DeKalb County Tennessee
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More about Liberty, Tennessee

Mrs. Rachel Payne wrote in 1914:

I well remember the Liberty of sixty-two years ago, my father, Frederick Jones, having bought Duncan Tavern in 1843. In that year the first schoolhouse was built, not far from the Methodist church. Mr. Chambers was the first teacher in it. I was one of the later pupils. Most of the houses were of logs back then. I went to school in the log church that stood by the graveyard. The seats were split logs, with holes in them for the insertion of legs. The first person buried in Salem graveyard was Major Lamberson's girl, Martha. Nearly all the old-time people are gone to their reward. Aunt Polly Youngblood is the oldest resident. She was a Miss Avant, of Dismal Creek. I was only six months old when she became the wife of William Youngblood, and I was sixty-eight years old September 23, 1913. There were about thirty houses in Liberty when I was a child, and nearly all the public traveled was by stagecoach.

In a gossipy letter Dr. Foster names some of the residents of about 1850: Mr. Dean (blacksmith), Dr. J. R. Dougherty, Joshua Bratten and his son James, Dr. J. H. Fuson, Dr. J. A. Baird, Aunt Sallie Bratten, Len Moore, Bill Thompson (blacksmith), Jim Crook (wagon maker), Leonard and Clint Lamberson, William Youngblood, Dr. G. C. Flowers, Isaac Whaley, Tom Price, Elijah Strong, J. P., Bob, Hilary, and other Dales, Frederick Jones (tailor), W. G. Foster. Arthur Worley, U. D. Gossett, Ben Blades, Eli Vick, Seth Whaley, James Hollandsworth, John Woodsides, William Gothard, Bill Avant (tanner), John Evans, John Reid, and John Ferryman. Dr. Foster adds:

I can see other things as I look back to Liberty: Aunt Polly Blades's ginger cakes, set on a little shelf as a sign; Aunt Hettie Bratten selling good whisky for ten cents a quart; Dr. Flowers's John with his bowlegs; Jim Crook and his legs: Alex Bayne and his snow-white steers: and Sam Wooden as he hits and raises a knot on Bill Pack's head. I go around to Reuben Evans's farm and see his sons, Ed, Will, Ike, Mose, and Jim, and his daughters, Nancy, Matilda, and Martha, and his wife. Aunt Clara, as well as a dog named Danger that bit Jim Youngblood on the hindmost part. Likewise I see old Dr. Tilman Bethel and his black horse and his sons, Chess, Greene, Blue, Fayette, and John: Louis Vick, Jim Bratten, and Clint Lamberson (the last three died when yet young men). Then I look on Polly Stanley, the best "fisherman" with a pole and line in the county and a good fiddler; Sam Barger, fat and squat, who wore his shoes when he rode to Liberty, but came barefooted when he walked. Coming on down several years, I was in the village the night Montillius Richardson died. That was after the battle of Fishing Creek, and I was on furlough. (I belonged to the Fifteenth Mississippi Confederate Regiment.) Sixty-five years ago, when I was a ten-year-old boy, changes were going on, of course. The physicians were George C. Flowers, E. Wright, John A. Baird, Horace Sneed, Samuel Little, J. A. Fuson, and J. R. Dougherty, with Tilman Bethel, a steam doctor, living a mile or two west. The magistrates for that district were Reuben Evans and Joe Clarke. The constables were William Blackburn and Josiah Youngblood. Church Anderson was one of the merchants. The blacksmiths were Bill Thompson and Greene Ferryman, but preceding them were Goolsberry Blades and a man named Brooks. Later smiths were W. G. Evans and Bill Givan: miller, "Chunky" Joe Hays (who was not chunk), his wife being Aunt Sukey, mother of Mrs. William Blackburn; shoemaker, John Woodside; saddlers, W. G. Foster, U. D. Gossett, John A. Carroll, George Warren, G. F. Bowers, and others: saloon keeper, James G. Fuston: cabinet workmen, James Hollandsworth, Bob Burton, and Isaac Whaley; brickmason, Berry Driver; tailors, Joe Ferryman and Len Moore. The Lamberson boys were also millers, running the old Dale water mill. Liberty had a horse saw mill and a rope factory, the latter about where the tanyard was afterwards. Wagon makers were Jim Crook and Perry Wells. Perry and Jim Wells put up a store on Dismal Creek after the Clay and Frelinghuysen canvass, and someone got off this doggerel:

"Hurrah! hurrah! the country's risin':
Perry and Jim are merchandisin'.
One sells liquor, and t'other sells goods:
And when they start home-get lost in the woods!"

Liberty was incorporated January 17, 1850. The boundaries were: Beginning at a sour oak near Leonard Lamberson's wellspring, thence south to Smith's Fork, thence down said creek with its meanders to the mouth of the branch west of the town spring, thence west to a chinquapin oak standing on the north side of the Liberty and Dismal Creek road, thence south to the beginning: provided that the west boundary shall not include any of the land owned by Leonard Lamberson.

Revived after the war, the corporation was abolished soon after the passage of the four-mile law of 1877. William Blackburn and Elijah Bratten were post-bellum mayors.

The people of Liberty for some years had to go as far as Carthage to mail letters. This was changed when the stage began to run, maybe before. The earliest postmaster recalled by the old people was "Grandaddy" Dougherty, who carried the mail around in his hat, collecting the postage. Perhaps Dr. Wright preceded Dougherty, as in his daybook various persons were charged "cash for postage." Wright was a son-in-law of James Fuston, third host of Duncan Tavern. In 1844 Isaac Whaley succeeded Dougherty, holding the position until 1888, with the exception of a few months when, at the beginning of the war, Frank Foster was postmaster for the Confederacy and when, after the war, M. C. Vick held the office a short time. H. L. Hale succeeded Mr. Whaley in 1888. Mrs. Cannie Whaley was appointed some years later. C. L. Bright is the present postmaster.

It should be noted that there were no envelopes until a late day. The writer has before him now a letter addressed in 1827 to "Mr. M. S. West, Liberty, Smith Co., Ten." It is a sheet of paper folded and fastened with a small bit of sealing wax, the amount of postage, ten cents, being marked on the outside. It was mailed at Haysboro, Davidson County, Tennessee, and shows that postal rates were high.

In an interview with Isaac Whaley several years ago the writer obtained these facts bearing on the old times: "The letter postage was once six cents from Liberty to Alexandria, seven miles: ten cents to Nashville, fifty-six miles: over four hundred miles the postage was twenty-five cents, double that if the letter consisted of two sheets. Like registered letters to-day, a record of every letter was made on a way bill,' each postmaster receipting for it to the postmaster back on the route."

The Physicians of Liberty have been numerous.

J. R. Dougherty,
J. A. Baird
E. Wright
George C. Flowers
Tilman Bethel
Dr. Little

Present Time
T. J. Jackson
T. J. Bratten
Harrison Adamson
Horace Sneed
George R. Givan
J. A. Fuson
Thomas Black
J. S. Harrison. Later
A. S. Redman
J. W. Campbell
T. J. Sneed
W. H. Robinson
W. A. Whaley
J. H. Johnson
J. G. Squires
W. A. Barger
Robert Estes
T. O. Bratten
J, R. Hudson

Dr. Foster mentions the old miller, ''Chunky" Joe Hays, whose service was after Adam Dale's time. The Lambersons and Daniel Smith owned the mill still later. W. C. Youngblood and Edward Robinson were owners of the steam mill when it was burned by the troops of Gen. John T. Wilder, Federal.

Allan Wright, of Maryland, came to Liberty in 1866 and built a mill on the site of the one which had been burned, the first to be erected in the county after peace came. For many years the patronage of this mill was very great. Among those who have been connected with it since the war were: E. W. Bass, Jep Williams, George Wood, L. N. Woodside, J. H. Overall, John L. Lamberson, and George Bradley.

A water mill was erected by Buck Waters about 1873 or 1874 a few yards below the site of the Dale mill, the dam which supplies the big turbine wheel being one hundred and twenty-five yards wide and twelve feet high. It was sold to Vannata & Hicks. Within the next few years it was owned by Vannata & Stark Bros., H. L. Hale & Stark Bros., and H. L. and Bruce L. Hale. About 1884 a stock company was formed and the roller process installed, the stockholders being R. L. Floyd, George Turney, R. B. West, Sams Sellars, T. G. Bratten, W. C. Youngblood, B. L. Hale, and C. W. L. Hale. The capital stock was $6,000. On the death of B. L. Hale, in 1898, R. B. Floyd and C. W. L. Hale bought all the shares. The property is now owned by Bradley Bros.

The earliest attempt at publishing in Liberty was made by H. L. and Will T. Hale. The paper was small, miserably printed, and called the Imp. Only one issue appeared (September 20, 1879), and had it been larger, its failure would have deserved what the father of the young men cheerfully called it, "a stupendous abortion."

The Liberty Herald was established April 1, 1886, by Will A. Vick. Mr. Vick spent considerable money on the plant, and the journal, existing several years, became very popular in DeKalb and surrounding counties.

The Bank of Liberty was established by A. E. Potter and J. J. Smith in 1898. The latter became President, H. L. Overall, Vice President, and A. E. Potter, Cashier. Directors: D. D. Overall, J. J. Smith, H. L. Overall, H. C. Givan, C. D. Williams, E. J. Robinson, Will A. Vick, L. D. Hamilton, A. E. Potter, W. R. Robinson, and J. W. Reynolds. Mr. Potter was Cashier until 1895, when D. D. Overall became President and W. H. Overall, Cashier. The officers in 1914 were: John W. Overall, President; Thomas M. Givan, Vice President, T. H. Chapman, Cashier: J. C. Stark, Assistant Cashier. Directors: T. M. Givan, W. H. Overall, T. J. Jackson, J. F. Turner, B. W. Robinson, T. H. Chapman, John W. Overall, and Tom W, Overall.

The American Savings Bank opened for business December 8, 1905. This bank, like the other, has been successfully conducted. The first officers were: T. G. Bratten, President: W. H. Bass, Vice President: J. M. Bradley, Cashier. Directors: G. B. Givan, D. B. Wilson, J. B. West, R. B. Vannata, S. J. Chapman, Mrs. M. J. Corley, J. R. Corley, W. L. Evans, W. F. Hooper, H. M. Evans, J. E. Williams, and J. L. Lamberson. These officers, or all that were living, held their positions until 1914. The President's health became such that on January 10, 1914, the following officers were elected: L. A. Bass, President; G. B. Givan, Vice President: J. M. Bradley, Cashier. Directors: L. A. Bass, G. B. Givan, H. M. Evans, R. B. Vannata, J. M. Bradley, H. A. Bratten, D. B. Wilson, A. L. Reynolds, A. J. Williams, J. E. Hobson, J. L. Lamberson, W. L. Evans, and S. J. Chapman. H. M. Evans, T. M. Bright, and C. G. Givan, as finance committee, have served since the organization.

Among landmarks reminding this generation of a past era are Lamberson's wellspring and the town spring. The former was on the southwest, with a sweep and the "old oaken bucket." Here on baptizing days the crowds going to and from the place of baptism higher up Smith Fork Creek would stop to quench their thirst and to gossip. The town spring, on the north side, was of more romantic interest. The pioneers greatly appreciated a good spring. It for a while furnished drinking water for almost the entire village.

It was walled up, while a long flight of stone steps led down to the entrance on the east side, where a bucketful of the sparkling fluid could be easily dipped up. For half a century it was a Sunday meeting place for the young folks. Seated in couples on the steps or under the big oak on the bluff, they engaged in light badinage or love-making. The spring is yet held in pleasant memory by many elderly people.

There is one other landmark demanding notice, the pioneer cemetery on the northwest edge of Liberty. It is referred to by H. L. Hale as the "old Methodist graveyard." It lies on a gentle slope facing the sunrise, and at one time it must have been a beautiful spot. Pathos now hovers over it. But few stones are standing, and these are the stone pens covered with broad slabs of carefully worked limestone. Not a flower can be seen in the most gorgeous summer save the wild rose. No one walks there to meditate over the departed. A century ago children's voices were heard, and relatives of the dead walked among the tombs to pay the tribute of a sigh. Now nobody cares. James H. Burton writes: "My grandfathers, Ebenezer Burton and John S. Woodside, my father and mother, W. H. and Nancy Burton, and Uncle John Woodside are buried there." H. L. Hale writes: "Few names on the two or three tombs are legible. On a little 'house of rock,' the last home evidently of a husband and wife, this only could be read:

_____ Daugherty. Born 1770, died 1828.' Nearby was this: 'Caroline Arnold. Died July 22, 1828.' On another tomb: 'D. E. S. Kenner. Died December 4, 1809; age seventy-seven years.' One other: 'Nancy Kite, born 1805: died July 22, 1828.' Judging from the grave of D. E. S. Kenner, the cemetery was used at least one hundred and five years ago, and the slumberer was born the same year Washington was, 1732."

Liberty, fifty-six miles east of Nashville, has suffered much from fires. It is in one of the finest agricultural sections of the State, with a population estimated at five hundred, and perhaps it is of more romantic interest than the other towns in the county.

DeKalb County | Tennessee

Source: History of DeKalb County, Tennessee. By Will T. Hale, Nashville, Tennessee, Paul Hunter, Publisher, 1915.


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