Memories of Mabel Pittard shared

Susan Harber, The Daily News Journal, August 26, 2018

Mabel Pittard

When I began utilizing archives for detailed historical data, the same name continued to surface in an unending manner.  I was fascinated by a single woman, who had spent decades of countless hours of scrupulous research on the origins of our county.

Her meticulous study in the Tennessee State Museum and off-site visits to states with corresponding relation to Rutherford County are exceptionally documented.  With no Internet or media connections, Mabel Pittard painstakingly reviewed materials with paper and pencil and extreme knowledge to work through these stories and bring them to life.

Mabel Jesse Baxter Pittard was born in Lawrenceburg in 1911 and was the daughter of William Newell and Emma Ezalee Ogle Baxter.  Her father was born in 1884, and her mother was born in 1885.  Mabel had six siblings: Hollis, Paulina, William, Mary Irene, Ruth and Joe Edward.  Her mother Emma was born in Sevierville to Levi Ogle and Nancy King.

Mabel is a direct maternal descendant of Capt. John Ogle (born 1649) of Berwick-upon-Tweed of the county Northumberland in England.  His mother Eleanor Pringle of Scotland lived to 111 years old.  John, a land-buyer of Saxon heritage, relocated his family from England to Delaware where he died in 1683.  Even though Newcastle, Delaware, was settled by the Dutch Peter Stuyvesant, the English seized the colony in 1664.

At age 18, John Ogle was a Red Coat under King Charles and sent to the Delaware River to end Dutch rule, while Newcastle settlers were terrorized.  The Dutch were plundered by the English Crown, and John played a role in this chapter in history of the Anglo-Dutch War.

When John’s military duties were complete, Gov. Richard Nichols granted John 800 acres on White Clay Creek in Newcastle in 1672.  The Ogles maintained a home in Delaware for

several generations before setting in East Tennessee.  This olden, historical ancestral lineage fascinated Mabel, who pursued a focused interest in the primitive beginning of our county.  She brought to life the smallest detail of our earliest history.

While working in the library of the State Teachers College in Murfreesboro, she met the iconic historian Homer Pittard, who became her lifetime companion in documenting our local heritage.

They were both studying education and soon found they shared an avid interest in Civil War history.  She would forthwith become his bride and share a lifelong passion for history with Homer, who was both husband and team player in their journey.

The duo made their home in Murfreesboro and had two children, Ann and John.  Mabel, like Homer, was not one to sit down and was constantly focused on making lives better in her community.  She worked tirelessly as an educator at both Mitchell Neilson and Central Middle School and was a distinguished calculus and algebra teacher.  She strongly encouraged students and continued tutoring and mentoring them to the age of 97.

Mabel was an active member of the First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Daughters of American Revolution and MTSU Dames Club and was prime author for decades with the Rutherford County Historical Society.

Her research on Sam Davis and Coleman Scouts is the most groundbreaking study ever on the subject. Together, Homer and Mabel wrote “The History of Rutherford County” (1983), which is my favorite study. Further, her book “Pictorial History of Rutherford County” (1995) is fabulous.

Homer died in 1981, and Mabel journeyed on another 27 years as historical researcher and stellar writer.  Her contributions to the Rutherford County Historical Society are unsurpassed.

In 2001, she experienced tragedy with the death of her son John Pittard, a former attorney, vice mayor and four-term Murfreesboro city councilman. Murfreesboro City Schools’ John Pittard Elementary is named in his honor.  Moreover, the Homer Pittard Campus School at MTSU is named in honor of her husband.

As a former Rutherford County historian, Mabel moved beyond the normal scope of study.  She investigated the fine print of our county history and left a legacy that will be conserved for generations to come.

Mabel stated at the end of her life (2008) that she only wanted to be remembered as a dedicated wife and mother serving family and God.  She also served our community and has been my mainstay in historical research with the innumerable Pittard papers preserved in the Al Gore Center.

Mabel was born in Lawrence County and died in Crossville at 97 in the home of her daughter, but Rutherford County was home.  Mabel and Homer are buried today in Evergreen Cemetery and still stand strong in our study of history in a county they both dearly loved.

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