Saturday, November 5, 2011

Today Is OUR Birthday

19 million people are celebrating their birthdays today, including me.

Actually, the exact number is 19,178,082. According to some mathematical whiz who took the time to figure it out, 859,178 of those people live in the United States. On a grander scale, 3.7 million Chinese celebrate their birthday the same day I do.

When I read all those figures I started wondering who they are, and I learned that some really cool people were born on my birth date.

Roy Rogers was everyone's image of what a cowboy should be, from his white Stetson hat to his hand-tooled boots. His face was strong and handsome with eyes that squinted yet still showed a twinkle. His smile was warm and reassuring. He was the picture of honesty and integrity. And was there ever a more exciting sight than watching Roy and Trigger riding majestically across the television screen? I think not! One Christmas, I got a stick horse, a cowboy hat and a toy gun. I was ready to assist Roy any way I could. Roy Rogers was born exactly 100 years ago on Nov. 5, 1911.

Would you believe I share the same birthday as Natalie Schaeffer? You know her best as Lovey Howell from Gilligan's Island, which totally rocks because that was my favorite TV show when I was a child.

Who else shares my birthday? Why, none other than the Happy Norwegian! That's right, Myron Floren - the accordionist on The Lawrence Welk Show between 1950 and 1982 - was born on this date in 1919!

Speaking of 1919, Earle "Greasy" Neale hit .357 for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1919 World Series. He later coached the Philadelphia Eagles to NFL titles in 1948 and 1949. He was born on this date in 1891.

Other well-known people who share my birthday include Ike Turner, aka Mr. Tina Turner, Art Garfunkel, Peter Noone, who was Herman of Herman's Hermits, and Bryan Adams, who is the same age as I am.

So, Happy Birthday to the 19,178,082 people having a birthday today.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Liberty Enlightening The World

Yesterday, we celebrated the 125th birthday of the Statue of Liberty, which has long been our nation's most iconic and enduring symbols of freedom. French sculptor, Frederic Bartholdi called his creation “Liberty Enlightening the World.”

On July 3, 1986, during opening ceremonies of the Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration in New York, President Ronald Reagan said...."Call it mysticism if you will, I have always believed there was some divine providence that placed this great land here between the two great oceans, to be found by a special kind of people from every corner of the world, who had a special love for freedom and a special courage that enabled them to leave their own land, leave their friends and their countrymen, and come to this new and strange land to build a New World of peace and freedom and hope. Lincoln spoke about hope as he left the hometown he would never see again to take up the duties of the Presidency and bring America through a terrible Civil War. At each stop on his long train ride to Washington, the news grew worse: The Nation was dividing; his own life was in peril. On he pushed, undaunted. In Philadelphia he spoke in Independence Hall, where 85 years earlier the Declaration of Independence had been signed. He noted that much more had been achieved there than just independence from Great Britain. It was, he said, hope to the world, future for all time.''

President Reagan said, "We  dare to hope that our children will always find here the land of liberty in a land that is free. We dare to hope that we'll understand our work can never be truly done until every man, woman, and child shares in our gift, in our hope, and stands with us in the light of liberty -- the light that has cast its glow upon us for two centuries, keeping faith with a dream of long ago and guiding millions still to a future of peace and freedom."

God bless America!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Take My Life And Let It Be

One of my favorite hymns is a song that is sung quite often at my church. The name of it is Take My Life And Let It Be. It was written by Frances Havergal on February 4, 1874.

"I went for a little visit of five days," wrote Frances Havergal, explaining what prompted her to write this well-known hymn. "There were ten persons in the house; some were unconverted and long prayed for, some converted but not rejoicing Christians. [God] gave me the prayer, 'Lord, give me all in this house.' And He just did. Before I left the house, everyone had got a blessing. The last night of my visit I was too happy to sleep and passed most of the night in renewal of my consecration, and those little couplets formed themselves and chimed in my heart one after another till they finished with "ever only, all for Thee!"

One of the most dedicated Christian women of the nineteenth century, Frances was the youngest child of a Church of England minister. Though she was always in frail health, she led an active life, encouraging many people to turn to Jesus and others to seek a deeper spiritual walk.

Frances had begun reading and memorizing the Bible at the age of four (eventually memorizing The Psalms, Isaiah and most of the New Testament). At seven she wrote her first poems. Several of her mature verses became hymns. In addition to "Take My Life," she wrote such favorites as "I Gave My Life for Thee," "Like a River Glorious," and "Who Is on the Lord's Side?"

Because her voice was lovely, Frances was in demand as a concert soloist. She also was a brilliant pianist and learned several modern languages as well as Greek and Hebrew. With all her education, however, Frances Havergal maintained a simple faith and confidence in her Lord. She never wrote a line of poetry without praying over it.

One of the lines of Take My Life And Let It Be says, "Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold." In 1878, four years after writing this hymn, Miss Havergal wrote a friend, "The Lord has shown me another little step, and, of course, I have taken it with extreme delight. Take my silver and my gold now means shipping off all my ornaments to the Church Missionary House, including a jewel cabinet that is really fit for a countess, where all will be accepted and disposed of for me. Nearly fifty articles are being packed up. I don't think I ever packed a box with such pleasure."

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee
Take my moments and my days
Let them flow in endless praise

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee

Take my voice and let me sing
Always, only for my King
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee

Take my silver and my gold
Not a mite would I withhold
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose

Take my will and make it Thine
It shall be no longer mine
Take my heart, it is Thine own
It shall be Thy royal throne

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee

Frances R. Havergal

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jesse Noland

Jesse Noland was born on August 22,1799 at Sinking Creek, North Carolina, the youngest son of George and Martha Crouch Noland. After George died in the late 1790's, Martha married Isaac Denton and, like others from Washington County, they soon migrated east to a new land that had just opened up in Kentucky. They settled at a place known as Stockton's Valley. Isaac and Martha helped organize the first Church at Stockton's Valley. Brother Denton was the pastor of Clear Fork Baptist Church until his death on January 26,1848. Martha died less than a month later, on February 22,1848.
On August 14,1825, Jesse married Matilda Kendrick. They had eleven children. The Jesse Noland home on Highway 969 at Spring Creek was built between 1822 and 1828. At the time of its completion in 1828, the home was one of the most elegant and uniquely designed buildings in the region. In an era where most of the population's dwellings were made out of wood framing or logs insulated with clay, the Noland home was built by brick, signifying Jesse Noland was a wealthy person. Actually, in 1837, he was reported as one of a dozen persons having the largest tax valuations.

Jesse Noland died February 13,1857. On September 20,1886, Matilda agreed to pay her children, except Jesse Harrison Noland, $1.00 for her deed to all her land and real estate holdings to Jesse Harrison Noland. In return, Jesse Harrison agreed to pay off all money owed on the properties and support his mother for the rest of her life. This agreement was recorded October 9,1886. Matilda died May 1,1899. In 1927, Jesse Harrison Noland was recorded stating, "In consideration of the traveling public and my neighbors, I hereby give to the County of Clinton and the State of Kentucky, for the sole use as a public road and a bridge site, the following described property." The property spanned from the center of Spring Creek at the north all the way south to the Tennessee line. It was twenty-five feet wide and became the road that is now U.S. Highway 127. The deed was signed on January 4,1927. Jesse Harrison Noland retained the house and land, said to reach more than four miles, until his death in 1929. Jesse Noland and two of his sons, William and John Kendrick are buried at Clear Fork Cemetery. Jesse Harrison Noland is buried at Maupin Cemetery. His grave marked with a five foot carved white marble marker. The Jesse Noland property was sold in 1929 to J. Porter Poore. In 1947, the property was sold to the Hershel and Willie Sawyers Cross family. In 2001, the property was sold to its current owner, Jeff Thrasher, of Miami Beach, Florida and formerly of Albany.

After I wrote and published this story, I received an e-mail from someone that read, "according to a Noland descendant, Jesse Noland died of pneumonia after he helped remove water from the basement of his home after it was flooded."

In 1973, the Jesse Noland home was listed as a landmark by the Kentucky Heritage Council. In 2003, it was listed with the National Register of Historic Places

For more about the Jesse Noland home, visit the National Register of Historic Places.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Samuel Thomas Bledsoe

A casinghead gasoline explosion that occurred September 27, 1915, at Ardmore, Oklahoma, was the deadliest and most destructive of any up to that time. Casinghead gasoline, or natural gasoline, is collected from natural gas at the casinghead of an oil or gas well. Casinghead gasoline production held an important place in Oklahoma's early petroleum development, and by 1913 forty natural gasoline plants existed. Placing the gas under high pressure converts the gasoline in it to a liquid state, but this extremely volatile substance must stay at around 50F or it will expand and change back to a gaseous state. The product was generally shipped to refineries by rail.
On September 26, 1915, a railroad car carrying casinghead gasoline arrived in Ardmoreat the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway depot. There the car was left until it could be taken to a nearby refinery. The next day the temperature quickly rose, activating the car's pop-off valve, designed to release gas pressure. Gas began to pour out and into the low-lying areas of downtown Ardmore. The train conductor refused to move the car because of a fire at a nearby asphaltum plant. The Ardmore Refining Company then sent a representative, who removed the dome from the top of the car, filling the air with gas and vapors. At 2:20 p.m. on September 27 an explosion, triggered by an unidentified source, destroyed most of downtown Ardmore.

Many people were injured, and forty-three people were killed. A district grand jury and a local coroner's jury found the Santa Fe Railway at fault. Citizens formed a committee that took claims and then presented them to the railroad officials. More than seventeen hundred claims were filed, and $1.25 million was paid.

The attorney responsible for the settlement of these claims was a native of Clinton County. His name was Samuel Thomas Bledsoe.

Samuel Thomas Bledsoe was born in Clinton County on May 12, 1868, the son of Elijah and Ottilla G. Snow Bledsoe. After attending some school in Clinton County, he was enrolled in a private school at Jamestown, Kentucky, and later, the Southern Normal School and Business College at Bowling Green. He also studied law under the direction of Tom Brown of Brown and Bliss, Sherman, Texas, who later became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas. Bledsoe attended the University of Texas in 1888 and 1889. He taught school in Clinton County in 1885 and in Cumberland County in 1886. He moved to Grayson County, Texas in 1887. In 1890, he was admitted to the practice of law at Sherman, Texas. On May 1, 1890, he moved to Ardmore, Indian Territory, and began practice of law there. And, on July, 1912, was appointed General Attorney of the Santa Fe at Oklahoma City.

Although there was grave doubt of the Santa Fe's responsibility for damage resulting from the explosion, that Company on Bledsoe's recommendation offered to assume liability to all claimants who would agree to submit their claims to arbitration by a Committee of Ardmore citizens to be selected by the Mayor of Ardmore in case they were unable to agree with the Company as to the amount to be paid. Notwithstanding there were many hundred claims, only one suit was filed, the claimant recovering much less than he had been offered.

Samuel Thomas Bledsoe died on March 8, 1939 at Chicago, Illinois.

*From Chronicles of Oklahoma - Vol. 17, No. 2, June 1939 - Samuel Thomas Bledsoe, by M.L. Lyles.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Welcome To Albany - Home of FRIENDLY People

"It is the perfect place to settle," is what Thomas Stockton must have thought when he was the first to arrive here in 1798. Stockton had built one of the first grist mills in the Smokey Mountain area of Tennessee, but when the new land east of the Green River opened in Kentucky, he packed up and headed north. As he crossed over Cumberland Mountain and stood on a spur of that elevated platform, later to be called Poplar Mountain, he surely must have been overwhelmed at the beauty of what lay before area he named Stockton's Valley, later to be known as Albany.

There has never been a shortage of heroes in Clinton County.

Many of the first residents of Stockton's Valley were young adults. Most were either soldiers of, or sons and daughtes of soldiers of, the American Revolution. They were just a few short years removed ancestors who were of french, english, irish or german descent. They were proud to be Americans and they were eager to begin new lives in a new territory.

It was the fall of the year when the call for volunteers went out at the outbreak of the War of 1812. Because of their background, there was no question that residents of Stockton Valley would be first in line to eagerly take up arms to defend their country once again. On August 31, 1813, Company 53, led by William Wood of Stockton's Valley, reached Newport, and the company's 47 men, including 36 rank and file, 11 commissioned officers and nine rifles, prepared for battle as they crossed the Ohio River at Cincinnati, and headed for Lake Erie. On October 5, 1813, General Harrison and his forces crossed over into Canada where they fought and won the decisive Battle of the Thames. It is said William Wood was present when Richard M. Johnson killed Tecumseh. The soldiers of Stockton's Valley returned home on November 13th. They had left their home and families to defend their country, and had returned as heroes.

There are many other heroes in Albany and Clinton County; farmers, teachers, business leaders, pastors and Church folk, and every single one of them have done their part, or are still doing their part to make our little community what it is today....a great place to grow up and live and raise our children. And, while some are called to leave home and make their mark somewhere else in the world, they are still proud to call Albany and Clinton County home. I proudly salute those who have come before us, and those who are still out there doing what they do every day to make my town the GREAT place that it is today.

Clinton County was formed on February 20, 1835. By the year 1880, 7,212 people were living here. The population in 2010 was 10,272.

When I was growing up, there was a large sign out by the hospital that read: "Welcome to Albany - Home of 2,000 Friendly People. The fact that the increase hasn't been so great is not what matters. While the faces of people may come and go, what counts is there is always going to be plenty of 'friendly' people around.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Parrett Letters - Part I

James Parrett's family migrated across the Cumberland Plateau when he was only a child. His father had died when James was only two years old. James caught the measles during the migration. His widowed mother left him with another family in order to keep her other children safe from the terrible disease, and before she could return for James, she died. As a young boy, James was made an indentured servant, which means he worked under contract for someone in exchange for food, clothing, lodging and other necessities. Eventually, he grew to be a man, with a dark complexion, dark hair, hazel eyes and he stood 5'10". In the 1850's, James married Mahala Ann Bowman in Overton County, Tennessee.

On November 27, 1862, James enlisted in the Civil War. He joined Company H of the 28th Tennessee Infantry at McMinnville and achieved the rank of Sargent.

A collection of letters that James wrote to Mahala during the war were handed down over the years and eventually became the property of Doris Parrett Williford, James and Mahala's great-granddaughter. The letters chronicle the inner struggles James experiences while being away from his wife and children during the war, and how he uses his faith to see him through the ordeal.

Gary Norris transcribed the letters and they were posted online. In his transcription, Gary included James' misspelled words alongside the correct spelling. For the sake of space, I have only included the correct spelling. In some instances, I put a sentence in proper order only for the sake of allowing the sentence to make sense when reading it.
Photos courtesy of Dale Welch of Monterey.

If we shall never see each other again in this life, I hope that we will meet in heaven where there is no war, but peace forever. (James Parrett, September 10, 1864)

The Parrett Letters
Letter #1

Written just after the Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee on December 31, 1862 and January 1, 1863. James takes the opportunity to tell Mahala Ann Parrott he had survived the battle and missed the entire family. Already the Confederates were taking up defensive positions between Shelbyville and Tullahoma. This defensive line was called the Duck River Line. It would hold the Union forces in check until June 1864.

January 9, 1863
Bedford County, Tennessee

Dear Wife,
I want to use the opportunity to write to you to let you know that I am well and I hope you and all are well. I got to my regiment on the second day after I left home. I found it on the battle field about three miles of Murfreesboro. We are now north of Shelbyville and Tullahoma. There has been a terrible battle here. I want to see you so very bad but no telling when I can. Do the best you can. If you have the opportunity, write to me. Write every chance you have. I dont know when I can come home. Kiss for me, my babies.

I remain your husband till death,


Letter #2

At the time of this letter, the Confederate Army of Tennessee is sitting on a defensive posture on the Duck River in Middle Tennessee. Apparently, James had either been wounded or was recovering from illness. Rome, Geogia was a rear hospital area or the Confederate Army of Tennessee. At this time Mahala Bowman Parrott was still protected by General Bragg's Army of Tennessee. By the first of July the Confeferates were in retreat and all of Middle Tennessee was surrendered to the Union forces. After that point, it would be a deadly process for James to attempt to visit his wife in the Upper Cumberland area.

April 2, 1863

Dear Wife,

I now seat myself to write you another letter to let you know that I am well but not stout. I am weak yet, but I can eat every hour in the day. If nothing happens to me, I will be able to go to my command in another week. I have had a hard time of sickness, but thank God I am well now and when this letter comes to you I hope it will find you all well and doing well. I want to see you worse than anybody on earth. Nobody is now company for me. You and your little boys is on my mind continually. I pray to God that the time will soon come when I will get home to you in peace. Hala Ann, I love you better than anybody in this world. I want to see you and kiss your sweet lips in token of my kind of love to you. I never knew what trouble was until I left home. We lived together eight years, lacking one day, and a happy life we lived. It melts my heart to think that such lover as us has to be parted in such a manner as we are. A many a tear I have shed since I left home. I want you to pray for my return home soon, and if we never meet again on earth, I hope we will meet in Heaven, where parting will be no more; no wars nor sickness, nor trubbles never come. Pray for my future welfare. The prayers of the righteous [availeth] much.

Do the best you can till I get home. I don't now when I can get to come home. They won't furlough nobody, but I am to come to see you if nothing happens sometime between this and fall. Furlough or not, for it don't seem to me that I can stand it much longer without seeing you and the boys. I think this year is the last year of the war. I think that we will have peace. People is geting tired of this war on both sides as the cotton famine is great in England and France. So, that France and England will recognize the south independence. I want you to watch the office at Goodbars. I direct my letters to the Goodbars, but the mail stops at Gillilands but Goodbars goes there after his newspapers and he will bring all letters to his house. I have wrote you three letters since I have been in Georgia, and have not no answer as yet. I received our letter that was dated the 24 of February. It came to the regiment and I wrote to Jerry if any letter had come from you to send them to me and he sent that letter to me. I was glad to hear from you, to hear that you was all well. It was all the news that I have heard from you since I left home of consequence. I want you to write to me every chance you have. I dont know where to tell you to send your letters. Until I go to the camps you can't answer this letter. Before I leave here, I watch the office for [an] answer from the last letter that I wrote you. I wrote for you to write in haste but use every chance you have to send them by hand.

(This letter continues next)

The Parrett Letters - Part II

On November 27, 1862, James Parrett enlisted in the Civil War. He joined Company H of the 28th Tennessee Infantry at McMinnville and achieved the rank of Sargent. A collection of letters that James wrote to his wife, Mahala, during the war were handed down over the years and eventually became the property of Doris Parrett Williford, James and Mahala's great-granddaughter. The letters chronicle the inner struggles James experiences while being away from his wife and children during the war, and how he uses his faith to see him through the ordeal.

Letter #2 continued

When you write, write everything that you think will comfort me. Write all about affairs so I may know how you are geting along. If you are not out of money, be saving of it. I want to send you some money the first chance if it would come to you safe. I would send you some money in this letter but I am ____ to risk it. I have a pretty [gift] for you and Lety, one apiece. I will send them to you the first chance. Mahala Ann I have you a fine hymn book. I will send it to you the first chance. The book cost two dollars. The other pretties are two silver thimbles warrented to be silver. The two cost me three dollars. Things is plenty here but at a high price. Shoes for women, fine shoes, they ask $20.00 a pair. Every thing is [an] awful might higher now. I will give you the prices of produce: sweet potatoes are five dollars a bushel, irish potatoes are fifteen dollars a bushel, pork is fifty cents a pound, just crape off bacon is one dollar and a quarter per pound, lard the same, butter is a dollar and a half per pound, milk is forty cents a quart, beef is thirty cents a pound. I went to a house to buy a canteen full of milk and the lady told me that some families were starving. Everything was so high that they could not buy it. Many a family is starving in the state of Georgia. Starvation is glaring us in the face. Everything is so high I want you to raise everything you can. A big patch of potatoes of both kinds, and be certain to save every pig you can for it will be a fortune at fifty cents per pound. I want you to have your pigs spade in this month. The new moon. I want you to have the kinder sow spade and the Adkins sow spade and save the others, and do all you can to save all young pigs. If your cows are not going to give no milk, you buy a cow to give you milk. I will send you the money the first chance to pay with. Trade to the best advantage. Don't you sell a pound of meat, dont pasture nothing but the hogs and mare and milk cows. Turn the steers and the calves and that heifer outside. Put one of them bells on Brandy and drive them to the top of the mountai]. Brandy knows the range out there. You must be saving of your clover or it is all your chance this summer for pasture. But if nothing happens I aim to sow the big field in small grain to put all the pigs in it that you can save. I will leave it all with [you] to do the best you can till I come. I want you to kiss my boys for me till I come home. Tell John and Thomas that their pap wants to hug and kiss them both bad. I must come to a close. I want to hug and kiss your sweet lips and I feel confident that I will again. I remain your husband until death. I love you.

Letter #3

Sergeant James Parrott wrote this letter from inside Tennessee. Whatever ailment or wound he had seemed to have healed and he had been sent back to the front lines near the Duck River in Middle Tennessee. His 28th Infantry Regiment was getting ready for the coming Union invasion which they knew would appear as soon as the ground dried. The Confederate forces were trying to hold the rich farm lands of Middle Tennessee and the Union forces prepared to seize Chattanooga and drive the Rebels out of Tennessee for good. All furloughs were cancelled in view of the pending invasion. James missed his wife so much and there appeared little hope of their reunion any time soon. However, James was not about to desert. He would stay by his post and witness the heaviest fighting of the war at Liberty Gap, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge.
April 12, 1863

Dear wife:

I seat myself to write you another letter to let you now that I am well as I ever was, but I
am not as stout. I got weighed yesterday and I weighed one hundred and fifty pounds. I got to my regiment this evening and I found the boys generally well, and I hope that this letter will find you and the children and Lety all well and doing well. The most pleasure that I have saw was riding on the train. I want to see you worse than anybody in the world. I thought if I could of had you to fill the seat with me I would of give any mansion, but instead of you it was a South Carolina soldier. I have nothing important to write to you. I have wrote you four letters and have got two letters from you, but I did not look for any answer from you, only the third one. I wrote to you to answer the third one while I was in the city of Rome. I stayed four weeks there after I wrote that letter. I watch the [post] office close. I wrote you a letter and directed it to Gillilands, which is the Oakhill post office. Watch the office and maybe you will get them. I want you to write to me every chance you have, if it is every week. [Send them to] Tullahoma to the 28th Regiment company ___ Tenn volunteers. The last letter I wrote Mr. Goodbar to take the letters to his house, you could get them without going to Gilliland's often. I have got three suits of clothes. I did not know that you would have the chance to send me any clothes. I drawed one pair of pants and one pair of drawers and a shirt. I have enough clothes I think to do me plentiful this year. My shoes is nearly new yet. Ppeople here is in fine spirits. [There] is no talk of fighting soon here. All is quiet now as far as I know. I want to see you all so bad that I can hardly keep from running away. They will not furlough anybody. I dont want to run away. It will be a disgrace, besides a punishment of some kind, but I intend to come home sometime between this and fall, Furlough or not if I can get there. I dream of eating dinner with you and you had a good dinner. It was ham and cabage and chicken and several other things. If that could be so it would be a great pleasuer to me. I long to see the time come when I can get the pleasure of coming home to stay. If I could get one kiss from you it would be more pleasure to me than every thing here. You must excuse my bad writing and all mistakes. The boys is talking to me so that I can hardly write. All glad to see me. I have good friends every where I go, so I must remain your true husband until death. Write as soon as you get this and send it by Jackson.

The Parrett Letters - Part III

On November 27, 1862, James Parrett enlisted in the Civil War. He joined Company H of the 28th Tennessee Infantry at McMinnville and achieved the rank of Sargent. A collection of letters that James wrote to his wife, Mahala, during the war were handed down over the years and eventually became the property of Doris Parrett Williford, James and Mahala's great-granddaughter. The letters chronicle the inner struggles James experiences while being away from his wife and children during the war, and how he uses his faith to see him through the ordeal.

Letter #4

This letter finds James sick. He had left the Confederate main lines near Tullahoma and Shelbyville, Tennessee to a hospital at Tunnel Hill, Georgia. The sargeant was later transferred to another hospital at Catoosa Springs, Georgia. His was most likely suffering from dysentery or chronic diarrhea. This was the most common sickness during the entire war. Also, it was the most common cause of death. The Confederates still hold a line along the Duck River in Middle Tennessee. They are supplied by a railroad from Chattanooga. The Union forces are supplied from Nashville and the Cumberland River. Should the Confederates lose Middle Tennessee they will have given up the best horse farms in the South. The Union forces aim to take Chattanooga and then seize Atlanta. This move would virtually cut the Confederacy in half and paralyze the transportation so vital to the Southern armies. Letter #4 was not dated, but most likely came from the last two weeks in May 1863.

Dear wife:

I now seat myself to write you again to let you now that I am well and hearty but my wind is not good. I have a shortiness of breath. I weigh one hundred and 55 with my clothes all on and a pair of socks in my pocket. I am as fat as you ever saw me. I have not got fat on a satisfied mind, nor something good to eat. It is a good stomach. I hope when this letter reaches you it will find you and my little boys all well. I received your letters that was dated April 22. I was glad to hear from you but sorrow to hear that my little boys were sick and that you was in so much trouble and that you had worked so hard. I dont want you to work so hard as to hurt yourself. You must take good care of yourself. If you was to get sick and I was to hear of it, it would trouble me almost to death. I will settle with Billy when I come home. The low places in my face is filled out. If you could see me you would say that I was a round face man. If I can I will get my likeness at Chattanooga as I go to my regiment and send it to you. I will tell you my dream the [14th] night of May. I dreamt that little John was dead. It seemed so plain that it troubled me so that I could not keep still and on the [15th] day of May, I received your letters that bare [the] date April 22. I shuddered to read them, but glad tidings that he was alive and on the mend. But I am uneasy yet about you all. You must write to me as soon as you get this [turn the page over]. I have wrote to you time and again and I have never got but four letters from you. I have now thought that you have received all of my letters. I wrote you four in Rome and I got no answer. I have wrote you a letter [that] since I have come to Tunnel Hill the doctor has sent me about eight miles off to a place named Catoosa Springs Hospital. I am in ward number three with about 100 hundred others. This is as pretty a place as you ever saw. They is 50 springs here all of different kinds of water. They are all close together. They are not more than 100-150 yards apart. I do not expect to stay here more than two weeks more till I will go to my regiment. I am expecting a letter from you every mail. If you don't have the chance to send letters by hand to me, send them by mail. Make them at Gillilands and you can get Mr. Goodbar to take them. I expect he goes there once a week to get letters and papers. I want to hear from you once a month anyhow. Direct the answer to this to Shelbyville and be sure to put on the back of your letter to James Parrott, Wright's Brigade, 28 Regiment so that it will be sure to come if the mail is alright. If we leave Shelveyville the letter will follow me. Write to me if you have got my clothes that I sent home and write what all you got with them.

Letter #5

(Possibly written around the second half of May 1863)

State of Georgia

Dear wife:

I have nothing important to write to you about the war. I learn about ten minutes ago that the Yankees had Vicksburg surrounded. I don't now what will become of us. I expect that we will have to fight before long. Bragg is advancing. If they do not come out I believe that Bragg will attack them in their brestworks. If we do fight, it will be awful. Time I must come to a close. I must tell you about your kinfolks I have found your father's cousin. He lives at Tunnel Hill in Whitfeld County, Georgia. I stayed with him some and he did not charge me anything. His name is Henry Bowman. He is doing well and the master worker. He is a blacksmith I will tell you [my dream] I dreamed that I came home and you and Lety was spining. Lety laughed and shook hands with me and ask me in. I went to you and you shuck hands with me. I thought that I would hug and kiss you [but] you would not let me. I thought you both was so fat that you did not look natural. I can't write half enough now. Do the best you can till I see you, if ever the fear of battle has all left me. Le us trust in God for his kind blessing. I will close by saying I remain your true husband until death. Lety, I received your kind letter. It pleased me much. Lety, I want to see you. I was glad to hear that you was in good health. Part of my dream is so, in the way you weigh 160.

After resting I will write on this side. I want to know if Calvin Bowman is in the service. Write how George Speck and family is and give my best respect to all of my friends. Hala Ann, I have learned more since I left home than I would in ten years there. We live in the worst country to make a living than any place. The people is hid bound, no navigation there. I think if I ever get home in peace that I will sell my land and go where I can make a living easier than I can there. Would like to know how ou are doing for salt. You must raise all the pigs you can. They will be needed and will bear a good price. I am glad that you get milk. I want you to raise all the chickens you can. I want to sit by you and eat fried chicken, and you may raise geese too. I have found out that they are good to eat. I have helped to eat a many a gander since I saw you. Wheat crops look well here. I want you to write how Nancy Holloway and Joseph is getting along farming. I want you to engage twenty bushel of wheat when it gets ripe. Get it off J. M. Goodbar if he has it to sell. I want to sow all the field that Nancy is tending. Look for a letter once a month. I will try to rite once a month. I love you and my sweet children. That knot of love that is tied in my heart will [n]ever die. Goodbye.

(Here is how James wrote that last sentence: That not of love that is tide in my hart will ever dy.)

The Parrett Letters - Part IV

On November 27, 1862, James Parrett enlisted in the Civil War. He joined Company H of the 28th Tennessee Infantry at McMinnville and achieved the rank of Sargent. A collection of letters that James wrote to his wife, Mahala, during the war were handed down over the years and eventually became the property of Doris Parrett Williford, James and Mahala's great-granddaughter. The letters chronicle the inner struggles James experiences while being away from his wife and children during the war, and how he uses his faith to see him through the ordeal.

Letter #6

The next letter is the shortest of the collection. In it, James discusses the high cost of living the Confederacy was experiencing since the beginning of the war two years previously. He had not been at home for some length of time because he did not realize how difficult it had become to get salt or leather. As the war progressed, the Confederate forces experienced more and more difficulty in obtaining leather and salt. This letter did not have an address. It is assumed that James is still at the hospital in Georgia. The Union invasion of Middle Tennessee was a mere two weeks away.
June 9, 1863

Mrs. Mahala Ann Parrott

I have the opportunity of writing you a few more lines. I am well today. I hope that you are too. I render you $14 dollars in this letter. You must write to me if you get it and write soon. I would send you some money before now but I had no chance by telling it. I have spent write smart. I have drawn 62 dollars in all. I spent it for something to eat and it was high. If you need more money than this write to me and I will send you some more. I want you to lay in salt if you can, and leather. Write how your are doing for salt. I must close by saying I want to kiss you.

Letter #7

This letter was written after James Parrott had returned to his 28th Infantry Regiment near Shelbyville, Tennessee. General Bragg is trying to instill discipline into his troops before the coming Union invasion. You will read of an execution for desertion. General Braxton Bragg required all of the 28th Regiment watch the execution in order to leave a strong impression on the soldiers' minds. In less than two weeks the impending invasion would come. This time the Union troops had a surprise for the 28th Regiment. The repeating rifle would be used for the first time in a battle. The Southern troops would say the Yankees "had a gun they could load on Sunday and shoot all week." Letter #5 also includes the names of several men who served with James Parrott.
June 15, 1863

Dear Wife

I take the opportunity to drop you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along. I am well and hearty with the infection of a cold that I have taken. I got back to my regiment. I truly hope that this will find you in good health and doing well. I want to see you and the children awful bad. I think of you every hour in the day and dream of you more often when I sleep. I have nothing very important to write to you. Only a few nights ago we had a tolerable good camp meeting. 13 mourners and 1 profession [took place]. I will tell you of a sight that I saw the 12th day of this month. I saw a man shot to death with muskets. He was charged with desertion. The brigade was all ordered to the field where he was shot and then the prisoner was brought. They sung and prayed for him. He said that he was prepared to meet his God in peace. After the prade they then took him and led him to a stake and tied him and 12 guns was discharged at him. Six was loaded with ball and six with blank loads. He would not let them blind his eyes. General Marcus Wright said that he never saw as gallant a fellow as he was. General Wright shed tears when he shook hands with him after he had tied him. The man's name was Wright, who lived in Jackson County. He belonged to the 8th Tennessee Volunteers. Eenough of that. Hala Ann, I sent you 15 dollars in money by Mr. Hampmiller, and a letter. I trust you will get it. I have been working in the breastworks today. We are building breastworks here. Our breastworks is about 15 miles long. Some think that we will fight here and some thinks that we will not. I heard good preaching yesterday. We have tolerable plenty to each such as it is. Myself and my mess went out yesterday and picked us a big mess of wild salad and it was not bad to take. I eat a big [helping] of it and today I eat a big mess of bread soup. I am a good hand to make it and I can cook tolerable well but nearly everty time I go to wipe the skillet out I burn my littler finger. I have just as good a mess as in the 28th Ridgment. I mess with Nathan Callahan, Thurstan Qualls, John Ford, M. T. Ray, Bailey Copeland, John Jackson, and Jerry Holloway. They all seem like brothers to me. We have moved from below Shelbyville. We moved about 5 miles north of Shelbyville. Well, you must write to me soon and direct your letter down and see me. If I dont get to come home, which I see no chance now, if you could make the [arrangements] so you could leave home, you could come down and see me and get back in 10 or 12 days and two or three with you would be more satisfaction to me than everything that I have saw since I left home. Tell Nancy that Jerry is well. He is gone out in the country to buy some milk now. My mess is all well. Give my best remarks to all my friends and keep a reasonable portion to yourself. I have nothing important to write to you about the war. You must write every chance you have as you promise to do, for I would like to read a letter from you every day. Write all about our affairs, how corn looks, potatoes, and wheat. I always love to read as kind letters as you send me that lets me know that you are living a christian. I must bring my letter to a close by saying I love you and my children better than everything else in the world. You must kiss the boys for me and hug the baby. Bless his heart. I want to kiss him. I know that he is sweet by his being so fit. No more - I remain your husband until death. Good by for this time.


Letter #8

This letter was written one week before the Union attack on the Duck River line. Unlike the Union Army, the Confederates are required to grow their own food. James wrote of having to sow wheat with the other men of his company. The lack of money at home required a barter system. James also tells his wife how to settle old debts back home.
June the 18, 1863

Sate of Tennessee, Bedford County

Dear Wife:

I have another opportunity to send you another letter as I have promised to write every chance I have. I intend to do so and I believe you will too. The best news I have to write to you is that I am well and I do truly hope that this letter will find you and the children all well and doing as well as could be expected. I want to see you as bad as ever but it did not fall to my lot to get to come home this time. As I had no wheat sowed I did not get to draw straws with the boys. The detail was so scattering, only five men from our company, but I hope that I will get a furlough before long. If anything should happen that I should not get a furlough and I stay here, you must come and see me if you can. I have drawed a short coat and I have sent my coat home by John Hancock. He is to leave it at Mrs. Timler and I wrote you a letter and sent it by mail that I put a paper of five needles in it. I want you to write if you have got them are not. I want you to be contented and dont grieve for me. Grief don't stop this war nor does it cook you breakfast nor your supper. I feel confident that I will see you again. I want you to weigh all my boys and tell me how much they weigh. I want you to have some of my old sows spade if they are not with pigs. Have the Adkins sow spade and the Kiner sow spade and the sow that I bought of Nancy Their big sow and their two gilts will be enough to keep til I get home. I want you to save all the hogs you can. Write to me how all the stock looks and how many hogs you have alive. Let nothing run in the clover but the hogs and mare. Let the cattle all run outside but your milk cow. You have no harvest pasture and your clover is all your chance for your hogs. I want to know how your corn in holding out and your bacon, and how you are making out for salt and write who is your best neighbor. If anybody mistreats you, I want to know it. I want you to write how our corn looks and how much ground is lying out. If old Barney West can be got in to work, I want the floor put in the new house. That house must be fixed before winter if any probable chance. He owes me the putting in the sleepers and stocking my briar scythe, and the building of my chimney. Tell him if he will put down the floor and stock the scythe that we will be even. I must close by saying I want to hug and kiss you my lovely wife and my sweet baby and hug my big boys. Goodbye for this time.


The Parrett Letters - Part V

On November 27, 1862, James Parrett enlisted in the Civil War. He joined Company H of the 28th Tennessee Infantry at McMinnville and achieved the rank of Sargent.
A collection of letters that James wrote to his wife, Mahala, during the war were handed down over the years and eventually became the property of Doris Parrett Williford, James and Mahala's great-granddaughter. The letters chronicle the inner struggles James experiences while being away from his wife and children during the war, and how he uses his faith to see him through the ordeal.

Letter #9

This letter was written after the fall of Atlanta on September 4, 1864. Both armies had fought almost non-stop for a total of four straight months on the road to Atlanta. James Parrott reflected on his good luck and the blessing of God in protecting him from harm. The tenor of Parrott's voice showed his war weariness.

September 10, 1864

Near Jonesborough, Ga. Cheatham Division, Wrights Brigade, 28 Tenn. Regiment

Dear Wife:

I have the opportunity of seating myself to write you another letter to let you know that I am well and I hope that this letter will find you and my sweet little boys and Lety all well, and I hope that this will find all the rest of my kinsmen and friends all well. I want to see you all so bad that I cant hardly stand it. I hope and trust to God that the time is not far distant that I will get to come home and live in peace the remains of our days. May God speed the time. Dear companion, I can say to you that I have been in all the battles since the battle of Murfreesboro and I was in the battle of Chickamauga and at Resaca and at Darsville, New Hope Church, Kennesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek, Stone Mountain and at Jonesborough. I have been in all those battles and through the blessing of God I have never been touched with a bullet. I thank God for it. God has been my shield and I hope that He will be until I die. What has been the cause of him being my friend - I have ask him for his blessing. You wrote to me that you had prayed for me. I do believe that God has answered your prayer, for he has blessed me in everything, and I request you to continue to ask God for to extend his blessings toward us as a family. If we shall never see each other again in this life I hope that we will meet in heaven where there is no war but peace forever. Tell John and Thomas to be good boys and mind their mother till their pap comes home, and to learn to read and to spell. I want to see you all so bad that I cant hardly write so that you can read it. You must excuse all mistakes and bad writing. I want you to kiss Robert for me and tell him that is from Pap. I want you to write to me just as soon as you get this, or as soon as you can, and write to me about how you are getting along and all about how my friends is getting along, and tell them to write to me and give me all the satisfaction you can. Mahala Ann, I have wrote you two letters before this one. I sent them by the way of Richmond, by flag of truce. I am fixing to start in the morning through the lines with a flag of truce to exchange prisoners and I expect to send this letter through the lines by some prisoner and get him to mail it.

When you write I want you to send me some United States stamps, and when we get a communication open I want you to write once a weak so I can get them regular. I want to know if the mail route is open to Gillilands at the Oak Hill Post Office. I send my letters to Burkesville, Kentucky, in care of Alen or Olen Gilliland. Inquire for letters every chance you have. I saw Elvin Moredock sometime back and he said that he was writing home. I want you to get Uncle Thomas Moredock to look for my letters and get them to you. I aim to write every chance I have as I can't get to see you. I hope to hear from you. It would do me more good to hear from you than anything else as I can't get to see you. I oft times think of that sweet babe that I kissed the morning I left home. God bless his heart. I want to kiss him today and you to. Hala Ann, I want you to pray for me and tell all my Christian friends to remember [me] in there prayers. Pray to God to give us peace and stop the sheding of blood. Governor Brown of Georgia has set Thursday the 15 of September for fasting, humiliation, and prayer. I hope it will prevail much. Dear wife I shudder to think of your troubles when your little children asleep you are awake. I am in this war. I don't know when I can get out of it. You had rather have me a brave man than for me to be a coward. Wife, you do not want me to run risks of coming home and take [protection in the wild]. I could write a great deal more but I am not allowed to, so I must close by saying I remain your husband until death. Goodbye for this time. Lety, I want you to write to me and tell me who is your sweatheart.



Letter #10

This letter is pretty much a repeat of the conclusion of Letter #8. James further reflects upon his good luck and blessings from God. War weariness again crept into this letter. At the time, both armies in Georgia were taking a much needed breather. General John Bell Hood had lost Atlanta, but was certain that Union General Sherman had traveled too far from his base of supplies at Nashville. General Hood planned on traveling northward to cut the railroad between Sherman's Atlanta-based army and the main supply depot at Nashville. This would have caused Sherman to retreat back to Nashville and give up Georgia and Middle Tennessee. Anyway, that was Hood's plan.

September 11, 1864

Dear wife.

I, this sabbath morning, seat myself to write you one more letter to let you now that I miss the land of the living and well, and hope that this will reach you and find you and my sweet children all well and doing well. I want to see you all powerful bad. I want you to write me as soon as you get this and give me all the satisfaction you can and send me some United States postage stamps, for I want to write to you often if the communication can be open. I have been in several hard battles, but through the blessing of God I have never been touch with a bullet. God has been my shield and I hope he will be till I die. You wrote to me that you had prayed for me. I believe that God has answered your prayer. I want you to still ask God for his blesing and tell all of my Christians friends to remember me in their prayers. I am not allowed to write much. You can write to me all about your affairs. I have to close. Direct your letters to Chatham Division, Wrights Brigade, 28 Tenn. Regt. So, I remain your husband until death. Kiss Robert for me. Tell John and Thomas to be good boys till their pap comes home. Good by for this time.



On November 30, 1864, James was in the front ranks in the attack upon Union positions at Franklin, Tennessee. He was shot in the lower right foot breaking the metatarsals. James was left at a Confederate hospital while the rest of the army went on to Nashville. After the Confederates were routed at Nashville, Union forces captured James around December 17, 1864. His foot was amputed by Union doctors on December 26, 1864 at Nashville. He was sent to a prison in the Louisville on May 6, 1865. On June 16, 1865, he swore to the Oath of Allegiance and was paroled.

After the war James and Mahala Ann farmed in the Rock Springs area of Overton County. James created his own wooden leg. He made it a habit of tying it to the saddle of his horse as he rode. On May 6, 1868, the horse came back to the house alone, with his wooden leg still attached to the saddle. The family found James dead from a gunshot wound. He had been murdered. Suspected of being the murderer, Mahala's brother disappeared the very same day and was never heard from again. James was buried at Officer Cemetery. Mahala never remarried. She died in 1908 and was buried beside her husband.

This concludes The Parrett Letters.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Country Singer Jack Barlow Dies

Country singer Jack Barlow has died at the age of 87. Barlow passed away Friday, July 29, after a battle with a lengthy illness. His success in the music business began in the 1960's. Between 1964 and 1965, Barlow co-wrote three songs with my father. They were produced by the legendary Buddy Killen and released on Dial Records. The first of those releases, ‘I Love Country Music (But I'd Rather Fight Than Switch),’ which made it to #21 on Cash Box the week of September 28, 1965. Barlow sang the song on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry on November 8, 1965. The song was a take off of the Tareyton cigarette commercials, which featured men and/or women models sporting a black eye and delivering the line "I'd rather fight than switch." The songs that dad co-wrote with Barlow were produced by the legendary Buddy Killen. 

The flip side of the record was another of the songs that Jack co-wrote with my dad and others. It was called Number One In The Nation. Barlow's second single release with Dial Records was Dear Ma. Side B was the third and last collaboration between Barlow and Speck,  I Love Her Still, as in "I don't care if she's a moonshiner's daughter, 'cause I love her still.

Barlow got his start in entertainment as a radio DJ after serving in the Navy during WWII. In the 1970's, he switched creative gears a bit, penning jingles for the Big Red brand of chewing gum. He also continued to traffic in the food and beverage world, taking on voiceover work for a panoply of corporations like Dollar General, Kraft and Kellogg’s. He also did voiceovers for car companies like Chrysler and Dodge.

Barlow is survived by Dianne, his wife of 24 years, along with several children and grandchildren.
A public memorial for Barlow is scheduled for August 13, from 5-9PM CT. It will be held at Harpeth Hills Memory Garden Funeral Home, which is located at 9090 Hwy. 100, Nashville, TN, 37221.

I Love Country Music also had live with another recording artist. Rockabilly legend Hayden Thompson of Booneville, Mississippi, just a few miles north of Tupelo where Elvis was born, recorded a 45 r.p.m. record, a cover of Junior Parker's Love My Baby, at the legendary Sun Records in Memphis. But, his timing was ill-fated as interest in rockabilly was beginning to fade in favor of 'newer' sounds. So, in 1958 Thompson moved north to Chicago.  to Chicago. In the late summer of 1965, Thompson walked into WJJD-Am in Chicago and recorded two songs. Side A was I Love Country Music (And I'd Rather Fight Than Switch. Side B was Ain't It Funny How Time Slips Away, written by Willie Nelson, which turned out to be one of the all-time classic country hits. In 1986, the two songs were included on an album Hayden Thompson released on SunJay Records, entitled Early Days. Dave Travis, who wrote the liner for the album said, "The Willie Nelson classic could almost have been a 'Sun' cut as could the "Hot' side "I Love Country Music," where (Johnny) Cash would have been proud of the sound." The songs were "forgotten about" as the album liner says, until years later when Hayden included them on the Early Days album (SunJay 1986).
Thompson took a break from music for a while in the 70s and went to work for driving a limo. When he discovered his rockabilly songs were big overseas, he went back into music and headed for England for several appearances. Today, Thompson lives in Chicago with his wife and occasionally performs.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

God Walks With Us

On Sunday,September 15, 1963, during the Civil Rights Movement, members of the Ku Klux Klan placed a box of dynamite underneath steps of the church, near the basement, of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. About 10:22 a.m., twenty-six children were walking into the basement for Sunday School, when the dynamite exploded killing four girls ages 11 to 14.

At the funeral, in his Eulogy for the Martyred Children sermon, Dr. Martin Luther King said...
" is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace."

You are strong when I am weak
You are the answer that I seek
When life is hard and times are bleak
You are my Savior

You lift me up when I am down
And set me on my feet again
You ransomed me to higher ground
You are my Savior

Like a ship out on the sea
Tossed about endlessly
When all was lost you came along
And rescued me

You are strong when I am weak
You are the answer that I seek
When life is hard and times are bleak
You are my Savior

*Photo from the Newport Beach Independent, by Jim Collins, 2010.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Slip Note Piano

I grew up with music all around me. Dad played guitar, but what I really loved most was the piano playing of his friend, Cecil Pryor. Cecil is a great piano player. He was influenced by Floyd Cramer. Cecil was my influence, and still is. At an early age, I copied one of the things Cecil would do on the piano. I didn't find out until later that it is known as 'Slip Note Piano.'

Don Robertson wrote songs for many famous singers like Eddy Arnold, Hank Snow, Les Paul & Mary Ford, Kitty Wells, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, Waylon Jennings and many others, but perhaps his greatest contribution to music came in 1960, when he co-wrote 'Please Help Me I'm Falling.' Today it is considered a country standard. When singer Hank Locklin, first heard Don's demo recording, he asked Floyd Cramer if he could copy the piano style he heard on the demo for the record. It was a major departure from the percussive piano style, which was popular in the late 1950s.

Slip note piano changed the sound of music, especially country music, thanks to Don Robertson. Slip note piano is where an adjacent note slides effortlessly into the correct note. Floyd Cramer adopted and popularized the style with his many recordings, like Last Date. A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of hearing Cecil Pryor play his piano and he played slip note piano style on that very song. I stood in awe. The memories I have of watching and listening to him when I was young came rushing back. It was great.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Naked Man, A Rifle, A Lit Candle and a Laptop

Say, did you hear the one about the naked guy, a rifle, a burning candle and a laptop? 

Police here said that over the weekend, someone called them to report that a naked man, armed with a high-powered rifle, a lit candle and a laptop was standing beside his pickup truck on a county road. When a deputy sheriff arrived at the scene, the man pointed the rifle at him. When the officer unsnapped his holster, the man fled into a nearby barn, where he held authorities at bay for over three hours before surrendering peacefully. The man, who is reportedly from North Carolina, was arrested on several charges and lodged in the local jail under a $25,000 cash bond.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Does patriotism matter? I remember in the early 1980's, when Lee Greenwood released the song God Bless The U.S.A., once voted the most recognizable patriotic song in America! That is because the song allows us to say what we truly feel...that we are PROUD to be an American! Patriotism did not just arise with 9/11 or with Desert Storm. Patriotism was just as popular in the year 1776 as it is in 2011. But why? Is it because we are a free nation? That's part of it.  We owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to the American Soldier and we should never fail to remember those who have fought and/or died for the freedoms we enjoy. Yes, showing patriotism means remembering our troops and it means remembering our freedoms, but the biggest thing about patriotism is that it gives you....DIGNITY! Having dignity means having a sense of self-importance. One thing in life is certain, people let people down. Your job will let you down. Your government will let you down. You may lose a lot of things during your lifetime, like faith or hope in some ONE or some THING, but the one thing you should always try to keep ahold of is your dignity. The soldier that died on the battlefield while fighting for your freedom died with dignity. For that we should be grateful.  Always. Does patriotism matter? The answer is - it mattered yesterday, it matters today and it will matter tomorrow. When all else fails in America, there will be someone who will still be patriotic. That's America. To borrow the line from Lee Greenwood's song....I proudly say, with dignity, I am proud to be an American! God bless the USA!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Freedom's Holy Light

You can say what you want about the little town I live in, but I am mightly proud of it. The first settlers who came to Stockton's Valley (now Albany) near the very end of the 18th century were proud Americans. They were veterans, or sons and daughters of veterans, of the American Revolution. The struggle to win independence was not just political, it was also spiritual, and those who came here before us were a part of both. 

In the early 1700's the moving of God’s Spirit touched, convicted, and converted thousands of Americans. The Reformed denominations (Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Dutch Reformed) found themselves swept along in a mighty outpouring of God’s saving grace. Another phase of this great revival occurred not in the North, but in the South; not among the Reformed groups of New England, but among the Sandy Creek Baptists of North Carolina.

The man responsible for carrying the fervor of the Great Awakening to the South, Shubal Stearns, was among those influenced by George Whitefield, the powerful English evangelist of the Great Awakening. Stearns was born in Boston in 1706. After his conversion to Christ around 1740, he eventually became a minister with the Baptists. In 1754 God called Stearns from his home in Connecticut to fields farther South. He labored for a short time in Virginia, then moved to Sandy Creek, North Carolina.

Backwoods North Carolina was a spiritual as well as a physical wilderness, and into this religiously barren land came Stearns and his family. The small church at Sandy Creek began with sixteen members, half of whom were Stearns’ own family, but when Stearns began preaching, God’s Spirit began to move. In a short time, the Sandy Creek church swelled from sixteen members to over six hundred.

The churches that grew out of Stearns’s ministry banded together in 1758 as the Sandy Creek Baptist Association. This group, under Stearns’s benevolent but firm leadership, sought to advance God’s work throughout the southern colonies. Aflame with revival, the churches in the association continued to increase in number and influence.

But trouble was brewing within the officials of North Carolina who regarded Baptists and Quakers as enemies of Anglican order and, because of the success of the evangelism of Stearns and others, a hindrance to the growth of the Episcopal Church, which was the state Church of the colony. Governor William Tryon and his appointed agents who ruled the colony of North Carolina had imposed unjust taxation on the frontier settlers. The frontier regulators organized resistance to these injustices and on May 1, 1771, confronted Tryon's select militia in The Battle of Alamance, not far from Sandy Creek Baptist Church. Tryon's militia attacked the poorly armed and poorly led frontiersmen and defeated them. After the battle, Tryon hanged 12 of the Regulators and laid waste to many Baptist plantations in the area.

Shubal Stearns died on November 20, 1771 and within a year of the battle that had taken place a few months earlier, Sandy Creek Seperate Baptist Church dropped from over 600 members to a level below that with which it had started.

The Awakening ended, but the story did not.

The majority of the Sandy Creek refugees fled to Washington County, Tennessee, where they established Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church. Its first pastor was Tidence Lane. In his youth, Tidence had been convicted and converted under the ministry of Shubal Stearns. Most exciting stories had been told about the piercing glance of his eye and the melting tones of his voice as he preached the word of God. Tidence once held "the most hateful feelings toward Baptists," but it was curiosity that led him to make a horseback trip of some forty miles to see and hear Shubal Stearns speak.

"When the fame of Mr. Stearns' preaching reached the Yadkin River, where I lived, I felt a curiosity to go and hear him. Upon my arrival I saw a venerable old man sitting under a peach tree with a book in his hand and the people gathering about him. He fixed his eyes upon me immediately, which made me feel in such a manner as I had never felt before. I turned to quit the place, but could not proceed far. I walked about, Sometimes catching his eyes as I walked. My uneasiness increased and became intolerable. I went up to him, thinking that a salutation and shaking of hands would relieve me, but it happened otherwise. I began to think he had an evil eye and ought to be shunned, but shunning him I could no more effect than a bird can shun the rattlesnake when it fixes its eyes upon it. When he began to preach my perturbations increased, so that nature could no longer support them, and I sank to the ground." Morgan Edwards' unpublished manuscript.)Among those who helped start Buffalo Ridge Church in 1779, were the Denton and Crouch families. Later, those two families migrated West to a new frontier that had opened up in Kentucky. They settled at Stockton's Valley, which later became Albany.

To me, what's special about this story is how Tidence Lane was saved under the preaching of the legendary preacher, Shubal Stearns, and how that when he began preaching, one of his converts was 18-year-old Isaac Denton, who helped organize Clear Fork Baptist Church soon after the Crouch and Denton families migrated to Stockton's Valley. Not only did he help organize the Church, he was her first pastor, serving for 46 years. 

Today, most people say we are in need of another 'Great Awakening." In Church yesterday, we sang the song, "My Country Tis Of Thee," also known as "America." When we got to the second line in the fourth verse, I had to stop singing as I was unable to move past that line.

"...long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light."

America has suffered over the years because so many families, our schools, even our leaders do not put God first. Our country was founded on biblical principals that are not outdated as some claim. God's Holy Word is unwavering. It was a solid rock and shield for our forefathers and it should still be that today. Americans should honor God always. During the American Revolution, it was not simply freedom's light that shone bright across this great land, it was freedom's HOLY light.

God Bless America!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Apple And The Tree

In 2005, country music singer Travis Tritt released a song entitled, "I See Me." Written by Atlanta Falcons punter Chris Mohr and famed songwriter Casey Beathard, the song tells the story of a rambunctious child as seen through his father's eyes. It was written about Mohr's young son, Garrett, but whenever I listen to the song, I cannot help but think about my own life, my children and my dad.

It used to aggravate me when my kids would not stop playing in the pew and turn around and sit up straight, like my dad always wanted me to. And, then I realized that they were just being me, and when I think of them in that aspect, it puts things in a whole knew perspective.

I see so much of me in them, and to be honest that scares me.

"...I look at him and I'm so amazed, I'm so proud and then so afraid that the apple didn't fall quite far enough from the tree."
That line in the song haunts me. I've felt most of everything that life can throw at a person: roadblocks, heartbreak, mistakes, happiness and yet...lots of stupid stuff. Most of the bad things were my fault. My dad and mom raised me like a child should be raised. My Church family did that same, so all the stupid things were definitely my fault.

My dad did all the things that a dad should do with his, ball playing, swimming, eating watermelon under the shade tree. He made sure we were always in Church. He picked us up when we fell and wiped the dust from our jeans. Somewhere along the way, as I grew older, I stumbled and fell and sometimes made a pretty big mess of things. My prayer for my children will always be that the apple has fallen far enough from the tree that my kids won't be like me, that they won't do the stupid things I did, or stumble and fall like I did. Someone once said that we all fall short, and while I cannot say for sure about you, I do know for a fact that I fail miserably.

"...I look at him and I'm so amazed, I'm so proud and then so afraid that the apple didn't fall quite far enough from the tree."
I can't help but wonder if my dad were alive today and heard this song, would he think the same thing about me? One thing is for sure...before I die, I want to be just like my dad.

In the song, "Life Ain't Always Beautiful," Gary Allan sings..."life ain't always beautiful, sometimes it's just plain hard." and..."but the struggles makes me stronger and the changes make me wise." That reminds me of dad. He had his share of struggles, but he overcame and I thank God for that.

Happy Father's Day!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Whose Side Is The Lord On?

During the Civil War, soldiers on both sides prayed for victory before each battle. Both presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, asked their supporters to pray for victories. The average citizen leaned on their faith to get them through the war. That was never more true for the citizens of Albany, who were terrorized pretty much throughout the entire campaign by one of the war's most feared guerrilla's, Champ Ferguson. Religious people used their faith to get them through the war, and in the end it was their faith that helped them come to terms with the outcome and pretty much the whole entire meaning of the war. Each side in the war, as in any war, believed God was on their side and in the end, said the outcome was simply God's will.

We often hear the question asked, "Who is on the Lord's side?" But, in war, have you ever wondered which side the Lord is on?

During the 1st Kentucky Cavalry was organized at Liberty, Burkesville and Monticello and mustered in for a three year enlistment on October 28, 1861 under the command of Colonel Frank Wolford of Liberty. The unit included 85 volunteers from Albany. They were known as The Wildcats after a battle on Wildcat Mountain near London, Kentucky. There were several brave and gallant men in the 1st Kentucky Calvary, including Colonel William Hoskins, Captain John Morrison and Major J.A. Brents of Albany, but no one was more dedicated to the troops of the First Kentucky Calvary than its Chaplin, W. H. Honnell of Harrodsburg. At age 35, he was a model clergyman, not that he preached much, or appeared sanctimonious, or intruded his religious notions upon any one, but because of his devotion to the sick and wounded. Not a soldier could be taken sick without his knowing it. He visited and conversed with all, ascertained their wants, and had them supplied if it was possible. Nor was this conduct occasional, it was continual and unceasing. His name was blessed a thousand times by sick and helpless soldiers. When any died, he was foremost in providing them a decent and Christian burial. He was not only kind and tender to the sick and wounded, but treated every one with gentleness and respect. Further, he was no coward. He delighted to be upon the battlefield, encouraging the soldiers by his presence, waiting upon and caring for the wounded, and praying for the success of arms while the battle was in progress. When marching, he was always in front near his gallant Colonel, and when the conflict raged, he could be seen where the danger was greatest. He was at the battle of Mill Springs, administering to the necessities of the disabled, and was near General Felix Zollicoffer when he fell. Dismounting from his horse, the chaplain lifted the General from out of the road, where excited combatants were dashing to and fro, and carried his dying form to a place where it would not be trampled beneath the horses' feet.

Chaplain Honnell was also at the front during the fight at Lebanon, Tennessee. He became separated from his regiment, and rode into the rebel ranks, mistaking them for Union troops...

Colonel Morgan: "You take a position yonder," directing him to the rear.
Honnell: "I desire to go to my own regiment."
Morgan: "I told you where to go."
Honnell: "I don't like to be treated in such a way. I am chaplain of the 1st Kentucky cavalry, and want to go to my regiment."
Morgan: "It is hard for you to understand that I am Colonel Morgan, and you are my prisoner. My men need your prayers as well as Wolford's."

Honnell saw the position he was in, and submitted quietly. When Morgan commenced his retreat, he took Honnell along with him. After traveling at a pretty rapid gait for some distance, and the Unionists getting pretty close to them, Morgan said, "Well, Chaplain, I suppose we will have to separate, but before going you must pray." About this time a squad of Union cavalry dashed up, and Morgan had to proceed without the Chaplain's prayer.

As the above story indicates, during the Civil War both sides believed that God was on their side. During his second inaugural address on March 5, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln said “Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Each looked for an easier triumph. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”

So how could God be on BOTH sides?

Lincoln reframed the question and offered a startling conclusion: Neither side could claim God’s special favor. “The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

President George W. Bush once said, "Faith teaches us to respect those with whom we disagree. It teaches us to tolerate one another. And it teaches us that the proper way to treat human beings created in the divine image is with civility. Yet, you also know that civility does not require us to abandon deeply held beliefs. Civility and firm resolve can live easily with one another."

When we have deeply held beliefs, like most do, it is tempting to believe God is only on our side. But, there is a chance that He may very well be on their side, too!

So, then what?

Like it or not, the fact is God's offer of mercy is for ALL people.

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Saturday, June 4, 2011

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 attention to Gunsmoke, you know that Festus took care of mules and all their names were Ruth -- even if they were jacks. Festus' mule was always a jack but HIS name was always RUTH!

In the words of Festus Hagen, here's why.....

You ask how come I call my old mule, Ruth, when in fact the solemn truth is that he's a jack, and not no jenny, that's for sure. Well, they's no call for you to know, but since you asked, I'll tell you so just settle back and heed to what I say.

It started in 1861, the war, well it had just begun to be a war. I wasn't much, so to speak, a mule skinner, not one to seek fame nor fortune, especially in no war.

Now, every man's got a pride. Most times it's deep inside about his job and mine was attending mules. My favorite was a long-eared jenny. Now, I reckon you'll think that I'm a ninny 'cause I loved her just like I'd love my mother. She was faithful, stout and she was smart, and friend, she had lots of heart. If she'd been a man, I'd a loved her like a brother.

Well, we'd fought back with all we had, but still the war was a going bad, for in '64 Schofield hit us Tennessee boys hard, and just thirty miles away, at dawn, near Spring Hill on a early 'morn, five generals that wore Confederate gray had chitin's and bacon and eggs and grits. Lord, they'd planned to give 'em fits but the tide of war just went the other way. The five brave men that led Hood's charge was met by a artillery barrage that mowed 'em down just like so much hay.

Now, somebody had to get them men and, by golly I can't remember when I've ever been so proud as I was that day. "Just take 'ol Ruth," the Captain said, and when it got dark, I slowly led my jenny to the Harpeth Rivers bank. I'd found them boys in gray and when on Ruth's back they stiffly lay, I started back, but then my spirit sorta sank. A dad-blamed sentry opened fire and them Yankee's did conspire to add me to their list of casualties. Well, 'ol Ruth, she just plowed along not a listening to the bullet song, just brushed 'em off like they was a swarm of bee's.

Well, somehow we got back that night, and I thanked God I was alright. I'd brought them boys from where they was a laying. I hadn't even got a scratch, so I lit my pipe and when the match flared up, I seen 'ol Ruth was just a swaying'. Blood was running down her side. My throat choked up and then I cried, and she looked at me and her eyes was soft and brown. She seemed to say, "Now, don't cry for me, we had a job to do, you see!" And, then 'old Ruth just seemed to slide right down.

There's a marker that I put on her grave that reads, "Here lies a mule that gave her life and that's the truth. Now, every mule I'll ever own will bare your name. So, be it known while I'm alive, they'll always be a Ruth "

Yeah, they'll always be a Ruth.

What a beautiful story, in the words of Festus Hagen. Now, to get the full effect, you have to click on the video below and hear 'Festus' tell it. It is a very moving and inspirational piece. By the way, Ken Curtis died in 1991.

R.I.P. Marshall Dillon!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Remembering The Storekeeper

Henry Clay Huffaker was born in 1832 at Beaver Creek in Wayne County. He married Margaret Shearer in 1855 and to their union were born thirteen children, seven boys and six girls. The 8th born was Juliann "Hettie" Huffaker. Hettie married Ulysses Grant Frost in 1889. Their youngest child, Vada, was my grandmother. Hettie's second oldest sister, Laura, married Daniel Rector. Their youngest child, Wendell, married Lela Cooper. After the family moved to Albany, the oldest child, Clay, left home for the U.S. Navy, never to return again. He was aboard the USS Arizona when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The first torpedo in the assault on Pearl Harbor hit the USS Raleigh at about 7:55 a.m., Sunday morning. Battleship Row was hit at 7:57 a.m. The USS ARIZONA was moored inboard of the repair ship Vestal when the attack occurred. At 8:10 a.m. a Japanese Type 97 Attack Bomber dropped a bomb that struck the Arizona between the No. 1 and No. 2 turret. This bomb was a converted armor piercing artillery shell that ignited the Arizona's forward magazine. Blazing furiously, the once majestic battleship Arizona violently exploded, sinking to the bottom of the harbor. .

This December 7th will mark 70 years that 1,177 men, including Storekeeper 3rd Class Clay Cooper Rector of Albany, rest at the bottom of the harbor, encased in the Arizona's rusty hull. In the Navy's known history, there has never been a ship that has taken so many of its crew down with her.

This Memorial Day, the Notorious Meddler pauses to remember Clay Cooper Rector, and the others aboard the USS ARIZONA who paid the supreme sacrifice while in service to the United States of America.

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...