Swift finds it amazing that helicopers can fly

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian


It is amazing to me that helicopters can fly. I am fascinated with helicopters. It is one thing to fly forward like the airplane — and that’s amazing enough — but for a machine to go forward and backward and up and down and sideways and to hover in the air is another. In Pigeon Forge several years ago I opted to take a ride in a helicopter that was being used to give rides to tourists. The pilot was flying folks over Dollywood and around the area. That was the first and only time that I rode one of those machines. But I remember it vividly.

I always think of Igor Sikorsky when I think of helicopters. While he wasn’t the only one to pioneer in the development of that type of craft, perhaps he has the most name recognition when it came to it. He began work on it as early as 1910. The helicopter was developed by several people over time. The first operational helicopter came along in 1936. But 1942 was when Sikorsky’s helicopter reached full-scale production. The most common design has a rotor on top of the machine while a small rotor in the back keeps the helicopter from turning.
Of course, the machines have been adapted to industrial applications. The sometimes lift very heavy objects atop high buildings. They’re used sometimes for police observance and for television and radio reporting.

Military applications are many. Many lives have been saved due to the use of those amazing machines. Getting the wounded to the closest field hospital is often the key to a soldier’s survival.

The word helicopter was coined by a French writer who came up with the words “hello” for spiral and “pter” for wings. As I mentioned earlier in this column, helicopters fascinate me. From what I have heard, they’re not easy to pilot. I’ve been told that there are several key things to attend to fly the machines. Anyway, helicopters have many uses and it is good that over the years folks have continued to develop those amazing machines. Many folks have flying miniature helicopters as a hobby. It sounds to me like It would be a good hobby. Perhaps I’ll give it a try sometime.

Oops! The fourth paragraph of my column last week contained an error. The sentence, “Major Grayson was a native of Carter County” should have read “Col. Miller was a native of Carter County.” I regret the error.

Swift receives book entitled ‘The War of the Nations Portfolio’

My wife Mary and I have had the pleasure of knowing Weldon and Gwen Bell since meeting them at First Christian Church a few years ago. We have visited them at their beautiful home on Callalantee Drive on a ridge high above Mountain City. They came to Johnson County a few years ago from Edisto Beach, South Carolina, following retirement from a successful seafood business. They say they love Johnson County and have adapted well here.

Gwen is the director of the Johnson County Emergency Heat for Seniors Program — a program that provides heating sources such as wood, electric, propane etc. to qualified seniors. It often is a factor in whether or not those seniors stay warm during the cold days of winter. I feel that’s the mission God put me in charge of, says Gwen. “I was terrified when we came here because I knew no one but we have come to love Johnson County and its people. Weldon agrees.
Some months ago, Gwen approached me and said they had a book they wanted me to have. She later brought the book to church and I was glad to accept it. I was surprised when I first saw the book. It was huge. The title of the book was “The War of the Nations Portfolio.” It was one of the largest books I have ever seen. The book was published in 1919.
Woodrow Wilson was the thirty-eighth president at the time. World War I, also called the Great War, involved many people. The book has pictures about the movers and shakers of that era as well as prominent battles. The book is divided into Portraits, military operations, pictures, maps and texts.

Other than President Wilson’s full-page portrait, are full-page portraits of Secretary of State Robert Lansing, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, American Delegate to the Peace Conference Colonel Edward M. House, and Secretary of the Treasury William G. McAdoo. There are numerous pictures of other dignitaries who served during the war.
World War I was billed as the “War to End All Wars.” Of course we know that slogan’s premise never came to pass.

I will treasure the book. I will read it often and try to gain a better understanding about what took place during that momentous era of World War I. I want to again thank the Bells for their thoughtfulness. “Thank you.”



Swift reflects on interesting books recently given to him

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian

I am a booklover. Realizing at a young age that much of what a person learns is through reading, I set out on the adventures of learning through reading a long time ago. Now, I don’t mean to imply that reading is the only way to learn but I believe it is one of the most important ways to learn. Some kind folks over the years have given books to me and I thoroughly appreciate their thoughtfulness. In this column and in later columns I want to mention three books that I have received recently or at least within the year.
A few weeks ago, I pulled my car into a space near a yard sale that was being held just off 421 South. My wife Mary is a huge yard sale enthusiast, as are many others folks it seems. She opted to visit the sale, but I decided to stay in the car. After all, it was very hot that day and I decided to turn on the air conditioning, put the seatback back a little and relax. While I was relaxing and doing a little daydreaming, I noticed a pickup truck parked in the space next to where I was parked.
In a few minutes, the owner of the truck, who is a good friend of mine, appeared at the window of the passenger side of the car. It was Tim Furchess. We talked awhile, and then Tim got a large book from his truck and gave it to me. He said that since I like books so much, he wanted me to have it. It was a reprinted 1922 Montgomery Ward Catalogue.
It was a large and somewhat heavy tome. It was 13 inches by 9 ½ inches by 2 inches. It was well preserved and the dust cover was in remarkably good shape. The original was published in connection with Montgomery Ward’s 50th anniversary. It was labeled The Golden Jubilee edition. It was published in the Roaring Twenties. Looking back the prices are astounding. A man’s 2-piece suit with vest was priced at $12.95. A nickel-plated watch was 89 cents. A snow sled was a low $1.48. Men’s dress shoes – $3.98 per pair. A high-grade medium size heater priced at $18.95. A bicycle could be purchased for $22.95. Some pocket watches priced at $2.95. Fiddles were selling for $5.25. A guitar could be bought for $5.65.
Of course I know that money was difficult to get and a dollar was worth more then than in this days economy. But it is interesting to look back to how it was in bygone days. Thanks again Tim for the book.

Swift reflects on growing up in a loving family

By Jack Swift

Looking back on my boyhood days, I see a loving family. Although we were not wealthy in the material sense, we never lacked for good food, adequate clothing or shelter. If we weren’t wealthy, we didn’t realize it because there was more than enough love to go around. I have been blessed with the very best mother and father a son could have. The sacrifices they made for me are many and I will never forget it. Much of the knowledge they possessed was of the heart and not just of the brain alone. Although they may never have done great things in the eyes of the world, they have left their mark and the world is a better place because of their influence.”

Those are my words that were entered into the first Johnson County History Book published by the Johnson County Historical Society in 1986. I’ve written much about that book and the two others that have been published since: one in 2000 and the latest in 2015. All three volumes are for sale at the Johnson County Welcome Center on South Shady Street here in Mountain City. All three contain a wealth of family histories as well as a great deal of interesting information about Johnson County.

In this column I want to mention by family and how blessed I was to be a part of it. My father, Isaac Allen Swift, worked hard to raise his family, as did my mother, Carrie Emiline Harper Swift. Both of them knew what hard work was and they were not averse to it. I had a brother, Charles Ray Swift, who passed away September 10, 1990. He too was a hard worker who had many friends. He was my only sibling. He worked at many jobs and farmed on the side. One of the most interesting jobs he held as a young man was making cement blocks. Mr. Blain Cole owned a small block factory about three miles out of Mountain City on Highway 67. It was a simple machine that made one block at a time. I understand that some buildings in Johnson County used some of those blocks.

As I remember, there were two main parts of the plant: The concrete mixer and the block mold. A certain formula of sand, concrete and water were mixed together to a certain consistency. The mixture was then poured into the mold, extracted from the mold and then dried. Before drying, the blocks were very fragile. But after being dried, they were very strong. The block making took place in about the early ‘50s if I remember right. Perhaps there were other block factories then, but probably none as small. Other jobs my brother had were at Lukens Steel Mill, Coatesville, Pennsylvania; General Motors, Wilmington, Delaware; Lincoln Industries, Damascus, Virginia; Blue Ridge Shoe Company and Timberland Shoe Company, Mountain City, Tennessee. He married Nora Mae Jennings and they have a daughter, Deborah Flanders of Sherman, Texas and a son Gregory of Powell, Tennessee. Both are graduates of Tennessee Technological University of Cookeville, Tennessee.

Taylor Brothers orate, fiddle for Tennessee Governor post

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian


As I learn more about the governors of Tennessee, it becomes clear to me that there has been much variation among them. I have found that there is a great deal of interesting facts about them and their governorship. It is interesting to know that some consider William Blount to be the first governor of Tennessee due to his being governor for the Territory South of the River Ohio which included Tennessee. George Washington appointed Governor Blount to that post in 1790. In 1796, Blount presided over the constitutional convention that transformed part of the territory into the State of Tennessee.
One of the most controversial of the governors of Tennessee was Isham G. Harris who served from November 3, 1857 until March 12, 1862. He used his governorship and influence toward getting Tennessee to secede from the union and become a confederate state. After the end of the Civil War, there was a reward of $5,000 for his capture. He fled the state but returned to Memphis in 1867 and resumed practicing law.
I’m sure other governors could be named that were interesting as well, but the most interesting to me were the Taylor brothers, Robert (Bob) and Alfred (Alf).
I like to tell the story of those brothers who ran against each other for Tennessee governor in the election of 1886. Both were outstanding orators and both were skillful fiddle players. I understand that they not only ran against each other for the governorship, they campaigned together taking turns fiddling and speaking. Both were active in politics with Bob running as a Democrat and Alf running as the Republican contender. While Alf lost in his bid for governor at that time, he was later elected governor in 1920. He served one term.
The brothers’ campaign was called the “War of the Roses” due to the supporters of Bob wearing the white rose of York on their lapels and the supporters of Alf wearing the red rose of Lancaster. In English history the “War of the Roses” was fought between the houses of Lancaster and York from 1455 until 1485.
Sometime along the way I acquired a book titled Lectures and Best Literary Productions of Bob Taylor published in 1912. The book includes a selection of lectures and other works by Bob. In connection with the aforementioned Governor Harris, the book includes Bob’s Address at the memorial services of Harris at Memphis, Tennessee on November 21, 1897. In his memorial address, Taylor had much good to say about Harris and his accomplishments.
The Taylor brothers were born in the Happy Valley section of Carter County. Bob became a three-term Tennessee governor and one-term U. S. senator. Alf served one term as governor, being elected in 1920. Alf, the older of the two, was born August 6, 1848 and died November 25, 1931. Bob was born July 21, 1850 and died March 31, 1912.
The Taylor brothers’ race for governor of Tennessee was truly a unique event in the history of the great state of Tennessee.

Colonel R. R. Butler was a famous Johnson County citizen

By: Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian


If you come into Mountain City on the old State Route 91 (Divide Road since the new highway was built), you will see a stately old brick mansion on the right. Local folks know it as the Butler Mansion and probably know something about it but visitors to this area or newcomers planning to stay may be curious about its builder and its long time resident.

The house was built by and was the residence of one of the most famous citizens of Johnson County: Roderick Random (R. R.) Butler. Butler held a wide variety of important posts during his 75 years not the least was his actions during the American Civil War during which he attained the rank of Colonel. He was born in Wytheville, Virginia, April 9, 1827. He came to Taylorsville to follow the tailor’s craft having been apprenticed to a John Haney of Newbern, Virginia. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1853. He early on practiced law in Taylorsville (the name was changed to Mountain City in 1885.)

He was a Union Sympathizer, as were most folks in East Tennessee, and spent much of time working for the Union Cause. His rise to fame included being appointed Postmaster of Taylorsville by President Millard Fillmore and he was a Major of the 1st Battalion of Tennessee Militia and was a member of the Tennessee State Senate. During the Civil War he served as Lieutenant Colonel of the 13th Regiment, Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry.
After the war he was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1864, delegate to the Tennessee State constitutional convention in 1867 and was know as the people’s judge of the first judicial circuit of Tennessee in 1865. In 1867, he was elected as a Republican to the Fortieth and to the three succeeding Congresses, serving until 1875. He was a member of the Johnson County delegation at both the Knoxville session and Greenville session of the East Tennessee Convention, which petitioned the state legislature to allow East Tennessee to break away from Tennessee and form a Union-aligned state.
Butler was married to Emeline Jane Donnelly Butler and they had 11 children. Their home, The Butler Mansion, was built around 1870. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The town of Butler was named in his honor. He died August 18, 1902. He is buried in the Mountain View Cemetery in Mountain City.

The year 1836 is of particular interest to me

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historia

The year 1836 is of particular interest to me because it was the year Johnson County was carved out of Carter County to become the most northeastern county in Tennessee. Citizens of the area that became Johnson County had been plagued for years by the difficulty of traveling to Elizabethton, the county seat of Carter County, to conduct necessary business. In those days, travel was grueling and time consuming. There were rivers to cross and ridges to traverse. Johnson County was named for Thomas Johnson, a very respected and influential man of the area.

The county seat of Johnson County was laid out and lots were sold. Originally named Taylorsville to honor Carter County’s James P. Taylor. The name was changed from Taylorsville to Mountain City in 1885. Since the town was surrounded by beautiful mountains, it was a very appropriate name.
As I was thinking about 1836, I decided to try to find some other happenings in that year. It was in that year that the Battle of the Alamo in what is now San Antonio Texas was fought. After 13 days of fighting the Texas defenders were overwhelmed and the entire garrison was killed. Two hundred fifty seven Texans were killed including Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett. Crocket, a Tennessee Congressman, had left for Texas following a disappointing loss in his final bid for Congress.

Andrew Jackson was president in 1836. He had been a popular and successful general prior to becoming a U.S. president. He served as president from 1829 to 1837. Englishman Charles Dickens, the famous author of the Victorian Era, was born February 7, 1812. Following his marriage in 1836, he became a prolific writer with such works as David Copperfield, Great Expectations and other novels. He was also the author of a number of short stories. One famous person who married in 1836 was famous writer Harriet Beecher to Calvin Stowe in Cincinnati, Ohio on January 6. On May 16 Edgar Allan Poe married his cousin Virginia Clemm. English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray married Isabella Gethin Shawe.
Among the deaths in 1836 were Betsy Ross (1752 – 1836), Aaron Burr (1756 – 1836 and as mentioned earlier Davy Crockett (1786 – 1836). James Madison, who died in 1836, served as U. S. President from 1809 to1817. The Texas Capital City, Austin, is named for Stephen F. Austin who passed away in 1836. I found a birthday that was quiet interesting. Winslow Homer, a famous American Painter was born February 24, 1836 in Boston, Massachusetts. He died September 29, 1910 at the age of 74. Homer is one of the most famous American painters. His maritime paintings are superb.
So, a lot was going on in the United States in 1836. I suppose that in what would become Mountain City there was a lot going on also. It was truly the Horse and Buggy days.

Two famous scientists

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian

One of my hobbies is reading. I read a lot. Most of my reading is non-fiction.  It has been a long time since I read a novel or short story. The subject of most of my reading is History, Biography or Science. The fact that I read a lot on those subjects doesn’t make me an expert. But, as I read and learn I do pick up some interesting facts about those subject categories. And I like to use a bit of them in my columns from time to time.
What I decided to write about this week deals with the field of science, more pointedly scientists themselves. As I read about the stalwarts of science and what they have contributed to our world, I am amazed at their insight and perseverance. In this column I want to feature two scientists that I admire as much or more than any others.
One of my first choices is one that I suspect many others would also agree is one of the most popular and influential scientists of all time — Albert Einstein. Dr. Einstein was born at Ulm, in Wurttemberg, Germany, on March 14, 1879. After continuing his education in a number of schools, he entered in 1896 the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich to be trained as a teacher in physics and mathematics. Five years later he received his diploma. He then went to work as a technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office. Four years later he received his doctor’s degree. After a number of important posts, he   immigrated to America to take the position of Professor of Theoretical Physics at Princeton University. He became a United States citizen in 1940 and retired in 1945. Most folks know something about his famous formula Energy=Mass times the speed of light squared. Of course his Special Theory of Relativity and his General Theory of Relativity were revolutionary. He received a number of Honorary Degrees and other accolades before he died at Princeton April 18, 1955.

The other scientist I want to call attention to is Dr. Stephen Hawking. While I admire his work, it is his determination to continue in his work in the field of cosmology despite his physical limitations that impresses me. He was diagnosed with ALS, also known in America as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, at the age of 21. He is wheel chair bound and dependent on a computerized voice system for communication. Dr. Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 in Oxford, England. When he was 11, he went to St. Albans School and then on to University College. He wanted to study Mathematics, but Mathematics wasn’t available there. Instead, he studied Physics. From there he went to Cambridge to do research in Cosmology. After earning his Ph.D, he was employed at a number of institutions before coming to the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics in 1979. Dr. Hawking is still an active part of Cambridge University and has an office there. He is the author of several publications.
Of course there are many other scientists who deserve our admiration for their contribution to a better understanding of the universe and for making our lives better.

This ‘n’ That

By:  Jack Swift

County Historian

A portion of Tennessee called Johnson County is where I call home. In my 79 years on this planet I have never wished to live anywhere else. Sure I’ve enjoyed visiting near and far, but that’s all I wanted to do — visit. I enjoyed a trip to New York when I was working full time for the Tomahawk newspaper. I was impressed with the busyness of the place and the massive tall buildings. But give me the friendly people and the relative tranquility of good old Johnson County. I feel that I am blessed to be a citizen of Tennessee and Johnson County.
Johnson County and Tennessee both have a number of oddities when it comes to their history. The word “Tennessee” is said to come from the Cherokee town of “Tanasi”, on what is now the Little Tennessee River in present day Monroe County.
Prior to becoming a state in 1796, the citizens of what is now East Tennessee attempted to form a new state called Franklin but it was short lived — only about four years (1784 – 1788). That effort to form a new state was brought about in part due to North Carolina’s failure to provide protection for the settlers who had crossed the Appalachian Mountains looking for a better life. Although North Carolina claimed that area, it was unable or did not choose to provide government or protection for the settlers who were under the threat of Native American attacks and who needed a workable government in order to transact their business.
What would become Johnson County was a part of the East Tennessee area that became the State of Franklin. It is interesting to note that Tennessee is nicknamed the Volunteer State due its tremendous number of soldiers provided during certain wars involving the United States.
Tennessee became a state in 1
796 only twenty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Tennessee was the last to secede from the Union during the American Civil War and was the first state to rejoin the Union. The war lasted from 1861 until 1865. Andrew Johnson, who later became president after President Lincoln was brutally murdered, was the only southern senator to keep his seat in congress during the Civil War.

Johnson County leaned heavily toward the Union. It was a part of several East Tennessee counties that wanted no part in opposing the country they had revered so passionately. Conventions were called to discuss their opposition to secession and to urge against any hasty decisions to wage war. It was evident that though Tennessee had in February voted against secession by a majority of 68,000, Tennessee Governor Isham Harris and the leaders in Nashville were determined from the outset to remove Tennessee from the Union. They had used any means possible to do so. The next referendum went to the folks who favored secession. Kentucky tried to remain neutral but several battles were waged in that state. West Virginia was formed from the northern portion of Virginia. Union leaders of East Tennessee tried to form a new state but were rebuffed in their effort by Governor Harris and his administration.
As many Johnson County folks know, their county came to be due to the difficulty off terrain and length of time they experienced getting to Elizabethton, then the county seat of Carter County. Petitions were delivered to Nashville, the state capital first desiring that the County Seat be moved nearer but later asking that a new county be formed. That request was finally granted and Johnson County in 1836 was formed from the northeast section of Carter County. The county seat of the new county became Taylorsville, named for James P. Taylor of Carter County. The name was changed to Mountain City in 1885. Johnson County was named for Thomas Johnson a leading citizen of the area.
There are a great deal more interesting facts about Johnson County and Tennessee. Perhaps I’ll have more in a later column.

An old magazine explores the roots of country music

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian

Sometime a few years ago, I ran across a Life Magazine dated June 30, 1972. I bought it and I still have it and I value it highly. I, of course, was interested in it because of the fact it was as old as it was, but also because of one of the feature stories it contained. As I was perusing the magazine the story that caught my eye was “The Living Roots of Country Music.”
I was pleasantly surprised that the story featured some of Johnson County’s well-known musicians. One page featured the late Fred Price playing his fiddle as he sat at the side of his house in the Third District of Johnson County. Another page pictured Fred in his home playing his banjo. A family photo of the popular and famous “Doc” Watson showed him and his son Merle, who died as a result of a tractor accident, as well as other family members on the front porch of the family home. Doc as you probably know was famous for his outstanding guitar playing talent and baritone singing.
There was also a picture of Fred Price, Clint Howard, Fred’s son Kenny and Clint’s son Clarence. That group played extensively in Johnson County and the surrounding area. Moreover they played at Carnegie Hall and colleges and universities across the United States.
A jam session was taking place at a service station that was once located on Highway 421 South, Mountain City when in walked a reporter from Life Magazine who asked if he could take some pictures and ask some questions.  Of course the guys said he could. It turns out that their picture also appeared in the aforementioned Life Magazine story about country music in the rural south. Shown in the picture are J. R. Stout on the guitar, Denny Philips on banjo, Hal Wagner on guitar and Ben Simcox on the electric guitar. Looking on are Frank Tester and an unidentified man.
The Life article rounds out with a photo of the crowd at Grand Ole Opry. A picture of Loretta Lynn and her twin daughters is pictured as well as western singer Tex Ritter and mandolin playing Bill Monroe who is known as “The father of Bluegrass.”
Before radio and television, playing music was a way to be entertained after a hard day’s work. Before those media came along, 78-rpm records were the primary way of enjoying music. I have a few original records of the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers (sic), the Monroe Brothers and others. Although they still can be played, they are a bit scratchy.

Swift revisits the Johnson County Bean Festival

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian

In my memory I sometimes return to the time that many call the good old days. One of my most recent returns to that period called to mind the time when the green bean was king. It was then that Johnson County was dubbed “The Green Bean Capital of the world.” Many acres of land in Johnson County were dedicated to growing beans. Picking (harvesting) them enabled a person to pick up a bit of cash during the summer months when there were few opportunities for employment elsewhere.
Picking beans was a hot, labor-intensive job. Stooping all day in the hot sun was definitely not a fun thing to do. If my memory is correct, the growing of beans in Johnson County saw its doom, when machines were invented to harvest them but couldn’t be used on the steep fields that made up much of the county’s crop. Moreover, using machines to pick the beans prevented second or third pickings due to the vines being destroyed in the process. Even though the quality of the beans usually declined with each successive picking, the farmer could usually sell the beans at a reduced price.

During the time of so many beans being grown in Johnson County, a Bean Festival was held each fall to celebrate the importance of the bean crop in the economy of the county. The festival included a 4-H Fair and a horse show.  Just before beginning this column, I was looking through the Bean Festival program for 1955, which was held on Friday September 2 of that year. I noted that it had pictures of several farm scenes. Some of the scenes were of bean pickers in a field of beans.

According to the Program Book, the Mountain City Community Club organized the festival as an annual event in 1947. There were several distinguished guests including then Commissioners of Agriculture from three states: North Carolina (L. Y. Ballentine), Virginia (Park C. Brinkley), and Tennessee (Buford Ellington).

Music was aptly provided by the Langston High School Band, the Cloudland High School Band and the Jonesboro High School Band. Note the spelling of Jonesborough as it used to be.
Anyway, it was an exciting time in Johnson County and Mountain City when the Bean Festival rolled around each year. Town was filled with people and vehicles. As the old saying goes: “you couldn’t stir them with a stick.” Of course there were many more activities than was mentioned in this column. A queen judging contest, float awards, public speaking, a carnival to name a few more.

Swift reflects on an old Blum’s Farmers and Planter’s Almanac

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian


While looking through my books and magazines recently, I came across an old Blum’s Farmer’s and Planter’s Almanac and I was surprised at the number of interesting stories, jokes and general information it contained. Needless to say, the almanac reflected a much different time but some of its contents are applicable even today. I don’t remember where I got the publication. I probably found it at a garage sale or an antiques and collectibles store. The price was ten cents per copy when it was printed.
In the almanac there are as would be expected a great deal of information that farmers can use in planting, and nourishing their crops plus gardening tips. The signs of the zodiac were featured as many farmers went by them when it came to planting and other aspects of their vocation.
The almanac was published for the year 1937 and that was only a year before my birth. The front cover says that it was the 109th year of publication.
The almanac touted the rotation of pastureland even in that day. One item in the almanac had information about shipping bees. The item reads: “Honey bees are now supplied in packages of from one to five pounds by Southern beekeepers and shipped to those who need them in fruit growing districts in the North. The bees spread the pollen when the trees are in blossom and larger crops resulted.” I had never heard of shipping bees in the mail. Is that still being done? I think we have some beekeepers locally. Maybe they know if shipping bees by mail is being done.
Interspersed in the pages of the almanac were a number of jokes. Paraphrasing a little I will share a couple. It seems the diner customer called a waiter over and complained, “Look here, waiter. I ordered chicken pie and there isn’t a single piece of chicken in it.” The waiter said “That’s being consistent, sir. I also have cottage cheese, but so far as I know there’s not a cottage in it.”

Another one follows: “A farmer visited his son’s college. Watching students in a chemistry class, he was told they were looking for a universal solvent. ‘What’s that he asked?’ That’s a liquid that will dissolve anything.’ ‘That’s great, the farmer said. ‘But if you find it, what will you keep it in?’”
The almanac also had some serious articles. One I especially appreciated was the closing paragraph of a circular by George Washington addressed to the Governors of all the States on disbanding the Army in 1783. That paragraph reads: “Almighty God, We make our earnest prayer that thou wilt keep the United States in thy holy protection; that thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large. And finally that thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy and demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the divine author of our blessed religion and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Swift recalls Mountain City in days gone by

By:  Jack Swift

Of all the comments I get about my column, most of them are about wanting to know more concerning the days of yore in or around Johnson County and Mountain City. Since I wasn’t there in those days of yesteryear, I have to rely on writings of people who were there, or folks who are old enough to remember how it was several years ago.
I have pictures that show Mountain City as it was in the early 1900s. I have a picture of Johnson County’s second courthouse. The first courthouse was condemned and was razed due to it’s being unsafe. I’m old enough to remember the second courthouse with its oiled oak floors and offices for the various county governmental departments. That building was basically on the same site as the present one. Another building that I was very familiar with was the large three-story building behind the present high school that has since been torn down. The Masons built that building and used the third floor for their meetings etc. first and second floors were used for elementary school classes and later for some high school classes. I remember it well due to my having physics classes on the first floor and health classes on the second floor. But it was the second such building on or near the site. Following the Civil War, the Masons and the Town of Taylorsville (later Mountain City) operated a school called the Masonic Institute in a three-story brick building until it was torn down in 1905. A replacement for the old Masonic Institute opened for classes in February of 1908, and continued to operate until 1950.
The first county-owned high school building opened for operation January of 1922. It contained four classrooms, an auditorium, rest rooms and the principal’s office. Right and left wings were added later to include more classrooms, library, labs and other much needed facilities. Of course the present school opened in 1966.
I remember when several stately white frame homes lined West Main Street. Several trees were also along the sidewalks.
Getting back to even earlier in the history of Mountain City, I have pictures of Main Street before any kind of pavement became a reality. On the right facing from the now traffic light toward the west is a sign that says Mountain City Inn. Another sign more distant reads Tip Top Hotel. Those signs were probably welcome sights to a weary traveler. Since the streets weren’t paved, I can imagine that following a rain in that era there would be a muddy mess in the streets of Mountain City. As I was born in 1938, I have a good memory of some of the things I’ve mentioned in this article, some were before my time.

Another Easter has come and gone

By:  Jack Swift

Christians celebrated Easter in many parts of the world Sunday, April 16. Maybe for many of them it was a time of reflection and renewal. Reflection on the sacrifice God the Father and Christ His Son made and renewal in view of that great sacrifice. Perhaps some will bolster their hope because of the resurrection of Christ Jesus for the Holy Bible says that through His resurrection, we have hope and confidence for the future. Romans 5:2-7 has these words: “Through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope.”
I would have to say that Easter is one of my favorite holidays. It is marked by church services with emphasis put on appropriate Easter themed music, an Easter sermon and sometimes special music such as a cantata or similar program. Moreover, there are usually games and activities for the children. Easter egg hunts are featured in many areas of the world.
The Easter story is one of wonder and amazement. The Bible in Mark Chapter 16 tells of the resurrection of Jesus: “And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, “Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher”? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away; for it was very great. And entering into the sepulcher, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he said unto them, ‘Be not affrighted: ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall see him as he said unto you.’” The date for Easter is not a fixed date on the calendar but it floats around each year. The date of Easter is usually the first Sunday after the first Full Moon occurring on or after the March equinox.

Another look back at Mountain City

By:  Jack Swift


Perhaps many folks take a lot for granted when we think of the way it used to be in Mountain City and Johnson County in general. But like me, folks who are older can remember a whole lot of how it was over the span or our lives until the present. I daresay some of the things I’m writing about this week will call back some memories of yesteryear for those who have been around awhile.
Going to Mountain City (town) for many folks and their families who lived a fair distance from town wasn’t conducive to being in Mountain City often. But most of them came to town at least once a week (usually on Saturday night) to buy food and other items used in the household or on the farm.
Folks who lived outside Mountain City used the visit to town as a time to talk to neighbors and relatives. The streets were filled with cars going round and round. The sidewalks were crowded on Saturday nights with people catching up on the latest news. There were parking meters then along the sidewalks. Stores stayed open late on Saturday nights. The Taylor Theater was usually featuring a western movie.
Even before the Supermarkets we have now, there was Blackburn’s Supermarket located at the corner of North Church and East Main Streets where Food Country’s parking lot is now. The store was up against the sidewalk on both streets.  There was a huge basement under Blackburn’s Supermarket that once housed the Tomahawk Newspaper and print shop. One of the oldest buildings in Mountain City is diagonally across the street from where Blackburns was. A long staircase leads to the second story of the building that has housed a number of offices in the past. A Rexall Drug Store was once in the first floor. I can remember when a restaurant was down a flight of steps into the basement of the building on the South Church Street side of the building. I don’t recall the name. Perhaps someone else does.
While some folks lived a distance from town, they often could be found at the local store. Almost every community had a local store. It was only a few months ago that many country stores were mentioned by folks who emailed, sent letters or called to tell me of the stores that were in their neighborhoods when they were growing up. But with almost a carnival atmosphere, downtown Mountain City was the place to be on Saturday nights. Most if not all stores were open, taking advantage of the crowds trade while it was there.
From a personal standpoint, I was delighted when we went to town on Saturday nights. It was usually on a day that a good deal of work was done. So, after toiling in the fields in the hot sun all day, it was time to have some good times. Anyway, it’s as I remember those days. Perhaps you do too.

Mapmaking is an interesting subject

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian

Sometimes we hear someone say that a person or activity really put a site such as a town or place on the map. There are people who have gone on from Mountain City to lead successful lives in far away places and even in distant lands. When they become well known in a positive way, we often say those people are putting Mountain City, Johnson County or whatever the site may be “On The Map.” A special crop such as the green bean farming and marketing that occurred a few decades ago put Johnson County on the map with the slogan: The Green Bean Capital of the World.”

While thinking about putting places and activities on the map, I began to think about maps in general and how they are used in our daily lives. Maps fascinate me. Whether they are flat in an atlas, folded as in a road map or on a globe. Mapping has been developing over a great amount of time. In the early days maps were difficult to make and took up a great amount of time. Also they were considerate a work of art.  Therefore, owning them was often looked upon as status symbols.

Cartography (the art of map making) remained slow until Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. As maps became more plentiful, they became more accessible to the public. And unlike earlier days, the tools and techniques of map making have improved tremendously. Modern satellite systems are being used to make maps easier and more precise.

Since the earth is not a precise sphere, map making must account for that. Also, putting a curved surface on a flat plane presents problems. A projection must be utilized to make the type of map that is needed. If a surface can be transformed onto another surface without stretching, tearing, or shrinking then the surface is said to be an applicable surface The sphere or ellipsoid are not applicable with a plane surface so any projection that attempts to project them on a flat sheet will have to distort the image. A surface that can be unfolded on unrolled into a flat plane or sheet without stretching, tearing or shrinking is called a developable surface. The cylinder, cone and the plane are all developable surfaces they can be unfolded into a flat sheet without distorting the projected image.
The next time we look at a map in an atlas may we keep in mind the kind of projection that was needed to make the map readable and accurate.

Swift shares a brief look at his genealogy

By:  Jack Swift

This edition of the Tomahawk is the annual Progress Edition. The theme of this issue is “Where did I come from.” With that in mind, I thought I would share a bit of information about my genealogy. It is thought that my ancestors were from England. I think I have documentation for that but was unable to come up with it. The first recorded information

I have about my Swift forbears is that a Mark Swift was living in the Baltimore area of Maryland. He was born in 1675 and died in 1708. He married Elizabeth Stanley. Among their children was a son, Flower Swift, who died between 1742 and 1746. He married Elizabeth Whiteaker. Among their children was Thomas Swift who was born December17, 1723. Thomas married Martha Linden. Elias was born to them. Elias’ wife was Amy, but her last name isn’t known.
This marriage took place in 1766. A son James Swift was born to them in 1796. He died December 8, 1858 in Ashe County, North Carolina (now Watauga County, North Carolina.) James Swift had come to Ashe (Watauga) County from the Yadkin River Valley where he owned a farm.
In 1837 he purchased 50 acres of land in what is now the Beaver Dams section of what is now Watauga County. James Swift married Lydia Eggers, the daughter of Landrine Eggers and Joanna Greene. Joanna was Greene’s second wife. To the marriage of James and Lydia were born ten children.
James’ and Lydia’ second son Elias was born February 5, 1818 in Ashe County, North Carolina (now Watauga County.) Elias married Mary Cable on November 26, 1846. Four children were born to this marriage.
After the death of Mary Swift, Elias married Mary Loretta Stout on October 2, 1859. To that union was born my Grandfather David Elkanah Swift. David Elkanah married Sarah Fine Grindstaff (my paternal grandmother.) My father Isaac Allen Swift was the youngest of their seven children. He married Carrie Emiline Harper (my mother) on March 16, 1928. She was a daughter of Noah Webster and Victoria Harper. I had a brother, Charles Ray, who died September 10, 1990.
Of course the above is only a small part of my family history. From England to the hills of Beaver Dams is long distance and a long time as well.

Swift has written a lot of columns since This ‘N’ That made its debut

By:  Jack Swift

Not too long ago it dawned on me that I have written a lot of columns since This ‘N’ That made its début in August of 2003. Of course I keep a record of each column and sometimes go back and review some to refresh my memory of some of them.
The number of columns I have written, including last week’s is 668. Folks that is a lot of columns not to mention words and it has been a privilege to write this column over the years (14 years as a matter of fact.) Many folks have told me that they enjoy reading it, and I really appreciate that.

In thinking about my columns of the past, I thought I would go back and revisit some of them. Perhaps one of the most dramatic columns I have written was the one about the only legal hanging ever conducted in Johnson County. The event took place in Mountain City and people came from miles around to witness the event.
My columns have quite diverse.  I’ve written about many people and events over the years. I have had folks tell me that they enjoy looking back to what many would describe as a simpler time, but perhaps some would not.
Western movie stars, Johnson County and Mountain City history, American History, The State of Franklin, the railroad in Mountain City, the Bean Festival when green beans were grown all over Johnson County and the county was called the “Green Bean Capitol of the world,” have been subjects of this column since its inception in July of 2003. This column has also included my writings on many other subjects such as mathematics and science, poets and poetry, the great occupation of farming, former businesses in Johnson County, etc.
Some of my most recent columns dealt with some of the old stores that existed before the supermarkets came to the county. I described some that I remembered and folks started calling, e-mailing, and writing about their memories of the old stores that were near them.
A good number of columns I have written were about the history of Johnson County and its beautiful and unique heritage. The column, I think, has an appropriate title in that my subjects vary and you never know what next weeks column will be about.
Here’s hoping that I can write many more columns and you, my readers, will continue to read it each week. Thank you.

Swift says it’s good to be back home again

Hi folks. I’m back. My gratitude goes out to all the people who expressed their prayers and well wishes for me after my fall at home and subsequent health problems. A big “thank you” to those who were so helpful and encouraging during my stay in the hospital and nursing home. Also, I would not forget the kindness of the rescue squad and the emergency room personal of Johnson County Community Hospital and Johnson City Medical Center. I continue to need your prayers as time goes on.

It is good to be back home. I remember reading some years ago an article that gave tips on writing. One piece of advice was to write from experience. If I were to do that, it would take a lot of words and probably several columns as well. Suffice it to say, except for my health problems, there were some positives. I already knew on a certain level how dependent we are on others, but that fact was reinforced as time after time my needs were met in a loving and caring way.
But it only takes a while away from home to appreciate home.
As I grow older I try not to find myself too far from the home hearth. Also it is important to remember that as we are on the receiving end of kindness and caring, we should reciprocate. President Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “Kindness is the only service that will stand the storm of life and not wash out. It will wear well and will be remembered long after the prism of politeness or the complexion of courtesy has faded away.”
No Man Is An Island, is a poem written by the famous English poet John Donne. An excerpt from that poem follows:

No Man is an island.
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
I have always believed that no man is an island. But I am even more convinced of that now.

Thank you!

Johnson County, Tennessee in the Civil War

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian

Johnson County in northeast Tennessee has been home to me since my birth March 22, 1938. The only time I have been away from this beautiful and friendly area is when I was in the Army.
While the history of Johnson County was always very interesting to me, I found it even more so after accepting the post of Johnson County Historian several years ago. After studying Tennessee and Johnson County history at Johnson County High School under the very able guidance of Mrs. Blanche Osborne, I added to my knowledge by reading books, magazines and articles and by talking to older members of the county. There is a well of knowledge about Johnson County, Mountain City and east Tennessee that seemingly never runs dry. I will continue to seek out the distinctive treasure of Johnson County history because there is much, much more that I would like to know about. Of most interest to me is Johnson County’s reaction to and sympathies in the Civil War.
I can imagine that one of the most awful periods of time concerning our county was the four years of Civil War that reared its ugly head in 1861 and ended in 1865. Johnson County and several other East Tennessee counties were against secession and at one time their leaders tried to organize the section as a separate state. Of course Governor Isham G. Harris, a staunch supporter of the Confederate cause, and his administration quashed that effort. In the referendum of June 8, 1861, West Tennessee and Middle Tennessee voted to secede while East Tennessee voted 2 to 1 to remain in the Union. By the time the War ended, Tennessee had furnished 30,000 soldiers to the Union Army while 100,000 had fought for the Confederacy.
Living in East Tennessee and Johnson County during the Civil War was no doubt a nightmare. Distrust was rampant. Bad things happened. Soldiers fought with valor on both sides but the Union prevailed. The war began April 12, 1861 when Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter, South Carolina; it ended with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox, Virginia Courthouse April 9, 1865.
An interesting note: Kentucky attempted to remain neutral in the War but some major battles took place there anyway. Virginia seceded from the Union, thereby leaving 40 counties, which formed their own government and was granted statehood as West Virginia in 1863.