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Susan Walen Ard

Two miles down the Dobbins Pike from Oak Grove is Chestnut Hill.

In December of 1908, H.M. Walen and George Wallace bought the Tommy Freeland place. Tommy Freeland and his wife, Jane had a large farm. It could have been a land grant.

They had three sons and three daughters. As each son married he was given 100 acres of land. Mr. Joe, the oldest, 100 acres on the north; Mr. Wade, 100 acres on the west; and Mr. Jim, the youngest, 100 acres on the east, leaving the father about 100 acres.

When Mr. Tommy and Miss Jane died, the children decided to rent their father’s place and divide the income. After two or three years of unprofitable renting it was thought best to sell the land and divide the money among the six children giving each $100.

Mr. Walen had two children, and Mr. Wallace had the same. They wanted to raise their children in the country and so they bought the farm together. There was a log house, a log barn, a log corn crib with wagon shed, and a tobacco barn on the place.

Mr. Wade showed us children the niches made with an axe to show where each log belonged, as the house had been moved from the hollow to the top of the hill. The log house was really two log houses, a larger and a smaller one with an open breezeway between.

The big log room had an upstairs. You could stand up in the middle but not on the sides. The roof was covered with shakes. These were boards longer and thicker than shingles and they did not fit as closely together. When it would snow it would sift through on our beds.

We children loved to feel it on our faces. We slept on straw beds on the floor. Each year at threshing time the ticks were filled with fresh straw. Mother would stir the straw frequently to keep the beds from getting too hard. Most of our neighbors had feather beds on wooden bedsteads.

They were all fluffed up beautifully each morning when the bed was made. We got our water from what was called the Indian Spring down a hill west of the log house. It was said that Indians had cut out the basin from solid rock at the base of a large tree.

The basin held a little over a pail of water and refilled quite rapidly. Close by was a smaller basin where Mother kept her milk, butter and cream to be churned. The spring was so cold it would chill a glass and the butter kept as firm as we keep it in the refrigerator today.

In the evenings before wash day it was my brother’s and my work to carry from the spring the water Mother would need to do the washing. My brother thought she used too much. After several years we dug a well close to the log house.

On Dobbins Pike from Oak Grove just before coming to our turn-off was Caney Fork Creek to be forded. After a heavy rain it rose fast and anyone who wanted to ford it would have to wait until the water ran down. Caney Fork was the first creek for miles around to get an iron bridge. It was a one-lane bridge.

Like most creeks north of the Ridge, Caney Fork ran north into Green River in Kentucky and so Ridge people have always had the expression, “going down into Kentucky.”

Back in the early 1900s school terms in our rural sections were only three months. My mother, Mrs. Walen, being a teacher, believed in a nine-month term, and after we moved to Chestnut Hill she began school right away with the Walen and Wallace children.

Mr. Wallace was a carpenter and made us a school table and benches for the sides. Mother sat at one end and we children around it in the big room of the log house in front of the fireplace. The school grew. The first year a girl and a boy asked to come from two of our nearest neighbors. The next year six, and then 10 or 12 and on close to 50.

They walked to school from two to three or more miles. The school outgrew the old log house, and with the help of friends and neighbors with lumber and labor a two-room school house was built on the hill.

No tuition was charged. Each family brought a load of logs which the children and the teachers sawed up with a cross-cut saw into stove lengths and stacked under the school house porch.

In the years between 1915-1920 better school houses were built in the county and buses carried the children to these schools.

Chestnut Hill School changed then to a boarding school where young people could work their way. They could help raise most of what they ate, but we couldn't raise coal and electricity, so a small nursing home, the first in Sumner County was started to pay for the electricity and coal.

During the past few years we have helped one or two young people at a time who  needed personal tutoring to catch up from drop-outs. There is a small Seventh-day Adventist church on Chestnut Hill. Services are held in the schoolhouse every Saturday morning.

My parents believed we were put into the world to be a help to our fellow men, not just to live to ourselves. To this Chestnut Hill is dedicated.

Article submitted by Al Dittes with the Highland Rim Historical Society.

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