The fifth annual convention of the Southern Appalachian Good Roads Association, held in Roanoke, Virginia for two days in 1911, was highly successful toward accomplishing the purpose for which the organization was created.

Deep interest in improved roads was manifested throughout the sessions. Especially noticeable was the enthusiasm of local men present who were overly interested in improved conditions of the country's highways and doing so right away.

The economic side of good roads was the basis of one speaker from Columbia, SC who noted that it was too late in the world's history for him or any other man to tell how highways formed the basis of all commerce. In the early days of barter and trade, good roads were the essential means of transportation and communication between those who had things to sell and those who wished to buy.

All of the glory of Rome, he said, had faded and had crumbled into dust, except her highways, which yet remained to show how true was the expression that “all roads lead to Rome.”

The speaker spoke of the manner in which the great cotton crop of the South was marketed and how, with good roads, thousands of dollars would be saved each year to the grower. He noted that 99 percent of all the crops in the country were hauled over country roads and that from two to three hundred million dollars was practically thrown away each year by hauling them over dreadfully maintained  highways.

The people must see that their representatives in Congress and in the State legislatures redeem the promises made before the election, regarding good road legislation and State and Federal aid. They must keep their word.

The next speaker was a representative of the Southern Railway Company, who mentioned the pioneer work in the good road cause, which his railway had done and was yet doing by means of good roads for trains, which traveled throughout the South.

Another attendant addressed the practicability of using sand-clay roads in this section of the country. He said that this would depend largely upon the proximity of the products. He had not thoroughly traveled in this section of this country, but thought that a limestone option would likely be more advantageous.

The life of a sand-clay road, the speaker said, depended largely upon the kind of traffic over it. The automobile, he noted, was its best friend and it was the cheapest of all roads to maintain. He further pointed out a number of cautions to be observed in building a road of this kind.

Another interesting discussion was the manner of securing rights of way and it was shown that, in Virginia, the method pursued was tedious and often resulted in delays. In North Carolina, the roads would be first built and the land condemned afterward. In Tennessee, condemnation proceedings could be instituted either before or after the road had been built.

The editor of The Carriers' Messenger, the Southern publication of rural carriers, introduced a suggestion at the Thursday afternoon session that had as its purpose the co-operation of the association with rural mail carriers in the improvement of the post roads and thus the securing of Federal aid for such highways.

Eight resolutions were adopted at the meeting before it adjourned. One expressed to the people of Roanoke through the Chamber of Commerce, its sincere appreciation of the many courtesies extended the delegates to the convention and the enthusiastic co-operation given the convention in all it had planned to accomplish.

The association further desired to thank Roanoke's YMCA for its kindness and consideration in allowing the convention the use of its splendid hall and other conveniences.

True to form, a vigorous discussion ensued concerning where to hold the 1912 convention. Although representatives from Atlanta, Asheville and Nashville made a strong bid, they decided to let the Executive Committee handle the task. With that, the convention adjourned.

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A December 1908 local newspaper had this to say about Johnson City's anticipated growth: “To say that Johnson City will grow by leaps and bounds during the coming year will be stating nothing more than the truth and to back up the assertion herewith give you some of the facts gathered from those who know.” 

In the first place, bids for the construction of the new government building were planned. This was not identified but likely at 103 Tipton Street between Spring and Buffalo streets. 

Johnson City 1908 Advertisements

Congressman Brownlow asked Congress for additional $20,000, which made a total of $105,000 to put in the building, outside, foundation, cement sidewalks and basement.

Mr. Carter began the foundation work promptly after the contract was awarded and the plans received. Walnut Street was paved and cement sidewalks laid on both sides from Buffalo up to West End Heights. 

A property was purchased at the corner of Buffalo and Walnut by some prominent citizen, who build a $10,000 model market house and grocery. Work on this venture began immediately.

In the early spring 1909, Mr. Carter erected a $50,000 hotel (not the Carnegie Hotel, which was built by Gen. Wilder in 1891 for $125K) possibly the Pardue (Windsor)  Hotel) that provided Johnson City with modern and spacious accommodations.

A modern office building was also begun and finished during that same year. Also, a large store building was erected to be a model department store.

Work was started and finished on the new Southern Train Depot, which was believed would join in and build a large union depot. Plans were also on foot to build in the Carter Addition a thoroughly equipped opera house. 

The above items were cold, hard facts and it was but a matter of a few days until most of the work was begun. The $100,000 flour and feed mill (Model Mill) was an assured fact. This project was just as certain as the building of a new Post Office.

The parties had been waiting on the finishing of the CC&O Railway to a point where they could connect with the N&W and C&O railroads and finish through to Bostic, NC in order to get a milling in transit rate on their shipments of grain from the west. This was targeted to be built the following spring and summer in time for the wheat harvest. 

Johnson City 1908 Advertisement

Johnson City 1908 AdvertisementsNext came the extension of the streetcar line. Plans called for Johnson City and Jonesboro to be connected by a modern interurban electric street railway.

Johnson City 1908 AdvertisementsThe present streetcar line extension would go forward at an early date to run down Walnut street, up by Mr. Carter's home, which he was in the process of building, then down Maple street to Buffalo, making a complete loop of the Carter properties.

An extension was also to be made, provided Congress consented, so that the line would run out Walnut to Soldiers' Home, going through the grounds, making a connection with the present terminus, thus looping through the home grounds. Streetcars would then be running in both directions.

Mr. M.L. Fox, manager for the Unaka Corporation had a complete drawing made of' the entire property, giving lots and numbers, from which maps could be made and given to real estate agents of the city to sell. It was said that fully half a million dollars would be spent in the Carter addition in improvements during the year 1909. 

Mr. Carter's plans called for a through train schedule to be put on between Dante, VA. to Bostic, NC and a special train from Dante, Va., to Johnson City and return, making a local train service in both directions.  

The Commercial Club got busy to advertise the advantages of Johnson City with Mr. Carter and to help make a city of 25,000 by 1911.

Regrettably, not everything materialized in this glowing report. The streetcar line from Johnson City to Jonesboro never became a reality and the projection of Johnson City having a population of 25,000 was a bit of a stretch. That accomplishment, according to former city historian, Ray Stahl, did not occur until 1930.  

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The eye-catching news in a local Feb. 28, 1903 newspaper was bold and to the point: “Beginning March 1st, Johnson City will be in total darkness.” It seems that on that day the contract with the Electric Light Company for street lights expired, leaving a new contract pending. The city population that year was about 5,000.

In the meantime, the lights continued to burn with the understanding that a new contract had been established to fix the price. At a meeting of the board on that Wednesday night, an effort was made to come to an agreement on a new contract with a Mr. Stratton, who represented the light company.

Stratton desired a contract for five years at $80 a lamp per year. However, if the city would utilize seven additional lamps, he agreed to cut the price to $75 a lamp per year. The city wanted to pay $75 for the present number of lamps, but if seven more were added, they agreed to cut the price to $72.

The city's light committee convened and issued two proposals, the majority favoring Mr. Stratton's contention, but the minority report made by Alderman Mathes carried the vote. That one was based on a clause in the original franchise contract that specified that “the price charged shall not exceed the price paid in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Bristol.”

The average, Mr. Mathes figured, would be $84 for 2000 candle power lights based on an all-night schedule. Conceding that 200 lights or more could be furnished more cheaply per light than 40, it was agreed that Johnson City would accept 1200 candle power lamps instead of 2000.

To further cheapen the cost of lights, the “moonlight schedule” was accepted and thus saved 40 per cent of the price, but Mr. Mathes said he agreed to deduct only 20 per cent, and this would make the average price $66.

Johnson City Ads from Feb. 28, 1903, Same Timeframe for City Going Dark

Trying to agree on a contract, he kept going up until he reached $72 and finally $75. Mr. Stratton emphatically stated that his company could not furnish the lights at that price and the board adjourned with plans to reconvene the following Thursday evening to further address the matter.

The issue was again brought up and finally disposed of by tabling the committee's report and notifying Mr. Stratton that the street lights would be paid for each month on the old rate of $85 until the matter was otherwise disposed of.

Regrettably for the city, the offer was not satisfactory and the following brief telegram told the final chapter: “Coeburn, Va., Feb. 28, 1903. To: J.W. Crumley, Major Johnson City: Have wired to discontinue street lights on and after March 1st. As much as this is regretted, we can not furnish lights without some definite agreement for compensation. Signed, F.A. Stratton.”

This failure of both parties to compromise created a strong current in favor of the city maintaining its own plant. As a result, the board appointed a committee to travel to Morristown to investigate their plant. However, unlike Johnson City, the Morristown plant was owned by the city. The committee drove there the following Wednesday, obtained all the facts and figures and made a report at the next meeting of the board.

If a plant was to be built in Johnson City, the present legislature would be asked to pass an act authorizing the city to issue bonds for that purpose. In the meantime, residents of Johnson City were deprived of nighttime street lights, something they had gotten used to, for an undetermined amount of time. 

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Over the years, fires have struck downtown Johnson City, leveling some buildings and causing minor damage to others. Perhaps the biggest one occurred in May 1905 and destroyed almost everything within the boundaries of E. Main, S. Roan, Jobe (replaced by State of Franklin Road) and Spring streets. One notable structure, Johnson City's First Baptist Church, known as “The Little White Church,” completely escaped the carnage in spite of the fact that it was wooden.

Another terrible flame occurred in March 1894 in the same block, except it was confined to the northeast end of Spring Street in close proximity to E. Main. The location would later become the site of the Sevier Theatre. 

That Monday at about 9 p.m., the fire alarm sounded and a black cloud of smoke quickly ascended from the heart of the city, drawing a huge crowd of anxious and curious onlookers. Fortunately, the fire was contained to an area of one-story corrugated iron buildings facing west. Cause of the fire would prove to be a tiny spark in a defective flue.

The smoke became so dense and suffocating that it was impossible to tell where the fire originated. However, it soon was determined that it started in the middle building (3), which was occupied by a bakery. (It should be noted that the date of the fire was 1894 while the attached map was produced in 1891, three years prior).

When the Fire Company arrived on the scene, the hook and ladder crew hastily penetrated the iron structures, opening as many holes as they could. Then, they simultaneously began pouring four or five good streams of water into the three buildings (2,3,4). The heat was so intense that initially little control was gained.

The heavy iron coverings on the three buildings were so stubborn to the fireman's axe and hook that the three businesses were pretty well-gutted before the fire crew could subdue their threatening adversary.

This news meant a change of plans to save the adjoining Post Office (1) or it would have undoubtedly been seriously damaged, if not completely destroyed. Fortunately, an alley/walkway ran along the north side of the Post Office (1), offering a possible shield to those businesses facing E. Main Street.

The three business buildings (2,3,4) were all occupied at the time the fire broke out. When it was assured that the structures could not be rescued from the flames, the dangerous task of removing inventory from them began with limited success.

Building (2) to the right of the Post Office (1) contained the grocery store of Taylor Brothers. They had $600 insurance on their stock and $500 on the building, which also belonged to them. Unfortunately, a comparatively small portion of their goods was saved for a loss of $1,500. 

Since the fire was not fully contained, the Taylor Brothers' owners purchased George R. Brown's restaurant across the street and began moving everything they could to the new facility. It was likely empty at the time.

The second room (3) from the Post Office (1) was occupied by Brown & Stinson's Philadelphia Bakery. These unfortunate gentlemen had no insurance and lost everything. They did not know exactly the amount of stock on hand, but they estimated it at $400. This was the property of Adam Bowman, and his allowing his policy to lapse a month or so earlier cost him about $800.

The last building (4) in the ill-fated block was occupied by Webb Brothers Meat Market. They too had no insurance and came out with a loss of $300. They opened up the next morning in the old Ball stand on Public Square.

 The fire was fortunately extinguished before it reached the adjoining brick wall of the Post Office or other buildings in the nearby vicinity.

I mentioned the Sevier Theatre. It was located at 113-17 Spring Street. It too met with a damaging fire in the 1960's and was razed… but that is another story. 

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In mid-summer of 1891, Johnson City received a new much-needed water works system, which was long overdue that covered all parts of the growing city. For their faithful and untiring efforts in the construction of the new plant, the Watauga Water Company deserved the highest compliment.

Although time was limited and the city was hindered by injunctions and other obstacles, they fabricated the reservoir and put in an entire system of piping within less than two months. This was a significant undertaking that included more than four miles of main piping that extended from the mountains to the furnace and distributed to 13 miles of branch piping.

Although the targeted time established for the completion of the new venture was July 1, 1891, water began flowing into the distribution pipes on June 27, five days early. This beat the record on any other enterprise that has been undertaken in Johnson City. The Watauga Water Company, instead of asking for an extension, impressively fought obstacles and pushed the work to completion even before the appointed time.

There was hardly a person in the city who thought they could accomplish the undertaking so quickly. In fact, there were some individuals who, before the work began, were disposed to believe that the chosen company was not large enough for the task. But despite the beliefs of such individuals, the clear freestone springs of Buffalo Mountain took their rise in the midst of all the city's activity and the city continued to advance toward certain splendors of its future.

With the opening of the city water system came the great steel plant, the Carnegie Hotel, the completion of the Electric Light Plant, the Carnegie Iron Furnace, the JC&C Railroad, the Electric Street Railway and many other accomplishments significant to the city's expectations.

Numerous Newspaper Ads from 1891 

On the day of water flow, a newspaper reporter along with representatives of the Watauga Water Company and several gentlemen of the city, including members of the Board of Aldermen, traveled over a portion of the grounds for the purpose of inspecting the new hydrants.

Four carriages were dispatched to escort the party to the highest points traversed by the system. The hydrants were opened and, in every case, a large volume of water was forced out in a most satisfactory manner. One individual, a Mr. Boardman, tried to secure hose with which to make further tests, but was unable to get it so quickly.

There was, however, every indication from the pressure displayed through the hydrants that by means of hose, the water could be carried with great efficiency to the top of the highest buildings in the city, thus insuring protection against a fire that no chemical engine could provide.

All members of the party expressed themselves as being perfectly satisfied with the operations as they had observed them. The water came out in a great stream and with such force that it tore the ground up where it struck. There could be no doubt that Johnson City had as good a system of waterworks as could be found in the South, one that would address all its purposes for years to come.

The city's water works was not a trivial thing for a growing city; this fact was proven by all the recent buildings that had been constructed. Johnson City's old frame buildings slowly gave way to substantial brick structures. The pioneer garb of the city had been tossed aside. As purely as time passed, the city advance. Four years wrought significant wonders in the beautiful valley and it is still beautiful.

The Watauga Water Company proved itself worthy and received the confidence of the citizens. The eyes of the blind had been opened, and the incredulous mortals of Johnson City, many of whom had dreamed for years beneath the shadows of the great ore belt, were now awaked to the reality of what was going on around them.

The city was entering the march of progress and would be on top down the road when it reached a population of 25,000.   

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Municipal quarrels are a thing of modern day and long-ago; only the magnitude of the dollar amount has changed. In April 1897, a local newspaper, The Staff, contained an inflammatory editorial:

“The people of Johnson City are all poor and they know it. They also know that much of the vaunted wealth of Jonesboro has been created by litigation and other business ventures originating in Johnson City. For instance, an unjust system of taxation levies a tribute of $2.50 on every taxpayer in Johnson City, while it charges only $.85 on the taxpayers of Jonesboro.”

The publication noted that those were actual facts and that the citizens living outside of Jonesboro would do well to ponder them in order that they may see which of these towns had more than borne its fair share of taxation. They would then realize that one town had grown rich at the expense of the balance of the county.

The editorial challenged the newspaper to point out how, why and wherein the litigation originating in Johnson City had added so much to the wealth of Jonesboro. Also, they wondered why the taxpayers of Johnson City would allow this injustice to continue without an inquisition. The Staff's clipping very likely grabbed their attention.

Southern Railway Train Schedule in 1897

“If our contemporaries do not know how much Johnson City contributes to and receives from the school fund,” it stated, “they have an easy way of finding out. The fact of the matter is, many of them don't want to know, as the publication of these statistics for the Ninth and Fifteenth Districts would make such an loathsome comparison that the people outside of these two districts would open their eyes in astonishment.”

They did not report how much Johnson City contributed to the school fund, but to set the minds of those who wished to know, they gave a few figures on the subject. Looking at 1896 figures, for instance, it revealed that the assessment for school purposes in Jonesboro's Ninth Civil District was $3,821.12; however that district received from the school fund $4,134.70, thus showing that the district received $313.58 more than they were assessed.

But this was not all. It was a well-known fact that the Ninth District was delinquent in about $1,000 for the year on their assessment for school purposes.

In Johnson City's Fifteenth District, the assessment for schools was $1,215.87 and received from the school fund $1144,81 or $71.06 less than paid. 

The Jonesboro magistrates' proposition was to build two county roads, one from Fall Branch to Jonesboro and the other from Boon's Creek to Jonesboro, which was labeled as “a sublime spectacle of unmitigated gall.”

Typical Johnson City Advertisements from 1897

The Magistrates of Jonesboro were not alone in their desire to have good roads in the county. Any student would readily tell The Staff that they alone could not build roads to or from any points in the county. It was the duty of the magistrates of the county to provide this service for all the people and common sense dictated that the proper thing was to first build them to the county seat, which was where citizens frequently traveled.

Of course, it would not be a “sublime spectacle of unmitigated gall” for the magistrates of Johnson City to propose to build a road from their city to Fall Branch or Boon's Creek. That would be acceptable and full of wisdom and justice to the people of the county.

The paper daringly stated that the insinuation that Jonesboro was jealous of Johnson City was without foundation; in fact, it maintained that the people of Jonesboro would rejoice to see Johnson City prosper. However, they did not propose that the county build up the town at the expense of the remainder of the district.

We can only speculate how long the $313.58 dispute lasted. 

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Just minutes prior to midnight on May 2, 1905, a devastating fire struck Johnson City's downtown business district, resulting in considerable property damage. In today's feature, I will take readers on a time machine journey back to that evening to see exactly where the fire was located and the degree of damage it inflicted.

I haven't utilized my Yesteryear Time Machine in a while so let's climb aboard while I program it to take us to E. Main and Spring streets on that day at 11:45 p.m. In an instant, we arrive at our destination. The peaceful, sleepy town offers no hint of any problems. The only visible inhabitant is a policeman, Isaac M. Wilson, making the rounds on his beat. As he strolls east on E. Main, he suddenly pauses in front of Charles E. Cargille's Photo Gallery at 212 E. Main and stares through the window.

Mr. Wilson spotted a fire in the establishment and immediately ran to the fire department, which was located at 142 E. Market (directly in front of the future site of the John Sevier Hotel).

While fire fighters were being notified and making preparations to battle the blaze, it grew in intensity at Cargille's, spreading with ease into adjacent buildings. Some firemen believed it started with the photo gallery, while others were certain it began in the nearby Christian Church.

The rear portion and second floor of the gallery were totally destroyed. The law office of Harr & Burrow (210 E. Main) and front of the dental office of Dr. Samuel A. Bowman were gutted, but nearly all of the contents were saved.

The City National Bank (214 E. Main) was badly damaged in the rear of the building, while the main office in front received only slight damage, almost entirely from water.

Water destroyed McCartt's Grocery Store, and the double storeroom occupied by Armbrust-Smith Co. (204 E. Main), while not so badly damaged by fire, smoke and water essentially ruined the large stock of furniture, carpets, etc.

The Christian Church burned to the ground with only a few pieces of furniture saved. It was described as being the prettiest church buildings in the city and was, regrettably, only partially insured. The Lotspeich frame building occupied by Hugh F. Webb, who sold produce, suffered minor damage, but the owner lost out several hundred dollars because he was uninsured.

A small building occupied by A.U. Bullock was destroyed but the contents were saved. The Adams Building, containing the William M. Silver Co. jewelry store at 220 E. Main, was totally demolished but the contents were spared.

Without question, Cargille's Photo Gallery and the Christian Church sustained the greatest loss by being only partially insured. Other businesses, except for Webb, were insured.

By constant, rapid application of energy and water, the fire brigade eventually extinguished the flames but not before it did significant destruction to the block.

The major factor that likely kept the entire town from going up in smoke was a shift in the wind away from the heart of the business district. Also, the Standard Oak Veneer Co. and the Watauga Tannery each willingly and promptly brought their fire hoses to the scene, which were credited for keeping the fire from spreading to other buildings on E. Main Street.

In addition to the businesses mentioned, further destruction was noted to the M.E. Church, five offices, one jeweler, six grocery stores, a tailor shop, a bank, two drug stores, a printing company, a saloon, a millinery shop, the Planing Mill & Pin Factory, two lumber sheds and several empty or partially empty storage buildings. Numerous undeveloped lots on the block aided in keeping the fire from spreading.

The Little White Baptist Church Sat Back Off the Road on the Vacant Lot on the Left

A third church, the First Baptist Church, known affectionately as “The Little White Church,” escaped the inferno with essentially no damage, even though it was fabricated entirely of wood. Although the fire stayed confined within E. Main, S. Roan, Jobe and Spring streets, it brought about some changes to nearby properties.

The Jobe heirs immediately remodeled the building on the corner of Main and Spring Street. The frame buildings fronting on Spring street were razed and a storeroom erected that extended to the rear of the Summers-Parrott Hardware Co. and was used by this firm after completion. The Opera House on Spring Street, a long standing entertainment venue, was abandoned and the second floor of that building converted into offices. The city believed these improvements would add much to the attractiveness and rental value of the property.

In the ensuing days after the fire, someone, known only by the initials, A.U.H., composed a poem to thank those volunteers who risked their lives to extinguish the fire: “T-o-o-o-o-t, toot, toot, toot, Lucreti calls out in the night, First Ward, hurry, get into your suit, You're wanted, the ends in sight.

“Already the flames burst forth into view, The second building now is caught: The whole street may go, all depends on you; There's danger, but stop not for aught.

“Not hose enough? Quickly more they procure; Lookout, now, that plaster falls there! The air here is stifling, no life is secure. Down, down, here's a strata of air.

“No danger too great, no risk too intense, To fight the fire fiend in his lair; His fierce leaping flames with power immense, Are mat and fought inch by inch there.

“How welcome the rain, with such timely aid, Now rally for one long, last fight; 'Tis under control the bright flames are laid, The danger is o'er for the night.

“Repay them? No, never! I 'Tis true you might. For time, pay each man by the hour, But bravery, heroic, as shown on this night, No money can pay, nor the power.

“Of mind over danger; but thus we can show. We appreciate all they have done. Our brave volunteers who fought the fierce foe. And conquered, thus saving the town.”

Cargille's Was Forced to Seek a Temporary Business Site Until They Could Rebuild

The morning after the fire, H.D. Gump collected from the town merchants $79 to be divided among the “fire laddies” for their good and faithful work while extinguishing the  blaze. Donations were as follows:

Gump Bros., $2; Frank Taylor, $2; Summers-Parrott Hardware Co., $2; H.W. Lyle, $1; Unaka National Bank, $2. Hart & Houston, $1; Patton Drug Co., $2; J.W. Cass, $1; T.J. Galloway, $1; Worley & Brown, $1; City National, $2; J.M. Buck, $1; Tennessee Furniture & Supply Co., $2; J.A. Martin, $2; Wm. G.W. Mathes, $2; Miss Hardy, $1; H.W. Pardue, $1; J.W. Crumley, $.50; R.L. Mann, $1; Charles Hannah, $1; Charles Cargille, $1; Isaac Harr, $10; Armbrust-Smith & Co., $10; H.L. Maller, $5; C.N. Brown, $3; City Drug Co., $2; Wofford Bros., $2; Ward & Friburg, $2, J.R. Whisman & Co., $2; R.C. Hunter, $2; J.H. Snow, $1; Samuel Cole Williams, $2; M.I. Gump, $2; I.N. Beckner, $.50; Barton-Nichols Hardware Co., $2; William Silver, $2; F.B. St. John, $1 and F.W. Dulaney, $1.

Other firemen received $5.72 each, except for the latter two who received half that amount: Marion Wilson, Charles Feldy, Charles Chinowth, Will Owens, Bob Owens, Andy Lusk, George Orr, Walt Moore, William McCormick, John Perkins, M.F. Crumley, J.T. Hilton, John Chenowth, Charles Moore and William Holmes.

The Armbrust-Smith Furniture Company Received Extensive Damage

The fire, which brought dismay to several shop owners, had a positive aspect to it. The block was cleared and later became an asset to Johnson City with specialty shops that were more consistent with others.

With that said, we have learned much about this troubling fire of yesteryear, so let's climb back into our time machine and travel forward to the present. I will discuss the improvements to the block in a future column.

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The late Sue Carr Eckstein, daughter of Paul Carr, co-owner of Carr Brothers, Inc., once shared her father's massive scrapbook with me. One local undated Johnson City Chronicle article dealt with the passing of former Johnson City mayor, William J. Barton, who I have written about several times over the years.

According to Ray Stahl's book, Greater Johnson City- A Pictorial History, 1983, he served the office from 1927-29. A 1928 City Director reveals that he was president of Barton Implement and Feed Company, located on Buffalo at Cherry. At one time, he was affiliated with Summers, Barton & Parrott Hardware, residing at 309 E. Unaka.

When the former mayor died, Robert King, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, conducted the services, which were held at the residence. Interment was held at the Lyle-Barton Cemetery near the old Barton farm on the Jonesborough Highway.

The services, simple yet impressive, were conducted in the presence of several hundred friends of Mr. Barton, many of whom has been closely acquainted with him for many years. Scores of beautiful floral offerings were banked about the bier and were evidence of the high esteem in which the deceased was held by the people of this city.

Rev. King read several scripture sections and prayers were offered by Rev. John Martin, superintendent of the Home Missions of the Holston Presbytery, and Frank Sells.

Miss Rhea Hunter sang, “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” a favorite selection of the deceased; She was accompanied at the piano by Miss Mary Lou Lyle.

During that Monday afternoon, all municipal offices were closed in memory of Mr. Barton and practically all city employees were in attendance at the funeral services. Pallbearers were Leland Cardwell, James A. Summers, Frank Lyle, Charles Lyle, Robert Lyle and Joe Lyle.

Flower bearers included Frances Beckner, Mrs. Paul Wofford, Mrs. J.G. Moss, Mrs. H.L. Moore, Mrs. Margaret Wylie, Mrs. H. Cass, Misses Eva Lyle and Mrs. H. Hancock.

Mr. Barton, who was 75 years of age, had been a leader in civic and community matters for many years. Coming to Johnson City from Knoxville when still a young man, he immediately engaged in business and successfully operated hardware and implement houses for a long period of time.

Having also engaged in farming, Mr. Barton was at all times a friend to residents of the rural sections and throughout his life he was a promoter of good roads and was largely responsible for securing better roads and highways.

Mr. Barton was a lifelong member of the Democratic Party and took much interest in its affairs. He was elected mayor of Johnson City in June 1927. While serving as Mayor until 1929, he also served as city judge. It was noted that Mr. Barton's administration was one of the most successful, from the standpoint of the taxpayer, in the city's history.

While Mayor, Barton began a program which called for the erection of four new schools, additions to two or three others, three new fire department stations, including a central headquarters, as well as many other improvements.

The mayor was also instrumental in the enlargement of the fire department and it was during his administration that two new engines were purchased.

Johnson City Newspaper Article Denotes Large Court That Came Before Judge Barton

During Barton's two years as judge, he collected more than $55,000 from law violators in Johnson City and established a figure which had never been equaled before. He was known to be stern, yet fair to everyone.

Surviving were his widow and a daughter, Louise Barton and eight children by a former marriage; John, David, William J. and Jr.

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May 1904 saw Johnson City looking “pretty,” according to the local newspaper. This was four years before the downtown streets were paved. “How pretty the town looks,” it said, ” in its robe of green trimmed with roses and other flowers. The new sidewalks are a great improvement, too. Let us hope they will be built to stand the stress of harsh weather and pedestrian's feet.

“There could be an improvement in keeping the sidewalks clean on Main Street. The present fashion of dress for ladies necessitates so much street sweeping that it would be well if the biggest dirt were taken off before they begin. Surely the town is growing in the right direction. Pleasant homes are the foundation of all improvements, and there are many such here.

“Looking back 14 years to boom times and one sees green lots with trees and flowers where there were once only fresh beds of red clay. We are not yet out of the mud entirely but we hope to be soon.”

The newspaper noted that if the work done with board money was to be conscientiously done, the city could indeed rejoice. The call was for the town to be a good one where people enjoyed coming and which invited the best in a manner to compel them to return.

It was speculated that excursions that brought people to the city for a visit included those who might be looking for a nice place to call home. Therefore, the residents wanted to be able to impress strangers so favorably that they would return again and again, with some of them eventually settling in Johnson City. The best recipe for a successful town was defined as having clean streets, good sidewalks, pretty yards, bountiful trees, flowers and vines.

“By the way, where is that new opera house?,” asked The Comet. “Please hurry it up. The old one has not grown with the town. There has been a reduction of young boys loitering on the streets, but there is need for more improvement. Let them play and have good times but they also need some meaningful work of some kind to do.”

“As to schools,” the publication said, “you may find much to better. The standard should be raised, but when you look back, well, we don't feel too much of a grumble. The town is improving and all must help it. What can you do for your part?”

Other news in the paper that day included:

Foy W. Dulaney, H.C. Miller, George T. Wofford and H.D. Gump represented Johnson City at the Lodge of Elks at Chattanooga this week.”

“James A. Summers made a business trip to North Carolina this week in the interest of the hardware firm of Summers, Barton & Parrott.”

“Rev. Earnest Caldwell, who just returned from China as a missionary, was scheduled to preach at the M.E. Church that next Sabbath morning. He has recently returned from China as a missionary.”

“John Dosser is back from Jonesboro and on duty again at the Patton Drug Co.”

“The Johnson City and Bristol baseball teams will play ball Saturday afternoon at West End Park. The game will be called at 3:30 and the indications are that it will be an interesting contest.”

“Examinations for applicants for positions in the city schools will be held in the Science Hill School building beginning on Monday morning, May 30, 1904, at 8:30.

“P.M. Ward and the other boys, Oran Ward and Raymond Cure went fishing last week up Indian Greek near the Fish Hatchery. They camped out, sleeping in the wagon and catching fish for their breakfast and report a jolly time.”

“'Robin's Roost' has been purchased from Honorable Alfred A. Taylor by Col. W.E. Burbage. Taylor has moved his family to his Chucky Valley farm and given possession of the city property to the purchaser who will move his family into it at once.”

“Austin Springs, hotel will be opened June 1st with a grand ball and many invitations have been issued. There will be an afternoon concert from 2:30 to 4:80 p.m. by the Soldiers' Home band with dancing and refreshments in the evening.”

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Ms. Cecile Mettetal McQueen sent me a letter containing a March 1978 newspaper clipping written by former Johnson City Press-Chronicle writer, Dorothy Hamill. The article dealt with Ms. McQueen's grandfather, Ray Albert Mettetal, who with his wife, Gwendolyn, resided at 1301 E. Holston in Johnson City.

The elder Mettetal was the father of Dr. Ray Wallace Mettetal who practiced in Johnson City for many years and who was my family's primary physician and a good one I might add. He worked U.S. Mail, RFD Route 4 from 1917 until 1949. Initially,he rode a horse carrying the mail in saddlebags, riding over bumpy roads and experiencing a diversity of weather conditions. Later, he purchased a one-horse mail wagon from Ohio, which he used for several years before acquiring an automobile. In those days, carriers had to provide their own transportation, including horses.

Mettetal's first year of work encountered the worst winter ever recorded in the area. One morning, his red bay horse was completely frosted over and was as white as cotton. Ray was so cold he put his gloves over his face and attempted to thaw his frozen eyelashes with his breathe. He later learned that it was 23 degrees below zero that morning.

The body of the mail wagon was metal and originally painted green. The top and sides were canvas so they could be rolled up or lowered depending on the weather. It had glass side windows and a removable windshield. On the sides of the vehicle were the letters: “U.S. Mail, R.F.D.” 

Albert's route included Princeton, lower Knob Creek, Austin Springs, Watauga Flats and Piney Grove, a distance of 27.5 miles over crude roads that consisted of mostly cow paths and mud. Later his route was expanded to 40 miles after he purchased a Ford automobile.

Ray would rise about four a.m. to get ready for his route. When he began using the mail wagon, he kept two horses and usually rotated them. His days were often long such that he would not return home until eight or nine o'clock in the evening, which prevented him from seeing his son until Sundays. “I saw more of the people on my route,” he often said, “than I did my own family”

In all the years Ray traveled that route, he came to know the people well by carrying them medicine, notifying them when their cattle got out, handing out candy to the youngsters and other services. He could even tell you what the families on his route planted in the fields. 

Ray, often told his family that people “killed me with kindness.” On hot days, he might find slices of cake and a tall glass of cold milk waiting for him in the mail box. In cold weather, he might discover a note inviting him to come in the house and help himself to a bowl of hot soup.

Of all the many experiences of those 32 years, none were more unusual than the time he was called upon to play Cupid. One morning, a man came out to his mailbox and asked Ray he would help him find a woman. Knowing that the man's wife had passed away some time back, Mettetal assumed that he wanted a housekeeper.

Ray asked the man, “What would you be willing to pay her?” “Pay her?” exclaimed his friend. “I want you to find me a wife.” Ray responded with a grin and rode off determined to help the hapless fellow. On that same day, a lady came to the mailbox with some mail and began talking to him.

Ray learned that she was poor, a widow and had to work for a living. Ray told her about the man and asked if she was interested in meeting him. Her answer was a quick, “I am interested.” Ray saw them two days later together heading down the road … to get married.

After 32 years of faithfully delivering the mail, Ray A. Mettetal retired in 1949 due to health reasons. It was time to go to the house and let somebody else deliver the mail.

Cecile said the old mail wagon stood for years on her grandfather's farm, until it was later moved to her father's residence. It eventually ended up at her house. Time eventually took its toll on the old wagon, including a tree that fell on it, heavily damaging it. Even though it is beyond restoration, she cannot bring herself to throw it away. It brings back so many memories for her.

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