White County at one time was visited by Daniel Boone (hunting was good, but had too many Indian conflicts) and at least one of our relative's folks followed him on to Kentucky and then went on to Missouri to settle with Boone's grandson. Davey Crocket also lived here, and was defeated by a White Countian for a second term for Congress. That sent him to Texas, to the Alamo. One of Sam Houston's brothers taught here, and Sam Houston and Andrew Jackson would stay at the Rock House stage stop. Sometimes Andrew Jackson practiced law here. One of Lincoln's cousins lived here. Visitors included Harriet Beecher Stowe who left one of her books as a cherished gift to her hosts and James Whitcomb Riley.
There were lots of Robinsons and though related, I do not have complete family trees of all the siblings, nephews, uncles, etc. Here are some mentioned in the books that I purchased at the White County Museum: "History of White County" by Rev. Seals and "Memorable Historical Accounts of White County and Area" by E.G. Rogers. (Of the two books, the first is probably the best, the oldest, and perhaps the hardest to find.)
Before the Civil War, James Robinson had a carding mill on Post Oak.
"Eli Robinson was the son of James Robinson who died in a burning house at one hundred and four years old. Robinson made hundreds of tombstones in this County and shipped many outside. His factory which was near Rock House where he lived burned with great loss and he moved to Chattanooga. His son James Robinson is the owner of the Chattanooga Marble Works and has been marvelously successful. John Walker, son-in-law of Eli Robinson worked with his father-in-law in making tombstones at the Rock House. Later he, too, went to Chattanooga where he practiced medicine and fortune-telling." Hmm. Quite the combo, Mr. Walker!
An account by Rev. Seals says, "Marble is also found in White County. In the early days native stone was used for tomb stones and a dozen other uses. In 1876 Eli Robinson lived at the Rock House and operated his marble works at the foot of the mountain. His factory was destroyed by fire and with it perished much of his work."
"J.J. Robinson, the brother of Rev. Bud Robinson, was a Confederate Scout. He is living in retirement at his home at Robinson Chapel. He is the oldest Presbyterian Elder in Tennessee having served his church continuously since 1865. He has been a member of the General Assembly, the highest court in his church."
"Community traditions suggests that there may have been a small trading center here of log structure preceding the structure of 1877 or 1880, built by Robinson. This building, now neglected, still stands. Robinson operated this general store until 1912-15 when the property was sold to Ed Rogers (who must be related to author of the second book.) The country store served the farmers of the community by extending credit while they awaited the harvesting of crops or the marketing of livestock. There was a great deal of trade in barter. Butter and eggs from the home were exchanged for sugar or coffee. Seeds and fertilizers were handled for the convenience of the farmers. Usually the country store provided the services of a barber as a related facility. Upon elections the store was likewise a voting precinct. Disposing of his property here, Robinson moved to Doyle where he again engaged in merchandising for a short time, retiring and moving to Nashville on the Murfeesboro Road."
"Gran Rogers married Mattie Felton of Doyle who now, as widow of Gran, lives in the house near the store once occupied by the Robinson family. Due to illness Gran, too, went out of business. The store has not been operated now for some three decades. (book was written in the 1930's.)
"S.C. Robinson, General Merchant of Sparta."
Here's a description of the pleasure Uncle Bud enjoyed as a boy: "Going to the mill with grain to be ground was a privilege, a privilege because it was a pleasure. There was an art in balancing one's self astride a "turn" of corn thrown across the back of a horse. The dust-covered miller would take his toll, pour up the grain into the bin, engage the water-powered wheel that turned the upper stone against the lower one which was stationary, feel the texture of the grist coming through, and listen with you to you to the humming but somewhat muffled sound of the mill against the water racing away from the turbine to join the main stream again."
We know from Uncle Bud's biographies that his father hid out from the revenuers in the hills with his stills and perhaps ran a saloon. He came near to killing a man over some dispute. Here are the names and accounts of some of those revenuers: "Hugh Lowery was a fearless revenue officer. He was killed in trying to make an arrest." W. F. Steakley while a policeman made three thousand arrests. He was ambushed three times. "Frank Coatney was the most noted raider of wild cat stills we ever had in White County. He served many years as a revenue officer. In one year while there were saloons in Sparta he cut up more stills than were captured during the whole thirteen year period of prohibition." There were charges against a William Robinson (Emanuel's great grandfather ?) for assaulting a woman. So, it is nice to note that some of the Robinsons who stayed in Sparta made better contributions to the community.
Emmanuel's father was a slave owner (There was an active slave trade in Sparta) and left his slaves to his children upon his death. With the picture of the poverty of a one room log cabin with a dirt floor and sleeping on sheep skins piled in the corner, it doesn't conjure up Emanuel's family with slaves, poor as they were. Perhaps he sold them.
All that is left is curiosity and the beauty of Sparta with the good folk of the county who were so courteous and helpful to us. Like the woman in the antique store who said, "Maybe I'll visit California sometime, but my aunt told me, "They DO things out there." If you ever go, we recommend staying out in the country at the beautiful cabins at Firefly Acres where the nice hosts told us to go on up the gravel hill, not too slow and not too fast and we'd make it alright, then they'd settle up with us later. Yep. Those are the White Countians.