Drunkard Longed to Come Back Home in 1906 and Other Vintage News Briefs

Today’s column is a continuation of several vintage news briefs that I have accumulated over the years from old newspapers. This edition spans 96 years (1863 to 1959).

Oct. 1863: The ravages of the Civil War became a stark reality on this date when a band of Confederate raiders descended upon the town of Blountville, Tennessee, reducing the larger and better portion of it to ashes. Those whose homes and effects were totally obliterated included W.W. James, John Powell, John Fain, Dr. N.G. Dulaney, E.P. Cawood, Rev. N.C. Baldwin, Mrs. Martha Rhea, F.L. Bumgardner and Major J.G. Eans. The courthouse along with the offices of the clerks of the county and the jail were also destroyed. Loss was estimated at half a million dollars.

Mar. 1872: A new calaboose was opened in Johnson City to accommodate the imbibed public. The city had recently been incorporated with a mayor, Board of Alderman and police force. An amusing unplanned dirt street race that occurred one evening attracted a crowd of spectators. Two large intoxicated men and a smallish fellow with exceptionally large feet somehow mounted a small horse and precariously began riding it down the street. After the trio became blatantly boisterous, seven policemen were dispatched to the scene and gave chase but surprisingly could not keep up with the revelers. The drunks outpaced the officers by 200 yards.”

Nov. 1895: George D. Massengill, Jr. and Miss Inez Jobe, a young lady from a prominent city family, were married one afternoon. The next day, they were being driven on a wagon to the train station with expectations of making a bridal trip to Washington. Without warning, the team of horses became startled and galloped away, throwing Mrs. Massengill to the ground where she received a skull fracture and passed out. After examining her, the physicians who were called to the scene determined that her injuries were not life threatening. John Garrell, driver of the team, was also seriously injured, but Mr. Massengill was not hurt.

Dec. 1906: Senator-elect Robert Love Taylor of Happy Valley, Tennessee selected Mr. Laps McCord, long-time editor of the Tennessee Sugar Tree Gazette, to be his private secretary. The paper humorously stated, “Only a man whose mind runs to something like sugar would do for the frolicsome fiddler from Happy Valley.”

Main Street Looking West in Johnson City as It Appeared in 1908

Aug. 1909: A man (whose name I will withhold), had been in Washington, DC for 100 days, but had been locked up behind bars for 95 of them for drunkenness and vagrancy. The Civil War veteran begged the presiding judge to let him leave the nation’s capitol and return to his mountain residence in Johnson City, Tennessee. “Judge, your Honor,” he said, “I want to go back to my native home because it is dry down there. I fought for the freedom of my country, but I don’t think much of the freedom of the Capitol of this glorious land of the free. This town has too many temptations for me and I can’t keep sober where there is so much liquor flowing. I want to go back to the town of my birth.” “All right, Thomas,” replied his honor, “I shall keep you in jail for 60 days to get the liquor fully out of your system and, after that, you can return to your home in Tennessee.”

Jan. 1959: The wreckage of a Southeast Airlines plane, missing for several days with 10 persons aboard, was spotted about 400 feet from the top of rugged Holston mountain. There was no sign of life at the scene of the wreckage. An Air National Guard plane located the wreckage at 11:50 a.m. about 10-15 miles east of Holston Dam in the rocky, heavily forested East Tennessee area. Captain Robert A. Jackson of the Civil Air Patrol led a mobile unit to the scene with 15 members of the Greeneville, Tennessee Rescue Squad accompanying him. It took the rescuers several hours to reach the scene.