Author Archives: carrollvanwest

Amis Farm: Gateway to the Southwest Frontier

When North Carolina Revolutionary War veteran Thomas Amis had his stone house built overlooking a creek in 1781-1782, he created a permanent crossroads in the history of the southeast and one of the first homes in wha the would become the State of Tennessee.

We are working with the family, who have maintained this place over two centuries, to study this place and the remarkable people who shaped its history. There’s more to come!

Palestine Church: 19th Century Landmark in Carroll County

Along an old dirt road a few miles west of Clarksburg is Palestine Church and Cemetery. The well-worn road, and the date of early cemetery markers, tell you here is a place dating to the first generation of white settlement, c. 1830-1840. The present church building probably dates to 1890s. I hope to start research in the spring to find out more.

I visited the place after residents reported that a new round of vandalism destroyed some of the historic pews and broke out several windows. Scenes of such stupid destruction are always upsetting.

Residents have made quick repairs but they also felt that more historical recognition would help. The building is not abandoned (it is used at funerals) and once repaired it can host many other events. It is a splendid piece of Tennessee rural church architecture.

The cemetery has wonderful variation in grave markers, from ornate Victorian designs to ones best classified as folk art. More of this important historic site in Carroll County after we complete more research.

Pleasant Garden Cemetery in Chattanooga: A forgotten landmark

Too many African American cemeteries are abandoned and forgotten. For over 50 years the Pleasant Garden Cemetery in Chattanooga has suffered that fate.

Established in 1890 as the city’s segregated cemetery for African Americans, the cemetery remains a powerful statement of how Jim Crow laws marginalized African American community institutes much as possible.

Yet the cemetery also shows African American pride and identity in important ways– the rural cemetery movement design of the place, the many evocative gravestones, and the many simply marked family plots. The time is now for this important place to be restored and its story told.

It is the least that should be done when here rests Ed Johnson, the victim of a 1906 lynching on the Walnut Street Bridge.

Telling the Whole Story in Franklin

The McLemore House, dating c. 1880,  in the Historic African American neighborhood of Hard Bargain, tells how freed African Americans helped to build a new Franklin after the Civil War.


New exhibits prepared with the support of the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area tell Harvey’s amazing journey from slavery to freedom along with the impact his family had on Franklin for generations.


The McLemore House is a crucial addition to Franklin’s heritage tourism as it addresses people and stories too long ignored.

Allen-White High School and a community’s revival 

Dating to 1919 the Allen-White School in Whiteville was the first brick Rosenwald school in Tennessee plus local African Americans in Hardeman County raised the most money for the school than any other similar community in the state during the Rosenwald school building campaign.


In 2012 vandals burned the school just as its restoration was not underway. This act of hatred did not stop the community. Last week at the historic ElCanaan Baptist Church local leaders and members of the Tennessee General Assembly met to celebrate the beginning of a new campaign to restore the school as a community cultural center, thus restoring this rural community too.

Chattanooga’s Lincoln Park

Last month I had the privilege of visiting one of Chattanooga’s historic African American neighborhoods, Lincoln Park. Nestled between the historic Norfolk and Western rail yards and Erlanger Hospital and the university of Tennessee, Chattanooga, the neighbors has a range of late 19th to mid-20th century homes.

   

 As we work with the neighborhood on its history, we will undoubtedly learn more about the homes and residents.

   The centerpiece is Lincoln Park built as a segregated-black public park in 1918. Here is where Negro League games were played well into the mid-20th century.

   
 This place is important to Chattanooga’s history as well as the history of pro sports in Tennessee. I can’t wait to learn more.

Tennessee’s Northeast Corner: Mountain City

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Mountain City, the seat of Johnson County, is located in the northeast corner of Tennessee. Its history dates well into the nineteenth century but much of what you encounter there today dates from the 20th century, representing a blend of modernism, like the late 1950s Johnson County Courthouse above, and various revival styles, such as the Gothic Revival church below.
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When I visited in June 2014 it had been years since visiting Mountain City. One welcome addition was a new community welcome center/history museum, which serves as a gateway to the county’s significant stories.
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Another pleasant surprise was the continued survival of the National Youth Administration-constructed industrial shop at the old high school (which has since become an annex for government offices, an excellent adaptive reuse.
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The mid-nineteenth century landmark R.R. Butler House remained in excellent condition as well–no better sign of the town’s pretensions and hopes for the post Civil War era in Tennessee history.
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