Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Works Progress Administration and Shady Valley School

By Carol Roberts

In the mountains of Johnson County Tennessee, is a beautiful valley known as Shady Valley. It is tucked between Bristol (Holston Mountain) and Mountain City (Iron Mountain) on the border of the mountains of North Carolina. The community has long been a crossroads of Virginia and Tennessee. In the 1930s, the depression hit unusually hard with the deterioration of business in industries such as timber and manganese mining. The New Deal in Tennessee started numerous benefit projects putting citizens to work.


Shady Valley, Tennessee 1952
RG 82 Dept of Conservation Photograph Collection.
Tennessee Virtual Archive


Same valley today (author photo)

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) built roads and schools for many Tennessee counties, including Johnson County, giving many local workers jobs. Shady Valley also has a portion of the Appalachian Trail running nearby, built by the WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) projects. All were New Deal projects that, even today, define this little community. The valley had many small one-room schools with names like Crandull, Winchester, and the Upper Valley, but during the New Deal of the 1930s, it benefited from WPA projects for one, large, new school.

The school of Shady Valley went from a one-room schoolhouse to a new, rock structure with many school rooms, a cafeteria, and all of the other modern amenities of the day. These projects really were cooperative projects of the county, state, and WPA (federal). The state of Tennessee completed its reports on new schools and those records remain at the Library and Archives today. Photos, such as the completed Shady Valley Elementary School in 1937, were kept. Today, these records reflect the history of education and structures from all over the state. The photos of these schools of the 1930s have been digitized and are located in the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA).


Shady Valley School 1937
Record Group 91 Tennessee Department of Education Records Photographs
Tennessee Virtual Archive


Today, Shady Valley is a busy, little school in the same WPA building at the heart of the community still educating children of the valley. Whiteboards and LED projectors have replaced old, black, chalkboards, but it still has its same shape and style of 1930s WPA construction. It retains local rock supplies on the exterior. The interior, wooden wall paneling of wormy chestnut, now painted white, still exists and even the water fountains, fixtures and WPA school bus garage out back.

September 2019 (author photo)
September 2019 (author photo)

In recent years, the community has joined together with the parent-teacher group to honor this valley, its history, and its unique, land conservancy to celebrate in a festival called the “Cranberry Festival”. Old fashioned bean suppers, BBQs, pancake breakfasts and parades, take place throughout the valley. The school benefits from celebrity auctioneers, usually politicians at auctions, craft booths, quilt shows, and other fundraisers. It all goes to the school, its students, and helping maintain the community spirit. It even serves as a “homecoming” for former students and residents to come back for a visit.

The other celebration of this festival honors the valley’s unique, natural example of the southernmost place of naturally existing cranberry bogs. Cranberries grow near this school in a shaded location of low land. The community now helps the Nature Conservancy protect these natural growth berries. This year marks the 27th Cranberry Festival for the non-profit, joint project to honor history, nature and, most importantly, the school.

The festival is October 11 – 12th, 2019.

Sadly, the 2019-2020 school year will be the last for Shady Valley Elementary. All the students will then ride school buses over the mountain to larger schools in Mountain City. The fate of the building is hopeful but unknown.

Cranberry Festival Quilt Show in the school gym (author photo)
Craft fair on school grounds (author photo)

Old grain silo painted for the festival located at the community crossroads of Highways 421 and 133 (author photo).


To read more about Shady Valley and WPA see the following resources available from the Library and Archives:


  • Tennessee’s New Deal Landscape, A Guidebook by Carroll Van West. University of Tennessee Press, 2001.






  • Microfilm 1472 -- Works Progress Administration (WPA) Records. Division of Operations: Project Proposals and Applications. National Archives film. 1 reel. 16 mm. Microfilm Only Collection



The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Gold Star Mothers' Day

By Michelle Smith, Volunteer

Some of the most rewarding aspects of studying our nation’s history are finding familiar voices within its stories and placing our own families’ histories within its framework. While we often focus on the major figures and events of a particular period, the most illuminating and engaging information can be found in the accounts of the everyday people who experienced the time firsthand. Diaries, letters, and other personal documents fill in the gaps left by broad overviews of specific events and show contemporary readers what life was really like during a particular historical moment.

In an effort to locate and preserve such materials, the Tennessee State Library & Archives launched Over Here, Over There, a project to digitize the World War I memorabilia of Tennessee families. Participants in this project were able to share their documents and artifacts with the general public while keeping the originals, allowing their personal histories to contribute to a greater understanding of the war itself, its brave soldiers, and their loved ones back home. After holding digitization events in several Tennessee cities, the collection grew to contain over 1200 items.


Images from an article on the Ring sons in the Nashville Tennessean and the Nashville American, June 30, 1918. TeVA Collection



Several of these items showcase particular families and document their experiences with the war. For example, the Library & Archives now offers a well-rounded collection of information on the Ring family, whose memorabilia was graciously shared by family members at the Franklin digitization event in 2017. Three of the Ring family’s sons, Frank, Nathan, and Joseph, served in the war and their mother, Sarah Frances, later traveled to Europe as a participant in a program for Gold Star mothers and widows. Among the items available to view online are letters between the sons, their mother, and other family members, Sarah Frances’ travel diary, and artifacts and photos that further illustrate the family’s wartime experience.


Letter from Frank M. Ring to his mother, September 8, 1918. TeVA Collection


The sons’ letters offer insight into the conditions that soldiers faced overseas, including the troops’ movement across Europe and their eagerness to maintain contact with their families back home. Thanks to the family’s full collection, we are able to pair the sons’ writing with their photos and to study the war through the lens of their experiences.


Sarah Ring’s diary entry on visiting Frank’s grave at the Somme, August 7, 1933. TeVA Collection


Their mother, Sarah Frances M. Ring, documented her experience with the Gold Star travel program in a well-preserved diary that is available to view via the Library & Archives’ Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA). In 1933, Sarah Frances—whose son, Frank, died in combat—joined a group of other women whose loved ones were killed during the war on a pilgrimage to Europe. Her account describes how their travel group tracked their loved ones’ movement through France, highlighting specific places in which important events or actions took place years earlier.

Sarah Frances M. Ring at the Somme Cemetery, standing next to the grave of her son Frank. TeVA Collection.



The family’s collection also includes a photo of Sarah Frances beside Frank’s grave at the Somme Cemetery for American soldiers in France, which adds even more depth to her written account of the visit. Her diary would make a particularly interesting and timely read as the last Sunday in September approaches, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt set as “Gold Star Mother’s Day” in 1936.

In conjunction, these photos, artifacts, and letters construct a quite clear image of what wartime looked like for American families—both here and there. The Ring family’s records preserve an important piece of World War I history and, thanks to their family’s willingness to share them, prove that every contributing voice makes our nation’s history richer.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Friday, September 27, 2019

Searching Mount Olivet Cemetery Records on TeVA

By Jennifer Randles

The Mount Olivet Cemetery Records Digital Collection is now live on the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA). This collection contains records related to Mount Olivet Cemetery, a 206-acre cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee. Mount Olivet was established in 1856 by Adrian Van Sinderen Lindsley and John Buddeke. Notable interments include John Overton, Thomas Ryman, Anne Dallas Dudley and several former governors of Tennessee. Florence M. Redelsheimer (1911-1989), once a public relations administrator for Mount Olivet, compiled the physical collection, which includes accounts, correspondence, legal documents, maps, photographs, land records, and cemetery records.

Mount Olivet Cemetery Records Digital Collection on TeVA


Some of the most exciting items in the collection are three interment books spanning the years 1855-1906, which list the people buried in the cemetery and their burial locations. Information on each page includes interment date, names, age, cause of death, and plot location information. These books are part of an ongoing transcription project at the Library & Archives to record information in all three volumes in the collection. The final full transcriptions will be imported into the Genealogy Index Search, while a name index for each page will accompany the volumes in the TeVA digital collection. Currently, volume II and eighteen cemetery maps are available online, while volumes III and IV will be uploaded when transcription is complete. Unfortunately, volume I is not in the collections at the Library & Archives, so it is not part of this project.

Using the Collection

October 1878 interments listing names, ages, causes of death and burial locations.


Since names in the book are listed on each entry page in the digital collection, you can search for a name and go straight to where that person is listed by typing their name into the search box. Try searching with their last name and look through the pages it appears on to find a person, as many people are listed using initials or alternate spellings of their names. Names tagged on the page are listed in alphabetical order, not the order they appear in on the page.

Volume II has an index in the front with page numbers for each name. When using the book’s index, keep in mind that those refer to the page numbers written in the book. Not all pages have numbers written on them, so assigned each image a number to keep track of them. If you are having trouble finding someone, Ask Us a Question!

Each page lists information about the individual buried in a certain plot, such as name, date of interment, age, cause of death, and burial location. Not every piece of information was written down for each person, but there is still a lot of information in the books. Here are two former Tennessee governors in Volume II:

Interment record for Governor Aaron V. Brown.



This record from March 14, 1859 shows that Gov. Aaron Venable Brown was 63 years, 6 months and 21 days old when he died of pneumonia. Unfortunately, it doesn’t list a lot location.

Interment record for Governor Neill S. Brown.



This record from January 1886 lists Gov. Neill S. Brown (spelled as Neil) dying at age 76 due to paralysis.

I love death records and I encourage you to look through the interment book and search for names and dates in the Tennessean newspaper database, available to Tennesseans through the Tennessee Electronic Library. I often find information on the deceased in obituaries and newspaper articles- especially the social column. If the cause of death is an accident or murder, there is likely an article about the event. Just one line in these interment books can lead to fascinating discoveries about people’s lives in the past.


Mirador Viewer

This TeVA collection is also the first to test out a new feature, the Mirador image viewer. Mirador is an open source tool that gives people new ways to interact with items from digital collections around the world. To open a TeVA item in Mirador, click the button next to Print that looks like an M. It will open up in a new tab/window. Mirador is not optimized for mobile devices, so it is best used on desktop or laptop machines.

Mirador button location in TeVA.

Image view with filmstrip navigation on bottom.


Mirador offers more viewing options, such as Image view (with filmstrip on the bottom) or Gallery view (viewing thumbnails of each page in a grid). Users can double-click, use the on-screen controls, or use the scroll wheel on their mouse to zoom in/out and view different parts of the image. Click and drag with your mouse to move around the image.

Some of the most useful features of Mirador are the image controls. Have you ever found a document that is too dark to read, or a shadow covers part of the writing? Mirador’s image controls allow you to adjust the image to make it easier to view details. The great thing is your changes just affect what you’re seeing and not the original file, so you can play with the controls as much as you want without altering the original.

Mirador image manipulation controls.


To use the image controls, click on the “toggle image manipulation” button in the upper left corner of the image viewer. It looks like three horizontal lines with sliders on each bar.

The controls from left to right are:


  • Image Manipulation Toggle (turn tools on/off) 
  • Rotate image 90 deg right 
  • Rotate image 90 deg left 
  • Brightness 
  • Contrast (difference between darks & lights) 
  • Saturation (how much color is in image, for color images only) 
  • Grayscale toggle (turn color images to grayscale) 
  • Invert colors 
  • Reset image (undo all modifications to image) 


See the example images below to learn how you can play with these controls to make details more legible. The original is on the top, and has been modified in different ways in the examples below it. We encourage users to play with these settings and see how much more information you can get from the books.

Examples of image manipulation in Mirador.


We hope you’ll take this opportunity to explore the Mount Olivet collection and play with the new image viewer controls. As the other volumes of interment books are transcribed they will be uploaded to TeVA, so please come back to see when new material is available in the future. Happy searching!


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Monday, September 23, 2019

Tennessee Maneuvers

By Andrew McMahan


Figure 1: Mary Ward, 9, and Raymond Ingram, 12, of the Second Army on maneuvers in Middle Tennessee, April 23, 1948. Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA).


By the autumn of 1942 the United States had been at war for several months. The first few months had not gone well for U.S. forces. The military suffered several setbacks including the surprise attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, the capture of Wake Island, and the fall of the Philippines. However, the American military was beginning to gain traction. The U.S. Navy dealt a major blow to the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway in June, American forces joined the fighting against the Axis powers in North Africa, and the First Marine Division landed on Guadalcanal in August, effectively beginning Allied offensive operations in the Pacific. The U.S. Army, in preparation for combat in Europe and other theaters of the war, needed to conduct large-scale maneuvers in order to train soldiers for the coming campaigns.


Figure 2: The maneuver area as shown on the cover of With Second Army Somewhere in Tennessee by Gene H. Sloan, 1956.


The Army chose Middle Tennessee to stage these maneuvers because the area’s topography resembled that of Western Europe. These were not the first military training exercises held in the region. During the summer of 1941, General George S. Patton conducted maneuvers in the area around Camp Forrest in Tullahoma. However, the maneuvers beginning in September 1942 were to take place over a much larger area comprised of twenty-one counties. The Second Army, a unit tasked with training soldiers for combat, established their headquarters in Lebanon for the duration of the maneuvers. Soldiers began pouring into the region that September by the tens of thousands. Each unit was assigned to either the Red or Blue army and participated in mock battles across the region. Lieutenant General Ben Lear, commander of the Second Army, stated that the maneuvers would simulate the battlefields of Russia, China, Africa, and the Philippines. The purpose of these exercises was to train troops to prosecute the modern warfare raging on multiple battlefields around the world. The army particularly stressed the importance of coordination between infantry, armor, artillery, and air support.


Figure 3: An M4 Sherman Tank of the 20th Armored Division during a live fire exercise in December 1944. With Second Army Somewhere in Tennessee.


Several new and specialized units honed their skills while on maneuvers. Several of these later became famous because of their accomplishments during the coming campaigns. Among these was the Second Ranger Battalion. This unit was formed at Camp Forrest on April 1, 1943, and received more specialized training than standard infantry. This battalion, along with several others, received further training from British commandos while in England in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. The Second Ranger Battalion earned its fame on June 6, 1944, when it captured Pointe Du Hoc, a stretch of high ground that overlooked both Utah and Omaha beaches. In order to take this position, the rangers had to scale a high cliff under covering fire from naval artillery. After reaching the summit, the rangers captured the German positions, destroyed several artillery pieces, and held the area against repeated counterattacks.

During the maneuvers in Middle Tennessee, Gene H. Sloan of the Nashville Banner accompanied a “Red Ranger” patrol from the Second Battalion in August of 1943. The patrol’s original mission was to observe Blue troop movements along Highway 10 (U.S. 231). The rangers worked their way deep behind the Blue lines. However, Red headquarters soon radioed the small force and ordered them to disrupt Blue supply columns. Second Lieutenant Remo Cagna led his ranger force, equipped with two armored scout cars and six jeeps, just south of the Fall Creek Bridge near the Wilson County line. He set up a command post 220 yards from the highway and sent riflemen accompanied by bazooka teams down the road in each direction. The rangers remained concealed on the side of the highway and ambushed lone Blue vehicles. In just a few hours, they captured two supply trucks, six jeeps, and a gasoline truck. However, one vehicle escaped capture and the driver alerted Blue forces. Lt. Cagna “destroyed” the captured vehicles and ordered his men to retreat. Blue armor and infantry scoured every road around Lebanon in search of the rangers. Cagna broke his force into small teams and ordered them to make their own way back to friendly lines.

The 101st Airborne Division also took part in the maneuvers, effectively demonstrating the value of airborne troops delivered via parachutes and gliders. Major General William C. Lee commanded the 101st during this time. The paratroopers of this division later distinguished themselves through their exemplary performance in Normandy (Operation Overlord), Holland (Operation Market Garden), and the defense of Bastogne, Belgium (the Battle of the Bulge). During the wargames, Lee needed to have an urgent conference with his staff. However, several of his officers, including Colonel Robert Sink of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, were 150 miles away in Sturgis, Kentucky. After receiving word that Lee needed him and the officers under his command, Col. Sink and his staff boarded an Army plane and parachuted thirty minutes later, landing in front of Gen. Lee’s headquarters.


Figure 4: Troopers of the 502nd PIR, 101st Airborne Division, parachute over Gallatin. With Second Army Somewhere in Tennessee.



Figure 5: Photograph of a glider landing in a field in Middle Tennessee, June 16, 1943. With Second Army Somewhere in Tennessee.


Several Middle Tennesseans participated in the maneuvers as soldiers. In some instances, soldiers found themselves engaged in wargames in their own communities. Staff Sergeant James Marshall Donnell, a resident of Middle Tennessee, was with his unit on a tactical problem near Auburntown. Evidently, Donnell knew he was in the vicinity of his hometown, but was unsure of his unit’s exact location. He eventually saw his own pickup truck pull into a field. Upon further inspection, he found that he was on his family’s property. His unit bivouacked in the area, allowing him to walk over to his house and spend the night in the comfort of his own home. U.S. Army units participating in wargames disrupted daily life in the maneuver area. As the preparation of soldiers for combat was critical to the war effort, officials asked that civilians in Middle Tennessee be as accommodating as possible during the exercises. For example, an army officer provided the citizens of Woodbury with a list of several ways to ensure the maneuvers in their area ran smoothly. He requested that residents park their vehicles in their yards, not on the street, in order to keep roadways clear. People were asked to walk to work if possible, or to park their vehicles behind their places of business in order to ease congestion downtown. He asked that residents in Woodbury not sweep trash into the streets. Additionally, he said that people should stay off the road at night when troops were in the area driving vehicles with the headlights out and to avoid shining lights in the soldiers’ eyes. The officer also stressed that motorists should not attempt to pass a military convoy and that the speed limit in the maneuver area was 35 miles per hour, which was strictly enforced by local police and military officials.


Figure 6: U.S. Army vehicles, including two M3 Medium Tanks, on an unidentified road in Wilson County. Looking Back at Tennessee, TSLA.


Several towns in the maneuver area provided entertainment for the troops whenever possible. For example, the citizens of Woodbury served lemonade and cookies and provided musical entertainment for soldiers after the town was “captured” on August 19, 1943. Local citizens opened lounges in several towns, providing soldiers with places to relax, have a cup of coffee, and write letters home. Several churches in Murfreesboro opened lounges for the troops. Not only did these lounges provide services such as checking equipment and mailing letters, they also often furnished entertainment such as ping pong tables, shuffle boards, and records. Additionally, it was not uncommon for locals to invite troops to their houses for a meal or to get a good night’s sleep. In fact, the army actually encouraged civilians to invite soldiers into their homes on weekends, though they asked that locals refrain from feeding troops currently working on field problems.


Figure 7: American Legion Post No. 5 members standing outside a bath house which served soldiers during the Tennessee Maneuvers, June 1944. Library Photograph Collection, TSLA.


The influx of soldiers and equipment into Middle Tennessee had a substantial impact on the region. Thousands of men descended on small towns, often taxing facilities to their absolute limits. Restaurants were among the businesses frequented most by soldiers. The Nashville Tennessean reported that large numbers of soldier-patrons were straining the food supply in Lebanon. The Second Army instructed officers to always keep the conservation of the local food supply in mind, and asked them to work with the local civilian authorities in any way possible if said authorities expressed concern over food shortages. Soldiers were prohibited from purchasing rationed food. No more than 25% of a unit could be authorized leave at any given time, and all units had designated areas allotted to them for leave. A Second Army report cited by Murfreesboro’s Daily News Journal stated, “If the civilian authorities become concerned over possible shortage of food due to presence of soldiers within the maneuver area, we will cooperate with them in any regulations they may promulgate in the matter, even to the extent of requiring soldiers to carry food when visiting or on pass away from their units.” Army officials eventually restricted furlough hours, which lessened the week day rushes of enlisted men to local food vendors.

Housing was also in short supply during the maneuvers. Army officers and other officials from the War Department required places to stay for the duration. Additionally, many wives accompanied their husbands to the maneuver area. These women also required places to live, and sought accommodations in the form of hotels, apartments, and even rooms in private residences. The Second Army attempted to discourage women from following their sons or husbands to the maneuver area, claiming that it distracted the men from the war games and hampered their training. Officials also sought to more closely replicate actual combat conditions and ease overcrowding in the region by barring dependents from accompanying the soldiers.

The maneuvers also brought a boon to businesses in the region. Soldiers with pay in their pockets looking for leisure patronized many local businesses. The establishments that saw large increases in revenue during this time were restaurants, hotels, jewelry stores, and theaters. In fact, the Second Army encouraged businesses to provide discounts for soldiers. The army asked theaters, for example, to provide Sunday movies for soldiers at half-price. The Nashville Tennessean reported in 1944 that the city and the region would likely experience a reduction in retail revenue after the maneuvers concluded, citing the departure of officers and men who were payed an estimated $36,000,000 during the exercises. However, business leaders in Nashville concluded that the maneuvers were “wonderful advertising” for Middle Tennessee and expected many soldiers to return with their families after the war.

Army units operating in and around local farms often caused some property damage. The 2nd Army waged its mock battles in cities, towns, and active farms. Troops often had to tear down fences in order maneuver, and tanks frequently deployed in the fields destroyed crops beneath their unforgiving treads. On November 10, 1942, the Fourth Service Command Rents Board requested that farmers and landowners report any damage caused by military units during the war games. The Army instructed their engineers to repair property damage after maneuvers ended.


Figure 8: An M7 in a wheat field outside of Lebanon prepares to fire its 105mm howitzer. Sloan noted that “Crops took a beating when action became hot.” With Second Army Somewhere in Tennessee.


The Second Army maneuvers also had a drastic impact on Middle Tennessee’s roads. Convoys regularly traveled up and down the highways. Opposing Red and Blue armies used the roadways to maneuver into position. Even much of the “fighting” took place on the roads. The high traffic along with the use of heavy machinery, especially tanks, severely damaged many roadways in the region. Congress appropriated $5,000,000 to be dispersed to the twenty-one counties of the maneuver area for road repair. Government agents were sent to each county in order to provide assistance and oversee the repairs.


Figure 9: U.S. soldiers and a vehicle at Doak's Crossroads in 1943. Note the well-worn state of the road. Looking Back at Tennessee, TSLA.



Figure 10: Soldiers, tents, and trucks near Camp Forrest. Looking Back at Tennessee, TSLA.


The Second Army maneuvers were only part of the contribution made by Tennessee to the war effort, but they were among the most crucial. The long days of marching, camping in harsh conditions, and complex military exercises prepared U.S. soldiers for the coming campaigns. Most of the units that participated in the wargames in Middle Tennessee went to Europe, though a small number also deployed in the Pacific. Lessons learned during the maneuvers here saved lives and helped the Allies push on to the final victory over the Axis powers. Army officers, understanding the great importance of these maneuvers in preparation for future battles, remarked favorably on the conduct of Tennessee civilians. Major Gen. W. A. Burress spoke to Gene Sloan of his and his fellow officers feelings towards Tennesseans, stating, “I can imagine what some city dweller would say if you so much as drove a jeep on his lawn. And if you were to step on his flower bed! Here these folks are as courteous and friendly as if you were doing them a favor instead of them catching hell. You ought to write a book to tell the world what real Americans these Middle Tennessee farm people are. The marvel to each one of us is, ‘How do they do it after three years’?”



The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Monday, August 26, 2019

Tennessee State Library and Archives to Host Free Workshop on the History of Slavery in Tennessee

Author Bill Carey examines slavery in Tennessee based on newspaper articles

The Tennessee State Library and Archives will host local author Bill Carey as part of a “workshop series” on Saturday, September 14th. Carey’s latest book, Runaways, Coffles and Fancy Girls: A History of Slavery in Tennessee, examines slavery through slavery ads appearing in Tennessee newspapers.

Carey will speak with attendees about the research he conducted for Runaways, Coffles and Fancy Girls. Carey researched every newspaper printed in Tennessee from 1791 until 1864, including newspapers on microfilm held at The Tennessee State Library and Archives.

When examined collectively, these ads provide scholars and family historians a number of details about the people named within them. Carey said, “They give insight into slavery and how it was supported by governments as well as by industries such as banking and journalism."

Bill Carey has a background in journalism as a reporter for The Tennessean, Nashville Scene, WPLN, and NashvillePost.com. He is the co-founder of the nonprofit organization Tennessee History for Kids and author of six books. He also writes a monthly column for Tennessee Magazine.

The workshop will be held from 9:30 a.m. - 11 a.m. CDT Saturday, September 14, in the auditorium of the Library and Archives, located at 403 7th Ave N. in Nashville. Following the presentation, signed books will be available for purchase from the author. Free parking is available around the Library and Archives building.

While the workshop is free, reservations are required due to limited seating. To make a reservation visit click HERE.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Thursday, August 22, 2019

LABM Summer Reading Program celebrates a phenomenal year!

By Ruth Hemphill

The Tennessee Library for Accessible Books & Media’s (TLABM) summer programs has come to an end, but it was a phenomenal year!

This year the programs consisted of weekly podcasts following the theme, “A Universe of Stories.” There were three new podcasts posted each week of interviews conducted with various people discussing their passions and careers, since we all have our own story that makes up the universe in which we all live.

There were podcasts geared for children, podcasts for young adults and podcasts for adults, but anyone could listen to any of the podcasts, if they chose. People who do not have access to the internet can get a recording of the podcasts each week that would play on the audio book player that is available to patrons of TLABM.

Popular podcasts included “Zombies and You: A Life and Death Conversation” with Jacob Lankford, a Wildlife Sciences specialist; “Healthy Mouth, Healthy Life,” with Mirna Caldwell, D.M.D. and “Healthy Aging Made Accessible” with Dr. James Powers, Clinical Associate Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Quality Aging.

These podcasts are still available on the TLABM website: http://sos.tn.gov/tsla/labm.

The podcasts were so popular that TLABM plans to continue the program in the summer of 2020 when the statewide library theme will be “Imagine Your Story!” Be sure to check our website in 2020 for more information.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Meet the Staff - Mary DePeder

Meet Mary DePeder. She is a Micrographics Imaging Operator with the Preservation and Digitization department.

How long have you worked here?

I was very recently hired! I started in January of 2019.

What are some of the things you do as a Micrographics Imaging Operator?

The bulk of my time is spent readying materials to be microfilmed. This includes capturing images of archival and library materials on our digital cameras that I then edit and process in the archive writer. This entails a significant amount of quality checking to ensure that digitized materials are as accessible as possible for public use. When not working on my productivity, I also take on special projects like my current role as a content contributor for the upcoming women’s suffrage centennial.

What is your favorite part of your job?

One of the things I really enjoy is handling original documents every day. Currently I am working on 1918 birth records which so often read like small dramas in the lives of everyday Tennesseans. There’s so much data and research to be mined from these records to help fill in our understanding of ordinary citizens and Tennessee life, so to play a small part in that process is very exciting.

What collection or resource are you excited about right now?

Besides the women’s suffrage collection which we will be highlighting extensively over the next year, I am excited about the John Sales and Christopher D. Ammons Vietnam War collections. These collections cover a period I’m very interested in which is mid to late twentieth century American history. The contents include humorous and sobering letters home and extensive photos that are formidable in widening my understanding of the long term effects of the Vietnam War both locally and abroad.



What do you wish more people knew about the State Library and Archives?

Since I am still fairly new here I have yet to stumble upon any trapdoors or secret passageways. But coming from a public library background one of the primary goals was to widen the public’s perception of what a library is and what it can do for the community and the individual. And so I will take up that same charge again with the state library and archives. One visit or click is simply not enough. Libraries and archives are not static institutions but rather they add and evolve and redirect the public’s eyes to new discoveries. So revisit because who knows what new workshop, book, or collection will be waiting for you next.

Do you have a favorite historical figure, event, or place in Tennessee history?

This is a very difficult question to answer! So I’m going to cheat a little and mention a place/historical figure(s) I have been researching lately for fun on the side. The 1970 Memphis chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) is a fascinating organization because it’s complicated and messy and provides lots of room for exploring race, gender, and class conflicts within feminism’s second wave. While certainly not a perfect organization, Memphis NOW was a hotbed of intersectionality working with and against Civil Rights members, anti-feminist groups, and other NOW organizations to help transform themselves and their local communities. To me, this makes it an exciting and important piece of Tennessee history.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Honoring the Historic Women's Schools of Tennessee

By Megan Spainhour

It’s August, and that means back to school! As students meet new teachers, explore new subjects and rush back to see old and new friends, we pay homage to historic colleges of Tennessee, and specifically, historical women’s colleges that were once a staple in Tennessee education, but have since closed and can now only be found in the pages of history.

Anthenaeum College, Columbia, 1866. Book Stacks, 14th Annual Catalogue.
Tennessee State Library and Archives


Colleges for women typically began as female seminaries in the 18th and 19th centuries, when educational opportunities for women were limited. Beginning in 1820, women’s education grew into a growing trend to support women’s equality. According to the Women’s College Coalition, "Seminaries educated women for the only socially acceptable occupation: teaching. Only unmarried women could be teachers. Many early women's colleges began as female seminaries and were responsible for producing an important corps of educators."


Ward Seminary, Nashville, 1902, Book Stacks.
Tennessee State Library and Archives


In Nashville alone, several ladies institutions sprang up, from Boscobel College to Buford College to the Nashville College for Young Ladies. Boscobel College was in operation from 1889 to 1916. Its primary objective was to be able to provide the lowest cost for higher education to young ladies. The 10 acre campus was located in East Nashville overlooking the Cumberland River. The East Nashville fire of 1916 effected its closing.

Boscobel College, Nashville. 1910. Books Stacks, Salmagindi Yearbook.
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Boscobel College, 1910. Books Stacks, Salmagindi Yearbook.
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Boscobel College, 1910. Women’s basketball team. Books Stacks, Salmagindi Yearbook.
Tennessee State Library and Archives


Dr. Price’s Nashville College for Young Ladies sat not far from East Nashville, where the current federal building sits on Broadway in downtown Nashville. Nashville College for Young Ladies provided a well-rounded education and covered kindergarten to college age. They touted themselves as the "Leading Southern School for the Advanced Education of Women."

Dr Price’s Nashville College for Young Ladies, Nashville- 1896, Book Stacks, The Talisman.
Tennessee State Library and Archives


One of NCYL’s associates, Mary Elizabeth Burgess Buford, became a top educator in Nashville, and went on to found Buford College in Clarksville. Buford College moved to Nashville in 1901 in the neighborhood of Green Hills and Oak Hill area. According to its publications, Buford College was adorned with gardens, springs, an electric car line and even featured a hennery and dairy for healthy dietary needs. After a few more moves around the city, Buford College closed in 1920.

Buford College, Nashville, 1912- Domestic Science Class. Book Stacks, The Mirror Yearbook.
Tennessee State Library and Archives


On the south side of Nashville, right off of Nolensville Road, sits a hill that once held another educational institution for females, Radnor College. Radnor College was started by A.N. Eshman. and served from 1906 until 1914. In 1921, a fire claimed the college’s main building. The school also had its own printing plant nearby, operating for the Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House until 1924.

Radnor College, Nashville, undated. Tennessee Postcard Collection.
Tennessee State Library and Archives


Of course, there were several other women’s colleges outside of Nashville as well. In Murfreesboro, a female academy named Soule College ran from 1851 until 1917. During the Civil War in 1862, the school closed temporarily so that it could function as a hospital by both Confederate and Union Soldiers.

Soule College, Murfreesboro- Newspaper Clipping, 1943, Vertical Files.
Tennessee State Library and Archives


Elsewhere in Tennessee, East Tennessee Female Institute operated out of Knoxville, Howard Female College educated out of Gallatin, Tennessee Female College served in Franklin, Centenary Female College in Cleveland, Mary Sharp College in Winchester, Brinkley Female College in Memphis, and Moses Fisk’s Female Academy in Hilham, among others here and there.

Howard Female College, Gallatin, 1915, Book Stacks, School Directory.
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Tennessee Female College, Franklin, 1904-School Directory.
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Tennessee Female College, Franklin, 1904-Book Stacks, School Directory.
Tennessee State Library and Archives


The education provided to these ladies by the fine educators of Tennessee helped to further women’s equality and rights and it can be arguably concluded that their resourcefulness led to the equality we experience today, especially now as we celebrate the 100th year of the passage of the 19th amendment and Tennessee’s important role in this historic milestone.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Monday, August 12, 2019

Traveling Tennesseans exhibit now on display!

By Caroline Voisine

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is proud to announce the installation of its latest exhibit, 'Traveling Tennesseans.' Open to the public now this will be the last exhibit featured at the Library and Archives current building. This exhibit features materials from the Library and Archives’ extensive collections and focuses on the travels of Tennesseans all over the world.



In this exhibit, we explore the postcards, notebooks, photographs, souvenirs and more from Tennesseans who journeyed beyond their hometowns. In this exhibit we explore a scrapbook of snippets from the adventures of everyday citizens as well as artists, missionaries and military personnel outside of Tennessee.

The Library and Archives is proud to exhibit not only its visual walled displays but also a curated selection of original archival material. Five exhibition cases will be filled with material from different manuscript and government records collections.

'Traveling Tennesseans' will be open to public Tuesday-Saturday, during regular business hours. 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. CT. Visitors can view the exhibit in the front lobby of the Library and Archives building, located at 403 7th Avenue North in Nashville.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Remember the Ladies: Origins of the Woman Suffrage Movement

By Patsy Mitchell


Women march for the right to vote in a Nashville parade for women's suffrage, approximately 1915. Sadie Warner Frazer Papers, 1894-1974



2020 marks the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the United States with the ratification of the 19th amendment by the Tennessee General Assembly. By the summer of 1920, 35 states had ratified the Amendment, bringing it just one state shy of the constitutional majority needed to make it law. When the Tennessee House of Representatives voted to ratify on August 18, 1920, Tennessee became that crucial final state, earning itself the nickname The Perfect 36. Over the next year, we will be sharing stories of the women’s suffrage movement from across the state to celebrate Tennessee’s unique role in this major turning point in American history. The first story in our series explores the origins of the women’s suffrage movement in the Volunteer State.

In a letter to her husband on March 31, 1776, founding mother Abigail Adams wrote, “Remember the ladies,” when establishing the burgeoning nation’s Code of Laws, and “[i]f particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies, we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.” Adams was issuing a warning in the midst of the American Revolution that women, if denied representation, would revolt against the tyranny of men. So began a 144-year fight for women’s right to vote. Following her warning were suffrage leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, who, in 1848 organized the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Tennessee women, meanwhile, were challenging laws and asserting their rights at home.

As early as 1837, women in Cannon County, Tennessee petitioned the state legislature to pass anti-liquor laws intended to protect women from abusive men under the influence of alcohol. Similar social reform efforts related to prohibition came from the women of Marshall and Campbell counties in Tennessee. In 1849, the women of Fayette County petitioned the legislature for property rights. Various reform movements, such as abolition, education, women’s rights, and temperance, gave women the opportunity to organize politically, speak publicly, and develop the networks that would be integral to the passage of the 19th Amendment.


Legislative Petition No. 61, 1841, in which the women of Campbell County request the passage of anti-liquor laws in order to fight pauperism, crime, untimely deaths, and other “social evils.” Records of the Tennessee General Assembly, 1796-, RG 60


With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, women turned their attention to the war effort, some advocating for the end of slavery and civil rights for the newly emancipated. Reconstruction saw the realization of some of these goals, but also produced disappointments and obstacles to the women’s suffrage movement. The 14th Amendment, passed in 1868, defined eligible voters as male citizens over twenty-one years old, introducing the first mention of gender to the Constitution. The 15th Amendment, passed in 1870, further affirmed that voting rights would not be denied on account of one’s race, but made no similar protections based on sex. These setbacks led a number of suffragists to pursue a strategy called “the New Departure,” by which they would vote illegally, undergo arrest, and challenge the law in court, as in the infamous case of Susan B. Anthony in 1872.


Susan B. Anthony as pictured in the book History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton (New York, Fowler & Wells, 1881-[1922]).


That same year, Elizabeth Avery Meriwether, of Memphis, registered to vote in Tennessee. An outspoken advocate for women’s rights, Meriwether published her own newspaper, The Tablet, to express her controversial views on women’s suffrage. Despite her stance on women’s rights, Elizabeth had a complicated relationship with other progressive causes as a vocal supporter of the Confederacy and later the Ku Klux Klan. Her sister-in-law, Lide Meriwether, was active in the reform movement and established the state’s first women’s suffrage organization in Memphis in 1889. Many white Southerners, however, saw women’s suffrage as a threat to existing gender roles and worried it would increase the number of black voters. White suffragists, particularly in Southern states, attempted to address the latter concern by arguing that white women voters would outnumber black women voters. Problematic intersections between race and gender would continue to plague the women’s movement up to and beyond ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.


Portrait of Elizabeth Avery Meriwether from her book Recollections of 92 Years, 1824-1916 (Tennessee Historical Commission, 1958).


Despite Southern resistance, the women’s suffrage movement continued to grow in Tennessee with organizations emerging in Maryville in 1893 and Nashville in 1894. A total of ten suffrage organizations formed across the state by the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897, where members met to hear addresses from leading suffragists and formed a statewide organization. The Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association (TESA) held state-level conventions in the three grand divisions, but had the special privilege of hosting the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) convention in May 1914. Disagreement among TESA members over the location led to a rift in the organization, with Lizzie Crozier French, of Knoxville, ultimately becoming president of the newly formed TESA, Inc. and Nashville serving as the convention’s host city. Around the same time, African American men and women across the state were taking up women’s suffrage through debates and lectures at venues like the Majestic Theatre in Nashville. Black and white suffragists, however, continued to work separately, in part because white women feared that the enfranchisement of black women would dissuade white men from supporting the cause.


A booklet containing the by-laws of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association, general surveys of work with reports from each league, and notes from the proceedings of the Eighth Annual Convention, 1916. Frances Holder Overall Papers, 1867-1918


The entrance of the United States into World War I, however, led many suffrage organizations, particularly those affiliated with NAWSA, to redirect their activities to the war effort. One exception to this disruption was the National Woman’s Party (NWP). Beginning as the Congressional Union in 1914, the NWP was founded by Alice Paul who believed that suffragists should pursue a constitutional amendment instead of focusing on suffrage legislation at the state level. In January 1917, NWP members began protesting the White House with banners that referred to President Woodrow Wilson as “Kaiser Wilson” and asked, “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?” Joining them in 1919 was Sue Shelton White, of Jackson, Tennessee, who was arrested and forced to serve five days in jail. She was one of many women arrested during these demonstrations.


This headline proclaiming, “Suffragists Burn Wilson in Effigy; Sue White Leader,” appeared in the February 10, 1919 issue of the Nashville Tennessean. Tennessee Electronic Library, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Nashville Tennessean


Thanks to the groundwork laid by multiple generations of suffragists over many decades, the women of Tennessee stood ready to push the 19th Amendment across the finish line and bring votes for women to every state in the nation. Stay tuned for more Suffrage Stories as we continue this centennial commemoration. In the meantime, explore the history of this movement through our online collection Women’s Suffrage in Tennessee in the Tennessee Virtual Archive.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett