Friday, January 31, 2014

Nashville 1859

Census of Nashville, 1859

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tony the Chili King

 by Debie Oeser Cox

Antonio "Tony" Petruecelli was born in Viggiano, in Southern Italy on October 1st, 1886. He came to the United States from Italy in 1908, settling briefly in Jefferson County Alabama, where in 1909 he declared his intention to become a U.S. citizen. He was living in Nashville by November 1915, when he was married to Margaret Mazza. The young couple lived with Margaret's parents for several years. Their neighbors were the Sbutonni's, Petrone's and the Formosa's.

Tony Petrucelli and fellow restaurateur Frank Varallo, Sr. about 1916.  This was made at the Subway owned by Frank Varallo, Sr. (TSLA)

In 1921, Tony purchased a three story building at 317 Deaderick Street and opened a restaurant there. Over the years he also had restaurants on 10th Avenue near Union Station, on 5th Avenue and ran "the Banner" restaurant on 3rd. But it was the Deaderick Street location near the public square that Tony stuck with. This store was open 24 hours a day. Tony served hot plate lunches, and sandwiches, but soon became known for his chili. It seems that Italian immigrant families made chili a popular dish in Nashville. A number of Italian families were in the restaurant business in Nashville the early 20th century. These families were intertwined through marriage and business connections.  The Varallo's, Petrone's and Melfi's come to mind. There was disagreement among them as to who made the best chili, and a bit of competition. Tony Petrucelli, had an awning installed, along the front of his restaurant on Deaderick ,with the words, "Tony The Chili King."

Tony's Chili Parlor, 317 Deaderick Street (Nashville Banner 1956)

By 1956 Tony's health was not good and in June he closed the chili parlor. The next month he sold the building, where he had worked for 35 years, to First American Bank. He and Margaret retired to their home at 1908 Broadway. Tony died in 1959 and was buried at Calvary Cemetery. Margaret lived at 1908 Broadway until 1964, when she sold her home. She died in 1970 and was buried beside Tony, at Calvary Cemetery on Lebanon Pk.
(Some information in this story was taken from an article written by Etha Green, and published in the Nashville Banner, July 14, 1956.)

There is a great story in the Nashville Scene about the Varallo family.  Frank Varallo Sr. could rightfully claim the title, Chili King. His family is still selling Chili in Nashville. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

"Our Gang" Meridian Street Style

 by Debie Oeser Cox

I am from the television generation. Born in 1952, I don't remember there not being a TV set in the living room. Every summer my four Gifford cousins would come from Chattanooga, to visit for several weeks. We started every morning with cartoons and kiddie shows and Our Gang Comedies - The Little Rascals was at the top of the list. The gang was always putting on stage shows for their friends and we followed right along. I was born right in between the two younger Gifford's, Eleanor and Linda, and we were the best of friends.

We created a makeshift stage out of the bed of an old cart and dressed up in costumes made from old clothes. We also borrowed heavily from my older sisters clothing when she wasn't around. Admission was anywhere from a penny to a nickle, whatever the market would bear. Payment was required in advance of the show. We would take the money and go down to Jake's market at Meridian and Evanston and buy penny candy, then make a big pitcher of Kool-Aid for refreshments. Our neighbor kids would come, some of the older ones would even come hang out with us little ones for the show. From Meridian Street, Marty White, Bobby and Patsy McKinney, the Cunningham boys, and from Pennock Ave., the Martin boys - Mike, Hugh. My grandmother, who lived on Pennock, was usually watching after some of the cousins from my dads side and they would come as well. There were other kids whose names I no longer remember.

 The two cousins and myself, Eleanor, Linda and Debie, would dance and sing and turn a cartwheel or two. We had guest performers from the audience. Kids make their own fun. I guess children all over pretended to be the Little Rascals and put on shows. Just recently I overheard someone talking about how children don't play outside like our generation did. I had to comment, "We were outside because it was too hot inside." Nowadays, children and adults alike, are so accustomed to air conditioning that none us of want to be outside on hot days.

In the afternoons the boys would get up a baseball game. They really didn't want the little girls but needed the extras for the team and would divide us up.  Home base was near the big magnolia tree in Mrs Charlton's yard on Pennock. Ricky and Barbara Crouch had moved to the neighborhood by then and their front yard was often the center of activity. We would play hide and seek until dark every summer night. We played freeze tag and cowboys and Indians and hop-scotch, rock school and mother may I. I know there were dozens of other games for which I cannot remember names. Fun times.

A Saturday Morning Memory

 by Debie Oeser Cox

This memory is from the early summer of 1964 when I was twelve, living at 1017 Meridian Street. I had awakened before the sun came up, which was unusual for a night owl like me. Our house was usually full of people, Mama was one of 12 children and Daddy one of ten so there always a cousin spending the night, or at times, one or more of Mama's siblings living with us. On that morning all was quiet, just Mama, Daddy and me at home. I went out to sit on the front porch steps as the sun came up in the sky. We had a high, wrap-around porch on our Queen Ann style house. It was suddenly full daylight, a cloudless blue sky. The weather was pleasant, not humid and probably about 70 degrees. The street sweeper was coming down the hill from Vaughn towards our house. The huge truck had rotating brushes that swept the street and a spray of water to wash the debris into the storm sewer. The Purity Milk truck pulled up in front of Mrs. White's house and the milkman hopped out and ran up to her porch to leave her order of milk and juice. There was a bird of some sort high up in a hackberry singing a sweet song. I looked up and down the street at all the houses with neat yards and freshly cut grass, which I could smell in the air. Someone was cooking bacon and it made me hungry. Across the street, Mrs. Newby came out to sweep her porch. Next door, my sweet friend, Ophelia Primm, who to a twelve-year-old was ancient, but was probably no more than 70, opened the door to let her little pomeranian out. No one seemed to notice me sitting there. I decided that I would always remember that morning. I would keep that memory of that view of my little world forever in my heart. It is such a quiet, simple moment that to anyone else it probably doesn't seem memorable but it's a piece of Meridian Street that I always have with me. I can call up the scene in my mind's eye and Meridian Street and I are transformed to 1964.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Nashville City Directories

Nashville City Directories

Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Social Directory
Nashville Directory
Nashville Directory, Inglewood area

Sunday, January 12, 2014

East Nashville Back in the Day

by Debie Oeser Cox

I posted this, five years ago, to an East Nashville Google Group in response to a thread someone started "East Nashville, Back in the Day." You can join the group if you wish. Go to, find google groups and search for East Nashville. There are other postings with old memories in that thread and in others. This neighborhood listserv group will give you an idea of what a vibrant changing urban neighborhood is like in the 21st century. I am posting an edited version of what I wrote then.

I have lived in the East side of the Cumberland for all of my 56
years. Someone mentioned that East Nashville was a self contained
neighborhood. Most neighborhoods were, because so many people had to walk or
use the city bus for transportation. Grocery stores, pharmacies,
doctor’s offices, movie theaters, restaurants were in walking distance
in many areas. Barbers, beauty shops, gas stations, mechanical
garages, photographers, florists, if not in the neighborhood, were
located on the nearest thruway.

In the early 70’s Bob’s Sporting Goods was located where Marche’s is
now and between there and the library was a Sinclair gas station and
auto garage. On the so. west corner of Main at 10th was United Curb
Market and Mack Robinson’s garage was next door. Going back towards
town on Main St. there were several body shops, mechanical garages and
parts stores. There were taverns, restaurants, plumbers, building
contractors and electricians. On Woodland Street near the bridge was a
row of buildings that contained the world famous (it was on the sign)
Dusty Road Tavern, a barber shop and a drug store. Across the street
was the National Casket Company and E. B. Smith Chevrolet. Past the
interstate was a Genesco Commissary (a Genesco Factory was on Main at
5th) and across Woodland from St. Ann’s was an Esso station. Briggs
Bros. Paint was on the southeast corner of Woodland at 5th. There
were several doctor’s offices in houses across from the new East Park
center. First America Bank was on Woodland at 10th. In the Turnip
Truck building, was Tru-Value Motors used cars. My husband had Cox’s
Body Shop in that building for a few years in the 1970’s. He moved on
but the name stayed and Mr. Proctor had a body shop there after.
Across 10th on Woodland was Crowder’s Esso (now Dollar General).
Batter'd and Fried was the location of a coin laundry and Moss Bros.
Barber Shop. Abe Carney’s Shoe Shop was in this block, as was Sarah
Hamilton Interiors, Cumberland Hardware and the Corner Tavern, all on
the south side of Woodland. Also Lehning Bros. Grocers, where for
lunch you could order deli style sandwiches and miniature homemade
pies. The building where Margot’s was recently located, was occupied
for many years by Krech Motor Company. Just off Woodland behind
Lipstick Lounge was Eastland Florist.

On Gallatin Road between Ordway and Calvin was Fluty’s Gas Station,
Copley’s Barber Shop, J. P. Brown Drugs and Western Auto. In the next
block on the east side was Chapman’s Gulf and Goodyear. Across on the
west side of Gallatin was an A&P grocery, Hunter’s Custom Automotive,
and Wayne’s Barber Shop. Next block was Miller Hospital and there
were 15 or 20 doctors offices in the clinic building. There was a
restaurant called Te-Ko next to Eastland Funeral Home that was a good
meat & 3. H. G. Hill was across from the Neighborhood Walmart, later
moving to Gallatin at Eastland. Krispy-Kreme was also across from
Walmart. The building on the northeast corner of Gallatin at Douglas
was built for a Hank Williams, Jr. Barbecue Restaurant. There was a
Shoney’s where Nashville Auto-Diesel College is, and later a Shoney’s
in Inglewood near Inglewood Hardware. Dr.’s Strode and Crafton and
dentist Ken Minor was in the house that is now being renovated for Las
Maracas on Gallatin at Spain Ave. Taco Tico (Mexican) was on Gallatin
at Trinity Lane. Key Chrysler-Plymouth Dealership was located on
Gallatin at Thomas Ave. where Wendy’s restaurant is now. Sorry for
going on so long. I cheated, with a city directory.

another post I made in that same thread -
I remember doing a city directory look up for the area once when it was really back in the day - the 1940's era and there was an H.G. Hill store every mile and a half or so.  I have read that at one time there were more than 100 H. G. Hill stores in Middle Tennessee, the majority in Davidson County and Nashville.  It really was a time of communities being self-sufficient.  I was doing OK on my own with my trip down memory lane yesterday, until I got to Te-Ko's restaurant.  Because we also went to Taco Tico, we jokingly called the other Tico Taco.  I knew that wasn't right so I had to look it up.  And then . . . . 
Everyone shopped at Friedman's.  Do you remember Robert-Hall dept. store?  It was in Inglewood across from where the Swifty station is.  There was a big shoe store across from where Wendy's is now in Inglewood.  Did they have curb markets anywhere other than Nashville, mostly East Nashville?  You would drive up and someone would come out to the car and take your order, just like in the old curb order restaurants.  My daughters tell me if they are use that term with anyone other than a Nashville native the person has never heard of a curb market.

East Nashville has gone through a lot of changes over the 150 years that the neighborhood has been here.  My husband's family lived on Maxwell Ave. since 1955 and my family across Ellington Pkwy. on Pennock and Meridian St. since 1917. There were some really bad times and I thought the tornado in in the 90's would surely be a fatal blow.  Just the opposite of course.  East Nashville has improved more over the past 10 years than I could have imagined.  It's not the same place or the same people that I knew growing up in the 50's and 60's, but nothing stays the same.  When we moved to Inglewood in 1978 we were escaping East Nashville but trying to stay in the area because our parents still lived in East Nashville.  By the mid-90's we had no reason to stay and considered moving completely away from the area.  But it was home, and we are still here.  We hope the entire area will continue to be a wonderful, diverse, comfortable community.  (Some member of my family has lived in East Nashville since 1855.  My great-great grandfather, William Sanders Hunt, is found living in Edgefield, in the city directory for that year.)

The text above was originally posted by me, Debie Oeser Cox, to the East Nashville Google Group on Feb 26, 2009.!topic/east-nashville/BgwABTkNTpM

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Powder Plant at Jacksonville, Tennessee

Powder Plant at Jacksonville, Tennessee
Submitted by George W. Massey, January 2014

When World War I erupted in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson pledged neutrality for the United States, a position favored by the vast majority of Americans. Britain, however, was one of America's closest trading partners, and tension soon arose between the United States and Germany over the latter's attempted quarantine of the British Isles. Several U.S. ships traveling to Britain were damaged or sunk by German mines, and in February 1915, Germany announced unrestricted warfare against all ships, neutral or otherwise, that entered the war zone around Britain. One month later, Germany announced that a German cruiser had sunk the William P. Frye, a private American vessel. President Wilson was outraged, but the German government apologized, calling the attack an unfortunate mistake.

In February 1917, Germany, determined to win its war of attrition against the Allies, resumed its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare in war-zone waters. Three days later, the United States broke diplomatic relations with Germany; the same day, the American liner Housatonic was sunk by a German U-boat. On February 22, Congress passed a $250 million arms-appropriations bill intended to ready the United States for war. In late March, Germany sank four more U.S. merchant ships, and on April 2, President Wilson went before Congress to deliver his famous war message. Within four days, both houses of Congress had voted in favor of a declaration of war.

On April 6, 1917, two days after the U.S. Senate votes 82 to 6 to declare war against Germany, the U.S. House of Representatives endorses the decision by a vote of 373 to 50, and the US formally enters the First World War. At that time came the need for explosives or gun powder, and the need to build a new plant for that need.

In January 1918 the US Government bought 5,600 acres, at an average price of $105 per acres to build the powder plant in Hadley's Bend.

The U.S. Government asked DuPont Engineering to take on five major construction projects to make explosives for Allied forces in World War I. The most challenging was to be the world’s largest smokeless powder plant and a town to go with it at Jacksonville, Tenn. The newly organized DuPont Engineering Company completed construction in only five months. The first of Old Hickory's nine smokeless powder units went into operation on July 2, 1918, an impressive 121 days ahead of schedule. By the war's end, DuPont engineers had built what amounted to an entire city for 30,000 workers, with 3,867 buildings and 7.5 miles of double-tracked railroad. By September of 1918 the plant was producing 700,000 pounds of smokeless powder a day. It was from this plant, at Jacksonville, that Nashville earned the nickname, "Powder City of the World."  After the war ended on November 11, 1918, the powder was no longer needed and the plant soon closed. 

Church St., Independent Life Bldg.  Nashville--The Powder City of the World. ca1920, courtesy of Marty Evans.

The Nashville Industrial Corporation did not become actively identified with the development
of Old Hickory until October 12, 1920, when announcement was made from the War Department in Washington that the plant had been sold to that company, after due consideration of all bids that had been presented.  The former gunpowder plant built, at a cost of $83 million dollars, was sold to the Nashville Industrial Corporation for $3.45 million dollars.  Prior to that time the company had been organized and incorporated and had been among the seven or eight active bidders for the purchase of the plant. The decision of the government to sell the plant was made in 1919, and actual negotiations were conducted practically throughout the entire year of 1920. With the announcement of the sale in October, plans were immediately made by the government to transfer the property to the local corporation, and the transfer was made on December 15th of the same year, at which time the government officials retired and the Nashville Industrial Corporation took charge of the entire plant and village, together with all maintenance and operating work.

Old Hickory Powder Plant, Jacksonville, TN, courtesy of George Massey.

During the period of 1921 and 1922 the activity at the plant consisted for the most part in the maintenance of the large village, keeping the houses and buildings intact and the roads in good repair, and the selling of machinery and equipment. Several stores and sales yards were established at various parts of the plant, from which operations were carried on. Temporary buildings were dismantled and the lumber and building materials sold locally. The immense stocks of supplies that were on hand for the maintenance of the powder were placed in stores and sold in all parts of the country. The railroad between Jacksonville and the main line of the Tennessee Central at Stone's River was operated by the company, providing an outlet for shipment of materials sold, and all other utilities, including the power line, telephone, water, and sewerage plants were operating and in good repair.

The Nashville Pulp and Paper Mills Company purchased a portion of the munitions plant in June 27, 1921 for $123,000 and established a small paper mill.

During the two years of 1921 and 1922 the population of the village varied from two or three hundred to six or seven hundred persons, depending on the immediate needs of the plant and activity at that point.

Early in 1923 there were rumors of the securing of a large industry that would take over a considerable acreage at Old Hickory, including the village. These rumors were not verified until July 14th 1923, when the announcement was made that the Du Pont Fibersilk Company, the name being changed to Du Pont Rayon Company, had purchased the village and a plant site. This announcement was greeted with enthusiasm on all sides, particularly in Nashville where the business men realized that the coming of a large industry of this kind would mean permanent development of Old Hickory and a permanent benefit to Nashville.

Jacksonville, Tennessee name changed to 
Old Hickory Dec. 1, 1923
 The man who named Old Hickory. - George Gruver Wilson

Senator George Gruver Wilson of Colorado, a former resident of Old Hickory was responsible for giving the Village its present name. He was in the advertising department of the Nashville Industrial Corporation (NIC) when Old Hickory was known as Jacksonville, Tennessee. It was through his recommendation that the name Old Hickory was chosen to replace the original name.
The following excerpts from a letter written by him October 30, 1923, to the First Assistant Postmaster General stated: "You may know that in 1917 there was not a town or post office here, but that at the erection of the Powder Plant both sprang up. Out of respect to President Andrew Jackson, whose home, "The Hermitage" is three miles from here the name Jacksonville was selected.. Since Jackson is reverently known throughout the south as "Old Hickory" what more distinctive tribute could be paid him than to call this place Old Hickory instead of Jacksonville?"

Confusion in the mail between Jacksonville, Florida and Jacksonville, Tennessee was direct cause for requesting a change of name.  Acting Postmaster General John H. Bartley replied that an order had been issued changing the name of the Post Office to Old Hickory effective December 1, 1923.

Senator George Gruver Wilson, courtesy of George Massey.

Senator Wilson's interest in Old Hickory never ceased. He was a Mason and maintained his membership in the Old Hickory Lodge. He graduated from the University of Colorado.
Senator Wilson died in July, 1957.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Kennedy & Bowden Machine Company, Inc.

I found a very interesting and wonderfully detailed history of on the internet.  If all local companies would take the time to write, and make available, something similar about their business it would be informative for all and insure that the details would not be lost. The company had it's beginning in Nashville in 1913.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Winter in Nashville, Part 2

by Tracy Robb

My Uncle Hart said the winter storm of February 1951 and the one in 1899 were a lot alike, but the impact of the ice, snow, and cold on everyday life on the Rim was a lot different. Back at the turn of the century folks were much less dependent on "modern" conveniences provided by others and so the big storm of 1899 was much less crippling than the one in 1951. Back in 1899 lighting, cooking, and getting water did not depend on electricity. Travel was by foot or by horse, or by train. Food was in the cellar or in the smokehouse. All people had to do was "hole-up" until the thaw came.

The storm of 1951 on the other hand created a hellava mess for Ridgetoppers, especially those who worked in Nashville or Old Hickory. For a day or two the Ridge or "Coggins" hill was impossible. Vehicles were all over the place. On the afternoon the storm started, I left class to discover an already deep and slushy snow covering the streets around Peabody. Dr. GXXXXXX's Buick was stuck next to the curb on Eighteen Avenue until a bunch of students managed to get him out. I decided then and there that I had better head for home. Generally the trip to Ridgetop was uneventful on the Greyhound Bus, but that day the trek up the ridge was slippery, protracted, and filled with excitement.

As night closed in, a steady rain froze as it came into contact with things at ground level. All roads were like glass. Power and telephone lines and tree limbs began to snap like rifle fire in the gloomy night fall. We didn't expect my mother, who worked in Nashville to show up at the regular time, but when it got later and later, my sister and I became anxious. Finally she arrived half frozen and half frightened to death. The next morning I could not believe she had made it through the maze of wires and limbs at our front gate without getting hurt.

For about a week we were about making do. We heated our house with a Warm Morning coal fired stove so getting heat was really not a problem. Retaining it was. The wind and low temperature combined with the construction of house to make it very hard to keep warm. We huddled around the stove. Our water pipes froze which really didn't matter because we had no electricity to power the well pump. I got water to bathe with from a small creek that ran through the Lindsey Place. By some quirk Pete Young Store on Highway 41 got power restored so we and many others were able to get drinking water from him. See Willie Mine Midgett’s wonderful account of this storm.

Editor's note:  The site on which Willie Mine Midgett's story of the 1951 ice storm was featured seems to no longer be active.  I was able to access a cached version of the site through the Wayback Machine  The website was and can be viewed through this link. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Winter in Nashville

by Debie Oeser Cox

Blizzard of '51, Nashville, photo from

Whenever a few snow flakes fly in Nashville, many of us start thinking about winter weather from years past, both from our own memories and the tales we have heard or read over the years.  The blizzard of 1951, jumps to the forefront for those of my generation.  Though I was not born until the summer of 1952, I was told many stories about that winter event.  

Blizzard of '51, Nashville, photo from

One of the more memorable winters, for me, was 1976-1977.  We were living on McCarn Street in East Nashville.  Winter came early in 1976.  From October 26 to November 18, temperatures were continuously lower than average. The first snowfall of the winter was on November 12 and temperatures in November fell below the freezing mark on 20 out of 30 days.  It got worse.  December was the coldest month of 1976.  To add to the bad weather, near the end of the December, we got a couple of inches of snow.  The coldest day of 1976  was on the New Year's Eve, with a low temperature of 4°F.   January 1, 1977, remains the coldest New Year's Day on record in Nashville, with a low temp of 0°F.  Because it was so cold, the December snow was hanging around, when  on January 3rd, 3.6 inches fell.  It would snow several more times in January for an official total of 21.5 inches for the winter. 

In our older neighborhood, with towering trees that cast long shadows, along with the colder than normal temperatures, I can't recall a day in January when there was not snow on the ground. In the third week of January after many nights of single digit temps, including a couple of sub-zero nights, our water froze. We were totally puzzled at first. We left the water dripping at night.  Our basement, where the old gas furnace was located, was toasty warm.  The problem, it turned out, was in the pipe between the meter and the house. We never thought that the ground would freeze deeply enough to affect the pipes underground. Several of our neighbors, and friends and family in other areas, were in the same predicament. For some it turned into a huge expense, because the pipes burst as they began to thaw. Plumbers were in our neighbors yard with a backhoe, to dig down to the pipe and replace it.

The first few days of February continued to be brutally cold.  Suddenly, as often happens in Nashville, on February 10, the high temperature climbed into the 60's and the warm air continued for several days.  My Daddy had advised us to leave the faucets open, thinking it would relieve pressure as the water in the pipes thawed and the ice and water started to move.  Don't know if that is what did the trick but after several days of 50 and 60 degree temps, our water thawed and was flowing and all was good.  The worst of that winter was over.  

 The winters of 1977-78 and 1978-79 were also very cold with total winter snowfall of 25.2 inches and 27.5 inches respectively. Nashville has only had more than 20 inches of snow in a winter once since those years.  In 1995-96, there was 23.7 inches of snow.  

National Weather Service 


Other Weather Links for the Nashville Area; 
National Weather Service - Weather Records 
The Nashville Ice Storm of 1951 (great photos bottom of page)
Nashville Tornado 1933

Calendar of Significant Weather Events in Middle Tennessee
The weather service changes the url for pages often.  If the link doesn't work use the search feature on the National Weather Service page.