Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Haywood County History Museum

I was recently working on a project and needed a little Haywood County, Tennessee history lesson so Sonia Outlaw-Clark helped arrange an afternoon at the Haywood County History Museum with Lynn Shaw, the official county historian. Sonia runs the must-see West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center just off Exit 56 in Brownsville and we also share several mutual Haywood County ancestors.

I wasn't sure what to expect at the Haywood County History Museum but left blown away.

Of course, it helped that I was exploring my own personal heritage about which I have an obvious interest, but anyone fascinated with the history of West Tennessee could spend hours exploring the rooms of the museum.

Open since 1991, it's operated by the Haywood County Historical Society and is managed by volunteers. Below is just a small sample of what's inside.

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The Haywood County History Museum

The museum is located at 127 N. Grand Avenue in Brownsville in a building that was originally the Brownsville Baptist Female College. It later became the Haywood County High School.

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Previous graduating classes from Haywood County High School

As you enter the second floor of the museum where the actual artifacts are on display, you can check out framed photos of graduating classes from the high school. I recognized many family friends and relatives, including my own parents.

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My mother and father, Shirley Lovelace and Bobby Williams
(center left and right) in their Haywood County High School senior pictures.

Sports has always been an important part of the culture and history of Brownsville, Tennessee and is well-represented in the museum with photos, newspaper articles, and actual artifacts from generations of Haywood County athletics.

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Sports Memorabilia at the Haywood
County History Museum

Yes, Haywood County is the home of Tina Turner and Sleepy John Estes but it's also where Tony Delk and Rockey Felker learned to play.

During his career, Delk was a professional basketball player and a college assistant coach. He was team leader of the 1996 University of Kentucky Wildcats team that won the 1996 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. After college, he played for seven NBA teams over ten seasons and he's currently the president of the Taylor Delk Sickle Cell Foundation.

Felker was the quarterback of the 1974 Mississippi State University football team which defeated North Carolina in the Sun Bowl and is currently director of player personnel for Mississippi State.

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1929 Haywood Highschool Basketball Team

Top row, l to r : Robert Smith, Leslie Cain, Clarence Berson
Glen Scott, and Charles Sherman
Second Row, l to r: Marshall Mulherin, Milton Wilson, unknown,
and Joe Mulherin
Bottom row, l to r: John Chambers, Jr., John Woodson Keathley,
Bob Berson, and Craig White

The young Haywood County High School players in this photo look like they could have been hitting the court last week. However, if any of these players were alive today, they would be a little over 100.

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Gas pump from Mr. Lawrence
Cobb's Grocery Store

This artifact also has a personal connection for me. It's the first Stewart and Sons gas pump in Haywood County and was installed at Mr. Lawrence Cobb's grocery store in 1947. It was just down the road from my Lovelace grandparents' house and many times I walked or rode a bike with my aunts, Darlene and Dawn, to his store to get one of those sour, powdery suckers. An avid television watcher, I remember always being struck by how much being in that store made me feel like I was on The Waltons.

Lawrence Cobb was a son of Simeon Amherst Cobb who was a brother of William Thomas Cobb, my second great grandfather. Lawrence Cobb was included in a blog entry from February 2011 that featured photos of a previous Cobb Family Cemetery clean up day.

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The Post Office at Jones Station

Another small exhibit that was really fun to see in person was the Jones Station Post Office. Because of so many family connections, I have blogged about the town and post office many times so it was especially fun to see a bit of it in person.

Many of my Booth and Castellaw ancestors in the late 1800s and early 1900s lived at Jones Station. It was located next to the Holly Grove Community on the north end of Dr. Hess Rd. The post office was opened in 1869.

The exhibit was donated to the museum by Marilyn Booth in memory of Vernon C. Booth who was the postmaster from 1914 until his retirement in 1945 and Olive M. Booth, who was the postmaster from 1946 until it closed in 1953.

Photo/Harrell Clement
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R. A. White and "Doc," 1904

Included in the Jones Station exhibit is a photo of R. A. White in 1904 delivering the mail on his horse, Doc. The White and Booth families became connected through marriage when William G. "Billy" Booth married Mary Elizabeth "Eliza" White in the mid-1850s. They were the parents of my second great-grandmother, Lena Booth Brantley.

Photo/Harrell Clement
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Vernon C. Booth and Jim Watridge, 1904

It's likely the Jim Watridge included in this photo in the exhibit with Vernon Booth, was the son of William Henry Watridge and his wife, Zilpha Elizabeth Castellaw and the grandson of James Watridge, my third great grandfather.

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Official Haywood County Historian, Lynn Shaw

It was especially fun getting to tour the museum with Haywood County historian, Lynn Shaw. He has been instrumental in preserving the history and stories of the county and in the creation of the museum.

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A portion of the Wilmot School

The Wilmot School, named after Wilmot Curlin, was a one-room school house on Estanaula Road in the southeastern part of Haywood County near the border of Madison County. In the list of teachers I quickly recognized several names from my family tree including Mary Bond, Jessie Mae Reid Castellaw and Eunice Joyner. The school closed in 1949.

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Bust of Hiram Bradford sculpted by Tommy Lynn

Of course, the Civil War was a big part of the history of Haywood County. The museum currently includes an exhibit of busts created by photographer and sculptor, Tommy Lynn.

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A reunion of The Bridge Company, C. S. A., around 1900

Another interesting photo that caught my eye was from a reunion of The Bridge Company that took place around 1900. In 1861, early in the Civil War, this company was formed to guard the railroad bridge over the the Big Hatchie River which was very close to Brownsville. This bridge was the primary connection between Memphis and the Confederate army so it was crucial for both supplies and information going back and forth.

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Men of the Bridge Company

The men were mostly older or married so were not among the first to join the actual fighting. They furnished their own horses, uniforms and rations and protected the bridge until the route was no longer used by the Confederates. In June 1862, the men burned the bridge down and disbanded. 

According to a notation with the photo in the museum, an article about the company written around the time of the reunion in 1900 concluded with the lines, "They were well worthy of the honor and respect accorded to veterans of the lost cause."

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Neon sign from the Ritz Theater

Ask my father about the Ritz Theater and he'll tell you about one of the few times his family spent the money to go to a movie theater when he was a boy. The theater had advertised a rare personal appearance by Lash LaRue.

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Lash LaRue

LaRue was a popular cowboy star famous for tricks performed with a whip. Apparently, LaRue didn't bring his A game to the Ritz Theater in Brownsville that day and my Dad remembers being disappointed. At the very least, he had hoped to see the cowboy cut a cigarette in half while in someone's mouth. He had to leave without even getting an autograph.

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An assortment of Haywood County artifacts

I really appreciate all those who worked so hard to preserve the history of the county for future generations. I believe you currently need an appointment to see the museum for yourself and, according to the Tennessee Tourism website, you can get more information by emailing The Brownsville Chamber of Commerce or by calling (731) 772-4883. 

I highly recommend you check it out for yourself if you can.

For more blog entries, visit my Blog Home Page or to check out the genealogy research about my specific family lines, go to my Haywood County Line Genealogy Website.

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