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Tag Archives: East Tennessee
…with updated exhibits. If you’re interested in learning more about the community that Admiral David G. Farragut called home—site of the infamous disappearing monument—then stop by and pay the museum a visit. Admission is free.
The Knoxville News Sentinel has been celebrating its birthday with a retrospective of notable stories from its century-and-a-quarter-long run. A recent article highlights one of the more colorful episodes in Knoxville history.
On the night of Dec. 13, 1901 two police officers tried to break up a brawl in one of the city’s less reputable establishments and ended up getting shot by one of the participants, who managed to flee the scene despite being beaten over the head withe the officers’ clubs. The shooter was later arrested and subsequently identified as Harvey Logan, alias Kid Curry—one of the most notorious members of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch gang. He had been traveling throughout the country passing off notes taken in a Montana train holdup before his pool hall fight landed him in a Tennessee jail.
Logan’s trial turned into one of the twentieth century’s first legal media circuses, and ended in the summer of 1903 when he managed to snag a jail guard’s neck with a wire and make off with the sheriff’s horse. You can read the full story in the book Harvey Logan in Knoxville by Sylvia Lynch, who happens to be my mom.
The Sentinel article notes that Logan refused to have his picture taken, so the newspaper recruited an East Tennessee artist to visit the jail and produce a sketch to run on the front page. The artist was Lloyd Branson. Loyal readers of this blog might recall that Branson’s name has appeared here before. He painted the famous picture of the Sycamore Shoals muster preceding the Battle of King’s Mountain that now hangs in the Tennessee State Museum and adorns the banner at the top of this site, and he also depicted the battle itself in a painting which burned in a Knoxville hotel fire.
I told my mom about this, and she mentioned that she’d discussed Branson’s sketch of Logan in her book. I pulled a copy off the shelf, and sure enough, there was a picture of Lloyd Branson working on a self-portrait. So when I was a teenager, before I had any inkling that I’d study history, my mom wrote a book about an outlaw who got his picture drawn by Lloyd Branson, and then years later I wrote my thesis about a Revolutionary War campaign which was the subject of two paintings by Lloyd Branson. I then realized that Lloyd Branson stands at the nexus of all that is.
We may be arriving at a satisfactory solution to the Case of the Disappearing Admiral Farragut Monument. The folks in Knox County are working on an agreement that will hopefully make it possible for the marker to be set up somewhere near Farragut’s birthplace.
Security cameras got the whole thing on video. Have a look and see if you recognize this creep. There’s a reward offered for information. We’ve seen far too many examples of this sort of thing in the past year, and potential thieves need to learn that they can’t steal from museums and archives and expect to get away with it.
And if found, could it be headed back to Tennessee? Maybe so.
The property owner wasn’t obligated to put up with trespassers, of course, but handing over the marker to a third party instead of turning it over to the organization that originally dedicated it (and presumably paid for it) struck me as a downright lousy thing to do.
The Knoxville News Sentinel has an article on the “bridge burners,” the Unionist insurgents who tried to wrest control of their homeland away from the Confederates in 1861. The plan was to destroy the railroad bridges connecting East Tennessee with the rest of the Confederacy, and then rise up to join Union forces coming down from Kentucky. They managed to torch some of the bridges, but the Yankees didn’t come. The bridge burners who didn’t manage to escape to Kentucky ended up facing the wrath of Confederate authorities on their own. For some of them, it meant death at the end of a noose.
Here’s some great news from here in East Tennessee. The Russellville home that James Longstreet used as his headquarters during the winter of 1863-64 is now a museum, thanks to the efforts of people who cared enough to make it happen:
Today’s event marks the fulfillment of the longtime dream of Lakeway Civil War Preservation Association, which organized in February 2006 to save the historic house and otherwise preserve Civil War heritage in the area.
The group’s work began after “a developer went to the (Hamblen County) planning commission and asked to rezone the property, tear down the structure and build a small retail store,” said Lakeway’s vice president, Reece Sexton.
Three businesspeople got together, discussed the issue and “we were able to get a loan and buy it,” said Sexton, editor and publisher of the Civil War Courier in nearby Morristown.
Good for them. This is how preservation happens, folks—it starts with putting our time, money, and effort where our mouths are.
The always-readable Knoxville historian Jack Neely weighs in on the disappearing Farragut monument, and considers the wider implications. His assessment is that we East Tennesseans have been pretty lousy stewards of our historic resources, and I heartily agree with him.
“Laws of probability suggest that every privately owned historic site will eventually end up in the hands of someone who doesn’t care much about history,” he writes. “Independent-minded property owners have an advantage over preservationists: one property owner can cancel generations of care. Without some permanent enforceable protections in place, a community will erase its own history.” Of course, “permanent enforceable protections” will mean curbs on doing what we darn well please, which is anathema to a great many people.
I’ve been a conservative for quite a long time, and historic preservation is one of those areas where I often find myself in disagreement with fellow members of my political persuasion. Look, I’m all for a robust conception of property rights. The notion that a man can be told what to do or what not to do with what he owns gets my blood boiling; if you can’t do what you want with your property, one wonders if it’s really your property. But I also believe there is such a thing as responsibility to the common good, and protection of historic resources is very much a part of that common good. Few people ask for the onerous responsibility of stewardship over these resources, but a responsibility is never abrogated just because it isn’t desired.
We conservatives are a rather schizophrenic lot. We cheer when our leaders pose for photo-ops at museums and historic sites to spout platitudes about our heritage, and then we cheer just as loudly when they make decisions that deprive those museums and sites of the resources they need to maintain and share the heritage they invoke. We preach about looking back to our predecessors who sacrificed to secure the freedoms we enjoy, and then we exercise these freedoms by erasing all trace of those predecessors whenever it serves our immediate self-interest.
Oh, we absolutely love to invoke the past, so long as it doesn’t cost us anything.