Thompson Creek area, farms nominated for National Register

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Tennessee State Review Board will consider the Thompson Creek area, as well as a broad-ranging multiple-site entry for “historical agricultural resources of Bedford County, Tennessee, 1805-1968,” among several proposed nominations to the National Register of Historic Places when it meets Sept. 19 in Memphis.

The state will decide whether the proposals meet the necessary criteria for being listed on the National Register, and if so it will forward them on to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which makes the final decision.

TDOT involvement

Claudette Stager of Tennessee Historical Commission says that the documents were submitted through Tennessee Department of Transportation “as mitigation for a road project,” presumably the final phase of widening U.S. 41-A southeast of Shelbyville, which will pass directly through the Thompson Creek district. Historic significance is one factor considered by the state in its environmental review process for any major highway project.

“For every TDOT project, from an intersection improvement to a newly constructed road, TDOT Historic Preservation staff surveys the project area to identify properties listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register,” states the TDOT website. (Italics added)

Listing of a site on the National Register does not place any federal requirements or restrictions on what the owner can do to it. However, in some cases a register listing can be the first step towards federal tax credits for preservation projects.

Currently, the National Park Service website shows 31 Bedford County sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including downtown historic districts in Shelbyville, Bell Buckle, Normandy and Wartrace, as well as the old Bedford County jail.

Thompson Creek

According to draft documents provided by the state, “The Thompson Creek Historic District is an intact rural agricultural area located four miles southeast of Shelbyville in Bedford County, Tennessee. Settled in the early 1800s, the area is composed of both rich agricultural lands along the Duck River and its tributaries as well as upland hills and ridges. Many of the early settlers were German Lutherans and this heritage is reflected in the religious buildings and cemeteries which remain.

“During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the area was composed of numerous farmsteads producing corn, hay, wheat and livestock. These prosperous farms enabled the owners to build substantial dwellings along with many domestic and agricultural outbuildings on their property. The rural character of the historic district remains evident not only through the cultivated fields and woodlands but also through the presence of historic roadbeds, stone walls, and other landscape features.

“Many of the farmsteads remain in the possession of the descendants of original nineteenth century families that settled the area. Within the 3,765 acre historic district are 249 buildings, structures and sites of which 175, or 70.3 [percent], are considered contributing to the character of the district.”

Historical agriculture

The other Bedford County proposal is broader in scope, referring to a variety of historic agricultural resources covering the period 1805 through 1968. The application includes a detailed analysis of the county’s agricultural history.

The specific types of properties referred to include log homes; various “vernacular forms” of farm house; tenant houses and slave quarters; various “high style” farm houses; barns, dairy and poultry buildings, and harvest or food storage buildings; mills, spring houses, wells and cisterns; smokehouses, privies, garages and sheds; stone fences; roads and roadbeds; and family cemeteries. The application includes a list of the county’s Century Farms, which have been in the same family for more than 100 years.

Other listings

The Tennessee State Review Board will meet at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 19 at Crosstown Concourse in Memphis. The meeting is public. In addition to the two proposed Bedford County listings, the board will consider the Hank Snow House in Davidson County; the Smith-Carter House in Davidson County; Whitwell Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Marion County; Maple Grove Farm in Stewart County; and Oak Grove School in Union County.

The board is composed of 13 members with backgrounds in American history, architecture, archaeology, or related fields, according to the state. It also includes members representing the public.

For additional information on the meeting, contact Stager at 615-770-1089 or Claudette.stager@tn.gov.