The Way We Worked Smithsonian Exhibit in Cowan TN
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Interesting tidbits about the history of Franklin County, compiled from the Franklin County Historical Review (FCHR) unless otherwise noted.

  • The first hydroelectric plant in Tennessee was built on the Elk River in 1901. The General Electric dynamo had a capacity of 100 kilowatts and furnished current for street lighting in the Winchester Taxing District. (Remnants of the plant, including the water gates, are visible from Highway 41A at Tims Ford Lake.) The Estill Springs Sand and Gravel Company employed local workers in the 1930s and 1940s, and produced concrete for Highway 41-A and Camp Forrest. New residents arrived in 1950 when Arnold Engineering Development Center was built on the Camp Forrest site. Tyson Foods Mill is a major employer today. (FCHR, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1987)

  • David Crockett married Polly Findley just before his 20th birthday in 1806. They rented a cabin and farmed in Franklin County, but he left home to fight the Creek nation in 1813, and enlisted in a Gulf-coast unit under Andrew Jackson in 1814. He joined troops including Chickasaw, Chocktaw, and Cherokee warriors fighting against the Creeks. Crockett’s young wife Polly died in 1815. He left the county in 1816 with his second wife, Elizabeth, whose former husband had been killed in the Creek war.
    (FCHR, Vol. 22, No. 1, 1992)

  • Author Samuel J. Kennerly, “Sam Tag,” was brought up on a 500-acre farm near Decherd, spending carefree days before the Civil War fishing in Elk River and hunting in Lost Cove.  As an adult in 1911 he published a memoir of his experiences from age 10 to 15, when two armies crossed and re-crossed Tennessee, from 1860 to 1865. Two brothers and three slaves figure prominently in his memories. His father, who owned a merchandise store, wagon factory and blacksmith shop, was a Union man and cast the only vote against secession in his precinct. (FCHR, Vol. 17, No. 2, 1986)

  • Elijah H. Ikard, captain of K Company, 32nd Infantry, enlisted a company of Decherd men to serve the Confederacy for one year. The former schoolmaster* was much admired, and his company was well supplied with gray uniforms and arms. (FCHR, Vols. 17, No. 2, and 18, No. 1, 1987)  *The namesake Ikard School was located in the Alto community between Decherd and Pelham.

  • In 1851 a huge mill on the Elk River at Estill Springs manufactured products from cotton, wool, hemp, and silk. The mill community included houses for workers and was called Alisonia Springs. The town name was changed to Estill Springs in 1854 and the first post office opened in 1860. The first public school opened in 1885. Mineral springs containing sulphur and chalybeate waters inspired spas and summer resorts; the largest of four hotels housed 150 visitors who came by train from Nashville and Memphis. Boating, tennis, riding, and dancing entertained summer guests prior to the automobile era. In 1890 the largest grain mill south of the Ohio River employed 75 men and could produce 2,500 barrels of flour per day. The mill burned in 1912 and Tims Ford Lake now covers the site. (FCHR, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1987)

  • Seven master masons petitioned to charter the first Franklin County Masonic Lodge in 1848. The Winchester No. 158 Lodge has met regularly ever since, except between 1862 and 1865. The Sewanee Lodge was organized in 1878 and at least four of Sewanee’s Vice Chancellors have been members. The Cowan Lodge was chartered in 1884. Both Estill Springs and Huntland were granted charters in 1892, as was Decherd in 1893. Masonry and other secret societies were most popular in the South after the Civil War. (FCHR, Vol. 17, No. 1, 1986)

  • An antebellum slave of the Coover/Townsend families called Doc Townsend went to Huntsville in 1864 when federal troops arrived to enlist and be recognized as a free citizen. After the Civil War he was educated as a minister and helped establish the Mount Zion Baptist Church. Townsend identified himself primarily as a school teacher; he taught sometimes as the only teacher of the Winchester Elementary School and undertook the raising of funds to erect a six-classroom school for Blacks, Townsend High School. Upon his death at age 82, having been married for 53 years, he was lauded for his long career of “usefulness, devotion, and service to his family, church, community, state, and country.” (FCHR, Vol. 17, No. 1, 1986)

  • Arthur Colyar was counsel for McGhee and Company, the Winchester firm that built the railroad from Cowan to Tracy City, 1852 to 1858. After the War Colyar became sole owner of the Sewanee Mining Company and became its president in 1866 when it was named the Tennessee Coal and Railroad Company.  He is credited with driving Nashville’s carpetbagger mayor, August Alden, out of Tennessee; his own attempt to become governor was not successful.

    His sister Martha Colyar was a proud graduate of the Winchester Female Academy. The word “obey” was omitted from her vows when she married Reed Roseboro in 1857, and she made sure she was known as Martha Colyar Roseboro rather than Mrs. Reed Roseboro. An indomitable emancipationist, she radicalized her husband’s Presbyterian sermons and insisted on a move to Missouri, where her husband enlisted as a Union chaplain (and was disowned by his family).  While visiting her brother in Cowan, she condemned his hiring convict labor for his mines, but she recorded an excited ride up Sewanee Mountain in a passenger car “clinging to a long empty coal train.” Martha returned to Franklin County in 1857 and became principal of a Shelbyville school. Her efforts to integrate Blacks into the school system created such turmoil that she returned to Missouri in 1869.
    Martha’s daughter Viola Roseboro attended Fairmount College* in then Moffat, later Moffat Station, later Mont Eagle, now Monteagle. An actress, freelance writer, newspaper columnist, and fiction editor for McClure’s and Collier’s, she mentored the careers of O. Henry, Booth Tarkington, Willa Cather, Jack London among others, and had homes in New York and Florence, Italy. Her fiction features wartime Strathboro (Winchester) and outsiders in Southern mountain towns; one story depicts the rivalry between Decherd and Winchester. (FCHR, Vol. 17, No. 1, 1986) *The former campus of FairmountCollege is known today as DuBoseConferenceCenter.

  • The Tennessee Historical Society in Nashville possesses a letter written by the state’s Civil War Governor Isham G. Harris: from the “Executive Department, Nashville Tennessee, April 1 of 1861 … Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War, Washington D.C. … Sir … Your dispatch of 15th Inst. informing me that Tennessee is called upon for two Regiments of Militia for immediate services is received. Tennessee will not furnish a single man for purposes of coercion but 50,000 if necessary for the defense of our rights and those of our Southern brothers … Isham G. Harris, Governor of Tennessee.” The legislature did in fact pass an act to raise an army of 55,000 volunteers. The public approved secession from the Union on June 8; on July 22 Tennessee was the last of eleven states to join the Confederate States of America. Harris fled to Mexico and Liverpool to avoid assassination by the Union supporter who became Governor of Tennessee after the War. (FCHR, Vol. 16, No. 2, 1985)

  • In 1905, the Order of the Holy Cross (New York) opened the Saint Andrew’s Industrial School for Mountain Boys between Sewanee and Monteagle. The school was not intended for students who could afford to pay, but rather for the poor and isolated, maimed, orphaned, or those from broken homes. Within five years the student body numbered 40 and the school could no longer afford to provide clothing and shoes. But Christmas stockings for all were still stuffed—with tooth powder, harmonicas, and horns.  (FCHR, Vol. 16, No. 2, 1985)

  • In Franklin County, a number of schools of major importance did not survive the death of the visionaries who established them. All were in buildings of architectural importance, which were subsequently razed.
    The earliest girls’ school established in Winchester was the Winchester Female Academy, 1834. Later known as the Biddle School, Robert Donnell University, and Robert Donnell Institute, it closed about 1871.
    In November of 1809, the Tennessee legislature incorporated Carrick Academy, but before long turned over the appointing of trustees and financial responsibility to the County. Donations replaced a building destroyed by fire, and the large, new facility was used for 90 years. Education of men foundered during the War and was discontinued at its end. Bishop Quintard of Sewanee attempted to restore the school, but turned his interest to college preparatory education on the Mountain instead, in the desperate effort to open the University of the South before its pre-War charter might be revoked. Quintard returned the institute to the Carrick Trustees, but unused and unprotected, the buildings were soon damaged by vandalism. Rufus Anthony Clark succeeded in repairing damage and recruiting students, and in 1877 announced the decision to admit female students under the new title of Winchester Normal.
    Newcomer James Terrill proposed to develop Winchester Normal into a co-educational junior college, and women were to be prepared to teach school rather than given a classical education. His controversial leadership prevailed, and the student body numbered 430 when Terrill defected to open a rival teachers’ college in Decherd, in 1889, called Terrill College, which opened ambitiously but closed when he left the area in 1903. Winchester Normal offered preparation for B.A., B.S., and M.A. degrees to 310 students until 1909, when a legal suit and the advent of universal taxation for support of education diminished its financial support.

    Students at Winchester Normal published their opinions in newspaper format by 1883. The Normal Monitor was supported by area businesses, whose paid advertisements record 25 years of “how we worked” in Franklin County. Charmingly illustrated ads appear from several music stores offering pianos, organs, sheet music and instruction. Jewelry, doctors, hotels, alterations, boots and shoes, an art gallery, dentist, barber shop, plus furniture, groceries, and banks could all be found among the classified ads. A bakery, steam laundry, photographer, medicines, perfumery, sewing machines, liverymen, and passenger railroad service sought customers through the school paper. (FCHR Vol. 16, No. 1, 1985)

  • The famous schools in Winchester were not known to accept black students. By 1925 the Franklin County School Annual Report listed 14 schools for black children. A junior high and high school for black students did not open until 1927; the first black citizen graduated in 1934.  (FCHR Vol. 14, No. 2, 1983) 

    The following black schools operating in Franklin County in the early 1920's are as follows:

    Townsend (near downtown Winchester)
    Mingo (Broadview area)
    Bean's Creek (near Huntland)
    Center Point (Belvidere)
    Mt. Zion (Belvidere)
    Asia (north of Decherd)
    Thorogood (west side of Cowan)
    Estill Springs
    Prairie Chapel (Alto/Oak Grove area)

  • Winchester was not a typical, Southern Tennessee town in Victorian times—it provided resort amenities and private schooling for much of Tennessee and several adjoining states. (FCHR, Vol. 15, No. 2, 1984)

  • Agnes W. Pearson, school teacher of Cold Springs School – In the 1920s two boxcars fastened together in a T shape and painted red provided school space for the logging community in the mountains between Cowan and the Alabama line. Seasonal school programs were highlights of each year’s social life. Windows without glass had been cut into the walls; when these were shuttered for bad weather, the classroom was dark and the teacher had to draw on her supply of stories. Furniture was handmade or handed-down but included a pump organ. Ms. Pearson lived in the logging hotel during the week, and passed many evenings singing along with a piano, fiddle, and guitar. (FCHR Vol. 15, No. 2, 1984)

  • Mary Sharp College, opening in Winchester with 20 students in 1851, had the most ambitious curriculum for women in the country, requiring proficiency in Latin and Greek for the B.A. degree. Its published aims were “developing and unfolding all the qualities of (women’s) minds … making (a woman) a thinking, reflecting, reasoning being, capable of comparing and judging for herself and depending upon none other for her free unbiased opinions.” The students roomed in boarding houses; rose at 5 and went to bed at 10, and were not allowed to wear bangs or curl their hair. Religious and moral training were part of each school day.
    When Vassar College in New York was advertised as the pioneer college for women, President Graves of Mary Sharp College wrote indignantly to the Commissioner of Education in Washington to set the record right; and subsequent Vassar publications did acknowledge that Mary Sharp had established that record ten years prior. In 1862, the student body numbered 321; after the Civil War there were 91 students at college level and 77 in the preparatory department. The curriculum was similar to those at Brown University, University of Virginia, and Amherst. By the time the school closed in 1896 for lack of funds, it was considered equal to the best men’s and women’s schools in the country. (FCHR, Vol. 11, No. 1, 1980)

  • The waters of Estill Springs were analyzed by a chemist and found to include potassium, sodium, lithium, calcium, magnesium, bromine and other minerals sure to cure dyspepsia and indigestion, diarrhea, dysentery, jaundice, malarial poisons, rheumatism and hay fever. Bottles were shipped all over the country, three dozen pints to the case, for $4.00, by rail (with rebate for returned bottles). (FCHR Vol. 21, No. 1, 1990)

  • Work was begun in 1911 by Ross and Henry Hawkins to bring electricity and water to Cowan. A spring was purchased from their Aunt Kate Cowan, and a light plant built. Within a year the town was supplied with light poles, wires, indoor hot and cold water, bathrooms and a sewer system. The two enterprising brothers were also working on the railroad, so were relieved to sell their power and water interests to Southern City Power Company of Atlanta in 1915. (FCHR Vol. 21, No. 1, 1990)
    Sinking Cove, 11 miles SW of Sherwood did not receive electricity until 1951, and telephones in 1955. Gravel roads were paved in 1968. (FCHR, Vol. 13, No. 2, 1982.
    The Hawkins House, a remarkable carpenter-gothic cottage, was the first house in Cowan to receive electricity and indoor plumbing.

  • Yankee Private Charles D. Sherwood (1832-1895) was enchanted by south-central Tennessee and the Crow Creek Valley when he discovered them during the Civil War. The forests, potential for coal mining, the railway and tunnel brought him back after the War, and he founded the town of Sherwood in 1875. C.D. Sherwood for whom the town was named, was born in 1832 in Connecticut, was Lieutenant-Governor of Minnesota, and moved with a colony of settlers to Crow Creek Valley in 1875.
    An elegant hotel was built for customers who came to “take the waters.” A newspaper was established, and trails cleared for connection with the young university on Sewanee Mountain. However, it seems that the noise and pollution of the lime plant and railroad caused the young resort to flounder, and there are fewer inhabitants in the valley now than there were in the 19th century. (FCHR, Vol. 15, No. 2, 1984)

  • It is unlikely that anyone ever lived at Franklin County’s ghost town, Tantallon, two miles north of Sherwood, seven miles south of Cowan, but railroad workers were at the signaling station daily for 60 years to hand-throw switches for trains going up and coming down the steepest part of the mountain track, to divert runaway trains into the cornfield. Tantallon was connected to Cowan by telegraph.  (FCHR, Vol. 15, No. 2, 1984)

    The name Tantallon refers to a historic castle in Scotland.  A Scots immigrant was documented among the Irish railroad workers who helped build the nearby Cumberland Mountain Tunnel. 

  • Though no examples remain, Franklin County was the site of a number of impressive circular barns. Fred Gugleman, a carpenter who lived in Winchester, brought round-barn plans from the North around 1900, perhaps from Pennsylvania Shaker tradition, and constructed a significant one on John Kurt’s farm near Belvidere. Swiss immigrants built eight more nearby, the last of which was lost in a fire in 1978. (FCHR, Vol. 15, No. 2, 1984)

  • A study of “how we worked” would be incomplete without mentioning coverlets and blankets made in Franklin County in the 19th century. Sheep were raised and sheared locally, and the wool combined with cotton and spun into thread. A few cherished copies of John Hargrove’s Weaver’s Draft Book of 1792 and similar books preserved patterns inherited from England and Ireland. Dyes were made from trees, berries, and plants of the area. (FCHR Vol. 14, No. 2, 1983)

  • General Edmund Kirby Smith believed that the South had become a separate nation, with George Washington’s image on its seal and July 4th its national holiday, so that resistance to authority from the North constituted revolution (legal), not rebellion (dishonorable). He believed the South was being invaded by “northern hordes who would deprive us of our liberty, that they may enjoy our substance” and did not doubt the South’s ability to preserve itself, until August of 1864. In charge of volunteer regiments from the South, he described middle Tennessee soldiers as good rifle shots but intractable soldiers … and east Tennessee soldiers as disloyal to the core. The independent people of the mountains had no sympathy for plantation society. Painfully aware of the military significance of the Cowan tunnel, he ordered it and the Elk River bridge to be destroyed (which did not happen). Kirby Smith delayed surrendering his post until after Robert E. Lee surrendered; he exiled himself to Cuba and finally took an oath of amnesty in Virginia in 1865. (FCHR Vol. 24, No. 1, 1993)

  • The Winchester Courthouse Square was the scene of a murder in September of 1902. Sherman Robinson, editor of one of the town’s two newspapers, The News Journal, was fatally shot by George Banks, a local attorney. Though they were fraternal brothers of the same Masonic lodge, their opposing political views caused dissension and led to violence. Mrs. Robinson, left without income and with five infant children (one was 10 days old) sued Banks and received $2650 in 1904. Banks was active in many efforts to benefit Franklin County and Winchester, was a County Judge, and was elected to the State Senate from Franklin County in 1908. (FCHR, Vol. 24, No. 1, 1993)

  • Franklin County considered itself frontier rather than plantation country, but according to the 1860 census, most of its 3,600 black residents were slaves. White inhabitants that year numbered 10,000. Most white families held relatively few slaves (5 – 10) and worked with them in fields and homes. Three families—the Embreys, Keiths, and Fitzpatricks—were among the larger slaveholders with around 30. (FCHR Vol. 24, No. 1, 1993)

  • The Franklin County Census of 1850 reports how people made a living, their education, and their longevity. By order from most to least, primary occupations were as follows: Farmer, blacksmith, laborer, merchant, carpenter, wagonmaker, minister, teacher, physician, hatter, cabinetmaker, lawyer, miller … and the end of the list includes one of each: architect, sheriff, druggist, tinsmith, postmaster, silver plater, court clerk. There were 29 people in the county older than 80. Seniors in high school, 135 boys and 91 girls; seniors in college, 20 boys and 5 girls. Of the 10,130 residents of the county that year, 188 had been born in Ireland and worked on track and tunnel crews. (FCHR, vol. 11, No. 2, 1980)

  • The Tennessee Legislature enacted the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad in 1845 and construction on the tunnel was well along before work on rails began. The tunnel and the rail to Nashville were complete when the first Cowan Depot was erected in 1852. After the War, the line was renamed the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railroad. As freight cars became larger, the tunnel had to be bored out, and the roof and eaves of the Depot cut back (1960). The Cowan Beautification Commission purchased the exising Depot (built in 1904) from the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, and moved it in 1976 across and farther from the rails, for use as a Museum.
    Additional locomotives called pushers were and still are employed to push heavy trains up the steep grade in the tunnel. Trains continue to shake the Mountain; residents of Sherwood Road near Sewanee both hear the horns and feel the vibrations for several minutes as trains pass below. (FCHR, Vol. 11, No. 2, 1980)

  • The Mountain Goat branch line ascending the mountain to Tracy City and crossed above the mainline rail as the mainline entered the tunnel bound for Sherwood.  It was built in the 1850s by the Sewanee Mining Company to haul coal but also functioned as a passenger train to transport students and summer visitors to the Mountain. Passengers might have to wait 2 – 5 hours at the depot, might have to pick blackberries when the train jumped the track, and generally rode with their luggage and umbrellas atop the coal cars. (FCHR Vol. 11, No. 2, 1980)

    In later years trains were more refined.  Though still very slow, there were 8 regularly scheduled passenger trains each way connecting Cowan and Tracy City every day except Sunday.

  • Falls Mill on Factory Creek was built in 1873 to manufacture woolen fabric and coarse cotton, on the site of an earlier mill that had burned. The bricks were made locally, and the beams fastened with wooden pegs. Women comprised the labor force, and the mill operated 24 hours a day. It was vacated between 1896 and 1903 and opened again to manufacture cotton until 1942. A retired Army officer, W.W. Crum, bought the mill in 1970 and installed a metal water wheel that creates 100 horsepower to turn the 42-inch grinding stones. Working 8 hours per day, the mill produces 8,000 pounds of meal or 12 barrels of flour. The historic water-driven mill attracts tourists as well as produces flour and meal for sale. (FCHR, Vol. 20, No. 2, 1989)

  • In Romanesque Revival Scottish style, Arthur Handly Marks built Hundred Oaks estate at Oak Street and Highway 64 in Winchester, beginning in 1889. The architect was Samuel Patton of Chattanooga. The grand 3-story red brick building featured dormers, a second story arcade or loggia, slate roof, stepped gables, carriage house, and a porte-cochere, all fit for the grandest of castles on the Rhine River. Included were a two-story chapel or ballroom and exterior dairy and laundry.
    From 1901 to 1955 the complex was owned by Roman Catholic Paulist Fathers for their religious activities and missionary work with protestants. (FCHR, Vol. 22, No. 2, 1989)  The castle was partially destroyed by fire in 1990.  The surviving remnants are well preserved and still listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Crimson Clover, the “Crimson Mortgage Lifter,” colored Franklin County pink from the First World War until the 1950s. When French seed was unavailable during that war, Franklin County shipped seed all over the country and the world. It is a winter pasture crop that fattens stock and increases milk production in dairy cows; it prevents soil erosion; it renews the soil when crops are rotated. The Crimson Clover Festival began in the 1930s, with a Queen of Crimson Clover and her court of attendants, farm tours, a parade, choruses, speakers, square dancing and a barbecue dinner. Gov. Gordon  Browning attended the parade in 1938 and National Geographic printed a story. Some years the Sewanee Military Academy Band marched and played, and an agricultural drama was accompanied by the high school orchestra. In 1950, 9,000 viewers lined the streets to admire 70 floats go by; the Sheriff boasted that 20,000 people had seen the parade on its 14-mile route from Winchester to Cowan to Decherd.
    In 1951 there were 100 floats and five bands, all sorts of state-fair-type contests (horse pulling, log chopping) and an elaborate pageant portraying American and County history with 300 actors and actresses. The greatest celebration of all in 1953 featured a Marine color guard and Air Force ROTC band from Sewanee, 300 farm tours, and the Queen of Crimson Clover Ellen Zimmerman was crowned by State Commissioner of Agriculture Buford Ellington. As other crops were introduced and livestock needed fields, clover production diminished, and 1954 was the final festival. (FCHR, Vol. 9, No. 2, 1978)

  • William Gorgas moved to Sewanee in 1869 when he was 14, when his father, Confederate Gen. Josiah Gorgas, became superintendent of the college’s Junior Department that later became the Sewanee Military Academy. Josiah later became the second Vice Chancellor of the college. William graduated from Sewanee Military Academy and the University of the South. As a freshman he joined three other students to volunteer in New Orleans during a Yellow Fever epidemic that killed 500 persons, including two of those fellow students. William earned a medical degree and entered the Army Medical Corps in 1880, attaining the rank of Surgeon General of the Army.
    William in time became the medical administrator who defeated mosquitoes on the Isthmus of Panama, making construction of the Panama Canal possible. Prior to him, the French had lost 23,000 workers to Yellow Fever transmitted by mosquitoes, causing them to abandon work on the canal. Because of his success in eradicating Yellow Fever and Malaria in the American South, Cuba, and Panama, William was knighted on his deathbed in England by King George V. His body was honored in services at St. Paul’s Cathedral and sent home for burial in Arlington National Cemetery. (FCHR, Vol. 9, No. 2, 1978)

  • On Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1922, all University of the South offices were closed and classes dismissed so that the community could gather at University View to carry stone, clean underbrush, and begin digging the foundation for the War Memorial Cross, to honor town and area men who served in the Great War. The University contributed materials, and local workmen contributed labor; Thomas Hamilton was in charge of construction. In June, 1923, the 55-foot sandstone cross, now covered with concrete plaster, was dedicated. Funds generated by sales of the Sewanee Cookbook eventually paid for lighting the Cross at night. In 1982 plaques were added honoring those who served in World War II, the Korean War, and Viet Nam. (FCHR Vol. 13, No. 2, 1982) A plaque has subsequently been added in the paving at the foot of the Cross commemorating those who served in the Gulf and Iraq wars. The site continues to be cherished from the Cowan valley, by those who come to sit and be quiet and enjoy the view, and by hikers on the University’s Perimeter Trail who trek across beneath it. (FCHR, Vol. 13, No. 2, 1982)

  • We tend to forget that Franklin County was the home of soldiers who fought in the American Revolution and their widows. In the 1830s, a group of 62 veterans and 25 widows applied at the Winchester Courthouse for pensions from the U.S. government. These records document that most of their families had migrated from North Carolina and Virginia to Tennessee. The applicants had to convince examiners of their service by describing battles and marches and providing names of officers and fellow soldiers. Widows had to prove marriage dates; some tore the wedding records out of family Bibles and mailed them to Washington. Some files include letters from family members; Mary Sharp wrote a letter in support of her father’s claim. (FCHR, Vol. 13, No. 2, 1982)

  • At the request of Bishop Quintard of Tennessee, the Episcopal Sisters of the Order of St. Mary’s came to Franklin County in 1888, to serve isolated families on the Mountain and in the coves and valleys. Beginning in 1903 the sisters published a newsletter which records their work and friendships with area families. (FCHR, Vol. 13, No. 2, 1982)  Prior to their move to Sewanee, the order was located in Memphis.  Four of the sisters died while caring for victims of the yellow fever epidemic that struck Memphis in 1878.  These four sisters are known throughout the world as the "Martyrs of Memphis".

  • Sarah Barnwell Elliott, called Sada, was born near Macon, GA, in 1848, where her father had established a college for women in 1842. Her father Stephen Elliott was a priest, became a bishop, and espoused the concept of “gradualism”—a system of gradual freedom for slaves. Confined during the War, yellow fever, and Reconstruction, Sada spent her time at home and reading voraciously. Later she attended summer courses at Johns Hopkins and is considered the first female student there. She raised her three nephews after her sister Charlotte died in 1902.
    Her first novel, published when she was 31, demonstrates her convictions that women should own property and raise their children, and enjoy freedom of religion. She continued to publish novels and short stories dealing with defeated Southern families, blacks freed without training or preparation, women’s rights, and labor/union controversy. Her best-known writing, published as a serial novel, Jerry, in Scribner’s Magazine, 1890-91, is about an abused Mountain boy of Scotch-Irish descent. Her stories appeared also in Harper’s and McClure’s magazines. (FCHR, Vol. 14, No. 1, 1983)

  • The University of the South at Sewanee was home to the first Alpha Tau Omega, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Kappa Sigma, and Pi Kappa Alpha houses in the country. Sewanee’s ATO chapter was first chartered in 1877. The first fraternity house built in the South was the Phi Delta Theta house in Sewanee, built in 1884 for about $1,000; it has been moved from its prominent position but still functions as a charming private home. In the 1880s and 1890s members did not eat or sleep at the fraternity houses. Rather than focusing on partying and athletic competition, the early chapters were altruistic and characterized by oaths, secret rituals, idealism, and brotherhoods. The social clubs took the place of any student union until the 1970s. (FCHR, Vol. 14, No. 1, 1983)

  • A variety of Clovis, Cumberland, and other projectile points witness the habitation by Archaic hunting and gathering communities in Franklin County between about 8,000 BC and 1,000 BC. Weapons included the atlatl throwing stick; tools included stone knives, drills, and scrapers, and bone awls and hooks. The bow and arrow was used when life became more settled in the Woodland period, between 1,000 BC and 900 AD. Decorated pottery vessels, burial mounds, and ceremonial earthworks (such as the Old Stone Fort near Manchester) characterize this period. The Mississippian culture is identified by plant cultivation beginning around 700 AD. Weather-resistant, above-ground, circular homes became larger by 1200 AD when corn and beans proved to be reliable crops. A large structure excavated in Tims Ford measures 25 by 40 feet and indicates a large population living there. (FCHR, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1971)

  • The Women’s Christian Temperance Union first met in Franklin County in 1884, in both Winchester and Cowan. The movement quickly spread to Huntland, Decherd, Maxwell, Belvidere, Sherwood, Estill Springs, and Awalt. Activism, education, and legislation were used to warn of the threat of addiction. In the 1930s the WCTU continued its effort to educate the public about the dangers of alcohol; $5 prizes and awards were given to elementary school students who wrote the best reports on their alcohol education. Children’s posters were displayed. The county newspaper, The Truth & Herald, assisted in distributing information and fundraising. (FCHR, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1971)

  • Winchester was attacked by 300 Federal troops commanded by Col. Lytle on May 20, 1862. Confederate reconnaissance soldiers captured nine Federal pickets and charged the Courthouse where cavalry, infantry, and artillery were taking shelter. On May 21, the Federals evacuated the Courthouse and headed toward Salem and Huntsville. Federals again entered Winchester on June 1, 1962, surprising and driving out Col. Starnes’ Cavalry. Confederate forces in Sweeden’s Cove, Pelham, McMinnville, Cowan, and Shelbyville were routed by Federal troups. While occupying Winchester, Federal forces used Mary Sharp College as a hospital. The fighting in Franklin County which is known as the Tullahoma Campaign took place in June and July of 1863 in heavy rains that hampered movement of soldiers, artillery, and horses. Confederates guarding the railroad and water tanks at Decherd were driven out; the track and tanks destroyed and the depot burned. Federals ascended the mountain and destroyed the Tracy City track.

    When Confederates retreated across University Place at Sewanee in July 1963felling trees as they proceeded to obstruct the roads, frame structures had been destroyed or burned. All campus buildings were destroyed during Federal occupation except the log cabin on what is now South Carolina Avenue. After Confederates withdrew toward Chattanooga, Gen. Sheridan and Col. Sherman began descending the railroad track to Cowan on foot, expecting to be picked up by a handcar. Night fell and the car never arrived because it had accidentally gone instead to Sherwood. They arrived exhausted in Cowan after midnight. Damaging the railroad or the tunnel at Cowan would have delayed the Federal advance toward Atlanta. However, the loss of the tunnel could have prevented the re-establishment of the University and the reconstruction of Franklin County after the War. (FCHR, Vol. 23, No. 2, 1992)

  • To keep up with Chinese demand for the ginseng plant, Winchester dentist Dr. James O. Templeton (1861-1949) added its cultivation to his already busy farm (dairy, peaches, walnuts, pecans). Others in the area both harvested ginseng from the mountainside and grew it in gardens, to be dried and sold for export to China. The Templeton garden was shaded with trellised muscadine vines and by 1910 provided a generous harvest in August. The crop declined when Dr. Templeton’s sons all decided to go to dental school, and in 1936 the Dixie Highway cut across the gardens. Although the plant is now protected by state law, local wild ginseng is still collected and sold, and domestic ginseng is cultivated in the Tullahoma area. (FCHR, Vol. 21, No. 1, 1990)

  • A century of careful breeding created the distinctive Tennessee Walking Horse, with its smooth running walk—one foot at a time hits the ground, and the horse can carry a rider 20 miles at 8 miles an hour. Early breeding experiments were carried out in Kentucky in the 1880s, and brought to Manchester by J.R. Brantley. From the 208 “foundation” horses registered in 1935, more than 200,000 Tennessee Walking Horses have been registered in 50 states and abroad. Franklin County featured a fine track for showing horses in the 1930s. Many Franklin Countians have successfully bred and trained these horses and showed them from the Winchester Fairgrounds to world championships. (FCHR, Vol. 19, No. 2, 1988)

  • Between 1920 and 1924 the Gager Lime Manufacturing Company at Sherwood was at its peak productivity. It manufactured its own electricity, produced its own script for purchases in the company store, provided housing for employees, made its own shipping kegs, and included a chemist’s lab and cooperage shop. It had a stone crusher and grinding facility. It claimed to be the South’s “largest mill making only high calcium line products.” An open quarry above the plant was the source of limestone deposits. Until 1920 dynamite blasted rows across the quarry face to dislodge stone; later stone was extracted from 10 horizontal caverns, in which natural pillars were left to support the ceilings. The workforce of 125 included members of 20 black families, who lived in separate housing called the Quarters, and had their own school (5 months per year) and church (St. Anne's Episcopal Church). Founder Byron Gagaer died in 1926, and his sons were troubled by equipment failures and labor trouble. The business closed, bankrupt, in 1949. (FCHR, Vol. 19, No. 2, 1988)  The abandoned remains of the lime plant are said to resemble an ancient castle.

  • The Sloan family of Cowan inherited a treasure of needlework that proves women’s hands were never idle. Ladies were trained to do fancywork such as afghans, quilts, tablecloths and doilies, embroidered items and lace, as a social grace. Knitting, crocheting, tatting, and needlepoint were both useful and creative. (FCHR, Vol. 19, No. 2, 1988)

  • Albert Threm established the Threm Faucet Company in Beans Creek about 1894 and manufactured cedar faucets for barrels. Beer, vinegar, and moonshine barrels all needed the bungs removed and faucets installed for serving the liquid. In its busiest times the factory employed 25 men to saw, cut, slice, roll, bore, fit, and pack the cedar and cork-lined faucets. Hardware stores were the primary customers. When Threm’s widow closed the business in 1952, she donated her collection of samples to the Forestry Department at Sewanee. (FCHR, Vol. 19, No. 1, 1988)

  • Early occupations in the Crow Creek Valley included primarily hunting, fishing, and trapping. People collected herbs (ginseng, star root, May Apple root); worked for the railroad; cut timber; operated sawmills to create lumber and railroad ties; picked berries; collected hickory nuts, walnuts and chestnuts for use or sale; made baskets and chairs. They worked in coal mines and made moonshine. Women sewed for their own use or made items to sell; cleaned and washed for themselves or others; functioned as nurses and midwives.
    A detailed list by name of postmasters, school teachers, operators of grist mills, sorghum makers, merchants, carpenters, fire fighters, mail carriers, school bus drivers, newspaper writers, florists, mechanics, welders, electricians, plumbers, machinists, musicians, preachers, blacksmiths, beekeepers, horse-shoers, barbers, railroad dispatchers, sheriffs and constables, commissioners, notaries public, justices of the peace, doctors and nurses, soldiers and veterans, bankers, TVA employees, masons, artists, heavy equipment operators, realtors, truckers is also published in this booklet, proving that each valley in south-central Tennessee is a microcosm representing most all of the ways Americans make a living. (The Crow Creek Scene, April 1986)

  • Two health resorts were a source of employment near sulphur springs north of Awalt in the 1800s. Visitors came from Nashville by train to Tullahoma and to Awalt by hack (a hired horse and buggy). Hotels featured dining rooms, dancing halls, collages, and bowling alleys (no women allowed) (FCHR, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1970)

  • The Winchester Springs Hotel thrived in 1909, sending carriages to the Winchester railroad station for the 5-mile ride for weekly and monthly visits and offered summer entertainment for city folks. Water cure resorts were initially valued more as hospitals than as luxuries. (FCHR, Nov. 2, No. 2, 1971)

  • Winchester’s first debating society was organized in 1845 and met at the Female Academy and later met at the Carrick Academy (but all the debaters were men). Politicians drew large crowds. Losing one’s temper in debate was punished by a 25 cent fine. The questions argued in the first 25 debates were all recorded (What is the greater evil, intemperance or war? Which is the better form of government, monarchy or republic? Is a man ever justified in telling a lie?). No minutes of the society survived after 1846. (FCHR, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1970)

  • In 1814 there were a dozen or more cotton gins and Franklin County was selling more cotton than the rest of Tennessee. Cotton yards were designated along the Elk River where cotton could be brought and stored until the river was high enough to float rafts down to the Tennessee, the Ohio, and the Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. The rafts also carried brandies, whiskeys, hams, and furs. The trip took a month, and cotton boats were preyed upon by thieves and pirates. The crew slept among the cargo and the River Runner navigated and was in command. (Chuwalee: Chronicles of Franklin County, 1973)

  • A road house for travelers was built on the road to Sherwood near Elliott Spring by a Mr. Barnes. Andrew Jackson is believed to have stopped there on his trips to and from the capitol. (Chuwalee: Chronicles of Franklin County, 1973)

  • Winchester carriages were manufactured to order for wealthy farmers by Thomas Logan and by Hutchens, Proctor & Company for sale in Tennessee and beyond. (Chuwalee: Chronicles of Franklin County, 1973)

  • The Sewanee Furnace, a unit of Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company, opened an iron smelting plant near downtown Cowan in 1881 and made pig iron by combining coal, ore and limestone in a process using Sewanee coke from the Tracy City coke ovens.  The plant became the largest producer of pig iron in the world at an output of 70 tons per day.  The company relocated to Birmingham, Alabama in 1886 and the Cowan plant closed three years later.  In 1907 the company was absorbed into the giant United States Steel Corporation.  (FCHR, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1970; the Cowan Bell, February 6, 1975.)

The Way We Worked has been made possible in Cowan,TN by Humanities Tennessee. The Way We Worked, an exhibition created by the National Archives, is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and State Humanities Councils nationwide.
Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress.

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