Murder on Fodderstack Knob

The Auburntown Historical Society marked the end of its fifth year Thursday Oct. 21, 2010, with a potluck supper held before the meeting. Twenty seven members and guests enjoyed the speaker for the evening, Sherrie Paty Barber from St. Cloud, Florida. 

Mrs. Barber gave an interesting talk starting with her family ties to Auburntown, how she gathered information for her book The Odom Oracle, the trials and tribulations of publishing and tidbits of her upcoming book, Murder on Fodderstack Knob, which is currently in the hands of her publisher. 

An election was then held for officers and one new board member for 2011. Officers for next year are Mary Hughes, President; Bobby Dutton, Vice President; Donna Nichols, Secretary and Danny Nichols, Treasurer. Jean Melton was elected Board Member for a term of three years to replace Winfred Gaither. 

Other board members are Sue Davenport and Charlie Mitchel Dunn. The next meeting will be Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 7:00 at the Auburntown Church of Christ annex. Visitors are always welcome! 

Story by Mary Hughes. Photo by Donna Nichols.

Cannon Register & Clerk

Two newly reelected Cannon County officials were guest speakers at the Auburntown Historical Society on Aug. 19.

Debbie Morris, formerly of Auburntown, and County Register since 1986, joined Bobby Smith, County Court Clerk since 1978, to discuss the types and availability of historical books and records kept by their respective offices. 

"Each of them have been very helpful with our current research efforts,” said Bobby Dutton, vice-president of the Auburntown Historical Society. “We were honored for them to come and present such a program for us.”

Morris noted that although a devastating fire destroyed the Cannon County Courthouse in November of 1934, all the deed books for the county back to 1836 survived and remain available for public use. Smith pointed out that only one book (Marriages of 1929-1934) from the County Court Clerk’s office was lost during the fire as it had apparently been left laying out on a counter. Otherwise, his department also maintains county record books extending back to the founding of the county in 1836.

"With a total of 56 years of service and experience between these two county officials, we know their knowledge of public records will continue to be indispensable as we move forward with the history of Auburntown book project currently underway," said AHS member Danny Nichols. 

The Auburntown Historical Society meets monthly from January through October at the Fellowship Hall of the Auburntown Church of Christ. The public is invited and encouraged to attend these meetings.

Auburntown Community History

2010 saw the kick-off of the Auburntown Community History Book which is now underway and in the research phase. Should you have data, stories, photographs, copies of deeds, wills, advertising flyers or anything dealing with the history of our community that you would like to contribute, please do so now. 

Scanned copies can be e-mailed to or you may mail copies to Auburntown Historical Society, PO Box 114, Auburntown, TN. 37016.

Please insure copies of any materials scanned or copied are done so at a minimum of 600 dpi. Scanners have such adjustments built into their copy and scan programs. The default setting is usually set at 200 dpi, which does not provide a copy of the quality needed for reproducing in a publication of this type.

We welcome all who have ties with the Auburntown community to participate in this project. Our history now exceeds 200 years and will be difficult to cover in a general history. We are looking for information that is relative to the growth and development of the community and includes churches, schools, businesses, government, early settlers, social events, military activities, enlistments, veterans and other interesting aspects of our history.

Auburntown Historical Society Participates in Auburntown High School Reunion

Auburntown Historical Society Participates in Auburntown High School Reunion
Members of the Auburntown Historical Society donated homemade desserts to sell at the Auburntown High School Reunion on June 12, 2010 as a fundraiser for upcoming projects of the Society. 

Among the projects currently underway by the Auburntown Historical Society are a comprehensive history of Auburntown and surrounding communities and a history of the school, according to Mary Hughes, society president.

Hughes said the society is also taking responsibility to scan, copy and preserve any photographs, documents and other memorabilia associated with the Auburntown area. 

Already hundreds of documents and photos have been scanned. Hughes pointed out that recent floods destroyed an irreplaceable collection of books containing news reports and photos owned by a former resident of Auburntown. However, because the owner allowed the historical society to scan the books, digital images exist of the priceless collection.

Hughes reminded everyone that membership is open to all and that volunteers are being sought for help on the project. 

“If anyone has anything they would like scanned for safekeeping, please contact us,” Hughes said, adding that donations of scanned, copied or original images and documents are appreciated and will be handled with discretion.

AHS Books for Sale

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Auburn High Reunion

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Reunion Visitors

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Fish, Friends & Fun at Reunion

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Auburn Reunion

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Reunion Reconnects Friends

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Auburntown Reunion, June 12, 2010

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AHS Announces 2010 Project

Mary Hughes, President of the Auburntown Historical Society, started the January 2010 meeting with the announcement of the project for the year. “For the last four years, the Society has been gathering material to create an archive that will preserve the history of the Auburntown area. Now it is time to use that archive as the starting place for the long awaited book on our history. During the coming year, our members will focus on researching different features in the two hundred year saga of the area.”

2010 Officers Elected

L to R: Ray Melton, Jean Melton, Bobby Dutton, Mary Hughes, Charley Mitchell Dunn, Winfred Gaither, Sue Davenport.

Dunn & Donnell Mill

Charley Mitchell Dunn Presents Program on Dunn & Donnell Mill

Auburntown resident Charlie Mitchel Dunn, guest speaker at the Auburntown Historical Society’s (AHS) March 2010 meeting, provided his recollections of a grain and sawmill at Auburntown co-owned and operated by his father Cecil Patton (C.P.) Dunn. Information for this article was taken from the presentation, interviews and selected documents.
When C.P. Dunn, wife Essie and their three small children moved to Auburntown in 1923, it was a growing and prosperous community. On land owned by Hugh Donnell, where the Auburntown Community Center now sits, lay remnants of old flour and feed mill last operated by Bob Taylor. Additionally, according to notes obtained by Mitchel, there was a steam-powered, grist and saw mill in Auburntown during 1878. It was owned and operated by former Smith County citizen Lieutenant B. A. High. Mitchel felt machinery ruminants around the grounds of the Dunn & Donnell business could have been from this 1878 mill operation.
C.P. Dunn entered into a partnership with Hugh Donnell in 1923 to form a mill business known as Dunn & Donnell. A new two-story building with a partial third story was constructed and all usable machinery re-installed. Additional equipment to operate the mill was engineered by C.P. from parts of discarded machinery. Power to operate both a grain and saw mill was provided by a traction steam engine. However, a large steam boiler which provided steam for two steam engines was later installed. A steam whistle was blown daily at 12 noon and again at sundown during mill operations.
In those decades, mills were needed by families to grind dietary staples of corn meal and wheat flour. Dunn & Donnell received a portion of the deposited wheat as pay for milling. From this wheat, the Company produced “Sifted Snow Flour,” in 24 and 48 pound bags. Similarly, shelled corn was transported by customers to the mill to be ground into corn meal. A portion of the corn or “toll” was charged for grinding the corn. Another service provided by the Company, was the grounding of complete stalks of harvested corn into feed for livestock.
Dunn & Donnell Company also sawed lumber for home and barn construction in Auburntown and the surrounding communities. Oak, beech, poplar, walnut, and cedar trees were plentiful. Logs hauled to the mill were sawed and a fee charged for each board foot. When saw mill employees cut timber, landowners got a share of the cut lumber. A team of men using axes and crosscut saws accomplished felling trees and trimming the logs.
The log yard sloped down from the road. Gravity helped workers get the logs onto the mill processing equipment. A scale pen was located on the south side of the mill and a small granary for wheat storage was on the north side. This building is a small red structure that still stands across the road from the residence of Travis and Beth Hancock. The milling operation ceased and the partnership of Dunn & Donnell was dissolved in the early 1940’s. However, sometime after WW 2, Raymond Robinson used the granary to manufacture doll furniture and children's' play equipment. They were marketed to Harvey’s in Nashville and other outlets in the northeast.
The mill was again dilapidated when the Auburntown Lions’ Club purchased the land from Mary Donnell in 1975. Mary Donnell had inherited it from her brother Hugh Donnell and sister Lillie Donnell Harris. The Lions’ Club cleared the land and erected the foundation for a community center. The City of Auburntown purchased the property in 1980 and built the Auburntown Community Center.
There are no known photos of the mill operated and owned by C.P. Dunn & Hugh Donnell. However, Wendell Cooper, Auburn High School graduate of 1947, created a pencil drawing of the mill in 1960. A postscript by the author of his artwork states: “This old mill at Auburntown, TN was the hub of activity in my youth, with wagons of grain and corn to be ground into feed. The mill, located on the creek bank, also had a sawmill on the opposite side. It is sad to visit and see the weeds grown in the places where men used to work and children played. The scale pen at foreground furnished a playground on many a rainy day.”

Story written by Donna Gaither Nichols