The Tennessee Delta II

001 Abandoned Store003 Abandoned Store004 Abandoned Store005 Williston006 Williston007 Williston008 Williston009 McFerren's Grocery010 McFerren's Grocery011 McFerren's Grocery012 McFerren's Grocery013 Somerville014 Somerville016 Somerville017 Somerville018 Somerville019 Somerville020 Fayette Civic and Welfare League021 Macon022 Macon023 Macon024 Macon025 Macon026 Macon027 Macon028 Macon029 Macon030 Macon031 Alexander Place032 Alexander Place033 Macon Community Center035 Abandoned Mansion036 Macon037 Abandoned Mansion038 Abandoned Mansion039 Abandoned Mansion040 Abandoned Mansion041 Abandoned Guest House042 Macon School Site043 Macon School Site044 Macon School Site045 Macon School Site046 Abandoned Gas Station047 Abandoned Gas Station048 Oakland TN049 Oakland TN050 Oakland TN
On my second photographic journey into Fayette County, I stayed mostly in the southeast quadrant of the county, in the areas between Rossville, Moscow, Oakland, Williston and Somerville. I didn’t find as much evidence of the county’s blues culture as I had hoped, but I did find some old and historic buildings. At Somerville, I took pictures of John McFerren’s store, which is no longer open, but which was the headquarters for the Civil Rights Movement in Fayette County. An old classic car has been parked in front of it, possibly McFerren’s car, and the site almost looks as if it is being prepared to be a museum. Sadly, the Fayette County Civic and Welfare League Community Center where I had met Viola McFerren, John McFerren’s ex-wife and a leader in the county’s struggle for civil rights, is now abandoned and chained off on the road toward Macon. But at Macon, I found a number of historic buildings, including an abandoned mansion tucked back into the woods north of the road. Next door was a mysterious crosswork of sidewalks, a fountain and a flagpole. I couldn’t imagine what they had belonged to until I noticed the flagpole, and suddenly I realized that this was probably the site of Macon’s elementary school. However, no other trace of the building remained. The nearby Town of Oakland has grown significantly over the last several years as it is becoming a suburb of Memphis. But its Main Street has remained largely the way it was when I first saw it in the 1980’s, except that the railroad tracks are long gone. The right of way would actually make a great biking and hiking trail.

The Tennessee Delta I

001 Gallaway002 Gallaway003 Gallaway004 Gallaway005 Gallaway006 Gallaway007 Gallaway008 Gallaway009 Gallaway010 Gallaway011 Gallaway012 Gallaway013 Gallaway014 Gallaway015 Gallaway016 Gallaway017 Gallaway018 Gallaway019 Gallaway020 Gallaway021 Murrell's Cafe022 Anderson General Merchandise023 Abandoned Store024 Braden Station025 Braden Station026 Braden Station027 Braden Station028 Abandoned School029 Abandoned School030 Abandoned School031 Abandoned School032 Abandoned School033 Abandoned School034 Douglas Community035 Dancyville036 Dancyville037 Dancyville038 Dancyville039 Dancyville040 Dancyville041 Dancyville042 Dancyville043 Dancyville044 Dancyville045 Dancyville046 Abandoned Store, Fayette Corners047 Abandoned Store, Fayette Corners048 Laconia049 Laconia050 Laconia051 Laconia052 Laconia053 Laconia054 Laconia055 Laconia
We speak often of the Mississippi Delta, and to some extent of the Arkansas Delta and the Louisiana Delta. But we don’t usually speak of a Tennessee delta. Yet if we were to use the term, it would largely be the counties of Fayette, Haywood and Tipton, with perhaps some portions of Lauderdale, Shelby and Hardeman Counties as well. The towns of Gallaway, Braden, Mason and Stanton lie right in the center of this region, and given the importance of juke-joint-like cafes in Mason, and the proximity of Fayette County to Marshall County, Mississippi, which produced a lot of famous blues musicians, I set about to see if there was any sort of blues culture in the region, and to document what remains before creeping progress destroys it.
I started in the Fayette County town of Gallaway, a railroad town that incorporated and industrialized during the 1960’s. Time has not been kind to Gallaway, but some historic buildings still remain along Main Street and the railroad tracks. From Gallaway, Feathers Chapel Road runs toward Somerville, but in the rural outside Oakland, I came upon the ruins of a cafe called Murrell’s Cafe, although I was unable to determine whether it had been a restaurant, or, like the cafes in Mason, was a juke joint. At a nearby crossroads was a general merchandise store, still open and operating. Nearby Braden is also an incorporated town, but it never developed as much as Gallaway. Its one two-story building was always the C. T. McGraw General Store, which has in recent years become a seafood restaurant that I have been meaning to try called Braden Station. Passing through Mason, which I had photographed extensively in the past, I headed on to Stanton, which in my youth had had a historic downtown that resembled Mason’s. Unfortunately, fires have devastated most of downtown Stanton, and not much remains. So I headed further out into the rural Douglass Community to the northeast, and took some pictures there, then headed on to Dancyville.
Dancyville is in Haywood County, and has a handful of historic houses and churches, as well as a few small businesses. From there, I headed southeast along the Fayette Corners Road, stopping to photograph some abandoned rural stores, and ending up at another former railroad town called Laconia, where a single light burned on the porch of the local general store and post office. The railroad that ran through Laconia toward Jackson, Tennessee is long abandoned, but there is a small pavilion or bandbox, an antique store, a former gas station in the back of the post office building, and a large colony of cats that walk to and fro around the village. While I didn’t discover any unexpected blues venues or learn of any special events, it was a good first day of photography on the backroads of the Tennessee Delta.