William Edmond Nethery

(1863 - 1910)

William Edmond Nethery was born near Pocahontas, McNairy County, Tennessee, on February 24, 1863. He was seventh of the eight children of Sam and Athelia (Gittens) Nethery. Mother (Helen Nethery Stuck) didn't know how much education her father had, but she had the impression it was better than average for a boy born on a farm then because he used very good English and quoted from literary sources.

The Federal Census of 1880 for McNairy County shows him still living with his family at age 18, and listed as a laborer.

He died before mother was 10, so she remembers very little about him or his family. She did make at least one trip to the Nethery home before 1910, and recalls that they left the train in Pocahontas and took a long wagon ride to their home. She remembers her grandfather Nethery as an old man with a long white beard and that she was afraid of him. She remembers that her grandmother Nethery had died some years before and that the second Mrs. Nethery didn't take much interest in them.

Some time before May 1895 he came to Belle Mina, Alabama, one of the plantation stops on the Memphis & Charleston (now Southern) Railroad, to serve as General Agent. As such, he handled the station, the telegraph, the Express and the Freight. He also served the town as Postmaster and had the store. His younger brother, Sid, came with him to Alabama. They, and a younger Nethery nephew who helped with the station, boarded at a home in town.

On February 13, 1896, he married Mary Gamble, daughter of Ruffin Coleman and Helen (Girault) Gamble who had a farm, Oak Mount, just west of town. She was a popular girl and dated a number of the local males but the dates with William Nethery were noteworthy because he was a "new man in town." Mother heard they had a large church wedding with many attendants. They made their first home in Belle Mina where their three children, William (1898), Helen (1900) and Frank (1903), were born.

In 1903 the family moved out to Oak Mount and lived there for three years. The farm had originally been very large, 500-1000 acres of cotton land, but Dad said Mary's father was "not much of a manager" and sold off most of the land and mortgaged some of the remainder in order to make out. When mother was there there were farm animals--horses, cattle, hogs--and some crops in addition to cotton.

In 1908 they all decided to return to Belle Mina. William and Mary were given what was left of the land with the understanding that they would care for the Gambles for the rest of their lives. The following year, 1909, Mary's father died in Belle Mina at the age of 76.

A 1978 article in the Limestone Democrat featured Leonard Kay, a subsequent Station Master. Some of his recollections of the station may help with the picture of what Grandfather Nethery did.

According to Kay, Belle Mina was a busy farming community during the early part of the century with six stores and a doctor's office at that time. Back during the heyday of the station, Kay said he would work seven days a week. "Eight to five six days a week and four hours on Sunday after church," he said.

Mother remembers that her father planted the post oak tree just to the west of the station.

Uncle Bill Nethery (Tarrant, Alabama) told me he remembered the Belle Mina station well. There were two tracks. The track closest to the station is a side track for switching. The other is the main line. Decatur is back of the station about 7 miles and Huntsville about 18 miles in front, or east, of the station.

When Teddy Roosevelt was running for President, it must have been the fall of 1904, his private car was on the rear of a Southern Railroad train and when it stopped in Belle Mina he came to the rear vestibule and spoke, waved and grinned to and at the crowd gathered there. "I remember it as well as yesterday," Bill told me in 1978.

Bill went on to say that you could notice something like a bay window on the side of the station overlooking the tracks "where Daddy could look down the track both ways from his office inside. His telegraph keys were there as well as his work desk. He was known as the 'sweetest telegrapher on the line.'" I listened to him many times and could tell you lots about the 3rd Sunday of May and August when hundreds of Blacks came to Belle Mina to worship, sing, eat, have fights and baptisms in Limestone creek.

Mother characterized her Father as good, generous, bright, active, resourceful, out-going, with a good sense of humor and helpful to his in-laws. She remembers him as a very considerate man. He liked to smoke cigarettes occasionally, but would never light them in the house. He always went out on the porch when he felt the desire to smoke.

Grandmother told me that he apparently didn't like to do carpentry work around the house. She recalls that his wife once asked him to repair the deteriorating porch steps. She said, "Mr Nethery," she always referred to him this way in my hearing, too, "Mr. Nethery, would you please fix the front porch steps before I fall through them?" He replied, "Get someone to fix them. That's what I work to make money for."

Mother was quite young when her father died but she remembers little vignettes about him. She had long hair that had to be curled and sometimes hurt when combed roughly. She wanted to cut it so she could wear it short. Her father said, "No, I've already got two boys. I don't want another!"

In 1910 he developed rectal cancer. She remembers the pain began to get bad that summer so he'd lie on the floor where it was cooler. She wanted to do something to ease his discomfort so she'd gently comb his hair. She felt it made him feel a little better.

Belle Mina was too small to have a hospital so when his illness got bad he went to Douglas Infirmary near Nashville. In August 1910, at the age of 50, William Nethery died leaving his wife with three small children, $6,000 in life insurance, and the mortgaged Oak Mount land. He was brought back to the Gamble Family Cemetery to be buried. Mary and the children moved to Athens that fall.

(These informal notes are intended to pass along what I've found out thus far. A footnoted copy with all sources indicated can be had on request. See main home page for name and address.)

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