Saturday, April 2, 2022

2020-10-19: Westbound Roadtrip Through Tennessee Civil War History and a Walking Tall Sheriff

Here we are on Day #2 of our westbound roadtrip. Today's trip took us from the Civil War history in Chattanooga through the backroads along the southern route of Tennessee towards Memphis. There's a lot of sightseeing to do, a lot of new geocaches to find, and new counties to add to my map. So climb aboard and let's go for a drive...

With its railroads and riverboats, the city of Chattanooga was a vital transportation center during the Civil War. Both armies recognized its importance. In the late summer and fall of 1863, several key military actions decided the fate of Chattanooga, and helped determine the fate of the Confederacy.

September 18-20: About 10 miles south of Chattanooga near West Chickamauga Creek, Confederate forces defeated the Union Army in a bloody two-day battle. The Federals withdrew to Chattanooga and fortified the city.

September 22 - November 23: Confederates laid siege to the city of Chattanooga to force the Federals to surrender. Confederates occupied positions along the Tennessee River, Missionary Ridge, and Lookout Mountain. In late October, the besieged and hungry Federals managed to open a supply line through Lookout Valley into the city. With fresh troops and supplies, they were ready to fight by late November. On November 23rd, Union troops stormed and captured Orchard Knob, a hill to the east of their defense line in the city.

November 24: Union forces drove the Confederates from their position on Lookout Mountain. Because the mountain was partially shrouded by fog, the action was also called the "Battle Above the Clouds." The following day, Union forces stormed and shattered Confederate unites occupying Missionary Ridge. The siege was broken and Chattanooga became the Federal base from which Maj General William T Sherman would launch his Atlanta campaign in the spring of 1864.

Point Park preserves strategic high ground captured by Union soldiers during the Battle of Lookout Mountain in 1863. Today it is part of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and the location of our first virtual geocache (GC41C9). The New York Peace Monument, the centerpiece of the park, symbolizes the reconciliation of the North and South.

Driving down off Lookout Mountain, I made a stop near the base of the Incline Railway for our next virtual geocache (GCMFYC). The Incline Railway up historic Lookout Mountain is the world's steepest passenger railway. The first Incline up Lookout Mountain opened in 1887. It ran from the 38th Street area in St. Elmo to just below the Point. The second Incline, engineered by John Crass, opened November 16, 1895, and is the Incline that is still in operation today. The success of the second Incline was the primary reason that the first Incline closed in 1899.

The incline, 1,972 feet long and rising 1,450 feet, is superbly designed to suit its location. It makes use of a variable grade, ranging up to 72.7 percent near the top, to compensate for the changing weight of the cables as its cars move. One of the cars has flanges on the inside of its wheels, the other on the outside, allowing the cars to pass midway with no moving parts in the track turnouts. Both cars have self-contained emergency brakes. Originally powered by steam, the incline now is driven by two 100-horsepower motors. The latest evolution of the incline cars were just recently installed in March 2020.

Robert Craven built the first house on the hillside of Lookout Mountain in 1856. Seven years later, the Confederate Army occupied Lookout Mountain and Craven's house became the headquarters of Brig. Gen. Edward C. Walthall. On November 24, 1863, Union troops stormed the mountain and pushed the Confederates around to the north end.

When Robert Craven returned to his home after the battle, he found little of his home standing except the basement, the chimney, and the stone dairy. In addition to artillery damage, soldiers had stripped the house looking for souvenirs and firewood. The Cravens rebuilt the house as it currently stands.

Many of the Civil War Battlegrounds have monuments scattered throughout placed by the various states as a memorial to those soldiers who fought and died while representing their states. This particular memorial statue was honoring those soldiers from the state of New York. There is another monument nearby from Illinois which also happens to be a virtual geocache (GC621C).

Finally leaving Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain to continue our roadtrip westbound, we enter the town of Winchester in Franklin County. The town was named after James Winchester (1752 - 1826), who was a soldier in the American Revolution, Speaker of the First Tennessee Legislature, and Brigadier General in the War of 1812. The town of Winchester was created as the Franklin County seat on November 22, 1809.

One of the many monuments and historical markers located within the town square was this one dedicated to the memory of Colonel James Lewis (1756 - 1849). It is also another virtual geocache (GC9366). Col. Lewis served with distinction in the Revolutionary War. He participated in the battles of White Plains, Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Germantown, and Yorktown. He erected the first brick house in town and was one of the appointed commissioners for the erection of the first courthouse and jail in Franklin County. There are two other historical accomplishments, but that would give away the answer to the virtual geocache.

The one building that caught my eye the most was the Oldham Theater. Apothecary and druggist shops were originally on this corner from the 1820's thru 1900 with doctors offices upstairs during the 1880's. Later the street level housed the Franklin Grocery and Bakery until the 1930's. The spacious upstairs was hosted large civic gatherings and parties while leased by the Business and Professional Women's Club. The old building was razed in 1949 for construction of a theater.

George E. Oldham, who owned the Rivoli Theatre on the south side of the square, bought this theater from his brother-in-law in 1949 while it was still under construction on the north side of the square as a replacement for his older theater. Unfortunately, George Oldham passed away in September 1949 before the theater officially opened a year later on September 14, 1950 and named in his honor.

Though virtually unchanged in appearance, ownership changed several times and a major renovation began in 2009 and took three years to complete. The upgrade to the two-screen theater included incorporating digital projection equipment, installing surround sound, new curtains and new seats. I think it's pretty cool to see these old theaters still in use.

Continuing our drive west on US-64, the next Tennessee county needed for our geocaching map was Giles County. We stopped in the town of Pulaski at this unique and historical cemetery and memorial park (GC5BQW0). The first cemetery in Pulaski was on the outskirts (at that time) of town in 1817, in a field where interments continued until 1883 when all of the lots were full. Over the years abandoned and nearly forgotten, the cemetery fell into disrepair.

Until in 1969, Pulaski began an urban beautification project here to transform the old cemetery into a city park. The overgrowth was cleared out and headstones were located, identified and cleaned. The headstones were then mounted; the smaller ones in curved structures on the ground and the larger ones into a stone wall along the back of the park. A few monument markers that were still standing after the years were left where they were. Finally, landscaping, paved paths and lighting were added. The interred remains were left in their original locations as it could not be determined who was where except for the few monuments that were still standing.

Moving on into Lawrence County and the town of Lawrenceburg, we find our next two geocaches and a look back into Tennessee history. First was the Garner Mill Earthcache (GC1PPNT). The Garner Mill was used extensively from 1825 to 1849. It was built in 1820, and functioned as a grist mill initially, and then was converted to a water powered sawmill in 1851. Both the dam and the mill were destroyed in the flood of July 13, 1998. The ruins of the foundation still survived the flood, as well as the footings for the dam on the far side of the river. It is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Closer to the center of town was our next geocache at the home of Davy Crockett (GC6K21P). David Crockett lived in this cabin from 1816 to 1822. He was one of the commissioners who laid out the county and selected the site of Lawrenceburg, a colonel in the militia, Justice of the Peace, member of the legislature, and operator of several industries on Shoal Creek during his residence here.

In the Lawrenceburg town square is a statue of Col. Davy Crockett. Born in East Tennessee on August 17, 1786, he gave his life for Texas Liberty and Independence at the Alamo that fateful Sunday morning on March 8, 1836.

Still heading westbound on US-64 picking up new geocaching counties, I make a quick roadside stop for a geocache in Wayne County (GC6B2WF). It was a good thing I stopped for the easy geocache because my target cache was a DNF (GC69K7B). But the good thing is that you never know what you're gonna see while geocaching. Like this homemade rocket ship trike!

Next up was Hardin County in the town of Savanna along the banks of the Tennessee River. There once was a house here built by James Rudd, a pioneer ferry operator, long before the US-64 highway was crossing the river. That house was replaced by another built by David Robinson, whose son-in-law William H. Cherry, improved and enlarged it. During the Civil War, "Cherry Mansion" became the headquarters for Federal Army commander Major General C. F. Smith. When he died he was succeeded by Major General Ulysses S. Grant. Maj. Gen. Wallace died here after being mortally wounded at Shilo.

Unfortunately the geocache had gone missing and I had to DNF it (GC2TVN9). Still needing the county, I stopped a couple blocks away at this small park memorializing the Battle of Shiloh where I found the geocache hidden here (GC1F8PZ).

Just a short drive over to McNair County, and we stop for our next geocache (GC5T5DM) highlighting a local hero and nationally known figure. The movie "Walking Tall" made Sheriff Buford Hayes Pusser a household name. He was born near Finger, Tennessee on December 12, 1937, raised here and graduated from Adamsville High School in 1956. About a year later, Buford moved to Chicago where he worked as a die cutter, attended Worsham College, and wrestled professionally on weekends. While in college he met and married Pauline Mullens.

The saga of Bufford Pusser and the illegal activities on the Tennessee-Mississippi state line began early in 1957, when he was beaten severely at a club in that area. In January 1960, he was arrested for assaulting the owner of a club on the Mississippi side of the3 state line. Bufford received a verdict of innocent at a trial held in Corinth, MS.

Buford's career in law enforcement began when he was appointed Chief-of-Police of Adamsville in 1962. He was later elected Constable and then Sheriff of McNairy County, serving three terms. During his first year as Sheriff, Buford was stabbed on several occasions and along with his deputies raided over forty-two moonshine operations. In 1966 he was forced to shoot in self-defense the operator of a motel on the state line where he had gone to investigate a robbery. In January of 1967, Buford was shot at point blank range four times by two men he had stopped in the state line area. The most deplorable episode in his career began one early morning on August 12, 1967 when he, accompanied by his wife, was enroute to answer a call. They were ambushed on New Hope Road, killing Pauline with Buford barely surviving the ordeal being severely wounded himself. In December 1968, Buford answered a call for help and a known murderer opened fire on him, leaving him no choice but to shoot and kill him in self-defense.

Sheriff Buford was selected in 1970, by the Jaycees, as one of Tennessee's "Outstanding Young Men of the Year." He had signed a movie contract to depict himself in a sequel to the movie "Walking Tall" when he was suddenly killed in an automobile accident on Highway 64, west of Adamsville, on August 24, 1974.

Bufford Pusser's experiences have inspired seven movies, five books, a television series, several magazine articles, and a Colt Commemorative Limited Edition handgun, all depicting the life of a man who "Walked Tall."

Our last geocaching county of the day is for Hardeman County and the town of Bolivar, Tennessee. It was a quick park and grab geocache to claim a find in the county (GC4WGKP).

From there it was just a couple of blocks south to the Polk Cemetery. Even though there's wasn't a geocache there, it was historical and worthy of a stop. The land was acquired by James K. Polk Jr. and others on October 23, 1845 as a family cemetery for the descendants of Ezekial Polk. Colonel Polk, the patriarch of the Polk family in Tennessee, was the grandfather of President James Knox Polk. The elder Polk was instrumental in framing the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and served in the Revolutionary War. He lived in Maury County before settling in Hardeman County.

That's all for today. We continue heading west on US-64 and find a place to stay for the night just outside of Memphis. I'm thinking a trip to Elvis's Graceland in the morning might be a plan. I hope you return to see the outcome. Until then...

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