By Marian Bailey Presswood, Polk County Historian
If you happen to live in either of those communities you don’t have a problem knowing which is which, but we’re always having people from elsewhere getting them mixed up. They read an obituary that says someone is buried at Grassy Creek and they look in the Greasy Creek Cemetery, and vice versa. As far as I know the funeral homes haven’t actually buried anyone in the wrong place – or have they?
As the proverbial crow flies it’s about a distance of thirty miles from one community to the other, but I just checked a map and didn’t actually drive it to see. You can get to either one by starting from Benton, going up Highway 64/74 and turning left onto Hwy 30 to go to Greasy Creek. To get to Grassy Creek just stay on 64 until you get to the traffic light at Ducktown, turn right going to Copperhill (if you turn too quickly you will be in Hardee’s parking lot – have a sausage/biscuit for me, please.) Directly across the highway from the substation you will see Grassy Creek Road to the right, and about three and a half miles on the right is Grassy Creek Church and cemetery.
My mission here is to tell you about some of the people who lived in that little community of Grassy Creek bordering Fannin County, Georgia, tucked back in the edge of what is now National Forest. Back in 1999 I did a story in our PCHGS Quarterly that included a map of Grassy Creek drawn by one of the long time residents, Oscar Humphrys. Family surnames on his map of some who lived there during the Civil War era were Rogers, Pelfrey, Chastain, Denton, Allen, Hargis, Addison, Hyde, McCloud, Story, Forrester, Greer, Southering, Witherow and Gassaway. From the way he has it drawn, it looks as if the Allens, Hydes and McClouds had the largest farms, and Grassy Creek ran through all three on its way to the Ocoee River at Greer Ferry.
Our Heritage of Polk County book has a little article written by twins Jaime and Dana Chastain when they were in Miss Sallie Kell’s Fourth Grade Class in Ducktown Elementary School. The occasion for the project was the 1986 Tennessee Homecoming which generated a lot of community histories from writers all across the county, most of which have appeared in the News several times over the years, and most were included in the heritage book. The girls wrote, “William Humphrys, Sr. arrived in the area after driving his hogs across the mountain with his family. He picked a place that had an abundance of large oak trees and plenty of acorns for his hogs. With a creek flowing through the property, which had beautiful grassy banks, this was the place he decided to settle and build his house. He named this beautiful site “Grassy Creek” and the name must have fit, for it’s still known as that to this day. The little community had a church that doubled as a school, a post office called Grace, named after Dr. Coonie Hyatt’s sister, and a general store. And the Becklers had a gristmill on Grassy Creek to grind their corn – what else would one need for a thriving community?
Note: By the way, the twins Dana and Jaime are grown now, still live and work in the area, and have children of their own to pass down their love for preserving their community and family history.
There’s another little community on down the road about a mile and a half called Tumbling Creek. I’m not sure how that name came into being, but may be pretty obvious if one saw the creek. Grassy Creek Road seems to dead end into Tumbling Creek where it forks with Indian Creek Road. I guess its official name is Mt. Zion Church and cemetery, but local folks call both Tumblin’ Creek. The cemetery there was established about 1900, and is sometimes called Allen, for the first inscribed markers are all Allens who died in 1901. Among them is Milford Filmore Allen who has many descendants who live around the Benton area. Other prominent names in Tumbling Creek include the Deals, James and Spicy Hall, Agnes and Jim McCay, Pattersons and Paynes, Messers, Pless and Waters, just to name a few. My good genealogy buddy, Joy Locke, from Monroe County could probably tell you anything you wanted to know about the Lockes, Deals, and Pelfreys from that area, and Viola Jones knows the Humphrys family.
Now, turn around and get out of there as fast as you can before it gets dark. Yes, it’s a beautiful place with lots of friendly folks who might feed you and put you up for the night. But if you happen to make a wrong turn and end up on National Forest Service Road 22-2 at the foot of Big Frog, it’s the darkest, scariest place you can ever see at night – to me, that is. I’m sure most folks love it, and I would too, in the broad daylight, but after dark – just sayin’. . . . I still have nightmares about the time a few years ago when Hwy 64 was closed because of the rockslide, and I had to go to a night time funeral in McCaysville. Thinking I’d take the short cut off the mountain from Ellijay to 411 at Chatsworth, I somehow made a wrong turn and ended up on Fort Mountain, at dark, by myself, no cell phone, no one knew where I was, or would ever have found me had I missed a narrow curve and ended up in one of those ravines. Cold shivers!
What do you know about the community in which you live – something special and interesting? How did it get its name, did some special event happen there, or some prominent family live there, are any old houses still standing? Find out, and write it down to Preserve YOUR Heritage!
A Grassy Creek family: This picture has been in our PCHGS files for many years, and is George Washington and Louisa Elminda Lock Humphrys with their first two children, Homer and Claude, taken in 1903. They were parent of seven more children. I don’t know if it is still available, but Jane Humphrys helped put together a wonderful little cook book several years ago that was more about preserving family history than it was preserving food, for it had genealogy, pictures, family stories and all kinds of great info on the Humphrys family. By the way, a great family historian, Oscar Humphrys, son of George W. and Louisa, always said they were the no ‘e’ Humphrys, and I have to remind myself not to put one in their name. Families who are fortunate enough to have someone like Oscar who spent so much time and effort to record their family history ought to be forever grateful, and I’m sure this family is. After he passed in 1998, Jane said of her Uncle Oscar, “You could tell from his voice how proud he was of his family and community. He was truly one of the most remarkable and fascinating men I’ve ever had the pleasure and honor of meeting and knowing.” (Submitted by Marian Bailey Presswood.)