Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Update on the Newton Whitaker House

In late September, I attended the state review board meeting held in Nashville. I was there to hear the outcome of my NRHP nomination for the Whitaker-Motlow House recently submitted. GOOD NEWS!!! The nomination passed the review board with flying colors and is now on its way to the NRHP national office. I will know in approximately three months the final outcome! Long story short, the house will be listed, it is now simply a matter of time, as I may have to address some updates or clarifications. Congrats to the home owner, Maria Maroney!!
Whitaker-Motlow House, Mulberry

A few new things:
  • Dots on the Map will begin exploring the history of Lynchburg, TN in anticipation of the completion of my new book.
  • Watch for updates and links to my new photography website. I have decided to officially open Red Door Studios asap.
  • I will also be discussing graduate school and my thesis decision (and the process of choosing it!)
  • In the near future I will be starting an internship in Huntsville, AL. Look forward to some history on the historic Twickenham Village!!
  • I want to give a special thanks to the Lincoln County Historical Society for inviting me to speak at last month's meeting and for thier enthusiastic support of my ongoing work. I hope to see them all again in November for an update!
I am looking forward to getting back to regularly blogging. Life has been crazy lately and I haven't been able to do as much as I had wanted. But, hopefully that will begin to change and I can update the site more often.

Friday, July 15, 2011

NRHP Nomination

Well, we have made it to the second round of edits on the National Register Nomination for the Whitaker-Motlow House. Things are looking good! The Historical Commission will be getting back to me on further edits, and the review board will meet in September...keep your fingers crossed that we make it in!!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Whitaker House Nomination

As the process moves forward...

the first draft of the National Register of Historic Places nomination for the Newton Whitaker House is due at the end of May!! Whew! Wish me luck, people!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Newton Whitaker House, cont.

Bob Motlow surveys tornado damage
Before Newton's death in 1878, he sold his house to his son-in-law, R.A. Rees and a cousin of Fayetteville. However, in 1903 the house once again changed hands, this time bought by Mr. Robert Lee Motlow-also known as Bob. Mr. Motlow was a cousin to the famous Lem Motlow, owner of Jack Daniel's Distillery in neighboring Lynchburg. Mr. Motlow resided in the house until his death in the 1950s.
In 1909 a devastating tornado struck the Mulberry area, and according to the local newspaper Bob suffered the greatest property damage in the area. As is seen in these photos, nearly 2/3 of the top story of the Newton Whitaker house was ripped away, leaving the once beautiful home almost unrecognizable.
Another shot of tornado damage
Fortunately, though, Mr. Motlow was a rather wealthy man. As such, he was able to have the house rebuilt exactly as it was before. According to family history, Mr. Motlow hired a crew from Nashville and had them camp on the premises until the house was completely rebuilt. It may seem far-fetched that a house that had sustained such severe damage could be salvaged, but I assure it is true. To this day, the only obvious signs of change are noticed in the variances of brick color on the back portions of the house (as is seen below).
brick variation

Fortunately, for those of us interested in such things, there are some surviving photos from before and after the tornado to give us some great examples of what the earliest versions of the house looked like.
Newton Whitaker House in 1905. Note the taller chimneys before the tornado.

Whitaker House c. 1940s or 1950s.

Whitaker House 2010, post restoration

The Whitaker House has undergone extensive restoration and preservation since the 1980s. In the next post, I will share with readers some photos and descriptions of what such a project requires.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Newton Whitaker House, Mulberry, TN

In December 2010, I presented my senior paper on the Newton Whitaker House, so bear with me as this topic may take several entries to complete. Newton Whitaker, born in Lincoln County in 1816, was the youngest son of John Whitaker and his second wife Nancy Guess. When John died in 1837, he left all nine of his children a modest monetary inheritance, as well as other personal items. At the time of his death, John remained in possession of large land holdings; however, he did not bequeath this land to his children. The reason for this is quite simple: his land was intended to be sold off (except the land upon which his house stood) to repay debts. Nonetheless, Newton purchased 213 acres from his father's estate. It was here that Newton built his beautiful home. Interestingly, the placement of John, Newton, and Mark Whitaker's houses made a large triangle, and were located quite closely to one another. These houses also very likely closely resembled each other in style and appearance. Newton's house is the only one that remains in its original style. As mentioned earlier, John's house burned after the Civil War and was replaced with a wooden structure that likely resembles the original house, but varies somewhat. Mark (John's brother) built a brick Neocolonial/Greek Revival style house; however, a tornado in the 1950s tore away the second story, which was never rebuilt. The house is still inhabited, only now it stands as a one story house. Newton's house underwent serious tragedy as well, but that is a story for a little later on.
For now, we will focus on the early history of the house and it's builder. Newton was a farmer, and for the most part his land produced wheat and corn. Operations were rather small, and he possessed at most seven slaves at one time. In addition to his farming activities, Newton was a business and civic-minded man. He was a member of the Mulberry chapter of the Free Masons, served as a delegate to the Whig Party in 1852, served on the board for the Central Union Railroad, and helped establish the Bank of Shelbyville. His house shows his economic and social standings very well, in terms of architectural styles. It is a blend of the Greek Revival and Italianate styles and was constructed around 1850. The large front pediment, wide cornice line, and white columns are typical indicators of the Greek Revival. However, the brackets located under the cornice line are more indicative of the Italianate design. Nonetheless, this house is rather high style for a provincial estate. But, it is a far cry from the great mansions of the time found in places like Columbia and Nashville. The use of the I-house design is one example of where this stylistically academic house meets the vernacular. Moreover, the use of square columns rather than round exemplifies the need to "cut corners" and save on construction expenses. Regardless of the intermingling of styles, this house is an important element in understanding the middle class in early America.
Newton Whitaker House, c. 1850
Currently, the owner of the house and myself are working to have the house placed on the National Register of Historic Places. After submitting a preliminary nomination to the Tennessee Historical Commission, we were told the house looks promising for a full nomination. Some of the Historical Commission staff came to Mulberry on March 18 and visually inspected the house. We now have the go-ahead to complete the full nomination!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In Memory of Jaleya..Always Loved, Never Forgotten

Dear Jaleya,
I have started to write this so many times, but the words wouldn't come out right. Today has been excruciatingly difficult though, and I no longer care how the words flow. I needed to do this.

Since we lost you my mind has continuously raced. Thoughts of old times and memories from long ago have flooded my mind, and this knot in my stomach just won't let up. Even now as I write this, the tears keep coming. I think of geometry class and the notes you passed me every day, the talks we had and the laughs we shared. I also think about what you wrote me in my yearbook, song lyrics. It drives me crazy that I cannot remember the song and I hate that I don't have any of those things here with me. They are stored away for safe keeping in New Mexico, but I would give anything to be able to read them again. I know we didn't stay in as close of contact as we used to, and it brings me such regret. I know we have talked, but now it seems like it was nowhere near enough.

Your memorial service was beautiful, and I could feel you there with us throughout. We miss you so much, and you affected so many people in such positive ways that you may have never known. I love you and your family like my own, and I don't know how they are making it through their days without you. But, I promise to try to do anything I can to help them. Honestly, the only time I have felt even remotely ok was when we were all together this weekend. You brought us together in a very special way, and for that I truly thank you. After the service, there was a lot of talk amongst us (and you know who I mean) about taking things for granted and spending time with the ones we truly love. Promises were made, and I truly believe they will be kept.

I know you left us too soon, but from our loss has come much inspiration and an outpouring of love. You would be so proud. In the spirit of trying to look on the bright side, those are the things your life and memory have accomplished. In life, you have always inspired me to be a better person and to smile...your smile, that is one of the things I miss the most. They say that only time can heal the pain, but at this point this is still to be determined. I know my heart will always ache when I think of you. And, I am pretty sure that I am going to drive A.J. crazy with all my texting. But, on days like today, the really really hard days, the only way I feel like I can make it through is to know that he is ok and to tell him I love him.

You will always be special, and I think I speak for us all in your extended family when I say that you will ALWAYS hold a very special place in our hearts...Always. If there was anything I could do to bring you back and make everyone's pain go away, you know that I would. I love you, Jaleya, and I wish you peace.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Book Proposal Accepted

I found out yesterday that Arcadia Publishing as accepted my book proposal, and Lynchburg is slated to be released in the summer of 2012. The book will tell the history of Lynchburg through over 200 historic photographs. There is still much work to be done, but I am getting there step-by-step. If anyone knows of any historic photos that they wouldn't mind sharing for publication, please let me know! The images will be scanned and returned to you pronto! Thank you to everyone who has been keeping up with the progress of my new venture, and as promised, I will keep you posted!

Ball Fork Baptist/Mulberry Baptist Church

Mulberry Baptist Church c. 1840

John Whitaker was reportedly a deeply religious man, and when he arrived in Mulberry he held church services in his home until a proper worship house could be built. In 1813, John donated an acre of land for such a structure to be built. Named the Ball Fork Baptist Church, the building stood where the Mulberry Cemetery still exists. The church immediately became an important part of the community, and remains so even today. The original wooden frame church burned at some point before 1840, and a second brick church was built. However, by the point the church was relocated to its current position on the Mulberry "square." As of yet, I have found no photos of the original church, but pictured here is the second edition. When the congregation decided to move the church, they decided not to rebuild in its original location. Instead, the church was moved to the square and renamed the Mulberry Baptist Church. The reason for this move is a likely result of the booming growth of the Mulberry community during the 1830s. Around that time, the Mulberry Male and Female Academy was constructed, and is said to have been one of the finest schools in Lincoln County. Following on the heels of the Academy, many businesses sprang up as well as several other churches. During this era, the 1840s,  Mulberry was home to a blacksmith, a cabinet maker, a restaurant, a post office, several general stores (possibly as many as five), a Methodist Church, a Christian Church, a Cumberland Presbyterian, an undertaker, a bank, as well as several others. What is important to remember is that the bulk of these establishments were only built after the construction of the school and the relocation of the Baptist Church.
 After the Baptist Church was rebuilt, it burned yet again at some point during the ladder part of the century, and was yet again replaced by another structure. Judging by the Gothic Revival influences of the building, it was probably built between 1850 and 1880. This church still stands today; however, some minor changes have been made over the years.

The Mulberry Baptist Church, as you can see, has long played an important role in the community. For me personally, the architectural details of the 1840s version of the church proved pivotal in my attempt to prove the construction date of the house I was primarily writing of (which will be discussed in a later post). When growing up here, I never cared about the historic churches and homes located here. But now, research has given me a reason to admire them and to share my findings with others. Frankly, I think we here in Mulberry are incredibly fortunate to have so many relics of the historical record standing right here in our back yards.

Mulberry Baptist Church, 2010

Mulberry School, 19th century (exact date unknown)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The National Register of Historic Places: An Introduction

For anyone interested in listing historic properties on the National Register of Historic Places, the first place to begin is the official website of the Register. This list is maintained by the National Park Service. At http://www.nps.gov/nr/national_register_fundamentals.htm, readers will find all types of National Register information ranging from the very general to brochures and newsletters describing the specifics of the nomination process.

Also, there is a searchable database of listed properties. However, this research tool is incomplete, and I have found that very few properties have actually been added to the database in full. So, the listing of a property may come up, but there will be no available photos or a copy of the nomination documentation available for viewing. Do not despair though! If you would like information on a specific property, you may contact the state historical commission or SHPO's office (that the State Historic Preservation Officer). For properties in Tennessee, you may visit http://www.tn.gov/environment/hist/. Word of caution; however, this website does not list individual properties. BUT, you may contact the staff at the Commission and they can provide you with the information you need. I have found them to be extremely friendly and helpful...not to mention very passionate about what they do. The Commission also provide preliminary nomination packets for those considering to attempt a nomination. By completing the paperwork within the packet and sending it back to the Commission, the staff will evaluate the property and determine the potential eligibility of a property and can provide and wealth of information and assistance throughout the process.

Here in middle Tennessee, we are very fortunate to also have the Center for Historic Preservation that is "attached" to the Public History department at Middle Tennessee State University, and is overseen by Dr. C. Van West. The center is located in Murfreesboro and provides much useful information about the field of preservation here in our area.

The nomination process for listing on the NRHP can be very difficult, and many people opt to hire a professional or at least someone familiar with the process. Nonetheless, the benefits of listing a property can often times make it worth the effort. In future posts, I will address some of the myths and misconceptions about NRHP listing.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Historic Mulberry, TN: John Whitaker

Pleasant Garden
 The unincorporated town of Mulberry is located within Lincoln County, Tennessee and was initially settled by some of the county's first settlers. Of these pioneers, John "Peg-leg" Whitaker came to the area from Kentucky in 1809. John and his brother Mark were militia soldiers within North Carolina's Salisbury district during the Revolutionary War. The two men left their home of Rowan County, North Carolina and moved to Kentucky in 1784, and are believed to have accompanied Daniel Boone's brother, Squire along the Wilderness Trail into the newly formed state. Upon their arrival in Lincoln County, John immediately set to work establishing Lincoln County and its seat of Fayetteville. Along with a committee of other pioneers, John was appointed by the Tennessee General Assembly to locate and purchase land upon which to establish the town of Fayetteville in 1809. The committee succeeded in their mission by purchasing 100 acres from Ezekiel Norris within the same year. As a result, Lincoln County was established late in 1809 and officially recognized by the state of Tennessee during the General Assembly's early 1810 meeting.
While tackling his civic accomplishments, John was also busy at home. In 1809, land deed records show that John Whitaker purchased some 1,155 acres in the area that was to later become Mulberry. His vast land holding was purchased from Thomas Eastland of Bedford County. When John purchased the land, the area was still officially part of Bedford County; however, shortly thereafter Lincoln County was created and enveloped the Mulberry community. According to the Whitaker family, John immediately built a dog-trot style cabin on his land in order to house his wife and children. Moreover, as a deeply religious man, John held church services in his home until a proper place of worship could be established. This church came into existence in 1813 and will be discussed in greater detail in later posts.
John Whitaker's dog-trot cabin was later encompassed within his Neo-Classical style home which he named Pleasant Garden (pictured here). The original Pleasant Garden was almost certainly constructed of brick; however, a fire in the late 1860s or early 1870s burned Pleasant Garden to the ground. John then rebuilt his beautiful Pleasant Garden as the wooden framed structure we see today. Interestingly, Pleasant Garden has remained within the Whitaker family for more than a century and remains so even today.
John Whitaker was a successful farmer, and spent many years serving the community as a spiritual leader. He greatly helped to plant the seeds of settlement in both Fayetteville and Mulberry. He died in 1837 and is buried in the Mulberry Cemetery. In later posts, I will discuss in greater detail John's church and its service as a community center, bringing various businesses and people into the area. Also, John's son Newton will be discussed as his beautiful brick home stands as a testament to the elegance and functionality of Tennessee plantation architecture.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


The first community to be featured on Dots on the Map will be the town of Mulberry, Tennessee. I have spent a great deal of my life in this historic site, not to mention many hours of intensive research. In the coming days readers will read about a general history of Mulberry, including its founding fathers and significant structures.

The way I foresee this going is that about once a week I will showcase particular sites, structures, and people of Mulberry until I have basically exhausted my limited knowledge of it. From there, we will move on to another community and follow suit. In between these more lengthy posts, I will be sharing tid bits of information with you...things like NRHP info, happenings in the world of archaeology and preservation, etc. And, again, please take the time to leave comments and initiate discussion. Or, if you'd like, post ideas for future presentations. Enjoy!

Friday, January 7, 2011

It Has Only Just Begun

Dots on the Map is a way to share my interest and passion for history and photogrpahy. I live just outside the smallest county in the state of Tennessee, Moore County. Lynchburg is the home of Jack Daniel's Distillery...it's primary claim to fame. However, many people do not know the often untold or publicized histories of local people, buildings, and places. Starting with my immediate area, this blog will attempt to tell those stories, and will hopefully expand out into other small towns throughout the county. These small peices of the historical record are disappearing every day; laid to rest by the fast-paced and high tech world that is evolving around us. I vow to do my part to bring awareness to my followers of the rich histories that are present around us and to do my best to create a living legacy of those who came before.

I always welcome input from followers and would like to keep this blog as interactive for this community as possible. So, without any further ado, please join me in my cause and together we can bring history to life in our contemporary lives!