By JOHN KIENER
The Town of Jonesborough will be holding a ribbon cutting for WC Rowe Park and the Chuckey Depot Museum on Monday, Oct. 2 at 11 a.m. at 110 South Second Avenue.
WC Rowe Park is named in honor of WC Rowe, a life-long resident of Jonesborough and the area, who made great contributions to the Town of Jonesborough. He constantly worked on a positive partnership between the Town of Jonesborough and Washington County, spending countless hours improving the quality of life in Jonesborough and the County.
Former County Executive George Jaynes said this about Rowe, “He was a very excellent person and a fine commissioner. I miss him more than anybody.” He said Rowe helped with a number of county building projects, including the Washington County Justice Center and Detention Facility.
Fellow commissioner Pat Wolfe said his earliest recollection of Rowe were trips with his father to Rowe Poultry. “It was located up the creek from where the depot was. WC’s father Roy ran the business.”
Wolfe remembered Rowe as a community leader and a talented athlete as well as someone who could talk all the time. “We were in a 16 to 40 age baseball team league. He would hit at least one home run a game clear out into the cornfield.” He described Rowe as a “good county commissioner” with whom he served three terms. “Rowe had good ideas,” Wolfe said. “He did a good job. I’m glad to see the park named after him.”
For McKinney Center Director Theresa Hammons, the ribbon cutting will be the conclusion of a five-year project. The depot’s original home was just down the road in Chuckey and now sits within WC Rowe Park in Jonesborough. Built on the railroad’s right of way in Chuckey, the depot was threatened with demolition. Due to railroad policy, the building could not stay in its original location.
The depot was privately owned by the Babb family who requested that the building be relocated to Jonesborough. The Town of Jonesborough was eager to have the structure. Jonesborough discussed the possibility of creating a railroad museum because the Town was instrumental in bringing the railroad into East Tennessee. The Chuckey Depot created a perfect venue for such a museum.
Hammons is a member of the Chuckey Depot Advisory Board. She said, “One of the exciting things about the depot is that we have artifacts that came out of the depot. We are excited to show them to the public.”
She explained that the job of moving the Depot from Chuckey to Jonesborough was a meticulous task undertaken by the Town of Jonesborough and the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, beginning in August 2011. The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society also partnered in the project, providing the restoration of a red caboose which sits adjacent to the depot in addition to numerous artifacts and photos.
Watauga Valley, the Town and the Heritage Alliance have been in charge of overseeing the process of developing the museum to interpret the use of the depot when it was in Chuckey, as well as the history of the railroad in Jonesborough.
The project has also been assisted by a museum studies class from Tusculum College. Intern Alex Rolison has spent many hours assisting the project under the direction of faculty advisor Peter Noll. As many as 20 students from the college have worked by providing their labor, permanent text preparation and cleaning of artifacts for the museum interior.
Parks and Recreation Director Rachel Conger said a great deal of credit for the depot’s dismantling and later reconstruction goes to members of the Carter County Work Camp. In the process of planning the program, Conger said she hopes a representative of the group will be present and speak at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
For more information about the ribbon cutting celebrating the contributions of WC Rowe to Jonesborough and the opening of the Chuckey Depot Museum on Monday, Oct. 2 at 11 a.m., call (423)791-3869.