Friday, August 31, 2012

Home Again, Home Again

For the past couple of weeks we've been wandering around a different part of Appalachia, visiting friends and Shaker museums. The hills and valleys of New England are different, but no less beautiful than our southern highlands. We first visited Hancock Shaker Village (Massachusetts) with its signature round stone barn.

The Watervliet (New York) site is the final resting place for the early Shaker leaders, including the society's founder Ann Lee.

Mt. Lebanon, New York, was the central ministry site during the church's expansion into Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. It was from here that the three missionaries were sent to the Second Great Awakening revivals being held on the then frontier.

Canterbury, New Hampshire, was the only village to pass directly from the Shakers to a non-profit museum, and is the best preserved as a result. It and Pleasant Hill, in Kentucky, offer the most complete view of Shaker life available.

The Enfield, New Hampshire, site is the newest museum and most of the Shaker buildings remain in the hands of private owners.

Sabbath Day Lake, Maine, is home to the last five Shakers. Always the smallest and least successful of the Shaker villages, it is the only one that survives.

In addition, we caught up with long-time friends, ate lobster, immersed ourselves in New England history and culture, shot 730 photos, visited 11 states, and drove more than 3,000 miles without ever venturing out of Appalachia. Did I mention taking a lot of pictures?

We were without access to the internet for much of the time we were away, so I'll be trying to catch up on reading blogs for a while now.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

British Car Show

This coming Saturday Historic Rugby will hold their second annual British Car Show, 10-3 throughout the village. Here's one car you can see there, our friend Eric's 1952 MG-TD. This year there also will be motorcycles. If we're lucky, maybe there will be a Vincent Black Lightning 1952.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012


Just 12 miles from Rugby is the small town of Allardt. It's a community of about 650 people, but it has essential services lacking in Rugby, most notably a grocery store, a gas station, a hair cutter, and a medical clinic. It even has the tree farm where we cut our own Christmas tree last year. And each fall it swells to some 12,000 people when they have their annual Pumpkin Festival.

Allardt was founded about the same time as Rugby, but the two communities had entirely different trajectories. While Rugby flourished for a while and then faded to almost nothing, Allardt enjoyed continuous activity, even though overshadowed by Jamestown only five miles away. The circumstances of the two communities founding made all the difference.

Allardt was begun as a German community by a group from Michigan. The principal players were M. H. Allardt, for whom the town is named, and Bruno Gernt. Gernt had immigrated from Germany to Michigan and Allardt had been employed by the state of Michigan to recruit immigrants in Germany. When the railroad opened the Cumberland Plateau to settlement, they decided to found a German community there. Allardt died before he could move to Tennessee, but Gernt carried on, building the house shown above. His home is still owned by the Bruno Gernt Estate, Inc. and is on the National Register of Historic places.

Gernt purchased some 300,000 acres on behalf of his investors, and sold land for farms to immigrants at the small office shown above, which also is on the National Register. A large amount of that land is still owned by the Bruno Gernt Estate and controlled by his descendents, who have built a modern office building nearby to manage their interests.

Another building on the National Register is the ca. 1910 Old Allardt Schoolhouse, which is now operated as a Bed & Breakfast and is owned by the town's Postmaster, also a Gernt. The two doors on the front of what had been a one-room school was to provide separate entrances for boys and girls.

Today Allardt is a crossroads town with churches, homes, and a few small businesses. The fives miles into Jamestown are lined with more homes, churches, and businesses, making it difficult to know just where one town leaves off and the other begins. But come the first weekend in October, it becomes the largest town in Fentress County as pumpkins weighing well in excess of 1,000 pounds vie for the title of biggest pumpkin.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Endangered Barn

When we were in Grainger County for the Tomato Festival, this barn caught my eye. Recent high winds had lifted a couple of metal roofing sheets and exposed the interior to the elements. Otherwise the barn appeared to be well-maintained. But this is what usually spells the beginning of the end for barns in the region. No longer contributing to the family's income, old barns are allowed to remain exposed to the weather. Eventually they rot and collapse. It would be a shame if this barn were left to that fate.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A not-so-English village

For many years, Rugby was marketed as an English "colony" here on the Cumberland Plateau. It is true that Thomas Hughes intended for young second sons to come here so they could learn a trade and support themselves, free of the social constraints of Victorian Britain. But he never intended this place to be an exclusive club. There is a row of graves in Laurel Dale Cemetery that clearly shows it wasn't. The first graves are those of Charles C. and Nellie O. Brooks. While Brooks is a recognizably English name, the O in Nellie's name isn't.

It is, in fact, German, as the next grave shows. Buried next to Louis is his wife.

Emma's matching gravestone bears the maiden name Lender,

and the next grave, Barbara Lender's, is inscribed with the German phrase used to express farewell.

These days Rugby is being marketed as an English-Appalachian settlement. And what could be more Appalachian than German settlers?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rose of Sharon

One of our most conspicuous summer-flowering shrubs is Rose of Sharon. In the U.S., that name almost always means Hibiscus syriacus, a shrub native to east Asia. The common name can be applied to any number of different plants in other places around the world.

But our Rose of Sharon has large Hibisicus flowers that come in different colors and are highly prized.

Bees like them almost as much as humans do.

Unfortunately, so do Japanese Beetles.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

One step closer

The Manhattan Project-era Army Guest House, also known as the Alexander Inn, came one step closer to being saved this week. The U.S. Department of Energy has made a half-million-dollar grant to a local historic preservation group in Oak Ridge to buy and stabilize the now-derelict structure. The grant will buy time from the wrecking ball to determine the ultimate future of the building, which housed some of the nation's top military and scientific minds during the war. Also receiving funds was the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant, which still will be demolished but will be represented by an interpretive center. Both structures are slated to be part of a proposed Manhattan Project National Park, pending legislation now working its way through Congress.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Tomato War

The highlight of Grainger County, Tennessee's, annual Tomato Festival is the Tomato War. The rules are very similar to dodgeball, except tomatoes are thrown instead of balls.
Boxes of tomatoes are placed on and next to barrels near mid-field. At the starter's whistle, equal teams throw ripe tomatoes at the opposing team. Players are eliminated when hit below the shoulders by a tomato, and the round ends when all of the players on one side are eliminated.

You want to start with plenty of ammo!

Note the videographer from a local TV station catching the action, using raincoats to protect herself and her camera from catching a tomato.

Rush the other team!

Going in for the kill!

"Ha! You missed!"

 Regroup for another charge!


Time out for an injury. It turned out she wasn't hurt badly, just some tomato juice in the eye. I'm sure it burned until it was washed out with tears. But since she was hit above the shoulders, she was not eliminated. And she was game! Five minutes later she was back in the fray.

Despite the tomato-juice-in-the-eye incident, it was all great fun. I'll bet just about all of the warriors will be back at it next year. Yet ......
that's a lot of BLTs that won't get made this year.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Grainger Tomato Festival

Grainger County, Tennessee, has branded itself the "Tomato Capitol." The Grainger County brand is widely recognized in a 250-mile radius for vine-ripened flavor and quality. Grainger tomatoes have even made their way to Canada and Mexico. For each of the past 20 years Grainger County has celebrated, and promoted, its premier product with a Tomato Festival. This year we finally attended one.

At first glance it looked pretty much like any fair.

There was a midway with lots of opportunities to later say "Man, I can't believe I ate that!"

There were lots of activities to keep the young ones busy.

There were lawn tractors souped up for racing.

and a display of vintage farm tractors.

There were artists and crafters,

and a long table of writers selling and signing their books.

There were line dancers,
and cloggers.

Even the local blood bank followed the crowd here.

But it was really all about the tomatoes.
Everywhere farmers were selling tomatoes; by the pound, by the peck, and by the bushel. We watched vans fill with bushel boxes of tomatoes heading home to be canned or rendered into tomato juice and pasta sauce. There was another tomato attraction beyond the chance to buy premium tomatoes in quantity at bargain prices, however - the famous Tomato War!