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Neal Shipper found a family connection he never knew existed

By Bonnie Bucy Living Writer • Dec 17, 2015 at 5:39 PM

Neal Shipper was born and raised in Lebanon. He thought for many years the highlight of his life was the fact he was the only one of the six children born to his parents that hadn’t been delivered by Dr. Charles Lowe.

“I learned to love and think the world of Dr. Lowe through the next many years,” said Shipper. “He delivered all my siblings, but he was still in med school when I was born, so he didn’t get to deliver me.”

Shipper went through Highland Heights Elementary School and entered Lebanon High School as is typical of a Lebanonite. However, which wasn’t typical of most high schoolers, Shipper left school before graduation and joined the service along with a bunch of other students in 1957 where he stayed until 1959.

“It wasn’t anything exciting or unusual,” Shipper recalled with a smile. “The farthest we got was Panama City, Fla., where they stuck me in a body shop because in 1955, I had worked for a relative of mine in a frame and alignment shop in New Mexico and then worked part time in ‘56 for Jim Horn Hankins.

Shipper departed the service in 1959. He went to work in a body shop and went to Murfreesboro and got his GED. After that, he went to work for Winston Bone, Dan Denney and Mort Harkey at Wilson County Motors. 

“I worked with Dan Denney for several years and thought the world of him,” said Shipper.

In 1963, Shipper met someone else he thought the world of also. An Alexandria native named Oleta Sandlin, whom he actually met in Watertown. Neal and Oleta were married September 22, 1963. They proceeded to have Richard Neal Shipper and Hillary Ann Shipper. Richard graduated from Castle Heights Military Academy and married Lynna Jackman’s daughter, Fonda. They now live in Moorehead, N.C. Hilary lives at home and works for Neal.

Neal Shipper left Wilson County Motors and then went to work for McDowell Cadillac & Oldsmobile and then Burchett Ford before starting his own business 22 years ago, Shipper’s Auto Collision Repair, where they also do alignments and other services. The company is now located in the old McDowell Cadillac building on North Cumberland.

Neal Shipper’s office in that building is rich with memorabilia, complete with pictures of historic events and places in Lebanon, a jukebox with active records playing from a historic era that “we didn’t have room for in our antique filled house,” pictures of antique cars and many more things.

“About eight or so years ago, a distant relative of mine named Patricia McIntyre got interested in the geology surrounding the McIntyre family name,” said Shipper. “My grandmother was a McIntyre. Her name was Evaline.”

Shipper went on to say he had an uncle who used to talk about the McIntyre’s. But the whole family thought he was talking to hear himself talk, because no one else in the family knew who he was talking about. 

“We didn’t know until Patricia brought her findings to us a few years ago,” Shipper went on. “My grandmother, Evaline, was the daughter of William Thomas McIntyre and Nancy Dillard. Edward Jacobs (known by all as Neddie Jacobs, the original settler/resident of Lebanon) – whose cabin now sits on the Lebanon Square in front of the Burger Queen. Neddie Jacobs was Nancy’s daddy.”

Then, the story goes on, in 1920, George W. Shipper, 57, married Eva (Evaline) McIntyre, age 40. They had four children including Mildred, Frank F., George W. and Neal Shipper’s father, Charles W.  Shipper, who in his adult life put in 52 years with the Lebanon Fire Department.

“None of us in the immediate family knew anything about our kinship to Neddie Jacobs until Patricia brought us her findings,” repeated Shipper. “It made us feel rather proud to be related to Lebanon’s first settler.”

To backtrack on the Neddie Jacobs history a bit so it’s better understood why the cabin is sitting on the square, Edward “Neddie” Jacobs was born in Ireland about 1769. He was shipwrecked off the coast of North Carolina about 1779 and was taken in by Lumbee Indians, who reared him. In about 1785, he married an Indian girl, Lavula. Their daughter, Sallie, was born in 1786. The following year, when Neddy, as he was called by everyone, was 18 years old, they left the Indians. After living in Carolina for a time, they joined a party of settlers bound for the Cumberland Country, probably in 1790 or 1794. It is probably that the family lived in Davidson County for some time building the cabin that stood by the great spring where the town of Lebanon was to be built. All sources agree that the cabin was built in 1800.

Sallie Jacobs married John Dillard, lived to the age of 102 and died in 1888. She told her story to her granddaughter, Mrs. Rowena McIntyre Fowler. She said that she was a “good-sized girl” when the family came to Tennessee “though it had not then been named Tennessee” and had a clear memory not only of settling at the spring but of the journey over the mountains and across the wilderness.

Encounters with the Indians were frequent on the trip, but no harm came to the party. Lavula, who was said to be a “princess,” had some emblem of her “royalty” (or perhaps priestesshood) and would put this on when showing herself to the Indians. They always recognized this and it constituted a badge of safe passage for the party.

The Jacobs’ cabin was simple, with a stick chimney and a dirt floor. It stood on what is now the southern corner of West Market and North Maple Streets, below the spring where its stream flowed into Town Creek. The land belonged to James Menees, a resident of Davidson County. When the family built its first house, the country around was all either cedar forest or dense canebrake, there were bears to kill for meat and oil, turkeys to be lured from the cane with a “turkey caller,” unaccountable flights of wild pigeons and animals drinking from the spring.

There were also two deserted cabins nearby. The Jacobs’ house was not really the first. In 1802, the great spring caused the selection of 40 surrounding acres as the location of the new county seat. After this, Jacobs built a new cabin with a puncheon floor. It is recorded that he would sit and fiddle by the hour, putting aside his beloved instrument only to go hunting or fishing to replenish the family larder. It is not recorded that he bothered to purchase his town lot when the auction was held on Aug. 16, 1802, the named buyers being William Allen, William Bloodworth, William Crabtree, William Gray, S. Harpole, John Impson, John Irwin, Edward Mitchell, James Peacock, J. Providence, Peter Rule, M. Stewart, William Trigg and John Wright. In 1803, Allen opened the first store and Mitchell the first Inn. Impson built the first proper house, it too being by the spring.

When Sallie Jacobs married, Neddy killed a dog, tanned the hide and made her a dressy pair of wedding slippers. It was not his only skill. His Indian foster parents had taught him to be a medicine man. When a cholera epidemic came (it must have been either the terrible first visitation of the disease to Lebanon in 1835 or the scourging of 1849), Neddy was an old man but doctors were few and the need was great. He practiced Indian medicine throughout the epidemic and cured many, all of whom he could reach before the disease became too far advanced, with what is believed to have been an herbal concoction of dog fennel.

In the early 1840’s, perhaps in 1841, the Jacobs cabin – the second floored one, for the first had been torn down by Neddy – was acquired by Nelson D. Hancock who was operating a saddle shop in Lebanon but who owned a farm on what is now called the Tater Peeler Pike. He removed it to that farm, along with a second cabin, the two, joined, stood there until construction of the Interstate 40 past the site caused their demolition in 1965.

Before Neddy’s death, some of Lavula’s Indian relatives or friends or fellow tribesmen came to see her. She went away with them and never returned. Where did she go? Tradition is silent. Was it at the time of the Cherokee Removal? Did she take the long and arduous pilgrimage to the new Indian nation in the West? Did she walk the Trail of Tears? Perhaps, for that trail did pass near, if not through Lebanon in 1838, when Layula Jacobs was nearly 70 years of age.

However, in the meantime, Neal Shipper is thrilled to have found out about his grandmother being the great, great granddaughter of Lebanon’s original settler, Neddie Jacobs.

Merry Christmas to everyone! 

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