By Cynthia Despot
Sitting at my desk overlooking the reconstructed stacked stone wall that used to be the border for the Old Hillsboro Pike, my mind wanders to the past and I think about the densely forested area this was. Before Columbus discovered America, bison traveling from what is now Williamson County to the salt licks on the banks of the Cumberland River created what we now know as Hillsboro Pike. Native Americans settled in and had a thriving community for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years.
I came to work at the City office in June of 2000. I secured my job the really “old- fashioned” way—I walked through the door, met the City Manager, Jim Pitman, and said he needed to hire me. After consultation with Mayor Charles Evers (and an interview), I was hired on a part-time basis. Previous to those events, I started a neighborhood watch, The Otter Creek Neighborhood Watch. It was composed of approximately 250 households and was a direct result of the scare to our area of the Wooded Rapist who was caught and subsequently imprisoned. More
Cynthia welcomed thousands of visitors to City Hall.
Prior to my duties as the City Assistant I had a variety of jobs that were appropriate for the tasks I was about to handle. A bachelor of science degree in political science, working for a real estate research firm in Texas, acquiring real estate licenses in both Louisiana and Tennessee, being a native Nashvillian, living in Forest Hills, and having children at Percy Priest School were all extremely helpful. Experience as a preschool teacher, being a good listener, and having patience have served me well through the years.
Our little office in Green Hills at the Moorhead Center had been in the same location for several decades. I found the original lease dated April 1961 when we were packing up to move to the new office, marking 50 years there. When I started, the City’s first computer was brand new, we used an aged IBM Selectric typewriter, the fax machine was the rage of the day, and the furniture dated from sometime in the 1950s except for the matching lamps and a sofa upgrade that had a nice plaid ’70s twist to it. The one room office was approximately 600 square feet, including the closet and one bathroom! When meetings were held it was a tight fit, and if there was to be a particularly large meeting it would convene at Percy Priest Elementary School or Hillsboro Church of Christ.
Charles Evers was Mayor and was fond of calling first thing in the morning to make sure things were running smoothly. Jim Pitman had become City Manager six months before I arrived, replacing Tom Balthrop, who had been the City Manager for 17 years. Jim made rounds about the City and kept an eye on construction and maintenance projects with the help of Neel-Schaffer Engineering for plans review and building inspections and The Parke Company for chipping and tree service. The Bikeway was underway for funding, completed and opened with pageantry and celebration in June 2005. At about the same time major additions were made to Percy Priest Elementary including classrooms, gymnasium, a new library, and computer room. Mayor Evers retired in 2008 and Mayor Coke was appointed. Under Mayor Coke’s leadership the Cultural and Natural Resources Committee was established. As a result of that, stacked stone walls, gateway entrances, landscape beautification and our involvement in the preservation of the Native American village Kellytown have been made possible.
After two years of planning, our beautiful new office opened under the direction of City Manager Al Deck, in December 2011. Designed by Allard Ward Architecture, City Hall is a wonderful facility for meetings, with multiple offices and meeting rooms. Presentations before the varying committees can be seen on a big-screen monitor overhead and the seating capacity for meetings is well over 70 with overflow space in the atrium. Now we are in a state-of-the-art building that is just beautiful.
Daily operations have modernized tremendously in 17 years. In the past, to send out notification letters I would go to the oversized plat map books approximately 21 inches in height and 18 inches wide in search of parcels that were in the 300-foot notification radius, then match ownership in the tax assessor’s record books that were organized by 11-digit numbers. Now Metro websites can find owners, parcels and inspections all by clicking a few buttons and searching by address, parcel ID or ownership.
Far from the days of looking for information in oversized books, we have three computers, digital minutes, online newsletters, email, scanning, and instantaneous resident alerts. Building and especially new construction, (which includes a number of teardown and rebuilds) require adherence to appropriate site plans, drainage calculations, building cover, and impervious surface ratios, tree protection, landscape plans, and specified setback standards for each of our zoning districts. As a result of the flooding of 2010 there are now hillside protection and floodway/floodplain policies.
When she arrived in 2013, many of you may have thought Amanda Deaton-Moyer was the first woman City Manager in Forest Hills. Actually, Julia Baker had the position from 1961 to 1984. It is nice to see how “progressive” our City has been from its inception in 1957.
The Comprehensive Plan, Subdivision Regulations, and Zoning Ordinance work to safeguard and reinforce residential development under Amanda’s watchful eye.
The privacy, uniqueness, and location of Forest Hills have made it a haven for high-profile artists in their desire for seclusion and reflective time when home from being on the road or hectic careers. Parents enjoy being able to send their children to a wonderful local public elementary school. Doctors and professors find close proximity to work at Vanderbilt University, and other professionals enjoy an easy commute into downtown Nashville.
There is no way to express how much it has meant to me to work for and with such level-headed, deep-thinking, methodical, and kind men and women that have worked tirelessly for years on the Board of Commissioners, Planning Commission, and Board of Zoning Appeals. They have enabled growth and change with stability and continuity for our great City. Their main concerns have always been to uphold harmonious living with nature and to improve quality of life for our residents. Preserving and protecting relics from our past and preserving green space for future generations have been paramount.
It has been a pleasure to be of service to the residents, real estate professionals, architects, builders and the wide variety of people that call or walk in, in need of help in one capacity or another on a daily basis.
Administrative assistant Cynthia Despot has answered thousands of calls and greeted hundreds of visitors and residents since she joined the City of Forest Hills in June 2000.
Though she was born in Nashville, she had traveled to many parts of the world by then, including several countries in Europe, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. In spite of the dramatic sights and situations she observed around the world, probably none matched what she lived through as a freshman in high school.
“Both my parents were college professors, one at Vanderbilt and one at Peabody,” she said. “We moved to Kent, Ohio, in 1969, and I was a freshman at Kent State High School in 1970” when the Ohio National Guard occupied the university campus and shot unarmed college students protesting the Vietnam War.
“One of my stepmother’s students was killed,” she said. “We were under martial law. I saw tanks driving in my street. Talk about ‘coming of age’.”
Cynthia went to school in Geneva, which afforded her opportunities to travel in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. Her father lived in the Middle East for a while, providing a chance to explore Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Palestine. She’s also traveled to Russia, Mexico, Cuba, and the Bahamas.
Her memories of the Holy Land are vivid.
“Everything seems so flat when you see it in books,” she said. “In person, it’s so vibrant and three-dimensional when you visit the sites.”
A particularly sharp memory: “I remember how thankful the Egyptian people are whenever it rains.”
Recently, Cynthia traveled to Banff, Canada, where she took a helicopter ride over the Continental Divide.
Cynthia came back to Nashville in 1981 and started wholesale wine business with her now ex-husband. They spent a couple of years here, then lived in Atlanta for a while before moving back to Forest Hills.
She has two sons, now 28 and 24. Mitchell Joseph, 28, graduated from Lipscomb University and now is director of communications at Lipscomb Academy. He and wife Shawn have one-year-old son, Mitchell Joseph IV.
Morgan, 24, graduated from Middle Tennessee State University last year majoring in audio engineering. He is in New York City where he is involved in digital marketing and sales of high-end audio equipment.
Cynthia and her beau John met when they each were celebrating Christmas at Sperry’s restaurant. Something clicked at the first meeting, and they found they had a lot in common and enjoyed each other’s company. They like four-wheeling, fishing, and watching bald eagles at his place near Waverly. He likes to cook the fish they catch, while she prefers catch-and-release.
So, what lies ahead for Cynthia once she leaves her post at the City? She’s developing a line of moonshine cake for online sales and national distribution.
“I already have arrangements with a bakery and have begun talks about a national distributor,” she said.
The residents and officials of Forest Hills wish her luck in her new endeavors.
City Manager Amanda Deaton-Moyer and Cynthia review a document.
Nancy Mannon never intended to buy the historic McCrory-Mayfield House, the oldest remaining dwelling in Forest Hills and one of the oldest in Davidson County.
In fact, she and her daughter, Sydney, came to look at it just to rule it out because it kept appearing in her searches for land with potential for a horse barn.
“I saw it on May 1, 2015, bought it soon after, and moved in December 1,” Nancy said. “I bought the house because of the barn,” built originally as a guesthouse. More
“Sydney and I love riding,” she said. “We have a pony and a horse currently living in Leiper’s Fork until we can get the property and land ready to bring them to their new home.”
Looking for a small farm was more of a challenge than Nancy had anticipated. She experienced competition from “micro farmers” looking for small acreage, as well as developers searching for sites to build subdivisions.
The idea of the horse barn was appealing, but Nancy had reservations about the style of the house. “I love log homes; they’re great for vacations—but not to live in,” she said. To her surprise, “I walked in and loved it.”
She makes it clear that she’s there to stay. “I’m not moving again. They’ll have to take me out of here in a pine box.”
Taking up residence in a historic home has a certain charm, Nancy said. “I feel like I’m living in Night at the Museum.”
The interior of the house was mostly move-in ready, needing nothing but a couple of fresh coats of paint. The future horse barn needs some improvements, and pathways need to be created in swampy areas.
Some of the floors in the home appear to be original. In the basement, she discovered the subfloor to be wood slats all laid in a diagonal pattern, a construction practice not done in a long time. “Under the original part of the house you can see the original floor joists made from small trees,” she said. “You can still see the bark.”
A smokehouse a few steps from the original house also appears to have been built at about the same time as the home.
Built in 1798
The home traces back to owner Thomas McCrory and wife Rachel in 1798. Documented as 600-plus acres, it may have been as much as 3,000 acres.
This Thomas McCrory served under General Andrew Jackson. His father (Thomas McCrory Sr.) immigrated from Ireland and served in the 9th Regiment of the Continental Army, and his son (also named Thomas McCrory) was instrumental in the construction of Granny White Pike.
Thomas’s widow Rachel sold the property to William Carpenter, who was pastor at Johnsons Chapel—just a stone’s throw from the home site. The land likely went all the way to the Little Harpeth River along both sides of what is now Old Hickory Boulevard.
Rachel was last McCrory on record to live on the property. She is buried in a cemetery at Johnsons Chapel, and the McCrory family cemetery is located east of the church.
“I located the McCrory family cemetery but it was all overgrown,” Nancy said. “I wouldn’t have known it was a cemetery if I hadn’t been looking for it.”
When William Carpenter died, ownership passed to his daughter Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” and her husband George Andrew Jackson Mayfield, around 1865. Their descendants lived there until the late 1930s. Their son Joel “Shannon” Mayfield and his wife Irene, buried in a cemetery behind the house, were the last Mayfields to own the property.
Nancy attributes the home’s survival to centuries of loving care. “It’s never been empty, so it’s been well cared for and not neglected,” she said. It was built with two-foot-high stone foundations to prevent water penetration, which has protected the integrity of the structure.
The shortest amount of time any family has lived there is 10 years. “I venture to say that only 10 or fewer families have lived here since it was built,” Nancy said.
Additions were made to the western and northern sides of the house probably in the 1940s or 1960s.
The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981 by its owner, a Mr. White. When White died, it was sold to Joe and Claudette Smith, and Claudette sold it to Nancy.
Nancy was born in San Francisco and came to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt. She lived on Knob Road from 1995 until she began looking for a place to live with her horses.
Sydney, 11, attends Harding Academy. She shows horses in Hunter-Jumper.
Nancy always rode growing up and knew how much fun it is for young people. Sydney got her start riding at age six when she enrolled for summer camp. Nancy knew she would have more fun riding at camp if she knew some of the basics ahead of time.
Both Nancy and Sydney enjoy dancing. Nancy likes tap and jazz, and competed in ballroom dancing until she was sidelined due to ankle surgery. Sydney likes tap, jazz, ballet, and hip-hop.
Nancy enters the door to what was originally the kitchen.
Sydney explores the historic smokehouse.
Besides Joel Shawn Mayfield and Irene Mayfield, the cemetery contains remains of four other adults, a young child, and an infant in unmarked graves.
1798 McCrory-Mayfield House, 1280 Old Hickory Boulevard
1928 Guilford Dudley Sr. and Anne Dallas House/Hunter’s Hill, 5401 Hillsboro Pike
1931 Richard E. Martin House/Castlewood, 30 Castlewood Court
1932 Longleat, 5819 Hillsboro Pike
1935 Mrs. Edward B. Craig House, 1418 Chickering Road
1936 Dr. Cobb Pilcher House/Deepwood, 5335 Stanford Drive
1937 Thomas P. Kennedy House, 6231 Hillsboro Pike
1939 Dubuisson-Neuhoff/Henry Neuhoff House, 1407 Chickering Road
1939 The Hibbettage/Charles Evers House, 2160 Old Hickory Boulevard
Longtime residents of the Otter Creek Road area well remember when daffodils covered the hillside across from Percy Priest Elementary School.
Betty and Ed Thackston, who have lived in their home on Priest Road since 1969, used to walk through the fields with their young daughters Leah and Carol. Picking flowers was a tradition among neighbors, and no one considered it trespassing or an imposition.
“There were probably ten thousand buttercups then,” Ed said. More
“Residents would pick them by the armfuls,” Betty added. “You couldn’t tell any were gone.”
The daffodil field was in the front yard of Miss Arlene Ziegler, founder and owner of Satsuma Tea Room in downtown Nashville. She was also an active member and grower for the Middle Tennessee Daffodil Society, founded in 1958, and co-author of the book Fun for the Gardener.
Ed recalls that the demise of the daffodils came in two stages, the first from sewer installation and the second from development.
“When sewers were run from the Little Harpeth River to Radnor Lake, they were built near the creek bed,” he said. “That eliminated about half the buttercups.”
The second blow came after Miss Ziegler died in 1981 and her land was divided and sold. “When the lots were sold, they graded two lots for houses where the buttercups were, and that destroyed the rest of them.”
Ed also remembers taking his girls sledding down the long curving driveway that led up to Miss Ziegler’s house on top of the hill. “We’d get going so fast, it was like riding a toboggan down the hill,” he said.
The quiet, natural beauty of the neighborhood was a big attraction when the Thackstons decided to move there—that, and the proximity to Percy Priest Elementary.
“That was one of the main reasons we bought this house,” Ed said. “The girls could walk to school.”
The Thackstons have seen more changes in Forest Hills than the loss of the buttercup fields. “The character is about the same, but there are more houses and bigger houses,” Ed noted. “It’s also more wooded now, which is a good thing.”
The Thackstons like to travel, and recently enjoyed a tour of Prague and a cruise down the Danube River. Ed likes to work in the yard and track genealogy, while Betty loves music and enjoys working with the Opera Guild.
Their daughters Carol and Leah live nearby. Carol, a research assistant professor in psychology at Vanderbilt, recently moved from Brentwood to the Lipscomb University area. She has three sons: Michael, a second-year pharmacy student at Belmont; Blake, who works for Warner Music; and Collin, a junior at Belmont.
Leah, a psychological examiner and counselor, lives even closer, on Beauregard Drive. She has triplets, all currently in college: Katherine at Rhodes, Richard at Furman, and Chandler at University of Virginia.
Ed Thackston shows where the daffodil field was. The cedars in the upper left of the old photo grew along the bank of Otter Creek, visible above.
Ed Thackston, a genealogy enthusiast, has incorporated elements from his ancestors into his landscaping.
Ed’s great-great grandfather Blake Thackston was a millwright in the Sullivans Bend region of Smith County, Tennessee. He bought property there in the 1830s and ran the mill from around that time until about the 1880s. The mill was horse-powered, not water-powered: the horses were harnessed and walked around in a circle to turn the millstone located in the middle of the circle.
Ed made a bench from the top step of Blake Thackston’s original back porch, and used millstones from Blake’s mill for landscaping accents. He al
Miss Arlene Ziegler and her partner Miss Mabel Ward, two Home Economics teachers, started Satsuma Tea Room at 417 Union Street in downtown Nashville in 1918.
It remained a local favorite for many decades, specializing in home-cooked, inexpensive meals. Miss Arlene presided over it as meal planner, buyer, manager, and sometimes cook.
In her book Fun for the Cook, Miss Ziegler says the idea behind Satsuma was to “serve excellent food in attractive surroundings at a reasonable cost.”
Open for lunch only, five days a week, Satsuma became a beloved venue for generations of office workers, politicians, downtown shoppers, and out-of-towners who wanted to sample real Southern-style cooking.
In 1938 my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Neely Coble Sr., built a house on Stanford Drive South. We moved there from 3726 Central Avenue. I always remember my dad saying that the house cost $12,000.
Across the street from us was the home of Dr. and Mrs. Lampson. They had a big piece of property that included an open field where Fletch and Bill Coke now live, among others. They also raised goats, and I can remember carrying a baby goat to her house and her saying to me, “Billy, I’ll just give you that goat.” I raised that goat and eventually took it to my grandparents’ farm. More
Walter Stokes lived up the hill from us, and when they were out of town they would pay me to feed their dogs. Also at the top of the hill lived the DeWitts, the Keebles, and Dr. and Mrs. Luton. I remember the Lutons had two very attractive daughters. Justin Potter lived across the street from the Lutons, and I remember them saying his car was bulletproof because he was in the coal business and had some challenges.
Having spent my early years in the city, I was now roaming around the county and became very interested in trapping. Everything was fine until one day I trapped a skunk—and that proved to be a difficult catch.
It seemed just about every winter there was enough snow on the ground that we were able to sled. We would sled down the north side of Stanford Drive.
When World War II started we decided to raise chickens. We went to Acme Feed Store at First and Broad and bought baby chickens. We kept them in pens in the basement furnace room. My job was to feed them and clean up. When they were about a month old, we moved them to an outside pen. When they were big enough to eat, my job was to chop off their heads and put the chickens in boiling water so you could pull the feathers off. —Bill Coble
Probably lots of Forest Hills residents have had their homes featured in magazines over the years, but the story Mary Beth Gates tells has a slightly different twist.
Her home was featured, but it was misidentified as belonging to someone else.
Here’s what happened: Back in 1975, country music artist Johnny Paycheck lived on Tyne Boulevard in Forest Hills—next door to the house where Mary Beth later lived. One day a reporter for Home of the Stars magazine came out to photograph the home, and perhaps daunted by the steep driveway the two neighbors shared, apparently snapped the first house he came to and retreated back down the hill. More
The only problem was, it was Mary Beth’s future home—not Johnny Paycheck’s. Nevertheless, the photograph ran in the magazine identifying the home as his, and country music fans all over the world got a look at a beautiful, inviting Tyne Boulevard home . . . just not a Home of the Star.
The previous owners of the home saved a copy of the feature and passed it along to Mary Beth when she and her husband bought it in 2000. Now they’ve just moved to a new home on Otter Creek Road, and Mary Beth is looking forward to passing along the clipping and the story to the new owners.
The descendants of Jeannette Acklen Noel, granddaughter of well-known Nashvillian Adelicia Acklen, have enjoyed climbing big old trees and wading the creek at the idyllic family home at the corner of Hillsboro Pike and Tyne Boulevard for generations.
Lattie Noel Brown, Jeannette’s granddaughter, has lived there herself since 1974, and her own children and grandchildren, have spent countless hours playing on the wooded acreage. She can remember when Jeannette bought the house after the second World War. More
“My granny bought the duplex on about three acres at 5750 Hillsboro Pike about five years after my grandfather died in World War II,” Brown said. “Quite independent and an entrepreneur, she added another room to the rental side and leased it to young married couples.” In 1974, Lattie and her three children—ages 3, 6 and 9—moved into the rental side of Granny’s house.
A lover of horses, Lattie’s grandmother built a barn on the back of the property and owned as many as five horses, which she rode from Hillsboro Pike along Tyne Boulevard to Percy Warner Park.
Lattie, one of 11 grandchildren, said the three oldest girls, including herself, were nuts about horses and even pretended to be wild horses, complete with tails made from Johnson grass. She quickly ticked off the names of the ponies: Blue Blazes, Little Miss Muffett, and her horse Jericho.
“We would ride our ponies to Percy Warner Park, down Tyne and cut through yards and Chickering Lane,” she recalled. “Our parents cautioned us not to get off our ponies if someone stopped us.”
Brown remembers Jeannette Noel as a strong woman. “My grandmother was very independent and self reliant,” she said.
One time when building a fence, she dynamited the holes for the mock orange fence posts before installing them herself. Another time, she got into a friendly conversation with a neighbor about guns and shooting. Jeannette got a gun and proceeded to toss cans in the air and hit each one.
Once, when he was about four, Lattie’s son Parke climbed to the top of a 50-foot magnolia tree and could not get down. His Granny Jeannette, 83 years old at the time, climbed up and brought him down safely. Jeannette was 93 when she died in 1984.
Lillian Compton, who lived at the top of the private drive next to Granny’s property, took care of Granny while Lattie worked at Third National Bank. One day on the way home from work, Lattie saw a black snake in the middle of the road.
Since Granny always believed a black snake in the barn would keep rats and mice out of the horse feed, Lattie stopped, picked it up behind the neck, wrapped it around her arm, and took it to Granny, who immediately told her to take it to the barn. Lillian’s lone comment: “You know, I don’t think you have enough to do.”
Lattie Brown retired from Nashville Bank and Trust last year, and now she can often be found watching her grandchildren play where their father, grandmother, and great-great-grandmother rode horses back in the day.
Newcomers to the City may not realize that Forest Hills was considered way out in the country as late as the 1960s, but Planning Commissioner James Gardner III knows very well what that means. His family bought property in the early ’30s when there was only farmland.
Jim’s maternal great-grandfather Robert W. McFadden and great-grandmother Janet Battle McFadden lived in town. Wanting a country place to spend the weekends, his great grandfather bought 40 acres and built a rustic cabin, which was later enlarged into a home. It had no running water or power. Jim remembers hearing the story that his great-grandfather, after digging several dry wells, hired a “water witch” who used a divining rod to locate water successfully, and the well brought water to the cabin. More
A black church was on property near the corner of Tyne and Hillsboro Pike. The McFadden property, two miles away, ran along Otter Creek. Several four-foot-deep areas were fed by springs along the bend of the creek owned by the church, which used these spring-fed “ponds” to baptise their members. As a side note, when Jim suggested years later that his son be baptised there, his wife vetoed the idea. ”The water is not as clean as it used to be, I guess,” Jim said.
During the ’30s and early ’40s the McFaddens kept living in their “city” home on Linden Avenue, which was at the end of the trolley line, a mile or so from the end of city. From this point on there were only farms.
In the early ’40s Jim’s great-grandfather decided to move to the Otter Creek farmland. Great-grandmother had no desire to move to the isolation of the country, Jim said. She loved her life in the city and didn’t drive. She agreed to move when her great-grandfather bought her a piano she had always wanted. (Jim has the piano in his home today.) She also learned to drive.
By tripling the size of the cabin and adding electricity and running water, it became a modern 1940s home with all the conveniences.
Since World War II was being fought, Robert McFadden planted a two-acre Victory Garden and 100 fruit trees to feed his family as well as keeping a henhouse full of chickens. He commuted downtown to work, where he was a partner in an insurance company.
Jim’s grandmother Janet McFadden Patterson and her six-month-old baby, Jim’s mother, came to live with her parents when Jim’s grandfather Dr. Robert C. Patterson Jr. was deployed to China during World War II. They lived in this house until Jim’s mother was almost four.
When Jim’s grandfather returned from the war, the Pattersons built their home in a five-acre lot that had been a cornfield close to Otter Creek Road.
Otter Creek Road had only six or so families. A family who lived on Otter Creek Road about where the intersection of Robert E. Lee Drive is today had a bunch of tow-headed children, as Jim’s neighbor Edith Bowen Bierman described them. The boys would come down and go skinny-dipping in the creek, and Jim’s mother Jan was not allowed to play outside while they were around.
There was a country one-room store at the corner of Hillsboro Pike and Otter Creek Road owned by Mr. Beasley. This intersection was the last stop for the “city” bus and the school bus.
Next door to the family property was the Ward and Ziegler property. Miss Ward and Miss Ziegler owned Satsuma Restaurant downtown. They loved flowers and had over an acre of jonquils and 300 acres of beautiful land with gardens and native wildflowers. They employed a wonderful couple who lived on the property as caretakers. The wife loved to go to town. She would dress up and put on her beautiful hat and embark on the two- mile trip to the bus. This trip was made in a cart pulled behind the tractor. She would sit on a tall box, and her husband would drive the tractor to the corner of Otter Creek and Hillsboro Pike.
One of Jim’s mother’s favorite adventures was to ride in the trailer with her to Hillsboro Pike. Of course, she sat on the bed of the cart at the foot of the wife. One time when she was four, the trailer came unhooked when it hit a pothole and the woman fell off the box onto Jim’s mother, knocking the breath out of her. With her hat askew and her dress dirty, she gave her husband a loud lecture. This was the last ride Jim’s mother was allowed to take.
Jim’s first home, literally, was at Otter Creek Road. He came home from the hospital to his grandparents’ house there. Growing up he always visited on weekends and summers.
Jim’s parents built their house in 1977 where he currently lives, and he moved there when he was age 10. He fondly remembers roaming the hills and fields as a boy catching crawfish in the creek and collecting creek rocks under the bridges. He would reluctantly head back when his mother rang a gong to let him know it was time to go home.
As a boy Jim’s chores included helping to maintain the bridges, which always needed care from rot and wear. One of his jobs was to take a paint brush and a bucket of creosote and apply creosote to the beams to help preserve them.
Another was to use a hand drill to bore holes to hold it together with screws or six-inch-long nails. “I learned to use tools, drill, and drive nails by working on the bridges,” he said.
As he got older in college he started doing harder labor like moving beams—but he couldn’t compete with Mr. McDonald. “My great-grandfather had a farm helper named Robert McDonald. Mr. McDonald was about six-foot-three and skinny as an index finger,” Jim said, “but he was so strong he could carry bridge beams, one under each arm.”
Jim remembers important milestones in life that have been marked by having a bridge out. For example: two weeks before his sister’s wedding the bridges flooded out, and he and his longtime neighbor, Doug Yates, were given the task of putting it back together. The UPS carrier had to wade the creek to deliver wedding presents. Again two weeks before Jim got married three years later, and another time when Jim’s wife was about to give birth to their son J.C. the bridges were flooded out.
“The only way to exit the property in a car when a bridge is out is across our neighbor’s field,” Jim explained. “You have one shot to make it across. If you slow down or stop you are sunk.
“Otherwise, your only way out is to walk across, straddling the I-beam.”
Gardner has seen many changes in the area since he moved there nearly 40 years ago. The first time he remembers ever seeing the bridges flood was in 1979. “I saw little change in the creek from boyhood until late 1980s and ’90s. Since then flooding and erosion have eaten away banks.”
Another big change came when Otterwood was built. As Jim was growing up, a landmark of the area was the field of jonquils owned by Miss Ward and Miss Ziegler located near the Otter Creek entrance to Otterwood. The acre field had all different varieties of buttercups, daffodils, jonquils, single blooms, double blooms, big, small.
“It looked like an Impressionist painting,” he said. “You couldn’t take a step without walking on one.” When Otterwood was being developed, Jim went and dug some of them to replant, just to save the varieties.
Gardner got involved with the City by going to meetings in mid- to late 1990s, looking for help with flooding issues and to see if anything could do to help mitigate storm water issues. Mayor Charles Evers saw his interest and appointed him to the Planning Commission in 1997, where he has served since.
Gardner, a senior vice president with Renasant Bank, still lives on Otter Creek with his wife, son, and several pets. After heavy rains, he can be seen wading in Otter Creek tending to the bridges.
Though the banks of Otter Creek originally had a slope gentle enough to drive across, the Gardner family soon built two bridges.
One of the bridges, probably the last surviving of their vintage in this area, was featured on the front page of the front page of The Nashville Tennessean Magazine on January 1, 1950.
“The end is probably in sight for these historic bridges,” Jim said. “They will have to be replaced with more modern structures as new homes are built and new residents move onto the site.”
Jim has forged a strong bond with those bridges over the years.
“I had my first brush with death here,” he said. “I was three years old, staying with my grandparents. I set out on my tricycle with grandfather’s basset hound, and I thought it would be a great idea to ride down the bank to the creek.”
Unfortunately, Jim pitched forward over the handlebars as the tricycle was going down the bank, cutting his head and breaking his collarbone. His Grandfather Patterson, an ob/gyn doctor, thought he might need care and took him to his other grandfather, a surgeon, who cleaned him up, gave him a tranquilizer, and said he’d see him in the morning.
EBB . . . Jim Gardner’s family has been in this valley before we came. His great grandparents had a log cabin, a weekend log cabin and they were here on weekends when we moved out in the fall of 1938. We moved into the old house—I’ve got a picture and a painting in here. This property from the steep hill on Otter Creek up here, all the tillable land to where Otter Creek starts dipping down at Ashland that I knew of was in the family of Mooney, He was A.A., e had children A.A., B.B., C.C., D.D., and so on. That’s what I was told, but I do not have a fact on that. He raised cows and he had a house just like our house on the other side of the school. There was nothing but farm land, and I’ve got a list of every house on either side from Granny White to Hillsboro Road, if anybody is ever interested, and the people and the stories. More
FLB Yes, I’d like to get that list and put it with the transcription. (See story at right.)
EBB May I copy it over then and give you a better rendering than my rough sketching?
EBB He also, as Jim’s great granddaddy did, gave his children acreage.
JG Mooney did.
EBB Yes, Mooney, and our parcel belonged to one of his children. I do not know which one. It was in a 26-acre package, and the house that we moved into, this old farm house, was not the first house on the place. There was a foundation down there of sorts. We moved into this old clapboard farmhouse in 1938, and my mother had every intention of building a proper house. We had no running water in the house. There was no city water until about 1950 or ’51, and that’s when all this development started when city water came out here. But along came the war [World War II] and nobody built anything, and my folks camped in that old house until 1951. We had three coal grates.
FLB What was the address of that house? Same address as this?
EBB There was no numbered address. You could write my name and Brentwood, Tennessee, and I would get the mail.
FLB But we’re talking about the land we’re on now?
EBB Yes, yes.
JG The old house about in front of where that house is now—about where those cedar trees are.
EBB Twenty feet in front of the house that’s there now. So if we’ll stay here for a minute, I want to tell Fletch [Coke] that’s a Tisdale house, architect—
EBB No, the brick house [structure on this land that is closer to the road], that’s a Tisdale architect. That seemed to be noteworthy at one point in time, and the present house has a lot of bricks from Andrew Jackson’s stable and law office. My daddy’s law office was at the Nashville Trust Building, then there was the alley, and when they did Printer’s Alley they tore it down and my daddy saw all these bricks. They were hauling them off to the dump, so he said “I got a good place to dump ‘em.” So an awful lot of the bricks in that house are from Andrew Jackson’s stable.
FLB Nice. So is this the only place you have lived in Forest Hills?
EBBIn Nashville, yes, yes, yes. No, that’s not right. Until I was eight we lived in East Nashville.
FLB But you’ve been on this one patch of land—
EBB There’s been a Bowen here since 1938. When my parents left I moved back in, Jacobs mother, and Jacob and his brother moved back in when my mother and daddy left to go to what was called Willowbrook then and then they moved into McKendree. And I’ve been here—not all the time—I had a house in Texas and there were connections there back and forth, but there’s been somebody living—me or my daughter, or my mother and daddy since ’38.
FLB During first period you lived here what are some stories that you remember? Oh, she’s laughing.
EBB Which one? Which one to tell?
FLB Tell two (chuckling).
EBB What’s most important—oh I’ve got this one marked. We used to could tell how cold it was by how far the smoke got out from Nashville. There are two ridges. There’s one ridge up here and then there’s another one. You go north up Hillsboro Road. We could always tell how cold it was by seeing the smoke. Most of the time the smoke didn’t get over the first ridge. If it got over the first ridge, it was cold because Nashville was coal-heated. And the smog was fierce.
FLB How did the carrying of the smog, or the smoke, correlate with the cold weather? I don’t understand how that—
EBB If you lived in downtown Nashville, it was heated by lump coal with soot and smoke fall-out! If you knew Nashville in the ‘20s and ‘30s you’d know. It was just terrible. Soot and coal dust would fill the city. Nashville’s in a basin and it would just come up and spill over. I can’t give you climatology on the wind, or whatever. But this was north.
FLB You just knew when you saw coming it was cold (laughing).
EBB When we could see smoke over the first ridges it was cold. Over the second ridge it was really cold.I just think that was funny. I know what to tell you. I don’t know how old I was, less than ten I suspect. Where Granny Noel’s house is at the corner of Tyne and Hillsboro--
FLB Uh, huh. I know Lattie. Both Latties actually.
EBB Before Grany Noel lived there it was a black church, a black Negro church, and they would come down to Otter Creek for baptizing. My daddy took me one time, and we stood there just above the ford on the upstream side. I can see it--I see these pictures in my head. Just there where Billy and I used to swim it begins to get up to about your knees. Then there was another black church. Was it Kelly’s, or was it the other side of Old Hickory Boulevard? But there was another black church within a stone’s throw of Kelly’s on that corner. From the time I was ten I had a first rate saddle horse. My mother didn’t know, and I didn’t know when I got to the gate if I was going right or left, and I’d be gone all day long. I have ridden from here to the other side of West End to the railroad tracks. I’ve ridden to Franklin Road, almost to Franklin, and to Green Hills. And when you’re young and you get on a horse and start riding you see a lot. So I remember the church there.
FLB So was that the main way that you got around? Did you go to school on a horse?
EBB No, no. We always had a car or two. Horses were for fun! But I have some good horse stories like that. I started at Parmer and they built Burton and the school bus picked us up. Mr. Gleaves, who was the first owner I knew of of Grany White Market, was our school bus driver before Mrs. Rader. Mr. Gleaves drove the school bus and I got picked up right here and taken to school.
FLB So you went to Burton?
EBB Yes, I went to Burton, to Hillsboro, and then away for college.
FLB I went to Burton for first grade.
Did you? (laughing)
EBB Talking about horses, and I was telling Jacob [her grandson there taking photographs] this story, during World War II no gasoline. The PTA (Parent Teacher Association) always had programs after school. The buses had already run for the day. If was to be done, or could be done, my mother would do it. She saddled two horses. One wouldn’t lead, and the other shied at everything. Went to Burton, got to Burton in time for the program after school was out, hitched the horses and went in so my brother and I could be in some program. After the program we all got back on our horses--my brother in front of my mother and me on my horse and we rode and came on home.
FLB What were your parents’ names?
EBB Edith Bruce Underwood Bowen. Yeah, uh, uh. Underwood, Bruce, they say there is some connection. That’s the one line [of family] I’ve never . . .
FLB How is Bowen spelled?
FLB And your father’s name?
EBB William Chester [Bowen]. And his family built the first brick house in Middle Tennessee. Captain William Bowen up there in Sumner County just up from Goodlettsville. It still stands, it’s there. [Bowen Campbell House]
JGWho lives there now?
EBB Nobody. It’s a museum.
JG Oh, is it?
EBB Yeah, it’s by Mansker’s Creek.
FLB I know that house. It’s in the park. Moss Wright Park.
Yeah. Well, those folks, they’re the first Bowens in Tennessee. And back across the pond to Wales (1698), but I’ve never bothered to go back across the pond [Atlantic Ocean]. Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia. That’s not important.
FLB Where are we in relation to Otter Creek?
EBB You go cross that road [Otter Creek Road] about twenty feet south and your feet will be wet. Right?
JG Right. And when it rains particularly hard, her front yard--
LB Becomes part of the creek, right?
EBB Yes, water comes across our front yard. I don’t think, I can’t remember, that ever happened when I was a child. It happened after Otterwood. Oh, I can’t. Oh, lady. Otterwood was Miss Ward and Miss Ziegler’s place. Do you know who Rachel Ward and Arlene Ziegler were?
EBB They had the Satsuma place downtown.
FLB Well, then, I have eaten there. Many times.
EBB They started it back in the ‘20s.
JG We think the last meal my grandfather McFadden had was at Satsuma. Satsuma, for the record, did not cause his demise. He had a heart condition.
FLB Probably from a long tradition of eating at Satsuma (all laughing).
JG God, it was good.
EBB They were right there downtown, the banks, the Stahlman Building, and they had this enormous big table.
JG The men’s table.
EBB Yes and once in a while my daddy would take me.
JG And the men’s table survived as long as the restaurant did, until around 2000.
EBB The counts and the no-counts, if you were a man sooner or later you ate there.
JG One of my last memories of Satsuma, this was about fifteen years ago or so before it changed hands and was ultimately closed, John Jay Hooker was sitting there right by the cash register. And I think he had ordered one of everything on the menu, he was sitting there just picking at everything and was appropriately enough wearing a seersucker jacket and his big, white planter’s hat.EBB Went to school with John Jay. We were in the second and third grade together at Parmer.
FLB Was he a dandy then?
EBB Not that I remember. I guess I can tell this. John Jay is as old as I am. John Jay, John Alden Rogers, and Suzanne Susan Rogers, and Bernie Werthan--I’ve got a picture of all of us. When John Jay was showing his horse, and those other kids were showing their horses. I can see the look on his face--and John Alden wasn’t much better--’cause the horses, see, they didn’t keep them at home. They kept them in a barn with a trainer. And they just showed them for the fair, and the junior riding club show, and whatnot. And the horses were full of themselves, and those horses weren’t ridden that often, and those boys didn’t ride them that often. Back in those days, Walking horses--not many people had them. We rode gaited, three and five gaited, or hunters, and drove fine harness horses and ponies, or horses that could “single foot: a rack, a slow gait. Oh, the horse I had--you couldn’t hitch him. I had to stand and hold his head when he was hitched to a buggy.
FLB Talking about Otterwood, these two women you spoke of, they owned the property that became Otterwood?
EBB Yes, and if you ask Danny Smith down here at Granny White Market--he’s a nephew of theirs--he knows how many acres it was, sixty acres, eighty acres?
JG At least, because it encompassed Otterwood, Hound’s Run--
EBB Not Hound’s Run. Mr. Morgan had Hound’s Run.
JG But ultimately though, you can still see the remnants of the driveway, the old bridge that--
EBB I was going to get to that.
JG The driveway that led up to the house is still on the property that is now Hound’s Run. And I think if you are facing the property to the left of the new bridge into Hound’s Run, that was the base of the hill that led up to the house, down which you probably sled as a child.
EBB(Laughter) Once. Down to the creek, oh man it was ice.
FLB When that property was developed, what were some of the changes here?
EBB Well, Miss Ward and Miss Ziegler were here when we came. And they had this fantastic garden, and when they were getting too old they wanted to give a park and the garden to Nashville. This was in the ‘60s when people--some people thought--that some people were abusing Centennial Park. And the neighbors out here didn’t want a park like that, so when the city wouldn’t take it they sold it, and we got Otterwood. Miss Ward and Miss Ziegler, and your grandaddy, they had the only two bridges over the creek. And they had a garage built into the hillside, and when it snowed Miss Ward and Miss Ziegler would park there and just walk up the hill.
FLB After Otterwood was developed did the traffic on Otter Creek significantly increase?
EBB Oh, yes. Before World War II there wouldn’t be six cars. I can tell you who went out and who came back in the afternoon.
FLB Back when you first moved here--
EBB Oh, yes, and during the war. My daddy was very patriotic, and we had the least number of gallons you could get. We did have the interurban. Do you know about the interurban?
FLB I do.
EBB Less than ten minutes walking you can get to Hillsboro Road from here.
FLB So you caught the interurban at Hillsboro Road and Otter Creek Road?
FLB So how much did it cost and how long did it take you to get downtown?
EBB I don’t have any idea how much it cost, but it wasn’t very much. Maybe thirty minutes to downtown, but I can only guess at that.
FLB When you went downtown, what did you do?
EBB Meet a friend, and go to a movie.
FLB Go to Candyland.
EBB Yes, go to Candyland. And then sometimes walk to my daddy’s office. But not on Deaderick Street. There were some places you didn’t go. You didn’t go toward the river any further south than Third Ave, or Union Street, Commerce. Nice girls didn’t go anywhere other than that very limited area.
FLB So, you’ve seen a lot of changes in this area--development being the main one I would guess--what would you like to see for the future of this area?
EBB I’m not going to answer that. I can’t. I’m just going to sit up here on my porch as long as I can. Let Jim speak to this. I think we feel much the same.
JG Well, you probably did this, too, when you were a child, living out here. There was just the Ward-Ziegler property behind us. In the summers I’d go out up there about 9 o’clock and stay out until three or four. There were all these wonderful trails up there. Might take a buddy, but usually it was just my dog and me. And I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I would occasionally find these small barrels and rusted metal and this copper tubing.
LB Really? (All laughing).
EBB Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
LB How many stills were up there?
EBB Who knows? Who knows?
LB When was this? The fifties? Sixties?
JG The seventies.
LB The seventies? Really?
JG About 1980ish, when I was about twelve.
EBB There was no Otterwood. Nobody had gone up there. Nobody. I used to ride around the lake, and there might have been stills.
EBB Yeah. That was a good hour or two ride and we would go around it. And there were paths off it. The first few times I went with my dad, and he said you don’t go up those paths, because we know there are moonshiners up in those hills.
FLB Did you ever know who any of them were?
EBB Oh, I didn’t. I was so protected. If you’d had a Victorian grandmother like mine . . . (chuckling)
JG Well, we know who lived back up here before Miss Ward and Miss Ziegler.
EBB Mister Morgan?
JG Maybe it was Mr. Morgan (both laughing).
EBB Now, we’ve got to tell you about Mr. Morgan. First there was a real good article in the Banner or the Tennessean. It would be in their morgue, I’m sure.
FLB Can you say his first name?
EBB Tom. Tom Morgan. He was an old man when I knew him, so he must have been born in the 1860s or 70s, I think. He was a fox hunter, not on horses, but a bunch of hounds. Guilford Dudley’s daddy, and a whole bunch of those fellows--they’d go to that ridge that you are talking about [in present day Otterwood] and we’d hear those hounds. This was old Tom Morgan. He would walk from here to the courthouse and back in a day and wouldn’t think anything about it. Tall, crag-faced. Did you ever see him?
JG I never knew him.
EBB Kindest old man you would ever. . . His wife was a school teacher. I don’t know when they came to that spot. They kept foster children. Sometimes they’d go to school with us on the bus. I can remember those boys being barefoot going to school. Overalls and barefoot going to school. Sometimes we caught the bus down at Mr. Beasley’s store. Do you know about Mr. Beasley’s store?
FLB I don’t think so.
EBB When we first came here there was a first rate store, across Hillsboro Road from Otter Creek Road, just about like Granny White Market was. Mr. Beasley, his wife owned all of that land back up in there.
FLB Where is that?
EBB There’s a new development back up in there. Jim, what’s the name of it?
JG If you go to the end of Otter Creek, at the intersection of Hillsboro, if you look to the right it’s all back up in there before you get to what is now known as Castlewood, which, of course, wasn’t there. I think it was the Wallaces that lived in that Tudor-style house at the top of the hill. For years, was it a Dutch Colonial? Was that the description of it? I forget. For years--
EBB You mean the Beasley house? It was just a brick house, pretty good size, but I don’t recall it being two stories.
JG I think their last house is in the book.
FLB Paul Clement’s book?
JG No, the Forest Hills homes book. It wasn’t old enough to make that book [Clement’s], but it was old enough to make that book [Forest Hills].
EBB When we moved out here Mr. Beasley had that store. Have I made the point that we had no running water?
EBB Or no city water? Yeah, I told you that. I was just looking at my notes.
JG Where was y’all’s well?
EBB It’s in the corner of where this fence meets the front fence, and it’s still there. You take the cover off and drop a rock twenty--
JG Kind of across the street from where ours was.
EBB Uhhuh. Mr. Morgan said it was the best well in the community until your grandaddy built his house. And we began to have--‘cause the water table was the same, you see.
JG The family story was that he had a water witch come out.
LB So you grew up across the street from here?
JG Yes, if you go out to the street, you’ll see this bridge, and we lived back out up there. I grew up back up there. My great grandparents built a house at the end of the driveway. And then after the war [WWII] my grandparents built a house that has just been razed because it was allowed to fall into a severe case of disrepair, but that’s a long Faulknerian story into which I won’t go. They built there after the war, and then my mom grew up out here, and then my parents built a house out here in the 70s, at which point the family moved out. But most of my childhood was spent playing in the creek [Otter Creek] and out here, and I can show the spot in which I almost met my maker in 1971 when I drove my tricycle off the bank, cracked my head, broke my collar bone much to the dismay of my grandfather’s escorting basset hound, who was very disturbed that her charge--
EBB Oh, yes, I remember--
JG had ended up in the creek. And then I had to walk up about the hundred-fifty-yard-long driveway to find my grandfather, who a doctor at the time, but unfortunately for me he was an obstetrician-gynecologist, and couldn’t really do much to help my situation.
EBB He was supposed to deliver my first baby, but they went off to Florida. I think Ben Caldwell did it.
JG Ben Caldwell, he delivered my sister.
FLB So what was your grandfather’s name?
JG Bob Patterson.
EBB Robert Clendenen.
JG Robert C. Patterson, Jr. M.D.
FLB And so what the address of that property be?
JG At first it was the same as hers (Edith).
EBB Brentwood, Tennessee
JG My grandmother’s parents were the ones who actually moved out here and built the house. They were Mr. and Mrs. Robert W. McFadden, Otter Creek Road maybe, Brentwood, Tennessee. It’s now, the original house is 1809 [Otter Creek Road], and my grandparent’s was 1805.
EBB Two things about that. One, did Mr. Mac [sp?] build that log house?
JG He did.
EBB I was gonna ask you if he built that log house, or did it go back to the Comptons?
JG No, he built that, and this goes back to your story about coal in Nashville, because the house he built--we think he built this house--prior to that, and it still stands because good friends of mine live across the street from it now, it was on Linden, which was as far as the street car ran.
EBB Yes, yes.
JG Which was about the extent of urban civilization in Nashville, back in the teens, or so.
EBB Yes, the teens and twenties.
JG And so, of course, in summer everyone slept with the windows open, and my grandmother could remember waking up as a child in the summer, waking up to a fine coat of coal dust everywhere, because, among other things, they lived near what’s now 440, which at the time, of course, was an active rail line that encompassed the city, which is basically what is what 440 follows. And it was not a ditch in the ground. It was built even with, or above the ground, and they were inside that train loop, and actually pretty near it. And she woke up with, when the windows were open, coal dust that would kind of get in your mouth a little bit. So he wanted a place out in the country, and that’s when they built this. And it had no running water, no electricity--
EBB No telephone.
JG Nothing. And they finally did the well, and ran through a series of pumps and pipes water up to the house, got electricity--
FLB When did electricity come here?
EBB We had power by the skin of our teeth in ’38.
JG The late ‘30s.
EBB I don’t know whether your great granddaddy--I bet your great grandmother wanted electricity.
JG She wanted it, and she was loathe to the idea of moving out here full time about 1940, because for the previous years this had been a summer home. They would just drive out 21st Avenue, Hillsboro Road and come out here for the weekend or for parties. Her family had a home place out near Nolensville, and she had spent a lot of time growing up in what’s now Waverly, the Belmont Waverly area. And she did not like the idea of coming out here full time to a place that was in the middle of nowhere, had sporadic electricity, and well water. And, of course, they didn’t drink the well water. You had to cart in--
EBB We’ve had to do that. You had to do that.
JG Potable water from the city.
FLB So you could not drink the well water?
EBB Oh, the well water, yes, but not the creek water.
JG They didn’t drink their, well, they may have. My grandparents didn’t, cause my grandmother grew up--
EBB In town.
JG They would bring out city water, big jugs of water to drink. It was the depression, and they owned the house on Linden, a neighboring house on Linden which they rented. 30:13
they determined that banking and insurance was kind of rough at the time and they needed to downsize, so, to my grandmother’s horror, they downsized to the house out here,and moved out here full-time in about 1940. And as compensation for that, as you may remember, mom, Mrs. McFadden, was a classically trained pianist and also played organ for Vine Street Christian Church downtown--
EBB Bill Carpenter’s church.
JG-and, as compensation for moving out here he bought her an upright piano which is now residing, much to Cissy’s dismay, in our kitchen.
EBB We lost all of ours in the flood, but that’s another story.
FLB In the flood here two years ago [May 2010]?
EBB No, not here, but that’s a different story. Anyhow, his [JG] great grandmother’s maiden name was Battle--wasn’t it?
JG Yes, mom’s maiden name was Battle.
EBB Battle is a distinguished name in this neck of the woods, for generations, for generations.
JG Aw, thank you.
EBB South of here, just south of Old Hickory Boulevard, Battle Rodes, Sally Rodes , do you know--
JG Yeah, sure.
EBB Battle Rhodes had all that big complex, and Jim’s great grandmother . . . Do you ever know who Bobby Battle was? He wrote for the [Nashville] Banner?
JG and FLB Yes, um humm.
EBB When I was sixteen and he was sixteen, Jim’s great grandmother, you know, had me over to supper. And your grandparents [JG], Mr. Mac and your grandmother, were there. And Bobby brought me back to the old house, I remember.
FLB Edith, changing the subject a little bit, what kind of wildlife did you used to see?
EBB That’s interesting, ‘cause we have more stuff now than we ever had. I never saw a deer until I came back here, say, after the 80s. There was no deer. Well, they were shot. That’s something . . . you can’t . . . (pause)
FLB That’s fine. Take your time.
EBB First of all, the South was as poor as it gets. Rural South, which most people were until World War II, was as poor--I was gonna say, there was no, there were no refrigerators except for a wooden box and a block of ice, no washing machines, there were no tractors on the farms until almost after World War II. Everything was done by horses. Now, what did you ask me? Oh, wildlife. Squirrels, rabbits, quail, whipporwills--never saw a turkey.
JG That’s recent.
EBB We have dozens of turkeys now. We have an old hen that goes across. She’s got a nest back here somewhere.
FLB Did you see any fox?
EBB Never saw a fox. Never saw a fox. Heard of ‘em. Snakes we had. Snakes we had. Rats and mice we had. We didn’t, because we had critters around the house that took care of them.
JG We had weasels, or something that was weasel-like.
EBB Did you see them?
JG My mother lost a rabbit to--she always said a weasel got it.
EBB Skunks. Oh, we had more than enough skunks. I learned an awful lot about skunks.
EBB Never saw a raccoon. They wouldn’t let you see them unless they were sick.
JG You were about to say this earlier. Everyone was poor. We had dirt farmers living out here. You don’t have good soil as you do in Green Hills or Belle Meade.
Oh, it’s terrible.
JG So they were poor out here. Subsistence farmers.
EBB The only people, like his folks [JG] and the Goodpastures, Henry Goodpasture, these were people who had money and worked in town, the professional people and whatnot. But Mr. Morgan and Mr. Mooney--
JG What was the family that lived up the road at the intersection of Robert E. Lee and Otter Creek. They had a bunch of kids that would come down and skinny dip in the creek.
EBB Oh, the Tidwells!
EBB The Tidwells lived in Mr. Mooney’s house. They rented it.
EBB They swam in a different hole. A little deeper hole, ‘cause I know they were there because mother was very picky about when my brother and I would go swimming and when the Tidwell boys were swimming, because I’m sure they were all--
JG Skinny dipping.
EBB Yeah. Mr. Tidwell mowed our yard a lot. He had a two-horse mower. His wife was small and blonde, tow-headed, and all those kids were tow-headed as they can be.
JG Did you tell me, too, that they used to swim in that deep place, that curve--
JG It’s a spring, and it always has cool water in it, and it’s always about thigh-deep.
EBB I don’t remember ‘cause there’s this hole up here.
JG Yes, it’s still there.
EBB It was closer to their house, and deeper than the one that we were in.
FLB Where were these swimming holes? How would you describe them to someone who didn’t know them?
EBB They were not up past my hips.
FLB No, but where are they?
EBB Well, if you go up the creek about like over there, (laughing) over there. Aren’t we both pointing in the same--
JG It’s between my bridge and the Otterwood Bridge, maybe a little closer up to Otterwood, and then the other one is--
EBB After the bend. And let’s get into the road story.
JG And it’s near my second little bridge. On the drive out I can show you, ‘cause my mother, we all played there, and we think, ‘cause she has a similar story, too, about the Tidwells. You’d look down and there would be all these boys skinny dipping, and she would be called back into the house.
JG But, yeah, the road, that’s a good one.
EBB I don’t know. (Pause) I know that the road has been changed.
FLB Otter Creek?
EBB Otter Creek. Mr. Morgan used to say that people would drive a team in the creek bed when the road was too muddy. And if you ever played in the creek as much as we--you know there are all these big flat rocks, great big flat rocks. You know that this road was here during the Civil War and before. Dr. Crabb sends the driver--do you know Dr. [Alfred Lealand] Crabb’s books?
FLB I don’t know that book, but yes I sure--
EBB Well, there were about three or four, Dinner at Belmont--that was the first one, wasn’t it? Sent the driver--a character that continues through his books, sent the driver--I think to the Mooneys--to get corn. It’s in one of those books. A Union cavalry man named Wilson came across from Belle Meade, and came up Otter Creek Road, and went to Granny White Pike and up through that gap there where Bill Hook’s house was, that log cabin that’s way up high. And you said flank, and I said in behind, “h’it don’t make no never mind”--
JG Same result.
EBB Mr. Morgan forever was saying, “h’it don’t make no never mind.” Got in behind Shy’s Hill and they came roaring down, so Otter Creek Road--the creek takes almost a ninety-degree bend, just, oh, not fifty feet from his [JG] bridge, downstream, takes a sharp bend. And we think because of what we know about the land Otter Creek [Road] followed the creek over to Hillsboro Road, but sometime in the 20s, and I believe it must have been Paul Davis, and we’ll get to him in a minute, straightened the road, straightened it out toward Hillsboro Road. When I was a kid it was paved to Ashland, and then from Ashland down the hill to Hillsboro Road it was just a gravel road. You remember when it was just a gravel road?
JG That was, my mom would remember that. By the time I came along it was paved.
EBB Is Sycamore [Edith’s dog] in her kennel or has she gone to bed? She’s in her night time bed.
FLB Yeah, thunder? My dog doesn’t like thunder either.
EBB So I wanted to tell you though, we think, I think there used to be, you almost could follow the old road, and there’s a part of it there right now, just past his place, there’s a road into a private entrance now, but there used to be, it used to make a turn to follow the creek to Hillsboro Road. Of course, Hillsboro Road has been there for ever and ever and ever.
FLB Um hmm. So who was this man that you think straightened it?
EBB Paul Davis. Third National? American National? President of one of those banks in the 30s.
FLB Why would he have straightened it, do you think?
EBB Well, I’m getting ready to tell you. You know about the Comptons?
FLB Uh, huh.
EBB Okay. Paul Davis bought this big piece of property, I guess from the Comptons. And his wife put in, some people call it a nursery, acres and acres and acres and acres of daffodils, all kinds of daffodils, right over there, and he had a barn, and there was once a house back there. I remember a house back there.
FLB Now where would this be on Otter Creek Road?
EBB Oh, way back in the woods. The house would have been closer to the old road, to what we think the old road went to. It was way back up in there. And Mr. Davis, Paul Davis, bought the property and his wife had this daffodil concern, and she would come out to Otter Creek Road, well, Otter Creek Road went right by their property. The old Otter Creek Road would divide what his [JG] great grandaddy bought and Paul Davis.
JG And there’s evidence of that. If you look at old maps of Nashville it shows a broken Otter Creek [Road]. Actually it criss-crosses the creek, and for a time it runs in the creek. It would have criss-crossed over to what was my grandparents driveway, and it did the same ninety-degree turn that the creek does, then followed the path of our main drive, then it criss-crosses over at some point to the Davis property drive, and just keeps on going out that way, which may affect the story about the oldest Scruggs blacksmith murder, and the location of that which happened at the intersection of Hillsboro Road and Otter Creek Road.
FLB It could affect that.
EBB Before we--want to talk blacksmith. But one of another reasons is, next to us, on this side, on my side [north side] of Otter Creek Road, there’s a piece of land--several acres--that belongs to the Paul Davis family just like the land across the road used to. Kitty Murfree (sp?) down in Murfreesboro is a niece of Paul Davis, and she is not as old as I am, but close--
JG She may be a granddaughter. I thought she was a direct descendant--
EBB Oh, she’s a direct descendant, but I thought she was a niece.
JG I think she’s a granddaughter.
EBB OK, but she might have more specifics. I think she would remember whether or not Paul Davis built the road. He could have just taken a bulldozer and put in a road.
JG No one would have cared out here.
EBB Nobody would have cared. It would have been handy for a lot of folks. Closer to Hillsboro Road. (As though putting it together in the moment) And that’s when Mr. Beasley built that store.
JG Yeah. I bet ‘cha. That makes sense.
FLB What kind of things did Beasley have in his store?
EBB Well, it was just a country grocery store. Everything from fruit and vegetables, cheese and bread, and a little bit of meat.
FLB Kerosene lanterns, and that kind of thing?
EBB Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. He would have had everything like that. Fact is we got our first kitty cat from Mr. Beasley’s store.
EBB (Not laughing). We needed a mouser. Oh, I’ve got something. Can you see this? I hate for you to get up.
FLB No, no. That’s okay.
EBB (Handing a wooden toilet seat to FLB) That was our first bathroom. (Laughing) Isn’t that a dumb thing to keep? My daddy kept it, and I kept it, and I want to hang it over my dry bar here.
EBB We moved into the old house in the autumn of 1938. By Christmas we had indoor plumbing.
JG Oh, that is classic.
EBB Tons of stuff like that.
JG I actually have a good friend who lives out in Franklin at the top of a big hill out there, and he would fall in love with that and probably pay dearly for it.
EBB I ought to give it to him, ‘cause my kids don’t care. They don’t know. It doesn’t mean anything--
JG No, that is great.
EBB But when we came out here, there was the old farmhouse--this is it (referring to a photograph), and I’ve got a painting in there that’s a lot better.
JG That’s the one that your mother did. Her mother was a fantastic artist. Very interesting couple. You [Edith] were in Texas at the time. I’d come over and visit with them. Mr. and Mrs. Bowen. She was a very accomplished artist. She’d painted a portrait of my great grandmother, and we won’t go into who probably absconded with it, so it’s whereabouts are known but to God, but many of the paintings here and still down there (gesturing to the house on the property down the hill). They were fascinating. A great couple for a kid to get to know, ‘cause your dad, he’d been a dough boy in World War I.
Just barely though. I think he got sick and never got out of the country.
FLB (Referring to the photograph) So this is the house---
EBB Here in 1938 when I came. There was a good barn, and the outhouse and the chicken house, it was all the same, board and batten. Very well built, lasted a long, long time.
FLB The outhouse was connected to the chicken house?
EBB Uh, huh. Same building, same roof. The hens had a spot about as big as from you to here, and the outhouse, you know, it was about--
FLB Uh, huh. Yeah, I know. I’ve used outhouses plenty of times.
EBB Do you know who the Shrivers are, Lynne?
FLB Uh, no. I don’t believe I do.
EBB Fletch does. Fletch is good friends with--
JG Bertie Shriver.
FLB Oh, yeah!
JG City cemetery, and--
FLB Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah!
EBB Well, Attie Jean Shriver, who is Don and Tommy and Richard’s mother, and my mother were the dearest of friends. Before I was born they played in a bridge club until they all died. There wasn’t anything my mother couldn’t do, and that’s why I was telling the story of her during the war, saddling horses, and going to school to get us ‘cause the PTA program was after school, and the buses had already run.
JG Oh, a horse story, and you’re probably one of the few people around who can say you rode your horse to steeplechase.
EBB First year. (Maybe one or two more.)
FLB You went to the first steeplechase?
EBB Yep. My dad and I saddled up and rode. In those days you could stay in the infield and ride all the way around, and they had a small pony race, a large pony race, and a mule race!. And the Sloan boys, and the Houghlands, and Johnny Griggs and all those kids. Boys could ride. Girls couldn’t ride in the pony race. I could ride every bit as good as those boys could, but I couldn’t ride. Two years, for two years we roade. Then we had some bad experiences. Like I told you, our horses were not plough horses, and the highway patrolmen and their motorcycles got into the interesting habit of making them backfire about the time they’d ride alongside a horse. And our horses didn’t like that too red hot, so we had to quit. But Kitty Sensing says she was there, and all us kids that lived around here. Lots of folks had what we called pleasure horses. They weren’t good enough for show, but they weren’t just plough horses, and we rode together a lot. Lots and lots of folks, Dr. Regean, Eugene Regean [Added note: Quill McClenew mgr. of Ruby English (shoes)] and his boys, and Dr. Light (sp?). I don’t know who lives there now, that road off Hillsboro Road down here that goes up between the fences? It’s way back and those two beautiful pastures in the front down low.
JG Is it Martin Brown’s?
EBB Probably. I don’t know now ‘cause all that changed.
JG I think that may be. He still have horses and the fence out front?
EBB Yeah. Yeah.
JG That’s Martin Brown’s.
EBB It used to be Dr. Light’s, I think, and they backed up to Hibbetts. (sp?)
JG Oh, yeah! They would. They would. exactly.
EBB ‘Cause sometimes we would be in a group on a weekend--we’d have twenty some-odd horses together. We’d go in Dr. Light’s, and my daddy had a thing about asking people before we went on their property. We’d go right up to Mrs. Hibbetts, the mother-in-law of our former mayor--
JG Mayor Charley Evers.
Mrs. Hibbett, may we go through? And we’d go through the Hibbetts and come out on Old Hickory Boulevard off of Hillsboro Road, and, you see, we’d do that to go ride in the park. And then we’d come home. We’d ride five miles to go riding together. (Laughter.)
JG And you sent to Steeplechase back in the day before it was a bunch of (laughing), a bunch of posers.
EBB Oh, they had mule races, and the two pony races, and, what did they have? A costume? A lot of the folks during the war had neighborhood horse shows. The Battle Rodes had a real fine horse show.
JG I bet they did.
EBB I’ve got pictures of my daddy and I in my buggy in costume. I want to tell you about that. And the Houghlands had one.
FLB That turned out to be the Brentwood Horse Show on the Houghland’s property, right?
EBB Oh, this was not, this was in the forties, and it was down on the road, and it was just what we called a neighborhood horse show. I’m sure they had some jumpers, and what not, but they had gaited horses, and they had costumes. I had my daddy’s buggy; I hitched my horse to the buggy. (FLB to EBB: Was there a mention of a photograph of this?) I used to drive my buggy. [A] friend would come spend the night. We didn’t have gasoline, as I said. I’d hitch my buggy and we would drive to Old Hickory Boulevard, to Granny White, to Old Hickory down to Dukkony’s (Luxemburg) on the corner of Old Hickory Boulevard and Franklin Road to get a Coke.
FLB Daconi’s? How’s that spelled?
EBB Dukkony. They were immigrants who came either in the 30s? But I went to school with their children, and I knew them well.
JG On those trips did you pass the blacksmith’s shop?
EBB Went by the blacksmith’s shop. The blacksmith’s shop on Granny White. They used to come here and shoe our horses.
FLB Do you remember a blacksmith’s shop that would have been along Hillsboro Pike?
EBB No, no. There was one on Granny White. I don’t remember ever knowing there was one on Hillsboro.
JG Did a black fellow own the blacksmith’s shop?
EBB No. They were both white folks. Big, huge men, and they didn’t say much. They’d come to the barn, and my mother didn’t like for me to go, but I loved to watch them. I think I could shoe a horse now. (Laughter.) I watched every move they made.
FLB So were horses the most important thing in your life growing up here?
EBB Oh, Lord, I don’t know. Taken for granted like dogs and cats and chicken and kinfolk!
FLB For pleasure and for transportation and companionship?
EBB Sport and competition!
JG Well, that one horse saved your life one time on Tyne.
EBB Yeah, I got hit by a car once.
FLB Were you on horseback?
EBB Uh, huh. It was 1943? September 1943. My mother and grandmother had brought my youngest brother home from the hospital that day, and mother wanted the house cleared. So my granddaddy and my daddy hitched the buggy and started driving, and I got on old Maude, dainty little quarter horse. Maude never trotted a step in her life--singlefoot with ar rocking chair center. Such a pleasure to ride! We were on Tyne Boulevard going toward Franklin Road going up a steep hill. Daddy in the buggy was over in the driver’s lane. The shoulders, you tried to keep a horse on the shoulders, but the shoulders were better on one side of the road than another. So I was over on the left, trying to stay on the shoulder and the car came over the hill way too fast, and almost at the crown on the hill saw the buggy and pulled toward me. My mare kind of sensed all this and slung her butt, and the car door handle--remember how car door handles used to protrude?--cut her a great big “C” in her rump, broke off one, broke off the next one. I’ve got them still, two pieces of the door handle. It should have been my right leg, but it was the mare.
FLB Wow. Did she recover?
EBB Oh, yeah. And between the two of us--she was nimble-footed, but I wasn’t that bad of a rider and she didn’t go down. She ran just a little bit, and I got her stopped. Long and short of it, we went over to somebody’s house we knew on Tyne, called the vet, and he came. Do you know what a twister is on a horse?
JG & FLB No.
EBB You take a baseball bat or a short piece of wood, drill a hole, pull a rope through there at least as big as my finger, make a loop about like that, put the horses nose through that and start twisting, and you can make them do almost anything. The vet threw the mare down so he could stitch her. So he stitched her up.
JG Did you ride her back home?
EBB No. Everybody had a barn. Left her in someone’s barn overnight. She had a colt, a four or five-month old colt at home, but daddy left her. I don’t have any recollection of how we got home, or how the buggy and the other horse got home, or any of those things. But Maude healed up, and just had a little bitty scar where the stitches came undone. They say that Gene Autry bought some of her colts. She was beautiful chestnut, blaze face, three white stockings, never trotted a step in her life. She didn’t walk, she single-footed. You’ve never heard of that step?
FLB No, I don’t know that.
EBB I don’t know how to tell you. It’s sort of like a pace. A trot is alternate feet. A pace is the same two on each side, and a single-foot is you you don’t feel any motion. In single-foot each foot hits the ground separately.You just sit in the saddle; you hardly know you are moving. Not much action in front of it; they just move, and, ohh, they’re like planter’s horses. They covered miles in a hurry without much strain on horse or rider. And a canter, just like a rocking horse.
FLB What about churches around here? Have you seen churches come and go?
EBB The Negro churches.
FLB Do you remember the names of them?
EBB No, I don’t. I really don’t.
FLB So where were they besides the Noel property?
EBB If it wasn’t the Kelly’s, it was less than half a mile down Hillsboro Road past Old Hickory [Boulevard--heading south] into Williamson County.
FLB On the east side or the west side?
EBB On Hillsboro it would have been on the east side going south. There was a house down in there. You called the name Scruggs, but there was a family named Suggs that lived just another few blocks (in a low white house on the west side of Hillsboro Road that is still there). Oh, I know another church that was there. Harpeth Presbyterian was there. I married in that church.
JG Did you really?
EBB Uh, huh. We had been going to Belmont Methodist since 1938, and Belmont was just this great big auditorium, and I--
FLB It’s still there.
JG Oh, yeah, and doing well.
EBB My kids go to Belmont, you see.
JG I know a bunch of friends who go there. Mom ended up going there when they got moved out here. They’d been--Granddaddy was Presbyterian--Mr. McFadden was Presbyterian, and she was Christian, and he went to Presbyterian Church. His daddy had been a Presbyterian minister, and she persisted in going to Vine Street Christian, and then at some point living out here they started going to Harpeth Presbyterian. Yeah, they started going to Harpeth Presbyterian and [I?] can remember driving back down in there in the early 70s when I was maybe three or fours years old, and then in the bad flood--was it ’74 in Nashville?--
EBB I wasn’t here.
JG-when the Harpeth flooded Harpeth Presbyterian Church, and we all, my grandmother, mom, and I drove down to take a look.
FLB What about big years of weather here?
EBB Ha! Ha!
FLB Floods, or storms, or tornadoes --
EBB I got a dandy story! We didn’t think about. We had fences and all so we could turn the horses loose in the front yard to graze. Mother didn’t like it because they would come too close to the house, but I’d go get them and take them back to the barn in the middle of a thunderstorm with lightning all around, and didn’t think anything about it. I wasn’t here, but it’s a good story about the blizzard of ’51. You weren’t here.
JG Oh, no, I was seventeen years away from (pause)--
FLB From anything.
JG From anything.
EBB I’m not absolutely sure whether my folks where in this house or the old house [on the same property] because they built right around then, so let’s say this house and it had radiant heat so when the power--well, we had this blizzard, and we had snow and ice and snow on top of it, and with something like this the whole town shut down. Really, you can find the blizzard of ’51.
FLB Um, hmm, yes I’m familiar with it a little bit.
EBB Okay. No heat. All they had was the fireplace, my little brother had chicken pox, and when the goldfish bowl froze on the hearth my mother said, “Bill, we’ve got to go to town.” So daddy got a room at the Maxwell house and they all stayed there. Well, we had some horses out here, and after a day or two somebody had to come. There was no way for them to get water. Everything was frozen solid, and they didn’t have anything to eat. Somebody had to come tend to the stock. So mother got in the car. If you’d known my mother--there wasn’t anything that she wouldn’t do. Mother got in the car, got out here, went into the house, and got to the stock and everything, but while she was in our neighbor Mr. Menefee had a rock quarry and a bulldozer. He brought his bulldozer from Hillsboro Road--I don’t know--probably not any farther than his [JG?] gate here and plowed Otter Creek Road and left a ridge of ice across our driveway. Well, mother was some incensed when she found that problem when she was ready to go home, I don’t know, oh, sometime after lunchtime. And I don’t know for a fact, but I’ve been told. See, I wasn’t here. I had left the day before to go back to school, and we had an ice storm in Dallas, for what it was worth, but that’s another story. Mother was so mad. We had this old Plymouth. She aimed that car at that ridge of ice and took the transmission out. (Laughter) That’s what I’ve been told. I don’t know. All I know is she had to walk to Hillsboro Road, stood out there in the cold waiting for somebody to come by, got a ride, and came on into town. Whatever became of the car, whatever they did with the stock the next time, I don’t know. All I know is that Albert Menefee put a ridge of icein front of our gate, and all the way down the road. She couldn’t have taken the fence [either?].
FLB What about the flood two year ago [May 2010]. Did that affect you?
EBB Oh, yeah, Lake Otterwood down here. Otter Creek came up to the road.
FLB Did it come up to the new house?
EBB No, it has never come up to the new house. It didn’t come up to the old house. It doesn’t look it, but if you start climbing these little rises, they are a lot steeper than--well, you found it.
FLB Yes, I did. Yes, I did. (laughing)
EBB Since there had been people living out here for so long, you know the creek has had to come up.
JG The floods--you were in Texas--but I think it was in ’79, two, and I remember this well because these bridges would wash out, and my father and Doug Yates who lives up the driveway from us succeeded Robert as the bridge-building crew. The structure has always been the same. There are the beams, and we attach these oak boards to them. Daddy would always get concerned, and now I know why, because when it rained a lot the bridge potentially would get harmed. You have to go down there and replace some timbers. I think it was ’79 we had back-to-back like Hurricanes David and Frederick.
EBB We were in Delaware by then.
JG So you didn’t get hit by this then. There was rain and rain, and the creeks flooded. It was kind of a billowy flood. It wasn’t the violent, raging white water you have now. I think that was probably the biggest difference you have now, because back then you would occasionally get a flood--
EBB But not a flash flood, not a wall of water.
JG Not a wall of water, and not with the violence because I never remember the entire bridge, in all that time, being washed out completely. Now you’ll come down here, like after the flood two years ago and there’s nothing but the I-beams and the concrete abutments, and we’ve had the abutments washed out.
EBB They’re new. The abutments are new, what, in the last thirty years?
JG They’ve been there since the beginning, but we’ve had to strengthen, and re-pour, and--
EBB I don’t remember them as a kid. I don’t remember them as a kid.
JG They used to be a lot more scenic.
EBB Excuse me. (To grandson Jacob taking photographs that day:) If you’ve got somewhere else to be you don’t have to stay. I’m glad you’re here. You know you are welcome, but you can go if you need to. You know my daughter, grandchildren, and son-in-law live in this house [the new house down the hill from Edith].
FLB How nice for you.
EBB Well, my folks left and I moved in and his mother and brother [Jacob’s?] moved in. Camped. Oh, it was grim for quite a while, and I finally convinced my kids to come and I gave it all to them, and built this place up here.
FLB Well, this is a pretty nice little crow’s nest up here. I like it.
EBB It’s dandy.
FLB You spend your whole day out here, don’t you? [on the screened porch]
EBB Most of it, yeah. I go to the grocery store once a week. I quit driving a long time ago ‘cause I couldn’t do it as well as I used to. You asked me what I have done. I rode horseback [cannot understand the recording]. Basically I am a sailor, a saltwater sailor. When I left the Chesapeake [Bay] I left a 30-foot ketch that I could sail single-hand.
FLB Do you ever go sailing around here?
EBB These lakes? After you’ve been off the Texas coast? (general laughter) In those back bays and in the Gulf [of Mexico], been across the Gulf. Ben in saltwater south, way south. Don’t have much interest in little boats anymore.
FLB I understand. Why don’t you look at your list and see if there is anything else you want to talk about.
JG Did you ever hear my grandparents, or going back to Mr. McFadden, talk about Paul Davis? I’ve told this to Davis descendants--several of them live around here--and we’ve had a good laugh about it. Mrs. Davis and my grandfather got into an argument over, I don’t know if it was something to do with the driveway, the creek, a property line. There was some argument and she threatened to build a barbecue stand store at the end of their driveway.
EBB Oh, ho, ho, ho, ho. (laughing)
JG I think she may have been just bluffing and they resolved it amicably, whatever was bugging them at the time, and went on being friends. But to this day I regret that she did not carry through her threat a build a barbecue pit basically at the end of our driveways, because if I could walk to the end of my driveway and get beer and barbecue, other than work--earning a living--I’d have no excuse to leave my home. (general laughter)
EBB I was trying to tell Jacob, men of my generation worked because they needed to feed their families, but their vocations were horses, and visiting and hunting and fishing, that sort of thing.
JG And gentleman farming. He [grandfather McFadden?] had one fellow who helped him on the property--he kind of came with the property.
JG No, this was before Robert. This was a fellow named John, and then there was, well, it was a racial epithet, but that’s what he called himself [presumably Nigger John?]. That’s how he referred to himself and he would introduce himself that way. And they plowed the fields back there, and they had an old mule.
EBB (Edith bids farewell to her grandson Jacob who has been photographing her.)
EBB Oh, this is something I wrote: “To live you worked until the job was done. There was no such thing as being tired in the ‘20s, ‘30s, and the ‘40s. You worked until the job was done, whatever it was.” And that’s sort of the way I grew up.
FLB Do you think it’s different now?
EBB Oh, my goodness, yes. When I think of how many steps it takes when you don’t have water in the house, and things like that. But we were talking about old stuff. My family, I told you about my dad’s side of the family. My mother’s family is something like 1808. We’ve got about a half acre or more at Mt. Olivet [Cemetery].
FLB A half acre at Mt. Olivet?
JG That’s pretty valuable real estate. (general laughter)
EBB My mother grew up on Russell Street, you see. My great grandmother was a Claude (sp?), and they lived in Nashville all those generations. And now all that stuff--those women kept things. Some of them had nice things and they kept them. [To JG] I bet you and your mother had a lot of nice things. . . . Let’s see, what else have I got here? [on her list of subjects to address]
JG My grandmother grew up on Russell Street. My grandmother Gardner did.
EBB Oh, really?
JG The farm was out in White’s Creek, and they moved to town and had a house on Russell Street. She went to grammar school with Nelson Elam.(sp?)
EBB I know the Elam name, yes.
JG The Elams to whom my grandmother McFadden was related. White Way Cleaners. They went to school together over in East Nashville, and, kind of like Mr. Morgan, they would ride horses or walk between Russell Street and the family farm, back around 1910 or so.
EBB My grandmother would never ride astride, but she would put her daughters in a buggy and they would come across the Woodland Street bridge, tie up [the horses], and go shopping. And then she would get back in the buggy and go home. Ewings, and McGavocks, and I am still friends with a gal my age, or a few years older. Our grandmothers lived next door to each other on Russell Street. Sarah Parker Peay. She’s a Ewing, she a McGavock, she’s related to the Carnton [House, formerly plantation] people. If you’ve been here all these generations, and whatnot, there was a time in Nashville before World War II--you asked how we would change it. Oh, there were so many things that were so painful for so many people in those days. There were women who could shop at Cain-Sloan’s and Castner-Knott’s [downtown department stores], and had to walk to the other side of Deaderick Street to go to the bathroom [a minimum of two blocks away]. And that ain’t right.
EBB They were black. That is not about Forest Hills, although Forest Hills . . . you know the Compton story, so I’m not . . . .
FLB What do you mean by the “Compton Story”? I know of the Comptons.
EBB You tell her.
JG Correct me if I am not telling this right. There white and black Comptons, and the black Comptons were descendants of the nice families in Green Hills--
EBB From Tyne all the way to Harding, they live off of Hillsboro Road. The Vorhees place is up there.
JG So there were black Comptons. I knew a doctor. He was a doctor at Meharry, and his first wife was a black Compton, and he said he remembered she lived out in this area. This would have been back in the ‘40s, and he remembered coming out to court her. He would take the bus out. He said the bus would run from Franklin to Nashville a couple of times an evening. He would ride it out here to court the girl. He knew her family and he remembered hunting ‘coon and other critters back up in these hills. He said around what’s now Chickering, and he said her family owned a lot of it, and if she’d just hung on to the last twenty years she would have been a gazillionaire. He ended up being a doctor, Dr. Perry. He passed away a few years back, but he had stories about waiting by himself at night--
JG at what’s now the corner of Tyne and Hillsboro. Just pitch black dark out, not a soul in sight, hoping that the bus hadn’t broken down coming from Franklin coming to take him into Nashville.
FLB So there were African Americans living in this neighborhood in the--
JG Oh, in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Lots of black families around.
EBB Yes! The first gal that helped mother. It was, let’s see, before the ‘70s when people had somebody come in and help that way [domestically]. There was a lady, she lived down here where Mr. Mooney’s house used to be. She walked up here and chewed tobacco and helped us. What was her name? Carrie. She loved me, bless her heart. She was so [much] taller than me. I can remember the name of my nurse when I was born. I can’t think of it right now.
JG I think Lattie [Noel] Brown has the story back where that church was there was a lady that lived back up in there. I think she said until the ‘80s or recently.
EBB Where Granny Noel’s place is now. [Northeast corner of Tyne Boulevard and Hillsboro Road].
JG She may have been a descendant of the black Comptons.
EBB She would have to be.
JG Of course, you had the black church there. There were black folks in this area. There is a cemetery from the late 1800s in back of my property that has probably twenty-five or thirty folks buried back there. It’s a black cemetery.
FLB Is that in Fletch’s [Coke] cemetery study?
JG It is. It is. Nick Fielder, at the time, came out to look at it. [Now retired State of Tennessee Archeologist]. We thought there were only about five or six people buried out there because there are headstones on this end and this end. He said, “But look in the middle. It’s all sunken in and it’s in a straight line, and they are not marked. That means that a lot of people died in a short period of time, and they put people in the ground and didn’t have time to go hunt field stones for markers. My mother grew up out here, and this would have been in the ‘50s, she would walk to the Beasley store to catch a ride, the bus, I guess to Parmer [Elementary] and she also went to Burton Elementary.
EBB Who are you talking about?
JG This is my mother, Jan.
EBB She didn’t go to Parmer, I don’t think. I don’t know.
JG She was born in ’43, so this would have been . . . she had to catch a bus at what was Beasley’s store. She had to walk there or catch a ride. She had the funniest story. There was a couple, and older black couple. He would get in the pick-up truck, and put the produce that he was taking to town in the back. He was just a normally built fellow, but, his wife, I guess she was too big and just could not fit comfortably in the cab with her husband so she’d sit in the back. They’d drive by and say “Hey, Janet! You want to get in and we’ll give you a ride to the stop?”
EBB Of course she went with them.
JG So she’d jump in the back, ride back there, and chat with the wife, the big lady. I guess this goes back to the fact the road probably wasn’t paved half the way so when they’d get on this rough part, potholes, they’d bounce along. One time the guy took a pothole a little too fast, and my mom slipped and so did the wife, and the wife fell on top of my mom and knocked the breath out of her. There’s this big woman on top of my mother. My mom said it was the funniest thing ‘cause the lady thinks she’s killed my mother. She jumps up--
EBB Your mom is a slight little lady.
JG-brushes her off, and then she let her husband have it up one side and down the other. (general laughter) 1:17:22
EBB Our remember our farmer’s market in east Nashville, a light wagon with a cover and a horse. A man would come by and we would buy vegetables from a fellow who would drive in from the country and go up and down the residential [streets] and we would buy produce from him.
FLB Were the black people who lived in Forest Hills at the same economic level as the white people?
EBB Oh, I . . . . Well, like I said, most of the white people that I knew that lived out here worked in town, Miss Ward and Miss Ziegler, and there was a Miss Wenzel (sp?) that lived in that rock house that’s half way up the steep hill [on Otter Creek Road, presumably]--
JG Um hmm.
EBB She was a “lab something” at Vanderbilt.
FLB How do you spell Wenzel?
EBB I’m not absolutely sure. I put down “Wenzel.” Then there was Mrs. Campbell, who lived in the log cabin where I think the old mayor lived/lives.
JG Yes. Yes. That’s been around for awhile.
EBB That’s been there since we were here. A red-headed Mrs. (?) Campbell, as read-headed as you can be. She had two nephews that lived with her that I went to school with and whatnot. She lived in the original part of that log cabin. And the Church of Christ was there.
JG That’s been about since the ‘20s.
EBB Yeah. And John Rucker was the minister, or whatnot, there. The first little white house behind the church, the John Ruckers lived there. Tall, handsome man, dark.
JG My mother’s referenced the Rutgers.
EBB Nice family, yeah. And across the road the Moreheads (sp?). The Moreheads were there ‘cause mother played bridge with Mrs. Morehead. The stories, I never knew, and other than Mr. Gleaves at the market. The only thing I’ve got left [on my list], Lynne, was the fords. You know what a ford is over a creek?
EBB Mr. Mac had a marvelous ford, just upstream of the bridge. And I think he always used it when the bridge flooded out.
JG They used it until they built the bridge.
EBB When they put the sewer line through here, what about late ‘80s?
JG It was 1988, 1989.
EBB They tore that---
JG They killed it.
EBB They put the sewer under the creek. Aw, it was awful, awful.
JG And they built up the banks, and that has worsened flooding.
EBB Yes, yes!
JG It’s flooding because that’s what channels the water.
EBB I can’t walk up and down now. I used to walk. Mr. Morgan had a ford, and Mr. Mac [McFadden] had a ford, and I don’t remember another ford on Otter Creek.
JG The ford here, that’s the ford I was trying to cross in my tricycle when I was three. The hills--
EBB There were lovely banks--
JG It was a nice bank, but for a three-year-old on a tricycle with an eight-inch drop could cause one to lose control of the tricycle--
EBB Which I don’t doubt--
JG And I landed on a pile of cement. Sometime back in the ‘40s, when they were building that house, a cement truck had lost a load by the ford--
EBB Yep, yep. I remember that spot.
JG And you could stand there and hunt crawfish.
EBB That pile of cement was way big.
JG That’s what I fell on and cracked my head on going to get the paper--
EBB I’m sorry, Jim.
JG My grandfather’s basset hound Patches. I was going to get the paper, and no one else in the house knew that I had fallen.
EBB Now we understand. Now we know what happened. (Laughing) All of us at one time or another have landed on our head doing something or another. Is it getting close to your suppertime, [Lynne?]
FLB It’s getting close.
EBB I apologize for not having anything for you.
FLB No, darlin.’
EBB I was gonna offer a cup of coffee and I plain forgot.
FLB No, no, I’m fine. I would like to make arrangement to get a scan of that photograph (the buggy) and a scan of that magazine cover of the bridge [article].
JG Would you like. . . . somewhere we had an album of the house in its early years.
FLB Sure, sure.
JG I think they must have known somebody at the Tennessean. Maybe it was the Bob Battle connection at the Banner--
But it’s a beautiful spot and people used to drive around and photograph.
JG It was in the Tennessean. We have it somewhere. The back of the newspaper was an ad for Beasley’s Furniture downtown, which was next to Harley Holt. Turns out the Beasleys were grandparents of friends of mine. But it was of my grandmother and mother bundled up down here.
EBB I’ve got a spare. I don’t want to keep you. I want you to come in even though the light is getting poor and see the pictures mother painted. I kept the landscapes and whatnot that she had done.
FLB I’d love to see them.
EBB I’ve got a photograph that is loose. I have photographs of the house that’s got a part of the Menafee’s house in it.
FLB That would be good.
EBB And the horse and buggy. I have the feeling you are trying to wrap up.
FLB I do need to wrap up today, but what if, since you two are old friends, what if you took custody, Jim, of this photograph. And then you brought that and the scrapbook of things to City Hall.
FLB And then I could bring my scanner to City Hall.
EBB Might I just not--I’ve got several images of that of that picture. One of my mother’s friends painted a picture of the old house, and that’s all my kids care about.
FLB If you feel comfortable with me taking it today-- (FLB did not leave with any images.)
EBB Doesn’t that have a stain on it?
FLB Not really.
EBB That’s something else I did, Lynne. I had a master’s in fine arts, in photography, and worked at Winterthur for quite a few years. Do you know Winterthur?
FLB I surely do.
JG We have these wonderful photographs of the creek that she took that you gave. You need to tell her about that story. That is such a neat, touching story, and we have the letter saved about my great grandfather and the creek, and for J.C. He’s my little boy.
EBB It was my grandson and Jonathan, blonde-headed little rascal, wasn’t he four? He was playing in the creek down there and everything was so still. And Jonathan squatted down and put his little fingers in and the ripples went out. It was--
JG And then the letter to JC going back to my granddaddy.
EBB When I was a little girl, when I was a little girl, I told you my folks were so picky about me being in somebody else’s yard, but I couldn’t stay home, and I guess by the time I was eight, nine mother would let me--see there wasn’t any traffic--mother would let me go cross the road to go play in the creek. I loved it! I loved that creek! I loved it! I used to catch crawdads. I used to go fishing in the one around the bend.
JG Going down that way?
EBB Yeah, I used to catch perch about like that.
FLB Big enough to eat?
EBB Almost. Somebody would take pity on me and there might have been two good bites. I was playing down there [at Otter Creek] when Mr. Mac came home. Must have been bright daytime ‘cause I wouldn’t have been down there in the late evening. And here came Mr. Mac, that’s [Jim’s] great granddaddy we were talking about, Mr. McFadden, and drove up and stopped on the bridge. And I was squirming every which way but loose, and I was apologizing or something [for being on his land], and he looked down out the window of his car and said, “But it’s your creek.”
FLB How touching is that.
T EBB hat old man was the kindest, sweetest fellow. Shame you don’t take after him, [Jim.] (Laughter.) He was such a gentle person. Wasn’t he blue-eyed?
JG I don’t think he was. Mom was. His wife was blue-eyed. I’ll double check that because we’ve got a photograph.
EBB I can’t remember for sure, but I remember Mr. Mac and the sweetest smile, the sweetest smile on that man’s face, and he only had that one daughter, your grandmother. And she didn’t want to come out here either. She stayed in town. She was going to Vanderbilt. She stayed the whole time, until she married I think.
JG They lived in Sterling Court Apartments after they got married.
FLB I lived in Sterling Court.
JG We have wartime picture of them at Sterling Court.
FLB Fabulous place to live.
JG It is. That was back when it was brand new and then they moved out here.
FLB I still miss Sterling Court. A lot. It’s the best.
EBB I was trying to say that everybody--the counts and the no-counts--in Nashville knew each other, right up until and even after World War II. There were so few people, so few professional people. After World War I lots of farm people came in to East Nashville for their kids to go to school. They’re the ones who had those big houses on Russell and Fatherland and long in there. They knew people. That’s why you [Jim] know people who lived on Russell Street, and I do. You knew everybody and the names. Goodpasture. There were at least five boys, and there were Goodpastures every time you turned over a rock somewhere.
JG The McFaddens were good friends with Goodpastures.
EBB There was Henry and Bob, and bluh, bluh, bluh, I don’t know. Henry was a lawyer. At Winterthur there was this lady as old as my mother, Mrs. Bob Goodpasture, on a tour, and I happened to be where they were. And I walked up and she said, “You’re little Edith!” See I was Little Edith ‘cause my mother was [Big Edith].For two Nashvillians to stumble on each other like that . . . .
FLB Well, show me some of your mother’s paintings.
EBB Please, come in. Come in.