Early newspapers for Putnam County have been microfilmed by the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Two of these papers are The Cookeville Press and the Putnam County Herald.
Interspersed throughout these papers were the details of the passing of some of the citizens. Although some of the obituaries were elaborate articles providing many details of the deceased, most obituaries were only one or two sentences simply announcing the passing of a loved one. Due to the erosion of tombstone inscriptions over time and the failure to record many deaths during the early part of the century, the newspaper obituary was the only record of an individual's passing.
One such individual is my g-g-g-grandfather, Willis Davis, who lived south of Cookeville. He is buried in the Davis Cemetery, but over the years, the inscription on his tombstone has been lost. Census records indicate that he died between 1900 and 1910. A deed recorded in Putnam County Deed Book H on the 29th day of August 1903 indicated that he had recently passed away. His children, Johnnie C. Davis, Martha Chote, Malissa Chote, and Harriett Price sold their inheritance in the land to his youngest child Lonnie Bussell. Beginning with that date and surveying the published papers before that, I found the following announcement on the page 1 of the Putnam County Herald dated August 12, 1903:
Willis Davis died at his home 3 miles south of Cookeville on the night of 10th, inst.
This was the only surviving record of his death.
Knowing that others may have ancestors whose death dates have been lost, I began reading and transcribing the obituaries from the Putnam County Herald and The Cookeville Press. Since the obituaries are not located in a standard spot in the paper, finding them required scanning each column of the paper. It is possible that some may have missed although I made every attempt to record them all. Some obituaries were quite lengthy often describing his/her character and/or describing the his/her relationship with God. The genealogical information was abstracted from each obituary. The notation ". . ." indicates that there was additional information, but it did not contain any genealogical information. In many cases, the paper extracted "County Happenings" from newspapers in the surrounding counties. In parentheses at the end of the obituary is recorded which county the obituary was from.
The format of the obituary is as follows:
LAST NAME, FIRST NAME: Obituary (County, if available) [Date, Volume of the Paper, Number of the Paper, Page Number]
This abstract is dedicated to Willis Davis and ALL citizens for which there is no other record of his/her death except for the brief mention in the newspaper.
The Cookeville Press
The Cookeville Press was published by J. E. Gore and Rutledge Smith from approximately 1887 to 1917. It was a weekly paper that came out every Thursday. Prior to 1894, relatively few issues still exist. However, from 1894 to 1903, the majority of the issues are available on microfilm.
Putnam County Herald
Elmer Lincoln Wirt published the first issue of the Putnam County Herald on February 11, 1903. It was a weekly newspaper that sold for 25¢ per year and detailed the activities of the local citizens. Former citizens often wrote letters describing the events going on in their current locale.
On Roll #101, The Cookeville Press (Miscellaneous) 1894 - 1896, the following papers and issues were microfilmed
- The Cookeville Press - May 2, 1889
- The Cookeville Press - March 27, 1890
- The Cookeville Press - July 17, 1890
- The Cookeville Press - June 15, 1899
- The Cookeville Press - April 5, 1900
- The Cookeville Press - June 7, 1900
- The Cookeville Press - December 12, 1901
- Cookeville Times - May 22, 1858
- The Cookeville News - March 8, 1873
- The Middle Tennessean - April 16, 1876
- Cookeville Courier - June 1, 1893
- The Citizen - May 19, 1897
- Upper Cumberland News - January 31, 1923
- Montery News - no date
- Upper Cumberland News - October 29, 1924
All of the above issues were read for obituaries. Only those in bold contained an obituary.