Special to the Tribune-Courier
It doesn’t take long listening to Billy D. York talk about Scale before you hear the pride in his voice for the small community he calls home.
“I moved here in 1945,” York said with a smile. “But a lot has changed in Scale since then.”
York, who was born in southern Marshall County, moved to Scale with his family when he was around 10. He married his wife Mae in 1956 and the couple have lived in Scale ever since.
Located on Highway 795 just a mile from U.S. 641, the Scale community is nothing more than a crossroads today. Yet the once-thriving community is steeped in history. The community was the site of Spout Spring, where nine justices of the peace met in 1842 and organized Marshall County’s first court.
Throughout the years many establishments have come and gone in Scale. There was a school which disbanded in 1925. After Scale school shut down, children went to nearby Briensburg or Oak Valley.
The community also had a general merchandise store and Edgar Bragg operated a service garage.
“There was a grist mill at Scale a long time ago and a man by the name of Johnson run it,” York remembered. “There is still a great big chunk of concrete at the crossroads where that grist mill used to be at.”
In fact, the grist mill is where the community received its name. The mill had weighing scales and the farmers in the area would go there to weigh their crops. The farmers often referred to the grist mill as “Scale” and the name stuck and eventually became the name for the entire community.
Bonnie Rose, known throughout Marshall County as one of the basketball-fervent “Crazy Ladies,” is also a Scale native who has lived in the community all her life.
“My mom and dad, Lex and Launa Story, operated a grocery store at Scale from the 1950s to the early ‘60s,.” Rose said. “The store was the center of the community and about every weekend, a few couples would meet at my mom and dad’s store and sing gospel songs.”
“I went to school at Oak Valley across from the Oak Valley Church of Christ and it had all eight grades there,” Rose recalled. “I believe that 1952 was the last year the school at Oak Valley was open and I was in the seventh grade and I had to go to Briensburg for my eighth grade year. We had always had to walk to school when we went to Oak Valley and I thought it was such a treat to get to ride the bus going to Briensburg.”
“For recreation, all of the kids in Scale would meet on the corner of the crossroads. We didn’t have video games back then to occupy our minds like kids do today,” Rose said.
Perhaps Scale’s most noted resident was Galen Hobson Gough, billed at one time as the world’s strongest man. Born in Marshall County in 1899, Gough went on to have quite a fascinating life.
Left for dead in France after being wounded in World War I, Gough was paralyzed, and after months of hard work and vigorous rehabilitation, he made a miraculous recovery. Within six months, his paralysis was gone and reportedly could lift up to 1,200 pounds. With his astonishing strength, Gough became a professional wrestler before taking his strong-man techniques on a more ambitious quest. During one of his shows, Gough let a car run over him on the courthouse lawn in Benton.
“I saw Galen Hobson Gough perform over at Lovett Park one time,” York remembered.
“He took a long piece of pipe, put it in his mouth and asked two of the strongest men that were there in the audience to put all of their weight into the pipe and bend it. The two men took the pipe and bent it while it was in Galen’s mouth.”
Also that night, York said, Gough took a Sears & Roebuck Catalog in his hands and tore it in two.
“Gough lived in Scale for a time,” York said. “His dad, who was a Baptist preacher and veterinarian, built a brick house at the crossroads at Scale. Gough lived there for a while and the house, though it has been remodeled several times, is still standing.”
Gough eventually landed in Hollywood where he appeared in several films. By the 1940s, he quit his strong man act and took up painting. His art received rave reviews and his paintings were purchased by notables such as film actress Mae West.
Earl Warren, who went on to become Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and headed the Warren Commission investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, displayed a Gough painting in the governor’s office during his term as governor of California.
Gough briefly returned to Marshall County in the 1950s but found no market his for his art. Gough spent the last years of his live in various places such as Louisville, Florida and finally Colorado, where he died in 1962. His legacy is fondly remembered in Marshall County.
Over the years, times have changed Scale as it is no longer the thriving the community it once was. But residents like Bonnie Rose and Billy D. York still have deep sense of pride for the small community they call home.