- [S106] The Mountain Press, 22 Aug 2011.
Upland Chronicles: Braselton Ownby suffered a tragic summer death
by THERESA WILLIAMS
Mary Huskey Ownby (bottom left), widow of Brazelton Ownby is pictured beside her daughter, Appie Ownby Kirby; and grand-daughter, Flora Kirby. Top row, Jemima Ownby, Amos Ownby and Lavator Ownby.
The granite monument marking the second resting place of Brazelton Ownby in the Aaron Ownby Cemetery.
Summer is about over. Dog Days will end about the 23rd of August, and cooler weather will arrive.
Crops are almost ripe for harvest, and some of the men folk are smelling autumn in the air and waiting for a chance to go hunting.
Braselton Ownby (1851-1892) enjoyed hunting and the opportunity to be out in the woods. He knew the name of every tree, and what part of the tree he could use to benefit his family.
As he walked along, he would stoop, and with his walking stick, dig a wild plant. These he called yarbs. Using the root, leaf, or seed from the wild plants, he would make medicine to cure whatever sickness that would come his way.
Braselton was on a mission. His wife was heavy with child and had a craving for squirrel gravy.
Feeling sorry for his wife, he was bound to get that squirrel, and perhaps some other meat for the rest of the family.
He had taken the small path up the steep hill, and topped over the crest. Over this crest the woods opened into a valley with lots of tall oak trees. Just the right place to look for squirrels.
He paused here on the crest of the hill. As he caught his breath, he looked up to scan the tops of the trees for any sign of his potential meal.
He continued along a trail that led to the right side of the hollow. An old rotten log lay across his path. As in times past, he placed the butt of his gun on the log to brace himself.
One foot was placed on top the rotten log, then the other. To his shock, one foot went through the log to the thigh. Trying to get his balance, he waved his arms in the air.
The butt of the gun he held in his right hand hit the log. The gun fired, and a bullet went deep into his abdomen.
At the cabin below, Braselton’s children stopped their games when they heard a shout from the top of the hill. After the initial shock, the eldest of the children ran to the top of the hill.
There the child found his father. Grief and cries of sorrow came from the little cabin on Black Fox Ridge.
The children ran from the cabin to a neighbor’s house to summon help. The neighbor’s children ran in different directions to notify all the men in the community, the doctor, and eventually, the local law enforcement.
The incident was investigated and ruled an accident.
In 1892 Sevier County did not have morticians to prepare bodies for burial. Everyone understood the need to bury the departed loved one within 24 hours.
Braselton Ownby was buried in the Benajah Proffitt Cemetery on Dudley Creek (now a part of Gatlinburg) in Sevier County.
The shock of losing her husband fell heavily on Polly Huskey Ownby (1853-1943). Emotional stress brought on complications, and Polly delivered Etta and Alice, who soon passed from this life.
Polly buried her twins on either side of her husband Braselton.
Polly grew more emotional (today we would call it postpartum depression). For years she worried about the burial site of her loved one. She wanted to move the graves of her husband and babies.
The cemetery in which their graves lay had no trees, and she was sure they would be suffering from the extreme heat.
To satisfy Polly, neighbors and friends gathered to exhume the bodies. They dug down to the six-foot level, but found no trace of the babies.
The neighbors dug up what they thought would be an appropriate amount of dirt to account of their remains. This blessed dirt was placed in to a new coffin, with their father.
Neighbors gathered for a third funeral at the Aaron Ownby Cemetery and reinterred the new coffin with its precious contents. Polly was pleased. The new cemetery was in the shade of trees, and Braselton would be near his father and mother’s grave for company.
One of the young children who heard the fatal shot that claimed the life of their father was 3-year-old Jemima, who was called Mimmie by the family. Mimmie grew up and married the legendary Lem Ownby of Elkmont. They were known as the last residents to live inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with life-lease agreement.Although Mary Ownby insisted on moving her husband and twin babies to the Aaron Ownby Cemetery, her family chose to bury her in the Shiloh Cemetery when she died in 1943.
Many years later these events are retold among family members. In the telling we are reminded of what is important in our lives. That is family and good neighbors.
— Theresa Williams is a genealogist for the Sevier County Library System. The Upland Chronicles series celebrates the heritage and past of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for future topics, would like to submit a story or have comments please contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email to email@example.com.
- [S94] Sevier County, Tennessee Census, 342a, 21 Jul 1870.
- [S94] Sevier County, Tennessee Census, 453a, 2 Jul 1870.
- [S34] In the Shadow of the Smokies, Smoky Mountain Historical Society, (1993), 550.