Press Release from the Tennessee Historical Commission, June 6, 2019:

NASHVILLE –The Tennessee Historical Commission today announced the addition of eight properties to the National Register of Historic Places. They include a residence, general store, bank, former hospital and historic districts. The National Register nomination for Clover Bottom, the offices of the Tennessee Historical Commission (State Historic Preservation Office), was updated to include additional history and structures.

“Across Tennessee, communities continue to recognize and retain meaningful places that contribute to our state’s unique identity,” said Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer Patrick McIntyre. “This group of listings includes a former hospital in Memphis being revitalized using Federal tax credits, a former general store in Granville that is a focus for heritage tourism, and a large rural district in Bedford County in the heart of Tennessee Walking Horse country.”

The sites recently added to the National Register of Historic Places are:

Brown-Hancock House, Woodbury

Brown-Hancock House (Woodbury – Cannon County)

This 2-story brick I-house was built in 1869 and remodeled 1916-1918. Principal design features of the house include the 1-bay, 2-story pedimented portico, multi-pane windows, bracketed eaves and the sleeping porch and solarium. Originally the house was embellished with Italianate details but the 20th century redesign by Nashville architect Thomas W. Gardner updated the building with a modern classical design. His designs included a 2-story ell and the sleeping porch on the exterior and wood trim in the interior. Gardner was well-known for designing churches and for years was in partnership in Nashville with Edward Dougherty. The 2-story I-house with the 2-story portico has been documented as prevalent in Middle Tennessee and is often called the Middle Tennessee I-house.

Sparta Residential Historic District, boundary increase (Sparta – White County)

Historic home in Sparta

Twenty-nine houses were included in the Sparta Residential Historic District when it was listed in 1991. The district was listed for its collection of late 19th and early 20th architectural styles. Adjacent to the district is the house at 8 College Street that was added to the district with this listing. Constructed circa 1870, the Folk Victorian style gable front and wing house was restored in 2018. Important historic features such as the weatherboard siding, wood trim, and historic windows were revived, making this house eligible to be added to the existing district.

Sutton General Store, Granville

T.B. Sutton General Store (Granville – Jackson County)

The T.B. Sutton General Store was built in Granville in 1880 and purchased by Thomas Benjamin Sutton in 1925. During most of the time the store operated you could purchase dry goods, groceries, agricultural products, get a haircut and much more. The “whittling porch” on the façade was a favorite place for people to visit. Sutton stopped operating the store in 1968, and although it was open for a few more years, it was no longer the commercial and social center of the town. The changes in transportation and construction of the Center Hill Dam meant fewer people lived in or traveled to the area. In disrepair, the 2-story weatherboarded store was extensively renovated around 2000. This occurred at the same time others were looking at the potential for renovating buildings in the town and beginning “Granville Heritage Day.” In 2007 the owners donated the store building to Historic Granville Incorporated. Today, the store is the center of a thriving heritage tourism industry in Granville.

Thompson Creek Rural Historic District (Wartrace – Bedford County)

Comprised of 3,765 acres in Bedford County, the Thompson Creek Rural Historic District represents over 150 years of settlement patterns, agricultural history and architectural history. The collection of houses, farms and outbuildings spans the time from the earliest settlement circa 1810 to 1968 when patterns and development in the region were changing. Important to the continued settlement and farming of the region were the Duck River and Thompson Creek, which provided transportation and rich farmland. Farms produced corn, hay, wheat and livestock for consumption and sale. Buildings range from Italianate and Greek Revival influences to the bungalow form. In addition to this National Register nomination, a larger document detailing the history of Bedford County Agriculture was prepared as part of a mitigation for a federally funded road project.

Clover Bottom Farm Boundary Increase (Nashville – Davidson County)

Clover Bottom Mansion was listed in 1975 as an excellent local example of the Italianate style. The current nomination changes the name of the National Register listing, expands the boundaries, includes historic structures, and adds more information on the importance of the property. Settled in 1797 by the Hoggatt family, new documentation in the nomination details the agricultural importance of the farm and the significant role of enslaved African Americans. One of the larger farms in the area, changing farming methods and crops are represented by the landscape and outbuildings on the property. Two of the only surviving former slave cabins in Davidson County are located on the property. Recent fieldwork documented the historic archaeological value of the farm. This fieldwork adds information not found in the written record and presents a more complete picture of what life was like at Clover Bottom when it was a working farm. The state of Tennessee bought the farm in 1949 and used it as an institutional farm and for housing. Unused since 1980, in 1994 the mansion became the offices of the Tennessee Historical Commission staff.

Tennessee Military Institute Residential Historic District (Sweetwater – Monroe County)

The Tennessee Military Institute Residential Historic District is comprised of 3 houses located adjacent to and historically associated with the military school. From 1905 when the first house was built until 1970 when the enrollment of the school declined, the residences housed leaders and teachers at the school. The school began in 1873 as the Sweetwater Military College, changed its name in 1902 and moved to the High Street campus in 1909. President of the school Colonel Otey Hulvey was instrumental in expanding the school and lived at 1313 Peachtree in the district. Promotional literature for the school showed the President’s Residence and adjacent Quartermaster’s Residence. The military institute closed in 1975 and the school campus has been vacant since 2007. The 3 residences are no longer associated with the former school.

Barretville Bank and Trust Company Building (Barretville– Shelby County)

Located near Millington, the unincorporated community of Barretville is well-known due to the commercial importance of the Barretville Bank and Trust Company. Although the company was founded in 1920, the current bank building was not constructed until 1932. Renovated circa 1958, the new, modern style of the building reflected the bank’s modern banking practices. Around 1956, the bank was notable as the 8th largest bank in West Tennessee based on capitalization and when deposits were considered, the bank was the 4th largest bank in West Tennessee. By 1970, the company had operated 11 bank branches in 7 communities in West Tennessee. The building in Barretville was the headquarters for all of the branches and banking services. Today the building is used as office space.

U.S. Marine Hospital (Memphis – Shelby County)

Three buildings and 1 structure associated with the former U.S. Marine Hospital are representative of important trends in architecture and health and medicine in Memphis in the late 19th to mid-20th century. The US Marine Hospital Building was built in 1934 and 1937. The 3-story plus raised basement Colonial Revival hospital is the principal building in the complex. Designed in a broad y-shape, the brick building is embellished with limestone detailing. Built in 1884 and listed in the National Register in 1980, the 2-story plus raised basement nurses’ quarters/laundry and kitchen building reflects the Italianate style. It was moved to its current location circa 1936 when newer buildings in the complex were constructed. Also included in the nomination are a support building, the 1939 steam laundry building and the 1930s ornamental metal fence that delineates much of the property. Plans are to adaptively reuse the building taking advantage of the federal preservation tax incentives.

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. It is part of a nationwide program that coordinates and supports efforts to identify, evaluate and protect historic resources. The Tennessee Historical Commission, as the State Historic Preservation Office, administers the program in Tennessee.

For more information, visit http://tnhistoricalcommission.org.

Press Release from Tennessee State Library and Archives, April 18, 2019:

Event free, but pre-registration required due to limited seating

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Civil War has touched the life of almost every U.S. citizen but connecting families with complete records can present challenges. On Saturday, May 4, the Tennessee State Library and Archives will host a free workshop entitled, “Cross Connections to the Civil War.”

Presenter J. Mark Lowe will demonstrate how to search and use the wide variety of records available through the Tennessee State Library and Archives – including records from the Grand Army of the Republic, United Confederate Veterans, United States Colored Troops, Confederate and Union Army pensions, Southern Claims Commission, court martials, newspaper accounts, unit histories, letters to governors and presidents, diaries and more. Participants can expect to leave with knowledge and tools to draw a more complete picture of their Civil War ancestor and family history.

J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA, is a certified genealogist who has been researching family history for more than 50 years. Lowe is a renowned author and lecturer specializing in original records and manuscripts throughout the South. He grew up in Tennessee but has extensive family roots in Kentucky. He has traveled both states and enjoys sharing his love of genealogy and the joy of research with others.

Lowe has served as president of the Association of Professional Genealogists and is past president of the Friends of the Tennessee State Library and Archives. His expertise has been featured on several genealogical television series including African American Lives 2 (PBS), Who Do You Think You Are? (TLC) and Follow Your Past (Travel).

The workshop will be held from 9:30 a.m to 11 a.m. CDT Saturday, May 4, in the Library and Archives auditorium. The Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Ave. N., directly west of the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville. Free parking is available around the Library and Archives building.

Although the workshop is free and open to the public, registration is required due to limited seating. To make a reservation, visit https://crossconnections.eventbrite.com.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, April 10, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/museum/news/2019/4/10/tennessee-state-museum-marks-20-years-of-the-titans-in-tennessee-with-special-display-in-grand-hall.html

Coinciding with the NFL Draft in Nashville, ‘Touchdown Titans! The NFL in Tennessee’ includes artifacts related to historic 1999 season and more

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – April 10, 2019 – The Tennessee State Museum will mark 20 years of the Titans in Tennessee with Touchdown Titans! The NFL in Tennessee, a special display in the Grand Hall of the Museum that will run from Tuesday, April 23 – Sunday, May 5, 2019. Scheduled to coincide with the NFL Draft in Nashville from April 25-27, the display in the Grand Hall includes artifacts related to the team’s arrival as the Tennessee Oilers in 1997, its historic 1999 “Music City Miracle” season, and its continuing growth.

Highlights include a mahogany football used at the unveiling of the new Titans logo in 1998 and later presented to the Museum by former governor Don Sundquist; a Titans game-worn helmet from 2000 signed by Titans superstars Eddie George, Steve McNair, Jevon Kearse, and head coach Jeff Fisher; and a program and ticket from the January 8, 2000 game when the Titans faced the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. It was in this game, with 16 seconds left, that the Titans called “Home Run Throwback,” a play that has since been termed the “Music City Miracle.”

“The arrival of the Oilers in 1997, and their first season as the Titans in 1999, ushered in a new era for professional sports in Tennessee and growth in Nashville,” says Richard White, history curator at the Tennessee State Museum. “That first season was nothing short of magical, and it’s a thrill to offer visitors – especially while the NFL Draft is here – a small glimpse into just what made it so.”

PRESS RELEASE from the the American Battlefield Trust, March 14, 2019:

Link: https://www.battlefields.org/

Volunteers throughout Tennessee are teaming up with the American Battlefield Trust to aid in the maintenance and restoration of 13 Volunteer State battlefields and historic sites as part of Park Day, an annual nationwide, hands-on preservation event. Since its inception in 1996, Park Day has attracted volunteers of all ages and abilities bound by their dedication to serving their communities.

Park Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 6, 2019, when Tennessee volunteers will be joined by thousands of fellow participants across the country in cleaning up and revitalizing 160 historic sites in 32 states.

Activities are chiefly outdoor projects that range from raking leaves and collecting trash to painting and gardening. Volunteers will receive T-shirts, and some sites will provide lunch or refreshments. A local historian may also be on hand to talk about the unique role of the site in our national story. Starting times, and occasionally event dates, may vary at each site. Tennessee volunteers interested in participating in Park Day are encouraged to contact the individual sites listed below.

Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, Fort Oglethorpe, 8:45 a.m.
Contact: Will Wilson at will_wilson@nps.gov
Volunteers will help with painting around the park. There will be a ranger guided tour of the battlefield at 2pm. Water and snacks will be provided.

Fort Dickerson, Knoxville, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Eric Wayland at ericwayland@gmail.com
Volunteers will help with clearing brush, landscaping, trash removal, raking and cleaning. Water and snacks will be provided.

Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Dover,
Contact: Debbie Austin at Deborah_austin@nps.gov
Volunteers will help with landscaping, planting, trail maintenance and trash removal.

Fort Germantown Park, Germantown, 8:30 a.m.
Contact: Gary Douglas at gbdouglas@comcast.net
Volunteers will help with clearing brush and trash removal. Water and snacks will be provided.

Fort Pillow State Historic Park, Henning, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Tyson Weller at tyson.weller@tn.gov
Volunteers will help with clearing brush, installing markers/interpretive signs, trail maintenance, trash removal and helping to prepare food for volunteers. A tour of the earthworks and a history of the park as it relates to the battle will be available. A meal will be provided for volunteers.

Johnsonville State Historic Park, New Johnsonville, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Bob Holliday at Bob.Holliday@tn.gov
Volunteers will help with clearing brush, landscaping, trail maintenance and trash removal. Water will be provided.

Lotz House Museum, Franklin, 10:00 a.m.
Contact: JT Thompson at jtt@lotzhouse.com
Volunteers will help with painting different areas of the museum. Water and snacks will be provided.

Mabry-Hazen House, Knoxville, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Patrick Hollis at director@mabryhazen.com
Volunteers will help with garden maintenance and cleaning flower beds. Water and snacks will be provided.

Old Gray Cemetery, Knoxville, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Ruthie Kuhlman at info@oldgraycemetery.org
Volunteers will help with clearing brush, trash removal, raking and picking up tree limbs. Water and snacks will be provided.

Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield, Wildersville, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Jim Weaver at jnweaver@bellsouth.net
Volunteers will help with building or repairing fences, clearing brush, landscaping, planting, trash removal, cleaning of interpretation signs and removing small branches from rails and tour stops. Rangers will present a short talk of the battle of Parker’s Crossroads. Water and snacks will be provided. (Note: This Park Day site is holding its event on Wednesday, March 20, 2019)

Shy’s Hill Battlefield/Redoubt #1 – Battle of Nashville, Nashville, 10:00 a.m.
Contact: John Allyn at john.allyn@comcast.net
Volunteers will help with clearing brush, landscaping and trash removal. A battlefield tour will be available, and water will be provided for volunteers.

Stones River National Battlefield, Murfreesboro, 8:30 a.m.
Contact: James Lewis at jim_b_lewis@nps.gov
Volunteers will help with clearing brush, trash removal and litter pick-up. A walking tour of Fortress Rosecrans will be offered after lunch. A meal will be provided. (Note: This Park Day site is holding its event on Saturday, April 13, 2019)

Britton Lane Battlefield, Denmark, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Jim Weaver at jnweaver@bellsouth.net
Volunteers will help with clearing bush, trail maintenance, trash removal and removing small branches in Methodist Cemetery. Water and snacks will be provided for volunteers. A cannon firing at memorial service will occur on Sunday morning. (Note: This Park Day site is holding its event on Saturday, May 25, 2019)

For a complete list of participating Park Day sites and more information, visit www.battlefields.org/parkday. Volunteers can share their Park Day participation online using #ParkDay2019.

The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 50,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War. Learn more at www.battlefields.org.

PRESS RELEASE from the State of Tennessee, January 9, 2019:

Newest exhibit celebrates the 2019 Gubernatorial Inauguration and the 49 governors throughout Tennessee’s history

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee State Library and Archives announced its newest exhibit, Governors of Tennessee, in conjunction with the 2019 Gubernatorial Inauguration. Governors of Tennessee, opens to the public Jan. 8 and will run through spring 2019.

The exhibit features information and materials from the Library and Archive’s extensive collections. Visitors will experience a visual timeline, with a special focus on each of the 49 governors throughout Tennessee’s history beginning with John Sevier (1796) and ending with Bill Haslam (2019).

“The timeliness of this exhibit makes it something special for all Tennesseans,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “As we welcome the 50th governor of Tennessee, I encourage Tennesseans to visit this free exhibit where they can learn more about our great state and celebrate the strong leadership that brought us to where we are today.”

As part of the celebration, the Library and Archives will also display a curated selection of original archival documents. Exhibition cases present the personal papers and government record collections of many former governors. One display features correspondence with notable Tennessee celebrities including Elvis and Johnny Cash.

“The Library & Archives holds the papers of each of the state’s past governors. They are rich with history and tell many fascinating stories,” state librarian and archivist Chuck Sherrill said. “This exhibit provides just a glimpse of all that is here to be explored.”

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Ave. N. Free parking is available around the Library and Archives building.

The Governors of Tennessee exhibit is free and open to the public Tuesdays – Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Conservation carve-outs added to Upper Caney Watershed

The rural lands that make up White County have long been recognized and appreciated for their remarkable geological features and timeless sense of hardy frontier vitality.

Over the last several decades, more and more people from outside the area have come to love and admire White County’s abundance of beauty, wildlife and recreation potential, especially southeast of Sparta, where the Cumberland Plateau fuses with the Highland Rim in the cave-pocked boulder-strewn realm of Virgin Falls.

In his essential 1999 survey of scenic regional hikes and Tennessee cultural heritage, “The Historic Cumberland Plateau; An Explorer’s Guide,” outdoor writer Russ Manning observed, “The unique features of this area are the waterfalls that plunge from great heights and disappear into the ground.”

“Big Laurel Creek flows over Big Branch Falls and farther downstream washes over Big Laurel Falls before disappearing in an underground cave behind the falls. Farther in the wilderness a small creek running out of Sheep Cave cascades 50 or 60 feet until it disappears into a hole in the ground,” wrote Manning. “But the most spectacular is Virgin Falls, which emerges from a cave, runs about 50 feet, drops 110 feet, and disappears into the rocks at the bottom. The water from all these waterfalls apparently runs through the ground, finally draining into the Caney Fork River, which flows through Scott Gulf to the south.”

Courting Conservation-Friendly Commerce

Numerous groups and individuals have devoted time, energy and resources toward shielding the mostly untamed domain from large-scale commercial and residential development, or environmentally destructive industrial land uses.

Groups that have donated time, money, land, labor or expertise toward conserving the Caney Fork watershed include the Tennessee Parks & Greenways Foundation, the Open Space Institute, the Land Trust for Tennessee, the Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Fund,  the J.M.Huber Corp., Bridgestone Americas, as well as state parks “friends” groups.

State government also has partnered with private-sector nonprofits and businesses to promote “stewardship of thousands of acres of ecologically significant areas in the Cumberland Plateau with the goals of protection, preservation and public recreation,” said Kim Schofinski, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Improving the public’s access to the many recreational opportunities the rugged lands and moving waters provide will hopefully open navigable pathways toward future economic growth in an area where nagging poverty has for generations presented a snag.

Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau is home to many struggling rural communities that “need sustaining and need to be resilient,” said Brock Hill, deputy commissioner for TDEC’s Bureau of Parks & Conservation.

Inaugural Virgin Falls Thru-Hike Expedition. Pictured at left are those who participated on Sept. 15 in the first organized hike along the newly opened 9-mile Lost Creek to Virgin Falls thru-hike trail. Left to right: Bob Ragland, Michael Faehl, Lisa Faehl, Mark Engler, Ranger Stuart Carroll, Gretchen Weir, Phil Hodge, Greg Geer and TennGreen’s Steven Walsh, who organized the event.

Hill, who formerly served as mayor of neighboring Cumberland County, asserted that “place-based economic development” not only stimulates job creation and small-business growth by drawing in visitors, it “adds a tremendous level to the quality of life for the people who already live here in this area.”

Stuart Carroll, park manager at the Virgins Falls State Natural Area, figures there’s a pretty basic and reliable formula for upping tourist visitation to a place as unique and spectacular as White County’s section of the Cumberland Plateau.

“If you open up access to the public — and provide good parking lots, good trails and good maps — then it will pay dividends to the local economy,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to emulate Cummins Falls (near Cookeville in Jackson County), because that place gets hammered (from overuse), but who could have imagined the spike in sales tax collections they’ve seen in that area because of the added traffic since that park opened?”

Long an advocate for better utilizing the area’s natural potential to lure tourists and snare tourist dollars, Sparta-White County Chamber of Commerce president Marvin Bullock noted that “Virgin Falls is already somewhat of a national draw.”

But opportunities for outdoor recreation are now “growing leaps and bounds”, said Bullock. And the area’s adventure-recreation profile will only increase as conservation, trail-building and public-access efforts continue, he predicts.

“It will make it even more of a national draw because there are a lot more beautiful waterfalls up through there,” said Bullock. “There are going to be miles and miles and miles more trails in the future.”

Among the most recent additions is a new section of trail from Lost Creek to Virgin Falls — thus creating a new nine-mile thru-hike and an additional trailhead and parking to access Virgin Falls. The Lost Creek State Natural Area, which was donated for public use by the James Rylander Family, was used as a backdrop in Disney’s 1994 “The Jungle Book.”

Bullock is pleased there’s common agreement that “we are not looking to build a resort park,” or establish other high-impact developments.

“We want to maybe see some wilderness campsites and that type of thing, but nobody wants to see the area built up into something like Fairfield or Lake Tansi in Cumberland County,” Bullock said.

Of course, White County and Sparta businesses are always happy to accommodate daytrippers from those communities who want to come have a magnificent look-see at the dazzling western edge of the plateau, Bullock is quick to add.

Some counties are tempted to develop large wilderness tracts into upscale residential developments in order to increased property tax rolls, said Bullock. White County, by contrast, “gets to have its cake and eat it too — trail development attracts tourists and increases sales tax revenue,” he said.

“Rural, at-risk White County will see increase in revenue, yet the population will still have access to some of their favorite waterfalls and scenic overlooks,” said Bullock.

Communication and Collaboration

More than 100 people with ties or interest in White County conservation efforts gathered Aug. 25 on a fertile grassy plain known as “Big Bottom” along the upper Caney Fork to celebrate some notable recent victories in securing and adding new landscapes to the now nearly 60,000-acre “Mid-Cumberland Wilderness Conservation Corridor.”

Over the summer, properties of 582 acres and 76 acres were formally incorporated into the preservation zone as a result of donors, landowners and various conservation-focused intermediaries working together to acquire the properties.

And back in April, Bridgestone Americas donated all 5,763 acres of its richly forested and biologically diverse Chestnut Mountain property to the Nature Conservancy of Tennessee. It contains the highest point of elevation in White County. The donation was part of an innovative and intriguing project to allow the Nature Conservancy to “manage a carbon sequestration project on the property that will offset the carbon emissions of the Bridgestone Tower, the company’s corporate headquarters in downtown Nashville.”

Leaders of conservation groups and state agencies delivered remarks emphasizing a consistent theme during the event — that a vast and ecologically indispensable playground for preservation-minded outdoor enthusiasts is emerging, and the cooperative efforts to bring it into being have been genuinely historic in significance.

Steve Law, director of the Tennessee Parks & Greenways Foundation, or TennGreen, said the latest 600-plus acres of land acquired represents “a significant conservation achievement” that will help enhance and protect Caney Fork water quality in perpetuity.

“Geographically, this property joins the Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness Wildlife Management Area to the west, it adjoins Lost Creek State Natural Area to the north, and is bounded on the south by the Caney Fork River,” said Law. “From the perspective of conservation value, this property increases available migratory habitat for rare species, including the federally endangered Indiana and gray bats.”

Law contends that effective future conservation success efforts will increasingly involve cultivating and maintaining networks of voluntary collaborations among an ever-growing array of interests, individuals and entities.

“Collaboration is a fundamental element to TennGreen’s core mission,” said Law.

TennGreen has for two decades been raising money and working with landowners to acquire and protect tracts that hold or are adjacent to “natural treasures” in Tennessee.

Joel Houser, Chattanooga-based Southeast field coordinator for the Open Space Institute, reiterated the point. “I don’t think we can stress enough the importance of partnerships,” he said.

Houser, whose New York-headquartered organization promotes the preservation of geologically and ecologically unique landscapes across North America, described the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee as “a globally significant place.”

“There are species here that live nowhere else in the world — and there are species that were forced here from the last ice age, and have persisted here ever since,” he said. “There are species here that are disjunct — the populations are disjunct from larger native ranges that may be along the coastal plain or the southern Blue Ridge or further northward at higher elevations.”

In addition to the environmental benefits, Houser said preserving Cumberland wildlands in the 21st Century “will provide recreationists a respite from the modern world, and also provides hunters and their families food.”

“It’s not just for the wildlife, the lichens, the mosses, the flowers and the birds, it is for people, too, and people are a part of the ecosystem — of this ecosystem and all ecosystems,” he said.

Tying It All Together

The growing system of trails in the area is envisioned to one day connect the Virgin Falls State Natural Area with the crown-jewel of Tennessee’s state parks system, Fall Creek Falls, and in the process tie in Scott’s Gulf, Lost Creek, Bledsoe State Forest, Bee Creek and the Boy Scout’s Latimer High Adventure Reservation.

“Linking Lost Creek and Virgin Falls has long been a goal for Tennessee State Parks to provide more recreational opportunities for visitors and protect more critical habitat,” said TDEC’s Hill.

State wildlife resources agency director Ed Carter observed that the area has “one of the highest concentrations of greatest-conservation-need species of anywhere in Tennessee.”

For Stuart Carroll, the Virgin Falls park manager, progress made over the past few years represent a gratifying culmination to his 30-plus year career.

Land-protection endeavors along the Cumberland Plateau date back to the early 1900s, but in the past 20 years the acreage acquired from willing sellers or set voluntarily aside for conservation and recreation has more than doubled, he said.

Efforts by nonprofits and landholding private corporations to preserve properties and open them for public recreation are especially important in the Southeastern United States, where “public land has not historically been a really large part of the landscape,” Carroll said.

“So it is very fulfilling to see the acreage added to the public land base so that people can get out and enjoy the recreation the lands provide — and at the same time we can take care of both the resources and the history for future generations,” he said.

Carroll has himself been instrumental in negotiating a number of key land acquisitions and conservation set-asides, not to mention providing the down-and-dirty hands-on labor required to blaze, build and maintain enjoyably traversable hiking trails. He’s also co-author of a book of trail and landscape reviews called “Hiking Tennessee: A Guide to the State’s Greatest Hiking Adventures.”

The most rewarding aspects of working around places like Fall Creek Falls and Virgin Falls is preserving not just the natural aspects, but also the historical and cultural artifacts that the land holds, said Carroll — and in turn teaching youngsters to appreciate the region’s extraordinary legacy.

“It is great to see so many people pulling together to make these type of projects happen,” he said.

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, August 28, 2018:

36th annual event draws country’s best players to Tennessee state park

HILHAM – Standing Stone State Park will host the National Rolley Hole Marbles Championship and Festival on Saturday, Sept. 15, drawing some of the country’s best players to Tennessee where they will match wit and skills in what is known as the ‘Super Bowl of marbles’. In its 36th year, the event will feature world-class marble competitions, live music, marble-making exhibits and demonstrations, food vendors and much more.

“Standing Stone is the only state park in the nation with a marble yard, mainly due to the fact that some of the best players hail from Tennessee’s Clay County,” said Park Ranger Shawn Hughes. “The Championship is the most challenging marble tournament, where only the finest players dare to compete. It’s been a great event for the park and the local community, as it’s the only one of its kind in the world.”

Co-hosted by the Friends of Standing Stone State Park, the free festival will kick off at 8 a.m. Registration is required to compete in the marble tournament and closes on Sept. 5.

The musical lineup includes bluegrass and old-time groups Bill and the Belles, Clearview Bluegrass, Kentucky Just Us, Leonard Anderson, Phillip Steinmetz & His Sunny Tennesseans, Uncle Shuffelo & His Haint Hollow Hootenanny, and the Volunteer Statesman. 2018 event sponsors include Honest Abe Log Homes, Tennessee Arts Commission, Union Bank & Trust Company, Charlie’s Woodshop, Woodmen of the World, The Building Center, Southern Landscape Supply, and Twin Lakes Petroleum.

Rolley Hole is a folk game similar to croquet. It will be played by the rules of the National Rolley Hole Marbles Championship, on a dirt yard which measures 40 x 25 feet. The strategy comes by determining the best way to keep opponents from making the hole, which often requires skillful hard shots against their marbles, sending them ricocheting across the yard.

Standing Stone State Park is located 10 miles north of Livingston, Tenn., just off of Highway 52 near Celina and covers nearly 1,000 acres on the Cumberland Plateau of north-central Tennessee. For more information about the festival and Standing Stone State Park, contact (931) 823-6347 or visit https://tnstateparks.com/parks/standing-stone.

Shuttered lodge complex still scheduled for razing by end of year

The anticipated date for demolition to commence on the old inn at Fall Creek Falls State Park has been pushed back to at least the end of this month, according to state officials overseeing the project.

The plan had been for crews to start dismantling the 1970s-era hotel and conference complex by next week. But word now is that, because “contract negotiations took a little longer than expected,” the project won’t begin until the end of this month.

A spokesman for Tennessee’s Department of General Services said this week that work teams will likely begin removing the old hotel’s interior by the beginning of September, a process that should take about three weeks. When that’s complete, they’ll start tearing the buildings down.

“At present we expect it will take a little less than two months to tear down the structure, haul off materials, and secure the site,” Dave Roberson, director of communications for the department, wrote in an email to Center Hill Sun.

Roberson said the Brentwood-based company Bell and Associates Construction is handling the project.

The state’s plan is to build a new hotel and open it sometime in 2020.

The total cost of the project is expected to run close to $30 million. The old lodge ceased functioning in April.

Fall Creek Falls Park Manager Jacob Young said there’s been a noticeable falloff in visitation to the park since the inn and restaurant shut down, especially during weekdays. He said staff are expecting the typically busy autumn to fade into winter off-season faster than normal as a result as well.

Check back with Center Hill Sun for updates.

“Under the Lake” is a book published in 2016 about life in the Caney Fork River Valley prior to construction of Center Hill Dam. Pictured above are the book’s authors (from left to right): Judy Taylor Fuson, Carol Denson Williams and Ria Baker.

Seven decades have passed since Center Hill Dam construction

This coming year will mark the 70th anniversary of Center Hill Dam’s completion and subsequent submersion of the Caney Fork River Valley above it.

Undeniably, many modern benefits accompanied the lake impoundment, from hydroelectric power production to flood control to numerous forms of recreation.

So it’s easy — perhaps too easy — to overlook the heart-rending historical reality that for hundreds of families living in the area, the coming of the federal government’s new dam meant doom for their old ways of living. Along with displacement, the rising of Center Hill Lake’s waters came at the price of washing away all but the memories of the only life many former inhabitants had ever known.

When the dam closed off in the fall of 1948, once rich farmland and forests were inundated, thus “completely changing the face of the northern and eastern sections of DeKalb County,” local historian Thomas G. Webb wrote in a “Tennessee County History Series” book published by Memphis State University Press.

Fortunately, three DeKalb County women — Judy Taylor Fuson, Ria Baker and Carol Denson Williams — have endeavored, with assistance from Mr. Webb, to record for posterity the remembrances and manners of life that existed in the valley before it was deluged.

Their 2016 coffee table-style book, “Under the Lake,” is a painstakingly assembled compendium of history, anecdotes, images, maps and family genealogies. It preserves and pays homage to a bygone epoch that gave begrudgingly away to the 20th Century surge of modern resource development.

Construction on Center Hill Dam, 1946

Williams, a retired school teacher of 30 years, said she, Baker and Fuson pored over property maps of the entire lake in an attempt to catalog all the families that owned land and were forced to move. Thousands were dislodged from throughout the region, particularly in the fertile farming areas areas close to the dam, she said.

“DeKalb County population in 1940 was 14,588 yet the following census, in 1950, recorded the county population at 11,680 showing a 2,908 population drop after the dam project was completed,” the authors write in “Under the Lake.”

It’s hard for people today to grasp the scope and process of removing all the people who used to reside amidst the fingers, branches, ravines and coves of what is now a lake in excess of 60 miles long covering nearly 19,000 acres, with more than 400 miles of crooked shoreline.

“That is a massive amount of land,” said Baker, formerly the town mayor of Alexandria. “We’re not talking about just taking a 500 foot strip for an interstate or whatever. And it wasn’t like they were saying, ‘We’re gonna to cut your farm in half and take just so many acres.’ No, it was, ‘We’re going take your whole farm and you’re going to move — we’re going to cover your house up or tear it down, and we don’t care if your grandmother lived there forever’.”

The process of picking up and clearing out was exceptionally difficult for the elderly, who were “really hurt” by the prospect of leaving forever behind family hearth and heritage, she said. Often they never recovered.

“So many people, the older people especially, were just broken,” said Baker. “This was their home, it was their lives. It would probably have happened to anybody in those circumstances, but it was just such a mass of people here. Of course, it also happened everywhere a dam went in.”

Williams said many were in denial about the inevitability of what was happening.

One man reportedly didn’t believe the water was going to submerge all his property, so he “neatly stacked all his belongings up under a bluff overhang.” Baker said. “They finally had to go get him and pull him out — he wasn’t going to leave.”

“A lot of people knew it was coming even before the Second World War, when (government agents) came and started surveying,” said Williams. “But when the war came they had to stop. After the war was over they started full-force. Some people kept saying, ‘Oh no, this is not going to happen.’ In the end, though, it did.”

If you’d like to inquire about ordering a copy of “Under the Lake,” visit the Facebook page maintained by the authors: DeKalb County, TN, Caney Fork River (@nowunderwater).