Stories related below are taken from correspondence
with John L. Yarbro, a direct descendant of Romulus Sanders Swift and Sarah
Salina Paine. As I read the stories, preparing to rewrite them for this
website, I realized John's words were the only words in which these stories
should be told. I'm sure you will enjoy them as much as I did.
A special thanks to Ron
Twilla RTwilla@aol.com for providing this
Notes on Jake Swift
Grandmother's brother Jake Swift was a musician,
had a horn tattooed on his hand, traveled around with the circus most of his
life, he could play any brass instrument. Fiddle too! He also
When I was growing up, he was an old man who lived downstairs at my
grandmothers' house in an unimproved room behind the kitchen. He raised a
large vegetable garden behind her house, kept the family in
vegetables and sold some downtown too. He told the most excellent stories.
Some were variations of Grimms or Anderson Fairy Tales and some were unique,
that I have never run across since.
My grandparents had 27 grandchildren ranging across 4
generations and we would all spend our time with Jake in that dark cold room,
wrapped in one of his blankets that smelled like the pipe tobacco he
smoked. The room was usually lit by a dim light bulb hanging from the
ceiling. Uncle Jake would sit on his old iron bed and play the fiddle or
tell a story. He had a slow deep voice and would pause between his words,
giving them more effect. He always kept a can of
King Leo peppermint sticks handy and would offer them to us. I suppose
everything he owned in the world was stashed in that room in either an old trunk
or in a box under his bed. Going in there was like walking into another
world and for us kids, it was always a
little spooky at first. He rarely came into the main house and I never
even wondered why he didn't sleep upstairs. I found out years later that he and
my grandfather didn't get along very well, so he
stayed in his own world most of the time. Knowing that now and looking
back, I suppose us grand kids were quite a gift to him. I have one of his
horns that my grandmother gave to me after he died. A Sousaphone.
Notes on Paul Swift
The other Swift brother I knew was uncle Paul. He lived on our river
farm for several years when I was growing up in a huge old farmhouse that used
to be down there. His wife, Bertha, really had the place
spruced up! (It had been vacant for a long time prior to them coming there.)
My father was always very busy and uncle Paul didn't mind me being dropped off
there with them.
This sounds really odd, being that we farmed and own
land and all, but those days were the only times I ever spent on a farm growing
up. My mother was from Nashville and refused to become a farm dweller, so
I grew up in town.
During the day uncle Paul and Bertha would chop cotton
and my cousin Jenny and I would tag along, walking the fields while Paul told us
stories. It never was tiresome, walking and listening to him. He hadn't traveled as much as Jake and Charles but he still knew some good
stories. He was a very gentle, kind man.
Their life there was much more primitive than I was
accustomed to. They had electricity and running water, but one still had
to go to the outhouse and baths were taken in a large washtub. The old
house had a enclosed dog trot down the middle, that could be opened up in the
warm months and the rooms had fans. No air conditioning, but it wasn't
such a big thing to me.
I do fondly recall sitting on the long back porch
snapping peas for Aunt Bertha or Jenny and I sitting out on the front porch in
the dark of night, watching lightening bugs and talking endlessly about God
I was truly lucky to have known them.
Uncle Paul and Uncle Jake are buried at Fairview Cemetery in Dyersburg, near my
grandparents and my
Notes on Neely Culp
My grandmother's grandfather is Neely Culp, from Culps Chapel, which is
across the river and north of Clifton, Tennessee. Ever been to Culps
Chapel? Neely went to the California god rush and came home wealthy.
Built a plantation and owned slaves. The foundation of the old house and a
stone wall remain on the property. He was supposedly kidnapped during the
Civil War by locals who wanted his gold. They killed him over in Decatur
County and hid his body. One of the killers confessed when he was older
and dying. Family tradition has it that after he was taken, a flock of
crows flew up to the manor house and tried to get in the doors and
windows. One of the female servants saw this and turned to Neely's wife
and said, "Marse Culp is dead."