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- [Announcer] Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways. Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history, and more made in Tennessee experiences showcased among these 16 driving trails. More at TNTrailsAndByways.com. - This time on Tennessee Crossroads, we'll go to Springfield and to a museum full of Robertson County history. Then explore some rhythm and blues history on Jefferson Street in Nashville. We'll pay a visit to Soda Pop Junction in Lynnville, and take in some beautiful scenery near Monteagle. Hey everybody. I'm Joe Elmore, welcome again to Tennessee Crossroads. It's not unusual for big city museums to get all the attention. Sometimes though, the smaller county museums offer some of the best walks through Tennessee history. Laura Faber went to the Robertson County History Museum recently, and she discovered it's far from a little closet full of artifacts. - [Laura] Just off the pretty town square of Springfield, a stone's throw from the courthouse, sits a beautiful building that's packed with history. What was the original post office back in the early 1900s, is now the Robertson County History Museum, it has been since 1998. - And we're not just a dusty old museum. We're dedicated to preserving our history, preserving our artifacts, and becoming an educational center for not only the Robertson County people or citizens, but also the students. - [Laura] Danny Atchley is president of the Robertson County Historical Society. He says what visitors will first notice is the architecture of the building. Constructed in academic Roman revival style, it boasts arched windows, brass handrails, and a gorgeous terrazzo floor bordered by rose-colored Tennessee marble. - [Danny] People come in and they look at, especially that lobby, they look and go, oh wow, this is something, it's just special. - [Laura] This museum also has everything that is Robertson County, from the civil war to agriculture, Main Street Springfield, whiskey, and tobacco, specifically, dark fire tobacco. - [Danny] It's still kind of controversial, I guess you'd say. Robertson County wouldn't be where we are right now without tobacco. It was a cash crop. It was always grown here. The unique thing about Springfield and Robertson County is, we're one of the few counties in the country that grows dark fire tobacco. Now dark fire tobacco is a unique tobacco crop and it takes special soil, which is found here. - [Laura] Dark fire tobacco is used in chewing tobacco and snuff, not cigarettes, but it does smoke. - [Danny] In the fall, tobacco farmers will bring the tobacco in and they'll hang it inside these barns and then they will light saw dust, which will smoke the tobacco that's hanging there and gives it a unique color and also a unique flavor. Oftentimes when people that are new to the area they'd be driving down the highway and they'd see a barn off the road and see smoke coming out of it, and they would stop and tell whoever lived there, your barn's on fire. - [Laura] Janet Palmore is operations manager of the museum. - We are recognized by the state as one of the top museums because we do carry such rich history here. - [Laura] She says visitors definitely gravitate toward a couple areas of the museum. - All right, Janet, this exhibit is interesting to people, why, what are we looking at? - We're looking at some of the tobacco exhibit we have here at the museum and it is so popular because we're from Robertson County and we're known as the world's largest dark fire tobacco. And a lot of people here, their family and grandparents and stuff have grown tobacco. And it's still known throughout the parts of Robertson County. I find the 1892 Winchester Night Rider gun, right here, to be pretty neat to see because it's one of the guns that would've been used during the Night Rider's time. This is just a replica of a tobacco barn, that if you're riding around Robertson County, you're definitely gonna see 'em, and they're gonna be smoking around fall time. - [Laura] Which means there's- - [Janet] There's tobacco in it. - [Laura] Another popular exhibit tells the story of the Wessyngton Plantation. - The Wessyngton Plantation was made up of thousands and thousands of acres. It was settled by the Washington family, and they were cousins of George Washington, the first president of the United States. And they settled there on a land grant and amassed all this property. And of course tobacco was king. They started raising huge amounts of tobacco. Tobacco is very labor intensive even to this day. And so they, unfortunately, had to have a lot of manpower and in those days it was slave power. And Wessyngton Plantation just prior to the Civil War, had almost 300 enslaved people that lived and worked there. - For years, the exhibit remained the same, but it's about to be updated, thanks to local author and resident, John Baker, Jr. He saw this photo in a textbook while in school and came to learn that he was related to that family, one of many enslaved on the plantation. What he found on the journey into his past will be on display here. This is the existing exhibit of Wessyngton Plantation, one of the largest tobacco plantations in the country. But this is about to change. What's coming? - We're going to tell the rest of the story. What happened to the formerly enslaved people of Wessyngton Plantation after the Civil War ended? Well, first thing they did, they started building churches. Second thing they started to do was build schools. Third thing they started to do was buy property, so they could become landowners. And then the fourth thing, those people that left Wessyngton Plantation started their own businesses. Many of them right here in Springfield. - [Laura] The goal has always been to preserve the history of Robertson County. And you can find it inside this small town museum with big and important history lessons. - [Janet] I love working here because you get to meet new people, and you get to meet the little ones that's coming in on a field trip. But when you're someone who plants a seed that may make them grow into a historian as well. - [Danny] We're very proud of what we do and we're very proud of what we preserve. - Thanks, Laura. Nashville is synonymous with country music, but for several decades, Jefferson Street had a live music scene teaming with rhythm and blues. In fact, some of the biggest artists of all times appeared there. Nowadays this music legacy lives on, thanks to the tireless efforts of Lorenzo Washington and his Jefferson Street Sound Museum. - [Joe] Travel down Jefferson Street today and you won't see many reminders of its glory days. A time when the excitement and energy of live music emanated from more than 20 nightclubs. - This was a very exciting place to be on the week ends, man. I mean, you go up, you walk down Jefferson from Good Jelly Jones down at Fourth and come up Jefferson, and music coming out of the buildings and out of the doors. - [Joe] Lorenzo Washington should know. He grew up here. He was part of the music scene as a fan and friend of the musicians. And later, even as a record producer. - I saw Jimmy Hendricks walk down Jefferson Street with his guitar on his shoulder because he never had a case for his guitar. - Hendricks played bass and guitar in several local bands that back traveling artists from Aretha Franklin to Little Richard. If you're old enough, you might remember seeing Jefferson Street players on the locally produced television show, Night Train. - And Jefferson street was a part of the Chitlin' Circuit, is what they called it back then. And that Chitlin' Circuit was where you could go to different cities and go to different clubs in these different cities, and Nashville was a perfect place because Nashville had Jefferson Street with over 20-something clubs and bars. - [Joe] The heyday of Jefferson Street ended in the mid to late '60s, partially because of Interstate 40, which divided the street, but also because of a lesser known reason. - Most all the clubs back then had gambling rooms, either upstairs, in the back, or somewhere there was a gambling room. And Ben West was sheriff, and he said he was gonna clean the city up. And he did. He would go in and raid these nightclubs up and and take axes and tear up the tables. And just like you'd see on TV in one of these gangster movies, you know. - [Joe] In 2010, Lorenzo single-handedly set out to preserve the area's musical legacy, here in what's now the Jefferson Street Sound Museum. One of the museum's main features is this tree connecting the nightclubs with the many musicians who played in them. - I put the clubs on paper and then I start adding the artists that actually played in those clubs. It's about 150 names on that tree. And, but that's only a portion of the folk that actually played on Jefferson Street and played in those clubs. - [Joe] Thanks to items donated by musicians and other supporters, the museum has grown, now with artifacts that range from musical instruments to countless photos. - I've got a guitar in there that Jesse Boyce had wrote a platinum song on, Firefly, by the Temptations. I've got some artifacts from Marion James, shoes, dresses, that kind of thing. I've got some artifacts from Jackie Shane. Jackie Shane was one of the first transgenders to come out as a woman on stage here in Nashville, because back then, that was a no-no. A person came over and donated a mixing board. And this mixing board was used at WLAC radio to mix the music that went out over the radio. But John R and all those guys used this mixing board. - [Joe] Preserving this musical heritage is an ongoing mission for Lorenzo Washington. Part of that mission is ensuring future generations appreciate what was once the glory years of the Jefferson Street sound. - I'm going on 80 years old now, I say, so I'm going to only be able to do so much but I'd like to partner with one of the schools because I think this is something that should be a curriculum, teaching this history and to make this a part of the curriculum would be my legacy. - In this age of chain restaurants, it's getting hard to find a good old fashioned soda parlor. Well, Cindy Carter found one in the tiny town of Lynnville. In fact, this place boasts of having some of the best hamburgers and shakes in the whole state. - [Cindy] If you ever find yourself wayward wandering through Tennessee, consider it very good fortune if you happen upon the small railroad town of Lynnville. Folks here have never met a stranger. - Thank you very much, come back to see us. - [Cindy] But understand this, strangers are pretty easy to spot. - We love our town and we only got 326 people, and we love every one of 'em. - [Cindy] And Johnny Phelps, owner of the Soda Pop Junction, like most everyone else around here, can probably list almost all 326 names. - I'm great if I move around a little- - [Cindy] But everyone, locals, tourists and wayward wanderers alike, all seem to eventually make their way to the Junction, the Soda Pop Junction, a place known for its delicious award-winning burgers and ice cream by the shake, float, scoop, or sundae. - I get a chocolate milkshake about three or four times a week. Just on a nice hot summer day it's nice to have a, something to cool you down. - [Cindy] Cool down and catch up. That's what the locals do. - It's just a closeness here. And people have been very supportive, but all, 90% of our business comes from outside the area. - [Cindy] And that outside cash flow has given Lynnville new life, which is exactly what Phelps had in mind back in 1998, when he decided to buy this old building and turn it into a restaurant. - At that time, most of the buildings that you see up and down the street were either, had fell in or there was no business. When I came to look at the building, it was raining, I mean, just really, really raining. Actually, I had to go to my car and get an umbrella to come in and look at the building 'cause it was leaking so bad. - [Cindy] Well, to be fair, the building was built in 1860, at the height of the town's railroad boom. - I'm not crazy about running a restaurant, but I love the history and being around people, and that comes from 49 years of being a teacher. - So this former high school teacher invested in the past, and a colorful past it is. - It was a saloon on this side and it was a, it was two different buildings, but it's all under the same roof. And it was a drug store on that side. You could get your medicine at both places back then. Get it over there, or you could come in here and get. Either way you was gonna come outta here happy. - [Cindy] In 1928, this space became home to the L.E. Moore Drug Company, which like many drug stores of the day also sold ice cream and mixed together soda pop. The drugstore literally served in this community for 50 years before shutting down. And that's what Phelps wanted to recapture. - Most restaurants now are tearing down to the brick walls and go back to the old days. And that's, and we've always been old. So we didn't have far to go. - Thank you, sir. - [Joe] That's Miss Judy behind the register. - I came to work here when I was 14, making ice cream cones, selling Cokes, milkshakes, and so forth, and worked behind this counter. - And both Miss Judy and the 1950s drugstore counter are still here. So is the original 1870 pharmacy facade. In fact, pretty much everything you see was donated to Phelps by friends and family to keep the Soda Pop Junction uniquely Lynnville. So the cliche is you can never go home again, and when small town businesses disappear and buildings are torn down, that can seem very true. But not here, with old photographs on the walls and antiques scattered about, for many, the Soda Pop Junction just feels like home. - People walk through the door and say, holy smoke, this is like going back in time. - [Cindy] A simpler time, and that's how Phelps likes it. Oh, he's heard about those new-fangled ice cream shops, charging $10 to $15 for what they call a gourmet experience. - We'll do that for 2.99. We not a Baskin-Robbins. We can't furnish 31 different flavors, but we've got about eight or nine, it's, we do what we do. - [Cindy] And what they do these days seems harder and harder to find. - Everything I like, to go. - [Cindy] Why not wander in? Cool off a bit and have a chat with friends. They'll be waiting for you at the Junction. - Thanks Cindy. If the pace of life is getting to you a bit, well some time spent in the beauty of nature might be what the doctor ordered. There are a lot of beautiful places in Tennessee, one of the most beautiful is Tennessee's largest state park, South Cumberland, located in and around Monteagle. Now that's the place Rob Wilds went to recharge his batteries. - [Rob] This is South Cumberland State Park. And so is this, and this. Thousands of acres, always beautiful, and as George Shinn, manager of South Cumberland State Park says, always changing. - And in the fall, you have these beautiful bluff overlooks and you can see the poplars and the maple trees changing colors, and then in those hickories and oaks, and then in the spring, you go to those same overlooks and you see everything coming up and you hike the topography and everything from the top getting down into the gorge changes as well. - [Rob] Landscapes change, history goes on. Many places in the park have interesting pasts. Take the Great Stone Door. - Early pioneers, early Native Americans, they used it because the cliff line is just so steep and dangerous, they found a little pathway that was safe for them to get down. And actually when you get to the base of Stone Door there's actually a rock shelter that a lot of folks call Post Office, where pioneers and these people that traveled that route, trying to get to from McMinnville from Chattanooga, they would actually leave messages and mail for other folks, family or friends that were, knew would be traveling through. - [Rob] A turn of history in the form of a long ago feud between logging companies over a choice stand of timber. Rather than kill each other, they agreed that neither side would get the prize, which left a beautiful and unique stand of old growth trees for us to enjoy. - When a lot of people, when you talk about old growth forest, they imagine like, the the Redwood Forest and these big huge trees, but, but that's not what it looks like at all. There's trees that are just, what would be in your yard at home and smaller, because of the the rocks and just the soil, the lack of it there, down as you get into the gorge. But those trees that are small are every bit of 400 years old. So it's an amazing thing. Just the slow growth. There are some huge trees, and I think that's the most amazing fact just to see how these poplars and hemlocks could get so large with such little soil and to grow in those rocks with the little sunlight that gets down in there. - [Rob] The rangers here know all the history and the legends, too, like the legend of how Fiery Gizzard Creek got its name. - David Crockett used to prowl around these woods and he was near the Gizzard Creek, and, with a bunch of his friends, doing some hunting, they had killed a turkey. They were sitting there underneath a rock shelter and frying it up, and they got it all fried up and he went to go eat that turkey gizzard and it was still a little bit too hot in the oil, and burned his mouth and he spit it out, and he said, ah, fiery gizzard. And it, the name just stuck with the Creek ever since. - So many beautiful places to see in this park. And good thing is you don't have to be some wilderness hiker to get to all of them. For instance, Foster Falls here, Just beautiful. 125 yards from the parking lot. - [George] It's a beautiful waterfall, 80-feet tall, beautiful plunge pool. It's a moderate height down to the base of it. Great rock climbing walls. TVA used to operate it before our state park took it over. And now we operate. There's a campground there, but it's beautiful. You can take short hikes, or you can just continue hiking the whole Fiery Gizzard Trail, which is a 12-mile linear trail. - [Rob] And throughout the park, many trails for hikers of every ability. - [George] We have 13 trail heads across the whole park and from each trail head, I mean, you can go as far as you want. I mean, we have a hundred miles through the park, totally, so if you just really want to do a lot of hiking you can do that. But you can get to a destination, a beautiful overlook, or a waterfall, natural bridge, some kind of point of interest within a couple miles. - [Rob] With more and more added each year, thanks and large measure to the friends of South Cumberland State Park. Naullain Kendrick is a member who knows where all the good spots are. Of course, he has his favorite. - Just in the past year alone, we've grown, we've gotten over 7,000 new acres. So there's all kinds of new places to go to. There's new trails, we're working on many new trails, there's all kinds of new opportunities. So there's a lot of places that I haven't been yet, and that a lot of other people haven't had the chance to go yet, so the, my favorite place is the next place. Wherever that's gonna be. - [Rob] Wherever that site is in South Cumberland State Park, you can bet it will be a site to behold. - Well, that's gonna do it for this time. I hope you had a good time. Thanks for joining us. Don't forget our website, TennesseeCrossroads.org. Follow us on Facebook and hey, I'll see you next week. - [Announcer] Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways. Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history, and more Made in Tennessee experiences showcased among these 16 driving trails. More at TNTrailsAndByways.com.
July 14, 2022
Season 36 | Episode 02
Laura Faber explores history in Springfield. Joe Elmore listens to the sounds of Jefferson Street. Cindy Carter finds a sweet place in Lynnville. Rob Wilds takes in South Cumberland State Park.