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Undaunted Pioneers

Ever Moving

As Told by
Mary Dunn

Life in the South

    Our family history shows that the Lee, Lane, Hill and Fine families were all living in the Virginia and Carolina country in the Eighteenth Century.  John Lee married Agnes Jennings, and their daughter Nancy married John Fine in October of 1800.  Their first children were born on the French Broad River, North Carolina.  The spirit of adventure and romance led them to the fertile valley of Sweetwater, Tennessee.  John Fine went there about the time of the Hiwassee Purchase, and bought his home of an Indian, who as he pointed out the advantage of the place remarked, "Heap big town here some day.  Fine house stand there," being not perchance ignorant of the fertility of the soil and of the white man's enterprise. Having selected his future home, Mr. Fine made arrangements to move from Grainger County to Sweetwater. Starting from Newport, he loaded his household goods and his wife and little ones, Nancy being a babe of six months, and came by water to Lowden, which they reached the last of March, 1816.  An unusually heavy fall of snow covered the ground, but they came on in covered wagons to their destination.  One incident of this trip that they used to recall was meeting an Indian with a mud-bespattered saddle of venison thrown across his pony, his moccasined feet barely missing the snow.
    The fertility and beauty of the valley soon attracted a busy community that grew and prospered.  Mr. Fine built the first house that aspired to greater dimensions than the primitive log cabin, and it is an interesting fact that the glass windows were brought in a four-horse wagon from Augusta, Georgia.  These were the first glass windows in Tennessee.  There was an "upping block" of stone in front of the house for the use of horseback riders.  I had a picture of the house when I visited Sweetwater in 1901, and the block is still there.  Also a pear tree that was bearing when I was a child, and I ate some of the pears.  For a long time trade from this section was carried on with Augusta, wagons going down twice a year; and occasionally the molasses jug was sent and other similar dainties in which the citizens indulged were brought.

For many years Mr. Fine's was a famous stopping place for travelers as the tide of trade and immigration passed through East Tennessee on foot and in wagons, on horseback and in carriages, to Georgia and Alabama.  At the time of his last illness, he owed a man one dollar, and he was quite concerned that it be paid before his death, which was done.  The fact shows a heritage of independence and integrity of which his descendents may well be proud.
    The Fine cemetary is in the old orchard.  The first burial was of a man who came from Boston and had the small-pox.  Grandfather and grandmother both took it.
    My remembrance of my grandfather Fine and the beautiful country around Sweetwater is still vivid. When I was a little girl, Grandfather came home from a trip and called to Grandmother, "Nancy come here. I have something to show you."  We were all very much excited when he showed her some matches and told her that she could start a fire with them, but that they were very dangerous and that she must be very careful with them.  I remember how frightened we all were to think grandfather would keep such dangerous things in the house, even though they were each wrapped in tin foil.  We had always kept what was called a "seed of fire."  If the fire did go out, he would take a flint and strike it until the sparks would fly, and the rich pine shavings catch.
    A friend came to our house who had been visiting in Georgia, and while there she had seen a wonderful stove on which all the family cooking was done.  It was much cleaner than the fireplace; there were no ashes nor smoke to contend with, and one could get a whole meal without having to change one's dress.  Later there were some cook stoves brought into Tennessee, but I did not get to cook on one until after we came to Oregon.
    Once when I was small I went with my Grandfather Fine to visit a neighbor.  She made some soda biscuits -- the first I had ever tasted,  I thought them delicious.  Grandmother had always burned corncobs to potash with which she raised the bread.  She would heat the corncobs in an oven, without burning them until they could be powdered.
    I remember the school house where I first went to school when I was only five yers old. It was a log cabin with one log left out to give light enough to see in the room. The old wooden benches had no backs; in the corner of the room was a wooden bucket with a gourd dipper. To this we made frequent trips to quench our thirst.  Across each end of the room was an immense fireplace which furnished heat and light.
    The first day was a momentous one for me.  The teacher was hard of hearing; and when he heard a noise he could not locate, he took a switch and beginning at one end of the room gave each pupil a cut as he went down the row.  I watched him coming; and when his back was turned, I moved over to the side that he had already chastised.  I can hear the boys laugh yet, and I came near getting more than a passing cut.  Later, one of my teachers was Jab Taylor who married my Aunt Minerva Fine.
    We had a happy time there in Tennessee.  We went to quilting parties and husking bees.  The young fellows would hunt for a red ear so they could have the privilege of kissing the girls. Every year there were wild grapes, plums, strawberries and raspberries to gather.  PaPaws and persimons were also abundant. We raised flax, cotton, corn, tobacco, potatoes, ducks, geese, peacocks and many cattle and hogs.  In the fall we gathered black walnuts and hickory nuts to eat around the fireplace in winter.  We smoked the hams of young bear and deer and preserved all the fish we wanted.  A barrel of brown sugar, a barrel of New Orleans molasses and a roll of white sugar a good deal like our cube sugar but weighing several pounds, kept us supplied with sweets. We had house raisings and log rollings.  We went miles to church and camp meetings on horseback.

Last updated by William P. Russell onSaturday, 25-Jun-2005 20:55:14 MDT