I’m not sure I’ve ever been to Meigs County. It’s one of Tennessee’s smaller counties, with 12,000 or so residents, and its county seat is Decatur, with only about 1,600 people.

Meigs County doesn’t make all that much news in Tennessee, generally. It’s just there, nestled in Southeast Tennessee below Roane County and above Hamilton County, with other adjacent counties being McMinn, Bradley and Rhea counties. It’s been around awhile, founded in 1936.

Some of the biggest news to come out of Meigs County in recent times was tragic, sorry to say. Last fall a school bus crash killed the bus driver and a little girl of 7.

Despite my personal unfamiliarity with Meigs County, I have developed a growing interest in it very recently, due to having read that it is home to one of Tennessee’s ghost towns, a little spot named Cute. That’s right: Cute. How cute Cute is, I don’t know.

One of my favorite writers about East Tennessee and Southeast Tennessee, McMinn County lawman Joe Guy, shares an interesting little tale about Decatur in one of his books, “The Hidden History of East Tennessee.”

From an old newspaper, Joe picked up an account of a time when some Meigs County women, fed up with the presence and influence of liquor in their community, got a bit militant in responding to the situation.

Joe quotes an editorial from a late 1860s edition of the Athens Post, which in turn quotes from a much earlier edition. That older paper had described how the abundance of “ball face” (a term for liquor that I’ve not encountered before) had become a “nuisance to all civil people” in Decatur, driving women of the little town to come to a store that sold the stuff.

The quoted account says: “... the ladies assembled yesterday, in broad daylight, and poured all the liquor out of the barrels, bottles, etc., out of the grocery store and put up a notice that any more brought here would meet with the same fate.”

It’s a fair guess that many of the men of the community, probably including husbands of some of the barrel-drainers themselves, weren’t happy with what the women had done. The writer of the newspaper editorial, however, was on their side: “We heartily approve of the act of our fair friends of Decature, and trust that their example will be followed by the ladies of other towns and villages. Tippling houses are not only a nuisance to a community, but smell rankly to Heaven.”

Did other communities follow the lead of these foreshadowers of Carry Nation? I don’t know. Whether their hands-on approach to community reform brought about the corrections these women sought is equally unknown, at least to me.

Whatever the action did or did not achieve in the long run, it certainly wrote a brief and highly colorful chapter in Tennessee history. I appreciate Joe Guy for preserving and presenting it.

Joe has presented many such intriguing Tennessee tales in his “Hidden History” books, which include “The Hidden History of McMinn County,” “The Hidden History of Southeastern Tennessee,” and “The Hidden History of East Tennessee.”

Joe has a knack for spotting good stories from our past and telling them well. You’ll find his books informative and entertaining from cover to cover.

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Cameron Judd is a lifelong Tennessean born and raised in Cookeville, and a Greene County resident since 1982. An award-winning columnist and extensively published author of western and frontier fiction, he is retired from The Greeneville Sun. He and wife Rhonda live in Chuckey.

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