Auditions to begin for ‘Trip Home’

Local stories from local people will be the focus of the upcoming play.


The Jonesborough Storytelling Initiative will present a brand-new play based on stories drawn from local community members. “The Long Trip Home” will hold its world debut in February of 2019, and auditions for the play will be held Dec.10-11 at the McKinney Center from 6 to 8 p.m.

Playwright Jules Corriere created this play which comes from more than 40 oral stories that have been collected throughout the year by the members of the Jonesborough Story Brigade.

The Brigade members, who have been trained in interviewing individuals as well as holding story circles, provided a rich source of material for the play through these interviews. Transcripts of the interviews were made, and all of the stories that were collected during this period, whether they became part of the play or not, will be archived with the Heritage Alliance for future generations.

“The Long Trip Home” focuses on the lives of ordinary people who encounter extraordinary life circumstances. Often, these harrowing (or hilarious) events lead these beloved community characters away from home, leaving them to discover their own way back.

Wilma Chandley navigates life after losing her hearing, and later, after losing much more, and becomes for many a model of living in grace despite life’s rocky path.

Vincent Dial finds his way to his calling, moving away from a path he was born into, and finding a trail that led to where he was destined to be.

Sue Henley shares a residence with someone (or something) from another century, and each tries to be at home with the other.

Johnny Russaw’s story recounts his days as a football player at ETSU during a turning point moment in the country, and what it meant for him to be on the “home team” during those times.

These are just a few of the dozens of stories found in this new work, which will be performed at the McKinney Center in February and March of 2019.

Corriere, who will direct the play, encourages community members from all backgrounds to attend auditions and be a part of the show.

“The stories come from and belong to the community. They should be the ones telling these important stories of their family, friends, and neighbors. There are roles for people of all ages and from all backgrounds,” she said.

Corriere points out that the cast for these productions are large, in order to tell and honor so many important stories. 

“There are lots of roles for children, teens, young adults, and seniors. Everyone is welcome,” she said.

During the auditions,  scenes for reading will be provided. There will be original music in the play, so those who wish to audition for singing parts and solos may bring a prepared song.

The production will also require backstage and technical help. Those interested in volunteering for this production should also come to auditions and fill out a volunteer form.

The play will be cast immediately after auditions so cast members will have an opportunity to get familiar with their roles. Rehearsals will begin the first week in January.

For more information, emails Jules Corriere at the McKinney Center at of reach her by phone at (423) 794-6320.

‘Colors of Christmas’ to return for historic holiday

Downtown was dressed in its best last year during the Christmas event, which is returning to Jonesborough this year.


The ultimate way to kick off the holiday season is with the Colors of Christmas Historic Tour and Dinner. Hear the stories of years past as you tour private homes and historic buildings beautifully decorated for the season. Cap off the evening with an elegant, multi-course meal and live music.

This December marks the second year for the Colors of Christmas, a historic tour and dinner taking place in Tennessee’s Oldest Town. In 2017, the Heritage Alliance partnered with the Town of Jonesborough to merge the Holiday Tour of Homes and the Progressive Dinner into one elegant evening. This holiday tradition will continue on Saturday, Dec. 1.

On the tour, you’ll have a once in a lifetime sneak peek at historic homes and structures. The tour spotlights the architectural, historical, and cultural heritage of our region. Each location on the tour has a unique story rich with history. You’ll also enjoy sounds of the season with live music featured in various locations during portions of the evening. The tour takes place from 3 to 7 p.m. and there will be a shuttle continually running the route.

End your evening by enjoying a delectable four-course meal set in another of Jonesborough’s historic buildings. Elaborate entertainment will fill the space between courses, keeping the holiday spirit refreshed and relaxed. Have your pick between two seating times, 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Guests will enjoy appetizers in the Historic Inns of Jonesborough from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. or 7 to 7:45 p.m. before being transported to the dinner location. Whether you choose the tour only, dinner only or combine both, the Colors of Christmas is the ultimate kick-off to the Holiday season in Jonesborough.

Colors of Christmas celebrates the restoration of buildings, which does more than simply repair old walls and ceilings; it rebuilds connections, strengthens community and restores the spirit. Not only will you be celebrating restoration during the Colors of Christmas, but you’ll also be supporting two worthwhile causes. Your Colors of Christmas dinner ticket helps to fund the preservation and education mission of the Heritage Alliance. The Colors of Christmas tour helps the Town of Jonesborough fund the many free events, such as At Home with Santa, dedicated to children throughout the year

Come home to Jonesborough for the holidays and take part in Colors of Christmas on December 1. The tour is $15 and will be from 3 to 7 p.m. The dinner is $85 and will be at 4:30 or 7 p.m. This year’s event is a guaranteed sell out, so secure your reservations today.

Purchase your tickets at or call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010.

Storyteller shares tale with Boones Creek Trust, H&T readers

Storyteller Rebecca Kefauver Alexander entertains at the Sounds of Boones Creek Meeting.


Associate Editor

Growing up on a farm in Washington County provides the kind of material that Storyteller Rebecca Keefauver Alexander used Monday, Oct. 15,  to delight an audience at the Sounds of Boones Creek Museum and Opry.  Some 50 people gathered to share desserts and listen to a couple of stories that can make you laugh and cry all in the same moment.

The Museum & Opry venue —  located at 525 W. Oakland Ave. in Johnson City where the audience sits on padded church pews in front of a compact stage loaded with electronic equipment — was a perfect place for nearly an hour of telling.  Two stories enchanted the audience, the first about Kathleen Hall and a second titled “A Clark Story From Boones Creek.”

Alexander received her bachelor’s degree from Milligan College in English/sociology/psychology and her master’s in education with an emphasis in Storytelling from East Tennessee State University. She is a wife, mother, former high school English teacher and spent 11 years as a sales manager for a large electronics corporation. Today, you will often find her at Dillow-Taylor Funeral Home which she co-owns with her husband Howard.

A professional storyteller who has a host of Biblically inspired presentations, she has performed at the Barter Theater, Emmanuel School of Religion, ETSU, Telebration, and more.

In addition, she also has numerous performances before civic organizations, conferences, nursing homes, libraries, a number of churches and a host of schools.

Rebecca says she “shares bits of her experiences in her stories.”  She has been telling stories since 1994.  She is an active member of the Jonesborough Storytelling Guild, the longest running storytelling guild in the nation.  The group which meets each Tuesday night for a performance beginning at 7 p.m. at the International Storytelling Center is in the process of planning for its 25th Anniversary of providing entertainment in Jonesborough.

Rather than continuing with her credits and organizational affiliations, the following short story, used with her permission, is published in the following paragraphs as it was performed on Monday before the members of the Boones Creek Historical Trust.


“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”  (THE BIBLE, 1 Peter 4: 8-10)

When I think of one of the best gardeners I know, I think of my Aunt Kathleen Hall, Aunt Kat as we called her.  I loved going to her home on old Gray Station Road, where red geraniums and white petunias overflowed from concrete boxes on her front porch where rose bushes lined the corner of her house.  She was always outside working in her flowers or her garden.

One of my fondest memories of her was pulling up in her driveway as she was coming out of her garden.  Her skin tanned the color of cocoa from the sun and her hair in ringlets and sparkling from her perspiration.  Her curvaceous figure in a yellow swimsuit top and a pair of shorts.  Her arms were wrapped around a large bushel basket of cantaloupes.

She would set them down and take a handkerchief out of her bathing suit top and dry off her face.  Then she would stuff it back in.  That was always an amazing thing to me, how she could get anything out of that top, cause she was a fleshly woman.  With a big grin on her face she would say, “Whew doggies, it sure is hot out here; let’s go inside and cut one of these cantaloupes and cool off a bit.”

She would reach down and pick out one of the ripest cantaloupe, the one that had a small crack in it.  Then she would cut it in half and take a spoon and clean out the stingy seeds and hand me a half and a spoon.  Juice would drip off my chin and she would grin real big and say, “It don’t get much better than that does it cutie?”

My aunt’s garden was much more than cantaloupes.  She raised lettuce, cabbage, corn, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and zucchini and anything else she could think of.  Then she would can or freeze everything else she didn’t use or give away.

Sometimes we would gather under the pear trees at the back of our house to break beans or shell peas.  We all had gardens that were coming in about the same time and it was so much more fun to gather under those trees sharing the work load and a few stories. Mom would put out the lawn chairs and we would sit down, drape a towel over our legs, place a roll pan on our lap full of peas, and a large pot on the ground to throw the peas in when they came out of the shell.

I can still hear the peas hit the metal pan like it was yesterday. Then mom and Aunt Kat would begin talking and telling stories about what it was like when they grew up. Their words rolled off their tongues like warm molasses. We would just have to ask, “Aunt Kat, did you ever get in trouble?” Then the story would begin. It was always punctuated by my aunt’s contagious laughter.  Sometimes she and mom would get to laughing so hard that, when Aunt Kat threw her peas, she would miss the pan all together and that was when we learned our aunt knew a foreign language.

She had a few words she drew out real slow and then she would say, “Pardon my French.”  Which made my mom laugh even harder.  Later that day, she and mom would divide up the peas and pack them in freezer bags. By the end of the summer you could not open my aunt’s freezer without a bag of vegetables falling out. That was a good thing cause she would need it to feed lots of people.

My aunt knew everyone in Boones Creek and I mean everyone. She had lived there all her life.  She was the bank teller of Hamilton Bank and she had this vivacious personality. If you got in her drive-through line, you would expect to be there awhile. But it was always worth the wait to be greeted by that beautiful smile and maybe a zucchini or two slipped through the bank window.

On Sundays anyone who visited Boones Creek Christian Church (where I have gone all my life) was welcomed by my Aunt Kat.  She would introduce herself and tell them how thrilled she was they were there and then would proceed to invite them to Sunday lunch.  They might respond, “Oh, we could not impose like that.” 

She always replied, “Oh, fiddlesticks! We have plenty and if I thought you were going to be an imposition, I would not have invited you.”

Then she would get in her car and start giving instructions: “Marylynn, you get out two extra place settings out of the china cabinet; Tammie, bring me an extra bag of corn out of the freezer and Robert run down stairs and bring me another jar of green beans.  Bob, you just sit with them in the den and visit until I get in on the table.” When we passed her home on the Old Gray Station Road, my Dad would say, “Kat’s driveway looks like a used car lot.  I wonder who she invited today?”

Long before there were writers like Erma Bombeck who wrote pieces like “If I had my life to live over,” there was my Aunt Kat who knew how to really live.  I would bet 90 percent of those who came to her home ended up joining our church. She was the perfect example of southern hospitality and evangelism rolled into one.  Her home might not always have been in perfect order but no one ever noticed because when you entered her home, you were greeted with such warmth and happiness you could only see Jesus.

In 1987 my aunt started getting sick.  They finally figured out she had contacted hepatitis from a blood transfusion 20 years before when she gave birth to her first child.  In 1988, she had a liver transplant at Emory University in Atlanta.  I stuck my head in her hospital that morning. I said, “Are you ready for your new liver?”

She smiled and gave me a thumbs-up sign. Well, I guess God had more important jobs for my precious Aunt Kat cause she went to be with him that day. I am not sure if she is working in his garden or cooking for his banquet but I know for certain she is having the time of her life.  Perhaps if we are quiet enough we can hear my mom and Aunt Kat laughing.

Comedian James Gregory returns to Niswonger


GREENEVILLE – Using home spun comedy, common sense wisdom, old-fashioned values, and politically incorrect humor, James Gregory pokes fun at crazy relatives, modern sensitive parents and out-of-control environmentalists. With a grass roots following now numbering in the millions, you do not want to miss this zany guy’s rib-tickling reflections on life from the front porch. James makes his return to Niswonger Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Nov. 3, at 7:30 PM.

James Gregory grew up watching stand-up comedy on programs like Jack Benny, Milton Berle and the Ed Sullivan Show. After some nudging from his friends, he started doing open mic stand-up in Atlanta and things just took off.

Today he performs his down-home stories of food, funerals and funny relatives to sold-out theatres, casinos and corporate events working 48 weeks of the year. He’s also a regular guest on national radio shows, like The Bob & Tom Show, Rick and Bubba and The Big Show with John Boy and Billy.

Early in his career he earned the moniker, “Funniest Man in America,” but he’s quick to tell you, “At that time there were only 13 states.”

His jokes are squeaky clean as, he says, “My mother wouldn’t let me tell them if they weren’t.” It’s the kind of show you could feel comfortable bringing your date or your grandmother.

What’s really unique about Gregory is his appeal to people of all ages, races, creeds and colors. It’s not unusual to see three generations rolling in the aisles. He comes off as that funny uncle that everyone gathers around at family reunions, because he has the best stories and so reminds people of their own families.

Gregory’s success, like his comedy, is the direct result of the values he grew up with. And now, twenty something years later, it is this unique brand of humor that packs the crowds into his sold-out shows.

The absence of vulgarity sets James apart and his stories are carefully crafted art. “I have lived long enough to know people, know life,” Gregory reflects. “My comedy is based on my life experiences. It’s real, it’s funny and the audience loves it. That’s why I’m still in business.”

Laugh until you cry with James Gregory at Niswonger Performing Arts Center on Saturday, November 3rd at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for orchestra and mezzanine level seating and $15 for balcony seats.

Tickets are on sale now for all performances for the entire 2018-2019 season and may be purchased online at, in person at the NPAC box office, or by calling 423-638-1679.

NPAC offers online seat selection with no processing or delivery fees. There is an additional $1.50 ticketing fee per ticket regardless of purchase method. The box office hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The 1150 seat performing arts center is located adjacent to the campus of Greeneville High School. For venue information, and to purchase tickets, please visit

Seniors win another Brain Games

Nancy Weaver, Joe Allison, Carol Salinas and Mike Willis make up the Olde Towners.


Staff Writer

You can go ahead and group the Jonesborough Senior Center Olde Towners alongside the Golden State Warriors and the New England Patriots as recent dynasties.

The trivia team claimed their third straight Tennessee State Brain Games championship by a slim margin at the McKinney Center in Jonesborough last Wednesday.

Joe Allison, Carol Salinas, Mike Willis and Nancy Weaver claimed the 2018 trophy by only one point over the runners-up from the Chester County Challengers, 131-130. South Knoxville and Smith County finished in third and fourth.

“Well, we came kind of close to losing it last year,” Allison said, “We won by four points last year, but this time we won it by only one point.”

Along with the trophy comes a prize of $2,500 for the Jonesborough Senior Center and bragging rights.

The format of the Brain Games may appear similar to “Jeopardy,”  but there are some differences between the venerable game show and this competition. According to the State Senior Brain Games website, “There is an element of wagering, as well as risk, based upon point values and confidence in a specific category. Senior Brain Games is both strategy based and knowledge based, in other words.”

Each team must decide how many points (2, 4, 6, 8, or 10 points) to assign each answer based on how confident they are with that answer. There are five questions per round and each team is allowed each point amount only once per round.

In the fourth and final round the points are doubled.

The subjects covered include anything and everything, Allison said.

“They can cover any kind of question under the sun. Basically the people that put the questions together can draw on any subject they want to.”

He added that the winner must know more than just the answer to each question.

“Basically what you have to do, you have to be able to skillfully bet your points.”

Allison said that the Olde Towners started smoothly but lost steam as the competition progressed.

“We were actually doing quite well until the fourth round,: he said. “We’d pretty much answered all the questions correctly, except for one of the two bonus questions. I think we were pretty much in the lead up until that last round and then we had some questions that we couldn’t answer.

“We thought that we had blown it. One of the questions that got us was ‘What color is malakite?’ which is a stone or rock of some type. That was one of the ones we lost in that last round. It’s actually green. So now I know.”

Salinas also added that she wasn’t certain of victory, as well.

“I really didn’t think we would have pulled it off this time,” she said.

While there was doubt about ultimate victory, they still got an outcome that made the home crowd rejoice.

In order to be victorious, the entire team must have knowledge of any number of subjects. Any one member may know more about certain subjects than others, and they all get that knowledge from all sorts of different places.

There is a regularly scheduled trivia game every Friday at the Senior Center, Salinas said, and many are fans of trivia shows on TV.

“At the old Senior Center they started (trivia) and I’ve always liked stuff like that,” she said. “I like Jeopardy, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? And my favorite was Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

“We all know a little bit of everything. Mike was more towards sports. Joe was on fire the first couple of rounds. I’m telling you, he really came up with some things. But there were things that I came up with. For example, there was a question about what you don’t feed to babies under 12 months old. The guys had no idea it was honey. And I told Joe, I’m a mother. I know stuff like that.”

The winners of the competition usually host the next year’s competition. However, with the Jonesborough team’s recent domination, Allison said the competition will shift back to Nashville.

“What I understand now happens, since we’ve won three times, we’ve retired the trophy. So we get to keep the trophy but they have to take (the competition) back to neutral ground, I think is how they explained it, so next year it’ll be held in Nashville.”

As the event was held at the McKinney Center in Jonesborough, the Olde Towners had plenty of support during the competition and have become local celebrities.

“There was quite a crowd there and all the different teams brought their own supporters and everything so there were people there with signs and making noise, yelling and cheering and all that. It was pretty exciting,” Allison said.

“I think in a little town like Jonesborough especially, people are very aware of things going on like that.”

Salinas added that she has people who recognize her, which sometimes lengthens her trips to the store.

“Everybody says ‘Oh, you’re the one that was on the team!’”

Washington County to honor volunteers


Nominations for the Eleventh Annual Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards are now being accepted within Washington County. The awards will celebrate the efforts of volunteers who strive to improve their communities through service.

One youth and one adult volunteer will be selected in Washington County to receive this prestigious award. Nominees will be judged based on the community’s need of the volunteer service performed, initiative taken to perform the service, and impact of the volunteer service on the community.

The Jonesborough Community Chest (JCC) sponsors the awards for Washington County. JCC’s mission is to mobilize the county’s residents and institutions to help their neighbors through volunteering and community engagement. “Volunteerism is a vital aspect of our identity as American citizens,” said Adam Dickson, president of JCC.

Those interested in nominating an individual are asked to email Nomination forms can also be found at the Jonesborough/Washington County Public Library. Applications must be received by Thursday, October 25, 2018.

Recipients from Washington County will be honored at the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards ceremony in Franklin, TN on Sunday, February 10, 2019 in Franklin, TN

For more information about nominations, email Adam Dickson at

Volunteer Tennessee is coordinating the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards at the state level. Volunteer Tennessee is the 25 member bipartisan citizen board appointed by the Governor to oversee AmeriCorps and service-learning programs and to advance volunteerism and citizen service to solve community problems in the Volunteer State. For more information about Volunteer Tennessee and the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards, please visit

Volunteer Start Award nominations begin


Nominations for the Eleventh Annual Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards are now being accepted within Washington County. The awards will celebrate the efforts of volunteers who strive to improve their communities through service.

One youth and one adult volunteer will be selected in Washington County to receive this prestigious award. Nominees will be judged based on the community’s need of the volunteer service performed, initiative taken to perform the service, and impact of the volunteer service on the community.

The Jonesborough Community Chest (JCC) sponsors the awards for Washington County. JCC’s mission is to mobilize the county’s residents and institutions to help their neighbors through volunteering and community engagement. “Volunteerism is a vital aspect of our identity as American citizens,” said Adam Dickson, president of JCC.

Those interested in nominating an individual are asked to email Nomination forms can also be found at the Jonesborough/Washington County Public Library. Applications must be received by Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018.

Recipients from Washington County will be honored at the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards ceremony in Franklin, Tennessee on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee.

For more information about nominations, email Adam Dickson at

Volunteer Tennessee is coordinating the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards at the state level. Volunteer Tennessee is the 25 member bipartisan citizen board appointed by the Governor to oversee AmeriCorps and service-learning programs and to advance volunteerism and citizen service to solve community problems in the Volunteer State. For more information about Volunteer Tennessee and the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards, please visit

Cross Country race takes on greater meaning

Dustin, Gideon, Lynn and Aldon Erwin gather around at Gideon and Aldon’s competition.

Gideon Erwin, left, poses with “Papaw” Lynn Erwin and his younger brother, Aldon.


Staff Writer

Finishing in second place in the State Cross Country race would make most young runners ecstatic.

But Lamar School runner Gideon Erwin had a spectator in the crowd that meant more to him than the race.

Erwin’s grandfather, Lynn Erwin, was able to make the trip to the race after missing out on the previous years due to an ongoing battle with cancer.

“Last year (Gideon) went to state and his papaw, Lynn, couldn’t make the trip because he has cancer. So this year we did a lot of praying and (Gideon) really worked hard to come in first or second place this year to go to state again,” Gideon’s grandmother, Shirley Erwin, said. “So we went down last Saturday, and Lynn made the trip down to watch Gideon. He came in fourth place in all the state. (Gideon) has really worked hard and they’re really close. He is a really good young man, and he has worked very hard this year. Every day he would run five or six miles and his papaw would drive (behind) and make sure he was okay. But that was a very special time that our family spent together and (was able to) watch Gideon come in fourth at state.”

The presence of Gideon’s grandfather encouraged him, as the two are extremely close. “It’s always great when I see him at a race. When he wasn’t there last year, all I could think about was him while I was running,” Gideon said. “And this year, knowing that he was there to support me really helped to give me a boost to finish the race, and to finish strong and give it everything I had.”

Gideon’s grandfather was also able to attend the qualifying race at Greeneville the week prior to the state meet, where he qualified in second place to secure his state spot.

“(Gideon) has been in several races just around the community. I know he went to Bristol, he went to Fenders Farm. He would always come in first or second place,” according to Shirley Erwin. “He had to win so many races just to get to the state meet. I think there were around 109 runners he had to compete against. We’re very proud grandparents.”

While Lynn Erwin’s presence helped spur the young runner to a top position at the race, the hard work Gideon put in also helped his grandfather.

“I had a little trouble with this illness. But my health was fine down there. It gives me a lot of encouragement to keep on fighting,” Lynn Erwin said. “Track and cross country are a race, it’s kind of like life and I said, ‘You know, when you start at the pole (position) you want to finish even if you might have a bad day’. And he’s done very well and I am so proud of him.”

Gideon had a large group of supporters there to cheer him on who were also thrilled that Lynn was able to attend. His other grandmother Linda Lacey said, “It was such a blessing, because we didn’t know that his papaw was going to get to go down because of the illness, and when he was able to go, it was just one great blessing because all of us were there under one big tent. We were all there. I guess if I had my druthers, I’d have rather had Lynn there over any of us because Gideon’s papaw is so important to him. The Good Lord made it to where Lynn was able and felt up to going.”

During the previous year when his papaw was unable to see Gideon race, his grandmother Shirley said that Gideon’s thoughts were always about his grandfather.

“(Gideon) always asks his papaw to pray for him, to pray with him. He would say ‘Papaw, this is for you’. (Lynn) wanted to come a little more “up” but Gideon said ‘Papaw, you did all you could do’.”

She added, with a laugh, that even when the whole family was able to attend, Gideon’s grandfather Lynn was always a priority.

“We’ve always tried to go to his games and he always looks for his papaw there. He doesn’t care if I’m there or anything, but he wants his papaw right there. He’s his number one fan.”

The second place finish that wrapped up his Lamar Middle School cross-country career will certainly remain a highlight for Gideon. But the presence of his entire family, including his biggest fan, certainly added luster to that last race.

As Gideon himself put it, “It meant the world to me.”

Kiwanis plans new dinner, dancing event



Jonesborough Kiwanis Club members and their guests will soon be kicking up their heels for a good cause at the club’s new Dancing & Dining for Kiwanis Kids event, set for Nov. 3.

Scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the McKinney Center, the dinner, dance and silent auction will feature good food, good music and good fun, all with the purpose of raising money to help fund additional Chromebooks for Washington County Schools.

Tickets are $40 each or two for $70.

Kiwanis President Lowie van Staveren said he first got his inspiration for the event from an earlier Music on the Square fundraiser put together by Steve Cook and held at the McKinney Center,

Van Staveren said he paired the location idea and some of the other details with another fundraising event he had helped oversee as a teacher “up North.”

The Kiwanis dance and silent auction was born.

He promises that the club will provide a good time to all who attend.

The dinner, provided by DNA Catering, will feature beef brisket, chicken or a vegetarian option, roasted vegetables and scalloped potatoes and will conclude with a dessert of Southern Pecan or Lemon Icebox Pie.

Ben Dean with Big Time Entertainment will be in charge of the music, and he promises Classic Rock, as well as music from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

No one, he said, will be able to stay still.

“It will be jovial,” Dean said. “If you’re not dancing, you’re tapping your toes and your feet.”

There will also be chance to pick your favorites, Van Staverens said.

“We’re setting it up at each table where people will have a form to request a favorite song,” he said.

A silent auction will be ongoing throughout the evening, with amazing deals and packages to be had.

Beer and wine will also be available.

The most important thing, however, according to the Kiwanis members organizing the event, is both the community and the benefit.

“The whole goal of this is to raise money for computers for the school,” said Kiwanis member Jack Van Zandt. “It’s just part of the Kiwanis  Club commitment. Of all the things that we do, we try to do things that are enjoyable for the community but also raise money for the community.”

Van Staveren agreed.

“We want people to walk about from it and go, ‘We had a really nice time. We’re going to do it again next year.

“We want it to be something that grows.”

For tickets to the Kiwanis dinner/dance/auction, contact the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 753-1010. Tickets are available until Oct. 30.

For questions about donating to the Silent Auction, contact Lowie van Staveren at (269) 929-3358 or Jack Van Zandt at (423) 948-0237.

Festival: Event closes with good memories, solid numbers

Another successful Storytelling Festival closed this week, complete with blue skies and stunning sunsets.


Staff Writer

This year’s edition of the National Storytelling Fe

stival wrapped up Sunday, highlighted by blistering temperatures, over 10,000 visitors and a diverse group of tellers to dazzle the crowds.

“The atmosphere was fantastic. The energy was just beautiful. Wonderful.” International Storytelling Center President Kiran Singh Sirah said. “To be able to spread this message of good will, peace, understanding and a celebration of our humanity, that’s what this festival really sums up for me.”

From Friday through Sunday, over 10,000 folks criss-crossed Jonesborough to hear stories filled with laughter, love, awe or in the case of Bil Lepp, a humorous story about the running of the bulls.

While the 18 featured storytellers were the main attraction over the weekend, Sirah believed the concert on Thursday night set the tone for the festival.

“We had a really exciting Black Lillies concert on Thursday night and I think that did a lot to really bring both our traditional audiences, our regulars, as well as lots of younger people to come and celebrate, to dance and really enjoy themselves and have a real nice celebratory kickoff to the festival.”

Sirah added that many visitors arrived before the festival began.

“It was great to see lots of people coming in earlier, and just enjoying the whole festival build-up. People, when they come in earlier, they like to come in and they go for hikes, or they go eat at the restaurants, or they like to experience our trails, and our walks and our pubs and all the things that East Tennessee has to offer. Especially in these mountains, and then they come for the Storytelling.”

Among the tellers present were familiar faces such as Donald Davis, Connie Regan-Blake and the aforementioned Lepp.

Visitors to the festival were invited to tell their own tales over the weekend at the Swappin Grounds or on one of the bright yellow Story Stages spread across town.

While all the tellers were able to showcase their talents to the crowds, one of the stars, as always, was the town — and the town residents themselves.

The ISC president said he has heard many times how Jonesborough and its residents provide such a warm welcome to festival attendees.

“One thing I always hear people say is that they never get a better welcome than when they come in and see the people of Jonesborough just open up this town and welcome people in. This is one of the most inclusive places I’ve ever been in the world because we welcome people from all over the world.

“One of the beautiful things about this festival is that there are so many opportunities to make friends and connect with the community.” 

The National Storytelling Festival begun in 1973 by Jimmy Neil Smith was quite a different event.

According to the festival press release, only “a few dozen people gathered on hay bales around a wagon”.

The 2018 edition welcomed over 10,000 visitors, while nearly 3,000 listened in on the Festival’s livestream on Friday.

Bledsoe’s festival poster returns for 29th season

Artist Bill Bledsoe continues to create posters commemorating storytelling.


Staff Writer

When Bill Bledsoe created the first poster print celebrating the Jonesborough Storytelling Festival, he never dreamed the prints would become so popular.

Bledsoe, who began designing the prints in 1989, shared a story that speaks volumes about the impact of the festival and the festival inspired art.

“I think it was in 2002, this gentleman came up to me at the festival as I was signing prints, and he said ‘You’ve cost me $40,000.’ And I thought he was pulling my leg. He said, ‘We built an addition to our house to hang all of your artwork.’ And he pulled out a photograph and sure enough, there it was. He had spotlights, a window looking out over a lake in Vermont, and nothing but Storytelling artwork on all the walls.

“He said ‘It’s the nicest part of our house, we always go there to just re-live our memories in Jonesborough.’ It was really humbling for me. They had a stereo system in there so they could listen to tapes and CD’s of the storytellers. It was like a time capsule. So it does mean a lot to people and that’s why I’ve carried on.”

Bledsoe, a Jonesborough native, has the Storytelling festival coursing through his veins.

“This is my 29th year (designing prints for the festival). I grew up in Jonesborough and I’ve been to every Storytelling Festival since the first one.”

His first print in 1989 was partly a result of his job at the Parson’s Table.

“Jimmy Neil Smith owned the Parson’s Table for years and I worked there while I was going to school. I was actually his head cook and I was paying for my degree in art at ETSU. And I said to Jimmy, ‘ Of all the things you all make for the Storytelling Festival, there’s nothing that you have that says Jonesborough and Storytelling together’. To me they were inseparable. So I told Jimmy we ought to create a print, something that combines those two things.

“Of course, even though he was the founder and director, he had a board and most of the people on the board didn’t even live here. So (Smith) said ‘Well, we really can’t do that but if you want to do something independently, I encourage you.’” 

The first print Bledsoe designed was called “The Tale Tree” and he paid for the posters out of his own pocket. In order to raise the necessary funds for the project, Bledsoe even sold his car to an ETSU professor. One thousand of  the prints were made, and every one sold..

According to Bledsoe, Smith told him that any money made on the prints, would come right back to Bledsoe, who used those proceeds to fund the following year’s prints. After the first two successful years, the prints became part of the festival.

While Bledsoe sells fewer than the 1,000 he began with almost 30 years ago, he still allows the town to use the image on any merchandise and to keep the proceeds made from their sale.

According to Bledsoe, most folks who buy his prints are visitors.

“The majority of people who buy these, they’re not from here. They’re from all points of the country, different parts of the globe to some extent.”

As a Jonesborough native, he also got involved in order to give visitors a piece of the town and the festival.

“That’s how I got into it because I felt like there needs to be something that people can take with them that clearly illustrates the connection between the town and the Storytelling festival.

“I believed in it so much because I love Jonesborough, it’s my home. I love Storytelling, have grown up with it.”

Currently the head of the Art Department at Tusculum University, Bledsoe tries to involve his students in his project to give them an example of how they can make a living as an artist.

While the number of prints available began in the early years at 1,000, Bledsoe only releases 100 of the prints during the festival, which usually sell out quickly. However, those who miss out on the first edition may still be able to obtain one of the prints.

“What I’ll do is make a second edition just ordered for that weekend. In other words, they’ll come in and there’ll be a list of people. They’ll run the prints and mail them off.”

However, the second edition is not numbered.

Bledsoe said he continues to attend the festival, spending most of the day on Saturday at Mauk’s, where he personalizes prints for folks who buy them and catches up with attendees he’s become familiar with from the festival over the years.

As next year will be his 30th festival where he designs a print, he added that it’s always been about his hometown and the event it’s become famous for.

“I’m going to continue to do (the prints) until I can’t do it anymore. I’ve always wanted Storytelling to be a beneficiary of it, in every regard. I love Jonesborough and I love Storytelling. They go great together. They are the Reese’s Cup of art as far as I’m concerned.”

Play to help fund maintenance at Old Jonesborough Cemetery

Get ready for “Spot on the Hill.”


Staff Writer

Returning for its fifth season, the original, research-based play “Spot on the Hill” tells the stories of the lives of the cemetery’s “inhabitants.”

Performances begin in October at the Old Jonesborough Cemetery. The play is a fundraiser for the Heritage Alliance to help maintain and restore damaged graves stones in the aging cemetery.

“The great thing about ‘Spot on the Hill’ is that there’s a lot of graves up there,” Heritage Alliance Executive Director Deborah Montanti said. “So we have a lot of stories to tell. If you’ve seen it once, you haven’t seen it this year. There’s always new stories coming up.”

According to the press release for the event, some of the new stories in this year’s play “include William Elbert Munsey, the namesake of Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City, Jeremiah Edwards, founder of the Zion Hill School in Jonesborough, and Laura Brunner Dosser, who was well known and respected for her eye for fashion.”

Now in the fifth year, the event began as a means to help with the maintenance of the cemetery.

“We partnered with the town about six years ago to bring the Old Jonesborough Cemetery back to life, ironically,” Montanti said. “The care and maintenance of the cemetery had been neglected for awhile and there was no malfeasance on anybody’s part. It’s just that there was a question as to who actually owned the cemetery. The town basically took on the maintenance when it looked like that was going to be the only way to get the weeds down.

“So the Heritage Alliance got involved at that point to assist in that process. We recovered numerous graves that had been overgrown and were back in the woods. So we were looking for a funding stream to help us. We just happened to have, through the graces, an exceptional playwright on our staff.”

Montanti added that the idea that emerged was: “Real Stories, Real People, Real Tombstones”.

The first four years of the play have been so successful that the cemetery is now back to the original boundaries and 100 stones have been restored.

Anne G’Fellers-Mason, Special Projects Coordinator for the Heritage Alliance, is the play’s writer and director, and usually performs, as well.

“I want to pick a mix of stories for men, stories for women, and when I can, if I have younger actors available, I like to share stories from children,” Mason said. “Unfortunately, it’s a reality of life that many children would die young in that time period … there’s a lot of truth to the stories. I always use primary sources. Newspapers, census records, diaries, family histories, wills. I try to find something document based for every person.”

Performances at the Old Jonesborough Cemetery will be on Oct. 19 at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. and Oct. 27 at 2:30 p.m.

The Oct. 20 show at 2:30 p.m. will show indoors at the Jonesborough Visitors Center.

Audience members should arrive 15 minutes prior to showtime and are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets. The performance will move to the Visitors Center in the event of inclement weather.

Tickets are available at the Jonesborough Visitors Center (423) 753-1010 and online at Cost is $8.

Storytelling to welcome Beth Horner

Beth Horner will share stories for entertainment and education.


Storyteller Beth Horner has worked with organizations like NASA and National Geographic to build big stories out of individual experiences. Soon, as the guest of the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, she’ll lead a workshop to help participants do the same for their institutions.

Her Thursday, Sept. 27 workshop, “Stories to Create Positive Change,” will focus on ways that organizations can use storytelling to create internal cohesion and communicate messages to outside audiences. Horner will teach techniques that include putting aside PowerPoint presentations for stories that can be found, developed, and used in institutional settings. Space is limited and advance registration is strongly recommended.

For those who aren’t ready to work with stories just yet, Horner will offer a series of entertaining storytelling concerts. The matinee shows will be Tuesday through Saturday, September 25 – 29, starting each day at 2 p.m. Advance purchase is recommended, but not required.

Horner’s weeklong appearance is part of the Storytelling Live! series,. As an entertainer, Horner is known for her deft mix of personal stories and traditional tales. “Embedding a concise, insightful folk tale into a story about my life experience brings a depth to the piece,” she said. “It grounds the story, and it helps you realize that life situations such as these have been occurring for centuries.”

Her repertoire runs the gamut from high literature (think Edgar Allan Poe) to dark war stories. Even her most serious stories are delivered with a light touch. “Every life situation can be humorous, no matter how trying or difficult it might be,” she said. “That’s how we get through it.”

It’s a technique that works just as well for a character in one of her silly romance stories as it does for a real live astronaut dealing with a problem in the depths of outer space.

Tickets for Horner’s matinee shows are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. For more information about Storytelling Live! or to make a group reservation, call (800) 952-8392 ext. 222 or (423) 913-1276.

Local shipping store offers lots of options

Mark Hicks III is the proud owner of Packet-N-Post.


Staff Writer

While shipping makes up the lion’s share of their business, the Packet-N-Post, located at 107 E. Courthouse Square in downtown Jonesborough, offers enough different business options to open another store.

According to owner Mark Hicks III, that is no accident.

“The shipping is going to get you a 40 to 45 percent return, which is good, but you have to have a lot of it. But you have to do other things, too. You need to do the printing. You need to sell some supplies. You need to do the notary, the laminating. They’re small charges, but they add up. They make the difference.”

Hicks, who also owns the building, tried to rent the space out, but had difficulty finding a steady tenant for the space that was his father’s law office in the 1960’s. Instead, he said he decided to open up the mail specialty store in October of 2017.

Since then, “business has been picking up. It’s been getting better. We don’t have a big storefront, we don’t have a lot of signage, so people have to find us. But everyday we have somebody walk in and say, ‘I didn’t know you all were here’.”

The Packet – N – Post offers shipping through UPS, FedEx, DHL, and the U.S. Mail as well as freight shipping. Other services include: printing (business cards, greeting cards, pictures), copying, scanning, office supplies, notary, fax, gift wrapping, laminating, mailbox rental, fingerprinting (using Fieldprints service) and rubber stamp making. Recently, the store began offering a room to rent for various business related uses.

“If someone is in town and needs a quiet space to negotiate. If they need a place in town for a few hours. And it can even be something like if you were catering food for something like an all-day meeting event.”

With the holidays fast approaching, gift-wrapping may be a desirable task to outsource.

Office Manager Gail Stallard added, “We will custom pack anything they have for shipping. There’s no need for them to have something to ship and to look around at home and try to figure out how to pack it. They can bring it here and we can professionally pack it.”

Another unique service Hicks said the store would offer is auction pick-ups and shipping. If someone bids on an auction item online and needs to have it shipped anywhere, an employee would pick up the item, have it packed and then shipped to the desired location.

Hicks said the biggest issue the business had was simply the knowledge there was a mail specialty store right in downtown Jonesborough.

“Our main concern is letting people know we’re here. We’re here for the holidays, you don’t have to go to Johnson City.”

For additional information, contact Mark Hicks or Gail Stallard at (423) 753-0101 or online at

Guy Sabin: Town’s first fire chief memorialized

Family, friends and firefighters gather to honor Guy Sabin.


Staff Writer

The man who organized and modernized Jonesborough Fire Department received a touching memorial service on Wednesday, Sept. 5, at the Old Jonesborough Cemetery.

Attendees included Sabin’s family members and the Jonesborough Fire Department.

As chief of the Jonesborough Fire Department, Sabin perished less than one year after organizing the department, falling off a building he was attempting to save.

“A hero is defined as a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his life. Heroes are ordinary people like you and I that accomplish extraordinary things on a daily basis,” Jonesborough Operations Manager Craig Ford eulogized.

“Guy Sabin was one of those heros, when he gave his life in service to his community 130 years ago today. Firefighters to me are one of the few remaining heros that we have with us today.”

Sabin’s grandson, also named Guy Sabin, was present for the memorial service and was thankful for the service as well as the information the family has learned about their relative.

“When we got the word, we were interested in what was going to be done and what the purpose was and we were invited to be present. So we wanted to take part,” Sabin said.

“He was my grandfather. I was born in 1937, so there’s a 50 year gap between us. We never knew much about him. My dad was only two years old when he was killed. He didn’t know him well. It’s good to know some of the stories and we’ve got his diaries and we’ve learned a lot from that. We have finally made some connections here.”

JFD Lieutenant Chason Freeman, who has spent much of his time investigating Chief Sabin, was grateful to the contributions Jonesborough’s first fire chief made.

“Without him wanting to take our bucket brigade and organize an actual, at the time, a volunteer fire department and try to get modern fire-fighting equipment to save the town, that was a tremendous burden on him, and he was able to do it. He set the example. He was a leader.

“I feel extremely honored to do this for Chief Sabin and (for) the family to come up. We’ve got grandchildren of Guy Sabin here. To me that’s an honor.”

Rain can’t keep crowd from fair fun

The crowd at the fair showed up, despite the rain.


Staff Writer

While rainy weather drove off crowds for the first two days of the Appalachian Fair in Gray this year, record crowds on the remaining days made up for the dreary start.

“(Attendance) was down about five percent and I think that was due to Monday and Tuesday night and all the rain we had,” Appalachian Fair Manager Phil Booher said.

“We didn’t have many people here and there’s not much you can do about that. But Wednesday through Saturday were record crowds and were great. Great weather. Just tough weather on Monday and Tuesday.”

According to Booher, 185,528 folks attended this year’s fair.

“Our monster trucks and our demolition derby always draw huge crowds and did very well this year. We had two or three new rides on the Midway that did very well.

“They changed things up a little on the Midway and laid things out a bit differently, and I thought it looked great. Of course, they had the new rides, the Matterhorn and the Tornado. I thought they did very well.”

As some attendees come for the rides, some for the derby and some for the 4-H shows, there is always a little something for everyone. Booher said that future fairs would try to appeal to those who always attend for the same reason as well as those who want to experience new rides and events.

“We’ll try to continue doing everything that we do, but I’ve got some ideas for next year. But I don’t want to really disclose them now because I’m not sure if we can get them booked or not but we’ve got some educational things that we’re looking to try and bring in.

“They’re two very good things if we can get them booked and brought in here.”

Some of the most popular events are the competitions held each year. Winners for the 2018 Appalachian Fair were:

Ali Kosinski is crowned the Fairest of the Fair.


Fairest of the Fair Winner: Ali Kosinski

First runner up: Emily Helton

Second runner up: Ava Burke

Third runner up: Desiray Bacon

Fourth runner up: DeAnna Greer

Miss Congeniality: Devin Riddle

The Kaitlyn Matheson Award: Tatum Gouge

Little Miss Contest

Pictured are the winners of the 18-and-up division in the “Appalachian Fair’s Got Talent” contest (from left to right), Sabrina Hess (second place), Hunter Patterson (first place) and Kandice Moser (third place).

Teen Miss (13 years old): Lexus Seymore – Rick & Sherrie Seymore, Bristol, TN

Pre-teen Miss (12 years old): Kaylie Burns – Justin & Jessica Burns, Greenville, TN

Little Miss (8 years old): Elaina Philbeck – Cam & Nancy Philbeck, Greeneville, TN

Tiny Miss (4 years old): Kilynn Barger – Jonathan & Chantai Barger, Kingsport, TN


Wee Miss (3 years old): Ayla Taylor – Amy & Hart Tyson, Brentwood, TN


Appalachian Fair’s Got Talent – Division I (ages 6-17)

1st place – Laney Falin

2nd place – Rylee Peters

3rd place – Eden Rowland

Appalachian Fair’s Got Talent – Division II (ages 18+)

1st place – Hunter Patterson

2nd place – Sabrina Hess

3rd place – Kandice Moser

Researchers ask the question: ‘Who was Rhea Wells?’

This self-portrait shows a young Wells.


Associate Editor

Who was Rhea Wells? That was the guiding question for Brenda G’Fellers and Kristin Pearson of the Bristol Public Library as they researched local artist and children’s book author Rhea Wells (1891-1962). As explained in their History Happy Hour presentation titled “Rhea Wells of Jonesborough, Artist, Author, Actor, Soldier, Philanthropist” on Thursday, Aug. 16, at the Chester Inn, he was “well-known, yet reclusive.”

G’Fellers said, “Rhea tended to be protective of his private life even as a public figure.” Biographical research of events in Jonesborough, Alabama, New York and Europe presented a challenge for the two researchers in a project that began in 2015.

G’Fellers explained the reasons for taking on the task. “He was very successful. A man who endowed the town’s library deserves recognition.” She was working on a post-graduate degree at the University of Tennessee when she first began the research.

Approximately 25 people attended their power-point and lecture presentation that would have been instructive to any individual interested in genealogy. Pearson and G’Fellers skillfully used census records, city directories, a draft registration, a master’s thesis written at East Tennessee State University, publishers’ materials and newspapers, including an obituary from the Herald & Tribune. In their research, archival materials were discovered in both the states of Arkansas and Oregon.

This house on Main Street in downtown Jonesborough was once Rhea Wells home.

Rhea was born in Jonesborough on Sept. 24, 1891, the son of Rufus and Lida Wells. The Wells family was well-known in the community and his mother, Mrs. Lida Simpson Wells, became the first president of the Schubert Club in 1898. The Schubert Club celebrated music, art, and literature. It continues in Jonesborough today. He spent part of his childhood growing up at 703 West Main Street in a house named Rose Hill.

Wells was surrounded by art and literature on the family’s small farm in Jonesborough. In The Junior Book of Authors (published 1951), Rhea described his early art, saying: “When I began to go to school most of my writing paper was used for drawing. These drawings, as I remember them, had little, if any, merit. A few years later I began to paint. My mother still preserves some of those efforts of my early adolescence. They are deplorably bad. It was not the quality of my work that interested me, it was the work itself.”

The Wells family, according to the researchers, was “moderately wealthy.”  However, they have not been able to discover why the family moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 1901. Wells’ father died on Feb.15, 1903. By using census records, the researchers learned that by 1907 Rhea’s mother was remarried to Ernest G. Goldsmith. She was again widowed by 1920.

The children’s book author studied at Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee and then at the Art Institute of Chicago. In her research, Pearson discovered that following his studies, Wells worked for a Birmingham newspaper for a year.  Wells moved to New York City where he participated in the professional theatre scene as a costume and scene designer. In 1917 he volunteered for the draft and served in World War I as a cook. In his draft registration form, he stated that he was supporting his mother. He was 5 foot, 5 inches tall and had brown eyes and hair. Wells was discharged from the Army in 1919 and returned to New York City.

A passport issued on June 4, 1920 provided a wealth of information, G’Fellers said. “At that time,” she told her audience, “a new passport was issued each time you left the country.”  Rhea’s passport included “his wife Mildred along with a photograph of the couple.”  The U.S. Census, Pearson said “listed Rhea as 28 years old and Mildred as 25, with his occupation stated as ‘advertising.’” Other research indicates that Mildred was a psychologist.

Further research showed Rhea Wells married Mildred Stiebel, born in New York City, on April 9, 1919.  She was a graduate of Columbia University. Her brother attended New York University and was active in the theater, which would explain (G’Fellers and Pearson believe) his later participation in theatrical productions. In 1925, he co-authored with Elizabeth Grimball a book on theater costuming.

Mildred and Rhea Wells traveled the world. Rhea ventured far and wide throughout his life from the Austrian Alps to the coast of Sicily to a village in Spain as documented in the literature he wrote. He was writing in the 1920s and 1930s, when the field of children’s literature was just developing. The travels influenced his writing, and his first children’s book, “Peppi the Duck” (published 1927), was set in the small town of Tyrol in the Austrian Alps.

He published nine books, six animal biographies  – “Peppi the Duck,” “Beppo the Donkey,” “Ali the Camel,”  “Coco the Goat,”  “Zeke the Raccoon,” and “Andy and Polly.” He wrote two stories about Washington County, “An American Farm” and “Judy, Grits, and Honey.” The books don’t directly say that’s where they’re set, but they were definitely influenced by his childhood in Jonesborough. Wells also illustrated for other authors. His work continued through the early 1940s. He carefully renewed his copyrights, the first of which expires in 2025.

Pearson said “Changes in Rhea’s life in the 1930s were sad. Mildred died in 1934. Her occupation at the time of her death is listed as ‘housewife.’ She is buried in Fresh Pond Cemetery. In the 1940 U.S. Census, Rhea is listed as ‘single.’”

While living in New York City, the children’s book author and illustrator  also kept in touch with the people in Jonesborough. After a career writing and publishing children’s literature, he retired to Jonesborough in 1940. He lived at the Chester Inn for five years, ironically the site of the August lecture. Later he moved to a home in town on Second Avenue. 

While living in town, he visited the Library Service Department at ETSU at least once a year to lecture on children’s literature. He appeared on local TV programs, like “Talk Time,” and he directed a play called “The Nativity” at Jonesboro High School.

There are several unfinished manuscripts written by Rhea Wells in the collection at the Jonesborough Library. He did most of his painting before returning to Jonesborough. Once he returned home, he advocated for children’s literature and libraries with the observation “You cannot learn to read from a computer – you learn to read from a book.”

During the time he returned to Jonesborough, several residents remember visiting Wells. The late Alfred Greenlee followed Rhea’s advice to purchase a home. As a Jonesborough town employee involved in installing water pipes and mains, per Wells’ suggestion, Greenlee omitted writing down the exact location of his work. Wells told Greenlee, who began his town employment digging ditches and retired as superintendent of the Water Department, that it would be hard to discharge him if the town did not know where their mains and pipes were located. G’Fellers also said Wells encouraged Greenlee to get his high school diploma. Since the races were segregated and Jonesborough lacked a high school, he had to travel to Johnson City where he attended Langston High School.

Local resident John Lyle calls Wells “our unsung hero of Jonesborough and a very generous man.” Lyle would visit Rhea to talk about German art after World War I.  He said, “If I had something in art history class, I would go and talk to Rhea. We discussed a number of artists. I saw him just before he died at the Veterans Administration at Mountain Home.”

Wells passed away on March 7, 1962. His body was donated to the University of Tennessee Medical College in Memphis and later his remains were buried there.  In his will, he left his home to the Town of Jonesborough for use as a public library. The rest of his estate was left for the maintenance of the library.

Inspired by her research G’Fellers has written a children’s book titled “Rhea Wells: Boy of Jonesborough.”

G’Fellers said, “He was the beginning of children’s literature. We have gathered enough material in our research to write a comprehensive adult version of the Life of Rhea Wells.”   

New Chester Inn exhibit showcases ‘The Great Outdoors’

A camp photo, apparently taken at Clark’s Creek in Washington County in 1904, shows a number of unidentified campers.  If any reader of the Herald & Tribune recognizes any of the campers, they are asked to contact the Heritage Alliance at (423)753-4580 or by email at


Associate Editor

Camping, hiking, swimming and experiencing the beauty of this Appalachian Region are the subject of a recently opened exhibit at the Chester Inn Museum titled “The Great Outdoors.”  The display cases at the museum contain camping items and photographs beginning in the 1890s and continuing through 1920.

“In the late 1800s and early 1900s people started to have more free time and money to spend,” said Joe Spiker, head docent at the museum. Spiker assembled the exhibit. “There was a push to get out of the larger cities in the northeast and explore this area. Many visitors were of middle- and upper-class families, including the Vanderbilt family who constructed Biltmore in Asheville. But there were also local residents who enjoyed outdoor recreation as well.”

The items on display are from the Heritage Alliance collection consisting largely of items from native Jonesborough conservationist and historian Paul M. Fink (1892-1980).  They were acquired by James Thompson, a Jonesborough resident, from Miriam Fink.  Thompson was a long-time friend of Paul’s. All of the items were used by Fink.

Spiker said, “His two big legacies were outdoor conservation and history.”  Fink researched regional history and for a time wrote a column for the Herald & Tribune titled “DID YOU KNOW?”  containing interesting bits of local stories.  His publications include  “Early Explorers in the Great Smokies” (1933); “The Nomenclature of the Great Smoky Mountains” (1937) and more. He was the author of many articles on campcraft in such magazines as Field and Stream and Outdoor Life.

Fink was a leader in the movement that led to the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains Park.  He served as a member of the board of managers of the Appalachian Trail Conference (1925-1949) and helped establish the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina and Tennessee. He was the recipient of the Tennessee Conservation League’s Z. Carter Patten Award in 1973.

One of the more fascinating displays in the exhibit is a canvas tent used by Fink and his friends that features handwritten information on much of its exterior.  One side of the tent can be seen in the museum’s exhibits featuring its name, details about their camp plus several amusing inside jokes.

The legends read: “The Hotel Whangbird, Whangbird Chim, Proprietor – Reasonable rates, American Plan: Somewhere in the mountains, here today gone tomorrow.  ‘Where the Whangbird goeth not, neither does the buzzard or the storm.’”

The other side of the tent features two columns of various peaks, trails and points of interest that Fink hiked including several mountains and their elevations.  Most of the trails are in the Southern Appalachians and part of what is now the Appalachian Trail.  Some of the peaks listed are Celo, Black Mountain, Balsam Cone, Mitchell, Roan, Cherokee, Unaka and Big Bald.

A camp photo apparently taken at Clark’s Creek in Washington County in 1904 shows a number of campers.  They are not identified. If any reader of the Herald & Tribune recognizes any of the campers they are asked to contact Spiker at (423) 753-4580 or by email at

Spiker said he put together “The Great Outdoors” collection when he found enough items “that tell a story. One of my personal areas of interest was how people spent their free time. Over 100 years ago people were becoming more recreational than ever. This (1890s-1920s) is when hobbies like camping really took off. At the same time, people including Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, were promoting conservation.”

As president, Roosevelt created five national parks (doubling the previously existing number); signed the landmark Antiquities Act and used its special provisions to unilaterally create 18 national monuments, including the Grand Canyon; set aside 51 federal bird sanctuaries, four national game refuges, and more than 100 million acres’ worth of national forests.

As proof of camping’s attraction, the exhibit contains several advertisements from a 1914 supplement that accompanied the Abercrombie and Fitch catalog that was geared specifically toward outdoor recreation customers. The company located in New York City said it was “The Greatest Sporting Store in the World.” The Chester Inn display also includes a L. L Bean Pneumatic Air Mattress made in the early 1900s. There is also a 1908 Sears catalog in the Heritage Alliance collection with camping items. 

A  Boy Scout Axe and Sheath were advertised in the supplement for $1.  They weighed a total of 2 ½ pounds.  A Matchless Justrite Carbide Lamp – The Newest Lamp on the Market – sold for $1.25.  Both items are on display in the museum.

Canvas bags and knapsacks were often used on hiking and camping trips for storing and carrying items. The most curious item in the display is a homemade piece of equipment consisting of two boards – one with a compass inset, the other covered with string around it – and a chart that indicates the distance covered by the number of paces taken.  When used together they could possibly keep track of distance and direction during hiking or mountaineering trips.  Also in the exhibit are a number of pots and pans used for cooking and a canteen dated in 1918 along with a drinking cup.   

Besides camping and hiking, the museum also has a photographic collection of people swimming.  As indicated in a legend with the pictures: “Before citizens swam at Wetlands, they used swimming holes. One of the most popular was known as ‘Sally Hole’ on Clark’s Creek.  . . Jonesborough residents would state that the ghost of Sally stayed in the area waiting to grab others who got in the swimming hole.”

Docent Spiker said he expects the display will be at the museum through at least the month of September.  The Chester Inn Museum is open during the months of May through October from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Monday, Wednesdays and Saturdays and from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sundays. 

Center to hold auditions for premiere of a new play

Auditions are now open for the senior center’s play “We Were So Young” and you could be a part of it.


The Jonesborough Senior Center will host auditions for a new, original play based on the stories collected from members of the Jonesborough Senior Center. The play, “We Were So Young,” produced through support from the Town of Jonesborough and Jonesborough’s Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts, features dozens of true-life stories about the extraordinary people from this community.

The play is written by the McKinney Center’s outreach program director, Jules Corriere, who wrote last year’s play, “Not All That I Carry.”

It will be directed by Lucas Schmidt, actor and director from the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre.

The auditions will take place September 11 and 12, from 2-5 p.m. at the Senior Center. Please be prepared to possibly do cold readings from the play. Rehearsals will take place at the Senior Center on Wednesday and Friday afternoons during regular business hours.  Roles are being sought for senior actors and actresses and there are some roles for children and young people. This experience is an ideal opportunity for home schooled children to participate in a theatrical production.

The stories in the play include a young woman and her husband who served overseas at Okinawa during Vietnam, and the difficult days they faced in the aftermath of the TET Offensive; a young teacher and her students caught in the difficult days of the Pittston Miners Strike; a family who loses their mountain view while still living in the same home; and other exciting, often perilous adventures during the Cold War Era.

The play will open at the Jonesborough Senior Center at noon on Nov. 15 for its’ members, and performed for the general public Nov.16-17 at 6 p.m..

To sign up to audition or to find out more information, contact Shawn Hale at the Jonesborough Senior Center at (423)753-4852. The Jonesborough Senior Center is located at 307 East Main Street in Jonesborough.

Jonesborough Repertory Theater kicks off season

New shows are coming up this year for the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre.


Staff Writer

Another season of standout performances by local actors and actresses at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is creeping closer every day.

This season’s lineup will feature three premieres, one of which will be a world premiere, a first for the JRT.

The artistic director for the JRT, Jennifer Ross, recently provided a glimpse of the shows this season.

  • “Disney’s Newsies”, Aug. 17–Sept. 9 – “Opening this Friday Aug. 17. This is a wonderful, family-friendly show,” Ross said “There was a movie first, then they made it into a Broadway play, both of which were very successful. It’s based on a true story, based on an event that happened when the newspaper boys went on strike. But the dancing and singing on the stage is filled with 25 amazingly talented kids that are playing the newsies. And we have probably 15 adults. It’s a huge cast. The dancing and choreography is brilliant and they’re doing stunts and all kinds of things and the set is just genius. Carol Huie is our new set designer and it’s great. Lindy Ley is our choreographer and Janette Gaines is the director. Newsies is a premiere for this area, never been done.”

• “The Fantasticks”, Sept. 20-30 – “It’s a small musical, only eight people,” according to Ross. “But that’s the longest running musical off-Broadway in the history of Broadway – in New York. It’s funny and sweet and we’re running that two weekends in September, the last two weekends.”

• “The Wild Women of Winedale”, Oct. 26-Nov. 11 – “We’re doing a world premiere,” Ross said excitedly. “Several stories about the wild sisters and they chose JRT to premiere their play. The playwrights will be flying in (from New York) and we open that show Friday, Oct. 26. It’s brilliant because from this point on every script will have Jonesborough Repertory Theatre, the town of Jonesborough will be in every script and our actors will be in there for everyone that performs their show around the world. That’s a first for us. And the playwrights are (Jessie) Jones, (Nicholas) Hope and (Jamie) Wooten.  It’s a comedy, a non-musical, and it is hilarious. And that will run for three weekends.”

• “USO Christmas Show”, Dec. 6-16 – “We open the first weekend in December, and this will be our 15th (USO) show,” Ross shared.  “And that’s with a live band, and it’s to honor our military. One of the shows will be a benefit for ‘Honor Flight.’ “                                                                                                                          

• “The Miracle Worker”, Jan. 25-Feb. 10 – “The true life story of Helen Keller,” Ross said. “In this play Keller is a child and she is deaf and blind. Her parents hire a teacher, Annie Sullivan, her parents realize she is very smart but this is the 1800’s and they don’t know how to help her so they hire Sullivan. And she moves in with them and she is able to teach Helen sign language. We did the preview gala last week and the little girl that played Helen Keller was brilliant. You would never have known that she could see or hear. People were moved to tears because her portrayal was so genius.”

• “Shrek”, March 21-Feb 10 – “We did (Shrek) five years ago, and it’s a musical and it’s wonderful. Hilarious. And we’re bringing Shrek back.”

• “Harvey”, May 10-26 – “Classic comedy … Jimmy Stewart was in it (the movie). It’s about Elwood P. Dowd, and he has a friend who’s a large, invisible rabbit named Harvey,” Ross said. “It’s a classic and it’s hilarious. We did a scene from that show for the kickoff and people were laughing hysterically, because he sees this rabbit and has his portrait made with him. Anyways, he’s a giant rabbit.”

• “Mamma Mia”, June 21-July 14 – “We close out the season with another premiere for this area,” Ross said. “It is gonna be like a tidal wave. People want to see that show. Listen, the audience was on their feet when we did it at the preview gala, cheering. Because it’s the music of ABBA, from the Seventies. And it’s just so much fun. We had platform boots, the men came out with the Elvis jumpsuits. It was wonderful.”

“That’s our season, and it’s going to be remarkable,” Ross added, “We are really, really looking forward to it.”

While the JRT has many talented actors currently in the fold, Ross was impressed with the performances of the younger actors and actresses.

“We have so many talented students in our program, they’re unbelievable. Right now, we have probably 120 kids just in musical theater. I think next semester we’ll add another class because there’s a waiting list of students.”

So as the JRT begins the season, there will be no reason to worry about it’s future performances, as the future is already well represented.   

For information about tickets or show dates and times, call (423) 753-1010 or visit