Similar Catastrophes Plague 19th and 21st Century Citizens


By Claudia Johnson
Former Staff Writer
Pulaski Citizen

Reading hundreds of Reconstruction Era issues of the Pulaski Citizen confirms an old
proverb. There is nothing new under the sun. Issue after issue relates tragedies and
disasters, reminding me that in many ways an interesting local newspaper depends on
a certain amount of bad news. The post-Civil War editors reported accidents,
murders, epidemics, natural disasters and fires. Almost weekly some good citizen was
injured in a fall from a horse, someone died of cholera, pneumonia, smallpox or
another malady, a business or home burned, a boat or train crashed or loss was
inflicted through murder or other crime.
It’s no wonder that by the early 1870s. Citizen publisher L.W. McCord had become the
district agent for the Nashville Life Insurance Company. An ad in the March 21, 1872
Citizen wanted insurance agents who were “gentlemen of energy and good character.”
Pulaski native Gen. John C. Brown, who was Tennessee’s governor at the time, was
listed as one of the prominent individuals from across the state with stock in the
company. Prior to McCord becoming district agent, Major H.C. Bate represented
Nashville Life.
"All death losses are promptly paid in thirty days after satisfactory proof of loss
without any vexations, delays or quibblings,” the Nashville Life ad promised. “No
restriction as to residence. No extra rates on female risks."
In 1872 McCord editorialized about the benefits of life insurance, noting that of
every 100 persons who attained the age of 30 years, 10 were certain to die before
age 40, 22 before 50, 35 before sixty and 67 before age 70.

"Every year that a man lives is but a lottery where the blanks are growing more and
more numerous and the prizes less frequent," McCord observed. "We may be apparently
in the best of health and yet be one of the 10 who in a few years will have ended
this earthly pilgrimage."

Nashville Life was certainly not the first to offer insurance in Giles County. As
early as the 1830s advertisements began appearing in forerunners to the Citizen. The
March 8, 1839, The Whig Courier contained an ad for Tennessee marine and Fire
Insurance Company with capital of $3000,000.

"They will make insurance on houses and goods of every description against fire; on
steamboats and cargo against fire and the risks of the river; on cargo of keelboats,
flatboats and other river craft, and on sea vessels and other cargos on the usual
terms," local agents for the company promised.

From the first edition of the Citizen after the Civil War, Dr. E. Edmundson
advertised as agent for the Phoenix Insurance Company, Edmundson supplied the
Citizen with claims information after the numerous fires that destroyed the Pulaski
square one side at a time during the Reconstruction Era. The company was merged into
the Travelers Corporation in 1966, and since 1998 has been known as Citigroup.
Following the 1872 fire that all but destroyed Boston, Mass., J.F. Grant, the local
agent for Old Reliable Franklin of Philadelphia bought a notice in the Citizen
stating that the company was one of the oldest and most solvent in the world.
Although the losses in Boston were $500,000, the Grant assured that with capital of
$4 million, Franklin Insurance would suffer no impairment and continue to pay claims
promptly.

The Giles County men most closely associated with insurance were mere children by
the time the Citizen publisher entered the insurance business. Cornelius Craig, born
in 1868, operated a drug store and insurance agency in Pulaski before moving to
Nashville in 1897.  His older brother, Edward, was Tennessee’s treasurer and
commissioner of insurance. Cornelius became deputy commissioner, but in 1901 he
resigned to accept the presidency of the National Life & Accident Insurance Company.
Two years Edward later founded the Volunteer State Life Insurance Company in
Chattanooga, eventually assuming vice presidency of National Life, which became a
multimillion company within a few decades. An subsidiary of the insurance company,
WSM radio, was developed by Cornelius’ son, Edwin, with its first broadcast on Oct.
5, 1925. Edwin had chosen the call letters to reinforce National Life’s motto, “We
Shield Millions.” National Life is now part of American General Insurance.


From the Pulaski Citizen files
Fires in Pulaski During the past 10 years we have witnessed five large fires on the public square in Pulaski and the destruction of forty eight houses-comprising two hotels, five saloons, one livery stable, law offices, doctor¹s offices, saddlers, tailors, cabinet, jewelers and other shops. In this estimate we include only the fires which originated on or extended to the public square, and do not include to the numerous fires which have destroyed several residences, two store houses, one carriage shop, a steam Flouring mill and other buildings in different parts of the town. Thus, when we take into count the tornado, which destroyed nearly the whole of our Western suburbs two years ago, it will be seen that Pulaski has been most woefully scourged. May 8, 1868 Thrown by his Horse and Killed A man named Lizinby, who lived in the neighborhood of Lynnville, while on his way home with some friends late Saturday evening, was thrown from, or fell off his horse, at Locust Hill, about tow and a half miles from town, on the Cornersville road, fracturing his scull, causing his death at an early hour Sunday morning. The deceased, together with his comrades, when he left town, was intoxicated, and when he fell off, one of the party, supposing he was simply stupefied with liquor, dismounted and laid down by his side and remained with him all night. Next morning he found that Lizinby was dead. W. H. Abernathy summoned a jury on inquest, who returned a verdict in accordance with the above facts. Lizinby was brought to town during the day, was dressed and placed in a coffin, and at 12 o¹clock was taken charge by his friends who had arrived, placed upon the train and then carried to his distressed family. Oct. 16, 1868 Bitten by a Rattle Snake On the 18th ult., Mr. Robert Hendricks, who lives on Big creek in this county, was bitten on the ankle by a rattle snake which measured six feet and carried sixteen rattles. He was cutting briars in a thicket some distance from the house when the snake struck him and even after he felt the stroke, continued at his work for some time supposing that a bush had struck him and was not aware of the presence of the snake until the wound began to give him pain, when upon looking, he discovered and dispatched the monster. He then started for home with all possible speed, but blindness and a deathly sickness bore him to the ground before the reached there. He gave the alarm and his brother came to shi assistance. With all possible dispatch a runner was sent to a still-house half a mile off, and in the meantime half a pint of camphor was administered as fast as he could swallow it, half a gallon of whisky was given. He is still living and able to walk with a crutch. Sept. 4, 1868 Burned to Death Mrs. J.C. Owen, living about two miles from Wales station in his county was burned to death Tuesday last. She was subject to having fits and on that day being left in a room alone, she was attacked with a fit and her clothing caught fire. She ran out into the yard and was seen by a neighbor enveloped in flames, which rose fully fifteen feet high. Before the fire could be extinguished she was burned so death ensured in three or four hours. Dec. 14, 1871 Note: The marriage list from Nov. 17, 1872, included J.C. Owen and bride, Nancy Brick. Gin Burned A cotton gin owned by Mr. Jas. T. Hays, about one mile from Vale Mills, was burned to the ground on Monday morning last and entirely destroyed. The gin and its contents were only partially insured and the owner will in consequence suffer considerable loss. March 9, 1871 Mortuary The cholera got the ²bulge on our physicians on Tuesday, 7 deaths occurring since then we have heard of only one or two new cases, and it is fair to presume that, having exhausted itself, all danger is now nearly passed, though we would advise that there be no relaxation in prudence. Oct. 12, 1866 ACCIDENT,­­On last Monday, as Mr. Peter Wilkinson, an old citizen of this county was riding into town, and just as he arrived upon the square, his house fell with him and broke his leg. Feb. 8, 1867 Desperate attempt to blow up Richland Factory The engineer at the Richland Factory, whose name we have not learned tried to blow up the whole concern last Saturday evening. Work is generally suspended on Saturdays there at 4 o¹clock. As soon as that hour arrived he put in all the wood on hand, took another man¹s wife ad left for parts unknown. Fortunately the trick was discovered in time to prevent loss of life or destruction of the Factory. The latter suffered some damage the extent of which we did not learn. June 24, 1870 MR EARNEST SMITH, a young gentleman in the employ of Boyd M. Young & Co., while ascending a ladder on the courthouse cupola last Saturday for the purpose of making some repairs, fell to the roof¹s distance of thirty-tow feel, and would certainly have been killed had not Mr. Young, at imminent risk to himself, caught him as he fell and prevented him from striking the roof with full force. Mr. Young was hurt in the forehead but young Smith escaped without serious injury. But few men would imitate Mr. Young¹s heroism in thus saving the life of one of his workmen at the peril of his own, and he deserves unbounded commendation for the noble deed. June 8, 1871 RAILROAD ACCIDENT.­­On Monday, as the passenger train due here about 12 o¹clock from Nashville, was passing thro¹ Carter¹s bottom, about half a mile from the depot, the engine and one care were thrown off by a spread of the track, and was not again put in position upon the road until next morning. We heard of no serious damage being done, and the trains resumed their regular trips next morning. Feb. 8, 1867