Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Let Me Entertain You

1853 Nashville Union and American.

1857 Daily Nashville patriot.

1857 Daily Nashville patriot.

1872 - Nashville Union and American.

1910 The Nashville globe.

1911 The Nashville globe.

1917 The Nashville globe.

1918 The Nashville globe.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Meigs School

By Debie Oeser Cox

In his report to the School Board in 1881, Superintendent Samuel Caldwell detailed the over-crowding of schools. Vandavill School, the only school in East Nashville for African-American children, was especially overcrowded.  Caldwell suggested that the city government should purchase a lot in the East Nashville and construct a school to replace Vandavill, which was in a rented building at the corner of Spring and Wetmore Streets. A lot was soon purchased on Georgia Street (now Ramsey) and construction on the new school began.  The school lot was near the middle of the block of what is now the 700 block of Ramsey Street. 

Meigs School - Artwork of Nashville

The new Meigs School opened in 1883 and Superintendent Caldwell reported to the board that the school had been named in honor of  Return Jonathan Meigs, a member of the first school board of the Nashville City Schools. Meigs was born in Kentucky in 1801 and moved to Nashville in 1834. He was the Recording Secretary of the Tennessee Historical Society and the first Tennessee State Librarian.  He was a Trustee of the University of Nashville and the Tennessee School for the Blind.  

Annual Report 1883-84 Superintendent Nashville City Schools

Meigs also served in the Tennessee State Senate, 27th General Assembly.  Because of his strong Union leanings, Meigs left the South with the outbreak of the U. S. Civil War.  In 1863 he was appointed, by President Lincoln, as clerk of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, a position he held until his death in 1891.

The cost of the lot and new two story building was $13,500 and had space for 600 children.  The beginning enrollment was about 400, in grades first through fourth.  R. S. White was appointed as Principal. Mr. White had previously taught at Knowles Street School.  In subsequent years, additional grades were added, through the eighth grade.

1884 Nashville City Directory

In 1886, Mrs. Lizzie Porter (click to learn more), wife of Sandy Porter, attempted to enroll her sons, Tolbert Calvin and James Rice Porter at the Nashville High School, as there was no high school for black students.  The school board refused to admit the Porter’s sons.  The efforts of the Porter family, encouraged other black parents to appear at the high school to enroll their children.  All were refused.  This caused a public outcry, and in mid-September well attended meetings were held to pursue the matter with the school board.  A petition was passed among the crowd asking the school board to act. 

The school board met and adopted a motion to reorganize Meigs School so as to meet the requirements of a high school, giving Meigs the distinction of being the first high school for African American students in Nashville.  Grades nine and ten were added immediately and the students who wanted to attend the new high school were told to report to the second floor of the Meigs School on Monday, September 20th, 1886.  Both of Lizzie and Sandy Porter's sons enrolled.   Tolbert C. Porter was in the first graduating class from Meigs, in June of 1888.  James Rice Porter graduated from Meigs High School in June of 1889.

Mr. D. N. Crosthwait, who was previously assigned as a principal at Belleview School, became the first teacher in the high school grades. The same text books that had been used at Fogg High School were used by students at Meigs.  Among the courses offered were Algebra, Geometry, Latin, Physical Geography, General History, Natural Philosophy, Music and Drawing.

In 1896, Pearl High School was opened for black students in Nashville.  Meigs once again became a grade school with classes for students from grades one to six. 

Meigs School was rebuilt in 1934 for a cost of nearly $36,000.  Apparently the old school building had been damaged in the 1933 tornado as the building funds came from the Tornado Bond fund. As years passed grades were added and Meigs became a first through ninth grade school.  Additions were made to the building in the 1950's. In 1956 the School Board purchased properties at 701, 703, 705, 707 and 709 Ramsey St and 107 and 109 North 7th Street to expand the campus and to allow for another addition.  After the second addition in 1957, Meigs School spanned the entire block between North 7th and North 8th Streets.  

Photo Credit - Metro Nashville Archives

In 1958 Meigs became a high school again, adding a grade per year with 1963 being the first year for graduation.  The last class graduated from Meigs High School in 1969.  In 1970, only grades eight and nine were taught at Meigs.

In 1983, the Metro Nashville School system took a new direction when three academic magnet schools were opened.  One of the magnet schools, based on a liberal arts education, was placed in the Caldwell School building at Meridian and Foster Streets.  In 1985 this magnet school was moved a few blocks away to the Meigs building. Meigs Magnet Middle School serves grades fifth through eighth. Enrollment in Meigs is based on academic achievement, including above average TCAP scores in math and reading. Students hoping to attend Meigs Magnet, if eligible, submit an application and are assigned a random number.  There are always more applicants than slots for students, which results in a long waiting list for the school.   

In 2001, construction of a new building for Meigs students began, replacing the 1934 structure.  The school was completed by the start of the school year in 2004, and can accommodate 700 pupils.  The school is rated as a Reward School by the Tennessee Board of Education, scoring in the top 5% of schools in Tennessee, for overall student achievement.  In 2013, Meigs Magnet was one of four Tennessee schools, honored by the U. S. Dept. of Education, as a Blue Ribbon school.  The honor was awarded because of the high level of academic achievement by Meigs students. 

Annual reports of the Superintendents of Nashville Public Schools, 1857 – 1946. 
A Bicentennial Chronicle, Metropolitan Public Schools, 1976
Metro Nashville Archives -  Verticle Files, Meigs School.
Metro Nashville Archives  - Metro Schools, Board of Education school property files.
Meigs Magnet School Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meigs_Magnet_School
Ancestry.com - Nashville City Directories

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dr. Cleo Miller, East Nashville

by Debie Oeser Cox


Most everyone who lived in East Nashville and Inglewood from the 1930's through the 1970's knew the name Cleo Miller.  Dr. Miller gave much to the community in which he worked most of his life and where he lived in his younger years.  

Cleo M. Miller was born in 1903 at Dechard, Franklin County, Tennessee.  His parents, Joseph Edward Miller and Aurora Thelma Woll, were married on June 12, 1902 in Franklin County.
His father died soon after Cleo  was born.  His mother brought him to Nashville as teen, perhaps so that he would have access to good schools.   Aurora Miller soon found a job at Lebecks department store as a salesperson.  Aurora left Lebecks after a few years and went on to work for many years at Cain Sloan department store.  Listed in the 1920 census,  Aurora and Cleo were living at 1621 Holly Street in East Nashville.  Late in 1920 Aurora married Elmore Hill.  Their son Elmore, Jr. was born in 1922.  

Cleo graduated from Vanderbilt in the early 1920's and enrolled in the medical school there.  Cleo played baseball during his med school years and possibly in his undergrad years as well.  He was team captain in 1926 and he held the position of catcher.

Cleo's half brother, Elmore Hill, Jr., graduated from Duncan Preparatory School and Vanderbilt University, just as leo had done.  He went on to University of Louisville Dental School.  
Aurora's second husband died in 1935 and in 1940 she was living on Scott Ave in East Nashville with her 18 year old son Elmore.   In 1971, a local newspaper featured Aurora in a story about her 90th birthday party.  She did not believe in telling her age but had 9 candles on her cake, plus one to grow on.  She was still living in East Nashville on North 12th St.   She celebrated her birthday with her 94 year old sister Katie and other family.  She was a member of City Road Methodist Church and played piano for bible classes there and at Hobson Methodist Church. Aurora died in 1972.  

Cleo Miller married Kathryn Cotten soon after he graduated from medical school.  By the time Dr. Miller built the home, Ivy Hall, in Inglewood, the couple had two sons, and a daughter was born the next year.  The beautiful Tudor Revival home was built on property that had been part of the Inglewood Golf Club. Today the home is on the National Register of Historic Properties.  The family lived in the house until the early 40's, when Dr. Miller entered military service to support the war effort.  His family traveled with him during his time in the service.  At the end of the war, the Miller's moved into a home on Belle Meade Boulevard and never returned to Ivy Hall.  They moved to the Belle Meade area to be closer to Montgomery Bell Academy, where their sons Jimmy and Jack would attend.

Long after he had moved to the west side of Davidson County, Dr. Miller was a welcome and busy presence in East Nashville and Inglewood.   He worked as a physician and surgeon in East Nashville from 1930 until 1971.  He began his first medical practice in a home at 1308 Stratton Avenue, with Dr. Young Haley.  He and Kathryn lived in an apartment at the office for the first year or so.  Miller Clinic, which he found in 1937, was the nearest medical facility for East Nashville residents. It was a white frame building with three physicians and facilities for surgery and inpatient treatment.  The building was added onto many times and more doctors joined the practice.  In 1977 a new building was erected and Miller Clinic became the Miller Medical Group with more than twenty doctors.  Dr. Glenn Hammonds and Dr. Russell Ward, both on staff at Miller Medical Group for many years, grew up in East Nashville and attended grade school and high school with some of their patients.  Pediatricians, Dr. Philip Elliott and Dr. Dewey Nemec are remembered very well by those who grew up in East Nashville.   Dr. Miller remained as director of the Miller Medical Group until 1971 when he resigned because of illness.   Miller Medical served the East Nashville community for about 60 years, well into the 1990's.  

Dr. Miller added a small hospital to the clinic in 1962.  This building was eventually replaced and became became a full service hospital.  In 1968, Hospittal Corporation of American purchased Miller Hospital and the name was changed to Edgefield Hospital.

Dr. Miller was a member of the Men's Club at both Isaac Litton High School and East Nashville High School.  For many years, Dr. Miller was the team doctor for the Isaac Litton football team.  He was involved in many community organizations, both in East Nashville and across the city.  He was chosen, in 1965, as Man of the Year, but the East Nashville Exchange Club.  

Dr. Cleo Miller had a lifelong love of the game of baseball and athletics in general.   His interest in athletics, led him to be team doctor for the Nashville Vols baseball team.  He was also team doctor for the highly acclaimed women's basketball program at the Nashville Business College.  In 1959, a group of fourteen Nashville businessmen, which included Eddy Arnold, Herschel Greer, Dr. Cleo Miller and his son Jimmy Miller, purchased the Nashville Vols. The group formed Vols Inc., and sold shares at $5 each in an effort to save the team.  Both of the Millers was served on the board for Vols, Inc. in 1959.  The effort failed and the Vols were soon disbanded but  Cleo Miller continued to support baseball in Nashville.  He and son Jimmy Miller were long time members of the Nashville Oldtimers Baseball Association.

Dr. Cleo Miller died on January 7, 1973 after a long illness.  His name is still remembered, fondly and with respect, by many Nashvillians.



Nashville's Inglewood, Crystal Hill Jones, Naomi C. Manning, Melanie J. Meadows. Arcadia Publishing 2009.

Baseball in Nashville, Skip Nipper.  Arcadia Publishing 2007.

The Congressional Record, Vol. 119, February 5, 1973.

Register of Vanderbilt University, 1921 -1922. Vanderbilt 1922.

Litton School Zone, Betty Hadley.  Nashville History Blog, 2010.

Photograph of Aurora Woll Miller Hall from Piper-Wolf family tree, ancestry.com

Nashville City Directories, Ancestry.com

United States Census Records, Ancestry.com

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Downtown

Written by Frank Tuttle after viewing the following old photo on What I Remember about Old Nashville, back when.  Frank gave permission to copy his post here. 

I cannot stop looking at this wonderful memory regenerating photo and noticing the trolly or street car rails. Before starting grade school at Woodmont in 1946 I spent time exploring the streets around my Dad's National Cash Register, Typewriter & Army Surplus Store on 8th ave N just down from the old Sears Store. His phone number was 50722
"My downtown" began around 1944 and I saw no street cars, in fact I did not know what a real live street car was, but there were (train to me) tracks still in the city streets. 

While standing on the front seat behind my Dad's guarding right shoulder in a war time worn 1941 Oldsmobile, I would hear his growling voice while dodging the streets full of clanky wild driving olive green Ford Mail trucks and when our car got caught in the rail ruts causing him to fight the vibrating steering wheel he would utter ( lots of uttering) something like "those _ _ ruts make the car shimmy" and "this _ _ car needs king pins". 

Everything everybody smelled like "they were supposed" to smell, the women, the alley, the street, the cars, the busses, the little spaghetti Domadios ? Store
(editor's note: Probably Anthony Dematteo grocery), the bananas hanging from the ceiling, the shoe store, the 8th Ave monkeys in the cages, Martin's hobby shop, even my Dad ( tobacco, cleaning fluid, sweat, hair oil).
To me most everything was usually smelled first and seen later. After all, I was way less than three feet short at the time.

During that period Dad somehow acquired an almost new looking 1942(?) dark blue Chrysler Saratoga with " Balloon " tires. Cars were licensed by weight and that Chrysler was an eight cylinder "heavy" and so he got to pay extra to have that coveted letter "D" on his license plate. One night while heading west towards home as we were crossing the Church Street viaduct and passing the Nashville Electric Building, he poked me with his finger and pointed to the speedometer..the needle was on 100. Not sure about in the city, but there were no speed limits on most highways until sometimes in the 1950s and 100 mph seemed to be 100 mph and nothing more than that. Death was Death during those times, be it at home in America or going off to war to "wherever".... live now not later!..