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The Suttle Cabin at Fountain Head, Sumner Co., TN

Submitted by: Daniel O'dell Gregory
©2003

Ever since I was a small child, I have been fascinated by the old Suttle cabin on the farm of my grandparents, Flavil and Mamie Ruth Gregory, in the Fountain Head Community of Sumner County, Tennessee. Each summer I would spend a week or two with my grandparents and while my sister and female first cousins made mud pies and played house, I would explore the cabin and fantasize about the people who built and lived in this cabin and what their lives must have been like. My great-aunt, Mayzell Ragland, would visit with her grandson Chip who was a few years younger than myself. He was as fascinated with science as I was with history. We would compromise 30 minutes of catching frogs and crawdads at the spring for 30 minutes of exploring the old cabin.

Suttle cabin

Franc Suttle built the old cabin in 1848. This particular site was chosen because there was a small creek with a natural spring that made water readily accessible. The cabin is built up on a hill and a wagon road was constructed by placing field rocks in the ground, the remains of which can be seen today. Down the creek and within seeing distance, was built a cabin by Cullen Brooks (now on the Tom Linson farm) also built by a natural spring.

Spring running beside the Suttle cabin

Today the two cabins are no longer in existence. Franc Suttle was called "Uncle Franc" by his neighbors, and he lived until a ripe old age dying sometime in the late 30s or early 40s. My great-grandmother, Maybelle Roberts Summers (1905-1987) recalled that as a small girl the old people in the area said the cabin was the showplace of Sumner County. It was built upon a large hill and had a split rail fence around it with trees, flowers, and a garden planted around it. The lawn was planted with bluegrass and it was a sight to behold.

Suttle Cabin

After Franc Suttle died, the place went to his son Tom Suttle. Tom had been born in the log structure of the cabin in 1873. Later on, the cabin underwent additions with rooms being added on the side and back and the dogtrot being closed off to make two small rooms. Tom sold a strip of his property to Thomas Franklin. The congregation of the Jones Chapel Church of Christ was moving and Franklin used all of the old building except the roof to construct a house on the property he purchased (this was in the 1920s).

My grandfather's family moved to the area around this time and he attended the Center Point School, which was near the Suttle property. He can remember Franc living in the cabin and Franklin living in the house he built on the property. Franklin couldn't pay off his debt to Tom Suttle so the property and new house went back to Tom. Tom sold the new house to Mark Mahoney who years later went on to purchase a 60-acre strip, which included the new house and the old cabin. During this transition period, Roy Livingston and his sister lived in the old cabin for 1-3 years, as did one of the sons of Mark Mahoney. In 1951, Mahoney sold his entire holding to the now 32 year old Flavil Odell Gregory and his wife Mamie Ruth.

Suttle cabin

The couple grew tobacco and raised chickens, cattle, and hogs. Tom Suttle was still around as he lived on adjoining property and he and his second wife Ruby were members of the Chestnut Grove Baptist Church. He often would tell my grandfather how the cabin was built in 1848 and how he was born in it. A couple of years later he grew very ill and he told my grandfather he wanted to tell him something when he got to feeling better. Grandfather assumed it was something about the property. However, the time never came as the 80-year-old Tom died on Wednesday night, November 15, 1953 three days before my father, Donald Odell Gregory, was born.

The last family to live in the old cabin was Mr. and Mrs. Jim Goosetree and his brother George Goosetree whose house burned in 1960. My grandfather allowed them to live there for a period of 6-8 months. Around this time, all that was left of the old farm was the cabin itself, a storm cellar, a poultry house, a crib, a well house, a stock barn, and a small tobacco barn. Grandfather kept the roof tinned and used the cabin to store tobacco or corn.

As he got older he could no longer keep the roof tinned and it fell off exposing the cabin to the elements. It slowly but surely began to dilapidate. One of the chimneys fell down and the other had to be pulled down to keep it from falling on the cattle. A Mr. Rufus Grimes was allowed to get the bricks to make a patio. Jr. Suttle, grandson of Tom Suttle and neighbor of my grandfather, was given one of the mantles to give to his daughter who was building a house. In July-August of 2000 a Billy Wilkerson asked if he could have the sound logs to build a cabin. My grandfather believed it was better to let them be used than to simply rot (some of which already had) so he allowed Wilkerson to tear down the remains and get the logs in exchange for cleaning the site up after he bulldozed it.

All is not gone however. The first female Suttle planted buttercups around the place and they have spread around the yard and come up each and every year for over 100 years now. My father and Aunt Deborah will always remember playing around the cabin as will I. Homemade and store-bought bricks of the chimneys have been piled up and the storm cellar and wagon road are still visible reminders. Of more important note, Suttle descendants of that first homestead family still live in the area and carry the name. These pictures are donated to the site in order that the memory and physical reminders of the Suttles who cleared and built this land will not be forgotten.

Addenda: After reviewing the Census records of Sumner County, TN, new information has been gleaned that Francis Suttle was born in 1848 to William and Elizabeth Suttle (1850 Census-District 17-page 200). Thus William and not Francis built the Suttle cabin.

Of  further interest, in 1880 Francis M. Suttle was 31 and he was married to a lady named Nellie. At this time they had four children: Fanny E. (age 10), W. T. M. (age 6), Mary E. (age 5) and Lillie G. (9 months). The W. T. M. Suttle is the 'Tom Suttle' written about in this piece. (1880 Sumner Co. Census 76 - 220).



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