October 14, 2019, Susan Harber, The Daily News Journal
Jerry Glendon Johns of Old Jefferson was a wonderful grandfather. He was born at Fall Creek to Benjamin Franklin Johns, a handsome and prominent Smyrna businessman, and Helen Smith (1874-1967) of North Carolina. Benjamin was on the Board of Directors for Smyrna Bank; and he owned and farmed the land that once housed Smyrna Air Base. Glendon’s brother Hubert lived in a house on this site before Sewart Base began operations in 1942. Hubert Drive lays off Nissan Boulevard in present-day Smyrna.
Glendon’s siblings included Andrew Frank Sr., Hubert Harris, Rufus Smith, Evelyn and Ruth. Evelyn, a beautiful woman, tragically perished with pneumonia at age 19 in the dormitory of Teachers College of Murfreesboro. Ruth, a minister’s wife, lived in Knoxville until age 101.
Glendon’s maternal grandfather was Andrew Harvey Smith (born 1840). Smith enlisted in Company 1, 7th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, in the Confederate Army on May 20, 1861 in Nashville as a private. The Brigade joined Stonewall Jackson at Winchester in December 1861 along with Shumaker’s Battery. Stonewall led the 7th Regiment soldiers in a Bath, Virginia raid to destroy a railroad bridge. The regiment also participated in every major battle in the Army of Northern Virginia and fought in Pickett’s Charge in Gettysburg. Moreover, Andrew Harvey Smith’s paternal grandfather signed the petition for the creation of Rutherford County in 1803. Andrew’s daughter Helen Nelson Smith Johns (Glendon’s mother) lived in the log cabin next to the Johns/King House (Liberty Hill) on Old Jefferson Pike and was a master hand-quilter all of her life.
Glendon was born in the community of Lamar on the original Johns home place in 1911. He first attended Greenwood School, while the mode of transportation was horse and buggy. Glendon sojourned within an uncomplicated life of collecting numerous arrowheads on Spring Creek that ran through his farm, and he labored hard with daily chores. He met my grandmother Emily Randolph Johns, who was five years younger, at Smyrna High where he graduated in 1933 in a class of 22 students. Emily and Glendon dated at private parties at the Sam Davis Home before the property was a state historical landmark.
Glendon’s brothers boarded in Smyrna to attend high school while he toiled on the family farm. He started school later because of this arrangement and graduated a couple years older than his classmates.
Glendon remained on Lamar Road in Old Jefferson a lifetime where he was an active and knowledgeable farmer. His brother Rufus lived a mile away, and the Johns family remained close-knit. He loved his children, who were Sue, Randy and Judy; yet he was a friend to all young ones in the community and served as a mentor and positive influence.
As a young girl, Judy (my mother) rode from sunrise to sunset on a side tractor seat Glendon crafted, and she has fond memories of this chapter of time. Judy also recalls Glendon meeting the bus on Spring Creek and lifting the students to safety when the waters flooded.
Judy grew up near Jefferson Springs that was an inviting area of beauty and progress and many visitors, who crowded into the cabins on the weekends. Yet, Glendon was not fond of the liquor, dancehall and character of every individual who inhabited these grounds. He advised Judy to stay clear of this hamlet, and she did not venture into the Springs.
Glendon and Emily were very active with their children in Jefferson School and Smyrna High; and they attended Old Jefferson Church of Christ. Their best friends in the community were Robert and Ruth Rion of Jefferson.
Glendon had high expertise as a welder and could forge any farm implement. I remember him toiling in his brick garage wearing protective gear and repairing an apparatus for a neighboring farmer. He also cut hay for multiple farmers in need and was often absent from home until late evening. During mid-day, he departed the fields and returned for a home-cooked meal from his wife Emily. She then filled his large canteen with water, and he returned to his full day of labor.
Glendon owned the Arnold Place in Old Jefferson where his mother Helen was born and reared her children. A cemetery lays within the Arnold Place today that was intact during the Civil War. The graves continue to be maintained by Glendon’s son Randy Johns of Spencer.
During the winter months when farming was moderate, Glendon built log cabins beside the Sam Davis Home that stand today. He loved history and retained all the chronicled details of Smyrna in his head (like mom) and did not retain a journal. Yet, he could definitely relate minute and specific narratives of an early day.
Judy was just 8 years old when Glendon lost his arm at age 33 in a combine accident on D-Day (June 6, 1944). He received the first penicillin ever administered in Rutherford County. He never complained with the loss of his arm and returned to farming full time for another 40 years. He had a prosthetic that looked quite well that he wore on special occasions, and he never referred to his dilemma as a disability. Glendon continued as extremely proficient with his rifle as a hunter with one arm.
The Johns brothers were so firmly established in their beautiful and prosperous farms on Lamar Road; and they managed the high waters with innovative techniques. Nonetheless, the 1946 Flood Control Act commissioned the project of Percy Priest Dam that forms Percy Priest Lake on Stones River. Incredibly, Old Jefferson was now under dire straits to suddenly relocate an entire community and alter history forevermore.
However, Glendon adapted to this radical change and relocated to a large farm near Vesta of Wilson County in 1966. He purchased fertile property and commenced a new day in this region for the next 24 years, while making new friends and keeping in touch with loved ones in Smyrna.
Gladeville is where I visited my grandparents all of my childhood years and adult life. They had a huge garden on several acres just by their home, and Nanny cooked sumptuous meals. We called our grandfather ‘Dadyn’ that was a special namesake.
Judy remembers her father as always honorable. He kept $100 bill all his life in his pocket ready to hand to a needy individual. He was a giver and an excellent listener. Less words were as effective as too many.
Mom also recollects sayings he related to her and conveys he was always a principled man. “All is a little crooked in the end. Nothing is exactly as it seems”. “Wherever you live, you will make friends who are ‘like you’ – gentle, kind and with respect.”
Glendon was buried in 1991 with his ancestral family in Mapleview in Smyrna. Emily Johns was laid to rest beside him in 2008. Glendon was a good man with a good legacy and a granddad who makes me proud.