By Dale Welch,
Putnam County historian
Out on the Crawford-Wilder branch of the Tennessee Central Railway, young couples were generally married by ministers of the Gospel such as Rev. Willie Ford, Rev. John Phillips or Rev. John Stephens, who all pastored Baptist churches, by the circuit riding Methodists, or by Justices of the Peace, like L.A. Key.
In the early 1900s, it became the custom of some to ride the train to Monterey and get married while the train stopped at the depot.
Birtle Clark and Ida Miller had known each other for some time. Two of Birtle’s older brothers had married two of Ida’s aunts. Ida was a native of the Crossroads community, near Muddy Pond, out on the Branch Railroad tracks. Birtle was from Shady Grove, northwest of Monterey, but was in the area to work in the coal mines.
Birtle and Ida jumped on the train and headed for the Monterey Depot on April 29, 1916, and were married there by Church of the Nazarene Pastor A.P. Welch. They had gotten their license just the day before in Cookeville. Birtle’s uncle, Walter E. Henry, had signed as bondsman.
One lady remembered that, as a little girl, she saw the newlyweds get back off the train at Obey City, the nearest stop to home. She said that when they got off the train, Birtle had his shoes tied around his neck because they were hurting his feet.
The Clarks lived and raised a family of one girl and five boys at Crossroads on the farm where at least two generations of Ida’s family had lived. Birtle continued mining and farming. There, Ida operated a country store for a long time.
Hubert Simcox, a cousin of Ida Miller Clark, lived in the same community. The 22 year-old bridge carpenter for the railroad and his sweetheart, 25 year-old Dora Hall, decided it was time to start a family. They got their marriage license in Cookeville and were married on May 13, 1918. Dora recalled many years later, about how the train pulled into the Monterey Depot and Rev. J. B. Dickenson boarded the train and performed the holy rites of matrimony.
The couple raised three girls and three boys at Crossroads. Hubert worked as a timekeeper for the W.P.A. and even worked at Oak Ridge. He finished his career as a rural mail carrier.
Dora loved to garden and was strong in her faith. People said that, during World War II, they could hear her down in the woods behind her house calling out to God for the safety of her boys and others.
Both couples are long gone, but they left a legacy to their descendants scattered all over the United States – all started when they said their ”I do’s” on the train at the Monterey Depot.