Obion man discovers piece of history, which sheds light on life 100 years ago
Posted: Thursday, February 24, 2011 9:09 pm
By: Donna Ryder, Associate Editor
By DONNA RYDER
Terry “Bear” Roden of Obion has fond memories of the home of his grandparents — and then he and his parents — lived in west of Mason Hall.
He knew the family home was old — his grandparents had bought it in 1946 from the Hart family and he believes it was owned by the Easterwood family prior to that — but it wasn’t until Monday morning that he found proof the house is more than 100 years old.
Roden, who is moving into the home with his wife, Carolyn, was in the process of removing a built-in fruit closet when he found several old newspapers between the cabinet and the floor.
The newspapers were 1908 copies of the former afternoon paper The Nashville Banner, which was published between 1876 and 1998. Copies included those from Nov. 7, 1908; Nov. 10, 1908; and Nov. 11, 1908. The price was 2 cents or 5 cents on the train.
Nestled in one of the newspapers was a brief mention of Union City and the happenings at the time.
“Special to the Banner:
“Union City TN Nov. 10
“Advices from Camp Nemo are to the effect that all is quiet at the camp. The forest fires which have been raging in that section are reported out or under control. Private Bradley Felts who was accidentally shot in camp some days ago has recovered sufficiently to be sent to Nashville. He came through Union City Sunday escorted by Lieut. Duvall of Company B. Nashville and others. He was sent from here to Nashville under charge of Private Green.”
Roden said he was unfamiliar with Camp Nemo, but a quick check on the Internet finds several mentions of the camp. According to information gathered by The Messenger from 1908 editions of The New York Times and from the Tennessee State Library and Archives, Camp Nemo was a state guard camp located near Reelfoot Lake. It housed suspects taken into custody at the time of the feud between the West Tennessee Land Company and the Night Riders. The company had bought up the land claims around the lake and claimed that by owning all of the shoreline, it owned the lake and all its fishing rights. A vigilante group, known as the Night Riders, formed and used violent means to fight back, even setting fire to the company’s storehouses and on Oct. 19, 1908, forcibly abducting attorneys Col. Robert Z. Taylor and Capt. Quentin Rankin from their beds at the former Walnut Log Hotel and murdering Rankin. Taylor escaped and jumped into the lake managing to hide under a cypress log and avoid the some 30 gunshots from Night Rders. He was presumed dead, but was found over 24 hours later wandering and bewildered.
Tennessee Gov. Malcolm Patterson called in the Tennessee National Guard to keep order in the area. According to the Tennessee State Library and Archives, almost 100 suspects were detained in camps, one of which was Camp Nemo.
Finding the newspapers was a pleasant surprise, one which Roden also shared with neighbor Ruth Hanks, who has lived on what is now known as Ferrell Road all her life. She said she can remember when the kitchen in the Roden home was actually a bedroom.
Roden said his grandfather, Thomas A. “Tom” Roden, purchased the property in 1946 for $6,000. It had “43 acres more or less,” according to the original deed, and included the house, a big barn and the smoke house, in addition to other buildings.
Tom Roden and his wife, Myrtle, came to the area from Hohenwald, Terry Roden said, adding they had seven children at the time. Another two were born while they were in Mason Hall.
Terry Roden said his grandfather, who also owned an additional 80 acres in the area, was well off, especially since this was the time of the Depression.
His grandparents lived in the home until the early 1960s, when Tom Roden bought a house in Mason Hall. Terry Roden and his parents — Walter “Joe Bob” and Ruth Roden — then moved into the home.
Joe Bob Roden died in 1998 and Ruth Roden remained in the home until about a year ago. She now resides at Union City Manor.
Terry Roden said a friend lived in the house until recently.
He said he has several plans for the old place, the first of which is to renovate the living room and the kitchen. The couple is currently renting a home in Obion, where four of her sisters live.
Terry Roden started his renovations on Monday and the first thing to go was the fruit closet. He said he can remember his grandmother always kept it filled with canned goods, but his wife didn’t care for it so it had to go. It was well-built. Terry Roden said it had two layers of tongue-and-groove lumber. Ms. Hanks said it and the newspapers were for insulation to keep the jars of food from freezing.
As soon as the living room is ready, the Rodens will move in. First the floors have to be leveled and dry wall hung. Then, he has plans to move some door openings and enlarge the bathroom. He said he’ll do the work as he can.
The Goodyear retiree currently works as a truck driver — primarily for Obion Grain. He said he was fortunate to be able to retire at an early age after working 32 1/2 years. The one thing he said he never thought he’d be doing is driving a big truck. He said he got his commercial driver’s license at age 60 and absolutely loves it.
Of interesting note about Roden, he tried to join two different branches of the military. He said it started as a joke between himself, Robert Green and Tommy Fagan. There was talk of the draft, so the trio headed to Jackson and was sworn in to the Navy on a six-month deferment. When the time came, he quit his job and headed to Memphis, only to be sent back home rejected because of an ulcer. The other two boys were also rejected. One had nerve damage behind his eye from a vehicle accident, while the other was sent home because part of one of his fingers had been shot off during a hunting accident.
Soon after, Roden said he received a letter from the Army. So, he headed off again to Memphis. Of the bus load that went down from Obion County, three returned — Roden, Bryan Barker and one other boy, whose name Roden wasn’t able to recall. Roden got sent home again because of his ulcer. Barker — well, he was too tall, Roden said with a chuckle.
Published in The Messenger 2.24.11