April 2016

Around 1911, the Clinch Valley surroundings witnessed a pronounced business awakening and subsequent development, requiring railroads to carry coal to places of consumption and to tidal ports.

The older sections adjacent to Bristol, Abingdon and Johnson City were securing a limited benefit from the lucrative sources, which it was feared would lead into a state of depression and stagnation to those areas. The solution was to build a railroad to Clinch Mountain.

This  mountain ridge, which was situated in the states of Tennessee and Virginia in the ridge-and-valley section of the Appalachian Mountains, characterized by long, even ridges, with long, continuous valleys in between. They presented a veritable barrier to intercommunication. It was realized that, for a distance of 150 miles from the New River Gorge at Pearisburg to Speer's Ferry, this 4689-foot mountain fully impeded development of Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee.

One proposal suggested that a practicable route could be secured across the Clinch Mountain at Little Moccasin Gap, the point of divergence of one proposed line at Honaker, the objective point in this section being Bristol.

The distance from Bristol to Honaker by this route was estimated to be 45 miles, thus being 70 miles from Johnson City via Bristol to Honaker. The distance from Johnson City via the Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio Railroad and the Clinch Valley Line to Honaker was 101 miles, meaning a saving of 31 miles utilizing the Little Moccasin Gap route.

The CC&O company at that time was under construction of the link from Clinch River to Elkhorn City, Ky. The distance from Johnson City via Bristol and Little Moccasin Gap to Damps Creek was about 60 miles. From Johnson City via the CC&O and N&W roads to Dumps Creek was 87 miles, being an excess of 27 miles over the Little Moccasin Gap route.

It was understood that in overcoming such an obstacle consisting of the backbone of one of the most important of the Appalachian range of mountains that serious physical features must of necessity be encountered and such exist in the crossing of the North Fork of Holston where in order to save distance and retain grade, a high railway bridge would be required, possibly exceeding 300 feet in height and of great length.

There would also be three areas of heavy grade of 116 feet per mile each, eight miles of this grade ascending from the Clinch River at the mouth of Dumps Creek towards Little Moccasin Gap, about five miles ascending from the North Holston towards Bristol. The successful operation of a like grade was illustrated in the working of the mountain division of the Baltimore & Ohio main line, west of Cumberland, Md.

Part of the route from Little Moccasin Gap to Clinch River at Dumps Creek was obtained through an instrumental survey of the portion from Little Moccasin Gap leading towards Bristol.

The cost of grading would come within the limits of usual mountain work where excellent alignment is an essential feature, which could safely be included.

This work utilized part of one of the main arteries of trade between the Ohio Valley, the Middle West and the South Atlantic Seaboard. Further, it held a commanding situation, which rivalry could not supplant. It also became  a link in one of the prospective trade routes demanded through the great work of the Panama Canal.

Janette Carter Waves to Train Personnel as the Big Engine Passes through Poor Valley

The success of this venture is illustrated years later by an appropriate quote from Janette Carter Jett, daughter of A.P. and Sara Carter, two members of the celebrated Carter Family. She was born and raised in the Clinch Mountains:

“I always loved the train,” she said. “It went by twice a day and I'd wait to wave at the engineer, until it went around the curve to Neal's Store and the Maces Springs Post Office. Then I'd take an old bucket and pick up little lumps of coal that had fallen off. They made a good hot fire, much easier than dragging out wood. I walked a lot along the railroad tracks.” Living With Memories, Janette Carter, Carter Family Memorial Music Center, Inc. Hiltons, VA, 1983. (Photo courtesy of Rita Forrester, daughter of Janette).

Read more

One of the pleasures of writing this column is meeting so many nice folks who interface with me about a subject near and dear to their heart. Such was the case of Kristi Bolding Seal, daughter of the late Wallace Clark Bolding, who passed away on Feb. 18, 2016, just one week prior to his 88th birthday. He once resided at 800 Wilson Avenue (at Frances Street) in Johnson City.

Wallace Clark Bolding

Apparently, Wallace was a stamp collector; I purchased 11 First Day (of Issue) Covers from Pat's Trading Post at 124 Spring Street around 1955 that had his name on each one. Since he would have been about 19 years old in 1947, he possibly sold them to Pat just prior to his going into military service or perhaps sometime after his return. 

Two of the later covers are addressed to “Private Wallace Bolding,” while the rest have “Wallace Bolding” on them. One shows his middle name – Clark. I have for years wondered who he was and what he looked like. Thanks to Kristi, now I know.

International Philatelic Exhibition

n March of this year, I received correspondence from Ms. Seal commenting on my First Day Covers article, the subject of my May 18, 2015 yesteryear column. She read it and surprisingly and joyfully saw her dad's name mentioned in it and sent me a note of appreciation. I was delighted to hear from her and learn more about the man whose name was neatly typed on the covers. She sent me a small photo of him that I placed in my First Day Covers collection.

According to Kristi, her dad was raised in Johnson City, Tennessee where he became an Eagle Scout, later receiving a law degree from Cumberland University and also served in the United States Army. After discharge from the military, he became a member of Johnson City Masonic Lodge #486, serving the organization for many years.

Tennessee's Admission to the Union

Wallace eventually put down his roots in Knoxville, Tennessee where he worked for Dun and Bradstreet until he retired. Ms. Seal further noted that her father “was a compassionate and gentle man who loved his family and had a 'greeting' for all he met.”

I informed Kristi that I would scan the 11 First Day Covers in color and e-mail them to her. She was delighted to receive them and made copies for several of her family members. I was likewise overjoyed to share them with her.


Honoring the Armed Forces (U.S. Marine Corps.)

The 11 covers that have prominently resided in my stamp collection for many years are as follows:

1. 100th Anniversary, International Philatelic Exhibition #1, May 17, 1947, 3-cent. 

2. 100th Anniversary, International Philatelic Exhibition #2, May 19, 1947, 3-cent.

3. 150th Anniversary, Tennessee Admission to the Union, Jun. 6, 1946, 3-cent.

4. Honoring the Armed Forces (U.S. Marine Corps), Sep. 28, 1945, 3-cent.

5. 100th Anniversary, Florida, Admission to the Union, Mar. 3, 1945, 3-cent.

6. Honoring the Armed Forces (U.S. Navy), Oct. 27, 1945, 3-cent.

7. 100 Anniversary, Joseph Pulitzer, Apr. 10, 1947, 3-cent.

8. 100 Anniversary, Journey of the Mormons, Jul. 24, 1947, 3-cent.

9. Air Mail Stamp, Mar. 26, 1947. 5-cent.

10. Air Mail Stamp, Apr. 29, 1947, 10-cent.

11. United Nations, Apr. 25, 1945, 5-cent. 

Read more

On Wednesday evening, November 29, 1905, Martha Wilder Elementary School announced one of its upcoming “treats” of the school year. Teachers and students jointly arranged for an evening of entertainment that proved very pleasurable and “made everyone happier for awhile.”

While no admittance to the event was charged, the school conducted a fundraiser that was aimed at buying a much-needed piano. It was suggested that parents bring family and friends to assist in the effort.

Martha Wilder School as It Appeared in 1905

One attraction was a palmist who agreed to offer her services for a modest fee, which was afterward donated back to the school. Her participation was humorously advertised: “She will tell you what you don't know and say nothing about what you do know.” 

A “fish pond,” which was not described as being real or artificial but was likely the latter, was advertised as follows: “It will have as good a supply of fish in it as those that 'got away,' only these fish won't get away.” When someone hooked, he or she had the option of keeping it or giving it to one of their friends. It was explained that the more hooks someone had in it, the more fish they were sure to catch.

The location was described as “the sweetest place at the gathering” because of all the candy it possessed. One sign said, “There will be candy, and some more candy and then even more candy from the booth, also some home-made fudge in most imposing boxes. The ladies were especially interested in some very nice bits of fancy work that was donated by different persons.

The outing was held on the day before thanksgiving; the weather was possibly so chilly that it required refreshments in the form of hot coffee or chocolate, along with sandwiches and cakes (and of course candy).

The teachers and students worked hard for the success of their special evening and promised to continue their efforts until the  conclusion of the “treat.” They did this to guarantee that each and every one attending would have a pleasant evening. They wanted to do their part to aid one of the city schools in securing the things that go to make school life easier for both pupil and teacher.

While lacking in details, the entertainment was described as being one of the best and everyone who possessed any deep interest and support for the public school lend their aid in every way possible. 

Also on that same date, the school, through it principal, J. Frank Davidson, announced their list of “Star Pupils,” which today we refer to as honor roll students, including their academic scores, all of which had a score of 90 or above:

First Grade, Miss Eiseman: Lona Calloway 92 and Ralph Allison, 90.

First Grade, Miss Campbell: Lethia Moore 92, Guy Smith 92, Pearl Bowman 91, Nannie Weaver 91 and Irene Browning 90.

Second Grade, Miss Painter: Helen Vance 95, Elizabeth Osborne 94 and Mary Osborne 93.

Third Grade, Miss Burrow: Nora Johnson 90, Ethel White 90 and Sallie Wilson 90.

Third Grade, M.E. Brown: Frank St. John 95, Elizabeth Dunn 94, Lottie Carroll 94, Elsie Rose 94, James Blair 94, Whitney Buck 94, Roy Vandergrift, 92 George D. Hardin 91 and Allen Artz 91.

Fourth Grade, Miss Connelly: Mildred Wetherby 94, Marcia Wetherby 93, Charlie Hyder 93, Rebecca Able 92, Anna Phipps 92, Mary Dean Prease 91, Mary Taylor 91, Melvia Taylor 91, Elizabeth Martin 91 and Eugene Taylor 90.

Fifth Grade, Miss Slack: Henrietta Johnson 92, Pearl Hoss 92, Hugh Hoss 92, Joe Ellsworth 91, Pell Vance 91, Stewart Maher 91, Worley Morrell 90, Nettie Gibbs 91, Louise Parsons 91 and Ruby McClain 90.

Sixth Grade, (no teacher listed): Cyrus Lyle 96, Mary Kerp 95, Zeb Taylor 92, Lucy Lee 91 and Carl Bush 90.

I would like to hear from you if you know anything about this long deceased grammar school or can identify a family member or friend in the list.

Read more

In May 1933, Tennessee was set to activate the plan of President Roosevelt. Folks along the banks of the Tennessee River were preparing for the “New Deal.” One unidentified southern resident offered this delightful description of the situation:

“The Tennessee River, which runs about 650 miles, is formed by the confluence of the Holston and French Broad rivers near Knoxville, TN and follows a U-shaped course to enter the Ohio River at Paducah, Ky. Navigation has long been impeded by variations in channel depths and by rapids, such as those at Muscle Shoals.

“However, the Tennessee Valley Authority converted the river into a chain of lakes held back by nine major dams. As a result, river traffic increased, flooding was controlled, a water-oriented recreation industry was established and hydroelectric power generated at the dams attracted new industries to the region.

“The languid Tennessee, Belle of the South's river clan and coquettish like a debutante, is ready for its billion dollar coming-out party with President Roosevelt serving as chaperon.

“It is a lazy old river, haughty with its heritage of romance and glamour, and the folks who stir the dirt of its valleys and dig the wealth of its hills are proud that the Tennessee has been chosen by the President for a gigantic experiment of development.

“For unless the best laid plans of men go awry, the Tennessee, “Tenne-seeee” as locals call it, will be the government's lucky charm for the forgotten man, the first trump of the new deal.

A Stereoscope Card Made for 3-D Viewing Shows Photo Taken on Banks of Tennessee River

“The Tennessee is the favorite child of Dixie's river family. The South holds the Mississippi as headman of the bunch and fears the capers of the Arkansas, but the Tennessee, from its source to its mouth, is the pride and joy of river lovers with its 900 miles of power. It is formed at Knoxville by the Holston and Broad rivers along with numerous mountain streams.

“At Knoxville, it bents south. The Great Smoky Mountains, the venerable hills that were old when the gardens of Babylon were new are to the west. Factories dot its banks. Tobacco and grain farms splotch its valleys like green silk in a patchwork quilt.

“The Tennessee gathers speed as it hurries toward Chattanooga, sweeping around great bends and singing a symphony of strength. Its waters turn giant wheels and of its power are born things men need, such as cloth and furniture.

“The mountains fall away as the river hustles down its path, but rises again as it reaches Chattanooga. It makes a hairpin turn at Moccasin Bend and salutes Lookout Mountain, the last mountain sentinel on its southward course and then runs off, being Alabama bound.

“All of a sudden, the country starts to look different. The folks are notably different. Cotton takes the place of wheat and men along the banks follow plows instead of fancy machinery. But the mighty river doesn't change; it waters the land that feeds  the folks. At Guntersville, it changes its mind and, instead of continuing south, sweeps around a bend and heads north again. The climb is tortuous even for the powerful Tennessee.

“It gathered all its strength and makes a spectacular plunge toward Muscle Shoals. There nature cuts a hole in its bed and the Tennessee roars and tosses over the shoals, picking its way through Wilson Dam and then tears away again, free to run its race to the Ohio River.”

Roosevelt's plan came that same year on May 18 in the form of the newly-acted Tennessee Valley Authority. TVA addressed a wide range of environmental, economic, and technological issues, including the delivery of low-cost electricity and the management of natural resources. The Tennessee River would never be the same.

Read more

Davy Crockett (1786–1836), frontiersman, congressman and defender of the Alamo, was born to a pioneer family living on the Nolichucky River near Limestone in East Tennessee. The rugged outdoorsman is referred to by many as the ‘King of the Wild Frontier,” as in the chorus of the famous Walt Disney song. He was raised in East Tennessee and acquired a solid reputation for his enjoyment of storytelling, hunting and fishing.

The noted pioneer became a colonel for the Lawrence County, Tennessee Militia and was later elected to the Tennessee State Legislature. He became a member of the U.S. Congress in 1827 and was known for his opposing much of Andrew Jackson's efforts, specifically opposing the Indian Removal Act.

Davy Crockett Decked Out  in Hunting Garb Along With Three Trusty Canine Friends

Today's column contains one of many anecdotes taken from the woodsman’s journals that he maintained while in Congress. As any wearer of a coonskin cap can enlighten you, Col. Crockett, as he became known, served his western Tennessee district in Congress for three terms: in the 20th, 21st and 23rd Congresses.

When Davy first went to Congress, he traveled by horseback, stagecoach and often by river steamboat. Toward the end of his last term, Davy’s doctor told him he ought to travel more for his health. According to his writings, which are on file, he left Washington by stage on April 26, 1834, heading for Baltimore, a journey of about 40 mile from the Capital. It seemed significantly longer because of having to travel over bumpy, dusty coach trails.

From Baltimore, Crockett traveled by steamboat to Frenchtown, Md. where he climbed aboard for his first train ride. After some delays, everyone got seated and they moved at a snail's pace as if they were impeded. However, the wheels began to take short breaths and away they sped, leaving behind a blue streak of smoke.”

While the train was whizzing along, Crockett started reading, but all of a suddenly, he burst out laughing. A traveling companion seated near him was curious about what was so funny. Davy explained without explanation: “That's no wonder the fellow's horses run off.”

Unknown to those seated around him that heard his answer, he was referring to an incident that had been reported by a man driving his wagon with a team of horses. He was crossing a railroad track at the same time that a train was rapidly approaching. 

Crockett read from his publication: “It was growing dark, and sparks were flying in all directions from the fast moving train. In sheer panic, his horses ran off causing the wagon to separate and break and the wagon's contents to be smashed into small pieces. The man ran to the house for help and when asked what scared off his horses, he amusingly replied that he did not know, but reasoned that it must have been something big that he hoped he never witnessed again.”  

On his way to New York, Davy booked a ride from Bordentown, N.J. on the newly opened Camden and Amboy Railroad. He clacked along the one-mile route to South Amboy, which he described as being the fastest ride of his life. He wrote that “the steam horse galloped along at a frightening speed of 25 miles an hour and nigh near knocked us from our perch. We were going so fast,” he said. “that I performed an experiment by throwing an object out the open window of the car and it came back and hit me smack in the face.”

All in all, Crockett was away on his sightseeing trip over 20 days. He later wrote that he was glad he did it, but he was a bit weary, saying: “There is something about swaying back and forth on a saddle that a man can't git over.” It is not known how many train rides, if any, Davy took after his first one. 

Read more