Excerpt for Chilhowee Legacy by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Chilhowee Legacy

A Young Woman’s Journey to the Truth


Chilhowee Legacy

Copyright 2019 Reba Rhyne

ISBN: 978-1-945976-20-9

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

All Scripture quotations are taken from the KING JAMES VERSION (KJV): KING JAMES VERSION, public domain.

Cover by Ken Raney.

Editing by Sara Foust.

Special assistance by Mike Garner for clarity on final pages.

Thanks to Dawn Staymates, Kristen Veldhuis, and the crew at EA Publishing for another job

Published by EA Books Publishing, a division of

Living Parables of Central Florida, Inc. a 501c3

at Smashwords

Smashwords Edition License Notes

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Table of Contents


ALCOA, Alcoa, and Alcoa

One | Meet the Tipton’s and Their Community

Two | Dancing in the Dark

Three | Cades Cove and the First Years

Four | A Death in the Family

Five | The Funeral, Engagement, and Proposal

Six | The Flood and the Meeting

Seven | Getting to Know You

Eight | The Whiteheads

Nine | Melva Becomes an Entrepreneur and Burl Returns

Ten | Christmas Gifts, Family Changes and “The” Questions

Eleven | Burl’s Loss, The Wait, The Marriage

Twelve | Postscript and Finish

Thirteen | Time Passes in the Newest Whitehead Household

Fourteen | A New Page in Melva’s Life

Fifteen | Another Move

Sixteen | A Final Home

Seventeen | Life Goes On

Eighteen | Death Knocks on the Door

Nineteen | The Last Secret Place

Twenty | A New Page in Melva’s Life

Recent History

About the Author

God keeps a file for our prayers—they are not blown away by the wind, they are treasured in the King’s archives.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

This book is dedicated to Tipton, Whitehead and Rhyne kin all over the world.


I can remember my grandmother standing at the kitchen sink, the overhead fluorescent light shining on her gray hair. She stood washing the dishes and praying with tears dropping into the dishwater. In the solitude of her kitchen, this was her prayer closet.

I’m sure she learned this attitude of prayer from her parents who were prayer warriors, praying at any need or provocation. These utterances became a blanket hovering over their descendants, tapped into when illness, situation, or hurt arose without the receiver even knowing it. I call this phenomenon a legacy.

What is a legacy? Something handed down from one generation to another. Although we think of an inheritance usually as money or property, Noah and Nancy Tipton left a different one. Theirs was a spiritual legacy of prayers—prayers for their children and these children’s extended families. I believe their perseverance in talking to God is still being felt today in their many descendants, who have come to acknowledge the God in whom the elder couple believed.

David sang in Psalms 61:5b, thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name. Like King David, the Tipton offspring are overshadowed by a vast canopy of past whispered words which still keep them safe within this world. Just as Jesus Christ was God’s gift to the world, Noah and Nancy Tipton were God’s gift to their descendants.

ALCOA, Alcoa, and Alcoa

This book has several words spelled the same but belonging to different meanings. So, I wanted to clarify their meaning before my reader gets confused.

1. ALCOA stands for the Aluminum Company of America—the aluminum smelting facility being built next to the City of Maryville, Tennessee.

2. Alcoa was the name given to a growing town on the Little Tennessee above Chilhowee, Tennessee while the ALCOA dams were being built. The name was later changed to Calderwood.

3. The third Alcoa was the new name for the city which sprang up around the smelting plant of ALCOA next to Maryville. When this town came into being, the name of the town above Chilhowee was changed to Calderwood.

Chapter One

Meet the Tipton’s and Their Community

By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honor, and life.

Proverbs 22:4 KJV

Melva Lucinda Tipton looked out over the wide, river floodplain known as Chilhowee. From her vantage point near the top of a beech tree, she saw most of the open valley. This part of East Tennessee was her home and she loved every bit of it. It was Blount County, late autumn, 1911. Fallen, yellow leaves covered the ground and the bare, gray limbs left a clear view of her surroundings.

This wasn’t the first time she’d climbed a tree, and this wasn’t the first time she’d climbed this particular tree, although it was much taller now than her initial ascent. Years before, she and her brother had taken a hand saw and cleared excess limbs from the tree’s trunk, making the way more open and easier to scale.

Usually, Melva’s precarious perch resulted from a dare by her brother, Dwight Harley Tipton, or D.H. as the family called him.

But not today.


The morning had started cool and crisp, but not cold enough for frost in the valley. The November sun had quickly heated the earth, and those inside buildings went outside to enjoy the last of summer’s warmth.

Melva had finished sweeping the leaves off the front porch and stood looking at a lone robin which hadn’t gone south for the winter.

“You’d better head to Florida, little bird. You’ll freeze to death if you stay here.”

“Are you talkin’ to yourself?” D.H. came out of the house and promptly started sneezing at the dust she’d stirred up in the process of cleaning the porch.

“No. Just to a robin. It flew off when you sneezed.”

“Let’s sit on the porch and talk,” D.H. suggested, looking at a disturbed line of comfortable rocking chairs, which Melva had just moved to sweep. He started putting them back in place.

Melva went inside the house to put the broom on its nail in the front closet under the stairs. When she returned the chairs were perfect, and D.H. was rocking in the one closest to the door. She sat in one next to her brother.

The porch of the Tipton’s two-story, frame home stretched across the front of the house. In the summertime, the entrance was usually filled with guests, relaxing and debating the news of the day, especially after the heat of the afternoon.

Melva and D.H. sat to discuss the news from Maryville.

“Do you remember Carrie Stevens?”

“Wasn’t she the woman who welcomed people into the bank and gave children a piece of peppermint candy?” Of course, Melva would remember her. She never turned down anything with sugar in it.

“The very same. She sent you something.” D.H. dug into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small bag of the hard, pillow-shaped candy.

“Please tell her I said thank you.” Melva shared with her brother and popped one into her mouth.

“Have you seen Ellie since she moved to Six Mile Community near Maryville?” Susan Ellen, or Ellie as the family called her, was Melva’s older sister. Last month, she and her husband, Bill Garland, moved to several acres across the mountains from Chilhowee.

“No, I haven’t had a chance. They came into the bank to invite me to supper, but I was busy on the night in question and couldn’t go. Next time, I’ll go even if I have to cancel an engagement. No one cooks like Ellie.”

“Mother says if Bill Garland loves good cookin’ and a clean house, they should get along well.”

“Do you miss her?”

“Yes, but mother misses her more. Ellie was a good helper in the kitchen.”

D.H. grinned, knowing that Melva wasn’t much help in the kitchen at all.

Suddenly, the high-pitched, emergency bell of the Chilhowee Lumber Mill sounded in the distance, interrupting their conversation.

“Wonder what’s goin’ on at the Mill?” D.H. stood and looked upriver toward the mill’s location, questioning if he should head there and lend a hand. “Can’t see anything. We’re too low here.”

The unexpected bell continued to sound—a faint but shrill noise in the midst of the wide valley.

“Let’s go find out. Meet you at our tree.” He jumped off the porch and with a few steps, disappeared around the side of the house.

“Sure,” Melva called after him, knowing exactly what to do.

Popping another mint into her mouth and pushing the paper bag into her pocket, she went through the front door into the parlor. She grabbed four large safety pins from her mother’s sewing basket, pinning them to her blouse. Next, she opened an ornate wooden case on the upright piano and grabbed her father’s spyglass, secreting it into another empty pocket. After closing the box, she headed through the double doors into the dining room and on to the kitchen.

Nancy Tipton, her mother, was starting the preparation for the noon meal. “Where are you going, Melva? I’ll need you to set the table and help with dinner.”

“Headin’ up the path toward the springhouse with D.H.,” she mumbled through the peppermint candy. “Won’t be gone long.” Not waiting for her mother’s reply, she rushed through the screen door to the back porch. The door banged shut behind her.

Nan shook her head as her daughter left the kitchen. She huffed a sigh and walked to the door, calling after her offspring in a full, but smooth tone. She never raised her voice, but her children always heard her. “Since you’re headin’ in the direction of the spring, bring back the buttermilk and butter.” All she saw was Melva’s backside as she hurried up the dirt trail. “Be a miracle if she remembers,” she murmured and returned to her hot woodstove.

Melva covered the trip up the well-worn path to the spring in record time. She jumped the trickle of water coming from the springhouse and hurried toward her brother. Pinning up her long skirt, she scrambled up the knobby beech tree, showing her shapely legs and skinning one of her knees. Blood trickled slowly down her exposed leg. Melva Tipton, an impulsive fifteen, sported flashing brown eyes and long, brown hair piled high on her head. She was a tall, slender girl with her own ideas.

“The bell’s quit,” D.H. stated, looking up at her and then north toward the mill.

She took out the spyglass and peered through it. “Yes. I guess the danger’s over.”

“Do you see the sawmill camp?” asked D.H.

“Yes,” said Melva. “I see people movin’ around. They look like ants they’re so far away. Do you think this is another false alarm?”

“Could be, since that bell has a mind of its own—like you,” he added and grinned, thinking it was interesting that a bell and his sister could be on the same level. He loved her, but she could be exasperating at times.

“Whoa!” A hard puff of wind moved the beech tree and rustled the leaves on the ground. Melva grabbed at a branch and clutched the spyglass more tightly.

“Be careful, Melva. Maybe you should come down. The wind’s gettin’ up.” D.H. looked at the sky, trying to determine if rain was in the forecast.

White, puffy clouds drifted over the softly-shaped mountains, encircling the lowland farms along the Little Tennessee River. Beyond the bottomland owned by their father, the clear, cold river cut a path at the edge of the mountain on the opposite side of the elongated valley, and ended its journey at the Tennessee River several miles downstream. The noonday sun glinted on its surface.

“Just another minute.” She didn’t want to waste the effort she’d put into climbing the tree and continued to check out the people at the mill.

The fact that she could see anything so distant wasn’t a tribute to her good eyes but to her father’s handheld monocular or spyglass. This item, much cherished by Noah Tipton, was off-limits for his children to touch, much less use. Rumored to have been given to his great-grandfather by Andrew Jackson, it was a prized possession. When Melva snuck it out of the house in the pocket of her long skirt, she risked banishment to Africa or another of those faraway places she’d studied in school.

As she looked, smoke from the logging camp rolled upward, mingling with the blue sky.

“There may have been a fire, but it doesn’t look serious.” At that moment, the mill’s fifteen-minute warning whistle sounded to announce the noon meal. “Dinner is served,” Melva said.

“Better hurry, sister. Father will be headed to the house for his dinner. We don’t want to be late,” said D.H. looking up at her as she clung unsteadily to the swaying tree. Becoming dizzy, he looked at the ground, regretting he’d suggested this escapade. She might fall and break something, maybe her neck. He couldn’t help but grin at the thought. His sister was tough as nails. Most likely, the ground would suffer a bruising quake.

Melva, intrigued at the scene she saw in the glass said, “I heard him tell Mother, because of the election, he’d be later than usual. So, don’t get in a tizzy.”

“I don’t care. Please come on down.” The word “please” usually worked.

Melva ignored her brother’s wishes and continued to peer through the spyglass. She promised herself she’d never climb this tree again—or any tree for that matter. At her age, squeezing around and through the limbs was almost impossible, and her knee hurt. Anyhow, she was at a stage in life, when she needed to concentrate on adult things—like getting ready for marriage.

“Can you tell what’s happening?” asked D.H., interrupting Melva’s thoughts.

“No. Maybe we’ll hear all the news at the dance tomorrow night. You’re going, aren’t you?”

“I didn’t know there was one.”

“Yes. At the Happy Valley Schoolhouse. I can’t wait to see Betty Jo. Did you know she’s seein’ one of the clerks in the lumber mill office?”

“No, I didn’t. Is it serious?” D.H worked in Maryville and came home less and less. The local news was provided by Melva or his father.

“Probably. She can’t talk about anythin’ else,” said Melva who worried that getting married would end their friendship. Betty Jo was her best friend from grade school.

Girls in the mountains only went through the eighth grade at Big Cove School; something Melva already regretted. Some mountain girls married at fourteen and fifteen in the Appalachians.

Her father, Noah, didn’t encourage his five girls to get married at such a young age. But mountain families were large, and one less mouth to feed was an attractive incentive, so girls married young and had babies while they were still children. Melva was in no hurry to marry. Although she’d been looking, she didn’t have anyone in mind.

“You know better than to go to the dance. If Mom and Dad find out, they’ll be so angry you’ll be confined to the house forever. The Primitive Baptist Church doesn’t agree with dancin’ or drinking,” D.H. warned, knowing he couldn’t say too much, because he did a little of both in Maryville.

Melva wasn’t worried about getting disciplined. If her parents penalized her for everything she did that they didn’t like, she would never get out of the house. Not that she was a bad girl, but she was mischievous. She always skirted the edge of getting into serious trouble. She often saw a lurking smile as her mother or father reprimanded her.

“They won’t know unless you tell them. I hoped you’d take me to Betty Jo’s.”

“We’ll see.” D.H. kicked at the beech tree leaves scattered over the ground, sending a pile flying in the wind. He looked up again. “Melva, come down.”

“I’ll come down in a minute.” She quickly checked out the rest of the valley through the spyglass.

Directly below her, in front of her parents’ two-story home, the dusty road snaked through the hilly land, heading upward toward the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Almost across the road from her home, the white-framed Tipton’s Mercantile Store, with the black and white sign hung over the door, welcomed many voters in today’s special election.

“There’s several horses and buggies in front of the store.” Melva observed. “A bunch of men are standin’ outside socializing.” She could identify all of them. Some had traveled from Happy Valley along Mill Creek and passed Hill Cove School to get to the store. She recognized another who lived at Tallassee, a town on down the river.

“Since Father’s conducting the election, I thought about goin’ over to help him in the store.” D.H. added, “but he said he wouldn’t be waitin’ on customers today unless there was an emergency.”

“No. He didn’t need me either.” Melva usually helped on Friday. Her father was teaching her the workings of running the store.

Several years earlier, Noah had bought the store and moved the family from Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains. Before the move, D.H. and Melva were both born on Rowan’s Creek, a tributary of upper Abram’s Creek in the cove.

Abram’s Creek started in Cades Cove, continued several miles through the mountains, and emptied into the Little Tennessee a couple of miles above the Tipton home at Chilhowee. On this end, several families lived along its banks.

“Why can’t women vote?” Melva put the eyepiece down and looked at her brother.

“What?” The question was unexpected.

His sister repeated the question, emphasizing each word. “Why can’t women vote?”

“Melva, I don’t know any reason they can’t vote. You could certainly make a good decision on a candidate who’s running, especially with all the politickin’ that goes on around Father’s store and our kitchen table. The law needs to be changed.”

“Well, Brother. Why don’t you change it?”

“Don’t think it depends solely on me. All men and women need to get involved. There’s already states in the mid-west lettin’ women vote in their elections. It’s coming, and soon.” D.H. knew this discussion would never end. The sound of the train whistle stopped the conversation.

Melva put the spyglass to her eye. Behind the store building and running a short piece northeast, were the railroad tracks. At the end of the line, the Chilhowee Depot almost stood within rock-throwing distance of the store with a spur running to the sawmill site. An engine turntable turned the huge piece of machinery around and provided the quickest transportation back to Maryville, Tennessee, the county seat.

A necessary link to the outside world, the train brought the Maryville newspaper, Collier’s and the Saturday Evening Post magazines, recently published books, and supplies which Noah sold at his business. The engine and a few cars sat parked on a side track.

From her perch, Melva recognized the engineer, oil can in hand, as he checked the gears and other mechanical parts underneath the train.

Secreting the spyglass in the deep pocket of her skirt, Melva started down out of the tree. A twig caught in her hair, pulling out a long strand as she jerked her head to free it. The brown lock hung down the side of her face.

D.H breathed a sigh of relief, glad to see her headed down. The gusts of wind had grown stronger.

Her attention turned to protecting her well knee from damage. Twisting and turning, she finally arrived at the bottom, jumping the last few feet.

She was breathing rapidly when she hit the ground and tucked the errant lock back into her tresses. “I’m sure Miss Annie Myers will be there,” she said, rustling the leaves as she flounced by him down the trail, jumping the trickle of water and passing the springhouse.

“What are you talking about?” D.H. shook his head, confused by the rapidly changing subjects of conversation.

“The dance, of course. Annie will be there.”

“You don’t say!” D.H. responded in his resonant voice. Annie was his first girlfriend and his first kiss.

They walked down the path in silence.

Despite their age difference, Melva and he were best friends among the nine siblings. He had a slow, thoughtful way of talking, and blue eyes that locked onto yours and held your attention.

While he lived at home, they’d gone frog gigging on Tab Cat Creek, fished and boated in the Little Tennessee River, and hiked many miles in the mountains. Melva was always ready to try something new, even something she thought a little dangerous, especially if her brother suggested it. She trusted him and never doubted his words.

D.H. admired her spunk. Plus, he would never recommend anything to hurt his sister. At twenty-one, he was six years older than she, and would soon be returning to Maryville and his job as clerk at the local bank. D.H had attended Maryville Polytechnic School, a boarding school, from which he graduated three years ago.

For Melva, the few days D.H. remained home were like old times. They shared many secrets. This included an overlook in the nearby hills she called her secret place. With so many siblings at home and visitors in and out the door, Melva cherished her time on the hillside overlooking the calm and peaceful valley. But there was another reason she visited. When problems arose which she couldn’t solve, she sat alone, spending time mulling over her troubles or maybe that was sulking over her minor skirmishes. Sometimes, she returned home with an answer, and sometimes she didn’t.

Stopping on the path, she checked her knee. It had quit bleeding. She took the pins out of her skirt. “No reason for Mother to know what we were doing.” Melva continued on down the trail.

“I agree.” D.H. said, following close behind.

“Are you going to see Rita tomorrow night after you take me to the Boyd’s?”

“Aren’t you making a big assumption? I haven’t said I’d take you.”

“You will, won’t you?” Melva turned around, hands on hips, and put her flashing, brown eyes on her brother.

“Whew! I think I will.” D.H. decided, knowing he might as well or he’d never hear the end of it. He shook his head. “I need to see little James.”

At seventeen, their sister Rita married James Gardner and the following year they announced the birth of a baby boy. Rita’s husband owned land given to him by his father in Happy Valley.

“Is Rita well?” D.H. knew from letters he received from home that his sister had a tough time delivering the baby.

“Oh, yes. Mother says so. Rita’s not sure she wants to have another baby, but mother said she would get over it. She says all expectant mothers develop a case of amnesia before they have another child.” Nan had laughed as she told Melva this. Her daughter wondered if it was true.

Melva wasn’t unhappy that Rita was gone. They always butted heads on everything, and Melva was a little jealous of her older sibling. Noah always said they were like two peas in a pod with a thorn between. Secretly, each admired the other.

As Melva and D.H. entered the house, the screen door banged shut behind them.

“Where have you two been? Did you bring the buttermilk and butter? If I’d known it was going to take this long, I’d of gotten them myself!” exclaimed their mother as the two trekked into the room with no milk of any kind in sight. Nancy Tipton bustled about the kitchen. Her last child, baby Joyce, lay sleeping in her small crib, totally oblivious to her mother’s banging pots and pans.

“I declare your minds are so short. What were you doing?” Without waiting for an answer, she turned back to the stove.

“I forgot,” Melva whispered to her brother.

“I’ll run back and get them,” D.H. said to his mother, exiting the dining room as quickly as he could, not wishing to incur more of his mother’s wrath.

“Melva, I need you to set the table and help me here in the kitchen.”

Setting the table was shared with her little sister. Lydia was six and at Hill Cove School today, along with her older brothers, Milton, who was thirteen, and eleven-year-old, Matthew.

“I’ll be right back.” Melva escaped upstairs to her bedroom to clean her knee with water that she’d remembered to carry to the pitchers in each room—one of her daily chores. Pouring water into a basin, she took a cloth, and carefully wiped around the cut on her knee. Taking an end of the fabric, she patted the area dry.

In the upstairs hall was a bottle of alcohol and a glass container of cotton balls on a small table. Obviously, scrapes and gashes were accidents the Tipton’s knew well. Melva swabbed her knee liberally and blew as well as she could on the abrasion. It didn’t hurt—much. This cut would soon be a scar and join all the others on her knees.

Turning toward the staircase, she rushed to help her mother. The spyglass banged against her thigh as she bounced down the stairs. She needed to replace it in its special box. She approached the parlor, avoiding squeaking floor boards. Luckily for Melva, the double doors to the dining room were partially closed, because she heard her mother in the next room. Replacing Noah’s prized possession was accomplished without incident. Africa would have to wait.

“Melva is that you?” Nan called from the dining room.

“Yes, Mother. I’m coming.”

As in most families, chores were divided between the children. However, since D.H. and Henry lived in Maryville, Henrietta and Susan Ellen were married, and Joyce was too young to help, that left only four Tipton children to share household duties. Melva was now the oldest girl child living at home.

As Melva entered the kitchen, delicious smells touched her nostrils—cinnamon, green beans with bacon grease, and boiling potatoes in butter. She wondered, would she ever be able to cook like her mother? If she had one weakness, pertaining to a future as a wife, it was not knowing how to cook. Sure. She could wash and peel vegetables, but the final preparation and addition of spices escaped her. She couldn’t make a pie crust or a loaf of bread.

Nan Tipton busied herself with the final preparations for the dinner meal. She was at home here and totally in charge. In lots of ways, Melva took after her. But Melva was establishing behaviors of her own.

“Mother, I’ll mix the cornbread,” she said, reaching into the cupboard to get out a blue bowl with an intricate design. She loved this bowl and used it as much as she could to peel potatoes or apples. She got other boxes and tins she’d seen her sister, Ellie, use and placed them on the countertop. Mixing cornbread wasn’t a chore she did often—actually never. But how difficult could it be?

“Good,” said Nan, checking the stove’s wood box and not paying attention. Nan’s cast iron woodstove was much improved from those of her mother, Caroline, and grandmother, Susanna. She could regulate the air flow and amount of heat to areas on the cook top and oven. Her skill at cooking on the stove was routine. She made delicious meals effortlessly.

In her kitchen, cold running water came through a pipe by gravity from the concrete holding tank inside the springhouse. This small building was dug into the hillside high above the house. The buried pipe had enough pressure to fill a tank and flush the one commode built into a former clothes closet-pantry in the long hallway from the front door. A small tub and sink stand sat in one corner each of the tiny compartment. Hot water for a bath was boiled on the stove. More than one person in the family used the tub before the water got cold.

Noah always told Nan that every time a newfangled product was made, he had to tear up or out a place in the house to make way for the improvement.

He was willing to buy his wife a new electric stove, but Nan had clung to her cast-iron wood stove. When he’d suggested the new one, she’d said a firm, “No!” A deep pan with a dipper sat at the rear of the large stove’s cooking surface. As long as the stove was fired up, Nan always had hot water for cooking and cleaning dishes.

She had agreed to electric lights, even though unsightly wires ran upstairs and down to provide it. The coal oil lanterns smelled and smoked after they were lit, and spills when filling them were common.

Bang! The slamming of the screen door from the back porch announced D.H.’s return. He deposited the buttermilk and butter on the countertop next to the sink. After hugging his mother and pinching his sister, he headed upstairs to his bedroom to clean up for dinner.

Melva placed the blue bowl on the countertop and poured fresh buttermilk into it.

Nan turned around just in time to check on her daughter’s progress. “Melva, not the blue bowl, get the large white one,”

“Why, Mother?”

“Don’t question me. Just do it,” said Nan. She didn’t have time to explain at the moment, and she was still irritated at her daughter’s forgetfulness and late appearance.

Melva knew better than to push her mother. She got out the white bowl and set it down on the countertop. She couldn’t understand why her mother always used the same bowl. She stared into its depths.

“What secret does the white bowl possess that makes better cornbread?”

Nan looked at her and gave a wry smile. How many times had this child seen cornbread made? Realizing she needed to help, Nan headed over to give her daughter proper instructions. She’d done the same thing for Rita and Ellie, but they could make perfect cornbread when they were the age of twelve.

“I’m sorry for being cross, daughter. Let me explain. There isn’t any secret. Good mountain cooks know exactly how much of each ingredient to stir up for their recipes, because they use the same bowl each time to help with measuring.” A pinch of this and a handful of that produced perfection when the meal was served.

Before Nan could stop her, Melva transferred the buttermilk to the puzzling white bowl. “No. You don’t put the cornmeal into the milk,” exclaimed Nan. “Pour it out and clean the bowl.”

Melva did as told. Her mother watched, hands on hips, and then she helped her daughter mix the bread.

“Take this iron skillet,” she pulled one from the back of the stove, “and put bacon grease in it to melt.” The bacon grease, from the week’s meat cooked for breakfast, was in a small Swift Leaf Lard can beside the skillet. She watched as Melva dipped from the can. “While you mix the bread, get the skillet hot on the stove.”

Nan pulled a large, much-used, White Lily Flour tin from the back of the counter and opened it. It contained the family’s own stone-ground cornmeal. Another tin contained White Lily Flour ground in Knoxville, Tennessee by Noah’s friend, J. Allen Smith. Nan pulled a drinking glass from a cupboard and filled it twice with cornmeal. “Put cornmeal, some flour, a little sugar, baking powder, and a pinch of salt together in your bowl and blend. Add soda to your buttermilk and stir. Add two eggs, slightly beaten, along with your buttermilk to the dry mix.” Nan watched as this was accomplished, lending a hand when necessary.

Not happy with her daughter’s stirring the mix with a spoon, Nan took the bowl. Tilting it sideways in the crook of her arm, Nan stirred the contents with her hand. Setting the bowl on the counter, she rinsed the mixture off her hand into the sink.

Getting a potholder, hanging on a nail above the countertop, Nan took the hot, iron skillet from the stove and set it on a metal trivet. Melva stepped out of the way. “Add most of the hot, melted bacon grease.” The cornmeal mixture sizzled and danced on top as she poured the hot, smoking grease onto it. “Careful don’t get burned. Stir.” A large spoon this time and then her hand. “Pour the cornmeal mixture into hot pan.” The mixture sizzled again. “Place in the stovetop oven.”

With the potholder on her hand, Nan walked over to her cook stove and placed the mixed cornbread inside the oven. “You keep an eye on it. Don’t let it burn,” she instructed Melva. “And, please set the table.”

Melva’s eyes were opened. She realized she didn’t know much about cooking, but she vowed to learn. Her future man would be proud of her as a cook. From now on she’d watch more carefully. Learn everything her mother could teach her.

If her mother could have read her thoughts, she’d have agreed that at fifteen it was about time. Melva hadn’t spent much time in the kitchen. She preferred outdoor activities, especially with her big brother.

Nan’s small flower and vegetable garden, the one closest to the house, didn’t have a growing weed, because Melva hoed and pulled any green stem that didn’t belong there, and she kept the porches clean. She didn’t gripe on wash day, using the new wringer washer like an expert, and hanging the clothes up to dry on the clothes line in the yard or on the back porch, if it was raining.

Ironing, well that was a different matter. This was an inside activity, done in the kitchen. Sometimes, Nan thought about setting the ironing board up in the yard, but heating the irons would have been impossible. Noah had suggested a new electric one, but after examining one in Maryville, Nan had decided against it.

Melva and D.H. carried the step ladder around the house and washed every window in the spring. No, Melva wasn’t lazy.


Known as a great cook to everyone in the Cove, Nan’s friends and boarders raved about her delicious meals, especially her apple pies with cinnamon, and her chicken and dumplings. Today, both were on the menu and the smell which emanated from the kitchen would make anyone ready to eat, hungry or not. After her morning’s forbidden activities, Melva’s stomach growled. She was hungry.


Noah Tipton, Nan’s husband, was successful in his business and a well-respected man in his community. His mercantile store serviced the Happy Valley, Tallahassee, and Chilhowee area. Even the people at the new town of Alcoa bought supplies from him.

Because it sat at the end of the railroad line, embarking or disembarking passengers usually visited his store. Until the railroad came to Chilhowee, supplies were brought over Chilhowee Mountain by wagon. Using a steep, dangerous road which passed through the edge of Six Mile and over the high Look Rock area, it came down the length of Happy Valley to his store. This trip took two days, and Noah always stayed a night with friends in Maryville. Sometimes, Noah paid a neighbor to make the journey.

The railroad made getting supplies easier and much quicker. Noah handed a note with a written list of supplies to the train conductor, Cal McMurray, and he delivered it to the wholesale supplier in Maryville. In return, the conductor ate Nan’s dinner at no charge when he rode in on the train. This system worked out well for both men. After Noah installed his telephone, he called in his order.

Salesmen, tourists, and workers who visited his store were welcome to stay for dinner at Nan’s table for a small fee. Noah sent someone over to tell Nan how many were coming for the noon meal each day. Lodging and meal prices were posted in the store. Visitors in the area always stayed with the Tipton’s, unless they went north and stayed at the Howard farmhouse at Alcoa.

Nan kept many boarders, including the Primitive Baptist ministers, who held an associational meeting each year at the church in Happy Valley. Ministers stayed free of charge.

Because her facilities were clean and her food excellent, she wasn’t surprised to find an extra dollar under a plate or pillow when she cleaned up—an exorbitant tip in those days. Noah kept the pay for her services in a small cigar box under the counter in his store. Every week he took the proceeds to her, and she used this money to buy whatever she needed. There were no restrictions on her purchases, as long as she paid for them in full.

Noah had no regrets about charging those who could afford to pay. This didn’t mean he and Nan didn’t extend a Christian hand to those in need. Vagrants, hoboes, and family friends who were down on their luck, could always count on them for a good meal. It wasn’t unusual for Noah’s horse and buggy to pull up to a home where a wife had just given birth or someone was sick with a box of food from Noah’s store and some freshly cooked from Nan’s kitchen. They always supplied food to a home where someone had died.

Noah, as a Christ-follower and honest man, was totally dedicated to his wife and family. Even tempered, it took a lot to make him angry. His motto, posted on the store wall in his handwriting, was, “Stand for the right, even if you have to stand alone.” Melva heard him say these words many times. The Holy Bible determined right from wrong.

Like Nathaniel in the Bible, whom Jesus proclaimed as a man who knew “no guile,” Noah was an honest and trustworthy man. Not a deceitful or scheming bone existed in his body. He saw everything in black and white.

His job, as Squire and Justice-of-the-Peace (J.P.), made him the law of the area with authority to arrest and hold any lawbreaker he caught. Squire Noah Tipton, J.P., a well-respected man in his community, presided over today’s special election.


Since this was a voting day, Noah opened his store early. Searching for an appropriate ballot container, he found a large shoebox and cut a hole in the top big enough to insert a paper ballot through the opening. Placing both under the counter, he welcomed the first voters and marked their names off his voting list.

Each day at noon, Noah headed home to eat. Election day was no different. With the election ballot box tucked carefully under his arm, Noah locked the door to his store. He stepped across the road and walked fifty yards down a path to eat dinner with his wife and children. Walking around Nan’s small garden and flowers, he passed the cistern with its manual pump. He entered the house by the back-porch area, passing by the wringer washer sitting on the back porch. A clothes line strung several times across the porch’s width allowed the clothes to dry in the fresh air, even if it was raining.

“Nan, I’m home,” he called as he stepped through the door. He did not let the screen door slam shut.

While washing his hands at the kitchen sink, he placed the shoebox with the ballots inside on the counter beside him.

Nan appeared from the dining room. “Dinner’s on the table, my dear,” she said, kissing him on the offered cheek. She whispered something in his ear. He nodded.

The delicious smells in the dining area beckoned him to the table where he sat down to eat. “Hello, children.”

D.H. winced at being called a child.

The salutation went right over Melva’s head. She was hungry and already had her head bowed, eyes closed for the customary blessing.

“Let us pray,” Noah said, eyeing his daughter with a smile. He blessed the food, his wife, and all his children.

“How’s the election going?” D.H. asked as the dishes were passed and each scooped out the portion they desired.

Melva took her share and listened to them talk.

Since there were no guests this day, the family chatted about the election and other family matters as they ate. There was comfortable camaraderie as they spoke.

“Nan, Mrs. Gardner came in the store this morning, while her husband voted. She said the problem with her disappearing food is solved,” Noah smiled. “The children’s pet raccoon was the bandit. It learned to open the screen door and help itself.” Noah laughed at the picture of the masked bandit munching cookies and biscuits on the Gardner’s kitchen table. “She said the little beggar opened a jar of peanuts and ate all, but a pile of husks on the kitchen floor. They haven’t found the jar yet.” Noah sold the Spanish peanuts in his store for making peanut brittle.

“I’m glad it’s nothing more than that,” said Nan. The thought of a thief in the area wasn’t one she wanted to entertain. In their close-knit community, everyone knew everyone else, and it wasn’t acceptable that anyone couldn’t be trusted.

Mrs. Gardner was Rita’s mother-in-law.

“Did she say how Rita and little James are doing?” asked Nan.

“Yes. The baby’s fine, except for the sniffles, and growing like a weed. We should go visit soon, if you’re up to it,” replied Noah. “Say, this cornbread is really good.”

“Melva helped make it,” Nan replied, smiling at her daughter. “A first, I think.”

Suddenly, Noah jumped up from the table and hurried to the kitchen. Returning to the table he placed the shoebox next to his plate.

“I took an oath not to let this box out of my sight,” he stated simply and continued to eat. “By the way Melva, Betty Jo’s father said they’re expecting you tomorrow afternoon around four. Are you staying the night with her?”

“Mother said she didn’t need me, so I planned to stay if that’s all right with you.”

“I suppose D.H. will drive you over.” The last sentence was more of a question than a statement.

“I’ll do that Father,” said D.H., “and also go on up to Rita’s to see the new baby. That’s if you don’t need the carriage.” The baby was about four months old and D.H. hadn’t seen it. He’d brought a small set of wooden toy blocks for little James.

“Good,” said Noah, not suspecting the horse and buggy might be used for purposes other than that stated or approved. “Son, why don’t you come over and help me in the store tomorrow, since that will be your last full day with me until Christmas?”

D.H. hated to tell his dad that he didn’t plan on being home until before New Year’s Eve. He’d been invited to weekend in Townsend, a nearby valley, nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, which was rapidly becoming a tourist attraction, with houses and cabins sprouting along Little River. Some of his acquaintances intended to make Townsend their Christmas meeting place, and a certain young lady had requested his presence.

“I’ll come over to help you. I noticed you have a new line of tools. Perhaps I can help you display them?”

Dinner over, Noah agreed and left the dining room for the store, shoebox tucked securely under his arm. When the election was over, he intended to lock it in the store’s safe, until it was picked up by the election commission on Monday.

Melva helped her mother clear the table. Without her mother knowing it, she put a peppermint in her apron pocket.

Together the brother and sister washed the dishes, laughing and talking the whole time.

Nan shook her head and wondered how her dishes kept from breaking. And, how did they find so much to talk about? But these two had always been that way. Her children were growing up so fast. The nest was starting to empty.


Now that the older siblings were gone from home, Melva slept in her own upstairs bedroom, and Lydia slept in the adjoining room. The two boys, Milton and Matthew, shared other second floor quarters. Three extra bedrooms were reserved for guests, paying or non-paying. D.H. slept there when he came to visit. Noah and Nan’s bedroom was downstairs, behind the formal sitting room.

When entering the front door and the foyer, the sitting room, which was used for special occasions and special guests, appeared to the right of the stairs. Turning left, you walked into the parlor where the piano sat. The parlor connected with the dining room through a set of double doors, and the kitchen adjoined the dining room. The oak staircase, opposite the front door, ascended out of the foyer, which divided the sitting room and the parlor. A hall ran down the left side of the staircase, leading to the kitchen, downstairs bathroom, and Noah and Nan’s bedroom. The family Bible rested on a small table in that hallway, with a rack for hats and coats over it. A container for umbrellas stood beside.


After dinner, D.H. saddled a horse and rode toward the new town of Alcoa. He wanted to see the progress being made toward the extension of the railroad to the area. His boss in Maryville had specifically asked him to go check it out. He wouldn’t be back until dark.

Melva went upstairs and opened the windows in her bedroom to let in cool air. She kicked off her shoes and stretched out on the bed. Intending to relax, she soon fell asleep and started dreaming. Dreaming about a dance. In a beautiful dress, she whirled around the floor with a handsome, tall man in a dark suit. Looking up into his face, she saw gray, blue eyes with flecks of brown. His long arms, hard muscles, and calloused hands told of tough manual work.

“I wore the suit for you,” he said.

She awoke with a start, astonished and wondering at the meaning of the dream. Was this an alerting of events to come tomorrow or in the future?

The alarm clock on her side table said it was time to help in the kitchen. She didn’t move, but shut her eyes. For another minute, she ran through the dream and danced a perfect turn in his arms.

Chapter Two

Dancing in the Dark

To everything there is a season…a time to weep and a time to laugh: a time to mourn and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:1a, 4 KJV

Saturday breakfast and dinner were routine. When Melva could manage to leave the kitchen, she hurried upstairs to her bedroom. Looking around the room, she started collecting the toiletries to take on her trip to the Boyd’s. Gathering them didn’t take long. Soon they were lined up on her coverlet, ready to pack in her cloth valise.

Next, she rummaged through her closet, looking for the perfect dress to wear to the dance. Melva had several dresses. Some were hand-me-downs from her older sisters. Waistlines and weight seemed to change with marriage and babies, but some of her dresses were made just for her. She looked through those.

Usually, she completed her selection quickly. This was a special occasion, and she planned to choose her outfit more carefully. Ah, maybe this blue one. She started to put the gown on.

Each time she changed, she walked down the hall to inspect the results before the tall, hall mirror. Checking out the reflection from top to bottom, she saw a tall, thin girl with sparkling, brown eyes, square jaw with pointed chin, and flushed cheeks.

Her excitement at visiting Betty Jo Boyd increased with each passing hour, especially after yesterday’s dream. Would he be at the dance?

The Boyd family was small compared to the Tipton’s brood of eleven. It consisted of Marlon and his wife; their children, Betty Jo and Edgar. What about Edgar? Was he the man in the dark suit?

Edgar and Melva’s brother, D.H., were the same age and great buddies at Hill Cove School. Two years before, during a hunting trip, Edgar disclosed his admiration for Melva to D.H. Until then, it remained his own little secret. Her brother made sure Melva knew of Edgar’s preference.

Since then, when Edgar carried Melva back and forth between the family’s two houses, he’d never mentioned the fact that he cared for her. Even if he had, Melva didn’t return his affection, but thought the relationship was interesting. She’d love to have Betty Jo as a sister-in-law, and as a husband Edgar was acceptable.

The question was should she marry for convenience, security, or love? Her heart told her she’d have to decide in the near future.

Melva didn’t intend to end up an old maid or unclaimed jewel as an unmarried woman was often called in the mountains.

“No. That is not an option,” she said to the girl in the mirror. What did she want?

In her dream world, a husband needed to be hard-working, dependable, and honest, like her father. He didn’t need to be rich or famous. Decisive, someone who thought for himself and a one-woman man, that’s what Melva desired—a man to respect, admire and love completely. Wasn’t Edgar all of these?

“Oh. Shucks!” Melva pulled at a panel on the back of the blue wool dress. “No. This dress isn’t any better than the last one. Somehow, the night doesn’t lend to blue. I need somethin’ eye catchin’ and rememberable.” She headed back to her bedroom, took off the dress, and put it back in the closet.

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