It’s been nearly 116 years since Campbell McNabb narrowly escaped death after his horse threw him into the waters of the Pigeon River at Wilton Springs.

Chances are anyone who remembered hearing this story has crossed the river themselves.

But this week I ran across the August 18, 1904 issue of Plain Talk, and on the front page, under the heading “Wilton Springs,” a rather detailed account of Mr. McNabb’s experience can be found.

It reads as follows:

While fording the River near Dr. W.R. West’s last Friday evening, Mr. Campbell McNabb of this place, came very near getting drowned. When about midway of the river, his horse plunged forward throwing Mr. McNabb in the water and falling on him before he could get up. Dr. West who had just came up on thy (sic) opposite bank, seeing the danger Mr. McNabb was in threw off his hat and coat, plunged in and waded to where he was laying across a large rock. The doctor assisted him to the bank and found Mr. McNabb had lost his hat, his clothing was somewhat torn and some pretty bad bruises were on his face and body.

Thank goodness, Dr. West was present.

Campbell McNabb was born in 1840, so would have been ca. 62 years old at the time of this incident. He was a son of John (1808-1893) and Elizabeth (Duggan) McNabb. Elizabeth (1807-1881), was a daughter of Robert and Margaret (Dunn) Duggan of Sevier County.

The McNabbs were among the very first settlers in what would become Cocke County, with the original McNabb land grant encompassing the Wilton Springs interchange of I-40, stretching past today’s Trinity Baptist Church up toward Denton and extending toward Newport.

Campbell McNabb was married twice. His first marriage was to Elizabeth Lillard, by whom he had a son Horace. He secondly married Tennessee Henry, and they became the parents of Lizzie, who married Allen Morrell, Mollie, who married Grant Burke, Roy H., Lora, who married Walter Cureton, and Carl.

To my knowledge, Campbell McNabb has two grandchildren living in Cocke County today: Sandra McNabb Keen and her brother Carl.

Dr. W.R. West was originally from Knoxville. He married Susannah Levenie ‘Susie’ Fox, a daughter of Ezekiel and Nancy (Netherton) Fox, the couple memorialized by the Fox Tower in the Netherton-Fox Cemetery between Edwina and Bridgeport.

In addition to the paragraph about Campbell McNabb’s near-death experience, the writer of the “Wilton Springs” news, identified only as “Lena,” informed readers of the following:

Mr. Allan Morell and wife spent last Sunday with Mr. Morell’s parents near Newport.

U.G. Burke of Newport, one of ‘Uncle Sam’s’ R.F.D.’s, was up Sunday visiting his mother.

Rev. Burrell Brooks of Edwina moved his family last Friday on French Broad where he will be teaching school.

Mr. John Holder, who has been confined for several months with rheumatism is no better and will leave today for the Sanitarium at Newport to be placed in the care of Doctor Masters.

After spending two weeks with relatives here, Mrs. Lou Howell of Clyde, N.C., returned to her home last Monday. Mrs. Howell was formerly Miss Lou Vinson, sister of Mr. J.C. Vinson.

We are reliably informed that one of our farmers, who has a large watermelon patch near Pleasant Grove (will appear?) before Judge McHenderson (?) at the next term of court to answer the charge of selling melons on Sunday. Which we understand is a serious offense.

Two of the four schools of this district opened last Monday. Ham Mantooth and Miss Jessie Vinson at Edwina. Mr. James Fox at Shady Grove and Miss Zora McMahan at Wilton Springs and Miss Lucy Vinson at Denton Mill. The two last named will open their schools Monday 15th.

“Preacher” B.B. Brooks was well-known throughout the county as a teacher and also as a preacher. He married Mollie O’Dell and they had quite a large family. Several grandchildren and great-grandchildren of this couple still live in Newport and nearby cities today.

Zora McMahan married Frank Leibrock and her grandchildren include grandson Attorney Bill Leibrock and his family of Newport.

The Sanitarium where John Holder was to seek treatment stood on Lincoln Avenue, in the block where the homes of Mildred Carrell and Carolyn Lindsey are today. It was a magnificent structure, and Dr. Masters was known for treating his patients in Newport and the mountains during the warm weather months and then taking everyone to Florida to another hospital for the winter season.

Eventually the sanitarium closed, with the Masters operation moving strictly to Florida. The building then became a hotel and lastly a home for county students attending nearby Central High School in the days before bus service. It burned in 1926, and the students living there lost all their belongings.

And, Mr. McNabb?

He would live another eight years before his death in 1912. Hopefully his final days were less exciting that his attempt to cross the river that August day in 1904.

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