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Picturing the Past 48: Wolf Meadows

Posted Tuesday, February 16, 2010, at 10:17 AM

(Photo)
The large home once located at Wolf Meadows, off Warners Bridge Road. (Photo submitted by Monte Arnold)
Quite a few comments have been left over the past months about Wolf Meadows, the old mansion off Warners Bridge Road which, in its later years, housed mentally handicapped youths before today's government services were available.

Jimmy Clark says he and his father knew Grayson Stewart, who owned the "big house," and visited the residence in his younger years.

"I had once asked my father why they called it Wolf Meadows," Jimmy writes. "He told me that most people didn't really know the entire story. He told me that it is NOT the house that was originally called Wolf Meadows, but the fields (meadows) at the bottom of the bluff where the house was located that had that name. I can only assume that at some time there were wolves (more likely stray dogs that were mistaken as wolves) that roamed that area at night. Hence the name. Over time people just began to call the entire area, and especially the old house, Wolf Meadows.

"I visited there many times growing up. There was a long narrow road that went from Fishing Ford Pike (the road now known as Warners Bridge Road) to the house. And when you finally made that last left turn you could see that wonderful old house sitting at the end of the drive.

"There were many stories about the old place over the years, a couple true, but most are just stories."

By my high school years in the 1970s the "mystery" of Wolf Meadows included stories about mentally handicapped people being chained to trees and howling at the moon. I suspect those weren't true; in later years I heard the man who sheltered the residents was kind to them and, one night, loaded them up and moved to Florida to escape the occasional nighttime traffic and harassment.

Photobucket

Samuel T. Tillman (above) grew up in the house during the Civil War years, according to Monte Arnold, who provided both this week's photos.

Wolf Meadows burned in, I think, the late 1980s. I was there that night and wish I could remember the exact year. I'm planning to order a device which will print 35mm negatives (all we can print now are older large-format negatives) and then you'll start seeing some Picturing the Pasts from the late 1960s to recent years, hopefully (but the older stuff will keep coming as well). Then I'll track down the Wolf Meadows fire negatives.

I remember Warners Bridge Road as Fishingford Pike for many years; the name gradually changed during the 1980s.

More on the Hotel Dixie: I also received some good material on the Hotel Dixie last week. You'll see it here in the next week or two, along with another interesting location in Shelbyville that's been mentioned by readers but not previously pictured.

Knack singer dies: It doesn't seem like 30 years ago -- yet in a way it does -- that "My Sharona" by The Knack was all over the radio.

Lead singer Doug Fieger died of brain cancer Sunday. For a brief time in 1979 some people were referring to The Knack as "the next Beatles." I didn't see that at the time. They were good, but not Beatles-level.

Picturing the Past is featured each Tuesday in this blog. Reader contributions are welcome.


Comments
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David, thanks for the info on Wolf Meadows. I believe the reference to "being chained to trees" came from (what I suppose is fact) that because of the house's proximity to the river, when the patients were allowed outside, they had to be tethered in some way for their own safety. It may be legend--or fact--but I've heard that there was a drowning or two connected to Wolf Meadows.

-- Posted by marnold1118 on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 10:55 AM

Another good one David. Thanks, and thanks to both you and ilikeoldsongs for helping me to locate it through Bing. I have had fun with this one as I always do with all of the Picturing the Past pictures and articles.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 11:32 AM

For anyone wanting more information on the history of Wolf Meadows and/or the Tillman family, here are several sources:

--In the Bedford County Historical Society's quarterly publication: Vol. III, No. 3--photo on front cover and some information on page 72; Vol. IX, No. 1-Pg. 6; No. 2-Pg. 43; and No. 3-Pg. 66--these are 3 parts of the same story.

--Dwight L. Smith wrote a series of six in-depth articles published in the "Tennessee Historical Quarterly". They may be found in the Fall-1987, pg. 148; Spring-1988, pg. 3; Fall-1988, pg. 142; Summer-1990, pg. 103; Fall-1990, pg. 177 and Winter-1992, pg. 213. These are lengthy accounts of the life of Samuel L. Tillman. Be sure and read the extensive footnotes accompanying this series.

--as mentioned last week's PTP blog, there are photos and articles in the 1969 Times-Gazette Sesquicentennial issue and in Dick Poplin's "Doors to the Past".

-- Posted by marnold1118 on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 12:50 PM

Thank you David, I love to see all the past Photo's of our little town. Wolf Meadows is a place I grew up close to, I got to go up to the house when I was little, It was empty then, My Dad got us permission to go. He always tried to show us as much history as he could. You don't realise how much information you get from the your elders, ect:Parents and Grand parents, until they die and you don't have their insight anymore. Through your articles and the people that blog, I learned alot about the the information the Bedford County Historical Soceity has to share. I just like to thank all of you and hope you keep it up.

-- Posted by Perplexed on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 4:57 PM

Perplexed, Do you remember exactly where the Southern Rendering Company was located?

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 5:42 PM

leeiii, Southern Rendering Co. was on Fishing Ford Pike about 2 miles from the West Lane, Sims road split on the left. It was on the left side back off the road. Sam Kennedy's dad owned it. I know it was there from 1952 till after 1956. My two uncles worked there and my youngest uncle got killed on the job. It was really a sad day. Hope I have helped a little.

-- Posted by Wilderness 68 on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 6:05 PM

Yes, I know exactly where it is, I not very good with directions though, I'll try. going down Warners Bridge Rd, before you get to Rabbit Branch Rd, there is a drive way on your left before you top the hill. now there are several houses in there, it looks really grown up from the road, but on Bing.com you can put in this area, and see it from an areal view. Hope this helps. The actual structure appears to be fallen or torn down.

-- Posted by Perplexed on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 6:11 PM

Thanks Wilderness 68 and Perplexed. That is exactly where I remembered it being.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 6:57 PM

It's a shame we have lost Wolf Meadows. The mansion house was began in 1860 by Lewis Tillman and finished during the Autumn of 1864, as stated by his son Samuel Escue Tillman (1847-1942). All the materials were produced on the place. The son also writes, his father owned this 400 acres that "was situated in a wide horseshoe bend of Duck River, which formed a large part of the boundary. Far back in geologic time, the course of the river had been a letter S, of which the lower part had filled in through the ages, forming a large meadow covered with scattered trees and shrubbery, which was always known as Wolf Meadow and which was said to have been the haunt of those animals up to 1830 and for thirty years after that it was teeming with wild life; raccoons, opossums, squirrels and occasional foxes and skunks, besides being a paradise for many varieties of birds." There is a very good article in the Shelbyville Times Gazette on October 26, 1983, written by TG Staff Writer Bryna Estes, which gives the story of the Wolf Meadows mansion and its reputation as a home for the many children that were housed there by Mr. Edward G. McCullough, now deceased, from 1958 to the early 1970's. Mr. McCullough called the place "Happy Haven" and did a very good job of caring for the children in his care. All the rumors and curiosity from the community was not necessary---the care of the children should always come first. For some reason I do not have the date the mansion burned, but at that time, my wife and I were traveling west on Sims Road to visit her parents near the Bedford Community, late that evening. I remember looking over toward the mansion, which would have been across the river, and I could see the very large fire burning and I knew in my heart it was Wolf Meadows. History minded as I am, and always have been, I remember the sadness I experienced when I saw the fire----because I knew Wolf Meadows sat in that direction.

-- Posted by Highway64 on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 7:45 PM

Does the Tillman family still own Wolf Meadows?

-- Posted by Chef Boy R.D. on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 9:33 PM

Memory1950, what did Southern Rendering mean, I was taught it was where they would dispose of dead carcuses,from road kill and livestock that had died,ect. I do remember the really bad smell that would go on for miles, My family lived several miles down the road and the smell was so bad you couldn't go out side.But I don't know what they actually did.

-- Posted by Perplexed on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 10:56 PM

Chef Boy R.D

I believe it is owned by a local farmer now.

-- Posted by Juju35 on Wed, Feb 17, 2010, at 9:49 AM

I lived at wolfmeadow,as a child.I lived with my grandparents,Owford&Mary Helton. My grandfather,worked for Mr. Grason Stewart,as a sharecropper.

We lived in the old tenant house,a log house with a large rock chimney.It is as far as I know still there(whats left of it),and is located cross one of the fields,off the main road leading up to the main house.

I remember an old slave grave yard,and,the many native american artifacts,found,and preserved by my grandfather.Most were in a collection belonging to a Mr.Humble,I think that was his name.He owned a monument business on Holland St.

-- Posted by Gus on Thu, Feb 18, 2010, at 10:45 PM

I also remember Southern Rendering Co.

My late father worked there for many years.He and Red,and Red's brother were good friends,and my father saw Red was in trouble,and was going to help,and was stopped just in time to be saved from being killed himself.I think Red's brother nickname was Mutt.That sweet old man,called flopps,was,my great uncle,Mr.Fred Woosley,who died with a heart attack.

About the bad smell of the plant,you heard right.I helped do the laundry at home, which included my father's stinky work cloths.

In the words of my late mother,Mr.Kennedy was a good,and honest man,who helped his employes in any way he could.He believed in helping poor, hard working men,with families.

-- Posted by Gus on Thu, Feb 18, 2010, at 10:58 PM

Gus, thanks for the great additional info on Wolf Meadows. Question: was your house in a field off to the right as you came to the sharp (about 90 degrees) left turn on Stewart Road, the road from Fishingford Pike to the main house? I can see what may be what you are talking about on a Bing Map. Do you know anything about current ownership?

-- Posted by marnold1118 on Fri, Feb 19, 2010, at 8:28 AM

I think David Womack currently owns the farm. Beautiful place.

-- Posted by somecommonsense on Fri, Feb 19, 2010, at 1:45 PM

I will try to tell you where the old house is, Mararnold1118.

When you round the turn in the drive to the main house,the old cabin in to your left,about three quarters of the way up the drive.

I went down the old road last summer and found a gate hing still in an old tree that served as a gate for us to enter with a car.

The old cabin sits very close to the fence line that runs from that tree.

I hope to get permission from the owner,when I find out who that is,to have my children assist me in a picture taking visit to a place I hold dear in my heart.

Gus

-- Posted by Gus on Tue, Feb 23, 2010, at 2:38 PM

Gus, Have you located the cabin on bing maps? Is it close to the river? Does it have a green roof?

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Feb 23, 2010, at 4:25 PM

leeiii

I am not well versed enough on the computer to figure out the bing map,yet.

Maybe someday soon.

The old cabin is not far off the river bank,and the roof,if it has not fell in,may very well be green. I don't have any recollection of the material is was made of,maybe tin,which would probably turn green with mold ect.

I will try to find out more on it and post it asap.

Gus

-- Posted by Gus on Fri, Feb 26, 2010, at 7:44 PM

Gus, I think that I have located the cabin on www.bing.com/map and I think that it is just East of where the big house used to sit. If this is the right place it does have a green tin gable roof on it with a galvanized (rusty) tin roof on a porch facing the river.

-- Posted by leeiii on Fri, Feb 26, 2010, at 8:28 PM

Gus, After you go to the link that I listed in the last post, just type in West Lane Street, 37160 and then navigate out to the location. Use your Automatic setting and zoom in to get the best view.

-- Posted by leeiii on Fri, Feb 26, 2010, at 8:31 PM

dear david ,

my name is terri, i was 5 five years old when my parents rented wolf meadows an we lived there for two years i can remember walking to the end of the driveway where it meets waners bridge road, i can remember playin in the yard with my brothers an cousins , i have pictures of me at easter lookin for eggs in the yard, i have a picture of the old house before it burned down, it was in august 1987 when it burned. i loved it there we got to roam an pretty much do what we wanted because it so sicluded.

-- Posted by terrimoore on Mon, Jan 10, 2011, at 8:51 PM

the building with the green roof is a hay shed now i was there a few minutes ago and saw a snake and got scared

-- Posted by marylee37160 on Sat, Jul 13, 2013, at 2:00 PM


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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.