Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Remembering and Celebrating a Rural Heritage: The Tennessee Century Farms Program

By Dr. Kevin Cason

The popular 1960s television comedy Green Acres introduced viewers to New York lawyer Oliver Wendell Douglas who longed for a simpler way of life. As a result, he purchased a farm and moved there to live off the land, despite the opposition of his socialite wife Lisa. To express his appreciation of the rural life Douglas declared in the opening theme song: “Green Acres is the place to be. Farm living is the life for me. Land spreading out, so far and wide. Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside!” While the song provided a memorable tune for television viewers, the love of the countryside and farm living is something that still resonates with people. For many Tennesseans and other Americans farming has been an important part of their lives.

One program that recognizes this rural heritage is the Tennessee Century Farms program. The Tennessee Century Farms program honors farms that have remained in the same family and have had continuous agricultural production for 100 years or more. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture established the “Family Land Heritage-Century Farms” program as a way to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial in 1976. To gain recognition as a Century Farm, farmers filled out applications that told the history of their farm and provided documentation proving continuous ownership. A county agent or county historian then certified their application. After officially certifying the farms, special ceremonies were held at regional, county and state fairs to recognize the Century Farms where farm families received a certificate and a plaque. In 1979, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture loaned 637 farm files to the Tennessee State Library and Archives for microfilming. Eventually, the microfilmed files became State Record Group 62 and part of the Library and Archives microfilm collection.

Cartwright-Russell Farm, Smith County, Record Group 62, Tennessee Century Farms Microfilm Collection.

In 1984, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture asked the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University to administer the program and maintain the Tennessee Century Farms collection of applications and photographs. Under the guidance of staff at the Center for Historic Preservation, more farms have been added to the collection each year. Over the years, the Center has produced publications, exhibits, and a website to recognize the program.

Commissioner of Agriculture Edward S. Porter with Century Farms certificate and sign, October 1976. Tennessee Market Bulletin, Vol. XLIX, No. 10

Today, people can still apply to be a part of the Tennessee Century Farms program. In order to apply for the Century Farms designation, a person must fill out an application that is provided by the Center for Historic Preservation. In addition, the person must have documentation that shows the continuous ownership of the farm within their family for at least 100 years. Another requirement is the farm must be 10 acres or more of the original farm owned by the founder. The farm also has to produce at least $1,000 in revenue annually. The application then has to be certified by either the county agent or the county historian. On review of the application, the Center for Historic Preservation issues a letter and certificate officially designating the property as a Tennessee Century Farm. In addition, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture issues a yellow outdoor sign to further distinguish the family farm.

Townsend Farm Landscape Scene, Giles County, Record Group 62, Tennessee Century Farms Microfilm Collection.

Across Tennessee, the yellow metal Century Farm signs can be seen prominently displayed on many rural landscapes and historic buildings. The signs serve as a reminder of the important agricultural legacy of farm families who have continuously owned and farmed their land for at least 100 years.

For more on the Tennessee Century Farms Program see:

  • The Tennessee Century Farms website: http://www.tncenturyfarms.org/
  • “Family Land Heritage-Century Farms Collection, 1975-1978.” Record Group 62, Tennessee State Library and Archives. (Microfilm only collection).
  • Carroll Van West, Tennessee Agriculture: A Century Farms Perspective. Nashville: Department of Agriculture, 1986.
  • Caneta Skelley Hankins and Michael Thomas Gavin, Plowshares and Swords: Tennessee Farm Families Tell Civil War Stories. Murfreesboro, TN: Center for Historic Preservation, 2013.

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

Friday, August 25, 2017

James Burney McAlester: The First Native American to Play Football for Vanderbilt University

By Will Thomas

James Burney McAlester was born in North McAlester, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) June 7, 1876*. He went on to become the first Native American to play football for Vanderbilt University. His father, James J. McAlester, served as U.S. Marshal for the United States Court in the Choctaw Nation from 1893 to 1897. His mother, Rebecca Burney, was a member of the Chickasaw nation, and his uncle, Benjamin C. Burney, was Governor of the Chickasaw Nation from 1887 to 1880.

J. B. McAlester, Nashville, Tennessee, 1898. Calvert Brothers Studios Glass Plate Negatives.

J. B. McAlester studied law at the University of Missouri and then at Vanderbilt University. During his time at Vanderbilt, he played left tackle on the 1897 football team. In his book 50 Years of Vanderbilt Football, famed sports writer Fred Russell calls the 1897 team the "Greatest Eleven of the Nineties." He also notes that McAlester was the only Native American to play football for Vanderbilt (at least, as of the time of the book's publication in 1938).

1897 Vanderbilt University football team in Fred Russell's 50 Years of Vanderbilt Football. Library Holdings.

During the 1890s and early 1900s, Vanderbilt's greatest rival wasn't the University of Tennessee – it was Sewanee (now named University of the South). Between 1891 and 1944, Sewanee and Vanderbilt would battle it out on the gridiron 52 times. Vanderbilt won 40 of the games, Sewanee won 8, and there were 4 tie games.

Statements by Sewanee team captain, Oscar Wilder and Vanderbilt team manager, Lester G. Fant (misspelled in the newspaper), about the 1897 game, Nashville American, Nov. 25, 1897. Newspaper Microfilm Collection.

In 1897, the two teams met in Nashville November 25 (Thanksgiving Day). The game, which Vanderbilt won 10-0, received a great deal of coverage in the Nashville American newspaper (later renamed the Tennessean).

List of players on the Sewanee and Vanderbilt football teams with their respective weights, Nashville American, Nov. 25, 1897. Newspaper Microfilm Collection.

One article lists the offensive players for each team and gives their respective weights (although it incorrectly lists McAlester as "J. E." McAlester). Tipping the scales at 190 lbs., McAlester was the heaviest player on Vanderbilt's team. Now, of course, an offensive lineman under 200 lbs. or a 134 lb. quarterback is something you might only expect to see on a junior high school team.

Illustration depicting Vanderbilt scoring a touchdown against Sewanee, Nashville American, Nov. 26, 1897. Newspaper Microfilm Collection.

*There is some discrepancy about when McAlester was born. His World War I draft registration (which he filled out) lists his birth year as 1876. His death certificate, however, lists his birth year as 1874, and his tombstone lists it as 1875. The date he himself gave is most likely the correct one.

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Library and Archives Hosts Free Workshop on Land Platting

UPDATE: Due to high demand, we have received the maximum number of registrations we are able to seat for our upcoming workshop, “Land Platting: State Grants and Local Deeds” by J. Mark Lowe. Registration is now closed. We look forward to seeing those who have registered for this presentation on Sept. 23rd.

If you wish to have your name added to our reserve waiting list to attend this workshop, please email workshop.tsla@tn.gov. When a registered attendee cancels in advance of this event, we will notify a waiting list member that a spot has opened up. You are also welcome to arrive on the day of the event to be on standby in case a spot opens up. Please note, however, that we cannot guarantee you a spot due to seating limitations in our Auditorium.

For those unable to attend, we plan to video record this session for publication on our website at a later date. We look forward to sharing that video with you in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, thank you for your interest in our Workshop Series. We’ll continue to keep you updated on future events. 

Locating the land of an ancestor can uncover a wealth of knowledge. On Sept. 23, the Tennessee State Library and Archives will host a free workshop about land platting. It will be a basic review of the steps in locating the description of property in Tennessee and platting that description onto a map.

Plat of Hiwassee District. Tennessee Virtual Archive.
Presenter J. Mark Lowe is a certified genealogist and fellow of the Utah Genealogical Association. He’s also a renowned author and lecturer who specializes in original records and manuscripts throughout the South. His expertise has been featured on several genealogical television series including African American Lives 2 (PBS), Who Do You Think You Are? (TLC) and The UneXplained (BIO).

Lowe will demonstrate how platting a property tract map may help identify many important features of a community, including ferries, mills, cemeteries, trails, historic homes and many other landmarks. With the aid of a few inexpensive tools, researchers can construct their own plats of land tracts as described in deeds, wills, court records or land grants.

"This workshop allows us to see and interpret history through our greatest natural resource: land. Lowe’s insight will serve as a valuable tool for Tennesseans looking to discover more about their heritage," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "I look forward to this event and encourage people to reserve their seats as soon as possible."

The workshop will be 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. CDT Saturday, Sept. 23, in the Library and Archives auditorium.

The Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Ave. North, directly west of the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville. Free parking is available around the Library and Archives building. Although the workshop is free and open to the public, registration is required due to seating limitations in the auditorium. To reserve seats, please visit loweworkshop.eventbrite.com.

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

Monday, August 21, 2017

Viewing the Eclipse through the eyes of the Rose Music Collection

By Dr. Kevin Cason

According to NASA, today’s total solar eclipse is the first to sweep across the United States in nearly a century. As the largest U.S. city in the eclipse’s path, Nashville will watch day turn to night as the moon completely blocks the sun from the sky for about two minutes. In honor of this celestial event, we highlight some sheet music from the Rose Music Collection that features the “sun” as a theme.

“Sunrise, Sunset.” Composed by C.A. White. Rose Music Collection.

Kenneth Rose was an accomplished violinist and oversaw the violin department at Ward-Belmont College. In addition to being one of Nashville’s preeminent musicians, he was a collector of sheet music.

“Sunbeam Scottisch.” Composed by Ferdinand Lellner. Rose Music Collection.

The Kenneth D. Rose Sheet Music Collection contains first editions and imprints of sheet music pertaining to a variety of subjects, including the Civil War, politics, presidents, wars, ships, sports, minstrels and comic songs.

“Sunset and Dawn” from Moods: A Series of Songs, Composed by E.L. Ashford. Rose Music Collection.

The collection has more than 20,000 pieces of music, most of which was acquired by the Tennessee State Library and Archives before 1956. The remainder of the collection was bequeathed in 1956.

For more from the Kenneth Rose Music Collection see: http://teva.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/rosemusic

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Library and Archives Celebrates National Aviation Day

By Will Thomas

The Tennessee State Library and Archives celebrates National Aviation Day (August 19) with photographs from the Puryear Family Photograph Albums collection. Gallatin natives George W. Puryear and his older brother Alfred I. Puryear both served in the U.S. Army Air Service during and after World War I. Their photograph albums document the early days of aviation.

Unidentified Army Air Service pilot standing in front of a Caudron G.4, France, 1918.


The Caudron G.4 was a French bomber and reconnaissance plane that entered service in November 1915. Although it quickly became obsolete as a bomber, it was also used to provide the initial flight training to Allied pilots.

George W. Puryear sitting in the front cockpit of a Donnet-Denhaut DD-2 flying boat, France, 1918.


George W. Puryear standing next to a Nieuport 28 fighter, France, 1918.


George W. Puryear was a fighter pilot in the 95th Aero Squadron in World War I. Most of the aircraft flown by the U.S. during the war were of French design and manufacture. The French-built Nieuport 28 was a fast and nimble fighter plane, but it had the unfortunate habit of shedding the fabric of its top wing during a steep dive.

Unidentified Army Air Service pilot standing next to a Voisin V bomber, France, 1918.


Packard-Le Père LUSAC-11 fighter plane in flight, March 15, 1919.


The Packard-Le Père LUSAC-11 was based on a French design but was built in the U.S. during World War I. The Army Air Service had ordered 3,525 of the airplanes built but the order was canceled at the end of the war. Only 30 were actually built. On Feb. 27, 1920, Major Rudolph W. Schroeder set the flight altitude record in an LUSAC-11 by climbing to 33,113 ft.

Unidentified Army Air Service observer pilot sitting in the rear cockpit of a JN-4 in flight, San Diego, Cal., 1919


North Island, Coronado, and the San Diego Bay are visible behind the tail of the airplane.

Three Fokker D.VII fighters being prepared for takeoff, Crissy Field, Presidio, San Francisco, Cal., April 12, 1919.


George W. Puryear was a pilot with the No. 3 (Far West) Flight of the Victory Loan war bond drive during April-May 1919. The Far West Flight traveled through California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas, and Arizona putting on air shows to encourage people to buy war bonds. Its commanding officer was Carl Spaatz (who would later become the first Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force in 1947). On April 13, 1919, a photograph of Puryear flying a Fokker D.VII in the air show appeared in the "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper.

Lt. Leland Miller, a photographic officer for the Far West Flight of the Victory Loan war bond drive, standing in the front seat of an airplane and holding a box camera used for aerial photography, April-May 1919


U.S. Army Airship TC-3, Brooks Field, San Antonio, Tex., November 1923.


The TC-3 entered service around late September 1923 and was stationed at Scott Field, Belleville, Illinois, it left for Brooks Field Nov. 16, 1923, to participate in the Kelly Field Air Carnival for Army Relief and arrived at Brooks Field Nov. 17, 1923. Alfred I. Puryear was a student pilot aboard the TC-3 for the trip. He completed his initial pilot training at Ross Field, Arcadia, Cal., in July 1921 and was transferred to Scott Field in August 1922.

The Dayton-Wright RB-1 at the 1920 Gordon Bennett Cup race, Étampes, France, September 1920


The Dayton-Wright RB-1 (or Dayton-Wright Racer) was developed specifically to participate in the 1920 Gordon Bennett Cup Race and was piloted by Howard Max Rinehart. It had several design features which were advanced for its day. It had a monocoque fuselage (in which the skin of the airplane provides the main structural support) and retractable landing gear. It used a 250 horsepower Hall-Scott L-6A motor and had a maximum speed of 190 mph. It was forced to withdraw from the race due to mechanical problems.

Verville-Packard R-1 Racer at the 1920 Gordon Bennett Cup race, Étampes, France, September 1920


The R-1 Racer was piloted by Rudolf W. Schroeder (visible standing on the other side of the fuselage). Printed on the tail is: "U.S.A. Verville Racer Air Service U.S. Army McCook Field Dayton, Ohio." It was forced to withdraw from the Gordon Bennett Cup Race due to an oil pump failure. Alfred I. Puryear served as the supply officer on Schroeder's team.

Breguet 14.T with the call sign F-CMAI belonging to Compagnie des Messageries Aériennes, Étampes, France, September 1920


Looking like a shipping crate with wings, the Breguet 14 was a French bomber and reconnaissance airplane produced from 1916 to 1928. The 14.T was produced after the war and was a variant modified to carry 2 passengers. Compagnie des Messageries Aériennes was a French airline founded in February 1919 by Louis-Charles Breguet. The airline merged with Grands Express Aériens to form the Air Union January 1, 1923. On Oct. 7, 1933, Air Union merged with four other French airlines to form Air France. According to the Sept. 16, 1920, issue of "Flight" magazine, this particular Breguet 14.T was flying between Paris and Cricklewood Aerodrome (located in northwest London adjacent to the Hadley Page aircraft factory).

To learn more, visit the Finding Aid to the Puryear Collection, and discover even more images from the Puryear Family Photo Album on the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA).

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Meet the Staff - Trent Hanner

Welcome to "Meet the Staff," our newest feature on the Library and Archives blog. Today, let's meet Trent Hanner. Trent is a reference librarian and supervisor with Public Services.

How long have you worked here?

My first day at the Library & Archives was Sept. 25, 2006.

What are some of the things you do as a librarian/supervisor?

In addition to my supervisory duties like scheduling our librarians and attending meetings, I spend at least half of each day working on one of our public desks: the Tennessee Room, in Legislative History or on telephone reference. I also serve on our Collection Development Committee, which selects books to purchase for the library.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love working with the public. It’s fun and a joy to field questions from folks who visit us in person, online or on the telephone. My fellow reference librarians and I delight in helping individuals discover their lost ancestors or hidden family secrets. Working in Public Services also allows me to build relationships with staff from other state agencies and with people in the local history community. I enjoy fostering those connections.

Do you have a favorite collection?

My colleagues in Public Services know that I’m proud to oversee our massive surname and subject vertical file collection. Since the 1920s, our librarians have been collecting clippings and ephemera to facilitate research for genealogists and other seekers of the past. We have over 6,000 files on Tennessee families and prominent people, and over 2,000 files on places, events, and other subjects unique to the Volunteer State. Although the internet has made clipping newspaper articles nearly obsolete, our backlog of files contains a wealth of information that’s not available anywhere else. And these files continue to grow. Today I focus on adding pieces of ephemera that I think will be of interest to researchers in the future, but which may not be collected anywhere else. For instance, I’ve recently created files on hot chicken and on the new 505 skyscraper in Nashville. We’re always happy to accept family Bible records and other uncatalogued genealogical donations for the surname files as well.

What makes libraries and archives relevant to modern society?

I’m grateful we have a Secretary of State and a legislature that recognize the vital role the Library and Archives plays as a cultural center and repository of state history. Like other libraries and archives across the country, our presence symbolizes the value we place on preserving and providing access to our history. Our new home on Bicentennial Mall will serve as a state-of-the-art destination for Tennesseans to gather in a dedicated place to discover that history. But just as important as the physical structure, our team of librarians and archivists serves as expert resources for the Tennesseans who are researching their history. As information continues to be digitized, the public will increasingly need professionals to help navigate that information. Librarians and archivists are trained and experienced in knowing exactly where to find information, and we know how to discern what is true and authoritative and what is not.

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