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Tom Chaney: The Road to Savoyard

Of Writers And Their Books: The Road to Savoyard. Tom discusses how, if you are in Chicken Bristle, to find your way to Savoyard and the naming of Kentucky towns. This column first appeared 1 August 2010.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: Cool Reading -- Hot Summertime

By Tom Chaney

The Road to Savoyard

A fella asked me the other day how to get to Savoyard.

The answer was a bit complicated.

I allowed as how if he were in Center, once called Lafayette (pronounced 'Lay-fat'), he could just go down to the south end of town, turn left, then jog a quick right on a nice black top and he'd be there.

On the other hand were he in Hiseville, often yclept Goose Horn, he just had to follow the road from Griderville through town then directly take the Y to the left and he'd fetch up smack dab near Savoyard.

Yet, were he in Seymour, he dast not cross the bridge, but take the road to Park. When there, turn left at Windy Tom Nunn's Store on the Three Springs road, then dodge a quick right and directly he'd be plum in the middle of Savoyard.

In Three Springs he could either go to Park or Lay-fat and proceed as directed.

"Naw," he said. "I'm in Chicken Bristle. Now what's the way to Savoyard?"

"Oh," I replied. "That's a grey horse of a different color."

Noting that night was coming on and the fire in the public room of Mr. Philpot's tavern was sinking to ashes and that my friend had a jug not half empty, I stretched out my legs and we began to talk.

After a couple of pulls, the light dimmed, the jug worked its magic, and an elderly man passed between us and the fire. Without ignoring the jug, he introduced himself.

"Gentlemen," he said in a courtly voice, "I am E. W. Newman, born some years before the War Between the States in Barren County just up the road at a place called Center."

"Bull!" roared my jug companion. "I been to Center. Traded at Scott's store. Went through the two reader at the school there. Center is in Metcalfe!"

" 'Tis now. 'Twern't then." Newman replied.

"Just what is your racket?" my friend asked. "If I brung the jug, I like to know with whom I'm drinking with."

Newman bridled a bit. But, yielding to the demands of hospitality, he began to talk.

Seems he had been places and done things far beyond these poor parts. He had been a teacher, then a farmer, then a banker. Directly he ran newspapers in Bowling Green and Louisville and then some.

"Always they ask me where I'm from. When I name Chicken Bristle, I get the strangest looks."

"Right now," he continued, "I have come down from the capital at Washington City. I've a nice place on South East Eighth Street, and I write some, and work for the government some. I know some folks in the government, and I can get things done from time to time. When I write I like to use other names. Lately I've been writing under the name of Savoyard."

We three took another turn at Oh Be Joyful. I may have drifted off, but it seemed that Newman just passed away from the fire -- not walking, he just passed away. When I jerked awake, my other companion was gone, and I made ready to go in for the night.

As I gathered myself together I noticed a piece of paper on the chair where Newman had been sitting. By the light of the fading fire, I read the following:

"I have used the name Chicken Bristle. I'll tell you how it got its present name, 'Savoyard.' . . . . I did it . . . It was in 1885 or 1886 that Whit Thompson who had bought the old Tandy Withers place, sometimes known as the George Bradley place, wrote General Frank Wolford, then a member of Congress, to have established a postoffice at his house and to name it Cloverdale. I took the petition, rubbed out Cloverdale and inserted Savoyard, my pet name, took it to the department and had the office established. Subsequently the office was moved to 'Bristle.' "

I rubbed my eyes and stumbled to the door, but both Savoyard and Newman were gone -- likewise the contents of the jug.

However, as luck would have it, when I checked the mail there came a book by Savoyard titled In the Pennyrile of Old Kentucky and Men, Things and Events done up in 1911. Really it is two books. The Metcalfe County Historical Society has reprinted the first one -- In the Pennyrile of Old Kentucky. But the account of the re-naming of "Bristle" comes from an unpublished, undated essay by Newman in the files of the Museum of the Barrens in Glasgow.

Mr. Philpot's tavern is but a shade from the Chicken Bristle past and the jug is empty. Do you reckon it was Mrs. Philpot's tough chicken that gave the little village its first name?

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney -

This story was posted on 2015-08-02 03:52:15
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