Warren County is celebrating it’s bicentennial a year after the actual bicentennial. Go figure. Anyway, the McMinnville newspaper, the Southern Standard (or, as it is more commonly known around here, the Southern Slander), recently sent out a publishing that sort of went over the history of the county. There is a neat little article in there about Viola, so I thought I’d post it here:
The town of Viola first received its charter in the spring of 1901, but its history dates back to the late 18th century, when settlers crossed over from North Carolina and began populating the valley. An interesting fact about the unique name of the town came from the postmaster Reek Brawley [what a name!]. It seems the town was first called Blue Springs, but incidentally there was already a Blue Springs in Tennessee and the postal service requested a new name. Brawley took the initiative, christening the town Viola, the name of the heroine in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” In 172, Viola was born with a unique name that has created much discussion over the years.
The city itself hasn’t changed much since 1901. In fact, some locals say the clock seems to have turned backwards. Industry at that time consisted of wheat and farm crops, livestock and a large planing mill belonging to John R. West. Much of the fertile farmland is now being utilized by nurseries to grow trees to be shipped all over the country.
Viola raised and produced the World’s Champion Walking Horse “Strolling Jim.” [Everyone seems to claim something about Strolling Jim. There are so many stories I don’t know which one to believe.] In 1945-46, “Midnight Sun,” bred by Sam Ramsey, was Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse.
The Viola Mill produced high-quality flour and meal in the early 1900s. After marketing “Viola’s Best” flour for many years, it was sold to Martha White in 1973 and it closed soon after.
Viola has had four schools, the Viola Normal School (also called Todd School), Viola High School and the Viola School, which is currently the Viola Valley Community Center. The fourth school was a school for the black citizens of the community.
Kevin Lawrence in the Mayor of Viola [until this week I didn’t even know we had a mayor], and according to census reports, it is one of the smallest towns in Middle Tennessee.
I found this article a little saddening. The part about the mill especially. It just shows another small business being incorporated into a larger one only to be squeezed out of all business whatsoever. Former small town schools are also a sorry picture. We most likely wouldn’t go to any of them of course, but it is a picture of past glory, of a once-thriving, little town that has either grown old (with the children moving away from their home, or there not being many children ever, probably a combination of both) or been taken over by larger towns and cities. On a lighter note, aren’t we a literary town! You’d think if the postmaster could rename a town though, he could find a better name for himself, or at least a nick-name! … Reek Brawley… things sure were different back then…