Each time I visit the Farragut town hall or post office I feel a sense of pride when I see the Admiral Farragut Memorial Plaza with its commanding bronze statue of the famous admiral. That is because I remember the tireless work of the Farragut Museum Committee, and the personal efforts of Dr. Michael Karnitz who chaired the committee and led the project to completion.
This is the fifth anniversary of the dedication ceremony which included the participation of a high ranking admiral and other dignitaries from Washington, D.C. And for the hundreds of citizens who attended the dedication, there was a sense of civic pride in our community and a realization that patriotism, if not carried to the extreme, can be a unifying force in a fragmented world.
For a small area of several thousand people, Concord-Farragut has produced some renowned people in both politics and the military – two governors and the famous first admiral for whom the town is now named.
But one standout Farragut native, Lee Winfrey, is perhaps known locally only to those who grew up in the area. During his 44-year career in journalism, he covered Washington politics, Castro’s Cuba and coal-mining disasters, and he finally was a television critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
If there is one thing I have learned over the past 77 years it is that people who contribute to the betterment of humanity are usually just ordinary people who seized the opportunity when it was presented.
Certainly this was the case with the Rev. Douglas L. Crowder, a Methodist missionary who grew up in the Concord/Farragut area and became recognized internationally as one of the leading missionary-educators in Africa’s Central Congo area.
In midsummer 1865, 12 Concord residents decided the Village needed a Methodist church. With the help of a neighboring Loudon County Methodist church, they met at the home of John Stone and chartered a Concord church. There were other denominations in the Village that would have been quite satisfactory, since denominational theology was not an important issue at the time. But these 12 people wanted a Methodist church. Since most of the early settlers in the area were of Scots-Irish descent, Presbyterian churches were the largest denomination; Methodists were relative newcomers to the area.
If one were trying to pick a year in the South to establish a business or church, particularly in East Tennessee, a worse year than 1865 could not have been chosen. Animosities that even split families played havoc with existing churches, where conflicting sentiments concerning the war resulted in many churches closing. And neighbors – finding it difficult even to be neighbors – found it impossible to worship together.
The famous East Tennessee-born admiral’s name has been affixed to a variety of places and things, including an iconic downtown Knoxville hotel, a school, a Navy training station in Iowa, academies in several states and even a cigar.
Bronze statues honor this famous warrior in New York, Boston, Michigan, Washington, D.C., and most recently in Farragut, Tenn. But as a docent at the Farragut Folklife Museum, I am amazed at just how little our visitors – many of whom were born here and are Farragut High School alumni – actually know about him.
Farragut High School is fortunate to have not only a great academic record, but also some of the finest athletic facilities in the county. And the baseball diamond at the corner of Kingston Pike and Lyndon Welch Way is no exception.
Most of the present facilities are relatively new and bear little resemblance to those that existed 60 years ago. Today, football and baseball are played on different fields, but back then, there was only one field which had to be modified each year to accommodate the two sports.
One comment that I get quite often from people who grew up hundreds of miles from Concord-Farragut is: “Your column reminds me of my hometown.” Their hometown might have been in Michigan, Wisconsin or Kansas, but in rural America during the 1950s, there was a commonality that transcended geographic location.
And I am sure all small hamlets had people who contributed admirably to the community, and did so without expecting any special recognition for their efforts. When I reflect on Old Concord, two names come to mind that fit that description.
For docents at the Farragut Folklife Museum, one of the most frequently asked questions – posed by both newcomers and longtime residents – is this: “Tell me something about the stately old home on the corner.” Of course, they are inquiring about the Avery Russell home at the intersection of Campbell Station Road and Kingston Pike.
The original home was built in the Federalist style that was common on the frontier in the late 1700s. There has always been some question about when the home was built and who built it. It was first thought that Col. David Campbell, the co-founder of Campbell’s Station, built the home as early as 1810. Perhaps this misconception came from the fact that locally it was called “Campbelton,” prompting many to assume the Campbell family had built it.
I recently voted in Farragut’s early voting, and one of the controversial issues this year is allowing wine to be sold in Farragut’s grocery stores.
This issue reminded me of a similar referendum in 1961 when Knox County voted to legalize whiskey sales in package stores and, and finally, liquor by the drink in 1972. Referenda to legalize whiskey sales in Knox County date to 1941, and the proposal was placed on the ballot five times during that 20-year period until it was finally approved.
For several years our 1956 Farragut High School graduating class has met the third Monday of every month at IHOP on Lovell Road. There were only 32 students in our class, reflecting the rural nature of our area 58 years ago.
Surprisingly, we still have much in common after all those years. Of the original 32 students, 12 have passed on and, for the surviving spouses, the monthly meetings also serve as a significant support group.