Historians and History Buffs share Historical Insights at Smyrna History Event


Smyrna, Tenn- The Smyrna History Series kicked off last Saturday morning at the Smyrna Outdoor Adventure Center. Many local historians and history buffs shared their insight of local history. The event was hosted by Smyrna Historian Marty Luffman and Tennessee State Representative Mike Sparks. Frank Caperton with the Rutherford County Historical Society was in attendance and instrumental in helping to put the event together which was a crowd of close to 70 residents. The event speakers included Mitch Tinney, Ginny Williams, Historian Frances Crick Victory-Oldham, Greg Bowers, Admiral Jimmy Taylor, Rutherford County Historian Greg Tucker and Sam Davis Memorial Association Board member James Patterson.

Photos courtesy of Kedric Rutz
Rutherford County Historic Society advocate Frank Caperton encouraging patrons to join the society for only $25: For more info visit http://rutherfordtnhistory.org/

Photo of Mitch Tinney, Courtesy of Frankworks

Local Smyrna resident Mitch Tinney started off the series with a discussion of his great-great grandparents, the Moore family and owning the farm located behind the former K Mart off Lowry Street. Mitch first moved to Smyrna when he was 7-years-old. Smyrna and Rutherford County residents may be familiar with Moore Avenue in Smyrna which runs between Captain Ds restaurant and Woodfin Funeral Chapel of Lowry Street. Mitch said the driveway to the old home was located on Mapleview Street. Many may be familiar with the road which goes across Harts Branch creek and connects to Sam Davis Road.  The road would often flood over in heavy rains.


Photo of Ginny Williams, Courtesy of Frankworks

Speaker Ginny Williams, owner of Gils Ace Hardware and Smyrna’s first female councilman discussed the old Sewart Air Force Base and her father’s vision in constructing the original Gils Grocery store just outside of the former military base off Jefferson Pike and the old J.S. Young Road which is now known as Nissan Drive.

Photo of U.S. Air Force Sgt. Gil Olerud

Francis Crick Victory-Oldham, who is 84-years-young was instrumental in helping to restore the Templeton Grove Cemetery located off of Florence road. She also discussed historic marker for the Enon Springs Meeting House and thanked all those involved including Trish and Dr. Bill Nash, Rutherford County Commissioner Robert Stevens, Marty Luffman, Sen. Dawn White, Rep. Mike Sparks and others for their involvment. She credited Smyrna Ready Mix owner Jeff Hollingshead with donating $4000 to help restore the old cemetary and thanked Smyrna officials and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. Several gathered last year in the 42-degree air in December of 2018 to celebrate a structure long forgotten except by the most enthusiastic local historians.

Photo courtesy of Frankworks.

Pictured: Rep. Mike Sparks, Smyrna Councilman Racquel Peebles, France Crick Victory-Oldham, Smyrna Historian Marty Luffman, Rutherford County Historian Greg Tucker and Smyrna Councilman Steve Sullivan.


Photo courtesy of Frankworks.

Photo of Frances Crick Victory-Oldham made use of her incredible energy and dedication to raise funds and place a marker from the Tennessee Historical Commission at the intersection of Smyrna’s Enon Springs Road and Florence Road.

The ‘Enon Meeting House’ was constructed by enslaved persons owned by John Nash Read in c1810 on land owned Read. Read later deeded the two acres to the Baptist Church, known as the Enon Springs Baptist Church.

Enon Springs Baptist Church was member of the Concord Baptist Association. Enon Springs Baptist Church was the forerunner to Smyrna’s First Baptist Church, today known as LifePoint Baptist Church. Frank Caperton, president of the Rutherford County Historical Society, “Francis Oldham is proof how one person can make a difference when preserving and promoting our local history,” Caperton said.

Pictured: James Patterson and Greg Bowers, Courtesy of Frankworks.

Local Smyrna history buff Greg Bowers spoke of his late father who was stationed at Sewart Air Force Base and the great times he had growing up in Smyrna when everyone knew everyone. “The Town of Smyrna has done an exceptional job with the Parks And Recreation Department and when I think of all the Parks we have now, it makes me thankful for the dedication that Tom Sage, H.G. Cole , and many others put in to it to make it what it is today. If we played basketball when I was growing up, it was in somebody’s driveway,” Bowers said.

Greg Tucker and Marty Luffman: Photo courtesy of Frankworks


Rutherford County Historian and author of four books Greg Tucker talked about the lack of truth when it comes to discussing history and that there is often a false narrative when it comes to stories of history, especially the story of General Nathan Bedford Forrest. “Do you know who was the forerunner of the civil rights movements? It was General Nathan Bedford Forrest,” Tucker said.

Jimmy Taylor

Admiral Jimmy Taylor

Smyrna resident and retired Navy Admiral Jimmy Tayler discussed his military experience and folks he had met over the years including George Bush senior and junior, Bob Hope, Elizabeth Taylor and others over the years.

Admiral Taylor talked about the United Nation’s visit in 1976 by the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kurt Waldheim, his wife and the Permanent Representatives (Ambassadors) of all member States of the United Nations.  The Nashville Chapter, in cooperation with The Honorable Ray Blanton, Governor of Tennessee, hosted the event, which, as stated by Governor Blanton, was “an act of friendship, hospitality and goodwill.”  He spoke of the great influence that Edward G. Nelson, President of Commerce Union Bank had on Tennessee and recruiting the Datsun Truck plant, what we know now as Nissan North America to our state with the direction of Governor Ray Blanton.

“This is an historic occasion.  For the first time the Secretary General and the Permanent Representatives to the United Nations visit the capital of one of the fifty states of the United States of America.
Through this meeting, the people of Tennessee acknowledge the common links of Americans with people throughout the world.  And the men and women who have come here, representing the governments and peoples of their nations, affirm their common destiny with us.  We live in an age in which our lives – indeed our hopes for peace, security and economic and social progress – have become increasingly intertwined.
The United Nations is both a symbol of our interdependence and our most universal instrument for common progress.  Through its work we seek worldwide cooperation on problems involving our security, world trade, food production energy, health, environment, use of the sea, transportation and communications.  These problems transcend national boundaries.
As a founding member of the United Nations more than 30 years ago, the United States remains firmly committed to the fundamental principles of the Charter – that peaceful cooperation should replace force and intimidation.  We believe that with good will, patience, and mutual understanding, we can work with others to shape a more peaceful, prosperous and humane world – in which all nations and people have a stake.
I would like to express my special admiration for Governor and Mrs. Blanton and for the people of Tennessee, whose hospitality and cooperation have made this historic visit possible. This is a welcome innovation in American diplomacy.”
Statement of Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State, 1976
Source: https://www.una-nashville.org/about/nashville-cordell-hull-chapter/history/

Photo of James Patterson:Facebook
The last, but not least of the speaker was James Patterson. James is a local civil war history buff, member of the Sam Davis Memorial Assocaition and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp #33.  James spoke of the historic raid on the Rutherford County Courthouse by General Nathan Bedford Forrest which saved the lives of many prominent civilians. Below is an article written by Mike West, editor of the Murfreesboro Post printed July 7, 2007.

“Sunday, July 13, 1862 was an important day for “Murfreesborough.” Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest came knock, knock, knocking on the Rutherford County Courthouse door and liberated a number of citizens who were facing the hangman’s noose.
Sunday, July 13, 1862 was an important day for Murfreesborough. Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest came knock, knock, knocking on the Rutherford County Courthouse door and liberated a number of citizens who were facing the hangmans noose. It was an important day for Forrest as well. It was his 41st birthday and he celebrated with the first independent victory of his controversial military career. Forrest, who was born in nearby Chapel Hill, has been both been mythicized and demonized by history. To followers of the Lost Cause, Forrest was a brilliant commander who would have won the war for the Confederacy, if only he had been placed in charge. To his detractors, Forrest was a racist responsible for the worst massacre of the Civil War and is still vilified for founding the Ku Klux Klan. Naturally, the truth lies somewhere between. Forrests raid on Murfreesboro displayed his military genius at his best. Unlike many of the commanders on both the Union and Confederate sides, Forrest did not have any formal military training. He wasnt a Mexican War veteran and he only had a sixth-grade education, but he was the only man on either side to enter the war as a private and rise to the rank of lieutenant general. He was instead, a natural tactician who had an eye for the terrain and was the anthesis of West Point trained officers who were restrained by tradition and who judged their chances for success solely on the strength of numbers. “In his first fight, northeast of Bowling Green, the forty year old Forrest improvised a double envelopment, combined it with a frontal assault-classic maneuvers which he could not identify by name and of which he had most likely never heard, ” wrote historian Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative. During the raid on Murfreesboro, Forrest was to display even more creative military moves. He took the town through a mixture of bravado, deception and aggression. The Setting Murfreesboro, with a population of nearly 4,000, was an important transportation hub on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, which had gone into service on Feb. 11, 1854. Completion of the railroad cut the travel time between Nashville and Chattanooga from 22 hours by stage to nine hours by rail. Eleven major roads radiated from town, a number of them were macadamized (paved with compressed stone binded by tar.) Completion of the railroad also boosted property values in Murfreesboro as well as attracting new, successful businesses. Despite these developments, agriculture was king in Rutherford County. On April 27, 1862, Union forces began to march on Murfreesboro as part of orders from Washington D.C. to secure and repair the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad. The Union troops headquartered there spent their time on picket duty and in training. Generally, the townspeople were less than friendly and troops became the target of catcalls and the occasional stone. Despite a fear of attack, the Union leadership in Murfreesboro did nothing to unify its forces or to develop any fortifications. The jail and Courthouse on the Square became their headquarters. Trouble intensified when the Yankees began to raid area farms and mercantile stores. In a number of cases, if farmers or shopkeepers resisted, they were placed under arrest by Federal troops in either the jail or courthouse. By early July 1862, at least 12 prominent citizens were being held. Prime property like Oaklands plantation, owned by Lewis and Rachel Maney, was being occupied by Union troops. Michigan troops, under the command Col. William Duffield of the 9th Michigan, were camped on the front lawn of Maneys home. Meanwhile, the Confederate army learned of Union plans to push through Middle Tennessee in an effort to relieve the Unionist communities in the eastern portion of the state. Cavalry raids were ordered to disrupt the lines of communications for the Union forces which where then under the command of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Bell, who was eventually replaced by Gen. William S. Rosecrans. Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest was ordered on June 11, 1862 to go to Chattanooga by Gen. Pierre Beauregard. Forrest was still recovering from a serious wound he sustained just after Shiloh. As the Rebels retreated to Corinth, Forrest and his cavalrymen covered the rear where they encountered the 4th Illinois cavalry and two brigades of infantry commanded by Gen. William T. Sherman. Forrest charged, throwing the Union troops into disarray. Forrest was seriously wounded when he found himself surrounded by Federal reserves. Forrest was not allowed to take his regiment to Chattanooga, but he was permitted to pick several officers and 20 men as his escort, which was placed under command of his brother, Capt. William Forrest. Once in Chattanooga he added the 8th Texas Cavalry Terrys Rangers to his brigade. Commanded by Col. John A. Wharton, Terrys Rangers were a hardy group of cowboys from the cattle ranches of Texas. Two Georgia units under command of Col. J.K. Lawton and Col. James J. Morrison were also added along with 100 Kentuckians, who had previously served with Brig. Gen. Benjamin H. Helm, President Lincolns Confederate brother-in-law. He departed East Tennessee with the Texas Rangers and the 2nd Georgia Cavalry on July 9, making a forced ride of nearly 50 miles to Altamount. After resting a night at Altamont, the troopers headed for McMinnville where they were joined on the 11th by Morrisons cavalry and two companies of Tennessee troops and the 100 Kentuckians. Now totaling some 1,400 men, the unit departed for Murfreesboro on June 12, only stopping to feed horses and men late that night in Woodbury. A state historic marker Forrest Rested Here, marks the stop on the eastern side of Woodbury. There Forrest was approached by many of the female residents of Woodbury who informed the colonel that most of the towns men had been taken prisoner the previous night by Union troops who charged them with giving aid to the Confederate army. While briefly resting in Woodbury, Forrest reassured the women that their men would be home the following night. He told his troopers July 13 was his 41st birthday and that they would celebrate by a victory in Murfreesboro. By this time, his scouts had informed the cavalry commander that Murfreesboro was occupied by the 9th Michigan and 3rd Minnesota infantry, a portion of the 7th Pennsylvania cavalry and an artillery battery consisting of four cannons. The Confederates rode the 18 miles to Murfreesboro, arriving at the outskirts of town at about 4:30 a.m. Using deception, Forrests vanguard took out the 15 Union pickets without a shot being fired by pretending to be part of the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry arriving for duty. The cavalry surrounded the Union soldiers and took them prisoner with drawn pistols. No shots were fired and no alert was given. Colt Navy revolvers were the preferred weapons of the Confederate troopers along with shotguns, which gave them a definite advantage in firepower in close combat situations. Forrest didnt like sabers, believing them to be a rattling nuisance. The Union forces were in three positions with the largest detachment at Oaklands, another downtown at the Square and a third across town near Stones River. That third unit, the 3rd Minnesota was 500 men strong with four pieces of artillery. It was Forrests intention to catch them all sleeping. And he did. In columns of four, the Confederates rode quietly into town. Forrest directed the Texas to assault the Michigan/Pennsylvania troops near Oaklands. The Georgia cavalry was to ride full bore through town and position themselves between the Minnesota forces and town. Forrest was to personally lead Morrisons battalion against the forces downtown. Just as day was breaking, the Texas Rangers were poised within sight of the Union tents. When the command was given, they charged, rousing the sleeping Pennsylvania cavalrymen. Some of them were killed, but most were captured. The 9th Michigan was better prepared and was quick to offer resistance to the Texans. Col. W.W. Duffield stepped from his tent and rallied his men until he was seriously wounded by Col. Wharton, who was then shot down. Duffield, shot in the groin and left thigh, led the defense until he passed out from loss of blood. Lt. Col John G. Parkhurst reorganized and repositioned the Federal troops behind a cedar fence, which was strengthened with wagons and hay bales. Heavy fire from the Texas Rangers kept the Michigan troops penned down and unable to come to the assistance of the other Union troops. Lewis Maney, his wife, Adeline, and their children watched the clash from an upstairs window at Oaklands. Meanwhile, Morrisons battalion, in Forrests direct command, charged downtown where they discovered the jail on fire where a number of area men were being held. Several of them had been condemned to hang on the 13th, including a Baptist minister and four of his neighbors and Confederate Capt. William Richardson, who penned an account of the raid. Flames were high when Rebel troopers forced open the jail door and dragged the prisoners out. Forrest personally checked their condition. Richardson wrote he would never forget the appearance of General Forrest on that occasion; his eyes were flashing as if on fire, his face deeply flushed, and he seemed in a condition of great excitement. While the Confederates went door to door downtown looking for Federal officers, the remaining provost officers took refuge on the second floor of the Courthouse, which was very easily defended. From their perch, the Union troops were able to pepper any Rebel within range. In response, Forrest ordered his troops to assault the courthouse from all four sides, batter down the doors and take the garrison. After two or three hours fight, he ordered the courthouse set on fire. The Union troops quickly surrendered. Brig. Gen. T.T. Crittenden was captured along with his staff. Local legend says Crittenden was discovered hiding under a bed. With downtown Murfreesboro under Confederate control, Forrest then acted to capture the remaining units near Oaklands and outside of town close to Grantland, the home of the Murfree family (near the modern intersection of Medical Center Parkway and Broad Street.) The 3rd Minnesota immediately formed into lines after hearing the clatter of small arms fire downtown, but they had moved only 400 yards when spotting Lawtons Georgia cavalry. Held in check, the Minnesota troops plinked at the Confederates from long distance using the four-cannon battery. Accessing the situation, Forrest led a small detachment around the Minnesotans and attacked their base camp. Now the troops under Col. Lester could neither advance nor retreat. He then turned to subterfuge. Riding back into town Forrest sent a flag of truce to Duffield and Parkhurst in their strong position near Oaklands. Forrest told the two colonels that the remaining Union troops had surrendered (they hadnt) and he was concentrating his entire force on their position. He demanded unconditional surrender or he would put every man to the sword. Duffield and Parkhurst, both seriously wounded, discussed the offer and accepted it, surrendering at noon. Forrest left enough men to guard those troops and then trotted back across town with the remainder of his troops. He then used the same ruse on Colonel Lester. Forrest sent a flag of truce forward with this message: Murfreesborough, July 13, 1862 Colonel I must demand an unconditional surrender of your force as prisoners of war, or I will have every man put to the sword. You are aware of the overpowering force I have at my command, and this demand is made to prevent the effusion of blood. I am, Colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant, N.B. Forrest Lester asked to consult with Duffield and was immediately taken, under escort, downtown where the dog and pony show continued with Forrest constantly rotating units so it appeared he had far greater numbers. After seeing Duffield and his surrendered men, Lester immediately capitulated. Nathan Bedford Forrest had captured Murfreesboro, saved a number of citizens, and started building his legend. Maj. Gen. J.P. McCown, CSA, telegraphed his report in: Forrest attacked Murfreesborough at five oclock Sunday morning, July 13th, and captured two brigadier-generals, staff and field officers and 1200 men; burned $200,000 worth of stores; captured sufficient stores with those burned to amount to $500,000; sixty wagons; 300 mules; 150 or 200 horses, and field battery of four pieces; destroyed the railroad and depot at Murfreesboro. Had to retreat to McMinnville owing to the large number of prisoners to be guarded. Loss 16 or 18 killed, 25 or 30 wounded.” (Source: Mike West, Managing Editor of the Murfreesboro Post, July 7th, 2007)
Everyone would like to thank Smyrna Town Manager Brian Hercules and Smyrna Parks Department Director Mike Moss for allowing the residents and speakers use of the beautiful Smyrna Outdoor Recreational Center. For more information on SORC visit:  https://www.townofsmyrna.org/departments/outdoor-adventure-center

Photo:Smyrna Town Mgr. Brian Hercules & Smyrna Parks Dir. Mike Moss