There’s a lot of state history not taught to our youth. You’ve probably heard of the Battle of Athens, but only from folks who wanted to share the story. Here’s another piece of history not taught to our kids. But both events are in Tennessee’s Blue Book ( this story on page 42), the book that also contains our state Constitution. So the question is, why is this history good enough for the Blue Book, but not good enough to be taught in school ?
Another clash between community practices and the forces of modernity took place in 1908 at Reelfoot Lake in the northwest corner of the state. The lake, an exceptionally rich fishery and game habitat, had for many years supported local fishermen and hunters who supplied West Tennessee hotels and restaurants with fish, turtles, swans, and ducks. Outside businessmen and their lawyers began buying up the lake and shoreline in order to develop it as a private resort. In the process, they denied access to the lake to local citizens who had long made their livelihoods from it. Some of these people, having failed to stop the developers in court, resorted to the old custom of vigilante acts or
night-riding to stop them.
Dressed in masks and cloaked in darkness, the night riders terrorized county officials, kidnapped two land company lawyers, and lynched one of them in the autumn of 1908. Governor Patterson called out the state militia to quell the violence; eight night riders were brought to trial, but all eventually went free. Fearing further outbreaks of violence over the private development of the lake, the state began to acquire the lake property as a public resource. In 1925 Reelfoot Lake was established as a state game and fish preserve, marking a first step toward the conservation of Tennessee’s
Ironically, at the very time that Tennessee’s rural culture was under attack by city critics, its musicfound a national audience. In 1925 WSM, a powerful Nashville radio station, began broadcasting a weekly program of live music which was soon dubbed the “Grand Ole Opry.” ,