Today is Sunday, August 20, 2017

Parting The Canebrakes

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The express purpose of the writing of this column is very simple. Many, many people and families have moved to Lebanon and to Wilson County from other places who have absolutely no knowledge of our local history, how we came to be, or who and what we are.

Long gone are the valued historians such as I.W.P. Buchanan, G. Frank Burns, Dixon Lanier Merritt, J. Bill Frame, Virginia and Dick Lawlor, Eugene Sloan, Hugh Walker, Ellen Schlink, Herman Eskew Jr., Paul Wooten and many others.

In my first column, I discussed the first people to build a cabin and live in Lebanon, and I discussed the founding of Lebanon and the abundant spring which caused Christopher Cooper to exclaim "THIS IS THE PLACE!"

You, the readers, will have to pardon me for being long-winded, but it is virtually impossible to tell a complete history by giving short snippets of history.

In this column, we will discuss who lived here prior to Neddy Jacobs and his wife, Layula.

According to the History of Wilson County, in Chapter II, Hugh Walker says that "No Native Americans lived in what was to be Wilson County when the white settlers came," page 11. Walker goes on to say "Wilson County was not particular in the manner of non-occupancy when the white people came."

This area of the Cumberland had long been off limits to anyone. "By common agreement of all the surrounding tribes," says Ramsey in the Annals of Tennessee, "this whole section of country seems to have been reserved for these purposes, from permanent occupancy; and so much was exempted from settlement, that south of the Ohio River and north and east of the Tennessee River, it is not known that a single village was settled by the Native Americans. Some known and acknowledged inhibition must have, therefore, prevented the settlement and possession of this great Mesopotamia. What was it? On this subject, tradition and history are alike, indistinct and unsatisfactory." Hugh Walker, The History of Wilson County, page 11.

"It may be that the inhibition which barred the area from settlement was superstition, or fear of death."

"Despite this, two tribes of Native Americans lived here at different times, but no mark of them is known to exist in the county" except for numerous Indian mounds. How numerous the mounds may have been in Wilson County is not known, but they left their mark, clearly to be seen upon the land."

General Gates P.Thruston, who has been referred to as the "Father of Tennessee Archeology," wrote of the long-abandoned village:

"The ancient earth works on the Lindsley farm, near Lebanon, Tennessee, about 35 miles east of Nashville, are of the same general character (as those in Sumner County.)

"This is a good type of ancient fortified or walled settlement. It contains about 10 acres of land. The usual great mound is near the center. A large number of the smaller elevations were found to be remains of dwelling-houses or wigwams. When the earth was cleared away, hard circular floors were disclosed, with burned clay or ancient hearths in the center, indicating that these habitations were probably very similar in form to the circular lodges of many tribes of modern Indians, arraigned for fires in the center, and doubtless they had openings in the roof to let out the smoke," History of Wilson County, page 13, by Hugh Walker.

"First, there were the Natchez, who have been called the aborigines of Tennessee.

Trivia: In my previous column, I discussed Neddy Jacobs' wife, Layula. When and why did Layula leave Lebanon?

Answer: When Congress and President Andrew Jackson passed the "Indian Removal Act" of 1830, it removed, of the members that could be located, various peoples of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee and Seminole tribes. Layula, being a Native American, packed her belongings, and when the "Trail of Tears" passed through Lebanon, she left with them. This was often times told to me by my very good friend and mentor, G. Frank Burns, prior to his passing.

More Trivia: Which prehistoric sandstone statue was discovered in Wilson County that has become an emblem of Tennessee archeology?

Answer: "Sandy," a sandstone statue, was found by local farmer Jeff Rogers in 1939 on the Sellars Farm, formerly the Lindsley Farm on Spring Creek, near Greenwood, where the Sellars Mounds are located.

Today, many of the Native Americans who occupied the Sellars Mounds areas have been depicted in sketches displayed at the site, done by the late James Victor Miller, former History instructor at Lebanon High School.

The fact remains that "some of the finest sandstone images and other artifacts found in any prehistoric Native American earth-works were found in the lonely little village near Greenwood, in the bend of Spring Creek. These include the fine image now (1961) owned by the University of Tennessee, which was displayed by the Museum of Modern Art (New York) about 1940. The lines under a color picture of this image which were printed in Time Magazine, who called it the finest piece of Native American sculpture ever dug up in North America." The History of Wilson County, by chapter II, page 17.

"The farm, now known as the Sellars Mounds, was previously known as the Lindsley Farm. In 1877, Dr. W. F. Putnam, curator of the Peabody Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts (in conjunction with Harvard University), came here to excavate and to research the mounds. In the summer of that year, Dr. Putnam, in his capacity as secretary of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, had attended a meeting of that body in Nashville. At the conclusion of the meeting, after making certain excavations in Davidson County, Putnam came to Wilson County, probably at the invitation of Dr. J. M. Stafford, to excavate the village near Greenwood." The History of Wilson County, chapter II, page 13.

"Putnam spoke of the place as the farm of Dr. Samuel Crockett, who was included in the estate of the Lindsley Family. He (Dr. Puckett) stayed at Greenwood Seminary, at that time operated by Mrs. N. Lawrence Lindsley. Dr. Puckett hired a crew of 25 workmen, and was also assisted by Dr. Crockett. Professor A. H. Buchanan of Lebanon drew a map of the village," The History of Wilson County, chapter II page 14.

"In 1939, the farm was owned by two brothers, Mr. Clyde and Mr. Ray Sellars. A visit to the site in the summer of 1958, showed the great mound intact. In the center is the excavation, now partially filled (in 1961), is the site of the digging by Dr. Putnam."

The History of Wilson County, part II, page 13. Mr. Jeff Rogers made the discovery of "Sandy" and a companion female at that time in 1939, while plowing in the area of the Sellars Mounds.

The Sellars Mounds property is now owned by the State of Tennessee, and it is tended to and cared for by the Friends of Sellars Mounds, a local organization. "Sandy" was recently named an official representative of Tennessee Anthropology. "Sandy" is the property of the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and was carved out of sandstone between the years 1000 A.D. and 1350 A.D. The bill naming "Sandy" a State Archeological Artifact was sponsored by State Senator Mae Beavers, State Representative Mark Pody, and State Senator Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro.

Johnny Knowles is a lifelong resident of Lebanon with roots in Wilson County going back generations. A local business owner, he is a volunteer with the Wilson County Fair. He formerly served on the Lebanon City Council and was active in the Lebanon Jaycees.

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