Archive Annex renovation completed

Ned Irwin and Donna Briggs look through some of the books available at the Washington County Archive Annex.


Associate Editor

[email protected]                              

A major renovation to the Washington County Archive Annex was completed in 2019. The $350,000 project to the former county jail at the rear of the Washington County Courthouse in downtown Jonesborough now provides a secure, climate-controlled storage space for county records.

Ned Irwin with new HVAC system.

Currently, older records from 13 different county office and departments are housed in the Archive Annex, including records from the county mayor’s office, bookkeeping, Circuit Court Clerk, Clerk and Master (Chancery Court), Register of Deeds, and Trustee, among others. “The Archive Annex provided the space for all the county records formerly stored at the Downtown Center in Johnson City, along with additional records from other offices,” County Archivist and Records Manager Ned Irwin said. 

“County officials always have access to the records. They are their records and they can have access whenever they need them.”

He consults regularly with office holders on records disposal and retention. State law specifies that certain county records must be kept on a permanent basis, while others can be disposed of after a certain time period.

The construction project included installation of a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system; electrical upgrade; new lighting; and the enclosure of 100 exterior windows to help insure a proper climate for the storage of records. In addition, a new roof was installed to handle the six heat pumps as part of the HVAC system. The Archive Annex contains approximately 10,000 square feet of storage space and houses several thousand boxes and volumes.

Johnson City architect Thomas Weems designed and supervised the project that began on Nov.13, 2018 and was completed on March 19 of this year. Preston Construction Company of Johnson City was the general contractor. Kingsport Armature was the electrical sub-contractor, and S. B. White Company of Johnson City was the HVAC sub-contractor. Morristown Roofing was the roofing sub-contractor.

The annex, originally constructed as a county jail, has excellent security. “It was a secure place to house prisoners, and it makes a secure place to house records. It is solidly built and access is very limited,” Irwin said. “Now that we have proper air and lighting, we and our volunteers will be able to work in the space, which we haven’t been able to do before.”

Irwin noted that the Archive Annex is strictly a records storage facility. Researchers wanting to use county records should come to the archives building located at 103 West Main Street, two doors west of the courthouse and directly across the street from the International Storytelling Center.

Say Cheese: Inn offers chance for ‘historic’ photos

Chester Inn docents Janice Hammett and Gordon Edwards pose for their old fashioned photographs.


Associate Editor

[email protected]

You can enter a photo studio from the turn of the 20th century and have your picture taken at the Chester Inn Museum now through August. 

The exhibit, titled “Capturing Images: Photography and Photography Equipment in Jonesborough,” was assembled by Joe Spiker, staff member of the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. 

If you are going to get your photograph taken, explained Spiker, “Visitors can use their cameras or cell phones to take their own pictures, or ask one of the docents to take it for them.” 

There are also props on hand including hats and scarves that visitors can use in their photographs.

Mary Whaley dons the appropriate garb and expression for turn-of-the-century portraits.

Highlighted in the exhibit is the photo studio of O. L. Hensley. His studio probably started in the area about 1890 and continued through the early 1900s. Hensley’s studio was located on Main Street. He often photographed outdoor scenes in addition to studio portraits. One such picture is labeled “Camping on Clark’s Creek, 1900 – O. L. Hensley Photo.” 

The museum’s “Photo studio” is a photographic reproduction of his studio complete with backdrop, camera equipment, chairs and a couch.

Spiker said he devotes parts of January and February when the Chester Inn Museum is not open to think about new exhibits and how to assemble the contents in the space available. Most of the exhibits in the photography display are from the Alliance Archives including photographs from Volume 14 of the Fink-Dulaney Collection. Spiker believes visitors will be particularly interested in the collection’s box camera with glass plate holders. 

Twentieth century cameras on display include a Kodak Duaflex II, circa 1955; a Polaroid 600 Business Edition, circa 1985, a Nikon Tele Touch 300AF, circa 1988 and a World War I Army Issue Field Camera, circa 1917. Motion picture cameras are also included in the collection with the explanation: “Capturing still images evolved into moving pictures, and photographs technology evolved along with it. Interest in movies and motion pictures exploded in the 20th century, and the appearance of handheld video recorders allowed anyone to record video and audio recordings.”

“The development of photography in the 19th century fundamentally changed human society,” Spiker’s introduction to the exhibit explains. “Photograph technology allowed people to view and understand things in ways that had never been possible.  Other groundbreaking 20th and 21st century technologies such as movies, television, computers and cell phones were built on or incorporated in some way the basic components of 19th century photography.” 

Ginny Whaley dons the appropriate garb and expression for turn-of-the-century portraits.

Examples of photographs are shown in the museum’s display cases under the headings of “Tintype,” “Ambrotype” and “Cabinet Card.”

Each type is labeled on several pictures and then described as follows: Tintype introduced in 1856 is a photographic image printed on thin iron plate.” 

The second tintype in the exhibit is a portrait of Jonesborough photographer L. W. Keen in the early 1860s. Libern Wilkerson Keen (1823-1907), a native of Sullivan County, opened a photographic gallery in Jonesborough in 1847.  This was only eight years after photography first came to the United States.  He remained in business until the end of the century.

Joe Spiker with the Heritage Alliance describes the process of putting together an exhibit.

“Ambrotype was introduced in 1854 and was popular for 10 – 15 years,” according to the Capturing Images Exhibit. “Ambrotypes were printed on glass plates. Later ambrotypes usually consisted of a single, ruby-colored glass plate and were packaged in a small container. . . Ambrotypes were similar to daguerrotypes which are largely considered the earliest form of photographic printing.”

The “History of Washington County Tennessee” (Jonesborough: Washington County Historical Society, 2001) in an article about the scarcity of goods during the Civil War states, “L. W. Keen, noted local photographer, sought photographic cases by offering refunds to those who returned their pictures with cases intact.

The “Cabinet Card” was introduced in 1866 and became popular in the U.S. in the 1870s. According to Capturing Images, “Cabinet cards became one of the most common photograph printings used in portraits. Cabinet cards were popular for photography studios to use like L.W. Keen and O. L. Hensley because it allowed them to display their studio name both on the front and the back.”

“Camping on Clark’s Creek,” an early 20th-century photo from O.L. Hensley.

A segment of the display asks: “What happens once cameras capture their image?”  The answer depends on when you ask the question, according to Spiker. 

“Most modern cameras retain their images directly and use memory storage devices or online transference to retrieve a printable image while in the 19th and 20th centuries the film development process. . .” included a number of devices, some of which are shown in the museum exhibit.

The value of photographs to historians in understanding the past is pointed out in a display case placard. Part of the goal of the exhibit “is to reach out to the community” explaining “while our photographic collection is extensive, there are holes we would like to fill in. In order to tell as much of Jonesborough’s story as possible we are asking for any photographs that you might have of Jonesborough and Washington County, including buildings, people, places, events, communities and neighborhoods of non-main street Jonesborough, and area towns such as Telford, Bowmantown, Limestone, etc.” 

For additional information about the exhibit,  Spiker can be contacted at (423) 753-4580. The Chester Inn Museum is located at 116 West Main Street in Jonesborough.  The museum is open now through October on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.

Researcher talks impact of women in East Tennessee settlement

Women played a larger role in East Tennessee history than many history books and road markers might suggest.


Associate Editor

[email protected] 

“When you get into history, you do not want to research what already has been done,” Casey Price, a Masters Degree student at East Tennessee State University (ETSU), told the year’s initial History Happy Hour audience on Thursday, March 21. His topic was “18th Century Resistance to State Formation in East Tennessee” with a theme that asserted the role of pioneer women has been neglected by historians.

The 25 persons who attended the lecture at the Chester Inn in Jonesborough received the fourth semester graduate student’s first explanation of a part of his thesis that he would defend at ETSU the following week.  The title of the thesis is “State Resistance: Gendered Spatial Construction Era in East Tennessee.”

The explanation of spatial, which is the nature of space, to Price involves the desire of frontier women to escape the English system of government in the 18th and early 19th centuries along with the legal doctrine of coverture.

Far more than the dictionary definition of the term as referring to the legal status of women, coverture said that upon marriage, a husband and wife were said to have acquired a unity of person that resulted in the husband having numerous rights over the property of his wife and in the wife being deprived of her power to enter into contracts or to bring lawsuits as an independent person. In the United States, these restrictions have now been abolished by various statutes.

The resistance to statehood was part of an original women’s rights movement that has long been ignored by Tennessee’s recognized pioneer historians including J. G. M. Ramsey and Samuel Cole Williams.  Price pointed out that these writers viewed history as “patriarchal” with the result that the role of men in American history is overemphasized.

A simple illustration was used as an example of this male gender bias. A Washington County Monument and a Tennessee Historical Markers read:  “Site of Cabin—Erected by William Bean – Russell Bean – First White Child Born on Tennessee Soil…” [the monument]  and “About 1 ½ miles to the east, on a knoll beside Boone’s Creek, a monument marks the spot where William Bean, first permanent white settler in Tennessee, built his cabin in 1769.  The site was previously used by Daniel Boone as a hunting camp.  Russell Bean, first child of permanent settlers, was born here” [the marker].

There is no mention of Bean’s wife Lydia in either the monument or marker despite the fact that the Bean family is traditionally regarded as the first permanent settlers in Tennessee.  They lived on Boone’s Creek where that stream flows into the Watauga River. In Price’s opinion, this marker needs to be reworded.

Lydia has an important role in pioneer history. She was taken captive and was to be killed by the Indians. However, an Indian woman named Nancy Ward was able to rescue her and get her back home to her family. As a Ghigau, Nancy had the power to spare captives. In 1776, following a Cherokee attack on the Fort Watauga settlement on the Watauga River (at present day Elizabethton, Tennessee), she used that power to spare Mrs. William (Lydia Russell) Bean.

Nancy took Lydia into her house and nursed her back to health from injuries suffered in the battle. Mrs. Bean taught Nancy how to weave, revolutionizing the Cherokee garments, which at the time were a combination of hides and cloth bought from traders. But this weaving revolution also changed the roles of women in the Cherokee society, as they took on the weaving and left men to do the planting, which had traditionally been a woman’s job.

In the graduate student’s presentation, the word “state” had an inclusive meaning that could range from references to colonies or a state.  In this respect, “men explore but women determine the settlement.”  Therefore, after individuals like the Long Hunters explored an area, they returned with their wives and children.  In this pattern, mothers and sisters along with other kinfolk also settled creating a society.

In East Tennessee this pattern of settlement resulted in unstructured county lines. Government was loosely said to be controlled from male officials living east of the mountains.  The need for more structured boundaries can be seen in Middle and West Tennessee where the institution of slavery demanded greater government control, Price said.

Examples of unstructured boundaries in East Tennessee can be illustrated by Peter Jefferson’s travels to the far reaches of Virginia where he stopped east of present day Elizabethton. Use of Peter’s information (he was the father of President Thomas Jefferson) could have resulted in parts of Carter County, Tennessee being in Virginia. Both east and west of Bristol in 1903, a United States Supreme Court commission found survey marks made with a hatchet. However, the commission never agreed to the location of the state line in downtown Bristol that divides Tennessee and Virginia. 

Not only did women determine the pattern of settlement in East Tennessee, they also provided economic stimulus to society. Once settled, women did not want to move. Cited by the lecturer as an example was the refusal of Rebecca Boone, the wife of Daniel Boone, to move to Florida. Instead the family moved to East Tennessee and then Kentucky. 

Probate records of estates illustrate the presence of spinning wheels as important family items along with agricultural tools. Price used the store of Thomas Amis in Hawkins County to illustrate the many transactions made by women, which often involved the use of barter rather than purchases by cash.

Home production of goods by women included agricultural goods, bee products and textiles. By 1810, there was a production of two million pounds of goods in public facilities in Appalachia in contrast to 26 million pounds of goods produced by women in private homes. These goods enabled men to purchase items such as gunpowder. The informal production techniques also avoided taxation.

A lively and interesting question and answer period followed Price’s talk. He indicated that he has found most pioneer settlers in East Tennessee were English with a minority of Scotch-Irish and Germans.  Authority for the statement, Price said, can be found in David Hsiung’s research on the settlement of the region. Price has a mother and sister with PhDs that he said explains, in part, why he has an interest in women’s history.

He also told the audience that he had been accepted into a doctoral program at the University of Tennessee.  Hopefully, Price and other students can spark a revival of history instruction in American education. A recent review of American history from colonial times onward titled “How to Hide an Empire” in the Wall Street Journal read: “American history is in trouble – the discipline that is. The share of college students who major in history has fallen by two-thirds since the early 1970s.”

The importance of teaching history in our nation’s schools was emphasized near the end of the review with the statement, “The author (Daniel Immerwahr) implores us to see the U.S. ‘not as it appears in its fantasies, but as it actually is.’”

New herbal ‘farmacy’ opens in Johnson City

Crafted Organics, which offers a variety of natural remedies for ailments such as blood glucose issues and high blood pressure, officially opened in June.


A new natural medicine store with an on-site herbalist recently opened in Johnson City.

Crafted Organics, which offers a variety of natural remedies for ailments such as blood glucose issues and high blood pressure, officially opened in June. 

The store is located at 4100 North Roan Street Suite 4. It is co-owned by Quillan Price and his wife Jen. Both were born and raised in Johnson City. Quillan has worked in the healthcare industry for the last 20 years.

After receiving multiple degrees, Pre-Med with an emphasis on Biology, Chemistry, & Kinesiology, and his disappointment in the current Medical & Pharmaceutical Industries, Quillan decided to pursue an education in Natural Remedies so that he may offer an alternative.

“I wanted to make a true change for healthcare,” he said. “This led me to herbs, which is the actual true source of healing. Herbs are where true health begins.”

Crafted Organics began as an online shop on the popular website ETSY in October 2018. Sales took off and the couple decided to open a store and offer their products to the public.

A variety of products are offered by the shop including vegan seasonings, herbal teas, hair products, hair oil, luxurious bath products, handmade soaps, variations of herbal capsules, Elderberry syrup, ginger syrup, bath scrubs, facial spray, tinctures, miracle salves, pet products, and exclusive CBD products such as CBD-infused sugar and Harry Hemp Kush.

All items are made in-house and crafted by Quillan and Jen including packaging and labeling of products.

“I wanted to give the public the same thing I was looking for, natural medicine,” Quillan said. “I couldn’t find those sources, so I relied on my knowledge and background to build my foundation for mixing herbs.”

There are more than 160 herbs located at Crafted Organic so if a customer cannot find what they are looking for or have an unusual request, it can be mixed together on the spot.

An on-site herbalist can answer any questions posed by a customer and help guide those who like to do their own research and mix their own remedies.

Crafted Organics is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Teller to bring ‘luxury of conversation’

Corinne Stavish will present tales of humor and heartfelt reflections at next week’s Teller In Residence performances.


Storytelling isn’t just a profession for longtime teller Corinne Stavish. It’s also a way of life.

In today’s busy world, she recognizes the privilege of truly taking time to listen. “The whole experience is luxurious,” she observes. “There is the luxury of time. There’s the luxury of space and the luxury of real conversation with people.”

Jonesborough is often called the storytelling capital of the world, but Stavish thinks of it as more of a close cousin to Broadway. “It has the excitement and the energy of theater,” she said. “I was a theater major, so I know. Jonesborough is the gold standard.”

She’s been performing in the town for decades.

Like many storytellers, over time. Stavish has found her interests shifting away from purely traditional folklore and more towards tales about contemporary living.

“I stayed away from personal stories for a long time because I thought they were egotistical,” she said. “But what I learned is that it’s not about me. It’s about humanity.”

But those reflections on humanity can take many forms. A recent piece that has been popular with her audience is a historical tale about the Holocaust — a longform tale that she’ll perform at the International Storytelling Center on the Thursday of her residency, which runs Tuesday through Saturday, June 25 – 29.

Reservations for all performances, and particularly the Thursday matinee, are highly recommended. Tickets for all matinee shows are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. Heavily discounted season passes are still available for a limited time.

Altogether, Stavish will host five matinee shows, each beginning at 2 p.m in ISC’s headquarters in downtown Jonesborough. She’s known for her intricate construction and her surprisingly funny style.

Stavish has earned a fiercely dedicated audience, and the appreciation is mutual. “There’s just no other audience like it,” she said. “They understand story, and they understand storytelling. I’m a romantic and it’s just the romantic ideal of what storytelling should be.”

Exclusive discounts are still available to all ticket holders. 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! is a seasonal program that runs from April to October.

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. 

Voices from the past: New interactive play to begin at Chester Inn

Anne G’Fellers Mason (center) may have written the words, but it is the cast who will help bring these stories to life.



[email protected]

Visitors to the Chester Inn will have the opportunity to hear the stories of former residents “first-hand” as the Heritage Alliance launches “Voices of the Chester” this week, with performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

An early photo of the Chester Inn on Main Street, Jonesborough.

The new interactive play — by the Alliance’s own Anne G’Fellers Mason — features stories about Dr. Chester, Theodocia Vance, Alf Taylor and more, portrayed by local actors on location at the Inn on Friday and Saturday, June 14 and 15, with a special final performance at the International Storytelling Center on June 16.

“You meet at the museum downstairs, and I am your time-traveling tour guide,” said Mason, describing the Friday and Saturday performances. “We travel through the rooms. Some of it takes place on the back porch. Some in the parlor, the dining room, the bedroom, down in front.”

It’s the perfect opportunity, she said, to see the stories of these early Jonesborough residents come to life within the very rooms their own words might have been spoken.

“That’s the beauty of this play,” Mason said. “It is being able to move through space and kind of move through time. This building has been so many things. We’re talking 200 years. That’s a lot of lives.”

The Chester Inn, a Tennessee Historical Commission state-owned historic site located on Main Street, is considered the oldest building original to Jonesborough’s commercial district. William Chester, a medical doctor, constructed the building in 1797 to capitalize on those traveling through Jonesborough on the Great Stage Road.

But while the stories of Dr. Chester and other well-known historical characters may have found a place in Mason’s play, she has also made sure to also spotlight some of the quieter voices.

“We know a lot of the history of the building, and there is also the opportunity to tell the stories of people that we don’t know that much about, like Sara and James Roberts, who were the orphans who were bound to Dr. Chester to work at the inn,” she said. “And then Daphne, who was an enslaved woman who worked here.

“These people who left maybe left only one document behind, but the story is still here.”

Mason promises a total of about 10 stories portrayed by a cast of eight local performers. The play, she said, lasts about an hour. And it is worth every minute, she said.

“I do research. I put these words on page,” Mason stressed. “But (these actors) really bring it to life.”

For the actors themselves, the project has remained a labor of love.

“I love that you’re not just on one stage,” said Kalli Papas, the cast’s youngest player at age 11. Kalli plays orphan Sarah. “You get to go all around the building. You get to see everything. You get to be in the play.

“It’s not like most plays. It feels more real.”

Dana Kehs, who portrays Theodocia Vance, an early innkeeper, agrees.

“It’s more than just a monologue,” Kehs said. “It’s more than just telling a story. You are immersing the audience in the whole process.

“And my character, I love her. She had such fortitude. This is a person not to be forgotten. She needs to be remembered.”

Performances at the inn will take place at 7 p.m. on June 14, and at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 6 p.m., and 8 p.m. on June 15. Due to the intimate nature of the experience; only 20 tickets are available per performance on Friday and Saturday.

A special performance of Voices of the Chester will be offered at the International Storytelling Center on June 16 at 1 p.m. The International Storytelling Center is handicap accessible. During this Sunday matinee, the stories of the Chester Inn will come to life onstage at the Krispy Kreme Theatre which seats 95 people. 

Tickets for all performances are $8. To purchase tickets, call the Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010. Tickets can also be purchased online at

Annual Gala presents inspiration via Gardening, Art and Tea

The Garden Gala event in Jonesborough offered a scenery of greenery at every turn.


H&T Coreespondent

“Bee Happy” was the theme for this year’s Garden Gala held on Saturday, June 1, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors were invited to come out for a self-guided walking tour of private and public gardens throughout Downtown Jonesborough, learn fun and interesting facts about bees and the important part they play, as well as enjoy tea and cookies.

A group of friends, many returning visitors to the Gala, eagerly await the tour to begin.

This year was the 23rd Garden Gala to be celebrated in Jonesborough. The Tuesday Garden Club and the Schubert Club take turns hosting the gala; this year it was the Tuesday Garden Club’s turn.

Dona Lewis, chair of the Garden Gala, helped organize the event.

She said the reason they chose to focus on bees for the theme is because bees play a major part in plant production. 

“As the bee population decreases, so does our food production,” said Lewis, as she explained how bees contribute to crop growth through pollination.    

Lewis hopes that visitors found enjoyment in the beautiful gardens and the art and music that was present at several of the stops along the tour, as well as learn some new and interesting facts about gardening and the bees that pollinate them.

Visitors had the opportunity to view seven public gardens and 10 private gardens along the tour.

A bus was provided by David Crockett High School to transport visitors to the various gardens.

The private gardens are owned and maintained by residents of Historic Downtown Jonesborough and are opened to the public during the Garden Gala so others can experience the unique beauty that each gardener has worked hard to create.

One of the first stops on the tour is the garden of Jonathan Adams and Sherrell Lyon, where visitors could enjoy a well-designed, half-acre garden with a greenhouse made out of recycled windows, a collection of antique birdcages placed strategically throughout the garden, a private dining area and an artfully designed henhouse and rabbit pen.

Jonathan Adams showcases his outdoor dining area.

“I’ve always wanted to make a place where family and friends can come and relax and have something interesting to look at,” said Adams.

Each garden held its own appeal. Some were shaded and mysterious, others whimsical, while others gave a feeling of openness and serenity.

They allowed visitors to see what can be done when people and nature come together. A new world can be created and experienced.

A great example of how a garden can become a world of its own is the Thatcher garden.

The garden was created by Helen and Sam Thatcher and is a visitor favorite. It contains four different garden rooms that are in themselves unique and give a mysterious yet peaceful feel.

“It feels like I’m walking through the Secret Garden,” said one visitor as she gazed around in wonder at the small courtyard to the side of the house.

Another visitor laughingly said that going along the shaded walk path at the front of the house felt like she was walking in an enchanted forest and almost expected to meet a fairy or other magical creature.

Helen Thatcher hopes that the tour encourages people to start a garden of their own. She said it doesn’t matter what size of garden they have or what plants they choose to grow, it’s just important to spend time with nature.

Thatcher enjoys being a part of the Garden Gala and appreciates all the visitors that come out to be a part of the tour.

“I love being out in nature,” said Thatcher, when asked how she felt about people visiting her garden. “It’s so peaceful, and it would sad if no one came and enjoyed it with us.”

Becky Chapman shows her reblooms and details how she creates them with used crystal or glass and temperature-safe adhesive.

Every garden had a unique landscape design with artistic features such as a multicolored watering pot, a flowerbed made out of an actual iron bed, birds made out of scrap metal, and a heart shaped design made out of brick on a walk path. 

Visitors also had the opportunity to buy new items to add to their garden or materials that teach new gardening techniques from marketplace vendors set up on the International Storytelling Center Plaza and in front of the Washington County Courthouse from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

There was everything from stained glass, plants, garden items, tools, garden-style jewelry and other handcrafted items.

“The Garden Gala is great because it brings a lot of people to our beautiful town,” said Becky Chapman, a vendor who has been a part of the Garden Gala for the past eight years.

Chapman sells glass art flowers called reblooms that are made out of used crystal and glass.

The Tuesday Garden Club had a flea market-type booth set up where they sold plants grown by members of the club, as well as other gardening items.

Lynda Harris ran the booth and said that the benefits of the Gala is that it promotes life in Jonesborough and teaches how to grow a healthy and environmentally safe garden.

“A big part of what we do today is raise money for local high school students and programs in the community,” said Harris.

All the money made from the Gala goes to charity, such as scholarships for students going into a career in agriculture.

The Gala brought in over 400 people to town, many of which are returning visitors.

P.J. Tucker, a California native who moved to Jonesborough several years ago, is one of those returning. This was her fifth Garden Gala.

“I love the Gala because it always gives me new ideas for my own garden and it’s a great way to spend time with friends,” said Tucker

“I can’t wait to see the treasures that are usually hidden behind fences,” said Carolyn Andrews, whose first visit to the Garden Gala was Saturday.

Both Tucker and Andrews feel that the Gala is important because it brings the community together, attracts new people to town, and the money collected is used to give back to the community.

Afternoon tea took place from 1 p. m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Kennedy garden where visitors could enjoy homemade baked goods and iced tea, while listening to music played by Martha painter on her harp.

The event was sponsored by the Northeast Tennessee Master Gardeners and Southern Appalachian Plant Society.


This book holds recipes of old and now offers a glimpse at how life used to be.


“The art of cookery is every day receiving increased attention, and no wonder.  Life is made all the brighter by satisfactory feeding; and he is a dull philosopher who despises a good dinner,” wrote Mrs. Grace Townsend in 1891 as part of an Introduction to the book ‘DINING ROOM AND KITCHEN.”  Published by the Monarch Book Co. as “An Economical Guide in PRACTICAL HOUSEKEEPING for the AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE,” the book contains 527 pages of the 19th century’s “Choicest Tried and Approved Cookery Recipes.”

The recipes begin with the “SOUPS.” The reader is told: “Soup, nourishing, but simple, should form the first course at every dinner.” The list of ingredients indicate that preparation of family size meals is intended as in the listing for Mutton Soup or Mutton Broth which both begin with “six pounds neck mutton.”

After 41 pages of soup, the recipes move on to “FISH, FROGS AND EELS.”  The preparation of SHELL FISH is next under the heading: “OYSTERS, CRABS, LOBSTERS, CLAMS, SHRIMPS AND TURTLES.” At page 67, “POULTRY AND GAME” recipes appear with the following admonition: “A fowl to be stewed should be dropped in cold water; this extracts the juices and renders the gravy richer. To be boiled whole and preserve the juices, it should be put in boiling water. A lump of charcoal put inside the dressed fowl will preserve it fresh. Packers would do well to remember this.”

“MEATS AND SUITABLE SAUCES” start on page 92.  The reader is told, “Bread is well termed the staff of life” on page 126.  The recipes continue with “DAINTY BREAKFAST DISHES, TOASTS AND MUSHES” beginning on page 154.  The next topic is “EGGS.”  “To ascertain the freshness of an egg without breaking it, hold it before a strong light or toward the sun, and if the yolk appears round, and the white surrounding it clear, the chances are it is good.”  An alternative test follows: “Or put them in a bucket of water; the fresh ones will sink immediately, those that float are doubtful.”

Categories of recipes continue with “VEGETABLES” – page 168 and “SALADS” at page 193.  Housewives were told on page 200: “CAKE MAKING AN ART.”  Author Townsend wrote: “This branch of cooking above all others demands care, and it is invariably true that a good cake maker is a success, at whatever branch of cooking she undertakes.” The dessert section continues with “SAUCES FOR PUDDINGS AND DUMPLINGS” and “DAINTY DISHES FOR DESSERTS” ending on page 320.

Another set of recipes is titled “WATER ICES AND SHERBETS, PICKLES, SPICED FRUIT AND VINEGARS, CANNED AND DRIED FRUITS,” plus “PRESERVES, JELLIES, ETC.”  The category ends on page 386.  Readers are also told about making “CATSUPS and CANDIES.”  At page 396 under the heading of “FRAGMENTS,” the text reads: “Before concluding our ‘Cook Book’ proper, we feel it would be incomplete without containing a few suggestions relative to using up remnants from the table, and odds and ends accumulated in cooking.”

The cookbook continues with “LUNCHES, PICNICS AND PARTIES,” followed by “SANDWICHES” and “FOOD FOR INVALIDS.”  The last section of the book deals with “CARVING” and “BILLS OF FARE” including a section with suggestions on what to cook when seasonal ingredients are available. 

Housewives were also told about housekeeping focused on “THE DINING ROOM with TABLE ARRANGEMENTS, the NURSERY, KITCHEN AND LAUNDRY.”  A daily routine for house cleaning suggests: “On Monday, wash; Tuesday, iron; Wednesday, bake and scrub kitchen and pantry; Thursday, clean the silverware, examine the pots and kettles, and look after the store room and cellar; Friday, devote to general sweeping and dusting; Saturday, bake and scrub kitchen and pantry floors, and prepare for Sunday.”

Interesting features of the cookbook are suggested menus for holidays, for persons who are ill and for daily dining. A “MENU FOR ONE WEEK BY COURSE” reads as follows:

SUNDAY – Breakfast: Baked beans with pork and Boston brown bread, omelet.  Dinner: Roast turkey potatoes, canned corn, plum jelly, young lettuce broken up (not cut), heaped lightly in a dish and ornamented with sliced eggs; Charlotte russe, jelly and sponge cake.  Supper: Cold turkey. Cranberry jelly, canned fruit, jam and cake. 

MONDAY. – Breakfast: Graham bread, broiled bacon, fried potatoes; Dinner: Boiled corn beef with horseradish sauce, whole boiled potatoes and turnips, slaw; hot apple pie with whipped cream, oranges and cake.  Supper: Toasted Graham bread, cold corned beef sliced, grape jelly, hot buns.  

TUESDAY. – Breakfast: buttered toast, pork chops broiled, hominy grits. Dinner: Tomato soup, pigeon pie, creamed potatoes, canned corn or beans, pickles; steamed pudding with sauce, almonds, raisins. Supper: Plain bread, sardines with lemon, light coffee cake or sweet buns and jam.

WEDNESDAY – Breakfast: Sally Lunn creamed codfish, fried raw potatoes, scrambled eggs. Dinner: Pigeon pie, grape jelly, new potatoes, tomato salad; delicious lemon pudding, cake. Supper: Toasted Sally Lunn, cold pressed meat, vanities with jelly.” (Sally Lunn is a type of bread, a recipe for which is included in the cookbook.)  Mrs. Townsend states: “The cake should be torn apart, not cut; cutting with a knife makes warm bread heavy.  Bake a light brown.  The cake is frequently seen on Southern tables.” 

THURSDAY – Breakfast: Oranges, corn batter cakes, broiled liver, scrambled eggs.  Dinner: Roast beef, mashed potatoes, beets, cress salad, plain boiled rice with cream.  Supper: Plain bread, Bologna sausage, rusk with berries.”  (A rusk is another type of bread with a recipe in the cookbook.)

FRIDAY – Breakfast: Muffins, broiled beefsteak, poached eggs, potatoes in Kentucky style.  Dinner: Baked or broiled fish (if large, or fried if small fish), boiled potatoes in jackets, lettuce salad, custard pie.  Supper: Toasted muffins, cold rusk with strawberries or marmalade.” (Editor’s note:  The cookbook lacks a recipe for Kentucky style potatoes.)

SATURDAY – Breakfast:  Cream toast, fried ham, potato cakes, stewed tomatoes.  Dinner: Roast leg of mutton with potatoes, green corn, tomatoes, muskmelon.  Supper: Plain bread, dried beef frizzled, boiled rice with cream, blanc mange, jelly, cake.”

(Installment III of Campbell’s Collection of Books will review “The RUMFORD COMPLETE COOK BOOK” published in 1929.)

Hypnotizing folk tales coming to ISC

Anne Shimojima will be the featured storyteller next week for the Storytelling Live! program, sharing folk tales and peronal stories of her family’s past.


Anne Shimojima didn’t realize she had it in her.

The storyteller, who will soon appear at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough as a featured performer in its popular Storytelling Live! program, always gravitated to folk tales over personal stories—that is, until she started digging deeper into her own family’s past.

When Shimojima set aside six months to interview family members about their experiences as Japanese-Americans during World War II, she realized she had a tale on her hands that was much bigger and more impactful than the usual anecdotes that families tell and retell around their dinner tables. Her father’s parents lost their livelihoods when they were forced into U.S. imprisonment camps after Pearl Harbor.

The process of piecing together that difficult tale was valuable for the storyteller, personally and as a matter of perspective. “It gives you a better sense of who you are and where you came from,” she said. “And it’s important to pass that on to our children so they have a better sense of where they come from, too.”

Part of her mission since then has been to encourage audiences to tap into their own family histories.

During her weeklong residency in Jonesborough, Shimojima plans to share the difficult, fascinating tale. Over the course of the week, she’ll host five matinee concerts, each beginning at 2 p.m., most of which will have a heavy focus on folk tales.

“Stories that have lasted for hundreds of years always have a grain of truth in them,” she says. “They’re not necessarily realistic, but there’s an inner truth to the stories. And I think people respond when you’re telling them something true.”

Shimojima originally found her calling as a performer when she was working as a librarian. Like a hero in a story, one day she became aware she had a hidden gift with the potential to save the world. The revelation came about when she put down the books and started sharing folk tales with her young audiences. “When you put the book down and tell the story, it’s a much more intimate experience because you’re looking into their eyes,” she says. “I was immediately hooked because the kids were hanging on to my every word.”

Shimojima’s full residency is June 4-8, with reservations recommended, but not required. Tickets for all matinee shows are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. Heavily discounted season passes are still available while supplies last.

Exclusive discounts are available to all ticketholders. 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.

The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live!, visit or call (800) 952-8392. 

Select county schools receive STEM grants

Sulphur Springs Elementary School received a $5,000 grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority.


The Tennessee Valley Authority, in partnership with Bicentennial Volunteers Incorporated (a TVA retiree organization), recently awarded Sulphur Springs School, $5,000 for a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education project.

The grant award is a part of $580,000 in competitive STEM grants awarded to 161 schools across TVA’s seven-state service territory.

“The planned project provides hands-on experience using technology, science investigation equipment, and support materials that will allow students hands on experience in a water quality study,” said, Diana O’Neal, middle school science teacher at Sulphur Springs. “Students will be actively involved in collecting data for the study and developing plans to restore and maintain a healthy waterway. The project is intended to be a yearly event that increases understanding of the effect that our community has on a local stream and provide awareness of how the river that provides water for the community is impacted.”

Across the valley, educators submitted projects large and small, to further their STEM education initiatives in the classroom.

The project Sulphur Springs School submitted will ask seventh and eighth grade students to participate in a problem-based learning unit to determine the health of a creek located near the school and consider solutions to share in a culminating project presentation. The STEM study focuses on the importance of maintaining water quality by researching pollution causes, actual testing of the creek for water quality, and developing solutions to keep the water source healthy. Students will collect data using stream study investigation kits to record information such as pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and stream flow.  Specimens will be collected and used to determine the health of the creek using data on macro-invertebrate populations. Results of their findings will be shared with the student population and the community.

The competitive grant program provided teachers an opportunity to apply for funding up to $5,000 and preference was given to grant applications that explored TVA’s primary areas of focus: environment, energy, economic and career development and community problem solving. Schools who receive grant funding must receive their power from a TVA distributor.

“The goal of the program was to help further STEM education across the valley,” said Rachel Crickmar, TVA Community Relations Program Manager. “We knew this program would be popular and competitive and now we’re are looking forward to seeing the impact these projects have.”

South Central students will soon join David Crockett on a STEM project thanks to TVA.

David Crockett High School received $750 for a STEM education project as well.

The project David Crockett High School submitted, in collaboration with South Central Elementary, is to perform cross-curricular STEM projects. Both high school and elementary participants will research about food deserts, careers, and developing an aquaponics system.

Students will compare hydroponics and aquaponics using a Socratic seminar. High school participants will become experts of a 20-gallon aquaponics system. During the first collaboration, high school students will teach photosynthesis, nitrogen cycle, and assist in developing an aquaponics system with the elementary students. Both groups will collect data pertaining to nitrites, nitrates, ammonia, temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, and height of plants with their own systems. Both groups will engage in asking questions, defining problems, analyzing data, developing models, construct explanations, evaluating and communicating information.  The students will bridge communication during the project using Google Docs. During a second collaborative visit, they will discuss the STEM project and deliver presentations. In conclusion, the students will write an essay on how their local community could implement a large scale aquaponics system in relation to STEM careers.

Peggy Wright, Principal of David Crockett, said, she is “looking forward to the partnership and experience our students will have to work together on this cross-curricular project.”

Bill Harley to share songs, tales

Bill Harley is coming to Jonesborough!


Storyteller Bill Harley, a humorist whose specialty is light stories and songs, has been invited by the International Storytelling Center (ISC) for a weeklong performance-based residency. 

As a headliner for the Storytelling Live! series, Harley will offer matinee concerts in ISC’s state-of-the art theater, located on Main Street. Each performance begins at 2 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, May 28 – June 1.

Reservations are highly recommended, with walk-in seating available only for shows that haven’t sold out.

“My shows are really funny,” Harley said. “But usually I’m trying to say something, too. Humor is like a weapon in that once you get people to laugh and their defenses drop, you’re free to say some other things about the way we are. I know I’ve done my work when I look around the room and I’m telling a story and I see people nodding their heads. You want to hear that laughter of recognition.”

In addition to his matinee performances, Harley will host a special children’s concert on Saturday, June 1, at 10:30 a.m. The show will be geared towards ages six through 10, but all ages are welcome. Tickets are just $5 for all ages, and ticket holders will receive coupons for 15 percent off at The Lollipop Shop, a popular Main Street store that sells old-fashioned sweets and toys.

Parenthood has been a major source of inspiration for Harley, who has two grown children. “The thing about parenting is we didn’t know what we signed up for when it happened,” he says. “People told you what it was but you didn’t really hear it until it happened. It’s a discovery that is bigger and much more complex than you ever thought. That in and of itself is funny if you can take a step away from it.”

Tickets for Harley’s matinees are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. Heavily discounted season passes are still available while supplies last.

Exclusive discounts for local businesses are available to ticketholders for all performances. 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.

The beloved program will bring a new entertainer to Jonesborough each week through the end of October.

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. 

Reverend to bring ministry to storytelling

Storyteller Rev. Robert Jones will perform in Jonesborough May 22-25.


As a musician, the Rev. Robert Jones has performed at the highest levels, opening for acts like Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, and Taj Mahal.

But it wasn’t until he told a story in Jonesborough, Tennessee that he felt he’d found his true calling as a performer.

“From the beginning, I was always a storyteller. I just didn’t identify as one,” Jones says. “The first time I came home from Jonesborough, I told my wife, ‘Before, I was a musician who told stories. Now I want to be a storyteller who plays music.’”

It was a seamless transition, given that Jones’s act had always been a deft blend of song and story. “I love the idea of telling stories through songs, so my songs are stories,” he explains. “Sometimes a song will inspire a story, and sometimes a story will inspire a song.” It can be difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.

As a Detroit-based minister, Jones naturally uses stories in his work on Sundays. “Jesus himself used parables,” he points out, “so basically you’re talking about the greatest storyteller.” Another important influence was Jones’s grandmother, who “had a way of painting the picture.” Jones considers himself lucky to have inherited her talent.

As a featured performer in the International Storytelling Center’s Storytelling Live! series, Jones will perform matinee concerts on Wednesday through Saturday, each beginning at 2 p.m. An exclusive nighttime show, “Lead Belly: An American Legend” is slated for the evening of Thursday, May 23. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s sort of a tribute I do for a great old folk musician,” Jones says. “The older I get and the fatter I get and the grayer I get, the more I start to look like him. So I figure I better learn some of his songs.”

Jones’s full residency is May 22-25, with all ticket sales first come, first served. Reservations are recommended, but not required. Tickets for all matinee shows are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. Tickets for the evening concert are $15. Heavily discounted season passes are still available while supplies last.

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! is a seasonal program that runs from April to October. 

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.

It’s electric: Local artist turns voltage into art

Above, Brenden Bohannon shows off a newly electrified and rinsed picture frame.


Staff Writer

[email protected]

Most artists use paint brushes, sculpting tools, clay or canvas to create their art. But for wood artisan Brenden Bohannon, all it takes is a hand-carved bowl — and an electric current with enough voltage to stop someone’s heart.

If you’ve perused the Jonesborough Visitor’s Center or a local craft fair recently, you’ve probably seen Bohannon’s hand-carved spoons, bowls and cutting boards with small, black, winding burns swirling through the wood grain. But before it became his passion, Bohannon got his start when his mother put him up to the task of electrifying her table.

“My mom was watching this home improvement show and they electrified a coffee table,” Bohannon said. “I came over and watched it and she said, ‘Do you think you could do that and not get killed?” And I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ I found out I really enjoyed it and kind of stuck with it.”

Bohannon can electrify anything made of unfinished, natural wood. His most common projects include hand-craved spoons, cutting boards and bowls. Bohannon said he considers the Appalachian dough bowl with handles his signature piece.

After working with local wood workers to learn how to carve and work with various wood-working tools — and after blowing the leg off of his mother’s table — Bohannon saw that his electrifying hobby could serve as more than just a pastime when a woman bought one of his first pieces on the spot. Since then, he’s sold his work across the world, added his pieces to galleries and most recently, opened the workshop in his backyard to visitors looking to learn how to make their own wood art.

Last year, Bohannon applied to become a Airbnb Experience host, which allows folks from all over tocome and learn about a person’s hobby, skill or trade. After applying on a whim, Bohannon had 64 bookings within five months.

“I only thought one or two people would want to carve a bowl or something, but people are driving from Asheville, Hendersonville, different places,” Bohannon said. “My first booking was a guy who drove nine hours from Florida, came, carved and went back the same night — just to show up and carve a bowl.”

“I think people don’t do it anymore. They don’t make things anymore. So being able to make something tangible and realize that anybody can be artistic, anyone can make something beautiful if they try — I think a lot of people connect to that and they really enjoy that.”

Bohannon has found that carving bowls and electrifying wood at his home nestled at the base of the mountains in East Tennessee is a bit more of an oddity than he might have guessed.

“I think anybody can go to Target and buy a cooking spoon. They see these wooden bowls in places like Pier 1 and they’re like, ‘This is $300 dollars.” Then they find out they can come take a class for less than $100 and make a beautiful bowl that in a lot of ways is a lot sturdier and better built and doesn’t have any harsh chemicals in it. Everything I use as far as finishes are natural finishes.

“Looking at how people who come to my class are from bigger cities and never grew up in Appalachia, to them, someone who carves bowls out in the mountains somewhere, that’s a great adventure. For me, that’s a Monday morning,” he said, laughing. “It’s been really enjoyable getting to meet people from all different walks of life.”

This isn’t Bohannon’s first experience as a teacher or an artist, however; the woodworker taught mixed martial arts and was a dancer before he began carving and electrifying wood. Though the two might initially seem unrelated, Bohannon said he sees the connection between movement art and wood art with each project.

“Movement art was my thing,” Bohannon said. “I danced professionally in a couple of ballets, I have done break dance, I taught mixed martial arts and traditional martial arts. It’s something I really, really loved and enjoyed. I apply all of the muscular control and movement isolation that I learned in mixed martial arts when I’m carving a bowl.

“I’ll lock a hip and move in a certain way and get a very controlled pass and end up with what I wanted. You get very used to feeling minute changes in muscular tension or posture or movement. That same thing applies with the wood. I can feel when the grain in the wood changes. That lets me change where I’m going and move with it and listen to it.”

Woodcarving isn’t the only technique that requires a sort of go-with-the-flow approach; though many artists have found ways to manipulate the electric currents used in electrified wood art, Bohannon believes its best to leave that all up to the current and the wood fibers.

Metal clamps allow the electric current to run through Bohannon’s wood pieces. First, Bohannon floods the wood with a solution before running the current through the wood fibers. Afterwards, he will rinse and lightly scrub the piece to reveal the winding pattern.

“It’s the same with the electrifying. Once I apply the solution and run the electricity, the electricity decides where it wants to go,” he said. “I always flood the entire surface — I want to see where the electricity decides it wants to be. I don’t try to control it. It’s really just letting it do its own thing. Magic happens. It’s like magic every time. It’s amazing, the same with carving bowls.”

There is a bit more risk involved in Bohannon’s main art form these days, however. Bohannon has two machines he uses to electrify his wood pieces. One of those machines operates on 3,000 volts at six milliamps, which Bohannon said is about seven times enough electricity to stop someones heart.

“The only way I use that amp is with wire clamps and I’m from eight to 10 feet away. I give myself some space. I don’t touch the piece when it’s working,” Bohannon explained. “I don’t trust safety switches and safety lights because all those things can fail. My safety switch is the plug being in my hand knowing that it’s unplugged.

“At all times I treat it like a venomous snake and that keeps me safe. Some people don’t do that. There are experienced people who do this that get killed. At any point that you let yourself lapse and you treat it like it’s not the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done, you’re going to get hurt. I teach (guests) my safe method. I tell them this is really dangerous, but we’re going to do this safely and you’re going to create something beautiful.”

Despite the potential danger, Bohannon said what keeps him heading out to his workshop each day is the beauty that is created from the fiery current pulsing through the wood fibers of a picture frame or wooden spoon — that and instilling the sort of satisfaction that comes from working with your hands in each person Bohannon meets.

“It’s never the same. Anytime the current goes into something, it makes something new and beautiful,” he said. “It’s the same with the wood carving. It’s seeing what’s next, seeing what’s going to happen, seeing what each thing turns into. It’s always fun.

“I like getting to share it with people and hearing them say, ‘Oh, I’m going to give this to my husband for his birthday’ or ‘My little boy will think this is really cool.’ I like thinking that people are going to have a piece of my art. Something that I made is going to bring somebody happiness. And that makes me happy.”

Bohannon will be at Jonesborough’s Art in The Park on Saturday, May 11. For more information, you can also visit, or @artisanbowlcarver on Instagram.

‘I am a storyteller’: Guild to celebrate 25th anniversary all year long

Linda Poland

Libby Tipton












[email protected]

Libby Shelton Tipton knows how to tell a story.

“I grew up with deaf parents,” Tipton explained. “So my career has been as a sign language interpreter.”

A Unicoi County native and current resident of Flag Pond, she recognized early on the power of the communicated word.

More importantly, she said, she understood that her Appalachian story was one that needed to be told.

“There was this whole little community that was just plopped down in the middle of the mountains that was so unique,” Tipton said of her childhood home. “I had to be the one to tell my story about my family and that culture of deaf people within Flag Pond.”

Tipton has been a practicing storyteller since 2004, sharing stories not only of her Appalachian home, but also folk tales, fairy tales and historical tales, as well as a special series on domestic violence.

She is also the president of the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild, a regional collection of storytellers that will be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

“We consider ourselves the best kept secret in Jonesborough,” Tipton said with a smile.

Often overshadowed by its bigger, flashier cousin – the International Storytelling Center, with whom, Tipton stressed, they have an amazing collaborative relationship — JSG has been quietly fostering the art of storytelling since 1994.

Formed originally as a way of guaranteeing weekly storytelling performances in Jonesborough throughout the year, the guild has grown from seven to 62 members and has also broadened its impact, all the while maintaining its weekly Tuesday night storytelling performance offerings for the community.

According to founding member Linda Poland, the guild now currently does everything from mentoring to outreach.

“We have so many outreach programs,” Poland said. “ At Franklin Woods. The Crumley House.”

The guild also supports upcoming tellers through grant programs and various mentorships.

That doesn’t mean it has always been easy, said Poland, who first came to storytelling by following her photographer father into the Everglades to listen to stories from the Miccosukee Indians.

“We’ve had our bumps, I’m telling you,” she said of the guild. “There have been four different times that the guild was in such a lull.”

But new blood has continued to keep the guild going, she said — that and its ongoing purpose to bring storytelling to the community.

That’s why the guild is so proud to be celebrating 25 years, members say.

Rebecca Alexander

“One of the things we’re doing for the 25th celebration is have tellers come back who have been a part of our guild at some point, but life took them somewhere else,” said Rebecca Alexander, a JSG member, inspirational storyteller and the chair for the 25th anniversary celebration. These performances will be scattered throughout the year, as will the entire celebration.

But members are especially excited about the event planned for May 7. Set on the day of their regularly scheduled Tuesday performances, the day will feature a dinner planned for 5 p.m. at the Historic Eureka Inn for JSG members, both current and former, prior to the 7 p.m. show,

After dinner, Alexander said, everyone will cross the street to the ISC for a special performance by Joseph Sobol, storyteller, music-maker, folklorist and author, who will be back from Wales to share his tales.

Cost for the performance this and every Tuesday is still just $5 for adults and $3 for students.

This week, May 5-11, has also been proclaimed by the Town of Jonesborough as JSG week.

Other upcoming events as part of the 25th anniversary celebration include:

• JSG’s participation in the Jonesborough Days 4th of July Parade

• An anniversary Tellabration on Sunday, Nov. 17,  from 2-4 at the McKinney Center.

Of course for Alexander, Poland and Tipton, the greatest part of the celebration is continuing to be able share stories and to encourage others to recognize the value of their own stories.

For Tipton, this rings true every morning as she looks in the mirror.

“I was interpreting for a class in the summer institute with Elizabeth Ellis,” said Tipton, who refers to Ellis as “the grandmother of storytelling.”

“She has lots of words of wisdom and guidance for up-and-coming storytellers,” Tipton explained.

Tipton, who was alternating with another interpreter at the event, was sitting in the back of the room when Ellis began to share the tale of a  “Tom,” who would get up each morning, look in the mirror and say “I am a musician. What do I want to do about it?”

The story, Tipton said, “was about that confirmation within yourself about what you want to be in your life.”

Ellis then went on to share that she too gets up every morning, looks in the mirror and says, “I am a storyteller. What am I going to do about it?”

“Cold chills just ran all over my body because I realized, yeah, there are lots of amazing storytellers and everyone has a story to tell even if they are not trained. We all have stories and we tell them every day,” Tipton said. “It was then that I realized that people could not tell my story.”

It was, she said, life changing.

“Now when I doubt,” Tipton said, “I look in the mirror and say, ‘I am a storyteller. . .”

For more information about the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild’s 25th Anniversary Celebration, call (423) 956-7868.

It’s back! Storytelling season’s opening act is Willy Claflin

Willy Claflin, a longtime star of the annual National Storytelling Festival, will be the 2019 storytelling season’s first teller in resident.


After a quiet winter in Jonesborough, the International Storytelling Center is throwing open its doors to welcome visitors for a fresh new season of stories.

The organization, which serves as the seat of the storytelling capital of the world, will host more than two dozen world-class performers through the end of October. Each artist will enjoy a weeklong stay in Jonesborough, offering matinee concerts to the public five days a week.

Willy Claflin, a longtime star of the annual National Storytelling Festival, will be the 2019 storytelling season’s first teller in resident. The eclectic teller is a master of many different forms, including gut-busting tall tales, haunting Old World ballads, and Scandinavian folk tales.

Claflin is perhaps best known for his family stories, which frequently feature his beloved character Maynard Moose. The furry brown puppet, which was originally a gift from a neighbor, is the star of the industry veteran’s signature stories.

“The moose kind of has his own magic,” the storyteller said. “Sometimes I find myself thinking about him as though he’s a real person.”

Claflin’s stories are packed with jokes and sophisticated wordplay, but they also have a clever way of turning child’s play into art. “When I was a kid, all my stuffed animals had adventures. I made them all talk,” he said. “In a way, I’m still doing very much what I did when I was seven years old. It’s really strange, but I feel lucky.”

Tickets for Claflin’s concerts are just $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. While supplies last, season passes are available with a steep discount off the retail price of regular admission.

Exclusive discounts are available to all ticketholders, who can present their ticket stubs for 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. You can also save 10 percent on prepared meals and five percent off any other store purchases at Boone Street market.

Claflin’s appearance is part of ISC’s popular Storytelling Live! series, a program designed to make live storytelling more accessible to the region. Throughout the season, matinees run Tuesday through Saturday, with exclusive evening concerts, children’s shows, and workshops also scattered throughout. Claflin’s residency will run from April 30 – May 4, and all ticket sales are first come, first served. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Claflin will be followed by 25 of the nation’s top storytellers, including Barbara McBride-Smith, Bill Harley, and Rev. Robert B. Jones.

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.

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. 

March Madness: Basketball team picture from 1913

Here is a blast from the past! The 1913 Glendale School Basketball Team is shown left to right: 1. Clyde Campbell; 2. Loyal Painter; 3. Elbert Glover; 4. John Martin; 5. Fred Dickerson; 6. Walter Dickerson; 7. Selmer Campbell; 8. ____ Rector; 9. John Bailey; 10. Dan Campbell; 11. Horace Martin; 12. Joe Cochran. This photo along with another 1913 Glendale photo was donated to the Washington County-Jonesborough Library Vertical File Collection by Phyllis Crain.

An artist’s journey: Students embark on ‘plein air’ adventure

Bill Bledsoe and his students spread across the plaza in Germany, trying to capture the Dome (church) at Magdeburg.



[email protected]

Laurel Adkins now knows what it’s like to walk the path her ancestors have trod.

Just a few short weeks ago, Adkins was able to stand upon the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin, artist tools in hand, as she walked along the area where her great-uncle, Francis Gary Powers, was swapped in the famous spy exchange of 1962.

On the famous bridge in Berlin where the 1962 “transfer of spies” occured with Francis Gary Powell, his great-niece and artist, Laurel Adkins, center, stands with fellow Tusculum students, from left to right, T.J. Minton, R.J. Brooks, Claudia Montes de Oca and Kaitlin Irvin.

“That was my initial goal,” said Adkins, a David Crockett High School graduate and Tusculum art major who recently was able to visit Germany as part of Tusculum’s plein air art seminar. “I got to go to the bridge. I got to cross it and see the plaque where they had the transfer.”

“You can sense the history here.”

It was a history Adkins had often heard about through family stories. Frances Gary Powers, her beloved grandmother’s brother, had been shot down over Russia in 1960, imprisoned, tried and convicted of espionage and then released through a prisoner exchange with the Soviet Union.

“I felt very honored and very privileged,” she said.

But as an artist, she also got the privilege to capture the scene.

It was an eye-opening experience that didn’t belong to Adkins alone; Five students in all were able to attend the seminar, led by Jonesborough’s own local artist and now Tusculum University assistant professor, Bill Bledsoe. 

Bledsoe believes that in one way or another, this relatively short trip to Germany changed each of these students’ lives.

Laurel Adkins’ The Dome at Magdeburg, done with color wash.

“They are like different people now,” he said of the three young women and two young men who were able to travel to Germany during spring break to practice plein air art. “It’s French for outside,” Bledsoe said, explaining the process.

While students can work in plein air art anywhere, he knew traveling to Europe would make a key difference.

“From a college professor’s perspective, what we want to do is pull them out of their bubble,” he said. “And when I take them outside to the campus (to paint), they say, ‘I see that all the time.’

“When you take them out of the bubble and you go to this other place, when they come back they see everything differently. It opens their eyes and it changes everything.”

Kaitlin Irvin’s Brandonburg Gate, with burnt umber wash.

The college and Bledsoe chose Germany in part due to the influence of Harold Morgan, an associate out of Pennsylvania who Bledsoe said is currently working to develop an artist’s institute in Germany. Morgan could not only speak German fluently, but was also an adept guide as Bledsoe and the students explored Dresden, Magdeburg and Berlin.

“We started painting at 7 a.m. in the morning and did not get back to our hotel until 9:30 or 10 in the evening,” Bledsoe said.

“We practiced before we went over there. They had to be able to hold their canvas in their laps with this hand, and have their palate of paint. They had to fit everything they needed in their backpacks.”

Bledsoe said he would stop and say, “‘OK, break it out.’ They just sat out there and they painted and they drew.”

Dutch Station by Claudia Montes de Oca

For students like Kaitlyn Irvin, who lives in Fall Branch, it was also a chance to stretch her own talents for the future. Irvin plans to go into advertising and/or animation, but strongly believes something on which Bledsoe is adamant.

“In Tusculum, we emphasize that regardless of what their specific directive is, they have to be able to paint and draw,” he said, stressing that this is a requirement for anyone who wishes to be an artist, no matter what form that art may take.

“This taught us how to do some artwork in the elements, which I had never done before,” Irwin said. “It was just a great overall experience.”

She said she feels stronger as a developing artist.

“It taught me to always be prepared for anything,” Irvin added. “And that a little bit can go a long way.”

And she was delighted with her first taste of schnitzel.

Irvin is also extremely proud of her artwork and those of her fellow travelers — artwork that will be on display at a special free event to be held Thursday, April 11, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Shulman Center’s Clem Allison Gallery at Tusculum.

For Adkins, this is still a story about family, even as the work from the trip is unveiled Thursday.

“Art is my passion,” Adkins admitted. “It runs in my family.”

Yet it was the memory of standing on that bridge that may stay with her the longest.

Bledsoe remembers the moment with clarity as well. “We went onto that bridge in Berlin where they did the exchange,” he recalled. “We all drew it and painted it. Laurel then brought a poem for her great uncle and inserted it into the rock wall that supports the bridge.”

The poem was written by one great-uncle to another, and Adkins wanted to share it.

“It was amazing to be able to come back to such an important part of my family history,” she said. “I never met Francis. He died in the ‘70s but it kind of felt like he was there.”

For more information about Thursday’s show, please call Bledsoe at (423) 636-7300, ext. 5142.

Woodcarver works to preserve history

Woodcarver Joe Pilkenton shares his stories with audience at the BCHT event.


Associate Editor

[email protected]

People have forgotten history,” Joe Pilkenton said as he began his presentation to the Boones Creek Historical Trust during their March meeting at the Boones Creek Christian Church Chapel. The sculptor and woodcarver of figures of Daniel Boone set up an artist’s display to illustrate to the 40 people present the meaning of his statement.

“When I talk to an audience, I will be asked about my carvings, questions such as ‘Why does that man have a gun or knife?’ ”  Pilkenton said “There is a right way to talk to children about firearms,” he continued. “Fear is one of the worst things you can have in life – especially with firearms.”   

Coming from the coalfields of Southwest Virginia and reared at the head of “Boggs Holler,” the carver said, “I hunted for food, squirrels and rabbits. People today don’t know how to dig to make a living.  How many of them know how to clean a chicken?”

The men the audience was asking about were heroes like David Crockett and Daniel Boone, according to Pilkenton.  He admits that with early memories of coalminers, farmers and moonshiners, “These were not what I wanted to do for a living. Daydreaming and drawing was a different story.”

Before taking up his present pursuits, the artists enjoyed a long and successful career in the graphics design and illustration field.  The personal computer enabled him to discover that it is “Amazing the stuff you can create with the right tools in hand.”

That imagination has carried over into Pilkenton’s current creative work. Growing up in the “Holler,” where roads were so ruddy you had to walk or ride a mule to travel, he learned to whittle from his grandfather. “I watched; he always had something in his hands.  Then I started whittling – Cowboys, Indians and found a rock I could sit on and ride all day as if it was a horse.”

Dressed in a cowboy outfit, including a hat and a coat, today’s master carver started drawing. He said, “I learned how to draw.  I filled books, even napkins with drawings.” 

Today, Pilkenton said, “I still act if I was a child. Now I teach carving to both children and adults.” He started his present carving at night after a day filled with graphic design.  “I was tired,” he said “and it was a release from the stress of the day. 

Describing himself as a “self-taught sculptor, wood carver, illustrator, painter and semi-retired creative director in a Field of Dreams,” he is the owner of Painted Horse Studio in Kingsport.  The studio has been his place of business some 40 years – 1979 to the present day.

His projects have included work on the Kingsport Carousel, a community project that includes 32 wooden riding animals and two chariots, 24 founding boards depicting notable sites within the city and 24 hand-carved “sweep” animals around the top.  Each animal took 800 to 1,000 hours to carve and paint.

Pilkenton carved a white buffalo for the Carousel that weighed 760 pounds.  “I’d never done anything this size,” he said.   He also carved a pinto that is the lead horse of the carousel.

Of the project, Pilkenton stated, “You would be surprised what people can do.” He invited members at the Boones Creek Historical Trust to come to his studio and view the carousel.  He noted that “so many members of the older generation want to ride the carousel.  It is the most fun.  You will not leave without a smile.”

He views as part of his “functions” in life is to help carvers.  He said, “I would start teaching about shadows.  Learning to see a shadow is how to see how carving is done.”

He donated a Boone sculptor to Kingsport that is 14 to 15 feet long with a water feature.

“I’ve found my niche in the entertainment business,” Pilkenton said of his travels to talk and tell people about his occupation of sculptor and carving. He also was a photographer for many years.  Of his talents, he tells people, “Look through the artist’s eyes and you will see things that you have never seen before.  If you stay long enough and look, life is wonderful.”

He suggested, “Look at children playing and look at the trees. I’m a visual storyteller.  I don’t write books.  Art is a different thing.  You look at the detail.  When I start a piece, it is in my head.  I do a sketch and I do research.”

By way of explaining what he does currently, the artist said, “I now have spent a lot of time getting people to think creatively.  I’m worn many hats over the years.  The Hat I wear now reminds me where I came from… where I’ve been and what it took to get me where I am today.  It fits the best!”

The March Historic Trust Meeting featured the “First Homemade Chili Supper” with seven different soups.  An upcoming event of the organization is their 2019 Fundraiser, a Barbeque Supper on May 10 from 4 – 8 p.m. at the Boones Creek Christian Church. 

For details about the Trust and the Dinner, telephone (423) 461-0151.

‘Working on the railroad’: Exhibit spotlights the tools of the trade

The Chuckey Depot in Jonesborough continues to take visitors on a never-ending tour of local railroad history.


Associate Editor

[email protected]

America’s fascination with “working on the railroad” is getting a new look at Jonesborough’s Chuckey Depot.

An exhibit titled “Working On the Railroad” is now on display, showcasing a variety of tools used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to provide maintenance to the nation’s vital transportation system.

On a recent afternoon, Docent Rick Chinouth from Telford said of the exhibit that has been open to the public since Thursday, Feb. 7, “The response to the exhibit has been very positive.”

The largest and the most eye catching artifact in the display is a motor car, also called a speeder. In order to assist in both traveling and transporting equipment, many railroads originally developed handcars which were operated by section crews and other employees. By the early 1900s, many manufacturers of handcars began using gasoline engines to power the vehicles instead of the workers.

These vehicles became known as “speeders” due to their relative speed advantage over the older handcars — 25 to 30 mph versus 10 mph.

The vehicles also allowed workers to save their energy until they were at the actual worksite.

The speeders were eventually replaced with automobiles or trucks affixed with rail wheels which could be lowered onto the track.

The speeder in the Chuckey exhibit was originally located in a maintenance shed of the Norfolk & Western Railroad in Princeton, West Virginia. The N&W is now part of the Norfolk & Southern Railroad which runs through Jonesborough.

The speeder belongs to the Watauga Valley Railroad Museum.

Terry Worley, a Watauga Valley member, restored the car several years ago.

“We’re not sure where the motor car will end up after the exhibit ends in July,” Worley said.

In the meantime, however, “The kids (who visit the Chuckey Depot) love to sit in the motor car.”

In addition to young people including schools groups, adults also enjoy sitting in the railroad vehicle. The car contains a sign that reads, “The Speeder Car is here for your enjoyment. Please feel free to climb inside, but do so at your own risk.”

Jack Maloney from Telford, a docent at the Telford Depot, said,

“The kids love to sit in the seat of the motor car.”

Other activities children enjoy are getting a number of kids to stand on the depot’s freight scale to be  weighed. “The scale [restored to operating condition] is accurate to within three pounds,” he said. “The children also have fun playing ‘Red Light,  Green Light’ with the railroad crossing signal.”

This is the second special exhibit at the Chuckey Depot Museum. A large number of tools were loaned for the exhibit by George Holley, who for many years, along with his wife Margaret, operated the Knob Creek Historical Museum.

“We get a lot of retired railroad employees,” said Jacob Simpson of the Heritage Alliance staff when asked who visits the museum. He added, “We did research on maintenance on the railroad (in preparing the exhibit).”

A railroad tour conducted by Heritage Alliance guides can include a visit to the Chuckey Depot. Special arrangements should be made through the Alliance so that the visit can be scheduled in advance.

Co-sponsor of the exhibit is the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society & Museum (WVRHS&M), a group whose volunteers staff the museum on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Mike Tilley, the president of the WVRHS&M, was present during the afternoon and interested in explaining the depot’s new web cam.

Tilley said, “The cameras are really popular. One visitor told me: ‘I’m from Portland, Oregon and watched the web cameras in Jonesborough. We saw your place on the web cam. I’m moving to Jonesborough.”

The cameras have had 119,694 views since they were installed at the Depot on May 28, 2018. This live stream on Virtual Railfan permits watching trains pass the depot in both directions. The operation is sponsored by the Town of Jonesborough and the Watauga Valley Chapter (WATX) of the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS).

By way of an introduction to the exhibit, visitors are reminded: “I’ve been working on the railroad, All the live-long day…”

A following text then reads:” Most of us are familiar with this American folksong. First published as the ‘Levee Song’ in 1894, the lyrics described a slice of American life. The railroad was an important part of the country, and it needed constant work to keep it operating. Railroad maintenance is hard, dangerous work. Lives depend on tracks that can fully support the weight of the train and cars that can speed along the rail without breaking an axel.”

The exhibit panels go on to explain that displayed are the tools that helped keep trains running in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Included are photographs of the railroad women of Work War II. With men being shipped off to fight overseas, women were hired to work on the railroads. By the beginning of 1944, there were some 116,000 women railroad workers.

There are numerous questions about railroads that the docents and exhibits answer about railroading. For example: How much does a train car weigh?

The answer is: An Amtrak car weighs about 65 tons. One Amtrak train with six cars and one locomotive weighs about 540 tons, or 1.08 million pounds.

A second example is about the heaviest and longest train in United States History. It operated on Nov. 15, 1967 with 500 loaded coal cars weighing over 48,000 tons.

Visitors can visit the exhibit at the Chuckey Depot during museum hours from 1 until 5 p.m. on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sundays. Hours on Saturday are from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Heading to Houston: David Crockett Robotics team advances to world competition

The David Crockett High School Robotics Team clinched a spot at the world championship after placing at the Palmetto Regional in South Carolina. Now the team looks to raise funds to go the Houston Texas for the big showdown.


The David Crockett Robotics Team is headed to Houston.

The Rat Rod Robotics Team 5022 qualified for a world championship competition after placing at the Palmetto Regional FIRST Robotics Competition in South Carolina.

The group teamed up with other teams in the regional competition to clinch a spot in the Houston competition.

Now, the team will be heading to the FIRST World Championship in Houston Texas April 17.

The team will be competing with and against robots from 70 countries.

So far, John Deere has paid the team’s event fee of $5,000. The team’s preliminary cost is around $14,000 to send 20 students and five chaperons to the competition.

The team has been conducting fundraisers for the trip. To see updates and to donate to the team, visit