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The Duncan Home on Blue Branch

Written by Linda Stevens Munroe, great-granddaughter

As told by Linda's mother, Ella Virginia Coffee Stevens, granddaughter of the Duncans
April 2008. 

The branch usually was dry until the rains came and the path to the old Duncan homestead went through this dry creek bed. Two Giles County born folks, Frank Duncan and Mary Ella Trice, made their home here for over 50 years. Frank Duncan, born in 1875, to Andrew and Nellie Purina Ball Duncan, met his bride in Giles County. Mary Ella Trice, born in 1876, to Samuel Crinion and Sara Gibson Trice, married Frank on August 1, 1897 in Giles County.

They made their home on Blue Branch, in a house that never had running water or electricity during their lifetimes. Frank, known as "Pappy" to his grandchildren, was a farmer. His money crop was tobacco. Behind their home on land that is now wooded were fields of tobacco. Pappy planted the tobacco seeds in a hot bed that he covered with a cheesecloth-like fabric. When the tobacco slips were large enough for transplanting, he would move the small slips to the field. He owned mules for working the farm and a horse to pull their buggy. His granddaughter, Ella Virginia Coffee, remembers riding in the horse-drawn buggy to go to church. When Ella and her sister, Marguere, stayed with their grandparents on Saturday nights, Mammy would roll the girls' hair up on rags to make curls for Sunday.

Ella Virginia Coffee Stevens as a young lady wading in the creek to cool her feet from a tiring day. I can remember that often was one of the highlight of the day because it was always so refreshing in the days before Air Conditioning. 1940s photo. Notice the Duncan place in the background, a well kept farm with new barn roof.

The old Duncan home place still standing today in 3 Apr 2008, but sadly abandoned with its many memories fading with the past generations. It is apparent from the rock chimney with clay instead of concrete used to bond the stones together that the old house was built well back into the 1800s. We believe one of the three prominent families in this Hollow probably built the house. They were the James Boatwrights, Samuel A West, the Hickmans or even the Samuel Trice. It is actually built as if three buildings were connected with two separate additions with a common roof-line.

Four children, Emma Lillian (1898), Lecie (1903), Roy (1906), and Rufus Byrum (1911) were born to Frank and Mary Ella. The children walked to school down Blue Branch road to a school in the Yokley area. Emma Lillian, the oldest, told her daughters about having to stay at home from school on Mondays so she could help her mother with the washing. At this school the Duncan's oldest child, Emma Lillian, met her husband-to-be, Marvin Coffee, son of William F. & Samantha Virginia Coffee.

Mary Ella, known as "Mammy," filled the Duncan yard with flowers…snowball bushes, hydrangeas, sweet pea flowering vines, and altheas. Every year she whitewashed the tree trunks in their front yard as high up as she could reach. Mammy grew asparagus just for the fern foliage. As most women in her era, she canned fruits and vegetables and made her own butter in a wooden churn. The butter and milk were kept in a spring near the barn when the weather was hot.
A peddler traveled Blue Branch Road with his wares such as sewing thread, vanilla extract, baking powder, candy, and many other useful household items. Mammy and Pappy's granddaughter, Ella, recalls how her grandmother gave her eggs from the Duncan farm to trade with the peddler for candy.

Frank & Mary Duncan, in their elder years. photo made in the 1940s or early 1950s.

Each day Pappy and Mammy would bring water in tin buckets from the spring up to their house for cooking and washing. To heat the water, they used a wood stove. In the winter the house was warmed from a fireplace in the main room, which was large enough to hold backlogs kept burning all winter long. All the cooking in the kitchen was on the wood stove. Because there was no electricity, the Duncans' used kerosene lamps for light at night. Uncommon for the time, the house had a separate dining room in the back. However, the upstairs was unfinished.

Pappy died in 1951 in the backyard of their home on Blue Branch. Mammy, who died nine years after her husband, lived her final years in the homes of her children. Both are buried at Gibsonville Cemetery.

The Duncan memorial in Gibsonville Cemetery a couple of miles down the hollow standing against time and the stormy 3rd day of Apr 2008, the day this photo was snapped by interested kinship.

Family Group Sheet:

Husband: Frank D "Pappy" Duncan
Born 1: 23 Nov 1874 in: ,Tennessee, USA Stone reads, Born: 23 Nov 1875
Married 1: 01 Aug 1897 in: Giles County, Tennessee; Marriage: Giles County Marriages, p. 435
Died: 08 Jun 1951 in: Giles, Tennessee, USA
Interred in Gibsonville Cemetery down the road from his homesite.
Father: Andrew J. Duncan
Mother: Nelly Purina Ann Ball

Wife: Mary Ella "Mammy Duncan" Trice
Born: 14 Jan 1876 in: Tennessee
Died: 12 Dec 1960 in: Giles, Tennessee, USA
Father: Samuel Crinion Trice
Mother: Sara Gibson

1 Female, Name: Emma Lillian Duncan
Born: 17 May 1898 in: Giles County, Tennessee
Died: 17 Jul 1978 in: Columbia, Maury, Tennessee
Married: 07 Feb 1915 in: Mount Pleasant, Tennessee; Marriage: Married in a buggy in front of
Presbyterian Church
Spouse: Marvin Young Coffee/Coffey
Interred: Polk Memorial Gardens, Mt Pleasant Tn.

2 Female, Name: Lecie Duncan
Born: 09 Mar 1903 in: Tennessee
Died: Jun 1992
Married: Spouse: Robert Francis

3 Male, Name: Roy Duncan
Born: 16 May 1906 in: Tennessee
Died: 10 Oct 1980
Married: Spouse: Bessie E. Thurman

4 Male, Name: Rufus Byrum "Byrn" Duncan
Born: 16 Oct 1911 in: Columbia, Maury, Tennessee
Died: Nov 1968 in: Columbia, Maury, Tennessee
Married: 09 May 1931 in: Columbia, Maury, Tennessee to Virginia Clair Brunson

As written by Linda Stevens. Publisher Wayne Austin. 10 Apr 2008.