Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Knoxville School that was used as a prison

Every Fall, as we returned to school, a classmate, who had probably never seen the inside of a jail, much less a prison, would remark that being back in school felt like being in prison. I don't think I would go that far, but I understand the sentiment. Here we were, stuck inside a classroom and only able to enjoy the beautiful Fall weather though the classroom windows.

However, some Knoxville students actually did go to school in a building that was used as a prison during the Civil War. The Bell House School, which was the Bell House Hotel at the time, was one of the more prominent establishments in Knoxville housed a number of Unionist prisoners. (Source: A Unionist in East Tennessee: Captain William K. Byrd and the Mysterious Raid of 1861, Marvin Byrd,The History Press, 2011, p. 71) This is mentioned in other sources as well.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Worthy Standard set by the school board in 1874

Peabody School

In his report to the board of mayor and aldermen submitted August 15, 1874, he presented the following paragraph on the character of the schools
"From the first day that the schools went into operation, it has been an inflexible rule with those having them in charge and fully endorsed by the people, that no teacher shall be allowed to teach sectarian views in religion, or partisan or sectional views in politics. If any violation of this rule has occurred it has not been with the knowledge or consent of the board of education. On the other hand while thoroughly in sympathy with the idea that all children should be fully instructed in moral and religious truth, yet the main idea in public free schools is to give to every child the opportunity of getting a good practical secular education leaving to the parents and the churches the duty of training up their children in the principles of our holy religion and especially of teaching the peculiar tenets of their denomination. With such teaching, the schools can have nothing to do and it is the sense of every friend of popular education that they should not attempt it. But educate white and black, rich and poor, Catholic and Protestant, exactly alike giving no advantage to the one that you do not give to the other and making all conform to exactly the same rules." JA Rayl, Chairman

(Source:Standard History of Knoxville, Tennessee, William Rule, Lewis Publishing Company,1900, p. 407)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

White Caps and Blue Bills part 3

Violence in the area continued for sometime and many citizens of Sevier County were afraid.  The White Caps made good on their promise to lash of kill any member who mentioned anything about the group.

The brutality exhibited in the Whaley murder appealed to the sympathy of every law abiding citizen and to the manhood of every officer of the law who witnessed the ghastly spectacle or were acquainted with the horrible details.

It was the brutal manner in which the Whaley murder* was committed which inspired so much terror, and drove from the county citizens who could furnish convincing evidences of guilt, but who fearing the same fate as the Whaley's, felt all the terrors and tortures of criminals from justice. Many of these witnesses had located in Knoxville. A plan of work was agreed upon and the result was not only a conviction of Pleas Wynn and Catlett for this murder, but other convictions have preceded and others will follow this one. CA Reeder is now the efficient chief of the Police force of Knoxville, Tenn, while CW McCall is making a reputation as US Deputy Marshal. 

*William and Laura Whaley were murdered in their cabin and in front of their child.

(Source: The White-caps: A History of the Organization in Sevier County, E. W. Crozier, Bean, Warters & Gaut, 1899)

White Caps and Blue Bills Continued

About the date above referred to, after similar notices had been given to some lewd women living in Emert's Cove in the upper end of Sevier county, which notices had been unheeded, the first White cap raid was made. Some half dozen women were whipped by masked men and notified to quit the community at once or like punishment would follow with increased severity. Most or all of said women did leave and went to Knoxville and other places, and the good people of Emert's Cove felt that it was a happy riddance. They spoke approvingly of the act thinking little of the influence that such an attempted correction of evils would ultimately have in the community. So on the surface there seemed to be a wave of approval of the first effort at White capping in the county, and those who were engaged in it felt emboldened to take a second step. But after several raids had been made and lone and unfortunate women whipped and driven from their homes at night, some with little children, there at once arose a feeling of resentment and opposition to this method of administering punishment even to those who were known to be living in violation of law, and whose example was detrimental to good society And the boldness and brutality which attended some of the whippings soon brought prosecutions against suspected persons. Generally these prosecutions were commenced before justices of the peace. By reason of the fact that the White caps went masked it was very difficult to identify them with any reasonable certainty, but occasionally one of the parties charged would be bound to court.

There was very little to impede the progress of White capping in Sevier county until an opposition was formed known as the organization of the Blue Bills. Not very much is known about this band further than its object was to thwart and put down White cap raids. It is said, however, to differ from the White cap organization in this: that it had no constitution, or by laws, no officers, and administered no oath or obligation, and they never wore masks when on their raids. It was composed of men stoutly opposed to the other organization, some from good motives and others no doubt from selfish view.s The former desired to put down White capping because it was a crime, the latter because the White caps had either threatened them or some of the immoral women of the county with whom they had been associated and had agreed to defend against the White caps.

Several sharp engagements thus occurred between the White caps and Blue Bills, in some of which men were killed and wounded. The White caps also went armed, and it was understood that when they met, it meant fight or run. It will thus be seen that both of these organizations were acting without sanction of law, and that one was about as revolutionary in its character as the other. The Blue Bills, however generally claimed to either have an officer of the law with them, or one deputized by proper authority to arrest all White cap raiders and prevent them from carrying out their plans.

(Source: The White-caps: A History of the Organization in Sevier County, E. W. Crozier, Bean, Warters & Gaut, 1899)

White Caps and Blue Bills



First Hint: This is not about baseball:

White capping had its origin in Sevier county with a class of people whose intentions were good and while they knew it was a violation of law, they persuaded themselves that it was to say the worst of it only a mild violation and a pardonable step, to take in order to right an existing evil. In Sevier County, like all other counties, there are citizens whose morals are not as good as they ought to be, men and women whose habits are lewd and who live adulterous lives. It is always unfortunate for any community to number among its citizens persons of this character. And while it is and has always been a violation of law in Tennessee for people to live in adultery, yet that law has not always been efficacious in protecting the good and punishing the bad. The evildoer seeks in every way to evade the law, and conceal his deeds from those who are likely to be called upon to testify against him. In this way the law is cheated. Indictments if found are not sustained, the guilty go unpunished and society suffers.
In this regard Sevier county has not been an exception. About the year 1892, certain communities in Sevier county had become infested with lewd characters whose conduct was very obnoxious to the good citizens, and after repeated but unsuccessful efforts by legal methods to punish these evil doers in the courts, the good citizens became disheartened feeling that the law was not furnishing that protection to society that it should. Thereupon certain persons with good intentions, but mistaken judgments and more unwise than they then thought, began to discuss the advisability of getting rid of the immoral characters above referred to by some other method than through the courts- the only legal channels. 


I do solemnly swear before God and man that if I reveal anything concerning our organization or anything we may do, the penalty shall be to receive one hundred lashes, and leave the county within ten days or be put to death. Now I take this oath freely and voluntarily, and am willing to abide by the obligation in every respect. I further agree and swear before God, that if I reveal anything concerning our organization, I will suffer my throat to be cut, my heart to be shot out, and my body to be burned, that I will forfeit my life, my property, and all that I may have in this world and in the world to come: So help me God 

What could possibly go wrong? 

(Source: The White-caps: A History of the Organization in Sevier County, E. W. Crozier, Bean, Warters & Gaut, 1899)

Friday, September 18, 2015

More words from the past

The question that first presents itself in trying to determine the probable cost of this enterprise is On what basis shall we proceed. A corporation acting under a charter giving it the power of eminent domain, would naturally and properly seek to secure the property required for its purposes at the lowest figure at which it could be honestly obtained, under conditions existing at the time, expecting to become the beneficiary of any subsequent increase in value.

Would this be the position of the government in seeking to secure property for a purpose that would destroy its inherent value for the uses to which it might otherwise be devoted? Obviously no. The broad minded statesmen representing the government would weigh the advantages and disadvantages of any proposition as to its effect on The Greatest Good of the Greatest Number both for the present and future. We have been considering some of the alleged advantages to be derived from such reservoirs, and find them preposterous. We have considered briefly one of the most manifest disadvantages the moral certainty that, from time to time, some of these vast dams would fail and cause a destruction of life and property, only comparable with the ravages of great wars. Now what would be the damage to the people of the Nation resulting from flooding and permanently destroying great areas of our most fertile alluvial valleys of our richest mineral territory, some of which where railroads have been built is now selling at from $1,000 to $1,500 per acre, where natural gas and crude oil underlie the country, where millions of acres of such lands not actually destroyed would be rendered inaccessible or accessible only at tremendous. cost. Would a statesman considering the destruction of such property estimate its value to the Nation at the figure at which it might be purchased today from an ignorant mountaineer? If a true statesman were considering the purchase of such property to be held or improved for the future use of the citizens, he would order that its present market value should be paid, but in the case that we are considering, the purchase would be made for the express purpose of making a use of the lands that would forever destroy their value for agricultural uses, and for mineral products, and would also render inaccessible except at stupendous cost vast additional areas of coal, oil, and gas territory. John Howe Peyton in The American Transportation Problem: A Study of American Transportation, 1909

Saturday, September 12, 2015

On politics:

Photo Credit: The Graphics Fairy

"The farmer pauses in the furrow to hear of new Presidential usurpations, and then lays his hand
again to the plow. The mills and factories do not pause; everywhere is the hum of industry; new
railroads are projected ; commerce ebbs and flows with the tide; the crops are garnered, and the fields
tilled anew. The business of the country is affected by political dangers, but the injury is slight in 
comparison. The blow is heavy, but it falls lightly.
Yet this general peace and serenity of the people exist while the country is threatened with a new
revolution. The politics of the United States are today in a more dangerous state than those of any
other nation in the world.

"Brownlow's Knoxville Whig. (Knoxville, Tenn.), 02 Oct. 1867. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.