Sunday, September 21, 2014

Newmans Ridge - The Old Days

Herald and Tribune (Jonesborough Tennessee)


Mr. Editor In obedience to a promise made when I left Jonesboro I will give you a few items of my trip to Sneedville.  I reached that somewhat famous town about dark on the l6th inst. The roads were extremely muddy, but being mounted on Col. Irenius White's famous saddle-horse, "David" I feared no evil. Sneedville is situated not far from Clinch River, in a beautiful valley at the foot of Newmans Ridge.  It contains a population of about one hundred and fifty souls, one log church, one Academy, a Court House and Jail. The original name of the place was "Greasy Rock," so called because on a certain ledge of flat rocks near the town, the Indians are said to have skinned their bears.  

Hancock county was organized from a part of Hawkins County in 1848. It contains some very good farming lands, though most of the county is very rough and mountainous. It is by nature well adapted to the growing of the grasses, and could be made one of the beet counties  for raising sheep and cattle in the State. But the people grow mostly corn, oats and wheat and boat their surplus down the Clinch River to Chattanooga in flat-boats.

The county has a varied population, a great many of the people are industrious, enterprising and intelligent while some are groveling, vicious,  and indigent.  A race of people mostly by the name of Collins and Mullins live on the top and along the spurs of Newmans Ridge, and some of them in a fertile valley called  "Blackwater," history tells not of their origin," but as far as I can learn from the oldest ones among them, their ancestors came there from "Reed Island" about the beginning of the present century. They claim to be of Welsh extraction, some of them are quite dark in complexion, all have straight hair,  generally dark eyes, sharp noses, thin lips, and some of them very peculiar physiognomies. They have none of the peculiar marks of the African about them, and I have no idea that they have any African blood in them. The lands cleared out and cultivated by them on Newman's Ridge are said to be rich and productive. These people were all loyal to the United States Government in the  war and many of them served in the Union army aud made good soldiers. ( There are around three dozen old timers in Hancock County census in 1880 born from 1795-1820)

Circuit Court passed off quietly, a good deal of drinking, but no fighting that I heard of, it was too muddy to "form a line" on the Street of Sneedville. The famous Lowder case went off after a fashion.  He was indicted in January 1872, four years ago, on a charge of shooting his wife, which he claimed to have done accidentally. On the first trial the jury failed to agree, at a subsequent term several days were spent in an effort to obtain a jury, and hundreds of men were sworn but almost all seemed to have formed an opinion and the court had to adjourn without completing a panel.  He was again put upon his trial add convicted of murder in the second degree and sentenced to twenty years imprisonment in the penitentiary.   

The case was taken to the Supreme Court and reversed on the ground that the jury was incompetent by reason of having formed an  opinion from rumor and otherwise. The State could not change the venue and thus the matter stood. At the last the defendant through his counsel proposed to submit for voluntary man slaughter and take the shortest term (two years) in the penitentiary. The Attorney General after consulting with the court and many of the best citizens of the county, accepted the proposition, believing it the best that could be done under all the circumstances.

Two others came forward and submitted and took one year each in the penitentiary, one for aiding prisoners to break jail, and the other for killing a horse. I am now in the staid and quiet old town Rogersville, having arrived here yesterday all muddy, weary and worn. I am very well satisfied with the election of C. A. Mathes, as sheriff of your county, and the Deputies appointed under him are good selections. Calvin was a good and faithful soldier and I believe will do his duty as an officer.


Rogersville, Tenn. January 1876.

Rogersville Press and Times:  The Morristown Gazette., July 20, 1881, 

On last Friday, in Hancock county, on Newman's Ridge, a man by- the name of Mullins shot and killed Larkin Gibson. It seems that our informant knew but little of the particulars, but. according to the best information he had gathered, the facts are about as follows : Mullins is a revenue officer and Gibson a violator of the revenue law. It is supposed that Mullins tried to arrest Gibson, and that a fight ensued, resulting in the killing of Gibson, who, it is said, fired the first shot. Our informant, although he did not know, thought there had been quite a feud existing between the parties for some time.


They Meet the Blackwater Moonshiners.
Battle on Newman's Ridge.
Burt Goins said to be Killed

Capt. H. H. Dotson with fourteen men made a raid into Lee county on Friday the 9th, reaching Blackwater at midnight, Saturday the 10th, when they struck Burt Goins' Distillery.- Finding no one there they destroyed it and passed on to Newman's Ridge, on top of which, in a dense forest, they struck Long & Maxey's Distillery, the most complete and unique moonshine outfit ever found in S. W. Va. A fine spring broke out of the ground and ran some 60 yards when it disappeared from view by running into a cavern, leaving no stream by which it could be traced or suspected.

The distillery was a large one, but all the refuse from it passed into the Cavern to be seen, smelled and heard of no more. Here the firm seemed to have had a splendid business, and doubtless felt secure from discovery, until Goins, as is supposed darted in to their seclusion and told them the raiders were coming. The 120 gallon still was at once emptied, and when the raiders arrived at dawn on Sunday its smoking contents were quite warm on the grounds. Some 30 yards distant they found the still which was then warm, so closely were the  moonshiners pressed that they had very quickly abandoned it. The Beer destroyed at these two distilleries was enormous. At Goins there were 1440 gallons and also 50 gallons Low wines. At Long & Maxey's there were 1728 gallons beer, and 100 gallons low wines. In all over 3,000 gallons beer, 150 gallons low wines, or singlings. Everything was destroyed, and then the party commenced descending the Ridge. Some distance below the summit they were passing through a field, when they were fired on by the moonshiners from a wooded spur of the ridge, directly above them. Then came

                                         THE BATTLE

Five or 6 shots were fired at them, most of which came from muskets, there being one squirrel rifle in the lot, judging by the sound. The fire was returned at once, and the battle continued for some 30 minutes, when the moonshiners ceased firing and, the raiders pressed on towards home, going up the valley some 7 miles for breakfast. During the battle, one of the Revenue party saw one of the Shiners step beside a tree and fire at them. He laid down and taking aim returned the fire, when he was seen to fall.

On their way home they were in formed by several citizens , that Burt Goins had been wounded in the the shoulder and died the afternoon of the same day. Goins is said to be the one who two years ago, In the Blackwater attack on the Revenue Raiders, shot and killed citizen Vandeventer, who was aiding the Revenue parly. . If the story of Goins death be true, (and we think there Is reason to doubt it,) this will make a total three deaths in the last two years, from these Revenue raids on the moonshiners of Lee and Scott. Vandevanter was killed in May 1877, Cox, of Scott, in April 1879, and Goins in May 1879. Over 100 shots were exchanged in the battle. We get these particulars from Capt. Dotson and Capt. Ballard.

The Morristown Gazette., July 04, 1877

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