Scott County, Tennessee
FNB Chronicles

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Early Days on Paint Rock: An Oral History

[EDITOR’S NOTE — The following article is an oral history by LETCHER SEXTON which was recorded by his sister EDRIE HUFF in January, 1979 and was later transcribed and printed in the Winter, 1985 issue of the Scott County Historical Society Newsletter].

I’ll tell you about CASWELL and Rachel.

R. CECIL SEXTON. They were married the day before Christmas Eve, 1893. And they first moved into the second house north of the old Cornbread Tipple in a little town they called Almy on Paint Rock. And that house, it was only about 50 or 60 yards away from the coal tipple.

Now, I was born in that house. And I suspect that the wind, at times, blowed the coal dust across those houses along the north side there — especially when they had a south or a southeast wind. and at one time Mother took me and I was somewhere under two years old, and went home. She and Dad, apparently had an argument about something and I do not know what it was. And she stayed home three or four days and "Dad finally went after her.

Then when I was about two years and a half old, he bought a place from Rev. WILLIAM, or BILL, ELLIS, with seven and a half acres of land. And there was another house on it and, as I kindly remember, it was up at the corner of the place toward the coal mine and it had a small basement under it, dug out, and MACK DOBBS, I think, lived there about that time.

Then on the south of our line of property, the GILPHINS lived in a house very similar to ours. To the younger members of’ the family, they probably called it the Bryant house.

The Paint Rock Home of Caswell and Rachel Cecil Sexton

Then there was a little branch that came down across our old barn that separated this house over on the right from the house that was across the branch and just below our home place. And in that house, at the time, lived JOHN SMITH, who had a son, JOHN, that I played with when I was around five years old.

Then, beyond that, was another house that WILLIAM PENNINGTON first lived in, that I can remember, and BALHAM REED later moved into that house after WILLIAM had moved out.

Around up to the side, in what was known as the BESS DUNCAN or EB LAXTON place at that time lived WOLFORD PHILLIPS. And I used to play with FRED and MAUDE. There was in that family, ELVIE, the oldest daughter; then ROY, the next son; and then FRED and MAUDE and VANEY and ELMER. ELMER was the baby then.

There, I think, I can remember my step-great-grandmother who was ELIZABETH NEWPORT and who was the second wife of my great-grandfather, ROBERT SEXTON. The reason I seem to remember here, I went over to that place. WOLFORD had a little store up in the end next to the road. And somebody was in there, some man, and this-BESS, they called her, came through the door. She wasn’t a very large woman, but she seemed very spunky. So she opened the door. She was dangling and old tooth on a string and this fellow spoke to her and said: "What have you got there on that string?"

She says: "I’ve got my tooth."

"Well, who pulled it?"

Says: "I did."

"How’d you pull it?"

"Oh, I tied the string around the door and slammed the door and it just jerked out!"

And that’s all I can remember about that.

Then, LATONIA was born in this house that he had bought down there. And in April, 1897. And as I think back, seemed like they said ARTEEMY was the midwife that made the delivery, ah, arrangement.

Then, a little later, brother MANFORD was born in 1899 at the instant I don’t remember the day of his birth, but I was large enough to remember Aunt TEEMY WEST, they called her, who originally was the eldest daughter of great-grandfather ROBERT SEXTON and his wife who was LINA KEETON. She was born in 1836, followed by MANUEL SEXTON, born in 1838. But ARTEEMY was busy there.

And I can also remember visiting there. Aunt LOURANEY and Aunt MISSOURI, my Dad’s sisters, and Aunt WINNIE stayed with mother at that time. Uncle JIM CARSON and my father added another section, the middle section, on the west side, kind of northwest side of the house. And after that was added, it was large enough that they put me to bed in the upstairs section. Before the addition of the house, and after the house was added, they moved the bed from this, we called the front room, to the added room. And I slept across from them in another bed, across from Dad and Mother, in another bed, with LATONIA. And I was handy then, so Dad could holler in: "Time to get up and shake the fire!" And it would be about four-thirty.

So I had to crawl out and go into the front room and shake the grate in the pot-bellied stove that we used at that time to keep heat. And he had the fire banked down with ashes on top of it. And when I shook the grate the fire heated up and warmed the house.

Then at five o’clock, Dad and Mother got up and he had to go to the barn and feed some stock he had, while Mother made breakfast and packed his lunch.

And at that time, he was a check weighman at the Cornbread Coal Mine Tip House. He had been elected to that position by the coal miners as a check against the company weigh master to make sure that they got the right weight. And he stayed in that position until the Paint Rock Co., as it is called at that time, went down and out of business.

CASWELL AND RACHEL SEXTON posed for this portrait just two months before his death. Rachel was 47 and Caswell was 52 when this photo was taken.

Later on, Col. ROBERTS took over and they did dump some coal at the old Cornbread Tip House, which was built clear across that hollow originally. But then, about 1902, when the railroad was extended from old Almy area, or near the commissary at old Almy, it took off to the right of the old Cornbread main track and extended down about two miles, to just below Jake’s Branch. And, about that time, a part of that trestle work was torn out.

Then we lived on in this two section of the house until around somewhere between 1908 and 1912 or ‘14. And JOHN JEFFERS and my Dad added the other section, the last section, to this house. Now, there was an old maple tree there, I was with Dad, just a little more than able to walk, when he went up in that hollow and dug up this maple, and set it out at the corner of the building. And that maple today is nearly two feet in diameter.

Dad had a way of telling time there, marked on the porch with two axe hacks, that when the son shone on the corner post and lined up with one of these, he knew what time it was by sun time. And I think I’ll end my story right there.

[One taping session ends, and another begins here]

Referring to the old home place into which CASWELL and RACHEL SEXTON moved, either in the latter part of 1896 or the very early part of 1897. About the first thing I can remember is Dad and someone helping him, tore down an old house that was nearly falling down, from the level spot in the hollow, which is above the road and above the barn that the children knew.

Now, as I remember, he used part of this old house to erect a barn on the south side of the road, right up at the corner and at the foot of a high hill that goes up on the right side of the branch. This old barn served its purpose for several years and I can very well remember that sister LATONIA and I occasionally, and quite often occasionally, went up there with our little tin cups. Dad had gotten a cow that was giving milk and Mother’d milk the cow.

The old gray cat and LATONIA and I would go up there and Mother kept a saucer in which she milked a little bit from the cow into the saucer and set it for the cat. And then she milked a little bit into the cups for LATONIA and I, who climbed up on a little fence there, and sat and supped our milk. That’s one of the early remembrances I have.

Another quite early remembrance is the first whipping I got that I can remember.

I was wearing a red dress and I had done something that Dad figured that I shouldn’t have done. And I can remember having lots of tongs on this little ole switch he was going to warm up my rear hide with. And this red dress was kind in the way and I don’t know whether he pushed me or whether I just rolled down into the floor. And there he hit me a few stripes and I can remember yelling. I don’t know who I was yelling to or at or why, but I can remember yelling and kicking my heels on the floor. And getting those switches planted where Dad thought they’d be the most effective.

that’s one of the earliest. . . I must not have yet been four years old, when this happened.

My Uncle BILL came down there and stayed with us awhile and I believe that was before he had married Aunt Rosie Lee about 1899. Dad broke him into coal mining somewhere along that time. And I can remember going up to the Cornbread mines after dark and going back in and Uncle BILL had a room. And Dad was showing him how to lay out to drill a hole and, after he got the hole drilled, to mix the powder and put it in the hole and tamp it in with the fuse, and ready to shoot.

Dad made a few trips after that. Meanwhile, all I could do, I was so small, was sit on a chunk of coal and get dusty dirty. Anyway, that was in the early days there on Paint Rock.

And then, along about this same time, before 1900, Dad decided he needed badly a cellar. Sort of a fruit cellar, combined with something in the way of a cover over the top in which you could store onions and certain other produce that did not need to be kept so cool. Anyway, he hired GID STRUNK and they brought in some sand and they had a barrel of hot limey stuff that they had to pour water on, let it steam in order to slack the lime to get it ready to use with the sand for mortar.

And then there was a load of these big, fat brick. They were larger and heavier than the kind of brick usually used now. They were made, so I found out later, at Robbins, at the brickyard. Robbins, Tennessee. And this building of this eight by nine feet square cellar . . . the brick went up about eight feet high and fixed a double door to go in it and they put rock on the outside, along side of the entrance way. And then the upper part of the brick, they put some joists and covered it over with boards and left a hole about six inches wide and a foot long — right in the center —for ventilating purposes.

Then they built the overhead shed part and finally finished it up with a door that you could climb up on the side of the hill and get into this upper shed part.

Now, a funny thing happened. It wasn’t long until Dad had his potato bins on the inside and he had posts set up that run up near this ventilation hole in the top of the cellar. Well, I found out that I could get in the upper part, but Dad always kept the door to the cellar latched, or locked, so to keep people out. He kept me out and I didn’t like it.

SEXTON FAMILY (1913) – Front row, from left: Edrie and six-week-old Malvin Sexton. Middle row: Archie Alton Sexton, Caswell Sexton, Maxwell Sexton, Rachel Sexton, and Oswell Sexton. Back row: Elie Sexton Dobbs, Manford Sexton, Letcher Sexton, Latonie Sexton, and Caleb Sexton, who died at the age of 26.

So, I got my head down through this vent hold, up at the top. I thought wherever I could get my head through, why the rest of me would go through. Well, it did. I got down in there, but someway or other, Dad found out that somebody’d prowled down in the cellar part amongst his apples and where he’d stored his potatoes. So he just proceeded to stop me from getting down there. He nailed a 2x2 strip across that little vent hold — it looked like a hand-hold after he got it finished—but there wasn’t any room left for my head to get down through there. So that ended my climbing down that hole.

But at the old barn, that was a different story. He had built an overhang to the roof of the front toward the house. And under that overhang he had put some boards and fixed three or four hen nests. Well, I could climb up in the barn and I could get my head through that hole that the hens used to crawl through, and I did that. And I got out there and managed to get the eggs.

Well, that went on for a little while. And then one day, I must have been growing some, I got my head through and I got my shoulder, one of my shoulders, through, but the other one I couldn’t get it through. And some way or other, I got hung in that hole and you never heard such hollering in all your life, as I did. And finally I got, I believe it was Aunt WINNIE SEXTON, to come up there — climb up in the loft of this old barn, and got me by the feet, and she kept wiggling and working around ‘till she got me loose. She give me a good lecture and threatened to tell my Dad on me. Well, ‘course I did some begging to get out of it. But that’s the way it went in those early days before 1900.

That was another thing that happened there a time or two. A little bit later, Uncle BILL would be left to mind the children. Well, the children was myself and LATONIA and MANFORD was the baby. And Dad and Mother would take off and go to Sunday School and church or the store and Uncle BILL was minding the children — not babysitting, then.

He usually cut a switch about three feet long when he sat down there with us kids on the porch. Well, I was just old; enough to hunt up some meanness or devilment to antagonize Uncle BILL.

I can remember one time of slipping up behind him with a feather and tickling him on the back of the neck and see him slap at it. And I thought that was lot of fun. But he come at me with a switch and I was pretty quick then – had to be – and I ducked his switch and got away. But I kept mooching around and playing around until I got a little closer to him.

And we were all right. We had that old gray cat and we got along mighty well together. She was a grand old cat that I can remember. She killed rats and mice and scared the dogs away.

Now, believe it or not, one day while; Uncle BILL was babysitting, these two red, young puppish dogs came prowling’ and they come up and started to stick their nose up to this old gray cat. She stood up and raised her paws up in front, and waved it at ‘em first and one of ‘em got his nose just a little bit too close and those dogs howled and away they went. and I never did see ‘em back no more.

Uncle BILL stayed upstairs. Now, I don’t know whether it was right at this time or a little later, I sneaked upstairs and was prowling around and found that he had some Star brand plug chewing tobacco. Well, nothing would do me but that I would work off a little corner on this plug he had in a drawer up there and try to imitate him his chewing tobacco.

But I sneaked out where the weeds and the rye was high in the field by myself. And I worked on that and I tried to spit like he did and worked on it a while and the first thing I knew I was so sick I could hardly get back to the house.

And I knew Aunt WINNIE would go after me, or Mother one, would certainly go after me.

I might as well identify my Uncle BILL, who was Dad’s oldest brother. He was the fourth born of CHRISTOPHER C. SEXTON and NANCY PHILLIPS SEXTON, who were the parents of my Dad and the rest of this family of nine.

Now, I identify Uncle BILL as JAMES WILLIAM TRUESDALE SEXTON. And Aunt WINNIE is Aunt WINNIE SEXTON, who was born next after Uncle BILL in the family. She was born about 1874. She claims that they got that wrong. They should have given her birth date as 1873. Now, I don’t know about that. I have two references to it, one is a reference from the War Department at a claim that was filed by Grandpa CHRISTOPHER C. SEXTON and in which he was asked to name his children and to give the date of his marriage. And children were given the years of their birth. And Aunt WINNIE was given 1874.

Later on, I hope to include the entire family with the birth dates as I have them, and possibly some of the death dates.

Thank you very much.

[FOOTNOTE — This concludes the first session of the 1979 taping of Letcher Sexton.  Three other cassette recordings were made and transcripts will be included in future editions of the FNB Chronicle].

FNB Chronicle, Vol. 3 No. 1 – Spring 1991
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
(p1, 8-9)

Scott Co, TN Homepage

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