Let me introduce you to Mr. Marion Sewell. Mr. Sewell is a fascinating man who has lived on the creek for 74 years. He recalls stories of the Bethel General Store, the Revolutionary War land grant property of Captain Nathaniel Gray, Maury Light Artillery, and a dance held at McKnight Station on V-Day. Mr. Sewell is passionate about gardening, raising bees, and spending time with his grandchildren. Here are some of his stories.
In 1900, my great granddaddy and my great great uncle bought an acre of land off my granddaddy on the Sewell side to build the store there (Bethel General Store). It sold general merchandise. You could go there and pick up anything you wanted at the country store. Fly points, meal, flour, sugar, all kinds of groceries. In the fall, they would buy walnut, ginseng, Henry’d (Henry Carlisle) buy fur. In springtime, he would buy fertilizer out of Nashville and bring it down to the people to put on the crops. He would haul cattle back to the Nashville Livestock. He would bring a load of supplies in every Friday evening. From the time I was a boy, around 10 or 12 years, I’d go up there on Friday nights and help him unload the truck for the store. I would help him do all that and get anywhere from a nickel or dime for doing it. And that was the kind of money I made. I have been around this area for 74 years now.
Back during WWII, I used to go up there (Bethel General Store) on Friday nights. Everybody would congregate on Friday and Saturday nights for Badger Radio. We’d listen to Badger Radio or hear the news reports on what was going on. When television came out, Henry had one of the first televisions. He put it in the store there and set it up. And on Friday and Saturday nights everyone would come, just like a theater, and watch television and eat and drink until about 10:30-11:00 before they would go home. People would buy the television and he would buy a new one. He sold several televisions doing that.
I grew up in the Bethel area. I went to school (Bethel School) up there in ’44. I walked a mile and two-tenths every morning and evening to school and back. The school is now the community building. I believe it was built in 1923 and was in operation to the mid 1950’s before it closed down and everybody road the bus to Santa Fe. When I started going to school there, it went through the 8th grade. And the country school, we went 8 months. The high school was 9 months. We was out an extra month that the high school didn’t get. But in October, the first of October through the first of November, the school closed and all the kids help get the corn in, tobacco stripped, and everything ready for winter and go back to school the first of November. Lunch, back in ’45 was 15 cents a week, 3 cents a day. We would have white beans. creamed potatoes, corn bread, and some kind of meat and a glass of milk. And that was what you would get for lunch.
Now the Grand Ole Opry stars, back in the late 40’s up til around ’50 would come to Bethel. Roy Acuff came down there and put a show on. String Beans and Grandpa Jones came down and played. Luke Childers was another one. He (Luke Childers) was from down in Alabama. He was advertising Fortress Feeds in Nashville. Yeah, they used to come down there and play a lot. But during the war, a man come here with a tent about 1 week during the summer and set up the tent and we’d watch movies. Showed movies every night for a week. It was a big community function. Everybody goes to that tent and see a movie. But times have changed, everybody has these drive-in theaters and movies, and they don’t have it no more.
The yellow house was a Revolutionary War land grant property (located on Highway 7 south of Fly at Raleigh-Elam Road) of Captain Nathaniel Grey. Back then, captains in the Revolutionary Army got 5,000 acres. And that’s where his property was. It went all the way back to Goshen, up along Highway 7, it was 5,000 acres. His son built that house on 1842. Trees were cut off the place and sawed. Grey’s son’s daughter married Mr. Maurice Fly. He was the son of Captain John Fly. And Mr. Maurice lived there in that house from 1872 or 73 ’til 1929.
McKnight Station is the name of the train station standing today (located on Leiper’s Creek Road). When I was a boy in ’45, it was called VE-day when Germany surrendered. That was in April, I believe, they had a dance at that train station. Then when Japan surrendered, JE-Day, or V-Day, there was another dance. And that was the last time I have ever been in that train station. That was in ’45. In the train station, there was a ticket counter over on the left and a porch went all the way around for loading freight off the wagon. There was another door onto the railroad. Their main thing was cross ties cattle. In Bethel, they had a water station up there for the trains. Up the hollow behind the store is a big spring. A pipe line was laid by the spring with enough drop to fill up the water station. They could fill up the steam engine with the water right there. Then the train went on up the creek there to Davis Station. You used to go up to the old store that Davis run. It was my great granddaddy, Tom Davis, that run a store up there.
The Maury Light Artillery formed over here at Santa Fe on the square. That little square right there is where they all met, signed up to form the Santa Fe Light Artillery. They didn’t have much practice. Ill tell you this, they was sent to Fort Donelson over there on the Cumberland River Fort. They distinguished themselves down there. Federal gun boats come up the river and they destroyed them. They was such good shot with them cannons. I believe out of the 300 shots that were fired and they hit the gun boats 135 times. That was unheard of with that much accuracy. Some of my great grandfathers and their brothers was in the Civil War. They was from Bethel and they went.
Used to have a cream house in Bethel. A little cream house, everybody milked, the cream house had a cream separator, got the cream off of it. The truck come by twice a week and picked up cream cans. Wilson Creamery in Franklin bought it. Then it went to Wilson Milk Company. They use to buy the milk, milk the cows, and they made it into cheese in Franklin. The buckets were two and a half, and five gallon buckets. According to how many cows you’d run according to how much cream you’d have. Most people had 5 gallon buckets. I don’t remember what the price was back then but it wasn’t much. I used to sell milk to Wilson milk company for $2.85. Couple cans a day. I would milk by hand and carry to the road then the milk man would pick up and carry it to Franklin. I’d done that every morning before I went to school. I’d get up and go to the barn, milk the cows, feed the hogs and the mules, and come back and wash up, eat breakfast, and catch the bus.
I’d walk on the weekend to the store (Bethel General Store) on Saturday’s. Or we’d go down to the ball diamond down in Bethel go up there and watch or play ball. We use to have a ball diamond in Fly. As you coming down Leiper’s Creek right there, the bridge when you turn off Highway 7 cross the bridge right there, the big bottom had a ball diamond in it. It was D. A. Grove’s bottom and it had a ball diamond in it. People from around Fly had a ball team. Kinderhook had a ball team and ball diamond. We played each other. Bethel played Fly, Kinderhook, Craigfield, and what they call Little Texas up there on the other side of Franklin, and Boston was some of the different places we would play. Coo Coo Marlin the race car driver and his brother use to come to Bethel and play ball with the Bethel team. That was in between ’46 and ’50 or ’51. That was when the ball team was up there. All the people around Bethel that used to be on a ball team have been gone a few years. It was a good happy go lucky community up there. And I still enjoy living on the creek and I hope I live here until I pass on.
Its down on history now. On record of it!
More of Mr. Sewell’s stories will soon be located at the Maury County Archives.