Monday, May 23, 2016

This day in Tennessee History, May 23-27

"This Day in Tennessee History"

By James Jones

Public Historian

Tennessee Historical Commission


May 23


1836, Washington, D.C. – President Andrew Jackson signed the Treaty of New Echota, providing for the removal of the entire Cherokee nation from Tennessee and Georgia. It was to be the final solution to this particular Native American "problem." Gold had been discovered in the area of the Cherokee Nation and private sector speculators were anxious to have unfettered opportunity to claim the land.



1864, Dixon Springs – David Buford, a member of the Tennessee Senate from 1829 to 1835, died at his home.

Buford had little formal education, having attended school for only six months. After moving to Tennessee in 1799, he worked as a journeyman tanner and later established his own tannery business in Carthage, Smith County. In time he moved to a farm in Dixon Springs. He served as a second lieutenant in the Seventh Regular Army in the War of 1812. He remained loyal to the Union and served as a quartermaster at Fort Pickering, in Memphis.


1973, Memphis – A berserk gunman with a 30.06 rifle opened fire on Kansas Street, killing five and wounding four. The assailant, David Sanders, then holed up in the Kansas Package Liquor Store.

Of the five killed, four were black, and one was a white police officer.

Police used tear gas to force Sanders out of the liquor store. He was then quickly killed in a barrage of shotgun fire.


May 24


1862, Fort Warren, Boston, Massachusetts – Confederate colonel Randal McGavock, a prisoner of war, wrote in his journal that "the notorious scoundrel and liar, Parson Brownlow of East Tennessee made a visit to the fort to-day….Brownlow also sent for Lt. Col. White of Hamilton County, East Tennessee, and offered to parole him…He also sent for Colonel Lillard and Lieutenant Colonel Odell of East Tennessee and made the same offer to them. They are not required to take the oath [of allegiance to the United States] but to go home and not take up arms again."

Lillard and Odell did not endorse the offer.


1886, Memphis – The Shelby County Court approved the payment of poll taxes owed by Richard Haynes and Louis Jones. They paid their delinquent taxes in kind, with wildcat pelts.


1887, Athens -  Arlie Cook of Loudon County was attacked by a wild boar as she passed the home of Sam Wilson. Her screams brought a rescue party on the run who scared the boar off. Cook was severely lacerated and bruised and suffered a dislocated shoulder, but it was thought she would survive.


May 25


1868, Nashville – Male African-American citizens had their right to serve as witnesses in Tennessee trials legitimated.


1887, Memphis – At the annual meeting of the local chapter of the Tennessee Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Animals, it was disclosed that over the last seven years, the society had chronicled 5,628 cases of cruelty of all kinds. For 1886-87, it reported 853 cases of cruelty to animals, including cockfights, bear baiting, and dog fights.

According to the Memphis Daily Appeal, "So vigorous had been the dealings of the society with some cruel parents and others that just now they had nominally little to do, and they know of none needing their care."


1917, Memphis – According to a story in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, temporary chair of the Mothers Day Nursery, had announce the appointment of community chairman to aid in the raising of funds. "It will mean a place for the women to leave their children while they work in the North Memphis factories," she said, "and will also be a place where children can be taken for the day when the women are forced to do the man's work when they were called to the colors."

This was essential to maintaining war time production in factories where women had lately been in the majority of the workers' ranks. It was less a humanitarian gesture than a means of maintaining a work force that otherwise would find it impossible to toil without child day care facilities.


May 26


1865, Cumberland Plateau – Troops of the Fourth Tennessee Mounted Infantry, part of the United States Army in the weeks after Appomattox, captured Confederal guerrilla leader and terrorist Cham Ferguson.  He was imprisoned in Nashville for later trial.


1892, Knoxville – Evangilist Sam Jones gave this advice to African-American preachers: "The colored preacher ought to be the whitest man in his race. I have seen lots of good, true colored preachers but when the devil gets a hold of one in the pulpit he can make him do a lot of harm."

On Political matters, Jones advised blacks, "The least you have to do with politics the better you will come out."


1935, Chattanooga – The first (and last) All-Southern Conference for Civil and Trade Union Rights was scheduled to be held at a hall owned by a local African-American. But American Legionnaires, fearful of "reds," pressured the owner to stop the 100 delegates, including Myles F. Horton, from having their meeting. The conference would go on, regardless.

In addition to being a meeting of labor union activists the conference was a biracial meeting as well, which only added to the fears of "red revolution." The meeting was condemned by the Legionnaires who forced the conferees to shut down the symposium. The Chattanooga Daily Times, reported that "The debacle of the All Southern Conference was at the hands of the American Legion opposition, which radicals think will really prove a triumph for red propaganda purposes."

Conference members claimed the action by the Legionnaires was "unofficial Hitlerism."

As the meeting broke up, Horton made it known that the members would reassemble in Cleveland, Tennessee.  It was a ruse – the conference continued uninterrupted at the Highlander Folk School in Grundy County. The Legionnaires went on a wild-goose chase through Benton and Polk Counties.

Freedom of assembly, speech, expression, and association apparently meant little to the Legionnaires, who claimed to be in support of "100-per cent Americanism."


1993, Nashville – The Tennessee New Gay and Lesbian Coalition brought suit in an effort to have the Volunteer State's anti-sodomy law repealed.


May 27


1819, Hamilton County – At the Brainerd Mansion near what is now Chattanooga, resident James Monroe visited an Indian missionary settlement and was enthusiastic in his praise.  Under the guidance of the missionaries, Cherokees were taught the English language and the blessings of Western civilization.

Such teachings would no longer matter in the 1830s, when most of the same Cherokees were sent west on the "Trail of Tears." Their tears were not from laughter.


1874, Memphis – The Second Circuit Court granted a writ of replevin so the remaining members of an old volunteer company Invincible No. 5, could again have their fancy silver-plated hose carriage from the days of the Volunteer Fire department in the 1850s. The mayor had earlier made it available to a black fire company in the Ninth Ward, an action the aged white firemen could not abide. The carriage featured five silver bells and three oil paintings depicting David Crockett, former captain Joseph Holst, and the ringing of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.


1887, Chattanooga – Mr. Woods, an employee of the Chattanooga Iron Works, was eager to end his day's work and became careless as he was filing a mold with molten iron, pouring some it into his boot. According to one account, "The flesh was fairly roasted from the bone while the foot was almost entirely burned off. He poor fellow's agonizing screams were hear squares away…It is though he will die."


1892, Memphis – Officers and equipment of the civil rights paper published by Ida B. Wells were destroyed by an agitated white mob.

Wells was out of town when the vandalism occurred. Upon hearing the news, she was convinced that a return trip to the Bluff City would be a bad idea. She moved to Chicago, where she continued her civil rights strugglers for the next  39 years.


1933 Unicoi – Two white enrolles in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) arrived to establish Camp Cordell Hull. They pitched tents in a downpour and made preparation for their work of protecting and conserving the forests.

Company 1455 was most likely the first CCC company in Tennessee. It lived up to their motto, which became the CCC motto: "We Can Take It." In coming years future CCC companies built most of the first state parks, such as Pickett, Big Ridge, Reelfoot Lake, Norris Dam and Cumberland Mountain, among others. Their work is visible to this day.


1967, Nashville – Only days after the Butler Act was repealed, John T. Scopes appeared in town. He was participating in the making of a documentary about the 1925 "Monkey Trial." Scopes said, "I was a mathematics teacher and didn't teach evolution. Had they put me on the witness stand at the trial I would have had to testify that I wasn't an evolution teacher." When asked to explain a few paragraphs in a text dealing with evolution, he said, "I simply taught the students that one progressed from the one order to a higher level."

The documentary was being produced by WDCN-TV and Eugene Dietz of the Nashville Tennessean. It is not known if the documentary film survived into the 21st century.


1973, Nashville – At a reenactment of the December 1864 Battle of Nashville, the Yankees won again, despite the fact that Confederate reenactors outnumbered Federal reenactors fought to one. Al Gatlin leader of the First Arkansas, said, "We have to go up North to get outnumbered in these battles."

The event was sponsored by the National Re-Enactment Society.


1993, Lebanon – Olivia Seay, age 69, retired after 50 years of teaching in Wilson County.

Seay grew up in Tucker's Crossroads community. Her grandmother and mother before her were teachers, as were her sisters and brother. She began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in 1943. During that era of segregation, an old bread truck served as a school bust for the African-American children..

According to Seay, "To be a teacher you have to be a philosopher, the doctor, the mother and the father. And you are someone who has to bring in a lot of supplies."

Despite the new emphasis on testing, nothing much has changed for Tennessee's teachers.


James B. Jones, Jr.

Public Historian

Editor, The Courier

Tennessee Historical Commission

2941 Lebanon Road

Nashville, TN  37214


(615)-532-1549  FAX


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