Back To Brushy Mountain

The drive up to Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary finds you wondering if the anxious feeling in your tummy is equal with how the hardened criminals felt as they arrived to serve time. Originally built of wood in 1896 and arranged in the shape of a cross, the prison was completely rebuilt using sandstone that was mined, hand chiseled and laid by prisoners in the 1930s. However, what you see is a stone, castle like fortress seemingly carved out of the mountain. While the buildings remained in the shape of the cross, an intentional nod to faith based rehabilitation, Brushy Mountain is an intimidating structure begetting anxious feelings.

The state first operated the prison on a convict-lease program, renting out convicts to private coal mining operations in Morgan and Anderson counties. That didn’t last long as the citizen coal miners revolted against the program and the state of Tennessee decided to use the inmates to operate mines located on state property surrounding the prison. Each prison cell of two beds and one toilet housed four inmates on a 12 hour rotation, two inmates worked the mines for 12 hours while the other two inmates utilized the cell. Inmates had daily quotas of coal to meet, with failure resulting in harsh punishments. After 70 years of operation and following the 1967 mining deaths of two inmates, the mines were closed.

Brushy Mountain was the only industry in Morgan County for a long, long time. The county relied on the prison for much more than just employment. The prison doctors and nurses were the only medical staff in the area and delivered many babies for local residents. The local residents also received dental care, hair cuts and other services within the prison walls. With most of the local residents working at Brushy Mountain, the Sunday “dinner on the grounds” included the families of prisoners and workers alike. The prison was a town within a town.

In 2009, Brushy Mountain Prison officials began quietly moving the 545 inmates to the Morgan County Correctional Complex, a maximum security facility about 10 miles away. Moving the general prisoners on a bus and maximum security prisoners in groups of eight. The final group of inmates left on June 4, 2009. It was raining that day as several hundred attended the closing ceremony for former and current prison workers. The prison whistle blew for the final time after 113 years of operation, Brushy Mountain closed.

Often referred to as Tennessee’s own version of Alcatraz, Brushy Mountain is surrounded by the impassable terrain of the Walden Ridge Mountains and today offers a glimpse of a time passed. An historical relic that once housed the infamous James Earl Ray, convicted of killing Martin Luther King, Jr., it is also mentioned in movie, The Silence of the Lambs and written on the pages of the novel, The Firm. Brushy Mountain was known as the “End of the Line,” housing evil men who committed heartless crimes with little remorse. Once an inmate arrived, there was little chance they’d leave. Throughout the 113 storied years of operation and beyond, Brushy Mountain Prison has become its own character, having a story beyond the inmates.

Today, after nearly ten years as just the historical relic carved out of the mountain, Brushy Mountain is back to life. The legendary facility no longer houses the hard-timers but welcomes you to tour the prison, listen to the stories, enjoy great food and taste some moonshine. The prison tour is self-guided with former prison guards around to answer questions. You will see all significant components of the prison from the cell block to the cafeteria and other buildings like the laundry room, gymnasium, museum, movie theatre, exercise yard, and the all-important “HOLE.” There are markers throughout the tour showcasing the story of what happened in that particular spot. It’s a glimpse inside the troubled minds of the hardened criminals that served time, the workers tasked with maintaining the safety and the families of both who lives revolved around the prison. The movie theater plays a 18 minute documentary every half hour that shares the stories of Brushy Mountain life.

The stories live on at Brushy Mountain, the voices echo down “3 Walk” and they are yours to experience. As you depart, the anxious feeling in your tummy no longer includes wondering what it felt like to arrive, but what it would have been like to be locked up for life at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary.

Before or after touring the prison, the new Brushy Mountain experience offers southern cooking with a twist at The Warden’s Table restaurant. Serving everything from classic BBQ plates to cheeseburgers to nachos. There is plenty of food selections and room for families or large groups. With your tummy full from the cafeteria style dining at The Warden’s Table, it is the End of Line that you will find downright enjoyable. The End of the Line moonshine is distilled and bottled on the grounds of the former maximum-security prison. From farm to still, they use local grains and water from the mountains’ natural springs. This is true Tennessee Moonshine.

Best of all is the ability to take a piece of this historical relic home, the gift shop has a variety of items from t-shirts to mugs to key rings and much more. There is a souvenir or gift for any age and the gift shop is also the place to pick up a bottle of End of the Line moonshine. In addition, Brushy Mountain is an unforgettable place to hold an event or party. They are hosting concerts, festivals and even weddings in and on the grounds of the infamous prison.

This unforgettable, infamous prison of history is now a place to make new memories. Those new memories can include a very personal experience at Brushy Mountain. The prison is considered an extremely haunted location by paranormal investigators. Phantom footsteps, apparitions, disembodied voices have been reported and tours are now available for anyone daring to encounter Brushy Mountain after dark.

Developed by The Brushy Mountain Group, the historical relic is re-establishing the economic security lost in 2009 when the prison closed. The thirst for the history of hard time and lure of hard liquor has changed the maximum-security prison to a tourist attraction. The site is currently home to a moonshine distillery, concert venue, restaurant, gift shop and prison tours, but much more is yet to come which includes a campground.

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Wes Stowers… Leadership in Action

A walk through the buildings known as Stowers Machinery Corporation shows the growth, the hard work done daily and the future, which is a constant of innovation. Most notable is that Wes Stowers is speaking to each employee, by name and that is the definition of this man. The humble and gracious President of Stowers Machinery Corporation guides the company as a family, it’s a team of which each member has significant value.

The Stowers family opened the company doors in 1960, Harry Stowers and his two older brothers, Eugene (Bud) and Dick purchased the R.L. Harris Caterpillar dealership that had been in business since the early 30’s. The winter of that first year was tough, they were rebuilding the dealership and establishing relationships with both the customers and employees. The Interstate Highway Program got started in East Tennessee. The Stowers team worked hard to build a reputation of excellent product support to stand out from the competition already known to the contractors working the highway program. Most of those contractors were not from East Tennessee and the Stowers brothers knew their success depended on offering more than just equipment.

The Interstate Highway Program would complete in the mid 70’s and Stowers innovation in service and forward thinking placed the company in a great position as the Arab Oil Embargo made the energy source of coal reserves in East Tennessee very valuable. Stowers Machinery was able to serve the exacting demands of the coal industry, doubling the size of its Knoxville facility, providing 24 hour service and machine component exchanges. This time of growth was followed by the recession of the 80’s causing the coal industry to collapse, it was a period of transition.

The innovation of Stowers Machinery Corporation in the middle 1960’s would again positively impact as they met the needs of the industrial firms of Alcoa, Bowater, Oak Ridge National Lab, the forestry and trucking industries. Readied involvement in the changing markets would become the signature company model.

It was also at the close of the 80’s that Wes Stowers, son of Harry, would become company President. Wes joined the company following a 12-year career in the Air Force.

Wes actually began working for the company part time on Saturdays and full time in the summer, in the warehouse and shop at the young age of 16. His childhood goal was to become a fighter pilot. A dream realized after graduating from the Air Force Academy, serving as a fighter pilot in the Air Force with stationing around the globe including Spain and Germany.

While at the academy Wes met Liz and together they build a life which included the addition of daughters, Lisa and Rachel, who were born while they served overseas with the United States Air Force. Wes Stowers returned to East Tennessee in 1988, taking the lead at Stowers Machinery Corporation with the welcomed guidance of his father, Harry Stowers, serving as Chairman until the patriarchs passing in 2007. “He gave me the tools, didn’t second guess my decisions but instead would ask me questions” Wes reflected, “sometimes it would be to understand and then sometimes for me to reach a needed change of thought.” Harry was a good mentor but also utilized a former caterpillar executive manager to guide Wes on being an effective leader.

The combination of teachings would prove success as the next 20 years Wes Stowers led Stowers Machinery Corporation to becoming an industry leader in almost every market. Believing and practicing daily the action of being a good steward of his employees, Wes took care of his people and built a team for long term. Stowers remarked, “During the boom time in 2005 – 2007…we were thinking how smart we are.” Then came the recession.

The start of 2008 brought the recession, seen at the beginning as something on the horizon, not leading to much concern. “We were expecting a 15% downturn.” Wes remembered. It was believed the company was doing well enough to survive the recession and while the effects were not immediate, the hit came hard with a 45% reduction in 2009. “Everything fell out, rentals, demand for machinery, everything.” said Wes, “difficult decisions had to be made.”

As an Air Force Fighter Pilot, Wes Stowers learned the importance of team, that nothing is a solo event. He had to rely on others to do his job effectively and respecting their hard work and time was key to success. This perspective would serve him and the entire team of Stowers well in the hard times. They developed a 12-month plan, a constant balancing act between wages, debt, profit and the bank. Constant communication with his Stowers team was the life bread of the transition.

The toughest part being the effects on his team and the uncertainity in the months ahead without the ability to reassure was overwhelming. “It hurt like hell.” Wes remarked. The pain is still visible on his face as he reflected on that time. Wes Stowers is a unique leader, a fatherly guidance to his over 300 employees.

The cut of extra spending, elimination of raises and yes, some unavoidable layoffs had to be implemented. Wes managed to hold true to promises made to his team and the constant communication softened the forced transitions. The business model proved the foundation to steady the company, they survived, they didn’t fall. Wes believes the lessons learned from that time have served as positives for the future. The company experienced greater innovation, more organization and opened doors to industries that otherwise would of remained closed. 

Making our way back to the administrative offices of Stowers Machinery, the displays throughout express company history as focal points. Forgetting not how you get somewhere is the foundation of maximizing the here and now. Just as he holds tight to the guidance given from that history, so too is his guiding the next generation, adding to the history. He has built a management team on his personal culture of good stewardship. Daily they work together to maintain the standards, cultivate new ideas and innovate the industry.

Nothing is slowing down for Wes Stowers just yet, he is still the necessary element of this well run machine, however, the many other elements in place provide Wes the ability to follow his philanthropic passions. Do not look for him on the golf course, that is not a hobby, look up to the skies…Flying is where he finds personal enjoyment. In true Wes fashion, there is a purpose to his passion as he flys vintage aircraft to give others the opportunity to see a real piece of history. “Ain’t Misbehavin” is  his P-51 Mustang built in the 1940’s and used by the Air Force in World War II as its long range fighter. In 2010, the plane was restored to the exact paint specifications as the original “Ain’t’ Misbehavin” flown by Capt. Jesse Frey in World War II. In addition, Wes serves on numerous business and charitable boards.

Wes Stowers’ culture of good stewardship to others and all things is clear in every detail of his life. The quiet man whose strength of will, faith and  discipline led Stowers Machinery Corporation through the tough times of the recession, is also the core of what maintains the company as an industry leader. His greatest advice to others is always put the backbone of your business first, the employees. What you give to your team they will give to others, leadership is paying it forward. Wes Stowers is living his legacy, not just leaving it behind.

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Get Creative this 4th of July Holiday

Patriotic Popsicles
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup vanilla flavored yogurt Reusable Popsicle Mold
Place mold into the freezer while preparing ingredients.
Divide the yogurt into two pourable containers (with a spout). Thin the yogurt slightly with water, not too much, the goal is simply to make easier to pour. Distribute the strawberries into one container and the blueberries into the other, mix gently.
Pour into the popsicle mold, using as directed. Put the mold in the freezer and freeze until firm, at least an hour, or more. It is recommended to keep the popsicles in the mold until ready to serve. If making large quantities, wrap each popsicle in wax paper and put back in the freezer. For best use make the same day not in advance.
All-American Hamburger
There is a historic dispute about who served the first hamburger on a bun in America, however, no one disputes it’s the favorite
for all Independence Day Cookouts! While we dare not tap into the famous seasonings and grilling practices of the cookout
masters, we do want to give a little creative fun suggestion.
Make your Independence Day Cookout unforgettably favored with an All-American Hamburger Bar. Compliment the grill masterpieces with toppings for all taste buds to enjoy. Display your ingredients like a buffet, the colors will be vibrant and selections so much fun!
Start with the standard condiments: mayo, mustard, ketchup, lettuce, tomato and pickle. Add selections like spicy mustard, barbeque sauce, avocado, bacon, or onion rings. Let your imagination run wild and put it out there for guests to create a one-of-a-kind hamburger. It’s like a firework display for their taste buds.
Firecracker Strawberry Limeade
Refreshing summertime beverage perfect
for all guests and looks great on display too!
Ingredients
4 cups Lime Juice
1 1/2 cups Water
2 ups Simple Syrup (make your own by dissolving 2 ups sugar with 2 cups water)
20-25 sliced Strawberries
Instructions
Place strawberries in blender with simple syrup, blend until strawberries are pureed. Mix with lime juice, serve over ice with desired garnish of lime slice. If you want to add some fizz- splash a topping of Sprite to the glass.

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Dog Days of Summer

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the unofficial authority on all things folklore and weather-related, the phrase “dog days” refers to the hottest time of the year. However, for those of us in Knoxville, we present a new meaning, a better meaning. Throughout the year, including those hot ones, our furry friends can enjoy the East Tennessee weather and hospitality right along with us. A number of Knoxville businesses cater to the four-legged family members with special seating that includes water and treats.

Dog friendly patios are available in numerous locations throughout the area, over a 100 restaurants welcome dogs at their outdoor tables. Summertime is the best time to treat yourself and your pet to some of Knoxville’s top outdoor dining destinations. Whether it’s a weekend brunch or casual dinner, there are plenty of four-legged friendly spots. Enjoy a delicious array of local flavors and help unleash your pets’ inner social butterfly as you chill out on the patio and catch the cool summer breeze. For help finding the right place, browse the list of our favorite dog friendly restaurants. Bone Appetite!

Knoxville’s Dog Friendly Patios

Tomato Head Market Square

Rita’s Italian Ice

Cool Beans Bar and Grill

Pelancho’s

Aubrey’s

Blue Coast Grill & Bar

Barley’s Taproom

Cardin’s Drive-In

The French Market Creperie

Stir Fry Cafe

Sunspot

Calhoun’s On The River

Blue Slip Winery & Bistro

Alliance Brewing Company

Balter Beerworks

Blackhorse Pub

Downtown Grill & Brewery

Elkmont Exchange

Schulz Brau Brewing Company

Smoky Mountain Brewery

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Chimney Rock State Park, NC

Today, reaching the top of Chimney Rock takes driving up a three-mile winding road to a large parking area, followed by climbing 500 steps or riding the elevator to the top. The reward, on a clear day, are the 75-mile views overlooking Lake Lure and the Hickory Nut Gorge. The adventure took on a whole new meaning in 1956 when a fast driving visitor simply asked, “Hey, can we run up that road?”

Chimney Rock Hill Climb was created. The smell of fuel would fill the air and the loud engines roared with tires squealing, as drivers raced up the narrow winding road in less than two minutes. The road that rose from 1,100 to 2,200 feet above sea level with 13 hairpin turns always lined with spectators. What started as just one man’s adventure became the signature event for the Sports Car Club of America; even a few NASCAR drivers took it on in the latter years of the race. In 1995, despite the fact no one had ever been seriously injured, the growing attraction of visitors and liability concerns ended the event. It is certain that every race car driver who attempted or was crowned “King of the Hill” will never forget the Climb.

Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park has been a tourist destination in western North Carolina since a simple stairway was built to the rock’s summit in 1885. In 1902, Lucius B. Morse of Missouri bought the site, and the Morse family developed park facilities in 1916. The attraction included a tunnel and elevator to the rock summit, a nature center and a network of hiking trails to geologic points of interest including the 404-foot-tall Hickory Nut Falls. On May 21, 2007, the 1000-acre Chimney Rock Park was purchased by the state of North Carolina for $24 million from the Morse family, and Hickory Nut Gorge State Park became Chimney Rock State Park.

As one of North Carolina’s newest state parks, Chimney Rock brings the best of the mountains together in one place. Standing atop the 315 foot Chimney Rock, the view is stunning. Visitors enjoy scenic hiking trails, guided rock climbing, live animal education programs and ancient geological history. The Park’s highest point at 2,480 feet, Exclamation Point, can be reached via

the Skyline trail.

The stunning scenery was featured in the 1992 blockbuster, The Last of the Mohicans, and the adjacent Lake Lure was the filming location for the 1987 pop culture classic Dirty Dancing.

Chimney Rock, North Carolina, is a year-around destination, the perfect day trip or weekend getaway; rent a lake house, take a boat tour, hike a trail or attend a festival. And while the racing is not acceptable anymore, a relaxing, scenic drive on the country roads is highly recommended.

Chimney Rock Village has an old-time feel due to locally owned businesses that occupy historic buildings full of character and flair. Walk along Main Street to shop at stores with one-of-a-kind finds including Appalachian crafts, unique souvenirs of the area. Dine at a riverside table, try a local craft beer or savor a glass of wine. After visiting Chimney Rock Village, just head down main street, take a right and the road will lead you to Lake Lure.

Lake Lure is one of the most beautiful man-made lakes in the country, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. This is a must do for getting a new perspective to the incredible scenery of the area. From atop Chimney Rock, you viewed from above, and now, surrounded by lush mountaintops and sheer granite cliffs, the “look up” is breathtaking. Bet the song, “Time of My Life,” from Dirty Dancing starts playing in your head. In the fall of the year, Lake Lure invites you to Have the Time of Your Life and relive the moments of the classic film. You can experience movie-inspired dance, music, arts and entertainment. There is even a lakeside screening of the film. Venture out into the lake; attempting the infamous lake lift is encouraged but watching others trying the move is even more fun.

Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park is an international outdoor destination in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western NC, attracting visitors from around the world. Recognized as one of the Southeast’s most iconic outdoor attractions, Chimney Rock is located 25 miles southeast of Asheville on Highway 64/74A in Chimney Rock, NC. Visiting Chimney Rock and Lake Lure from Knoxville will take less than 3 hours; it is approximately 141 miles. But you won’t mind it. Driving through western North Carolina is an adventure in beauty and worth every mile traveled.

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The Lord Is My Shepherd

One of the most beautiful and well known passages in God’s Word is the 23rd Psalm written by King David as a young shepherd boy about His loving Shepherd – The Lord God. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff -they comfort me. You set a table before me in the presence of my adversaries; You anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. May only goodness and kindness pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever and ever.The psalm brings comfort, provides hope and offers the peaceful outlook required to walk through the sometimes difficult stages of our lives. It is also the foundation for which Billie Karen Walker bases her life. She finds motivation in these words.“Yes, it’s great therapy and my peace and walk with God,” she said, “being a shepherd to these precious lambs and sheep.”From a child, Billie Karen had always been drawn to how God used and inspired writings using the analogy of the sheep for His children. She always wanted to get a hands on experience as a good shepherd to be like Jesus and know these beloved animals.It started in a simple way with the acreage behind the home she shares with her husband, Paul. The back room of the home, overlooking this additional land, is a place for Bible study and visual enjoyment of the outdoors by Billie Karen, “It seemed so empty – it needed animals”, she reflected.As she thought about what kind of animal, she remembered the Sheep farm of friends, Bryan and Mia Sage Beason, they passed daily coming home. She gave them a call asking if possible to come by to pet and love on one of the gentle creatures. It was a touch that reminded her of that childhood calling.Billie Karen also visited another shepherd, Kristen Svensen, of Foggy Knob Farm, who spent many hours sharing knowledge about the lambs and sheep. Discovering that the bottle fed ones required extra love and care, she reflected on that acreage behind her home and how beautiful their presence would be in the green pastures. “May I care for these lambs and other sheep on my land”, she asked Brian and Mia Sage Beason. With resounding approval and support to get started from them, Bille Karen Walker the Shepherd was born.She was instantly in love with the lambs and sheep, sharing her vision with her family and close friends. A vision supported daily by husband, Paul; daughter, Halie Anna Duncan and her husband, Nathan; father, Bill Grady; friends, Leslie, Macy and Meadow and her amazing neighbors.It is the perfect home, just the sight of them grazing and playing about in the field brings peace. It is exactly as the words the song of David says: The Lord is my Shepherd. Billie Karen is able to bring them to her green pastures, lovingly care for them for the pleasure and goodness that is experienced by all who encounter these gentle lambs and sheep. Granting opportunities for photography, visiting churches and allowing some 4H students to visit has created a ministry for showing the love of God to all creatures.“Jesus sees us as His sheep and lambs. We need love and gentle guidance, He is our Shepherd, caring for our needs, showing us ways to give to others and to be used for a greater purpose.” said Billie Karen, “I just love the opportunity to love, and show support to other people and the sheep, I am truly blessed to have this chance and share these sheep and lambs with others. I have been so surprised that from children to the oldest of my friends have never had the opportunity to hold and love a lamb. Many have said they were excited to hold a lamb – that’s the way Jesus sees all of us. As Isaiah 40:11 says: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart…” Thank you Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God!”

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She Said Yes to the Dress

Choosing the engagement ring is a significant event for any man, his nerves are centerstage awaiting the moment to shout… “She said Yes”. But those famous words have been forever replaced in popularity by “She said Yes to the Dress”. Of course, there is a moment of spotlight for the groom to be as he takes a knee to propose, but with a swiftness equal to a raging river it shifts to the choosing of a bridal gown.Boy meets Girl, they go on a date, they decide to be friends. Sounds like an ending, however, it was the first chapter in the love story for Dawn Tunby and Matt Isbell. The first attempt to date ended with a friendship and as the story goes, Matt received a phone call from Dawn while he was on a date with another and unexpected to his gentleman personality, he answered. Theymet for coffee and the rest is love story history. So, in the true fashion of a love story, they met again, fell in love and she said yes. But let’s get back to saying “yes to the dress”.In the south, it is well known the scheduled appointment with a bridal shop is the start of the wedding to do list. The deeply rooted tradition and often humorous adventure that is the planning of a southern wedding is enjoyed worldwide every Saturday night on the Knoxville based television channel, TLC. The popular show, Say Yes to the Dress-Atlanta premiered in 2010 and is filmed at Bridals by Lori in Sandy Springs, Georgia.On a hot July day the family & friends of Dawn, the bride to be, arrived at Bridals by Lori for the “Say Yes to the Dress” moment. It is an overwhelming adventure to shop for a wedding dress, but doing it on the setof TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress-Atlanta show doubles, triples the experience. Bridals by Lori combines southern hospitality with vast experience to provide each and every bride an exceptional memory. The 25,000 square foot, three story space is home to the largest full service bridal salon in the nation showcasing well-known designers and private label merchandise. For this bride, her wedding story includes the very ones who made that phrase popular. On the walkway stage of Bridals By Lori in Sandy Springs, Georgia, she said yes to the dress. An elegant Allure Couture bridal gown, with custom veil and all the tears needed for award winning memories. The combination of a magical love story and wedding planning granted a memorable moment as two became one. Surrounded by the beauty of an outdoor venue, family and friends, and priceless memories what started with “Yes”, finaled with “I Do”. Watch “Say Yes to the Dress on TLC.

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Place of Good Abode the History of Memphis

Native Americans were drawn to the bluffs overlooking the river of what is known as Memphis, building their settlements on the Fourth Chickasaw Bluff which protected them from flooding by the mighty river that also provided easy transportation.It was Hernando DeSoto that arrived in 1541 with his army to explore the lower half of the river, setting up camp near the site of Memphis, claiming the land for Spain. That land would change ownership many times over the next 200 years, claimed by France, England and Spain, before the United States of America got involved.In 1796, Tennessee became the 16th state admitted to the Union, and the Chickasaw Indians sold the land to the U.S. government more than 20 years later. It was during that time that future president Andrew Jackson, John Overton and James Winchester decided to join the government to incorporate the town. They further named the place Memphis, a “place of good abode.”Memphis became the largest inland cotton market in the world, but the city’s location and its reliance on slave labor would prove to be a volatile mix in the near future. The Battle of Memphis, a 90-minute fight resulted in the Confederate flag flying over the city being replaced with a United States flag. The Union Army would establish the area as a hospital post which proved beneficial, helping the city rebound after the war.During the yellow fever epidemic of 1873 it all changed as people passed in catastrophic numbers. The epidemic returned years later to nearly wipe out the entire population. Those who were healthy enough to travel, fled the city. Memphis was bankrupt and forced to surrender its charter. Around 1879 when Memphis was just a state taxing district, a wealthy businessman named Robert Church, Sr. began buying up land, primarily on Beale Street. He built Church Park which is still named in his honor on Beale Street.Time passed and the city welcomed the 20th Century, hoping to leave the negatives of previous century behind. It had been plagued with disease, crime and poverty. Anything you needed that might be illegal continued to be available, mostly on Beale Street. But it was also the home to many music clubs that enticed cotton field workers to enjoy good times on the weekends. It would be their “chantings” that would become “blues,” a priceless American musical art form.Another interesting invention that came out of Memphis was the modern supermarket. Local businessman Clarence Saunders opened the first self service grocery store, Piggly Wiggly. It was a huge success, with stores opening across the county, making him a millionaire. He spent the money by building a 22-room, pink marble mansion which along with his company and money would be forfeited when he lost it all. The City of Memphis is the current owner. The mansion dubbed the “Pink Palace” is a museum, planetarium and theater.Then like the bang of the yellow fever, the Depression surged into town. Just like the rest of the country there was no avoiding the disastrous effects of the time. The cotton market and industrious companies of the city would bring relief as America entered World War II. The gift was appreciated and reciprocated as Memphis would inspire the most famous aircraft of the war- Memphis Belle, the first B-17 bomber.In the last months of 1942, American morale needed a boost and the editor of a Memphis paper learned that one of the airplanes doing battle in Europe was named for a local woman, Margaret Polk, by her pilot sweetheart, Robert Morgan. From then on news about the Memphis Belle’s victories appeared regularly. As one of the first airplanes to completeits overseas missions and the star of a War Department documentary, the Memphis Belle and its crew were selected for a stateside tour. The second stop, after Washington, D.C., was Memphis, where the young couple would be reunited. The love story ended shortly after the war, but not the love for the Memphis Belle. It remains on display today in Memphis.Fame would be completely redefined in the 1950s. A young man from the Memphis housing projects starting hanging out on Beale Street, standing in the doorways of the clubs to listen and learn, and taking those lessons and talent to Sam Phillips’ Sun Studio, located a few miles east of Beale Street, to record “That’s All Right Mama”. It was history in the making and the start of what would bring international attention to Memphis, Tennessee. Ladies and Gentleman, Elvis Presley entered the building. The King of Rock and Roll would pass in 1977 at his Whitehaven neighborhood home, Graceland. In 1982, the grounds and home were opened to visitors. Graceland is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, welcoming more that 600,000 visitors each year.Beale Street surged as a tourist destination in the 1990s assisted greatly by the international festival, Memphis in May, a month long celebration that brings countless visitors to enjoy the world- famous Beale Street Music Festival, World Championship Barbeque Contest and a host of events honoring an international location. This year, in celebration of the Bicentennial, Memphis is honoring all things Memphis.The addition of professional sporting franchises gained more attention for the city. In 2000, the Memphis Redbirds, an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball, and the Memphis Grizzlies an NBA team, came to town.It’s a city with an incredible past, a story that is timeless and richly impacted American History. From the discovery by early Native Americans followed by an influx of European explorers, from the Civil War to the centerstage of Civil Rights, from historical music flowing from Beale Street to innovation in medicine, Memphis is A Place of Good Abode.

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On a Hallowed Hill in Tennessee

Many people across Tennessee, and beyond, recognize the first line of the University of Tennessee Alma Mater. The Hill, as it is commonly known, is enshrined in the hearts and memories of thousands of Tennesseans. Few people, however, are familiar with the rich history surrounding this iconic landmark. Ten amazing facts about, The Hill, should enrich your understanding of the Hallowed Hill, and the University of Tennessee.Thank Thomas Jefferson for The HillPresent day Knoxville began as a Fort, established by James White in 1786. When President George Washington appointed William Blount, Governor of the Southwest Territory, Blount came to White’s Fort and named it the Territorial Capital. White sold much of the land he owned and from it, Knoxville was formed with 64 lots.About the same time, Samuel Carrick, a young Presbyterian minister came to the fledgling settlement, intent on establishing a college and a Presbyterian church. The college came first. It was established in 1794 and was named Blount College, in honor of Governor William Blount. The college was located at the corner of Clinch and Gay where The Tennessee Theater now stands. It was the twenty fourth permanent institution of higher education in the United States and the first that was not church related.From the outset, Blount College teetered on insolvency. It attracted few students and only conferred one degree in a 13 year period.In 1807 the name was changed to East Tennessee College, thinking that might help attract more students. It did not.August 17, 1809, proved to be a fateful day. Samuel Carrick, the President of the school, and it’s only instructor, suddenly died. The Trustees developed a lottery scheme to keep the school open. They wrote to Thomas Jefferson seeking his support for their lottery.Jefferson opposed the idea but offered advice which would shape the future of the institution. He counseled the trustees to purchase land outside the city, which would provide sufficient space to erect several buildings around a grassy square, and thus form an academic village. The trustees could not focus on land. They were concerned with survival. The lack of finances forced the closing of the college for the ensuing 11 years.Barbara HillIn 1820, East Tennessee College reopened. Remembering Jefferson’s advice, plans were made to relocate outside the city limits. In 1826 the trustees purchased “Barbara Hill,” for the new campus. The Hill was named in honor of the daughter of Governor William Blount. The 40 acre parcel of land was purchased for $600. It was located between the river and the Western Road. The views from atop The Hill were breathtaking in every direction. The site soon began to be referred to by locals as “College Hill.” In 1828, the first building was erected. When construction began, the workers dug into a cemetery that no one remembered existing on The Hill. The first structure was built of stone and brick, with an observatory and belfry. The ten room building would become known as Old College. It would be the landmark by which the university would be identified for the next 91 years.Fort ByingtonIn 1861 cannons thundered at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, marking the beginning of the Civil War. Within six months, the Confederate army took possession of Knoxville and The Hill. In time the Confederate forces abandoned Knoxville to be a part of a major battle shaping up around Chattanooga. When the Confederates left, Major General Ambrose Burnside led Union forces into the city. He immediately began to build fortresses all around Knoxville.The Hill was designated as Fort Byington. Having won a major victory at Chattanooga, the Confederate army turned its attention back to Knoxville. General James Longstreet laid siege to the city, November 23, 1863 and lobbed cannon fire at Fort Byington and other Union fortifications. Six days later he launched an ill-fated infantry attack on Fort Sanders. The Union forces had dug deep trenches around Fort Sanders. The Confederates failed to realize how deep the trenches were. Once in, they could not get out. The Battle of Knoxville lasted 20 minutes. Eight hundred and thirteen Confederate soldiers lay dead in the trenches. The Union army lost only thirteen men. Longstreet withdrew to join Lee’s Army in Virginia. Knoxville remained firmly in Union hands. In time, the war ended.100 Elm TreesThe Civil War left The Hill in shambles. Every tree on the campus had been cut for firewood. Deep trenches had been carved into The Hill. Longstreet’s cannons had taken their toll. Buildings had been heavily damaged. The Hill was left desolate and all but destroyed.When the war began, Thomas Humes was rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Knoxville. He was a staunch Union supporter. When the war concluded Humes was named President of East Tennessee University, and given the daunting task of rebuilding the University and its campus. Because he was a known Union supporter, he was looked on with favor when he requested government funds to repair the damage left in the wake of the war. Subsequently, a United State Senate committee noted that East Tennessee University was deserving of funds to repair the campus since it was the “only education institution of known loyalty in any of the seceding States.” A bill was passed providing $18,500 to help repair the war damage.At the same time, Yale University donated 100 elm trees to the University to be planted on The Hill as part of the reconstruction. Those trees remained until the 1950’s when they were destroyed by Dutch elm disease.Orange and WhiteWith war now passed, the fortunes of East Tennessee University turned. In 1879 the institution was designated as The University of Tennessee. Ten years later, students directed their attention to the task of selecting school colors. In those days, UT was a military school. Male students wore uniforms that were blue and white. At the same time, the baseball team was clad in red and black. Charles Moore, president of the Athletic Association, looked at The Hill and saw daisies growing profusely. He reasoned that the school colors should be derived from The Hill and the flowers that grew there. Moore decided that for the upcoming field day, he would dress in orange and white, the color of the daisies on The Hill. Soon, more and more students wore orange and white to athletic events. A vote was taken in 1892 to officially select school colors for the University of Tennessee. The students chose orange and white by a narrow margin.Ayres HallIn 1904, Dr. Brown Ayres became President of the University of Tennessee. He assumed leadership of an institution that was deeply in debt. The buildings were antiquated and overcrowded. Heretofore State funding had been virtually non-existent. It was vital that change, if the University was to thrive. Around 1917 he approached the State Legislature with the idea of erecting a great academic hall on The Hill. Uncharacteristically, the State appropriated the needed funds. In May, 1918 a Chicago firm of architects were employed to design the building. When it was announced that Old College would need to be demolished for construction to proceed on the new structure, an uproar ensued. The trustees were bombarded with angry letters from alumni. Finally, the trustees agreed to attempt to move Old College if the Alumni Association would raise the needed $15,000. In truth the 91`year old, 10 room building was no longer needed. Neither did it possess any architectural beauty. Only $2,000 of the $15,000 needed to move the building was contributed and Old College was taken down. Blanche Bingham, a sophomore from Bell Buckle, Tennessee laid the first brick in the new structure, November 26, 1919. The building was completed, and dedicated June 6, 1921. The new academic hall cost $690,500 which is a little over eight million dollars in today’s currency. Dr. Brown Ayers, who had conceived the new building and guided it into being died before the building was completed. President Harcourt Morgan, who succeeded Ayres as President, recommended the building be named to honor Ayres. The Board of Trustees agreed and the new building which crowned The Hill became Ayres Hall.Ayres or Ayers?One interesting bit of trivia related to The Hill surrounds the plaque attached to the Cumberland Street entrance. Chicago Ornamental Iron Works was commissioned to design a plaque for the new building. It was to contain a raised likeness of Old College and of Dr. Ayers. Also listed were several names connected to the construction of the new edifice. Several changes were made in the original design submitted by the Chicago firm, but at last President Morgan approved the final design. However, when the plaque was delivered, Dr. Brown Ayres name was spelled “Ayers.” It is unknown why the University did not insist the error be corrected, but the plaque was attached to the building entrance and has remained there for 98 years. The name of the man in whose honor the building was named is misspelled.Play BallWhile the preservation efforts for Old College were in full swing, a competing fund raising effort began. Several influential people in Knoxville felt the University needed an athletic field. Col. W.S. Shields was President of Knoxville’s City Bank. As well, he was a member of the University Board of Trustees and also a member of the Building Committee for Ayres Hall. While the Alumni Association was trying to raise funds to preserve Old College, Shields led in a campaign to create an athletic field. The goal for the athletic field was $35,000. The money was raised in one week. Shields contributed $23,000. When Old College was demolished, 15,000 cubic yards of dirt was graded from the top of The Hill to make way for Ayres Hall. This dirt was moved to the proposed site of the new athletic field. In April, 1921, faculty, staff, and students spread the dirt from atop The Hill to create Shields-Watkins field.The field was named to honor the principle benefactor and his wife. The field is now surrounded by Neyland Stadium, the fifth largest college stadium in the Nation.The CheckerboardRobert Neyland became Tennessee’s football coach in 1926. Shields-Watkins field was 5 years old. Bleachers had been installed on the west side of the field that could seat 3,200. Neyland immediately noticed something. There is a checkerboard design in the tower of Ayres Hall. In those days, the tower was clearly visible from the football field. When his team had the ball, headed toward the north end zone, Neyland would encourage them to “Run to the checkerboard!” He also urged them to “Charge the checkerboard!” Doug Dickey became the coach of the Volunteer team in 1964 and decided that the design in Ayres Hall would become the design in the Neyland Stadium end zones. Now, when the team is headed in either direction, they can, “Run to the checkerboard!” The checkerboard design is also visible at the end lines of the basketball court in Thompson Bowling Arena. The design has also been incorporated into the exterior of the new Student Union Building.The ClocksOld College was demolished after 91 years of use. In 2008, Ayers Hall had been in use for 87 years. No thought was given to its removal, but it was in desperate need to repair and updating. In that year a twenty-three million dollar renovation project began. It was completed in 2011. The renovation maintained the building’s grand architectural design and added one noticeable feature to the exterior of the building. The original design envisioned clocks in the tower of Ayres Hall. They were not installed due to a lack of funds. Now, almost one hundred years later, the clocks are in place. Their addition enhances the beauty of Ayers Hall.It is hoped this brief glimpse into the always fascinating history of the University of Tennessee, will deepen your appreciation for the University, and the Hallowed Hill on which it stands where “The stately walls of Old U.T. rise glorious to the sight.”

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