Let me introduce you to Mr. Wilson Fly, owner of the Fly General Store. Graduating from Santa Fe in ’69, Mr. Wilson was born and raised on the creek and recalls many fond memories of playing in the creek. He tells stories of his family, the store, history of Fly and Kinderhook, the Dukes Of Hazard, and his “old family” on the porch. Mr. Wilson is a friend to everyone, and certainly the pillar of the Fly community. When you meet him, you will undoubtedly agree.
I’m Wilson, and I have run the store (The Fly General Store) since 1990. My daddy (B.G. Fly) passed away in 1990, and I took over the store completely then. I ran it about a year before that. But I’ve always been here, raised on the creek bank and on the bluffs. That’s a good part.
The Fly’s originally built the Fly Store in 1890. There has always been a discrepancy, you see, as there were two different Fly Stores down here. The Fly community stretches over a 1/2 mile long. They use to call it the Fly Bottom, then they called it Fly, New Fly, and now its back to Fly depending on who you are and where you stand, I reckon. The area has always been a cross road. You’ve got the Natchez Trace going north and south. Then you had the area roads here, and Charlotte Pike that ran east and west. You have a lot of old history that went out west that passed through Fly. Prior to the store, there was a trading post and post office area. Some of the post offices was a box on a tree. There was supposed to have been a log school house here (in Fly) and tradin’ post.We don’t really know where the Fly School was. It probably was in here behind me in this curve cause it had multiple routes. When the Civil War came through, we was a southern route, southwest route, back into Nashville and Franklin. We were a part of the War of 1812, which was the Natchez Trace Parkway that went Nashville into the Louisana, Mississippi area, and LaFayette Territory. Thats an interesting part.
Its a family group that Fly was named after. John (Fly), one of the original two brothers that settled in the area around here. Of course, I am a descendent of John. The Fly cemetery over here was formed in 1809 with Sarah (Fly) being the first Fly buried in that family cemetery. Sarah is a full blooded Cherokee.
In the Fly community down here, eventually they built 4 big houses during that period of time. The Fly house, my daddy’s house, down here was part of the road that connected to the creek. If you know what you are looking at, you will still see great grandma’s flowers down there. You see the flowers growing around the creek down here. Those are from grandma’s place. Her driveway connected to the creek. And some of her driveway still exists today. My daddy’s mama was a midwife, and she’s studied the herbs. She grew the herbs. The herbs were healing herbs not to be cooking herbs, but the herbs that would help you.
My daddy bought the Fly Store back in 1950. He came out of the war, World War II, got married, bought his first truck. Bought the store in 1950. The meat slicer and scales that I use were bought in 1950. I’ve got the receipt someplace from the year where he bought these. And that’s quite a big expense. And that’s a lot of money to spend on cuttin’ equipment back then.
When we was a fully operating store, it had whatever you wanted. When the country people wanted anything in the country store, the country stores would have it. A lot more canned goods in here, clothing, where you buy shoes and socks, boots, rugs, linoleum rugs, and furniture. The Fly Store was a one room building at one time that faced the creek which is to the east. And in 1930, D.A. Groves, used to own the building when they pulled the railroad track up. And in 1928, the citizens petitioned the county to turn the railroad track into a road. Which they did. The store had the bridges. Got everybody out of the creek and onto the road. In 1930, a second room was added (to the Fly Store) which doubled the space of the old one. Goods and clothes up front in the main room faced the road. The other building was used for flour, meal, corn, chicken feed, furniture, a stack of linoleum rugs. The ladies had old houses and would walk on the dirt floors in the old houses or had just a plank floor. And linoleum was easy to sweep. The old store is where the antique store (Leiper’s Creek Antiques) is now. It had a double sided door like that facing the creek. All in front of it was two big doors that opened up. Then you have to big windows on each side of the door. At night, he went to close the store and older people would close the shutters down and it bolted on the inside. It wasn’t bolted on the outside. You’d raise the window, shut the shutter, and bolt it on the inside. But, you see, you have to think about that period of time. Ain’t no roads down here. There was trails that ran through the woods and the wagon traffic would follow the easiest route which was usually a creek bed. In the creek and out of the creek, and that would change with floods. The only part that I know of that still exists from the old road is the road that goes from Highway 7 to the Fly Church and that is still part of the original road over here. The road came around my creek, and behind the store, and in front of the store, then cross the creek and went to the church, and crossed the creek over there and went into the bottom, then went up toward Bethel in and out of the creek. You think it difficult, but they thought they had a good road. We think we got a good road, but there are better roads.
The railroad was built around 1908. It was pulled up in 1928. It was a private venture. The train came this way for two reasons. One of them being they had a discrepancy with Columbia, and because we had phosphate up here. We had a phosphate mine. And the phosphate mine was the moneymaker during that period of time. The train ran from Franklin to Leiper’s Fork, Hillsboro, Boston, Bethel, Fly, Water Valley, Williamsport, Cross Bridges, and Mount Pleasant. Then it would turn around and come back. The phosphate lay to the south and east of us in the Leatherwood area, which was 1000 acres of mining and strip mining. It was mined with pick and shovel.
In the later years, there was a steam engine. A steam driven device over here that worked off a dragline system. It was humongous machine for that time period. It would walk on legs; didn’t have to track. Its like a modern-day robot, but it had feet that moved. It was driven by steam engines for that period of time. They lived and worked in a mine. They lived over there in small houses. A lot of people called them salt block houses because of the general shape. It was just a square house living quarters with sleeping area. The commons area was over there too. They had built a commons area where they fed the crew which was a building bigger than my whole store put together. Then you had the cooks that cook and that fed these workers. The eatin’ area and common area were in the Leatherwood area. And all that is gone. They stood well into the 80s until new owners came in and tore things down because they was beginning to fall down. They were afraid people was ridin’ motorcycles in the area would up gettin’ hurt. Tore a lot of it down.
But the railroad train stopped probably every 2 miles, 1.5 miles in a lot of cases. It would stop and pick up passengers, livestock, the things that the locals had bought in Franklin and Nashville and have it sent to Fly. Furniture was one of the big things you see today. A 55 gallon barrel of flour. You see a lot of furniture showing up at auctions around here. A chest of drawers would have Fly, Tennessee painted on the back. The 55 gallon barrel of flour were all wood but would have Fly, Tennessee painted on the top of it. That’s why I still do the T-shirts and caps all I put on it is Fly, Tennessee. Everything was shipped to the community and shipped to an individual. I guess you’d have to know your stuff when it gets there.
But in the Fly community, when the railroad tracks was in the area, they also had a grist mill in the area here which stood down here at the Highway 7 sign now just outside of my yard. They also had a tie mill here, cutting wood pieces to build the railroad track. Railroad ties. The tie mill supposedly sat here, in the field where I grow hay in now. And the grist mill had some kind of engine. It had some kind of gasoline engine that sat on a concrete block. They used a diesel engine to grind everything. Pott’s Sawmill up here still cut ties. There has always been a sawmill here within a half mile of me, close right there, on either side. When this one left, they went down the road; and then when that one closed down they opened another one up here. There has always been a sawmill here so it’s always kept as business district here.
At one time Fly had three operatin’ stores, now we are down to one. Humphrey’s store is one which was on Fly Hollow Road, and the Brady’s owned another store (the old Fly Store once located across the street from Raleigh Elam Road located on Highway 7) which the Fly’s build it too from what I understand. All the stores ended up being renters and repeatedly sold in short periods of time. The store I am in now, I am probably the sixth or seventh person to run it. I am not sure how many people have owned it, it’s probably just been four or five families that have owned it. I have never seen a record of who owned what other than the Fly’s built it and they built the stores as renters. The Fly’s never ran any of the stores until my father (B.G. Fly) ran it. The last known people were the Brady’s that ran it (the old Fly Store). The Humphrey’s built one back behind me here. It burnt. The Humphrey’s built another one in Water Valley but it didn’t last too long. They sold it and it was moved into Water Valley; it’s part of the old Water Valley community now. It still exist down there.
Kinderhook is adjacent to Fly about a mile and a half west. It was set on the Natchez Trace Trail at the time. Kinderhook was a very thriving community in the early years where it had two saloons, three boarding houses or motels as you would call them today, huge voting premises up there during that period of time. Judges and lawyers lived Kinderhook, and they did a whole lot of trials in the early years. Even Mount Pleasant during their phosphate years, when people got in trouble down there they was sent to Kinderhook for trial. Kinderhook was being considered a county seat prior to Columbia. Columbia had the water, but Kinderhook had no water. It had some major springs up there, but it had no water. It had the major cross roads up there which is the Natchez Trace Parkway and Charlotte Pike that went through the area. And Charlotte, at that time, would be considered what Nashville is today. They looked at Charlotte as being the capital of Tennessee but Nashville had more water and was more centrally located. And politics too probably.
Even during the Civil War period, Kinderhook was very populated there, but if you look under Civil War Tennessee punch up Kinderhook it will come up with the yankee version of Kinderhook calling it the Acre Riddle Hideout or the Acre Riddle Forest. Guerrillas. When you think of guerrillas you think Vietnam. A group of men who fought irregular and moved in different directions. But the Yankees called them guerrillas. Col.Napier or Captain Napier commanded at least 500 up there. There has been at least 2 skirmishes up there in Kinderhook. When they dug the Natchez Trace Parkway up there they actually found Civil War bullets and paraphernalia. The Natchez Trace was run by Yankees at the time and they didn’t want to put another marker up telling you where the rebels were. The Confederate soldiers that lived in Kinderhook, they routinely fought the Yankees in the Spring Hill area stealin’ horses and tearing out the railroad track. Whatever aggravated the Yankees they done it! Until they eventually got run out by the Yankees.
The Natchez Trace was always a dangerous road to travel on because you have people that just want to live off of you. It was a quite populated area with elite, well-to-do people that traveled north and south. Primm Springs is in old district with the motels, and hotels, and healing water, that’s always been there and existed. In Kinderhook, just like Fly, its a history area. With Fly being in the crossroads that brought people through. You have the schools, trading posts, stores with the same thing at Kinderhook. As you get closer to Kinderhook you have water up in the area that had a pottery mill. It had one of the first brick manufacturers in Maury County there. They made bricks in Kinderhook, they had a pottery area in Kinderhook, a judicial system, what they called a cannon yard which was for butchering the cows and other animals. The cemetery up there back in the woods that genealogy people still come look for grave markers there. They called it the Tannin’ Yard Cemetery. The Kelley Cemetery is up there, and the Kinderhook Cemetery which is mostly Potts and Stanfields. There are three public cemeteries still operating in Kinderhook. And you have the tannin’ yard which is quite old. It’s been lost in the woods for several decades now, but I have found it in the past when I hunt. I like to go walking in the area especially in the late winters when there ain’t no leaves. You can see the trails. In Kinderhook, you had a sand stone area up in there and they cut grist mill wheels. And that is a tricked out piece of job by itself. You are talking about grist mill wheels which usually stand 4 feet tall, 18 inches deep, weighing several tons. They maneuvered it out of the ground, cut inside the ground and brought them out. A lot of hard work.
Kinderhook is losing its place in history. It’s a word that is rarely used today. Some of the old houses still exist up there today but the motels and saloons only the rock foundation is there. It’s interesting you’d be walking in the woods and find these old trails, and you think about that period of time when it existed. You’d be walkin’ in the same trails the way that the common man did. You’d see Lewis and Clark there, Andrew Jackson there, Napier, and probably a few more that traveled there. Even Edison traveled the area. When he traveled area, he was looking for minerals. The Leipers Creek Valley has natural gas, it has oil under it, brickyards. Edison ended up in Hickman County just south of Centerville where he gathered some kind of chemical out of the ground. Andrew Jackson had a horse corral just two miles down for me. It’s been documented. But the Natchez Trace Parkway wont put up sign for him, I don’t know why.
I’ve met the rich and famous. Famous in all different ways. I met different government people that are highly rated in the government, Government officials, country music singers, doctors and lawyers that you wouldn’t think would ride bicycles through the area. We are quite popular with the bicycle riders today. Doctors that are out, country music people that ride bicycles and come in to the area. Our area is pretty, some pretty roads, and some pretty views and if you take the camera you’d see more. The bicycle riders would stop, or slow down long enough to look. You’d get quite the view. Quite popular with the bicycle riders and the cross country hikers. All three of the Judd’s have shot as a group or as an individual down here. We shot with the Dukes Of Hazard out here on a big scale. The Dukes Of Hazard done a 24 hour marathon here. Fly was on the Dukes Of Hazard once every 15 minutes for 24 hours. All the Dukes Of Hazard were here and the General Lee. It was more like a film festival. It was one of the most exciting things the public has seen down here when the Dukes Of Hazard were here. It was just like a big fair. Everybody recognized the Dukes Of Hazard car, General Lee. Traffic was pulled off the road stopped. For two days we shot.
Today we are still in the area crisscrossing roads, and more country stores are fading away. Bethelis still existing, Potts’ Store is still existing. The Water Valley Stores which was 3 fully operating stores that were within 200 feet of each other that have faded away. Up here in Fly, there was three stores within a half-mile. Bethel had a store. You see now we have a store once every 5 miles instead of 2 or 3 stores every 5 miles.
We have some old family that sit out on the porch out right there. Trying to get them to talk, you might not get much. But everybody got their old memories where they was raised at. You see most of the men that sit on my front porch they are the ones that were raised here in the area too. Everybody out there, you got 20 to 30 people out there, and all of them are old family. And they keep comin’ back talking about the old stuff, the new stuff, the weather. Some of the tourists cant understand when they come out of the concrete why these men sit on the porch. “What are these old men doing? Sittin’ around here talkin’?”. They are surprised. But the men who sit on my porch will be the first ones if you breakdown on the side of road. Some of my bicycle riders and tourists have found that out quite often when their bicycle breaks down. Or some of the people that run off the road and get stuck, these men go to them and pick them up. Get the car unstuck and started. Bicycle riders that breaks down, I’ve seen them load them up and taken to Hillsboro and set them up with their car too.
Just playing in the creek. I am not really a sociable person, I have never been out going, and going to parties. I’ll be outside at night doing things, but I’ll be up at sun up. So I like to meet and greet, and then go on about my business. I never wanted to live no other place; I ain’t never lived no other place. I traveled a lot on a motorcycle. I’ve been from the Rocky Mountains to the Smoky Mountains, Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico on a motorcycle. Campin’, and I still like the woods. And I still like the sunrise. On the sunrise you’ll catch me on the front porch drinkin’ coffee.
I’m a boy in a creek. I am one of four sons. No sisters. You’ve got four boys; into boy stuff; always into somethin’. We played in the creek, swung on grapevines on the hill sides and fell into the creek. Every time it rained we go down there and play in the clay. We’d get there on that bluff and slide down the clay. Being a kid on the creek, everybody needs a kid on the creek I reckon. Learn how to swim, fish, catch fish with your hands, catch snakes, crawdads, lizards. Turn over river rock. I still like my creek.