Mr. and Mrs. Jere Whitson
By Mrs. Rutledge Smith
Mr. and Mrs. Jere Whitson, on the night of March 20th, celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their marriage by giving a reception to which more than four hundred guests were invited. Invitations were sent out to several different states, and guests responded with a display of genuine appreciation seldom experienced upon an occasion of this kind. From half past eight o'clock until after midnight the elegant home was besieged by well-wishers, including friends from the country proper and from greater distances who came to pay a persona tribute to Mr. and Mrs. Whitson -- a couple whose names, deeds, and character are inseparably linked with the development and growth of the Upper Cumberland Country, where they have truly left their footprints upon the sands of half a century of time.
Jere and Mrs. Whitson, known for fifty years almost intimately both by those who have prospered and those who fell by the wayside, to whom they invariably extended a helping hand, and correctly looked upon as foremost among the guiding spirits of the progress, citizenship and character of the period through which they have passed. Few people are more universally liked. And there are none with better intentions or a stronger courage to work and strive for those things which go to make up the sum total of a community's happiness and contentment. The knowledge by whose who attended the reception, that they were paying respect and doing courtesy to a generation of the old regime that is fast passing away, had the effect of adding an element of seriousness and sober thought to an occasion otherwise radiant with merriment of the evening.
Jere Whitson, who is now 69 years of age, is just turning his face and directing his thought toward the youth of old age. On his 19th birthday, March 19th, 1872, he was married to Miss Parizetta Frances Terry, the handsome and intellectual daughter of John Terry, whose nineteenth birthday also occurred in March of the same year. The wedding proper and the festivities of the incident were staged at the Terry home, three miles north of Cookeville. Mrs. Whitson's father was the third descendant in succession from father to son who occupied the Terry farm.
Fifty years ago there were no buggies in Cookeville, and those who attended the Whitson-Terry nuptials came in wagons, on horseback, and a some few afoot.
Gen. Alfred Algood, prominent and venerable attorney of the Cookeville bar, remarked on the night of the reception, that he walked to the wedding fifty years ago, while his sister, Miss Mary Algood, and another young lady rode "double" on horse-back, and that on the way, his sister handed him her sash to carry. When had arrived at his journey's end, and was called on to produce the sash, it could not be found for a long while, but after diligent search the missing sash was located in the top of one of his boots where it had lodged in safety. Shoes at that time were not looked upon as the acme of good taste and refinement. Gen. Algood also referred to the fact that while the Whitson-Terry wedding took place before the advent of the buggy in this section, and in spite of Jere Whitson's activities during the past 25 years in selling perhaps thousands of buggies in this and adjoining counties, not one was used in bring guests to the golden anniversary, but autos were parked for blocks around the Whitson home. Capt. Walton Smith, father of Maj. Rutledge Smith owned the first buggy ever brought to Cookeville.
In 1869, Mr. Whitson, then a lad of but 16 years, secured employment in the general store of Freeze & Mills, the establishment begin more generally known under the name of J. C. Freeze, the location being on the Public Square where the First National Bank now stands. It was a frame structure. The territory from which trade was drawn although not virgin in the stricter sense, was undeveloped, and there was but few stores n the rural districts Putnam county proper was established in 1854, one year after Mr. and Mrs. Whitson were born. Opportunities for educational advantages, even such as the undeveloped country then afforded, were interfered with by the Civil war, and Mr. Whitson owes his advancement in the field of letters to his own diligent efforts and to a dogged tenacity of character.
Soon tiring of work by assignment of another. Mr. Whitson decided to venture out upon his own resources, and with that purpose in view he established a country store in Jackson county in 1871, and later in 1872 with J. Hamp Moore, opened a general store at Cookeville. The stock ordinarily carried amounting to not more than thirty-five hundred dollars. Mr. Whitson recalls that most of the merchandise sold by his firm at that time was bought of Nashville wholesalers. His dry goods came from Hugh Douglas & Co., notions from Cowan & Co., and hats from Cock Settle Co. These were hauled in wagons by way of the Trousdale Ferry pike, thence to Cookeville, the round trip requiring from 7 to 8 days, freight charges being fixed at one dollar per hundred pounds. There were regular teamsters who could be engaged without difficulty. Occasionally during the high water season, consignments would be sent by boat to Gainesboro and hauled from there to Cookeville, but when the N. C. & St. Louis Railway built into Sparta,, the routing gradually changed. Cookeville did not have railway facilities until 1890, at which time the old Nashville & Knoxville was projected into Cookeville.
Soon after their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Whitson secured rooms in a residence built directly on the Square. The home was owned by J. M. Douglas, father of Esq. J. R. Douglas of Cookeville. In 1875 Mr. and Mrs. Whitson moved to Jeremiah, where Mr. Whitson conducted a successful mercantile business for fifteen years. He recalls that in 1866-67, a sensational oil find was made on Spring Creek The liquid gold as promoters of today would term it, having been found at a depth varying from 80 to 250 feet No provision had been made to care for the oil, and vast quantities floated down Spring Creek. An attempts was made to haul it by wagon to Butler's Landing, also to McMinnville but this did not prove profitable, and the field was temporarily abandoned. At a later period when attempts weer (sic) made to revive the flow, it was found that the holes had not been plugged and that the field was water soaked.
Mr. Whitson moved with his family back to Cookeville in 1890, and in 1896 established the general hardware and furniture store which is still being operated on a large scale today. He also fro many years, dealt extensively in high grade combination horses, some of which were purchased from the famous bluegrass fields of Kentucky.
Mr. Whitson has always taken a prominent and effective part in all undertaking having for their purpose the betterment of Cookeville, the advancement of its educational facilities its moral one, and its political cleanliness. He has been a fighter from the day he was born, and it is not all that likely that he intends to surrender this essential characteristics of his markup merely because the shades of evening are beginning to settle about him.
Mr. and Mrs. Whitson have three sons and daughters; also four grand-children. They have never had a death in their own immediate family. The children presented their mother with a handsome platinum-mounted diamond pin, and gave their father exquisite gold remembrances. Scores of gold and silver presents, sent and brought by friends, were on display, and also scores of congratulatory telegrams and letters were received during the day.
Source: Putnam County Herald, 30 March 1922, Community Edition - Section Three, Page 28