Wagon Spokes by Billy Wagoner
On an autumn day in 1865 the following story was enacted, The great war between the States had ended in April - a company of soldiers was stationed at Purdy. Reconstruction had begun. Capt. Samuel Lewis had been appointed Sheriff of McNairy County and Federal soldiers were guarding the jail. One was on guard at all times. Among the prisoners in jail was a young soldier, Rufus Brown, son of 'Railback' Brown, who beat John V. Wright 1 vote for Rep. of McNairy County. They had accused 'Railback' of voting for himself after they had agreed each would vote for the other. The name 'Railback' was derived from his long back and short legs. Young Rufus Brown's wife, Elzette, was grieved very much about her husband being in jail. One day she and Permilla Swain, better known as Aunt Puss Hair, were in the field picking cotton. Permilla said: 'Elzette, we will just go up to Purdy and get Rufe out of jail!' So here goes the plan, She said 'We will go to see Rufe and I will carry an extra dress and bonnet. When we get ready to leave, Rufe will walk out with me, and you will stay inside the jail". The plan worked. Rufe, dressed in women's clothes, but as he could not wear women's shoes, had to wear his boots out. Permilla being about 6 feet tall, her dress was long enough to cover the boots fairly well. They walked out by the guard and to their horses hitched near the jail. They mounted as quickly as they could and started to ride off at a rapid pace. About that time the guard discovered the trick and began to shoot. That excited the horses, and at the sound of guns Permilla's horse ran down the road about 2 miles. He was stopped by old man Garner, a freight hauler from Crump to Purdy. The guard said afterwards he thought at the time that it was a 'damn long nosed woman coming out of the jail'. As soon as Rufe got to the branch below the jail he leaped off the horse and took to the woods. That of course left Elzette, his wife, in the jail. They threatened to keep her but she argued with them that she must get home to her baby, that it would starve unless she could get to it. Her argument prevailed - they released her and she journeyed to her home a happy woman. (Editor's Note: The above story was given to me by Mr. A.L. Gaddy, Bethel Springs, Aunt Puss was his grandmother and lived to be 91. Elzette died many years later, Rufe and his brother Ephraim, went to Arkansas. Rufe died in a short time and Ephraim became a prominent lawyer and was County Judge at Jonesboro.)
I'm proud to be related to such do-it-yourself-ers! As a note, the Rufus Brown in the story was Permilla and Milus' cousin. Also, I guess we know that height comes from our Swain line.
Thanks to Davine Hardy and Ron Gaddy for sharing this article and photo with me.