October 2014

Walter Preston Brownlow, a prominent name among East Tennesseans, worked in 1876 as a reporter for the Knoxville Whig and Chronicle and that same year purchased the Herald and Tribune in Jonesboro, Tennessee. He served as Tennessee's 1st district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1896 until his passing in on July 8, 1910.

On July 11, 1910, Reverend J.A. Ruble, chaplain of the Mountain Branch Soldiers' Home, delivered an eulogy at the funeral of the Abingdon, Virginia native. The following is a abridgment of the speech:

Walter Brownlow (insert) Family in Jonesboro, Tennessee

“Walter Brownlow was a character who was great and unique. After losing his father at age 10, he faced poverty and a lack of early educational opportunities. Nevertheless, he persevered in life until his name and influence was strongly felt in East Tennessee and nationally.  

“Faced with the hardships of war, some men attain dazzling heights, becoming great with almost abrupt suddenness. Col. Brownlow launched his 'growl on a placid sea' and, amid the tranquil environments of peace, did a work and reached an influence that ultimately rendered his name immortal.

“That we may better understand the work and worth of this man, let us pause a moment for analysis and comparison. Serving in Congress for 14 years, it is probable that history will attest to the truthfulness of the statement that no other Congressman has been able to do more for his people. Certainly few have done as much.

“Disclaiming a purpose and deeply desiring to avoid being offensive, love for his memory and loyalty to truth will allow the statement that no other has ever wrought so fruitfully or achieved so much. He brought to his task untiring industry. He studied the needs of the people of his state and of the nation and, in a continuous effort, dedicated his splendid powers of brain and heart to supply them, which effort was crowned with marvelous success.

“Brownlow's accomplishments included the Mountain Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, built at a cost of over $2 million, located near Johnson City, Tennessee. Among all the branches of the National Soldiers' Home, you stand as the capsheaf, (crowning top of the stack). Also included are Greeneville, Tennessee's National Cemetery, where rests the mortal remains of President Andrew Johnson, known among his people as the “Great Commoner”; the fish hatchery at Erwin;  and Federal buildings at Bristol, Johnson City and Greeneville, all standing as monuments to his genius for hard and successful work.

“Because of his great heart, all classes and conditions of people could enter and be made welcome without ringing the door bell. In the many folks that we have seen approach him, from the worthy old veteran on crutches to the struggling laborer whose family was suffering for the necessaries of life, he never turned one away wounded. When he could do no more, he would send them away with the memory of a brother's tear.

“In the positions which differentiate the great parties, he was Republican, but as Congressman, he was the servant of all. While the congressional district, which he served was a historic battleground in the sad and stormy days of the sixties, the position of this people being peculiar in that they were radically divided in their sympathies. Many were clinging to the Confederate cause while others were clinging to the cause of the Union, thus causing the desolating waves of grim visage war to sweep back and forth like a simoom (silent sandstorm). It was here that his marvelous influence as a peacemaker was seen and felt.

“Mr. Brownlow was a firm believer in the Bible, believing that Jesus Christ stands for the highest good in the universe. He always felt and showed the greatest reverence for sacred things and, as the end approached, expressed faith in the spiritual and eternal, prayed earnestly and invoked the prayers of others.”

Read more

In the early morning hours of July 1886, one thousand employees of the Railroad Employees' Mutual Relief Association (REMRA) of Knoxville and their immediate family met at the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad Depot replete with food containers for their annual 200-mile scenic excursion into the East Tennessee mountains.

One passenger, John Frazer, described the rail journey, noting that two trains were put into service with each one containing 20 cars. The riders that morning were overflowing with good humor, an indispensable ingredient for an all-day pleasure trip.

Studebaker Wagon Ad from 1886

On board were a few officers, hired to insure responsible conduct and enforce safety rules on the trains. Also present was the city mayor and company superintendent, F.K. Huger, a South Carolinian by birth, known by his nickname “Mayor.” He was 16 years old when the first gun was fired on Fort Sumter, consequently thrusting him into Confederate service. He was a warm, friendly being who was always ready to assist others. The ride itself was at no cost to REMRA members and their families. Available seats were offered to a few paying customers. 

The trains sped along first to Warm Springs, North Carolina (later renamed Hot Springs), first north about 50 miles and then east. Very soon the mountains, so little understood with their abundant treasures of metals and minerals, grand and overtopping all elevations east of the “Rockies,” became the object of impressive admiration.

Upon reaching Warm Springs, the great porches of the mammoth new hotel and shady places in the groves and lawns became occupied with jolly parties, lunching, chatting, strolling and dancing. Two bands were present to furnish music – a military ensemble and a string band.

Abounding were immense tracts of virgin forests of the choicest woods – poplar, cherry, chestnut, hemlock and beech. They were of such quantity, variety, and prodigious size so as to stagger one's belief. The entire journey was interesting, picturesque and at times grandeur, humbling its passengers to such uplifting of nature.

As the two vehicles rolled along the Tennessee, French Broad and Pigeon rivers, exposed for all to observe were rich bottom-lands lush with corn and valleys where the sun arrived tardily.

The trains continued in Tennessee near the North Carolina line and approached Roan Mountain. It was noted that a newly-constructed hotel had just been built on the mountaintop there, being called by the euphonious name, “Cloudland.” Although it was 6,000 feet above tidewater, the latest estimate of the height of the nearby mountain was 6,400 feet, making it 4,200 feet above Lookout Mountain and 4,400 feet higher than the Catskills.

The line dividing Tennessee and North Carolina was reached at Painted Rocks, where the road of another system approached – the Western North Carolina Railroad. This road reached Asheville and the many beautiful portions of the nearby country.

If a sudden shower meandered into the valley, a colorful rainbow often extended from mountain to mountain as an arch of triumph, bringing full compensation that was immensely more priceless than the proverbial expectations of a pot of gold at its terminus

As the sun made its way into the West, the party realized they had penetrated some of the secrets of the Great Smoky range of mountains. A day had passed providing them with glimpses of small plantations, rustic log houses and diminutive villages.

It was nearly 11 p.m. when the trains chugged back to the old depot at Knoxville. The little ones were slumbering, their mothers were weary and the fathers seemed anxious. One of the grandest of excursions had passed splendidly, without a hint of an accident, quarrel, boredom or dissatisfaction.

Read more

In April 1954, the Johnson City Press-Chronicle offered information about the Red Shield Boys' Club. In part it said: “The next time you hear someone say, 'What's this younger generation coming to anyway?,' tell him that the younger generation is probably growing up to be just as good, if not better, citizens than their forebears, thanks to, among other things, the efforts of the Red Shield Boys' Club.”

That year, the club was a relatively young one, having been organized in 1944 by the Salvation Army, with Nathan Holley as its first director. The Club, initially located at 132.5 W. Market, was established on a small scale.  However, since its founding, it quickly grew into an organization that all boys under the age of 18 could very well call their second residence; they often spent more time at the club than they did at home.

Officers of the club were Salvation Army Captain, W.W. Pryor, executive director; Lawrence Hahn, managing director; Jim McKinney, recreation coach; Robert Pryor, woodworking shop instructor; and Thora Bean, crafts instructor.

According to Hahn, the club was open from 3:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Hahn, a sophomore at East Tennessee State College who hailed from Sunbright, Tennessee, was a tall young man with a very apparent love and understanding of youngsters. He noted that the boys who came to the club were from all walks of life. Everyone was entitled to the same privileges at the club, although disadvantaged boys and those with home difficulties were given special attention.

The club afforded facilities for boys who were interested in all types of sports, woodworking crafts, reading at a well-stocked library, television from a beautiful table model set, and other offerings.

In the sports field, the club organized teams in baseball, basketball, and softball. Other sports for which facilities were provided were boxing, track, volleyball, fencing, ping pong, weight lifting and tumbling.

About 507 boys were members of the club, although others who had not as yet become members could still enjoy the facilities. The youngsters were divided into two age groups, those under six and those 6-18. The latter group was further divided into four divisions: midgets, juniors, intermediates and seniors.

An inspection tour of the premises gave the following results: well-kept office, reading room; television and movie room; canteen, with a soda pop and candy stand; basketball court; heavy and light punching bags; a well padded boxing ring; weights; woodworking shop; arts and crafts room; equipment room; and tiled showers.

About 25 trophies were won by boys of the club that year in competition with other local clubs and organizations. They were very proud of their awards and had a right to be, because a lot of good sportsmanship and hard work went into winning each of them. Good sportsmanship was the emphasized theme of the club's operations.

This photo shows the boys who walked off with the East Tennessee Senior Crown by beating Knoxville 54 to 51. Left to right, front row were Joe Depew, Freddie Shoun, Jim McKinney, Pappy Crowe, Marion White and Ray Shipley. Back row: Captain Pryor, Buddy Steward and Coach Lawrence Hawn.

This photo lists those boys who won the East Tennessee Junior Crown by whipping the Bristol Boys' Club by a score of 49 to 38. Left to right, front row are Wayne Evans, Tom Riddle, Charlie Bowman, Jack Frost and Bill Jackson. Back row: Captain Pryor, Tommy Hord, Gene Landers, Eddie Arnett and Coach Lawrence Hawn.

I plan to do a follow-up article to this one and would like to hear from anyone who was a member of this club.

Read more

One of the most persistent advertisers in fictional history was Robinson Crusoe, a character penned by Daniel Defoe in a book by the same name. The castaway believed in the power of advertising and knew exactly what he wanted – a ship, not to own but to rescue him from a desert island filled with a host of unsavory residents.

Therefore, he put up an “ad” for one that consisted of a shirt attached to a pole at the top of the island that, in the language of the sea, “was plain to every seafaring man.”

Although the circulation was small, there was no other medium available to him. Therefore, he kept it in plain view despite the fact that he received no immediate inquiries. However, he had to change his “copy” frequently, as one garment after another gave way to the elements. According to the storyline, a ship finally came to his rescue after four years. Crusoe's plan, while painfully slow, finally worked.

The present day merchant living in Johnson City in 1917 was said to be much better off than Crusoe because he possessed a City Directory, published by Commercial Service Company, Inc. of Asheville, NC. “Your chances of success are thousands to his one,” it said, “but your chances of failure are the same as his.”

The directory supposed that if Robinson Crusoe had taken down his garment ad after a year and declared that advertising doesn't pay, we likely would never have heard of the famous fictional novel.

The book urged advertisers to put up their “signal” and keep it there through fair and foul weather. It suggested that a number of ships cruising around during 1917 would be glad to call on sellers and remove them from the “Island of Dull Business.” It further stated: “Crusoe advertised under discouraging circumstances, but you have got a sure thing – the City Directory.”

The publication boasted that no other publication in the world so thoroughly represented the commercial, social and private interests of the targeted city as the City Directory. It represented every private citizen from the shack to the mansion, including commercial, social, religious and educational institution.

The Directory became the dictionary to the city. The publishing company intended for the 1917 one to be an unabridged edition. It offered first aid to strangers and a standard remedy for homefolks that was accurate, complete and up-to date in every respect. Unusual prospects of profit, direct and indirect, and civic pride influenced every manufacturer and business man to have full representation in the directory.

The publisher intended for every well-governed home to have a copy of it for the use and convenience of strangers and visitors. Residents consulted the directory when they wanted to buy or sell and were rewarded by getting the best of everything at the lowest price.

“Mr. Manufacture and Mr. Business man,” said the directory, “it's a fact that the directory is your city's only standing representative to the world beyond your own gates and the only index to your city's growth and prosperity. Future directories by the exchange system, now in general use, will be place in the directory libraries of the principal cities of the United States for the use of all who wish to consult its pages. A well-patronized city directory indicates a good city to acquire residence.

In addition to Johnson City, the company distributed directories in 1917 to five other Tennessee towns: Clarksville, Cleveland, Jackson, Knoxville and Morristown. Eighteen states participated in the program; North Carolina boasted of having the most cities under the directory umbrella with 20.

Read more