From Tennessee To Oz

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...Where did it all begin?  How did I travel the road from fan of the great Judy Garland, to singer, producer, and now suddenly, author of this book?

I never intended to write a book - to add to the pages of speculation, gossip, and picking apart every detail of Judy’s life. That had been done enough. I only wanted to know who the Gumms were before Hollywood and legend took over.  But somehow along the way, a gift was laid in my hands. Bit by bit, the past had been revealed, until even I agreed-the story must be told.


So, in September 2004, with the support of trusted friends, I packed my car to the ceiling (including my three cats - Sabrina, Theo, and Pennsy), and moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

The Pioneers

...Norton Gum's situation was not getting any better. For a man who had come early to Rutherford County and risen quickly, his star was sinking.

... with the many offences and fines piled on him... Folks in the town of Jefferson no doubt viewed him with contempt and questioned his ability to keep his job or behave in a responsible manner. The depression and sadness the entire Gum family felt must have been intense. If they were unable to pay the fines, Norton would likely be imprisoned for debt, and they would be forced into the poorhouse.

Peace and Prosperity

In “The Story of Murfreesboro,” the author, C.C. Henderson speaks of a good-natured, “Bobbie Gum” who loved to play practical jokes. Apparently, Robert Gum also had an extremely loud voice and knew how to project it. When he was drinking, or as the author put it- “imbibing” in a “certain number of drinks of pure liquor,” his enthusiasm could get out of control.

In 1844, the presidential campaign consisted of two candidates: James K. Polk, who favored expansion and the Whig candidate, Henry Clay, who was opposed to it. Although a local man, James K. Polk was not all that popular in Tennessee. Bobbie Gum, like most Tennesseans supported Henry Clay. According to the story, Judge Anderson was holding court one day when Robert E., standing out on the east steps of the Murfreesboro Courthouse, yelled out in his loudest voice, “Hooray, hooray, hooray for Harry Clay.”

With his tremendous voice, Robert E. totally disrupted the courtroom. The Judge had him brought before the bench and reprimanded him. Rather than sending him to jail though, he asked him to please go home!

... The Judge suspended court for a few moments and all went out to the courthouse steps where Robert E. gave three cheers for Henry Clay so loud, it is said they could be heard for two miles...

Three years later in 1847, Robert E. Gum succumbed, some thought of a broken heart.... The early loss of a Gum parent seems to have been a sad curse that would occur again and again over the years.


Civil War

Thomas White sat on a barrel in front of the old town general store, which his family owned, taking down the names of the men who wanted to sign up. John A. Baugh gave his age as forty-five. Bob White’s Uncle, Dr. Augustus White, at sixty-five, was the oldest volunteer, and Benjamin Baugh, who had just turned eighteen, appeared to be the youngest.


Mr. Gum’s letters to his wife were written on torn scraps of paper – anything he could find.


[on the way to Shiloh] "...Caroline, my shoes is nearly wore out. My feet is wet every day, but it don’t hurt me..."




      Mary Ann Baugh took over the care of her two grandchildren, twenty-two month old, Rollie, and Baby Mary, but without her mother, or possibly even a cow to give milk, Baby Mary did not survive.
      Death among women and children was common, but that did not make it any easier. The only solace for Mary Ann was knowing that Mattie and her baby were now together in heaven. One day they would all meet again.

Rollie Howland stayed with Mary Ann. He was a good boy, quiet and thoughtful. His pale little face with the big blue eyes and wispy gold-blond hair contrasted sharply to Clemmie, who was now five.[



All over the South, women were looking out their front doors, and across farmlands to see strange men walking toward them. They were men of skeletal figures; men so bedraggled in stinking ragged clothing, they looked like paupers.


Mary Ann became one of those women that late April of 1865. A man appearing bent and old-with a face that was sunken in at the cheeks, and eyes that stared, eyes that had seen death-came walking down the road toward the house. Who was this strange man coming to the door? And then she knew. It was her son, Benjamin. 


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From Tennessee to Oz * The Story of Judy Garland's Family History by Michelle Russell (c)2006