Growing Up in Windle, Tennessee
 
Nowadays, when driving through the Windle community of Overton County, little remains from the days when that area was a thriving community. Those who donít know about Windle would have no idea that once a train depot was operated there, along with two general stores, a school, a doctorís office, and a very large rolling mill. The Shiloh Methodist Church is about the only thing that remains from the days when that community was a very busy place. When I visited with Vergie Mae (Smith) Greenwood at her home on Eastwood Drive in Cookeville, she shared some of her memories of how it was to grow up in the Windle Community in the early 1900's. Most folks today know her as Mae, and here are some of the things we talked about.

Maeís parents were Bennett Smith and wife Mary Ann (Davis) Smith. She was born on August 2, 1913, in Louisville, Kentucky, the place her parents were living at the time of her birth. Maeís father was the son of John Smith and wife Tabitha Smith originally from Pickett County. Maeís mother was the daughter of Dr. James Washington Davis and wife Susan Davis. In addition to Mary Ann, Dr. Davis and wife Susan had two other daughters and two sons, whose names were Ora, Floyd, Frances, and Oscar, who all grew up in Windle. When Oscar was just an infant, their mother ran off with another man, something that was considered quite disgraceful then, and Dr. Davis was left to raise the children by himself. He eventually married again, this time to Delilah Peterman, and they had two children, Clarence Davis and Orbus Davis.

When Mary Ann and Bennett Smith decided to get married, they knew Mary Annís father would object, so they eloped by train to Louisville, Kentucky. Mary Annís sister, Ora and her husband, Roy Smith, Bennettís brother, lived there at the time. When Mae was around a year old, her parents moved back to Windle, and it was there that Gertha, Hilda, and Ray Smith, sisters and brother of Mae, were born and raised.

 

Doyle and Mae Greenwood were photographed in the early days of their marriage.

 

Maeís grandfather, Dr. Davis, was probably ahead of his time in many ways, but especially so in that his home and office in Windle had electricity long before it was available to other homes or businesses. He had a generator in an out building nearby that provided electricity, something that must have been considered a wonderful luxury in those days.

Mae received her elementary education in the one room school at Windle. Her eighth grade graduating class had a total of three members. Arklie Fleming was her eighth grade teacher. When she was almost fourteen years old, she enrolled at Cumberland Mountain School in Crossville. It was one day in 1929 that she got on the train in Windle and then changed trains in Algood, and from there continued on her journey by train to Crossville. There were others traveling on that same train as well to attend Cumberland Mountain school, many from neighboring counties, but Mae did not know a single person at that time. Some of the teachers met the students at the depot in Crossville to transport them on to the school. Cumberland Mountain School required that the students who attended work while getting their education. There were dormitories with two beds per room. Mae had the same roommate the entire four years she attended school there. She told me she was really homesick for about two weeks, but once the longing for home improved, she really enjoyed getting an education there. It was a school well known for excellent teaching skills and those students who applied themselves came away with a really good education.

Mae graduated from Cumberland Mountain school in 1933. After taking a business course in Cookeville, she had plans to further her education at Tennessee Tech, but was offered a job working in the office at Cumberland Mountain School which she did for two years. Her next job had to do with a commodities program with the government, and it was while she had this job that she stayed in the home of her Uncle Floyd Davis that was located just off the public square in Livingston. (The writer of this story and her husband live in that house today.) Later Mae began working for Ragland and Potter and when was she sent to their office Glasgow, Kentucky, she met and married Doyle Greenwood. After they married, they made their home in many different places such as Alabama, Colorado, and Nebraska before they eventually moved back to Algood. For a while after moving back to Algood, they made their home with Doyleís mother, and then later bought a home there. Their daughter, Jane, was born during the time they lived in Algood. Another daughter, Virginia Ann, was born with spina bifida, but died when she was only seventeen months old. In the early 1960's, Doyle and Mae bought a home in Cookeville where Mae continues to live today.

During the early 1950's, Maeís parents served as the caretakers of the county home in Livingston. Most folks knew it as the "poor house." Although the Smiths did an excellent job taking care of those who made their home at the county house, it was a sad and heartbreaking place to visit. Those who lived there usually had no family or had no other place they could turn to for help. At the time the Smiths were caretakers, they owned a home on Elm Grove Road just off of what was then Highway 42 west of the town of Livingston. The John and Mary Sadler family, John and Jean Hunter, Lewis and Kate Bilbrey, Elliott and Alice Copeland, their daughter, Alta, Charlie Pop and Lola Poindexter, Charlie and Mary Jo Ray, Odis and Ada Stewart, Ernest and Verna Stockton, Waymon and Hattie Gore, and my family were all nearby neighbors.

Maeís working career concluded after eleven years of employment with Dr. Tom Moore and later his son, Dr. Jack Moore in Algood. Following a heart attack, Doyle retired from his position as office manager at Wilson Sporting Goods. Being a person who didnít like idle time, Doyle filled his retirement days by traveling around to hardware stores selling handles. Mae went along on these trips and often took along her crocheting to work on while she waited in their truck. She said Doyle loved this job better than anything else he did during his working career. Watching their grandchildren grow up was something else they both enjoyed doing. But it was in 1981 that Doyle died from a heart attack.

The love of wildflowers is something Mae and her cousin, Hessie Hicks, shared for many years. On the days Mae and Hessie planned to go on their wildflower hunts, they would get up early and head out for the woods somewhere. Their travels took them all over the place. They explored most of the surrounding counties in search of these wonderful treasures. But they only took those things that were common and plentiful to be transplanted into their woodland yards. Those that were on the endangered species list were never included in what they brought home. It was when Mae began to experience heart problems that she had to give up her wildflower hobby she dearly loved.

Maeís hobbies today include reading and working crosswords puzzles. She told me those two interests help keep her mind active. Membership in the Friendship Methodist Church in Cookeville is something else she enjoys. Her health is still good, as is her hearing and eyesight. She uses glasses for reading purposes only. She celebrated her 95th birthday on August 2, 2008, but doesn't look or act much more than 70.

As a personal note, when I was around four years old, Jane and I were playmates when she came to visit her grandparents in Livingston. I can also remember visiting Jane at their home in Algood. Mae, Jane, and I were "reunited" recently through Sarah Holloway of Cookeville, a new friend I have made, and it came as a total surprise to all of us, Sarah included. As I was leaving Maeís home in Cookeville after meeting with her for this interview, she gave me something I didnít know was still around. That was a tin of Rosebud Salve. She said she was never without it and Jane makes sure she doesnít run out. She orders it in large quantities for her mother. Although many years have passed since the three of us last saw each other, it has been a real treat to get reacquainted once more. And it has been even more fun to look back through Maeís eyes to a time of growing up in the busy little community known as Windle.

 

Dr. James Washington Davis is shown in the photograph taken near his office in Windle, Tennessee.  His home is also in the background.  A very large hog seems to be following him down the road.