Stories by Edie Brown Williams
The following stories were shared with me by Edie Brown Williams, who grew up in the Hilham area, has a total of 35 years in elementary education. She has taught math at Hilham Elementary for a good number of those years. Edie’s husband, Randal Williams, is involved in research at Tennessee Tech and does grant writing with the Kwill Consultants firm. Both he and Edie are very interested in family history and genealogy.
Edie has been dealing with Stage IV incurable cancer for several years now. She says she knows her time is running out, but is hopeful that one of the younger Browns will take up where she leaves off in the research of an amazing American family, the Overton County Browns. Here are two of Edie’s stories:
The Wayfaring Stranger
My father always told stories about our family. I enjoy regaling the stories as told to me by my father. About a week ago, I was watching an episode of the show “Nashville” which was entitled “Wayfaring Stranger.” The song got implanted in my brain and brought up a story often told by my father.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, it was not uncommon for travelers to knock on Grandpa Simmie’s door and ask for shelter for the night. Usually Grandpa provided them with a bed and some food to warm their stomach. As a a token of gratitude, the stranger would usually give Grandpa a small amount of money. Although Grandpa’s house seems remote and off the beaten track today, in those days, it was located on a main thoroughfare into the community. The road that went by Grandpa’s stretched from Danville, Kentucky to Huntsville, Alabama. Many people traveled by boat on the Cumberland River to Butler’s Landing, which was located just a few miles from Grandpa’s. During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate troops passed by the family homestead moving in and out of Tennessee and Kentucky.
One day as the dark was beginning to settle in, there was a knock on Grandpa’s door. When he answered the knock, a lonely stranger stood on his doorstep. When Grandpa Simmie, asked him how he could help, the man replied in an language unknown to Grandpa’s ear. Realizing that the man did not speak English, Grandpa began to communicate with him through gestures. The man managed to communicate to Grandpa that he was looking for somewhere to spend the night. Grandpa indicated that the man was welcome, but before the stranger stepped inside, he pulled his pockets inside out showing that he had no money. Something about the man brought out Grandpa’s sympathy so he gestured that the man was welcome to spend the night. After providing the man with supper, Grandpa showed him where he was to spend the night. A few minutes later, impulsively, Grandpa Simmie decided to ask the stranger if could do anything else for him. Quietly, opening the door to the man’s room, Grandpa was met with a sight that would stick with him for the rest of his life. The stranger was on his knees, eyes raised toward the ceiling with tears streaming down his face and it was obvious to Grandpa that he was praying. Grandpa quietly shut the door and retired to his bed. The next morning he provided the man with breakfast and the man made preparations to leave. Prior to leaving, he once again pulled his pockets inside out. Grandpa just shook his head, telling the man he owed nothing. Grandpa never forgot the man often wondering where he came from and what his story was. He never got an answer, but I have forever been proud of Grandpa for being so kind to the “Wayfaring Stranger.”
I can’t always remember all the minute details of the stories that Dad told me, so that’s when I turn to my brother Keith for help. Usually, between the two of us, we can reconstruct the story. The following is a story about our father that Keith asked me to share with you. I simply call it:
Dad’s First Dime
Sometime before 1920, Grandpa Simmie made the acquaintance of two gentlemen out of Glasgow, Kentucky. They were cattle dealers, coming into Northern Middle Tennessee to buy as many cattle as they could. Their names were Clark and Brassel. They were serious businessmen, who arrived on fine horses, with two well trained Collie dogs in tow. They came once a year when the Cumberland River was at its lowest because they would have to ford the river going to and fro from Kentucky. They made a business deal with Grandpa to make the family homestead their base of operation in Tennessee. Grandpa had a corral that would contain the cattle they purchased. They paid Grandpa for their food and lodging for each night they stayed. Every morning they would arise early, heading into the surrounding countryside in their quest to buy cattle. Their search led them into Clay, Jackson, and Overton Counties. Each night, they returned with their purchased herd, directed and guided by the ever faithful Collies. Clark and Brassel would stay until they had purchased between 50 and 100 head. Then they would say their farewells, heading back north leaving only a trail dust of dust in their wake. In the year of 1920, Brassel and Clark had a particularly successful buying trip. When they were ready to take their leave, Grandpa, Uncle Cordell, Uncle Herman, and Dad were gathered around the corral. Brassel looked at Grandpa and said, “Simmie, we may need some help in getting these cattle to the river. Do you think we could hire your boys to go as far as the river with us?” My six year old father’s face lit up expectantly. Brassel continued, “The two older boys could sure be a big help.” As soon as he said the words, Brassel must have noticed the disappointment on Dad’s face, because he hastily added, “And the little boy can come too, if you think he can make the trip.” “Oh yes,” Grandpa said, “He’s small, but tough as nails.” So my father, along with Cordell, Herman, Brassel, Clark, and the two Collies began guiding and directing the large herd of cattle on the seven and one half mile trek to the Cumberland River. The terrain was not easy to navigate. After about 6 miles, they had to peal off Baptist Ridge and head down a steep treacherous slope to Wet Mill Creek which led to the Barlow Rose place located on the Cumberland River.When they finally reached the muddy waters of the Cumberland, Brassel turned to Dad, Herman and Cordell. He thanked them for their hard work, giving Cordell and Herman each a quarter for their services. He then reached to shake Dad’s hand placing a dime in his palm. Dad practically quivered with excitement as he slid his the dime deep into his pocket. Dad was so happy about earning his first dime that he ran most of the way home. He kept his hand on the dime the entire way, afraid the dime might bounce out of his pocket. As he got home. he ran to Grandma Easter to show her his treasure. “Oh Charlie, that will buy enough thread and cloth so that I can make you a nice shirt.” Grandma Easter said. Dad couldn’t believe his ears. This was his first dime and his mother expected him to give it to her for material for a shirt! He set his chin stubbornly and uttered one word, “No!” Dad kept that dime for a couple of months and just looked at it. Every few days, Grandma would say something about how badly he needed a new shirt. Then, one day, Dad went to his special place where he kept his dime hidden, took one last lingering look at it, then very slowly took it and placed it in his mother’s hand. Then he turned and walked away without saying a word. Grandma Easter promptly walked two miles to the store and brought home enough material not for one but two shirts. However, Dad always said that those two shirts never felt nearly as good as that dime did in his pocket.