling appearance of the woman who claimed to be Arthur's long-missing wife, Jo, and Arthur still believe that before long the truth about Hazel will emerge. CBS-TV. 

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