Blog Post #27
by Jane Van Ryan
Although Calvin Chappelle has managed the Mabry-Hazen House for several years now, he continues to discover new information that adds to our knowledge about Evelyn Hazen and her family. Just a few days ago while carefully cataloguing items in an old trunk, he found a newspaper clipping about Evelyn’s first boyfriend. Evelyn apparently had tucked it into the trunk for safe-keeping.
The clipping from 1914 contains a photograph of Russ Lindsay in his football uniform, noting he had begun coaching football at the University of Tennessee. According to the cutline, he was helping “Coaches Clevenger and Pontius whip the Tennessee eleven into championship form.”
Russ, whose full name was Robert Medaris “Russ” Lindsay (1891-1977), was an outstanding athlete at the UT when Evelyn entered the university as a freshman in 1914. That year the team won all nine of its football games, earning Russ the distinction of being an all-Southern conference fullback. During the team’s 14 to 7 win against Sewanee, Russ “ploughed through the opposing line for consistent gains, and when it was absolutely necessary that Tennessee gain a certain number of yards 'Russ' was sure to be called upon." From 1913-16, Russ also played baseball at UT and was named an all-Southern baseball player.
When Evelyn met Russ, who was about 8 years older than she, Evelyn was only 14, making her the youngest student at the university and probably the most naïve. She had been raised by her mother and father at the top of Mabry’s Hill, isolated from the city below. The only school she had attended was a private girls’ academy.
With practically no knowledge of boys and men, she easily could have been victimized by the first man she met at UT. But instead, she met Russ who treated her with respect and admiration. He took her to school every morning and walked her to class.
Although Evelyn and Russ had what she called a “sort of engagement,” their relationship changed when she became acquainted with Ralph Scharringhaus, one of Russ’ Sigma Alpha Epsilon (S.A.E.) fraternity brothers. In the spring of 1916, Ralph and Evelyn portrayed a husband and wife in a play at Staub’s Theater. Usually Russ picked her up after rehearsals and escorted her home, but Ralph began offering to give her rides.
That fall Ralph asked Evelyn to help him write letters to his girlfriend Margaret Madden who had transferred to Columbia University in New York. They spent several afternoons together each week, and Evelyn and Ralph grew close. “By the spring of 1917 I thought I was really in love in Ralph,” Evelyn wrote. “Sometime during that spring he asked me to marry him as soon as possible, after he had finished school and got a start in business. I agreed….”
Russ and Ralph argued over Evelyn, but their dispute was cut short by the United States’ entry into World War I in April 1917. Russ enlisted and was sent to Maryville, Tenn., for training. While he was gone, Ralph told Evelyn she should never see Russ again because he had a disease that could injure her or any children she might have. Evelyn was too embarrassed to ask any questions, so she took Ralph at his word. A few weeks later, Ralph also joined the Armed Forces and was sent to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, for training.
The rest, as they say, is history. Ralph seduced but never married Evelyn, leading to her landmark suit against him in 1934.
After training camp in Maryville, Russ was assigned to the U.S. Expeditionary Force and was sent to France to fight the Germans. When the war ended, he returned to Knoxville and married Elizabeth Maynard. By 1940, according to Census records, he and Elizabeth had two children and were living in Maryville, where he was a salesman for a lumber company.
In 2007, Russ’ son Robert M. Lindsay Jr. made a “leadership commitment” to UT, and the baseball field was named after him—the Robert M. Lindsay Baseball Field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Greg Hulen, chief development officer for UT’s athletic department, says Tennessee baseball was important to the younger Lindsay due to his father’s athletic experiences at UT.
Had Evelyn remained with Russ, it’s likely her life could have had a very different outcome. Instead she never married and had no children to carry on her family’s legacy.