Editors Note: This review was written by Taylor Cannon's second son Mike Shoffner Cannon Sr. in the late 1960's, 67-69.
Zacariah Taylor Cannon
This review of the life of Taylor Cannon is being written
by his second son, Mike. It is both a priviledge and a pleasure
for me to do so. However, I do recognize my inability to do him
the justice he deserves because of the limited time I had to spend
with him during his latter years, because of the time I spent
away in preparatory school and college. The earlier part of his
life, which I am writing, is taken from the stories which he had
related to me.
Zacariah Taylor Cannon
This review of the life of Taylor Cannon is being written by his second son, Mike. It is both a priviledge and a pleasure for me to do so. However, I do recognize my inability to do him the justice he deserves because of the limited time I had to spend with him during his latter years, because of the time I spent away in preparatory school and college. The earlier part of his life, which I am writing, is taken from the stories which he had related to me.
Taylor Cannon was truly a “Self made man”, one who literally pulled himself up from poverty to riches. He became one of the largest land holders in Bedford County, accumulating almost a thousand acres of rich hill land. He became the top producer in the country in watermelons , red clover hay, corn and wheat. He rotated his crops so as to have a hundred acres of clover, followed by a hundred acres of corn, and the corn followed by the same acreage in wheat. In this way, he often said “I do not need to purchase fertilizer, because I will make my red clover do all the fertilizing that the land needs.” He grew and sold so many watermelons that he became known, far and wide as “The watermelon king of Bedford County.” He was a pioneer developer of Polled Black Angus cattle and Polland China hogs. But now, we have gotten ahead of our story, so let us stop and go back and pick it up from the beginning ;even to the Civil War, and we will tell the story as he told it to us.
He was born in Bedford County, Tennessee, in 1849, the youngest son of Almon and Ellender Cannon.
Taylor had a brother, John only two years older than he himself was. These two boys were inseparable and grew up to manhood together and, when the Civil War began in 1861, they were too young to enter the war. Taylor being 12 and John 14. However, they did have three older half-brothers by an earlier marriage, who did join the Rebel or Southern Army. These boys were: William Green Cannon, James (Jim) Cannon; and Jeffrey (Jeff) Cannon. These older brothers, with their father had taught Taylor and John how to farm, hunt, fish and trap wild animals for their fur. At this time their father was living on a medium sized, rented farm about two miles out on the old Tullahoma Pike and about one half mile south of the Pike. They lived less than a mile from the Duck River where they had learned to trap: mink, otter, racoons, muskrat, possums and foxes (both grey and red). They also learned early, to be good shots with guns, especially muskets and the cap and ball rifle, such as Daniel Boone used.
(Editors note: Was informed that the civil war actually started in Tennesee in 1862, and that the battle of Franklin was in November 30, 1864 and the battle of Nashville was December 15-16 1864.)
Two years after the war started in Virginia, it finally came into Tennessee in 1863 and both the Rebel and Union armies, at one time or another used the same camp ground just a mile beyond the Old Skull camp bridge on Duck River on the Old Tullahoma Pike. First it was the Rebel (Southern) Army which camped on this land; later known as the Sam and Jim McGrew Farms which was only two miles from Shelbyville, where supplies could be purchased and the soldiers could get an occasional drink at the open saloons.
Since the Rebel Army camped here near the Cannon farm for almost all of 1863, the young brothers, Taylor now 14 and John 16 made many friends among the soldiers. They came to their home to buy watermelons, feed for their horses, eggs, milk, cantaloupe, fruits and many other products of the farm. Early in the fall of 1863 the Army broke camp and moved north toward Franklin and Nashville. Other Southern Armies were moving in through Columbia toward Nashville and engaged the Union army in the short but severe Battle of Franklin; then on to Nashville where the Battle of Nashville was fought. After that the Southern Armies fell back to Murfreesboro and regrouped for battle again along about Christmas time. The union army also followed very shortly and the mighty Battle of Murfreesboro was about to begin. My father told me that the battle began on the morning when his father had decided to kill their hogs for their next years supply. He said he recalled the day well, because when he asked his father if he thought it was cold enough to kill hogs; he answered: “I guess it must be because they must really be killing them toward Murfreesboro; listen to the roar of those cannons.” My father said they heard this roar of cannons all day long, like distant thunder, although he was twenty miles away. Then during the next few days, the Rebel army began to drift back from Murfreesboro and assemble in the same camp grounds where many of them had spent the summer before. It took them only a few weeks to gather the remnants of their army together and move back south on their way to Chattanooga.
The Story Of The Watermelons and the Departure Of The Yankee Army.
When Taylor and John learned from the soldiers the exact date when they would be departing their camp and heading for Chattagnooga and they told their father Almond these facts their father said: “This will be a fine opportunity for you boys to sell a big load of our watermelons to the departing soldiers. We will pick them early on the day before the departing day. Early the next morning, the day of the departure, you will use the two old mules, which we have left in the barn and haul the watermelons to the old shady oak tree beside the road two miles up the old Tullahoma Pike leading south toward Chattanooga. About two hours after they had stationed their wagon, piled high with watermelons, under the shady oak tree they heard the army coming. They were a little scared because their father had warned them that many of the soldiers might try to take their watermelons and not pay them. They had put one large watermelon up on the wagon seat to attract attention so all could see that they were selling watermelons. The noise of the approaching traveling army got louder and louder, then down the road they saw wagons pulled by mules hauling supplies. Other mules were pulling caisons, guietly in a long stream. Many officers were riding horses and there were long lines of marching men. When the front line of the wagons and marching men neared their watermelon wagon a number of the men on the moving vehicles, jumped off and ran over to their wagon and began to hurridly buy their watermelons at the price that Taylor and John were asking for them. This continued for sometime and the load of melons was getting smaller and smaller. Some of the men riding horses also purchased watermelons and took them along to eat later when they stopped for a rest. However, one calvary officer, riding a beautiful horse, rode up beside the wagon, and without speaking a word, reached over and took a big watermelon off of the seat, under his arm, and rode away without offering to pay for it. There were several other soldiers standing around waiting to buy a watermelon. All of them seemed dumfounded, and for a few seconds no one spoke a word. Then one of the soldiers spoke these words: “There has got to be one damn rascal in every crowd, why would he want to take that watermelon away from these boys without paying for it?” Taylor and John continued to sell their watermelons to the soldiers, and no one else tried to take one without paying for it. Before the last soldier had passed, all the watermelons had been sold.
It was only a few weeks before scouts from the union army began arriving and setting up camp in the same camp grounds near the Cannon farm, where the Rebel army had just vacated. Soon, there were thousands of Yankee soldiers moving in. The main army was under the command of General Buell, one of the greatest generals in the Northern army. The Union army camped here for most of the summer and the young Cannon boys, Taylor and John, made many friends among the soldiers. They sold farm supplies to many of the soldiers; especially watermelons and feed for their horses. They got good prices for all that they had to sell. The soldiers told the boys about the “Great Review” which the army of the north was going to hold on their drill grounds, (which is now known as the J.E. Reaves farm). On the day of this “Great Review”, the boys noticed that there were more soldiers than they had ever seen before. They had come in from the north to gather there and get ready for the big battles which they soon would be called on to fight in and around Chattanooga. The soldiers gave John and Taylor a good place to stand, out of the way, so they could see all of the Grand Review. My father said that it was a magnificent sight to see; so big and wonderful that he could never forget it. There was a big band playing marches and wave after wave of soldiers marching abreast in a straight line passed in review. This went on for hours, even all day long. My father told me many times during his life how this great military spectacle impressed him. On the lighter side of the war, there was:
The Story of the Geese
In the early days of our country, farm families kept a large flock of geese for feathers to sell or use for their own in making feather beds and feather pillows. It happened that on a certain day when several soldiers had gathered at the Cannon farm, two of the soldiers happened to come up with their rifles on their shoulders. No doubt they had been out hunting and did not find any game to shoot at. My father did not know them. One of them said to the other one: “I bet you can’t shoot that old gaunder’s head off with one shot”. The other one said: “I’ll take you up and bet you the same”. The boy tried to stop them, and so did some of the friendly soldiers, but they wouldn’t stop until my grandmother came out in such a rage over their dastardly acts, that they quit and left. Some of the other soldiers knew them and gave their names to my grandmother. She asked the friendly soldiers if there was any way that she could get paid for her slaughtered geese. They told her to go to the headquarters office, tell her story, and ask to see the general on an urgent complaint. She did as they told her, and after she had told her story at the headquarters office they sent an orderly over to speak to the general, telling him the story and that Mrs. Cannon wanted to see him. General Buell was very gracious and sent the orderly back to bring Mrs. Cannon to his office. The general was very courteous and kind to my grandmother but angered that two of his men should do such a mean trick. He said he had warned all his men against doing harm to other people’s property. He said “you can rest assured, Mrs. Cannon, you will be paid well for your slaughtered geese and these two men will pay it too”. He sent one of his aides back to the farm with my grandmother so he could see the geese first hand and count those which had been killed. She learned later, that the two soldiers who killed her geese, had been forbidden to leave the post, indefinitely.
Late in the summer, some of the more friendly soldiers told Taylor and John that the Army was getting ready to break camp within a few days, and the army was short on horses and they would be scouring the country to get more horses so they had better hide their horses. So, my grandfather told the boys to take all the farm horses to the big woods about a mile back and tie them out. Within a few days many soldiers came looking for horses. They were told that someone else had come and taken the horses away. So they went away; other farmers were not so fortunate as in the case of Mr. Wiley Daniel, a very wealthy farmer, who owned many slaves, over 600 acres of creek and river bottom land with many fine highly bred saddle and harness horses. Mr. Daniel didn’t know that the soldiers were coming for his horses until they arrived. They started taking his horses, and he begged them not to take his finest horses, and especially one fine horse that he liked to ride. They wouldn’t listen to him, but left him some of the older horses. When they started to leave with his horses, he saddled one of the horses which they had left for him and rode behind them for more than a mile still begging them to give his favorite horse back to him, and take the one which he was riding. They kept telling him to go back or they would be forced to kill him. He said “I will not go back until you give me my horse”. Finally, just before they came to the village of Singleton, the soldier riding on the horse in front of Mr. Daniel turned in his saddle and raising his rifle shot Mr. Daniel off his horse, dead. This dastardly act stirred up the whole community against the yankees, more than anything else, because Mr. Daniel was a fine man and one of the most respected in the county.
A few months after the armies of both the North and South gathered around Chattanooga, they faught what many people thought were the hardest and most destructive battles of the war, especially in numbers of men killed. These battles being: The Battle of Lookout Mountain (known as the” Battle Above The Clouds”). “The Battle of Missionary Ridge”, and finally: The greatest battle: “The Battle of Chickomauga”. My father has told the story many times about his half brother Jeff; who was one of the largest and strongest men he had ever seen, who had never lost a fight to any man, and who was in the Battle at Chickomauga. His duties were not to kill, but to help bring out wounded men from the battlefield to safety behind the lines. My father said that in most cases, it took two men to bring out one man on a stretcher, but Jeff, seeing so many men, wounded and dying on the battlefield decided to do his work faster alone by leaving the stretcher bearing to others and proceeded to bring out wounded men for hours, two at a time, one under each arm. Jeff told this story: he said the battle became so intense, and the bullets and cannon balls coming so thick that he decided to rest for a few minutes until the battle could subside, so he dropped down behind a small blackjack tree. He said the bullets seemed to be coming so thick that had he taken his hat off and held it out from behind the blackjack tree he would have caught it full of bullets. He looked around and saw a larger tree, a pine, about ten or twelve feet to his right so he thought he would make a break to reach that tree. Just as he reached up to pull his cap down over his eyes, to ward off the bullets, a cannon ball struck the pine tree and blew it to splinters. So he dropped down again behind his small tree, and uttered these words: “Little Blackjack, I think I will stay with you a little longer”. Surely God protected this man in battles as well as his two brothers, Green Cannon and Jim Cannon. Because all three came through the war without a serious injury.
After the war, Taylor and John continued to farm with their father, and sometime later they bought a sawmill. At this time there was so much good timber, that all of it could not be sawed into lumber. Much of it was cut down and burned in order to clear land for farming. In 1870 they had made and saved enough money to purchase a hill farm of 180 acres, six miles out on the Old Tullahoma Pike. This farm was covered with a fine stand of virgin timber, large oak, white and black oak, large beach trees, giant poplar (both yellow & what was known as black poplar), and many fine black walnut. They did not want to destroy too many of these fine trees so they moved their sawmill into the midst of their farm and sawed lumber for building homes. The poplar was the finest outside lumber for buildings, because it was so durable and would last for years.
As they sawed and sold the lumber, they cleared the sawed over land and put it into watermelons and corn. The land was rich and very productive. So by 1875 the Cannon brothers and their fathers had made enough money with their sawmill and farming to pay for their farm. Up until now they had lived on the farm in a cheaply constructed house. But now, both Taylor and John wanted to get married. So now they began to select fine poplar trees to saw into lumber for two homes. One for John and his bride to be; and one for Taylor and his father and mother, because the father and mother had now decided that they wanted it this way. The first home they built was a large two story home, with lower and upper porches and fancy porch posts. There was also a large back porch, five bed rooms, a dining room, a kitchen and a room for two hired men. The foundation was made of large limestone rock, which also enclosed a large basement room where fruits, potatoes, crout jars and other foods were stored.
At this time Taylor Cannon married Jennie Coats who lived in the Himesville Community. This was destined to be a short marriage because in less than a year Jennie being heavy with child had a hard fall which led to her death.
Taylor Cannon was a hard worker and took so much interest in sawmilling and farming, that it left him little time to go courting for another wife. It was not easy for Taylor to forget the young woman whom he had so recently married, or her tragic and early death. To forget his grief, he plunged into his work, sawmilling and farming. He and his father purchased another farm known as the Cooper Brown farm which joined them on the south. Time passed by rapidly until he finally decided that he wanted to marry again. So he began courting Mary Moore, the eldest daughter of John and Emma Moore. The Moore’s had four daughters and four sons. A most attractive family, which meant so much to the Cannon family in the years that were to follow because in 1886 Taylor Cannon and Mary Sophronia Moore did get married, and began a happy married life, and thus became parents of seven happy and devoted children. Three boys and four girls.
Mary Sophronia Moore
Mary Sophronia Moore was the second child in the marriage of Erna A. Shoffner born 1845, and John F. Moore born 1841 - 1905. This is the list of the nine children:
1. Arch G. Moore 1862 had 3 children
2. Mary S. Moore 1864 had 7 children
3. Mike Shoffner Moore 1866
4. Nannie Y. Moore 1869 had 1 child
5. Freddie E. Moore 1871 - 1874
6. Jennie A. Moore 1873
7. Andrew M. Moore 1875
8. Hugh L. Moore 1878 had 1 child
9. Myrtle E. Moore 1884 had 3 children
I mention the members of this family to show that Mary S. Cannon came from a large family: four girls and four boys excepting Freddie, who lived only three years.
This was a most congenial and happy family, devoted to a mother and father who had done a fine job in guiding and rearing their large family in a most commendable manner. They were educated in the Butlers Creek School, which was one of our best country schools of that time. All the members of this family, (except Andrew, who lived a bachelor’s life), got married and had happy families, and brought up their children in the commendable manner in which they had been reared. So it happened that Mary, our mother, had as many children, (three boys and four girls) as all the other brothers and sisters put together except one.
I have heard my father tell of the hard time he had in getting Mary Moore to say “yes” to seek her hand in marriage. But with mother, her reasons for not wanting an early marriage were the happy times that she was enjoying at home with her brothers and sisters, and her cousins, the children of Arch Moore (brother of their father John). These older children of Arch Moores, were John, Estelle, and Nell. There were younger children, but these three were of her age group.
The Arch Moores owned a large farm on Duck River, about one half mile from John & Ema Moore’s house. The Moore’s Ford, where many people forded the river with wagons, buggies and on horse back was only a quarter of a mile from the Arch Moore home. So it happened that Mary’s brother’s, Arch & Mike, and her sisters Nannie, Jennie, and the Arch Moore children of John, Estelle & Nell had many happy days together, playing, wading and learning to swim in Duck River. Below the ford the water was swift, but above the ford the water was calm and the sand bar sloped gently into the deep water above. The boys, Arch & Mike her brothers, and John her firstcousin, taught the girls to swim wade, and float in the water. The boys had become good swimmers, fishermen and teachers on the river. After this, there were times when the girls went swimming and wading alone without their brothers. Mother often spoke of these good times with her sisters, and cousins, as they played at the Moore’s ford. How they would wade from the ford into water so deep they had to tiptoe with the water up to their chins. If the water became too deep then it was very easy to retreat into shallower water, since the sand bar sloped so gently into deeper water.
It was not until she was twenty-two years old that Mary Moore decided to say “yes” to Taylor Cannon’s marriage proposal. They got married in 1886, which was a most fortunate day for all of us children because no one ever had a more loving and devoted mother than Mary turned out to be to her seven children: three boys and four girls. These were Mary S. Cannon’s children:
1. Everrett S. Cannon 1888
2. Alberta (Berta) Cannon 1890
3. Mike S. Cannon 1892
4. Wilburn H. Cannon 1894
5. Jennie Pearl Cannon 1896
6. Eula May Cannon 1898
7. Lucy Evelyn Cannon 1903
No children ever had parents who were more loving and considerate of their children than our parents were of us. They taught each child to work and to have a part in the affairs of the family. We mentioned, in the life of Taylor Cannon that he was one of the hardest workers, and put in more hours working in a day, than anyone whom we had ever known. The same can be said of our mother, Mary. During the busy summer season she was up by daylight preparing breakfast, so the farm hands could be in the fields working by seven o’clock. I do not believe that any of us children ever heard mother complain about the vast amount of work that she was called upon to perform in caring for her children; cooking three meals per day for a large family, looking after their clothes, preparing lunches for the children to take to school and etc. Not only was this a happy family but it had now blossomed and formed many other happy families, as will be shown in the life history of this family.
In preparing meals, father was a great provider himself. He put in and cultivated a large garden of cabbage, onions, irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, lettuce, beets, cucumbers, etc. Mother was able to gather fresh vegetables for her summer meals. To prepare for the winter meals, father had a kraut making day to use up the excess cabbage. I must add: father was an expert along this line, and his kraut (a 20 gal. jar) was the very best that I have ever eaten.
The cucumbers, were packed in twenty gallon jars of salt brine. Then later in the winter they were taken out, a gallon or two at a time, soaked in fresh water until all the salt was out, then put in apple vinegar to make sour pickles. After eating irish potatoes and also sweet potatoes in late summer the rest of them were dug and stored in the basement cellar where father covered them with discarded quilts or tarpoleons. He knew how to keep them from rotting or freezing. Father had a 30 gallon sorghum barrel, and each fall he bought enough fine sorghum to fill this barrel. There was a large wooden faucet so sorghum could be drawn out. There was also several lard stands filled with honey from the summers robbing of the bee hives. During the summer time, mother had the great job of canning and preserving berries and fruits. Fine blackberry patches were everywhere and all us children, girls and boys alike, delighted in going out and filling our buckets with these fine berries. Father bought sugar by the 100 pounds at a time. So mother made the blackberries into jams, jellies, and canned many half-gallon jars for making blackberry cobbler pies in the winter. We all loved mothers pies. We picked blackberries and dueberries until mother said enough.
Father, as I said was a thoughtful provider. He had set out peach orchards, apple orchards, and pear trees on top of the hills, so the trees would not bloom too soon and get the young fruit frozen. We gathered many fine peaches and the girls helped mother preserve and can them for winter. The same was true of the many fine varities of apples. They peeled and sliced many of them to be dried in the sun for winter use usually for apple pies. Father often had many of them wrapped in paper and stored in the cellar. They usually kept well, so we could have apples to eat the year around.
Then when it became cold enough, about Thanksgiving or later father had hog killing time. Since hogs were cheap on the live stock market he usually killed about a dozen large hogs each winter. Again, father was an expert in this type of work, too. He trimmed all of his meat himself. Superintended the making and seasoning of the sausage, and stubbing it into cloth (white) bags for hanging in the smoke house until used. He had many ten-gallons of hog lard stored in the smoke house for our own use and to sell to the tenants. He packed the meat down in salt for the proper number of days. Then took up his side meat and shoulders and hung them high up in the smoke house, so no dogs or cats could get to it, in case the smoke house door happened to be left open. His hams were his pride and I don’t know all the things that he did to them to make them perfect in flavor, and so delicious otherwise. I do know that he often hung them up for a time and smoked them with hickory bark. Then took them down, put borax on them and tied them up in heavy paper bags to keep out any insects. He hung them up high in the smoke house. Father sold most of the side meat and shoulders to the tenants, but kept the hams for our home use and other special purposes. Mother took great joy and pride in slicing, and frying this ham for the family and visiting guests. Everyone bragged on her ham. We all thought mother was the greatest cook in the world and so did anyone else who ever ate her biscuits, pies, fried chicken and her wonderful cakes most especially her chocolate and coconut four layer cakes. Her cup cakes, and tea cakes were equally delicious.
Mother raised many chickens. During the early spring she set many hens on eggs. The girls helped her in looking after and feeding the baby chicks. She kept all the pullets for her hen stock and she had many eggs to gather up every day. All of us helped her in that task, because the nests were scattered to many areas in the hay of the barn loft. These eggs were packed into egg cases and for the most part, sold to produce peddlers who came to the farm each week. The peddlers bought her eggs, old hens and roosters and her excess butter. From the peddler she could buy many supplies such as coffee, spices, soda, baking powders, candies, chewing gum, thread for sewing and many other items. Mother also had a large flock of geese, ducks and guineas. From time to time she had some of the colored women on the farm to pick the geese for feather beds, pillows and some to sell or give away. The goose eggs, duck eggs and guinea eggs were gathered up, some were set under setting hens to be hatched and the young raised to maturity. We sold or ate the duck and guinea eggs. Most of us thought the guinea meat was delicious, so we killed and ate a number of them during the winters.
Mother reserved Saturday to get away from the farm, and drive into our nearest town, Shelbyville, Tn. which was six miles away. She always took a guest with her, usually one of our cousins: Ellen, or Ettie Reed. They got away from home so seldom and mother enjoyed the company. She did her shopping with the money given to her by father for that purpose, and also using the income from the sale of her eggs and chickens. Mother delighted in meeting and seeing old friends and relatives on her weekly trips to town on her Saturdays away from the farm. When mother went to town, we children, especially while we were young, anixously awaited for her return because we knew that she would bring back goodies for us especially candies. She never did disappoint us. This was our mother Mary S. Cannon.
The girls and others milked about six to eight cows. Most of this was allowed to turn into churning milk, which was churned in a barrel churn, turned by a crank, to turn over and over end wise until the butter and buttermilk was made. The rest of the sweet milk, the buttermilk and butter was taken to the spring house and the vessels set down 3” to 4” deep in cold water. Here it was kept cold, as though it was in a refrigerator.
From the spring house, which was about 20 feet above the valley below, a large 2 inch galvanized pipe had been inserted so the upper end of the pipe was under the rock-ledge where the water flowed into the spring house area. The pipe came under the rock wall of the spring house (14 feet in length) and poured out in a solid stream. This is where we came to fill our buckets with the cold spring water. It came from under a hill over 200 feet high and covering over 100 acres on top. This water had been tested many times and declared absolutely pure. While I was at home, my job, among other duties, was to bring fresh water to the home. Later, after I left, father put in a pipe line to run the water to the home, which was about 200 yards away. The source of the spring was about 25 feet above the house. Most of the family drank buttermilk and some drank sweet milk. The butter stayed firm and cold in the spring house. We used about half of the butter and mother sold the rest.
Between 1890 and 1900 Taylor Cannon began to build more tenant houses and employ more farm hands to carry on his farming activities. They cleared more land on the newly acquired farm, and to keep this land rich, he knew that he would need to grow other crops that would keep the humus and the nitrogen in the soil. This is when he began to rotate his crops and so he began to grow red clover hay to feed the mules horses and the cattle. After the clover, he put the land in corn and produced bumper crops. Then following the corn he started sowing wheat and oats in the early fall. Then in the oat or wheat fields he sowed his red clover seed in March. This cycle not only kept his land rich, but produced bumper crops. After 1900, he had built six large hay sheds in the fields to store most of the hay. He also built a huge two-story barn near the home, in a valley between two hills. He used four large black locust trees as sills to build a bridge to the second floor of the barn on each end so that he could drive the wagons into the second floor to unload hay or corn. A 400 barrel crib was on the left and the hay was stacked on the right. On the first floor below, were all his mules and horses. The cattle were fed hay, and later silage from smaller barns and silos. Around 1905, in order to store his hundred acres of wheat, he built a large rat proof granary to store from 2000 to 3000 lbs of wheat. In this he also stored his red clover seed and oat seed.
But I must not leave out the watermelons because for many years he had the reputation of growing the very finest watermelons that could be found anywhere. It was a long, green, thine rine melon. Some were up to two feet long. He put in from 4 to 6 acres of watermelons each year. He trained me to help him cultivate and hoe out the weeds and grass in the melons, and to tell ripe melons from unripe ones. Most of his watermelons and cantelopes were retailed from the wagons on the city square in various towns in a radius of twenty miles from the farm. He hired some of his trusted neighbors to help him in hauling and selling the melons. He produced so many that they usually lasted from July 4th to almost frost time in the fall. The hay which he had stored in his six haysheds was bailed out during the fall and early winter and sold to hay dealers to be shipped away to be used in feeding cattle and mules in the southern states.
Around 1906, father purchased a big wheat threshing rig to do custom wheat threshing. A large self propelled steam engine and a large steel thresher made by JI Case Co., of Racine, Wisconsin. For the most part, he supplied his own labor and equipment and charged 10 cents per bushel for the threshing.
As I reported at the beginning of my story, Taylor Cannon was a pioneer developer of Black Angus Cattle and Poland China hogs. Most of the four to five hundred barrels of corn produced on the farm each year was used to feed and fatten many hogs, which were sold on the live market. About a dozen or more were slaughtered for meat and lard. A great deal of this meat and lard was sold at a low price to his farm families. He also took a load of wheat to the mill each year and had it ground into flour for his family and to supply farm hands at a cheap cost.
Taylor was a man who seemed to know what the family would need later, and to prepare for it because he continually bought and put out many fruit trees, high on the hills. I asked him one day why he put his apple and peach orchard on top of the hills. His answer: “So they will be up in the cold air, and not bloom out too soon and get their fruit killed”. His apple orhards and peach orchards were the finest in the community. He also had many fine pear and cherry trees. The yellow, early harvest apples were getting ripe just about wheat cutting time in June. We also had June apples ripening at that time. The finest apples ripened in late summer and early fall. These were Wine Saps, Red Delicious, Grimes Golden, Large Johnson, Yellow Horse Apples and many other varities. Many of these varities could be put away in the cool cellar for us to use in the winter. Some were pulled, sliced and dried in the sun, to be stewed or made into apple pies and some were canned. My father had a cider mill and made barrels of cider, which later turned to vinegar. This was used in making sour pickles, which we all liked to eat. I remember at one time my father took a wagon load of apples to Jack Daniel’s Distillery at Lynchburg, Moor County to be made into apple brandy. He himself drank very little, but he was fond of treating his friends. He often put rock candy in his and sometime took a toddy as he called it. If the children got any of it, it was the rock candy variety to be used as a medicine for colds, flu, or for the old fashion grippe. None of the Cannon children, not even the boys ever learned to like whiskey or any other variety of licquor.
Our father also acted as a doctor to care for the ills of his children. He had a special lotion which he had mixed up for burns. It really worked too. I know, because I got two severe burns, and he cured it up on me. He also knew how to take care of cuts, bruises, boils and how to extract thorns and briars from our feet and hands. Yes, to us children he was the doctor.
But I must not leave this out, because most everyone, far and near, knew that Taylor Cannon was the finest bee keeper in the whole county, and was an authority in the care and correct handling of bees. At first, he had homemade bee hives, but later on he sent off for the latest type of bee hives, which could have three or four stacks. In this way the bees did not swarm and go away so often, since the hive had more room for bees and honey. I never did count them, but I believe he must have had from 30 to 40 hives. Most of his honey was brought in from his hundred acres of red clover fields. Not only did the red clover blooms store more sweet nector, but it had the very best flavor. In the summer time he was busy saving swarms of bees and putting them in new hives. They usually swarmed around mid day and settle on a limb of a tree in a heap of thousands of bees. None of us could handle these bees as he did. Without a bee hat or gloves and with his sleeves rolledup, he would place his hive on a table under the bees, shake them off in front of the hive, locate the queen and get her to enter the hive and all the other bees would rapidly follow her into their new home. In robbing the bee hive, he used a rolled up bunch of burning, smoking rags and blew the smoke (with a hand bellows) into the upper part of the hive after lifting the lid on the hive. After the bees had been driven away, he lifted the honey filled top section and took it away to a safe distance and cut out the blocks of honey. He made so much honey that the family could not use all of it, so he gave a great deal of it to friends and neighbors, and sold the remainder to anyone who wanted to buy more of it. It is safe to say that his honey was in great demand because of it's fine quality and the care that he had used in cutting it out in nice blocks. It really looked good when served.
My father kept so busy at work on the farm that he didn’t seem to have the time to take many long trips. However, I do remember two trips that he made to Texas to visit his two half brothers: Green Cannon and Jim Cannon. They did everything they could to entertain him. Green owned greyhounds and loved to take them out to chase jack rabbits. At another time in 1904, father took my brother Everett and me along with John Hammonds to visit the worlds fair in St. Louis, Missouri. After enjoying the fair for three or four days, he wanted to visit his half brother Jeff Cannon, whom he had not seen since the Civil War. Jeff lived on a farm near Jefferson City, Missouri. These brothers were so happy to see each other once again. Uncle Jeff seemed old, and had lost his health. His wife was dead and he was living with his son and family of three pretty daughters, who sang for us.
More About Taylor Cannon
The two main “Cannon Hills” and 175 acres, of the original Taylor Cannon farm, is still in the Cannon family ownership. Mike Cannon and his wife Myrtle, purchased the farm of 105 acres which was the original John Cannon farm, bordering on Duck River, from his father in 1923. This farm, contains one of the two Cannon Hills, from which one can get a most beautiful scenic view of many thousands of acres of Bedford County's rich farm lands beyond the Duck River and, at night, you can see the lights on the Court House in Shelbyville. The farm borders the Shelbyville Tullahoma Highway for almost one mile. The other farm, of 78 acres, on which the other Cannon Hill is located, was purchased by Mike at the sale of the Taylor Cannon farm, so the proceeds could be divided among the heirs. The East-West boundary of this farm passes within fifty yards of the old Cannon home, and through the spot where his large wheat house stood, and where barn dances were sometimes held. From the top of the large hill on this farm one has a beautiful view for miles in every direction, except to the west, where the view is limited because of a wooded area.
Evelyn; my sister, wanted me to write something about father's concern for the poor and the many deeds which he did to help the destitute, and the very poor. To these are some of the things which I observed while I lived at home. Taylor Cannon was known to be the busiest man in the whole community, but never too busy, to fail to see where he could help someone in need. This was especially true of the families who tended the toll gate near our home. Since the pay was so little usually a widow and her children (some small and some larger) kept and operated this toll gate. I have heard it said that the pay was six dollars per week and the house rent. Three different families lived there during the time while I was at home. Father knew of their needs and did something about it. He had stovewood and firewood cut and hauled to their yard. He gave them a cow to milk (with his milk cows) which was about 300 yards from their home. They kept their milk in his spring house. He gave them meat, flour, vegetables and fruit from his orchards (peaches, cantaloupes, watermelons, and sometimes apples). He also helped others in need in the area. He gave many families food when they were in need. To others he helped pay medical fees, and also burial expenses, when the family did not have the money to pay. Father mixed his own medicine for fire burns (a prescription which his father had brought from Ireland). Father always kept a large bottle of it mixed and ready when needed. Some of the children in the neighborhood got severe burns when their clothing caught fire around fireplaces. Their fathers would come to get father and his medicine to treat the burns. One especially young girl had her outing gown catch on fire while she was alone before the fireplace. It burned up on her body before anyone could get to her. They thought she was too badly burned to live, but father was called and stayed with her almost all night, treating her burned body, and saving her life. He would never take any money for his work with burns and people almost called him Doctor Cannon.
Farms Purchased By Taylor Cannon
1. The Original Almon Cannon and Taylor Cannon Farm 150 Acres
2. The Cooper Brown 140 Acres
3. The John Cannon 115 Acres
4. The Cathy Farm 130 Acres
5. The Gordon Farm 125 Acres
6. The Pack Brown 135 Acres
Total land bought = 795 Acres
Return to Model Flight
Earliest Cannon History-The Family Of William Cannon
Memoirs of Mike Shoffner Cannon Sr. recounting his recollections of his grandparents Almon and Ellender Powell Cannon.
(New) Memoirs of Mike Shoffner Cannon Jr. recounting his recollections of his grandfathers Zachary Taylor Cannon and J. Edna Reaves.email@example.com