All posts by Jim Tumblin

The marble king

Jim Tumblin
History and Mysteries

Cotton had once been king and the railroads had dominated for a time but, by the late 1880s, another industry had assumed a major role in East Tennessee’s economy. Knoxville became a leader in the marble industry, and the industry was so big that Knoxville became known as Marble City.

Although the first extensive developments were in Hawkins County, shipments from Knoxville via the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad were three times as great by 1881. There were 11 quarries operating in Knox County by 1882, and 300 workers were employed. By 1906, it was estimated that the county’s marble industry generated $1 million annually.

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Knoxville High’s influential principal

Jim Tumblin
History and Mysteries

“A firm, steady, stable and human person.” When W.E. Evans was honored at his retirement in 1955, those were the words his former students chose to describe their principal.

Having served one of Knoxville’s longest careers in public education, Evans retired in 1955 at the compulsory retirement age of 70. He served 33 years as principal of Knoxville High School, and after that school closed, moved to East High as principal for four more years.

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Dr. Ruth Stephens made history clear

Jim Tumblin
History and Mysteries

Lindsey Nelson (1919-1995) was perhaps best known nationally as an American sportscaster who had a long career as a play-by-play announcer for college football and the New York Mets baseball team. However, many Vols for life will remember him at a much earlier time when he announced UT football games for the Vol network.

Nelson was a 1941 University of Tennessee graduate who served as a captain in the U.S. Army in World War II in North Africa and in Europe. One of his history professors at UT was Dr. Ruth Stephens. He kept up correspondence with her while overseas and in one long letter he described things he had witnessed and places he had been.

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George W. Callahan: The man who built railroads

Jim Tumblin
History and Mysteries

George W. Callahan was born on June 11, 1862, the son of James F. and Susan Avery Callahan.

He was born in Chambersburg, Pa., in a city connected with one of the iconic events of the Civil War. On Oct. 10-11 of that year, intrepid Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart led his cavalry on a two-day, 100-mile raid of the city. He attempted to cut Union Gen. George McClellan’s supply lines in a prelude to the Battle of Gettysburg, which would occur the following July.

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Beecher Mize is Wall of Fame honoree

Jim Tumblin
History and Mysteries

Fate required some members of Tom Brokaw’s “greatest generation” to grab their bootstraps early in life and make something of themselves. James Beecher Mize was such a man and he was a success as a result.

Beecher, as he preferred to be called, was born in Fountain City on May 12, 1920. His parents were William G. and Gertrude Underwood Mize. His father had served in World War I and was a victim of a poisonous gas attack in France. Upon his return to civilian life, his frequent Veterans Administration hospitalization made it very difficult for his wife and three boys. However, their mother saw to it that he and his two brothers attended school and applied themselves. Beecher attended elementary school at first Brownlow and then Fountain City and entered Central High School where he graduated in 1938.

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Mayor James C. Luttrell: legacy of diplomacy

Jim Tumblin
History and Mysteries

Surely no other Knoxville mayor faced challenges equal to those of Mayor James C. Luttrell. His political skills and ability as a diplomat enabled him to serve as mayor through both the Confederate and the Union occupations of the city during the Civil War.

James Churchwell Luttrell Jr. was born in Knox County on March 3, 1813. He was the son of James C. Luttrell and the former Martha Armstrong, daughter of Robert Armstrong. It was Martha’s brother and nephew who built two of the Three Sisters Mansions still standing on Kingston Pike.

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Breezy Wynn: leading industrialist

Jim Tumblin
History and Mysteries

Bob Gilbert’s definitive 1990 biography of Gen. Bob Neyland, “Neyland: The Gridiron General,” has some significant contents that you cannot find in other biographies. In the appendix Gilbert cites the 10 most memorable events during Neyland’s career.

An entry from 1928 begins the list, and one from 1959 ends it. The 1928 entry:

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‘Dealers in rare things and fine jewelry’ – John W. Hope, (1842-1914)

Jim Tumblin
History and Mysteries

When Col. J.C. Woodward liquidated his extensive real estate development in Lexington, Ky., in 1890 and moved to Knox County, he purchased the Fountain Head Hotel and Resort. He enhanced the park adjoining the hotel and impounded the lake nearby. He also established the Fountain Head Land Co. and advertised residential lots with “easy transportation, pure water, beautiful trees and a pleasant climate” in the local papers.

The post office soon renamed the suburb Fountain City to avoid confusion with Fountain Head in Sumner County. Among the first to purchase lots there and build summer homes or to establish permanent residence in the suburb were Col. J.C. Williams, coal magnate; Sol H. George, department store owner; and John W. Hope, prominent Gay Street jeweler.

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Fountain City’s mystery garden

Jim Tumblin
History and Mysteries

Each Memorial Day in historic Fountain City Park at Honor Fountain City Day there is an opportunity to renew friendship with longtime Fountain City residents. Andrew Whitaker is one you always look forward to seeing. He is a master mason and is always involved in interesting projects, such as the work he did at the Foundry in World’s Fair Park.

It was Andrew who, during his teen years, when Fountain City Lake was drained and restored (1985-86), found a veritable treasure of glassware and bottles for his collection buried in the muck in the lakebed. The treasure included many “pop” bottles from bygone days.

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