Inez Davis runs the little post office in Lone Mountain and lives in
the old store building that houses it.
By FRED BROWN, News-Sentinel senior writer
February 16, 2003
LONE MOUNTAIN, Tenn. - Life is changing in Claiborne County. On Lone
Mountain and in the valley, a new golf course has eaten up the hills
where farms once flourished. Now the trees are down and new houses are
popping up like mushrooms after a good rain.
There has been an influx of new immigrants. What somesee as progress,
locals who have lived here all their lives see as the destruction of
and a simple but fulfilling way of life. Old-timers are worried, and
good reason. One of their favorite gathering places, the community post
run by Inez Davis out of her Lone Mountain Store south of Tazewell on
Mountain Road, may be threatened with extinction.
There is no official notice, yet, but those in the community are
apprehensive. Word has filtered back to them that the U.S. Postal
Service in Nashville is
"reviewing" its statewide smaller operations, and some of the tiny
outposts may be vulnerable.
The post office occupying a corner in Inez Davis' store fits the
description of a small operation, but it's a big concern for the
Even though Davis has been warned not to bring attention to her little
post office, she and others in the community have started a petition of
concern, just in case the Postal Service sends in official
representatives to shut them down. If that happens, Lone Mountain will
have lost something far more important than just a community place to
mail and to get letters from the outside: It is one of the last
vestiges of their past.
Once, Lone Mountain throbbed with life: There was the Payne Brothers
three-story brick store that carried everything needed to get you from
the cradle to the
grave. There was a barbershop, a blacksmith shop, a saddle shop, a
one-room jail, a restaurant and the Southern Railway train depot. The
Payne boys also ran a car shop, where they assembled Model T Fords that
were brought in by rail from Michigan and unloaded in boxes at the
depot, just behind where Davis'
store now sits.
"The flavor of Lone Mountain," says John Jennings Kivett, county
historian, "is in its characters. Lone Mountain is a place that just
had characters, and they all had nicknames. It is a different place on
Davis' store wasn't there at the time of the railhead depot, but a
number of other buildings were.
Two residents who remember the old days in Lone Mountain are Athene
Lane Roberts, who will be 75 this month, and Anne Cabbage, 85. (That's
the "Two B" Cabbages, she says.) Both were born in Lone Mountain and
have lived there their entire lives.
Former post office operator Athene Lane Roberts leaves the Lone
Mountain Grocery Store.
She and her husband, Frank Lane, started the store in 1949 and Lane was
postmaster 40 years
Roberts started Lone Mountain Store with her husband, Frank Lane, in
1949. She sold out in the 1980s and eventually Davis took it over. Lane
had been the postmaster for nearly 40 years and when he died, Roberts
operated the post office for almost 10 more years, until she retired in
the 1980s. That's when the little post office became a community
contract affair, run out of one corner in the Lone Mountain Store.
"Frank was the postmaster when this was a fourth-class office," says
Roberts proudly. "He was a schoolteacher until he got into the store
business and took over the post office in the Rock Building." That
would be the old building across the street that once served as a
funeral home. You couldn't get embalmed there, but you could purchase a
casket for a quick burial.
"Frank was commissioned postmaster in 1935. The post office had been in
the Payne Brothers store before I was born," says Roberts. "Let's see,"
says, "then Eliza Miller was postmaster before Frank."
Cabbage has to pick up the story from here. Her age makes her something
of a community historian.
Anne Cabbage, 85, said, "I'm old enough to be an unchained blessing."
"You know, I'm old enough to be an unchained blessing," she says as she
opens the front door to her home. Outside, the weather is snowy and
Inside, the house is warm as a pile of blankets.
"When you get to be 85 years old, everything is historical," Cabbage, a
former schoolteacher, says. "Let's see, now. Before Eliza, there was
Yoakum and Joe Rose. John was the postmaster. My grandfather, Royal
who lived to be 87, worked for John. He carried the mail to Long
Taz Branch, and up in the country toward Hancock County. He said there
only one (mail carrier) route then.
"I recall the carrier had saddlebags. They'd toss the bags across the
horse. The mail would come to us by train. Everything came to us by
Roberts nods her head to agree and fills in a little more Lone Mountain
lore. "We serviced Union, Claiborne, Grainger and Hancock counties with
train," she says. "They'd bring all their goods here and ship them out
New York. I remember the time they would herd their turkeys here. The
would roost in the trees at night, and they'd entice them down the next
with food. Then Edgar Jennings would take them to New York and sell
He'd sell eggs in New York, as well.
"Back then, we were bigger than New Tazewell." she says.
"The train would take the sick by stretcher to hospitals in Knoxville.
People ordered goods by catalogs," Cabbage adds. "The train does stop
here sometimes," Davis puts in. "They stop and the men get sandwiches
A bologna sandwich with cheese sells for $1.10. A thick slice sells for
The auto assembling "plant," the restaurant, saddle and blacksmith
shop, funeral store, train depot and a host of other buildings are gone
Davis' store remains. Inside, the community post office anchors one
with its 130 postal boxes, only 63 of which are in use.
Each morning, the mail is delivered to the store by 10:30 a.m. and goes
out to Tazewell. Postal customers arrive at all hours, from the time
post office opens at 7:45 a.m., until it closes at 5:15 p.m. It is open
on Saturday, says Davis, who also lives in a small apartment in the
"Why, this post office must be 140 to 150 years old," says Cabbage.
"This place looked like an old western town then with its wooden
buildings. Until it burned down. The post office is the last of our
"It means everything to us," she said. "Congressman John Duncan (Sr.)
helped us once before in the 1980s when it looked like they would close
us. We need help now. I've called his son," U.S. Rep. John Duncan Jr.
"One day, I got a call from John Duncan. I said, 'Oh, Lord, it's John
Duncan. You will have to wait until I get a-hold of myself. In all my
years, I never had a congressman call me,' " Cabbage said.
The two women of Lone Mountain hope they don't have to call their
congressmen again. They want some things to stay as they are now,
progress or no progress.
If required, however, they stand prepared to call anyone and everyone
to save their post office, should that become necessary.
After all, they do recall the days of "ringing up," when the entire
community was on a 20-phone party line. If it comes down to it, they
will ring up once again.
Senior writer Fred Brown may be reached at 865-342-6427
Copyright 2003, KnoxNews. All Rights Reserved.
The following was sent from my 90 year old Uncle who lived in Lone
Mountain, his father, my grandfather started the Payne Bros. Store.
REMEMBER OUR BOX NUMBER, WHICH USED A DIAL-TYPE LOCK,,OUR NUMBER
WAS 34...THE TRAIN CARRIED MAIL FROM KNOXVILLE TO THE KENTUCKY AREA,
WITH STOPS ALONG THE WAY AND DROPPED OFF BAGS OF MAIL AT THE
IF IT IS OF FURTHER INTEREST, WHILE I STILL HAVE SOME OF MY MEMORY,
I WOULD BE GLAD TO TALK WITH BROWN......INEZ JENNINGS, WHO MARRIED KYLE
KIVETT, IS MOTHER OF JOHNNY, AND THINGS HE TELLS IS MORE THAN SECOND
HAND..I LIVED THERE AS A YOUTH AND USING SOME OF THE PICTURES YOU HAVE
COLLECTED COULD GIVE A LITTLE MORE ACCURATE STORY OF HOW THINGS LOOKED
WHEN I WAS A YOUTH....
BEFORE FRANK LANE BUILT HIS STORE, THERE WAS A LARGER TWO STORY
STORE THERE OWNED BY THE BREEDINGS AND WELCH'S..........MRS. BREEDING
WAS A LEABOW I THINK AND THE ORIGINAL STORE THERE HAD A BACK PORCH
OVERLOOKING THE RAILWAY STATION WHERE PEOPLE COULD GATHER AND WATCH THE
PASSENGERS GET OFF AND ON THE TRAINS....................AND IN THE
1930'S, ONE COULD BUY A BOLOGNY AND WEINER SANDWICH FOR 10 CENTS....AND
A COKE OR OTHER SODA FOR 5.. HAWK CAMPBELL OPERATED THE FIRST LITTLE
STORE CLOSE TO WHERE THE PRESENT BRICK STORE STOOD...I ATE THERE MANY
TIMES WHEN I COULD GET 5 OR 10 CENTS..OR MAYBE A QUARTER......
I STILL LIKE YOUR STORIES, EVEN THO SOMETIMES THEY SEEM TO HAVE
GONE THROUGH TWO OR THREE HANDS BEFORE...........I HOPE YOU HAVE A GOOD
VISIT IN FLORIDA........HELEN IS STILL HAVING LOTS OF PAIN FROM HER
FALL.........CAN WALK A LITTLE O.K, BUT THE SITTING EVEN ON A PILLOW
WITH CENTER REMOVED IS STILL PAINFUL.........WILL TRY TO TALK TO THE
NURSE TOMORROW NOW THAT IT SEEMS MOST HELP WILL BE GETTING BACK TO WORK
SPITE OF THE DELUGE OF RAIN WE HAVE BEEN AND STILL ARE HAVING...LOVE