We are blessed in Lawrence County with a library where book lovers share their interests and help our youngest residents discover the joy of reading.
The Friends of the Library group sponsors the “Books for Babies” program that provides a bag of goodies to every newborn at the local hospital. It includes a first book, a handbook for parents about why reading is so important, and suggested titles for children of every age.
An application for the Imagination Library is also tucked inside that bag, making it easy for parents to sign up for the program that delivers a free, age-appropriate book each month to all Tennessee children under age five. If you know a child who isn’t participating, you can get an application at the library any time. The Lawrence County Education Foundation partners with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to provide those books to local children.
To support this and other projects for library patrons (including a subscription to Ancestry.com), the Friends of the Library holds a two-week book sale each spring and fall. The spring event is coming up quickly, set for Saturday, February 20 through Saturday, March 5.
In addition to hardback, paperback, fiction and nonfiction books, the sale offers magazines (only 10 cents apiece!), DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, puzzles, children’s books and a small collection of vintage books. You can make space for new acquisitions by donating items you no longer need – simply drop them by the Library any time.
If you enjoy reading you might also like taking part in the Library’s Last Thursday Book Discussion Group, which gathers at Noon on – you guessed it – the last Thursday of each month. Library Director Teresa Newton has about 15 copies of each month’s read on hand for checkout, so you won’t have to worry about finding one. In the spotlight for February is One Mountain Away by Emilie Richards.
Weekly Toddler Time is another tool that helps develop a love of reading. Any child age 18 months to three years can attend, but must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Sessions, held at noon each Thursday, involve reading and interactive play.
The Lawrence County Library will celebrate its 75th anniversary in April. It’s come a long way from 1941, when it was located in rooms above Lawrenceburg’s first City Hall, near downtown on East Gaines Street. In addition to the main branch, there’s a location in Loretto that will be the focus of our next blog post.
TOP PHOTO – from the Lawrence County Public Library’s summer reading program, from its Facebook page.
We are blessed in Lawrence County with a library that offers a great collection of items for checkout and a range of services that continues to grow.
Are you ready for more wintry weather? You will be if the Library is part of your provision plan – books, DVDs, videos, audio books, and magazines will make hibernation more enjoyable.
If you are new to the library, a staff member can direct you to your favorite genre, or to one of four search stations so you can do a computer-aided search for a particular item. The newest non-fiction and fiction books are displayed in separate cases for easy access. To learn if the collection includes a specific title before you go, search the online catalog at http://lawcotn.booksys.net/opac/lawcotn/
A (free) library card is all that’s required to borrow almost anything in the Library’s collection. It also entitles you to request books that aren’t available here – an interlibrary loan program can borrow it for you from another area library, free of charge.
A library card also lets you access the Regional Ebook & Audiobook Download System, R.E.A.D.S., where you can download ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and a growing collection of movies. Simply go to http://reads.lib.overdrive.com, choose the Lawrence County Public Library, and use the numbers underneath the barcode on your library card as the identification number.
A section of reference books and local history/genealogy books are not available for checkout so they can be used at any time by residents and visitors. A room is set aside for researchers, with books, local records and a computer that has a subscription to Ancestry.com, free for use courtesy of the Friends of the Library.
Speaking of friends, you can look up yours in the library’s collection of local high school annuals. A complete set of LCHS annuals, except the most recent, are available, many from Loretto High School and a few from Summertown. If you have one you’re willing to donate, please contact the library.
To do that, call 931-762-4627 for the Lawrenceburg branch, or 931-853-7323 for the Loretto branch.
Hours at the main branch at 519 East Gaines Street, Lawrenceburg are Monday, Thursday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
The Loretto branch is located at 102 South Main Street in Loretto. Hours are Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 6 p.m., Fridays 1 to 5 p.m. and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
To learn more about the Loretto branch and services both libraries offer, look for a new Blessed in Lawrence County post coming very soon!
We are blessed in Lawrence County because nineteen years ago, Patricia Olive Hill and her daughter, Sandi Mashburn, started the Santa for Seniors campaign out of their concern for local senior citizens.
That Christmas season they delivered packages containing food, personal care and household items to 17 local seniors.
This year, 590 senior citizens received those basic goods plus items based on their specific needs. Sandi, who has carried on the Santa for Seniors program in memory of her mother, works hard to fill special requests for items like walkers, shower chairs, diabetic foods, clothing, pet food, large print books and heaters.
Collections begin at Thanksgiving. Many local businesses, churches, individuals and clubs have embraced the drive and give hundreds of items, and cash for shopping, to fill those needs.
Gift bags are assembled at the WLX studio building in Lawrenceburg. A team of volunteers fill brown paper bags for the recipients and personally deliver many of them.
To learn more about the Spirit of Santa, visit its Facebook page.
We are blessed in Lawrence County by the Spirit of Santa, a 26-year-old program that helps all Lawrence County children have a wonderful Christmas.
The Lawrenceburg Parks & Recreation Department coordinates the effort that will this year provide gifts of clothing and toys to more than 800 children across the county. The number of recipients changes each year, and has risen to over 1,000.
Two days of free breakfast events kick off Spirit of Santa fundraising each year. Residents drop off donations of toys, clothing, and cash – this year more than $17,000 in monetary donations alone.
Recipient names are submitted by the Department of Human Services, schools and churches. Children and families are asked for clothing sizes and wish lists, and then the wonderful work of shopping begins. Each child receives clothing and toys, which are packaged for families to pick up at the Parks & Recreation office the week of Christmas.
For more information about the Spirit of Santa, call 762-4231.
Top photo: Bicycles donated to the Spirit of Santa by Lawrenceburg Utilities System and its employees.
Photos by Howard ‘HoJo’ Johnston, the Lawrence County Advocate
We are blessed in Lawrence County with organizations that help people in need and generous residents who support them.
God’s Storehouse has evolved from a small food pantry off the Lawrenceburg Square to an agency that provides food and clothing to hundreds every month and limited assistance with utility bills.
Between 500 and 600 boxes filled with a variety of food items are given out each month, feeding an estimated 1,200 residents. People in need can also choose items from the clothing bank, which serves about 500 a month.
Donations come from churches, civic groups, businesses and individuals, says Board Chairman Rickey Wade. Some provide regular support and others just one-time gifts, but it all works together to help Lawrence County residents.
There are many ways to assist. God’s Storehouse at 425 Frank Street accepts non-perishable food items, personal hygiene and household products like soap, toothpaste and toilet paper. New and gently used adult and children’s clothes are also accepted there for the clothing bank.
Another way to help is by giving clothes, household items, furniture and small appliances to the Community Thrift Store, where merchandise is sold and proceeds used to support the work of God’s Storehouse. So yet another way to advance the work of the agency is to shop for bargains at the Columbia Avenue Thrift Store.
Cash donations are accepted and appreciated. Some food must be purchased to help fill up food boxes; most is bought at a discount from Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. Some clothing, like underwear and socks, are also purchased for the clothing bank. Customers of Lawrenceburg Utilities System can choose to have their bills rounded up to the next dollar and the difference given to God’s Storehouse.
No matter how donations arrive, they all help Lawrence Countians. Manager Pam Clayton is one of just a few paid employees – most work is performed by volunteers. The unpaid board of directors includes Chairman Rickey Wade, Vice Chairman Mike Hunt, Secretary Allyssa Fox, Treasurer Carol Cramer, members Bobby Alford, Delano Benefield, Dr. Norman Henderson, and Alice Quillen. Lawrenceburg Mayor Keith Durham and Lawrence County Executive T.R. Williams are ex-officio members of the board.
For more information about God’s Storehouse, visit or call 766-1265. Hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays. The Community Thrift Store is located at 115 North Columbia Avenue in Lawrenceburg. Hours to shop or donate items are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
We are blessed in Lawrence County with opportunities to step into the past at Appleton’s Big Red Store.
One such opportunity occurs this Saturday, December 5, when the owners who refurbished the long-shuttered country store host their annual Christmas event. Doors open, with free admission, at 8 a.m.
Bob and Linda Boyd live in a historic home next to the Big Red Store and grew tired of watching the deterioration of the landmark that was closed in the mid-1950s. They along with Alvin and Jackie Fick bought it in 2006 and have restored it as a living museum and a tribute to the community it served.
The Big Red Store was hailed as “the largest country store in the South” when it opened in 1902. Appleton is located in southeast Lawrence County, just north of the Alabama state line. Its cotton gins served farmers in Giles and Lawrence counties and North Alabama, and the three-story store was a testimony to the community’s prosperity.
Customers could buy everything they needed at the Big Red Store. It offered groceries, clothing, hardware, chickens, and wooden caskets. A tailor, milliner and undertaker plied their trades there; a soda fountain, post office, and drug store were housed under its roof. The local Masonic Lodge even held meetings on its third floor.
Filling the wooden shelves and cabinets today are examples of the items that were sold there, including one child-sized wooden casket. Visitors can also look at old store receipts and scrapbooks full of photos and other memorabilia from the store.
Visitors this Saturday can attend an 11 a.m. memorial for Union and Confederate soldiers who died at the nearby Battle of Sugar Creek. The skirmish occurred December 26, 1864, and was the last Civil War battle that took place in Tennessee. Re-enactors will be on hand to recreate the battle after 1 p.m.
Vendors will offer handmade goods for sale at the December 5 event, and steaming bowls of chicken stew and chili will be available. Santa is even scheduled to make an appearance from noon to 1 p.m.
Another highlight is music. Talented pickers fill the store and lawn with traditional, toe-tapping sounds; buck dancers and cloggers circle ‘round to join in the fun. The Boyds and Ficks open the store one Saturday at the start of the Christmas season, and on the Fourth of July. Appleton had a traditional Independence Day celebration for many years that included a community baseball game.
The Big Red Store is part of the Appalachian Quilt Block Trail and has been featured on Tennessee Crossroads – watch it at https://www.youtubecom/watch?v=t8csA8uvfUk.
To reach the Big Red Store, turn onto Highway 98 (Rabbit Trail Road) from US. 43 in Leoma. Travel about 12 miles south, turn left on Appleton Road, and travel about 4.5 miles.
We are blessed in Lawrence County with a wealth of musical talent.
Events year-round feature homegrown vocal and instrumental abilities. No weekend goes by without a singing at a local church, a bluegrass-country-gospel performance hosted by the Tennessee Valley Jamboree, and/or a concert at the historic Crockett Theatre.
Lawrence County musicians are featured performers at The Summertown Bluegrass Reunion, a festival dedicated to that genre held twice a year. The Kellys (see more about them below) open each evening performance of the James D. Vaughan quartet festival, which brings the top gospel groups in the country here each July.
Every local church has members who share their gifts only with their lucky congregations. Most people know at least one shade tree musician who’s willing to gather for an informal jam session anytime, anywhere. Lawrence County is also home to musicians who have found success far outside our borders.
One recent concert featured local musicians of every type. Band Together II is an annual concert for our three county high school bands, held at the acoustically-perfect Crockett Theatre.
Young musicians who will benefit from the event crowded onstage to kick off the show. They then made way for others who got their start with the Loretto, Summertown, or Lawrence County High School Bands.
Taylor Cheatwood, for instance, is an LCHS alumnus whose gift for the saxophone (www.IPlaySaxophone.com) emerged during his high school years. He, along with talented local siblings Will Pettus (keyboard) and Lorie Pettus Jones (flute) launched a tribute to Billy Joel that also featured 17-year-old vocalist Jonathan Dewar.
Joining them onstage was The Jeff Quillen Band, named for its excellent rock guitarist/lead singer. The group included bass guitarist Johnny Marston, who has been making music with area bands for decades. John Marston II is a regular member of the band on drums and vocals; versatile Steve Walker is a vocalist who plays guitar, keyboard, and harmonica. http://www.jeffquillenband.com/music.html
Stepping out of their usual roles, high school band directors Darrell Boston (Loretto), George Thompson (Summertown) and Aaron Evins (Lawrence County High) helped form a brass section that thrilled their cheering students.
The Kellys rounded out the evening with a touch of Southern Gospel, a nod to Lawrence County’s historical connection to that genre. The group was formed in 1959 by two brothers and their wives, and is led now by Jon Kelly, who joined in at age 5. Paul Walters sings tenor for The Kellys but tackled lower notes for his spine-tingling rendition of Elvis’s American Trilogy. http://www.thekellysgospel.com/
Your next best opportunity to see the most local talent on display will be Monday, December 7, when the Lawrence County Oratorio Society opens the holiday season with Christmas Pops. The 7:30 p.m. show is free, but tickets are only available on a first-come, first-serve basis this Saturday, November 21 at the Crockett Theatre box office. The window opens at 10 a.m. to offer a maximum of four tickets to each person as long as they last.
Photos by Howard (HoJo) Johnston, the Lawrence County Advocate
We are blessed in Lawrence County to watch the arrival of another beautiful fall.
Warm weather has lingered, even though the calendar told us autumn began September 23. A few days have been cool, but the morning of our average frost date, October 15, passed with no trace of iciness.
Science tells us that the increasing length of night is the first signal for trees and shrubs to begin their annual show; sunny days and cool temperatures heighten the color. Whatever the reason, it is a pleasure to watch it progress.
Spots of color are visible in our woods now. The low leaves of sassafras trees are a glossy pop of red against neighboring tree trunks, and locust leaves have turned a pure, buttery yellow. Most trees are just beginning to change, with a tinge of color on their outer leaves that will spread in the days to come.
You cannot get away from the sight of trees in Lawrence County. There are small forests within Lawrenceburg’s city limits and even the largest cultivated fields are surrounded by them. When colors are at their height, you can enjoy them anywhere, but try a drive through David Crockett State Park (where these photos were made); Laurel Hill Wildlife Management Area; or along the Natchez Trace. All are accessible from Highway 64 West.
In this community on the border of Alabama, we are accustomed to Tennessee orange and Alabama crimson competing for attention year-round. But when autumn arrives, every imaginable shade of those colors is plastered against a bright blue sky, stunning us with their unpretentious beauty. Yes, we are blessed in Lawrence County.
We are blessed in Lawrence County to still benefit from the 1870s immigration of German Catholic families to this area.
Thousands of migrants came to the U.S. between 1830 and 1860, the majority of them from Ireland (1.6 million) and Germany (1.3 million). New York was their principal port of arrival, and many stayed there or moved westward along the Erie Canal to Ohio. They found the cities crowded and lacking the economic opportunities they had hoped to find when they moved to America.
In 1868, The German Catholic Homestead Society of Cincinnati, Ohio, bought 25,000-30,000 acres in Lawrence County, Tennessee. The first fifteen families arrived November 14, 1870 with Rev. J.H. Heuser. Advertisements in German newspapers brought others from Kentucky, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa. They made the trip by train, by wagon, sometimes after coming by boat as far as Muscle Shoals.
Rev. Heuser and parishioners in Lawrenceburg set up a frame church and two-room convent that was also used as a parochial school. The priest then moved south to a community where other migrants had settled, known as Glenrock. He helped establish another church, school and cemetery, and changed the settlement’s name to Loretto. The name comes from a town in Italy, originally called Lauretana in Latin, where in the 13th century angels were said to have transported the Nazareth home of the Virgin Mary.
Rev. Heuser went on to establish churches, schools and Catholic cemeteries in St. Joseph and St. Mary’s in Lawrence County, and at St. Florian in Lauderdale County, Alabama. There were also mission churches west and north of Lawrenceburg, near Laurel Hill and in the Brace Community, respectively.
Today, Lawrence County is still home to three of those churches, and all are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
St. Joseph was built in 1883 and has the distinction of being the only consecrated church in the state of Tennessee. According to the Lawrence County Archives, “All churches are blessed before being used for divine services, but consecration, a rare and more solemn form of dedication, is restricted to comparatively few. Only those which are built of stone or other permanent materials with assurance that they will remain in permanent use can be consecrated. Also, the land and building must be entirely free of all debt.”
Lawrenceburg parishioners built a large church on Berger Street and it was dedicated in 1887. Bricks were made from clay found on the property, and the young Will Boulie helped with that work. He went on to establish the Lawrenceburg Pressed Brick Company, and “Boulie brick” is still prized today for its appearance and strength. Lawrenceburg Sacred Heart School is located immediately west of the church.
Loretto Sacred Heart was built in 1912 as a permanent home for that parish. Like Lawrenceburg Sacred Heart, it still maintains a parochial school for children through the 8th grade.
The influence of these German Catholic settlers on Lawrence County can’t be overstated. Many people active today in business, education, health care and government can trace their roots directly to those immigrants, with names like Beuerlein, Waltz, Rohling, Neidert, Lamprecht, Simbeck, Gang and Patt.
Businesses with German Catholic names attached continue to prosper: H. B. Brink Lumber Company, Remke Eye Clinic, Niedergeses Landscaping, Augustin Lumber Company, Kress Auto Parts, and Evers Construction Company, to name a few.
People of German descent have common personality traits that helped pave these residents’ way to success and benefit the community as well. Typically, according to JustLanded.com, they are efficient, disciplined, well-organized and punctual, and also appreciate ironic and cynical humor.
German people also appreciate and honor tradition. Sacred Heart Lawrenceburg recently hosted its 82nd annual Labor Day Festival and Loretto Sacred Heart School has sponsored a Fourth of July event for over 100 years.
This year, Loretto residents are celebrating their German heritage with the 27th annual Oktoberfest. This festival dates back to 1810 in Munich, and is celebrated by German people around the world.
The 2015 Oktoberfest in Loretto began Thursday, October 1 and ends Sunday, October 11. Daily events include a German meal with live music and dancing, naming of an Honorary Burgermeister, a Miss Oktoberfest pageant, jack o’lantern contest and parade, a fall fashion show and even a dachshund race. Dachshunds (“badger dog” in German) were bred in Germany to hunt burrowing animals.
For a schedule of daily events, visit “Oktoberfest in Loretto, TN” on Facebook.com.
Source: Lawrence County Archives
Photos by Howard ‘HoJo’ Johnston of the Lawrence County Advocate and Sedona Brewer
We are blessed in Lawrence County with the tradition of the Middle Tennessee District Fair, celebrating its 104th year September 28 through October 4, 2015.
Early Fairs were simple events where farmers and homemakers displayed their best produce and homemade products. The first Fair was held in the community of Leoma; other locations included Lawrenceburg’s public square and space across Lafayette Street from Lawrence County High School, now E.O. Coffman Middle School.
The event was moved to “Fairview Park” in the 1930s, and under the direction of E.R. Braly offered more carnival attractions and “free acts,” circus-style presentations by trapeze artists, animal trainers, and the like. Advertisements through the decades promised a “bigger and better” Fair every year.
Fairview Park is now Rotary Park, and the county fair is now the Middle Tennessee District Fair, drawing visitors from all surrounding counties. The Lawrenceburg Rotary Club has sponsored, organized, and directed the Fair since 1950, and they combine the best of the old and new for an event that does get bigger and better every year.
Rotarians and the City of Lawrenceburg were partners in the construction of a 4,600-seat arena that opened in 2014. Nightly arena events include a demolition derby, truck and tractor pulls, motorcycle and ATV racing and an annual concert that this year features country star Trace Adkins. Other performers through the years have included Dolly Parton, Ronnie McDowell, Reba McEntire, Lee Greenwood, the Beach Boys, George Jones, and Garth Brooks.
“Miss Fairest” beauty pageants in five age categories precede the week at the historic Crockett Theatre. Thursday is always “Senior Day,” when admission is reduced for senior citizens and they enjoy a free lunch and entertainment. Friday’s “School Day” is another tradition, when Lawrence County schools are closed and students and teachers are admitted free of charge. A highly-anticipated drawing on the final Sunday afternoon of the Fair gives the winner his or her choice of vehicles. A new MTDF concert series offers a range of entertainment every night on the midway.
Lining that midway are carnival rides and games by W.G. Wade Shows, a longtime partner of the Middle Tennessee District Fair. Vendors offer goodies that are an attraction unto themselves: fairgoers can enjoy classic carnival treats like cotton candy, funnel cakes and candied apples, or a meal of beans & cornbread, chili, burgers, sausages, catfish, barbecue, ribs, or even shrimp etouffee.
The Middle Tennessee District Fair serves as the major annual fundraiser for many local organizations. Lawrenceburg and Loretto Lions Club members man a food booth, for example, and Kiwanis Club members handle and earn proceeds from public parking.
The Fair also supports the work of the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club, including the year-long upkeep of Rotary Park. The club has its own scholarship program and sponsors the Lawrence County school system’s Heroes Banquet that recognizes top students and educators. It supports the work of Rotary International and its Polio Plus program, which has virtually eradicated that crippling disease in the world. Lawrenceburg Rotarians have given financial and hands-on support to life-changing projects in Honduras for the past decade.
No matter the changes over the years, the Fair has stayed true to its agricultural roots. Homemakers and farmers still vie for blue ribbons, along with fine artists, winemakers and photographers. Cattle, goat, sheep, rabbit and poultry shows are scheduled through the week.
With the Fair, Lawrence Countians enjoy traditional fun and support good work that goes on year-round. The Fair is as basic to the local calendar as Thanksgiving or Halloween, and has become synonymous with autumn and cooler weather.
To learn more about schedules and admission prices, visit MTDFair.org.
Historic photos courtesy Lawrence County Archives, others from MTDFair.org