Presentation about the New Deal ends History Happy Hour talks

On back of photo: “Embreeville School, out of Jonesboro, TN. Bertha & Frances Arrants were teachers. Walter was a student.”


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“The country’s financial system was unstable. There were bank panics and bank closures. By early 1933, nationwide unemployment had reached about 25 per cent,” said Joe Spiker to an audience of 20 people at the International Storytelling Center (ISC) in Jonesborough.

Spiker, a member of the Heritage Alliance staff, first explained that “The Great Depression” occurred when the Stock Market crashed in October of 1929. The crash was followed by The New Deal: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (FDR) attempts to provide economic recovery from the Depression. FDR’s national economic plan wound up having some regional impact. Spiker’s talk, occurring on Oct. 17 some 90 years after the market crash, was 2019’s final History Happy Hour presentation.

Note by Patricia Arrants: “Picture labeled ‘ Arrants Family – Embreeville Picnicers.’ Far right is W.H. and Bertha (holding baby). Far left is Walter in knickers. Girls in white – tallest is Frances, in front of Evelyn is Mabel. Evelyn & Jewell are beside Walter. Taken in front of Embreeville School. Two women, I don’t know.”

According to “The New Columbia Encyclopedia,” The New Deal in United States history is the term for the domestic reform program of the administration of FDR, first used in his speech in accepting the Democratic Party nomination for President in 1932.” While the event has been written about in thousands of publications, The History Happy Hour talk was limited to Washington County reform projects with references to national happenings in order to place local events in context.

Elected in 1928, Herbert Hoover took office as U.S. President during an economic boom. However by 1932, there were homeless camps throughout the country of largely unemployed World War I veterans.  The camps were often referred to as “Hoovervilles.”

Chester Inn Museum Head Docent Spiker said the history of The New Deal was part of his ongoing research after he used material on the era in an exhibit last year. His focus on The New Deal, he said, was through the lens of Washington County. His talk centered on three aspects: projects in Washington County, local criticism of the programs, and the New Deal legacy.

A former Governor of New York, FDR was able to blame President Hoover as ineffective in dealing with the country’s economic downturn. The Tennessee Valley Administration (TVA), National Youth Administration (NYA), the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were New Deal programs. The programs were an alphabet soup of attempts to establish prosperity and were designed to address the nation’s economic issues. Some of those agencies including the NYA were active in Washington County.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was another active agency in the area. Jonesborough’s Old Town Hall and Fire Station was built in 1939 with WPA funding. The Booker T. Washington Elementary School, built in 1940 for instruction of African American students, is another example of a New Deal Construction project in Jonesborough.

Both buildings continue to serve the community today. Old Town Hall houses a restaurant and other retail shops while Booker T. School is the McKinney Center offering lessons and programs in the arts plus space for a variety of community events.  Ernest McKinney had been the school’s principal and was the Town’s first black alderman. His son, Kevin McKinney, was elected the Town’s first black mayor.

One of the most interesting local projects was the building of Lavender’s Super Market, located at the site now occupied by the Storytelling Center. Although it was built after the New Deal ended, The TVA designated Lavender’s as a “Building of the Future” in 1947. It had a sunken roof designed to hold water, including rainfall. The water was to provide cooling for the building during hot summer months. It functioned as a grocery store until its destruction in 1999.

Other projects in Washington County included Memorial Stadium in Johnson City built in 1935 and the Johnson City Post Office built in 1937. Memorial Stadium, now destroyed, is the site of the city’s Community Center while WJHL- TV occupies the former post office building. A mural painted by Wendell Jones who received government funding was displayed at the post office. Titled “Farner Family,” it is now displayed at the East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Testing Center. The Amphitheater at ETSU was also a WPA project, constructed in 1941. Perhaps the most ambitious regional project was the establishment of McKellar Field in 1937, now the location of the Tri-Cities Airport.

Art and public records preservation also were New Deal projects. Efforts to index and organize Washington County’s public historical records were processed under the direction of Mary Hardin McGown. It was estimated the New Deal funded programs employed 525 people in Washington County.

The National Youth Administration provided school and educational opportunities for both students and teachers. Sponsored workshops built desks for teachers and librarians along with reading tables and chairs.

The New Deal programs were administered until the close of World War II. They were not conducted without criticism, Spiker said. Area Republicans supported by newspaper editorials were critical of the New Deal and President Roosevelt’s running for a third term. Chief among the critics was First District Congressman Carroll B. Reece. It was charged that the programs had “too much Red Tape,” offered little support for African Americans and other minority groups, and had “mixed results” in their support for women.

On balance, Spiker believed that East Tennessee benefited from New Deal programs. However, with a number of family farms and support from tobacco as a cash crop, local families were able to survive the adverse economic effects of The Depression in many instances better than their neighboring city dwellers.

After the successful 2019 programming, Spiker said he will begin preparing and looks forward to another series of historical offerings beginning in March 2020.

Veterans Day: Historian looks at Andrew Johnson Cemetery

Andrew Johnson National Cemetery still pays tribute to the former President. (Contributed)


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“After the Civil War there was a need for structure in burying the dead. Both sides were unprepared for the number of soldiers who died,”said Arleigh Greear, a park ranger on the staff of the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery in Greeneville. Greear spoke to an audience of 25 people gathered for a July Happy History Hour sponsored by the Heritage Alliance at the Chester Inn in Jonesborough.

“National Cemetery History” was the topic of the program with an emphasis on the Johnson Cemetery where Andrew, his wife Eliza and other family members are buried. The cemetery is less than a half-mile from the Homestead where Andrew and his wife lived from 1869 until 1875. Johnson had purchased the home in 1851.

“Original grave markers were wooden boards that need to be repainted every three to four years,” the Park Ranger said. “Therefore on July 17, 1862 the use of land for cemetery grounds was authorized by Congress. There were 17 original cemetery grounds.” By 1867 federal legislation established a National Center for land acquisition and burial use under the direction of General Montgomery C. Meigs, Army Quartermaster.

Andrew Johnson

Frederick Law Olmstead, the designer of Central Park in New York and the grounds at the Biltmore House in Asheville, N.C., was contacted by government personnel for advice on how military cemeteries should be designed and built. Olmstead insisted that the sites be sacred and tranquil. He also prescribed the construction of a wall that would surround the cemetery.

Following Olmstead’s instructions by 1870 a total of 300,000 Union soldiers had been buried in 173 National Cemeteries. The walls around the cemeteries were constructed of different materials. Each cemetery contained a Superintendent’s Lodge. General Meigs encouraged the use of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s home and property near Washington, D.C. for use as a Union burial ground. Today, known as Arlington National Cemetery, Lee’s former residence is the final resting place for a number of distinguished military personnel including President John F. Kennedy and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

After 1873 Revolutionary War soldiers were added to the individuals eligible for national cemetery burials. Headstone specifications were standardized. On March 9, 1906, legislation authorized the burial of Confederate soldiers in national cemeteries.

While the National Park Service maintains the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, the National Cemetery at Mountain Home in Johnson City is maintained by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA administers most national cemeteries in the nation but Arlington National Cemetery is maintained by the Department of the Army as are a number of cemeteries across the world where United State military personnel are interred.

Headstones in national cemeteries were standardized after 1930. Today, marble, granite and bronze headstone materials can be used. There are privately paid for memorial stones in national cemeteries erected before 1930. The Andrew Johnson National Cemetery contains both earlier private headstones erected before the standardized regulations plus special monuments for President Johnson and members of his family.  A flat ground marker is permitted, originally encouraged by cemetery maintenance supervisors for ease in mowing around them.

National cemeteries only permit graphics on government furnished headstones or markers that are approved emblems of belief. Those that have been approved are the Civil War Union Shield (including those who served in the U.S. military through the Spanish-American War), the Civil War Confederate Cross of Honor and Medal of Honor insignia. In addition there are a number of approved religious symbols rendered as simple inscriptions without sculptural relief or coloring other than black. The emblem of belief is an optional feature on headstones.


Andrew Johnson, the 17th President of the United States, took office after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The cemetery includes the interments of Johnson’s wife, Eliza McCardle Johnson and his son Brigadier General Robert Johnson Henderson. David T. Patterson, a U.S. Senator from Tennessee and his son Andrew J. Patterson, who was instrumental in securing historic designation for the Greeneville cemetery, are among others buried at the sixteen acre site.

Park Ranger Greear said the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery was established in 1906. President Johnson owned twenty-three acres on Signal Hill. Greear said he told his long-time slave and later aide, Sam Johnson, “Wouldn’t this place be a wonderful place to be in eternity.” The President was buried there upon his death in 1875. On June 5, 1878, the City of Greeneville at a cost of $18,000.00 erected a 28-foot marble statue in his honor by Johnson’s grave. Features of the monument include an Eagle, the United States Flag, A Hand on the Bible, and an Eternal Flame. The monument was considered so dominant that the hill’s name was changed to “Monument Hill.”

Johnson was the father of two daughters and three sons. His daughter, Martha Johnson Patterson, lived the longest of the children and inherited the property. On September 2, 1898 she willed that the land become a park. Then in 1900 she lobbied Congress to make the site a national cemetery so that instead of the Johnson family maintaining it, the federal government would. Today, the Park Ranger said, there are no living Johnson relatives, the last person having died in 1992.

In 1906 Congress made the site a national cemetery. That year a 75-foot Flag Pole made from a ship’s mast was erected near the Johnson Monument. In 1908, the War Department took control of the grounds. The cemetery became part of the properties maintained by the National Park Service on May 23, 1942.  Greear said unlike most National Park Service properties eligible individuals can still be buried at the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery.

Interments in the cemetery began in 1909. Solomon Harrison Hendrix was the first to be buried in the cemetery. He was part of the Union “Bridge Burners” who destroyed railroad bridges during the Civil War when Confederates controlled East Tennessee. While Hendrix escaped capture, those who were caught, were hanged from the burned out bridges.

Section A contains the oldest headstones in the cemetery, including the private monuments. Corporal Edgar Burley, a World War I soldier, who lived only one day after arriving in France, is buried there. Another burial is that of Sgt. Ellis M. Banks, a member of the Army’s Horse Cavalry, who died when a horse fell on him. In 1936 a German MG-08 machine gun was installed to honor those soldiers killed in “The Great War.”

Approximately 2,200 veterans have been buried at the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, Greear said. Of this number, 98 percent of the graves are marked with the Latin Cross. The list includes soldiers from the Civil, Spanish-American, World Wars I and II, Korean, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan Conflicts. He estimates the cemetery could accommodate additional burials for the next 20-years.

Preservation and cleaning of the monuments and headstones was explained by Park Ranger Greear during his closing comments. Instead of power washing stones which destroys the surface of the headstones and monuments, the national cemetery uses a commercially available product called D-2 along with “Orvus” paste.

Present during the lecture was Heritage Alliance President Gordon Edwards, the organization’s cemetery tour guide and cemetery preservation expert, who said he also uses D-2 in cleaning the stones at the Jonesborough Historic Town Cemetery.

For more information about the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, telephone 423-638-3551 or go to their web site at To learn more about the National Park Service programs visit

Hitchin’ a ride: Senior program celebrates milestone in record time

Volunteers for Jonesborough’s MyRide program gather at the 500th ride celebration to receive words of praise from local MyRide Coordinator Susan Katko.



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25 volunteers. 46 customers. 7,852 miles. 537 travels.

Jonesborough celebrated more than 500 rides as part of its new MyRide TN transportation service Monday, and local officials are convinced this celebration is just the beginning.

‘It just keeps climbing,” said Lee Gay, volunteer transportation coordinator for the First Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability, who has been with the program from the beginning. “It’s a testimony to the value of the people in this community.”

Implemented in Jonesborough in December of last year as a transportation resource for local seniors age 60 and up, the new program has already surpassed expectations, according to Jonesborough Senior Center Director Mary Regen.

“The requirement for the grant was 500 rides in three years,” said Regen, referring to the $3.6 million statewide grant from the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability that helped fund the service. “We’ve given 500 rides in less than a year. So we are very proud of that.”

Katko poses with top volunteer Foye Webb, who is responsible for 100 of those 500-plus rides and is a favorite of local seniors who use the service. The MyRide program is available for ambulatory seniors age 60 and up in Jonesborough and its surrounding communities, providing independence and travel options for for individuals who don’t drive.

According to Susan Katko, coordinator for MyRide TN in Jonesborough, the service has been a blessing for both volunteer drivers, many of whom are seniors themselves, and their passengers.

“First of all, families are so burdened these days,” she said, explaining why the program is so important in Jonesborough. “They work full time. They have their own children.”

It makes it difficult to be there for their older parents, Katko said.

And in turn, these older parents worry about being a burden for their children.

“There are also an awful lot of seniors who have no one,” Katko continued. “It’s surprising.”

In either case, MyRide provides a local solution by matching seniors in need of willing volunteers, whether for trips to the doctor’s office or the grocery store.

Nancy Losey, left, and Nancy Durham are friends and local seniors who rely on the MyRide program. For Losey, it has meant having the freedom to explore local sites. For Durham, it means not having to worry about transportation when she has medical appointments out of town.

“We’re helping them stay healthy and also not be isolated,” Katko said. “We have a lady, for example,  that we are taking to the Monday Club meetings at the Johnson City Public Library.”

As for the volunteers, Katko can’t praise them enough.

“They are dear to my heart,” she said, “because they show the capacity to help. They just want to serve. They have very big hearts.”

They also, reap the benefits of helping, she said.

“Ninety percent of my drivers are retired,” Katko said. “Some of them are lonely themselves. Some of them are cancer survivors and want to give back. A lot of them come from the churches and the senior center.

“They just want to make a positive difference.”

Student school board member shares passion for peer tutoring

Mallory McClelland is one of four student board members on the Washington County Board of Education. She is also a senior at Daniel Boone High School.


Daniel Boone High School

I am currently a senior at Daniel Boone High School and serve as a student school board member. I’ve had the opportunity to become a peer tutor this year and work with our special needs students. This holds such a special place in my heart because I want to become a teacher and work with kids. Each day I spend the class period working with different students and helping with their class work for the day.

I would be lying if I said it isn’t stressful but the reward is worth it. I think it’s important that we remove the stigma around mental health and people having different needs. Being a peer tutor gives a look into what working with disabilities is really like. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing these kids learn something new and watching it change their confidence. We have fun just like other kids because good experiences help everyone learn.

We recently went bowling for a field trip and it was such a good day! All the teachers and peer tutors were there to cheer the students on. My favorite moment was one of the kids, Gabe, throwing the ball so hard it went into the other lane and got stuck. Right after that he made a strike! Everyone laughed and cheered because of how exciting it was.

I am on the dance team at Boone and we’ve had the opportunity to dance with these students at football and basketball halftime shows. In those moments, I never stopped smiling and having fun with them. The crowd loved the enthusiasm and cheered us on the whole dance. Some of them ask me in class when we’re going to do it again.

What is really important to remember is that there isn’t a typical student. I think a lot of people forget that and need to be reminded. Each student has different needs and requires an approach they can understand. These kids work just as hard as students in regular learning classes. This class is a very rewarding experience for me because I am learning as the students are. I’ve started building relationships that will always be dear to me. I’ll always be grateful for the understanding this class, students, and teachers are giving me my last year of high school.

Trey Hensley back with duo album release

Rob Ickes (left) and Trey Hensley (right) released their third studio album as a duo this month.


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It’s been a world full of bluegrass, country music, and rock ’n’ roll since Trey Hensley’s start as a Telford kid wanting to pick like his guitar heroes at Slagle’s Pasture Bluegrass Festival. But now, multiple Grand Ole Opry shows and a Grammy-nominated album later, it’s a “World Full Of Blues” for Hensley and his duo partner.

The duo released their third studio album, “World Full Of Blues”, on Oct. 4. Though both have had their own solo careers and stints in other bands, Hensley and Rob Ickes have been working together since 2015, just a few years after Ickes discovered Hensley’s vocal and guitar talents.

Hensley, a Telford native, performs at a tractor pull in Washington County back in 2007.

“Rob called and said he was a fan of my music and if there was ever anything he could do to help, to let him know,” Hensley recalled. “I told him me and my wife were contemplating moving to Nashville and he said if we do to give him a shout and we’ll get together and pick some. So when me and my wife moved to Nashville, Rob and I started picking together. Everything just sort of jelled musically and it just felt like this is what I want to be doing. We’ve just been going ever since. It was a total new thing for both of us, but it’s really been great.”

Hensley got his start as a kid from Telford, hungry to perform like the bluegrass and country greats throughout East Tennessee. He was also invited on stage two country music and bluegrass greats, Marty Stuart and Earl Scruggs, at the Grand Ole Opry when he was 11 years old.

“I’m just very thankful to be from that area because after I decided I wanted to play, there were so many pickers that I was able to learn from and pick with,” Hensley said. “I spent a lot of nights out in Rheatown on Saturday nights picking at the big jam sessions. East Tennessee, especially Jonesborough, is such a hot bed for bluegrass and country music. It kind of always has been. I spent a lot of time with my granddad who was just way into bluegrass and country and a lot of it had to do with the area that he lived in being Jonesborough.”

Bluegrass plays a big part on the album, which also includes a great deal of country, blues and rock elements. Much like Hensley’s resume, which includes a rock trio, a bluegrass band, a country band and eight solo albums, “World Full Of Blues” is a testament to every sort of music Hensley and Ickes both love.

“It does go in a lot of different directions,” Hensley said. “When I’m writing a song, it usually comes out as a country song. I’m a big fan of country music. ‘I’m Here But I’m Lonely’ is really in my wheelhouse because that’s the kind of stuff that I write. But I think it’s all connected in some kind of way. I think we’re kind of the mold and the material just goes in around that. The music definitely can be all over the map, but we try to make it jell together as well as possible.”

Part of the cohesion of the album also comes from the way in which it was recorded.

Hensley and Ickes made a point to record this album live rather than have parts of the song recorded separately and pieced together later.

“We did all this stuff live in the studio, which is another thing that was a big must for us going into this,” Hensley said. “Our first two records were all done live and we wanted to make sure this one was done live because a lot of Nashville stuff is not live at all. They just kind of build a record with a guitar part here and a drum part here. We just wanted to make sure it was all a bunch of people in one room playing music.

“When I think about my favorite records, that’s kind of what makes them my favorite records. It’s just cool to hear it. There’s not necessarily an emotion, but there’s just an energy throughout the record that you can definitely tell it was done live.”

The duo also enlisted some help on the album in county singer-songwriter Vince Gill who lends his voice on “Brown-Eyed Women”.

“That was amazing,” Hensley said of working with Gill. “Vince was on our last record and I want Vince on anything he’ll sing or play on (laughs). We sat in with the Time Jumpers in Nashville a few months before we started recording this record and just mentioned to him again that we were getting ready to start on a new record and would love to have him on it. So we sent him several songs that we had recorded and he really liked ‘Brown Eyed Women.’ He didn’t know it was a Grateful Dead song. He absolutely killed it, as he does. He’s one of my favorite guitar players and singers ever, so just getting to be around him is too cool.”

Hensley and Ickes also checked off a bucket list item in working with blues legend, Taj Mahal.

“That third verse (of ‘World Full of Blues’) always seemed like we needed someone else singing it. So Rob and I made a dream list of 10 artists we would like to have sing on this record. It didn’t necessarily have to be a reality, but if you could pick anyone in the world, who would you have on here. At the top of both of our lists was Taj Mahal. We said, ‘Well, we might as well try and see if he’ll do it.’ We sent in the track and he loved it. He flew from Hawaii to Nashville and sang and played on it. Working with him in the studio, that’s just something I’ll never forget.”

Hensley and Ickes will be joining Taj Mahal on tour starting in January, but not before the duo continues its healthy list of tour dates, including a stop at the Grand Ole Opry, the historical music venue where Hensley made his opry debut while playing along with Marty Stuart and Earl Scruggs.

“I played there a hand full of times since then, but really this past year or so has been when I’ve played there the most,” Hensley said. “It’s always great to come back. That, by far, is the coolest place to play from sheer history of the building. We’re always ready to be back at the Opry.”

No matter if they’re in San Fransisco, Oklahoma, or in the guitar frontman’s home state of Tennessee, Hensley realizes its his East Tennessee roots that keep him picking up a guitar — just like when his musical journey first started all those years ago at the feet of local bluegrass legends.

“If I wasn’t from where I’m from, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing,” Hensley said. “Growing up, there was a great festival out in Elizabethton called Slagle’s Pasture. That festival was why I started playing. My parents took me out there and I saw Jimmy Martin and Charlie Waller.

“I’m just very thankful to be from that area. I feel like Jonesborough and Telford and all those areas just really have been a big part of why I do what I do. It’s for sure why I love music, because I grew up in it just from being in that area.”

Crystal Raven ready to shine in downtown Jonesborough

Crystal Raven in downtown Jonesborough offers an array of rocks, minerals, jewelry and more. (Photos by Caroline Hughart)


H&T Correspondent

Jerome Bowers has always been fascinated by rocks and minerals. Now he wants to share that passion with any lucky passerby that enters his store. 

Crystal Raven, located in downtown Jonesborough, is a vibrant little shop perfect for anyone looking for something bright, polished or off the beaten path.

Bowers believes his store, which just recently opened in May, offers people something completely unique. From carefully carved crystal figures to custom made jewelry, he has something for everyone. 

Jerome Bowers is hoping to share his love for unusual stones and fossils with Tennessee’s oldest town.

“We carry rough specimens of crystals and fossils as well as cut pieces,” Bowers said. “I’ve noticed that I have to cater to people from 8 years old to 80 years old. You’ve got everything from children that just like the pretty shiny rocks to the people who like the shapes of the natural crystals.”

Patrons are also given the opportunity to take something from their own life and have it made into something new. Sentimental items or keys that belonged to family members or that marked a special time in life can be made into custom jewelry pieces. 

 “We hand-make jewelry,” Bowers said. “It’s made either by my wife or myself.”

 Influenced by a neighbor growing up, Bowers developed a fascination for rock and mineral specimens from an early age. This eventually inspired him to share this passion with others and assemble his store. 

“I’ve been collecting rocks since I was eight,” Bowers said. “I went to school at Appalachian State for fossils. So, I have more of a paleontology background.”

Because of his many years of experience in the field, Bowers has learned where to get the best quality products. Through his connections abroad, Bowers has been able to outsource how he gets his products, which ensures their quality and affordability. Most products are carefully picked from places like India, Indonesia and Brazil.

 “A lot of things do come from overseas,” Bowers said. “That’s what helps us keep our cost down. We’ve cut out five or six middle men so we can bring it here and give it to people at a much better rate.”

In efforts to support those close to home, the shop also features items from local artists such as handmade soaps, local stained glass and folk dolls. Although Bowers entertains customers from near and far, he remains steadfast in where his top priority lies.

“We want to make sure our products are available to everyone no matter how deep their pockets are,” Bowers said. “The goal is to get good quality items but make it affordable to everybody.”

 Bowers not only takes pride in the products that he sells but also how they make people feel. Despite the challenge of only having a small space in which to exhibit his wide array of items, this feeling makes everything worth it. 

 “My favorite part is conversing with everyone that comes in,” Bowers said. “When I’m here, I really feel like I’m doing a service. I see people happy with what they’re getting.” 

The shop owner encourages anyone and everyone to come see what he and his crystals have to offer. No question is ever ignored or unwelcome.

 “We always tell people ‘If you’re ever wanting a certain type of incense or a certain stone, let us know and we’ll try and find it for you,’” Bowers said.  “It’s out there somewhere.”  

Visiting teller to continue the celebration

Linda Gorham will bring her folk tales and personal stories to Tennessee’s oldest town.


Award-winning storyteller Linda Gorham will soon travel to Tennessee’s oldest town to continue the month-long celebration of storytelling sparked by the National Storytelling Festival.

Performing in Jonesborough from Oct. 15 – 18 (Tuesday through Friday), Gorham will host a series of matinees, each beginning at 2 p.m. All concerts are held in the International Storytelling Center’s Main Street headquarters, in its intimate state-of-the-art theater.

Gorham is known for an eclectic repertoire combining folk tales, adapted fairy tales, personal stories, and historical tales. Among the stories she’ll be telling over the course of the week is a series of vignettes on Civil Rights-era icons, which she has carefully crafted and honed over the course of her career.

Growing up, Gorham traveled around the country; her father’s service in the Army led the family to many different places. During those years, she learned to cultivate the skill of feeling at home wherever she stood. “When I get on stage, there’s something that tells me it’s where I’m supposed to be,” she said.

Everything she accomplished in life leading up to becoming a professional storyteller —including motherhood, a job in human resources, and her academic training — helped train Gorham to become a storyteller.

“In college, I majored in mathematics and minored in speech,” she said. “I think I knew way back then there were two sides of me: the part that likes words, and the part that likes rigor. I think I ended up with the best of both worlds.

“There was a little spark in me that was just waiting to be inspired,” she added. Her interest in the field was sparked upon seeing another teller’s performance. She had found her calling. .

Advance purchase is recommended, with tickets available for purchase on ISC’s website (, in person, or over the phone. Walk-in seating is available the day of the show, while supplies last. Tickets for all afternoon matinees are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18.

For more information about Storytelling Live!, including the full 2019 line-up, or to purchase tickets, visit or call (800) 952-8392.

Mill project continues to preserve history

The tour throughout Tennessee’s oldest county involved sites such as Model Mill. The old mill’s history is being preserved while being transformed into a building for Summers-Taylor’s operations.


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On Saturday, Sept. 28, the Jonesborough Genealogical Society conducted its eighth and final tour of Historic Washington County. These tours have showcased many historic sites and sounds over the past four years, within the bounds of Washington County with approximately 800 miles of county roads traveled and this tour was no different.

Four stops were showcased including the David Stuart-Jessie Moore House, an 1850s, two-story brick home in the Leesburg Community, owned by Dale Moore; the J.P. Snapp and Son House and Farm, a historic feed and seed business dating back to the early 1900s in the New Salem Community, owned by Jerry and Sharon Sayre; Tipton-Haynes Historic Site, a State Owned Historic Site dating back to the 1780s as the home of Col. John Tipton and Senator Landon Carter Haynes; and the Model Mill, built on West Walnut Street in Johnson City in 1908-1909, owned by Grant Summers.

Throughout this eight-hour tour, participants were able to see hundreds of sites on a pre-planned route that included much of the Tree Streets Historic District and the county farmland in the communities of Washington College Station, Leesburg, Conklin and others. Yet the most prolific site was the Model Mill.

Grant Summers, President of Summers-Taylor, Inc., purchased the mill from the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce in 2016 to use the building for his company’s offices. The Model Mill was constructed for George L. Carter, a famous entrepreneur who made Johnson City what it is today. The mill’s construction has continued to amaze those who work on the building and causes historians and residents to be amazed with its continual survival.

Today, the mill continues restoration work. Summers gave participants a tour of this historic mill, believed to be the first electric mill in Johnson City, and probably Washington County. Throughout the tour, the architecture of the mill was magnified and its magnificent detail in its work to keep the mill intact was displayed.

On the outside of the building, the mill was painted white, like many Johnson City buildings of the time. Summers told the group, that they tried to take the paint off the building to display the hand-fired brick that was fired on the property, yet the paint has stained the brick and could not be removed without damaging the structure.

Every window in the building was constructed on-site and were custom cut for its place. Overtime, many of these windows had been bricked and Summers had these windows opened. He mentioned that today, our windows are standardized, and custom windows are expensive, so they found ways of adding extra wood and trim in particular windows to fit. Summers also discussed the old railroad track bed that runs in front of the mill perpendicular to State of Franklin Road and an old tunnel that housed flour, meal, and feed that was transported into the railroad cars. Summers said that at one time the mill supplied special flour for KFCs all over the nation. The secret spices were brought in by train and pumped through the mill and back into to railroad car, according to some General Mills workers.

As the tour continued, participants got to see the inside of the mill. Paint had also covered the inside brick walls and wood timbers and trim, which has been removed using a baking soda solution. As the mill continues to be preserved, its beauty is continually revived as offices and modern-day plumbing and HVAC systems are added. Nearby silos are being transformed into an elevator shaft to make the building ADA compliant. Fire doors that were placed in the mill could be seen still intact.

Summers explained that the doors would have a rope attached that when a fire would break out that they rope would be burned and make the doors shut. These doors would then contain the fire to a particular section of the mill. A 2016 fire destroyed the roof and part of the third floor just after Summers purchased the building. The city fire department pumped gallons of water into the building which caused water damage to much of the wood flooring.

Much of this flooring was removed and replaced. Yet, a section of beams with burn marks still remains as a reminder. Summers said they rolled these beams over so everyone can be reminded of the fire and the buildings’ survival. The mill was built to withstand an explosion. According to Summers, flour is combustible, and the brick wall structure and arch ways in the brick helps strengthen the building and contain any protentional explosions or accidents from reaching outside the plant. It has been said through legend that Carter’s building couldn’t be destroyed, and that might be just true.

Throughout the tour of the old Model Mill, while looking out of the new windows, participants could can see the downtown Johnson City landscape including the John Sevier Center. The John Sevier Center is Johnson City’s next big preservation project, that could open up Johnson City to heritage tourism and preservation, like Jonesborough had performed decades ago.

Through private business owners, Johnson City’s preservation history has been revived in the past 10 years or so, providing for a more stable and presentable future for historic structures in the city. Projects like the Model Mill continue to provide a unique outlook of business and history to Johnson City, with plans for the headquarters of the Summers-Taylor Inc., office space for ETSU, a bakery, a potential restaurant space and outlet stores, the mill structure continues to strive as it over looks the Tree Streets Historic District and is a gateway to the West Walnut Street Corridor and Downtown Johnson City.

Something sweet: Little bakery promises to satisfy cravings

Bethany Oakes, owner of Downtown Sweet in Jonesborough, draws from her grandmothers’ recipes and a family tradition of good food to create a bakery that has been busy providing for dessert lovers across the region. A little bit of home cooking, along with a tribute to all things British, has made Downtown Sweet a favorite spot on Main Street.


H&T Correspondent

As the door opens, a sweet aroma rushes over you. Your eyes are transfixed on the delicate colors of pastries behind the glass. A soft clamoring of an oven can be heard in the background. This is Downtown Sweet.    

Located in downtown Jonesborough, this little bakery is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth.

The sign points the way to a plethora of tasty delicacies.

Owner Bethany Oakes has made it her life’s mission to bring good food and cheer to the world by taking her love of baking and creating the business she has always dreamed of. 

“I wanted to do something like this for pretty much my whole life,” Oakes said. “I love food and I love how it makes people feel. To have good quality sweets has been my aim in life.”

The bakery opened in January of last year and has been thriving ever since. Although Oakes has always loved baking, she never thought it would turn into a professional trade.

“I grew up baking,” Oakes said. “My grandmothers were all really talented in the kitchen. I never really considered doing it professionally, but it’s been really good.”

From candy, shown above, to pies shown in the inset, Downtown Sweet offers a bit of everything.

From tea cakes to truffles, this shop offers a wide variety of delicacies inspired by the owner’s roots and personal experience with baking growing up.

“Everybody loves home cooking.” Oakes said. “A lot of these are family recipes. I loved my grandmother’s cooking, so we’ve added a lot of things that are tributes to them that I’ve made work.”

Oakes has also included influences from overseas to build her menu. Inspired by her love of the United Kingdom, Oakes says she wanted to implement something from this culture into her bakery and give people a taste of British customs.    

“We say we like to do international baking with a southern twist,” Oakes said. “We offer an afternoon tea experience or a high tea. It’s by reservation only. People take their tea, sandwiches and sweets and hang out.”

Because she wants to give her customers the best possible experience, Oakes ensures that whatever ingredients she uses are the product of fair trade. Not only does this improve the quality of her food, it also promotes a fair business model.

“I want good quality ingredients,” Oakes said. “We do fair trade chocolate primarily because it’s incredible quality chocolate, and we don’t ever want to be people that profit off of labor where people aren’t making fair wages.”

As she looks towards the future, Oakes hopes her business can expand as the town of Jonesborough grows.

“I want to be the Blackbird Bakery of Jonesborough,” Oakes said.  “It’s been really cool not only to see the community’s support but see these dreams inside of me come alive.”

To browse the menu or make a reservation, visit

Award-winning DBHS Marine Corps JROTC to hold fundraiser

The Daniel Boone High School Marine Corps JROTC consistently places in the top 10 percent in the nation and is proud to once again be the recipient of the Marine Corps Reserve Association Award for the region. Theses students will be visiting local homes on Saturday, Sept. 28, as part of their annual fundraiser.


The Daniel Boone High School Marine Corps JROTC has been selected as the recipient of the Marine Corps Reserve Association Award for the region comprising 11 states in the southeastern United States.

The MCRA Award distinguishes Daniel Boone High School as one of the top four MCJROTC programs in the nation.

Criteria for selection are based on a unit’s record of competitive activities, commitment of the cadets to school and community service, and results of an annual inspection by the program’s national headquarters. 

This is the program’s fourth consecutive and seventh overall MCRA award since 2010. It is also the 21st consecutive year Daniel Boone’s unit has been designated a Naval Honor School, placing the program among the top 10 percent of all units nationwide.

The Daniel Boone High School Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps will be holding its annual fund raising event on Saturday, Sept. 28, from 9 a.m.. to 6 p.m.. The cadets will be going door to door, in uniform, in the Boones Creek, Gray, Sulphur Springs, Fall Branch and Telford area seeking donations. Donations are tax deductible and will be used to pay for drill competitions, other competitive matches and to defray student cost for lodging and meals. For more information please contact Master Gunnery Sergeant Michael H. Gardner USMC (Ret.), at 477-1612.

From Jonesborough to Asheville: Professor discusses early frontier road

Hog drovers would drive herds of pigs to the appropriate destination in Asheville.


Associate Editor

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Today, via Interstate 26, it takes less than two hours to drive to Asheville, North Carolina from Jonesborough, Tennessee. An internet search puts the driving time for the 61-mile journey at one hour and nine minutes. Beginning on Sept. 24, 1857, it took a party, including the Rev. C. P. Jones, three days to make the trip.

Professor Tom Lee discussed the historical and geographical connection between the two towns before an audience of 40 people gathered for History Happy Hour held at the International Storytelling Center on Thursday, Aug. 15. Dr. Lee, a member of the History Department at East Tennessee State University, outlined his efforts to locate the “old road” that was the beginning of commerce and communication between the towns located in two states and kept apart by mountains. 

Below, Asheville pays tribute to traveling swine.

The process of finding the location of this elusive yet important link initially directed the professor to a study of “Autobiography: the story of an old man’s life, with reminiscences of seventy-five years” by Nathaniel Edwin Harris.  He was born in Jonesboro in 1846 and moved to Georgia during the Civil War to escape Union troops.

While living in Jonesborough Harris remembered the “public road” in his autobiography. “As my father was engaged in the practice of medicine, he was very little at home and this threw me, in my earlier years, into the closest possible companionship of my mother. She did most of the punishing in those early times, using the rod according to the Scriptures. On one occasion I crept under the house to get away from her, but she followed me and my effort to avoid the punishment did not succeed. I then tried running away from her, and once went down the red lane, in the public road which ran by the house. My mother ran after me and near the foot of the hill both of us fell flat in the roadway. She was the first to rise and I did not escape the thrashing for some disobedience.”

Harris traveled the “Embreeville Road” when he “rode a horse, and left the horse at his uncle’s mill, which was on the road to the school house.” The school boy further commented, “The old homestead is directly on the road leading from Asheville in Buncombe County and Burnsville in Yancy County to Jonesboro.”

The “public road” where Harris got a “thrashing” Professor Lee believes constituted part of the Jonesborough to Asheville road. Harris served in the Confederate Army and after the war returned to his family’s home in Tennessee. Moving to Bartow County, Georgia, he attended the University of Georgia graduating in 1870.  After graduation he studied law and became Macon’s city attorney.  He got into politics serving in both the state’s House of Representatives and Senate. He then served as judge of the Superior Court from 1912 until 1915 when he resigned to run for governor. Harris served as Governor of Georgia from 1915 until 1917. In his “Autobiography” written in 1925, he said, “The founding of the Georgia School of Technology I regard as the most important event of a public nature, that occurred in my life.”

Harris was the first cousin of Alfred Alexander Taylor and Robert Love Taylor, both of whom were United States congressmen and governors of Tennessee. Harris died at his summer home in Hampton, Tennessee and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Georgia.

During Harris’ youth before the Civil War, the road gained economic importance. Large numbers of swine were fattened in eastern Tennessee, a fertile farming region with many pigs and few people. A couple of hundred miles away lay the plantations of the South, which didn’t raise much food. Planters preferred to grow cotton, sell it for cash, and buy pork to feed their slaves (or, after the Civil War, their sharecroppers and tenant farmers). The hog supply was in Tennessee, the demand in South Carolina and Georgia, and in between lay the Appalachian Mountains. No navigable rivers or railroads connected the two, so there was only one way to move the hogs: on foot. The route followed the Valley of French Broad River through the Smoky Mountains, and passed through Asheville, North Carolina.

Dr. Lee illustrated this commerce by showing the “hog statues” at Pack Square Park in Asheville and with artists’ drawings of drovers driving the hogs to market. The road also became important with the arrival in 1858 of railroad transportation in Jonesborough. Once people traveled from Asheville to Jonesborough, they could board a passenger train and travel to New York City and other metropolitan areas in Northeastern United States. It was not until March 1879 before the railroads finally crossed the Eastern Continental Divide across the area’s Appalachian Mountains and entered Buncombe County where Asheville is located.

Returning to Rev. Jones three-day trip in 1857, his description of the journey began when he was invited to ride with Robert Brank Vance. His host, born April 24, 1828 – died November 28, 1899, was the nephew of the earlier Congressman Robert B. Vance (1793–1827) and brother of  Zebulon B. Vance.  The Democratic politician served as a member of the U.S. House of Representative for six terms: 1873–1885.  Vance was born in 1828, near present-day Weaverville, in the old homestead on Reems Creek, in Buncombe County. Vance died near Asheville at his farm.

The Vance Party’s journey on Day One began on a road that meandered along the French Broad River.  Then, the party made “a right turn onto [the] main road to Burnsville.” They would “pass in sight [of] Reems Creek Campground.  On Day Two they reached the “residence of Col. McElroy.”

By Day Three, the narrative gets more detailed.  According to Rev. Jones’ account, the party “set out at 7 o’clock am, arriving at Jonesborough approximately after dark.” According to Professor’s Lee’s calculations, this would have been a distance of 34 miles.

There had been recent, hard rains.  The account noted that the “road runs through the most broken, wild country perhaps that any road traverses in North Carolina or Tennessee.” On this day the party hired a “Mr. Hunter,” who was stated to be “an old stager well acquainted with the road.”

Professor Lee believes that observations to the right or left of the group at this point can become confusing.  However, the description as stated by the travelers is preserved in this account. With Hunter as their guide, the party “wound [their] way along the right bank of the Toe River.”  Eventually Road Mountain “loomed up on our right.”

The next landmark was “one of the tributaries, Big Rock Creek” flowing from Roan Mountain after which at length  the group “cross(ed) the Barney River [Cane River]

just at its mouth.”  Then, they followed the “Chucky [Nolichucky] for 20 miles” on occasion diverging when the mountainous terrain would “drive” them away from the river.

The Vance Party crossed Iron Mountain on the left side of the river at Indian Grave Gap. The gap was so-named because it was believed by early settlers that Indians often buried their dead at gaps in the mountains. For three miles the party climbed “higher and higher” until they reached an altitude of approximately 4,000 feet.     

On the border between North Carolina and Tennessee there was a hut. Traveling toward Jonesborough the group “wound around rock-ribbed sides of mountains; around deep gulches and ravines.”  Their descent placed them at Greasy Cove and then they passed the “Emory Iron Works” – corrected in the lecture to the “Embree Iron Works.”

Next stop was Jonesborough.

Later, both Tennessee and North Carolina would authorize the construction of “turnpikes” to improve the roads between the two communities. One such legislation specified a 16-foot road.

Lee’s presentation was funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and Tennessee Historical Commission.

The next History Happy Hour will take place on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the International Storytelling Center. The topic of the lecture by Dr. Tim Holder from Walters State will be “Circuit Rider Francis Asbury.”

Further information about the History Happy Hours can be obtained from the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia by calling their office at (423) 753-9580 or by telephoning the Chester Inn Museum at (423) 753-4580.

County Archives seeks return of records

Donna Briggs and Ned Irwin work with some of the Archives’ records.


If something is missing, you try to recover it. The Washington County Archives is currently seeking to recover any Washington County records that, for whatever reason, are no longer in its custody.

The effort is being led by County Archivist Ned Irwin and authorized by the Washington County Public Records Commission and County Mayor Joe Grandy.

“The focus for the past year has been on recovering county records in various public repositories,” Irwin said.

Records have been returned from Special Collections at the University of Tennessee, the McClung Collection in Knoxville, and Appalachian State University. In total, nearly 12,000 county documents were recovered and returned to the Washington County Archives so far in 2019.

“Now the focus is shifting to recovering records that are in private hands,” Irwin said. “We know there are records out there, but unlike the public repositories, we do not always know who has them. We hear stories about what people have, and I am hopeful that spreading the word about amnesty will encourage people to return them. It is important for individuals to understand that under Tennessee law public records are always public records and being in someone’s private possession does not change this ownership.”

Irwin and Donna Briggs, archives associate, have worked closely with Allyson Wilkinson, county staff attorney, in the records recovery effort.

“The legal insight she brings to this effort has been invaluable,” he said.

The records returned so far are especially important for documenting the early history of Washington County and include records from the state of Franklin, slave documents, early Superior Court and Circuit Court cases, the Civil War, etc. Many topics are covered in these records regarding the social, cultural, civic, economic, and political history of the county, the region, and Tennessee.

And, as Irwin explained, “we are finding these documents join many related documents already in the collection.” 

Irwin and Briggs spend their day focused on preserving the government records of Washington County’s past for the benefit of future generations. The stories these documents tell connect this area to the history of the United States.

“We recently recovered a document signed by Andrew Jackson. It was like a homecoming to bring it back to Washington County where he signed it,” Briggs said, explaining that Jackson practiced law and served as a judge here before he became President of the United States.

Irwin noted that there has already been one anonymous donor return early county records.

“The individual just walked into the archives one day with these historic documents. The person had felt for some time that it was the right thing to do to return them where they belonged and finally brought them to us. I hope this example will encourage others to do the same.”

Anyone that may have county records or be aware of such records is asked to contact Ned Irwin at (423) 753-0393 or email him at [email protected] Records can be returned anonymously. No questions will be asked. “We just want the records back home where they belong,” Irwin said.

Bil Lepp to tell his tales

Fan-favorite Bil Lepp is coming to Jonesborough.


Always one to perform for a full house in Jonesborough, storyteller Bil Lepp will soon begin his weeklong residency at the International Storytelling Center.

Lepp’s appearance is part of the Storytelling Live! concert series, one of ISC’s signature programs. Also known as the Teller-in-Residence program, Storytelling Live! will bring a new performer to Jonesborough each week through the end of October.

The West Virginian native made his name in local tall tale contests before going on to become one of the biggest names in the business. Now beloved around the world for his outlandish sense of humor and his stylish original tales, Lepp remains a fixture in the Jonesborough storytelling scene.

Lepp’s residency is an extended encore to his season-opening performance this past April, when he told stories to a sold-out crowd. He’ll also be performing at the National Storytelling Festival the first weekend of October. The Storytelling Live! format affords the rare opportunity to see Lepp in an intimate venue.

During the residency, Lepp will share a range of tall tales, including his infamous stories about his best friend Skeeter. Most of his stories are inspired by real life, even when they move far beyond the realm of possibility.

On Thursday, Sept. 12, Lepp will offer a special evening concert, “Chaos Doesn’t Happen on Its Own.” The nighttime performance will begin at 7:30 p.m., with tickets priced at just $15. Matinee performances will be offered for five days, Tuesday to Saturday, September 10-14. Lepp’s matinee performances at the International Storytelling Center will begin at 2 p.m.

All concerts are in the International Storytelling Center’s intimate state-of-the-art theater, located on Main Street.

Tickets can be purchased in advance on ISC’s website, in person, or over the phone. Walk-in seating is available the day of the show, while supplies last. Tickets for all afternoon matinees are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18.

As many times as Lepp has performed in Jonesborough, the thrill is always there.

“I have people in the audience who have never been to storytelling before,” Lepp said. “I like to give them a full-blown view of what it can be. I’m just always excited to come down to Jonesborough.”

The premier sponsor of Storytelling Live! is Ballad Health.

International Storytelling Center to Host Diane Edgecomb

Diane Edgecomb will be the next performer featured in the Storytelling Live! series.


Award-winning storyteller Diane Edgecomb will be the next performer featured in the Storytelling Live! series. Her stories will be accompanied with the musical stylings of Margot Chamberlain, who plays the Celtic harp. With voices that blend perfectly and a finely-tuned partnership developed over thirty years, Edgecomb’s and Chamberlain’s weaving of story, music and song is masterful.

Designed to bring a new storyteller to Jonesborough each week, Storytelling Live! has imported performers from all over the country since the season opened in May.

Edgecomb is best known for her traditional tales, though she also performs original tales. “I love doing myths and folkloric stories,” she says. “I like looking at the beauty and power and humor in these very old tales and legends.” Many of her traditional pieces are originally from Ireland, where Edgecomb has family roots.

In recent years she has also developed a series of nature stories designed to reconnect modern listeners to the great outdoors. “A lot of times we think we know everything,” she says. “We don’t have any sense of wonder or mystery about the world. The aim of these stories is to reconnect us to those things.”

The natural world provides a handy metaphor for the way in which Edgecomb approaches storytelling itself. “Stories are travelers,” she says. “A lot of times, people just cut them off. They don’t bring the root. What I try to do is put all the roots back in, put the soil around it, and make sure that all those things that have been lost are put back in. That helps the story live and breathe.”

During her weeklong residency in downtown Jonesborough, Edgecomb will pull a variety of stories from her vast repertoire. Matinee performances will be offered for five days, Tuesday to Saturday, September 3 – 7. All concerts are in the International Storytelling Center’s intimate state-of-the-art theater, located on Main Street.

Edgecomb’s daily matinees begin at 2 p.m. sharp. Tickets can be purchased in advance on ISC’s website, in person, or over the phone. Additionally, walk-in seating may be available the day of the show on a first come, first served basis.

Tickets for all afternoon matinees are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. Exclusive discounts are available to ticketholders for the evening concert and matinee shows. Ticket stubs will earn a 10 percent discount on same-day dining at Main Street Café (lunch only), Olde Towne Pancake House, Texas Burritos & More, Krazy Krepes, Jonesborough Barrel House, the Icing on the Cake (lunch only), and the Corner Cup. Additionally, Boone Street Market is offering 10 percent off prepared meals and 5 percent off any other purchase.

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, the Mooneyhan Family Foundation, 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.

ISC’s Storytelling Live! season extends through late October, with several encore performances scattered throughout the rest of the year.

The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live!, including the full 2019 line-up, or to purchase tickets and season passes, visit or call (800) 952-8392. 

JRT gets ready to welcome cast of gamblers, gangsters

Left to right: Cast includes Lucas Wilcox, Jacob Maurer, Johnny Archer, Josh Baldwin, Chris Pickens-Mitchell, Stephen Cradic, Ben Garber, Charles Landry, Joe Gumina and Bennett Little.


Mark your calendars now to see the romantic musical comedy Guys and Dolls at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre, playing Aug. 29 through Sept. 15.

With memorable Frank Loesser songs such as “Adelaide’s Lament,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” and “Luck Be a Lady,” this show is a bundle of fun and energy that you don’t want to miss.

“Guys and Dolls is, at turns, hilarious and touching,” said Joe Gumina, who portrays the impulsive Sky Masterson. “The cast of characters is as bright and varied as the lights of Broadway.”

The hilarity begins when Sky — a fun loving, high-rolling gambler —unintentionally falls in love with prim and proper mission worker Sarah Brown, played by Catherine Squibb. Their unlikely story overlaps the turbulent romance of another mismatched pair: the endearing rascal Nathan Detroit (Lucas Schmidt) — who runs a famous floating craps game — and his loyal but long-suffering fiancé Miss Adelaide (Heather Allen), a headliner at the Hot Box Club.

The show follows the lives of these two couples through the streets of Manhattan to the dance clubs of Havana to the sewers of New York City. As the story unfolds on stage, these colorful characters’ hopes, aspirations, misunderstandings, and triumphs will touch a chord with today’s audience.

“Though Guys and Dolls is set in New York City during the post-depression era,” explained director Joe Smith, ‘the dreams and goals of the characters are similar to the dreams and goals we have today. We see men and women who are trying to make the ‘big time,’ to succeed in life, to find new opportunities, or to simply fall in love.”

“It is relevant today,” added Catherine Squibb, “because underneath it all, there is the classic lesson that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. It’s a heartwarming story that examines the different relationships that we all find ourselves in at one time or another.”

Audience members may be a little surprised to find themselves cheering for gamblers, rooting for gangsters, and charmed by showgirls and salsa dancers. But go ahead and applaud, because down deep, we really all just want the same thing: happiness.

“This show is often considered one of the finest musical comedies ever written,” said music director Shawn Hale, who also portrays Nicely-Nicely Johnson. “It is full of dazzling costumes and great songs that are unforgettable.”

“If big, brassy, show-stopping numbers are your thing,” added Gumina, “this show is sure to leave a smile on your face.”

Guys and Dolls is written by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. This production is directed by Joe Smith and assisted by Diane Taveau; music directed by Shawn Hale; and choreographed by Heather Allen. The JRT appreciates the show sponsors: Morningstar Farm, Chick-fil-A (West Market St.), Gary & Sandee Degner, and Sonia King/Mary B. Martin.

Rounding out the cast are Johnny Archer, Josh Baldwin, Annika Beatty, Stephen Cradic, Andrew Duncan, Janette Gaines, Ben Garber, Emma Garber, Kate Hollenbeck, Charles Landry, Bennett Little, Hannah Love, Kyle Mason, Tiffany Matthews, Jacob Maurer, Chris Pickens-Mitchell, Lilli Pickens-Mitchell, Jessie Scarbrough, Brooklynn Shelton, Jessica Shelton, Tom Sizemore, Don Squibb, Anna VanEaton, Joel VanEaton, and Lucas Wilcox.

Shows run Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $17 general admission, $15 for students and seniors. There is also a special group rate for parties of 15 or more. (An interpreter will be provided for the deaf on Saturday, Sept 14, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for these select seats must be purchased by Aug 24.) To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or go online to

World-class musician, storyteller to perform

David Holt will bring a collection of stories to Tennessee’s oldest town.


David Holt has always been a collector.

As an accomplished musician, he collects instruments. As a storyteller, he collects all kinds of tales. But maybe most of all, he has collected people.

Beginning when he was a young man up through the present day, Holt has been an informal archivist of the mountain music genre. His journey started in the early 1970s, when he moved to North Carolina to be closer to the source of the songs he wanted to play.

Touring the mountainside, he sought out musicians who played everything from the banjo to the paper bag. As he picked up techniques and songs, the stories followed naturally. “As I was collecting music, I began to hear about stories that were connected with the songs,” Holt says. “I began to collect these stories and tell them in concert along with the songs. I thought it was a very powerful combination.”

Holt started incorporating these stories into his own performances early on, first with folk tales and then with the unique personal stories of the characters he met along the way. He remembers one standout from Fred Cockerham, a banjo player in Mount Airy. “He was very droll, but never really excited about anything,” Holt says. “When he asked his wife to marry him, he said, ‘Would you like to be buried with my people?’ That was his proposal! I thought, yeah, I’ve got to tell the audience that. That’s just fascinating.”

As the International Storytelling Center’s next Teller in Residence, Holt will share stories and songs he has amassed over decades. Matinee concerts will run for five days, Tuesday to Saturday, August 20-24. Shows begin at 2 p.m.

Holt sees a big part of his task as a performer as recreating the natural environment in which he originally heard a story. A performance is a kind of conversation, he feels. “To me that’s really interesting, to make a program feel like you’re talking on somebody’s front porch,” he says. “I want it to be subtle and woven into this tapestry of music and story.”

Teller-in-Residence program tickets can be purchased via the International Storytelling Center in advance (which is recommended), but walk-in seating remains available while supplies last. Tickets for all afternoon matinees are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. Discounted season passes are still available for a very limited time.

Exclusive discounts are available to ticketholders for the evening concert and matinee shows. Ticket stubs will earn a 10 percent discount on same-day dining at Main Street Café (lunch only), Olde Towne Pancake House, Texas Burritos & More, Krazy Krepes, Jonesborough Barrel House, the Icing on the Cake (lunch only), and the Corner Cup. Additionally, Boone Street Market is offering 10 percent off prepared meals and 5 percent off any other purchase.

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, the Mooneyhan Family Foundation, 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.

Storytelling Live! will run its regular programming through the end of October before hosting a few seasonal performances through the remainder of the year.

The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live!, including the full 2019 line-up, or to purchase tickets and season passes, visit or call (800) 952-8392.

Germanna settlement is subject of lecture

In the colony of Virginia, Germanna was a settlement of German immigrants.


Associate Editor

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Germanna was a settlement of German indentured servants in the Colony of Virginia, settled in two waves, first in 1714 and then in 1717. Cathi Clore Frost presented a program to 30 members of the Jonesborough Genealogical Society (JGS) on Saturday, July 27th about “Germanna,” a name selected by English Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood, reflecting both the German immigrants who populated the settlement and the British Queen, Anne, who was in power at the time of the first settlement.

The Germanna Colonies consist of the First Colony of 42 persons from the Siegerland area in Germany brought to Virginia in 1714 and the Second Colony of over 20 families primarily from the Baden-Württemburg area of Germany brought in 1717. Both groups were indentured to Spotswood.

Genealogical evidence shows that many of the families later migrated southward and westward after completing their indentured service and intermarried for generations, producing a rich genealogical heritage. Today, the Germanna Foundation database of descendants exceeds 125,000 people.

Frost, who lives in Oregon, is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Germanna Foundation. Before speaking to the JGS, she attended and lectured at the Foundation’s 62nd Annual Conference and Reunion that took place in Virginia from July 18th through 21st. 

The Commonwealth of Virginia in 2019 is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the first representative legislative assembly convened in the colony. Special events and interpretive programs have taken place throughout the year. Heralding “Virginia’s Red Letter Year of 1619,” Germanna Conference sessions included the long-range effects of importing slaves and bringing women across the ocean to marry frontier post single men in addition to the freedom to participate in representative government.

Frost, a genealogist and author of numerous publications and books, has ancestors who settled in the Second Germanna Colony. She repeated, for the benefit of JGS members, a conference session she conducted titled “Germanna 101.” The influence of the Germanna settlements has spread across the United States. Members from the original settlements migrated out of Virginia and some settled in East Tennessee at Broylesville in Washington County. Frost’s ancestors included families who traveled to and settled in the State of Iowa.

Apollo 11 astronaut and Germanna descendant Buzz Aldrin visited Germanna Community College’s Daniel Technology Center in Culpeper, Virginia in 2014. During his visit Aldrin met with students as part of his ShareSpace Foundation’s effort to inspire children to study science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. On this occasion, Buzz was presented with a copy of his genealogy tracing back to the Germanna Colony’s founding in 1714. The Germanna Foundation helped establish Germanna Community College by donating the land 50-years ago for the Locust Grove campus to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the purpose of founding the College in 1969 – the same year that Buzz walked on the moon.

In her program, Frost detailed the harsh living conditions that caused Germans to emigrate. Most were from the poor or laboring classes of society. The First Germanna Colony was recruited under the belief that Virginia had minerals, particularly silver, that could be mined. Their European diet was limited to grains and root vegetables. Meat was seldom available.

The settlers previously had suffered through nearly endless wars and French army invasions in addition to extremely cold winters. The migrations were proceeded in 1708-1709 by “The Great Frost” that saw temperatures dip to the coldest levels in Europe in 500 years. Animals froze to death, the Rhine River was completely covered with ice, and the King of France awoke from a sleep when his beard froze. Taxes were burdensome.

The settlers brought little when they sailed to America. An attempt in 1711 to colonize New Bern, North Carolina failed when the immigrants were attacked by Indians and most were killed. In Virginia in 1714 Fort Germanna, home of the First Germanna Colony, was constructed and became the westernmost settlement of the British Empire. Today it is considered one of the most significant archaeological sites in the nation.

The Germanna settlers had religious beliefs that embraced the Calvinist Reformed or Evangelical Lutheran faiths. There were also some Catholics in the group. Attendance at the Church of England services in Virginia eventually was not required. In 1740, the Hebron Lutheran Church in Madison County, Virginia was constructed and is still standing. The building represented good German construction methods and the fruits of a fundraising trip by members in Europe. In 1801 a pipe organ which is still in use was added to the church. Hebron is the oldest Lutheran Church with continuous use in the United States. Attendees at the 62nd Germanna Foundation Reunion could worship there on Sunday or at the nearby Little Fork Episcopal church in Culpeper County.

In Virginia, members of the settlements found abundant game was available in addition to cropland and timber that could be sold for ship masts. They also collected pitch and attempted winemaking. Original settlement tracts were small but eventually the Germanna colonists moved out to areas where they could obtain multiple acres. Frost said that one of her family members eventually owned 1,000 acres of Virginia land.

Frost also talked about the benefits of and limits to DNA testing. She emphasized that original research is needed before using this type of testing to supplement genealogical records. Of great value to members of the Jonesborough Genealogical Society were her listing of sources of research, both internet and on site at various library and courthouse locations.

Acclaimed storyteller Connie Regan-Blake to perform

Connie Regan-Blake will return to Jonesborough this month.


From the first annual National Storytelling Festival in 1973, Connie Regan-Blake knew she had found her calling.

Back then, a career in storytelling was barely distinguishable from a rock-and-roll lifestyle. Regan-Blake and her cousin Barbara Freeman toured the country in a pickup truck, telling stories wherever people would gather to listen.

It was an unconventional lifestyle, but one that suited the two tellers at the time — and gave them a well of road stories from which Regan-Blake is still drawing to this day.

From the comfort of her home in Asheville, North Carolina, those days feel like a long time ago now. “Even then, I think I had a sense that I was in the beginnings of a storytelling revival,” Regan-Blake said. “I’m really amazed at myself. We didn’t have a home base for three years.”

During her week in Jonesborough, the much-admired teller intends to share some new traditional stories as well as a recent fan favorite, a true story about a woman who trained herself as a pilot and a spy during World War II. “I read a newspaper article about Dagmar Chillman in the early 1990s,” Regan-Blake said. “She lived in St. Augustine, Florida, and I was going to be there performing, so I called her.”

Regan-Blake also plans to share a mix of other historical tales, and personal and traditional stories. Her performances will run Tuesday to Saturday, Aug. 13-17, with each show scheduled to start at 2 p.m.

Storytelling Live! is produced by the International Storytelling Center in Jonesbrough, and all concerts will take place in their intimate theater inside the organization’s headquarters on Main Street.

Storytelling Live! tickets can be purchased in advance (which is recommended), but walk-in seating remains available while supplies last. Tickets for all afternoon matinees are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. Discounted season passes are still available for a very limited time.

Exclusive discounts are available to ticketholders for the evening concert and matinee shows. Ticket stubs will earn a 10 percent discount on same-day dining at Main Street Café (lunch only), Olde Towne Pancake House, Texas Burritos & More, Krazy Krepes, Jonesborough Barrel House, The Icing on the Cake (lunch only), and The Corner Cup. Additionally, Boone Street Market is offering 10 percent off prepared meals and five percent off any other purchase.

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, the Mooneyhan Family Foundation, 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.

Storytelling Live! will run its regular programming through the end of October before hosting a few seasonal performances through the remainder of the year.

The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live!, including the full 2019 line-up, or to purchase tickets and season passes, visit or call (800) 952-8392. 

New mural pays tribute to local artist

A new mural at the Jonesborough Library is now ready to inspire local readers to ‘travel through time.’



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A new mural adorns the wall of the Jonesborough Library, dedicated to “all who find adventure in reading.”

Orchestrated by the Friends of the Washington County Library and created by local artist Bill Bledsoe, this colorful rendition of literary greats, from “Moby Dick” to “Tom Sawyer,” is intended to inspire all who enter the library’s doors in search of a good book.

But the mural also holds an even deeper meaning for parents Russel and Kathy May, who have donated the artwork to the library in honor of their son, Sam.

“We are delighted to donate the mural that is titled ‘Travel Through Time. Read!’ which was designed and created by Jonesborough’s own Bill Bledsoe to the Jonesborough Library in honor of our son, Sam,” Russel Mays told a small crowd present at the July 20 mural unveiling and reception. “Sam loved Johnson City and Jonesborough and was involved with many, many activities with lasting impact.

The “Travel Through Time. Read!” mural was unveiled by artist Bill Bledsoe on July 20.

“We believe that with guidance of the library staff, many creative and wonderful activities will be inspired by this mural. And it will make the library even more fun for its users.”

Samuel D. Mays, a well-known urban artist who passed away in 2013, was credited with a number of local contributions during his lifetime, from helping design one of the first Jonesborough Days T-shirts to playing an important role in the creation of the original Blue Plum Festival.

“He graduated from ETSU with a bachelor in fine arts, and opened a graphic design firm, Fresh Punch, in Johnson City,” Russell Mays shared. “His work is still all around you.”

But Mays stressed that this mural was about so much more than just their son. While they believe it reflects his passion and creativity, the art also honors all the workers behind the scene who help make the library what it is.

“There are two reasons Kathy and I wanted to donate this mural to the library,” he explained. “One was to honor our son. The second is (because of all of the library services) paid for by Friends of the Library. We did not want Friends money to go any other direction than programing.”

For Bledsoe, being part of “Travel Through Time” was also a double honor.

Kathy and Russell Mays donated the mural in honor of their son.

First, he said, through the process he got to learn even more about fellow artist Mays.

Next, the creation process got him to thinking about his own library journeys.

“For me, I wanted to put images of stories that I enjoyed, and most specifically, when I moved here to Jonesborough I was 10 years old,” Bledsoe shared. “I never had an experience of being in a library while living in Johnson City. But when we moved to Jonesborough, the library was in the basement of the Chester Inn.

“My ritual was to go down there, especially when school was going on, and do my homework every night. I loved walking down there and I loved the smell of the books.”

This plaque honors artist Samuel D. Mays.

As an artist, it was, of course, the illustrations that caught Bledsoe’s eye. He drew on those memories when he began the mural.

“These are based on original illustration in the first editions of these books that are referenced in here,” Bledsoe said. “Whether it’s the Lord of the Rings or the Wizard of Oz or the Odyssey, Moby Dick, Narnia, the Headless Horseman, Tom Sawyer, A Christmas Carol,  Fall of the House of Usher.”

“Whenever you are asked to do something about literature, the mural could run all the way from this corner and back and it still wouldn’t be enough.”

He hopes the mural can inspire a new generation of readers and artists.

Mays closed the reception with the following Haiku, in honor of his son:

He loved and was loved.

He gave, but was given more.

He lived and lives on.

Washington College Academy dedicates trail quilt block

Local artist Sharon Stone puts finishing touches on the quilt block.


Trustees and guests of Washington College Academy in Limestone met Friday morning, July 19,  to dedicate “The Light In the Wilderness” the school’s addition to the Washington County Quilt Trail.

The quilt block, which features a log cabin with a candle burning in the window, represents the founding of WCA in 1780 by Rev. Samuel Doak. “The light in the wilderness” has been a motto of the school for centuries.

The academy first established as a private Presbyterian-affiliated educational institution by Doak. Currently, Washington College Academy offers a high school curriculum for adults free of charge and the WCA School for Arts & Crafts offers classes in traditional and contemporary arts & crafts.

The quilt block was installed on the north side of the Harris/Jablonski Student Complex.

The Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development Council administers the Washington County Quilt Trail.