Asleep on a Church Pew and Other Stories

It seems to me sometimes individuals have to reach a certain age or maybe have a close relative or loved one pass away before realizing how important family history is. This is true for Edward Huston Vaughn. The year was 1994 when both of his parents died within a period of six weeks of each other. As he helped to sort through family papers and personal effects after their deaths, his mind was flooded with memories and emotions accumulated during a lifetime. While he was in this frame of mind, he began documenting those memories, along with family history and stories he had been told while growing up. Huston has prepared a very thorough genealogy record composed of the Lea, McCormick, Copeland, and Vaughn branches of his family tree. With Huston’s permission, I’m sharing a few of those memories contained in his manuscript.

Edward Huston Vaughn was the seventh and final child born to Joseph "Joe" Wilkerson Vaughn and wife Clementeen "Clem" McCormick Vaughn. His siblings are Harold, Ruth, Euretha, Joanna, Luther, and Donald. Huston was born at home on May 13, 1945. The 75 acre farm he grew up on was located some five miles from Livingston near the Bethlehem community. Huston’s arrival into the Vaughn family came as a complete surprise to his brothers, Luther and Donald, who were ages nine and eleven at the time, and was really shocking to his oldest brother, Harold, who was serving in United States Army stationed in Germany at that time. The news of a new baby brother reached Harold by way of letter while he was in Germany.

One of the many stories Huston has written about tells how on a summer evening when his mother, Clem, was a little girl, the family went to a revival service at their home church, Bethlehem Methodist. The family consisted of parents, Luther McCormick and wife Elsie Lea McCormick, children Bessie, Clem, Annie Laura, Faye, Paul, Nettie, and Lucille. They traveled the two miles between their home and the church in a wagon. After the service, the children were gathered up and loaded on the wagon to go home. Everyone was excited because the evangelist was going to be spending the night with them, so much so that no one noticed the youngest daughter, Lucille, was not with them when they left the church. The family traveled to their home, and later retired for the night without anyone realizing Lucille wasn’t there. Sometime during the night, Lucille, who had fallen asleep on a church pew, was awakened by a severe thunderstorm. In spite of finding herself all alone in church in the middle of the night while a storm was in progress, she managed to keep her wits about her. She decided the only thing to do was to try and make her way home, even though it was so dark outside she could hardly see. Lightening flashes served as a way to help her see to the way home, and all the while, rain came down in torrents. Two rain-swollen streams had to be crossed on the way, but she safely made her way. When she arrived, she was very tired, soaked through and through by the rain, and covered with mud from head to toe. Her parents were so embarrassed by the incident they cautioned the children not to tell the visiting preacher what had happened.


Luther McCormick and wife Elsie (Lea) McCormick family.  Back row:  Paul; Clem; Annie Laura; and Bessie.
Front row:  Faye; Luther; Nettie; Elsie; and Lucille.

Another story Huston has documented tells how his father went about moving a dwelling house that stood across the road from the property he purchased after moving the family from the Clarkrange community back to Overton County. After living in the home where it stood when Joe Vaughn purchased it, he decided to move the house to his own property that was just across the road. Even though techniques used today to move a house were not available back then, this didn’t interfere with Joe Vaughn’s plans to get the job done. He prepared for the move by jacking the house up and placing wooden beams under it. These beams served as sled runners, and a pair of mules provided the energy to move the house. When everything else required for the move was in place, the house began to inch forward slowly but surely. Small, round poplar saplings were continuously fed under the house functioning as rollers as the house crept forward. By lunch time that first day, the house had moved a few hundred yards and was sitting right in the middle of the Copeland Cove road. When the crew helping with the move took a break at lunch time, Clem fed them a meal she had prepared on the wood cook stove in the kitchen of the moving house. On the second day, the move was completed. Joe and Clem lived in this house until their deaths in 1994.

A black couple by the name of Mack and Ella Cullom owned a farm adjoining the property of Huston’s grandfather, Luther McCormick, near what is now the Overton County Fairgrounds. Mack and his wife, whom everyone called "Eller," and their children were among the closest neighbors Huston’s mother, Clem, had as a young girl. Clem always spoke fondly of the family and referred to them as "Uncle Mack and Aunt Eller," as was the custom in the old south. Mack earned a living as a farmer and a blacksmith. Fixing wagon wheels was one of the jobs Uncle Mack did, and this task was one that Aunt Eller always helped him with. According to Joe Vaughn, Aunt Eller could work just like a man. The Mack Cullom family had a string band reputed to be very good. Uncle Mack played the fiddle and the two daughters, Lula and Lillie, played the banjo and guitar respectively. On special occasions, they hosted all-day preaching and singing services in their home. They invited preachers and other guests to these events. Aunt Eller and her daughters prepared all kinds of food for these occasions, and is said to sometimes have used an entire 25-pound bag of flour in the preparation of all the food. Aunt Eller is the first black person Huston can remember seeing. His mother took him to her to home to visit when he was around four or five years old. During that visit, Aunt Eller took Huston onto her lap and hugged him. He said couldn’t remember if he was scared or not, but that is one occasion that definitely stands out in his mind. Nettie McCormick Stockton used to tell the story of how the McCormick family would gather on the back porch after supper in late summer evenings to sing hymns. The sound of their singing would carry over to the Cullom home nearby, where that family would follow suit by singing a hymn after the McCormick family finished. I’m sure lots of old gospel songs could be heard as both families enjoyed taking turns singing on those warm summer evenings.

Huston and I share a great-great grandfather by the name of Tench McCormick. A story is told that Tench brought scandal to the family following the death of his wife Catherine West McCormick who passed away in 1860. The story goes that very soon after Catherine’s death, Tench began a relationship with a woman name Jemima West who already had a son and at least two daughters. Some accounts report that Jemima later had an illegitimate child. Tench and Jemima lived together for a time, but it is uncertain as to whether they ever married. On the evening of December 10, 1862, Tench came home drinking, some that happened on a regular basis, and became aggressive, or possibly acting inappropriately, toward one of Jemima’s daughters. This enraged Jemima and as a result, she struck Tench over the head with a poker, knocking him unconscious. She then stabbed him in the back with a buffalo knife, and as a result, Tench died. Another version of this story says that she slit his throat with the knife. Following this incident, Jemima disappeared, and was not located until about ten years later when she surfaced in Hardin County, Kentucky. It is unclear as to whether or not she was ever charged with any crime.


Left front:  Catherine West McCormick, wife of Tench McCormick, who is seated beside her.  The small boy is Alexander McCormick, son on Tench.
A Vietnam veteran, Huston Vaughn retired in 2005 from a job with the Centers For Disease Control in Atlanta. He and his wife Patsy (Newland) Vaughn, live in the mountains of northeast Georgia. They are the parents of two daughters and have two grandchildren. Huston’s grandfather, Luther McCormick, and my grandfather, Marvin McCormick, were brothers. We are both members of the 1963 graduating class of Livingston Academy. I appreciate Huston’s willingness to share these special family memories.