Posts

Long-lost McGavock Civil War Diary Returned to Tennessee

Press release from the Tennessee Secretary of State; August 19, 2014:

The long-lost diary of a prominent Nashvillian has been returned to Tennessee by a California woman. Andrea Shearn, a retired science teacher, found the diary while helping her parents move into an assisted living facility.

Shearn found the diary in a wooden box on a closet shelf in Cincinnati, where her grandmother had evidently put it in 1963. Neither Shearn nor her parents realized it was there.

Examining the diary, Shearn learned that it had belonged to R.W. McGavock, a Confederate officer with beautiful handwriting. Under McGavock’s name was written: “Captured at Ft. Henry Stewart Co. Middle Tennessee Feb 6th 1862 by Capt. M Wemple Co H 4th Ill Vol Cav Presented to Ms. Lue Wemple.”

Delving into her own genealogy, Shearn discovered that Capt. Myndert Wemple of Illinois was her ancestor. He evidently found the diary after McGavock and his troops evacuated Fort Henry in a battle that was a disaster for the Confederates. Wemple’s descendants preserved the diary and handed it down through the family for the next 100 years, until it disappeared into that closet in Cincinnati.

Shearn transcribed the diary, becoming ever more interested in the writer and his experiences. She was surprised to learn that Randal McGavock was a Harvard-educated lawyer who was elected mayor of Nashville at the age of 32. He was a lieutenant colonel of the 10th Tennessee Regiment of the Confederate Army.

Shearn got in touch with State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill.

“This nice lady from California called and said, ‘I wonder if anyone in Tennessee would be interested in this diary,’” Sherrill recalls. “When she told me it was Randal McGavock’s diary, my first thought was to fly to California and get it before it disappeared again.”

Sherrill and others at the State Library and Archives had long been aware of Randal McGavock and his diaries, as eight volumes of his diary have been housed at there since 1960.

“We had this great set of diaries, but the volume from the beginning of the Civil War was missing,” he said.

Shearn eventually flew to Nashville to visit Two Rivers Mansion, Carnton and other sites associated with Randal McGavock and his family. She and her husband brought the diary with them and generously donated it to the archives.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett said: “We are extremely grateful to Andrea Shearn for returning this diary to Tennessee. I know that scholars and McGavock descendants will enjoy the opportunity to read it and fill in the blanks in this soldier’s history.”

TSLA to Hold Workshop on Researching TN Supreme Court Records

Press release from the Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett; July 31, 2014:

Among the vast amount of information available at the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA), Tennessee Supreme Court records make up by far the largest single collection. With individual case files that sometimes include hundreds of pages and stretch over several generations, the entire collection takes up most of an entire floor of TSLA’s building.

These records are packed full of valuable information for genealogists and other researchers. And during the next session of TSLA’s free workshop series, State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill will provide tips on navigating through those files.

The workshop will be held from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. August 23 in TSLA’s building, which is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the State Capitol building in downtown Nashville.

“Every county in the state has sent cases to the Supreme Court on appeal,” Mr. Sherrill said. “In some cases, the local records have been lost or destroyed. That means the Supreme Court records are sometimes the only ones still available. The cases cover every aspect of life in old Tennessee, ranging from land disputes to horse stealing, and from moonshining to murder.”

Mr. Sherrill has 30 years of experience as a librarian, archivist and genealogist, and has written more than 20 books on various historical topics. He has served as state librarian and archivist since 2010.

Although the workshop is free, reservations are required due to limited seating in TSLA’s auditorium. To make a reservation, call (615) 741-2764 or e-mail workshop.tsla@tn.gov

Free parking is available in front, beside and behind the TSLA building.

Hargett Premiers TN Capitol History Documentary

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett; July 3, 2013:

It has endured an army occupation, the interment of two of its founding fathers, and a car cruising through its hallways. Not to mention its role as the site of many of the most important events in Tennessee’s history. The Tennessee State Capitol building has many great stories to tell – and some of those stories were revealed in a documentary about the building that premiered last week. In attendance were state legislators, department commissioners, representatives from preservation groups and others.

The documentary was created by the staff of the Tennessee State Library and Archives. It is the first part of a project that will eventually include a virtual tour of the Capitol building and its grounds, and feature stories about the building and influential people in Tennessee history.

When completed, the entire project will be burned onto DVDs that will be distributed to schools throughout the state.

The project is a result of the Tennessee General Assembly’s approval of Public Chapter No. 557, sponsored by Representative Jim Coley and Senator Ken Yager.

“I appreciate the support of the Tennessee General Assembly in the passage of Public Chapter No. 557, which has led us to the creation of a comprehensive digital record of the Tennessee State Capitol’s history,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “That history will be available to people now and in the future – 24 hours a day, seven days a week and free of charge – over the Internet. There are many things about the Capitol’s history that will surprise people. This building doesn’t have its own Trivial Pursuit game, but it could.”

“The mission of the State Library and Archives is to preserve Tennessee’s history for everyone,” State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill said. “This video draws on some of the vast treasures contained in our archives to tell the story of the Capitol building.”

The original cornerstone of the Capitol building was laid on July 4, 1845. In the 14 years that followed, architect William Strickland – with assistance from Samuel Morgan, Francis Strickland and Harvey Ackroyd – designed and oversaw the building that is still in use today. Although the Capitol has gone through various renovations over nearly 170 years, many of the building’s original characteristics are unchanged. This historical national landmark is one of the nation’s oldest working statehouses still in use.

The documentary and information on the images used in the film are available at www.capitol.tnsos.net. Additionally, the virtual tour, mini-features, and fun stories about the Tennessee State Capitol will be available soon.

TN State Library Hosts Prohibition Exhibit

Press release from the Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett; May 2, 2013:

It was the constitutional amendment that tried – often unsuccessfully – to put Americans on the path to sobriety and in the process created a booming market for Tennessee’s providers of illegal moonshine whiskey.

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which launched the Prohibition era in 1920, was called the country’s “noble experiment.” That experiment ended 13 years later with the ratification of the 21st Amendment – the only amendment to repeal another amendment – which halted Prohibition and brought imbibing back out of the shadows.

Now a new exhibit in the lobby of the Tennessee State Library and Archives building chronicles the history surrounding the passage of both amendments.

This exhibit, entitled “The Saloon and Anarchy: Prohibition in Tennessee,” surveys the brewing and distilling industries in Tennessee prior to Prohibition, chronicles the rise of the Temperance Movement in the state and the impact it had on the passage of the 18th Amendment, examines the effect that the 18th Amendment had on moonshining in the state, and recounts the passage of the 21st Amendment.

Drawing on the wealth of material in the Tennessee State Library and Archives’ rich collections, this exhibit features items such as: 19th and 20th Century temperance literature (such as the 1902 temperance tract: The Saloon and Anarchy, the Two Worst Things in the World, Versus the United States of America), temperance songs from the Kenneth D. Rose Sheet Music Collection, the 1908 trademark registration by Lem Motlow (Jack Daniel’s nephew and business partner) for the phrase “Old No. 7,” and various pieces of Prohibition-related legislation from the records of the Tennessee General Assembly.

“The Prohibition era was a very interesting time in our state’s history,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “This exhibit gives Tennesseans the opportunity to learn more about that era and the thinking and attitudes that led first to the passage of the 18th Amendment – and then later to its repeal. I encourage those who are in the Nashville area to visit the exhibit at the State Library and Archives. For those who are unable to make the trip to Nashville, please check out the online version of the exhibit on our web site.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public during regular library hours. The Tennessee State Library and Archives is open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.

The library is located at 403 7th Avenue North in downtown Nashville, just west of the State Capitol building. A limited amount of public parking is available around the library building.

The exhibit will remain available for viewing until the end of September.

The online version of the exhibit is available at http://www.tn.gov/tsla/exhibits/prohibition/index.htm.