Polk County, Tennessee Heritage – Fast Cars & Loose Women!

by Marian Bailey Presswood
Polk County Historian

Men have been fascinated by fast cars ever since they laid eyes on that T-Model Ford that rolled off the assembly line in 1908. And they shelled out the $825 that it cost to purchase one without a blink of the eye – for everybody who was anybody had to have one – ten thousand of them! By 1915 the cost was down to $440 and half a million people just couldn’t live without one of the new fangled contraptions. Ford astounded everyone by raising the pay of his workers from a little over $2 to $5 for an 8-hour day to keep pace with the demand.
We have a list in the back of an old vital statistics birth and death ledger of 116 Polk Countians who registered as owning a car in 1914 – 15.

I won’t list all the names, but some of the Copperhill, Tennessee auto owners were
E. A. Kiker
Fred Davis
James Smith
J. B Cotter
Robert McCarter
E. E. Arp
R.L. Williamson
D. F. Dryden
M. L. Lewis
J.M. Center
L. L. Akins
A. W. Lewis
W. P. Davis
O.K. Lyle
Robert McCarter
H. L. Johnson

Skullman car in Polk County Tennessee

Charles Skullman from Ducktown, Tennessee

Ducktown, Tennessee car owners included:
Fred Johnson,
J. M. Center
R. L. Kirkpatrick
J. L. Hopkins
Charles Taylor
Charles Skullman
Mrs. Lucy Nankivill
Alex Hamby
Marion Payne
S. M. Reese
John Amburn
E. C. Chancey
Gus Hedden
George Strohl
R. L. Morris.

Some of the Benton, Tennessee auto owners were:
F. D. Copeland
J. H. Love
James Scarbrough
B. F. McClary
J. J. Fetzer
J. M. Lewis
R. A. Harrison
J. N. Woody
Walter Harrison
A. S. Green
R. M. Copeland.

Not nearly as many Bentonians owned cars as the Basin area folks. Personally, I don’t know why any of them would have wanted one, there were no roads fit to drive a car on at that time.

On the list of car owners from other areas around Polk County were:
Chester Mantooth in Old Fort
Wendel Harper, G. B. Farris, and Edmond Helderstedt from Isabella
Arthur Pack, Austral Albert Crumley in Prenderga
E. F. Cutcher in Postelle

Three decades later, but fun to see! William Deal of Postelle, Tennessee in his 1940 Plymouth.

a decade later, but fun to see! William Deal of Postelle, Tennessee in his 1940 Plymouth.

I had an Uncle Hoyt Webb who was a fast car lover, maybe loose women, too, I don’t know. He was a sleek dressed, slick talking, door to door salesman of women’s clothing, so he certainly had the opportunity. And he always had to own the biggest and fanciest looking car on the market, usually a Chrysler. He would hit a straight stretch in the road on old Lee Highway going to Chattanooga where they lived and I’d swear that speedometer would hit 120 mph, and the wheels didn’t hit the ground in some spots. James says those cars wouldn’t go that fast, but I know it was so fast we’d hang onto the door handle and scream as if we were on the roller coaster at Lake Winnepesaukah.

And I know one local fellow who proudly drives around town in a pretty old car, maybe not a Model T, but it’s one he has owned for nearly fifty years now. I see it parked at the restaurant across the street from the PCHGS Library once in a while, and walked over to speak to the owner recently. He’s J. P. Moorhouse and he says he bought his 1967 Cadillac Sedan Deville brand new when he was living down in Miami, Florida, and still has the original bill of sale for $6,500. It had almost 92,000 miles on it when he brought it with him when he moved to Polk County in 1984 – and it still has 92,000 plus just a few hundred more, for he doesn’t drive it much. (pictured is J. P. and his Cadillac.)

J. P. is a pretty interesting person, born and raised in Polk County, the son of Willie and Nina Lawson Moorhouse with siblings Anna, Imogene, Mildred, Peggy, Mary Blanche, Joyce and Bill. He went ‘off to war’ in the US Army Air Corp in 1943 and when he came home in 1945 he went to the Air Force Cadet School on the GI bill. When he finished his pilot’s training he got a job over in Memphis, then with National Airlines for 26 years, ending up with over 31 years as a commercial airline pilot. J. P. and his wife, Agnes, didn’t have children together, but she had a daughter, and a granddaughter that they adopted. An interesting note is that J. P. built his home on Rock Creek Road, just off Welcome Valley Road, on property that his grandfather, Joseph H. Moorhouse, bought in 1895. And actually it has been in the family longer than that, for it belonged to his wife Annie Mulky’s family when Joe bought it.

Oh! About the loose women? Sorry, but I don’t personally know any, and Cheryl wouldn’t let me write about them in her family friendly newspaper even if I did. I just said that because it made a good headline and to get your attention. Worked, didn’t it!

Now, go ask your grandpa to tell you all about the first car he owned. Or, if you ‘re the grandpa and the grandkids don’t ask, tell them anyway.