Monday, December 10, 2012

Polk County TN – History and Historic Places

Continuing with my off and on efforts to locate, photograph and then research the history of listings from the National Register of Historic Places… This is a continuation of our exploration of Polk County Tennessee.  To date I’ve written about the Burra Burra Mines in Ducktown, historic structures in and around both Copper Hill and Ducktown, (including the college that never was), the Cherokee memorial and the old dams along the Ocoee River. 

Only two more NRHP listings, at least for now, in Polk County…
 
Much of the time I dig up more information about these historic places than I can use within the reasonable confines of a blog.  But sometimes, I pretty much strike out!  This is one of those instances.  Laurie took this photo of the Polk County Courthouse in Benton Tennessee…  Beside the fact that it is listed in the NRHP, it was built in 1925 and that architecturally it’s an art deco structure, I couldn’t find out anything else about the building itself.  

The town was named after Thomas Hart Benton…no, not the artist…who wasn’t born until 1889.  This Thomas Hart Benton was a renowned politician, a US Senator from Missouri who was the first Senator to serve 5 terms in the Senate.  He originally owned 50,000 acres in the Nashville Tennessee area but he relocated to Missouri because, as important as he was, in Tennessee he was stuck under the competitive shadow of Andrew Jackson.  Benton was an interesting character who was a champion of America’s western expansion.  For more about Senator Benton, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Hart_Benton_(politician).
I perused enough old newspaper articles to learn that back in the 1920’s and 1930’s, this corner of Tennessee was a wild and wooly place!  Killings, moonshine raids, retaliatory attacks on law enforcement, bank robberies with shootouts and political corruption with plenty of violence…all were part of the local tapestry back when the courthouse was new.  For one example of just how crazy it was, just go to http://genealogytrails.com/tenn/polk/Guardsmen_Called_To_Polk_County.html.
 
This is the William Wiggins House, aka The Drug Store. (It still serves as a pharmacy) This home was built ca. 1840 by William Wiggins, one of the first Justices of the Peace in the county.  The house/drug store sits right across the street from the County Court House.   The Wiggins House is believed to be the oldest extant building in town and it was indeed one of the first buildings constructed in Benton.  The attached commercial building is the earliest commercial building in the county.  Much of the home is still original.  This includes the double hung sash windows, board ceilings, plaster walls, fireplace mantels and woodwork.

Among others, a series of 3 doctors occupied the home.  An alternate name for the home is the J.D. Nuchols house.  He purchased the home in 1905 and used it as his home and medical office until he died.  As for William Wiggins, it appears that at least part of the Wiggins clan eventually moved to Missouri and resided there through the Civil War.  Following the war, many of them then migrated to Texas. (There is a lot of information on the Internet regarding the Wiggin’s clan and their family tree)
To reiterate what I said before…there has been a lot of interesting history in this county.  To check out a very strange suicide and even more unusual last will and testament, go to http://genealogytrails.com/tenn/polk/Capt_Jas_Pittit.hml.htm.
That’s about it for now… Just click on either of the photos to enlarge them.
Thanks for stopping by for a stroll down history lane…
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

1 comment:

  1. what an interesting adventure you're on, must be fun!!...2 of my kids are history buffs and just love this kind of exploration...they do national history day projects in school and go to the sites they are researching...all the while getting enormous help from the local historical societies..definitley makes learning fun.

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