Friday Focus: Great-Grandmother (Dad's Dad's Mom)

Nora Laverna Capps was born on 28 August 1882, reportedly in Union County, Tennessee. Nora was the youngest child of Valentine Willis Capps (1833–1914) and Minerva Jane Atkins (1836–1910), who were already in middle age when she was born. Nora had at least nine siblings, the oldest of which (William Scott Capps) was 26 years older than Nora. 

Valentine, Minerva, and Nora Capps, undated (likely early 1890s)

Nora’s older sisters Becky (Rebecca) and Ollie (Frances) lived in Washburn, which was probably the nearest town to the Capps family farm. On visits to her sisters, Nora apparently met Dan Acuff, a merchant in town, whom she married in the fall of 1902. Nora was 20 years old and Dan 34 at the time of their marriage in Knoxville.

Nora had two children: a daughter Mayme Clara (Dale) Acuff born in 1903 and a son Claude Burgess Acuff born in 1911. In the early years of their marriage, Dan sold his store at Washburn and the family moved south across Clinch Mountain to the Buffalo Springs area. 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.

Fifteen years after they were married, Nora’s husband Dan died at the age of 60. According to Hazel Acuff, Nora was lost without Dan: he had done ‘everything’ for her, even to the point of bringing goods home from the store instead of Nora having to shop. Nora was now faced with raising their 15-year-old son Claude and taking over the management of the family store in Buffalo Springs. Nora mourned Dan for a long time, lying alone in an upstairs room and not even attending his funeral. Daughter Dale, then 25 years old and still living at home, must have pitched in to help out in running the household (she was the informant on Dan’s death certificate), despite being busy making plans for her wedding later that year.

In the 1930 Census, the widowed Nora’s occupation is listed as a dry goods salesman, so she was likely still operating the store at Buffalo Springs. Sometime during the 1930s, Nora left the store, as she is listed just as a farm manager on the 1940 Census.

Four months after the sudden death of her son Claude, Nora Acuff died on 9 March 1976 at the age of 93. She was buried next to her husband Dan at the Buffalo Baptist Church Cemetery, between the farmhouse and the site of the old Acuff store at Buffalo Springs.


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

Biographical Sketch of Mary Burgess Green Parker (Article #117, page 45), Grainger County, Tennessee and Its People, 1796-1998. Published in 1998 by Grainger County Heritage Book Committee. LC#98-84037. Mary “recalls her grandmother Nora ‘running the store’” after Dan’s death.

Find A Grave online record for Nora Acuff; confirmed by personal observation of Zeb Acuff at Buffalo Baptist Church Cemetery. 

Decennial Federal Censuses as noted.

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