Jo Byrns High School. SUBMITTED

Jo Byrns High School. SUBMITTED

Jesse Holman Jones worked in the tobacco fields of Robertson County. He hated it so badly that he left for Texas. There he made his fortune.

Joseph Wellington Byrns also worked in tobacco. He learned so much from that task that he was able to help the farmers of Robertson County when he went to Washington, D.C.

Jesse Holman Jones had a hospital in Springfield named for him.

Joseph Wellington Byrns has two schools in the county named for him.

It is interesting how both men used their labor in the tobacco fields to succeed.

The parents of Jo Byrns were both born in Robertson County. They were James H. and Mary Emily Jackson Byrns, both of Scottish-Irish descent.

James H. Byrns prospered and bought the farm of his grandfather Long near Sturgeon Creek. It was on these 365 acres that Joseph Wellington Byrns was born on July 20, 1869.  He was the oldest of six children.

The home was a modest log cabin. It was also near the site of the present Jo Byrns High School.

In 1874, when Jo Byrns was still quite young, they moved into a one-story home that would later be known as Inglnook. It was named by the England family, who had bought it in the 1880’s.

Many stories are told of the early education of Joseph Wellington Byrns at Gunn School. It was located on land owned by John Byrns, Jo Byrns’ grandfather. It was near however, the home of James Gunn and the teacher boarded there.

An article in the Nashville Tennessean on June 5, 1936, tells that Jo Byrns learned the alphabet at that school.

Joseph Wellington Byrns was called “Joe Wellie,” his teacher remembered. Mrs. Worley, who was “Miss Sydnor” when she taught him, often told of his difficulty with the letter Q.

She told him to remember “cucumbers,” since he told her that he liked them. The next day, he hesitated again. She tried to help by telling him to remember something good to eat.

He frowned in concentration and then brightened as he announced proudly, “Pickles!”

At 13, Jo Byrns joined the Methodist church in Cedar Hill. Land had been donated for the church in 1859. Nine trustees signed the deed, among them Jo Byrns’ father and both of his grandfathers.

The church at that time had one room. Men and women entered through different doors and sat on different sides of the church.

Around that same age, Joseph Wellington Byrns began to walk to the school in Cedar Hill that had been started by his grandfather, Miles Jackson. This was a large, one-room school built on the property of the Methodist church. It was called the Cedar Hill Academy.

Three years later, when “Joe Wellie” was 16, James Byrns moved the family to Nashville. Jo Byrns graduated from Nashville High School and then went on to Vanderbilt.

He had been born in Cedar Hill and graduated from high school in Nashville. What would come next for Joseph Wellington Byrns?

In the Eagle’s Eye is sponsored by the Robertson County Historical Society. Call 615-384-7173 for more information.


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