Skip to main content

Welcome to Boatland

This photo was taken around 1912 and is of Porter Woods' Store at Boatland in Fentress County, Tennessee.

John Clemens owned land at Boatland from 1826 to 1832.

Later, his son, Samuel, also known as Mark Twain, wrote "You would not know that Obedstown stood on the top of a mountain, for there was nothing about the landscape to indicate it--but it did: a mountain that stretched abroad over whole counties, and rose very gradually. The district was called the "Knobs of East Tennessee," and had a reputation like Nazareth, as far as turning out any good thing was concerned." The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873).

'Obedstown' is a reference to Jamestown, the seat of Fentress County. Boatland is located off Highway 52, a two-lane road that winds from Livingston to Jamestown, Tennessee. It's about 35 minutes from me. The place was called Boatland because of the flat boats that came up the Obed River to pick up tar, turpentine, and other products of the area to take to Nashville and other markets on the river waterways. John Clemens had also owned property one block from where the Jamestown square is today. His land was adjacent to a spring, which was a source of water for the early settlers. Today, it is known as Mark Twain Spring Park. Mark Twain was not born in Fentress County, but he was conceived there. He was born five months after his parents moved to Missouri.

As far as that line which Twain wrote about turning out any good thing, Boatland sure has had its share of celebrities. John Clemens is not the only person with a connection to fame to live at Boatland. Davy Crockett spent the winter of 1817 in a hunting cabin there. Records of his possessions and improvements are in several old deeds. Another famous resident of Boatland was Tinker Dave Beaty, who formed "Beaty's Independent Scouts," during the Civil War to protect residents and their properties from thieves and thugs like Champ Ferguson and his band of bushwackers.

And, then there's the story of Old Man Stout, who lived a reclusive life. It is said that Stout did not attend church, and sat up late at night reading strange books. He was accused in 1835 of being a witch and of bewitching a neighbor girl. Stout was arrested by a large posse armed with guns loaded with silver bullets and taken before Justice of the Peace Joshua Owens. At his arraignment, witnesses testified that they had seen Stout 'escape from dwelling houses through the keyhold in the doors' and that he had 'thrown people and animals into strange spells by his influence when they were miles away from him.' The testimony caused Stout to be held for the grand jury. But, Judge Abraham Caruthers and attorney general Joseph B. McCormick refused to indict Stout, which almost precipitated a riot in the courtroom. Old man Stout sued the officers and posse for damages. The people's defense was that Stout was a criminal under a statue of Henry VIII and James I that made witchcraft a felony. And, even though this was 1835, they claimed this particular statute had never been repealed in Tennessee. But, the Judge said the statute had never been in effect in Tennessee. Thus, the trial ended with the conviction of the people who made the initial arrest.

Portions of this story was based on these works: Touring The East Tennessee Backroads by Carolyn Sakowski and Boatland by Ruth Clark and Willie M. Gernt.


Popular posts from this blog

The Tornado at Beaty Swamps

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, May 10, 1933, Beatty Swamps, TN ( also known as Bethsaida), a small rural community located in Overton County, Tennessee, approximately 6.7 miles from Livingston, was struck by an F4 tornado that completely devastated the community. The funnel, anywhere from one-half to three-quarters of a mile wide, destroyed every home in the community, and killed or injured virtually every single resident. Much of the area was swept clean of debris. This is the second deadliest tornado ever to strike Middle Tennessee.

There have been tornadoes that have gained greater notoriety, such as the Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974, but never has a tornado affected a community as completely as the one that struck Beatty Swamps.

According to the National Weather Service, it had been a humid evening in the rural Cumberland Plateau community. In nearby Allardt, the temperature that Tuesday afternoon had climaxed at 82 degrees, a warmer-than-normal reading for early May. …

Ode To A Mule

James Arness died today. Gunsmoke was every one's favorite TV show back when I was a kid. For years, at my house, we watched every single episode that came on the TV. There's isn't any need to explain the show because I am sure that most of you have seen an episode of Gunsmoke at one time or another.

When I heard that Mr. Arness has passed away, I went online, because I wanted to read some quotes from the TV show - more specifically, I wanted to read some dialogue between Festus, played by singer Ken Curtis (Sons of the Pioneers), and the rest of the cast. Festus had a way of speaking, but he always spoke the truth and what he said always made sense, well in a Festus-sort-of way, I guess.

So, I went online to do that, and well, one click led to another click, and then another and another, and before I knew it, I found myself on YouTube, and that's when I heard, for the first time in many years, this beautiful story that I want to share with you.

If you paid close atte…

Long Live The Goat Man

(This photo was made in the 1950's as the Goat Man passed through my town)
Charles McCartney was born on July 6, 1901. In 1915, at age 14, he ran away from his family's Iowa farm. He eventually wound up in New York, and was soon married to a Spanish knife-thrower. When she got pregnant they tried to make it as farmers, but bad weather and the Great Depression wiped them out. About the same time, he experienced a religious awakening. A man on a mission, he hitched up his team of goats to a wagon and took to the open road with his wife and son. His wife made goatskin clothes for him and his son to wear as a gimmick during their travels, but she quickly grew tired of the road and returned to Iowa, taking their son with her.

Charles McCartney looked like a goat. He smelled like one, too because he rarely took a bath. You take a fellow who looks like a goat, travels around with goats, eats with goats, lies down among goats and smells like a goat and it won't be long before peop…