Nashville History

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Papa Oeser

My grandfather Oeser was born on November 26, 1892, on his parent's farm, in Antioch, Davidson County, Tennessee. He was the sixth son and next to the youngest child of Ernest Louis and Harriett Olivia [Rieves] Oeser's eleven children. He was named Ernest Granville Oeser. He was married in 1916 to Ruth Ann Davis and eventually they would be parents to ten children. My daddy, also named Ernest, being the oldest.

Ernest Granville Oeser, 1916

By the time I was ten my Papa Oeser, had 20 grandchildren and would eventually have 31. He never seemed to pay much attention to me. To be honest, I was a little afraid of him, when I was a child. Even though I lived nearby and was at his home almost every day, we were not close. I stayed out of his way. My grandmother died when I was 12 and those everyday visits ended after her passing. I still saw him a lot. He lived across the alley from us and my Daddy went to Papa's house everyday and sometimes I went along. I had friends who lived just two houses from him and spent many hours playing with them up and down the Pennock Ave. He was usually out on his front porch when the weather was good. By the time I was 16, I was working after school and on weekends and I saw Papa less often. I was married the summer I turned 17 and moved to my own home, though I still lived in the neighborhood. We saw Papa at Christmas and Fourth of July and went by his house occasionally. Our daughter Tammy, was born in 1971, when I was 19. I didn't drive for the first few years after I was married and we moved several miles away from the old neighborhood the year Tammy was born. When Tammy was three, I realized one day that I was depriving her by not letting her spend time with her only living great-grandparent. I was driving by that time, and a couple of days a week, I would take Jimmy to work so I could keep the car. Tammy and I started going over about once a week to see Papa at his home in Northeast Nashville. Papa seemed to enjoy our visits and he loved for Tammy to climb up into his lap. It was fun to see how he enjoyed her company and mine. He was quiet and didn't talk much, though.

I have always had an interest in history, especially local history. One day, just to get Papa talking, I started asking him questions about stories from a book I was reading. The book, Nashville 1900-1910 was written by Nashville historian William Waller. I had just read about the shooting of Nashville newspaper editor Edward Carmack. Carmack had been feuding with a local prominent citizen named Duncan B. Cooper. In the fall of 1908 Cooper and his son Robin, met up with Carmack on 7th Avenue North, near Union street. Both Carmack and the Coopers were armed and shots were fired. Robin Cooper was shot, but not badly wounded. Carmack fell dead in the street. When I asked if he had heard of that, Papa told me he remembered the incident well. He was 15 years old, and was selling newspapers on Church Street, a block away from the shooting. He. along with others, ran towards the sound of the gunfire. Papa said Carmack was laying in the street. It was so exciting to learn that my grandfather was there that day.

From that day on, I carried a notepad and pen with me on every visit. I would ask questions and Papa would tell us stories. He knew so much about Nashville's history and he filled me in on some of the Oeser family history as well. One day I asked Papa about his father, who had died when Papa was four. I knew his father had taken his own life and I didn't want to stir up bad memories. I asked if he remembered his daddy. Papa replied that he remembered the day that he died. He told me that his father Ernest, had been away from the house for awhile and his mother had sent one of the older boys to look for him. He was in the barn and had taken poison. Dr. Charlton, married to Mrs. Oeser's sister, was called for but there was nothing he could do and Ernest died later that evening.

Nashville Banner, June 7, 1897
Papa and I became friends and I enjoyed getting to know him. I could not remember that Papa had ever hugged me or told me he loved me. I was no longer afraid of him but I still sort of kept my distance.Tammy gave him a big hug every time we arrived and again when we left.She loved her Papa Oeser and I was happy that she had the sort of relationship I had missed out on with him.
The Oeser family home at 1022 Pennock Ave.

In 1976, Papa's health began to fail and he was afraid to live by himself any longer. Papa asked my Daddy and Mama to move in with him. He sold them his house and the contents in December of '76. Through the year of 1977, I once again saw Papa almost every day. Daddy and Mama moved in the first of the year and Tammy, Jim and I were very close to them and spent a lot of time with them. In the summer of 1977, a few months before Papa died, he was in the Memorial Hospital. Because we had grown to be friends, I drove out to see him. I probably would not have gone if not for the hours we had spent talking and listening to one another over those past few years. I only stayed a short time, he was tired and not interested in talking. I told him goodbye and started toward the door, but stopped. I walked over to his bed and leaned over and kissed him on the cheek and said, "I love you, Papa." He looked me in the eye and said, "I love you, too."

In October 1977 a grandson, Terry Oeser, was killed in an auto accident. Terry was just 22 and his death was a tragedy for all the family and seemed to weigh heavily on Papa . Papa died a few weeks later on November 8, 1977.

Papa Oeser and his ten children


  1. I wish I remembered more about Papa. Like you he never seemed to get very close to me, and I was young so I never put much effort into getting closer to him. I remember being fascinated by the fact that he kept a pistol under his pillow and I loved going to his house. When I was there I got to spend time with my Granny and his dog. All of that seems so far away now but I am glad that I have the memories I have.

  2. Awwww,...made me cry. :( I aIso Iearned some things I didn't know. George,..I didn't know about the gun, but I remember waIking the aIIey, usuaIIy with grandaddy, to his house, and Iooking in the pond at the fish and aII the pretty fIowers that aIways grew there. I aIso remember the big coke bottIes in the window, and the shower in the basement. I remember how pretty Mama Oeser's bedroom was, and the Iiving room and dining room aIways seemed so regaI to me. Somehow I remember being in that bedroom with Mama Oeser, as I was (I think) onIy 3 when she died,..if my memory serves me correctIy, the furniture was white with pink fIowers. And in Iater years,...remember riding my bike around the bIock and seeing Papa sitting on the porch. And going there after Granny and Grandaddy moved in,....yup good memories. Thanks Debie! :)

    Laura :)