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Weekly 150: The Big Buck Community

The Forgotten 19th District

By Jason Martin
Posted 9/8/20

The recent unrest around the expansion of hog farming in Carroll County has shined a temporary light on the once-thriving community of Big Buck. With barn construction under way, a passel estimated …

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Weekly 150: The Big Buck Community

The Forgotten 19th District

Posted

The recent unrest around the expansion of hog farming in Carroll County has shined a temporary light on the once-thriving community of Big Buck. With barn construction under way, a passel estimated at 4,000 to 5,000 hogs has created a division amongst members of the community and Carroll County.

On Friday, September 4, I received a phone call from a long-time resident of the Big Buck community asking me to write a feature on what was/is the 19th District of Carroll County. After a few minutes of trying to move the conversation to a close, I realized the true nature of the call. She, like many of the residents that call Big Buck home, fears her home and community is going to implode with the construction of the farm.

I made the promise, I would work over the weekend to put together a story for the community. Sunday afternoon, I found myself in my truck driving along Highway 436 onto Big Buck Road, and through the various backgrounds of the fading community. The once prolific community has faded into a collection of farms, country homes, churches and family cemeteries.

From the archives and records, the best compilation comes from Alma Scates (October 1912-March 2001). The following is her history of Big Buck:

Big Buck, a fine, thriving community earlier called Newbill and often referred to as the 19th, is located about 8.5 miles south of McKenzie.

Most of the earlier settlers came from North and South Carolina and Virginia. Some settled in other counties in Tennessee, the latter making their way to Big Buck.

The first settlement of Newbill, which was about a mile from Big Buck and now considered the same community, was a very prosperous country village, especially before the Civil War. There was a general store, saloon, tobacco factory, cotton gin, iron foundry, coffin shop, post office and a library.

From an old ledger that belonged to Edward Morgan, dated 1858, we found a record of some of the books that were in the library. They were: Life and Voyages of Columbus, History of Cleopatra, and The Life of Benjamin Franklin. Some names of the persons who read the books were R.L. Coleman, Samuel Baxter, James T. Fuqua, Joseph King, Thomas Huges, John Dickson, George Guthery, John Banks, Abraham Newbill, and Edward Morgan. These books were later purchased by Edward Morgan, his grandchildren (Harry, Robert, Edward) and Mrs. Mary Morgan Coleman and given to Bethel College.

Garland Newbill worked at the foundry and made some wheels. Coke to operate the foundry was obtained at Johnsonville, Tennessee, and was brought in by oxen and wagon. Also, the merchants had to go to Paducah, Kentucky, where boats loaded to get supplies. They traveled down Christmasville Road.

The earlier families that we have a record of who settled in the 19th are, Newbill, Coleman, Morgan, Green, Barker, Jones, Wilder, Guthery, Fuqua, Noram, Parnell, Neely, King, Baxter, Chandler, Sales, Scates, Gilkey, Garrett, Elldsberry and Scott. Many of them had family cemeteries. They were: Newbill, Green, Morgan, Coleman, Baxter, Fuqua, Collins and Wilder. Don’t know the location of all of them [...] The oldest public cemetery is at Zion Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The oldest tomb is that of John M. Hughes, who died in 1862. Also, there is a public cemetery behind Union Academy Baptist Church.

No one knows for sure just when or why the post office was moved and a new store built. Probably because it was more thickly settled and they thought more families could be reached. The post office continued to be Newbill after the settlement became Big Buck. Many have inquired about how the name came about. Some men were at the new store discussing a name, among them was Zeke Morgan who owned a big ox named Buck. He suggested the name “Big Buck” and it has been that ever since.

Some of the older homes were built in and around 1830. The Morgan family home still stands and has the date 1830 carved on some of the timbers. The David Coleman home was started in 1830 and finished in 1839 or 1840. [Coleman was murdered at his home in 1870.] Timber was hand planed and the ceiling was tongued and grooved by hand. [David Coleman’s daughter, Martha Louise married to the City of McKenzie’s founding father James Monroe McKenzie.]

The Fuqua house was used as the first voting place for the 19th.

During the Civil War, General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his troops crossed King’s Levee and passed through Big Buck. Some were on horses and some walking. Two soldiers were killed and buried, one in Newbill’s graveyard and another near New Zion schoolhouse. They were later moved to a national cemetery.

Those from around Big Buck who served in the Civil War were: Edward Morgan, John Morgan (served with Sam Hawkins), Granville Morgan (died in service and buried in Morgan graveyard), Emsley McLean, J.J. Parnell, Jack Coleman, Abe Newbill, W.G. “Bill” Newbill, Bill Clark, Joyner Morgan (buried in Morgan graveyard) and John Norman.

At one time the community had three water mills: one at Wilder’s Levee, one belonging to Pete DeMoss by the Forks of the Creek (between Morgan’s farm and the railroad at Beaver Creek) and another called Mitchum’s mill on Redder Creek. Several horse-powered cotton gins were here also: Darnell’s Gin, Coleman’s Gin and Bill Fuqua’s Gin. Abner Scates operated a sawmill and grist mill. The Scates also operated a stave mill to cut staves to make wooden barrels.

One of the most important things that happened at Big Buck was the making of the Fuqua plow. It was the first one-horse turning plow used in this area. The foundry where this was made was near Etta Coleman’s home and store. The beams [of the foundry] were made of wood. Some of the Parnells were carpenters and made the beams. The last blacksmith shop was operated by Jim Merritt as late as 1940.

The first school that we have a record of was taught by Mrs. A.P. Newbill [...] Through the years there have been schools at Zion and New Zion schoolhouse, also Wilders.

The first store operated at Big Buck was run by Emsley McLean who was born in 1814 and died in 1899. He was the grandfather of Price McLean of McKenzie. It is unknown who operated the store. J.M. “Bud” Coleman purchased the store from him.

Around 1900, Big Buck had two stores, The Bud Coleman store and the other was run by J.A. Scates and Sons, Egbert and Judd.

The doctors who served this community in its early days were Dr. Wingo, Dr. Newsome and Dr. L.F. Howard. Dr. Howard was the only one that lived in Big Buck.

The first postmaster at Big Buck was Haywood Morgan. He also taught school and carried the mail back and forth to McKenzie, most of the time on a horse. The next and last postmaster was Sam Gaston; he carried the mail until a rural route was established.

Each generation has added its bit to preserve and improve the community so we can all refer to it with pride. Residents and former residents alike will agree there is no place like Big Buck. (Published 1969)

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