Postcards From An East Nashville Attic

Finding this unique lens into East Nashville’s past is like discovering the gold at the end of the rainbow. Thanks for sharing Jason!

Jason Galaz

While searching in my closet for my school credentials to complete my Real Estate license exam I felt cold air from the exposed insulation. I pulled it away and it revealed an entire portion of the attic I thought there was no access to. There were a few piles of items which seemed to be tossed by decade. About 10 ft away was a bin full of odds and ends which included these letters and postcards. All of which seem to be related to East Nashville residents.  Some are as old as 1911 but my house was built in 1936. It’s a mystery!! Help me find their relatives!

I did my best to make out what they say. Maybe you can help me with that too.ANDREW JACKSON BUILDINGburtdear carolyn page 1dear carolyn page 2dear carolyn page 3Doctor WhitfieldDomain backdomain of the golden dragonHeading homeHello MaggieHello MaryMary ChristmasPhotoSTAMPSvernon is going to japanVICTORY STAMPWOMEN IN ARMED FORCES STAMP

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*Update* The Legend of Sugar Flat Road

das kapf

Guys. I’ve never been more disappointed in my life.  I got a hot tip that das kapf – aka the Legend of Sugar Flat Road resided in Chattanooga, TN.  I went to the Ghost Tours of Chattanooga at 57 East 5th Street in Chattanooga and told them I was a wildly famous blogger and they didn’t care one bucks tooth about how much I loved Lebanon’s own Yeti.  They do have a hologram of ye ol head but they no longer own the the legend itself.  Before the lady literally shut the door in my face, she let me know that she sold it back to someone in Lebanon and now it’s haunting the woods of the Cedars of Lebanon Park.  Can’t wait for Spring y’all! Stay tuned for the next update.

The Bell Witch

 

bell witch

I’ve put off talking about the Bell Witch because honestly I’m scared of her.  I grew up with the story in Hermitage, TN and I’m an Adams from where she was from so I was told not to tell it.  But here I go.

My mom bought me a Bell Witch book for Christmas this week simply called The Bell Witch.  It’s edited Brent Monahan but is the memoirs of Richard Powell – who married Betsy Bell, the most tormented of all the Bell Children.

I never read prologues because shit they’re mostly boring but I wish I had because I nearly crapped my pants at the beginning of chapter 1.  It begins:

“You first heard about the “Bell Witch” when you were 7.”

I WAS 7 WHEN I FIRST HEARD ABOUT THE BELL WITCH.  For ten seconds I literally thought the book was talking to me.  I read it over and over again until I realized Richard Powell was talking to his daughter.  It goes on to describe the first-hand account he lays out about the Bell Witch, Kate Batts, “in the event of his death.”

Kate Batts, Monahan describes as a unique American poltergeist – a weirder Beetleguise because she could hurt people.  I guess all the other poltergeists are just flashes of light and opening of cabinets but Kate Batts was something else entirely.  No, she could rip the covers of the Bell boys’ beds while simultaneously pull the fire out of Betsy Bell’s hair.  And it’s not just the Bell’s that seent it.

They enlisted the help of their neighbors once the hauntings got so bad.  That’a when slick Willy, Richard Powell, gets involved  – who by the way is a teacher in the town.  In the first six pages he describes how, “In keeping with the nature of the revival, she wore a simple linsey-woolsey dress without ribbons or lace, and yet she was exquisite to look upon…She was just shy of thirteen…”

So – Richard, a man of the world from Wisconsin or some shit already has an agenda because he later married Betsy Bell.  The 13 year old.  I’m no spring chicken and I get that older men married MUCH younger girls back then and even now in  most parts of the world.  My grandpa was away in WWII and was dating my grandma probably before she had her first period so whatever. BUT this is where the story gets good.

Kate Batts was definitely a weirdo.  By the time and even by today’s standards.  But was she a witch?  Was she the first american comedian?  Was she just a freak?

I dunno.  But here’s the deal.  She had a lot of “negroes” that she “took care of” and were in her retinue.  She was always begging wool and needles from townsfolk and people already started talking like she was a witch because they thought they were makin voodoo dolls and doing witchcraft.  Kate was married at the time, but her husband fell ill so she was essentially a woman of the world – and we all know that means trouble.  She went to church, but always late and one time sat on some dudes head who was really feeling that ol’ time religion and it really harshed his “jerking exercise.”

So, I do wonder, did the town cry witchcraft because she was different?  Because her slaves were her tribe and she was just a wild lady?  I mean, seriously – did her energy REALLY rip the covers off the Bell kids and pull their hair or was she so despised the family made it all up? Hatfields and McCoys aint got shit on this neighbor feud.

Did she hate John Bell because because she was a wackadoo christian (John Bell was thrown out of the church btw).  Did the joke go too far?  Or did she know something that we don’t know?  I think there’s something in Kate Batts that hated the Bell men but why? Did she think she was pious? Or was she harmed by them?

Do women just act out for no reason? Let’s be real – there was no poltergeist.  So what the hell was going on that it still remains in Tennessean’s collective memories?

There might be an interesting parallel with a recent Nashville Ballet Performance’s interpretation of Lizzie Borden.  In Nashville treasure, Paul Vasterling’s interpretation, Lizzie was being raped by her father and her mother stands by.  She is justified in an almost feminist way when she removes her clothes and murders her family brutally with an ax., shown beautifully thought ballet and lights of course.

Was she a feminist or completely insane?  I just wish I had the answers.  What do y’all think?

Demon Weave

You’ve got to love the local news. Channel 4 WSMV’s recent coverage of DEMONIC HAIR WEAVE in Memphis is just the type of groundbreaking journalism I have come to expect from my hometown.

Anyone with black girlfriends knows weave is crazy expensive, and like laundry detergent and pregnancy tests in my old hood, some people steal weave and sell it like drugs (see this interactive map of hair crimes). “To a lot of people, selling hair is like crack,” Tamika Broadnax said. “Everybody is spending money on hair. They’re spending $300-400.”

What started in earnest as an investigation to a spike in crime and tragic murders over hair theft, has transformed into a bizzare occult story.  It appears that many area people believe the case of the spike in hair crimes is due to hair that has been “cursed.” And for good cause. The hair in question comes from India, where many think that it was cursed in a religious hair cutting ritual called “tonsuring.”

I almost fell for it, but luckily News Channel 4 WSMV writes the sort of cutting edge statements that makes me question the truth when they reassure us that, “Dr. Adkins is doubtful demons would possess weaves and wigs.”

Whew! I was worried. And here I thought today would be boring… Welcome to Memphis y’all!

#demonweave
Read more: http://www.wsmv.com/story/31369978/demonic-weaves-believed-to-be-root-of-hair-crimes#ixzz41rNyeVvv

 

Straight Outta Carthage

advisory

1985 saw the rise of of hip hop and hair metal in the music charts, which terrified mothers across the country. One woman decided to do something about it, and her name was Tipper Gore. Tipper, wife of former VP Al Gore of Carthage, TN; created the Parents Resource Music Center (PRMC) which is responsible for the Parent Advisory stickers on every single CD I ever ordered on Columbia House when I was 11 years old.

She, along with several other women whose husbands were in politics formed their own gang, “the Washington Wives,” and set out on their quest to shelter each man, woman, and child’s ears from offensive lyrics about sex, dope and any other Bible sin.

It started small with the Filthy 15 (Wikipedia) which they coined as “porn rock”:

1 Prince “Darling Nikki”
2 Sheena Easton “Sugar Walls”
3 Judas Priest “Eat Me Alive”
4 Vanity “Strap On ‘Robbie Baby'”
5 Mötley Crüe “Bastard”
6 AC/DC “Let Me Put My Love Into You”
7 Twisted Sister “We’re Not Gonna Take It”
8 Madonna “Dress You Up”
9 W.A.S.P. “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)”
10 Def Leppard “High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night)”
11 Mercyful Fate “Into the Coven”
12 Black Sabbath “Trashed”
13 Mary Jane Girls “In My House”
14 Venom “Possessed”
15 Cyndi Lauper “She Bop”

Before the stickers were put into place, the Senate held a hearing where the “offending” porn rock musicians could come to say their piece. Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, Frank Zappa and John Denver showed up to fight against censorship. But we all know how that turned out…

The Washington Wives couldn’t stop there. They needed real live maryrs and created a modern day witch hunt based on their wacky lore.

As a trippy hippie leftover from the 70’s, Tipper and her girls were also concerned about subliminal messages in songs – especially when played backwards. None more plagued by the witch hunt was Judas Priest, who were blamed for the deaths of two teenagers. The two kids reportedly shot themselves after listening to Judas Priest and the going theory was because there were subliminal messages in the lyrics telling the kids to commit suicide.

Here’s a fun list with videos of all songs with allegedly satanic messaging in them when played backwards:

Here’s To My Sweet Satan: The 15 Creepiest Backwards Messages In Classic Rock

The 80’s were such an interesting time. Cocaine is a hell of a drug…

The Mystery of Lyncoya

Did you know that Andrew Jackson never had children of his own, but the brain child of the Indian Removal Act adopted a Creek child? Paradoxical enigma that he is, Jackson sent home a child found on a battlefield (disputed either the Battle of Talladega or the Battle of Horseshoe Bend) with his dead mother and raised him as his own. His name was Lyncoya. Lyncoya received the very best education and had hopes to attend West Point but because of his ethnicity he could not. Instead, he became a saddle maker and died of tuberculosis when he was around 16 years old.

As with anything Andrew Jackson, there is perhaps a darker side to the story.

Historians speculate that Lyncoya may have been brought home as a plaything or ‘pet’ for his other adopted son, Andrew Jackson, Jr. It was not uncommon for African slaves to tour the world in “Human Zoos,” and some think that his initial intentions might have been more along those lines given Jackson’s betrayal of Native Americans just two short years after Lyncoya’s death.

For whatever reason, historians can document that Lyncoya was well cared for, although the romanticism that he warmed Jackson’s cold, black heart may be just that as his body has never been found. In 2003, cadaver dogs searched the property of the Hermitage looking for slave burial grounds and for Lyncoya. While the rest of the family, and even Jackson’s most loved slave Alfred are buried in the same area, but Lyncoya still remains lost today.

Below are the graves of Alfred (buried close but still separate) to the large gazebo-esque monument atop Jackson and his wife, Rachel. The rest of the family lie in the bottom right section of the grave site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stix Near the River Cumberland

File Dec 15, 10 21 31

Photo by Angela Schmidt “While Definitely Not Driving”

A lot of people don’t like it. It’s a whole bunch of seemingly random big sticks in the middle of the newest roundabout that no one in Nashville can navigate.

Nashville traditionally doesn’t like new things. It’s in the midst of a personality crisis right now as throngs of ‘youths’ from California, New York and all points in between rush into our previously ‘big small town.’

Spending money on things like roundabouts and public art is not what old Nashville is about. In fact, there are still a group of Puritans who occasionally put clothes on the “Musica” statues they put in the middle of the old roundabout by Music Row. But the times, they are a changin.’

“Stix” is now Music City’s tallest (and most expensive) piece of public art. It is also our most interesting. The actual work was not done by an artist, but unconventionally by a power pole company, Rains Electric Company, based in Madison, TN.  The German artist Christian Mueller created only the concept.

Mueller wanted the piece to pay homage to the Native American tribes who first walked and hunted the land on which we now each day wreck – literally. He relies on painted wood and natural colors like the Native tribes would have used in their art. There are native wild grasses that will grow underneath and the whole things glows at night. Mueller imagined the piece as arrows that had fallen from the sky, in a kind of dreamy battle of past and present.

 

 

Because Somebody Blundered

In 1918, what is still considered to be the worst railway accident in U.S. history occurred right here in Nashville. Sitting unassumingly in on White Bridge Road in between the Greenway and the Hospital is a memorial.

File Dec 15, 10 23 15

Photo by Angela Schmidt

Two trains collided head on, resulting in 101 people killed and 171 injured. One train was heading to Memphis, and the other from Memphis to Old Hickory when “somebody blundered” according to the Nashville Tennesseean paper, and the engineer gave the wrong signal to the approaching trains.

Rounding the Dutchman’s Curve bend of the track, the trains collided around 7:15 am. 80% of the passengers were African-Americans heading to work at the Dupont Factory, which is still operating in a suburb of Nashville – Lakewood, TN (see also Wizard Tree).

The scene is described a little too gruesomely for me, but you can read the original newspaper story reprinted here. I prefer the old way of storytellin’ best – through music.

Hootenany

Well, my heart’s just broken. A word that sounds like it should have traveled on the tongues of the Scotch-Irish immigrants who settled in KY and TN is undoubtedly a Midwest word.

If’n you’ve never heard the word before, today it’s used for a wild party that is thrown together. It has an element of not being exactly planned, where one and all might “raise a ruckus” through hootin’ and hollerin’ all night long.

Here’s a timeline, although no one is quite sure when the word came into use regionally:

1906 – The earliest written use was in a historical novel by Richard T. Wiley set in the 1790’s. The book, Slim Greene: A Narrative of the Whiskey Insurrection, used all sorts of colorful language that is unclear if these are words he thought  people used in the 1790’s, or if he thought these words were ridiculous and that’s what people sounded like back then. All signs point to “hootenany” being a “thing” that you don’t really know the word for.

Some other fun examples of “a thing” he uses are:

  • Conniplicon
  • Majigger
  • Kerdoodlement

“When I got thar,” he said, “she wuz lookin’ hotter’n her oven, an’ wuz a-shakin’ that conniplicon at the lummix, an’—”
“Shaking what?” interrupted Colonel Bayard.
“That hootenanny that she shovels her bread with — that long-handled majigger, you know.”
“Oh, the oven-peel?” asked the Colonel, as if a light had just dawned on him.
“Yes, I guess that’s what they call it. I’ve allus been ust to Dutch-oven bakin’, an’ don’t know much abaout these new-fangled kerdoodlements.”

1940 – A man from Indiana by the name of Terry Pettis moved to Seattle and was working on a fundraiser for the Democratic convention. They needed a name for a party and Terry suggested a name from from home, “hootenany.” Wingding was also in the running.

1941 – The party was a hit and became an annual event. Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie got invited to play the Second Annual event with their band the Almanac Singers. After the party, they brought the word around on tour with them all the way home to New York City where they began to call their parties “hootenanies.”

1946 – Over the next five years, Guthrie’s career explodes. In an interview with Time Magazine the interviewer asked where he got the word “hootenany.” Loving a good tall tale, Guthrie replied with an outright lie.

He said, “We was playin’ for the Lumber Workers’ Union. We was singin’ around in the shingle mills. There was a lady out West out there in the lumber camp and her name was Annie and so every time they’d have a songfest Annie would outshout all of them. So people got to call her Hootin’ Annie but the name got spread all over and so out there when they are going to have a shindig they call it Hootenanny.”

And that, according to Time Magazine, is when hootenannies began.

To hear the full, hilarious, podcast Lexicon Valley put together on the origins of hootenany, click here.

 

 

 

 

R.I.P. Fort Nashboro

It is with a tear that Nashville bids farewell to Fort Nashborough today.  The Fort, which may or may not have any historical significance whatsoever, was scheduled to be torn down and then re-built as a part of the $100 million Flood Wall project proposed by the Mayor.

The project lost backing by Metro Council, but the demolition of Fort Nashborough was never cancelled.

Now, I’m not here to argue the fort’s place in history, but to eulogize a place that was special to me as a child through adulthood. I recall field trips to Fort Nashborough, and although I have no memory of what they told us, I just remember being enchanted by the place.  I would fantasize about living there and having a riverfront view.

Even last week I walked the Germantown Greenway onto Gay Street and stopped at Fort Nashborough to keep my childhood dream alive of one day prancing around in a robe with a bowl of popcorn, standing in the center of the fort laughing at the outside world.

Please share your memories in the comments below. I have the feeling that this one is gone forever…

Picture stolen from some guy who stole it from his friend on the East Nashville Facebook page

Picture stolen from some guy who stole it from his friend on the East Nashville Facebook page