Tag Archives: Oliver Springs

Ben Gann – District 3 – Oct 2018

Ben Gann, a lifelong resident of Roane County, grew up in Harriman and later Oliver Springs where he graduated from high school. Gann works as a Health and Safety Specialist for the DOE complex and lives on a small farm with his wife of seven years, Heather Gann, in Dickey Valley. Ben believes growing up in Roane helps him understand and relate to the needs of his rural neighbors in District 3. Eager to serve the people of the third district, Gann ran for County Commissioner with a local perspective and a progressive vision with the goal of promoting growth and investments in Roane County. Gann knows that Roane County has a lot to offer and encourages his fellow residents to join him in getting involved in our community.

In Memory of Steve Kelley – March 2018

This time of the year we generally start writing about the up and coming County Budget, but we shall pause and write about an outstanding Budget Committee member who passed on February 21, 2018, at the age of 63, Steve Kelley. Steve joined the Roane County Budget Committee in September 2011 and served faithfully representing all of Roane County as a member.
Steve was elected from the Oliver Springs, Orchard View and Oak Hills voter
precincts and was a resident of the city of Oak Ridge, TN. He represented his district and Roane County with the utmost integrity and was always inquisitive and fair in his approach to governance. Steve was a quiet leader who earned respect from his fellow Commissioners. He had a passion for education but was concerned about all County Government services and the employees of the County. He loved his wife Renee and three (3) boys. Steve was raised on Dearmond Road in the South of the River community and graduated from Roane County High School. He served our Country in the U.S. Navy and worked at Third Dimension Technologies as he was a self-taught programmer with a Bachelor of Science degree in business from Tusculum College. Steve served with various volunteer organizations including as an executive member of the Roane County Democratic Party. Steve will be missed by his family, his friends, and his fellow workers and Commission colleagues. Steve we will miss your friendship and government leadership.

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

Main Streets in Roane County Cities Still Used

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

In Roane County, all the main streets in the history of these cities are still being used. In Kingston, Race Street was part of the roads going west which included the Great Road and Stagecoach Road. It is the legend that the road got its name from horse races but there is no documentation of that. In Rockwood, Rockwood Avenue (also known as Rockwood Street) led to the Roane Iron Company furnaces for which Rockwood was created. In Harriman, Roane Street is the main street in and around which the city grew. In Oliver Springs, it is Main Street, for which buildings such as the Seinknecht building still exist.

Originally Written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, June 2016.

The Haunted House in Oliver Springs

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

The Oliver House was built by Richard Oliver, in the 1840s, for whom the town of Oliver Springs was named. In 1892, the home was owned by Mrs. William M. Lewis and burned. In a newspaper article about the fire, The Knoxville Tribune, 3 Nov 1892, stated that the house was haunted. In that article, the details about the haunted house are given. The article states “Strange noises have been heard in the house, and some very peculiar scenes witnesses witnessed. One night not long ago Mrs. Lewis started to go up the stairs and was confronted by the figure of a man. She supposed that the specter was her husband and called him by name. No reply was made, and she screamed. The specter or whatever it was, instantly vanished. One of the rooms upstairs was not furnished for several years. Mrs. Lewis herself occupied the room for a couple of years and then abandoned it because she was disturbed every night by strange noises. One night as she was about to retire after having locked the door, the door suddenly flew open and sounds of groaning filled the room. She locked the door again and again with the same result. A thorough examination of the doorway was made, and no fault could be found in the construction.” Another room, the southwest parlor on the ground was also supposed to be haunted. During the Civil War, a “gallant young man was engaged to be married to a certain young woman, who for some reason changed her mind. She then married an officer in the Confederate services who remained in the far south several months during the year 1863. He came home one night and looking through the window saw his wife in the embrace of her first love. He carried an old rusty army musket with him and firing killed the paramour.”

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, October 2015.

The Murder of Pony Cash

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

The murder of Oliver Springs Marshal, Henry J. “Pony” Cash, by William West in 1904 created an interesting legal question. Do you try the murderer in the county from which he fired the fatal shot? Or do you try him in the county in which the victim drops dead? This is what happened in this unusual case. Oliver Springs sits where three counties (Roane, Anderson, and Morgan) come together. William West fired the fatal shot from the Anderson County side while Pony Cash was killed on the Roane County side. Finally, it was decided that the trial would be heard in Roane County since Pony was murdered there. However, many depositions in the case file always asked the question of where William West and Pony Cash were located when the fatal event occurred. Pony Cash and his six-year-old son were on their way to hear Ralph Bingham, who was a well-known speaker at the time when he was shot four times by West. He was probably killed almost instantly as he died without speaking. The trial of William West went forward in Roane County, and he was convicted and sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary. Pony Cash is buried in the Oliver Springs Cemetery (which is located in Roane County!).

Originally Written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, July 2013.