- [S24] The Newport Plain Talk, (http://www.newportplaintalk.com), 23 Nov 2013.
A link to Cocke County's earliest days
‘As It Was Give To Me’
©2013 NPT PHOTO BY DUAY O’NEIL
Tisha Moore, born Nov. 8, 1913, at a birthday party celebrating her 100th year.
Last week’s column centered on the family of Tisha Moore, a delightful lady who turned 100 years old Nov. 8. As matriarch of five generations, she presides over a family that would need a house the size of Biltmore for a comfortable sit-down Thanksgiving dinner.
Tisha obviously lives in the “here and now,” as evidenced by her sharp mind and deep love for each family member.
But she’s also a link to East Tennessee’s earliest days.
With the help of Tisha’s granddaughter-in-law, Melanie James, who has interviewed Tisha numerous times and collected an enviable set of family photographs, we can easily see Tisha as a vital link between 2013 and an era when Revolutionary War veterans still walked the hills of a very young Cocke County.
Tisha was born November 8, 1913, when Woodrow Wilson was President and World War I remained in the future. Many young Cocke County men, including then Tennessee Gov. Ben W. Hooper, still “Remembered the Maine” as veterans of the recent Spanish-American War.
Older veterans of the Civil War still gathered for reunions in Greeneville and Knoxville, and several gathered on the steps of Newport Presbyterian Church, then on McSween Avenue, for a group photo. There might even have been a veteran of the Mexican War still tottering around.
Tisha is the youngest of five children born to Joseph S. Gunter and his wife, the former Millie Norton.
Her dad was born in 1867 and her mom in 1866, when wounds inflicted in East Tennessee from the Civil War, which had ended, at least on paper, in 1865, remained fresh and painful.
The Gunter home was in Long Creek, “way up” in Parrottsville near the Cocke-Greene County line. Because of its remoteness, one would think this area of the two counties would have escaped much of the war’s horrors, but raiders, bushwhackers, and soldiers found their way to the farms and homes of every community, taking food, horses, livestock, grain, whiskey, clothing, and pretty much everything else for their own use and leaving the families to fend for themselves.
Tisha’s description of the Gunter homeplace and the hard work could well be that of most every household of the era. She remembers the family growing corn and wheat, having berries and pear and apple trees, and raising cows and chickens. “What they raised or grew was what they ate,” says Melanie. “Mornings often started at 4:00 a.m. just to get things done and bedtime came at 9:00—10:00 p.m. Her mother would help on the farm as well as quilting, canning, making clothes, cooking all the meals, and caring for the children. Each family member had to work in the fields, milk the cows, gather eggs, can foods, and do whatever else needed to be done.” Tisha had two brothers, Tilman (1900-1950) and Luney (1910-2005) and two sisters (Mary (1903-1993) and Rilda (1898-1980).
Brother Luney’s name might strike some as odd, but I’d bet a nickel it traces to Luna Chapman, a much older resident of the community, and a brother of my great-grandfather William Sisk’s first wife, Eleanor. The Chapman place is now known as the Easterly Freshour homeplace and the old Chapman-Sisk cemetery remains on the nearby hill. William and Eleanor had a son, Luna Sisk, known to my mother as “Uncle Luney.”
In this season of Black Friday sales and the “must- have” Christmas toys, hearing about the Gunter children’s entertainment seems somewhat unbelievable. Tisha remembers swinging on grapevines and playing with rag dolls made by her mother. Her favorite toy belonged to brother Luney, a hoop rolled around by using a stick. She enjoyed it so much that when she became a mother she made her own children a similar toy.
Brother Tilman eventually left Cocke County to work in Kentucky’s coalmines and only came home once a year. Older sister Rilda moved away when Tisha was quite young, there being 15 years between the two.
Sometimes her dad fixed popcorn over the fire as a treat for her mother, Tisha, and himself. By this time, her older siblings were all gone from home. Perhaps because she was the youngest, her dad was very strict when Tisha reached “courtin’ age.” But love seems to always triumph, and through her brother, she met her first husband, Luke Matthew Keller, born in 1910 in Hot Springs, North Carolina, one of the 13 children of Phillip (1885-1979) and Alice (Graham) Keller (1889-1931).
Tisha and Luke married in 1934, when she was 21. Their first child, one of the couple’s three daughters, was named Valerie.
By this time, Cocke County, like the rest of the world, was feeling the grip of the Great Depression. Times were hard and jobs were scarce, so Luke moved his family (including his mother-in-law and brother), to West Virginia’s coalmining region. By 1940, the group lived in Fayette County, West Virginia. during their time in this state, the Kellers moved several times because of the unstable mining jobs and wages. Living conditions weren’t great in the coal mine towns and camps. Men worked long hours in dangerous conditions. Families lived in camp housing or, if lucky, in small homes.
When Luke arrived home one day, Tisha had chicken for supper. “Where did you get that chicken?” he asked, to which Tisha replied, “I went fishin’ and caught it.”
Seems someone’s chickens ran all over the camp, trying to get inside the houses if the windows or doors were open, so Tisha decided to catch one. She placed a grain of corn on a fishhook and dangled it out the window. Pretty soon, she felt a tug, gave the line a pull, and snagged herself a chicken.
While in West Virginia, the Kellers received a visit from Luke’s brother Robert. Tisha “hit him upside the head” with her mop when she caught him trying to skate on her newly cleaned floor.
Those were unstable days in the coalmining regions with growing unrest between mine owners and employees over safety and wage issues. Sometimes violence broke out, and speaking out might bring violent retaliation.
One day Tisha returned home to find it empty and the doors locked. After Tisha climbed through an open window, a neighbor came over and urged her to leave. Somehow the neighbor had received word of plans to dynamite the home because of union issues. But the home remained. Later Tisha heard that the people who were going to destroy it were killed while on their way there.
During World War II, Luke and Tisha returned to Cocke County with daughter Valerie, where they went back to farming and spending long hours in the fields. Two more daughters came along, Rilda in 1943 and Ruby in 1947. On bath days during the summer, Tisha would fill a tub with water and leave it out in the sun all day to heat the water.
World War II ended. Luke died in 1951. After being a widow for several years, Tisha married again, this time to Ralph Leon ‘Jube’ Moore, in 1966.
She never met her paternal grandparents, Charles (1826-1912) and Catherine (Norton) Gunter (born in 1833). Her maternal grandparents were Martin Richard (1839-1924) and Vina ‘Viney’ (Chandler) Norton (born in 1849), farmers who moved from North Carolina to Long Creek.
Her great-grandparents were Joshua and Honor (Gunter) Gosnell, William and Nancy (Shelton) Norton, Peter and Ursley (Shelton) Norton, and Simeon and Malinda (Robbins) Chandler, families who lived in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, before moving to Greene and Cocke Counties in Tennessee.
You can do the math. With a grandfather born in 1826, Tisha’s great-grandfather would have been born about 1800, perhaps earlier, when the ink wasn’t quite dry on documents pertaining to Tennessee’s admittance to statehood in 1796.
Tisha Moore, age 100, lover of her trip to the beach to see “all that water,” a woman who enjoyed a spring visit this year to a bed-and-breakfast in the mountains, a trip to Biltmore and another outing to Splash Country with her only surviving daughter Ruby and great-granddaughters Hanna James and Madie James, a woman who goes to Dollywood every chance she gets and who loves to eat at Cracker Barrel, truly is a link to our region’s past.
Charles Gunter (1826-1912), Tisha’s paternal grandfather
Luney Gunter, Tisha’s brother
Luke and Tisha (Gunter) Keller with their three daughters, Valerie, left, Rilda, center, and Ruby, shortly before Luke’s death and Ruby
Martin Richard Norton (1839-1924) and wife, Vina ‘Viney’ (Chandler) Norton (1849-1927), Tisha’s maternal grandparents
Joseph and Millie (Norton) Gunter, Tisha’s parents
Tisha’s sister Mary and Johnny Gunter. The children, by age, are ‘Wick,’ Ellis, Lois, Virgil, McKinley, and Fred
Tisha’s sister Rilda with her son Billy
Tisha Gunter Keller and daughter Valerie about 1940
Tilman Gunter, Tisha’s brother
- [S112] Census, 1930.
Name: Tishi Gunser
Titles and Terms:
Event Type: Census
Event Year: 1930
Event Place: Hot Springs, Madison, North Carolina, United States
Marital Status: Single
Race (Original): White
Relationship to Head of Household: Sister
Relationship to Head of Household (Original): Sister
Birth Year (Estimated): 1914
Father's Birthplace: North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace: North Carolina
Sheet Number and Letter: 1A
Household ID: 6
Line Number: 31
Affiliate Name: The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
Affiliate Publication Number: T626
Affiliate Film Number: 1704
GS Film number: 2341438
Digital Folder Number: 004608299
Image Number: 00704
Household Gender Age Birthplace
Head Luney Gunser M 20 Tennessee
Wife Lela Gunser F 18 South Carolina
Son Arnold Gunser M 0 North Carolina
Sister Tishi Gunser F 16 Tennessee
- [S112] Census, 1940.
Name: Tisann Keller
Titles and Terms:
Event Type: Census
Event Date: 1940
Event Place: Kanawha Magisterial District, Fayette, West Virginia, United States
Marital Status: Married
Race (Original): White
Relationship to Head of Household (Original): Wife
Relationship to Head of Household: Wife
Birth Year (Estimated): 1915
Last Place of Residence: Hot Springs, Madison, North Carolina
Family Number: 51
Sheet Number and Letter: 23B
Line Number: 58
Affiliate Publication Number: T627
Affiliate Film Number: 4402
Digital Folder Number: 005462129
Image Number: 00479
Household Gender Age Birthplace
Head Luke Keller M 29 North Carolina
Wife Tisann Keller F 25 Tennessee
Daughter Valarie Keller F 5 Tennessee
Mother-in-law Millie Gunter F 56 Tennessee
Brother Erve Keller M 20 North Carolina