Tag Archives: Nashville

Roane County High School Band is Heading to Nashville

{Zackery Williamson, Roane County Schools}

The Roane County High School Wind Ensemble (Band) has been invited to perform at the 2019 Tennessee Music Education Association State Conference, to be held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville April 10-13, 2019. The band has also been asked to be the performing ensemble at the 2019 Tennessee Bandmaster’s Hall of Fame Concert. The band’s performance will be held in the Tennessee Ballroom CD on Thursday, April 11th at 9:00 p.m. With this performance coming up the band has had a special guest visiting their rehearsals. Colonel Thomas Rotondi retired Commander of the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in Washington, D.C.; Colonel John Bourgeois retired Commander of the “President’s Own” United States Marine Band; Dr. John Culvahouse retired Band Director Univ. of Georgia and Kennesaw State Univ.; Roy Holder retired Band Director Lake Braddock High School, Virginia; Joseph Hermann current President of the American Bandmasters Association and retired Director of Bands Tennessee Tech Univ., just to name a few. People are welcome to come and visit a rehearsal at Roane County High School as we prepare for this performance.

The Killer Poet

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

The hands of justice sometimes moved slowly in the history of Roane County. One of the best examples is the killing of Thomas Galbreath in September 1884. It took 25 years before anyone was tried for the killing, in spite of the fact that the murder took place in broad daylight in front of several witnesses. Willis Maberry was Tom Galbreath’s brother-in-law and according to the records found in the Historic Roane County Courthouse archives, including a transcript of the trial in 1909, the shooting took place in Old Oakdale in Roane County (now renamed Elverton) located between Harriman and Oliver Springs.

Testimony reveals that Thomas Galbreath was in the front yard of his brother’s home with two other men when Willis shot him with a shotgun hitting him in the left side, on the arm, the back of the neck and through the leg. Lucy Galbreath was sitting inside the house peeling apples when the shot rang out. She rushed to the door, saw Maberry with a gun in his hand pointed at Tom and called him not to shoot any more since he had already killed her pig. Maberry offered to pay Lucy for the pig and did not shoot again. The pig died instantly and Tom died about 24 hours later. Some of the shots also went through a fence and Lucy’s feather beds which were drying on the fence. Witnesses testified that Maberry shot from an ambush under porch steps of the house across the street. The musket was found near the steps and had recently been fired.

Another witness, John Staples, testified that Maberry had told him some months previous to the shooting that he was going to kill Galbreath “if powder will burn for cutting (stabbing) him”. Other witnesses said the two men were close friends, but deputy Sheriff, W.C. Lyles, testified that Maberry told him he had been “cut” by Galbreath and was angry about it. Maberry took the stand on his own behalf and denied everything. He did admit that he left Roane County soon after the killing “but not until after the funeral” and traveled extensively for about 25 years, working in places in St. Louis, MO., Baltimore, MD., Cincinnati, Ohio, and Nebraska.

According to relatives, Maberry came back to Roane County in 1909, after the death of his father to claim part of the family’s property and was arrested for the Galbreath killing. He was convicted for the crime in the historic courthouse in Kingston, and sentenced to life imprisonment. The case was appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court and upheld. He was sent to the state prison in Nashville but the story doesn’t end here.

While still being held in jail in Kingston, (pictured at the left) he began writing a poignant poem which was entitled “Roane County Prisoner.” He later finished the poem, it was set to music and became quite popular after the turn of the century under the title, “The Hills of Roane County.” Many Roane County residents remember hearing it played on the radio in the 1930s and 40s. The words to the song vary slightly, but the following is believed to be the first rendition:

In the beautiful hills, in the midst of Roane County,
There’s where I have roamed,
for many long years;
There’s where my poor heart’s been tending most ever,
There’s where my first steps of misfortune I made.
I was thirty years old when I courted and married,
Amanda Galbreath was then called my wife.
Her brother stabbed me for some unknown reason;
Just three months later, I’d taken Tom’s life.
For twenty years this old world I rambled;
I went to old England,
I was captured and tried in the village of Kingston.
Not a man in that county would speak a kind word.
When the jury came in with the verdict next morning,
A lifetime of prison were the words that I heard.
The train it pulled out; poor Mother stood weeping.
And sister, she sat all alone with a sigh.
The last words I heard were:
Willie, God bless you;
Willie, God bless you,
God bless you; goodbye.
The train left the shed at about eleven thirty;
The chains they did rattle,
The handcuffs were tight When Sonny Gibson took the throttle
The engine one-thirty was soon out of sight.
In the scorching hot sun I’ve been toiling;
Just working and worrying my poor life away.
You can measure my grave on the banks of old Cumberland
After I’ve finished the rest of my days.
No matter what happened to me in Roane County;
No matter how long my sentence may be,
I love my old home way back in Roane County,
Way back in the hills of East Tennessee.

Maberry became ill while in prison, Was released and returned to his home in the hills of Roane County. Exactly when he was released is not known, but apparently, he suffered from poor health for the rest of his life. He lived alone and his Galbreath kin folks made sure he had care and enough to eat. He died on October 30, 1925, in Knox County, TN and was buried in the County Cemetery. Sources for this article are: “The Rockwood Times”, newspaper, September 9, 1909; The State vs. Willis Maberry Loose Papers, Historic Roane County Archives; Oral history taken by Mrs. Andy Harvey from Richard Louis Galbreath, Tom Galbreath, Jr. (son of Tom Galbreath), and Frankie Galbreath Eskridge; Loose Papers, Historic Roane County Archives.

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, February 2018.

The Hills of Roane County

Doctor J.C. Fly

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

Dr. J.C. Fly may have been the most well-known Doctor in the history of Roane County in many ways. He became a pioneer when he started a public health program in Roane County in 1920, serving as director of the Roane County Health Department from 1920 to 1955. He was born in Hickman County, Tennessee in 1883 and when he retired in 1955, he removed to Centerville, Tennessee and died in 1960 in Nashville, Tennessee. When you ask children who went to Roane County schools from 1920 to 1955, one painful memory that is repeated over and over again by former students was the day that Dr. Fly came to visit the school to provide shots against smallpox and typhoid. He traveled to all of the schools in Roane County providing immunizations for children. He was noted for his dull and long needles and the scars (both physical and mental) that were left behind. It is said that many children “escaped” from school the day that Dr. Fly visited.

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, August 2014.

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.