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Along the French Broad River (Kodak Community History) PDF Print E-mail

The text contained in this article is from a Web document that was formerly available at the Sevier County Library's Web site. The document is no longer on-line, but it was located in an Internet Archive. The actual source and transcriber were not identified in the document, nor was there any indication of whether the extraction was complete. Some minor, obvious corrections were made to the text because it appeared to have been mechanically converted (OCR).

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The French Broad River begins in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina (Transylvania County) and runs north and west until it joins with the Holston River in Knoxville and becomes the Tennessee River. It was named the French Broad by explorers because of its size and because it flowed into territory claimed by the French before the Revolutionary war.

In the days of the thirteen colonies explorers traveled into Indian country to scout the land. The tales they told of vast forests and plentiful game animals lured trappers, hunters, and traders to travel the area to make their fortune. In the days of no airplanes, roads maps or trails, the easiest means of transportation was by river, especially through the rugged Appalachian mountains to unknown lands.

The famous Indian Warpath, trading path or Watford paralleled the western side of the Appalachians from Pennsylvania through West Virginia, Virginia, East Tennessee and into Georgia. Many different Indian tribes (Chichasaw, Creeks, Choctaws and Cherokees) traveled this trail north and south hunting and camping. Later it would become a popular stage road. In the early days of this country there were few hostilities between whites and Indians; each used the land for the riches it could provide, traded with each other, and then moved on.

But in the 1760's and 1770's the people of western Virginia and North Carolina quarreled with their state governments over high taxes. Slowly, but surely, squatters traveled over the mountain and claimed Indian lands as their own for settlement. In the beginning, the Indians rented land to settlers for fees of goods such as guns, whiskey, material and jewelry. But by the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the Cherokees, fearing the encroachment of white civilization, wanted their lands back. These Scotch Irish settlers fled their earlier homes because of government intervention in their lives and were not about to give up their new homes because the "savages" didn't want to share land they did not even own.

After the Revolutionary War, North Carolina, which claimed the territory we now know as Tennessee, encouraged settlement of their frontier.

The United States government wanted this land for settlers and also to form new states. War veterans were given land as payment for military service and frontier land was sold for 5 cents per acre. Within seven months, 4,000,000 acres were sold and settlers flocked to the East Tennessee region.

The rivers of this region, the Clinch, Nolichuky and the French Broad, provided relatively easy transportation for the settlers. Their only other alternatives being walking or riding horseback. They would load their belongings on a flatboat, float across the mountains to their newly purchased land and build their homes.

In 1784 the settlers in upper east Tennessee, led by John Sevier (a Revolutionary War hero) decided to form their own governement; the Wautauga Association, not only to organize and protect themselves from the Indians, but also to escape the hold of North Carolina. So the land from Bristol to Fort Loudon became the State of Franklin (named in honor of Benjamin Franklin) and was organized with John Sevier as governor. Money was scarce, and so it was agreed that taxes could be paid in beaver, raccoon and deer skins, beeswax, rye whiskey, brandy, or tobacco.

The United States government did not recognize Franklin as a state (the petition for statehood lost by 6 votes -- would have been the 14th state) and North Carolina refused to give up the land or give the settlers their independence. Sevier and some of his fellow settlers started an uprising to force North Carolina's hand, but could not rally all the people. North Carolina was concerned but it was too expensive to send troups to defend this area in its interest. The people's lack of support for John Sevier and North Carolina's eventual disclaim to this western territory brought the end of the State of Franklin in 1798. The United States' government laid claim to this land calling it the Southwest territory (all lands south of the Ohio River). The settlement of Knoxville was named the capital and William Blount was named governor. John Sevier was given the command of the eastern militia -- over area of East Tennessee.

In the mean time, settlers had established homes along Dumplin Creek. Major Hugh Henry, member of the Wautauga Association and a Virginian, arrived in 1780 with his family and slaves, settling in what is now known as "downtown Kodak."

Others arriving about this time were Joshua Gist, George Hudson, and Peter Bryan. All brought their families and possessions to the land called Henry's Station or Fort Major Henry was a strict Presbyterian and one of his first tasks was building a church (Henry's Chapel) which would later be called Oak Grove Church. White settlers worshiped in the morning and slaves in the afternoon. The church also served as a school and meeting place for the settlers.

The Cherokee Indian traveled along the warpath, which crosses the French Broad river into Northview at River Road and traded with the whites. In summer, especially, the Cherokees camped on the river island (Seven Islands, Johnson Island, Bryant Island and Cain Island). They fished, hunted and made baskets of river cane, which was plentiful. The Indian men cut the cane and the women wove it into baskets which they used for storing corn, apples, chestnuts, potatoes and other produce, for the winter. The Indians of summer were welcomed by the whites -- they traded back and forth, especially for the prized baskets, a valuable farm and home implement.

Buckingham Island, or the Big Island as the pioneers called it, was another important feature of the French Broad river in Sevier County. It was the largest island (500 acres) on the French Broad and the place the Warpath crossed the river. It was a natural camping and meeting place for the Indians as they traveled the warpath and became a land mark for all whites as well. John Sevier gathered his troops on the island in 1780 for the Battle of Boyd's Creek. He claimed the island after the battle and it was briefly called Sevier's Island. But he later traded it to Thomas Buckingham for a saddle horse. In the 1870's the farmers owning the island dammed up the sluice, or the southern channel of the island so they could easily cross over to the land and plant corn. In modern times Buckingham only became an island in time of river flooding, such as May 1984. In 1795 the first brick house in Sevier County (Trundle home) was built on the south side of the island and still stands today. Five people presently own the 500 acres of Buckingham island in the Boyd's creek community.

A well-known land mark of the French Broad, as it flows through Sevier County, is the Rockhouse Cave. This cave is well above the flood line and provided shelter for Indian hunters as they traveled the warpath. In the early 1800's flatboat crews used the cave as shelter and even planned their trips in order to spend the night there. In the early 1900's, when boats used steam engines, excursions were organized to the Rockhouse cave. A wooden floor was built for dancing. The cave is now on private property with no roads leading to it. All man-made items have been removed except the graffiti.

The Underwood Bend area of Kodak, now called the Bent Road land, was the settlement of the John Underwood family. In the late 1800's, Underwood Landing became a popular steamboat stop. Steamboats, pushing barges, stopped here on the way to and from Knoxville taking the farmers produce and animals to market. The area received the needed items for farming on these steamboats and barges. This landing site was used as a swimming and fishing site. The Beech Springs Baptist Church used it for baptizing its members.

In 1909 the Knoxville, Sevierville and Eastern Railroad was built with a stop opposite Buckingham Island. The switch was made to the railroad for most passengers traveling to Sevierville and Knoxville. Eventually the product was loaded on the railroad, making steamboats obsolete. The crossing of the French Broad was solved with the ferry system. These were large enough to carry wagons, buggies and animals. Some were named Underwood Ferry, Kykers and Hodges Ferry.

Another point of interest was the Bryant Island in the Underwood Bend area. Tennessee Pearls found in mussels drew crowds of treasure hunters. Pollution and over anxious treasure hunters have destroyed these pearl beds.

Kodak

Kodak got its name from a trademark. After being appointed postmaster in 1892, Harvey Nelson Underwood was told to search for a name. One day as Mr. Underwood walked he saw a box along his path. When he kicked at it and turned it up, the work "Kodak" was seen. The reasons for choosing Kodak were because it would be short and easy to pronounce.

Now at that time, the name "Kodak," a registered trademark of camera and film, was only about four years old. There is no mention in the history of the company that they resented a post office named "Kodak".

During the Kodak years, electricity came to the area. 1940 marked the period when many homes received this new luxury. Other homes did not receive electricity until about 1950.

With electricity came the radio, a pre-World War II luxury. After World War 11 came the televiĀ­sion. Things were changing in Kodak.

Another major event during the Kodak era was the building of Douglas Dam. The construcĀ­tion started in February 1942 and was completed February 1943. The lake covers 30,400 acres.

Douglas Dam was built on an emergency basis during World War II to furnish electricity for the war effort. More than 6,000 workers worked on the project at one time. The dam is 1,705 feet long and 202 feet high. The dam was an investment of about $45.3 million.

The dam gave jobs to the people in the area. Also during this period of time, Kodak saw new road systems and paved roads.

"Progress" has its cost. Many people complain about the loss of beauty along the French Broad river with the fluctuation of the water.

The only school given the name of Kodak was constructed in 1950. This school began as an eight teacher school serving children in grades 1 - 8.

First Kodak Post Office

[Some text missing] Roads in 1912, keeping the name Kodak. Among those serving as postmasters at Henry's Cross Roads were: Samuel Henry, 1820; Elisha Cates, 1834; Eli Walker, 1866; Thomas Ferguson, 1866; L.D. Alexander, 1873; Wm. G. Alexander, 1873; Achilles D. McCrearey, 1880; John Fowler, 1881; Wm. Fowler, 1881; John Jacob Sellers, 1883; Robert H. Dunken, 1883; Dr. Ephraim Houseleg, 1889; Melessie Dunkin, 1890; Horton C. Hampstead, 1898; John Sharp, 1900; Wm. Snyder, 1901; James Douglas, 1903; and Elihu L. Shepard, 1909.

In 1892 mail was brought to Kodak. Harvey Underwood was appointed post master in 1892. Other postmasters appointed were James E. Huffaker, 1909; Pleasant Mount, 1911; Verdie Snyder, 1912; Guy Huffaker, 1914 serving 34 years; Carlisle Gilreath, 1948. The two recent post masters are Paul Tipton, Jr. and Jake Gilreath.

During the early years the mail was brought to the area by boat. After the railroad was established, the mail was brought from Knoxville by train. The cargo was dropped at a railroad overpass called Revelo, located about one mile across from Underdown Ferry. The mail was brought by ferry to the post office. Mail carriers on horse back then delivered the mail to the homes.

People during this time had very little cash. In order to pay their taxes, many men worked on the roads. There were no paved roads, but workers were needed for clearing roads and ditching the sides of the road.

As early as the 1800's there were fraternal organizations in the area. Among the organizations were: Odd Fellows, Woodman of the World and the French Broad Lodge #588; Free and Accepted Masons. Later the Junior Order of Mechanus was organized. Order of Eastern Star was organized in 1958.

The Free and Accepted Masons was organized about 1895. Charter members included Dr. J. W. Drinnen, Pleasant Underwood, Washington Baker, Robert Russell, Enoch Huffaker and Refus Kelley. In 1955, W.G. Cate was awarded a 50 year certificate of membership by the lodge.

Doctors in the area took care of the sick by making house calls. Many doctors of the time had to cross the French Broad River by ferry or walk across the ice. In 1914 one could expect a doctor to deliver a baby at one's home for $5.

Among the doctors who served the sick during the early years were Dr. Sneed, Dr. McBee prior to 1900, Dr. Arthur Campbell, Dr. Ephraim Housley, Dr. Willis Drinnen and Dr. West.

Except for a couple of raids made by the White Caps, the community felt safe from within. Few, if any, members of the White Caps lived in the area, but the White Caps were known to have ridden into the community.

Jim Brown owned a store close to the Hodges Ferry. One night the White Caps came in demanding bullets. Jim Brown, with gun in hand, demanded their departure. It was said that they ran like cowards when a gun was turned toward them.

Another incident, without the good ending, involved a woman and her two daughters. The White Caps visited them with thorns. The woman was beaten until the clothes had to be picked from her skin. She later died. The girls would have been killed also, but a neighbor heard the disturbance and ran shooting his gun. Hearing all the gun shots, the White Caps left thinking that several men were coming.

Overall, the community provided for its own needs. Self-sufficient was the word of the day. Neighbor looked-out-for and cared for neighbor. The early community was as one large extended family.

The people of this community were Anglo Saxon, English, Scotch and Scotch Irish. It has been estimated that over ninety-seven percent were pure native Anglo Saxon blood. The people were said to have the following traits: 1. Love of adventure, 2. Love of religious freedom 3. Love of their country.

Northview

The name was chosen because of the "North View" of the mountains. The Northview Community Association organized in March, 1972.

The following objectives were established:

1. To protect and promote the best interest of the residents of the area in Sevier County, north of the French Broad River.

2. To promote and strive for the improvement and betterment of all public facilities and service within said area.

3. To promote and encourage a better community and civic spirit.

4. To foster good will and friendship between all residents of the area.

5. To cooperate with county officials, and with other civic and public organizations for the general welfare of the entire Northview Community.

The first officers chosen for the Northview Association:

President, Earl G. Underwood
Vice President, Sam Hodge
Secretary, Luke Green
Treasurer, Emma Ruth Catlett

Current officers are:

Janis Russell, President
John Brewer, Vice President
Eva Harriman, Secretary/Treasurer

October, 1976, the Northview Community Association adopted a resolution supporting the combining of Kodak and Underwood Elementary Schools, dividing the pupils by age groups.

Family Life

Most people lived on a farm and made a living off the land. Vegetables were raised in the summer and preserved by canning or drying, to be eaten in the winter. Wheat and corn were grown and taken to the mill to be ground into flour and cornmeal. Every family owned a milk cow which furnished milk for drinking, butter, and homemade cottage cheese. Milk was kept cool by placing it in a nearby stream. Chickens were important because they furnished meat, eggs for eating and trading at the store for sugar, salt, dried beans, etc. Feathers were also used for feather beds and pillows. Pigs were raised for meat, and the pork was cured by canning or salting. Since there was no electricity, freezing of meats and vegetables was not possible. Once a year some farmers would kill a calf and sell it from door to door. Later, a rolling store traveled from house to house, selling necessary items.

Many families were large, with as many as twelve children or more. Mothers did not work outside the home. Families spent time together and divorces were very uncommon. Children had chores to do before and after school. Some of the chores were helping in the fields with the crops, milking the cows, feeding chickens, carrying in the firewood, feeding the pigs, and "gathering up" the eggs.

Since neighbors were usually a good distance away, social events were very special times. Social events included square dances, pie suppers and quilting parties. In the winter the family would sit around the fireplace and tell stories. Children played games, mostly products of the children's imagination. One example was "playing house." A house was made by outlining it with sticks or rocks. Furniture was anything from sticks or rocks to something broken that mother had thrown away. Mud pies and clay dishes were made and baked in the sun. Countless hours were spent with making believe.

Baths were taken in a wash tub. Water was brought in from the rain barrel and heated on the stove or over an open fire. Needless to say, baths were not taken very often. Cosmetics were scarce. Glycerin was used for lotion and chapped hands. Buttermilk was used as a bleach for tanned skin. Lye soap was made from lye and pork fat. This soap was used for cleansing and for washing clothes.

Clothes were never plentiful. They were mostly made from calico, gingham, domestic and muslin. The feed sacks were also made into clothes. Girls dresses were long. Boys pants came below the knees and long socks were worn. Suspenders held the pants up.

Before electricity, food was cooked in an iron kettle over the fire in a fireplace or in a wood burning cookstove. This stove gave off heat, and in the summer, kitchens were very warm. Of course there was no air conditioning. Sometimes potatoes were roasted in hot ashes in the fireplace. Foods included greens, soup beans, turnips, dried fruit, potatoes, pork, chicken, kraut and hominy. Hominy was made from shelled dry corn, soaked in a solution of lye. This was a very delicious treat.

Doing the laundry before electricity and washing machines was a very laborious task. A fire was built under a large black kettle. Water was carried from the rain barrel or branch and heated in the kettle. Wash tubs were then filled with hot water and clothes were rubbed on a board with soap until they were clean. Sometimes very dirty clothes were boiled in the kettle. Water was wrung out of the clothes by hand and then hung out on the line and dried in the sun and wind. Then came the job of ironing the clothes. Irons had to be heated by the fireplace or on the stove. When one cooled off, it had to be exchanged with a hot one. In the summer with the ruffled, frilly dresses and petticoats to iron, this was a very hot task.

Houses were small with very simple furniture. Instead of mattresses, there were straw ticks or feather beds. These were sacks as big as the bed, filled with straw or feathers. The bedrooms usually contained more than one bed, with two or three sleeping in the same bed. Furniture was homemade and simple. Oil lamps provided the light at night to study by. Heat in the winter came from the fireplaces or wood stoves.

Grandma and Grandpa many times lived in the house with the family. There were no nursing homes, and old people were taken care of by the family. Life was hard and everyone had to share in the responsibility.

Courting or Dating

Sunday was considered a great courting day. The young men were invited to visit the girls home and perhaps enjoy Sunday dinner with the family.

Church services were used for courting. Walking a girl to and from church was a very proper way of dating. A buggy ride to and from church with the one of your choice was a custom that was most acceptable.

The church did keep a close hold on the moral fiber of the community. One young girl was dismissed from church when seen kissing a young man in public.

Other ways of being with the opposite sex were hay rides, taffy pulls and pie suppers. No matter who your life partner would be, you had probably known him most of your life.

Many fine marriages evolved from these long-term relationships. Divorce was unheard of during this time.

Burial

The burial ceremonies were centered in the home and church. "Uncle" Enoch Huffaker would take a casket to the home and prepare the corpse for burial. Embalming did not come to the area until after 1925, so in hot weather the burial would need to be immediate.

A church bell would be sounded to signal the men to gather for digging a grave. The women gathered food and went to serve the grieving family.

In the very early years family cemeteries were used, but later church cemeteries could be seen either close by the church or beside the church building.

During earlier times a casket was open to the feet. The corpse was viewed by family and friends at home in the parlor. A "watch" was kept throughout the night as friends or family members kept a vigilance.

A funeral service could last for hours. One could expect three to four ministers present and much singing.

The community did show much respect for the memory of the dead. If a man or woman were outside working when a hearse, or a "dead wagon," passed by, hats were removed and reverent attention was given until the funeral procession passed by. If the rider of a horse or driver of a wagon met a hearse, the person stopped until the hearse passed by. This same custom continued even after cars were in the area.

Enoch Huffaker's horse drawn hearse was a splendid sight. The beautiful horses, adorned in brass gear, gave dignity to the well polished black hearse that carried someone's loved one.

Decoration Sunday was another day of honoring the memory of the dead and celebrating life with friends and family. Each church had a Sunday in May set aside for "decorating" graves with flowers. New clothes were usually worn and the day was spent in visiting with old friends. Food in picnic style was served. It was a time of reflection on both the past and future.

Churches

Churches in the area were the social center. It could be said that the church was the spiritual guardian, community center and welfare office.

Each small community had a church building which also served as a school during the early years. Sunday school was conducted each Sunday morning and an evening service was often lead by a lay leader. Wednesday evening prayer meeting and Sunday Sings were also standard events.

The black population conducted their services in the church building, usually on Sunday afternoon. There was a sizeable black population in the area until around the Depression Era.

No matter how small the church may have been, it had a strong bell which was rung every Sunday morning. The bell was also sounded in case of fire or any other emergency. If a death occurred, the bell was sounded so the men could "gather in" to dig a grave. The bell was symbolic of community concern and of community importance.

The major denominations in the area were the Baptist and Methodist. Of course denominations presented no separation of people during revival services. During a revival service the young and old would walk or ride mules in order to attend a revival service lasting two to four weeks. The revival services were conducted after the crops were "laid by". Not only were services conducted during the evening hours, they were also conducted during the day. School children and adults would attend the services.

A revival service could last for hours with many people going to the altar. Revival services were given top priority by the people. Many services would have standing room only.

Getting to the church was not always easy, especially after a rain. Horses could be seen tied to horseshoes that were nailed to trees as the people gathered in the church. Looking closer at the front of the church one could see a stile for use for mounting the horses. Families usually come by wagon, often picking up their neighbors.

Ministers were paid largely by commodities from the congregation's gardens and mills. "Pounding the Preacher" was a custom of the day. The congregation would bring garden food, foods from the smoke house, canned foods and flour to give the minister. No minister ever went hungry!

The Methodist minister would make his rounds on the circuit about every four weeks. Some ministers had as many as six churches.

The Baptist ministers did not always live in the community. It could be a month between their visits. When a minister did arrive, Friday night or Saturday morning services were conducted in addition to the Sunday services. Business meetings were also held at this time.

hollowing a revival there would be baptismal service. Most of the early baptismal services were conducted in the French Broad River.

This baptism was an outward symbol of an inward change. The inward change was often expressed in the joyful gospel songs sung by "believers" along the banks of the French Broad River.

Singing was an important part of any church service. A piano or pump organ was located in almost every church. The importance the community gave to music could be seen in the singing schools that were conducted.

Singing schools were conducted by Del and Aut Henry. These two men were also composers of published hymns.

In the Methodist Church it was customary to seat men on one side and the women on the other side. This custom came from Francis Asbury who did not intend to have any "distractions." Nods and verbal response to the message were accepted practices.

Even though the Baptist Church did not have a special seating arrangement, the older men usually sat in an area called, "the Amen Corner." These men were responsive to the ministers message by nods, or by verbal agreement such as, "Amen," or "Hallellujah."

During those days, one was "put out of the church" for any infraction of a rule set forth by the church. Kissing in public was grounds for church dismissal.

One man was dismissed from church when a neighbor overheard him swearing at his oxen. Strict adherence to basic rules was enforced.

Sundays were set aside for rest. There was no working on Sunday except for women who prepared great feasts for the extended family. A family gathered around a huge table with numerous foods.

On some Sundays, churches would have "dinner baskets" on the ground, which was a huge picnic. Friends and families would join together after church to eat and fellowship together.

Churches were the life-blood of the community. The church was the center hub in the community's wheel.