Friday Focus: Great-Grandfather (Dad's Dad's Dad)

We've already asked you to write down stories and memories of your father and your father's father (your grandfather). This week, the assignment is to create a narrative around your great-grandfather on your dad's dad's side.

That would be the guy at top right...
Not many of us have the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with our great-grandparents. I know that I met a few of mine, but most of my memories of them come from family tales and photo albums.

My father's father's father, Dan Acuff (1868-1928), died half a century before I was born, so I never even had a chance to meet him (neither did my father). From what little I've been able to research, he seems like he would have a tale or two to tell.

Dan Acuff was born on 5 April 1868 in or near Grainger County, Tennessee. He was the sixth child of farmer Enos Acuff (1831–1889) and his wife Martha Burgess (b. ca. 1830–d. aft. 1880).

In 1896, 28-year-old Dan, along with his unmarried sisters Kate and Vallie, moved to the “gap of Log Mountain” and bought a store from a Mr. Loftis, according to notes written by my grandfather Claude.[i] Log Mountain lies northwest of Washburn, Tennessee, and there is a major gap at Williams Creek; this is a likely location for the gap referred to in Claude’s notes. On the 1900 Census, Dan is listed as a merchant, 25-year-old Vallie as a saleswoman, and 40-year-old Kate as “keeping house” in their shared rental home.

On a Wednesday morning in the fall of 1902[ii], Dan (now 34 years old) and 20-year-old Nora Laverna Capps, the younger sister of two married women living in Washburn, traveled to Knoxville to be married at the courthouse there. According to family notes, the officiant was a Marian Fitzgerald, perhaps a justice of the peace.[iii] This author surmises that the wedding may have been a hasty affair, as Nora was about three months pregnant at the time; this may also explain why the ceremony was not performed in a local church or in the Grainger County courthouse.

Massengill Gristmill on Buffalo Creek. Photo taken circa 20 February 1939. Along with Dan Acuff’s store and a blacksmith shop operated by Hack Yates, the Massengill Mill was the central feature in the small rural community of Buffalo Springs (Grainger County, Tenn).

In the early years of their marriage, Dan sold his store at Washburn and he, Nora, and their daughter Dale moved south across Clinch Mountain to the Buffalo Springs area.[iv] The family lived above Dan’s new store there, until sometime after 1920, when they were able to build a farmhouse along Owl Hole Gap Road, a little more than a mile north of the store.[v]

Following a three-week illness, Dan Acuff died on 9 April 1928 at the age of 60 years and four days; his cause of death is listed as a hemorrhage of the bladder[vi], although prostate cancer was believed to be the underlying disease. He was buried the next day in the Buffalo Baptist Church Cemetery, Grainger County, Tennessee.

Dan's story raises lots of questions for me. I presume his stores were both general mercantile stores, but did he have a particular type of goods that he was knowledgeable about? How did the son of farmer come to own a store?

How did he come to meet my great-grandmother Nora? Was she a regular visitor to the Log Mountain store? Did she spend a lot of time with her married sisters instead of with her parents?

Was there a reason behind Dan's sisters Kate and Vallie still being single at the ages of 40 and 25, respectively? It certainly doesn't seem to fit the norms of the area and time.

More research is in order to answer these questions adequately; until then, I'll just have to re-examine the information I do have and see if anything else pops out. There's a story there - I just need to find it!

What do you know of your great-grandfather? What sort of work did he do? Are there any family stories about him that your children would enjoy reading about - if so, write them down!

[i] Notecards written by Claude B Acuff and transcribed in August 2001 by Zeb Acuff. Cards held by Hazel Acuff at time of transcription.

[ii] Knox County Archives Marriage Index. Accessed 23 October 2012

[iii] Claude Acuff notecards transcribed by Zeb Acuff.

[iv] 1910 Census for Dan Acuff, 5th Civil District, Grainger County, Tennessee; SD 1, ED 6, sheet 1A.

[v] Notes by Zeb Acuff from Conversation with Hazel Lea Acuff and John Acuff; July 4, 2011, 197 Thurman Watson Road, Rutledge, TN

[vi] Death certificate for Dan Acuff, died 9 April 1928. State of Tennessee Certificate of Death #11227

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