Civil War gunsmith lived in Hollow Springs
Tuesday, October 9, 2012 2:47 pm
By DONNA NICHOLS
A Civil War-era gunsmith was only one of the businesses that once shared a home in Hollow Springs community, said historian Audrey Rogers Cawthorn.
In "A Return to Hollow Springs," Cawthorn shared historic research and childhood memories of growing up in that rural community with members of the Cannon County Historical Society.
The 13th Civil District community of Hollow Springs has no historic indicators for the country stores, saw mill, churches and schools that were once landmarks. The Hollow Springs name was established around 1873 with the first school building. In 1875, the first post master J.W. St. John was appointed by the U.S. Government. A few of the early families settling in the area were Parker, Cawthorn, Lewis, Gilley and Sissom.
Previously Hollow Springs was a settlement portion of the head waters of Brawley's Creek. Native Jerry Sissom suggested the name may have evolved from a "holler" in the area with 11 springs; seven of which still remain active.
James L. Cawthorn was a noted businessman of the early Hollow Springs community. In 1838, he obtained a land grant for 1,000 acres of land now known as acreage behind the Gilley Hill Church. Cawthorn was born Jan. 12, 1812, and later married Sara Smith. Together they raised six children. By the 1850 U.S. Census, James L. Cawthorn reported owning a gun factory with five employees and an inventory of 80 guns valued at $l,700. Ten years later, U.S. Census records indicated James L. Cawthorn was established in the manufacture of guns for the Civil War.
According to research by Ronnie Cawthorn of Tullahoma, the Cawthorn rifle manufacturing business was located in the headwaters of Brawley's Fork at Hollow Springs. The shop was on the Mill Bluff wagon road leading to Lumley Stand and Lebanon. Traces of the old road can still be found just south of the Dickens Hill or Gilley Hill Road.
Cawthorn along with sons, William "Bill" and Pleasant, ran the gun shop locally known as Boring Works. When the Civil War broke out, Cawthorn and his boys were confronted with joining the Confederacy or aiding the War effort in gun production. Reluctantly, Cawthorn agreed to sell weapons to the Confederacy but his sons joined the Union Army. However, James the youngest was killed before he reached Murfreesboro to enlist.
Three styles of rifles were manufactured at Hollow Springs: the "Mississippi, Tennessee and the Harper Ferry". Several surviving Confederate records show a number of gunsmiths and makers in the Nashville area. James L. Cawthorn of Cannon County is one of those identified making small deliveries of fire arms to the Confederacy. February 1862 receipt shows Cawthorn sold Confederate forces 31 Mississippi Rifles costing $20 each. One half of the $620 purchase price was paid by Jas. J. Turner and the balance covered by check on the Bank of Tennessee. However, after the Civil War, Confederate dollars were worthless.
In the early 1870's, Cawthorn filed an unsuccessful lawsuit with the U.S. War Department in an attempt to regain funds for the sale of rifles to the Confederate States. He also petitioned payment for 43 fat hogs slaughtered by Union soldiers as verified by court testimony on Nov. 25, 1873. Jane Brown, mother of Frances "Fannie" Parker, testified that in June of 1863, Union Forces were camped out near the Cawthorn home. Soldiers slaughtered Cawthorn's hogs and took the meat to their camp. Only five hogs were left but the officer in charge, General Palmer, said Cawthorn would have to wait until after the war for compensation.
"Confederate Rifles and Muskets" by John M. Murphy and Howard Michael, published in 1999, quoted James Cawthorn having produced rifles for the Confederacy. One of the guns photographed is felt to be a "Mississippi Rifle" manufactured in small quantities by James L. Cawthorn & Company. The gun is on display at the Greensboro Historical Museum in North Carolina.
Another early business-man of Hollow Springs was Lawton Lewis. He was orphaned in 1910 by his parents James and Matilda Lemons Lewis who most likely died from typhoid fever. Lewis was raised by another Hollow Springs family, Silas and Fannie Brown Parker. Later the Parker's own son Billy and his wife Bertha, died from the deadly American influenza epidemic of 1918. Their two girls, Virgie Lee, age 8, and Willie Pearl, age 4, were taken in by Fannie Parker. Her son Clay Parker and his wife Mattie shared the home and most likely took a major role in parenting the girls in addition to their own large family.
Sissom is another original Hollow Springs sir name. Joseph Dillard (J.D) Sissom, was born in Cannon County in 1867. He married Sarah M. West and they raised 12 children. J.D. Sissom operated a dry goods store for 23 years at Hollow Springs and owned a number of farms. According to his December 1935 obituary, he was kind and well liked by all who knew him.
A couple churches in the area have early identified histories. The Hopewell Church in Bradyville was constituted in April 1833 with signatures of Jesse H. Gilley Jr., his wife, and their children. The Hopewell church split in 1869 when the Gilley family and others started a new church on a neighboring hillside. This church was named the Gilley Hill Methodist Church. Jesse H. Gilley Jr. (1814-1883) and his nephew Simeon H. Gilley (1844-1922) were the first preachers at Gilley Hill. It is felt descendents of Zachariah and Ivy Bush owned the land of the original church site.
In more recent history, the Hollow Springs Community Church was established January 2, 2005. Several families of different faiths banded together with former Cannon County native and Methodist preacher, Joe H. Sissom. They initially met in the old Nazarene church on land owned by a cousin of preacher Sissom. The new congregation purchased an acre of land, tore down the old Nazarene church and built the new Hollow Springs Community Church.
"Brother Joe" as he is referred to by approx-imately 100 members, cele-brated his 77th birthday on Sept. 28. He said that he will never retire from the Lord but will someday retire from preaching. He loves the Hollow Springs Church, "Where everybody is somebody and Jesus is Lord."
In addition to the churches, the Hollow Springs School was an important community resource. The first Hollow Springs School was a one room school built in 1873. The second school with Pod Parker as principal was established in 1934. The first school bus driver was George Parker who began in 1931 to transport children in a covered wagon.
The Hollow Springs School building was des-troyed by fire in 1944. A block building was con-structed the same year.
First teachers in this third school building were Homer Parker, Ozell Tucker, and Earlene Williams.
When Audrey Cawthorn began first grade at Hollow Springs in 1946, Mr. Homer Parker was principal, 7th and 8th grade teacher and coach.
During his 10 year tenure, Mr. Parker coached winning boys' and girls' basketball teams as well as being responsible for daily operation of the school.
Teachers were Earlene Williams, Mildred Parker and Bessie Miller for primer through third grade. Fourth, fifth, and sixth grades were taught by Snow Curlee, and Howard Sissom.
As teacher, Mr. Parker started every school day with a Bible lesson. To teach, he placed children in a semi-circle and never lost his temper to maintain order. Before recess, homework had to be completed and no bullying was allowed.
As an adult, Joe Frank Tucker, claimed only "one time" would a Hollow Springs kid attempt to bully. "The paddling by Mr. Parker wasn't bad", he recalled. "But, nobody wanted to repeat waiting for classmates to gather around the closed door to count the licks out loud".