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Miscellaneous Americana - part II

More of seeing Americana in miscellaneous things around the Southeast

wood carving of a bald eagle on a stump
A bald eagle and the three states of Tennessee.

This wood-carved statue stands on the street corner just across from the Giles county courthouse in Pulaski Tennessee, an area where the state flag is often flown, but not as much as the stars and stripes of the American flag. Tennessee is a patriotic place.

The Tennessee state flag has three stars set on in a blue circle against a red background. A slogan often heard in Tennessee is "the three state of Tennessee". That refers to three distinct geographic areas of the state, each with its own flavor of southern American culture and each with its own unofficial capital.

Knoxville is thought of as the capital of east Tennessee, the most mountainous of the three regions. East Tennessee is the home of the southern Appalachians and that includes the Great Smoky Mountains. History tells us of how the culture of the small mountain farms led the people of east Tennessee to have a different daily life and different political view than those Tennesseans to the west. Because those smaller mountain farms rarely used slaves, east Tennessee was not in favor of secession before the Civil War. Much of that loyalty to the union remained well into the war.

Scott County, in northeastern Tennessee, legally declared itself independent from the state of Tennessee during the war and called itself the Free and Independent State of Scott. Surprisingly, after the war was over Scott County didn't officially return to the state of Tennessee until 1986!

display of the three stars of Tennessee
Yard art in Marshall County, Tennessee

Music is big in all three states of Tennessee, but each has its own favorite style of music. Old style Appalachian folk music that grew into what we now call bluegrass music is at home in the mountains of east Tennessee.

The middle part of Tennessee is the most populous of the three areas. With Nashville as both the official capital of Tennessee and the unofficial capital of central Tennessee, that area has long been known as the home of country music. That central area has long rolling hills and beautiful cattle and horse farms. Today it is fast becoming home to many high tech and automotive industries. Tennessee has a good system of education, and the people of Tennessee are very industrious.

Eastern Tennessee is more flat and home to large cotton, corn and other row crop farms. In terms of history, it was the last of the three areas to be settled by the white man in the early 1800's. It is bounded y the Mississippi River on the west and the western part of the Tennessee river on its east. It considers Memphis as its unofficial capital. Memphis is often called the Home of the Blues because of the music that developed there. For many years Memphis was the home of singer Elvis Presley.

traffic sing for caution water crossing
When you see a sign like this, well you aren't in the big city.

South of Pulaski is the small community of Bethel. This low water crossing sign is in Bethel. The sign is meant to say that crossing by automobile is possible only when the water is low.

Bethel is an interesting small community, like you just stepped back in time to the early 1900's.

Also in Bethel is the old office of Doctor Louie Edmundson. His is quite a story. The pictured historic marker reads: Dr. Louie Edmundson was the last of a long line of country doctors in the Bethel Community of Giles County, TN. The youngest member of his class, he graduated from the University of Tennessee Medical School in 1912. After serving in the Army Medical Corps in France during World War I, he returned to the Bethel Community and resumed his practice. During the course of his career, beginning in a horse and buggy, Dr. Edmundson delivered 3,300 babies for local families. Just before his death on October 15, 1962, the University of Tennessee honored him with a Certificate of Appreciation for his fifty years of service.

As a much younger man, I had the acquaintance of an elderly lady in the West Limestone community in Alabama who remembered going to Bethel and visiting Dr. Louie in her younger days.

an old rock railroad tunnel
Old tunnel under the railroad track

Staying in Giles County Tennessee, pictured above is a tunnel that is still open to traffic on Petty Branch Road. The tunnel allows the road to go under what was the old Tennessee and Alabama Railroad track. That track and this tunnel were built in the period of 1855 to 1860. The rail line ran from Columbia, Tennessee through Pulaski, then Athens, Alabama and on to Decatur.

Clearly it is a one lane stone tunnel. One can walk through it and see the craftmanship that went into its design and construction. This design was handed down to modern-day engineers from the ancient Romans! I wonder just how long the tunnel will stand. My guess is that when I, and my children, are long gone, the tunnel will still be there on Petty Branch Road.

*** update - A big "thank you" to my Internet chess club friend Harvey Reed. Harvey read this blog and saw the tunnel picture and sent me a link to this "double extra cool" article from the great state of Connecticut.

In terms of Americana, this is awesome. So in Vernon, Connecticut back in 1849 they built a stone tunnel, of the same design as the tunnel built in Tennessee in the 1850's, to allow the road to go under the railroad track, just like the one in Tennessee. Since then the track has closed and been removed in both places and they made a trail system there in Connecticut called the "rails to trails" system - just like our walking trail is called the "rails to trails" walking trail here in Alabama now! Wow, very Americana! end of update ***

walking trail with a covered bridge
Covered bridge along the Richard Martin walking trail.

During the 1980's most of that rail line was closed. In one section of about eleven miles, the track was removed and the land was donated to the Limestone County Parks and Recreation Department. That parks department developed the railroad bed into a public walking trail, commonly called the Rails to Trails walking trail, but later given the official name of the Richard Martin Walking Trail.

The picture above was made where a covered bridge lies along the walking trail, about ten miles south of the Petty Branch Road tunnel in Tennessee and about a mile south of the Mill Creek RV park.

old rock waterway culvert
Circa 1858 rock culvert along the walking trail.

Moving about two miles further south, pictured above is a limestone rock culvert, built when the railroad was built here around 1858. Like the old tunnel to the north, the culvert looks as though it will last for hundreds of years - or maybe forever. There are about a half dozen culverts like this along the walking trail, but a walker must be looking for them or they will just walk over one and never know it.

old railroad track overgrown by woods
An abandoned railroad track headed south

And along the same old rail line, about six miles farther south, there is a section of track that was not part of the land donated to the parks and recreation department. This track has been totally abandoned for about a half mile, but south of that part, the track is still maintained and used.

And if you saw my earlier blog about Gandy Dancers, the above photo is the picture that inspired one of my friends to tell me that we might need a "Gandy Dancer, or three or four" and introduced me to the term "Gandy Dancer".

a railroad track with trees and bushes growing on part of it
Here a railroad track changes from active to "no longer in use".

If one goes south far enough that abandoned track becomes an active track. A number of factories north of Athens, Alabama still need railroad service, so the tracked is maintained into that area. But just north of there, the track is allowed to simply melt into the woods as seen here.

Bicycles are much more popular now than 50 years ago or 100 years ago. When I was a teen I rode a bike a lot but never saw a sign that told drivers to watch out for bikes. A few years ago we got a good snow and ice storm in February and the ice made a good background for this yellow sign. That seemed comical on that particular day. I did not share the road with any bikes that day.

But now bike shops are common in the Tennessee Valley. The Trek Bicycle Store in Columbia, Tennessee has a pretty sign.

an old phone directory
Athens, Alabama phone directory, 1960

I recently visited the Limestone County Archives in Athens, Alabama. That was a great visit. I will post some pictures and information later, but for now I present a photo of an Athens telephone directory from 1960. It was stamped Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company. The Archive building is a very interesting place and the Assistant Archivist, April Davis, works very hard to keep things in order.

old Texaco gas station restored
In Cowan, Tennessee and old Texaco station has been restored.

Over in Cowan, Tennessee an old Texaco gas station has been restored. It is interesting to see and is quite near the railroad park there.

bald eagle sitting in a tree
Bald eagle watching over his domain in Jackson County, Alabama

Here in the 21st century the American Bald Eagle has made a strong comeback from its dwindling population in the late 20th century. The Alabama Department of Fish and Game started a program to restore the Bald Eagle back in the early 1980's. The first active eagle nest from that program was found in Jackson county in 1991. In 2007 the bald eagle was removed from the endangered species list. Today it is common to see a bald eagle in many places in the Tennessee River Valley in north Alabama.

Americana is not hidden, but is scattered among miscellaneous places and things that we see every day.

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1 Comment

Ronny Whitaker
Ronny Whitaker
Feb 06

I continue to enjoy, this Eagle could easily have been roosting across from our home farm in Jackson County off Hwy. 35. We have a pair that have used this area for the last few years!

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