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Clarence Richmond's Early Life

As told to his daughter, Ann Richmond Sewell, of Searcy, Arkansas
Born Nov. 30, 1895.

Started to school at Waterville, near Cleveland, TN, at 6 yrs. The school didn't have grades when he started. The graded system came in while he was there. They had one class where all studied at different levels. The teacher called all that wanted to recite in a certain class to come to the front. My dad jumped from the 4th to the 6th reader when the graded system came in.

He had typhoid fever when in the 7th grade, missed a whole year of school, which was only a few months a year, and usually out in Feb. He remembers taking typhoid fever and carrying the corn they grew to the mill on horseback, called a "turn" of corn. He felt so badly he could hardly get off the horse. It was his (great) Uncle Levi Trewhitt's mill, "Sweet" Trewhitt, he was called. Uncle Levi liked to argue a lot and that was probably why he was called "Sweet." He married Clarence's grandmother's sister, Sarah Wattenbarger. Clarence's grandmother was Mary Wattenbarger.

No one else in the family got typhoid but he, and he doesn't know where he got it. He says it's a wonder he didn't die. He got better, walked to the kitchen and suffered a backset. The fever settled in his leg and it was swollen as big as his body! He says he wasn't small for his age. He was white-headed until he had typhoid, and it grew back dark and curly. His older brother Gus got his height over 6', from the Bacons, Grandmother Richmond's family.

He took the 8th grade twice at Waterville, not because he failed, but he didn't want to leave, and wanted to learn more, which he did. For the 9th and 10th grades he went to Liberty School and lived with his Grandmother Randolph, his dad's mother. She had married again and lost her second husband. They lived close to Waterville, and had a huge fireplace where she made 3" or 4" cornbread in a Dutch oven in the fireplace. He remembers loving to eat it and burning his fingers on it. He always loved cornbread and ate it often, since they grew their own corn.

Clarence's grandfather, William Richmond, died when Clarence's father was 4 yrs. old. His grandmother, born Mary Wattenbarger, moved back to Liberty, in central Tennessee, to be near the Randolphs after her second husband died. Clarence was the only one living with her, and he carried in her wood for the fire. She canned a lot of food. He doesn't know how she got money for living expenses.

His teacher's name was Sherman Puett. He could teach no higher than 10th grade. He had always lived around Union Grove. Then Clarence started school at Flint Springs school. The teacher was a graduate of the U. of Tenn. Clarence went there only about amonth, then the family moved to town.

His older brothers, Gus and Arch Richmond, studied with a private school teacher at Flint Springs. When that teacher moved to Polk County, they went up there with him. When the teacher left, that meant the end of school. It was a private school, that is, tuition was paid to the tutor for instruction.

From Liberty School, he'd walk home on weekends, about 4 miles. School was hard, the students studied together a lot (when they weren't playing checkers). They used to shoot rabbits and peddle them for 10 cents apiece. Claude, Carl and Ernest Wattenbarger, Clyde and Ora Lee Randolph went to school in his class. About 8 or 10 about the same age were in the same class. Carl W. and Clarence buddied more than the others. Carl's grandfather was a brother of Clarence's grandmother, Mary Wattenbarger Richmond Randolph.

There were 2 rooms in the Liberty School, and 2 teachers. One taught through the 4th or 5th grade. Students bought books from each other, and used tablets and slates. Baseball was their big game. Clarence was pitcher. He'd ride all over the country playing ball on Saturdays.

When he started to Flint Springs, he got a bicycle and rode 5 miles back and forth on country roads. He said, " A person really had to want an education to do that!"

When he moved into town (Cleveland, TN) he worked at Hardwick Woolen Mills from 6:30 A.M. to 8:20 A.M. before school; then after school from when school was out to 5:20 P.M. or later if overtime. This was enough to buy his books and some clothes for school.

Grandmother Richmond (Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bacon Richmond) was the main reason they moved to town. She got so tired of the mud and not being able to go anywhere in winter because of it. Clarence also thought she desired him to have a better education, and not ride 5 miles back and forth to school.

In town he went to Cleveland High school (where Allen School is now on E. 4th St.) for the 10th grade. The family lived out on Dalton Pike.

While still in the country, he rode his bicycle back and forth in summer to the canning factory in Cleveland on Waterhouse St. They canned tomatoes. He helped load cans in place to boil. They had lots of negroes working who sang a lot while they worked.

He brought his report card to the principal of Cleveland High (Q.M. Smith) and he sent him to Mr. Arnold, the superintendent, to find out what grade to put him in. His report card was nearly all A's. He said, "That's pretty good." He brought a note to the principal saying, "Try him in the 10th and if he doesn't make it, put him back." Next year he graduated from Cleveland High's 11th grade as salutatorian, in 1916.

Bradley High had just been finished and he went on to the 12th grade there and graduated as valdictorian. He had to make a speech. There is a copy in the school paper somewhere. Graduation was held in the Ocoee St. Methodist church. His family came to graduation exercises (in 1917). W. B. Parks was history teacher at Bradley High. Miss Ruth Aiken (Ann's piano teacher later) taught music at Bradley.

Clarence started to U. of Tenn. in the fall. He had to register for the draft (WWI) before enrolling. He had German measles about time for the first exam at school, and got a card saying he was A-1 in the draft.

He wrote the draft board asking to volunteer for the Marines in Knoxville. He was sent to train at Paris Island, S.C., then sent overseas to France. He acted as a stretcher-bearer during combat. Eight days after reaching France, he was on the front lines! His WWI memoir has been posted on World War I historical web sites

While living on Dalton Pike in Cleveland, Albert, his 5 yr. older brother, was found dead in his bed. He had been subject to epilepsy after becoming grown. He didn't have it as a boy, but had spells about once a month when grown.

About the old farm house, Clarence says he remembers crying all night with the toothache in the upstairs bedroom that was his. He said his teeth were full of big holes. He had the nerve killed in some teeth without anesthesia, and remembers gripping the dental chair arms.

When he had typhoid he was sleeping in the downstairs bedroom instead of upstairs. He's not sure whether Gus had typhoid, too, or not, but Gus and Arch had malaria they got while working in railroad construction out in Missouri. They came home with malaria.

When asked what things his father (Jacob Richmond) liked to do, he said, "All he had time to do was work hard. In the wintertime he would haul lumber for people in such cold weather he had to keep moving to keep from freezing to death."

He also said about his father, "Not many fathers would let their last son and only help on the farm, go back to school to take a grade twice just to learn more." But Clarence's father did. He never would have left the farm to go to town to live except at his wife's insistance. On the farm when they went to church at Union Grove, it took 2 or 3 hours to get there, riding in a wagon. They did not always make it for that reason. They didn't ride saddle horses because they had no saddles.

Clarence's father, Jacob was a good carpenter, having built their home, barn, etc., in the country. By himself, with some help from Clarence, he also built the house Clarence and Edith moved into in Cleveland when they married in 1923.


Location35.15727, -84.86938
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