The Life of Joe W. Vaughn and wife Clementine McCormick Vaughn Remembered

One of the daughters of Joe and Clem Vaughn, Euretha Williams, has graciously shared memories of her parents with me. Here is their story:

Joe Wilkerson Vaughn was the son of Civil War soldier Alvin Perry Vaughn. Joe’s mother, Uretha Copeland Beasley Vaughn, was a daughter of Wilkerson Copeland, and a granddaughter of "Big Joe Copeland." Between them, Alvin P. Vaughn and wife Uretha had a total of 17 children.

Clem, who grew up on a farm now occupied by the Overton County Fairgrounds, was one of seven children, 6 girls and 1 boy, whose parents were Luther and Elsie (Elzie) Lea McCormick. Alfred Lea, a brother of Elsie McCormick, was once Mayor of Livingston.

Prior to getting married, both Joe and Clem taught school in Overton County. A veteran of World War I, Joe was introduced to Clem by Delia Eubanks Phillips, wife of Ethan Phillips who was a walking mailman in Livingston for many years. In the fall of 1923, Joe and Clem married and began their life together in the home of Joe’s aged father who lived in the Black Hollow community near Alpine. Joe farmed and helped with the care of his father while Clem stayed busy with housework and gardening. As time went along, four children, Harold, Ruth, Euretha, and Joanna, were added to the family. It was while the family lived with Joe’s father that Joanna suffered a terrible accident on her first birthday. She fell into a hot bed of coals in one of the fireplaces, and as a result, she was left with scars on one side of her face. One of the many things that later in life Joanna was gifted in was her storytelling ability, a wonderful trait she carried the rest of her life.


Clem and Joe Vaughn are pictured prior to their marriage.

After more than eight years had passed, Joe purchased a 100 acre tract of property on Highway 127 near Clarkrange, and with the help of Kit and Lou, a team of mules, a wagon with a spring seat was loaded with the few possessions Joe and Clem owned at that time, and the family set out for Clarkrange. In addition to the four children, the items on the wagon consisted of two cane bottomed chairs, a feather bed, pillows and a few quilts. Joe’s father was very hurt and angry that the family was moving away, but arrangements were made prior to the move that Haskell Huddleston, his wife and children, Alvin, Haskell, and Oren Frank would move in the Vaughn home to care for Joe’s father. Joe’s sister, Frankie, cried when they left, not just because she considered "Joe Cephas" as the best brother any girl could have, but also because Joe and Clem had so little to make a home with in Clarkrange.

The route Joe directed the mules Kit and Lou to travel was via the Wilder Gulf. The family would be moving into a home that belonged to Joe’s sister, Mary Kimes and husband, Willis Kimes, who had gone north to work. The Kimes’ home would be lived in until Joe could clear land and build a house for his family. That same house Joe built some 77 years ago still stands and continues to be occupied today. It was on the first day of January, 1933 that Alvin Luther Vaughn, the fifth child, joined the family. When he got old enough to tag along after the other children, he begged to be carried. The older ones usually refused, but Joanna, who was only three years older than Luther, wouldn’t say no, and carried Luther around with his feet almost touching the ground. Luther is described as definitely being very spoiled as a child.

During the time of the Great Depression, it was a struggle for families just to survive those days. Keeping enough food on the table was very difficult for everyone. Sweet potatoes, one of the crops grown on the Vaughn farm in Clarkrange, helped sustain not only their children, but some neighbors’ children too. In the fall and winter, Clem always filled the oven with sweet potatoes, and many afternoons, the Vaughn children would be joined by Margaret and Maurice (Beau) Bilbrey whose home was about a mile down an old wagon old nearby. Running to the oven to get a sweet potato was always the first thing to do after the children and their neighbors got off the school bus in the evenings. Years later, Maurice Bilbrey told Clem that if it had not been for those sweet potatoes, he and Margaret would probably have starved to death.

Growing a fine watermelon crop was something Joe Vaughn was well known for. When the watermelons got ripe, Joe would carry them in a grass sack from the cornfield and put them under one of the beds until time to bring them out to be cut on Sunday afternoons. On one particular Sunday, a daughter of Dr. Joe Lockhart was present to enjoy the fruit, and at the end of that afternoon, she told Joe that she had eaten a slice of very single watermelon he had cut that day. That was a story Joe later loved to tell simply because the total number of watermelons he cut on that day was 30.

Donald Ward Vaughn became the sixth child in the Vaughn family on November 16, 1937. Euretha described Donald as a "tough little fellow, and a delightful addition to the family." Years later, he became a popular football player for Livingston Academy.

While living in the Clarkrange community, Joe and Clem’s home was the place where friends and neighbors gathered for Sunday School classes. Before selling the farm and returning once more to Overton County, Joe and Clem donated an acre of land upon which the Clarkrange Missionary Baptist Church was later constructed.

Because of Joe’s dream to provide a college degree for all of his children, the family relocated to Livingston where they bought a country store and a farm on the Monterey highway. It was also at this location that Joe and Marvin Hunter ran a grist mill. Since Bethlehem Methodist was the church Clem grew up in, the family began attending there after moving back to Overton County. Moving day happen to fall on a Saturday, and on Sunday morning, the family was up getting dressed for church when it was discovered that the one and only comb the entire family used could not be found. One of the children was sent to the home of Nathan and Effie Qualls who were neighbors to borrow a comb. In spite of the delay over the missing comb, the family got to church on time.

Bethlehem Methodist church has always played an important role in Clem’s family. It was members of her family who helped construct the church, and her father, Luther McCormick, went to the woods and dug young maple trees that continue today to shade the church grounds and put on a beautiful show of color every fall. Joe, along with daughters, Euretha and Joanna, and the minister spent one summer wallpapering the church. Joe served several years as Superintendent of Sunday School at Bethlehem, and later, he helped to organize and build Memorial Baptist church in Livingston.

When World War II began, Harold Vaughn was drafted while still attending high school. His absence was felt by the entire family during the years he served. While in the military, Harold served in the Combat Engineers and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. Harold was still away in service when the youngest member of the family made his appearance. Edward Huston Vaughn was born on May 13, 1945. Euretha said her parents enjoyed Huston more than all the rest of the children lumped together, especially when he was little. One Christmas when Huston was around four or five years old, he told his mother that Santa was not fair. The reason he thought so was because he had been a good boy, and all he got was a little truck with logs on it while the neighbor boy who often used bad language got cars big enough to ride in and a lot of other things.

Even though Joe and Clem lived on a modest income, five of their children went on to become college graduates. For several years, Joe was a trustee for UCEMC and also served as president of the Overton County Farm Bureau. While attending a board meeting, Joe made the statement that he was worth seven million dollars. The surprised gentlemen he was talking to replied, "Mr. Vaughn, I had no idea that you had that kind of money!" Joe’s response was, "I have seven children, and I wouldn’t take a million dollars for one of them!"

Sadness also came into the Vaughn family with the loss of son Donald who died from cancer at the young age of fifty followed by the death of daughter, Joanna, who also died from cancer at age 59. Joe and Clem remained in their home as long as they lived, something Joe had always hoped would be possible. They both died in 1994. Joe was 96 and Clem was 92. They are buried in the Good Hope Cemetery.

Clem and Joe Vaughn were photographed in the later years of their life.