Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kentucky's Revolutionary Land Grants - Part I

Part I - J. Mark Lowe

All land in Kentucky should follow a pedigree back to a governmental grant, generally Kentucky or Virginia. This process is called land patenting. Once a part of the commonwealth of Virginia, the land of Kentucky began to be granted after the King’s Proclamation of 1763 stating that land would be granted in lieu of cash to the veterans of the French & Indian War. The Land Law of 1779 expanded the granting of land to the state’s Revolutionary War veterans. John Filson discussed the land grant process in his 1784 publication.

“The proprietors of the Kentucke lands obtain their patents from Virginia, and their rights are of three kinds, viz. Those which arise from military service, from settlement and pre-emption, or from warrants from the treasury. The military rights are held by officers, or their representatives, as a reward for services done in one of the two last wars. The Settlement and pre-emption rights arise from occupation. Every man who, before March, 1780, had remained in the country one year, or raised a crop of corn, was allowed to have a settlement of four hundred acres, and a pre-emption adjoining it of one thousand acres. Every man who had only built a cabbin, or made any improvement by himself or others, was entitled to a pre-emption of one thousand acres where such improvement was made.
In March, 1780, the settlement and pre-emption rights ceased, and treasury warrants were afterwards issued, authorizing their possessor to locate the quantity of land mentioned in them, wherever it could be found vacant in Virginia.
The mode of procedure in these affairs may be instructive to the reader. After the entry is made in the land-office, there being one in each county, the person making the entry takes out a copy of the location, and proceeds to survey when he pleases. The plot and certificate of such survey must be returned to the office within three months after the survey is made, there to be recorded; and a copy of the record must be taken out in twelve months, after the return of the survey, and produced to the assistant register of the land-office in Kentucke, where it must lie six months, that prior locators may have time and opportunity to enter a caveat, and prove their better right. If no caveat is entered in that time, the plot and certificate are sent to the land-office at Richmond, in Virginia, and three months more are allowed to have the patent returned to the owner.”

John Filson, The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucky: And an Essay Towards the Topography and Natural History of that Important Country....(Wilmington, 1784)p 36-38.

Kentucky's Military District over current county map

Friday, June 10, 2011

1907 Was a Successful Year of Road Building

by J. Mark Lowe

At the end of the 19th Century, Tennessee changed the way that roads were maintained. Prior to this change, the individuals were completely responsible for maintaining the county roads that passed near their property. This report shows the transition from full maintenance by the citizens to the use of a county work crew. This report was found in the loose papers of the Quarterly Court.
To the Honorable Quarterly County Court for Robertson county at its January term 1908. I make the following annual report for the road work for the year 1907. We do not hesitate to say that we have accomplished much in the way of improvements to our public roads, providing benefit to the public of a permanent and lasting kind. The health of the work house prisoners who assisted during the year was about on average, no serious sickness among them. We refer you first to the Wartrace Woodard hills East of town, which have been cut down and heavily graveled. The first 4 or 5 months of the year nearly all the work done was at the workhouse beating rock, which was used on the highway leading to Greenbrier. Said highway having been graded and about one mile of pike made. On the Turnersville road there was about one mile of grading done near New Chapel and the Fizer hill or Powell hill on this side of Carrs Creek changed and well graveled. On the Barren Plains road, the Sulphur Fork hill at the Woolen Mills near the bridge was filled in about four feet and lengthened out. The grade lowered and the hill graveled, on the other side of the creek and nearly as far as Mr. Ceph Armstrong’s farm the road was graded and partly gravelled. [Joe Cephas Armstrong was married to Elvira Holman. Their children at this time were: Addie, Joseph, Lula and Grace.] Another county eyesore was removed on the Cedar Hill road west of town, known as the Crow Hill. The grade was lengthened and the grade lowered about seven feet and graveled with a good substantial bridge put across the same at the foot where the road usually overflowed. The grades on all of this hill being reduced to such an extent that it is an easy matter to trot up either one of them with a horse. Before the work, they were dreaded by all who traveled over them. The best piece of work we have done outside of cutting down the big hills is the piking the old Nashville pike out to Mantlo’s crossing. It will take about 3 weeks to complete this job, afterwards we will have made about two miles of pike that is easily work $1000 per mile, however it has cost the county very little. There was some grading and graveling done on about one fourth of a mile near C.G. Holman’s Eqr in South Town also some repairing done on the Cross Plains road. It is useless to dwell upon this further, as each of you who are acquainted with these locations will readily agree that the improvements are of great benefit to the County. In each case we have been able to secure much help from the citizens in the vicinity in which the work was done. Some would subscribe money, while many others would furnish wagons and teams. With the year’s experience and with the assistance we could secure we are All in all it was I think one of the best years work the county has gotten from the work house prisoners. There are other minor jobs they did which helped swell the benefit the county has derived from the work house labor which is not necessary to mention. There was during the year an average of perhaps nine work hands, and in but one or two instances there was no trouble with the hands and the guards. The hands all seemed to be pleased with their treatment under the condition they were in and but little fault finding among them. I think with the present management in a few year that all the highways leading into Springfield will be benefited and made good. To all of which I most respectfully submit to your Honorable body for consideration.
T. G. Payne, Superintendent of Robertson County Work House

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tennessee's First JPs (Justices of the Peace)

J. Mark Lowe

With statehood looming, the Legislature appointed the Justices of the Peace for the respective counties in state of Tennessee. These men would serve as the representative of the people in the county legislative body, and provide local judgment in criminal/civil affairs. They would also appoint all positions for the state legislative body. I have provided links related to the first two appointed from Blount County.
All of these men served in critical roles. Many had been Soldiers and Officers during the Revolutionary War and others served as political leaders back East. These men and their families deserve our study.

[spelling as printed in text]
FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 1796.
Met according to adjournment. Ordered, that the following message be sent to the senate :
Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen, This house have appointed the following persons justices of the peace for the several counties hereafter mentioned:
For the county of Blount. Andrew Bogle, Joseph Black, William Davidson, Andrew Miller, William Lowry, George Ewing. William Wallace, Samuel Houston, James Greenaway Mathew Wallace, William Hamilton, John Cochran, John Tremble, Thomas Galahor, and John Wallace.
For the county of Carter. Nathaniel Taylor, David M'Nabb, Landon Carter, Andrew Greer, Zachariah Campbell ,Guthridge Garland, John Vaught, Joseph Sands, and Reuben Thornton.
For the county of Davidson. James Robertson, James Mulherin, Thomas Molloy, John Nichols, Thomas Smith, Joseph Phillips, Samuel Barton, James Hoggatt, Robert Hays, Elijah Robertson, and John Gordan.
For the county of Grainger. Thomas Henderson, Elijah Chisum, James Blair, John Estis, Phelps Reed, Benjamin M'Carty, James Moore, John Bowen, John Kedwell, John Simms, William Thompson, and Major Lea.
For the county of Greene. Joseph Hardin, sen. John Wear, Elisha Baker, John Newman, sen. John Morris, Hugh Neilson, William Rankin, Joseph Lusk, Thomas Gillis, Alexander Galbreath, James Penny, Hugh Brown, James Hays, Mathew Cox, James Mahan, Thomas Praetor, David Copelane, James Anderson, Samuel Wilson, and William Wilson.
For the county of Hawkins. George Maxwell, John Long, Nathaniel Henderson, William Armstrong, Joseph M'Min, Alexander Nelson, Thomas Jackson, John Gordon, David Larkin, James Berry, Mark Mitchell, Thomas Lea, James Lathim, William M'Carty, James Armstrong, Benoni Caldwell, Absalom Looney, John Mitchell, and David Kinkead.
For the county of Jefferson George Doherty, James Roddye, Josiah Jackson, Thomas Snoddy, Garret Fitzgerald, Parmenas Taylor, John Blackburn, Andrew Henderson, Abednigo Inman, John M'Nabb, Abraham M'Coy, Adam Peck, William Cox, James Wilson, William Lillard, David Stuart, Ebenezer Leath, Joseph M'Culla, Samuel Jack, Adam Meek, George Evans, James Lea, Alexander Outlaw, and John Goore.
For the county of Knox. James White, Joseph Greer, John M'Clellan, John Adair, George M'Nutt, John Hacket, David Campbell, John Menefee, Nicholas Gibbs, John Sawyers, Samuel Doke, James Cozby, Samuel Flanagan, Jeremiah Jack, and William Doke.
For the county of Montgomery. George Bell, Robert Duning, Amos Bird, Morgan Brown, Robert Nelson, George Nevills, William Prince, Robert Prince, Haydon Wells, Timothy Anderson, and William Mitcheson.
For the county of Robertson. William Fort, Isaac Phillips, Charles Miles, William Miles, Benjamin Menefee, John Phillips, Martin Duncan, Bazel Bowen [Boren], Hugh Henry, Zebulon Hubbard, and James Crabtree, sen.
For the county of Sullivan. Samuel Smith, John Anderson, Joseph Wallace, John Scott, David Perry, George Vincent, William Delany, William King, Robert Allison, John Vance, William Nash, Richard Gammon, James Gains, George Rutledge, Samuel M'Corkle, John Spurgin, Walter Johnson, Robert Easly, John Yancey and James King.
For the county of Sumner David Wilson, Thomas Donald, James Winchester, James Reese, Edward Douglass, William Cage, Stephen Cantrel, Isaac Walton, Thomas Martin, James Guin, Withral Lattimore, James Douglass, and David Shelby.
For the county of Sevier. John Clack, William Henderson, jun. Robert Calvert, Joshua Gest, Abraham M'Clery, Andrew Cowen, Joseph Vance, Robert Pollock, Adam Wilson, Jamea Riggin, Alexander Montgomery, Jesse Griffin, James D. Puckett, and Isam Gain.
For the county of Washington. Jamea Stuart, John Tipton, John Wear, John Adams, John Strain, Henry Nelson, Joseph Young, Joseph Crouch, William Nelson, Robert Blair, John Norward, Jessee Payne, Isaac Depugb, Charles M 'Cray, Samuel Wood, Jacob Brown, John Alexander, John Hammer, and Joseph Britton.

Source:Journal of the Proceedings of the Legislative Council of the Territory of United State of America, South of the River Ohio.
Printed by George Roulstone, Nashville, 1796. Reprinted by McKennie & Brown, True Whig Office,Knoxville, 1852.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

More New Madrid Earthquake Reports - 200 Years Ago

In the papers of the USGS, I found these published reports on the New Madrid Earthquakes. The publication titled "A Detailed Narrative of the Earthquakes which occurred on the 16th day of December, 1811, and agitated the parts of North America that lie between the Atlantic Ocean and Louisiana; and also a particular account of the other quakings of the earth occasionally felt from that time to the 23d and 30th of January, and the 7th and 16th of February, 1812, and subsequently to the 18th of December, 1813, and which shook the country from Detroit and the Lakes to New-Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. Compiled chiefly at Washington, in the district of Columbia," was intended as a report to Congress.

"The beautiful comet which travelled through the northern celestial hemisphere during 1811, had offered itself plainly to view until the approach of the following year. Its elements, as calculated by Nathaniel Bowditch, Esq. and his learned associates, have already been placed before the public eye.

The tremendous storm from the northeast, near the end of December, 1811, began to leeward, near Cape Hatteras, and swept the American coast to the banks of Newfoundland, doing great damage to navigation, and exhibiting some curious facts in the history of the atmosphere. The particulars of this furious and memorable tempest have been collected by myself; and are in readiness to be offered to the society at the first convenient time.

My present intention is to read to you the information I have gathered on another occurrence of those portentous days. I mean the phenomena of the earthquakes, which terrified the country about the same period, and which continued a long time afterwards.

On the morning of Monday, the 16th of December, 1811, several shocks of earthquakes were felt at the city of Washington. The first of these happened at three o'clock; and in some houses was considerable enough to shake the doors and windows, and wake persons from their sleep. There were successive tremors. Tassels of curtains were seen to move; and pitchers of washing-stands were heard to rattle upon their basins. The sound was very distinguishable, and was believed by many to pass from southwest to northeast. The alarm was so great in some families, that searches were made from room to room, to discover the robbers who were imagined to have broken into the houses.

A second shock, though lighter, was experienced about six o'clock, and a third about eight.

A gentleman standing in his chamber at his desk and writing, in the third story of a brick house, upon the Capitol Hill, suddenly perceived his body to be in motion, vibrating backward and forward, and producing dizziness. Not suspecting the moment that the uncomfortable sensation was caused by an earthquake, he examined his desk to know whether it stood firm. Finding that it did, he dropped his pen; and turning his eyes upward, discerned that the looking-glass, and other things hanging near him, were in a similar motion.

Another person was near a table placed beneath a mirror. Feeling a giddiness come upon him, he seized the table for support. The general agitation of the chamber and house ceased in about a minute; but the looking-glass, which was suspended in the usual manner, continued to swing for some seconds longer. These observations, made by Messrs. Bigelow and Mosely, may serve as specimens of a multitude of phenomena of those kinds.

The atmosphere seemed to forebode some unusual occurrence. One of my most correct and respectable friends, declared in conversation, and stated to me in writing, that he made an observation of the sky about ten o'clock that night. It was quite calm. There was not a breath of wind stirring. The air was perfectly clear and free from clouds. Nevertheless, it was uncommonly dark, and the stars which appeared in every part through the gloom, were lurid and dim, and afforded little light.

In Richmond the signs of an earthquake were witnessed by many persons. At three o'clock on the same morning, (the 16th of December,) there were said to be three successive shocks; another about six; and a third about eight. Several people were impressed with a belief that thieves had entered their dwellings; and in one of the most elevated mansions, the bells were set a ringing in both the upper and lower rooms. The noise and concussion were supposed by some to proceed from east to west.

It was stated at Norfolk that two very distinct shocks were felt in that town and in Portsmouth; to wit, at three and eight o'clock in the morning of the 16th. Some clocks were reported to have stopped; the doors rattled; and articles hanging from the ceilings of shops and houses, swung to and fro, although a perfect calm prevailed.

At Raleigh (N.C.) several slight earthquakes were felt on the morning of the 16th December. The first happened between two and three o'clock, and was distinctly perceived by all who were awake at the time. Two others were reported to have occurred between that time and seven o'clock, but were not plainly observed, except by some members of the legislature, who were in the state-house, and were considerably alarmed at the shaking of the building.

From Georgetown, (S.C.) it was told, that several shocks had been experienced between the hours of three and eight, on the morning of the 16th. The inhabitants were much alarmed. The shocks were so considerable, that the parade-ground of the fort was said to have settled from one to two inches below its former level. A tub of water, standing upon a table in the barracks, was reported to have been overset by the jarring of the building. Another severe shock was felt two days afterwards, at noon.

At Columbia, (S.C.) the inhabitants were alarmed by repeated shocks. The first took place at half after two in the morning of Monday, which was represented as shaking the houses as if rocked by the waves of the sea. It was followed, after the cessation of a minute, by three slighter ones. At eight o'clock two others took place, and at ten, some slight ones. The South Carolina college appeared to rock from its foundation, and a part of its plaster fell; which so alarmed the students, that they left the chambers without their clothes. It seemed as if all the buildings would be levelled. The dogs barked; fowls made a racket; and many persons ran about with lights, not knowing where to go, so great was their terror. During the first agitation, it was observed, that the air felt as if impregnated with a vapour, which lasted for some time.

On Tuesday, at a quarter after twelve, another smart shock was experienced. At Laurens and Newbury, in the interior districts, it was so violent as to crack and start several chimnies.

At Charleston (S.C.) the sensation was of considerable strength. One account stated; that on the morning of the 16th, at a few minutes before three o'clock, a severe shock of an earthquake was felt. Its duration conjectured to ahve been between two and three minutes. For an hour previous, though the air was perfectly calm, and several stars visible, there was, at intervals of about five minutes, a rumbling noise like that of distant thunder; which increased in violence of sound just before the shock was felt. The vibrations of St. Philip's steeple caused the clock bell to ring about ten seconds. Two other shocks were felt afterwards, one a little before eight, and the other about a quarter of an hour after. Both these were slighter and shorter than the first. Many of the family clocks were stopped by the concussions. In many wells the water was considerably agitated. From another source it was related that Charleston was shaken by an earthquake severely, at the time before specified. This was preceded by a noise resembling the blowing of a smith's bellows. The agitation of the earth was such that the bells in the church steeples rang to a degree indicative of an alarm for fire. The houses were so much moved that many persons were induced to rise from their beds. The clocks generally stopped. Another slight shock was experienced about fifteen minutes after; and yet another at eight o'clock. This last one produced a considerable rattling among glass, china, and other furniture. A looking-glass hanging against a west wall was observed to vibrate two or three inches from north to south.

The ingenious writer of the meteorological observations for Charleston during December, 1811, has noticed these occurrences in a manner too interesting to be omitted. According to his remarks, there were seven shocks during the month, having a vibratory motion from east to west. In many persons the motion produced nausea. All the shocks, except the last, were preceded by noises resembling the rattling of a carrage over a pavement. There had been less thunder during the preceding season than usual. THe days of thunder amount annually to about sixty; but this year there were no more than thirty-eight. The beautiful comet was visible in the northwest during the whole month.

The inhabitants of Savannah were sensible of four earthquakes. The first was on the morning of the 16th December, between two and three o'clock. It was preceded by a flash of light, and a rattling noise, resembling that of a carriage passing over a paved road. It lasted about a minute. A second soon succeeded, but its duration was shorter. A third happened about eight o'clock; and a fourth about noon on the 17th. Persons who experienced the hardest shock, were made to totter, as if on shipboard. Its course was believed to be from southwest to northeast.

It was observed, by Dr. Macbride of Pineville, (S.C.) that the earthquake terrified the inhabitants exceedingly. It was accompanied by several appearances that countenances the theory of this phenomenon, which brings in the agency of the electric fluid. 1. The unfrequency or absence of thunder storms; that is, they were much less frequent this year than usual, especially in the autumn. 2. Immediately before the earthquake, a red appearance of the clouds, which had much darkened the water for twenty-four hours immediately before the shock; and 3. The loudness of the thunder, and the number of the peals within twenty-four hours after the first shock, and but a few hours before the last, which was felt before he wrote. Such thunder was very unusual at that season.

At Natchez, the occurrences, as related by a careful observer, were as follow: Four shocks were felt on the morning of the 16th. The principal one was at tem minutes after two, A.M. There was no noise, except in a few situations. Several clocks were stopped. Articles, in some instances, fell from shelves. Plastered walls were sometimes cracked. The Mississippi was agitated as if the banks were falling in. The trees in the forests waved their tops. Many houses were shaken considerably. And things suspended on nails or pins swung backwards and forwards.

Information was forwarded from Tennessee, that the earth quaked so violently, as to throw down chimnies, in some places. Eighteen or twenty acres of land, adjacent to Piney river, suddenly fell down, and sunk so low, that the tops of the trees were on a level with the surrounding earth. Four other shocks were experienced on the 17th, and one or more continued daily until the 30th.

At Knoxville, the quaking of the earth on the 16th was represented to have lasted more than three minutes. The rattling of the windows and furniture of the houses were such as to awaken almost every family. This was about two in the morning. It was followed, in half an hour, by another, which continued half a minute. Between sunrise and breakfast, three others were felt, of only a few seconds in duration. At the end of the first and longest shock, there were, in a direction due north, two flashes of light, at the interval of about a minute, very much like distant lightning.

At Columbia, in Tennessee, between two and three o'clock on the morning of the 16th December, the inhabitants were suddenly alarmed by a voilent agitation in the earth. It was accompanied by a peculiar sound, proceeding from southwest to northeast. Immediately after the shock had ceased, a very large volume of something like smoke was discovered to rise in the quarter whence the sound appeared to come; and pursuing nearly the same course, finally settled in the north, exhibiting the appearance of a black cloud. The shock was computed to have continued from ten to fifteen minutes.

At Louisville, (Ken.) near the falls of the Ohio, on Monday morning about three o'clock, a violent shock of an earthquake was felt. It was judged to have continued about three minutes. This was followed by three or four others of less violence. A number of houses suffered considerable damage; the chimnies having been so much cracked as to require repairs by the mason. On the evening previous to the shock, there was a gentle rain, such as we have in April; and the night was rather close and dark; but at the termination of the first shock, it was light enough to enable a pin to be seen..."

More reports to come.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Earthquakes of 1811-1812

Landslide scarps in Chickasaw Bluffs, east of Reelfoot Lake, created by the New Madrid earthquake are still visible in 1904 (Fuller). (Courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey)

J. Mark Lowe

The residents of Kentucky, Tennessee and beyond were shaken by the events beginning early on the morning of the 15th of December, 1811. Their inability to watch an instant newscast of the action or even know what happened for days fueled much misinformation. The earthquakes of 1811-12 that destroyed New Madrid, Missouri and made Reelfoot Lake did considerable damage along the Mississippi river. These earthquakes shook the whole country. One of the worst occurred Dec. 15, 1811, at night, the shocks being felt about every 15 minutes. The navigable rivers were thrown into convulsions, and a number of boats were lost. Muddy logs from the bottom of the stream were thrown to the surface and became so thick that they impeded the passage of boats. Great sections of earth along the Mississippi river sunk, and islands were rent asunder and disappeared. Trees were twisted and lashed together. The earthquake was accompanied by a tremendous distant noise, resembling thunder. These disturbances occurred at intervals for some time and were very alarming to the people. This account by an unknown resident of Springfield [Tennessee] to his brother was found in a newspaper.
City Gazette and Daily Advertiser, Washington DC, 11 January 1812.
(Extract of a letter from a gentleman in Springfield (Tennessee) to his brother in Washington City [DC] dated December 16, 1811.
“We have since yesterday morning about two o’clock experienced one of the most sublime, grand and awful scenes perhaps on record: The night of the 15th, being remarkably dark and cloudy, accompanied by a stillness of the air equal to the silence of the tombs; a little past two o’clock, Mrs. (--), and myself, being awake, there appeared to be a rustling of something similar to wind at a distance; we were however, soon undeceived by a rattling of things in the house, and then a sensible rocking of the same, to a very great degree --- I made up a light as soon as possible and opened the door, more effectually to discover the cause; when to my utter amazement, there was a perfect calm, and nothing but an agitated rolling of the earth from southwest to northeast; this continued, I think from seven to ten minutes; after which the convulsions of nature, appeared to cease for about forty or fifty minutes, when a second shock, tho’ much lighter than the former, alarmed us if possible, more than the first – An interval then took place till about sunrise, when another shock equal I believe to the first gave us fresh alarm. I walked out into the yard, with difficulty could stand steady; saw the earth under my feet, oscillate, as plainly as I ever saw the pendulum of a clock, for some minutes; it then stopped, and was followed by three or four more in succession, for the space of thirty or forty minutes, since then we have had six light shocks – It is now one o’clock at night; we are in dread of other returns before morning. The consternation we are all in has prevented any speculative conjecture – I a now by myself, and will hazard to you my opinion – I think, from the short time I have had to reflect on the course of this phenomena of nature, that it must be owing to one of two causes, viz., either Orleans or New Mexico, or some large tract of land, surrounding the Gulf, has sunk, a similar circumstance, in all human probability, having formed the Gulf, previous to any historical account of this continent – or the other, which I think more improbable, that the Comet, in its ellipsis, forming so near a parallel with the sun and earth and adding its attractive force to that of the Sun, has had this wonderful effect – This in my mind is mere hypothesis. One thing I know, we have felt the effects, in some degree, and I wish some able philosopher to ascertain the cause, if possible.
The following excerpt was written by Judge John Haywood :
The day before the first earthquake, was darkened from morning to night by thick fog; and divers persons perceived a sulphurous scent. The wind ceased, and there was a dead calm, without the least breath of air, on the day of the earthquake. The like calm preceded all the shocks. A dull and heavy obscuration of the atmosphere also usually preceded them. The effluvia, which caused the dimness of the day, seemed to be neither cloud nor smoke, yet resembling both. It was too light for clouds, and too thin for common smoke, and of a lighter cast. It seldom terminated in condensation, a Tennessee vapors usually do
In the time of the earthquakes, lights were seen in the night, sometimes westwardly, like the light of the sun before it is closed by the darkness of the night; but shooting much farther toward the east, and continuing much longer than the light of the sun after setting. And sometimes in the night, the heavens would seem to be tinged with a reddish color, supposed to be the effect of invisible effluvia issuing through the pores of the earth, and collecting above us like smoke in the spring, a which rises from log-heaps and brush-heaps, and shows itself like light at a distance.
In the time of the earthquake, a murmuring noise, like that of fire disturbed by the blowing of a bellows, issued from the pores of the earth. A distant rumbling was heard, almost without intermission, and sometimes seemed to be in the air. Explosions, like the discharge of a cannon at a few miles distance, were heard; and at night flashes of lightning seemed sometimes to break from the earth.
In some places west of the Mississippi, a troublesome warmth of the earth was perceptible to the naked feet.
The frightened horses ran snorting in the fields, the hogs squealed; the dogs barked; and the fowls descended from their roosts. In the time of the shocks, many persons experienced a nauseating sickness at the stomach, and a trembling of the knees.
Sources: City Gazette and Daily Advertiser, 11 January 1812; Earthquakes in Missouri, 1913; History of Tennessee, Haywood.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How Tennessee and Kentucky Country Hams Became Famous

J. Mark Lowe

Although our consumption of country hams has declined, the special flavor is one that many still desire on special occasions. It was a tradition in the church where I was raised that a special country ham was the gift from the congregation to the minister at Christmastime.
It was always a special treat to have country ham and biscuit at a neighbor's home. I remember when as a Boy Scout our troop went to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. We were allowed to bring along a girlfriend. We ate in the Dining Room there and I ordered ham from the menu. The server asked if I knew that it was 'country ham' not 'city ham?' Being somewhat embarrassed (in front of my date) being questioned about ham, I said, "I'm from the country and that's the only ham I eat" The ham was delicious, but the story got spread throughout our group.
Country ham is synonymous with hospitality and the South. Once at Old Washington in Mason County, Kentucky, I was honored to be at a re-created 18th Century Dinner. A variety of country ham was presented with numerous secret recipes. I know that at least one contained some sipping whiskey. Along with the scrumptious ham, we were served Cat Head biscuits, with regular butter. Rounding out the platter were sweet potatoes with options for Kentucky Bourbon butter with cinnamon. No wonder some of my Ancestors were large-boned.
I found two interesting stories about locally produced country ham. One was a wonderful story printed in the December 20th edition for 1898 in the St Louis Post-Dispatch about country hams from Robertson county Tennessee and the other a cookbook published in 1889 by Alex Fillippini. Get those hot biscuits ready.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Dec 20, 1898
“The ‘country hams’ made by three generations of Washingtons of Robertson county, Tenn., have ranked with the finest cured hams in America. For 75 years these hams have been noted for their flavor, and early in this country the leading hotels of Philadelphia and New Orleans had “Washington’s country hams” announced on their bills of fare.
Joseph Washington (1770-1848) was a Virginian. He went to Tennessee early in the present century. He grew tobacco and cured hams by the old Virginia method. His son, the late Col. George Washington (pictured at left)followed him, and he soon became the largest tobacco grower in the world[He was actually the second largest tobacco grower in the world, first in the U.S.] and the largest land cultivator in Tennessee. Col. Washington also kept up the quality of the Washington hams. Today George A. Washington (1868-1926), on the old estate of his father and grandfather, used the same formula for preparing his meat as the Washingtons of Virginia used in the last century. It has been given out by Mr. Washington for publication.
“There is no particular breed of hogs that I use to secure these hams.” He said. “I always kill my hogs in November, for November meat does not spoil like some slaughtered in December or January. I won’t kill in freezing weather, either, for it is not necessary to have it as cold as 32 degrees. I think 40 degrees is about the right temperature. If the weather turns suddenly cold and freezes my pork I do not salt it down, but in this case I put the pork in a warm cellar until it entirely thaws. Sometimes this takes two days, but I will not salt frozen meat.
I use none but Ohio River salt. I have a lot of red pepper ground up, and I mix it thoroughly with the salt. I make the mixture a reddish color, but cannot tell by measures how much pepper I put to the bushel of salt; I only go by the color. When the mixture is made I pour on New Orleans molasses and mix that to the consistency of soft dough. First I have the hams cut and a little saltpeter rubbed all around the center bone. I then put them out of doors in the sun for an hour, and afterwards rub well the skin with the mixture. The men wear hand leathers or mittens to rub with, and when this is done sufficiently, the skin is so soft that you can pinch it up. I then pack down all other pieces of meat and put the hams on top, for I do not want them pressed by the other meat. I cover, with a good coat of this mixture the flesh side of the ham; I suppose the thickness of the coating is about a quarter of an inch. I have no regular time to leave them in the salt; that depends on the weather. I can tell from their appearance when they should be hung up. When this time comes I have a kettle of strong pepper water, and dip the hams in that & wash them clean. I then smoke them sufficiently with green hickory. They are at last put in canvas cover and painted with a good coat of whitewash and in this manner they will keep for years.”
The Table: How to Buy Food, How to Cook It, and How to Serve It, 1889
How to Prepare Ham for Broiling and Frying.— Procure a fine, sound, smoked ham, preferably a Washington Ham from Tennessee, weighing about twelve to thirteen pounds, selecting it as lean as possible. With a sharp knife, begin cutting it carefully at the end of the shank bone, between the bone and the string used for hanging purposes, coming down on to the knuckle ; follow the edge of the bone, until the small edge bone is fully reached, then make a straight cross-cut from the bone, so as to separate it entirely. When this
is accomplished, put the bone part aside for soup, garnishing, scrambled eggs, sauces, or any other needful purposes. Keep the ham hung up in a dry place in a moderate temperature.
For broiling and frying. — Cut from the boneless part the necessary number of slices desired to be used each time, as thin as possible, always beginning from the side of the edge-bone. Pare off the skin neatly from the slices, and arrange them on the broiler, then broil them for two minutes on each side; take from off the fire, dress them on a hot dish, and send to the table. By preparing the ham as described in the above, it will always be crisp and enjoyable. When frying, four minutes will be sufficient in very hot fat.

Okay, friends - what's your story about Country Ham or Cat-Head Biscuits? I'm off to the kitchen to see what's cooking.
If you are interested in learning more about this plantation see The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of My Family's Journey to Freedom by John Baker, Jr.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Meet the Renowned Actress Kitty Smiley Cheatham

Famous Actress with Local Ties
J. Mark Lowe

This week we read of a young lady with Robertson county roots. Part of the Cheatham family, Kitty Smiley Cheatham became a famous actress. The following article was published in The Illustrated American, 12 Nov 1892.
“The subject of our sketch this week is Miss Kitty Cheatham, a member of Mr. Augustin Daly's excellent company of comedians, and a clever, hard-working, ambitious little actress. Miss Cheatham did not seek the stage and its many hardships because her head was turned by the silly notion so prevalent at the present day, that every society woman is a born actress and bound to succeed, nor was it because she was carried away by the false glamour of the footlights; but because reverses of fortune and the death of her father made it necessary that she should contribute towards the support of herself, her mother and sister, and thus become independent of the charity of relations. It was hard, indeed, for a young g1rl accustomed to all the refinements and delicacies that birth and riches could surround her with, to suddenly be compelled to join the great army of wage earners; but Miss Cheatham did not shrink from the ordeal, as she possessed indomitable pluck, great courage, and determination of will. Thus it was that, when a girl but seventeen years of age, she arrived in company with her mother, in the city of New York, from the South, to seek an engagement and to do battle with the world.
Besides beauty Miss Cheatham is gifted with a sweet soprano voice, and it was but shortly after her arrival in New York that Colonel McCaull chanted to hear her sing, and immediately offered her a position in his then famous opera company. Miss Cheatham accepted, and made her first professional appearance with this company in Toledo, O., sing1ng a small part in the "Black Hussar." Her first appearance in New York was at the Casino. There she sang four months, and during the long run of " Erminie " delighted the large audiences with the clever and spirited way she played the part of Cerise. Her voice and musical training soon secured for her the leading roles in " Falka" and other operas.
It was while singing at the Casino that Miss Cheatham suddenly determined to abandon comic opera and adopt comedy. No sooner was her decision made than, armed with a letter from Mr. Henry Watterson, of the Louisville Courier Journal, a life-long friend of her father and a steadfast friend of Miss Cheatham, she called upon Mr. Daly, and a day or two afterwards signed a contract with that gentleman to appear at his theatre. This happened just four years ago, and since that time, under Mr. Daly's careful tuition and vigorous school of training. Miss Cheatham's talents have rapidly matured, and the theatre-going public of New York will recall with pleasurable appreciation her many successful achievements at this house. Miss Cheatham has also on several occasions been suddenly called upon to play Miss Rehan's parts, which she has always done most acceptably.
Miss Cheatham is a native of Nashville, Tenn., and is the daughter of the late Col. Richard Boone Cheatham, twice that city's mayor. [her mother was Frances Ann Bugg.] Gen. Richard Cheatham, who was long in congress, was her grandfather, and Gen. Frank Cheatham, of Confederate fame, is her cousin. She is also a connection by marriage of Prince Yturbide, Maximilian's adopted son. On her mother's side she is connected with ex-Governor Trousdale of Tennessee and ex-Governor Foote of Mississippi.
Both on account of religious and social reasons Miss Cheatham's family were much opposed to her going upon the stage. They were strict Presbyterians and looked with holy horror upon all things theatrical. Although not of a theatrical family, Miss Cheatham was born an actress, and nothing delighted her more, when a little g1rl, than to dress in her mother's clothes and hold impromptu entertainments with her young school friends, upon which occasions, however, she always insisted upon playing the leading roles. Devoted to her art, Miss Cheatham, with an expressive, pretty face, a graceful figure, intelligence, and taste in her favor, has every reason to hope that by patience and hard study she will reach the head of her profession.”
Kitty Cheatham was a Christian Scientist and a close friend of Mary Baker Eddy. She also spoke out on political matters. She undertook an opposition to the “Star-Spangled Banner” as our national anthem just prior to World War I. She published two collections of her songs, Kitty Cheatham: Her Book in 1915, and A Nursery Garland in 1917. Her repertoire included over 1000 songs in nine languages. Cheatham died on January 5, 1946 in New York City, and was buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville