Friday, March 27, 2015

From the Tennessee Supreme Court Case Files: Leisure boats and the Lumber Industry on the Wolf River (1917)

While cataloging the vast collection of Tennessee Supreme Court records, members of our staff frequently come across some interesting finds. One such case is from 1917 and comes out of Shelby County.

In the case of Patton-Tully Transportation Company et al. v. Memphis Power Boat Club, the Patton-Tully Corporation stated that it towed rafts and barges of logs from the Mississippi River and tributary streams to the Anderson Tully Company, Tennessee Hoop Company, Memphis Stave Company, Anchor Saw Mills Company, and the Moore & McFerren firm (all located on the Wolf River in Shelby County). The above-mentioned corporations were all engaged in the lumber manufacturing business and were co-complainants with the Patton-Tully Transportation Company in the lawsuit.

The Memphis Power Boat Club was “a corporation organized for the purposes of affording sport and recreation to its members.” The individual members owned “pleasure boats of various sizes and capacities.” The boat club maintained a boat house on the east bank of the Wolf River, immediately north of Keel Street in the city of Memphis and maintained a collection of pontoons in the river. Members of the club moored their smaller crafts to the pontoons. Patton-Tully claimed that, even though they employed “none but skilled river pilots,” the leisure boats obstructed the waterway and made it difficult for them to navigate the river without running into one of the smaller vessels and damaging them.

The case detailed Section 1814, Shannons Code, that stated “it is made a misdemeanor for any person to obstruct the main channel of any navigable stream or river by building mills, erecting dams, or locks in or across same (unless authorized by law) or by any other means whatever.” This crime was punishable by a “penalty of $250.00, one half to the use of the person who sues for it and the other one half to the use of the State.”

The proceedings also detailed that Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (as approved on March 3, 1899) made it a crime to obstruct any U.S. waterway without authorization from Congress. The litigation stated that not only did the Memphis Power Boat Club not have approval from Congress to block the river; but also Major M. J. McDonough of the Army Corps of Engineers sent the club a cease and desist letter. The letter, dated September 16, 1916, read as follows:

Gentlemen:

The Tennessee Hoop Company and certain other local interests claim that the mouth of the Wolf River is chocked up with motor boats; that this collection of small crafts very greatly interferes with their right to navigate Wolf River in the prosecution of their industry. I have investigated the locality and find the motor boats are tied up four, five and six deep against the bank, and this collection of boats effectually prevents the industrial use of the stream. It is requested that you will take measures to string out these boats so as not to block the channel. Any damages received from collisions of boats under the present circumstances will fall wholly upon the owners of the small craft who occupy undue portion of the stream contrary to law. I shall be glad if you will use your influence to abate the present condition. Will you kindly reply at your earliest convenience?

The Tennessee Supreme Court materials contain several photographs and a blueprint depicting the obstruction. The blueprint shows the width of the Wolf River and the Hatchie Chute as well as how much of that width is being taken up by the Memphis Power Boat Club. The photographs illustrate how difficult it is for a tow boat pulling a barge with logs to come off the Hatchie Chute and make the turn into the Wolf River without hitting any of the smaller vessels.

Patton-Tully sought a temporary injunction requiring the Memphis Power Boat Club to remove the obstruction they created in the river and to prohibit club members from “tying up or anchoring” pleasure crafts to the pontoon boats. The plaintiffs also requested that the leisure boating group be enjoined from “maintaining pontoons permanently anchored in the channel of the Wolf River,” from maintaining “its pontoons in front of the ferry landing on Keel Street,” and that they pay the $250 penalty as established in Section 1814 of Shannons Code.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled that the pleasure boats could continue to use the river, albeit with some restrictions.

Among the vast amount of information available at the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA), Tennessee Supreme Court records make up by far the largest single collection. The volume of cases is extraordinary, with well over 10,000 boxes of material in storage. Chronologically, the cases encompass the period from about 1809 to approximately 1950. With individual case files that sometimes include hundreds of pages and stretch over several generations, the entire collection takes up most of an entire floor of TSLA's building. For more information about Tennessee Supreme Court Cases at TSLA, please visit: http://tnsos.org/tsla/SupremeCourtCases/.

Photograph from the Tennessee Supreme Court case files, Patton-Tully Transportation Company et al. v. Memphis Power Boat Club. "Taken from the top of bank south of Keel St. looking North West."
Tennessee State Library and Archives
 
Photograph from the Tennessee Supreme Court case files, Patton-Tully Transportation Company et al. v. Memphis Power Boat Club. "Taken from bow of wooden barge west of plant of Patton Tully Transportation Company looking due north."
Tennessee State Library and Archives
 
Photograph from the Tennessee Supreme Court case files, Patton-Tully Transportation Company et al. v. Memphis Power Boat Club. "Taken from the top of bank south of plant of Patton Tully Transportation Company looking North West."
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Photograph of a loaded barge from the Tennessee Supreme Court case files, Patton-Tully Transportation Company et al. v. Memphis Power Boat Club.
Tennessee State Library and Archives



The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Soaring in the Service: The Life of Cornelia Fort

The Tennessee State Library and Archives values the many women who have impacted Tennessee history. During Women’s History Month we pause to remember a bold and brave woman named Cornelia Fort. Fort made the ultimate sacrifice for her country as the first female pilot from the United States to die during active military duty.

Fort showed interest in aviation at an early age. Her father, Dr. Rufus Fort, was a prominent businessman and physician in Nashville. Dr. Fort did not approve of the risky sport, and in 1924, he made his sons swear they would not become pilots. However, Cornelia, five years old at the time, did not take the same oath. After her father passed away when she was 21 years old, she began taking flying lessons regularly. Cornelia became instantly enamored. Within a matter of weeks, she made her first solo flight. She took her passion for flying and transformed it into a career. Once Cornelia obtained the required number of flight hours, she began teaching others how to navigate the sky, which eventually led to her moving to Hawaii.

Cornelia Fort, early Tennessee aviator present at the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Image from Record Group 238, Tennessee Blue Book, 1995-1996, Bicentennial Edition
Tennessee State Library and Archives
Published in Rob Simbeck's book, Daughter of the Air.


Cornelia wanted to make a difference, and saw an opportunity to do so by contributing to the country’s need for trained pilots. In 1941, the Andrew Flying Service in Honolulu recruited her to teach sailors and factory workers how to fly. During one of those training sessions, Cornelia took the controls from one of her students to narrowly avoid colliding with a military plane. At that moment, she saw the Japanese emblem painted onto the top of the wings. Cornelia was one of the first pilots to witness the incoming planes that attacked Pearl Harbor. As she landed the plane, bullets narrowly missed Cornelia and her student as they both sprinted toward cover. Miraculously, both walked away from the ordeal without injury, but two of her fellow pilots were killed on that day of infamy.

After she left Hawaii, Cornelia’s options for work were limited. She resorted to teaching Civilian Pilot Training programs. However, she still longed to serve her country. In September, when she received a telegram asking her to join what would later be known as the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), Cornelia enthusiastically traveled to the New Castle Army Air Force Base in Wilmington, Delaware. Although WASP would not be recognized as an official military unit until 1977, it provided an important service.

Cornelia Fort
Library Collection
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Cornelia Fort lost her life during her delivery of a BT-13 to Love Field in Dallas. The wing of her plane clipped another pilot’s landing gear resulting in Cornelia losing control and violently crashing into the terrain below. She most likely died instantly. At 24 years of age, Cornelia achieved what she set out to do in life. In an article that she submitted to several newspapers shortly before her accident, she stated, “I, for one, am profoundly grateful hat my one talent, my only knowledge, flying, happens to be of use to my country when it is needed. That’s all the luck I ever hope to have.” Despite the public sentiment against women joining the military efforts of World War II, Cornelia followed her passion and served her country.

If you are interested in learning more about Cornelia Fort and other female pioneers in American aviation history, read about them in TSLA’s collection. A good place to start is with, Daughter of the Air, by Rob Simbeck, They Also Flew: Women Aviators in Tennessee, 1922-1950, by Janene G. Leonhirth, and United States Women in Aviation, 1930-1939, by Claudia M. Oakes. You can look up these books and many more through our online catalog at: http://www1.youseemore.com/tsla/.

Established in 1944, the Cornelia Fort Airpark was named in her memory. In 2011, it was sold and re-purposed as a green space for Shelby Park. Cornelia’s story lives on through the historical marker in the park that bares a short biography of her life.
Image from Record Group 33: Tennessee Aeronautics Commission Records, 1939-1953
Tennessee State Library and Archives


The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Today's Anniversary: The Great Fire of East Nashville

Ninety-nine years ago today, a large part of East Nashville was destroyed by a fire that originated at one house but quickly spread through wind-driven sparks.

The fire began March 22, 1916 in the North First Street home of a man named Joe Jennings. It quickly spread to a neighboring mill and then other houses along First and Dew streets. Wind gusts of 44 to 51 miles per hour helped the fire spread quickly to wood-shingled roofs throughout the neighborhood.

View from Tulip Street Church tower, Nashville, Tennessee, March 1916
Houses on the corner of 6th & Russell Streets with Woodland Street in the background.
Samuel Anderson Weakley Papers
Tennessee State Library and Archives


Nashville's fire chief telegraphed every city within 100 miles, asking for assistance, while local residents formed "bucket brigades" in an attempt to bring the flames under control. Gov. Tom C. Rye called in the Tennessee National Guard to help as well.

Engine Company No. 7, Nashville, Tennessee, n.d.
Library Photograph Collection
Tennessee State Library and Archives


In all, the fire destroyed more than 500 houses and left more than 2,500 people homeless. There were few injuries and only one fatality - a man electrocuted by a live power line - but the total property loss was estimated at more than $1.5 million.

Panorama of East Nashville after the Great Fire, 1916
6th Street is on the left, Russell Street is in the middle, and Fatherland Street is on the far right.
Library Photograph Collection
Tennessee State Library and Archives
(Click here for a larger view)


You can learn more about disasters in Tennessee, including the Great Fire of East Nashville, by visiting the Tennessee State Library and Archives' online exhibit. To access that exhibit, go to: http://www.tn.gov/tsla/exhibits/disasters/index.htm.

Nashville Banner, March 22, 1916
Newspaper Microfilm
Tennessee State Library and Archives



The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cherokee Syllabary and the Penelope Johnson Allen Cherokee Collection

Sequoyah, the originator of the Cherokee syllabary, was born about 1776 at the village of Tuskegee, near modern-day Vonore. His father, Nathaniel Gist, was a fur trader from Virginia and his mother, Wut-teh, was the daughter of a Cherokee Chief.

Portrait of Sequoyah, credited with inventing the Cherokee alphabet, ca. 1838, from McKenney and Hall’s History of the Indian tribes of North America, with biographical sketches and anecdotes of the principal chiefs.
Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA)

Although Sequoyah did not read English, he created a writing system for the Cherokee people. Sequoyah worked on his new language for 12 years before introducing it to the Cherokee in 1821. The Cherokee Syllabary is made up of 85 symbols representing various sounds. Some of the symbols resemble English and Latin characters.

The Penelope Johnson Allen Cherokee Collection, 1775-1878, contains a letter as well as parliamentary rules for the Cherokee Senate and a memorandum to John Ross, all written in Cherokee. The letter is from George Lowrey, Assistant Principal Chief of the Eastern Cherokee and Sequoyah’s cousin, to John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, and is dated January 5, 1838. An English translation of the letter is included in the collection.

For more information on the Penelope Johnson Allen Cherokee Collection, see the online finding aid: http://www.tn.gov/tsla/history/manuscripts/findingaids/1787.pdf.

To view images of the McKenney-Hall portraits of Sequoyah and John Ross as well as an example of the Cherokee Syllabary showing the characters systematically arranged with the sounds, visit the McKenney-Hall 19th Century Native-American Prints Collection on TeVA: http://teva.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/mckenneyHal.


Cherokee Syllabary depicting characters systematically arranged with the sounds, ca. 1836-1844, from McKenney and Hall’s History of the Indian tribes of North America, with biographical sketches and anecdotes of the principal chiefs.
Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA)

Letter, written in Cherokee, from George Lowrey, Assistant Principal Chief of the Eastern Cherokee and Sequoyah’s cousin, to John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, dated January 5, 1838.
Penelope Johnson Allen Cherokee Collection, 1775--1878.

Portrait of John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee from 1828 until his death in 1866, ca. 1843, from McKenney and Hall’s History of the Indian tribes of North America, with biographical sketches and anecdotes of the principal chiefs.
Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA)

Memorandum, written in Cherokee, sent to John Ross in Washington, November 15, 1837.
Penelope Johnson Allen Cherokee Collection, 1775--1878.



The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Discovering the History of Nashville: A Tennessee State Library and Archives Workshop

UPDATE: We have received higher than anticipated numbers of registered attendees for our upcoming workshop, “Discovering the History of Nashville,” presented by David Ewing on March 28th. As a result, our Auditorium seating is at capacity, so registration for this event is now closed.

If you still wish to attend, we will add your name to our reserve waiting list, and if a registered attendee cancels in advance of this lecture, we will be sure to notify you to let you know a spot has opened. Email us at workshop.tsla@tn.gov to add you name and contact information to our reserved waiting list. 


Join David Ewing for a look at Nashville’s unique history through the Tennessee State Library and Archives’ (TSLA) historical materials and from his own historical research. In this free workshop, Ewing will discuss how to navigate the TSLA’s records to research Nashville history, and to locate information about your own Nashville ancestors.

The workshop will be held from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. March 28 at TSLA's building just west of the State Capitol building in downtown Nashville.

Ewing is a ninth generation Nashvillian, lawyer and historian. He has been researching Nashville and his family at the Tennessee State Library and Archives for 20 years. He has previously served on the Metro Historical Commission, and the board of The Hermitage and Travellers Rest. He is a founding member of the TSLA Friends. His Facebook page "The Nashville I Wish I Knew" was selected in 2013 as the best Facebook website by the Nashville Scene's Best of Readers and Editors poll.

Those wishing to attend this workshop must contact TSLA to make a reservation as the number of seats is limited. Parking is available in the front, on the side, and in back of the Library and Archives building. Patrons can register by telephone by calling (615) 741-2764, or by e-mail at: workshop.tsla@tn.gov. For more information contact:

TSLA PUBLIC SERVICES
403 SEVENTH AVENUE NORTH
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: (615) 741-2764 | Fax: (615) 253-6471


The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

New Online Application Maps African-American History During the Civil War in Tennessee

As slavery and plantation life dissolved in the crucible of war and occupation during the 1860s, Tennessee became a laboratory of new social arrangements for African Americans. Landscape of Liberation: The African American Geography of the Civil War in Tennessee, which highlights many of the changes in African-American life, is now available online at http://tnmap.tn.gov/CivilWar/freedmen/.

This fully functional (and free) geographic information system application shows 150 wartime sites—refugee camps, early freedmen schools and churches, and recruitment sites for the more than 20,000 black Union soldiers who enlisted from Tennessee. In addition to narrative information, the sites are linked to scans of original primary sources that document historic events. These sources include maps, newspapers, and manuscript items from the collections of the Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Tennessee State Museum.

The application is an interactive map showing the landscape of emancipation as it unfolded from 1861 to 1865. Students now have a powerful new tool for viewing the geography of the African-American experience in Tennessee and connecting it with the digitized primary sources from the archives.

The application, a collaborative project between the Tennessee State Library and Archives, the Fullerton Geospatial Laboratory at Middle Tennessee State University, and the State of Tennessee Office of Information Resources, was built with funding from the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area.

The African American Geography of Civil War Tennessee is an interactive map showing the landscape of emancipation as it unfolded from 1861 to 1865. Every point on the map is linked to primary documents and images that tell the story of people, places, and events.


Service Impressment Roster, North-Western Railroad, October 13, 1863. Tennessee State Library and Archives.
Image available online at: http://tnmap.tn.gov/linked_docs/Roll_of_ImpressedNegroes_NNWRR_1863.pdf


Railroad depot on Church St. from James Allen Hoobler, Cities Under the Gun Photograph Collection, 1862-1986. African American women selling produce at the depot are visible in this photograph. Tennessee State Library and Archives.
Image available online at: http://tnmap.tn.gov/linked_docs/Hoobler_RailyardMarket_THS454001.pdf

 
The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"How I Came To Write 'The Will'" -- Playwright Sandra Seaton finds inspiration at the Tennessee State Library and Archives


Sandra Seaton is a playwright and librettist. As the author of 10 plays, the libretto for a solo opera, a spoken word piece, and short fiction, Seaton’s work has been performed in cities throughout the country. She received the Mark Twain Award from the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature in 2012, and has taught creative writing and African-American literature at Central Michigan University for 15 years as a professor of English.

In this entry on the TSLA Blog, Seaton recalls her visit to the Tennessee State Library and Archives where she found the wills of her great-great grandparents, Cyrus and Eliza, while researching her family history. This discovery later inspired her to write, “The Will,” a play which dramatizes the human consequences of the Civil War as experienced by an African-American family in a small town in Tennessee.

How I Came to Write “The Will”


By Sandra Seaton

   Since childhood, I had heard the story about an ancestor of mine named Israel who sassed a white man and had to be smuggled out of town disguised as a woman. According to the story, when the Ku Klux Klan came to the house looking for Israel, my great-great-grandmother Eliza refused to disclose his whereabouts. Just minutes before, she had hid Israel upstairs under a mattress. After his escape, no one saw or heard from him again.

   I had been told often that my great-great-grandmother, Eliza Webster, her parents Annie and Demps Cherry, and four others (all free blacks) had founded the first black Baptist Church Mt. Lebanon, in Tennessee in the 1840s. I also knew that Eliza and her husband Cyrus had 22 children together, seven of whom died in the smallpox epidemic. That was all I knew. With what resources I had, I had been doing some research (snooping in attics, basements, churches, and talking to people) since 1989. On my trips to Tennessee I went to churches, cemeteries, and courthouses. As a native of Tennessee and through family oral traditions, I knew that an African American free black community existed in middle Tennessee before the Civil War, one with ties to the free black community in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

   I was anxious to find out any information I could about Cyrus and Eliza, so I made a trip to the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville. Census records revealed that Cyrus had held farmland in Columbia before the Civil War. An 1850 record listed Cyrus, Eliza and a few of their children. Fascinated by the thought of African Americans of that era holding property in the South, and because of my desire to realize a full picture of the world of African Americans, I took a room at a hotel downtown and spent days at the Archives. I think I spent half the time trying to coax the microfilm readers or rewinding the rolls of film. I followed a number of leads but hadn’t turned up much.

   On my last day at the State Archives, a very hot summer afternoon about ten minutes before closing, I found the wills of my great-great grandfather and grandmother. As I read the two wills, I was awe-struck by their evocation of individuals and a way of life entirely different from the stereotypes about African Americans of their place and time. As I read, I was amazed by the beauty of the language and the care evident in each perfectly crafted sentence. My great-great-grandfather Cyrus’s will showed great planning and care. He was the nurturer, and his will revealed an appreciation for things like teapots, mirrors, and blankets. Throughout the will, he used terms of endearment for each family member, describing one relative as “a gentle, loving man.” My great-great-grandmother’s will, Eliza’s, on the other hand, concerned itself with the disposition of the land, down to the last foot.

   I was startled to notice that both wills mentioned Israel. Cyrus’s will left money and household items to Israel should he return. Eliza’s will contained a touching bequest to Israel pointing any reader of the will away from Israel’s actual destination. Archives are even quieter than libraries, but you know when I read those two wills, I couldn’t help it; I cried and cried. It was as if after all those years, there they were waiting quietly for me to find them.

Cyrus Webster's will, probated on Dec. 4, 1891, located within TSLA's Maury County Microfilm Records, Reel 184, Vol. G.
Tennessee State Library and Archives


Armed with copies of these wills, and at the encouragement of her grandmother, Emma, Sandra Seaton made a visit to Greenwood Cemetery, determined to find out more about Cyrus, Eliza and Israel. There, she made a startling discovery, inscribed in stone on the graves that marked her family members’ final resting place. She wrote:

   I desperately wanted to go to Greenwood. I knew there was no way my aunt was going to go with me, so I found a family friend, Mr. Herbert Johnson, and the two of us put on our old shoes and waded through the grass. Although Mr. Herbert, who was in ill health at that time, needed a cane to get around, nothing could stop this committed history buff from making the trip to Greenwood. We had looked at just about every tombstone we could find when we came to a group over in one corner that faced away from the rest. There they were, my family’s graves, just like Grandma Emma had said—Cyrus, Eliza, Eliza’s parents, Annie and Dempsey Cherry, seven little graves off in a corner, and next to Cyrus a very large monument with the name Anna Sanders at the top.

   The inscriptions were barely readable. I had heard of people doing grave rubbings so we went to a nearby drycleaner’s for some thin paper and to Kmart for crayons. Back then, grave markers could tell whole stories. After reading their wills at the archives, it was no surprise that the tombstones were finely scripted. We rubbed and rubbed, but were only mildly successful in making out dates for Cyrus and Eliza. For Anna, I was able to make out something that I didn’t understand, the words “cousin of Israel Grant.” Fresh out of paper, Mr. Herbert and I went to an auto shop next door. Maybe they had something we could use. I felt a little uneasy about announcing our purpose, poking around the white cemetery. A young white guy at the counter was casual about the whole thing. He had family over in Greenwood, couldn’t help out with paper, but was on his way home for lunch; he’d bring back a local historian’s book on the cemetery. Just look in the seat of my pick-up he told me.

   Sure enough, an hour later, the car window rolled down, the book lay there on the seat, waiting. The section on Cyrus and Eliza listed their inscription and the names of the graves of their seven young children and no more. There was no information on Anna Sanders. I called the local historical society. The woman on the phone told me to go to the grocery store, get some cornstarch or flour, throw it on the inscriptions, and dust it off. I threw cornstarch on Cyrus’s mother Anna’s grave and contemplated the words, “cousin of Israel Grant;” they just didn’t make any sense. My grandmother had always said we were related to Ulysses S. Grant. So was Anna the Grant connection? A light dusting revealed something I never expected to find: “Anna Sanders, 1790-1852, mother of Cyrus Webster and consort of Israel Grant.” Consort of Israel Grant! Cyrus had erected a monument over his mother’s grave, one of the largest in the cemetery. And he was proud of his ancestry, not only proud that a white man was his father, but that his mother was the common-law wife to this man, a relationship he cared enough about to inscribe on her tombstone. Here was Cyrus’s legacy, the example of a courageous man, courageous enough during slavery, 1852, to announce this relationship to a hostile world, and honest enough to show his love for his father by naming his first born son Israel.

From that day forward, fired with curiosity and ambition, Sandra Seaton set out to write a play that dramatized the people whose characters were expressed in these wills. She wrote “The Will” shortly thereafter—a play that reveals both the conflicts of Reconstruction and the range of African American culture.

Readers may learn more about “The Will” and other works by Sandra Seaton by visiting her website at: http://www.sandraseaton.com/. The Tennessee State Library and Archives is grateful to have had a part in helping Sandra discover her family’s history. We hope this blog post will inspire you to visit us and possibly help you write your own family’s story.

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.