Area Sights

Historical Places

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The South Cumberland Plateau is rich with historical places, buildings and sights. From railroads, to coal mining towns, to wars, this area has it all.
There are lots of great resources to get your started on your visit to the South Cumberland Plateau sights including
Beersheba Springs Historical Society, Franklin County Historical Society, Grundy County Historical Society, Grundy County History, Grundy County Swiss Historical Society and the University of the South Archives.
Other great resources are the
National Register of Historical Places and Tennessee Preservation Trust.

Do you have a place you like to visit? If so, let
us know.
Coke Oven photo by Ben Beavers.

Abbo’s Alley

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Garden | Sewanee
This is the sight of the first water sources found (springs) for Sewanee. Abbo’s Alley is a ravine garden on the Sewanee campus. The name honors Abbott Cotton Martin, a professor of English at Sewanee for more than 40 years and a self-taught gardener who adopted the ravine, probably during the 1930s. The Friends of Abbo’s Alley is a group of community volunteers who provide equipment, supplies and labor to maintain the garden.

Army of Tennessee, July 4, 1863

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Historical Marker | Sewanee
“Here, and extending 2 miles S.W., occurred the last battle of the Middle Tennessee Campaign. Protecting Bragg’s withdrawal, Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler, with Texas Rangers and the 4th Tenn. Cav., repulsed an attack by the 5th & 6th Ky. Cav., under Col. Lewis Watkins, screening advance of Rosecrans’ Union forces.” Photo by Messenger Staff

Beersheba Springs Historic District

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National Register of Historic Places | Beersheba Springs
Beersheba Springs was incorporated in 1839 as a summer resort. The town and the spring were named for Beersheba Porter Cain, the woman who discovered the chalybeate spring 1833. The acquisition of the property in 1854 by Colonel John Armfield, a Louisiana slave trader, ushered in a period of intense development that gave the mid-nineteenth century cottage community its present flavor and layout. He built a new luxurious hotel, which was constructed, along with the cabins and grounds, to accommodate four hundred guests. During the Civil War, the Beersheba Springs Hotel sold to the Northern investors. Though the resort reopened in the 1870s, it never recaptured its former glory. The United Methodist Church acquired the Beersheba Springs hotel in 1941, to use it for assembly and summer camp. In 1980, the historic district of the town was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Ben Beavers

Convocation Hall

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Historic Places | Sewanee
Convocation Hall (1886) was originally planned for convocations of the University and for meetings of the senate and board of trustees. It served as a library from 1901 to 1965. Breslin Tower, donated by Thomas and Elizabeth Breslin, houses a Seth Thomas clock and chimes given by The Rev. George William Douglas. The tower also houses Sewanee’s Bentley Bells, which were made possible by a gift from Mrs. Donne Bentley Wright of Chattanooga. These English change-ringing bells were cast at Whitechapel Bell Foundry of London, England, which was also responsible for Big Ben and the Liberty Bell. Photo by Ben Beavers

Cumberland Mountain Tunnel

National Register of Historic Places | Cowan
Construction of the tunnel began in 1849 and was completed in 1852. Track was laid in 1853. The railroad was fully functional in 1855. The railroad was part of the McMinnville-Chattanooga stagecoach line. This tunnel was important for coal transportation, logging transportation and a strategic location for both Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War.

Falls Mills

National Register of Historic Places | Old Salem
A historical marker in Old Salem, on Hwy 64. “1.2 miles north. In 1810, this was a leading cotton-producing region. The brick building, built around 1825, housed a thread mill, which utilized the water power of Bean’s Creek. It operated sporadically until about 1890. (Marker Number 2E 33.)” Today the water wheel powers millstones that grind cornmeal, flour, and grits. They have one of the largest waterwheels still operating in the country. The Falls Mill Museum traces the varied past of the beautiful old factory.

Forrest’s Murfreesboro Raid

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Historic Marker | Altamont
A historical marker on Route 56. “Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s brigade, having left Chattanooga July 9, bivouacked here enroute to his capture of Murfreesboro. The Brigade then consisted of the 8th Texas Cavalry (Wharton), 2nd Georgis Cavalry (Lawton), and Woodard’s Kentucky Cavalry Battalion. The 2nd Georgia Cavalry Battalion (Morrison), leaving Kingston, had orders to join him at McMinnville.” Photo by Ben Beavers

Gager Lime Manufacturing Company Mine Building

Historic Place | Sherwood
This industrial site was built in 1892. It is unique, in that the buildings look like a castle. The buildings have been condemned. On the 2002 “Ten in Tennessee” endangered properties listing, from the Tennessee Preservation Trust.

Gruetli

Historical Marker | Gruetli-Laager
“Apparently named for a commune in the canton of Giarus, Switzerland, it was founded by Peter Staub, native of that locality, and 100 Swiss families who bought land here, on April 11, 1896. Since 1880, normal increases in population and the desire for self-betterment have driven many inhabitants to neighboring cities.”

Grundy County

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Historical Marker | Pelham
“Established 1844: named in honor of Felix Grundy of Virginia. Chief Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court; Rep. in Congress from Tenn. 1811-1814. US Senator 1829-38. Attorney Gen. in President Van Buren’s Cabinet. At the time of his death in 1840, he was again a US Senator.” Photo by Ben Beavers

Hundred Oaks Castle

National Register of Historic Places | Winchester
Construction on Hundred Oaks Castle began in 1830. Benjamin Decherd, the railroad tycoon for whom the town of Decherd, Tennessee, is named, originally built it as a plantation farmhouse. The property was purchased in the 1860’s by Albert Marks, the 21st governor of Tennessee and a relative to Thomas Jefferson. It is said that Albert’s son Arthur counted the gracious oak trees that dotted the plantation land and came to the sum of 100, hence the name “Hundred Oaks.” After year’s of neglect and a fire, the Kent Bramlett Foundation has renovated the Hundred Oaks Castle.

Lone Rock Coke Ovens

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Historic Marker | Tracy City
“The Tennessee Coal and Iron Company in 1883 built 120 coke ovens 6 miles east to help supply its growing iron works. The company contracted with the state, and convicts worked the ovens until 1896. On August 13, 1892, Tracy City miners, who opposed the use of convict labor, burned the stockade and put the convicts on a train and sent them back to Nashville as had been done in Anderson County, Tennessee in 1891.” Photo by Ben Beavers

Marugg Stagecoach Inn

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National Register of Historic Places | Gruetli-Laager
The inn was constructed around 1875 by Christian Marugg, an early Swiss settler and served as both a residence for the Marugg Family and an inn for travelers along the McMinnville-Chattanooga stagecoach line. It is located in Gruetli-Laager as a private residence, and is on to the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Grundy County Historical Society.

Melchior Thoni Jr

Historic Marker | Gruetli-Laager
“One of the original Swiss settlers of Gruetli in 1869, Melchior Thoni becomes one of the most famous woodcarvers of Tennessee, executing carvings in the old Governor’s Mansion and the altar of Christ Church in Nashville. About 1880, among his many sculptural enterprises Thoni designed and carved the first wooden animals to stand upon a “Flying Jenny” (merry-go-round) in Tennessee.”

Shapard Tower

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Historic Place | Sewanee
“Shapard Tower, standing 134 feet tall, is found to the south side of the chapel. It was designed after the tower at Saint Mary the Virgin, the university church of Oxford, England. It houses the 56-bell Leonidas Polk Memorial Carillon. It was donated by W. Dudley Gale III, a descendant of Bishop Polk, bishop of Louisiana, lieutenant-general in the Confederate Army and a key figure in the founding of the University of the South.” Photo by Ben Beavers

The University of the South

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Historic Marker | Sewanee
“Founded Jan. 6, 1858, under charter granting perpetual direction by the Episcopal Church in Ala., Ark., Ga., La., Miss., N. Car., S. Car., Tenn., and Texas. Nearby, Leonidas Polk, Bishop of La., later Lt. Gen., C.S.A., laid the cornerstone for the central building, October 10, 1860. Destroyed by Federal troops, in July, 1863.” Photo by Isabel Butler

All Saints' Chapel

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Church | Sewanee
The groundbreaking for All Saints’ Chapel took place in 1904. Construction began in 1905. In 1910, a wooden floor and ceiling were installed to make the chapel available for use. It was not until 1957, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the University, that Vice-Chancellor Edward McCrady initiated the completion of the chapel. Using architect Ralph Adams Cram’s original plans and designs created by McCrady, construction began again and the chapel was completed by July 1959. McCrady’s designs were inspired by numerous architectural masterpieces. The tower is primarily based upon that of the University Church at Oxford University, England known as Saint Mary the Virgin. The vaulted ceilings are designed principally from the models of the medieval French cathedrals Chartres and Amiens. The rose window is based upon that of the south transept of Notre Dame de Paris in France. Today All Saints’ Chapel continues to represent the geographical and symbolic center of campus. Photo by Ben Beavers

Beersheba Inn

Historical Marker | Beersheba Springs
A historical marker located on highway 50. “1/4 mile southeast. In 1837 several log structures were built and later joined together. Later buildings of handmade brick were added. Enlargement to present form was made by Col. John Armfield in 1857. In antebellum days the courtyard was the scene of varied diversions and activities, including holding of missionary services by Episcopal Bishops Otey and Polk.”

Coalmont Bank Building

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National Register of Historic Places | Coalmont
The Coalmont Bank Building (also known as Sewanee Fuel & Iron Company Building) is the City Hall and also houses the local library for the town. Located on Tennessee State Route 56, this building was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1991. The Coalmont Bank Building was built in the very early 1900s. Photo by Grundy County Historical Society.

Cowan Railroad Museum

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Historic Places | Cowan
A historical maker in Cowan on Cumberland Street. “Built in 1904, the Cowan Railroad Depot handled travelers bound for Nashville and Chattanooga, as well as Sewanee and the Cumberland Plateau, until it closed in 1971. In 1976 the depot was moved from Tennessee Avenue to its present location, now housing the Cowan Railroad Museum.”
The depot is on the National Historic Register. Photo by Messenger Staff

Edmund Kirby Smith Marker

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Historic Figures | Sewanee
“He was a career United States Army officer and educator. He served as a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, notable for his command of the Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederacy after the fall of Vicksburg.
Postwar career:
After the war, Smith was active in the telegraph business and education. From 1866 to 1868, he was president of the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company. When that effort ended in failure, he started a preparatory school in Newcastle, Kentucky. In 1870, he combined efforts with former Confederate general officer Bushrod Johnson and became president of the University of Nashville. In 1875, he left that post to become professor of mathematics at the University of the South at Sewanee from 1875 to 1893. At the time of his death in Sewanee, he was the last surviving man who had been a full general in the war. He is buried in the University Cemetery at Sewanee.” Photo by Ben Beavers

Fiery Gizzard

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Historic Marker | Tracy City
“Nearby, in the early 1870’s, a crude experimental blast furnace was built by Samuel E. Jones for the Tennessee Coal and Railroad Company. Called “Fiery Gizzard,” the furnace was to determine if coke burned from local coal was of suitable quality for making iron. The furnace produced only fifteen tons of iron before the stovepipe fell on the third day of operations. However, the moderate success at Fiery Gizzard contributed heavily to the development of the iron industry
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in Tennessee and the South, and to the development of the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company (now a division of United Sates Steel) into the South’s largest steel producer. The parent organization of the Tennessee Coal and Railroad Company was the Sewanee Mining Company, whose president, Samuel Tracy, donated five thousand acres of land, one million board feet of lumber, twenty thousand tons of free transportation, and two thousand tons of coal to the founding of The University of the South at Sewanee.” Photo by Ben Beavers

Goshen Cumberland Presbyterian Church

Historic Marker | Winchester
“1 ½ mi. S.E. on the Boiling Fork of Elk. Oldest church in Franklin County. Founded 1808 by the Alexander, Cowan, Keith, McCord, Weir, and other pioneer Scots-Irish Presbyterian families. First Presbyterian congregation in Tennessee to transfer to the Cumberland Presbytery after the organization in 1810. Site of first camp meeting sponsored by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.”

Highlander Folk School

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Historic Place | Summerfield
Founded in 1932 by activist Myles Horton, educator Don West, and Methodist minister James A. Dombrowski, it was originally located in the community of Summerfield.
Highlander provided training and education for the labor movement in Appalachia and throughout the Southern United States. During the 1950s, it played a critical role in the American Civil Rights Movement. It trained civil rights leader Rosa Parks prior to her historic role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, as well as providing training for many other movement activists including the members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Septima Clark, Anne Braden, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Bevel, Rosa Parks, Hollis Watkins, Bernard Lafayette, Ralph Abernathy and John Lewis in the mid- and-late 1950s. Backlash against the school’s involvement with the Civil Rights Movement led to the school’s closure by the state of Tennessee in 1961. It reorganized and moved to Knoxville, Tenn., where it reopened. It later became the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, Tenn. Photo by Grundy County Historical Society.

Mabee House

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National Register of Historic Places | Monteagle
The stone house was built around 1911. It was also Al Capone’s “half way” house on his travels from Chicago to Miami. It is now the location of High Point Restaurant.

Mary Noailles Murfree

Historic Marker | Beersheba Springs
“Described as “Tennessee’s foremost woman writer of fiction.” she used the pen name Charles Egbert Craddock for over thirty years. The Tennessee mountains and the Civil War were used as the settings for her novels and short stories, and she gathered material during summers spent here in her youth and early adult years. Her first major work was published in 1878, and she continued to write until 1914.”

Monteagle Sunday School Assembly

Historic Place | Monteagle
Monteagle Sunday School Assembly is a Chautauqua established in 1882.

Rebel’s Rest

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Historic Marker | Sewanee
“Here, before the War Between the States, stood the frame residence of Bishop Leonidas Polk of Louisiana, a principal founder of the University of the South. Here were built in 1866 the first two log cabins of postwar Sewanee by Bishop Charles T. Quintard and Major George R. Fairbanks. In the latter were held the meeting of the trustees in 1866 and founding of the EQB Club in 1870.” Photo by Isabel Butler

Shook House

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National Register of Historic Places | Tracy City
Col. A.M. Shook was the second vice president of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company. The house is on the National Register of Historical Places for industry and architecture. It is a private residence. Photo by Grundy County Historical Society.

Desegregation of Franklin County Public Schools

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Historic Marker | Sewanee
“Nine years after Brown v. Board of Education, eight local families initiated a lawsuit to compel Franklin Coounty to desegregate the public school system. The plaintiffs included the Bates, Cameron, Camp, Goodstein, Hill, Sisk, Staten, and Turner Families. They were represented by Nashville attorney Z. Alexander Looby and Jack Greenburg, Constance Baker Motley, and James M. Nabrit of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The case was successful, and in 1964 the U.S. District Court issued an order to desegregate the schools. This lawsuit was notable in that in involved both white and African-American plaintiffs.
The Sewanee community raised funds to add four new classrooms to the Sewanee Public School, located at this site, thus eliminating the argument that there was insufficient space to educate all of the community’s children together. Additionally, during the summer of 1964, Sewanee residents offered tutoring across the street at Otey Parish. This effort countered a second argument that Africa-American children would not be adequately prepared to join their white classmates.

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