Gaston: Fox hunting on Walden's Ridge

Gaston: Fox hunting on Walden's Ridge

May 12th, 2019 by Kay Baker Gaston in Opinion Columns
Early Walden resident Emma Bell Miles was none too happy with the continued roaming of a mare owned by Capt. J.C. Hutcheson.

Early Walden resident Emma Bell Miles was none...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Walden's Ridge has long served as a retreat for Chattanoogans. First settled by the pioneer Miles and Winchester families, it was still sparsely populated during the Civil War, when Union supply trains — and even Gen. Ulysses S. Grant himself on horseback — came across the Anderson Pike and descended on the corduroy road that was later converted into the "W." During cholera and yellow fever outbreaks in the 1870s and 1880s, wealthy townspeople moved to Walden's Ridge to spend summers in rustic summer cabins among the mountaineers.

Z. Cartter Patten in "Signal Mountain and Walden's Ridge" explained that a train wreck in June 1881, brought Capt. J.C. Hutcheson to Walden's Ridge. Hutcheson, a Virginian who had served in the Confederate army, was on his way to the Virginia mountains to escape the Texas heat. Learning that his train would be delayed in Chattanooga for a day, he hired a buggy and drove up Walden's Ridge. He bought a log cabin at the head of the corduroy road just below the Woodhead place and spent the next 43 summers there.

Patten describes him as "being of small build but active, possessing a brilliant mind and the true joy of living." His favorite sport was fox hunting, which his son also enjoyed. He brought with him 15 foxhounds. Capt. Hutcheson on his white mare would have led family members, guests and neighbors on horseback behind the baying hounds in pursuit of a fox. Those hunts were mostly in undeveloped areas, but on at least one occasion they reportedly followed a fox right through a group of picnickers.

Early Walden resident Emma Bell Miles was none too happy with the continued roaming of a mare owned by Capt. J.C. Hutcheson.

Early Walden resident Emma Bell Miles was none...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Professor Benjamin Franklin Bell, his wife Martha Ann Mirick, and their young daughter, Emma, moved from Rabbit Hash, Kentuckey, to Walden's Ridge in 1891. The parents taught at the Oakwood School near the junction of Anderson Pike with Fairmount Road. Their daughter became an artist and writer. She married Frank Miles, whose parents, Cynthia Jane Winchester and William Miles, lived on Timesville Road near Anderson Pike, an area known as Smoky Row.

On June 25, 1912, Capt. Hutcheson's daughter Elise (Mrs. E.Y. Chapin) came with her daughter to get an orchid and a lily from Emma, also buying three small landscapes. In August Emma was at work on a painting of Capt. Hutcheson's house commissioned by his sister-in-law Mrs. Dabney, who had agreed to pay $8 for it.

"Mrs. Dabney sat on the rocks by me and we talked while I worked, so I had a delightful time of it, and so did the two children [Jean and Mark], who were given several things to eat and drink," Emma wrote in her journal.

Sometimes the two families clashed. On July 8, 1913, Capt. Hutcheson's mare jumped the fence and ate nearly all of Emma and Frank's patch of corn.

"She comes in as soon as our backs are turned," Emma complained. They chased the mare out at 9 p.m. and again at 11 p.m., but found her there at dawn the next morning, "the young corn as well as the roasting ears ruined." Emma went to see Capt. Hutcheson as soon as she thought he would be up, but had to wait on the porch.

"I was thoroughly angry, thinking how much more he feeds his dogs than I can feed my children," she wrote, "but I was civil about it, and the Captain was as nice as possible, promising to put the mare up as soon as she could be caught, and even offering to pay for the corn, which I thought it best not to accept."

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In late July of 1914, Hutcheson's mare again ravaged their garden.

"I had quite a scrape with the old skinflint about it, and proved his excruciatingly fine southern manners to be the sham I have always suspected," she wrote. "But he had to pay $5 for the garden." She regretted having offended all of the Hutcheson family, "who, as he reminded me, have befriended me to the value of many gardens — though not to the value of the colt he carelessly allowed to be killed on his land last fall. But that mare is a nuisance that could no longer be endured."

In her story "The White Marauder" (Mother's Magazine, August 1917), Emma resolves the conflict, at least temporarily, when the women's husband strengthens their garden fence.

Although Capt. Hutcheson, the white mare and the foxhounds are long gone from Walden's Ridge, sometimes a faint baying can be heard in the distance.

Kay Baker Gaston is a regional historian and a former Chattanoogan. For more, visit chattahistoricalassoc.org.

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