Enter a search request and press enter. Press Esc or the X to close.
This article appears in the Winter 2022 Issue of the Tennessee State Museum Quarterly newsletter.
Reelfoot Lake Night Rider Cases
This rare Tennessee Supreme Court brief concerns the Reelfoot Lake Night Rider cases focused on violence that erupted when the West Tennessee Land Company bought tracts of Reelfoot Lake land, intending to drain a portion of the lake and use the land to grow cotton. Many community members who valued lake resources protested. On October 8, 1908, a vigilante group known as the Night Riders captured two land agents. They murdered Quinton Rankin and attempted to kill R. Z. Taylor. State forces imprisoned over 100 individuals, six of whom were eventually convicted of murder. The Supreme Court overturned the convictions as detailed in this brief. Soon after this incident, the state purchased Reelfoot Lake, ensuring its preservation.
Paperback book, Reelfoot Lake Night Rider Cases (2021.62.1)
Letter by Amanda C. Ewell (A.C.E.) to Her Mother Julia Franklin Williams, September 3, 1874
The letter is related to a notorious outbreak of racial violence in Gibson County, Tennessee in late August 1874 that included the lynching of sixteen African American men who had been arrested and were removed from jail by a mob that murdered them. In this letter, Amanda C. Ewell writes about being at a church service at Dyer when “Major Davidson came in, walked into the pulpit, took hold of the preacher’s arm, said Trenton had dispatched to them for all the help they could get immediately” in defense against feared retaliation by local African Americans for the horrific murders. The racial violence in Gibson County was widely reported in the press throughout the state and nation.
Amanda C. Ewell's handwritten letter (2021.71.1.1)
Memorandum Book by David Bell, 1836 – 1875
The Museum recently acquired a memorandum book from the Chattanooga area. It was kept by a clock dealer and land agent named David Bell primarily between 1836 and 1842. The ledger documents commerce and trade in southeast Tennessee during this period, including stylistic trends such as “square tops,” “scroll tops,” and “alarm Franklins.” Bell’s writing also demonstrates the trade networks extending between Tennessee towns like Athens, Carrollville, and Blair’s Ferry to northern manufacturing companies. As a land agent, Bell was also selling property previously owned by Cherokees in the Ocoee District of Polk, Bradley, and Monroe counties. Bell’s land dealings took place following the forced removal of the Cherokee to Oklahoma.
Memorandum book of David Bell (2021.71.2)
Finding Hope in a Pandemic by Catherine Moberg, 2021
Nashville artist Catherine Moberg recently donated a ceramic trompe l’oeil sculpture to the Museum. Mentored by the celebrated ceramic artist Sylvia Hyman, who is also in the Museum Collection, Moberg creates ceramic works that are an illusion of everyday objects. Titled Finding Hope in a Pandemic, the artist used ceramic clay to carefully craft now-familiar imagery related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a thermometer, face mask, and signage that she arranged into a still-life sculpture. Moberg believes the piece places emphasis on the creation of vaccines.
"Finding Hope in a Pandemic" by Catherine Moberg, 2021 (2022.1)
W.T. Copeland Mercantile Store Model Commissary
The Model Commissary was a small vending machine, common to rural mercantile stores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, produced by the Model Commissary Company of Ferndale, Michigan. It contains six spice containers labeled, ginger, pepper, clover, cinnamon, mustard, and spice. There are also two larger upright containers labeled tea and coffee. The lower square container is a sifter and a collection pan for flour. This commissary was used in the W.T. Copeland Mercantile Store, located in a small community between present day Mulberry and Lois, Tennessee near the border of Lincoln and Moore Counties. Copeland closed his store in 1916 and kept the commissary. It has passed down through the family and was repainted at some point.
W.T. Copeland Mercantile Store Model Commissary (2021.53)
Willard Hill Sculptures
This summer the Museum acquired two sculptures by Willard Hill as a gift of the artist. Born and raised in Manchester where he still resides, Hill creates expressive sculptures out of found objects, including plastic bottles and grocery bags. He then builds upon that frame with masking tape, adding detail with marker and nail polish. Hill began making sculptures after a career as a cook, although he has been drawing since childhood. Entirely self-taught, Hill finds inspiration from his life experiences and his own imagination. Musicians and wagons pulled by animals appear frequently in his work, seen here. The piano keys are made with toothpicks, while the whimsical wagon scene features a large umbrella formed from a plastic lid.
"Organ Player" by Willard Hill, 2019-2021 (2021.58.2)