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Polk County Heritage - 10-23-2013
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More Letters to Newt Rogers in Texas
More Letters to Newt Rogers in Texas

by Marian Bailey Presswood, Polk County Historian

William Henry Williamson, son of John Coffee and Susan Jane Bible was married to Ida Mae Williamson, and they had one daughter, Margaret. He wrote many letters to Newton Rogers in Texas over a period of about ten years, and requested that Newt send them back to him to use to write his history of Polk County.  At least those are the ones that were saved and shared with us many years ago by Sue Williamson Crawford, whose grandfather was a brother to Uncle Billy.  One of our faithful and long time members, Judy Michaels, who lives out in California, transcribed them and added an index for us, which makes it so much easier to find mention of anyone.
We ended last week’s article with a letter telling about the water backing up from the construction of Parksville Lake and Dam, and this week he mentions the electricity being turned on for the first time. Can you imagine how exciting and awesome that must have been? No, it wasn’t here in Polk County, for he wrote, “The Power Company at Parksville is furnishing Cleveland and Chattanooga with electricity, and the dam is full of water, and pouring over!  I haven’t been to Parksville, but am going when the roads get smooth.”
It wasn’t until the 14th of January 1917 that he wrote, “At 20 minutes to six o’clock last night, January 13, 1917, the electric current was turned on in Benton. The town boys yelled so loud when the little city was first lighted up by electricity that we heard them all the way to my house, and I phoned down and learned what they were all rejoicing about.”
That didn’t mean a thing to those of us who lived even a mile away from Benton, as my family did. It took a while to form cooperatives, build the power lines and get houses wired. In fact, if I remember correctly, we didn’t get electricity at our house until about 1948, which was twelve or more years after the Rural Electrification Act of 1935.  And even then we only had one light bulb in the ceiling of each room, with a string or chain hanging down to turn it on and off. The only outlet was one in the kitchen in hopes of someday being able to afford a refrigerator, and one in the living room for the radio. We had no clue that we would ever have anything else that needed to be ‘plugged in.’
September 1913: “Brad Kimbrough was killed at Parksville dam #2 about the first of August. He was boss of the rock quarry, a blast failed to go off and he picked up a stick of dynamite in each hand and went up to the loaded hole to fix it. There was a thundershower going on at the time, and  about the time he got to the place, the lightning struck the wire and set off the blast. The sticks of dynamite in his had went off also and blew both hands off. His body was filled with small rocks like shot. They brought him down over the lake to Parksville. He lived until 2 o’clock next morning. All his folks were there. They cut off his arms trying to save him. He was a Mason and was buried at Cookson Creek by the Masons. I attended and there were more Masons in the funeral procession than I ever saw at a funeral.”
October 1914: “Boyd Rymer died at Cleveland and was buried there a few weeks ago. And this week I saw a wagon and a boy in it that they said was going up to the Rogers or Zion graveyard to dig up the remains of Eli Rymer, Boyd’s father, to take him to Cleveland to bury him next to Boyd and his mother. I believe I would have let his bones rest where they were. It was Eli Rymer’s request that he be buried at Zion. Jug John Rymer died at his son’s Harve Rymer at Sagetown a few weeks ago.
   “Benton has several automobiles, ten or fifteen, I don’t know just how many. Wallace Clemmer, Hurschel Taylor, Walter Harrison, R. J. Bell, Herbert Center, Dr. Nuchols, Dr. Spence McClary, and Meigs Copeland all have autos.  Uncle  Dan Lillard, Wid  Clemmer nor Isham Cross have got one of these ‘stink wagons’ yet.”   
  “George Bishop went to the hardware store and gave $410 for a gun, he swapped the gun for a calf. Swapped the calf for a pig, the pig for a watch, the watch for a game rooster.  He fought the rooster against Oscar Bishop’s rooster, and bet one rooster against the other.  Oscar’s rooster killed George’s rooster and Oscar eat him. Then it quit raining and George went to work again, very well satisfied that he had done lots of business.” (Pretty much a tongue-in-cheek entry, I’d say, wouldn’t you?)
June 1912: “They had an ice cream supper at the courthouse last night and all the young people were there from far and near.  I hear that it will come up again in court tomorrow that somebody is trying to move the county seat to Wetmore again, but I don’t believe there is anything to it.”
I sometimes get asked when the streets of Benton were paved, and this May 1913 entry says,  “Our Pike Road to the Bradley line will soon be finished, and the public square in Benton is piked with crushed rock about a foot deep. No more mud for Benton, or that part of it.   I saw Andrew Cloud the other day and he is bitterly opposed to the pikes, as he has a pike road by his farm from Parksville to Cleveland, and he don’t want no more. He said the farmers would have to take to the bushes as the autos would need all the pikes. He said it was nearly that way at his house now. He said last Sunday that more than a hundred autos must have passed by his house going or coming to Cleveland and Parksville.”
But progress cannot be stopped, and Billy has a vision of Benton becoming a great city. In the entry on January 1917 he says, “Newt, after you and I have been dead and forgotten, a few hundred years from now there will be a great city here. It will extend from Parksville on the Ocoee to Austral at the Hiwassee Gap, and will cover the land from the mountains to the rivers, and all the factories and railroads will be run by electricity. It will be furnished by the numerous power dams on the Hiwassee and Ocoee Rivers, and their homes will be lighted and heated from the same source, and the rich folks will live on the mountain.  I can see them now, great buildings rising tier upon tier on the mountain side to the top where will be a great government turnpike road and east of this the great Appalachian Park for 300 miles to Asheville. I can almost see this great and populous city - but not quite. I will only be here long enough to see a thriving country village, which is the seat for that great city that is to come.”  
Why not record your vision of the future for your descendants to ponder over a few hundred years ‘down the pike?’  

Pictured are Brad and Ethelene Carden Kimbrough.


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