|I was born and raised in Carroll County in rural West Tennessee, and only left the area once until I left for good when I joined the Air Force on July 3, 1963. We lived next door to my maternal grandparents until I was five, when my folks bought a farm in the Pleasant Hill Community about five miles away. My family's roots in the area go back to the 1820s at least, when the region was purchased from the Cherokee by Andrew Jackson in what is now known as The Jackson Purchase and opened up for settlement. My mother's family name is Coleman and they had settled around Lavinia after migrating from Virginia. We are also related to the Utley's and McLemores and I learned recently that one of our ancestors was a Revolutionary War soldier. Her mother was a Davidson from Medina. My dad's family was the Carters, who came in and settled just south of McLemoresville after moving from South Carolina, although the family originally came from Virginia. The McGowan comes from my grandfather, whose dad was a second-generation Methodist preacher who grew up in Middle Tennessee and came to Carroll County to pastor Carter's Chapel Church around 1900 or so. The first MacGowan to settle in Tennessee was Ebenezer MacGowan, the son of John MacGowan, a well-known Scottish Baptist preacher in London. After he arrived in America he converted to Methodism and became a Methodist deacon. He settled in Virginia and lived until he was around, then he and his family left Virginia and settled in Tennessee just east of Nashville. My great-grandmother, who died young, was a Johnson and was half-Cherokee. Her mother came out of the mountains east of Chattanooga. My family had sympathies on both sides during the Civil War, with the Coleman's and Utley's favoring the South while the Carters were Unionists, which meant my mom came from a line of Democrats while my dad's family was Republican. However, due to the dynamics of the region, the politics of the region are primarily conservative regardless of party affiliation.|
|The property my folks purchased was on a segment of The Old Stage Road, which at one time was the major arterie connecting Bristol and Memphis. The house up the road from us was originally a stage stop. The house on the property was supposed to be 100 years old, which meant it was built around 1850. It had no running water and no indoor plumbing. There was a good well with sweet water 50 feet or so from the back door and we always kept a bucket of water hanging on the back porch. Without plumbing, we had to haul all our water for baths, which was a weekly occurence. The house is no lonber there. My brother had it bulldozed a long time ago and had a trailer there for a time.|
While I wouldn't go so far at to say that my childhood life was idylic, it really wasn't that bad. Farm life does mean a lot of work for everyone, women and children as well as men, and we spent the majority of our time outdoors either in the fields planting, hoeing and picking cotton and corn or, when the season was in and the field work was done, hunting and fishing. Although the region teems with deer now, when I was a kid there weren't any so we hunted small game. Squirrel season was the first to open and opening day, which was usually the first Saturday in September or the Saturday or Labor Day Weekend, was as exciting as Christmas! Daddy taught me to shoot a rifle when I was a very little boy and I had a keen appreciation for the Tennessee tradition of marksmanship. We also did a lot fishing, not only because we liked to fish, but because we liked to eat them. In the spring we'd go to the Tennessee River when the crappie were spawning. Later on Daddy got into fishing for catfish. He liked to put out trotlines in the river and built several plywood John Boats. He was also into building ponds and stocking them with fish. The Soil Conservation Service encouraged pond building and picked up most of the cost. There are still five ponds on the property and there are several others that have filled in over the years.
|Church on Sunday was a big part of our life. The other part was school. We went to church at Lavinia Baptist and school at Lavinia School and Trezevant High School. Although we were not three-times a week church-goers, we were in church Sunday morning and back for Training Union on Sunday night.|
|I came by my interest in airplanes naturally. My dad and uncle both flew during the war and my uncle stayed in the Air Force for twenty. Since we were always outside, we saw a lot of airplanes. When I was in eighth grade Strategic Air Command put a radar bomb scoring train on a siding in the Milan Arsenal and the road in front of our house evidently served as a checkpoint for the pop-up for the huge B-47s and B-52s that started coming over every night about the time we went to bed and continued until about the time we got to school the next day. They came in at about 300 feet then started their pop-up as they passed over the house. I'd run outside every time one of the big bombers came over, at least until it was time for me to get to sleep. It was due to that experience that I decided that when I grew up I was going into the Air Force.|