Colony living within 30 miles of Nashville Shuns outside World; Not even Familiar with Schools.
By John Lipscomb.
The war has been creating quite a sensation for many months, but it doesn't mean a thing to the "cave people" of Sumner County. Most of the strange colony, although living within 30 miles of Nashville, never heard of Hitler and think Mussolini is just another "furiner." Actually, the Adams colony-about 10 miles north of Hendersonville as a crow flies-doesn't live in caves any more. The members did make their homed in crude dug-out for a long time, though, which is how they came to be known as "the cave people."
In another world
A few of them, have been to Nashville o n occasions and several have visited Hendersonville, Gallatin and Goodlettsville-but that's all. There is one work animal in the colony-a rangy horse. There is also a pig, so tame that the makes himself at home in one of the single-room huts and will crawl onto anybody's lap if encouraged.
"Old Tom Adams" who has six children, might be termed the leader of "he backwoods" colony-at least, he is the oldest.
Accompanied by B. E. Westgate of Hendersonville, Route 1 a renowned fox hunter, and Thomas H. (Mike) Ellis of Hendersonville, we parked the car on a side road this past week, trekked up and down hills until we rounded a clump of brush and stumbled over Old Tom's shack. Old Tom came to the door and made some remark that was construed as a greeting. Westgate, whose fox hounds have run past the "Cave colony" scores of times, acted as spokesman at the first and explained that he was "just showing a man around wanted to take some pictures."
Tom admitted that he didn't know what it was all about, but apparently decided that the visitors were harmless and agreed to pose for a picture along with as many youngsters as could be persuaded to come out of the shack.
Ignorant of Age
His wife, Lonie Adams, arrived later from a trip up and down the back roads selling shoe strings made of cured groundhog skin. We purchased three pairs, which cause her to become very conversational and also made Old Tom feel friendlier.
Asked about his age, Tom wagged his head, appeared to become irritated with himself at his lack of memory and declared:
"I just cain't say exactly. I misplaced my papers somewhars but I reckin I must be between 66 and 68."
Westgate said earlier that "none of those folks ever heard of Hitler and they don't know a war is going on." He was right, so far as Tom's family was concerned.
Asked "What do you think about Hitler?" the man looked sharply from face to face and then hedged: "Well, I don't rightly know. What do you thing about him?"
Just to carry the test further we crossed our fingers and with a straight face commented: "Oh, he's doing all right. He's exactly right about everything, don't you recon?"
Again Old Tom realized that he was o n thin conversational ground, and answered craftily: "Wal he mignt be, I don't rightly know. But if he ain't right, he orta be."
Old Tom Baffled
Faced with such amiable evasiveness, we dropped the subject. Old Tom was still scratching his head when we left, as if he were trying to figure out something.
Before leaving we ask Mrs. Adams if all the children around the cabin belonged to her and Tom. "Not all," she said. "there's two in there (inside the windowless hut) that ain't our'n."
"Whose are they?"
She turned to old Tom and said. "Whose is them kids, Tom?" he didn't know either.
Half a mile over the hill are other huts, but young Alvie Adams was the only one at home. His hut, windowless like the others and with only one doorway, was less than eight feet square and was crowded with two iron cots and crude iron stove.
His wife, who probably was not more than 20 although he appeared to be 30, was sick and was lying in oven of the cots while Alive cooked a meal of "Johnny-cake."
Alvin's comment o n the war was similar to Old Tom's although he did know that Hitler is "that man in Germany." He produced a draft card, signed with an "X."
The "cave people," according to Westgate and the county health officer, wandered down into Sumner County a decade ago "from some place in the Upper Cumberland country."
Real Cave Dwellers
They dug holes in the side of the hill, covered the dug-outs with wood roofs, and began eking a living out of the hilly country by cultivating small patches of corn and potatoes with their crude implements.
The land they settled on was "open land" (no owner) when they first came down. Not so many months ago threw was talk of forcing them to move-but the leaders of that movement received a big shock –
The "cave people' had remained in peaceable possession of the land for the legal seven-year period, and so had attained squatters' rights to it."
Despite their ignorance of most worldly customs and despite the fact that not a one them can sign his name, they knew what "squatter's rights" meant and so they are still living in possession of their land.
Nashville Tennessean, March 1, 1942.