Smith: Silent Hero … | Chattanooga Times Free Press



Will Rogers, the witty Oklahoma cowboy, was a sensational artist 100 years ago. He joked, “Being a hero is the shortest profession in the world.” How true these words are today. Advocates of Culture Cancellation, Black Lives Matter, and Critical Race Theory wish to destroy not only our heroes but our history and replace it with their own Marxist agenda.

In our little corner of the world, however, there are still heroes untainted with political correctness. They were men and women who didn’t complain about what they didn’t have. Who would have heard them? Instead, they thanked a gracious God for what they had.

Curtis Coulter vividly describes many such heroes in his fifth book, “An Excursion to the Past: A History of Sale Creek and Coulterville, Tennessee”. It takes place in northern Hamilton County from 1775 to the present day, and is more than a fascinating story read and meticulously researched. It is the story of how courageous people in a free society can overcome obstacles and successfully adapt to their environment through ingenuity, hard work, faith and persistence.

Robert Patterson was such a person. Raised on the American border near present-day Knoxville, he fought the British in the Battle of King’s Mountain in 1780 in North Carolina – the Patriots’ first definitive victory in the War of Independence. He was only 16 years old.

Patterson became a miller and received a land grant to establish a flourmill serving the Cherokee Indians near Opossum Creek in 1807. In 1819, the land became Hamilton County, Tennessee, and Patterson was appointed president county court. He helped choose Poe’s Tavern in present-day Soddy-Daisy as the county’s first seat.

Patterson and his children were instrumental in establishing businesses, schools and churches in early Hamilton County. We do not have a statue or painting of Robert Patterson. Even his home just south of Sale Creek, Hamilton County’s first home, burned down in 1971. Yet Patterson’s courage, work ethic, and resourcefulness served as a model for those who would follow him into the country. beautiful valley of the Tennessee river. His descendant, Robert Patterson, still proudly wears his ancestor’s Kentucky long rifle.

In 1821 Patterson’s friend James McDonald purchased land just north of Sale Creek, ultimately acquiring over 2,000 acres. His descendant, Roy McDonald, went on to become a successful farmer, milkman, businessman, and the founder and publisher of one of this newspaper’s forerunners for 54 years. When he died in 1990, he was one of the most influential men in Southeast Tennessee, but he never forgot his rural roots. His family’s 2,170-acre homestead was recently sold to Hamilton County and will become a new industrial park.

Coulter also highlights the contributions of William List. After graduating from Purdue University, he followed his two older brothers to Chattanooga. Their father, a Union Army veteran, told them about the rich farmlands here. William bought land in Sale Creek in 1902 to grow strawberries. He organized a very successful association among more than 100 producers to coordinate production, shipping and marketing. In 1921, refrigerated railroad cars transported strawberries from Sale Creek across the country.

Eventually, List and his son Bill planted peach orchards with equal success. For several years, Sale Creek was the fishing capital of the country. Their efforts secured work for many Hamilton County residents during the dark days of the Great Depression. Bill’s daughter still lives in the beautiful house her grandfather built.

Agricultural competition and migration to cities after WWII transformed the once bustling community of Sale Creek into the quiet neighborhood we know today; however, the proposed industrial park promises new opportunities. Patterson, McDonald, List and others would be delighted. Thankfully, there are no statues of these low-key heroes to topple, but their blood runs through the veins of their descendants and inspires smart, hardworking citizens like them.

Roger Smith, a local author, is a frequent contributor to The Times Free Press.


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