Property Taken for Standing Stone State Park
A solitary chimney stands as a reminder of a home that once stood in the area now included in Standing Stone State Park. (photo courtsey of Andy McBride, State Forest Supervisor, Standing Stone and Pickett State Forests)
Did you know how many acres of land Standing Stone Park started out with? I was very surprised to find out that in the 1930's, approximately 10,069 acres were designated for the park boundaries. But probably what came as an even bigger surprise was that 66 families had to surrender their land to the Federal government so that the park could be constructed. Much has been said and written about the large number of families who had to leave the Willow Grove community when Dale Hollow lake was formed, but I have never heard anything about those families who had to do the same in order that Standing Stone State Park be constructed. Here is some information I’ve been able to obtain concerning some of the lives affected by the taking of land for the park.
In 1934, word was received by the landowners to move. Most who owned property that was to be taken voluntarily conveyed ownership by way of deeds to the Federal government. However, there were some who had to be forced to give up their property. Here are the names of those who voluntarily deeded their property and the number of acres owned:
W.A. and Dona Price - 1.7 acres; J.C. Bilbrey and others - 590.8 acres; J.N. and Eliza Nivens - 152 acres; Maggie Bowden and others - 520 acres; W.L. and Alta Mainord - 698 acres; A. B. Hembree - 343.7 acres; J.P. and Hasana Neely; 284 acres; Jane Peterman - 96 acres; W. F. and Mary A. Smith 79.2 acres; L.K. and Celia Hunter - 121.6 acres; Dessie and Richard Smith - 76 acres; C.P. Hunter and others - 64 acres; E.E. and Liza Bilbrey - 52 acres; J.T. and Susie Holman - 43.2 acres; J. L and Lora Garrett - 232 acres; Mary Emma and W.B. Cook - 357.4 acres; Jay D. and Estell Davis - 64 acres; L.K. and Kate Bilbrey - 224.8 acres; W.C. and Versie Copeland - 61.6 acres; Nannie Brown and others - 125.6 acres; Rebecca Johnson - 34.4 acres; R.H. and Lena Hankins - 178 acres; Bonnie H. And W.K. West - 248 acres; G.W. and Ida Dailey - 151.2 acres; J.B. and Susie Howard - 194 acres; W.F. and Estelle Ferrell - 55.2 acres; Ova and Ausie Bilyeu - 35.4 acres; B.H. and Mary Ferrell - 34.4 acres; D.P. and Eula Rich - 56 acres; R.T. and Mary McClain - 81.2 acres; Emma A. Goolsby - 136.4 acres; L.M. Crawford and others - 100 acres; A.A. and Ninie Seber - 61 acres; S.H. Brown and others - 28.4 acres; Nora Lee and Dan Atwell - 148 acres; Mary McClain - 104.4 acres; A.L. and Hopy Deed Davis - 199.2 acres; Lonnie and Kellie Brown - 36 acres; J.B. and Velma Nivens - 2.8 acres; J.H. and Lena Cole - 89.4 acres; Sina and J.P. Neal - 84.8 acres; W.J. and Mary F. Matthews - 56.8 acres; J.K. and Addie Warden - 59.6 acres; Sarah Broen - 44.8 acres; W.L. and Alta Mainord and others - 352 acres; Elvin and Eliza Bilbrey - 32 acres; Zina and Mary Dale - 175.2 acres; Ellie and Jim Brown - 37.2 acres; John Henry and Nova Adell Glasscock - 358.6 acres; Lou Upton - 126.4 acres.
Approximately 9,246 acres were voluntarily conveyed to the Federal government, and some 723 acres had to be condemned. For reasons I have not been able to determine, there are two separate tracts of property that Standing Stone State Park completely surrounds that were not taken when the other lands were surrendered. They remain today as privately owned property.
Among the many families who lived on the Allons side of the property taken for the park was Lewis Bilbrey and wife Kate Bilbrey. Court records show the Bilbreys owned around 225 acres. Their home was located on the property, along with a second home lived in by Eulon Ray and wife Jane Ray. The Rays were sharecroppers on the Bilbrey property. The Ray family had seven children, Wilbur, Fred, Charlie, Robert, Clifford, Terry, and Sue. All six boys were born while the Ray family lived and worked on the Bilbrey property. Lewis and Kate Bilbrey had five children, Horace Terry, Jean, Nell, Willene, and Charles Lewis. Eventually a member of the Ray family became a member of the Bilbrey family, and vice versa ... Wilbur Ray and Jean Bilbrey became man and wife.
Children in the Andrew Cove community attended school at Cave Springs. It was a one room school. Charlie Ray recalled three of the teachers who taught there, Velma Jernigan and Ruth Lee Mitchell who both had room and board with Lewis and Kate Bilbrey during the week. Cecil Holt from Howard’s Chapel also taught there, and later on went on to become a professor at a college in Virginia. Water for the school was carried from a spring on the Bilbrey property to the Cave Springs school.
Another of Charlie’s memories was of the Bilbreys’ horse named Ole’ Tom. Lewis Bilbrey owned a T model that had to be cranked to get the motor started. Rather than using man power to crank the motor, Lewis Bilbrey resorted to other means. He hooked up Ole’ Tom to the bumper of the car and had him to pull the car off to get it started.
Charlie recalls that one of the property owners was allowed to cut some timber before having to move. Oxen were used for snaking the logs. During the process, one of the oxen decided just to lay down on the job. Every effort was made to get him back up and going again, but nothing worked. Finally, as a last resort, one of the men helping with the logging built a fire under the stubborn oxen. Needless to say, that did the trick.
The Carter family, Eulis and Johnnie (Bilbrey) Carter, were also sharecroppers on property taken for the park. The year was 1931 when the Carters moved into a two room log home on property owned by Starling Burgess. There were eight children in the family whose names were Paul, Emogene, Owen (Red), Avon (Cam), Mahew, Naomi, Sue, and Junior. The children had to walk around five miles one way to attend school at Cave Springs. Emogene remembers that Fern Mitchell, Stella (Gunnels) Davis, and Rhodolphus Dennis taught at Cave Springs. Students were required to attend only 7 months out of a year. Every fall, Emogene could count on her mother making two new dresses for her to wear when school started back again. That was also the time the Carter kids each got a pair of new shoes. One particular dress Emogene’s mother made her had very brightly colored flowers on it, and for some reason, one of their turkeys either really liked the dress or really disliked it one. As Emogene started for school the first time she wore the dress, the turkey walked up to her and began to give her a good flogging. Her grandpa had to get a broom and come to her rescue.
The Carters raised crops such as soy beans, cane, and corn, and also made molasses to sell. When the word was received that all the families would have to relocate, Emogene father began right away to find a place to move his family to. They left the Burgess farm in 1941.
Members of what is believed to be the last class to attend school at Cave Springs are as follows: Anna Dean Cole; J.D. Davis; Billy Cole; A.B. Ledbetter; Norma Cole; J.C. Ledbetter; Jingo Johnson; J.B. Ledbetter; William Johnson; Onsby Glasscock; Irene Cole; Paul Carter; James Cole; and Burney Ledbetter.
At some point in time, the boundaries for Standing Stone State Park were re-established to include 855 acres with the remaining 8,490 acres designated as state forest. Within the park and the state forest are 14 cemeteries that are maintained by State Forestry Service. One burial site has only one grave, that of Elizabeth Savage. The story is told that her home caught fire, but she was not able to escape and perished in the flames. Her grave was placed near to where her home once stood. Tent type stones indicate the location of her grave.
It was necessary that each family relocate and leave behind what had been home in most cases for a good number of years. Court records indicate that a few held on until the very last minute, unwilling to accept what the government said had to be. It must have been a bitter pill to swallow. An occasional solitary chimney is about all that remains in the defense growth of trees to remind us that these 66 families once lived and worked the many acres now included as a state park and forest.
Andy McBride, State Forest Supervisor, of Standing Stone and Pickett State Forests, was of great assistance to me in the preparation of this story, and I extend my sincere thanks to him for all his help. A special thank you also goes to Charlie Ray and Emogene Fletcher Pryor for letting us look back at how life was for sharecropping families in the 1930's.