Friday, September 21, 2012

Greenback Tennessee – A Bit of History

As we’ve continued to explore East Tennessee, I’ve been searching the Internet for historic places or sites that are worth checking out.  On many occasions, I’ve noted buildings or areas that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Now I’ve started using the actual listings to find historic structures or places.

The National Register of Historic Places is maintained by the National Park Service. ( My problem with this site is that I haven’t really been able to figure out how to get into their data base.  It contains the justification for the listing of any place or structure…
In the meantime, I’ve been using the Tennessee listing for the NRHP as well as Wikipedia’s Listings by county.   The Tennessee website is by county and it provides a tad more information about each site than does Wikipedia’s site but it provides minimal directional data.  The Tennessee site can be found at  There seems to be a similar listing for all of the other states.

A couple of years ago, Laurie took this photo of this old Louisville and Nashville Railroad depot in Greenback Tennessee.  It was starting to look decrepit…although it still appeared structurally sound.  This depot was built in 1914 but for some reason it hasn’t been included in the NRHP.
The Wikipedia county listing can be found at,_Tennessee.  In this case, you will note that I was looking at Loudon County Tennessee.  These county listings provide photos of some of the listed places and, if you use the interactive coordinates provided, it pinpoints where these NRHP sites are located...providing an address and, in some cases, even a street level view of the site or structure.

I found this photo on the Internet.  It shows the depot when 2 tracks still remained in place.  The first passenger train came to Greenback in 1890…and the last train of any type passed over these tracks in 1978.
One of the main reasons that the railroad came to town…and Greenback came into existence…was the fact that there were sulfur springs nearby.  An entrepreneur built a major tourist attraction based on the then popular notion of the health benefits inherent in these special waters.  It was a 3-story 60 room resort named the Alleghany Springs Hotel and visitors flocked to the site.  The resort was finally torn down in 1947.

On a very recent drive we stopped by Greenback one more time… Wow!  The current owner is sprucing up the old depot and it’s looking good!  The Greenback Historical Society is also apparently involved.  They maintain a museum in town…which was closed the day we came through.  Check out the Historical Society and the Museum at
Greenback today has a population of around 1,100 residents.  The town finally got its name on the 4th try… Back in the early days, one of the keys to establishing a town was the acquisition of an official post office.  The federal postal authorities would actually reject town names/the names of postal locations that were the same or similar to others already in use.  Thompson’s Stand, (the location of the first general store), Pine Grove and Alleghany Station were all names that were submitted and rejected.
‘Greenback’ was the ‘winning’ choice.  The name was inspired by a local politician and member of the then flourishing “Greenback” political party.  The Greenback Party functioned between 1874 and 1889, fielding 3 presidential candidates during this time period.  The party’s name referred to non-gold backed paper money and they supported currency reform, labor rights and they were anti-monopolies.  For more information, go to

Using the Wikipedia website for Loudon County Tennessee, Laurie and I found the Craig’s Chapel AME Zion Church in the Greenback area.  While I haven’t been able to find the date when the main part of this church was built, it was during the late 1800’s…with the side extension being added in the 20th century.  As per the NRPH documentation, the church is adjacent to a cave that was associated with the Underground Railroad in this early Quaker community.
The African Methodist Episcopalian Zion Church was founded in Philadelphia back in 1821.  Today it’s estimated to have over 1,400,000 members. For more information on this organization, you can go to  (Note: This church is not affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopalian Church) This particular church building is currently listed as being used by the ‘Lifestreams Fellowship’…but I couldn’t find a current phone listing.  

Here’s another view of the Craig’s Chapel AME Zion Church.  It more clearly shows the 20th century additions.  Apparently this and hundreds of other Tennessee African American churches were submitted and listed on the NRHP all at the same time.  It was listed as a part of the Middle Tennessee University’s Survey of the state’s rural African American churches.  The initial survey and submission for inclusion in the NRHP was completed in 1998 and it included 365 churches across the state.  They expected to add another 150 before the entire project was completed!
To view the very extensive historical submission compiled by MTU for inclusion of these churches in the NRHP that the University sent to the National Park Service, just go to
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for taking a ride with us along the roads of East Tennessee!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. You keep this up and pretty soon I'll know a little something about where I live. I like that younenjoynresearchingnthesenthings.

  2. This post is nice David! how are you? many times I dont see you LOL

  3. I'm thoroughly enjoying the road trip, Dave. I hope there is a lot more ground to cover. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  4. we lived in Tenn when we first got married, 28 yrs ago...going back there on motorcycles someday to travel these roads you're traveling now...