She Striped His Legs With a Thorn Bush

The year was 1916 when George Washington Smith and Minnie Bell Sells were married. Georgeís parents were George Washington Smith, Sr. and wife Odessa Bilbrey Smith. Minnie was the daughter of Ephriam Grant Sells and wife Nancy Alice Sells. George and Minnie Smith made their home in the Taylors Crossroads Community where they raised a daughter, Delsie Mae, and a son, Sherlie Alvin, just a short distance from Coleman Brothers General Merchandise. Their youngest child, a baby boy, died at birth. George was married previously to Mary Conner, and had seven children by this wife. After Mary passed away, he and Minnie married. At the time of this writing, the old Smith home is still standing. The house had two sixteen foot rooms on either side of a hallway or dogwalk. There were three beds in the front room and three beds in the back room. There was a kitchen and a dining room, and later, another bedroom was added to the back of the house. A wood stove in the kitchen was used to cook meals on, and was also a source of heat in the winter months. The Smith family never lived anywhere else, other than a period of two months, when George had a job working on the highway. During that short time, they lived in Red Boiling Springs.

George Smith made a living for his family by cutting timber and rafting logs down the Obey River. Sometimes he would be gone four or five days at a time when taking logs downstream. If the logs were delivered as far as Nashville, George would ride the train back from Nashville to Cookeville, and many times, he walked all the way home from Cookeville.

While growing up, Delsie helped feed the chickens and pigs, milked the cow, and worked in the garden. Mowing the yard with what we would think of now as an old antique push mower was another job she did. She attended all eight grades at Lone Maple, a school that was a little over a mile from her home. It was a one room school then, and two teachers she remembers having there were Vonda Maynord and George Brown. Sometimes when the weather was rainy, Virgil Stover, a nearby neighbor, would haul all the neighborhood children to school on a wagon. Delsie remembered an older girl named Alma Taylor who lived not too far from the Smith home. Alma often walked with Delsie and her brother, Sherlie, on their way to school. The path they took to school was through the woods, and sometimes a neighbor boy named Donald Sells would pick on Sherlie. Alma would take up for Sherlie and would not let Donald bother him when she was along. On one occasion when Alma wasnít with them, Delsie took matters into her own hands and got a limb from a thorn bush that she used to stripe Donaldís legs with it when he started teasing Sherlie.

 

This photograph was taken in 1900 of an old log church building that once sat where the home of the late Sherlie Smith and wife, Oleeta, made their home for many years, just across from Coleman's store.

 

Another memory Delsie had was about a day when a downpour of rain soaked two of Mary Jane Conner Richardsonís little boys while they were walking to school. By the time they reached the Smith house, they didnít have a dry thread on. Delsieís mother had the boys come in and take off their shirts which she put in the oven of the wood stove to dry. After a while, the Richardson boys went on their way with at least their shirts no longer wet from the rain.

Electricity was not available in that area of Overton County until the early 1950's. The first electrical appliance the Smith family had was a washing machine purchased from Coleman Brothers General Merchandise at Taylors Crossroads.

There were once two churches within a stones throw of each other at Taylors Crossroads, one being the Taylors Crossroads Presbyterian church and the other a Methodist church. Since these were the only churches in that area at that time, people came from as far away as Barnes Ridge, Hatcher Hall, and Ozone to attend services. Sunday school and preaching services would be alternately held in these two churches. Anytime there were what was called "meetinís" held in other churches in the area, such as Fellowship, folks from other communities would attend. Delsie recalls how Ben Reagan and wife Webbie Nation Reagan would take a wagon pulled by two large, white horses and haul people to Fellowship to attend "meetin." The wagon would sometimes be so loaded, some would have to get off and walk beside the wagon when they came to a steep hill.

 

The Taylors Crossroads Methodist church building is shown here as it once looked.

 

Christmas programs at the two churches in Crossroads would be put on by the adults and the children too. Sometimes missionaries would visit the Presbyterian church during the Christmas season, and would bring fruit and other small gifts for the children. Gifts would sometimes be placed on the tree or underneath the tree as well. Delsie still has some of the things she got during these special Christmas programs. She also recalled how a man came to the Methodist church one Christmas with the measles, and sat near the stove, keeping it filled with wood during the service. This man told some of those attending he wanted to be sure everyone got a gift from him, and that was a case of the measles. And as Delsie recalled, most everyone there who hadnít had the measles did come down with them.

The Smith family owned one of the first cars around the Taylors Crossroads area. There were probably only one or two other families in that community that had a car then. The car was an Overland with a canvas top and snap-on curtains to keep out the rain. Delsie remembers a trip the family made to Creston, Tennessee, a small community between Monterey and Crossville that was also a train stop. George Smith had a sister who lived there, and on the way, the weather turned cool and rainy. Because they had not taken any type of sweater or jackets along, Delsieís father had to stop at a business that would be considered a Goodwill store today, and find something warm for each one to put on. He also snapped on the curtains to keep out the rain. On another trip, this time to attend May meeting at Fellowship, a late snow came while they were driving home from church. Just as they got near the Gilbert Ramsey home, they had a flat tire. Everyone else had to go inside and sit by the fire at the Ramsey house while George fixed the flat tire in the snow.

 

The Smith family, George and wife Minnie, their daughter, Delsie, and their son, Sherlie, pose for a picture with their Overland vehicle, one of the first cars owned by a family in the Taylors Crossroads community.

 

After the death of Delsieís father in 1955, she continued to live in the old homeplace and care for her mother until her death in 1971. It was after her mother died that Delsie met and married Herbert Flowers. Herbert owned a home just outside of Livingston city limits on the Hilham highway. They made their home there together until Herbertís death not too many years later.

While I visited in Delsieís home to get information for this story, we looked through several boxes of old photographs. One of the really old pictures Delsie has shows a very early highway crew and what I consider strange looking equipment used to build roads with. The names of those in the picture are unknown. Another photograph depicts how logs were rafted down the Obey River and was made somewhere near Irons Creek. Another old picture she has was taken in 1900 of an old log church building that sat where Delsieís brother, Sherlie and wife Oleeta, made their home for many years, just across from Colemanís store. She also has a list of most of the names of the people in that photograph.

 

Delsie Smith Flowers is around 6 years old in this picture.  Her brother, Sherlie Smith, was about 3.

 

At the time of this writing, Delsie had observed her 91st birthday this past September. She still enjoys fairly good health, and attends church when the weather is good at Martinís Chapel Methodist church in the Oakley community where she has been a long-time member. One of the household chores she continues to do today is hanging her laundry outside in good weather. She also enjoys very much the company of a beautiful, big white cat named Tom she adopted several years ago. Itís pretty obvious that Tom knows how special he is, and loves all the attention Delsie showers him with. While Delsie and I sat at her dining room table on a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon prowling through old pictures, Tom slept in a tray on top of the dining room table. He could even be heard snoring at times. Even though looking at old pictures and reliving the past didnít really interest old Tom, it was a very enjoyable and interesting way to spend an otherwise gloomy afternoon. Thank you, Delsie, for sharing these wonderful memories.

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