From our past: The County Farm

We are blessed in Lawrence County to have a rich and interesting history.

The acreage owned by Commissioner Ronnie Benefield and his wife Cindy (see previous article) includes property once known as the County Farm.  Thanks to this article and photos provided by Lawrence County Archives Director Kathy Niedergeses, we’re offering a more in-depth look at it:

The Lawrence County Poor Farm (also known as the “County Farm”) existed for almost 150 years at various locations in the county. It played an important role in providing for the indigent, the handicapped, and the mentally or physically sick before the advent of nursing homes and government assistance.

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A photo of an entrance to the County Farm on County Farm Road. This location was established prior to 1920 and used until a facility was built on Lawrenceburg’s Windsor Drive.

Before the county purchased property and established the first poor farm in 1820, the court appointed and paid other members of the community, usually the lowest bidder, to take care of these individuals. In other instances, the paupers were given money to cover their expenses and still live at home.

Even after the County Farm was established, it was sometimes thought that a person would be better off living with another family, who would be compensated each quarter. There were also several years between the discontinuance of one county farm and the beginning of a new one, so all the needy were under the care of local families then.

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Although children did not live at the County Farm for extended periods of time, the young ladies shown above were photographed outside the residents’ home. Below, the rarity of a triplet calf birth was recorded on film in front of the same house. The County Farm was an actual farm, where residents produced their own food.

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Children were usually not kept at the farm very long, because it was not a good place for them. Instead, orphaned children whose parents did not leave sufficient money for their care or a guardian to take them in were indentured to families who provided them food, clothing and a minimum education in exchange for manual labor. Children not orphaned were either indentured or put up for adoption.

An overseer or superintendent was appointed by the county for the poor farm. “Farm” was the appropriate word, since just about everything the superintendent and paupers ate was grown there. This included vegetables, fruits, cows for eating and milking, pigs, chickens for eating and the eggs they produced, and hay and corn to feed the animals.

Even if a poor farm stayed on the same property for many years, over a period of time, there could be several different superintendents. Most were sympathetic to the indigent and took as good of care of them as funds allowed. But a few were not, and when proven, they were dismissed and replaced. The majority of the time, the county provided the funds for small wood structures with no insulation as living quarters for the poor. At times, the women lived in the home with the superintendent and his family while the men lived in the smaller buildings. A few in charge of the farms built additional facilities or made other improvements using funds of their own.

The next to last county farm was located on County Farm Road between Lawrenceburg and Ethridge, on the property now owned by the Benefield family. It was one of the longest running locations for the farm. Twenty-three residents are listed in the 1920 census, plus the family of Whit C. Smith, wife Valeria, their five children and one grandson.

At the July term of 1924’s County Court, a resolution was presented for the appropriation of $2500 “for the purpose of securing a site, and the erection of a dam across the creek at or near the County Farm in the 10th Civil District of Lawrence County, and the erection and installation of a hydroelectric power plant, complete with all the necessary wiring and installing of electric lights at the County Farm and the erection and equipping of a pumping station to be operated by electricity for the supply of water to the various buildings on the County Farm, and for protection against fire . . .”

The committee purchased the necessary land and right of ways for the erection and operation of this plant.  A plaque on the power house shows it was erected in 1924.

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Little Shoal Creek, photographed from the bridge that crosses it on County Farm Road, helped generate power for the County Farm. A map shows “Old County Farm Spring” to the south of that bridge, and “Hudson Spring” to its north.

A newspaper article that appeared in the Lawrence News April 8, 1925 states, “Tuesday afternoon of last week, a number of citizens made a tour of inspection of the county farm. The power generated from the new dam on the farm is supplying both lights and water. The farm looks like a little city by night. When one thinks of the constant menace coal oil lamps were at such a place, one can but wonder why a dam was not built sooner if only for protection. The water is an equal convenience and the installing of the system places Lawrence County in the ranks of progression.”Dam on poor farm reduced

Power house on County Farm Rd.

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Photos above show remains of the dam and power house that generated electricity for the County Farm. Photos by Kenny Konig

“The natural environment of the county farm is most attractive; the simple but well-kept cottages are not unattractive and Lawrence county finds itself now, through these improvements in a position to take care of its unfortunate citizens, who, through mental and physical weakness, are unable to care for themselves, at a minimum of expense. . . .”

The last County Farm was located on Windsor Drive in Lawrenceburg. There was an older wood building for the male residents and a new brick building for the women. With the advent of nursing homes, it closed in 1969/1970 and any remaining residents were transferred to what was then Elm Nursing Home on Kennedy Street.

The brick building on Windsor Drive was then used to house the county’s Mental Health Center, then the Sheriff’s Department Criminal Investigation Division (CID). A new building has been constructed for CID, but the brick building still stands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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District 9 and Commissioner Ronnie Benefield

Commissioner Ronnie BenefieldWe are blessed in Lawrence County to have families with a strong tradition of public service.

Lawrence County’s 9th District Commissioner Ronnie Benefield comes from such a family. The custom began with his dad, Oscar “O.J.” Benefield, who served as a Commissioner from 1952 to 1978.  (At the time they were called “Magistrates” and served two-year terms.) Ronnie’s brother, Jack, was County Executive in the early 1980s. His wife, Cindy, served as Trustee for three terms, 1998-2010. His first cousin, Delano Benefield, is a fellow Commissioner.

“I felt it was my civic duty,” Ronnie said of his decision to become a Commissioner 24 years ago. He is serving his sixth consecutive term and will retire when it ends this August. Plans for retirement include the Tennessee River and his Lawrence County farm.

“I plan to devote a lot of time to the Tennessee River,” he said, laughing. The Benefields have a house there and a pontoon boat where he expects some of his best hours will be spent.

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The City of Ethridge is located in Lawrence County’s Ninth District. A large stone near the front entrance to Ethridge Elementary serves as a canvas for messages.
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Ethridge City Hall, at right, is located next door to the former Farmers & Merchants Bank building, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017. Its official description states, “The one-story brick building in the heart of Ethridge was built in 1927 after an earlier bank building burned. Many banks in the early 20th century were designed in the Classical Revival style, which was thought to convey security and stability to a community. The restrained detailing, seen in the brick and stone window details on the façade of the Ethridge bank, copies the more elaborate Classical Revival style seen in larger communities. When the current building was constructed, the economy of Ethridge was based on agriculture. The Farmers and Merchants Bank provided financing and capital for expanding businesses and farms. After the bank closed around 1950, it was used for several years as a post office.” Below, the current Ethridge Post Office.

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In the early 1950s, Ronnie’s in-laws purchased what was once the County Farm, where indigent Lawrence Countians lived and worked in the years before government assistance, from 1905 to the mid-1940s. Ronnie and Cindy added additional acreage throughout the years to total more than 800 acres. Much of their land is leased to a local row crop farmer, but they operate their own cow-and-calf operation.

“I enjoy being around farming, so I’ll still be involved with the farm, too, with my son and grandson.”

Ronnie’s grandfather was a cotton farmer in Phil Campbell, Alabama who moved his family to Lawrence County in 1918.  Ronnie is one of ten children – five boys and five girls – who grew up on Old Military Road. All attended Summertown Elementary and Summertown High School.

Ronnie is an Army veteran and served two years as a Communications Chief on a missile base in Okinawa, Japan during the Vietnam era. When discharged, he took training and became an iron-worker welder for Daniels Construction. His first job with them was in Jackson, Tennessee building the Pringles Factory.

He and Cindy were married in May 1971. After a couple of years of marriage, the couple came back home to assist her parents, Henry and Lola Blankenship, who were starting a new business: a clothing manufacturing company named La-Del Manufacturing, named in honor of Lola and her sister Dell. Ronnie worked both at the plant and his farm for many years but eventually farming won out and he became a full-time farmer, only helping at the plant when needed. La-Del Manufacturing closed in 1995.

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Most of Weakley Creek Road in Lawrence County serves as a border between the 8th and 9th districts. The north side of Weakley Creek is in the 9th, and includes one of Lawrence County’s largest churches, Mars Hill Baptist. Nearby is Mars Hill Community Club, which serves as a voting precinct for the district as well.

Most of Lawrence County’s 9th District lies between Highway 43 North and the Giles county line. Its southern border is mostly defined by Weakley Creek Road and its northern border by Campbellsville Road. Its western border leaves Highway 43 at County Farm Road, encircles the City of Ethridge and then returns to the east at Brewer Road.

District 9-page-001Many Amish residents live in the area. “They don’t vote, but they carry a lot of weight” because of their positive economic impact on the county. “They bring a lot of tourism here. You see people from everywhere visiting the Amish area.

“A lot of people think the Amish don’t pay taxes, but they do.” The Amish do not pay Lawrence County’s wheel tax but pay property, business, sales, and all others.

He feels good about the accomplishments of the past 24 years. “I’m proud of Lawrence County and proud to have served with the others who have served on the Commission. There have been hard times, and good times, and I’ve enjoyed it.”

As a Commissioner he was instrumental in the effort to tar-and-gravel Lawrence County’s dirt roads and the 1994 school building program. He chaired the committee that oversaw construction of the current jail and turned a former bank facility into the county’s administrative building.

 

 

 

District 7 and Commissioner Aaron Story

Commissioner Aaron Story

We are blessed in Lawrence County to be near the country no matter where we live.

Lawrence County’s District Seven is one that includes southeast Lawrenceburg, neighborhoods outside the city limits, and farmland. It is represented on the Commission by Aaron Story, who says the differences between city and country life sometimes makes his job a little harder.District 7-page-001

The difference in services and rules makes it difficult,” he explained. “A lot of people who live in the country would like city codes, but some in the city don’t like them.”

“There are a lot of good things going on in my district,” Story says.  Among them are paving projects on Fall River and Prosser Roads, and completion of the “new” U.S. 64. That bypass crosses District 7 twice, beginning at its intersection with U.S. 43 and traveling west to Fall River Road; then connecting Bishop and Wesley Chapel Roads.

He is also proud of the elementary school in his district, Lawrenceburg Public School. And since the new college facility will be just a stone’s throw from District 7’s western border, it’s another “good thing” for constituents there. Its benefits for them and the county at large align with Story’s goals.

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Lawrenceburg Public School (above) and Southern Regional Health System – Lawrenceburg are located in Lawrence County’s 7th District.

STRHS“I want to serve not just the people of my district, but all of Lawrence County,” he said. “I came into the Commission without any specific goals, other than stopping any wasteful spending. I just wanted to serve the people. I felt we needed younger leadership, so it was a place I could help.”

PiratesStory is a 1999 graduate of Lawrence County High School who took a path different from most thanks to the sport he started playing at age six. “I was drafted in the 25th round of the ’99 high school draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. I graduated in May and right after that went to Florida.

“You grow up real quick in a situation like that, but I got to travel and play baseball in some great stadiums. I’m grateful for it.” Story was a left-handed pitcher, averaging one strikeout per inning in his time with Pirates’ minor league teams at Bradenton, Florida and Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The Gulf Coast League and New York-Pennsylvania League play in central Florida and New England, respectively.

Story returned to his hometown in 2002 and worked eight years at Story & Lee, a business that has a distant family connection. His parents, Donny and Terri Story, are both rural mail carriers.

He started working for Lawrenceburg Marine in 2011 and is now Sales Manager for that closely-connected family business. His wife Keely’s grandparents, Ronnie and Jane Killen, started it in 1985.  Keely works at Baker Nationwide Insurance Agency.

lawrenceburg marineStory has three children: Alexa, 15; Jack, 9; and Sloane, 4. He and his family live in a neighborhood on the district’s western side, between Highway 43 and Prosser Road, Hood Hills.

 

District 6 and County Commissioner Bobby Clifton

We are blessed in Lawrence County to be able to follow the footprints of history along almost every back road. Our Sixth District, bordering Wayne County, Tennessee and Lauderdale County, Alabama, is especially well-traveled.District 6-page-001

Commissioner Bobby Clifton represents the largest district in our county, 19 by 12 miles at its longest and widest points, respectively. The area includes the communities of West Point, Wayland Springs, and Iron City, and many more that were thriving in the early years of the county.Commission Bobby Clifton

“We were home to the first woolen mill on Shoal Creek; Wayland Springs, the first resort; and mining operations at West Point and Pinckney,” Clifton says. Iron City got its name from an iron foundry that was in operation there.

The number of creeks in the area provided power to early industry.  Shoal Creek and tributaries including Knob, Chisholm and Factory Creeks create a network of waterways, large and small, through District 6.

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The Van Leer Hotel no longer stands in Iron City, but this photo is proof of the community’s former glory days.

You can save time and money by touring Lawrence County as the leaves change, Clifton said. “You don’t have to go to the Smokies.” West Point, Tidwell Hollow and Wayland Springs offer views and colors that equal East Tennessee’s.

Clifton was born in the Centerpoint community to Lawrence County natives. His mother grew up on Wildcat Ridge; his dad’s family lived “all over the southeastern part of the county.” Like many others, the Cliftons moved here from Winston County, Alabama, but arrived before the largest migration from that area occurred between 1908 and 1920. The Commissioner’s ancestors settled around Sugar Creek in 1890.

His dad was one of 14 children, but was the only one who stayed in Lawrence County following World War II. The rest settled in Michigan, Ohio, Alabama and other places, but some of Clifton’s cousins have returned to this area in recent years.

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The beauty of a country road in Lawrence County’s District 6.

Clifton attended elementary school at Glendale, and graduated from Loretto High School in 1956. His future wife Eva Nell grew up in Lexington, Alabama, and they met through mutual friends. They have two daughters who live in Florence, Alabama and Daytona, Florida; three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

They’ve come a long way together over the past 60 years. When they married, they moved into the house he built while they were dating.

“That house was trial and error,” he said. “The thing was I wasn’t afraid to try anything.” He built their present home in 1978, and spends a lot of his spare time in his workshop. “I just like to build things.” He recently built five identical pie safes for his children and grandchildren, hall trees for his friends (two are in the County Executive’s office), and has even built his own casket. “I cut the cherry tree and dried the wood in my wife’s oven.”

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The West Point Community Center now has a new playground, thanks to fundraising projects supported by residents and the North Alabama Trail Riders Association (NATRA). Read more about NATRA at https://www.facebook.com/lawcotncommission/posts/1623835327656021

22812896_875072275981368_1014067587_oHe lives on the farm where his dad grew cotton. He raises a big garden, but bush hogs the rest of the acreage. “I worked two or three jobs at a time, anything I could make money at.” Clifton worked at Murray “off and on” for 37 years, worked at a body shop and car lot, taught auto body at the Lawrence County vocational school for four years and was in the National Guard for four years.

Clifton has served four prior terms on the Commission, the first under County Executive Marty Dunkin.  His reason for serving is simple: “I want to help the people, and I am proud to serve them.” Commissioners can make a real difference, he said. “I have more power than T.R. because T.R. can’t vote and I can,” he added, laughing.

 

 

 

District 5 and County Commissioner Phil Hood

We are blessed in Lawrence County to have County Commissioners whose expertise benefits us all.Commission Phil Hood

Commissioner Phil Hood chairs four Commission committees: Human Resources, Solid Waste, Utilities, and Workplace Safety; and is vice-chair of a fifth, Facilities. That’s a considerable range of subjects, but his education and work experience make him qualified in them all.

Hood is a Five Points native and attended grades 1 through 8 at the community’s school, before it and others were consolidated into South Lawrence Elementary. His parents Lowell and Ottie farmed; his dad was also a longtime Murray employee and his mom worked for Salant & Salant in Loretto.District 5-page-001

Hood went on to UNA after graduating from Loretto High School in 1974. He earned a B.S. in Marine Biology and General Chemistry in 1978, then a Masters degree in Aquatic Biology and Toxicology in 1981.

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The Fat Head Minnow

Most people believe Marine Biology is strictly related to oceans, he said, but it’s actually the study of life in fresh or salt water. His Masters’ thesis examined how sodium selenite in fresh water can enter a Fat Head Minnow through absorption through its skin and tissues. The LC-50 Determination of Sodium Selenite to the Pimephales Promelas is the book that resulted, and it has been requested by several institutions as a toxicity reference such as Stanford University, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Hood was hired by Murray Ohio in 1983 to find, reduce and/or eliminate hazardous materials and toxins which were present in processes being released into the air, soil or water. The system Murray created won several awards for its environmentally-sound operations. Hood managed a monitoring lab at the Glen Springs Murray dump site (Murray Ohio Dump site) in coordination with State of Tennessee and EPA Region VI in Atlanta and worked with Tennessee Ornithological Society to develop a beneficial reuse site for the Christmas Bird count at the Horseshoe Bend site.

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PHIL HOOD (at back, far right) with other plant engineers at Murray in the late 1980s. Also pictured at front, left to right: Ray Ezell, Charles Brewer, John McCullers, and Gerald Harper. At back: Ray McDonald, Pat Summers, Stephen Brooks, Bruce Eakin, and Larry Allen.

He ultimately worked as Murray’s Manager of Environmental Affairs and Plant Engineering, in charge of wastewater treatment, the electroplating department, security, fire, and safety through 2005. Even after the company stopped operations, he worked for the Murray Trust to assure the facility and its contents were properly closed. Upon Murray closing its doors in September 2005, he continued to work with Swisher Mower in the same position through 2008, when Insyte Solutions took over the operation work with InSyte until May 2012.

evers logoAfter a short but much-needed break, Hood was hired in September, 2012 by Evers Construction Company as its Director of Human Resources and Safety. It was a kind of homecoming, he said, because during graduate school he’d worked 16 months as a sheet metal helper for company founder Mickey Evers beginning in 1978.

Hood was elected in 2014 to represent Lawrence County’s fifth district, where he has lived since 1983.  It includes the scenic area crossed by the western leg of the new Highway 64 bypass, from Highway 43 South to just beyond West Point Road.

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One of the beautiful streams that flow through Lawrence County’s District 5.

What makes him proud of his district? “The desire to help your neighbor,” he said. “Beautiful waterways and valleys. Two active volunteer fire departments; a great school. One of the largest furniture stores anywhere around and some of the best barbecue. A historic railroad, and places where Davy Crockett lived and worked.”

He has some specific goals for the area, including improved water distribution through the Leoma Utility System; an emergency alarm system in Leoma; and improvement in the congested traffic zone through Dunn on Highway 43. He also hopes to see economic development in the area south of Lawrenceburg and the Highway 64 bypass.

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Viewed here from the overpass on Prosser Road (between Highway 43 and Old Florence Road), the historic railroad that passes through District 5, and Commissioner Hood’s front yard, was part of the Columbia-Lawrenceburg-Florence line that reached Lawrenceburg in October, 1883.

He is passionate about the environment and therefore, the county’s recycling program. “ The Solid Waste Management system in Lawrence County has been a leader in the areas of recycling and waste reduction efforts.  The recognition is wonderful but it is only as effective as those participating in the efforts.  The schools in Lawrence County have been an inspiration to what can be done when a group works toward a common goal. Note the efforts to support recycling at local festivals, Middle Tennessee District Fair and in general recycling efforts coordinated with local businesses.  In today’s world of convenience, each person needs to understand its impact on the environment and mechanisms which can be used to help reduce, reuse or recycling waste.”

 

 

District 4 and County Commissioner Brandon Brown

We are blessed in Lawrence County with a younger generation of residents whose connection to family and home convinced them that this is the place they want to live and raise their own children.

commissioner-brandon-brownFourth District Commissioner Brandon Brown is one great example. He grew up in the district, attended Leoma Elementary and graduated Loretto High School in 1993. He then left for Clarksville, Tennessee, to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Science at Austin Peay University. After working in the ag industry there a short time, he found a way to come back to Lawrence County.

“I wanted to come home,” he says of his move back 18 years ago. “I wanted to be with family and raise my kids here.”

He and his wife Felicia, who works with commercial customers at First Farmers & Merchants Bank, have two sons: a 14-year-old at Loretto High School and an eight-year-old at Leoma Elementary. For eight years they have lived on land once owned by his grandfather, just across Sugar Creek from the place Brown himself was raised.District 4-page-001

As part of his grandfather’s farm, the land was used to raise crops including cotton, watermelons, and corn. Brown grew up working in their commercial cow-calf operation, which he continues today. His parents, Buddy and Judy Williams Brown, “primarily farmed,” but held jobs at Murray and Reynolds Aluminum, too. His mother’s late parents, Lacy and Evelyn Williams, were well-known in the community as owners of the (Fall River) Crossroads store.

lusBrown is a longtime employee of Lawrenceburg Utility Systems, which provides electric service to the entire county and gas and water to customers in and around the city.  He started out reading meters and maintaining right of way, was a lineman apprentice for four years, then a journeyman lineman, then Truck Foreman, and now Safety Director. It’s Brown’s job to make sure fellow employees have and are using safety equipment and take all required training. He also helps present programs to the public about gas and electric safety concerns.

The district Brown represents is rural and includes parts of Leoma and the Revilo, Fall River and Copperas Branch communities. It consists primarily of small farms and single family homes, with some newer housing developments. The biggest issues for his constituents, he said, are taxes and water rates.

Brown made a point to educate himself about county government through local media, reading news reports and watching County Commission meetings broadcast by LawrenceburgNow. It didn’t take long to decide he wanted to get involved. “I wanted to make a difference,” he says.

The district he serves is rich in history. Lawrence County Archives Director Kathy Niedergeses was kind enough to share information about two communities there, Copperas Branch and Fall River.

There are two stories behind the name “Copperas Branch,” one much more appealing than the other. “Bonnie Prince Bobo said the branch that runs through the community had copper in it, but Iva Clark said that “copperas” was a yellow-colored spongy material her father fed to hogs,” Niedergeses said.

All reports agree that in 1928 the community convinced the local Board of Education to build a school at Copperas Branch, to save their children the three mile walk to Cherry Hill School. The building completed in 1929 was 748 square feet with a 12-foot ceiling. It contained 26 single desks, one double desk, three tables and seven chairs.

A wood stove provided heat, and sometimes lunch for the students was cooked on it. Since the walls of a well on the property kept collapsing, water was carried from neighboring farms and kept in a bucket or barrel at the school. Each student brought a drinking glass from home, and water was dipped from the bucket into it.

Former Copperas Branch School; now Copperas Branch Community Club
Former Copperas Branch School; now Copperas Branch Community Club

Former Copperas Branch student Mary Frances Barnett remembers the letter “E” falling from the alphabet that was displayed on cards over the blackboard. Someone stuck the fallen letter at the end, and as a result some students thought “E” belonged there.

Church services were held in the school when a preacher was available. Later, Eva’s Chapel Baptist Church was built with concrete blocks (purchased for $1 each) and named for Eva Henderson Prince.

The school was consolidated with New Prospect in 1953 and the Copperas Branch school building was purchased by the newly-chartered Community Club in 1957.  It is still being used by the club today.

Fall River was a much larger commercial center in its day, home to grain mills, a woolen mill, a wool carding factory, a tan yard, and other enterprises. A mill built in 1900 still stands on the banks of Clear Creek.Fall River Mill

The first owner of record of the mill property was John Garner, according to a survey dated May 21, 1821.  His holdings in the area began with an occupant land grant, 15 acres awarded after he had occupied and improved the land for three years. He eventually owned 447 acres around that original plot.

Local historian Wallace Palmore writes, “It has been written that the first mill at Fall River was built before the American Civil War by an unknown person. In Lula Belle Smith’s articles on ‘Dams of Lawrence County’ she states that the first gristmill at Fall River was built in the early 1820s and the woolen mill above Fall River was built around 1817.”

The gristmill and woolen mill were reportedly burned by Union Soldiers sometime between May 15, 1864 and October 23, 1865.  These were rebuilt and in the late 1860s much of the land in the area became the property of the Hagan family. A meeting house that served as both school and church was built and called Hagan’s Chapel.

The Lawrence Union newspaper reported November 5, 1891 that the Sunday School at Hagan’s Chapel had 75 enrolled. Other editions from that time refer to the Fall River School, so the two were in separate buildings by that time. The first reference to “Fall River Methodist Church” rather than Hagan’s Chapel was seen in 1896.

Fall River United Methodist Church
Fall River United Methodist Church

Fall River United Methodist Church and Fall River Church of Christ are both within stone-throwing distance of Clear Creek, and are located on opposite sides of Fall River Road on Clear Creek Road. Fall River Church of Christ is also within sight of the Fall River Mill, now owned and being offered for sale by the Wilburn family. On the market with it are two houses, a former general store, and 575 acres.

You can enjoy these photos of the mill and waterfalls (posted online by the Wilburn family), or drive through the area, but visitors are not allowed to walk onto this private property.fall_river_fallsfalls_splashwater_wheel_of_g-t-_wilburn_grist_mill

District 2 and Commissioner Chris Jackson

We are blessed in Lawrence County to have great opportunities for recreation, and the new swimming pool at Loretto’s city park – Burke Park – is a prime example.

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IMG_1983District 2 Commissioner Chris Jackson says the pool, set to open just days from now, will enhance the quality of life in and around his hometown. It features heated water, a splash pad, and separation between deep and shallow areas. Lanes for laps are marked off in the deeper water, and each side includes a basketball goal for more water-based fun. Grants from the state of Tennessee helped fund this state-of-the-art, “green” facility.

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Longtime major league pitcher David Weathers

A master plan for Loretto’s park system calls for more improvements, and other relatively recent projects have already made a difference. The David Weathers Foundation funded a new playground and partnered with the Loretto Lions Club to develop a basketball court there.

 

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Weathers is a native of the Liberty Grove community (also in District 2) who chose to return with his family to south Lawrence County following his retirement from major league baseball. Jackson called Weathers “a model citizen” and is glad to say that Grammy-winning singer/songwriter John Paul White also grew up in District 2, next door to his parents.

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Loretto native John Paul White

Jackson has been a member of the Loretto Lions Club ten years, and now serves as vice-president. He’s justifiably proud of the club’s contributions to the community: the Lions apartment complex has 32 units for low-income and disabled residents. The club bought Loretto High School band’s first uniforms and repeated the gesture six years ago. Lions donated land for Loretto’s new sports complex, located behind South Lawrence Elementary, and helped establish the city park and its original swimming pool.

The state of Alabama recently announced plans to complete the four-laning of Highway 43 to the Tennessee state line, meeting the highway widening project that is finished through Lawrence County. Jackson believes the new Alabama connection will bring more commerce to Loretto. Economic development – creating good jobs for a younger generation – is a top priority for him.

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Diverse Fabrications is just one industry providing jobs in Loretto.

“It’s one of the reasons I ran for office in the first place, so that people can stay in Lawrence County. A good portion of people my age have moved away.” Loretto Mayor Jesse Turner is another who has not, and he has helped forge progressive policies for an area steeped in tradition.

Both sides of Jackson’s family have been in the Loretto area for generations. He grew up near Bluewater Creek, and his parents still live beside it. District 2 is full of scenic places: from Beartown Road at its western border; Shackelford and Highway 43 at the northernmost point; and Second Creek Road along its most eastern side, to the state line.

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A view of Bluewater Creek

“Just take any side road,” he said. “I’d really recommend a drive down Lexington Highway (State Route 227) in the fall. Take it from Loretto to the Alabama line.”

 

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A country road is waiting for you in Lawrence County’s District 2.

Jackson lives about 500 feet outside the city limits of Loretto with Kailea, his wife of three years, who is an accountant at TPR Federal-Mogul Tennessee, Inc. They share their home with four dogs and one cat: pets have always been important in his life, and he hopes very much to see something done to benefit them on a county-wide basis.

 

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Kailea and Chris Jackson

A top priority is new high schools for both Summertown and Loretto, and implementation of a middle school system throughout the county. “My goal is for kids to have the same opportunities no matter where they live in the county,” he said.

Jackson was encouraged by several constituents to run for the Commission seat vacated with the retirement of Spanky Green, who spent 32 years in office. He won, and in 2006 was the youngest County Commissioner in the state at 19.

The current County Commission includes “lots of new faces,” a younger and more progressive group overall. Jackson is still among the youngest, but speaks with the experience of ten years on the board. “I’ve learned you can’t always get what you want. You have to work with people and compromise and find common ground.”

Jackson was hired by the Sheriff’s Department seven years ago while he was still a college student at UNA. He graduated with a B.S. in Political Science and a minor in Criminal Justice, and his job evolved from payroll duties to include other financial tasks, in-house IT (Information Technology) and public relations.12898272_1170666072944995_2751163804243106112_o

“I’m proud to work there,” he said. “Our department has moved in a good direction. We have SROs (Student Resource Officers) in every school, and body cameras for all our officers. There are communities much larger than ours that don’t have those things.”

As a county employee, Jackson abstains from votes on the commission that affect that group, issues like pay raises and insurance coverage. “I always try to separate being a county employee from being a county commissioner,” he said. “But I think it helps me as a commissioner to have more insight into the issues that county employees face day to day.”

Jackson has already spent a considerable amount of time in office, but his enthusiasm for it hasn’t waned. “Serving the people of Lawrence County has been a true honor and I hope to be able to continue to serve in the years ahead to build on progress of the past few years and to move our county forward for all citizens.”District 2

Meet District 1 Commissioner Wayne Yocom

Wayne Yocom, center, presents Loretto High School band director Darrell Boston a plaque honoring his recognition as one of "50 Directors Who Make a Difference" by School Band and Orchestra magazine.
Wayne Yocom, center, presents Loretto High School band director Darrell Boston a plaque honoring his recognition as one of “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” by School Band and Orchestra magazine. Commissioners honored him at their March 22 meeting. Pictured with Yocom, from far left, are County Commissioner Chris Jackson, Boston, and County Commissioners Shane Eaton and Bert Spearman. From the Lawrence County Advocate

Yocom was employed with the City of Loretto at 21 and “did whatever they needed me to do” for ten years. He spent the next 30 years working for the State Department of Transportation at Lawrenceburg, advancing to District Maintenance Superintendent before he retired almost three years ago.

His wife Pat has been a longtime mail carrier and recently transferred from the St. Joseph post office to Iron City’s. They have lived in their Rigling Road home outside Loretto for 30 years, and will celebrate their 41st anniversary in September. His best-ever answer to the question of how to have a successful marriage?  “A good wife.”

Wayne has also been dedicated to his district for many years. In 2018 he will finish his sixth term, totaling 24 years.  From his first term, he enjoyed learning about local government and the areas fellow Commissioners represent. “I love being involved in the community,” he says. “As part of the Commission, I feel that I can help the whole county.”

Yocom joins a group of other shade tree musicians at the Summertown Bluegrass Reunion.
Yocom joins a group of other shade tree musicians at the Summertown Bluegrass Reunion.

Another passion is music. He got a guitar for Christmas as a nine-year-old, and built skills from the chords his dad taught him. He still loves the guitar but discovered his favorite instrument at 35: the fiddle.

By chance, he and a friend attending the Summertown Bluegrass Reunion decided to leave the event by a path different from the one they’d arrived on. It took him past John Love, a musician playing “the prettiest fiddle music I’ve ever heard.”

He was hooked, and now lends his own fiddle music to the shade tree concerts at Summertown and other places musicians gather. He is one of several who meet almost every Sunday afternoon in the Appleton community and Saturday nights at Sue’s Pickin’ Parlor in Ethridge. All are informal, and the latter also features a potluck meal.

Wayne is also a songwriter, but pens and performs them only for himself and his friends. Music is pure pleasure, something that’s never demanding but always challenging. “I will never master the fiddle,” he says with a smile.

County Commission District 1, Part II

Loretto Oktoberfest weenie races
Dachshunds take the field in annual races at Oktoberfest in Loretto.

District 1 is the home of traditions that are part of the fabric of the county.

Oktoberfest is a week full of activities organized by volunteers that celebrates the area’s German heritage. Loretto’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church hosts a day-long Fourth of July picnic that is over 100 years old.

Loretto 4th of July 2
Patriotic faces shine at the Loretto Sacred Heart Fourth of July picnic, an event over 100 years old.

Loretto also pays homage to veterans with a Memorial Day parade and program and a new Veterans’ Park downtown. St. Joseph’s Christmas parade draws participants and spectators from Lawrence County and North Alabama.

Monuments that are part of Loretto's Veterans Park recognize every American battle from the French & Indian War to Iraqi Freedom.
Monuments that are part of Loretto’s Veterans Park recognize every American battle from the French & Indian War to Iraqi Freedom.

Park 2

IMG_1489
Memorial bricks at Loretto Veterans Park offer a way for residents to honor the veterans in their lives. For information about buying one, call Harley Simbeck at 853-4064.

There are signs of progress everywhere. The four-laning of Highway 43 to the state line is still a relatively new improvement that brings the promise of more industry and commerce.

Weathers sign
A sign at Loretto’s new sports complex honors south Lawrence native David Weathers, who grew up playing baseball here then spent a long, successful career as a major league pitcher. Weathers and his wife Kelli (Davis) returned to live and raise their family in Lawrence County.

Creek 3

A new Loretto sports complex with baseball and softball fields recently hosted the state’s Dixie Youth baseball tournament and organizers left saying they want to come back.

A new heated swimming pool and splash pad are days away from opening. Loretto was recently awarded state grants totaling $470,000 to improve its downtown area and sidewalk system. You can learn more about them in this article from the Times Daily:

http://www.timesdaily.com/news/local/loretto-receives-more-than-in-grants-for-downtown-improvements/article_ad5b17f2-d9b5-510e-8764-9614bc409827.html