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Stewartville

 

 


 

 

From An Illustrated History of the People and Towns of Northeast Shelby County
and Southeast Tipton County

 

   Stewartville is located just south of Mudville via Brunswick Road, and just east of Rosemark via Kerrville-Rosemark Road. In the mid-19th century, John Wesley escaped from Sanderlin farm because of maltreatment and settled on the Donald Stewart farm; hence his name was John Wesley Bledsoe Sanderlin Stewart. He married Mary Hill in the mid-1850s. They were blessed with several children, but there first free child was John Wesley Stewart, Jr., born June 26, 1867. The Stewart household was quite large and the children were educated by a white circuit teacher, Mr. William Marion, who came from the north on horseback. He went from house to house teaching and living with families in the community. Each Stewart child received a liberal education because his home was frequented by Mr. Marion. Eventually, their father had the foresight and courage to petition for the first public school in north Shelby County. The petition was accepted and the crude school was built on a hill where old Greenwood Church, the church in which the Stewart family belonged, once stood. His son, Fred, and daughters Harriette, Amanda and Ida were the first teachers in the school. Mary Hill and John Wesley Stewart produced the first black doctor in north Shelby County, Dr. Fred Stewart, a man born in slavery, but who struggled against the odds to become an imminent physician.

   Stewartville Masonic Lodge was located on the northeast side of where Kerrville-Rosemark Road meets Brunswick Road, about 1.5 miles east of Austin Peay Highway (TN 14). The lodge was established in 1892 and disbanded in 1942, but thereafter the building served as the polling place for area residents for approximately twenty more years. It was also the political base of Paul W. Barret, a member of the Shelby County Quarterly Court (now Shelby County Commission) from 1942 through 1966 and, as described by The Commercial Appeal newspaper in 1966, “long the most powerful individual in county politics.” The Stewartville voting precinct, known as “Paul Barret’s box,” unfailingly turned out practically unanimous votes for the candidates endorsed by Barret during the 1950s and 1960s. The FBI investigated but concluded that there was no illegal activity.

   Barret’s Chapel School - Barret’s Chapel High School, located at 1020 Godwin Road, dates to the late 1870s. Residents of northeast Shelby County, including newly-freed slaves, petitioned Squire Henry Thomas, Director of Shelby County Schools, for school to accommodate the children in the area. Land was given by Mrs. Jane Hays, and a one-room school was built and named Hays Grove in honor of the donor. According to school history, Hays Grove was the first school in Shelby County to hold an eighth grade graduation exercise for black students. Later, with assistance from the Rosenwald Fund, a four-room school was built. Miss Vivian Bolton was the first principal of that school.

   In 1922 additional land was purchased for and an eight-room building with an auditorium was built to accommodate twelve grades. The name was changed to Barret’s Chapel in recognition of J.H. Barret for his leadership in establishing the high school. In the spring of 1960, a fire destroyed all buildings on the campus except the high school building, vocational shop, and the principal’s home. The construction of a new cafeteria, gymnasium, and elementary was completed in 1961. Desegregation of schools in Shelby County during the 1960s brought many changes. In May 1971, the last senior class graduated. Barret’s Chapel became a K-8 school with the 1971-72 school term.
 

   Later Anthony Chapel School was built in the area, west of Brunswick Road and just north of Mulberry Road, to educate African-American children from Mudville, Barretville and Rosemark. In May, 2015, a historical marker was dedicated by Historic Archives of Rosemark and Environs, Inc. and the Shelby County Historical Commission stating:

    "Anthony Chapel School, Greenwood AME Church & Cemetery. At the turn of the 20th century, John Wesley Stewart, an African-American farmer, began lobbying for a school to educate African-American children in the Greenwood community. At the time the children were either taught by itinerant teachers or they walked to Tipton County schools. In 1925 the community became part of Shelby County in a boundary shift. In 1927 the family of Paul Barret, a county school board member, sold a tract of family land for the school. A year later a two-room building was opened and named Anthony Chapel Elementary School for Anthony R. Barret, an early settler of the area and Paul Barret’s grandfather. Near this site was the original brush-arbor Greenwood Cemetery with graves of individuals born before the 1865 Emancipation Proclamation."

   Greenwood Church originated as a brush-arbor church north of Mulberry Road in either 1874 or 1878.
A wood frame building which faced the east was constructed. At that time, Mulberry Road was a dirt road and the road to the church was a steep trail. Due to the difficulty of reaching the church grounds, the building was torn down in 1924 and the lumber was used to construct a new church at the current site of the Greenwood A.M.E. Church at 8017 Donnell Road, a more accessible location.

   A store owned by the Barrets that served the families in the area was built at the southeast corner of Brunswick Road and Redwood Road. It was known as J.H. Barret & Sons #5 Grocery Store and later operated by others who lived in the area. The store had the old grist mill brought over from the original store, used to grind corn into corn meal or chicken feed, depending on the setting. Mr. Bernard Sorrells on Tracy Road purchased the mill after its use was discontinued.

 

   Excerpts from the jacket of An Illustrated History of the People and Towns of Northeast Shelby County and Southeast Tipton County by Historic Archives of Rosemark and Environs (H.A.R.E.):

   On October 19, 1818, the United States Congress ratified the treaty with the Chickasaw Nation ceding West Tennessee to the United States. What followed was the creation of Shelby County in1819 and, to its north, the creation of Tipton County in 1823. Settlers followed quickly. Along the border of Shelby and Tipton counties small communities developed around churches, schools, and country stores. This is the story of the people who have lived there. Over the last 180 years most of the schools and some of the towns of Northeast Shelby County and South Central Tipton County have disappeared. The churches and cemeteries remain and the land is still farmed.

   This illustrated history attempts to capture the stories of those people and places where they lived. Through a series of articles and interviews, maps, photographs, diaries, and letters, you can experience the people who lived on the farms and worked in the towns of Salem, Portersville, Idaville, Kerrville, Armourtown, Bethel, Tipton, Mudville, Macedonia, Gratitude, Barretville, and Rosemark.

 


   On June 14, 2013 the Rosemark Historic District was placed in the National and Tennessee Registers of Historic Places by the National Park Service the United States Department.

   The Historic Archives of Rosemark and Environs is a non-profit organization whose mission is to document & preserve historic information & items of the Rosemark region for educational purposes. It is primarily responsible for the creation of the Rosemark Historic District. Please consider a tax deductible contribution to help them continue these efforts.

For more information about H.A.R.E.

www.rosemarkhistoricdistrict.com

Or, on Facebook at
www.facebook.com/RosemarkHistoricDistrict


 


 

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