Friday, March 15, 2013

A new find

When I first came to this land-
I was not a wealthy man,
Then I got myself a farm-
Called my farm – muscle in my arm;

But the land was sweet and good
and I did what I could.”

and so the old ditty goes -
“got myself a shack, called my shack -break my back;”
“got myself a hen – called my hen – no eggs again;”
“got myself a wife – called my wife – run for your life;”
"got myself a son - called my son - my jobs done;"
"got myself a dog - called my dog - sleeps like a log;"
“but the land was sweet and good; and I did what I could.

This ditty, with origins from a simpler old Pennsylvania Dutch ditty describes with quirky detail what life must have been like in Central Tennessee at the turn of the 20th century.  In 1925 my grandfather Joe Lee Kerr bought two farms that totaled 140 acres.  With 3 main dwellings for living and plenty of out buildings to support their farming needs the family moved from Corbin, KY to this land dissected by Scarboro creek.  The little valley would soon be known as Kerr Hollow.  Located between Bethel Valley to the South and Union Valley to the North it would be home to Joe and Molly Kerr until 1942 when the entire hollow was taken by the Federal government in support of the Manhattan Project.

The main house on the South 40 of the Kerr Farm
During this entire time, Joe was employed by the L&N Railroad and made runs from Clinton, KY to Etowah, TN.  Molly was in charge of the farm and raising the kids.  The last two born in the house pictured here.  Joe would spend his railroad down time at the farm.  He was known locally as a horse trader and would often take off on a two or three day ride to sell a quality farm horse.

Molly ruled the farm with a fierce hand.  She believed in discipline by leather belt or tree switch.  She was know for keeping a revolver in her apron pocket for varmints and vagrants.  She is the grandparent that I have the most knowledge about since I spent a small amount of time with her in my youth.  Her full story will come at another time.

Mean while, there is more about the history of Kerr Hollow at this University of Tennessee site: Kerr Hollow History

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