Independence Day Celebration

Blog Post #23

by Jane Van Ryan

On July 4th, America will celebrate its 240th birthday. There will be fireworks, picnics, and family gatherings all over the country to mark the signing of the Declaration of Independence and America’s courageous decision to split from Great Britain and become a sovereign nation.

Fireworks as seen from Mabry's Hill

The Lost Fiddle String Band

On Mabry’s Hill, up to 200 ticket holders will feast on barbeque, enjoy live music by the Lost Fiddle String Band, and tour Mabry-Hazen House. The festivities will culminate with Knoxville’s annual fireworks show, which is particularly beautiful when watched from the top of Mabry’s Hill.

The hill is named for the Mabry family, which built the historic Mabry-Hazen House in 1858. The Italianate structure was inhabited by members of the Mabry and Hazen families until 1987 and later turned into a museum.  Although it’s not clear precisely how the Mabrys and Hazens observed July 4th, there were plenty of newsworthy events that occurred on Independence Day during their years at the residence.

 

On July 4, 1863, Confederate forces surrendered to Gen. Grant at Vicksburg after a six-week siege. With the last Mississippi River Confederate stronghold in Union hands, the Confederacy was split in two and cut off from its western allies. Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, both the Union and Confederacy were mourning their losses in the Battle of Gettysburg, which had ended the day before on July 3rd.

On Independence Day in 1881, Americans were learning about the assassination attempt against President James A. Garfield. He had been shot as he entered a railway station in Washington, D.C., on July 2. The wound proved to be mortal, and he died on September 19th.

On the annual holiday in 1882, an estimated 2,000 Teton Sioux Indians began “The Last Great Buffalo Hunt” on reservation lands in North Dakota. About 5,000 buffalo were killed, following the slaughter of as many as 60-75 million buffalo by white hunters.  By 1883, nearly all of the free-range buffalo were gone.

On July 4, 1911, a devastating heat wave was being blamed for the deaths of 380 people in the United States. According to reports, the temperature in Nashua, New Hampshire had reached 106 degrees.

In 1918, American troops were fighting alongside Australian soldiers in the Battle of Hamel in France. It was the first time U.S. soldiers had fought under non-American command and that wireless communications devices were used. The battle, which lasted 93 minutes, pushed back the German forces.

On July 4, 1932, while America was in the depths of the Great Depression, government agencies, companies, and other organizations were discussing a plan to cut the working hours of their employees. It was believed that by reducing their hours, more people would remain employed, and perhaps those looking for work would have a better chance of finding jobs. The Knoxville school system already had cut the pay of the city’s teaching staff, including Evelyn Hazen who had worked as an English teacher at Old Knoxville High School.

On the same date in 1944, U.S. soldiers and allies once again were engaged in battle against German forces in France. Just a month before, they had embarked on the most massive military deployment ever constructed—the D-Day invasion to free France and the rest of Europe from Hitler’s iron grasp.

On Independence Day in 1959, the 49th star was added to the American flag when Alaska was given statehood. In 1960, the 50th star was added when Hawaii became a state.

On July 4, 1967, U.S. Marines were advancing on North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam’s Quang Tri Province during Operation Buffalo. The operation ended on July 14, with an American victory.

On July 4, 1982, Knoxville was hosting millions of visitors from around the globe at the World’s Fair. President Ronald Reagan opened the fair on May 1 with singer and TV personality Dinah Shore who was the mistress of ceremonies. As the gates opened, visitors watched performances by Ricky Skaggs and Porter Wagoner. Every night at 10:00 p.m., fireworks lit the sky over the Sunsphere dome.

Fireworks will take center stage this July 4th this year, too. Anyone interested in enjoying the annual Independence Day celebration and watching the fireworks from Mabry’s Hill should call 865-522-8661 for ticket information.

The loss of Rush Strong Hazen

Blog Post #22

by Jane Van Ryan


Eighty-four years ago this month, Evelyn Hazen suffered two life-changing events that ultimately led to her landmark suit against her former fiancé Ralph Scharringhaus for breach of promise to marry and seduction. First, she received a letter dated June 1 from Ralph breaking off their 15-year-long engagement. Ralph wrote he no longer could endure her “punishment” and accused Evelyn of ruining his life. As he put it, “There is no solution but to stop.”

Then on June 4, Evelyn’s father Rush Strong Hazen died. His death was a terrible shock to Evelyn, especially considering that his condition supposedly was improving. Rush had been hospitalized in a sanatorium earlier in the spring for persistent flu-like symptoms, according to Evelyn. (At least one other person told a different tale, insisting that Rush had suffered a breakdown after learning that his youngest daughter had embarrassed herself and the family by having relations with Ralph.)

Rush Strong Hazen, 1854-1932

Having to endure both cataclysmic events back-to-back was devastating to Evelyn. She had been working on reconciling with Ralph and thought they were communicating better. Evelyn was hoping Ralph might give her a wedding ceremony, even if they did not live together as a married couple.  She also was depending on her father to convince Ralph to make her an honest woman.  Unfortunately he died before she could enlist his help.

When Evelyn learned of her father’s death, she was staying with her friend Mary Burnett. She had moved there temporarily after receiving Ralph’s letter because she was convinced she would receive no sympathy or assistance from anyone in her family. During her father’s hospitalization, she said her mother and her mother’s brothers made her life miserable, largely because her father wasn’t there to protect her.

It was Saturday evening when Evelyn got the call about her father’s death. She wrote she was “stunned…I actually felt something die within myself, and I turned both limp and to stone at the same time.”  Evelyn left Mary’s and returned home where she was met by her cousin Fleming Hazen. She described him as far more sympathetic and distraught over Rush’s death than her immediate family.

On Sunday, June 5, several friends and business acquaintances came to the house to pay their respects and offer their condolences, but Ralph was not among them. He and his parents were traveling on one of their numerous vacations and refused to cut their trip short to return to Knoxville for the funeral. Instead, Ralph sent a telegram stating, “Nothing in my life has ever saddened me so much as the news of your father’s death.”

Evelyn, who was overcome by her father’s death, was infuriated. “He makes me so mad I would like to kill him!” she exclaimed. Her remark, made during one of her legendary outbursts, provided fodder to Ralph’s “subsidized witnesses” who testified in court that Evelyn had threatened to shoot him.

A day or two after Rush Hazen’s funeral, Evelyn received a letter from Ralph postmarked in Cincinnati. He told her he was “distressed” over her father’s death, adding “There is so little that any of your friends can say at a time like this that has any real comfort in it but I think it helps to know that others are sharing your loss with you.”

Gravesite of Rush Strong Hazen & Evelyn Montgomery Hazen's mother, Evelyn Mabry Hazen

Evelyn was struck by the “impersonal” and “stereotyped” language in the letter, and she vowed to have a show-down with Ralph.  Meetings were held and Evelyn’s and Ralph’s lawyers attempted to negotiate a settlement. After considering various options, even including murder, she decided to sue him.

In keeping with Southern funeral practices in 1932, Rush Hazen’s body was available for viewing at the Mabry-Hazen House for a couple of days before being interred at Knoxville’s Old Gray Cemetery. He was neither the first nor the last deceased family member to be viewed there.

According to Mamie Winstead, the former caretaker of the Bethel Confederate Cemetery on the north side of Mabry’s Hill, several funerals were held there. In fact, years later Evelyn's childhood friend Sadie Birdsong told Mamie she had seen "too many caskets come out of there."

Evelyn Hazen was the last of the Hazen and Mabry families to live at the house. She died in 1987 and was laid to rest near her father.

 

 

Tea & Tattle at Mabry-Hazen House

Blog Post #21

by Jane Van Ryan

Imagine for a moment the sights and sounds of high tea at Highclere Castle, scene of the acclaimed “Downton Abbey” television series set in early Twentieth Century England. Listen to the soft tapping of satin pumps on burnished floors, the rustle of a starched apron as a servant delivers finger sandwiches and scones to a mahogany table draped in lace. Picture the light that filters through the leaded glass and brocade drapes at the windows, and the steam rising softly from an often-polished silver teapot.

Truly high tea is a step back into history, to a time when style was as important as substance, and ladies were adorned in finery while men wore ascots and tweed jackets. It was a way to connect with family members and friends and refresh both the body and the mind by observing one of England’s most enduring rituals.

Tea time also provided a venue for gossip. In fact, several prominent authors have written scathing comments about women, tea, and tattling. In 1822, political writer William Cobbett warned against women’s tea parties, saying “The gossip of the tea-table is no bad preparatory school for the brothel.”

Similarly, Henry Fielding expressed a similar attitude toward women and tea in his first play. “If I had a daughter that drank tea, I would turn her out of doors,” Fielding wrote for a character. “The reason men are honester than women is, their liquors are stronger.”

On Saturday, May 22nd, the annual high tea was held at Knoxville’s Mabry-Hazen House. Similar to the teas served in England, the fare included delicate confections such as scones and chocolate truffles as well as a presentation from Nina Martyris harkening back to the early days of tea drinking and tattling. For many, it represented a return to a period in history when our lives were not quite so rushed and conversations took place in person—not on an electronic gadget.

If Evelyn Hazen had held a high tea in the 1950s—she did host large and well-attended dinner parties—it is likely her cook Laura would have served the guests from the antique silver tea service and in the family’s Limoges China teacups, which are part of the Mabry-Hazen House collection.  It is also quite possible that Laura could have served peach ice cream and cookies, which were the signature treat of the Mabry-Hazen House in those days.

Limoges Tea set, Mabry-Hazen House

Limoges Tea set, Mabry-Hazen House

About 30 people attended Saturday’s tea, and many of the women wore hats and gloves to mark a time when America embraced formality more than today. Although this might sound foreign to Millennials or Gen-Xers, it wasn’t that long ago when women wore dresses, hats and gloves to church, little girls dressed in crinolines and black patent leather Mary Jane shoes, and their fathers wore suits, ties, and freshly-shined shoes.

But those days have largely vanished. Today Americans have a penchant for informality and comfort. Jeans are accepted even at church, school and sometimes at the office.  Furthermore, tea-time conversation is becoming a lost art. Many people who sit across from one another in restaurants tend to converse over their Smartphones rather than look each other in the eye and actually talk.

It’s hard to say how this reliance on electronics affects the female prattle that occurred over tea in the 1800s. These days gossip could be limited to 140 characters with hashtags on Twitter.

But one thing is clear. High tea is quite a departure from today’s way of life. It involves food and beverages that are not dispensed from vending machines. It is not consumed while the TV blares or the Smartphone beeps. It is not balanced on one knee while careering through traffic on I-75.

Rather, high tea at the Mabry-Hazen House is a pleasant break from our breakneck pace, and an opportunity to experience the formality of times gone by. To all of those who attended the Mabry-Hazen House tea, I offer my thanks. You helped not only to support the museum and its collection, but also you brought to life a part of English—and by extension U.S.—culture that has nearly disappeared. I sincerely hope you had a wonderful experience.

If he could afford a new car, he certainly could afford a wife...

Blog Post # 20

by Jane Van Ryan

My last blog post focused on the 1927 Battle of the Barrel—the University of Tennessee vs. University of Kentucky football game. The game was held in Lexington, and several Knoxville’s young and affluent elites traveled by train to attend the contest, including Evelyn Hazen and Ralph Scharringhaus.

Model T
http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ford-motor-company-unveils-the-model-t

That year also marked the beginning of the Ford Motor Company’s Model A automobiles. The Model A replaced the Model T, which had been in production for about 18 years. But the Model A was hardly the only car on the road. There also were cars built by companies such as Peerless, Elcar, Overland, Davis and many more. And by the mid- to late-1920s cars were changing from the small, open-air, carriage-like configuration to larger, enclosed vehicles that offered greatly improved comforts, including heaters.

Ralph and his father Edward Scharringhaus could afford some of the best cars available. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the elder Scharringhaus had a chauffeur-driven limousine that quite possibly had been custom-made to his specifications.  Apparently the chauffeur was armed as well. Evelyn had been told to avoid both Ralph and his parents because they had given the chauffeur a gun, and he had been told to shoot her if she attempted to approach them.

Ralph drove a flashy roadster of some type, commensurate with his noveau-riche lifestyle. Although he was engaged to Evelyn, he also was seeing other women, gambling and drinking with his friends, attending parties at the Cherokee Country Club, and portraying himself as the young, available bachelor.

Evelyn also had a car, but it’s likely it was fairly modest and was suitable transportation for a school teacher.  Her family would have frowned on any model that would have been too pretentious. As Southern aristocrats descended from landed gentry, they did not believe in flouting their ancestral wealth and social positions.

Mildred Eager, who taught school at Old Knoxville High with Evelyn, had a red roadster. In the early 1930s, she lived with her mother, earned her own money, and was able to afford such a car. Mildred’s car played a prominent role in Evelyn’s court case against Ralph.

Mildred claimed Evelyn had tried to involve her in a murder plot against Ralph. She said Evelyn asked her to drive to the Scharringhauses’ home where Evelyn planned to hide behind the bushes and shoot Ralph. Mildred said she refused to participate in Evelyn’s scheme because her red car would have been too “conspicuous.” Mildred was one of Ralph’s so-called “subsidized witnesses” at the trial, and her testimony against Evelyn fell apart under cross-examination.

'Flying Cloud' automobile in front of the Frank S. Mead house, 16th Street and Laurel Avenue, Knoxville, TN. Formerly the home of Judge Green. The 'Flying Cloud' is very similar to the 'Auburn' style. 

http://cmdc.knoxlib.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p265301coll005/id/1280/rec/19

One car was particularly notable in my book The Seduction of Miss Evelyn Hazen. It was the brand new Auburn automobile—it might have been the model called a “speedster”—that Ralph drove to take Evelyn on a drive through the country in May 1932. During their long conversation in which they reviewed their 15-year-long engagement, Ralph reiterated that he couldn’t afford to get married. Evelyn fired back that if he could afford a new car, he certainly could afford a wife. Ralph became flustered and responded that he didn’t own the car, but rather a salesman had allowed him to test drive it for the day.

To Evelyn, the new car was another piece of evidence indicating that Ralph had been lying to her for several years. It was one of the many reasons why she filed her scandalous suit against Ralph for seduction and breach of promise to marry. Her suit set the court precedent for similar suits in Twentieth Century America.

UT Football, Trains, & Evelyn Hazen

An early 1920s game between the Univ of KY Wildcats and the Univ of TN Vols.
Appalachian History

Blog Post #19

by Jane Van Ryan

With the 2016 University of Tennessee football team filling the sports pages of the Knoxville News-Sentinel these days, this is the perfect time to reflect back on UT’s long football history. For decades, UT football has dominated the hearts and minds of Knoxville’s residents and college students, including the city’s young socialites in the early Twentieth Century. Evelyn Hazen, who graduated from UT and was the last resident of the Mabry-Hazen House, attended not only the home games in the 1920s but also some of the out-of-town games.

Tennessee Volunteers game in the Robert Neyland era, late 1920s
VolNation

During the so-called Roaring Twenties, UT football games already were drawing huge crowds, especially among the young and prosperous alumni who lived in Knoxville. Many of the city’s young businessmen had money—and often a flask of illegal booze—in their pockets. Young women—those from families with means or a well-heeled husband—made frequent trips to New York City where they could afford to purchase the most fashionable clothing and hats.

Furthermore, Knoxville residents could travel virtually anywhere they wanted to go by passenger train. To go to the 1927 UT football game held at the University of Kentucky, several of Knoxville’s UT alumni boarded a train the evening before the game to travel to Lexington.

Evelyn Hazen & Ralph Scharringhaus, 1920s
Mabry-Hazen Collection

Evelyn Hazen was invited to attend the game by her fiancé Ralph Scharringhaus. Assuming that Evelyn’s doting parents would not allow her to travel alone with him, Ralph also invited Gertrude Penland, the sister of his best friend Clifford Penland.  The plan called for Evelyn and Gertrude to sleep at one end of the Pullman sleeper car with the women, and for Ralph to stay at the other end with the men.

Pullman cars nearly all were sleeping cars at night and seating cars during the day. Tickets cost more than the standard “coach” fare because passengers not only paid for the trip but also paid a fee for the privilege of having a bed during the night. Some of the cars also were equipped with large separate bathrooms for women and men, and each had a porter to assist the passengers. Pullman cars on more expensive and luxurious trains, such as the “Crescent Limited” of the Southern Railway, also had maids for the female passengers as well as manicurists, barbers, and secretarial services.

Pullman Porter, Southern Railway Depot, Knoxville, TN, 1921
McClung Collection

 

In the 1920s, the Pullman Company called itself the largest hotel in the United States, providing 100,000 sleeping accommodations to travelers every night.  In the evening, the porter assigned to each Pullman car would fold down the upper and lower berths on both sides of the center aisle. Then he would hang very heavy privacy curtains in front of the berths. 

The porters were African Americans, making the Pullman Company the single largest employer of African American men. As part of their jobs, the porters also shined passengers’ shoes at night, removed the curtains in the morning, folded up the berths and returned the Pullman cars to their seating configuration, and helped with luggage. They worked an estimated 400 hours a month, getting as little as three hours of sleep every night. In 1925, they established a union called the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters to improve their working conditions.

When Evelyn, Ralph, and Gertrude arrived at the train station to embark on their journey, Evelyn asked Ralph to see her ticket. He refused to show it to her. Only later did she learn that her berth was located directly above his in the Pullman car, nowhere near Gertrude’s berth. After everyone had gone to bed, Ralph shoved notes up to Evelyn, demanding that to be allowed to join her. To avoid waking up all of the Knoxvillians in the car and avoid causing a scene, she finally allowed him to climb up to her berth behind the curtain.

The 1927 UT game in Lexington was the last time Ralph invited Evelyn to accompany him to an out-of-town football game. Rather than spending several evenings a week with Evelyn, he played poker at the homes of his friends and, as she learned later, had dates with other women. Eventually, Ralph became infatuated with Elizabeth Goforth, a young married woman in his social circle, and broke his engagement to Evelyn.

By the way, UT won the so-called Battle of the Barrel in 1927 by a score of 20-0 and claimed the coveted beer barrel trophy awarded to the winner of the long-standing rivalry. The wooden barrel was painted half orange and half blue and became associated with the Tennessee-Kentucky annual gridiron contest in 1925. It was discontinued as a tradition in 1998 following the fatal car crash of two UK football players a week before the game. At that point, the universities decided it was time to end the connection between alcoholic beverages and sports.

According to Wikipedia, the barrel has not been on display since 1997. It was in UT’s possession when UK and UT stopped using it as a trophy. Wikipedia reports its location has not been disclosed to the public.

 

 

Dannie Mellen recalls Evelyn Hazen and Knoxville High School

Blog Post #18

by Jane Van Ryan

Of all the people I interviewed before writing The Seduction of Miss Evelyn Hazen, Dannie Mellen Payne was the most outspoken. I met her while she was a patient at the Brakebill Nursing Home after she broke her hip. Stretched out comfortably in a hospital bed, she wore a pink-and-blue nightgown—and a grin.

When I walked into the room with Lucille LaBonte, Dannie welcomed us warmly and immediately showed us a photo of her wedding in March 1926. She gave me the names of each person in the wedding party, including Evelyn Hazen. Like the rest of the bridesmaids, Evelyn wore a beige beaded dress and carried a bouquet of sweet peas.

Dannie said she and Evelyn did not “cross paths” until they were old enough to start dating. Dannie was dating Frank Calloway when she met Evelyn. Frank was a good friend of Ralph Scharringhaus, the man Evelyn sued for breach of promise to marry and seduction in 1934.

Swimming in a nearby creek Mabry-Hazen Collection

Swimming in a nearby creek
Mabry-Hazen Collection

Dannie said she was part of the group that went to “house parties” with Evelyn and Ralph. As described in my book, these parties were held outside Knoxville at mountain vacation homes, where young couples would swim in the nearby creeks and enjoy each other’s company for a few days during the hot, sultry summers. At one of the house parties, Dannie recalled the boys put whiskey in the girls’ Coca-Colas, and Evelyn “threw a fit.”  Dannie said she had heard about Evelyn’s propensity to explode when things didn’t go as she expected, but that was the first time she had witnessed one of her outbursts.

Dannie also remembered Russ Lindsay, the University of Tennessee football star who dated Evelyn just prior to World War I.  “He was a darling,” Dannie recalled. “He was a big man…He was cute.” However, after he returned home from fighting in France, he married a woman who was “awful ugly,” she said.

Knoxville High School, 1921
McClung Collection

Evelyn, on the other hand, was a “beautiful woman” who was “well built,” as she put it. Dannie also said Evelyn “had a sense of fairness about her.” Dannie discovered this attribute while they were teachers at Old Knoxville High School.

Dannie became a teacher after she divorced her husband Reuben. Explaining her failed marriage, she said she and Reuben went to Europe for three months after their wedding and then settled down in Miami, Florida. But Reuben had a drinking problem, leading his father to “cut him off” financially. Dannie left Reuben and returned to Knoxville in hopes of finding a job and making a living on her own. She said the divorce was granted due to his “cruel and inhuman treatment” of her, which in legal parlance was Tennessee’s definition for failing to support the family.

The very morning her divorce was finalized, she was notified she could teach at the high school. At that time, married women were not “elected” to teach there—women had to be single. As a divorcee, Dannie taught French to legions of high school students, including Howard Bozeman who later earned his law degree, became Knox County Judge, and was Evelyn’s attorney.

Evelyn also taught at the high school, saying that she needed to work because her fiancé Ralph was continually putting off their wedding. Dannie wondered aloud whether Ralph was to blame for their failure to marry. According to Dannie, Evelyn might have been “carrying on extra activities while she was with Ralph.”  There were rumors that Evelyn had other boyfriends who lived out-of-town, and Dannie got the impression that Ralph was tired of Evelyn stringing him along.

Evelyn Hazen with unknown man Mabry-Hazen Collection

Evelyn Hazen with unknown man
Mabry-Hazen Collection

Of course, Dannie admitted she got much of her information about Evelyn’s alleged indiscretions from Mildred Eager, a fellow teacher whom Evelyn called one of Ralph’s “subsidized witnesses” at the trial.

Dannie told me how Mildred and Evelyn were fired from their teaching jobs in the fall of 1932. Dannie said she was walking down the hallway at the high school with Evelyn on one side and Mildred on the other.  Someone handed letters to Evelyn and Mildred, and they gave each other “sickly” looks. The letters ordered them to report to the superintendent’s office where they were suspended.

Dannie did not mince words in her descriptions of people who figured prominently in Evelyn’s story.  She said Mildred was not pretty and had a “hairy face.”  About Evelyn’s cousin Flem Hazen, she said he was called “Dugout Hazen” during World War I because he would not fight. Dannie also said the baby believed to be the love child of Ralph and the married Elizabeth Goforth looked like her mother—“puny, little and dark.”

And Evelyn, according to Dannie, was “notorious.” Evelyn agreed with Dannie’s assessment. One day when she invited Dannie to lunch, Evelyn acknowledged that her notoriety would prevent Dannie from ever calling Evelyn her friend.

By taking Ralph to court and admitting she was a ruined woman, Evelyn set herself up for a very lonely existence on Mabry’s Hill. 

Rush Strong Hazen

Rush Strong Hazen (1854-1931) circa 1890


Rush Strong Hazen (1854-1931)
circa 1890

Blog Post # 17

by Jane Van Ryan

“I always went up to see Mr. Hazen,” Laura Harrell Douglas said as she lounged in a recliner and smoked Camels during our interview in April 1988. “He was always glad to see you, but he never came out of his office.”

Laura said she met Evelyn Hazen’s father Rush Hazen when she about 10 years old. At the time her father Walter William Harrell was a partner in Hazen, Trent and Harrell Co., the wholesale grocery distributor on Jackson Avenue in Knoxville.

I visited the building that housed the grocery warehouse last fall when it was home to a coffee shop. Narrow and deep, the building backs up to a wide expanse of railroad tracks, which in the early decades of the Twentieth Century were the main transportation arteries for freight and passenger travel alike. Overhead at the mezzanine level is the company’s office surrounded by windows, giving the owners the ideal location to survey the warehouse’s operations while conducting business.

Laura said Mr. Hazen and her father were the “finest-looking men” in the city. She remembered Evelyn’s father becoming ill and being sent to the sanitorium in 1932, where he died in June. Several months later, Laura’s father accompanied Evelyn and her mother to Covington, Ky., for Evelyn’s celebrated suit against Ralph Scharringhaus, her former fiancé.

Laura said her father went to Covington because Rush Hazen never wanted his daughter or wife to travel alone. But she added, “He thought the whole thing was a farce.”

Hazen, Trent & Harrell Co., Swan-Brandau Co. November 26, 1921 Courtesy McClung Collection

HazenTrent & Harrell Co.Swan-Brandau Co.
November 26, 1921
Courtesy McClung Collection

In Laura’s opinion, Evelyn could have married Ralph whenever she wanted, but her mother prevented the union. Laura believed Evelyn’s mother thought Ralph was not good enough for her daughter. Ralph was “below her,” Laura said, because Ralph lost his family’s big clothing company during the Great Depression. Instead Ralph had a small cleaning establishment.

“There wasn’t a thing wrong with the Scharringhauses. Mrs. Hazen didn’t think it was very elegant to be the cleaning business,” Laura said.

Of course, the Hazens fell on hard times during the Depression as well and their situation grew decidedly worse after Rush Hazen died. Hazen, Trent and Harrell Co. closed in 1935, and according to Laura, what was left of the business was sold to Payless. She suspected the remaining partners were not enamored with the idea of working with Evelyn’s mother, who survived her husband and likely inherited his stake in the business. “I guess none of those partners wanted to deal with Mrs. Hazen,” she conjectured.

Meanwhile, Evelyn and her mother continued to live on Mabry’s Hill where they were isolated from the rest of Knoxville. Laura said eventually Evelyn’s friends “drifted away.” According to Laura, many people believed “it was almost dangerous to be close to Evelyn.”

“She had a tragic life,” Laura said about Evelyn. “Part of it was her own doing. Part of it was her mother’s doing.”

When I met Laura, she was living several miles from Knoxville in Morristown, Tenn., but she said she had spent part of her childhood in the Harrell family home near the Cherokee Country Club. Hugh and Elizabeth Goforth lived in that area, too. It was Elizabeth Goforth who supposedly had an affair with Ralph Scharringhaus and bore him a daughter. Today both the Harrell and Goforth homes are gone and have been replaced by condominiums near the golf course.

Laura did not believe the Goforth baby was Ralph’s child. She said the girl looked just like her mother. If she had been Ralph’s, she wondered, why would Hugh Goforth “lavish” so much attention on her? Yet Evelyn was convinced the little girl was Ralph’s daughter based on letters she obtained that had been written between Ralph and Elizabeth prior the trial. In them Ralph swore his dying love for both Elizabeth and the baby.

As Evelyn put it, “Many of the letters indicate that the defendant [Ralph] and the young woman [Elizabeth] intended to have their ‘future together,’ and that they would let ‘no obstacle stand in their way.’…The extremes to which these long letters go in personal matters between them…are almost incredible and have to read to be appreciated fully.”

I was given access to the letters for my book The Seduction of Miss Evelyn Hazen. The book is available at the Mabry-Hazen House and independent bookstores in Knoxville. 

Can houses be related?

Blog Post

by Arin Streeter
Vice President
Hazen Historical Museum Foundation

George L. Ault House

Edwin Rowland Lutz and Edith Atkin were married on Valentine’s Day in 1917.  With this event, George Lafayette Ault, first cousin to Edith’s father C.B., and John Moses Goddard, second cousin of Ned’s grandfather Robert Houston Armstrong, were suddenly related, though they surely had no idea.  Why does it matter?  In 1907, after the death of his wife, John Goddard found a house to rent with his three grown daughters.  As it happened, the house they found was my house, which at that time had just been completed by George L. Ault in what is now the neighborhood of Fourth & Gill.  So these two men, who a decade later would become distant cousins by marriage, also were related by a house.

Is that possible?  Can you be related by a house?  Or can houses be related to each other?  That same Robert Houston Armstrong built Bleak House (now Confederate Memorial Hall) on Kingston Pike.  His father Drury P. Armstrong had built Crescent Bend, and his daughter Adelia and her husband John Edwin Lutz built Westwood, now the home of Knox Heritage.  All three houses are now museums, and their stories are familiar, or at least knowable – you can find people to tell them to you if you ask.  Fourth & Gill’s houses, nearly all still used as residences, don’t regularly have costumed docents to invite you in and tell you their stories.  That doesn’t mean, of course, that they don’t have some interesting ones; neither does it mean that they may not be related to stories we may already know.

"Bleak House" - Confederate Memorial Hall

"Westwood" - Adelia and John Lutz House

"Crescent Bend" - Armstrong - Lockett House

One such house still stands at 927 Luttrell Street.  If I were going to name it, I’d call it the Scharringhaus House, after Edward and Frances Scharringhaus, who built it in 1899.  It’s an impressive house today, if not totally architecturally consistent – a 1920s porch replaced the original Victorian version – and it was intended to be impressive.  Built in the newly fashionable suburb of North Knoxville, it represented the success of E.H. Sharringhaus’ wholesale clothing business, Gillespie Shields & Co., located on Gay Street just south of the rail yards.  Turreted and bay-windowed, painted in many colors, the Scharringhaus’ sizable abode was also home to their one son, Ralph.

Scharringhaus House

"Pine Hill Cottage" - Mabry-Hazen House

A mile and a half to the east still stands another house, proudly and stolidly occupying its hilltop since 1858.  Named “Pine Hill Cottage” by its builder, Joseph Alexander Mabry, it was occupied at the time by his daughter Alice Evelyn, her husband Rush Strong Hazen, and their children.  Rush Hazen ran a wholesale grocery only about a block from Edward Scharringhaus’ factory.  Both were entrepreneurs in a small city where someone could rise in this era of industrialization, like Scharringhaus, from the son of a German immigrant to become a prominent and wealthy businessman.  But they didn’t run in the same social circles.  As far as that could go in Knoxville, still barely 100 years old itself, the Mabrys and Hazens were old families, with wealth derived from their vast inherited landholdings.  It’s tempting to ascribe familial personalities to their houses – while the Scharringhaus House was bedecked in modern millwork and colored paints, the Mabry-Hazen House remained a relic from another era, substance over fashion, severe in its symmetry, painted as it always had been in a sedate shade of white.  Alice was the epitome of a Victorian lady, easily scandalized by worldly discussions, sheltering her daughters with the family’s past, raising them also to be ladies.  While the Scharringhauses were building their showy new house in the suburbs, the Hazen girls were served dinner on imported family china in the dining room built by their grandfather.

 A doting father, Rush Hazen showed especial preference to his youngest daughter, Evelyn.  Pictures of her apparently don’t do her justice.  While she seems to peer from portraits with a sense of vague disinterest, she was known in her youth as a striking beauty – porcelain skin, dark hair, and green eyes.  And as a female contemporary put it, “she was really built, if you know what I mean.”  Entering the University of Tennessee in 1914 at age 15, having spent her life until that point in a rigorously controlled environment, this was a recipe for trouble.  Her cousin Fleming Hazen was in Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and they took her under their wing.  One brother, Russ Lindsay, star of the football team, showered Evelyn with attention, but another brother had become determined that she would be his girl, embarking on a concerted effort to undermine Lindsay; this man was Ralph Scharringhaus.

The story of how this led to Evelyn’s young life slowly unraveling is related in detail in Jane Van Ryan’s The Seduction of Miss Evelyn Hazen.

By the spring of 1917, Evelyn professed to be in love with him, and Ralph asked her to marry him as soon as he finished school and was established in business.  Evelyn assumed that meant that they were engaged.  Ralph left for the Army in 1918 and wrote her nearly every day.  He returned to Knoxville in 1919 and earned his degree, being quickly promoted to general manager at Gillespie Shields after his father suffered a severe nervous breakdown.  Ralph bough expensive clothes and cars, joined Cherokee Country Club, and bought $30,000 worth of stock in Gillespie Shields with his own personal profits.  Still, he told Evelyn he needed to “get his feet on the ground” before they could afford a home of their own.  Around this time, he began arguing to Evelyn that they already had a “secret marriage,” and seduced her into a physical relationship.  Wedding dates in 1924 and 1925 slipped by as Evelyn learned that Ralph never spoke to her father about it.  Years dragged on.  By 1932, realizing that she no longer had any illusions of a happy married life with Ralph, she determined that she would tell her father, in hopes that he would resolve the situation by forcing Ralph to marry her, and at least salvage her social standing.  Instead, Rush Hazen’s sudden death in June of that year threw Evelyn into hopelessness and desperation, plotting Ralph’s murder.  Her family, trying to mitigate potential scandal, had her committed to Eastern State Hospital for a month, and Ralph, warned by a friend, fled Knoxville for his mother’s hometown of Covington, Kentucky.  Evelyn followed him there.  If she couldn’t kill Ralph, she was going to ruin him.  With that goal, she filed a Breach of Promise lawsuit against him, leading to a protracted court saga where the intimate, salacious details of their relationship were hashed out.  All of Knoxville was scandalized.  Everyone took sides.  Most of Evelyn’s family shunned her for airing their dirty laundry so publicly. 

In the end, she was awarded $80,000, maybe $1 million by today’s accounting, but appears not to have collected any of it.  Gillespie Shields had gone under in 1930 in the wake of the Great Depression.  Ralph returned to Knoxville, to the house his parents had built on Kingston Pike in 1927, and became a used car salesman.  Evelyn returned to her old white house on the hill, soured on humanity, living out the rest of her life with her maid and her dogs.  She outlived Ralph by 16 years, dying in 1987 after a fall down the stairs, an eccentric old woman with a gun in her pocket.  The last surviving member of her family, there was no one left to live in their old house.  In her will, she decreed that it should either become a museum or be razed to the ground.

So in some convoluted sense, the fact that Mabry-Hazen now exists as a museum is directly traceable to the Scharringhaus’ Luttrell Street house.  If houses can be related, that is.

 

*****

 

See the Scharringhaus House and its part of the old suburb of North Knoxville at the Fourth & Gill Tour of Homes, Sunday April 24, from 1-6pm.  Today a vibrant and active neighborhood, the nearly 300 homes of Fourth & Gill were mostly built between the late 1880s and 1930, and are some of the best architectural examples from this period of Knoxville’s history.  Tickets are available at Three Rivers Market, Bliss, and Bliss Home, or online at www.fourthandgill.wordpress.com.

Learn more about the Historic Homes of Knoxville at www.hhknoxville.org.  

 

Digitizing the Photograph Collection

Blog Post # 16

by Jane Van Ryan

Joseph Mabry at Lookout Mountain Carte de Visite, 1860s

Joseph Mabry at Lookout Mountain
Carte de Visite, 1860s

There’s much more to tell about Evelyn Hazen and the last two or three years of her life, but in this blog post I want to discuss something much more current. About two weeks ago, 139 photographs of Evelyn and her family were delivered to the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection where they will be scanned digitally and made available for viewing by the public.

The photos include portraits of people from two of Knoxville’s most famous families—the Mabrys and the Churchwells. For the past several years, some of the photos have been on display at the Mabry-Hazen House, which was turned into a museum after Evelyn’s death. Three generations of Mabrys lived there, and the house became the repository for nearly all of their worldly possessions, including their antiques and photo albums.

Calvin Chappelle, executive director of the Mabry-Hazen House, has been searching for and cataloguing the photographs for several years. Some are daguerreotypes, which were in vogue between 1839 and 1860. Invented by Louis Jacque Mande’ Daguerre, daguerreotypes are images captured on a silvered metal plate. Much heavier than paper and very delicate, these forms of photography usually were placed in a protective frame such as a folding case.

Daguerreotypes also were expensive, a luxury only the wealthiest families could afford. Evelyn’s ancestors were among Knoxville’s elite. The Mabrys had significant land holdings in East Tennessee, a railroad, and Joseph Mabry published the Knoxville Whig after the Civil War. They also had sizable investments and business dealings, one of which led to Evelyn’s great-grandfather and grandfather being shot to death on Gay Street.

The photography collection at the Mabry-Hazen House also includes a few collodion positives, also called ambrotypes, which are photographs recorded on glass. This version of photography first appeared in studios in about 1853, but the technique quickly was adopted by street vendors who took photos of visitors on vacation at the beach and at Niagara Falls and sold them as souvenirs.

Alice Mabry Hazen with daughters Tintype, 1890s

Alice Mabry Hazen with daughters
Tintype, 1890s

These glass plates typically were backed with black velvet or black-varnished paper to make the images easier to see and were placed in frames or protective cases. Ambrotypes were less expensive to produce than daguerreotypes, making them more affordable for the average person.

Chappelle also took three albums containing Cartes de Visite to the library for scanning. These small portraits, which are 2 ½-inch-by-4-inch albumen photos printed on card stock, were exceedingly popular around 1860. They depict not only family members, but also several of Knoxville’s most notable historic figures, including Dr. John Mason Boyd.

A medical doctor and surgeon, Boyd was born in Knoxville in 1833, attended the University of Tennessee, got his medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania, and administered the healing arts for 53 years. His skill and involvement in the community earned him Knoxville’s respect and devotion. Thousands mourned his death. A monument was erected to his memory at the Knox County Courthouse.

Laura Evelyn Churchwell Mabry
Ambrotype, 1850s

Boyd’s photo and others from the Mabry-Hazen House will join the impressive historical and genealogical collection at the Knox County Library. The materials available for research include more than 75,000 books, 15,000 folders on the First Families of Tennessee, census records, more than 3,000 printed genealogies, and telephone books dating back to 1898. These materials are not allowed to be removed from the John Z. C. Thomas Reading Room nor loaned to other libraries.

Some of the documents and photographs are available in the online digital collection here.  Eventually the Mabry-Hazen House photographs will be accessible through this website where they will add a new dimension to the McClung Collection and Knoxville’s rich photographic history.

All of the photos found in the Mabry-Hazen House have a connection to its former residents, including Evelyn Hazen who like her ancestors contributed to Knoxville’s legacy. It was Evelyn who broke with tradition and did something unconscionable in the 1930s. Despite social convention, she sued her former lover for seduction and breach of promise to marry. The scandalous court case was covered by The New York Times and other newspapers all over the country.

To learn about the suit, read my book The Seduction of Miss Evelyn Hazen, which is available at the Mabry-Hazen House and Knoxville’s independent bookstores. More about Evelyn in the next blog post.

 

 

Bill Cardwell recalls Evelyn's later years

A very rare photograph of Evelyn Hazen in her later years.

A very rare photograph of Evelyn Hazen in her later years.

Blog Post # 15

by Jane Van Ryan

If you have been reading these blog posts containing the comments of people who knew Evelyn Hazen, a picture has emerged of an elderly woman whose life was filled with disappointment, loneliness, and fear. Sarah Jane Grabeel, her companion of three decades, had left her. She was afraid to sleep in her own room, believing it was haunted. She had no faith in God. And she was terrified to be alone especially at night.

Many nights she refused to sleep at all. Lucille LaBonte told me Evelyn often sat up in a stiff, ladder-back chair at the top of the stairs where she could see the front door. With her pocketbook and her gun lying in her lap, she apparently felt she had to be vigilant to protect herself, her home, and her family’s antiques.

Lucille said she asked as many as 15 different people to stay with Evelyn overnight, but very few lasted longer than a night or two. In her loneliness, or perhaps to stay awake or simply to hear another person’s voice, Evelyn called Lucille and others repeatedly all night long.

Evelyn might have had good reason to be afraid. She was old and in failing health. Her antebellum mansion was isolated. It sat on the pinnacle of Mabry’s Hill where it was surrounded by a thick wall of shrubs and broken trees. In the early 1980s, someone had slit the throats of several of her beloved dogs and hung a noose on the porch.

Some people, such as Lucille and Dorothy Standifer, felt sorry for Evelyn and worried about her. Others discounted her fear and called her “mean,” including Bill Cardwell.

“She felt everybody was out to get her…[she was] paranoid,” Cardwell told me as he chain-smoked and dropped ashes into a plastic juice glass holding about an inch of water at the bottom.

Cardwell said Evelyn was so afraid to be alone, she offered to give him all of her Norfolk and Southern stock so he would stay with her. He figured it was worth about $100,000. He turned it down, he said, because “I just didn’t want no more part of it.”

If he had known that she was nearing the end of her life, he admitted he might have accepted her gift.  “Anybody would,’ he said, “I would have been awfully tempted…but I didn’t want to get an attorney and go through that mess.”

“I was a nervous wreck,” Cardwell said, as a result of working for Evelyn. And the nighttime phone calls were even worse. He said Evelyn would call him 8-10 times an hour. Sometimes she would talk for an hour on his answering machine.

Why did Evelyn call him so frequently? “She liked me,” he said. “I understood her.”

Evelyn even gave Cardwell and his wife Sandy ten shares apiece of Norfolk and Southern stock for Christmas one year, he told me.  She also gave him vases to take to his wife. Later she insisted that Cardwell had stolen a vase, so he had her write a note stating that the vase had been a present for Sandy.  Cardwell said he got a total of four or five vases and other “stuff” from the Mabry-Hazen House.

Cardwell also said he argued with Evelyn frequently. “She liked arguing,” often about little things. Evelyn would complain he didn’t feed the dogs enough, or he didn’t cool her breakfast properly. “I told her she was a damned 85-year-old spoiled brat,” he said, which made her laugh. “She just liked to argue.”

But Cardwell leveled plenty of harsh criticism at Evelyn. He claimed she physically abused Grabeel, although no one I talked to, including Grabeel, confirmed this allegation. He accused her of pushing Grabeel down and breaking her wrist. Evelyn reportedly was standing behind Grabeel when she fell, but there is no evidence to suggest Grabeel was shoved.

Cardwell also said Evelyn never wanted Grabeel to leave the house for medical treatment, even when she broke her hip. The doctor came to the house instead. Later, after one of the dogs scratched Grabeel’s leg and it wouldn’t heal, Cardwell said he carried Grabeel out of the house and took her to the hospital. When she was released, Grabeel did not return to the Mabry-Hazen House. She moved to a nursing home in Knoxville, likely on the advice of her doctors.

Cardwell’s interest in Grabeel’s health helped to convince Evelyn that they were conspiring against her, and Cardwell was telling Grabeel to abandon her and the Mabry-Hazen House. Evelyn was furious and reported her suspicions to Lucille.

With Evelyn becoming increasingly angry and accusatory, Cardwell disabled her gun. He told me he found her box of cartridges and took the powder out of them. “I figured…she didn’t need live bullets in that pistol,” he said. Cardwell said Evelyn carried the gun everywhere, even to the bathroom. “She carried it constantly.”

“She could have lived like a queen in her later years,” Cardwell said, “but she just lived awful.”