Trenton Presbyterian Church: Long gone but rich history abides.

Historically Speaking                          December 17, 2014                                 Donna M. Street

Trenton Presbyterian Church

If you remember the square before the old jail was torn down and replaced by the current facility, then you may remember this.  The jail was located between Court and Church Street.  There was a row of white buildings that at one time housed such old haunts as The Dade County Times, Sally’s Beauty, and The Busy Bee.  Red’s Cleaners was on the back side of the street and I can’t remember what else was on that side.  In another incarnation the Busy Bee building space was the first home of the Dade County Sentinel.  Next door (or south) of the Busy Bee location there was an empty lot.  The empty lot was always a puzzle to my mind.  I don’t remember when I found out that it once was an old church.  There is only one picture that I have ever seen and it is included with this article.  It was included with a caption in the 100th Anniversary Edition of the Dade County Times in 1938.

The following article about the Trenton Cumberland Presbyterian Church is reprinted from The History of Dade County, Georgia Volume II which is still for sale at both banks and the library.  Sue Forester was the researcher and author of this article.  Sue mentions that the troops of Sherman used the church as headquarters and some sleeping quarters in 1864, but I don’t think that she realized that they also used it in 1863 on their way to Chickamauga or that future president James A. Garfield probably used it as an office for about a week in Sept. 1863.


The Trenton Cumberland Presbyterian Church, located in Trenton, Georgia, was organized around 1858 or 1859 by the Rev. Allison Templeton. Although this church was located in Georgia, it was received under the care of Ocoee Presbytery. Since Dade County Georgia was located on the west side of Lookout Mountain, the Trenton church was isolated from the other churches of Georgia Presbytery. It was more convenient for the Trenton congregation to be affiliated with the church of Ocoee Presbytery. The charter trustee and elders in the Trenton Church were Emmanuel Mann, James K. Fryar, William W. Adkins and Hugh L. W. Allison.

Elijah Majors donated, on March 2, 1860, the property for constructing an edifice. The new church house was erected on the town square. The church house was originally constructed as a community church, and used primarily by the Methodists. The Methodists were among the first religious denominations in Dade County.

During the War for Southern Independence, the Trenton Church provided shelter and sleeping quarters for some of General William T. Sherman’s Union soldiers as he began Atlanta Campaign in May 1864. Following the War for Southern Independence, the church house continued to serve various religious groups. Later the church house was used for many years, as a school and as the courthouse.

Very little is known about the history of the Trenton Church before 1890. The Rev. 0. L. Sullivan reported in the November 3, 1898 issue of the Cumberland Presbyterian that, “The church building at this place was wrecked by a storm in 1891. In January 1898, it was repaired. During this interval of seven years, there was no preaching; but vitality still remained and last January the few remaining members revised their roll, organized a Sunday school, and made arrangements for monthly preaching. The Sunday school has prospered, an organ has been purchased, and the people are still improving the building. For all this much is due our faithful consecrated elder Joseph H. Corput and his devoted wife. On the first Sunday in September last, they secured the services of the Rev. W. J. Walker of Gurley, Alabama, and commenced a protracted meeting which continued for two weeks resulting in twenty-four conversions, and seven additions to the church… At the close a Christian Endeavor Society was organized with a large membership.”

  1. H. Corput, one of the lay leaders in the Trenton Church, was also a staunch Cumberland Presbyterian loyalist. In 1906, as the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was about to convene in Decatur, Illinois and vote to merge with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., J. H. Corput wrote to the Cumberland Banner that he hoped the Cumberland Presbyterian Church would not unite with the Northern Presbyterian. Corput stated, “I am now 78 years old, and have lived in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church 47 years. I will hold until the last.” The Trenton church refused to merge with the Northern Presbyterians. Another leader in the Trenton Church was elder Willie Cole. Cole served as session clerk from 1889 to 1899, and also encouraged the congregation to remain loyal to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

While the Rev. Sullivan reported in 1898 that religious services had not been held at Trenton Church from 1891 to 1898, a review of the Chattanooga Presbytery Minutes for the same time period suggests that the congregation was supplied a part-time pastoral basis by the following ministers: James S. Richmond (1892); R. J. Moore (1893); and Dr. B G. Mitchel (1894-95). The pulpit was vacant from 1895 to 1898.

In 1900, the Rev. S. P. Pryor, and the Rev. M. K. Hollister were supply pastors of the Trenton Church. Pryor reported in the Cumberland Presbyterian that the Rev. L. B. Morgan of South Pittsburgh, Tennessee, had just closed a ten day revival that resulted in eighteen conversions, and five accessions. The Rev. Morgan was described as a preacher who had “endeared himself to the people by his manly and fearless preaching.” Pryor also notes that the Trenton Church would be without a pastor after September 1.

In 1901, the pulpit was vacant, and the congregation relied on the services of Baptist and Methodist preachers. One of these pastors was the Rev. F. A. Bell. By 1903, Cumberland Presbyterian preaching had resumed on the third Sunday of each month. Sunday school was offered each Sabbath of the month.

From 1902 to November 1, 1907, a Missionary Baptist congregation rented the church house for religious services. The Rev. A. J. Mann and the Rev. Z. M. McGhee often preached to this group and to other Baptist and Methodist groups in Dade County.

Sometime between 1931 and 1938, the Trenton Church became disorganized, and was placed on the inactive roll. The Rev. Walter L. Swartz was the last pastor of the church. In 1938, Chattanooga Presbytery appointed a commission to sell the church property in Trenton. Before the commission began investigating various options for disposing of the church property, Chattanooga Presbytery was persuaded by several of the remaining members of the Trenton Church to postpone selling the property. The Trenton Church members believed they could revive the congregation. They requested that Chattanooga Presbytery loan them $350.00 at four percent interest to repair the church house.

Chattanooga Presbytery agreed to this request. Repairs were made on the church house, and for a period of time efforts were vigorously prosecuted to revive the congregation. These efforts, however, failed. By the spring of 1941, the Trenton Church was again in a disorganized condition. The following year, Chattanooga Presbytery noted that Ooltewah and Trenton were their only inactive churches. Presbytery voted to take care of the Trenton Church house “since it is our property.”

Two years later, in 1944, the abandoned church house was in a state of disrepair. The loan of money to the Trenton congregation in 1938 had not been repaid. Chattanooga Presbytery assumed control of the church property, after the sole surviving trustee of Trenton church, E. A. Ellis, surrendered the property to presbytery on September 27, 1945 Chattanooga Presbytery later sold the property to D. T. Brown.  Mrs. Maxie C. Tatum bought the property from Brown for her son John F. Tatum. After Tatum came into possession of the property, he tore the church house down, and turned the site into a car lot. The site of the church in 1977 was a vacant lot on the town square of Trenton.

Pastors who served the Trenton Church included: Allison Templeton (1858-61); D. Grafton (1867-68); William H. Bell (1868); J. G. Jacoway (1872); R. J. Moore (1890); James S. Richmond (1892); R. J. Moore (1893); Dr. B. G. Mitchell (1894-95); W. J. Walker (1898); S. P. Pryor (1900); M. K. Hollister (1901); Floyd Poe (1902); Paul M. Murray (1903); J S. Porter (1903); Hannibal Seagle, elder in the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee, lay speaker (1907); W. E. Tillett (1922); and Walter L. Swartz (1931).

The Rev. J. G. Jacoway, who served the church in 1872, was a member of the Trenton Church. Born in 1818, John Garrett Jacoway presented himself to Ocoee Presbytery as a candidate for the ministry. According to the August 19, 1871 Ocoee Presbytery Minutes, Jacoway was immediately licensed to preach the Gospel because of “his experience and years.”

  • H. Corput was shortened and was originally VandenCorput;  but can be found on many Dade County records shortened to Corput.

Note:  Feb. 2018  Since this article was published in the Dade County Sentinel in 2014 there has been much learned about the VandenCorput family.  One of more of the Corput brothers served the Union Army at the battle of Chickamauga and returned to this area after the end of the war in 1865.  Members of this family are buried at the Payne Cemetery within the Lake Hills Cemetery and at other places in the county.  After the name was changed to Corput (for ease of business and understanding of Southerners, I am sure) several married into the Tatum and Case families.  Mrs. Maxie Case Tatum was also the mother of William “Bill” Tatum and wife of Sheriff Grover C. Tatum, who served as sheriff during prohibition and is one of the longest serving Sheriff’s of Dade.  The lives of the older members of this clan are interesting and will continue to be studied by local historians as well as family members.  dms










Hell With the Lid Off: Dade Coal Mines 1886

Historically Speaking

Donna M. Street

November 5, 2014


Hell With the Lid Off : Dade Coal Mines 1886


Even though I am ashamed of the treatment of the convicts at Cole City between 1873 and 1908, as a historian (by college degree) who believes that history should be reported as factually as possible no matter how ugly the details of the truth happen to be, I have been fascinated by its operation and growth since I first heard of it the late 1970’s.  When my students at Davis told me about the “coke ovens” I really thought that they were just telling their young teacher a tale.  It didn’t take long before I began to dig through every old Georgia history book at West Georgia College in search of proof. It wasn’t hard to find, but the amount of proof found on the internet through the Georgia Archives has been incredible.  I am under no illusion that I will ever find all of the things that I want to find without some serious study at the libraries which hold the papers of Joseph E. Brown.  I want to see a map and more pictures, but that will be one of my continuing quests.  Today, I will share with you an article dated July 20, 1886 (page 6).  It was a Tuesday and it was printed in the Atlanta Weekly Constitution.  I will print most, if not all, of the article and as usual italics will denote quoted portions.  Warning this is a really long article but it has many tidbits of information about the work and operation of the mine will be interesting to readers who are interested in mining activities here. The article is entitled DADE COUNTY COAL MINES.


“There are two classes of persons who go to Dade county coal mines—members of the legislature and long-term, able-bodied convicts. 


Other people go occasionally, but not often, for the state of Dade is an out-of-the-way place, and besides that, visitors have little business fooling around convict camps. 

I went up to Dade the other day to see Colonel Towers, principal keeper of the penitentiary, suppress an insurrection, and when the riot was over, I had spare time enough to take a glance at the coal mine and the arrangements for handling the dusky diamonds.


I must draw on the resources of the composin’ room to help me in my description of the interesting points about the Dade coal mines.  The coal company owns a standard gauge railroad running from Shellmound in Tennessee to the mines, which are in Georgia.  The road is not a common carrier by transacts business for only the company.  It is six or eight miles in length and runs up the valley.  The valley is very narrow and the mountains on each side are about a thousand feet high.  To illustrate, the road runs along the bottom of a great big V and I do not exaggerate the steepness of the mountain sides by the illustration taken from the typo’s case.  The country is very wild.  The mountains are covered with dense, tangled woods, and deer and turkey abound in the neighborhood.  As the train goes from Shellmound to the mines it passes the mouth of the Nickajack cave, which can be plainly seen.  The entrance is about one hundred feet across and is a big black hole in the mountain side.  A creek coming down the valley enters the mouth of the cave, disappears in the darkness and goes beyond the knowledge of man.  On one occasion Colonel J. W. Renfroe, postmaster of Atlanta, rode horseback nine miles into this cave and came out ignorant of its size.  There is no telling how big it is. 

Note: the land in and around cave was flooded in the1980’s by TVA in order tocontrol flooding in the area surrounding the cave.

From the railroad the location of the old Castle Rock coal mine can be seen.  The track of the inclined plane railroad catches the eye.  Two tracks side by side run up the mountain at an angle of about forty-five degrees.  When the mine was being worked coal was let down by cars on three tracks, one car to a track, so arranged that the loaded car would pull the empty car to the top of the mountain.  The cars were run on the principle of twin well buckets, and made speed that would stagger a cannon ball express.  One day Senator Brown and Mrs. Brown went up in one of the cars.  The next trip the cable broke and there was not enough of the little cars left to make a decent toothpick.   

At the end of the standard gauge road are the coke ovens of the company.  The ovens are in the valley and are 256 in number.  In them the coal is burned to coke for use in smelting iron from iron ore.  To stand on the mountains at night and look down at the coke ovens when they are fired up reminds me of the remark of a man who undertook to describe Pittsburgh—“It looks like hell with the lid off.”  The coke ovens hold thirty to forty thousand bushels of coal at one time. 

The entrance of the Dade coal mine is from the top of the mountain, and that mountain like the other is a thousand feet high.  At the top is a broad plateau, two miles across.  The company has a forty acre garden up there, and the convicts have all the vegetables they could possibly want. The Dade coal is not let down in the way that was in use at Castle Rock when that mine was being worked.  A narrow gauge railroad runs from the top of the mountain.    It is all very simple when you see it done.  The grade of the road is three or four gauge railroad runs from the top of the mountain.  As the sides of the mountain are almost it become interesting to know how the trains get up there.  The track, starting at the base, runs partly around the mountain, climbing just a little bit.  Then a switch is put in and the track goes back toward the starting point, but goes just a little higher up the mountain.  The zig-zag, whip-saw business is kept up until the top is reached and the railroad looks like a big W turned sideways. 

To ride the little train as it climbs the mountain is the next thing to being up in a balloon.  The passenger car is about the size of The Constitution’s elevator, and it seemed that to sit anywhere except in the middle would turn over.  One looks out of the window and sees that he is sailing along on a level with the opposite ridge.  Tall trees below seem like grass and weeds.  You feel that a bird has caught you up and is flying away with you.  The only thing to dispel the idea is the clatter-clatter of the little train and the jerking of the miniature car as it is snatched along the track by the stout little engines.

“S-s-s-s-s-spose!”  I asked, “Sp-sp-spose th-th-this the-the-thing r-runs off!”  

“Then it’s good bye John,” was the consoling reply, “but it has never yet jumped the track.”  

. . .When the top of the mountain is reached one finds the entrance to the coal mine.  It looks like a big gopher hole and a little railroad track descends into it at angle of thirty degrees.  Little coal cars are pulled up this track, which is about 300 feet long, the motive power being a stationary engine which is located near the entrance to the mine, and which winds a cable onto a drum.  I went down in the mine.  It was as dark as Egypt.  The mine is about one hundred feet underground and consists of a great number of tunnels which cross each other at right angles.  The mountain is completely honey-combed.  Three or four hundred men work in the mine; three hundred of them being convicts.  The men wear small lanterns on their caps and look like so many overgrown lightning bugs when seen in the distance down the dark tunnels.  When I reached the foot of the “slope” and found myself in the mine I was accompanied by the engineer, Captain Evans.  A tall young man with large handsome eyes and a big brown moustache tipped his cap and bowed gracefully to the captain.  By the yellow light which flickered in his cap I saw that he had a very striking face and I was so impressed by his appearance that I asked the captain who the good-looking convict was.  He replied:  “His name is Hammond.  He came here from Rome, and is in for murder.  He tried to escape once and was shot in the back.” 

The coal miners lie on their sides to pick the coal.  A number of mules are kept at work in the mines pulling the little coal cars from different parts of the mine to the slope.  A great deal of track is required to get the coal out of the mines, about twenty miles of it being underground, running through the various tunnels.  About six hundred tons of coal are mined every day, but none of it is sold except to the Western and Atlantic railroad.  The company takes ten car loads daily. The rest is burnt into coke for the iron furnaces at Rising Fawn and Chattanooga.  No one can form an idea of the extent of the Dade County Coal Mine unless he goes there and sees it for himself.   

I recently had an email and phone conversation with the Great-great granddaughter of Captain Evans and will write about that at some future time.  It was interesting that she found me by reading this newspaper online.  She found my contact information in an article about two years ago when the Historical Society hosted the hike into the Coke Ovens.

Speaking of the Historical Society, our November meeting will take place next Sunday at 3pm at the public library. Please join us on Sunday afternoon, November 9 if you are interested.  Also, support the library on Tuesday, November 11 between 4 and 7:30 pm for McLibrary night when our local McDonalds shares their profit during those hours.  It has been very successful in the past and will continue to be with your help.  Hey, it’s Veteran’s Day, take a Vet to Mc Donald’s for a fun evening.









Women on the Jury, Oh My!

Historically Speaking

Donna M. Street

November, 24, 2013

Women on the Jury! Oh My!

Writing this column is a work of love.  There is so much material from which to choose.  Some topics need lengthy research and time to construct and properly arrange.  It is a holiday week and I have been busy.  It is Sunday night and I just don’t want to spend the whole night writing, so in the tradition of some of my former students, I will just copy something which has already been in print.  Unlike some of them however, I will give full credit to the writers.  The History of Dade County, Georgia Volume II was published in 2011.  It contains 410 articles which were submitted by folks with family and other ties to Dade County.  It was begun in 1995 or 1996.  It went through several incarnations.  Things like this happened.  The book was almost finished and down to envelopes filled with the copy and the company which had been hired went out of business and kept the generous deposits which had been paid.  Well, that threw the Historical Society into a tailspin.  Sue Forrester, Claude Owens, Sonny McMahan and many others continued the quest.  Sue passed away in 2005 after her long battles with cancer and the book still wasn’t finished.  There are still probably people who wonder when they are going to get the book they paid for, but that book never existed.  The late Bill Marshall put some “front money” in a bank account to start over and Verenice Hawkins began a plodding effort to finish the book.  As soon as we retired, she enlisted me, her daughter and our best friend and many other folks to type, grammar-check and spellcheck the articles submitted.  We were not commissioned to check the accuracy and authenticity of the articles as that was not the goal of the book.  With a book of family history, there can be a lot of discrepancies and information that is thought correct at the time. There are mistakes and inaccuracies, but this is a truly delightful and entertaining book.  The article which is printed below is making its third time in print.  It is article one of Volume II, in the community section.  It was first seen in print in the Dade County Times, August 28, 1955 (which was owned and operated by a woman during the 40’s and the 50’s, but that is another story for another day) .  It was entitled ‘Miss Ersaline’ Carroll was the First Woman in the County to Qualify.

Revision of the Dade County Jury Boxes was completed this week.  The Jury Commission composed of D. T. Brown, K.D. Teet, J. C. Pace, H. Kenimer, C.M. Bodenhamer and W. H. Pullen, met for four nights reviewing the names on the Tax Digest and assembling the names of those to be put into the Traverse and Grand Jury boxes.

For the first time in history, women’s names were entered.  Out of over one hundred women in the county who are eligible to serve on the jury, about 25 had written in they did not wish to serve.  From the over 70 women left, the names of 14 were put into the Traverse Jury Box and they will be called for jury service.  No women’s names were put into the Grand Jury Box.

All women in Georgia, who are on their county’s tax digest, by an act of a previous state on their county’s and also the legislature, are eligible to serve Federal Jury.  However, the act reads that if they do not wish to serve, they can so notify the Clerk of Court before the jury box is revised.  This is to be done every two years in each county.

Dade’s new Traverse Jury now holds the name of over 570 white men, 14 white women and two colored men.  The Grand Jury Box has the names of approximately 228 white men.  This seems like a comparatively small number of freeholders’ names in the jury. 

The September term of the Superior Court is only a little over four weeks away and these will be the names to be drawn for that court.

‘Miss Ersaline’, as she was known to those who were her students, was also the first woman in Dade County to become a school principal.  She was a great advocate of learning in all forms. She was also on the Dade County Library Board and is one of those responsible for securing the funding for a public building to house our library.  She was quite a ground breaker in her day; in fact she was quite a gal.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Debunking Family Myths of Murder at the Mine

Historically Speaking

Donna M. Street

December 10, 2014

Debunking Family Myths of Murder at the Mine

He was alive and well on June 1, 1880, as the census taker counted him. It was noted that he was a guard, that his age was 33 and that he lived with several others in a boarding house.    By June 6, six short days later, he was dead; murdered by gunshot from the fired gun of an escaping convict at the prison at Cole City.  He was working there at the same time as Edward Cox was there. Cox  was the special prisoner featured in earlier installments.  The victim’s mother and the Governor of Georgia offered a reward of $375 for the arrest and delivery of the shooter to the Sheriff of Dade County.  Today he is interred in a family grave at the end of Ty Lane in Slygo, where he is accompanied only by his mother and an infant sibling.

His name is Christopher Columbus Street.  He was the oldest child of Arminda Benson Street and William Bird Street.  He had half sisters and brothers from an earlier marriage by his father, but they lived with their families at various places, mostly in the Morganville and Slygo Valley communities.  There were other full brothers and sisters born to the union.  They were Madison Monroe, Thompson Mahatha, Jefferson Beauregard, George and daughter, Saphronia.  C.C. was called Lum by family and friends.

After the war, some of these people needed to find other ways to make a living than farming on the limestone rocks of Slygo Valley.   Madison Monroe took his family and moved west to Kildare, Texas, where quite a few former Dade Countians went.  At one point, Lum moved west to his brother’s area and tried to make a living.  He wrote letters home to his mother about the price of corn and the kind of crops that were growing there, but he was back home by 1879.  Maybe she wrote back to him that the mine might be a place where he could get a job.

Sometimes stories such as this shooting are shrouded in mystery and are spoken of in hushed terms.  Sometimes by not talking about the events such as this murder leads to wrong information and exaggerations.   That is the case of poor Lum.  His brother (my great grandfather) died in 1944.  Thompson was his last living sibling and was not a man who talked too much, unless there was a direct need.

By the time that the tale got to me in the late 60’s, Lum had become the murderer and not the one who was murdered.

Misinformation began to change when my father came home from work with a copy of the wanted poster which a customer in Bridgeport showed him and inquired if he was related to the victim.  Indeed he was related to the victim and had believed as others did that C.C. Street was a murderer.

The next piece of this puzzle fell into place during the summer when my sister, Kate, worked in a recreation job with TVA.  One of her workmates was from Scottsboro and shared with Kate an account from the book, The Scottsboro Story of the man being hanged who was the killer of Lum. His name was George Smith and was evidently a scoundrel.  He and two others were the first white men in Alabama to be hung for arson.

Before the arson, he (George Smith) had been captured and was in the Dade County jail for a time.  He escaped and married a girl who witnessed some of his bad behavior so that she could not testify against him at his trial. I was researching the death of a Dade resident and was using a tool which was written by the late Sue Forester.  It is an unpublished book and lists all deaths (which she could find) from our earliest newspapers in 1879 through 1908. They are hard to find as there was no official obituary listings until the 1960’s.  She refers to a long article about George Smith, so I go to the library to find it and it is really long.  It is most of two tiny-print pages and gives details of everything about George and his companions as they prepare to die.  It is hard to read but chock full of information about the convicted.  It tells of their salvation and baptism, how George managed to escape from the Dade County Jail and even what they had for their last meal.

When I realized that Lum had been counted in the 1880 census, but that he died only a few days after, I searched Ancestry.Com again and lucked up on a U.S. Mortality Schedule for the mine at Dade County.  The attending physician for C. C. Street, railroad hand who died of a gunshot wound, was K.H. Davis and he was the great-great grandfather of Dr. Billy Pullen of Morganville.

Old family tales are wonderful to know and tell, but they are even better when the seeker can find tidbits which make the story come alive.  Christopher Columbus Street never married or had children, but he has a great-great niece who loves him and continues to seek nuggets about his life and time.

The Historical Society, in association with the library and the Friends, is creating pictorial displays of family groups, school groups, artists and artisans and a slide show of the veterans that have been collected.  Adding more photos to our display is the goal, so bring your pictures in to the library for scanning and adding to our growing collection of old photographs.  Keep your eyes and ears open for several Historical Society activities in the month of January.  We are planning a genealogy workshop and/or speakers and later a short hike to the old iron foundry south of Trenton near the #8 Bridge.



January 1940:Weather May Be the Coldest in Dade

January 1940 Weather May Be the Coldest Ever in Dade

Historically Speaking

Jan. 27, 2016

Donna M. Street


Cold weather has been on everyone’s mind since they started talking about the big storm of  last weekend.  I have a love/hate relationship with storms and bad weather.  Stories of bad weather were object lessons about being careful.  One example was a tale from 1940 of an accident on Highway 11.


When I first moved to Sand Mountain in 1978, my dad and I began a running dialogue of weather that continued until his death last year.  “Leave you water dripping!”. . . “How many inches of snow do you have?”. . . “Did you feel the earthquake this morning?” and so on.   One day it snowed and I went across the road to the Mountain View Garden Center to visit  friends, Lloyd, Trish and Sanford Stephens.  Sanford and his young protégé, Luke Gray, were about to have some fun on Brow Road in the snow and I went along.  There were no cars but lots of open space and sliding down the road behind a truck.  We had fun and I walked home cold, warmed up and called mother and daddy and regale them with my tales of the day.  I quickly received an upbraiding from Daddy about the dangers of playing in the snow on the highway.  I have never thought of playing in the road in the snow again.


The tale that he told was of an accident that happened in January 1940 and critically injured Robert A. Ryan, Sr.  I talked to Bobby(Robert A. Ryan, Jr.) about the incident and he and I disagreed about the date. After some research for articles about weather, I found the facts of the 1940  accident.  I was so thrilled to win an argument with Bobby.  Not in a haughty way, just a fun-loving poke in the ribs that Bobby was wrong and I was right.  It may never happen again.  Anyway, the following is the article (Thursday, January 11, 1940 ) about the accident.

Sleigh Riders Are Injured Sunday, One Seriously

Robert Ryan, of Morganville, is in a Chattanooga hospital with a fractured back, and Miss Bettye Oliver, also of Morganville is suffering from a broken arm, as a result of an accident occurring Sunday afternoon when an automobile collided with a crowd of sleigh riders on the highway at Morganville.

Ryan,  it is said, must remain in the hospital for come three or four months and though his injury is considered serious, it is thought by examining physicians that he will be  “all right” within that time.  The young man’s spine was not injured, it is said.

George “Cobb” Oliver, an eye witness of the accident said some twelve or fifteen young people were riding sleds tied on behind the automobile driven by Frank Kenley.  “There were five sleds tied on, ” Oliver said, “and they met a car as they passed one parked on the side of the highway near Morganville church-house.”  The approaching car, it is said skidded and collided with the “train” of joy riders.  The driver of the approaching car, it is said, must have applied his brakes, which on the frozen surface, caused the machine to swerve.  The name of the driver was not learned but the machine bore New York licenses.

Several other member of the party, including Dabbs Doyle, suffered from shock.

The good news is that Robert Ryan did recover from the accident and lived a long and productive life.  According to both Bobby and Donald Street, the sleds were really car hoods.  That might have been the reason for the caution from my father about playing in the snow attached to a vehicle.

On January 23, 1940, it snowed 8.2″ which according to Nick Austin, Meteorologists at WRCB and was the seventh largest amount in the area. His article was written on January 11, 2011, which was tied as the sixth highest amount of snow 8.4 inches in the nine decades. This of course was the recording at the airport in Chattanooga and could frequently be different in Dade.

On Feb. 1, 1940 the DCTimes reported that such cold weather–never before seen in our lifetime–in Dade County. 

There was hardly a day in January of 1940 that the temperature was above freezing.  Four days still hold the cold record for the day.  On Friday, January 19, the low was 0 degrees.  On Friday, January 26, the low was 1 degree. On Sat. January 27, the low was 2 degrees.  On Sunday, January 28, the low was 4 degrees.  It may be the coldest month ever recorded in the Chattanooga area.

I found the following article in the January 20, 1988 issue of the Sentinel and thought it was appropriate in this tale. If you remember the weather had just kicked us with more than 8 inches of snow.

1940 Was Cold Year

For those of you who are trying to remember when there was as much snow on the ground or colder temperatures in the area as experienced during recent days, a notebook was kept by E.R. Ryan who penned the following records:

            January 26, 1940, the area woke up to 11 inches of snow on the ground.

            January 26, 19400, the temperature in Dade County dropped to 4 degrees below zero; 12 degrees was the official reading at Lovell Field with 18 degrees below zero reading in other places throughout the area.

            January 27 and 28, 1940, 18 degrees below zero temperatures were recorded both days at Morganville.  On the same day, Lookout Creek froze to a 4 inch thickness and the Tennessee River froze over. 

            On January 30, 1940, area residents skated on Lookout Creek.

My mother remembers that they missed about three weeks of school during this month. That may the most amount of time out of school until the ice storm of 1960 (another record breaking weather event).  It is my plan to write about some other of those record breakers.  I can remember five of the eight that Nick Austin listed and plan to do more research.  If you have any thoughts on the weather in 1940 or have a diary for that time or any other weather tales, then contact me at or 657-7305.  If anyone has pictures of anyone skating on Lookout Creek or cars driving on the Tennessee River, I would love to copy them.

I am grateful that my parents have lived so long and have shared the details of their lives with us.  I really like people who note what is happening with the weather in this community.  At some time I will study the articles by Kevin Wall, who writes weekly for the Sentinel in the New Home column.  In future years, some other research hound will look back on Kevin’s articles to see what was going on with the weather.

One last note, many of you remember Jewel Smalley who wrote for the Sentinel for many years in the last three decades.  Many of the articles which I have been reading about the storms in the 80’s and 90’s were written by her.  She has been severely ill and in the hospital  and is slowly improving.  Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers for a steady and prosperous recovery.