- [S104] Cocke County, Tennessee, and its People, Cocke County Heritage Book Committee, (Walsworth Publishing, 1992), 245.
- [S24] The Newport Plain Talk, (http://www.newportplaintalk.com), 31 Dec 2006.
The sun is already rising a couple of minutes earlier as the days lengthen and our hometown folks greet the New Year tonight, hoping for more of these mild days. Over the years, I lost contact with a man known to me as one of the few well drillers that came to mind when we did stories, such as those when wells ran dry during the mini-drought of the mid 1980s. It was a balmy day when I picked a time to visit W.C. Smith at his home off Baltimore Road, state road 340 north, about a mile from Highway 321. Those of you who are his neighbors and keep up with the family know what a difficult time he and his wife, Margaret Ottinger Smith, faced before she died in 2004 from Alzheimer's disease. His sisters, Edith Johnson, and Paula Sane, hold him in higher regard and great respect after the way he dedicated himself to her care for about 10 years, while her conditioned worsened. W.C. described it as "a horrible disease." He turned 77 on November 19 and remains in excellent health-never a smoker-after he gave up living off canned tuna fish and junk food, when he worked huge hours drilling wells across the county. He took up walking in 1995 when his wife was diagnosed and has worn out several tread mills and many shoes since then. But he hasn't worn out his trusty, black chow-mix dog, Squirt. W.C. didn't do any well drilling from about 2000 through 2005 yet he remains a household word when it comes to calling someone to help find water for the house or farm. The 165-foot well for his home, where he and Margaret lived since 1950 was one of the first drilled in the area. They raised several children: Ronnie, a well driller now; Marla Frankfort, of Florida; Cindy Martin, a teacher at Northwest School; and Rachel Ward, co-owner of Premier Therapy. Until I looked at some legal papers he shared in our discussion about his state licensing problem, I didn't know his full name was William Crockett Smith, one of three children of Paul and Bessie (Freshour) Smith, who raised him not far from his present home. It was the name of his grandfather, but W.C. never killed a bear. He was always working even as a young man. Like some of you, he was born at the beginning of the Great Depression. He recalled that a group of his friends in an old vehicle came by and took him to DeKalb, Illinois to seek work. They pitchforked mountains of manure in cold and hot weather on a huge farm for pennies. And, like many of you, he worked at Lowland and borrowed a few hundred dollars to build his first house with the oversight of Frank Hommel (Guy Hommel Sr.'s Dad). Charles Ragan, a close friend and good neighbor, helped with the construction. A man who W.C. always admired, Mac Olden, provided the lumber. Other neighbors you know are Herb Sane and sons of L.B. Trentham. About 1954, a man drilled a well for W.C. and so he spent many hours watching and admiring the work. He became mesmerized and decided then he must have a drill and learn. The first well he drilled with the slow hammer drill-about 20 feet a day-was for Kenny and Denver Trentham's Dad. Today's rotary air drills do in one hour what he did in a day. "It's the only thing I've ever wanted to do. If I didn't run into it (well drilling), I'd be sleeping under a bridge." And it is not an easy job with its mud, noise, and water-he still can hear because he wore ear protection. In the early years only Joe Samples and he were available and charged about $3 per foot compared to $10-12 today. The hole drilled to find water in hidden aquifers is still about the same six inches wide but pumps have changed for the better with the advent of submersible ones in the 1960s. W.C. has also trained several folks during the years including Kenny Presnell, Boss Brady, and Carl Ottinger. For more than 50 years, well drilling has been his life. Yes, he has developed a few other interests such as Civil War history, but none could replace the sound of steel and carbide biting into limestone. When he was nursing his wife, his license lapsed and now the state doesn't want to restore it. So, he helps his son and will continue to be a driller until they "cuff me and stuff me." Newport Attorney Tom Testerman is helping W.C. drill through the red tape. In plain talk, once you have found a niche for your life, it is best to stick with your fortune.
Just Plain Talk - W. C. keeps on drilling
- [S24] The Newport Plain Talk, (http://www.newportplaintalk.com), 4 Jan 2009.
You read the Friday Plain Talk stories on armed robberies in the county, and at work that day I got some more information to share with you from our adv. rep., Vickie Mason. Those who know W.C. Smith, who I visited and featured here months ago, were stunned by the robbery at his home just off Baltimore Road north of Parrottsville. It was New Year's Eve, when two men beat him and stole cash. His sister, Paula Sane, called me at home to tell me that her Dad was at Baptist Hospital emergency room, as we spoke. Vickie told me that after the robbers had left, W.C. had managed to free his hands but not his ankles and made his way two houses down. At the same time, Vickie's daughter, Kari Padgett, had just arrived at this home of her cousin, Marissa Hommel, who was hosting a party that evening. Her house is the former one of her grandparents, Guy and Magda Hommel Sr. Kari heard some rustling in nearby brush but didn't think anything of it until she heard someone call out, "Can you help me?" Then a blood-covered W.C. appeared and frightened Kari. Marissa, who is a student nurse, came out to assist the victim, while Kari called 911. County deputies and emergency technicians quickly arrived to give aid.
Just Plain Talk - New Year brings excitement to our hometown
- [S24] The Newport Plain Talk, (http://www.newportplaintalk.com), 2 Jan 2009.
Parrottsville man beaten during armed robbery
PARROTTSVILLE-A Cocke County is recovering after being beaten during an armed robbery at his home on New Year's Eve.
According to a report filed by Cocke County Sheriff's Deputies Derrick Webb and C.J. Ball, 79-year-old W.C. Smith, who operates a local well-drilling business, was robbed of nearly $13,000 in cash and other items just after 5:30 p.m. at his home on 260 S. Highway 340.
Smith told deputies he was at his residence when two white males came to his back door and yelled "can you dig my mamaw a well, hers went dry."
Smith told deputies when he came outside one of the suspects pulled a gun on him and forced him into the house. The victim said once inside the suspects began punching and kicking him and then "pistol-whipped" him in the right cheek.
According to the report, the suspects tied Smith's hands and feet and led him into the bedroom to a large safe, which the victim opened. The robbers then reportedly threw Smith to the bed and proceeded to take a bowl of quarters, $12,000 in cash and a .38-caliber revolver. The suspects also reportedly took medication stored in the freezer as they left the scene.
Smith was finally able to walk to a neighbor's house to get help. He described one of the suspects as being a tall, slender white male approximately 25 years old wearing dark glasses. The other suspect was described as a 5'6" white male approximately 21 years old wearing a dirty blue toboggan. Smith said one suspect called the other one "Leroy." Both men are believed to have left in a white pickup truck.
Smith was taken to Baptist Hospital for treatment and later released.
Family member Paula Sane said Thursday, "He's going to be fine. They beat his face and kicked him in the side but he's going to be O.K." Sane added that family members are taking extra security measures to make sure nothing like this happens in the future.
- [S58] Marriage Certificate.
Name: W C Smith
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Event Type: Marriage
Event Date: 28 Mar 1949
Event Place: Cocke, Tennessee, United States
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Spouse's Name: Margaret Louise Ottinger
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GS Film number: 1669918
Digital Folder Number: 004485979
Image Number: 00181