Purkey

by Mary Ellen Purkey Horner

[Note:  The website owner apologizes if anyone is offended by any part of the content herein.  
So that history may be preserved, this account has not been edited for political correctness.
]

These are some facts about our family history that my father [Michael Jonathan Purkey] told me while he was still active about his daily duties:

His father, David Purkey, was born March 10th, 1822; died April 28, 1885, aged 63 years 1 month 18 days, in what we children always called the old house after our Grandmother Purkey passed away.  This house was built in 1812 near the line of land grant.  [David's father,] Michael Purkey and wife, Mary Colors [or Cullers?], came from Shenandoah Valley, Virginia and entered a one-hundred acre tract of land.  The home they first occupied was a log cabin, typical of those pioneer days, built about the site of Jim Purkey's wheat house, that is on the Fair Ground highway before you turn off to Marguerite School.  He later entered other land and owned to the top of Copper Ridge and where Guffeys and Goforths now live; what I knew as the old Rayle home.  He was buried in the Read, or Morelock, Graveyard.  His father was Christian Purkey[pile].  He came from Amsterdam, Holland to America and settled in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia then moved to the old State of North Carolina, now Tennessee [locating northeast of Morristown near Liberty Hill Church about the year 1812], and is buried on the old homestead site on the hill above Bud Wolfe's.  This land was all government land and they entered it and proved their titles and somewhere the original deed book shows this land grant.  (The family name was changed from Berkebyle to Purkeypile, and later to Purkey as it is today), [with many spelling variants in between, such as Perkipile, Perkapile, Perkepile, Purkypile, Purkepile].

Michael Purkey had four sons:  Daniel died a young man; John was the oldest; Isaac was Cousin Florence Purkey Range's grandfather; David, the youngest, was my grandfather.  Michael Purkey hauled goods with a four-horse team and wagon from Baltimore, Maryland.  He was a prominent farmer.  Grandpa David Purkey went with him when he was a boy to the Goose Creek salt works in Kentucky.  They belled their horses in those days and there used to be one of the old bells there at home, of very nice size and pretty sound.  Grandpa David Purkey was phthisicky (that means asthmatic) and he would sometimes have to lie down on the floor of his wagon and he had his team trained to stop by his knocking or beating on the floor of his wagon and he could rest until the paroxysm was over.  We must remember the Indians were not entirely gone in these early pioneer days and the trails or routes were rugged and rough and lay in desolate wilderness much the time and highway robbers were feared as much as the modern gangster and many brave tales of courage came from this frontier life.  Neighbors were far apart, even the closest, and wild animals sometimes roamed around.  The daughters of Michael Purkey were:

Betsey, married Estes, lived adjoining the Tom Robertson farm (where Rufe Robertson now lives).

Polly and Mary, both married husbands by the name of Noe and settled and owned large land tracts in Golar, near Macedonia where Janie taught school, now in the Cherokee Lake region.

Peggy, married Caleb Crosby, they owned 400 acres of land at the Tom, Lem and George Crosby homes, now mostly covered by the water of Cherokee Lake.  Aunt Peggy was a fine cook and housekeeper.  Father spent a lot of time there as a boy and young man.

Sally, married Russell Riggs, they lived on what is now known as Ewing's Hill on a three hundred acre tract of land running to the Buncombe Railroad.  She was noted as a fine cook and in her later years she removed to Morristown and kept boarders near the old steam mill and the noise and whistle of the mill caused her hearing to become impaired.

We never knew anything about Mary Colors' family and never saw anyone by that name.  She was a fine Christian woman.  Father said the only time he ever saw the name in print or heard of it was a newspaper article about someone by that name somewhere in the State of Florida, long years ago.  [There was a Cullers family in Shenandoah Valley, VA in that time frame.]

I shall try to give a brief word-picture of the old house.  It was built on the hill above the spring and was two large log houses, the kitchen setting right up to the chimney, where they stored grain.  At the other side of house this was open space.  The front part had two large rooms on the first floor, one large upstairs room and other a half-story room; the stairway was spiral, and there were port-holes in the upstairs, where they could shoot at Indians, or any prowlers.  There were three windows in this house, two downstairs and one in the front room upstairs, they were high with nine small panes of glass to a window, the three in lower sash could be raised.  The chimneys were of stone and mortar, beautiful Irish type of masonry with large fireplaces that could burn logs three feet long, or more.  The upstairs fireplace was smaller but very pretty and built quite like the downstairs one.  The arch across this one was built of nice smooth stones and very beautiful, as a child I can remember standing under it when there was no fire in the fireplace.  There were pot hooks in the chimneys; my grandmother cooked in Dutch ovens, set on the coals.  The food was always delicious, and she baked fine bread in this style.  I do not remember so much about the old kitchen, there were two doors and one or two windows in it, a cupboard, table, etc., the fireplace was not as pretty as the one in the front part of house and Grandmother had a small step-stove in it, a fine stove in those days, and she made her jelly on this little stove but the old kitchen was torn down when I was a child and younger hands made most of her jelly on their own stoves for her.  This was a very fine house for those days; as it fell into decay, Father tore it down and used it for stovewood.  The old stone chimney stood there for a long time, like a sentinel on ground made sacred by happy scenes of the long ago.  (Uncle Ike always said the house was built before 1812 and the upstairs added in that year.)

My "Granny" [Nellie Morelock Purkey] was a most lovely old lady, if there ever was one.  Dental parlors not being known in those days, she acquired the habit of smoking a pipe in her fifties to deaden the pain of aching teeth and I think it one of the sweetest sights I ever saw to see her sitting with a soft shawl over her shoulders, a light kerchief on her head, calmly smoking her pipe; there was a wealth of wisdom in her words, too.  She was the only grandparent I ever saw or knew and one of the happiest memories of my childhood was when she would take us with her to hunt papaws over in the woods in late summer.  Her garden was between the old house and Uncle Ike's place but their house was not built until I was about grown.  She had lovely old fashioned annual flowers and herbs in her yard and the garden.  There was a fine orchard on the hill above the house; the spring-house and other out-buildings were of logs.

Michael Jonathan Purkey was born Nov. 23, 1852, died July 21, 1941.  Father had black hair, blue eyes, fair skin, about six feet tall, a very handsome man, and a fine character.  He was a Cumberland Presbyterian, member of Dover Church, until he married Mother [Laura Lorina Humphreys], she was a Baptist and they put their letters in the Liberty Hill Church, about one mile from home, and all of us children were Methodists.  He was one of the oldest Masons in years and in membership of Morristown Lodge #231 F. & A.M. when he died.  He was a farmer and a good carpenter, but would not do his work as a Contractor; he always said the risk involved was too great.  He was fine on locks; was also a good blacksmith, worked in his father's and Grandpa Hull's shops when young.  [Michael's first wife was] Mary Jane Hull, born Oct. 30, 1850; died June 25, 1881.  [Their children were:] Nellie Jane, born Nov. 11, 1875; died June 15, 1897.  William David, went West and lives at Langdon, MO, married Allie King, children George and Nannie Mae, have descendants.  (I do not like to give the names of persons still living for fear they might resent it.)

Laura Lorina Humphreys, or Humphrey, born in Washington County, Aug. 28, 1854; died Aug. 9, 1943.  Removed to Hamblen County in young womanhood with her mother and sister's family, married Father, living happily together for more than fifty years.  She was the mother of the following children:  Lillian Daisy, Michael Murphy, George Smith, Pearl Dillia, Mary Ellen [the author] and Sidney Everett.  Lillian married R. D. Carter, have two children dead, two living, Egerton and Blanche, married descendants; Murph married Nannie Clay Rutledge, children, Burnet, married, has a son, Mildred.  He was born Dec. 25, 1884, died Apr. 14, 1931; George married Jennie Fort, children, Frances, Louise, Jean and Wilbur, all married except Wilbur, Tech. Srg. in USA 91st Division; Pearl married J. D. Tittle, no children; Mary Ellen married E. M. Horner, children Edwin Michael, Instructor in Air Gunnery at Tyndall Field, FL, Mary Esther, working in Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., Tome is a Junior in Morristown High School.  Geo's daughter Frances has five children; Everett married Clara Vandy-Bogart, no children.  My mother was a very sweet and courageous little woman of medium height, dark brown, or black eyes, black hair, a brunette.  She was a fine hand with milk and butter, good cook, dressmaker and housekeeper.  She wove some nice cloth, etc. when a young woman, anything she did was done well.

I will give the names of Father's brothers and sisters in order born,

Michael Jonathan

George Washington, died a young man

James Isaac: first wife Richards, Willie's mother; 2nd wife Catherine Rogers, called her Aunt Duck, children James and Mary Nelle

Sarah Elizabeth, died a young woman, very beautiful

Andrew Johnson, died when a baby

William, died when a baby

David Josiah, called Uncle Joe, married Johnnie Biddle [note:  her name was actually Mary Johnnie Jackson -- Biddy, not Biddle, was her step-father's surname], children Nellie, Robert, David, Charlie, Ada, Eula and Shields

Jennie, died when a young woman, very beautiful

Margaret, died when a young woman, very beautiful

Thomas Alexander, died when a baby

Caleb Daniel, married Mary Robertson of Cedar Creek, had a large family, among children were Lem, Henderson, Minnie, Effie Bryant and Charlcie

Mary Priscilla Elvira, married Henry Miller, reared a large family, she was the mother of Margaret George, both of these families have scattered or died.

Sufficient to say if we live up to the good record left to us we will have run our course well.

Mary Ellen Purkey Horner. [dec'd]

[History of Morelock Cemetery]

Mary Nelle Purkey [daughter of James Isaac "Uncle Ike" Purkey] died on March 3, 1944 and was buried on Sunday, March 5th, funeral was at Liberty Hill church and burial at the Reed, or Morelock, graveyard.  While there I looked around the old cemetery some.  This is one of the oldest, if not the oldest cemetery, in the County.  The first grave in it was that of a traveling man who was weakly, he had a companion along with him when he took sick of fever, or something, and died.  After his burial they had some money left and he had requested it be used as a marker for his grave and gave the inscription so they built a stone mausoleum with a high stone, or slab, at the head of the grave.  In the old part the most of the stones are made of natural stones, undressed, some have inscriptions carved on them but the work of erosion and time have defaced them.

Both of my paternal great-grandfathers are buried in this cemetery.  Great-Grandfather Purkey is buried to the right as you go thru the gate into the cemetery.  There is a large oak standing there now and the old natural stones of this group of graves give you a dreamy feeling of the long forgotten past.  The stones of Great-Grandfather Morelock [Jonathan Morelock, Sr.] and his wife are in very good shape yet, except for the work of the wind upon them, the foundation is wearing causing them to lean.  They are nice, large white marble stones and were outstanding stones for their day.  The names and figures on these and Grandmother Purkey's are plainly discernible and the dates are exactly as I have them in the first paper I wrote.  I meant to get the dates off of Great-Grandmother's stone but I had to hurry on.  I do remember her name appears as Amey and I have heard Father say that was what Grandpap called her, she was born within a year of him and preceded him in death.  Great-Grandfather lived to be 71 years 8 months and died of a stroke as he was starting to town.  After mounting his horse, he complained of feeling sick and they got him down and he was soon gone.

I have visited many old cemeteries, among them the old cemetery at St. Augustine, Florida, and none are more reminiscent of the past than this one is.  One feels almost like they might disturb their slumbers to try to modernize this city of the dead, guarded by large oak trees.

There used to be a log "meeting-house" stand to the south of the place toward the Morelock homestead.  As a child I can remember the foundation stones and sitting and playing on them.  Brother George said he could remember the house.  In this house, called Reed's Chapel, Asbury preached as he traveled on horseback thru this section.  My father gave the old New Hope school house for a burial chapel after he traded for it, selling the new site of the school at Marguerite for the old New Hope grounds that stood adjoining our yard and driveway.  This is undenominational and stands across the road from this graveyard, commonly called the Morelock graveyard.  The Andrew Johnson highway is frequently referred to as the Morelock dip as it runs along near the old homestead that is slowly crumbling to decay.  [I believe she refers to the dip in 11-E, just East of the Coca-Cola plant, now where Hwy 25-E crosses over 11-E.]

[Notes entered in brackets were added by Carole Thomason.]

 

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