Tennessee

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…

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

The Parlow’s of Alamo, TN

This photo is the only evidence of this mystery clock that I can find anywhere.  Has anyone heard of this clock before?

Partlow clockWhile trying to find out more about the clock and the Parlows I came across this obituary for N.W.’s son Oscar. I had someone special pass away just days ago and the deceased’s step daughter-in-law and I discussed how the obituary, while lovely and concise, was missing a certain poetry.

This obituary embodies exactly this lost art; the refined elegance of a legacy in words that tells a (his)story all it’s own. How noble this young man sounds:

IN MEMORY OF OSCAR PARLOW: That death selects a shining mark, was verified last Sunday afternoon, June 23rd, 1912, when the Angel of Death entered the home of N. W. Parlow and called his son, Oscar, to his reward in heaven. He was the youngest child of Mr. and Mrs. Parlow, and was just budding into manhood when the summons came. Oscar possessed many virtues of the highest type, and was truly a man of courage, meeting every obligation of life bravely, and when the death summons came, he said, “I am asleep.” He was a loving, tender and devoted son, brother and friend. O, how hard to give up one so young and precious as was Oscar to us all. We see his grief-stricken parents traveling along this rugged path of life without the trong arms of affection of Oscar. He was always cheerful, had a kind word for everyone, especially father and mother. During his month of illness, not one word of complaint was he heard to murmur. How we miss the smiling face. There is a vacant chair that no one can ever fill and broken hearts that only God can mend. We no longer can hear his voice on earth. He was always ready to speak, a comforting word to the lonely ones. We would say, weep not as those who have no hopes, but live to honor God’s word that you may be worthily accounted of the crown that Oscar is wearing now. Only time can make us understand that he is now enjoying his rich reward for a life of service for the Master. A peaceful life with work well done is his. May the Lord bless the bereaved ones and save us all in heaven.

Prehistoric Tennessee

I know I talk a lot of bullshit on this page, but here’s something that is absolutely true: During the Paleozoic period, Tennessee was covered by a warm shallow sea.  The sea was home to my favorite pre-dinosaur – the trilobite, along with corals and more sea creatures that today is mind blowing to think about living in the Volunteer State.

You may have collected Indian Money as a kid (I still do). To me, they are even more special to find than a shark’s tooth while combing the mud or the sand because Indian money is actually a 245-750 million year old fossil of a crinoid.

indian money

Crinoids are echnoderms (think sea urchins, star fish, sea cucumbers, sand dollars, etc.). Also known as sea lilies, they look a bit more like plants than animals.  The Paleozoic crinoids that lived in Tennessee thrived in shallow waters and tide pools. Although you will not find crinoids living in the murky, warm waters of Old Hickory lake, they are not extinct. Crinoids of today live in deep sea but rarely wash ashore.

The next time you’re out by the Harpeth River dig your toes into the mud and see what comes up. You just might find a piece of history.

Hank Williams Wuz Here

Hank Williams is the South’s very own George Washington who slept, ate, and even died all over the place. The night of his death is still a much disputed bar game where everyone likes to argue what they think really happened.  People will tell you that he ate his last meal in Bristol, VA at a place called Burger Bar but others think that he wouldn’t have wanted to eat after being shot up with morphine by a Doctor in Knoxville (after the chloral hydrate and all the booze he had already had), and that his last words really may have been that he did not want anything. It’s more probable that his chauffeur was eating a burger from Burger Bar as Williams died. And actually, there may (?) not have even been a Burger Bar at that time.

And where did he die? We know for sure that it was somewhere between Knoxville, TN and Oak Hill, WV but the exact location is impossible to know. Was it the morphine, the combo, or just bad luck? His reported cause of death “insufficiency of the right ventricle of the heart” but he could have just been done.

Nevertheless; he died the modern day seafarer’s death which has a beauty all its own – on the road.

What is certain is that his life was in decline as he started down his own lost highway to Canton, OH. It was New Years Eve, 1952 (heading into 1953): An ice storm caused his show in Charleston, WV to cancel so Charles Carr began driving Williams to his next show at the Windsor Theater in Canton. They stopped in Knoxville at the Andrew Johnson hotel to get Dr. Morphine, then at Burger Bar in Bristol (113 miles from Knoxville), and then again at a gas station in Oak Hill, WV (157 miles) where Carr discovered Williams was dead.

And perhaps it was his traveling spirit that keeps him around.  There are more stories than I can count of people who have seen his ghost either as him or a white mist at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.  He is also active in the alley behind the Lower Broadway Honky Tonks in Nashville that back up to the Ryman’s backstage exit, thehallways in the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville, the Tyree Funeral Home where his body was autopsied, and homes and honky tonks all over the South.

Have YOU seen him?

Help Solve the Meriwether Lewis Mystery: Suicide or Murder?

 “It is so hard to die” Last words of Meriwether Lewis.

October 11, 1809 at the age of 35; National hero and Governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory commits suicide off the Natchez Trace in Tennessee. His name: Meriwether Lewis.

Really? I think we should talk…

  • Lewis – Thomas Jefferson’s most trusted confidant and right-hand man;
  • Lewis – who just finished an incredibly famous expedition (hello Lewis and Clark); and
  • Lewis – the only one with the secret word (ARTICHOKE) to decode the pre-computer cypher that he and Jefferson exclusively used to communicate secrets at distance?

Is he the Kur(d)t Cobain of politicians, or was it something more (side note: he may have been suffering from syphilis)? Something tells me, and my favorite weirdo historian Brad Meltzer (main source of this post) that every ounce of evidence points to this case being MURDER.

Lewis’ original course was to ride from St. Louis to New Orleans and back to Washington but something happened where Lewis decided it was too dangerous to make the journey and ends up in Memphis.  Congress begins to reject Lewis’ expenses and he makes his way down the South’s famous robber horse trail – the Natchez Trace – where he spends the last night of his life on October 10th at Grider’s Stand in Lincoln County, TN (Star map: Just East of Hohenwald – the home of Loretta Lynn).

Here are the major players in this seemingly 1990’s era soap opera drama:

  1. General James Wilkerson – Governor of the LA Territory for seven years when Jefferson removes him and gives the position to Lewis. Revenge is the most powerful motive of all.
  2. Major James Neeley – protector of Lewis on his journey, but “happened” to be hired by General James Wilkerson – Lewis’ enemy. Wrote Jefferson to detail the events of Lewis’ suicide.
  3. Robert Evans Griner and Priscilla Knight Griner – Inn Owners at “Grider’s Stand” (The Inn’s official title being “Griner” but colloquially known as “Grider’s Inn” which stuck). Robert accused as key witness to possible murder, and Priscilla the only witness. Many think they have been hired by Wilkerson to murder Lewis.
  4. Gilbert Russell – wrote to Jefferson that Lewis was suicidal before he came to Grider’s stand so the suicide seemed plausible to Jefferson.

However, handwriting analysis speculates Russell’s letter to be a forgery. Further, Neeley was actually in court in Franklin, TN on the day of Lewis’ death, not Grinder’s Stand – on the day he “wrote” of Lewis’ suicide.

A couple of things stand out as to why this may not have been suicide:

  • The weapon used was a 65 caliber flintlock pistol with lead balls weighing as much as a AA battery.  All accounts by Priscilla (there are THREE…) say that she heard at least two or three gunshots. Lewis sustained two verified gunshots – one to the chest and one to the head. Now, is it really plausible that he shot himself in the chest and with a coke can sized bullet hole, reloads and shoots himself in the back of the head?
  • The doctor who examined Lewis’ body in 1848 wrote that his death may have been that of an assassination.
  • Rumor has it that Lewis was carrying a list that ranked soldiers by order of threat and James Wilkerson was first on the list. Could this have been the motive?

But who killed Mr. Body?

And perhaps the biggest mystery is why the National Parks Service will not allow the body to be exhumed. A mere 200 yards from Grinder’s Stand, a monument (erected 1848) to Lewis stands where his grave is thought to be. The descendants of Lewis have filed to have the body removed; however, the Parks Service will not allow a body to be posthumously disturbed.

Even wilder is that YOU can help solve this mystery! Visit Solve the Mystery to learn more about how you can help advocate for the exhumation of Lewis’ grave and close this chapter in history once and for all.