Appalachia Civil War Letters

Additional Details about the Henry Grooms Story

 

Today I’m going to share more information surrounding the story of Grooms Tune that I posted last week here on the Blind Pig. Most of the additional information came from Intrepid Smoky Mountain Researcher Don Casada.

 

 

 

Don discovered a deposition from Louise E. Leatherwood, the wife of Henry Grooms, who is said to be the one who played the fiddle-at lease some folks say that. The deposition was posted on Ancestry.com by Wilma Flowers. Louise E Leatherwood’s testimony relates to a pension application by the widow of her brother-in-law, George. Her deposition has the date of the killings as April 27, 1864, not the April 10, 1865 date listed in the findagrave reference I shared last week.

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Deposition
Case of Sarah J Grooms, No. 166071
On this eleventh day of April, 1894, at Mt. Sterling, County of Haywood Stat of N.C., Before me, ? ? Gray , a Special Examiner of the Pension Office, personally appeared Louisa E. Leatherwood, who being by me first duly sworn to answer truly all interrogations propounded to her during this Special Examination of afore-said pension claim, aeposes and says:

My name is Lousisa E. Leatherwood, a housekeeper about fifty-one years of age and my postoffice address is Mt. Sterling N.C. I was born and raised in Haywood Co. Have lived on this place about eighteen years and never lived over fourteen miles from here. I was acquainted with the claimant Sarah J. Grooms from 1859 till the close of the war and with her husband George Grooms from 1859 till he was killed.

What do you know about his being engaged in recruiting for the Union army?

I had heard it talked that he was recruiting fro the Union army.

Did you ever see any of this recruiting papers?

No. I never did but he told a man in my presence that he had recruiting papers.

Do you think if he had such papers he would have shown them to you?

I do not know.

Was he ever in with or both armies?

I do not know positively but have always believed he served a while in the southern army and afterwards served a while in the Union army but am not sure of either.

What time in the year do you think it was that he came home from the Union army? And in what year was it?

I am pretty sure it was in the Fall of 1863.

Do you know when he was killed?

I do for I set down the date at the time. It was the 27th day of April 1864. The reason I set it down was because my husband was killed at the same time and he was a brother of the said George Grooms. You see Mr. Leatherwood is my second husband. Henry Grooms, George Grooms brother was my first husband and two of my boys are his sons and about twenty-five years ago I married my present husband E.A. Leatherwood.

Was George Grooms always in the blue uniform when you saw him?

I think I saw him but twice after he came home from the Yankee army before that time I saw him dead with my husband and he had on the Yankee uniform both times.

Do you remember the date or in what months you saw him in the blue uniform?

It was about a week before he was killed.

Did he have on the blue uniform when you saw him at the grave?

I do not think he did. He had no coat on at all and I do not remember whether the pants were blue.

Why do you think he had no coat on?

I do not know. It might have been taken by those who killed  him.

I have understood your questions and my answers are correctly recorded and I have no interest in this claim.

L.E. Leatherwood

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 11th day of April 1894 and I certify that the contents were fully made known before signing. ?? Gray
Special Examiner

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Don also discovered the military record at the top of this post. The record belongs to George Grooms and is dated 1893 while the pension deposition is dated 1894. Don pointed out there’s also a 5 day difference in the death date in the record and the deposition, but said that could easily be explained by the misreading of a 7 for a 2.

 

 

 

In addition Don discovered a map drawn by Junior Ball which marks the location of the killings. The book Cataloochee: Lost Settlement of the Smokies written by Elizabeth Powers and Mark Hannah, quotes Sage Sutton to say “The men killed at the Indian Grave Branch was named Henry and George Grooms, and one named Caldwell. My father took an ox-sled and hauled their bodies out, and the were buried in the graveyard near Kim Sutton’s place, where my father lived at the time.”

 

Don pointed out the discrepancy between the date on Mitchell Coldwell’s (he was the third man killed that day) tombstone (1863) and the date Louisa Leatherwood gave in her deposition – in which she said she “set down at the time” as April 27, 1864.

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Read this information sent to me by Cody Marie Phoenix to add even more confusion to the story:

“I just found your web page and read the story about the Grooms Tune. Some of the information is inaccurate as the 2 Grooms men were my mother’s great great grandfather and uncle. The 2 Grooms men that were shot were George (our grandfather) who was the fiddle player and his brother Anderson Grooms. Henry Grooms and his wife Elizabeth Arrington Grooms were the parents of George and Anderson. They were all Unionist but didn’t fight in the war. George and Anderson’s brother Adolphus was in the Confederacy and friends with Teague but no one is sure if he was there that day when his brothers were killed. There is a book written about Haywood Co., NC that lists George and Anderson as the Grooms men but they have Anderson as the fiddle player. My great grandmother said they had it wrong too, it was George. ;-)”

Don’s research shows us George for sure served-but who knows if what she says about the fiddle player being George is true? I mean it has been a long time!

Then there’s this blog post on the website Ruminations from the Distant Hills published in April of 2007:

“For whatever reason, Henry Grooms, his brother George and his brother-in-law Mitchell Caldwell, all of north Haywood County, North Carolina, were taken prisoner by the Home Guard. The group traveled toward Cataloochee Valley and Henry Grooms, clutching his fiddle and bow, was asked by his captors to play a tune. Realizing he was performing for his own firing squad Grooms struck up Bonaparte’s Retreat. When he finished the three men were lined up against an oak tree and shot, the bodies left where they fell. Henry’s wife gathered the bodies and buried them in a single grove in Sutton Cemetery No. 1 in the Mount Sterling community, the plain headstone reading only “Murdered.”

Now this account of the story was attributed to a Geoff Cantrell article in the Asheville Citizen-Times (February 23, 2000). Grooms family member Bettie Tanana, however, tells the story differently:

George was forced to play Bonaparte’s Retreat (later called Groom’s Tune which can be found on the internet). Mitchell, according to Archives records, was an idiot and was told to put his hat over his face before he was shot. All three men were buried in a common grave. George was my great great great grandfather. My great great grandmother signed an affidavit stating that when she found her father’s body his fiddle was found at his feet.

Some of Teague’s men were also deposed verifying how the murders occurred. (I have copies of these records.) Most of the men in Teague’s Homeguard were older men and neighbors of the men they shot. They even continued to live as neighbors after the war. Incidentally, another great great great grandfather, Henry Barnes was also found several miles away killed by Teagues Homeguard. His daughter, Amanda, married George Groom’s son.

I had no idea that this scene was going to be in the movie Cold Mountain. I wanted to stand up and cry through my tears that that was my family being killed.”

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The last tid-bit I have to share with you surrounds the fiddle. I think I mentioned before that Dolly Parton is said to be a descendant of the Grooms men and that the fiddle from the event is now on display at Dollywood. Last week Doris Noland Parton left this comment with the image above on the Blind Pig and The Acorn Facebook page:

“I am the person who figured out that the fiddle in Dolly’s museum is probably this fiddle. Her family calls it the Solomon Grooms fiddle. It came down from Grooms to Messer to Owens on her line. It may or not be the exact fiddle, but I think it is likely. Here is how Dolly is related to Henry Grooms. She joins in Henry’s parents. The two Grooms brothers who were killed had a brother Solomon Grooms so I am guessing that he got the fiddle after they were killed.”

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The event is such a compelling story that one can see how the exact particulars of the story may have been mixed up or changed slightly between when they happened and now-over 150 years. I’m sure some of you researchers may have other records or information to add to this post-if you do please leave a comment and let us know what you found.

Be on the look out for the post about our trip to the Cattaloochee Turnpike where we believe the event took place.

Tipper

 

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30 Comments

  • Reply
    Sean Noland
    July 7, 2019 at 10:14 am

    Thank you. Long journey piecing my family history together, but the big picture is coming to light. Your blog is wonderful – bless you.

  • Reply
    Bruce Price
    May 7, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    As I read these comments, I’m getting some chills wondering how much my Cocke County/Haywood County ancestry intertwines. I will add 2 more documents to the mix: The murder case of Solomon Grooms and the pension application of Sarah Grooms, widow of Levi. (Tanya and Patsy need to email me at [email protected] so I can share other info)
    * Solomon Grooms could not have handed down the fiddle, as he was hanged in Jan 1963 for the murder of Oscar Townsend. Among the testimony involved in the murder case, Oscar’s father said that Adolphus Grooms, who was in the Confederate Army, needed to be called to testify as he had heard Solomon Grooms say he would kill Townsend. Levi Sutton was one of the witnesses called. Another witness named but apparently not called was John Price. This John Price was my g-grandfather. He lived in the neighborhood of Solomon Grooms and the Townsend family in 1860. He served in both the 29th NC Infantry and the 62nd NC Infantry. I had thought he was the John Price captured at Cumberland Gap and sent to Camp Morton, but perhaps that was a different John Price. My John Price died in 1887 in Cocke County, so could be the John Price named. Solomon Grooms wife was Elizabeth McGaha. Her oldest brother, William H. McGaha, was my g-g-grandfather. His daughter Christina had a child named Catherine Towsell or Townsend, so she may have been married to one of the Townsend men. She later married the John Price who was the neighbor in 1860.
    * Levi Sutton’s wife, Sarah, is said by the Sutton family to be the daughter of Samuel McGaha (father of Elizabeth and William) by Catherine Giles. She was not a legitimate daughter, as she is not named among his heirs in the case of John Ramsey vs Samuel McGaha. In her pension application, she gives her name as Sarah White. (But her mtDNA matches that of Anna Coleman, a neighbor of Samuel McGaha in 1850 Cocke County.) In her pension application, she states that Levi Sutton was taken with and killed with George and Henry Grooms, and Mitchel Caldwell. Milley Ramsey (who was Permela Green, daughter of William Green and Sarah McGaha, sister of Samuel) testified that she was taken by the Rebel scouts, had a rope put around her neck, and told they’d let her live if she told them where more Union men were. Then they realized they’d taken her by mistake and let her go.
    To add to the mystery, my Dad told the story of his grandfather Price going off with a band of Rebels after the Civil War and never returning. Not possible, as he father children into the early 1880s and is buried in Costner Cemetery in Cocke County. But, reading these posts, it makes me wonder if I have found the origin of that family tradition.
    PS: I have copies of both the Solomon Grooms murder case and Sarah Sutton’s pension application.

  • Reply
    Patsy Grooms Cannon
    July 8, 2018 at 9:20 am

    Affidavit given by John Grooms, brother of George W. Jr. and Henry, along with Thomas Barnes, both men of Cocke Co., TN on Nov. 21, 1872.. This was for George’s wife’s pension application. George and John had been in the Confederate Army but suddenly they were found on the roster of the 11th Tenn Cavalry, Company K commanded by Capt F. Peice (could be misspelled), thus deserters of the Confederacy or they were captured first by the Union. They were both privates. They state George was on recruiting orders in Haywood Co. and he was sent there to “bring out all the loyal recruits he could for the Federal Army”. This affidavit states he was “killed May 22, 1864”. Both Thomas and John marked an “x” by their names and the witnesses were Joseph Campbell and Jesse Giles. Signed by the JP of Cocke Co William D. Harrison. Sarah, George’s widow, first applied on Aug. 22, 1868 in Haywood Co., NC. She proved they were married and then she goes on to prove he was a Union solder in service and not a deserter. There were many people giving depositions. I have some but not all of them. then the affidavits I have start in April 1893. I don’t know why there is such a gap in years. The charge of desertion of Dec. 12, 1863 against George was removed on March 2, 1889. It states on this document that he was absent without leave from Dec. 12, ~1863 to Feb. 1, 1864 and that he was killed April 22, 1864. It goes on to say he was mustered in on Oct 12, 1863, roll dated Knoxville, TN, in Co. G 11 Cav. Pvt., Capt. Peace’s [Pierce’s] Co., age 36 yrs. Where- Haywood Co., NC for 3 yrs. Subsequently this became Co., K. Sarah’s Deposition A was given on Feb. 1894.

    I am a descendent of John Grooms. He is my great great grandfather. Deposition B is his. I love having this copy which gives his answers to the questions, for I believe it is truly his words. His deposition brings up more discrepancies. John says he is 70 yrs old at the time, is a farmer, and resides in Sutton, Cocke Co., TN (present day GSMNP). He said they were under Col. Young and Capt. Peace and that they enlisted at the same time. He said George and Way Myers went to General Carter to ask for recruiting papers from themselves and for John, but they only got papers for themselves. John was told that they could only give out 2 papers and they had been given to George and Way. John with George and Way went to Col. Young and John saw Young sign the papers for George and Way. George and Way left on the car [I think this must be a rail road car] and said they were going up into VA for some recruits. He thought Meyers lived up there. John says he never saw George again. When John got home his people told him that Teague’s scouts Henry Allen, George Baxter, and ? Allen were among the men that killed them. He said that those 3 men were now dead and that Teague was somewhere in Kansas. He said when George and Way left they were stationed in the upper end of Knoxville, TN. He said he did not know the year or date but that it was very cold weather. He talked about building little fires to keep warm while on picket and that they had “pils” [believe this is half tents pitched together to make 1 whole tent. Each soldier carried one half and then would buddy up with someone to pitch a tent]. He said when they joined up in the Union Army they did so with Levi Sutton, Dick Sutton (this would be his brother-in-law, husband of sister Nancy, Dolly Parton’s ancestors); William Haines. He said they signed up in Haywood Co and went through Cocke Co., Sevier Co., and Jefferson Co. in a direct line to Knoxville. When the company was stationed in Rutledge later John went to his captain and asked for a furlough he had been promised and he would nit give it to him. John said “I set my gun down by him and told him there it was, and I was goin home”. He said Charley Green, Joe Green, Dan or Whig Shults and 2 more men came home the same time he did. He said it was getting warm weather when he got home and it took 3-4 days to travel there. Shockingly John goes on in his deposition to say Sarah, his brother’s wife, was a bad woman and had been the cause of George’ death. John Price (he told John) who lived in NC near the Groomses said he was told by his neighbors and Teague’s scouts [Price] that Teague’s scouts gave Sarah $30.00 to betray her husband and that she did betray him. Price was dead at that time of the deposition so he could verify this. John said that Price was one of Teague’s men but he had not been with them at the time of the murders. Price asked Teague’s men who they had killed and he was told George Grooms and that they took him out of his bed at his house and they patted him on the back and said they had “rather have him than an old fat he bear”. Sarah was given $30.00 to tell Teague’s men when George was home. He said he did not know who she lived in adultery with but that she was accused of being a bad woman and that he suppose any man that had the money. He said Rube Owns was the man that patted him on the back and was dead now.

    • Reply
      tipper
      July 16, 2018 at 10:32 am

      Patsy-thank you so much for sharing your information with us! I really appreciate it 🙂

  • Reply
    Tanya Grooms
    April 1, 2018 at 10:01 am

    WOW! I have just started researching my husbands family and this is absolutely amazing. I have always heard that the family was related to Dolly in some way and that the movie Cold Mt had some scenes based on the Grooms men. My husband comes from the line of George Wiley Sr, Solomon, Anderson, James Isaac, David Earl, Dennis Sr., to my husband Dennis Jr. I find your page so informative and I am really glad I happened across it. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Tipper
    June 21, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Debbie-thank you for the comments! Unfortunately I don’t know the answers to your questions. All the information I discovered was shared in the blog posts. Hopefully someone with more info than me will answer you back. Have a great day!!

  • Reply
    Debbie Domby
    June 20, 2016 at 11:02 am

    My great grandmother was a Grooms from John Grooms line….we have a fiddle from the family…was there more than one…this has been passed down for over 100 years….

  • Reply
    Debbie Domby
    June 20, 2016 at 11:00 am

    What does the Grooms fiddle look like. Any unusual features.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    September 12, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    Despite the variances of detail in the story, the essence is intact. The Civil War bred untold tragic horrors of gratuitous death -wear the Blue and get murdered by the Gray, but wear the Gray and get murdered by the Blue. And the Southern Appalachians had a full measure of both uniforms–it was not solidly with the south.
    Kudos to Don Casada, researcher extraordinaire, whose balance of found fact and native skepticism is, well, right in there. I love it. I really wish I knew Don personally.

  • Reply
    Ron Penland
    September 11, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Listening to them and Paul takes me back to the little family concerts we used to have at grandma’s when I was a teen so long ago. You really miss them when they are gone.

  • Reply
    Ron Penland
    September 11, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    By the way, the girls did a great job on Bonapartes Retreat. Glen Campbell did a worded version of that song way back in the 70’s I believe?

  • Reply
    Ron Penland
    September 11, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Or maybe they did, in fact, join the Union Army after that battle- to keep from being POWs? At any rate, that would tend to substantiate Louise’s claim that they returned home in the fall? Many possibilities there.

  • Reply
    Ron Penland
    September 11, 2015 at 11:29 am

    In their defense, the 62nd was also the unit that ceased to exist in KY so they may have made it through that and just decided to go home? Not many of that regiment survived the Battle of the Cumberland. I still think Uncle Chamberlin perished there?

  • Reply
    Ron Penland
    September 11, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Hi again Tipper. I checked my Civil War records. There was a George and Henry Grooms listed in the Confederate Army from Haywood County. They were in the same outfit that W.C.’s Uncle Chamberlin was in- 62nd Regiment NC Infantry. There was also an Adolphus Grooms listed in the NC 29th Regiment NC Infantry, which was formed in Asheville. It does not give any details about them or their status so I don’t know if they are the ones listed here or not? Haven’t found any Union Records on them yet but I will keep looking. Possibly the reason they were shot is because they were listed as deserters from the Confederacy?

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    September 10, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Suzi, that is sad to hear about Junior Ball. I never met him, but wanted to, not only because of his knowledge of the Cataloochee and surrounding area, but because of his last name.
    If you’ll recall, the day we made the trip to Little Cataloochee and on over Mt. Sterling Gap (which Tipper will, no doubt, be sharing more about), the group of us were headed on over to Madison County after our lunch at the church. I’ll not spoil it in case Tipper decides to discuss it later, but the Ball name was a focal point.
    I’m grateful that Tipper and others are getting down what they can, while they can, and letting us tag along.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    September 10, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Absolutely fascinating- I love a real life mystery! I’m also amazed that so much documentation still exists, even if some of it is contradictory. I’m so thankfull that someone took the time and trouble to research and preserve this story for future generations. I don’t know if you heard, but we lost Junior Ball yesterday. He was such a treasure trove of mountain history!His wonderful books are only a fraction of what he knew. A reminder for us to sit down and really talk to our oldtimers, because when they leave out of here all their knowledge of our heritage goes too.

  • Reply
    Howland
    September 10, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Outstanding bit of work by you and our fellow readers! I was at first caught by the peculiar cursive script that was used in that time, so different from what we see today, and shortly after I began to read I found that there was no stopping ’til I got here to the bottom. History fascinates me, and musical history even moreso. A big bundle of thanks to you and all the folks who contributed to the story.

  • Reply
    Ken
    September 10, 2015 at 11:54 am

    Tipper,
    Interesting read on the Groom’s
    saga. That was a long time ago and may have been tweeked a little. But there’s enough of the same story for us to get the point that it did happen.
    I heard “Precious Memories” by The Pressley Girls and the Harmony is great! Like the rest of us, the Radio gal loves those Girls…Ken

  • Reply
    Ron Penland
    September 10, 2015 at 11:24 am

    What Im getting at is that he obviously didn’t come up missing until Dec 12th, 1863 so he could not have been killed on the date on Coldwell’s headstone?

  • Reply
    Ron Penland
    September 10, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Hi Tipper, this is very interesting. It would seem to me that Louise Leatherwood’s account of the deaths would be more accurate. The reason I say that is because George was accused in the deposition as being absent from duty from Dec 12th (my birthday incidentally), 1863 to February, 1864. Before that time there would be no reason to shoot them? Possibly the 1863 on Coldwell’s marker was put there in error? Her account would coincide with the events listed in the deposition, which was approx. 2 months prior to the time she said he was killed.

  • Reply
    Doris Noland Parton
    September 10, 2015 at 11:02 am

    Thank you for the great article. I will share it with my genealogy group on Facebook: Sevier County Tennessee Genealogy Active Sharing. Doris Noland Parton

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 10, 2015 at 10:02 am

    These kinds of tragedies occurred throughout the border regions. The operations of the various Home Guards tend to be poorly documented because they were not regular, well-organized units and good records were not kept at the time or were not collected afterwards if made. The Home Guard probably operated more as a militia than a full-time unit with officers and members changing often.

  • Reply
    Charline
    September 10, 2015 at 9:37 am

    This is all incredibly fascinating to me,as I have always been interested in history-particularly in this area, and now spend a great deal of time researching genealogy. Thanks to all who contributed, and I’m sure there will be more to come!

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    September 10, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Tipper: As I read ‘carefully’ through your POST this morning I had to open my book “Fiddler of the Mountains: Attuned to the Life and Times of Johnny Mull” page 54/55 to read again my coverage of this story:
    “My last and most heart-wrenching fiddle story you will ever read!”
    On those pages I was able to share the details taken from the article by Hattie Caldwell Davis, “Cataloochee Valley: Vanished Settlements of the Great Smoky Mountains, WorldComm, 1997”
    Now I must take a walk in the rain!
    Regards, Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    September 10, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Tipper, I have read with great interest your posts on the Grooms tune and the history surrounding it. I once went to try to find the burial place of the men but just did not have enough information to locate it. I am looking forward to hearing about your trip.

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    September 10, 2015 at 8:09 am

    Very compelling research. Sometimes questions about events will prompt even more evidence, and I’m sure we haven’t heard the end of this story. Well done. Vann

  • Reply
    Dolores
    September 10, 2015 at 7:59 am

    This was a very interesting piece of history. Despite some descrepancies, the story is a valuable piece of App. History. Thanks for all the great research from all.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 10, 2015 at 7:57 am

    Tipper–Really interesting stuff, and an object lesson in how history can be distorted over time. Family legends are sometimes just that legends, and local lore is sometimes just that, folklore.
    In situations such as this what the student of history attempts to do, to the greatest degree possible, is compare the validity of the various sources. That’s why historians speak of primary sources vs. secondary sources and make such a sharp distinction between them The war service record Don located would be a primary source. All the others, including the deposition by Sarah Grooms are secondary sources.
    I’m not about to make a judgment on what is and isn’t accurate here, although I frankly have some serious doubts about the provenance of the fiddle now in Dolly Parton’s hands. I simply haven’t studied the issue in anywhere near the depth required to make a judgment (and even then it would be just that, a judgment, not a definitive account.
    Playing fast and loose with folklore can lead to real problems and is the bane of serious students of history. Don (and others) have recently encountered a most unfortunate example of this connected with a purported “ghost tour” in Bryson City. I’ve heard audio of portions of it and the presentation is sheer sensationalized fiction. That sort of thing is most unfortunate.
    Wisely, you just lay out the various accounts, provide such information as has come your way, and leave the conclusions to others.
    Good stuff.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Michael M. Cass
    September 10, 2015 at 7:46 am

    Fascinating! Thanks.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 10, 2015 at 7:30 am

    I enjoy reading this type of material. I have an Uncle several generations back that has these same papers filed by his wife. He also signed the succession papers of Florida. I have a copy of both. Both sides of my family were originally from NC via Scotland and England. However I am a fifth generation Floridian, it amazes me to see all the same uses of words and habits.

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