Friday, April 27, 2012

Rolling Stones...

In an article about her memories of growing up in Tennessee (Her life spanned from horses and model T's to the Internet!), a woman named Ruth Shannon mentioned rolling stones.  This, apparently, was a name for peddlers.  She mentioned that peddlers came to her family home twice a week and that bartering and trading for goods was a way of life.   

Am I the last person in the U.S. to know this name for peddler?  I associate the name with the song, "Papa was a rolling stone", which I don't think meant peddler, and, of course, the Rolling Stones.  I suppose it wouldn't be a short jump from calling a peddler a rolling stone to using the term to mean anyone who travels about, seldom staying at home and living a wild life. 

My mother and aunts used to tell of traveling photographers who came through the middle Tennessee countryside, as they did in many parts of the country.  We have many photographs, some quite old, that were taken when these photographers came through.  Whoever was at home prettied up in a hurry for a picture taking.  My father's west Tennessee family were uptown, as they had some of theirs done in a studio.



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What famous Tennessee preacher said "No" to the Civil War?

David Lipscomb, a preacher in the churches of Christ and the man for whom David Lipscomb University is named did not believe that followers of Jesus should participate in war. In a work entitled, "On Civil Government, he said, "All the wars and strifes between tribes, races, nations, from the beginning until now, have been the result of man's effort to govern himself and the world, rather than to submit to the government of God.

In a letter, reprinted as "To His Excellency The President of The Confederate States of America," Lipscomb appealed to Jefferson Davis so that "members of the churches of Jesus Christ" would be exempt from serving as soldiers in the Confederacy.

Unlike some pacifists, Lipscomb seemed to take his beliefs directly from his mentor, Tolbert Fanning and from the scriptures, rather than from philosophy or from other well known pacifists of the era, such as Tolstoy.

This article is too short to explain his views fully.   If you'd like to learn more about his thinking, there are books and articles written about his view of the scriptural duties of a follower of Jesus.

He was not the only theologian of the time to wrestle with the issue of Americans participating in a war, particularly in a Civil War.  In particular, he had a counterpart in the northern branch of the restoration movement, who felt the same.  He believed that the northern cause was right, but that Christians should not take up arms to support it.   

Whether for political or religious reasons, the decision to secede from the Union was a hard one for Tennessee in general.  Tennessee was the last of the states to secede from the Union and to join the Confederate States of America.  It was the first of the Confederate States  to be readmitted to the Union.  Even after readmission, however, there continued to be local squabbles over the same issues of the Civil War for decades after.

All the wars and strifes between tribes, races, nations, from the beginning until now, have been the result of man's effort to govern himself and the world, rather than to submit to the government of God.
David Lipscomb, On Civil Government p.14

And, the winner is...

Rose has won a copy of my novel, A Tree Firmly Planted.

Rose, please send me your contact info at elizabethatmundiedotus, and I will get the book to you!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Tennessee man who created an alphabet from scratch

Who was, so far as we know, the only man to develop an alphabet from scratch?  His name was Sequoyah, and he created the first alphabet for the Cherokee language.  

Sequoyah and other Cherokee people were fascinated that white people could use letters or symbols to read their languages.  The Cherokee termed these marks of the Europeans, "talking leaves".  Isn't that a lovely way to think of the characters of the alphabet?

Sequoyah set out to make a way for the Cherokee people to read and write their own language.  He came up with 86 characters, each of which represents syllable in the Cherokee language.  Some of these symbols were borrowed from Latin, and the alphabet is said to look something like the Roman, Cyrillic, or Greek characters, as well as Arabic numbers. However, any symbols that Sequoyah might have borrowed from other alphabets have their own sound in Cherokee and cannot be sounded out in any other language.

Sequoyah's system  enabled the Cherokee people to read and write their own language, and, using his alphabet, they rapidly became literate.

Sequoyah was born in 1770 in Taskigi, a town of the Cherokee Nation that was near present day Knoxville, Tn.  He died in 1843 in Tamaulipas, Mexico. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Feather Crowns (death crowns, angel crowns ) Tennessee folk lore

Have you heard of feather crowns?  This little bit of Tennessee folk lore was not part of our family legends.  However,  it is a bit of middle Tennessee folk belief with possible connections
 to northern Alabama and to bayou country in Louisiana, as well.  (Perhaps, it is found in many other places, too.  If you have heard of this, please leave me a comment and a note about where you are from.)

The feather crown is a clump of feathers found in a feather pillow after someone has died.  One old explanation for this is that as the soul leaves the body, the feathers are sucked or woven into a hard not.  Another variation is that the crown is found if the person went to heaven, and a variation of this tale is that the crown forms as a crown for someone to wear upon entering heaven.   Of course, some have offered logical explanations, such as the feathers forming around a thread or some other object in the feather ticking.

One woman, Mrs. D. B. Andrews, was quoted by middle Tennessee historian, Jill Garrett as saying that it was bad luck to find one if someone had not died.  That meant that a death was coming.

People opened the pillows, pulled out the feather crowns, and kept them as memorials to the deceased.  Jill Garrett's own family kept two such crowns in their own family, one from 1894 and one from 1918.  the earlier one fell apart in the 1930's, but as of 1979, Ms. Garrett's family still had the 1918 one.

Many claim that these form only when a person has died, thus simply tossing and turning during an illness doesn't make it happen.

Of course, this is superstitious rather than scriptural, but interesting nonetheless.  I'd love to know if they really only do form in someone's last illness, for whatever reason.  Perhaps, as someone is dying, their movement is restricted, and their head stays put in one place for a long time.  This could make a permanent indentation, I suppose, if the feathers did clump around something within the ticking.

In the 2010's, most of us sleep on foam pillows, and only those who really love feather pillows seek them out. So, we have less scope for studying this phenomenon.