Prepared by Hugh Keedy and Jessie Bennett
Co-directors: Bethesda Museum
Annie Lou McCord
I was born right here, not in this house but in a old log cabin that was here. I've been in this house as long as I have lived; in fact we tore the old log cabin down to build this house. I was born in 1905 and you, like a lot of other people probably won't believe me, but the road came right down the creek here. All the way down the creek. I know there's people that have argued with me. They're wrong. I know; I was born here. When the creek went up, you didn't get out. If you died you waited until the creek went down. The road followed the creek to down yonder-- you know where this last road turns at bottom of this field down here--the road followed right around down into the creek. There was a little spot of sand down there, but it didn't amount to nothing; about the size of that bed as you come over it. You got out of the creek up yonder just before you get up to Ellie Marshall's place, about half way between where we go out on the road and where her garden is. Finally the county got that road over there [Bethesda-Duplex road]. The people that owned the land didn't want to give the land for the road, but they finally got it.
It was about 1919 or 1920 when they opened up that road and they left us sitting back here. I'm still here. But, they never would let us have a road across there. We had a terrible time getting it, now after Charles [Giles] come up here he was able to get out and start pushing--and we liked to never got a road through here. They had to keep Squeaky [Clifford Grigsby] drunk for a month. Ha. Ha. We finally got the road, and proud of it.
We got out through the creek bed; from right here we went up the creek until we got up to the road. We rode in a homemade slide. It was two logs, about eight or nine inches in diameter. They would go out about seven or eight feet--however long you want to. But, you've got to have them with a crook in them, where they turn up. Then they hack off the bottom of them, and make them sort of straight instead of round. And you would hook an old mule to them or old horse--something--and here you go. Now ya'll won't believe this, but I have seen that creek up half way to this house here. That's right.
I had two sisters; that's all. No boys. My daddy was a hard worker, I don't think there was anybody that worked any harder. I was the middle child. My older sister died, and on 19th birthday is when she was buried. The second day of December. We never did know what happened to her. She married, was married about two and half years, a little longer than that. And she got sick, and they thought she was going to recover and my mother went and stayed with her from in the fall until the coming May and she just got worse and worse. She was down in bed and they brought her home. Dr. Core brought her home himself. They put her to bed and she never did get up any more. We'd take her up and sit her up for a few minutes at a time. We never did know what was wrong. We had all kinds of doctors come and look at her. She left a 21 month old baby that my daddy and mother raised. But, we made it. My sister that died was Bertha. The other one was Mary Sue; she died in '87. She married Emmett Jennette and they lived in Spring Hill. Then moved to Nashville and he died in Nashville.
I had a hard time back then, getting by I'll tell ya. We raised every single thing we had to eat. Fattened the hogs and killed the hogs. We got up at three o'clock in the morning and started, and I was my Daddy's boy. Now I worked in the field from the time I was six years old, and I done it all.
You should have seen me grinding sorghum cane to make them molasses! You raised sorghum like corn, you know, only planted thicker. And then you take all the fodder off of it and cut it down and then you had to cut the seeds off of it. It would be chicken feed when you get the seeds off. Of course you haul it [the sorghum stalks] to the old mill. It was right up the road here. The mill had two [horizontal] wheels--I don't know what you call them. One wheel had a great long pole on it and you hitched the mules to that pole, and they'd go around and around turning one of the wheels against the other. You had to sit and poke canes in there all the time, between the wheels. Juice would come out. There was a pipe for the juice to come through, and it had to come under our road. The sorghum pan was setting over on the other side of the road, right against the fence. When the juice got there it come out in a big tub we had there. Then you lifted that up onto a big tub that's on a stand way up so high. Then when you got it cooked off up at the upper end, it run off, and into a great big ol' thing, a pan about the size of a box like you were gonna put a coffin in or something. Of course it was made better. That box was in little things [compartments] about so wide and you had little sticks to push the syrup along. There were little "windows" and you'd push it and it would come through. There was a fire under the pan, which was sitting on sand rock, and as you pushed the syrup along, it would be cooking all the time. We made sorghum every fall and my daddy made it for the public.
Daddy had a wagon and he hauled phosphate. It was about the time I started to school, about 1911 or 1912. He hauled it somewhere. I don't know where they ground it up at and I don't know where he got it at. I just know he hauled phosphate. Bought a brand new wagon to have to haul it in. They use to haul something from Clovercroft, too.
Mr. Joe Harmon, Elise Thompson's daddy, lived down here, you know where Ellie [Beasley] lives. He had a corn wagon, like my daddy, and he'd come up this road and they went together. Mr. Joe come up there when, oh, it would be so cold and frost stickin' up. He'd have both hands sticking in his pockets and dancing around to keep warm and he'd be singing saying, "The creeks all muddy and the cake's all dough. Never mind the weather so the wind don't blow."
Charles Giles bought my daddy's place after he died. It was right around the corner there. So we lived here till I was eleven years old. Now, he'd come back home after he was married about five or six years and lived somewhere else. But he come back here in this old log house here--nobody lived in it--to take care of his mother and daddy because they had gotten old and couldn't do. They lived up there in the old log cabin; that's where my daddy was born, up there in that old log cabin. That cabin is now down there in the back of that nursing home, Franklin Manor on Columbia Avenue. Ms. Laura Loftin owned it and bought it and put that down there. Lewis [Mosley] told me not long ago that they were letting it go bad on top, letting the roof get bad. I wish they wouldn't do that.
After he moved, we moved up there. The old place was just like Charles got it. It was growed up and that's where we made them molasses. We'd sell them for a dime a gallon. Oh, we made money. We grew some of the cane ourselves, but people would bring stuff in. Cleo [Grigsby] knows something about that. Ms. Dolly use to bring sorghum over here, and the Irvins, and a lot of people around here would bring the cane here. He didn't charge for them using the mill. We made it and ground the cane, and he cooked the molasses. They just brought it to the mill, and then he took, I don't know, a fourth or third of the molasses. They used to have a big barrel full and take it to town somewhere and sell it, I don't know where. He'd have some upstairs to sell and if anybody wanted a gallon and they'd come and get it for ten cents a gallon. Boy, we were making money.
People wouldn't believe it now, but we paid for that old place. Course, it was three others besides my daddy that had a share in it after he died and he had to buy them out. Now we paid for that place a sellin' tobacco for two and three and a half cents a pound. A lot of times the lugs [tobacco scraps and ends] would go for a penny. We dug and cleaned up a little bit every fall, getting ready for the next spring. The place cost, I think, $1200 when we bought it. It was fifty-two acres, and I've still got seven of it.
We had a good life, it was hard work. Nobody had better parents than I did, and I mean they were top notch. We went to church over at Ash Hill, we walked or went in the wagon, one or the other, about three miles across there. We had a great big old tobacco barn, it had seven tiers. I went to the top--I'm the one that pulled it up to the top! We'd throw that hay. We didn't have balers; we pitched it on a wagon with a pitchfork. Throwed it in the barn loft and somebody was up there to drag it back and pack it back.
We got up at three o'clock in the morning, and we went to bed as soon as dark comes. Nobody had to tell us to go to bed. My mother never was a healthy lady She was always sickly like but she always had dinner cooked for us. Sounds crazy but we always ate all the meat except the hog jowls. My daddy would take it to the store and sell them and he always stood there and bought it in coffee and sugar. We'd get my mother a big can of coffee and he got sugar for the rest of us. We'd have a great big old, we called them dumplins then... You made a piece of dough like this and put your fruit in there and a little sugar and you'd fill the pan up with that and we'd put butter and sugar all over the top of it and we'd put a little water on it and put it in the stove and bake it. Now, that was a pan of dumplins, a pan about this big around. We had two of them. It sure was good, we'd eat one for dinner and one for supper. You had to eat when you worked like that.
To get our flour we raised a little wheat and carried the wheat to the Duck River, and carried a lot of corn down there for meal. My daddy in the loft upstairs had wires hang down here and poles across it. He'd take 100 pounds of flour up there and lay it across there where nothing can't get to it, you know. When we needed it he'd bring a sack down and empty it. Didn't have these fancy flour bins; had barrels then. We had a barrel of meal and a barrel of flour.
This house [the one she lived in as a child] was originally a log house. This one up here was built in 1876. My daddy was four years old when that house was built. There was another old house that stood there and they built this house, and my daddy was exactly four years old.
In building this house, they had ends of logs that they cut off, just right for a good stool to sit on. My daddy and my uncle got them stools and made them, and that's what they put over behind the table to eat on. That was in eighteen and seventy-six. My daughter has got my daddy's old stool in her house right now. They gave it to her son David--he'll be 25 in August--and he was raised sitting on that stool, too. And she's still got it and wouldn't take nothing for it. It was slick; it didn't have a back and was just like it was cut off.
School at Bethesda
I went to school at Bethesda High School, it was right up here almost in the place where the store is now. The class I was in was 1924, and it was the last year they had a twelfth grade. There was just three of us in the class that last year. Some of them would move away and some of them would go to town. James Bond, you know, went to BGA. He moved on. I don't know; I reckon I was about 14 and maybe Cleo was--she wasn't that old. We was 14 or 15 years old and Cleo Grigsby and myself made fires.
In the school there were two rooms downstairs and one upstairs. The music room was on the end of the front porch. It was piano music, and just the ones who could afford it--that wasn't too many--took lessons in the room.
They had four little heaters. There was a little music room and then there was three school rooms. We had to make fires in them things; the boys wouldn't do it. We walked down on a cold morning; it was cold. Cleo and I, we got up--she got up early, too--and we was always there on time and we started to making fires. Well, that suited them so good they paid us fifty cents a month for making them fires. Boy, we was rich! Some of the mean boys --you know there was always a trash can there to catch the paper we'd keep full to start fires with -- those stinking things got to where they'd go around collecting in the evening and emptying that in the fire to burn it up so we wouldn't have anything to start fires with. We'd take those papers and we'd pick up chips and everything else--I bet we had the cleanest yard of chips of anybody--but I guess we enjoyed it.
My subjects at school were spelling, English, and we had some kind of math every year. And geography. We had a reader book. After we got on up we had some science. And, then we had Latin. We had Latin the first year and then we had Caesar the next. And then we were supposed to have Cicero, but some way or another we didn't like Cicero and we got another subject. We had history books that thick--if the kids now have everything in them clear back like we had them they would be this thick. There is no way they can teach everything that has happened.
When I went to school we had desks, two pupils to the desk. Below there was a place to keep your books in, you know. Of course, you had to write on the desk in front of you. When we got ready for class, there was a long bench that come about two thirds of the way across the building, to sit on. You would have the class and go back and the next class would come up. You had a blackboard all across up there for when you didn't understand anything, why, put it up there. Tried to get it through to us. Had tests--would write the questions up there. I wasn't bad in math myself, no meaning to brag about it, but one in a while I'd get hung up, you know. And, you go to the teacher and ask him. He'd say "go back and ask Cleo, she's got more time." Now Cleo Grigsby taught me more math, I think, than I learned, after I got up higher. Mr. Reed was my teacher then. Let's see, I had Mr. Coleman, Mr. Wingo, and two years had Mr. Reed in high school.
They didn't teach penmanship in those days. When you were in the first grade they would teach you a little--the sounds of the letters. We had inkwells; we didn't use them but they was there. Ha. We wrote on paper. We didn't have to use the old slates. My sister did, what little she got to go to school. We had an old slate at home, but I reckon we finally broke it up. We have thrown away things you all would have a fit over. Could have filled a gully full. Yo'all couldn't imagine. Cleo and me was laughing about it one day; she said "Bessie, we've throwed away stuff like that." I said "we've both throwed away stuff like that."
More about the creek
I was going to tell you about the creek; oh, it froze. There used to be ice about that thick [four or five inches] on it. The kids used to cut it out and bring it out and bury it in the sawdust out here and have tea way on up in the summer. And they skated, oh, they skated up and down there. Anyway, when I was going to school it would freeze over up yonder. There were slick rocks across there and it would freeze on them rocks. That was my crossing place to get to school. When I went to school back then, we didn't just have two or three books--we had seven and eight. And, every night of my life every one of them books had to come home; if not they had to know the reason why. They had to come home and I had to use them. But anyway, they would be so slick I couldn't walk across there. I'd throw my books out that a-way. We had little sacks that had one little hole where you stuck your books in--half one way and half the other--and throwed them on your shoulder. A lot of book satchels were made just out of plain bed ticking or some kind of domestic that men made their work shirts out of--real slick stuff. Something like a twill. I would throw one end of them books out there and ease and pull myself and help get myself across there.
When the creek was up, we had to walk through these fields out here and crawl over a wire fence, go around about where Mr. Britain lived and down where that bridge is crossing the creek [on Bethesda Road] now. There used to be a wooden footin' log we walked across there, and we walked across that on up to the school building there where the store is now.
Teaching at Ash Hill
I was out of school one year and carried cream from up here to Cross Keys store to have it tested and sell it. Carry the cream in a bucket up there to the store, and it was tested and then sent on the Nashville. Miss Lizzy Hargrove and them was testing. Trav Wallace was running the store then. But anyway, I was out of school a year and carrying a bucket of that up there. Mr. Wallace McCall was one of the school commissioners. He passed me and he stopped and got to talking to me and wanted to know how about me teaching school at Ash Hill. They needed a teacher. I said well never did nothing about that, no, I didn't want that at all. He just kept on, kept on, and said, "why don't you try it." I said, "I don't teach school, I don't have no certificate or anything." Well the teachers exam was coming up--I believe the last of July, before school started in August--and he wanted me to take it. He kept after me until I did. I went and took the board state exam for teachers and I ended up over there at Ash Hill about 33 kids and all eight grades. All eight, every one of them.
I went to school when I was teaching by a horse that I had to ride. I didn't have a dress to wear, didn't have a saddle I could use--went to Franklin and borrowed fifty dollars at the bank. Mr. Shara (??) Irvin went on a note for me to have fifty dollars to buy me a pair of shoes and thread and material to make three dresses and to buy that saddle. It just took two months to pay it off! After the war started teachers got sort of scarce. They come after me--Mr. Arlie Grigsby (??)-- and begged me to go back to Ash Hill and teach. Well, I didn't want to but he kept begging me till I said well, all right. Gonna' get ninety dollars a month then instead of sixty.
It was a one room school. Roy Smithson up here, he was one of my kids that started school with me then, in 1925. There are one or two of them around, but not too many. I just taught one year. I didn't like it a bit. And I married, too, like an idiot. Married a man that had four kids and that took a lot of time washing and ironing, with nothing else but cooking.
The T-Model car
We had a T-model during the 30s for one year and then it broke down. It was old and we could not ever find the parts to fix it. It set right under the tree out there and everything about it that could rot was rotted off. It was a little run-about, I think they called it back then. It just had a short back, you know. But after he got this he cut it off back there and he put a wooden bed on it about so long, and that's where he hauled extra tires and whatever he had to have. If I could think of that man's name, where he bought it.... Miss Nanny Daniels used to ride when we was going to Dr. Evanston's (??) to work. She'd ride about as far as she could. And, we had a flat tire coming home one evening. We had stuff piled up knee high and Miss Nanny would get this pole under there and sit on it for me to get the wheel off. We had a lot of fun!
One little boy, Ethel Holly's, started school with me over there. He lived right on the side of the road, and I'd pick him up every morning and go on to school and bring him back. One evening I was thinking about something else and I got way up the road there and Jim said, "Miss Bessie, wasn't I suppose to get off back there?" So I had to take him back.
They used to have toll gates on the road, and they couldn't get by until they paid. There was a little house there for the toll keeper to live in. They would take the rope loose. I think it was a nickel for a horseback to go through one. It was a dime for a buggy, but you could go there and back. There was one over here where the Haires live, at the top of that hill right there where they live, and there was another one down yonder where you turn in to go to James Hood's, the old Hood place, on Lewisburg Pike. I know there was one somewhere over towards College Grove but I don't know where. I didn't get that far away from home.
Trips to Franklin
I didn't ever go to see Franklin until I was twelve and a half years old. I had to go then to get glasses. I couldn't see to read my school books--I had to have them glasses. On my first trip I walked and walked and looked until I blistered both heels. We went to Franklin in a little old buggy. My daddy carried me--there was just room for two to sit in the buggy. But, I got there and back.
When my daddy had to go to town or anywhere he had to go in a wagon. He always buys some cheese and crackers for his dinner, and he'd be gone all day to go over there and back in a wagon.
He always bought us a little sack of cheese and crackers when he come back. We was always glad to see him coming back.
Herbert McCall's granddaddy lived over here on the road--he was my mother's uncle. [Mr. Herbert's daddy was Curd McCall; his granddaddy was Alice' Gile's daddy, Travis' McCall's great granddaddy, Susan Fisher's great great granddaddy and Jessie Bennett's great great granddaddy.] Herbert's wife, Aunt Matt, and Mary Tom would walk through these cedars here going to the store. Aunt Matt was just as country as she could be--she still wore that old apron. She come back down this creek--she didn't talk just as plain and she said "You kids, go on and git some chee crakers." She would have her apron full or cheese and crackers. She would fill us kids up with that cheese and crackers.
Sewing and clothes
We used to have one of the old looms up there like you made cloth with--wove your cloth--and made your clothes and bedspreads and things. Somebody set it up there in the loft and let it rot down. But, I've seen my mother take them old--what did you call them--cards and get that wool or cotton in it in little rolls. And then they had this little wheel in a spinning wheel that they hooked this thing on and they pulled it out this way and it made the thread. And then they put it on a spinning wheel.
We made our own quilts. Just about all the clothes we had was made out of the cheapest calico you could get. We got the calico at the store; we had two stores up here, now. There was an oak this way a little bit, out in front of where the store is over towards Dury's place [the old Eggelston place]. The Scales owned one, this one this way, and Mr. Jim Grigsby owned that one over on that side. They were there before I was born.
Fires in Bethesda
And then nineteen and twenty-eight both them stores and.... My husband had a garage right across the street in front of them stores. And he had a grist mill in there--worked on cars, done work on them, and ground meal in there, and he sharpened tools. He had an emery--he sharpened plow points and things. Well, one night--we lived in an old log house across the road right over here [on Bethesda-Duplex road next to the creek] in an old house that burned down [later]--that's where we was living. It woke me up, the awfulest light in my face and I raised up. I commenced to shaking my husband and said "something's afire." And it was them stores, both of them and the garage. All of them burned at the one time there. Yes, sir!
And of course he jumped up and took out and I had to wait until the kids got dressed. Went up there and it had done got so big then I had to go around up preacher Millard's place and come around to the back of the shop and come down. And I walked in that thing and he was standing there in that shop, it a burning, taking the belts off of the motor that he used to sharpen his tools with, and everything. And that thing, it was heavy! But neither one of us said a word. He took that off to where it could be moved. I walked up and took ahold of the thing--it was setting on some kind of rods, I don't know what you would call them. But, anyway, I took ahold of the two on this side and he got on the other side and we carried that thing out of that building clear across the road over next to the fence that went over to the school house. And, I said "this is as far as I can go." He said, "Well, let's set it down. There's no need of carrying it any further anyway." Anyway, that motor that we carried out of there--the two of us--it took five men to load it to bring it down to the house. That shows you what being scared to death will do!
They thought the fire started for a cigar that somebody was smoking and throwed down.
Dr. Core was standing on the other side. He said afterward that somebody said "well, there's a woman over there!" He [Dr. Core] said "Yeh, that's got to be his wife. Nobody else would be over there."
That grist mill kept us in meal to make bread and chicken feed, you know. And, you know, I would give anything if I just had five pounds of meal like he used to make in this thing. This mill was run by a motor [instead of a water wheel]. It was just a hopper like; you throwed the corn over in it and it would shake it around and it would come out down here meal. And there was a sifter there that kept the bran [chaff] out of it. But it sure was fine meal! The meal you buy now has got so much flour in it I don't like it, but I have to use it for my cornsticks.
After the garage burned my husband worked in the yard down here for the rest of that year. Then we moved right up the road there. Then he just worked on cars. While we were living there we started this house and built it. Daddy give me four acres of land here to put the house on. Mr. Charlie Reed helped my husband and me to build this house. And my daddy helped; he done a lot of carpentry work. But, there's a lot of nails in this old house that I drove in there. Ha! I know me and Henry's daddy put all that weather boarding on that side there. We moved here in May of thirty-two. That [construction] was done in twenty-nine and thirty. We moved here the last of May and Mildred was born the 20th of June. She is my only child.
I don't know if it was that year or the next, but Dr. Core's barn down there--he had a greaaat big barn down there back of where the store is now. Well, it caught fire and burned. I had to set up all night with that. Well, another year Mr. Jim had a greaaat big old barn set back up the other side of this old house over here. And there was an old mare in it and it was full of hay. And one night that woke me up with light coming in, and that thing burned. We had fire all around us. Don Walter, Dr. Core's grandson, lived with Dr. Core, and he had a little chicken house there. He raised chickens, and sold eggs and fryers. And that fire from them stores burned his house and got fire and burned the house up--with all them chickens there. That was a shame. I don't reckon anybody had any insurance. I know we didn't have any.
My 90th birthday party--I didn't want to have that, but they kept a beggin' and a complainin' til I finally give up. Oh, they had cakes galore and big ninety on it and invited everybody could think of. But there was a lot--Franklin had the Christmas parade at the same time and they didn't have as many as they thought they would. But, it was nice and had all sorts of treats there. Anybody wanted to eat, drink.... Very nice. Albert Hartley and Sis came by from the parade when it was just about over. And Roy Smithson and his people was in Alabama, and Otis and Marie and them was in Texas that weekend.
Well, we come home. My daughter and her husband brought me on home and I was tired. We'd had a big day, you know--it had been all day long. I come home and I got out of them duds and I set rared back. Well, here I was going to rest till bedtime. That stinker up here [Jessie Bennett]
called down here and said "Are you ready to go?" I said "Go where?" Over to Spring Hill. I said "I don't think I'd go, I'm awful tired." Well, I hung up. Directly, Charles [Bennett] called back again and said "I'll be down there after you in just a little while, now." I said "Give me fifteen minutes, Charles." So I got up and grabbed me some clothes and here we go over to Spring Hill. They had music over there--they just got one room there. Anyway, they had just a regular band--banjo, guitar, fiddle, and all this stuff. Good music to dance by. Ha! Ha! So, I got out there with Charles and we cut a rug for one piece. I was so tired I couldn't hold out long cause I'm short of breath anyway. It was hard, I'll tell you.
[Jessie: what do you contribute to living a long and happy life, Miss Bessie?]
Hard work! Hard work and good living. I reckon I never--ever time I've been to a doctor after I began to get in bad shape, why [he would say] "Did you ever smoke?" I said no, I never smoked or drank either.
No sir, I never did smoke the first thing. Well, I smoked a cross vine one time. That was an old vine you cut out here. I think I smoked a roll or two out of rabbit tobacco. There used to be an old vine up there on the fence the other side of the Presbyterian church. It had cross vine on it and I guess all of us that was big enough smoked it some. I don't call that smoking. We didn't inhale it or anything. We just puffed it out.
I never did make things to smoke out of coffee grounds, but I'll tell you what we did do when I was a kid. I can remember some of them taking something and pulling the soot out of the chimney of the fireplace, and put a little sugar in it, and put it in something, and get them a little [elm] stick and chigger it up [fray the end by chewing on it] and make them a brush [to pick the mixture up with]. And, they dipped snuff to beat the band! Ha! Ha! Yeah, I've seen kids do it!
[Jessie later recalled her grandmother using snuff by dipping the end of a small stick into snuff and then chewing on the stick. Obviously, those kids had seen someone do that. Some users put a little pinch of snuff inside their lower lip instead.]