Storytelling begins with week of tall tales

Storyteller Bil Lepp will be back in action May 1 through May 5 in Jonesborough.


Bil Lepp, a storyteller known for his sharp sense of humor and his wild tall tales, is storytelling season’s opening act.

He’s first up in a line of top-shelf entertainers that the International Storytelling Center (ISC) will host through the end of October as part of one of its signature programs, Storytelling Live! As the town’s teller in residence, Lepp will perform every day, Tuesday through Saturday, in the Center’s downtown headquarters.

Lepp has been telling stories in Jonesborough since 2000, where he has long since reached celebrity status.

He recently took a moment to reflect on his popularity, tracing part of his appeal to his naturalistic style.

“Part of what I like to do is look like I’m making up the story on the spot,” he said. “When people ask if I’m ad-libbing, I take it as an incredible compliment. All good storytelling should feel like an extension of the supper table. It shouldn’t feel like a performance.

“Every other person in the world has a thousand stories in their head that they’ve never written down,” he added. “In conversation, you share those little experiences from your life. Mine are just longer and in a more professional form.”

Lepp’s residency will run May 1 – 5, with performances at 2 p.m. daily. Tickets will be sold in advance, and early reservations are highly recommended. “I generally have full audiences,” Lepp said.

The storyteller often opens storytelling season in Jonesborough.

“The audience is fresh,” he said. “They’re ready for storytelling after a long break. We always have a lot of fun with it.”

On the evening of Thursday, May 3, Lepp will offer a special evening concert, “Bil & Skeeter Break the Ocean.” It’s one of the many tall tales he’s written about his real-life best friend, the infamous Skeeter.

“He’s so much cooler in my stories than he is in real life,” Lepp said, joking.

The nighttime performance will begin at 7:30 p.m., with tickets priced at just $15. Tickets for all matinee shows are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. Season passes are available at a deep discount for a limited time.

Lepp’s Thursday-night concert is one of many special events scheduled throughout the Storytelling Live! season, including other after-dark shows, Saturday-morning story hours for children, and story-based workshops.

Tickets for all special events are all sold separately. Ticketholders for any matinee or evening performance can present their ticket stubs for a 10 percent discount on same-day dining at JJ’s Eatery and Ice Cream; Main Street Café (lunch only); Medley Vegan Vegetarian; Olde Towne Pancake House; and The Corner Cup. Boone Street Market is offering 10 percent off prepared meals and 5 percent off any other purchase.

Information about all performers, as well as a detailed schedule for 2018, is available at The premier sponsor of Storytelling Live! is Ballad Health. Additional program funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Niswonger Foundation, Eastman Credit Union, and Food City. Media sponsors include News 5-WCYB, FOX Tri-Cities, Tri-Cities CW, Johnson City Press, Kingsport Times-News, Herald & Tribune, and Cumulus Media.

For the love of music: Local teen gets ready to help teach at college event

Musician Grace Constable credits her family, dad, mom (Angie) and sister Chelsea for a strong base of support to pursue her dreams.



Musical talent seems to run in the Constable family — that and a bit of healthy rivalry.

“If Chelsea gets something faster than me, I’m automatically trying to do it even faster or better,” Grace Constable, age 16, said with a grin, talking about her older sister, who recently gained attention with the release of a new debut  EP.

Grace Constable poses with dad, Greg.

But there is also a great deal of professional respect and support in that relationship, especially as Grace gets ready to not necessarily follow in her sister’s footsteps, but to blaze her own trail.

She has already gotten to play an important part in her sister Chelsea’s new release, playing guitar, as well as drums and bass, when she was only 15.

And on Thursday, Grace, accompanied by her sister, will be helping to lead a East Tennessee State University Seminar for music students and other interested guests.

“I’m going to be teaching a class to people who are older than me,” Grace said with a touch of awe. “And I’m under the impression it’s in a pretty big room.”

Yet it’s a challenge she feels well equipped to meet.

While she has always loved music, Grace credits a couple of special moments for helping to hone her life’s direction.

“When I was around about 11, that’s when I got to play with Tommy Emmanuel. That was a really cool experience for me,” Grace recalled. “I had been listening to his music for a long time and I really liked it.

“After that, I played him one of my songs and got to hear his feedback. It was just a really cool experience.”

Like her sister, Grace began to work with Taylor Guitars, helping to provide promotional videos. It was through Taylor that she was able to attend an event in California that really sealed her musical dreams.

“Taylor flew us (Chelsea and Grace) to the 2016 California NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants, to perform,” Grace said. “It was insane. We were in a huge room and there were a ton of people there.”

When a Taylor representative asked Grace to do a blues jam for an interested listener, she complied.

“ I didn’t know who it was and it was the bass player for the Rolling Stones,” she said.

Today, Grace continues to hone her craft while attending GradPoint Virtual School at home as a sophomore. Her favorite subjects are U.S. history and world history, but she always seems to come back to music and the many layers of training that can surround it.

“I have a lot of stuff that I’m interested in,” Grace said.

Asked about her dream 10 years into the future, she said, “I would like to be working as a solo artist, maybe a studio engineer and a session musician… recording and producing music, with people bringing new ideas for me to add my piece to it.”

For now, Grace is hoping to graduate early and attend Berklee College of Music for a degree in music theory.

And she is excited about Thursday’s event.

The topic of discussion will be business marketing and music, she said. “It’s important to know how to promote yourself with social media and through the right companies,” she said.

But mostly, she’s looking forward to the music.

“We’re doing some Tony Rice material and traditional bluegrass songs. We’re doing a few gypsy jazz tunes and I get to play two of my original songs.

Plus, she said, they will be performing a crowd favorite: “Sultans of Swing.”

In addition to her sister, Grace said, “I get to work with two amazing artists. Ainsley Porchak and Max Etling.

“They are wickedly talented.”

David Crockett rat rod robotics wrap up the season

The Rat Rod Robotics team from David Crockett High School spent spring break at a competition in South Carolina.


Rat Rod Robotics Team participated in their last event of the season, Smoky Mountain Regional Competition in Knoxville, from March 21 to March 24. The team is very proud to have been one of the safest teams at the competition. The team’s safety captain, Corbin Cowden, won Star of the Day, an award given each day at competition to two participants who have made a notable contribution to promoting the culture of safety. Cowden also led his team to win the Underwriters Laboratories Pit Safety Award. This award is given to the team that exemplifies safety at all times in their pit (the area in which the team works on and stores their robot during competition). The team is pleased with how they have done this season and are greatly looking forward to next season. Photo at left, Corbin Cowden, helped set the team (above photo) on a winning track. (Photos contributed)

A place in the woods: Plan offers chance to play a part in caring for arboretum

Above, Indra Weickert, niece of Arboretum creator, Frances Lamberts has been able to play a part in the garden’s transformation since the first tree planting. She was back recently to help ensure the arboretum’s survival by designing a hands-on manual to aid volunteers in the new Adopt-A-Plot program, including the map at left indicating the numbered sites.



For nearly two decades, Ardinna Woods has been something of a family affair, with local gardener Frances Lamberts faithfully tending its myriad of plants and trees — and niece Indra Weickert  flying in from Germany periodically to work with her aunt, as well as helping to create the descriptive brochures that would share its story.

Last month, Weickert was back in Jonesborough for a different Ardinna task; she was here to finish up an important Adopt-A-Plot garden catalog that could allow her hardworking aunt to step back from a project she had nurtured from its very beginning.

In short, Ardinna Woods’ family is getting ready to get a lot bigger.

“Frances Lamberts has created an absolutely beautiful area,” Jonesborough Town Adminstrator Bob Browning said Monday. “She has been a one-woman ball of fire.”

Arboretum plants are native to the area and are carefully flagged for identification.

But it has also been a tremendous amount of work, he said, and Browning is hoping the new Adopt-A-Plot will allow individuals, groups, families or even clubs to take over the responsibility of one small patch of Jonesborough’s famed Ardinna Woods.

It is, according to Browning, an exciting opportunity. “Ardinna Woods in now a level II arboretum,” he said. “And Frances’ work has been written up at least a couple of times in the Tennessee Conservation Magazine”

For those who are still hesitant to step up and adopt, Weickert’s packet of information may turn out to be the deciding factor.

Complete with a colorful, accurate map, plant listings, plant care and photos, the packet should take much of the guesswork out of volunteering. 

“With such a map, with the information, anyone who adopts an who has any kind of love of plants, will  find an easy way to (keep up the garden),” Lamberts said.

The catalog is also something of a tribute to Weichert’s longtime dedication to her aunt and the project. She remembers planting the first 10 trees in the space outside the wastewater treatment building that was at that time a town eyesore.

“I was 20,” Weickert said with a smile. “I didn’t know what it would end up. But I liked going to a place and planting some trees. I thought that was great.”

According to Lamberts, it was Weickert who later insisted the trees should be numbered for identification in the first brochure she designed.

“You can go through walk the walkways and read about the trees and plants,” Weickert explained.

And, when she learned her aunt was painstakingly trying to get the plant list together for the proposed Adopt-A-Plant program, she knew she could help.

“Frances had already gotten all the information,” Weickert recalled. “We talked about how we need to catalog it, (including) how to take care of the plants and photos.”

“I said, ‘This can be done. I know how to do it in an Excel Spreadsheet.’ ” That way, if you need it you can add some columns to a specifici plant. The date it was planted. The date it was removed.”

While there are still things being added to the informational Adopt-A-Plot packet that will make the task even easier, like additional photos and other plant details, Browning said the program is ready to start taking on volunteers and Town Hall is eagerly awaiting the calls.

As for the aunt and niece duo, Lamberts is reassured that the woods future is being secured – and Weickert is just happy to have been a part of the project.

“I don’t know anything about plants,” Weickert admitted as prepared to returned to her hometown in Germany at the end of her stay. “But I love going into the garden and working with people.”

It is also apparent that she loves and admires her aunt.

Pacific MCJROTC defeats David Crockett High School’s NJROTC

The David Crockett NJROTC team is ready to compete.


Shooting their highest score of the season Pacific MCJROTC defeated David Crockett NJROTC 1041 to 1014 in the National Air Rifle New Shooter League. With the win, Pacific MCJROTC is in sixth place with a 5 – 2 record. Pacific MCJROTC was led by Amanda Benetin who shot a 277. The remaining contributing members were Lucas Hicks, Skylar Neaveill, and Kloey Fleming. Pacific MCJROTC is from Pacific, MO, and is coached by Brian Cain.

David Crockett NJROTC dropped to 4 – 4 on the season. They are currently in twenty-third place. Shooting their highest team score of the season David Crockett NJROTC was led by Haley Webber who shot a 260. The remaining contributing members were Evan Raynor, Marlee Westbrook, and Kaitlyn Morris. David Crockett NJROTC is from Jonesborough, TN, and is coached by John Roberts.

These two teams are competing in the National Air Rifle “New Shooter” League. Sponsored by the Orion Scoring System, the league is a national team league exclusive to athletes in their first year of competition. Teams are from high schools and junior rifle clubs throughout the United States. Over 10 weeks each team competes in 8 games. Each week, each team is paired with another team with a near equal win-loss record. The winner of the league is the team with the best win loss record.

In each game the teams compete in what is known as a Three-Position Air Rifle match. The match is modeled after Olympic Rifle competitions but adapted to high school age athletes. Each athlete will shoot 10 shots in three different shooting positions, prone, standing, and kneeling. Each shot is worth a maximum of 10 points. The sum of points scored in the 30 shots is the athlete’s total. The team score is comprised of the best four athletes from each team.

For more information on the league, including complete standings, visit

Students show they have the skills

Tyler Emert won Graphic Design.


Jake Haun won CNC Turning Specialist.

Vocational classes participated in SkillsUSA competition in Chattanooga recently and brought home two state champs.

Tyler Emert won Graphic Design and Jake Haun won CNC Turning Specialist.

These students will move on to compete in national competition in June in Louisville, Kentucky. SkillsUSA is a United States career and technical student organization serving more than 395,000 high school, college and middle school students and professional members enrolled in training programs in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, including health occupations.

Barn alliance spotlights one type of Appalachian art in upcoming fundraiser

Quilt lovers will have the chance to win this beautiful piece of homespun artwork by Judy Ricker, thanks to a upcoming raffle by the Appalachian Barn Alliance.


HOT SPRINGS – Here’s your chance to win a beautiful quilt (pattern is Bonnie Hunter “Blue Skies”)— handcrafted and donated by a great and talented supporter of the Appalachian Barn Alliance, Judy Ricker.

The quilt can cover a queen-sized bed or even a king-sized one using a dust ruffle or it can make a beautiful wall hanging. It measures 100-inches-by-100-inches.

Raffle tickets can be purchased from any ABA board member. Price is 1 for $2; 4 for $5; or 12 for $10. If you don’t know a board member, just email to get more information on how to purchase the tickets.

The drawing for the winner will take place at our booth at The Bluff Mountain Festival at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 9, in downtown Hot Springs. You can see the quilt and purchase tickets there, too. You need not be present to win but will need to make arrangements for pick up or delivery.

Twenty years down, Twenty years to go

Above, music lovers flocked to the McKinney Center for the Music on the Square fundraising event. Guests enjoyed a live performance while also gathering at the social event all in the name of supporting a local cause.


Staff Writer

Above, live music from Sol Driven Train was performed at the event to support Jonesborough’s concert series, Music on the Square.

The recent Music on the Square Gala fundraiser, held at the McKinney Center on March 23, was much more than an event to raise funds.  The occasion marked the 20th anniversary of the Music on the Square events and was held at the McKinney Center to raise funds for future events. 150 tickets were sold and the event sold out. Sol Driven Train provided the entertainment and food from Noli Truck was available. A live auction featuring trips on a hot air balloon, a zip-line ride at Linville Gorge and a stay at the Eureka Inn were up for bid.

Although it was the most successful event yet held, according to Music on the Square organizer Steve Cook, it became much more valuable to him in his time of need.

Cook’s wife, Tava, suddenly passed away last Wednesday morning and the community was there to help.

“It’s been a tough week for me … I was heartbroken. Everybody stepped up and said, ‘We got this.’

“When I got there, the whole place just turned and embraced me. And it was one of the most humbling, comforting moments of my life. Everybody was so helpful and supportive and made me feel so much better.  That’s what this town does. This is the most caring, giving, sharing community on the planet. It really moved me and made me feel special.”


Southwest history from a unique press release

A membership certificate of the Daughters of the American Revolution.


Associate Editor

In 1940, Northeast Tennessee celebrated the Sesqui-Centennial of the Southwest Territory. In a unique publicity release from the Watauga Press, Samuel Cole Williams, formerly a Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, authored a 26-page pamphlet titled “Phases of Southwest Territory History.” The document was published under the auspices of The Watauga Press and printed and bound by the Kingsport Press, Inc.

A copy of the Williams’ history along with a series of materials concerning activities of the John Sevier Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution were recently donated to the group by Lee Barnes of Johnson City, a family member of Mrs. Mary Sue Hurt Campbell, a Regent of the Chapter in 1936-1938.

Because of their significance in the tracing of the history of Washington County, the Herald & Tribune intends to publish several articles from the materials gathered by Barnes. This article will begin with the History’s Preface and also quote from a History of the John Sevier Chapter DAR.

The Committee on Publicity for the Sesqui-Centennial Celebration scheduled for October 13, 1940 was headed by Leslie R. Driver of Bristol. The committee was composed of the following journalists – Wm. J. McAuliffe of the Kingsport Times, Chairman; Herschal Dove of the Bristol Herald-Courier; Mrs. Edith Susong of the Greeneville Sun; W. H. Hicklin of the Johnson City Press and M.S. Bangs of the Elizabethton Star.

“The Territory South of the River Ohio,” more commonly known as the Southwest Territory, was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 26, 1790, until June 1, 1796, when it was admitted to the union as the State of Tennessee.

Rocky Mount, in Piney Flats, also known as the Cobb-Massengill House, was the first territorial capital of the Southwest Territory. The property of William Cobb, the original residence at Rocky Mount, served as the territorial capital from 1790 to 1792.

Dendroarchaeological investigations at the site by the University of Tennessee revealed that the present dwelling dates to the late 1820s. The property is owned by the State of Tennessee and has been operated by the Rocky Mount Historical Association, a non-profit organization in partnership with the Tennessee Historical Commission, since 1962.

The property is a living museum that recreates the year 1791, when William Blount was in residence as governor. A visit to the site is a must if you are interested in the history of the area.

Williams wrote the Preface from his home at “Aquone” in Johnson City. The document is quoted in its entirety – “At the request of the committee in charge of arrangements for a celebration of the sesquicentennial of the organization of the Southwest Territory, the writer prepared a series of articles on ‘Phases of Southwest Territory History,’ designated for publication in the daily newspapers of Upper East Tennessee in furtherance of the publicizing of the event.

“The committee planned, also, to have the series appear later in another form – this pamphlet – as a more permanent memorial of the occasion. The great Kingsport Press, of Kingsport, graciously tendered its facilities to that end.

“The Phases here treated of are those which relate to the four counties of Washington, Sullivan, Greene and Hawkins, which composed the Washington District of the Southwest Territory. At other points in the State of Tennessee there will be other celebrations in the years 1940 and 1941, and in these, no doubt, emphasis will be given to the history of Hamilton and Metro Districts during the territorial period.

“It is to be hoped that at some future time there will appear a definitive ‘History of the Southwest Territory.’ To such a work, this pamphlet may afford materials for some of its chapters.”

Mrs. Mary Sue Hurt Campbell became a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) on April 9, 1915. Her papers include the program from the Sunday, October 13th SESQUICENTENNIAL celebration. It will be discussed in a subsequent article in this series about the Southwest Territory.

A history of the John Sevier DAR Chapter of which she was a member provides in part: “…Through the untiring efforts of Miss Mayes Arnell, the John Sevier Chapter of the American Revolution was organized. It was at Miss Arnell’s home in January, 1907, that a number of representative women of Johnson City, met and organized this Chapter with the able assistance of Miss Mary Boyce Temple of the Bonny Kate Chapter of Knoxville.

“The Chapter was named for the patriotic and courageous John Sevier, whose outstanding characteristic of his amazing leadership was his power in understanding the men with whom he came in contact. It was said he never failed in his duty, even under the most trying circumstances and conditions. He was one of the leaders of the hardy pioneers at the Battle of King’s Mountain, and the first Governor of Tennessee – serving first as Governor of the State of Franklin. Afterwards, he served six terms as Governor of Tennessee. As someone has said, he was a hero in the age of heroes, a man who met with courage every duty, who overcame the deadly foes of his people, and rendered an illustrious service to his beloved Tennessee.

“The Charter Members of the John Sevier Chapter were Miss Mayes Arnell, Mrs. Kathrina Stivers Brading, Mrs. Ella Campbell Berry, Mrs. Annie Brownlow Hacker, Torry Stanley Harris, Mrs. Florence Harris Wofford, Miss Carrie Fain Moser, Mrs. Florence Gerhart Metzger , Miss Rachel Wilder Maher,  Mrs. Harriet W. Osborne, Mrs. Ethel Barlow Millard, Mrs. Clara Brownlow Pritchett, Mrs. Nannie Sevier Sabin, Mrs. Sue Wood Herndon, Mrs. Ada Wood Taylor, Mrs. Sallie Rogan Wood, Mrs. Mary Wayne Williams, Miss Fay Whitesides, Miss Effie Wood, Mrs. Rachel Fain Wood, Mrs. Margaret Seneker Wofford.”

According to THE TENNESSEE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HISTORY & CULTURE, in an article on the SOUTHWEST TERRITORY written by Walter T. Durham, Generals John Sevier and James Robertson commanded the militia of Washington and Mero Districts respectively… After elections for the territorial house were held in December 1793, the representatives chosen met at Knoxville on February 24, 1794, to nominate ten councilors from whom President Washington appointed John Sevier, James Winchester, Stockley Donelson, Parmenas Taylor and Griffin Rutherford to make up the legislative council, or upper house, of the General Assembly.”

A discussion of how matters proceeded to a path for the establishment of the State of Tennessee, the election of Sevier as its first governor, and the termination of the “Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio” will be explained in subsequent articles using material from Mrs. Campbell’s papers.

Tribune delivered after 14 months

The Cubs win the 2016 World Series.


Associate editor

It took the Chicago Cubs 108 years to win another World Series Championship after claiming the title in 1908. On Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016 the Cubs won the baseball Series with a wild, 8-7, triumph over the Cleveland Indians. It took me 14 months to read about it in the Chicago Tribune.

I am a long-time Cub fan. Through the years, I have listened to Cubs’ games on the radio, watched television beginning when the games were broadcast in black and white and most days during the baseball season I look in the sports section of a newspaper for written reports of their contests. Several of my personal “best days watching sports” have been the couple of occasions when I have been at Wrigley Field attending a Cubs game.

I watched the 2016 Series in “living color” on television. In a burst of late-night enthusiasm, minutes after the game was over, I took a $5.00 bill out of my wallet, wrote a note on the back of a scrap of paper, and the next day mailed a letter to the Chicago Tribune asking for a copy of their paper dated Thursday, November 3rd containing sports coverage of the game.

I waited 10 days and no paper arrived. I used the Herald & Tribune as the mailing address thinking perhaps that would get the attention of someone in the paper’s circulation department. Thinking about what I had done, I realized I sent cash in the mail and had no way of proving I had paid for a copy of the newspaper.

I decided to forget trying to get a copy of the Chicago Tribune’s account of the Championship. I assumed whoever opened my letter had pocketed the cash.

To my surprise, when I arrived at the H & T on Monday, March 5, 2018, there was a plastic wrapping containing the Tribune issue I had requested. The issue I requested was delivered to me in care of the Herald Tribune, Jonesborough by the United States Postal Service shipped from “TROC, 560 W Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60654.”

A check of the location indicated that the address was the Freedom Center, the massive plant where the Chicago Tribune—and many other newspapers—are printed and assembled. Until it opened in 1981, the newspaper was produced in the basement of Tribune Tower.

It did not take me long to start reading the paper. The headline on the front of the paper had a banner that read” “WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS” placed over a picture followed by a full page headline stating “At last!” The first three sentences of the sports story on the front page provided:

“CLEVELAND – Finally.                                                                     The most epic drought in sports history is over, and the Cubs are world champions After 108 years of waiting, the Cubs won the 2016 World Series with a wild 8-7, 10-inning Game 7 victory over the Indians on Wednesday night at Progressive Field.”

A photograph of the front of the sports page of Anthony Rizzo celebrating the final out of the game followed by articles on pages 2 to 11 continued the coverage. I felt an emotion of pride upon turning to the editorial page where a bear “Cub” with a tear in his eye wore a logo that said “WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS.” After the half-page cartoon the editorial’s headline in large type screamed: “Holy cow! The Cubs are World Series champs!”

To put the accomplishment in perspective, the text read in part after stating once again the Cubs’ last championship had been in 1908 – “How long ago was that? Henry Ford began selling Model T’s at $850 a pop, Taft beat Bryan to become president, women couldn’t vote and men lived an average of 49 years.”

I found a phrase on page 3 of the sports section that tells how as underdogs the Cubs captured the hearts of fans everywhere.

A headline reading the “Greatest story we’ll ever see” contained these final three sentences: “The Cubs reach extends beyond baseball, across countries and continents, and into the hearts of millions worldwide who were overjoyed the loveable losers finally won it all.

Next year was here. It really did happen.”   

I had cheered for the “lovable losers” early in life. My mother was the daughter of a Santa Fe Railroad employee and was reared in Ft. Madison, Iowa. In those days, the major providers of long-distant public transportation were passenger trains. As part of a railroad family with a railroad pass entitling them to free passage, she would take the train to Chicago with her family to shop and watch the Cubs games, played in the afternoon. Sleeping was done on the passenger train both to and from the trip to the Windy City.

While my mother Lucille’s brother, Uncle Bud Golden, was in the U.S. Marines during World War II, my Grandmother Priscilla Golden listened to either the Cubs or St. Louis Cardinals games with a VJ mail sheet in front of her on which she had drawn a score card. She kept score and would send her son the VJ mail after the game ended.   She was devoted to the sport of baseball and for years subscribed to The Sporting News in order to keep up with standings and statistics in the Major Leagues.

Her knowledge was important because she taught me to keep score. With that skill, I first became the manager and scorekeeper of my high school baseball team and later a part-time sports reporter for my hometown newspaper, the Marshalltown Times-Republican. In college at Dubuque, Iowa I once got an A in a speech assignment talking about the Cubs. Many of my fellow students were from Chicago. The Illinois city was located closer to Loras College than my hometown.

In law school, I worked for a time in the sports department of the Des Moines Register. There I met and later became a roommate of Michael Bryson. He worked at the Register where both his parents were employed. His father, Bill Bryson, was a sports columnist whose book “THE BABE DIDN’T POINT and Other Stories about Iowans and Sports” contained an article about the man for whom the Marshalltown Semi-Pro Baseball Team was named: “Cap Anson: The Honest Man Who Saved the National League.”

His story begins: “MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA, has never produced the athletic equal of its very first native son. For that matter, what Iowa city, town, or rural retreat has come up with an athlete to match Adrian Constantine Anson? ‘Cap’ they called him in the gloaming of his 22-year career with the Chicago White Stockings (1876-97)…” The White Stockings were ancestors to the Cubs.

Anson is credited with staying with Chicago when a revolt of a majority of the National League players struck and tried to form a league of their own. His actions kept the players from establishing the rival league. He was also in 1886 the first manager to take a club south for spring training.

His record is marred by the fact that “Ironically, it also was Anson, perhaps more than any other man, who was responsible for keeping blacks out of the major leagues in the 1890s.”

My roommate Mike also wrote a book titled “THE TWENTY-FOUR-INCH HOME RUN AND OTHER OUTLANDISH, INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE EVENTS IN BASEBALL HISTORY.” The Babe Ruth homer mentioned in the title of his father’s book also involved the Cubs and is described by Mike with these words, “There is no legend in baseball more enduring nor more beloved than the story that Babe Ruth ‘called’ his famous home run against the Chicago Cubs in the 1932 World Series. In historic defiance to the terrible taunting he was receiving from the Cubs, so the story goes, the mighty Babe majestically pointed to the center-field stands at Wrigley Field — and on the next pitch smashed a towering home run to the exact spot! It is a magnificent story. But it’s also a fairy tale.”

If the Bryson name sounds familiar Mike’s brother, who is also named Bill after his father, is a famous author whose extensive list of published books includes “A Walk in the Woods – Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail.”

Another Iowa connection to the Cubs involves Ronald Reagan, who became the 40th President of the United States. As reported in the Register, he became the chief sports announcer in Des Moines for Radio Station WHO in the spring of 1933, partly because he had covered the Drake Relays so skillfully. I am a 1965 graduate of the Drake Law School.

Reagan became especially adept at vividly broadcasting football and baseball games from the radio station’s studio by reading telegraphed bulletins. In 1936, Reagan interviewed Des Moines singer Joy Hodges, who had signed a movie contract with RKO. She encouraged him to give Hollywood a try.

He did just that a few months later, when he accompanied the Chicago Cubs to their spring training session in California. When he visited Hodges, she sent him to her agent, who picked up the telephone and called Warner Brothers.

The studio rushed Reagan into a screen test, and the future film star was back in Des Moines only two days when he received a telegram from the studio offering him a seven-year contract. Reagan piled his belongings into his automobile and headed west, ending his life as an Iowan in May 1937.

Today’s AAA baseball club in Des Moines is one of the Cubs’ farm teams, named the Iowa Cubs.

As this article was written, spring training in the Major Leagues is underway.  Hopefully, the Cubs are again headed for a season that will take them to the playoffs in 2018 and possibly another World Series appearance.

If the Cubs are successful, I hope this time it won’t take me 14 months after the games are over to read what occurred by reading the sports section of the Chicago Tribune.

Mountain duo take on local trails

Dunkel and Sherri Cole go for a morning trek in the mountains.


H&T Correspondent

Less than a year ago, Dunkel the Australian cattle dog was awaiting adoption at the Washington County Humane Society, and now the pup has found a new best friend in Sherri Cole and a new hobby in cycling.

“The first time we took him, he was about two months old,” Cole said of Dunkel. “He did really well.”

Learning to run alongside Cole on her rides was a slow process at first, and Cole is always watching to make sure her four-legged friend isn’t risking injury.

“We would go five feet and stop, five feet and stop,” Cole said. “We would do it about twice a week and no more than a mile. We have to really watch his legs and make sure he doesn’t start shaking and get tired because if you ride them too hard it can damage their joints as they get older.”

So far, Dunkel has completed rides as long as 10 miles with Cole, with plans to take on longer rides as he grows older and stronger.

Cole herself originally became interested in cycling because of an injury.

“Three years ago I blew out my knee running, so I had to find some other outlet,” Cole said. “My doctor put me on a bike and that started with the Tweetsie Trail, and then we got to know some of the local bike shops. Norris Bicycles was sort of my first home, and Dwayne Letterman encouraged me to try mountain biking.”

From there, Cole’s hobby continued to grow as she joined a ladies’ mountain biking group, taught students at Science Hill High School as an assistant cycling club coach and became a board member of the Tri-Cities branch of the Southern Off-Road Biking Association.

“They maintain all the local trails,” Cole said of SORBA. “We take care of all the Tri-Cities, Bays Mountain, and some of ETSU. We’re building Winged Deer right now and helping build Tannery Knobs. We’re getting ready to launch a kids’ program, so we’ll be doing a lot of kids stuff in the future.”

Cole also participates in the Rescue Racing club withher son. The Georgia-based cycling team is focused on raising money to help animal rescue organizations. The group sells cycling gear and hosts events where cyclists can enjoy their hobby while helping animals.

With Dunkel’s adoption, Cole gained a furry side kick for her cycling.

“We push each other, and he keeps me company,” Cole said. “He kind of keeps me safe. He lets me know when things are happening. He’ll stop and look if people start coming close to let me know if there is possible danger.”

To keep Dunkel safe, Cole attached a bell to his harness and trained him to respond to a vibration collar.

“The bell is so I can hear him,” Cole said. “He can’t be off-leash on all trails, but when he is off-leash, he has a bell so I can hear him behind me or if he gets in front of me.”

“His little vibration collar helps if he starts getting off-track,” said Cole. “I can vibrate his neck and he’ll stop and look. He’s trained to use that as a come-back method, so that I’m not yelling for him.”

At only about 10 months old, Dunkel has already learned to behave appropriately when out on the trails.

“He never runs off and leaves me,” Cole said. “If I take him downtown, he likes to smell people and that kind of thing, but if we’re on the trail, he’ll stop and look at you and then just go on. His job is to stay with me, and he knows that.”

From a rescue pup to a cycling companion, Dunkel is living the life both on and off the trail.

“He’s been such a great addition to our family,” Cole said.

Wills prompt smiles and sadness

Preservation work continues within the Washington County Tennessee Archive building located on Main Street.


Associate Editor

A will provision providing for a grave marker reading “DUMMY,” a soldier’s will dated Jan. 7, 1918 mailed to his mother from France, a 30-page instrument listing every item in the household including the “mayonnaise bowl” and the bequeath of a dog are among the 7,500 wills stored in the Washington County, Tennessee Archive.

The wills in the collection are dated from 1773 until 1992. “Our project to process the wills was a lengthy one,’ said Donna Cox Briggs, Archive Assistant at the Department of Records Management and Archives, in a recent interview after a meeting of the Friends of the Washington County, Tennessee Archives. She continued, “Our volunteers were sometimes laughing at what they read and sometimes they were sad.”

“The project of flat-folding, removing staples and organizing took almost ten months, with as many as six volunteers involved.” Briggs said the group is in the final stages of getting the list of wills ready to post online at the Archive’s website:

The Archive Assistant said, “We saw wills written on the back of notepads, a small piece of paper the size of a ‘Post-it’ note, on the inside of a savings passbook, fill-in-the-blank wills, and wills with only one sentence. “ She continued, “One will was pieced together to make one four-foot long piece of paper, one will was 30 pages long and there was a will on the letterhead from the John Sevier Hotel. A greeting card served as paper for another will while an envelope from a lawyer’s office was used to write a will.” The will provisions printed in this article are being published “as written” with an occasional addition of punctuation to assist in reading the material.

The will that made the volunteers smile the most read, “I do want a small stone at my feet lettered ‘DUMMY’ so my friends can find me.” His headstone actually has “Dummy” on the upper right hand corner.


A will written by a young man 100-years ago during World War I is dated Jan. 7, 1018 reading: “To Whom It May Concern – In case of my death I wish all of my property to be transferred to my mother, Ida Potter Harris. In case of my mother’s death before mine, I wish my property divided equally between Florence Harris Wofford and Allen Harris, my sister and brother, respectively…”

The will caught the attention of the Archive’s staff because inside the file was the envelope in which the will was mailed to his mother and the return address bore his military address in France. Lester P. Harris was an ambulance driver and died when his ambulance was bombed on July 4, 1918. He died from his wounds five days later on July 9th and was buried in France. There is a memorial marker for him in Monte Vista Cemetery in Johnson City. There is also a street in Johnson City named for him – Lester Harris Road. For additional information go to

Another soldier’s will written Dec. 12, 1812 by John Smith stated: “Being about to leave home to join the troops under Col. Williams and as that expedition may eventuate in my death, I wish my affairs disposed of thus – Mr. Anderson will find debts and property of mine more than sufficient to pay all my debts. The furniture I have in Jonesborough I wish him to present from me to his Lady; some of this is at the house of Mr. Deadericks.

“As I have never received any part of my father’s estate, I wish such part as shall fall to my share to be Divided Equally between My Mother and Sister Mary Smith, if my sister is single. If married [then] to My Mother and Brothers William M. & Casper Smith in either case the share to my Mother or so much as may remain of the principal unexpended at the time of her death to go to said brothers…”

A Civil War veteran in 1918 wrote his will providing, “My name is Marion C. Welton, a civil war veteran, seventy-six years old, a member of the national Soldiers Home Tenn.” He goes on to say how he wished his earthly goods divided and writes, “To my son …$187.50…to my daughter …$187.50. I think [daughter] married, but I have never known the name of her husband; I do not know the whereabouts of either of my children; they cast me aside years ago; I have freely forgiven them.”


The most detailed will found by the volunteers was a 30-page instrument listing every item the woman who wrote the will owned – every piece of glassware, the “mayonnaise bowl,” and “my electric Sharp Calculator.” There were 13-pages of items that were to go with her house when it was sold.

Another lady who divided up her possessions in a 1986 will piece-by-piece wrote: “…my large set ring…the Cameo brooch…the small diamond right…my watch…the beads to Sarah Anne…” At the end of the document she wrote, “I talk like it’s a fortune but it is a little bit of love Granddaddy and I leave to all.”

The dog’s disposition by will read, “I bequeath my Boston Terrier to H. K., Jonesborough, Tennessee.”


Many of the early wills mentioned slaves and some testators freed their slaves in their wills. In 1827 Elizabeth Webb wrote, “First of all my Black Woman Named Hannah It Becomes my Wish and Will when it is the will of God to take me out of this world that she, the said Hannah, shall be and Remain free from the service of any other person; that she be her own guardian to act and to transact Business for herself and Independent of the aid and interest of any other person to come in and go out when and where she may think proper so long as she may live…”

In 1914, a Mr. Thomas in his will wrote, “When I die, I want to be put away nice with a fifty dollar casket and I want my grave mark(ed) with a one hundred monument…”            

I. W. M. Landreth wrote, “It is my desire …that my burial be plain and simple…that my body be put to its resting place by my brother Masons. It is my desire that my body be wrapped in a white burial shroud; that the coffin for my body be a neat plain wooden coffin covered with alpaca or other suitable goods and properly, not gaudily trimmed; and it is my desire that my neighbor and long-time friend, H. H. Crouch make my coffin; my executor will pay Mr. Crouch the sum of fifteen dollars for making said coffin and will also pay for the coffin material.”

T. T. Young wrote on December 14, 1906, “I would suggest that I be buried in a plain wooden coffin & only a sheet wrapped around me.”

There were both positive and negative provisions when church matters were mentioned in wills. One testator in 1957 wrote “none of my land cannot ever be given or sold to [a local] Baptist Church under no circumstances” while in 1959 another person said “…if there is any money left from what I have, give it to my church.”


Families sometimes found provisions in wills that continued grievances, limited bequests, or expressed sentiments of loving appreciation.  Some examples follow beginning with the will of a long-married husband who left all his worldly goods to his wife and wrote, “My wife has nothing to do with the writing of this will. She has been a darling to me and I love her.”

A wife in 1968 wrote, “I will to my husband …the sum of one dollar ($1.00). The reason of this is [husband] has in his own right a sizable estate and is not in need of my puny sum.”

Bitterness is contained in this 1983 will indicating he’s not the husabnd’s son. The will stated, “I hereby give and bequeath unto to a Mr. [X] aka [X], whereabouts unknown, the sum of two (2) dollars and state the following regarding this award. Mr. [X] aka [X] IS NOT MY SON. He was awarded my name shortly after his birth in Harlan, Kentucky in 1935, under my strongest, but failing protest. I denied paternity at that time; I vehemently do so at this time, and I shall deny paternity for all time. I make this statement of my own free will and accord, in the presence of Almighty God and these witnesses, and intend it to stand as fact forever.”

Also bitter was a mother who in 1969 similarly wrote, “I was the mother of 13 children, SOME of whom are deceased, and I have no knowledge of the whereabouts of any of my children or their heirs. In the event any of my children or any other person should make any claim to any part of my estate, I hereby will and bequeath such person or persons making claim the sum of $1.”


The “apology will” expressed what the testator was unable to tell relatives during his lifetime. This heart-breaking will was written in 1990. It provided: “To all my friends and relatives I give my apology. I am sorry I did not learn how to care or love. I am sorry that I could not express my feelings or my faith. I am sorry for being a failure, for being slow, lazy, stubborn [and] silent. I am very sorry for not having courage; I am sorry for not enjoying life; I am sorry for being consumed with self-hatered [hatred] (sic). If any of my actions or lack of actions, words or lack of words, feelings or lack of feelings has offended anyone, I ask for their forgiveness. I never meant to hurt anyone or anything — May God have mercy on my soul.”

LEGO time: Students learn to build, brick by brick

Jack Norvell, a home-schooled first grader from Johnson City, enjoys his new creations at a Lego Club gathering at the Gray Library.


Staff Writer

The instant the first three kids streaked through the door at the Washington County Library in Gray, it became obvious the night would be successful.

Nick Steines, the teacher of the Lego Club, already had all the snacks set up, the video game primed and the spare Lego bricks ready to go.

Group organizer Nick Steines shows off some of the materials that are available.

“Lego Club is more than anything a place to come for kids, teenagers, adults or anybody that has an imagination to create … with Legos, you can build something, tear it apart, and build something completely new,” Steines said. “There’s so much involved with it. There’s so many things you can do.”

Restarted three years ago at the Jonesborough Library by Steines, the club  expanded to Gray in January. 

Steines said the Jonesborough sessions usually have more attendees but last Thursday in Gray was the most popular yet this year with 30 participants, thanks to the “Video Game” theme.

According to Steines, the Lego Club meets once per month at each location, and each month has a different theme.  January’s theme was “Star Wars” while this month’s video game theme meant the kids were able to take turns playing the Lego video game while making completely original Lego creations.

Students and adults gathered in Gray last week to enjoy a bit of Lego fun during a regular Lego Club meeting. Club events are held at both the Jonesborough and Gray libraries each month.

“(Today) is what we call a free build day.  They’re able to build whatever they’d like the entire day … on certain themes, they try to build towards the theme for that day,” Steines said.

Next month’s theme is scheduled to be Minecraft Legos, and the guests’ creations will resemble characters or items from the popular game. Steines said he already has all his themes selected and is confident they will be successful. He is also already planning for the future.

“I have my themes so now it’s about trying to find more people,“ Steines added, “I haven’t heard of any adult Lego programs in the area so maybe that’s where to go. As long as these two (locations) keep going, that’s where I’ll head to next, trying to get adults.”

The local “Friends of the Library” organization provides funds for the club to purchase healthy snacks and drinks for the guests.  There is also a limited supply of Lego bricks for those guests with limited financial means, but bringing your own bricks is recommended.  Steines also has a draw for Toys R Us gift cards every month.

Even with the additional perks, Steines said the most important and rewarding reason to attend is the interaction between the attendees, most of whom are children.

“I think it’s just a good way for the kids who don’t know each other to really bring (themselves) together … and I’ve been seeing a lot of kids helping other kids with the building,” Steines said.

The parents that tag along with the kids have their own reason to attend, he said. “It’s a good thing for the kids, but it’s also a good thing for the parents.  It gives (the parents) a chance to have the kids in a room with someone watching … so they can check out a book for themselves or for their kids, or just gives the parent a small break away from the kids so they can relax a bit.”

After constructing a colorful Lego rainbow, Jack Norvell, a home-schooled first grader from Johnson City, pondered the question of what his favorite Lego character was.

“Dinosaurs,” he replied with a wry grin, “Jurassic Park Legos.”  Norvell then sprinted towards the table with the video game console, more than ready for his turn at virtual Legos.

For more information about Lego Club, call the Gray Library is (423) 477-1550 and the Jonesborough library is (423) 753-1800.

Civil rights champion learns power of education

Frederick Douglass is still considered on of the greatest abolitionists in history.


Frederick Douglass, the greatest American abolitionist and possibly the greatest of all American champions of the cause of equal rights, was born in February 1818—perhaps on February 14, as he liked to think, remembering a morning in his boyhood when his mother, enslaved as he was, walked miles to bring him a modest cake and called him her “little valentine.”

By this now-customary dating, we commemorate Douglass’s 200th birthday as an opportune moment to reflect on his life, thought, and legacy.

Raised in what Booker T. Washington would call “the school of slavery,” Douglass was a battler: “To live is to battle,” he believed. “Contest is itself ennobling”—in particular the age-old contest for liberty against the forces of tyranny.

Douglass presented his own battle, as a teen, against the cruel slavemaster Edward Covey as a great turning point of his life: “I was a changed being after that fight,” he wrote. “I was nothing before; I WAS A MAN NOW.” He called his act of resistance to tyranny a “resurrection.”

It was not, however, by means of physical force that Douglass chose to do battle over the course of his great career.

The battle with Covey was not the only battle, nor the only moment of rebirth, that he recounted in his autobiographies. No less profoundly formative was his battle for literacy and education.

When another of his slavemasters, Hugh Auld, scolded his young wife Sophia for beginning to teach young Frederick how to read—such learning, Auld said, ‘would forever unfit him for the duties of a slave’—the alert boy received this lesson as “a new and special revelation.”

From this unwitting instruction he learned that “‘knowledge unfits a child to be a slave’ … and from that moment I understood the direct pathway from slavery to freedom.”

It was a lesson he never forgot. In the last major speech of his life, delivered at the dedication of an industrial school for the children of former slaves, Douglass advised his audience: “Education … means emancipation. It means light and liberty.”

Education meant emancipation, for Douglass, because education properly conceived consists in the perfection of our faculties of reason and speech. The degradation of those faculties is instrumental to tyranny and their cultivation is indispensable to liberty, because it is by the possession and exercise of those faculties that we are, and know ourselves to be, free and equal by nature, the bearers of natural and unalienable rights.

By the possession and exercise of those faculties, we learn of our own distinctiveness and also of the distinctiveness of the singular nation whose founders dedicated it at its birth to those fundamental moral truths—the “eternal principles,” the “saving principles,” Douglass called them, in the Declaration of Independence.

This is what Douglass meant, at bottom, when he affirmed, “great is the power of human speech.” Thus armed with the power of reasoned speech and the truths he discovered by it, he went forth, in a career extending over half a century, to do battle with those who would replace truth with falsehood and liberty with tyranny as the foundations of American government.

That meant defending the anti-slavery, pro-liberty legacy of the Declaration against all who would distort or discredit it. Douglass’s primary adversaries, of course, included those we might now call defenders of the “old regime,” the regime of slavery and its successors, dedicated to the principle of white supremacy or black subordination.

“Slavery,” Douglass remarked presciently a month after the end of the Civil War, “has been fruitful in giving itself names … and you and I and all of us had better wait and see what new form this old monster will assume, in what new skin this old snake will come forth next.”

As Douglass well understood, the Declaration’s principles needed defending not only against the old regime but also against its misguided opponents. Among the latter were some of his old colleagues, followers of his early mentor William Lloyd Garrison, whose abolitionist zeal moved them to renounce not only the U.S. Constitution and the federal union but also, in some cases, to deny the legitimacy of any human government.

No less misguided, in Douglass’s view, were those of his black compatriots, emigrationists and other black nationalists, who sought a remedy for race-based injustice in the affirmation of racial identity.

In that final major speech, “The Blessings of Liberty and Education,” Douglass had this to say about such appeals:

“We hear, since emancipation, much said by our modern colored leaders in commendation of race pride, race love, race effort, race superiority, race men, and the like. One man is praised for being a race man and another is condemned for not being a race man. In all this talk of race, the motive may be good, but the method is bad. It is an effort to cast out Satan by Beelzebub….

“I recognize and adopt no narrow basis for my thoughts, feelings, or modes of action. I would place myself, and I would place you, my young friends, upon grounds vastly higher and broader than any founded upon race or color….

“To those who are everlastingly prating about race men, I have to say: Gentlemen, you reflect upon your best friends. It was not the race or the color of the negro that won for him the battle of liberty.

“That great battle was won, not because the victim of slavery was a negro, mulatto, or an Afro-American, but because the victim of slavery was a man and a brother to all other men, a child of God, and could claim with all mankind a common Father, and therefore should be recognized as an accountable being, a subject of government, and entitled to justice, liberty and equality before the law, and everywhere else.”

It is a great and perhaps tragic misfortune of our own day that many of the loudest voices professing opposition to race-based injustice make the same “great mistake,” along with related others, that Douglass denounced.

Now no less than in his own day, the nation would do well to attend the wisdom of Frederick Douglass.

Peter Myers is Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and author of Frederick Douglass: Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism (University Press of Kansas, 2008). The article was first published on The Daily Signal.

‘The Foreigner’ comes to JRT

Jonesborough’s Repertory Theatre will premiere The Foreigner on March 2.


The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is ready to announce its upcoming production, the hilarious show The Foreigner.

The show will run March 2 through 11 at the theatre located at 125½ West Main Street in Jonesborough.

In the show, a fishing lodge in rural Georgia is often visited by Froggy LeSeuer (Kyle Mason), a British demolition expert who occasionally runs training sessions at a nearby army base. This time Froggy has brought along a friend, a pathologically shy young man named Charlie (Lucas Schmidt) who is overcome with fear at the thought of making conversation with strangers.

In order to encourage people not to talk with Charlie, Froggy tells all assembled that Charlie is from an exotic foreign country and speaks no English.

After Froggy leaves, the fun really begins as Charlie overhears more than he should. What he does in response fuels nonstop hilarity and sets up the wildly funny climax.

This comedy, written by Larry Shue, is directed by Janette Gaines and assisted by Tara White. The production is sponsored by Lynda Wexler and Sonia King/Mary B. Martin.

Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., and Thursday the March 8 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 423.753.1010 or go online to

Local bull riding champion looks ahead to rodeo future

Douglas hit the dirt in December at the SRSA competition to become the junior champion.


H&T Correspondent

David Crockett High School student Dustin Douglas earned a new belt buckle at the Southern Rough Stock Association’s Championship Rodeo Finals in December. At the event, he was named Junior Bull Riding Champion.

“I like the sport of it,” Douglas said. “Riding for the eight seconds is my favorite part.”

Dustin Douglas dons his Southern Rough Stock Association’s Championship Rodeo belt buckle.

To qualify for the SRSA Finals, 14-year-old Douglas competed in ten rodeos in 2017.

On top of a bucking bull with a crowd and his family cheering and snapping photos, he ignores the distractions until his eight seconds are over.

“I just wait to hear the buzzer go off,” Douglas said. “I focus on riding and block everything else out.”

While bull riding comes with risks, riders wear equipment that can help a rider stay balanced and prevent injuries.

“There’s a helmet and a vest,” Douglas said. “Some people say the chaps help the protection of the legs. And there are spurs.”

Before he ever got on a bull, though, Douglas attended horse riding camp at WF Stables in Jonesborough when he was 7 years old.

Later, Douglas trained his own horse, named Hooey, and they competed in barrel racing as part of the International Barrel Racing Association.

Douglas notes that bull riding requires him to focus on his own movements, but barrel racing is more about controlling the movement of the horse.

“In bull riding you have to focus on your legs and make sure they’re in the bull and focus on your free arm to make sure it’s moving the proper way,” Douglas said. “In barrel racing you just have to control the horse and make sure it’s turning on the barrel right and maintain speed.”

Now, he’s been riding bulls for more than four years. He works at WF Stables, where he helps train horses and teach new riders the ropes.

“When I first started, I got nervous, but not now,” Douglas said, “Bull riding is fun.”

Douglas has attended two bull riding clinics to hone his skills, and one of his mentors in the sport is Gary Leffew, who was the 1970 bull riding world champion.

“He taught me,” Douglas said about Leffew. “Gary helped me a lot. He was in some of the big rodeos, and he was a good rider. In the movie ‘8 Seconds,’ he taught (Luke Perry), who played Lane Frost, how to ride and all that.”

So far, he has traveled as far as Oklahoma to compete.

Douglas says holding on for eight seconds is his favorite part of bull riding.

“Rodeos are different in every state,” said Douglas. “Down there in Oklahoma there was a bigger arena and a lot more people.”

When he’s not competing at the rodeo, he enjoys watching roping, in which either a single horse rider or a team of riders catch a calf or steer using a rope.

“I can sit back and watch roping,” said Douglas. “There’s a lot of them and it’s fun to watch. It’s fast-paced.”

Although he notes that not many students at his school have chosen to take up bull riding, the junior bull riding community is strong and close. Douglas recounts that they always help each other prepare to ride and that they cheer each other on.

“When my friends are out there, I’m just hoping that they make eight seconds,” Douglas said.

Up next for Douglas is a trip to Las Vegas to compete in the Junior National Finals Rodeo. While some people might be distracted by the allure of a distant city, he is on a mission.

“I’m just looking forward to the rodeo,” said Douglas.

Final Train Ticket Home

Ethel Griffith’s husband, Lemuel F. Griffith, and daughter Helen.

Contributed by GRACE BOWEN

The’ Spanish Flu’ Influenza Epidemic quickly became a ‘Pandemic’ as it grew into a worldwide grim reaper, taking the lives of over 500 million souls. It claimed more lives than all those lost during the years of WWI. However, the number of Unicoi County soldiers lost in that war paled in comparison to the number of local citizens who died in this Influenza’s fatal grip. This story is based on the facts surrounding Unicoi County’s 1st victim

The Griffith family of Elmwood, Illinois had planned a trip back to the Smokey Mountains for months. Lemuel “Lem” Griffith, the head of house, decided the best time for his family to travel would be in the fall after their crops were harvested. His wife, Ethel, hurried to get her canning put away for the winter, while their young daughter, Helen, kept reminding them several times a day of how excited she was to be traveling by train. She kept asking, “How many more days before time to go?” Finally, after everyone’s patience was running thin, the day came when it was indeed time to go…

Lemuel F. Griffith was known to be a devoted family man. He was born, raised and schooled in Mitchell County, NC. His parents, Rev. Henry and Mary Jane Bradshaw Griffith, still lived in that area along with many of Lem’s 11 siblings. Lem had left home early and went off on his own, settling in Knox County, Illinois where he worked for established farmers as a farm laborer. After saving enough money, Lem started farming for himself. It was at this point he met the love of his life, Ethel.

Ethel May Johnson

Ethel was born Ethel May Johnson in Yates City, Illinois. Her parents, William and Anna Gamble Johnson parented 11 children, including Ethel. Mrs. Johnson died in 1910 at the age of 45. Ethel’s father, a farmer by trade, owned a farm where he raised his family in Knox County, Illinois. In 1912, at the age of 20, Ethel met and married her true love, Lemuel F. Griffith. The happy pair made a home for themselves in Peoria County in a town called Elmwood, Illinois. There Ethel gave birth to Helen in 1913. Ethel, who was unable to conceive again, cherished little Helen even more because she was her only child. When Helen turned five, her parents planned a trip back to Lem’s homeland in North Carolina and Tennessee.

This was their first trip to the Smokey Mountains in several years. They had looked forward to it for months. Letters were exchanged between Ethel and Lem’s family, coordinating dates and times for their long awaited visit. The plan was to spend a week or so with Lem’s relatives in Tennessee and then spend the remaining time with his parents over in North Carolina. From there they planned to catch a train and return to Illinois. With their crops harvested for the season, and snowy weather a month away, it was the perfect time for travel, thus the Griffiths packed their bags and headed to the Illinois Central Railway Station. Little did they know that their long awaited trip would soon turn into a death trap and only two of them would return home alive.

Once they arrived at the Illinois Central Station, Lem purchased their tickets with the understanding they would change trains once they reached Kentucky. The Central Illinois would carry them through Illinois into Kentucky in about 12 to 13 hours at which point the Griffiths would switch trains at Elkhorn, Kentucky where the CC & O Railroad line began. The CC&O (Carolina, Clinchfield & Ohio) Railway would take the Griffith family through Kentucky, Virginia and on to Tennessee. The CC&O ride was 136 miles and about 5 ½ hours total with 37stops between Elkhorn, KY and Erwin, TN. The Griffiths’ total travel time, from Illinois to Tennessee, is estimated to have taken about 18 hours requiring overnight travel. While on the train the Griffiths met other passengers from various cities and states. They also noticed some passengers not feeling well. Even some children complained to their mothers that they felt sick. The mothers could be heard saying their children had slight fevers and assumed they were coming down with a common cold. Most of these passengers disembarked in Kentucky or Virginia. Ethel, concerned about her own child, was relieved to see them go.

Once the Griffith family arrived at the Erwin Depot they were met by one of Lem’s older brothers, Charles V. Griffith, who greeted them warmly and loaded their bags in his wagon. He drove them to his home on Clinchfield Avenue in town. Charles had landed a job with the CC&O Railroad working as a ‘Boiler Maker’ in the ‘Steam Railroad Shop’. Charles and his wife, Texie Hughes Griffith had two children, Mamie and Lee. Their new home was lovely and when the Griffiths came into the home they could smell supper cooking. Texie welcomed them with a hug of joy, served a hearty meal, then sent them all to bed to get a good night’s rest after such an exhausting trip.

The following morning, Charles and Texie took the Griffiths on a tour of Erwin. The town was bustling with businesses. The new Clinchfield Pottery had opened its’ doors the year before, and the year before that the Silk Mill opened. When Lem saw the enormous pottery factory he asked, “Are those seven things on top chimneys?” His brother laughed and explained, “Those are actually beehive coal burning kilns used to fire the pottery.” The tour continued as the Griffiths noticed new homes were being built all over town. The town roads were paved and automobiles as well as horses could be seen traveling down them. The new Courthouse was a majestic beauty, built in 1915. Lem and Ethel marveled at how tall it was with its’ huge white columns and Helen was eager to drink from the magnificent water fountain that sat on the court house’s front lawn.

As Texie looked up at the Courthouse, she could not help but think of the young carpenter that helped tear down the 1876 Courthouse and build this new one. His name was, Corbet Rogers. The young man died when he fell from the roof in 1914. She did not mention this to her visitors for she did not want to spoil their enjoyment of the sites. As she turned, Ethel pointed out a window decorated with hats, gloves, and parasols of all kinds. And as Ethel looked around it became evident to her that ladies could buy the latest fashions from several merchants such as A.R. Brown and the Tucker-Toney Company. Lem was impressed with the Toney building’s unusual architectural design which was a corner building that faced into the corner of Gay and Main. He also spotted the shoe shine boy set up outside the local barber shop. As they continued their tour, they realized all the store windows were dressed perfectly to display the stores latest merchandise.

They walked down Main Street and noticed the Erwin National Bank on the corner of Main and Union. To the right of the bank was the Barron Theatre that was playing, ‘Hearts of the World’, staring Lillian and Dorothy Gish as well as a Charlie Chaplin short film called ‘A Dog’s Life’. The sidewalks were busy with civilians going to and fro tending to their errands and visiting with neighbors and friends as they passed. It was indeed an exciting time for Erwin. A time that would soon come to a screeching halt.

When they arrived back at Charles’ home, Ethel excused herself stating she was feeling very weak and fatigued. Everyone assumed she was just tired from the long morning stroll through town. However, to everyone’s surprise, Ethel remained in the bed unable to get up without assistance. Soon Helen was feeling the same symptoms. The child became extremely weak and fevered. Texie tried for several days to break the fevers without any success. She was baffled because her home remedies for breaking a fever had always worked in the past, but there was something strange about this one that left Texie puzzled and concerned. She told Lem and Charles she was certain the girls had pneumonia. Frightened by this possibility, they immediately called for the doctor.

Dr. James I. Bradshaw, age 49, lived on Gay Street in Erwin and was one of several Erwin physicians. He was also Lem and Charles’s maternal uncle. Bradshaw was among the first responders in Erwin’s Influenza outbreak. When he arrived at the Griffith home, Texie filled him in on the situation. Lem was overwhelmed with anxiety over his family’s illness. So much so, that Charles stayed home from work just to keep his mind occupied. “Lem, come sit down here and lets’ pray.” urged Charles. Dr. Bradshaw looked into the parlor where he witnessed the two brothers on their knees in earnest prayer as Lem wept uncontrollably begging for God’s mercy on his wife and child. The Doctor was so touched by the scene of his nephew’s earnest prayer that he too teared up. But he quickly blinked away his tears and followed Texie upstairs to see the patients.

When Bradshaw entered the bedroom where Ethel and Helen lay motionless in their bed, he quickly noticed both were sweating with fever and seemed lethargic. He checked all their vitals and their extremities and pressed on their abdomens searching for the cause of their illness. When he had finished his examinations of the patients, he motioned for Texie to step out in the hallway. There he informed her that he had several other patients who were suffering from the same symptoms as the Griffiths. He said that several of them, including a CC&O Engineer, had some association with the railroad either as employee or passenger. Texie replied that the Griffiths had just arrived in town the week before from Illinois.

“You mean this thing was brought in by the train?” asked Texie in disbelief. “Yes, there is no doubt it has been transported by rail all over the Country.” he replied. “We have received a telegraph from Nashville confirming this.” he said. Then the Doctor solemnly proclaimed, “Madame, Influenza has officially arrived in Unicoi County and death is sure to follow.”

Texie’s face went white with fear as she heard the Doctor’s words. Bradshaw instructed Texie to make sure no one entered the sick room under any circumstances and when she attended to the patients, he insisted she wear something to cover her mouth and nose to protect her from catching the fatal virus. He also instructed her to wash her hands and arms with hot water and lye soap after attending the patients. He then helped Texie move Helen from her mother’s bed into another bed across the room. They then went downstairs where Lem and Charles were eagerly awaiting the Doctor’s diagnosis. After hearing what the Doctor said, both men were shocked and speechless with the reality that Ethel and little Helen could die right before their very eyes. Lem collapsed in a nearby chair, dropped his head in his hands and began to sob.

The following day, Helen’s fever broke and she was immediately removed from her mother’s room and isolated in a small room off the kitchen. Helen’s health slowly improved and soon her energy and appetite returned. Lem sighed with relief that his little girl had overcome the odds of this illness. However, Ethel’s condition only worsened as the days went by. She began coughing and vomiting uncontrollably. She seemed to be having trouble breathing. She seldom regained consciousness long enough to speak. In her last conscious moment she uttered the words, “I love you both with all my heart.” Then the unspeakable happened, she began turning blue, bleeding foaming blood from her ears and nose. Thereafter, Ethel went into a coma struggling for her last breath and died. Dr. Bradshaw pronounced her dead at 1pm on October 5th, 1918. She was 27 years old.

Dr. Bradshaw insisted the family remove the body to the undertaker immediately in case of further contamination. (Embalming was required by law for all corpses being transported by rail.) He also instructed Charles to burn all the bedding, including the feather ticks where the sick and dying had laid. Ethel’s body was embalmed by undertaker, Belvin M. Allred, a furniture merchant who lived on Gay Street. After the embalming, Allred placed the body in a wooden coffin, made in his furniture store.

The dear young woman was now ready to be transported back to Illinois. The next day Lem purchased two regular priced tickets and one at a flat rate estimated to have been about 50 cents for the transport of the dead. There was a bitter chill in the air as Lem and Helen stood dazed and grief-stricken when Ethel’s remains were hoisted into the baggage car. The heartbroken father and daughter said tearful goodbyes to Charles and Texie as they quietly loaded the train hearing the final call, “All aboard!” Lem took Helen’s hand and led her up the train steps, looking back briefly at his brother for a final nod goodbye. Then they were in the train and out of sight. Texie held tightly to Charles’ arm as they watched the train slowly roll down the tracks making its way out of Erwin, carrying with it Unicoi County’s 1st official Influenza victim. Ethel May Griffith, a pretty young wife and mother, was finally returning to Elmwood, Illinois… on her final train ticket home.

Crockett gets robots rolling for state competition

Robotics requires many hands to make it successful. Right: Left to right, Instructor Guy McAmis works with students Noah Painter, Jacob Nance and Christian Platt to perfect their ongoing robot project.


Guest Writer & Photographer

David Crockett High School

Anthony Vaughn and Kailee Amburgey, members of the awards team, work on the prestigious Chairman’s award. The entire robotics team will be competing in the Palmetto Regional Competition, to be held Feb. 24 to March 4.

David Crockett High School’s Rat Rod Robotics Team is getting ready for its first competition of the year. The event, titled Palmetto Regional, will be held Feb. 24 through March 4 at Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Rat Rod Robotics is broken into various teams, each working on seperate pieces of the puzzle to create the best robot.

The Rat Rod Robotics programming team is currently working on wiring encoders and programming autonomous mode for the robot, which refers to the process that allows the robot to run by itself.

The build team is improving delegation skills, attaching bumpers, and designing parts using CAD (Computer Aided Drafting.)

The awards team is creating the group’s entry for the Chairman’s Award, the highest award a team can receive through FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science & Techology.)

Finally, the Business Team is generating a business plan for the year.

All of these things are preparing the team to win next month.

Mary Whaley is the Crockett Robotics Team’s business lead.

JRT brings nostalgic play to life

The Meet Me in St. Louis cast comes together for a scene during the weekend showing.

By Allen Rau

Staff Writer

The local version of a Hollywood classic is on display at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre in downtown Jonesborough for the next two weekends. Featuring volunteers entirely from the Tri-Cities, the musical is the story of a 1903 family going through the trials and tribulations of life while prepping for the 1904 World’s Fair.

“Come and have a good time and enjoy a nostalgic moment” Director Karen Elb said, “Come and relax for a moment.”

According to Elb, the JRT’s version was to a large extent faithful to the original movie. After re-watching the original film, she said, she saw “how sweet and hopeful the story is.  (It) comes together in this beautiful tapestry.”

The story involves two daughters searching for that special someone and the humorous interactions within the family and the situations they encounter.

“We basically have three love stories going on.  You’ve got Esther and the boy next door and Esther’s older sister and her beau, Warren,“ Elb said. “And then you’ve got mother and father as well. I think their love story is my favorite in the whole play but that’s probably because I’m a little bit older and I’m a mom, too.”

All the actors are local, including students at the theatre and local high schools. Elb said that some have backgrounds in the professional theater and some in community theater, but most majored or minored in some type of theater in school. 

“A lot of us just love doing it and have learned by doing it,” she said.  “They’re all doing a tremendous job … putting just a tremendous amount of work and love into it.”

Elb herself grew up immersed in theater.  “I grew up backstage when I was a little kid hanging out in the green room and the dressing rooms and in the makeup rooms and playing with costumes.”

She was offered her first apprenticeship at 20 years old at a professional regional theater working mostly in technical areas.

After a few years off to raise her child, Elb returned to the theater and branched out into acting as well.

“And I always wanted to direct,” Elb said, and is now on her fourth directing job, and her third for the JRT.

“I learned about everything in theater that I possibly could … because I wanted to know everything about process.

“To understand how all of it comes together. Because that’s the best way to be a good director.”

Anyone interested in seeing the musical “Meet Me in St. Louis” can purchase tickets online at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre’s website, by phone at 423-753-1010 or at the JRT’s Stage Door Box Office.

  The final show is Sunday, Feb. 11 and there are performances on Fridays, two on Saturday and one Sunday.

Walking in a Window Wonderland

Above, competition’s People’s Choice winner, The Downtown Beauty Lounge, dazzled with bright colors in the midst of the winter season.


Downtown Jonesborough recently hosted the third Annual Window Wonderland contest and Winter Sale to support local businesses and allow those merchants to show off their window painting skills.

Downtown Beauty Lounge won the People’s Choice, which combined online voting and ballots cast in person, while Downtown Sweet won the Judge’s Choice, picked by three local art professionals. Each prize was $300 in cash and a $150 Lowe’s gift card.

Downtown Sweet on Main Street in Jonesborough displays its winter scene.

Melinda Copp, the Main Street Jonesborough director said, “It was something to add to our downtown and our Main Street to keep the community feel.” She added that the event was “kind of a way to spruce up downtown after Christmas … and bring some life back to downtown.”

Downtown Beauty Lounge employees Katie Williams and Jessica Grindstaff spent eight hours painting their windows with candy canes and a gingerbread house as well as hanging decorations made completely out of recycled materials along the storefront. “That’s why I wanted to do it, it was bright and stood out” Williams said. Thanks to their hard work and painting skills they were the People’s Choice winner and were happy to take home the prizes.

Downtown Sweet took home the Judge’s Choice Award in the Window Wonderland competition. Local professionals opted for the window display complete with winter scenes in each window pane. The display won the business $300 and a Lowe’s gift card. The Window Wonderland event was created to liven up downtown during the winter months, as Downtown Sweet did with their winter activities scene.

The Judge’s Choice winner was Downtown Sweet, whose windows featured small characters based on owner Davy Funderburk’s five children. Funderburk said he “created this imaginary world, with the panes interacting with each other.” Using his children as models for the window characters, he sketched them onto paper and taped them to the window. The final step involved tracing the sketches with paint pens to create an intricate and humorous scene on his storefront window.

Also taking place during the Window Wonderland event was the Winter Sale. Copp said, “We highlight all the things the merchants have on sale at that time of year.” However walk-in traffic was limited by the frigid conditions over the weekend of the event.

But that did nothing to take away the effort and community spirit that was present throughout downtown. Funderburk said it’s a “fun thing to be able to walk downtown.”