William Gibbs Allen (October 21, 1836---November 28, 1924), the son of Valentine Allen III and Ann Frazier Allen, was born in Jackson County, Alabama, but moved to the Washington (Rhea County) area during 1843. He was elected Trustee of Rhea County in August of 1859; in December of that same year he married Mary Elizabeth Thomison (July 31, 1837—March 6, 1915, daughter of William Preston and Nancy Smith Thomison) at her parents’ home close to Washington. Will and “Lizzie” lived in Washington, and had eight children. They are both buried in Buttram Cemetery.
W. G. Allen served in the Fifth Tennessee Confederate Cavalry, was promoted to the rank of Major, and saw much fighting during the War Between the States. Allen wrote about his experiences during the war, and other history pertaining to Rhea County, more than fifty years after these events had occurred. Naturally, some of the information has been found to be incorrect; however, most of his writings are accurate. In many cases, Allen’s writings are all that we have relating to historical events, so that his facts are taken as correct, unless proven otherwise. His accounts have appeared in the Dayton Herald newspaper, as well as books published by the Rhea County Historical and Genealogical Society. When reading Allen’s accounts of history, one sees that he misspells many words, and has lots of grammatical errors; but, people in his day spelled words like they sounded, and seldom worried about indenting paragraphs, or punctuating sentences!
The following article is one which was hand-written by W. G. Allen, with a date of June 3, 1922, and was penned on two long tablet sheets of paper with no title. The pages were numbered 1 and 2 in the upper right-hand corner of each page, with the writing very legible. Some of the words were hard to read, due to Allen’s spelling and punctuation, but the information was interesting. I have included the document just as it appears on paper, with all the errors, and an attempt to correct those errors in parenthesis. Here is Allen’s article as it was written:
In the old Fifth District on Clear Creek, Charles Cox built a Griss (Grist) Mill. Later on, put in a Bolting Chuth (Chute), and ground wheat on flint rocks. (The bolter allows flour to pass through a coarse mesh or closely meshed silk for finer flour.) He made good flour, he toled the wheat, gave you at lowest 32 lbs. good flour. (The word toled was probably toll or totaled, which meant that the farmer received the ground meal or flour, minus a percentage called the “miller’s toll.”) Later on Andy Snyder came; he and Mr. Cox added to the Griss Mill, they employed Peter McCully, Grand Father of Peter the Second. Peter acrired (acquired) a large Family. Some of them went West. The Grand Son is doing business in Dayton now. Andy Snyder sold his interest to a Yankee who made further improvements, and served in Captain Waterhouse Confederate Companies of Old Greybeards. (The “Yankee” probably did not serve in the Waterhouse Company!) He married a sister of James Barrett. James Barrett was the Father of Dr. Barrett of Chattanooga. Dr. Barrett was a sister of Jeff West and Warren West who Dick Waterhouse killed in a dispute over a Land Line in the early thirties. Mr. Snyder eucuted (educated) at Decatur, Tenn. and was the father of Dr. Snyder of Spring City. The old Charley Cox mill was built before Rhea County was organized. I have been unable to find any dates as to when Charles Cox (came) to America or Rhea County. I find in the Old Montgomery Cemetery a heud (maybe this was hewn: cut by an ax) Rock marked in memory of Charles Cox dated in 1801 the same year the county was organized. (Rhea County was created in 1807 from Roane County.) The Montgomery Cemetery is near where John K. Locke built the first school house ever built in Rhea County. It was built in 1792 and Mr. Locke kept school in the old unhewed log pine as long as he lived. He died in 1814 and was buried in the Montgomery Cemetery. (Montgomery Cemetery does not show John K. Locke buried there, unless his grave was marked by a fieldstone marker; also, historical documents show that Thomas Locke established a school in Washington which existed from circa 1870 until around 1930.) I am done writing my Revelation of Old Rhea County, Old Washington, and Old Pioners (Pioneers), and their families as I reculet (recollect) them and what information I could get from old men and old women, their sons, daughters, grand sons and daughters and from their old Dutch Bible, the old Deeds and Grants signed by Gov. of N. C. and Gov. Sevier, Blount, and William Carroll, hoping I have given some History that will prove interesting to any who may read Dayton, Rhea County Tennessee. (John Sevier was Governor of Tennessee during 1796-1801, and 1803-1809; William Blount served from 1790-1795; Willie Blount, half-brother of William Blount was in office from 1809-1815; William Carroll was Governor of Tennessee during 1821-1827, and 1829-1835. Allen does not let the reader know which of the Blount men he is referring to.)
June 3rd 1922
W. G. Allen
(The term “gristmill” or “corn mill” refers to any mill that grinds grain. These terms were historically used for a local mill where farmers brought their own grain and received back meal or flour minus a percentage. This percentage was called the “miller’s toll” as stated earlier; the miller received this meal or flour instead of wages. Most of the early mills were water powered; however, some were powered by wind or livestock. The millstones are laid one on top of the other, and the distance between the stones can be varied to produce whatever grade of flour is needed. A finer product is made by moving the stones closer together.)
Even though Allen rambled and had many misspelled words and grammatical errors, his sketches are a fascinating insight into the past history of Rhea County. He may have gotten names and dates mixed up from time to time, but his is roughly the only account we have relating to many events which happened in our County. Also, we should be grateful that he wrote these historical happenings in order to preserve them for future generations. Reading these accounts from W. G. Allen is like opening a book of historical stories which gives the reader a picture of early life in Rhea County. Allen’s writings help us to remember to learn from the past in order to live in the present and prepare for the future.