Nashville History

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Memories Past and Present

Jimmy and I had a wonderful Christmas with our two daughters Tammy and Amanda, our son in law Robert and our grandson Layton and granddaughter Lauren.  We broke tradition this year and spent Christmas away from home for the first time.  We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in a log cabin perched on a hillside in Sevier County, Tennessee with a view of the Great Smoky Mountains.  Christmas is a time for making memories and a time for remembering. 

My immediate family unit when I was born was Mama and Daddy, a brother and a sister.  My daddy was Ernest Oeser and my mama was Lola Mae Steele Oeser.  They had been married 15 years when I was born and I had an older brother (Ernest) by 13 years and a sister (Ann) 8 years older.  But there was so much more to our very large extended family.  The family has grown over the years as my generation grew up and married and had children, who grew up and married and had children, who grew up and married and had children and we are very close to arriving at the next generation. 

Ernest "Papa" Oeser, my paternal grandfather, was one of 10 children and I knew and visited with most of them at Papa's home as I was growing up.  I remember Papa's sisters, my great aunts, Maude, Ada and Hattie and his brothers, my great uncles, Ed and Percy.  The others died before I was born or when I was very young but I have the stories passed to me of Aunt Minnie, Uncle Louie, Uncle Charlie and Uncle Owen.  Daddy had several cousins on the Oeser side but I don't remember most of them very well.  I knew Uncle Charlie's daughter Evelyn Oeser Sharer and her brother Douglas "Red" Oeser.  I also remember Aunt Ada's daughter, Pauline Mason and Uncle Percy's son Jimmy.  My paternal grandmother, Ruth Davis Oeser, was the only child of her father but her mother had several children from a former marriage.  I have sort of fuzzy memories of my great grandmother Jennie Davis but my parents and brother and sister told me many stories about her.  My daddy had several first cousins on his mothers side and grew up with some of them.  I don't think that I remember any of Mama Oeser's siblings but I heard enough about them that it seems I do.  I did know her niece Gladys Hicks Vickers and her family and her nephew Paul Hicks well and some of Daddy's Vick cousins. My Daddy, like his, was also one of 10.  Daddy was the oldest of 7 boys and 3 girls. In order of age they are Ernest born 1917, Robert born 1919, Ruth born 1921, Margaret born 1923, Dorothy born 1926, Herbert "Corky" born 1928, Paul "Peanut" born 1930, Jimmy born 1932, Orville born 1936 and Ronnie born 1940.  Ruth, Herbie, Paul, Orville and Ronnie are living. I have a bunch of first cousins on the Oeser side, most of them married with children and grandchildren.  The oldest of my 28 first cousins on the Oeser side was Rusty Allen, born in 1945 and passed away in 2010 and my youngest cousin is Joey Oeser born in 1988.  My brother Ernest, born in 1939 and sister Ann, born in 1943, were the oldest of the Oeser grandchildren.

Mama's daddy was Wilmoth "Pat" Steele but the grandchildren called him Pawpaw.  He was an only son and had three older sisters.  Only one of the sisters, Aunt Eleanor, had children and mama grew up with all three, Virginia, Bob and Bill Greenwood.  I met her sons, Bob and Bill many times but did not know either of them well. Mama grew up with them, as they lived in their grandfather Steele's home and she visited there often.  I have been fortunate to meet Bob Greenwood's daughter Dara Greenwood Howe and we are getting to know one another.  We are near the same age and we each have two children, near the same ages.  Pawpaw married Minnie Mai Hunt in 1915.  Minnie had one sister who died as an infant and 4 brothers one of whom died in infancy.  Her surviving brothers were Gerald, Norman and Larry.  Mama's Hunt cousins were Lloyd and Katie, children of her Uncle Gerald and Bill and Nettie Rose, children of her Uncle Norman and she was close to all them growing up.  Her Uncle Larry never married but he lived with Mama and Daddy in his last years and was a favorite of all the children in the family. Minnie and Pat had 12 children and lost a set of stillborn twins. Minnie died in 1936, 6 weeks after the birth of her last baby.  The 12 children in order of birth are Edwin born 1916, Lorena born 1918, Lola Mae born 1919, Paul born 1921, Neva born 1923, Ila Ruth born 9251, Felix born 1926, Bob born 1929, Gerald born 1931, Mary born 1933, Raymond born 1935, and Walter born 1936.  Neva, Mary and Raymond are living.  My Aunt Mary Steele Gifford has 4 children and we grew up together.  We spent a lot of time at each other's homes and I was very close to the youngest girls, Eleanor and Linda.  Of my 34 first cousins in the Steele family the oldest was Dean Steele born in 1938, died in 1992 and the youngest is Angela Steele Kaukas born 1969.

Merry Christmas to all my family, to my husband Jimmy, my daughters, son in law and grandchildren, to my brother Ernest and all of his family and to my sister Ann and all of her family, to my aunts and uncles and their spouses and to all my cousins and their families.  Wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year in 2013.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Unless you have done a little (or a lot) of family history research, you may not be aware of how many potential relatives you have in the world.  Often our immediate families, before we married and had children, consisted of our parents, grandparents and a sibling or two or three.  Many people never knew great grandparents and maybe never thought much about them.  I was fascinated to learn, some years ago, just how many people came before, and that if anyone of them had not existed, neither would I.  With each generation going back the number doubles.  You have two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents and so on. The numbers double into infinity, or Noah, or a monkey, whichever comes first. LOL

The chart gives an idea of how it works in just eight generations.  

[in progress]

Sunday, November 18, 2012

One of Twelve

I have always loved the poem "We Are Seven" by William Wordsworth, because it makes me think of my Mama and the love she had for all of her sisters and brothers.  Mama always proudly proclaimed that she was one of twelve children.  They were by name; Edwin, Lorena, Lola Mae, Paul, Neva, Ila Ruth, Felix, Bob, Mary, Gerald, Raymond and Walter.  All lived to adulthood with the exception of one.  Ila Ruth, the sixth child, was born on July 4th 1925 and died fourteen months later, on September 15, 1926.  

My Mama was barely seven when Ila Ruth died and she never forgot her nor stopped loving her.  Six more children were born after Ila Ruth died.  Recently the youngest of the siblings, Walter, passed away.  At the funeral, the minister announced that Walter was one of eleven children. It was not the minister's mistake.  Someone in the family passed that information to him.   During  the graveside service, I looked across the cemetery, in the direction of Ila's Ruth grave.  Mama and all of her siblings, through word and action, wanted to ensure that Ila Ruth would be remembered.  The family was very poor when she died and they could not buy a grave stone but they remembered her and passed those memories to their children.  The children born after Ila Ruth, decided a few years ago to purchase a stone to mark her grave.  

Tonight I am sharing with all my cousins, in memory of our aunt Ila Ruth, one of twelve children, a beautiful baby girl with blue eyes, much loved by her parents, Pat and Minnie and by her brothers and sisters.  

We Are Seven
By William Wordsworth
—A simple child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
—Her beauty made me glad.

"Sisters and brothers, little maid,
How many may you be?"
"How many? Seven in all," she said,
And wondering looked at me.

"And where are they? I pray you tell."
She answered, "Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.

"Two of us in the churchyard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the churchyard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother."

"You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven! I pray you tell,
Sweet maid, how this may be."

Then did the little maid reply,
"Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the churchyard lie,
Beneath the churchyard tree."

"You run about, my little maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the churchyard laid,
Then ye are only five."

"Their graves are green, they may be seen,"
The little maid replied,
"Twelve steps or more from my mother's door,
And they are side by side.

"My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.

"And often after sunset, sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.

"The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

"So in the churchyard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

"And when the ground was white with snow
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side."

"How many are you, then," said I,
"If they two are in heaven?"
Quick was the little maid's reply,
"O master! we are seven."

"But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!"
'Twas throwing words away; for still
The little maid would have her will,
And said, "Nay, we are seven!"

Monday, September 17, 2012

Christmas Memories by Jim Allen

Christmas Memories

I remember pretty well a Christmas in 1947 when all the young family men were home from WWII.   Everyone   made a point of congregating at the home of   maternal grandparents, the Jordans on Elizabeth Street (where the present School Board Office sits now).   Dillard Allen, John R. Bright, Jr., Jere Jordan (all now deceased) and James Harper had just recently made it home from their service tours in the war, all safe and sound for which everyone was thankful.   I recall it was a very cold day, especially for outhouse visits.   Many of us came down from Nashville the night before and spent Christmas Eve at the house.

I recall that Uncle Jesse Harper had to work Christmas Eve and he came down after getting off from work.  On the way he fell asleep and crashed his automobile into a rock wall up around Scottsboro.   Dad and some of the others went up to get him after he called. He was not hurt in the accident but the car was a total loss.

Other memories of this particular Christmas were of my twin brother being attacked by one of the Tom Turkeys that roamed the yard.   Breakfast consisted of Possum and sweet potatoes, country ham and biscuits with gravy.   The Dinner was late in the afternoon and consisted of all the traditional fare such as turkey and dressing plus about everything else that you'd normally expect.

I remember Aunt Bess Jordan turned thanks and indicated that we were blessed in that all the 'boys' had returned safely from the war.   Grandaddy Jordan smiled -- about the only time I ever saw him do that (It just wasn't in his nature to smile about anything and he never said much either.   As a matter of fact "Don't be spittin in the well" was about all I can remember him ever saying to us kids.)

Everyone (the grownups) wanted some 'spike' for the boiled custard and egg nogg. Cousin Jere Jordan said he knew where some could be had within a short while even if it was Christmas Day.   He was asked to go get it and asked if anyone wanted to take a ride.   No one volunteered so he asked me to get in the car and go with him.   I got into his brand new Chrysler and away we went.   I remember that pretty soon all the telephone poles along highway 12 south gave the appearance of being only a few inches apart.   I asked him how fast we were going and he said a little over 110.   We got the 'spike' at a place in Scottsboro and returned just as fast.   Nobody believed we had gone all the way to Scottsboro and back.

I remember that was the Christmas that my cousin Joan Jordan received a new bicycle and let me try it out.   I got on and started across the front yard and soon smack into the fence around the cornfield which would be down toward where the Tucker/Empson Building is now located.   I slid off the seat and hit the crossbar which comes up between your legs on the bike.   It was quite a while before my voice returned to   normal from a very squeaky sound.   (Some Christmas Memories are sweet and some just leave a lasting impact.)      

 Jim Allen

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Castleman Family Davidson County, Tennessee

Various wills from Davidson County will books.
John Castleman, written April 25, 1820, probated August 13, 1821, WB 8, page 15
My beloved wife Martha
My son Benjamin Castleman
My daughter Margaret Green’s heirs
My son Andrew Castleman, an idiot
Son Benjamin Castleman and Isaiah Green Executors
Witnesses Samuel Steele and Thomas Spurg and Campbell Hays

County Court minutes indicate that Absalom Gleaves was appt. administrator for the estate of John Castleman

Jacob Castleman, written Feb. 5, 1803
Recorded December 21 1803.  WB 4,
My wife Eleanor
My son Abraham
Morris Shane
My daughter Patience Castleman and Andrew Castleman

Benjamin Castleman written September 27, 1824, recorded WB 8, page 512
My wife Amelia Casltleman
My three sons Abraham, Benjamin and James
My other two sons Lewis and David
Mentions bond on Benjamin and Jacob Castleman of Wilson County
Daughters Sally Bon, Rhoda Bon, Betsy Castleman and Susan Castleman
Andrew Castleman Executor
Witnessed August 27 1825 by James Cooper and David Cartwright

Andrew Castleman
Wife Margarett
Robert B.
Other children not named
Sinai Phipps, relation not given
Susan Satterfield, relation not given

Henry Castleman, written March 18, 1849
My wife Elizabeth Castleman
Five children that is hers with me
All of the children
My two sons Burrel P Castleman & Huston L. Castleman, Executors

Sunday, April 29, 2012

That old house - rambling thoughts

1017 Meridian Street ca 1970

Mama and Daddy moved to the house at 1017 Meridian sometime in the year before I was born on June 12, 1952. They had lived at 1104 Pennock Avenue for a long time.  Their landlord on Meridian was Mr. S. Felts Orndorff.  The house was titled to his wife, Bessie, as was a little brick duplex at 1105 Meridian.  Ours was a Queen Anne style house built about 1910, painted white, with a concrete porch all across the front that wrapped around the side of the house.  The house had a living room, 2 bedrooms, a third bedroom that doubled as a den, an eat in  kitchen, bathroom, storage room and all across the back of the house, an enclosed back porch.  I have a brother, Ernest who was 13 when I was born, and a sister, Ann who eight when I was born. In some ways I was like an only child.  My brother was grown before I started first grade and my sister was married when I was seven.

Me and Mama

When I was a little girl, I loved climbing up in Mama's big high bed.  She had a white chenille bedspread that had pink flowers with green leaves.  I would pull the threads out, the colored ones.  I guess eventually there were no more pink flowers.  I know it was Daddy's bedroom too but I always think of it as belonging to Mama. The bedroom was at the front of the house, just off the living room and was probably originally a parlor.  The entry was very wide, may have had pocket doors at one time.  Mama had heavy blue drapes hanging from a rod at the top of the door that went to the floor.  On the chest of drawers in Mama's room at some point there appeared a Charlie McCarthy doll.  It was one of those carnival chalk dolls that were given as prizes at the fair.  It was the most frightening thing I ever saw. One night, in a dream Charlie was alive and talking to me. I wouldn't go in Mama's bedroom after that unless the drapes were open. 

Me and my sister Ann.

 To be honest, I was always afraid in that old house.  Nothing specific, other than Charlie McCarthy, that I remember, just scary.  Even when I was  a teen and working I was afraid to be there alone.  I would sometimes get dropped off by my boss and Mama and Daddy would be gone and I was afraid to go inside.  I would unlock the door and just kind of hang out near the door till they came home. I have never been afraid in any house that I have lived in since.  The scary stories that my cousins and I would entertain ourselves with didn't help much.  We made up more tales and would try to top each other.

Snowman and Debie Meridian Street 1958

My Mama was one of 12 children.  Her mother died young and Mama helped to raise the younger ones.  She was very close to her siblings and they often came to visit and sometimes one or another would live with us.  My Uncle Walter lived with us from the earliest I can remember.  He was Mama's youngest sibling, and was only six weeks old when their mother died.  He was born in 1936 and was pretty much grown by the time I can remember him.  He worked at the newspaper.  He and my brother, who was born in 1939, were close and had many of the same friends.  Walter married in 1960, when I was eight and moved away.  My aunt Mary and her family came to visit every summer and usually at Christmas.  They were living in Nashville when I very small but I remember them after they had moved to Chattanooga.  Mary's husband, Mutt, would bring the family and leave them with us for several weeks in the summer.  I loved all of them but I was terrified of Aunt Mary and her flip flop.  My Mama didn't spank me but I knew Aunt Mary might.  She had four children.  Judy was the oldest and usually stayed with another aunt, Neva, while they were here.  Jerry was two years older than me.  Eleanor was one year older, I was born on her first birthday.  The baby was Linda, she was 11 months younger than me.  Eleanor, Linda and I were thicker than thieves.  It's great being best friends with your cousins.  No matter what, makes no difference how mad you get at one another, in the end, you are family and you love each other.  Aunt Mary and family moved to Nashville in the early 60's and lived near us as I was growing up. Mama's uncle, Larry Hunt lived with us and her brother Bob Steele.  We always had uncles and aunts and cousins visiting.  I felt like I had the largest family around.  It was great growing up with such a close family.

Our next door neighbors, at 1015, were Wilson and Ladye Hurt, their daughters, Donna and Lucy and Ladye's mother Ophelia Primm.  I loved the Hurt's and called Wilson and Ladye, other daddy and other mama when I was a little girl.  Lucy and Donna were about ten years older than I was.  Wilson and Ladye were deaf.  Wilson lost his hearing at age two and Ladye as a young teen, both from a childhood illness.  They signed, but also used spoken language.  Wilson was sometimes hard to understand but I was with them often and had little problem.  Later their grandchildren, Donna's children, lived with them, Mack, Jimmy, Tracie, Wendy.  The house on the other side of the Hurt's, 1013, was the Robert and Hattie White home.  Their children, Bobbye, Joanne, John, Mary Sue and Marty, were all a good bit older than me, with the exception of Marty.  He was often my only playmate. Next to White's at 1011, I remember several families, particularly the Cunningham's.  Next at 1009, was Mrs. Hargis', house.  It was a little frame duplex.  Next past her, 1007, was the Banniza house.  At 1005 was the brick duplex owned by Mr. Orndorff.  The house at 1003 had a lot of tenants while I was growing up.  And at 1001, the corner of Meridian and Vaughn was Mrs. Sharpe.  She had cats and seemed very old and I would stop and visit with her.  I though her name was Mrs. Shark for a long time. she had a wrought iron fence around her yard.   Her back yard was full of box turtles and sometimes we would find one crawling down the alley. Mrs. Sharpe lived alone when I knew her, her husband had died and her children were grown.  One of her sons, Dallas Sharpe, was killed in WWII. Later a family with a lot boys lived in that house, their last name escapes me.
Mama in front of our house at 1017 Meridian.

On the other side of our house, at 1019, the neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Roscoe Williams.  That house was a duplex and tenants came and went  but the Williams were there for a long time.  There was no 1021, the next house was 1023 and the home of Robert and Roberta McKinney and their children Bobby and Patsy.  The house at 1025, at the corner of Meridian and Evanston, was a rental property and had a variety of residents.  I don't remember most.  The notorious East Nashville Pickle family lived in that house for awhile.  The Pickle kids were always in some kind of trouble, stealing something or breaking in somewhere. I remember that they were always good to my grandmother who lived across the alley from them.  They never gave us any trouble but we heard a lot of tales about them.  The house was also an evangelistic church for awhile, and the nightly meetings during revival time were noisier than a rock concert.  They were held outside in a tent. 
Daddy Ernest Oeser Jr., Granmother Ruth Oeser, Me (Debie), Mama Lola Steel Oeser and my brother  Ernest Oeser III.         Our living room on Meridian Street.     

Across the street at the corner of Meridian and Evanston was a duplex owned by Jere Tunstall.  Jessie McCormick lived there for a long time.  The Tunstall's, Jere and Daisey lived next door at 1018.  They had no children.  Like everyone else in the neighborhood they had no air conditioning and sat out on the front lawn most afternoons in the hot summer weather.  I loved to go sit with them, they were both very kind to me.  The next house on that side, 1014 was home to Curl Fitts and his family.  There were two daughters, older than me, and I don't remember them very much.  The next house 1012, was the Newby family, Lem and Wilma and their children Mike, Sue, Dianne and Cindy.  Wilma had a son, Jimmy Davenport from a previous marriage.  Next, at 1010, was a duplex.  Mrs. Newby's sister and mother lived there for a long time.  Jimmy and I moved into that duplex in the summer of 1969, soon after we got married.  Next was the Morrisey house at 1008.  Their daughter, Martha Jane, was my 1st and 2nd grade teacher.  After they moved away Bobbye White lived there with her husband ____ Collier.  Bobbye shot and killed Collier in that house in 1969.  The next house, 1006 was the Morrows, 1004 was the Barnes family and later the Raymers.  The Miles lived at 1002 and the Beasleys at 1000.  Some of the families on our street had children the age of my brother and sister but few my age so I don't remember many of them very well.
Debie Oeser

My mind is not one that stores memories very well.  I have to work at it, to commit something long term.  I knew that even when I was ten.  One summer morning I was up early, out on the front porch steps.  The sleepiness was still with me and I was quiet, just listening to the morning sounds.  The sun was shining and the street wet from the street washer truck that had recently passed by.  Birds were singing, enjoying the rising sun. The milkman pulled up in his truck in front of Mrs. White's house.  The trees were full and green.  The grass in our yard had been recently cut. I could smell the grass and sweet clover.  Sitting there, I was thinking what a perfect morning it was.  I decided I would always remember that moment.

To be continued....

Saturday, March 10, 2012

East Nashville and Family History

I am most honored and humbled to have been profiled in the March-April issue of the East Nashvillian Magazine. The article tells part of the story of our family history in East Nashville. You can download current and past issues of the East Nashvillian magazine.

Our family has had a continuing presence in East Nashville since 1855. William Sanders Hunt first appeared, in a Nashville City Directory, as an Edgefield resident in that year. Edgefield was a new community then, having recently been subdivided from the farm of John Shelby. W. S. Hunt was my great-great grandfather.

His son Felix Zollicoffer Hunt was born March 31, 1866 in East Nashville. The family was living at the corner of Barrow [So. 2nd] and Watson [Boscobel].

Minnie Mae Hunt, daughter of Felix, was born February 24, 1899, when her parents were living in the thirteen hundred block of Shelby Ave. In 1916 Minnie was married to Wilmoth (Pat) Steele, son of Alex and Lola Dickson Steele. The Steele's lived at 620 Shelby Ave., where Wilmoth was born on July 26, 1892. My mother Lola Mae Steele was the second daughter of Minnie and Wilmoth. Mama was born in a house located at 227 Shelby Ave. on August 23, 1919.

Mama and Daddy's siblings all grew up in East Nashville. Many of my cousins lived in East Nashville or nearby when they were children. I have lived at six addresses in my nearly 60 years, five in East Nashville and at our present home in Inglewood. I still have a problem calling Inglewood "East Nashville." Since the merger of the city and county in 1963, the lines between the two communities have blurred. In 2012 there are only a handful of the family in East Nashville. A nephew and his family live in the neighborhood though they are not native to the community. My husband Jimmy, my two daughters Tammy and Amanda, and I moved to Inglewood in 1978. My children grew up in Inglewood and one of them still lives here. Starting with Grandpa Hunt our family has been continuously in East Nashville for nearly one hundred and sixty years.

Our Davidson County family history began long before there was an East Nashville. Early Nashville area family names on my Daddy's side are Gower, Russell, Wright, Cook, Davis, Allen and Koen. Some of these were here as early as 1780. On Mama's side, Steele, Binkley, Shane, Buchanan, Castleman are some of the families that were in Nashville in the pioneer days of the late 1700's.

My husband Jimmy is no slouch when it comes to pioneer settlers in Nashville. Demonbreun Street was named in honor of Jim's gr-gr-gr-gr Grandfather, Timothy Demonbreun, a French-Canadian fur trader who had a presence here some years before the first permanent settlement.

Jim's ancestor John Rains was one of the first, and is immortalized in many accounts of early Nashville history. Some of Jim's families; Bradley, Binkley, Baker, Dowlen, Fontaine, Freeman were among the earliest settlers in neighboring Robertson County. Our daughters Tammy and Amanda have a fine Middle Tennessee Heritage. They are the eleventh generation of our family to live in Davidson County, Tennessee, through the Gower family line and tenth generation through several other family lines.