Tag Archives: Fisk University

Sterling Nelson Brown

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

As February is Black History Month, it is important to note the accomplishments that Roane County African Americans have made. One of those is Sterling Brown. Sterling Nelson Brown went from being a slave in Roane County, to become a professor of Bible Introduction and Bible History at Howard University Divinity School in Washington, D.C. for thirty-one years. His story is told in his autobiography “My Own Life Story” that was published in 1924. Sterling was born on November 21, 1858, as a slave in Roane County to Hardy and Clarisa Brown. He was sent to the first free school ever taught in Roane County which was taught by Miss Angeline Summers. When his father became ill, in order to help support his family he was forced to go to work at the age of 13 years to help provide for his family “which at that time often went to bed hungry and sad.” As the Cincinnati Southern Railroad was beginning to be built, he went to work on the railroad and later worked at a brickyard earning fifty cents a day. With the money he earned, he was able to buy a small farm for his parents. He entered Fisk University in Nashville, in November 1875. He graduated from Fisk University in 1885 and from the Oberlin Theological Seminary in 1888. He became a pastor in Washington, D.C. for 25 years. In November 1892, he began teaching the English Bible in the School of Religion at Howard University and remained for thirty-one years. He died in 1929. His son, Sterling Allen Brown was also an educator at Howard University.

Originally Written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, March 2014.

The Election That Ended in a Tie

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

Throughout Roane County’s 212 years of existence, there have been several close elections. One of those elections involved a tie between Maggie (Madge) (Fulks) Sneed and Charles Snow for the Circuit/Criminal Court Clerk in 1962. For thirty-two years the Fulks family had occupied the Circuit/Criminal Court Clerkship in Roane County. Josh Fulks was first elected in 1930 and served until he died in 1947. Then his widow, Clara Fulks served from 1947 to 1962. In 1962, Mrs. Fulks decided to retire, and when the 1962 election came up, their daughter, Maggie (Madge) Sneed ran for office. Her opponent was Charles Snow. At first, the unofficial election results showed that Maggie Sneed had won by one vote. However, an error was found in the Kingston Ward 1 precinct vote count which gave Charles Snow another vote that had not been counted. The final tally was 2720 for Sneed and 2720 for Snow ending in a tie. State law gave the Roane County Election Commission the right to make the final decision for the office. The Election Commission chose Maggie Sneed.

Four years later in 1966, Maggie Sneed and Charles Snow faced off again. And again it was a very close race. This time Charles Snow came out victorious by 43 votes out of 7193 votes cast. That same year, Robert Audubon Ladd won by seven votes in the School Superintendent election. He was the first School Superintendent to be elected by vote. The race for sheriff was won by Robert L. Elliott by 34 votes over the incumbent Sheriff Herbert Stanley. Charles Snow served as Circuit/Criminal Court Clerk for 20 years from 1966 to 1986. Maggie Sneed became the Register of Deeds in 1972 when Marilyn Black resigned. She served in that position for 10 years.

Originally Written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, February 2014.

The Town That Temperance Built

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

That Harriman, “the town that Temperance Built” was named after Civil War Union General Walter Harriman, a former governor of New Hampshire, whose son was one of the directors of the East Tennessee Land Company. Originally, many of the directors wanted the town to be named Fiskville after Clinton B. Fisk, founder of Fisk University, Prohibition Candidate for President in 1888 and the first president of the East Tennessee Land Company. But at a Board meeting, it was decided that there were too many “villes” in Tennessee already. The next day the directors were horseback riding and visited the old Margrave house on Margrave Street, where they found an elderly disabled man sitting on the porch. When asked if he had lived there during the War, he said yes, that he had always been “too crippled” to enter military service. Then he was asked if he remembered when some Northern troops camped on the flats for a few days waiting to be joined by some others. He said “Yes, and they used to come up and get some water from the spring in the ravine back of the house. When they did, the Colonel used to come up to the porch and talk with me. He said, “I remember he said once that this would make a fine place for a town, and now you’ve gone and done it.” When asked if he remembered the Colonel’s name and he replied, “Yes, Colonel Harriman. He was a very friendly man.” At the next directors’ meeting, it was voted to name the city Harriman.

(Civil War Union General Walter Harriman)

Originally Written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, October 2012.