Re-Tracing Our Ancestors Tracks

Re-Tracing Our Ancestors Tracks

Each year the Martin Luther Miller Historical Society meets in Knoxville, Maynardville, and those more curious go down Norris Lake in the vicinity of the Clinch River prior to the impoundment of Norris Lake. I’m always invited to this history brain picking. The adventurers depart Beach Island Boat Dock bright and early the third Sunday every July to document the Global Position System (GPS) readings of some historic places and to pause a little while to honor those early settlers that carved their niche in what would become Union County, Tennessee. The first site we discussed at the 2010 gathering was a tannery near the mouth of Tumbling Run Creek. (If anyone has information about this tannery, please let me know–687-3842.) The tannery's GPS is 36.19.21N, 83.46.83W.

The next stop was the M. S. Cook Cemetery beautifully kept in the lawn by the Phillips family. These were Glen Miller’s grandparents, and Glen came from Colorado as he does every year to pay his respects. The cemetery is on the old Sylvester Needham place between Cave Springs Branch and Cave Springs Road. We then discussed the Old Hwy. 33 Bridge, pausing near the south abutment of the old bridge. Glen and Wade Miller remember a small plane of the “barnstormers” flying under the bridge, which was a daredevil feat since the bridge was so low. Before the lake, the barnstormers landed in a hay field below the bridge–GPS 36.18.89N, 83.47.93W. The bridge had been built at the Hurst Ford (later called Millers’ Ford). Miller Academy was located nearby, and Virgie Perry’s story on Rootsweb took place right here!

The Hickory Valley CCC Camp on Fall Creek was built in the 1930s as a part of the New Deal. What wonderful things those boys did for Union County and our country! The CCC camp was close to Point 26.

On down the river we came to the R. Eli “Dixie” Miller home place with a spring above the house. This was near Fall Creek at GPS 36.18.62N, 83.48.24W. This year it was all under water, but a few years ago I saw the foundation of the Miller house and sticking up out of the water–a cane brake still preserved some 75 years after the impoundment of the lake. Allen Hurst lived on land adjoining Eli Miller. There he operated an iron furnace called Green Grove Iron Furnace–GPS 36.18.32N, 83.48.26W, a grist mill and saw mill–GPS36.18.37, 83.48.17. The iron furnace would have been about even with the private marina at the Hickory Pointe development.

Legend has it that an event was held at the Hurst's to celebrate the election of Andrew Jackson as President of the United States. This included a cannon shoot; however, something went wrong with the loading process and the cannon blew up. This cannon, molded at the Green Grove Iron Furnace, or fragments of this cannon were passed down through the family. At last account it was in the possession of descendant, the late Jessie Russell Seals. Eska Miller, a Hurst grandson, inherited the Allen Hurst property; which, was eventually taken by TVA for the Norris Dam project. The Allen Hurst home was built in 1898 and fronted on the Old Hwy. 33. Doug Miller, James Elbert Miller’s grandson, remembers a stone fence or wall running along side the old highway.

The Eska Miller house and Eska Miller Hollow are at GPS 36.18.89N, 83.48.70W across from Tanglewood development. The old Hwy. 33 bridge, Hurst Ford, Miller’s Ford and Miller’s Ferry are all very near this same spot–GPS 36.18.99N, 83.48.075W. Many years ago, Winnie Palmer McDonald recalled going by boat to the old Cooktown School without adults going along. The children just paddled across the narrow part of Clinch River to school and back at the end of the school day.

The Hurst mineral rights and a sulphur spring are on the north side of Norris Lake in the vicinity of Tanglewood. The old Riverview School and Isaac Cook’s store were at GPS 36.19.06N, 83.48.11W. Our crew stopped for lunch in Clersie Graves “Ma” Cook Hollow, where Casper Graves was killed by Oscar Cook September 3, 1934–GPS36.19.37N, 83.47.56W. Clersie was the daughter of Henry Morgan Graves and Nancy Miller Graves. Gap Branch feeds into “Ma” Cook Hollow.

The Union County Poor Farm, a county government-supported place for the homeless and disabled, was on Clinch River –GPS 36.19.64N, 83.47.53. The Martin Miller home place was on Big Hunting Creek where it drains into the Clinch River, but is under water at Lakeview Boat Dock–GPS 36,20,13N, 83.47.17W. Martin’s orchard was on the hillside where the trailers are now–about GPS 36.19.97, 83.47.29W

On the north side, at the south end of the present Hwy. 33 bridge was the James David and Anna Reynolds Miller place. Wade Miller and some of his siblings, their grandchildren, were born at their home on the Miller place–GPS 36.20-504N, 83.47.251W. Wade is the son of Rufus Miller and the grandson of James David and Anna Miller.
Josiah “Si” Russell, Wash Russell’s father, was hung nearby by Bill Barker, a Sargent in the Union Army who was married to Lucinda Needham –but he didn’t die–Si’s wife, Sarah Johnson Russell, rushed out and cut him down!

The Doctor P. A. Palmer family lived at Palmer’s Junction, and his steps would be at about GPS 36.20.87E, 83.44.76N near the old Hwy. 33. Presently the steps are under about 20 feet of water, but occasionally when the water is down the steps surface and can be seen at Palmer’s Junction.

Memories are made of days like this. These families were for the most part self sufficient. They farmed the land, grew their vegetables and fruits, kept cattle and horses, hunted squirrel, rabbit, deer, quail, dove, pheasant, wild turkey grouse, gigged frogs and turtles and fished the streams. They gathered herbs for medicine, grew flax for linen, grew a little cotton and sheared sheep to spin into wool. The women picked geese for making pillows and feather beds. They “holed up" root crops for use during the winter. When the river froze in winter, they harvested blocks of ice, packed it in straw in a stone or block house that kept it frozen to August or September to service their ice boxes or perhaps make a few runs of homemade ice cream.

There’s much more history to be documented and refined. What we did is pretty close. When the water is down again, several people want to take to the water again to refine these GPS readings and document more sites. Many thanks to Jeri White Lett who brought along her camera and GPS equipment to record these sites.

Picture captions: The old stone fence or wall running along the first Hwy. 33
The M. S. Cook Cemetery. L to R: Wade Miller, Jeri White Lett and Glen Miller reading his grandfather’s stone.

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