Archive for the ‘John Dodson Taylor Jr.–Writings’ Category

The County Fairs   Leave a comment

John Dodson Taylor, Jr.

Above:  John Dodson Taylor, Jr., in 1940

Cropped from a Photograph Courtesy of Randolph Fleming Taylor


I read accounts, such as this one from my grandfather, of small town life in former generations, and know that such a lifestyle is foreign to me.  Although I grew up in small towns and in the countrysides of various counties in Georgia (usually in the southern part of the state), I was never really at home there.  No, I am naturally an urban dweller.  I do live in Athens-Clarke County, home of one of the few unified governments in Georgia.  Clarke County, 159th of 159 counties in terms of land area, is number 19 in terms of population.  And I am home here.



From Leaves in the Wind, pages 17-18


In the early fall of each year, the county fair was held in the streets; and, with the exceptions of Christmas and the Fourth of July, “Fair Week” was the high spot of the year.  People looked forward to it all the year, coming from everywhere to join in the festivities.  The trains were loaded, as were the wagons, buggies, and surries, yes,

with the fringe on top.

Many rode horses and mules; many walked.  It was a time of good fellowship, and many families seized the occasion to have family reunions.

The merchants’ dollar-volume was almost equal to that of the Christmas season.  A carnival atmosphere was everywhere, and an air of suppressed excitement promised to erupt at any moment.  People on the crowded sidewalks chatted happily.  Hawkers did a brisk business with balloons, whistles, hats, pennants, and the like.  Young and old had great fun with these novelties, the remains of which were taken home and cherished until next year’s fair.

Fair exhibits were displayed in the courthouse and on the lawn.  Farmers placed their offerings on the sloped platforms erected on the lawn.  Many of the shade trees had stalks of corn and cotton tied to their trunks.  All of these exhibits were wonderful, and there were so many that often it was necessary to place the overflow in the hallways of the building.  I shall never forget visiting these displays one year and finding the professional card of a certain gentleman of color which proclaimed to the world that he–the minister–considered

funerals and marriages a specialty.

During the fair, the offices of the county government ceased to function in order that the schools and other organizations might use the office spaces for displays.  Every school in the county operated a stand where excellent food was sold.  Other groups also realized handsome profits from the operation of such stands.  The carnivals, which were excellent for those days, were usually located in the streets.

One part of all this excitement was brought each year by a Mr. Gilreath, who operated his merry-go-round, or

flyin’ jinny,

which was the center of admiration and wonder of all who saw it.  Between seasons, he kept it parked in the loft of his barn; and youngsters used to slip off and go to his home just to see it, to sit and dream of the day when it would be back in operation.  Mr. Gilreath usually set it down in a lot not far from Big Spring and took in money as fast as it could be handed to him.  At a nickel a ride, he made a small fortune off this steam-powered outfit.  I remember one farmer who sold a bale of cotton one day and rode out the entire amount from that sale, at a nickel a ride, without ever getting off!

The entire length of Broad Street was roped off for the races and other contests.  There were the usual foot races, relays, and broad jumps; but the two most exciting contests were the climbing–or trying to climb–the greased pole, to reach the top for the money prize–and the race for the greased pig.  Such fun and excitement!  Such a greasy mess for each child taking part!

Wes’ Shropshire, as grand marshall, presided over all these festivities.  Resplenent in his brown riding habit, atop his chestnut roan, he was the perfect master of such an occasion.  As I watched him, I thought that no fair could have been a success with Wes’ Shropshire as grand marshall.


Our First Picture Show   Leave a comment

Above:  Billy Bitzer Seated at a Movie Projector (Between 1930 and 1940)

Image Source = Library of Congress



From Leaves in the Wind, pages 15-17


“Papa” is John Dodson Taylor, Sr., my great-grandfather.



One day, thanks to the Internet, I was streaming Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio from Newfoundland and Labrador, listening to a midday call-in program.  That day the topic was a small and remote town in Labrador once accessible only via ferry.  Recently, however, the provincial government had installed a gravel road.  I recall residents calling in and talking about how they enjoyed looking at license plates on visitors’ cars.  I wondered at that sense of isolation ending as one’s world opens up, for (A) I live in a cosmopolitan city with many amenities, (B) I can listen to Canadian radio via the Internet in Athens, Georgia, and (C) I can avail myself of home video options.    My reality is far different than the one, described below, in which my grandfather Taylor grew up.

And I am glad to live in a time with considerably less de jure racial segregation.  I know why I think of such matters as I do; my upbringing and social milieu influence me.  Yet I wonder what my racial attitudes would be if I had grown up with rampant de jure segregation, not that anything justifies accepting such a damnable system.  I have found some Lost Cause and other racially insensitive language in some of my great-grandfather’s poems.  I have chosen to publish those works.  Researching and writing Southern history has led to circumstances in which I have had to repeat racist quotes for the sake of accuracy, but this blog is not a scholarly paper.



Summerville has had its share of big moments, but none was bigger than the advent of the first picture theatre.  We had glowing stories of such things, but to us it was just a happy page from from some fairy story.  Naturally, we all yearned for the opportunity to see one; but the idea that our town would ever be so blessed was never considered even a remote possibility.  We were in for a wonderful shock!

One day a stranger and his wife came to town.  We were always fascinated by strangers–it gave us a chance to get nosey and find out something about them.  We played no favorites, for they all got the same treatment; but with this fellow we didn’t have too much success.  About all we ever learned about him was that his name was Jacob Conrad (not his real name), that he came from up “nawth,” and that his family had been operating motion picture shows.  We did find out one thing some time later, but that would be another story.

Jacob had been in town only a couple of days when he made history by announcing that he was going to open a motion picture show.  Though we weren’t through meddling in his affairs when this announcement came, we suddenly cared nothing for any more information about his past!

A picture show in Summerville!  We were thrilled!  New York had them; so dd Atlanta and Rome.  This put us in the big time!  In fact, we felt that we were just one step removed from being a city; but it was a big step.  As soon as she head the show announcement, Julia, our cook, prophesied that we would be getting street cars next.  That prophecy is still in the suspense file.

Jacob rented a vacant store building on what we used to call Broad Street, just a couple of doors from the old Post Office.  It wasn’t many days before this new paradise was open for business.  The one projector was of the hand-operated variety and was at the mercy of the operator, who would speed up or slow down as his fancy dictated.  The screen was a huge sheet stretched across the entire width of the building, about three-fourths the way from the front to the rear.  There was a door at the right side of the screen to permit passage of the show staff.  The white customers entered from the front of the building and gladly set on uncomfortable folding chairs, while the colored customers entered from the rear and sat on equally uncomfortable benches, enjoying the picture as it appeared in reverse on the screen.  I have spent much of my time sitting, and in all kinds of contrivances for that purpose; but never in my life have I occupied so completely uncomfortable as those chairs!  Sitting in one of them assured the viewer that he would take home a memento of the show–a little numbness in certain areas that removed from him for a season the desire to sit down again for a while.

Music for the shows was provided by a hand-operated, something-or-other known as a player piano.  (Modern instruments of this type would bow their heads in shame if they knew just what black sheep their ancestors were.)  The operator sat on a bench while he engineered the device.  This was an ordeal long to be remembered, for it was necessary that he cling to the legs of the piano to keep from upsetting the bench as he pedaled.  There was a pump-handle on one side, and a distress signal from the operator would produce an assistant who would lend a helping hand by pumping the handle to augment the pedal.

The music was almost never cued to the spirit of the picture.  I have seen many shows–“drammys” they used to call them–in which the hero would be at the point of death, and it was handkerchief time for the audience, only to have the piano give out with a joyful rendition of

In the Good Old Summer Time


Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

The opposite was equally true.  Many times, right in the middle of a joyous scene, that monstrosity would wheeze and grunt out a heart-rending arrangement of

Darling Nellie Gray


After the Ball.

One time a very happy scene was accompanied by the strains of

Abide With Me.

I especially remember a wedding scene in which the bride and groom were dashing from the church as the piano serenaded them with

The Fight is On!

This picture show brought the first use of electricity to Summerville.  (Later, through Papa’s efforts, the whole town boasted an electric system.)  Old Jacob couldn’t operate his

pitcher show

without electricity, so he did something about it.  Just around the corner from this newly-arrived haven of delight, Fiddler Wade operated a thriving blacksmith shop and grist mill which was powered by one of the biggest gasoline engines I have ever seen.  A conference between Jacob and Fiddler resulted in the installation of a big dynamo right beside the mill, so that it was possible to switch quickly from one to the other.

Fiddler’s son, Chiel, was made superintendent of the electric power board; and on show nights, it was his responsibility to crank up the engine to the show could go on.  Chiel always sat on the platform right beside the projector.  This platform was actually the ceiling which extended above the show-window and the entrance of the old store.  All would be well until the engine went dead right in the middle of the reel.  Then Chiel could be heard slipping down the ladder, which was the only way to the platform.  He would take the path from the back door to the shop, crank up the engine, and let the show go on.

There was always a long interval between reels.  This was a time of good fellowship, cat calls, throwing of paper bags, paper wads, etc.  Often the lights would go out suddenly for the start of the next reel, while half the customers were still out of their seats, running around the room.  Many traffic jams and near-fights were the results of the stampedes to return to their seats in the darkness.

Jacob had brought with him one of the first electric fans ever to be in Summerville.  One night, just as the lights had gone out and the reel had started, one of the customers tossed a sack of eggs into the fan.  The result was chaotic and would have provided the highlight in a good slapstick comedy, with pieces of eggshell, eggs, and paper bag blowing in every direction.  The operator left the machine, jumped from the platform, and departed through the back door so fast that he threw into an uproar the customers in the colored section.  Finally, peace was restored, and an assistant proceeded witht he show.  The operator was located later and induced to return.

We enjoyed this haven of delight for years, until one night the Post Office burned; and Charlie Neal, the postmaster, acquired the space one occupied by the show for the new Post Office.

For a time our hearts were broken, until we were  told that the old livery stable, across the street from Fiddler’s shop, was available.  Bud Broome had operated it for as long as I can remember, until cars became plentiful and the demand for his commodity began to diminish.  (By this time, Jacob Conrad had sold out and had departed for parts unknown.)  Now, local management took over the converting of the livery stable into our new show house.  (This was located about where Western Auto’s building and lot now stand.)

I shall never forget it!  The ground floor–and that was really what it was–had been converted from stalls to orchestra.  The loft became the boxes, and the projection room was literally ‘way up in the piegon roost.  It was an unforgettable novelty and one that paid BIG, especially when all the pictures of World War I were so popular.  My favorite seat was right in the center of the golden horseshoe area of the loft.  There was no railing, as I recall.  One night as I was “emoting” in a big way over an especially scene from Big Parade, I suddenly lost my bearing, and for all intents and purposes was headed for a three-point landing in the orchestra.  Just as I was poised for the take-off, my subconscious showed me pictures of the old manure pile Nick Montgomery used to keep right where I was headed.  Just at that moment, I was able to summon strength enough to avoid flight, and to return to my seat–to the accompaniment of howls of delight from my fellow patrons.

You may rest assured that our pioneer shows added much to my early childhood in Summerville.


The Bells   Leave a comment


I found a wonderful website, CHATTOOGA PHOTO HISTORY, while searching for a photograph related to the Taylor Institute.  Here is a link to the Taylor Institute page:  The  website is worth exploring, as I can attest.



From Leaves in the Wind, pages 21-24


“Papa” was John Dodson Taylor, Sr., my great-grandfather.

Nell Taylor was my grandmother and the wife of John Dodson Taylor, Jr.


Papa was a perfectionist in many ways, one being his exacting ideas regarding education.  He wanted his own to have the best of everything; and when I came along, he began to cast around for a good education for me.  He was obsessed with the idea that the county school board was not consistent in maintaining the necessary standards of education.  One year their actions pleased him very much, while the next twelve months brought a change in this conclusion.  This off-again-on-again habit reminds me of the old colored minister who was talking to his white minister colleague.  When asked by the white minister if he believed in falling from grace, the colored minister replied that he not only believed in it; he practiced it!

Papa felt that the local board too often practiced that falling-from-grace theory in maintaining the educational standards; and determined that his youngest chicken should have the best possible education, Papa decided to start a private school in which he could put into practice everything he thought made up a good school.  This he did and promptly dubbed it “Taylor Institute,” or “T.I.,” as it was called by the students.

Papa obtained the old building which had been vacated by the the local school when it moved into new quarters.  (T.I. was housed on the lot where North Summerville Elementary School now stands.)  His next step was to find the best qualified principal available.  It was, as the result of this search, that Summerville obtained one of the finest families ever to grace any community–the Charles E. Bells.  Papa found him at Peabody College.  I used to call him “Fess,” a name he loved as he did a snake.  He was and always will be my idea of a good teacher, a good man, and a true friend.

The day the Bells arrived in Summerville was another big moment in the history of the town.  Papa told me well in advance of their arrival that I was to be the welcoming committee and to get the old Cole Eight polished and shining.  The day dawned bright and a little warmish.  I was in my place at the depot well ahead of the published time for the train’s arrival.  Pete Woods, the agent, only increased my anxiety by advising me that he had word that the train would be fifteen minutes late.

Finally, the train arrived; and Conductor Summerville (his real name) placed a little step on the ground.  I was standing by, wondering what the Bells would be like.  Papa had tried to describe Mr. Bell, of course; and my imagination had added a few flourishes to that picture.  All of these ideas were wrong, I realized, when I saw a handsome, robust gentleman with happy blue eyes and a big smile, attired in a dapper blue suit, step to the ground.  I figured this was my man and so introduced myself.  This was Charles E. Bell.  A displaced Ohioan, he was well indoctrinated in the ways which mark a real Southern gentleman.  His handshake said much.

By this time, Mrs. Bell was standing on the bottom step.  Mr. Bell turned, and with a little bow, offered his hand to Miss Nellsie, as we learned to call her.  I was properly introduced to her, and then began the parade of all the little Bells.  Wanda was the first off the train, then Harold, and all the others.  They just kept coming, until all six stood on the ground.  They huddled in front of the depot while I briefed them as to the plans for their comfort.  This consisted of my depositing them in the side door of the school house, which was to be their home for a day or two until their house was completely redecorated.  This situation was embarrassing, but labor was not always completed on time, even then.  I do not remember who sat on whom except that Harold sat next to me–in fact–almost on my right leg–and Wanda sat next to him.  I seized this opportunity to learn a few names, ramming Harold with my elbow and asking his name.  I was immediately told,

“Puddinin” Tayne.  Ask me again and I’ll tell you the same!

The dye was cast, and for years after that he was know as “Puddinin” Bell.  This was later changed to “Booby” Bell.

I made another attempt to learn names, asking the name of his sister sitting next to him.

Her name is Wanda.  It is an Indian name,

He informed me.

This enlightening answer made me lean over to see if she bore any resemblance to an Indian.  In so doing, my hand slipped, throwing me over the steering wheel, almost causing me to lose control of the car.  That was the first and only time I ever fell for Wanda.

With my tongue in cheek and my head bowed, I deposited the Bells in the side door of the school house.  You couldn’t call that an outburst of Southern hospitality, and it broke my heart to see Miss Nellsie crying.  However, that didn’t last long for a couple of minutes a determined look appeared on her face.  I had never seen such a look before; but that look seems to be a characteristic of ladies names Nell, for my Nell wears it every time she enters a dime store.  When that look appears, I inevitably say,

I’ll meet you at the front door, Honey.

She never hears it, because she has just executed a perfect “charge of the light brigade.”  But this was about Nell Bell, not about Nell Taylor.

Miss Nellsie clipped out a couple of crisp commands which activated all the Bells; and in no time, the school house became a comfortable, temporary home.  Thus was the Taylor Institute born!

Papa figured that since he was paying all the bills for the school, he could claim the right to edit the catalog.  When he chose, he could wield a mighty pen; and his determination and his superb command of the King’s English brought forth a masterpiece.  He sold customers a “bill of goods” about the growing necessity for a good education.  He convinced them that with Taylor Institute in town, then need look no further, that

one would be able to avail oneself of a very unusual opportunity.

First of all, the teachers–“Fess” and Miss Nellsie–were the best.  Secondly, the building was fine.  Thirdly–and her comes the punch line–nowhere in the whole world would you

find a climate any more salubrious

than right here in Summerville.  Not all the natives knew what “salubrious” meant, and I doubt if they cared; but, if they were living in that kind of climate, it wasn’t hurting them, so what the heck!  The catalog helped; and with Papa and “Fess” out beating the bushes, we opened in September with a full house.

Being of the old school, Papa had gotten his education the hard way, and he was determined that his youngest chicken was going to get his the same way.  We gobbled up a diet of McGuffey’s Readers; Robinson’s Arithmetic, a terrific course in mental arithmetic; Latin, history, and other studies, topping it all off with “Fess’s” course in sightsinging.  He was a good singer, always faithful in leading the singing in our Sunday School.  He never failed to hum the first note with the first word of song.  Perhaps this is the reason that those who put in their birthday offerings on Sunday morning were greeted with the singing of

N-Nappy birthday to you,

instead of

Happy birthday.

Our faculty meant business.  We “got it” or else.  I preferred to “get it.”  We had work in all subjects.  Our teachers made no effort to soft-pedal anything.  We just knew they were killing us, yet we survived!  I later attended a military prep school and college, but I actually received more “book larnin'” at T.I. than anywhere else.

One of the happiest memories I have of “Fess” was born in the arithmetic class one day.  While he was working a problem at the board, he chanced to drop a piece of chalk.  As he stooped to pick it up, his pants naturally pulled tighter.  One eager student on the front row had been idly playing with a piece of window shade.  While “Fess” was retrieving the chalk, the room was suddenly filled with a ripping sound.  Fearful that his middle-age had caused complications:  he jumped up–his face crimson.  As he backed against the board, he emphatically dismissed the class and emptied the room–much to our delight.

We had a well-rounded program of sports, even though that was before the days of football in these parts.  We had basketball and baseball for boys and girls, and our teams were good.  In his own right, “Fess” wasn’t a bad coach!  Papa really went all-out for equipment, especially for the boys’ teams.  I always felt that the girls were treated like proverbial step-daughters, for they inherited the old-fashioned baggy-time bloomers for uniforms.  I lived in horror that at some tense moment of a tame one of the player’s clothes might come to a parting of the ways.  This catastrophe never occurred, for the coach had provided them with dependable what-nots and spare safety pins.  We played all the teams in this area and consistently maintained an exceptionally good record for a small private school.

Public schools continued to grow; and the Institute, having served its purpose, finally closed.  However, many of those who attended T.I. cherish fond memories of happy days spent together, and with “Fess” and all the Bells.




The 1988 history of Summerville Presbyterian Church lists Charles E. Bell, Sr. (died October 22, 1970) and Nell Bell (died July 1, 1963) as  members from June 12, 1921, to March 30, 1941.  Their children were Wanda , Katherine Jean, Marion Frances, Charles Jr., William Carson, and Harold.  Their memberships at Summerville Presbyterian Church began at different dates (from 1920 to 1933) and also terminated on March 30, 1941.  Wanda married O. H. “Sonny” Elgin and returned to Summerville Presbyterian Church as a member on February 17, 1946.  She remained a member there until she died, on November 6, 1973.  Her widower joined the group which left the church in the nasty split of 1982 and formed First Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church America).  It was a truly nasty schism, complete with a vandalization of the manse one Sunday afternoon.



The Rivers Brothers   Leave a comment

Above:  Making Gavels, March 12, 1923

Image Source = Library of Congress



Two of the most interesting and colorful characters in the county were Judge Clovis Rivers, who was a great help to me in my first years as a young lawyer, and his brother John.

Though the Judge never wore a tie, he always appeared to me as completely dressed as did any who wore their ties every day.  His white hair and heavy, white, curly eyebrows framed his flashing and intelligent eyes.  His firm mouth was evidence of his character and of his strong stand for the right.

The judge was firm in his requirements of courtroom conduct, and few there were who dared raise his temper by breech of courtroom etiquette.  His insistence upon proper etiquette during court sessions impressed me deeply, as it did all who observed him.

Just as memorable in his own way as Judge Rivers’ brother John, who was a naturalist and an artist.  Many felt that John could have been another Audubon or Menaboni if he had had an outlet for his sketches.  Gentle and retiring, he spent most of his time outdoors.  His drawings, which weer made on any scrap of paper he found at hand, were breath-taking in detail, accuracy, and natural beauty.  Lucky are those who have even one of these sketches in their possessions!


Leaves in the Wind, page 24


A gallery of art by John James Audubon:

A biography of Athos Menaboni:


The Public Outdoorsie   Leave a comment

Above:  A 1936-1941 Illinois Public Health Poster

Image Source = Library of Congress


This poster is a piece of Americana which should not invoke nostalgia, for the “good old days” were not as good as some like to think they were.


Town Branch enters Summerville through what used to be Bitting’s pasture, now a thriving residential section.  The Branch approached town near the depot and disappeared from view as it neared the confluence with the Chattooga River just south of town.

On this branch, a short distance from the depot, was located one of the most popular sports ever to grace any town–the public outdoorsie!  We were bursting with pride over ours because it was different.  It was a duplex!  More than that, it was a three-holer on each side.  The male of the species entered from the northwest corner, while the distaff contingent were permitted to seek solace through the southwesterly entrance.  As long as it was in existence, it was suspended across Town Branch on sills, only a a few feet from the railroad (near the old Warren’s Ford place).

They tell me that in a nearby state the designers of such installations had made special arrangements for the small fry, with the inclusion of holes graduated for the various age groups.  This may have been well and good, and I take no issue with that state; for, after all, this is a democracy.  However, in our town, we operated on the assumption that the children should arrange to take care of this important function at home, unless Mother Nature saw fit to create a state of emergency; in which case, necessity had to be the mother of invention.

One year Hallowe’en pranksters removed a large sign from the front of the building where our weekly paper was printed.  Next morning, the astonished passengers on the train were informed by the sign that this noble institution astride Town Branch was the SUMMERVILLE GAZETTE.

There was no doubt that this “institution” was the most popular place in town.  This was especially true during court weeks, and horse-trading days, when the path to this place was broadened by the footprints of pilgrims on their way to and from the temple of relaxation.  There were times, during school celebrations, when I have seen boy and girl walk complacently side by side on their pilgrimage, separating only as they reached the proper door.  As I think of these incidents, the soundtrack of my memory seems to play the haunting refrain of a once-popular song:

‘Two by two they go marching through….

Yes, business was always good at the outdoorsie.  It it had been a private enterprise, the manager would have had it made, even though he might have had the dubious title of Johnny Manager!


Leaves in the Wind, pages 12-13

The Depot   Leave a comment

Above:  A Train (1909-1940)

Image Source = Library of Congress




The depot my grandfather mentioned was the building of which one finds images at these websites:

I hope that having pictures of this structure adds to the meaning of my grandfather’s words.



Though it was always a thrill to visit the courthouse, that building was not the only center of attraction.  Its bitterest opponent for popularity was the depot, a few short blocks away.

It was at the depot that young and old met regularly, four times a day, to welcome the “up” trains and the “down” trains, as they arrived from Rome on the south and from Chattanooga on the north.  At the depot, friend met friend; trades were made; debts were paid; and money was borrowed.  The cotton mill was analyzed regularly, with special emphasis on the number of orders they had on hand.  All the juicy news about the natives cleared at the depot, for the gossips gathered there en masse.  There were so many of these gossip-gluttons that they had to wear safety pins to keep from talking about each other, but their not-so-secret sin was that they did just exactly that!  No modern radio or television station could spread news any more effectively than was done at the depot.


Leaves in the Wind, page 12

The Courthouse   Leave a comment

Above:  John Dodson Taylor, Jr., and Nell Barrett Taylor, My Grandparents, In Front of McGinnis Drugs and the Chattooga County Courthouse, in Winter 1960

Image Source = Gene McGinnis, Summerville, Georgia



I found an image of the 1909 Chattooga County Courthouse at the county’s website here:

I found another image (with more background) here:  I learned there that the model was the Appling County Courthouse.  This interests me because I used to live in Appling County.

And here ( I found some more relevant images, including one of the previous courthouse.

Here is a link to an old postcard image of the 1909 courthouse:

Here is a link to a close-up image of the clock:

“Papa” is John Dodson Taylor, Sr.

“Mama” is Harriet “Hattie” Stoddard Taylor.



History records that for fifty years Summerville was twenty-five miles from a railroad.  Its happy, contented populace never allowed their fondest ambitions or dreams to picture it as anything more pretentious than a village.  The woodlands hung like green drapery around the town, the fringe rolling down within the very corporate limits.

In the center of this village there was a courthouse, necessitated by the fact that not all the inhabitants were as law-abiding as they should have been.  In addition to this judicial institution, there were a few stores where general merchandise was sold:  there were four saloons which were called “groceries,” a blacksmith and wagon-repair shop, and a cobbler shop.  There was one doctor.  Drug stores and dentists were unheard of.

In those days a community had to earn the right to be called a town.  One of the main requirements seemed to have been that a hanging take place.  Summerville could boast of two such sporting events, so a town we were!

Papa told me how Pigg Van shot North White one cold day in the spring of 1888.  It seems that the two had been very close friends, but this time they each had taken one sniffer too many as they sat by the fire in the rear of one of the hardware stores.  Their tongues became oiled, their tempers rose, and one word led to another.  Finally, North White left he store for a drink from the well which occupied the center of the square which is not intersection of Washington and Commerce Streets.  Tradition has it that Pigg Van followed him to the door and drew his bead just as White reached the well.  Justice took its course, and Pigg paid the penalty up in the hollow just west of what is now called Jakeville.  The second event took place were the Georgia Rug Mill is now located.  Details of this event have been lost in the past, however.

The courthouse, where justice was meted out to all and sundry, was a drab two-story affair of brick construction.  I cannot remember many of the details because I was at the tender age of four when it was removed.  At the front of the courthouse, a balcony opened into the courtroom upstairs.  It seems that one time they borrowed Mama’s piano to “live it up” for a beauty contest which was held in the courtroom, but there was some trouble.  It was necessary to hoist the piano by way of the balcony, which was, you will agree, rather rough treatment for such an instrument.  I always thought the piano was a little off; perhaps that move explains it.

The cast-iron stairways to the courtroom were suspended on the outside of the building.  (Stairways on the outside of the building always did puzzle me and make me wonder if the genius who conceived such an idea didn’t need to have his head examined!)  These monstrosities were fine in pretty weather, but ascending and descending them in bad weather posed read problems.

Our present edifice succeeded the older one in 1909, and at that time it was the last word in architectural perfection.  It is of concrete construction with four entrances.  The crowning glory–at the time of its erection–was the big, four-faced clock on top; but things, like people, can fall from grace.  Certainly that blessed clock is no exception!  Its downfall came many years ago, and no time-piece could have been more unreliable.  (I distinctly remember hearing it strike thirteen times for three o’clock in the afternoon.  No doubt it believed in good measure.)  It has been a long time since I have seen its four faces together on the correct time of day.  This discrepancy was caused by any one of a number of reasons, the main one being that pigeons used the clock hands as their ferris wheel.

The courthouse had rooms and more rooms, and I have seen them filled with everything from exhibits on fair days t dead bodies which had been brought in for examination.  The courthouse was actually a community center in those days.  There have been rummage sales, cake walks, crap games, school programs, debates, beauty contests, revival meetings, chautauquas, and singings held within it.  All were part-and-parcel of life in this county.


Leaves in the Wind, pages 11-12


Big Spring   Leave a comment

Above:  Northeast Georgia and Northwest Alabama in 1823


From Leaves in the Wind, pages 10-11


At the left of the highway north of town has been a remarkable, crystal-clear spring at the foot of a majestic tree.  (The tragedy has been that in the name of progress and business, this spring has been covered and the tree cut town.  Over the years this spring supplied many travelers with a refreshing drink, slaking their thirst with its cold, pure water.  Numerous stories have been told about this spring, but there is one that I remember vividly.

My father often told the story told to his father of the early settlers’ seeing Indians driving into this spring at the foot of the tree and of their later being seen at Fort Payne, Ala.  Many believed there was an underground passage through limestone caves to the Alabama side of the mountain.

The limestone cave theory for this northwest area of the state was proved years ago with the white man’s discovery of numerous caves in this section.  A more modern proof came when a large portion of the highway caved in just in front of what is now Jackson Chevrolet place.  As long as this hole remained open, Big Spring, several hundred yards down the highway toward down, was muddy.  When the hole was finally covered and the highway repaired, the Spring cleared.  Limestone, we know, is abundant in this area, as is evidenced by the large number of cedar trees throughout the country.

Certainly, this northwest section of Georgia was Indian territory.  Names bear out this fact:  Chattooga, Chickamauga, Catoosa, Armuchee, Oosstenaula, Etowah, and many others.


The Tannery   Leave a comment

Above:  The Tanner


From Leaves in the Wind, page 10


Time has taken heavy toll of our landmarks, and not many people living today remember Jake Moyer’s tan yard.  It was located in the main part of town, about where the pawn shop and Seymore’s Filling Station are now.  To my child-mind, it was a business any city could be proud of.

To me Jake Moyers was a gentleman and a scholar.  He had very definite ideas of what was right and wrong, and he took an active part in all religious and civic affairs.  It was said that he was active in the drive to rid the town of all saloons.  The campaign was hard fought, and Jake’s side was victorious.  The opposition then moved just outside the city limits and erected a huge saloon, which they immediately named “Jakeville.”  That part of town bears that name today.

Jake derived much pleasure from life, and nothing pleased him more than to have people manifest an interest in his vocation.  He was a master story-teller and a devoted student of human nature.  I learned by visiting him and by drinking in his stories of the past.  His philosophy of life, which made him steadfast for the right, is as sound today as it was then.

He did not have to advertise his business with any sort of sign.  That wasn’t necessary, for noses were standard equipment on people in those days, just s they are today.  The symphony of scents, composed by those acrid fumes rising from the vats, was something the nostrils would cherish through the years.

Jake’s tannery consisted of a two-story structure partially surrounded by a series of vats.  The second floor housed the work area where he fashioned various articles of leather.  His uncanny ability to create accurately the articles from the leather which he tanned still seems a bit out of the ordinary.  I never failed to get a thrill as I watched the leather on the numerous steps through the vats where the actual tanning took place, on to the completed articles so painstakingly finished at the tables upstairs.


Growing Up   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of the State of Georgia in 1905


“Papa” is John Dodson Taylor, Sr., my great-grandfather, and “Mama” is Harriett “Hattie” Stoddard Taylor, my great-grandmother.  This text comes from Leaves in the Wind, pages 7 and 8.

John Dodson Taylor, Jr., was born on January 19, 1905.  He died on September 27, 1976.



The twentieth century had just graduate from training pants when I entered Summerville and the world.  Entering was not a simple matter.  It was impossible for me to knock on the door and to make my entrance attired in my best bib and didee.  Even to this day, it just isn’t done this way.

Preparation for my arrival had been going on for months–nine, to be exact.  Dr. Jack Bryant was the referee and was calling all the shots.  Dr. Jack was a wonderful man; he was the personification of the beloved horse-and-buggy doctor, graduating late to the Model T variety.  Whatever his mode of transportation, to me he was the only doctor in the world; and why shouldn’t he be?  After all, he was present at my launching.  Of course, I didn’t wish for any of us to be sick; but it’s only fair to be honest and to confess that I always was glad to have him come to our house.  His medicine bag fascinated me.  He filled all his prescriptions so painstakingly!  Since he had no scales, he used only the broad blade of his knife to measure his medicines; but it seemed to work because he usually kept us in good health….but I am getting ahead of my story.

I was the fourth and last of the little Taylors to enter this world.  From all accounts, Dr. Jack took care of Mama and saw to it that she had exactly the right amounts of this and that.  I can easily imagine a telephone conversation that these two old cronies might have had when Papa began to suspect that Mama was “expectin.”  Perhaps it went this way:

Papa went to the old-fashioned crank-type phone that hung on the wall in the hall, right behind the front door.  After much cranking, Central (the operator) finally decided to answer with a familiar,

Helluh.  What do you want?

By this time Papa was fit to be tied and exploted,

Where in tarnation have you been?  I’ve about worn this blamed crank off.  I want to talk to Jack Bryant.

To this atomic eruption, Central replied,

It ain’t none of your business where I have been.  Besides, a gentleman never asks a lady where she has been.

Papa could contain himself no longer and screamed,

Who in hell accused you of being a lady, anyhow?

Central chided,

All right, Johnny Taylor.  Calm down.  It’s still none of your business; but to show you that my heart’s in the right place, I’ll tell you that I was in the kitchen a-stringin’ a mess of beans.

Papa replied,

Please, ma’am, will you just ring Jack Bryant’s house?

There was a pause; and then a familiar voice answered,

This is Jack Bryant.

Papa replied,

Jack, this is Johnny Taylor.

Dr. Bryant answered,

Hello, Johnny.  What’s bothering you?

Papa confessed,

Nothing is bothering me; but it looks like we are going to be needing you before too long.  Maybe there’s going to be another little Taylor; and maybe you ought to come and see Hattie.

Dr. Bryant replied,

Bless your heart, Johnny.  I most certainly will see Hattie tomorrow.  You know, Sister Al and and I were discussing you two just last night, hoping that you wouldn’t let little Helen grow up as the baby of the family.  Egad, Johnny, let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope this one will be a boy.  Then Gene, Faye, and little Helen will have a baby brother.

Months passed, and it was finally time for the big day (or night).  Dr. Jack was busy; and Papa, not to be outdone and not taking any chances, laid his plans carefully.  At home, he had two daughters–Faye and Helen–still at tender ages; and the impending event could have made it “too wet to plow” for the little girls.  Anyhow, he had to do something about them, since they might have bothered Mis’ Hat; and that would never have done.  To clear the deck for action, Papa shooed the girls off on the train–let’s call it the “Maternity Special”–to spend the night with Aunt Will Powell down in Berryton.  Gene was of sufficient age to travel alone, and I understand that he went to visit other relatives.  (It’s nice to have relatives, especially when another young one is bidding entrance into the world.)

Through the years, it has been a pet theory of mine that Papa must have attached some importance to this event which happened on Wednesday night, for–well, Wednesday nights always had been prayer meeting night; and permission to be absent from this service was next to impossible to obtain.  It could have been granted only in cases of flood, war, or impending calamity.  (I am still wondering in which of these categories he placed my advent.)

I once lost my hat and other articles raising dogs.  One time a breeder wrote me that

after they get here, you just put them to one side and let them grow.

That is exactly what happened to me, because for a long time I just

growed and growed.

During that time I enjoyed the somewhat dubious title of the town’s

fat boy.


 I have always lived in Summerville, except when I was away in college; and it is only natural for me to love the town.  As a child, I used to sit on our big front porch, drape my legs over the banisters, and try to imagine how the town came into existence.  There were many theories,but the one that persisted in my child’s mind ws this:

One day when there was just this lovely place where no one yet lived, God walked up the valley between what is now Lookout Mountain and Taylor’s Ridge.  (No, the Ridge was not named for my family.  I was always told that it was named for an Indian chief.) In His big, kindly left hand, He carried many families in search of new homes.  As He strode along, this section particularly appealed to Him.  He knelt down; and with His mighty right hand, He smoothed out the portion of land which is now the main part of town.  As each place was completed to his satisfaction, He lifted down one family and placed them there to live.  In this manner all the pioneer families were located.  Standing to survey His handiwork, He realized there was no water; so, with the forefinger of His right hand, He outlined the bed of a small river which He connected with that of another and larger river.  As a tributary to this river, which we now call Chattooga, He outlined a smaller stream which became known s Town Branch.  The work being completed, He admonished His children to forever cherish and care for the land

which the Lord their God

had given them.

Thus, went my dream, was Summerville born.