The Cannon County Historical Society (CCHS) met on Nov. 8. Woodbury resident and retired U. S. Army Colonel James E. Stone was the guest speaker. Col. Stone felt everyone should know his or her history. He recommended CCHS continue to educate and highlight Cannon County's history for future generations. During his presentation, Col. Stone described his childhood in Cannon County, early Stone's River, and the Stone Family Tree.
Growing Up in Cannon County
Col. Stone was born 5-14-1937, to Hilton (1911-1975) and Ruth (1914-2006) Woodward Stone. His paternal grandparents were James Dallas (1862-1938) and Angie (1871-1954) Hawkins Stone of Woodbury, TN. His maternal grandparents were Robert Charlie Woodward (1887-1960) and Tenilla Thurston Woodward (1891-1974) of East Point, Georgia.
Col. Stone's father James Hilton Stone was born when his parents were almost 50 years in age. His five older siblings already had children of their own. Hilton's brother Charlie, postmaster of Woodbury from 1936 to 1952, reported James Hilton was a real handful to keep in line. He said, "One day I drove to the Stone house, cleaned James Hilton up, drove him to Nashville, and put him in the Army!" The prevailing family sentiment was this was the best thing that ever happened to James Hilton who made a career of the military.
In 1946, Col. Stone and his parents moved from Georgia to TN to stay with his grandmother Angie Hawkins Stone. Angie Stone was a sister to Joe D. Hawkins whose son was Robert White "Rock House" Hawkins. Col. Stone's grandmother lived on the Stone family farm on land now owned by Kenny Gilley. Her home on River Road was a large white house in front of where the Gilley's barn is located.
The goodness of country life made Col. Stone feel he had "died and gone to heaven". Fresh honey from beehives, an orchard, a huge vegetable garden, chickens, goats, cows and hogs was an exciting way of life for young Col. Stone. County folks only took baths on Saturday, and washed clothes once a week in a large kettle over an open fire. He did not miss electricity, running water or indoor plumbing from his former Georgia residence.
Cannon County hillsides held true adventure for Col. Stone as he rode his stick horse around his grandmother's farm. By the time he was 9 years old, he imagined himself as the trainer and owner of Midnight Sun the World Grand Champion TN Walking stick Horse. On Saturday mornings, Col. Stone often rode into Woodbury with neighbors Ben and Evelyn Gilley. One Saturday he decided to ride his stick horse behind their mule drawn wagon. After stopping at the River Spring for a cold drink of water, they safely arrived into town. There were so many horses and wagons; it seemed everyone came to Woodbury on Saturdays. Col. Stone tied his stick horse to the hitching rail behind the courthouse as Ben Gilley pulled out his pocket watch and announced 1:00 0'clock pm as departure time.
Col. Stone played cowboys and Indians in the courthouse square and football where Reed's Furniture is now located. He didn't think about leaving town until 15 minutes after time to leave. As he reached the hitching post, he realized the Gilley's and their mules and wagon were already gone. He thought to himself, "Well, I'll just have to ride my stick horse back home." But someone had stolen his famous stick horse! Col. Stone said he learned a valuable lesson that day, "Never be late for an appointment". Much to his chagrin, he had to walk all the way home that was about two miles.
In addition to getting supplies in Woodbury, his family shopped with a peddler's "store on wheels." His mom Ruth (Granny) Stone would give him a white oak basket filled with fresh eggs that he could sell to the peddler for 25 cents. "I was rich," said Col. Stone. He could go to the movies for 16 cents, buy a box of popcorn for 10 cents and candy for a penny.
One day playmates Joe and Roy Brown were visiting when the peddler ran his route to their house. Roy wanted a box of Post Toasties cereal that cost 15 cents. Col. Stone did not want to spend his money on cereal. However, the peddler helped close the deal when he offered to throw in a 5-cent candy bar for free.
Joe Brown was a chewing tobacco pro at age 9. He purchased a plug of tobacco for 5 cents and shared it with Col. Stone. After only a few short chews, Col. Stone's world was spinning out of control. To Joe's delight, Col. Stone spit out the chew of tobacco, and returned the rest to him.
Another new experience for Col. Stone was riding the school bus. Lower grade and high school students attended the same Woodbury Central High School. Their bus was an old 8 passenger Army ambulance just like the ones on the TV show, MASH. As he climbed aboard, Col. Stone was greeted by the driver Sam Manus and schoolmates - Roy and Betty Young, Bobby Joe Young, Donald Barrett, and Roy and Joe Brown.
The last bus stop just before reaching Highway 70 was the home of Truman Brown. His 9 children made 15 students loaded onto the 8-passenger bus. Packed tight as sardines, there was little breathing room but they laughed and told jokes all the way to school.
Col. Stone's youthful reflections identified several businesses and homes around town. There was a Purina Feed store and later a swimming pool west of it, Moore's Tourist Home, an ice house, the homes of Henry Bratten and Mattie Higgins, cheese plant, shirt factory, high School, and a hog killing building behind Woodbury Funeral Home. Grocery stores on the square were Webb's, Northcutt's, Hall's, Joe Bob Womack's, Armstrong's, and Lehning's. There was a Ritz theater, postoffice and telephone company with two switchboard operators always available.
In the summertime, Col. Stone enjoyed playing baseball and swimming. One hot day while playing at the ballpark, someone called out, "Let's go swimming!" Everyone ran towards Stones River but due to his small size, Col. Stone was the last to get there. His look was dazzled to see 30 young boys stark naked! They were swimming, swinging on a rope, diving off a board or climbing a ladder out of the water. The swimming hole was just across the road from where Dude Northcutt now lives and visible from main street. Nevertheless, after shedding his clothes like the others, "city slicker" Col. Stone joined his country buddies.
One year Col. Stone accompanied a group of Christmas carolers singing around the town in Woodbury. One home they serenaded belonged to Sterling Brown who lived where the U.S. Post Office is currently located. Col. Stone was awed by his generous donation of $10 which compares to $100 in today's economy. The donor Sterling Brown authored the book, "History of Woodbury and Cannon County Tennessee" published in 1936. It is an important historic record of Cannon Counties' early history. Original copies of his book sell for several hundred dollars when they can be found.
Early History of the Stones
Col. Stone's ancestors came from the State of Virginia. The Virginian Stone name originated from George Stone born in 1597 in London, England. He came to Jamestown in 1620 and he along with other Stone families assisted pioneer John Smith in the founding of Jamestown, Virginia.
Before 1766, Indians inhabited lands later established as TN. Earliest Indians erected mounds accessible to streams where they buried their dead. The popular belief is tribes of red Indians annihilated the Mound Builders. These Indians used the Central Basin as a passage way to engage in tribal warfare and hunting ground for game. When settlers began to arrive to Middle TN, Indians were all around as verified by present-day collections of arrowheads, tools, pipes and other artifacts.
In 1776, a party of hunters, Captain James W. Smith, Daniel Boone, William Baker, Uriah Stone, and Josha and Joshua Horton, accompanied by two mulatto slaves, visited the TN Central Basin. These are some of the first white explorers believed to have settled in Middle TN.
The pioneer hunters landed at the mouth of a river just above the present site of the Hermitage in Nashville. They named the river, Stone's River after one of their members - Uriah Stone. Stone's River starts at the foot of Short Mountain about seven miles east of Woodbury on River Road. The early settlers navigated Stone's River from Old Jefferson area of Rutherford County to the Cumberland River into which it empties.
Names of later settlers arriving to the Stones before Cannon County was established as a county in 1836 are Baily, Elkins, Lorance, Lance, Odom, Smithson, Cummings, Webb, Hawkins, Wood, Summers, Melton, Adams, Hollingsworth, Grizzle, Preston, Smith, Wooten, Rigsby, Markum, McCrary, Foster, Bragg, Campbell, Rains, McBroom, Parsley, Bryson, Hale and others. Decedents of these connections still live in the hollers and hills of Cannon County.
The Stone Family Tree
Col. Stone's brother Charlie Frank was born 8-20-1945. A while later their father Hilton, AKA Jay Buck, announced he was taking Col. Stone rabbit hunting and to the Stone family tree. His dad planned to carve Charlie's name and birth date on a beech tree designated as the Stone Family Tree. Col. Stone was real excited as he had never been rabbit hunting or to the family tree.
Hilton shot a rabbit but shortly after sprang an ankle. Col. Stone was scared that he would have to run home for help carrying the dead rabbit. But, after a short rest, they continued on their way. Soon they arrived to a very large tree near a connecting ridge. Col. Stone noticed his own name carved into the tree with the date 1938 as his father proudly added his baby brothers' name and year of birth.
In 1954, when Col. Stone was 17 years old, he and a friend went squirrel hunting before daylight. He found a good log to await the light of day when squirrels should arrive to eat hickory nuts. As the morning light extended across a ridge, his gaze fixed on the silhouette of a very large tree standing about 15 feet away. He could see D. (Daniel) Boone -1776, carved into the trunk of the tree. As he walked closer, to his surprise and joy, he had happened upon the Stone Family Tree visited with his dad several years earlier.
Col. Stone finished Woodbury High School in 1955 and entered Middle TN State College, now MTSU, and graduated in 1959 as a commissioned 2 Lt. of the infantry in the U.S. Army. In June, he married his high school sweetheart, Frances Ray McBroom of Woodbury and joined the Army in July. After graduation from flight school in June 1960, he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Ky. Thus, he and his ROTC queen France Ray, went on tour with the military for 30 years.
Flash forward to 1985. Col. Stone's last 4 years in the Army were spent in Nashville as Sr. Advisor to the 125th Army Reserve Command, responsible for all U.S. Army Reserve units in TN and Ky. Col. Stone and his family lived in Murfreesboro.
One day his brother Charlie "Butch" and his two boys came for a visit and they drove to the McBroom family farm just west of Woodbury. They spent the day riding 4-wheelers and dirt bikes, and also caught fish and swam in the Stone's River. Col. Stone explained to his nephews that Stone's River was named after their grandfather 6 generations back - Uriah Stone.
After everyone got back to the house, Butch chided Col. Stone about lying to his sons regarding Stone's River being named after their ancestor. Col. Stone finally convinced his brother he was telling the truth. He said, "Here little brother, read page 13 of Sterling Brown's "History of Woodbury and Cannon County TN." Charlie read the account of Daniel Boone and Uriah Stones' exploration and naming the river in which they used as the Stone's River. (A copy of Brown's book is available in the Adams Library Genealogy Room.)
Col. Stone retired from the Army in 1989 and moved back to Cannon County in 1999. The Stone family farm was sold when Col. Stone's grandmother Angie Stone died. By the time he got a chance to return to the Stone Family Tree, loggers had cut it down. Col. Stone was devastated! His dream of carving his own son's name on the grand old tree evaporated. He understood the special tree had been more than a Stone family tradition. It was a recorded portion of Cannon County's proud history.
Later, Col. Stone noticed paintings on display in Joe's Restaurant by local artist Rachel Parker. One particular painting of a large tree standing within a forest inspired him. He called Ms. Parker and inquired if she could paint the Stone Family Tree from his recollections. She felt it a fantastic idea and they met to begin the endeavor. She started with a pencil drawing. Near the bottom of the picture, names of Col. Stones' son and grandchildren were added as if the tree had remained alive.
Col. Stone reported Rachel Parker drew the Stone Family Tree like God was guiding her brush. In the painting, one can see the name of Usibius Stone, one of the first settlers on Stone's River. Many other historical names and dates are shown of early pioneers who migrated before TN, Cannon County or Woodbury came into being. Although the Stone Family Tree did not survive, its' 250 years of history was captured in art and the heart of Col. James Stone.